[Fic] Aeon Natum Engel (a crossover)

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[Fic] Aeon Natum Engel (a crossover)

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Postby EarthScorpion » Fri Oct 16, 2009 2:47 pm

Well, as it stands, this story is (goes to check FF.net account) 215,209 words long, so I'm not going to be posting it up here all at once. I mean, just think of the amount of formatting that I'd have to do. This way, I'll post one chapter at a time, and let the comments peculate and diffuse to buffer between my walls of text.

But, besides that, some history and context. This story is a crossover (well, I like to call it a "setting merger", because "crossover" has connotations of "a portal opens between two existing universes", while this is a "retelling of NGE in another universe, mixing the metaphysics") between Evangelion (anime continuity), Cthulhutech, and for certain elements which I feel work rather well indeed, First Encounter Assault Recon. Cthulhutech, for those unfamiliar with it, is a pen-and-paper roleplaying game which sort of merges HP Lovecraft's Mythos (and it's pretty purist about it, ignoring most of the later Derleth stuff) with sci-fi anime. Yes, this involves Evangelion (which is a major inspiration for the in-universe Engels, which could sort of be compared to AT-Fieldless MP Evas), so the crossover is somewhat incestous, but, hey, this is Evangelion. Likewise, First Encounter Assault Recon is a computer FPS, which I'm a rather large fan of, and is notable for being one of the few things with more screwed up family trees (and parental issues) than Eva.

Please note that this is a setting merger, and so I have changed several elements in some characters' backstories. There is a method to this; I'm not just doing it on a whim. Superficially, at least, this is the Cthulhutech universe, and so the timeline had to be bludgeoned a bit to fit; once the blood is cleaned off the wrench, I hope it turns out well. Likewise, the reason that the story was moved to London-2, from Toyko-3, is due to the state of Japan in Cthulhutech; it still stands, but it's under very heavy threat from the Rapine Storm (the cult army of the Dead God, Hastur), and that would bring in complications I really didn't want to have to deal with, as the Storm can be described as a nastier version of the Reavers from Firefly.

In all honesty, when I reread the first few chapters, I'm not fully content with them. This is, believe it or not, my first fic that has ever got past 10,000 words (which it almost did in the first chapter), so I wasn't too sure what I was doing with it. As a result, especially for the first few chapters, the style and some of the personalities (especially Shinji's) fluctuate a bit. It's mostly settled down by Chapter 3, and pretty much entirely by Chapter 4. That's part of the reason I'm posting it here, to an eva forum; I plan a rewrite of the first few chapters at some point in the moderately distant future, and so I'd like comments on the bits that could be improved. There are also quite a few orphaned plot hooks which I never continued with, as what I wanted to do with it changed; it's unlikely that you will notice them all, but I do.

Anyway, onto the thanks.

Firstly, I would like to thank (or possibly condemn to be consumed by Cthulhu, for the role in taking up my time by making them read their very, very cool stuff.) a few authors for this;

John Biles, and his awesomeness incarnate of Children of An Elder God. This may prove to be a problem; the “giant organo-technological mecha against the Cthulhu Mythos” genre is quite amply filled by something a lot better than what I can hope to write.

The creators of Cthulhutech, for making such an awesome setting, which can sort of be summed up as “In the Grim Darkness of the Near Future...”

Most of all, however, Academia Nut, and his Thousand Shinji 40k/NGE crossover, and its equally cool sequel The Open Door. He is personally responsible for getting me to buy Cthulhutech, watch Neon Genesis Evangelion (and put aside a rabid dislike for all anime), and generally being a Licensed Purveyor of Cool to a humble Physics undergraduate.

I own none of the series detailed in this work, most specifically neither Cthulhutech nor Neon Genesis Evangelion. They belong to their respective owners. I'm just writing a story about a pair of universes which fit together unsurprisingly well that I happen to like.

This is partly a fan-fiction, partly a make-work, and partly an exercise in improving my writing skills. As a consequence, criticism is most welcome.


~'/|\'~


Aeon Natum Engel

A retelling of Neon Genesis Evangelion, set in the Cthulhutech universe.

Chapter 1

Herald Assault




AD 2091


The sea lapped at the remains of Old London. Those buildings which had survived the First Arcanotech War rose like macabre tombstones to those who had died under the Nazzadi bombardment, while between them, smothered by the devouring tide, were craters, burned into the ancient city by indiscriminate bombing from orbit and the lightning waves of mecha that had swept through the city, putting all to the sword. The flooded streets, grey channels between grey buildings, under a grey sky, seemed to tell a melancholy tale of the hubris of a city that had once considered itself centre of the universe. Once, Old London had sprawled over most of the South of England, a revocation of the anti-urbanisation laws of the twentieth century allowing a phase transition that had turned large amounts of the country into one massive metropolis. Now, Old London was split between the various enclaves, that were towns and even cities within the ruins, and the wastes, which were left to slow succumb to entropy. To the east, the London Arcology, capital of New Earth Government Europe, and Inner London, the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation, held thirty million people, human and Nazzadi; its order a stark contrast to the decay of Old London.

The gently lapping water was barely disturbed by the low passage of a wing of F-109 Komets. Their glowing A-Pods hummed the obsolescence of reaction-based engines, as they flew barely one hundred metres above the ground, the eleven-metre aircraft armed with smart missiles, and a blue-green (optimised to allow air-to-sea strikes) Laser Cannon. Fifty-four million Terranotes flew in that formation, a proud declaration of humanity's will to survive. Let the Migou and their bio-mechanical mechanoids come, they spoke; give us suitable air cover and they can not stand against us. Let the monsters of the Rapine Storm come to Europe; those degenerates and their unnatural allies shall be given a brief lesson in why charging at your opponent, screaming for blood and other bodily fluids, has been considered unwise for three hundred years. Let the abominable hybrids of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and their inhuman parents emerge from the seas where they have cowered for untold millennia; we shall fight them on the beaches, and turn those open plains into a killing field.

The eyes of First Lieutenant Cevy were drawn to a dark shape, swimming up the mouth of the Thames. Her on-board scanners had only just picked it up at all; a liability of modern days. So many of the creatures that emerged from the shadows with the start of the Aeon War were invisible to anything technological; a reason for the large canopy of the Komet. More importantly, this creature was massive, swimming up the blasted channel of the river.

First Lieutenant Cevy frowned. How the hell had that thing got past the battlegroup in the North Sea?

“HQ, this is Komet Mantis-One. Hostile target detected at 57 degrees 27'06.27 north, 0 degrees 25'26.77 East. Shape is bipedal, blackish in colour. It doesn't match with anything known. Target is Vee-Oh. Might be Eee Oh Dee; shape is wrong for a Migou weapon. Someone get a Sentinel over here!”

“Em Oh, Mantis-One. Target acknowledged and position updated. Reinforcements are five minutes out; do not engage until then. Be aware for hostile AA; target has multiple CB-type weapons and can use them against aerial targets.”

“Em Oh, Command. Mantis-One out.”

The wing, as one, pulled up and away, up to just below the clouds. When the reinforcements arrived, they would hit this monster with enough fire-power to flatten a village.

The land forces held up their positions around the enclaves in Old London. Rows of Vreta Main Battle Tanks, painted blue-grey and hidden under urban camo were placed to fill the killing grounds with 120mm railgun slugs, backed up with M-111A2 Jaeger Howitzers. A Jaeger could punch through a Migou Spider in a single shot, and start firing from twenty four kilometres away. The mecha made possible by Arcanotech were the poster-children of the New Earth Government, but the good old tankers were still around, and the wonders of non-euclidean technology served more traditional designs just as well, if not better.

In the rubble of Old London, the poster-children positioned themselves. Nine metre tall Broadswords were the main punch, backed up by Claymores and specialist Gladiuses were ready to let the monstrosities taste their white-hot flamethrowers. The lighter Nazzadi mecha were in reserve, their gaudy colours not really appropriate for an ambush. And while the final preparations were completed, the loudspeakers blared their warnings into the air.

“Today, at 12:30 pm, a special state of authority has been declared by the New Earth Government. All inhabitants with an arcology pass are to return immediately. All inhabitants of the enclaves within the Eastern Greater London Area are to head to their designated shelters. Temporary martial law is in full effect. Message repeats, today, at 12:30 pm, a special state of authority has been declared...”



~’/|\’~



By Old Waterloo Station, a teenager, clad in a white shirt and dark trousers, stood. The entire station, already merely a minor terminus for the maglev network, thanks to New Waterloo in the London Arcology, London-2, had emptied in what seemed like seconds. Shinji Ikari was only here because of his father, but the bastard hadn't even arranged for him to have an arcology pass. He looked down at the picture of the woman he was meant to meet. What kind of a person sent a what appeared to be a holiday picture as a first introduction? Especially, he added to himself, one of what appears to be a holiday to Nazza-Duhni, the world's first “clothing optional” city. She was actually decent by the standards of human beachwear, but quite a few figures in the background were most certainly not, something which the sixteen year-old had “appreciated”. The words “Look here” and the attendant arrow just added to his initial wariness.

He flipped his mobile phone shut in irritation. The phone network had been shut down; all he was getting was the same message as the one blaring through the loudspeakers. He checked his watch, and yawned. He had had a two day stop-over in Chicago, after the plane had been diverted due to Migou activity under the flight path, which had left him less jet-lagged than he might have been, but his body was still screaming at him that it needed sleep and food. The Ashcroft Foundation had paid for the trip, which only added to his surprise; Shinji knew that his father was an important man in Ashcroft Europe, but that they would use a private jet just to carry him was... surprising.

“Where is she?” He paused, and looked around for a sign to a shelter. The speed at which the residents had evacuated indicated that they were used to it.

There was a figure, standing in the half-gloom of the entrance to the arrivals section, a strange, pale girl. An albino, maybe. No, he realised with a gut-clenching feeling. She wasn't pale, she was actively white, with both her skin and hair the colour of fresh milk.

A White xenomix.

A flock of pigeons flew straight towards him, and he ducked, shielding his eyes reflectively. When Shinji looked up again, she was gone. Brow crinkled in puzzlement, he stepped towards where he had seen her. She might be a White, but maybe he could find out where to go to get to safety.

A series of thudding explosions began, from behind him. Reflectively, he ducked back down again. The noise was joined by a chorus of tortured metal and a deep thrumming noise.

Shinji decided that getting out of there was perhaps the most sensible thing to do. He headed as fast as he could to where he had seen the girl, to find where she had gone. And if something really bad was happening, a parapsychic would be a fairly sensible person to be near. Unless they were burning, of course, which would make them the source of the trouble.

The internal dialogue was shut down, as he ran. Looking up, he could see quite a lot of aircraft heading in towards were he way, tearing through the cloud cover as multiple sonic booms added themselves to the cacophony. Yet more shrieks and explosions filled the air as, unbeknownst to Shinji, large number of Jaegers opened fire.

For Shinji Ikari, it felt like the world was ending.



~’/|\’~



Inside the NEG military headquarters, the mood was sombre.

“The unknown entity is still approaching. It has left the Thames, and is moving as a biped.”

“The Magi believe that this rules out it being Migou. Two-to-one certainty predicts that it belongs to the Esoteric Order of Dagon.”

“Sentinel Drone has visual. I'm putting it up on main screen.”

At the back of the room stood two advisers from the Ashcroft Foundation. The elder, a white-haired man in a brown suit stood behind the younger, watching the NEG military, while the black haired man stared at the glowing orange Augmented Reality Feeds scrolling across his glasses. The military seemed to edge away from the pair, leaving Gendo Ikari, the local head of the Ashcroft Foundation, and Kozo Fuyutsuki, his second-in-command, in an invisible bubble.

“It's been seventeen years.” Fuyutsuki spoke softly. “Since 2074 and the start of the Second War...”

The main scream filled up with the image of the beast that had shrugged off the best that the New Earth Government could throw at it.

It was horrifying.

Unnatural.

It dwarfed the buildings below it, with them barely reaching its knees. The main, hunchbacked body was black, but the black of the void, and like the void, it had tiny speckles within it, that seemed to capture the gaze of those who stared at it too long. Ribs and viscera protruded from the front of the abomination, like someone had taken a human corpse, disembowelled it, then coated it in the essence of the night sky. A glowing red orb, like the eye of some creature that had walked the earth long before man and was merely waiting for the mammals to get over their tiresome delusions, glowed from the front, casting everything before it in a sick red light. A mask was worn upon its face, like the beak of some Stygian plague doctor, from ages past, who came not so much as to heal as to speed his victims to their final destination.

The entire room recoiled at it. Most were able to hold onto their sanity; though the beast was horrific, the children of the Strange Aeon were made of stronger stuff, and beings that would have driven their ancestors screaming into the arms of an asylum orderly could be tolerated. A female human with the stripes of a Second Lieutenant let out an involuntary shriek, and a male Nazzadi fell off his chair, huddled in a foetal ball weeping. As the unfortunate was dragged away to the Ashcroft medical facility outside, Gendo stared at the image of the entity, without any outwards sign of disturbance.

“Heralds...”



~’/|\’~



As Shinji watched, the Herald (though what dynasty would spawn such a prince?), even as it strode inexorably towards London-2, raised its hands, covered with too many leech-like fingers. From the mouth of each of the wriggling appendages, vomited a sick, greenish yellow beam that lanced through the air. They each burned cleanly through the gunships strafing the monster, even cutting down the missiles that were volleyed against it. They couldn't seem to track the Jaeger shells that ripped down from over the horizon, but they didn't need to. The 155mm high explosive shells that the howitzers were throwing forth burst like harmless rain against the void-dark body of the Herald. Occasionally, one would knock it back, make it stumble, but something seemed to stop it being hurt.

Shinji glanced at it just once, and then flinched away even as he ran from it. An intense wave of nausea and a nagging headache struck him; that thing shouldn't exist, be allowed to exist. Nothing should be able to take that much fire-power; it was like watching a man run into a flying insect and go flying backwards. It just screamed, in a guttural tone that belonged to the monkey before man, that the world should not, and does not work like this. Even with his back turned to it, he faltered, almost tripping, as the world faded to black.

“...Area are to head to their designated shelters. Temporary martial law is in full effect. Message repeats, today, at 12:30 pm...”

The hum of an A-pod bought the world back to normal for him. A new, very nice looking aircar dropped from the sky and, in an incredible act of handling, pulled to a stop in front of him, the wheels deploying automatically as it shifted into ground mode. The door slid upwards and a dark-haired woman clad in military issue body armour and a pair of sun glasses, the woman who he was meant to meet, smiled at him.

“Sorry to keep you waiting,” she smiled.

Shinji could only stare blankly back, the mixture of jet lag, the shock of the being and now this surprise addling his wits. After a second or two, her expression changed to a frown.

“That means, “get in!” This is a warzone! And put on your seatbelt”

Shinji could only clamber in, still dazed. The woman kicked at the throttle, and yanked the control-shaft downwards. The wheels folded back up, and the Zephyr Enforcer 2000 pulled a tight corkscrew upwards, accelerating to one hundred and eighty miles an hour in six seconds.

That was enough to make Shinji finally lose control of his stomach. Luckily, the woman, Misato Katsuragi, had anticipated the effect that such a manuever might have on those not used to her... idiosyncratic driving style, and had activated the automated sick catcher. This miracle of modern technology had saved innumerable car interiors from the corrosive contents of the human stomach, and had made its inventor, a refugee from what had been China before the Rapine Storm happened, a very wealthy individual.



~’/|\’~



The air in the command centre was turning to a type of professional panic. Glances were being surreptitiously directed against the two Field Marshals in charge of the NEG forces for the United Kingdom, the third currently organising strikes against Dagonite forces in the North Sea.

“All air units within range have been destroyed. Artillery bombardment is having no effect.”

“Ground forces are engaged. Target has broken off attack to target Alpha Squadron. Their Auphan reports that it is jamming its extra-sensory equipment.” The woman pauses. “Their Cherub has just been destroyed by the charge beams it is using. They are reporting that their...”

“Alpha Squadron's Auphan has been incapacitated. They are requesting permission to...”

Field Marshal Lehy leapt to her feet, and banged her coal-black hand into the table. An old school Nazzadi general, she had been one of the individuals responsible for the death of Old London, favouring cold, sterile strikes on anywhere where humanity could get food. She considered it somewhat appropriate, as her penance, that she would keep London-2 safe.

“Get those Engels out of there. It seems to be targeting them. Retreat away from London-2. Mobilise all conventional forces in the area, and prepare for a simultaneous strike.”

Field Marshal Jameson glared at her.

“We'll get nowhere with that level of fire-power. It's already withstood three divisions worth of artillery.”

“It's protected by an AT field, as we suspected.” Fuyutsuki said softly, for the ears of Gendo only, in the hubbub of the command centre.

“Like Yog-Soggoth's Shield, conventional weapons will not harm it,” was the reply.

The Field Marshalls were by now locked in a staring contest.

“Three nought point one kiloton pure fusion bombs set to airburst above it,” stated Jameson, calmly. “They will not damage London-2, and they should at the very least hurt this Herald.”

“And the enclaves? There are four within the kill-radius, and you will destroy Old Waterloo,” hissed Lehy back.

“They knew the risks when they chose to live outside London-2. Anyway, if they are in the bunkers as they should be, they should be fine from an airburst. We have to do it now, before the Herald gets too close to the arcology.” His calmness had by then become ice cold.

Field Marshal Lehy looked away first.

“Project the effects of a Clover-type tactical strike.”

She stared at the three overlapping circles, and their positions relative to the marked populations.

“Rotate pi by twelve, then deploy.”

She activated the implants in her left hand with a thought, the subdermal lights glowing blue beneath her night-coloured skin. Jameson's hand was already glowing.

“On the count of three, authorise.”

“One.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

Both hands were placed into the complex three-dimensional hologram before them, and they made the code gestures to authorise the use of pure fusion devices in a circumstance where there might be human fatalities.

“We're going to have to move the Sentinels away, commanders. We'll lose visuals on the Herald until we can move them back.”

Lehy nodded her head. “Approved.”

Jameson was heard by some to faintly mutter something about a desire that they still had satellites. The Nazzadi ignored him.



~’/|\’~



Shinji Ikari was a quiet boy. He was polite, fairly intelligent, a good chef, and good on the cello. He would make a nice, somewhat submissive husband for someone someday. That comment had actually been written in his file by the school's councillor. The existence of widespread psychiatric councillor in the Strange Aeon had left him quite a lot more mentally stable than he might have been otherwise; he still preferred to be alone, but he was capable of more than he might have been.

And circumstances were much altered from what they had been one hundred years ago. The population of the Earth was 4.3 billion individuals. Only 2.5 billion of them were human, down from a peak of eight billion only a few decades ago. The definition of “mental stability” had undergone quite noticeable redefinition. Almost no-one over the age of twenty had not lost a close family member, to the First Arcanotech War, to the genocidal Migou, to the depredations of the Rapine Storm and the rape camps of the Esoteric Order of Dagon, and many of the younger ones were similarly bereaved. What was one more child with a dead mother and a father who would not care for him?

Shinji had been raised by a foster couple employed by the Ashcroft Foundation, by two women, Gany, an Ashcroft-employed sorceress, and Yuki, an FSB agent, both of whom refused the title of “mother”. He was fluent in Japanese, English (the tongue of the New Earth Government), and the Nazzadi tongue, and Gany had insisted that he keep up the cello. He had also picked up enough German to swear, but Gany had not appreciated him repeating those words in front of Yuki. He was clear, though, as were they, that they were not his real parents, and since the twins were born, he had subtly retreated away from. He had thought that this summoning from his father, despite its brevity, might even be a chance to properly know him. Maybe Gendo had changed. Maybe it might be good.

Being in the car of this madwoman, with her mad driving and general madness was not his idea of a good time.

Not one bit. He had already thrown up twice more, especially since Misato (she insisted that he call her than, rather than Ms Katsuragi), seemed to like the idea of streets in general, but not the actual driving along the ground bit, which just resulted in too-fast jaunts at the high of the lamp-posts. And bent pieces of metal. And the occasional collapsed tenement. And the far-too-frequent barrel rolls, just for fun.

He was sure that she really needed a councillor. And, preferably, some kind of leash. He clamped down on the resulting thoughts after only a brief interlude, as they were rather enjoyable thoughts, they were not quite appropriate when he was hurtling five metres of the ground in an entropic... my gods, did she just drive through that crater in the row of houses rather than take the corner. Yes, yes she did.

Shinji Ikari threw up again. As his stomach was empty by now, there was only bile left, and it was an unpleasant experience.

Misato looked at Shinji with a mixture of pity and contempt. He really didn't seem to be good with motion sickness, did he. Mind you, she'd heard from Ritsuko that his father was the same, which was always good for a smirk. Shinji and Gendo; they didn't really belong in the same picture, from what she could tell. The reports she'd read about Shinji generally said the same things; quiet, polite, somewhat forgettable. The Representative of Ashcroft Europe, and former second in command of Ashcroft Oceanasia, fit none of those boxes.

Her radio chattered. It was on the priority band, over-riding the classical musical channel.

“All units, evacuate. Sigma-Sigma-Gamma-Delta-Pi. All units, evacuate.”

Her mind put the code together. A Clover strike!

Damn. She had to get out of the air. She checked the automap; there was the Hammersmith Enclave nearby. It'd be safer there, with modern buildings to shield them.

“Shinji, get down! Close your eyes! They're using nukes on the entity! In the city!”

The car twisted, and bumped gently as she pulled it to a stop that would be impossible without modern D-Engines, braking from one hundred and twenty miles an hour to still. As soon as she could release the steering column, she threw herself on top of him, pinning him down.

“...calling, see we ain't got no high//Except for that one with the yellowy eyes// The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in...” screamed the radio, until the wash of static cut it off.

Three new suns bloomed over London, as the earth pulsated. The fireball washed out, demolishing the already decaying buildings in a cleansing wave of atomic, while the blast wave tore age-softened concrete from steel frames like bread. The Old City earned itself another scar from Lehy the Butcher.

The blast was mostly spent by the time it reached Misato and Shinji. The car rocked a bit, but remained upright.

Then a lamp-post fell on it, crushing the back of the car.

Misato raised her palm to her forehead.

“Not the A-pods...”

Misato was somewhat aggrieved by the time she badgered the ill-looking Shinji to shift it. It was positively plastered with posters, all of a handsome Arabic male model. He really was attractive, she thought, as she strained. Almost a little pharonic-looking. Although the poster could be improved by the removal of the boxers...

The A-pods seemed to be intact, but the D-engine was damaged, and, frankly, the inclusion of non-euclidean technology in car engines made the repair liable to damage your sanity worse than the engine. Her eyes flicked to a nearby Tescorp shop. They wouldn't miss a few D-cells, would they...



~’/|\’~



“Detonation successful. The target exhibited anti-missile defences, but the dummy warheads served their role.”

The main view screen was whited out.

“T-minus one minute before we can move the Sentinels back in position.”

Field Marshal Jameson nodded his head.

“Move the units back in position. It should be destroyed, so have a collection team ready to salvage what we can.”

Field Marshal Lehy's red eyes reflected the white screen back, like catseyes. She sat, silently, her face impassive.

“Sentinels back in position. Thermal bloom prevents IR, too much dust in the air for visuals. Switching to X-ray.”

The screen protruded out, the Augmented Reality of modern holography giving a true three-dimensional image.

One single spike towered in the clover-shaped gap in Old London. As the resolution improved, the shape was confirmed.

The antediluvian monster had survived.

“Kokopy!” yelled Lehy, slamming her fist into the data-desk before her. “How is it still upright!”

“That was not expected by the Magi.” Jameson looked over at Lehy, his cold blue eyes meeting her red ones. “I propose another Clover strike.”

“What is the status of the target? Has it been damaged at all?” The comment was directed at the tactical officers.

“Unclear. The target has stopped moving.” The Nazzadi officer, lit by the three-dimensional AR panel she was manipulating, paused. “The target's X-ray profile is changing. It's getting more dense, and protrusions are... growing. I can see the bones under the skin as a patch of density. They're more dense than lead!”

“Focus, Lieutenant,” snapped Lehy. “What are growing?”

“Unknown. They appear to be appendages, and appear similar to the things upon its hands. Weapons, as a first degree projection.”

“It's regenerating, as we expected,” said Gendo softly, from the back of the room. “It is appropriate for its status as a target.”

He pushed his glasses up, back onto his nose.

“And we will lose E-9 coverage within a matter of seconds.”

“Energy pulse detected in the new appendages,” yelled a tactical officer.

The main screen cut out, as the big red words “Signal Lost” lit up.

“Strike approved.” The Nazzadi Field Marshal nodded at the human. “Let's nuke that thing until it... dies.”

Gendo sat back in his chair.

“That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die.” These words were so soft that even his old teacher could only lip-read him.

“But Alhazred could not really see now. He was a primitive in a society that could not even solve the Ashcroft-Yi equations. Now is the Strange Aeon, and the Herald bears his message too late,” Fuyutsuki mouthed back.

“The next missiles will not get through. The Herald can learn and change.”

Gendo's words were proved right by yells of rage from the front of the room.

“Ah.” Fuyutsuki frowned. “It has acquired intelligence.”

He paused.

“What will you do now?”

Gendo stood up, staring at the blank view screen. They were already re-routing as much informational coverage of the eldritch abomination. Even as he stared, a new visual lit up of the Herald, its ribcage extended and fused, and prehensile tentacles emerging from its shoulders, waving here and there in implausible, spasmodic fluctuations. The barrage of shells from the Jaeger artillery had already resumed, but these new tentacles were intercepting many of these.

He glanced back at his sensei.

“I will wait for them to come to me. They know about the project they ridiculed as a “primitive Engel”. And then?”

He smiled faintly.

“I will activate Unit 01.”

“Unit 01.” A faint hint of disappointment crept into Fuyutsuki's voice. “But we don't have a pilot.”

“One will arrive soon.” The words were not so much stated as declaimed, written into reality as an irremovable statement.

It only took three minutes for the NEG Army's will to accede to what Gendo Ikari knew to be an inevitability. A few quiet words were all that was needed with the resident Field Marshals. They knew it already. They had the best arcanotechnicians outside the Ashcroft Foundation (excluding the Chrysalis Corporation, but Gendo knew that most of the NEG was not familiar with that) advising them, and they knew what the creature had taken. Officially, the Evangelion Project had been subsumed by the Engel Project after Dr Anton Miyakame had worked around many of the issues with the Evangelions. But the Engels were conventional weapons of war, that used inhuman flesh twinned with the two branches of homo sapiens. They relied upon kinetic energy and human weaponry. The Evangelions may be seen as an obsolete white elephant, flawed in their control scheme, but Gendo had his trump card...



~’/|\’~



Shinji Ikari stood deep in the bowels of Inner London, the subterranean dome below London-2 that was the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation. London-2 had been amazing, an entire artificial ecosystem within a building, complete with animals and vegetation. They had been fast waved through the system, subjected to only three blood checks, and one neural scan, the latter to get into Inner London.

The Inner Sanctum.

Before him, immersed in fluid like an drowned idol belonging to a long dead civilisation, was a massive biped, its head glaring from the depths. Even from a distance, Shinji could feel a sort of ancient malevolence, like he was desecrating a tomb merely by being near the construct.

“A giant face,” he blurted out. “It's... it's a massive Engel, isn't it.”

A blond scientist standing in the middle of the gantry, holding a clipboard, glared at him.

“It's not an Engel,” she snapped. “Engels are inferior copies of the technology invented for the Evangelion Project.”

She tucked a loose hair behind her ear, and pointed somewhat dramatically at the Evangelion.

“Behold, Humanity's Original Synthorg, Evangelion!”

The Evangelion was painted in a mottled purple, blue and grey camouflage scheme; a classic urban pattern, despite its size. Its red eyes glowed a dull red, set as they were over a jaw shielded by thickened armour. One massive horn, hyper-edged, protruded from its forehead.

It was a creature of war, death, and fear.

“This is Unit 01, the Second Prototype Model. We believe that this is humanity's last chance.”

Shinji frowned.

“Excuse me, Doctor...?”

“Doctor Ritsuko Atagi.”

“Doctor Atagi, but the Engels have been around for over ten years. How is this the prototype if the Engels have been around for so long, and I've never heard of them.”

She narrowed her eyes. Evidently, she had a wonderful speech ready which he had disrupted, or this was a major raw nerve.

“After the construction of the first prototypes, funding was shifted to the cheaper, more... controllable Engels. We have suffered reduced funding for a long while because of Dr Miyakame and his defection.”

Shinji cringed.

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I didn't know.”

A light flicked on, above the Evangelion, creating a backlit silhouette, and an amplified voice boomed out throughout the chamber.

“No, you didn't. And you wouldn't.”

Gendo Ikari stared down at his son. Around him, camera feeds showed his progeny from every angle.

Shinji's eyes widened in shock. Father, he subvocalised. Memories threatened to overwhelm him, years of ambivalent hatred for the man who abandoned him after the worst day of his life. He restrained them, ignored them. He would not look away. He had the willpower, the tenacity to resist the urge.

He glared up at the light, putting on his coldest voice, the one that Gany had used to scold him.

“What am I doing here, Father. Why did you summon me to this place from Japan? Since I arrived I have been abandoned, nearly been killed by an entity, and been subjected to some of the least responsible driving I have ever experienced.”

Gendo stared back down. Deep down, a tiny scab was knocked off his soul. That tone of voice; that sounded a lot like Yui when she had been in a mood. Even the facial proportions were similar.

He flexed his new hands, still sore from the transplant. The protective gloves covered the new, soft skin, and they ached.

None of the emotions showed on the Representative's face. Ashcroft had merely added to his natural skills in that area.

Behind Shinji, Misato and Ritsuko began to argue about the Evangelion. Shinji half ignored them, most of his his attention focussed upon staying calm in this war of wills with his father. A few phrases clicked together, though, and he felt a terrible prescience about what they would have him do.

“You want me to be an Engel pilot?” Shinji said, staring up at the shadow.

“Evangelion. It's an Evangelion, not an Engel,” muttered Dr Atagi from behind him. “And, yes, we do.”

“Impossible.” Shinji stated, flatly. He raised his hand to forestall the doctor's objection. “You need a special implant to use one of these things, and I don't have it. So, unless you want...”

Shinji cut himself off, suddenly fearful about where this was going.

“And anyway, I won't. You can't make me, you can't conscript me; the NEGA and the NEGN are purely volunteer armies, and I don't want to go any closer to that creature.”

He paused, and shook, involuntarily, as he saw it cut apart the air strikes and shrug off the artillery.

“I saw it this afternoon, far too close. I don't want to see it again.”

He straightened up.

“You abandoned me. At age four. Go find some professional soldier to do it. Why would you need an untrained sixteen-year old, anyway?”

Gendo glared back down at him.

“Target has opened fire on London-2. Arcology wall breached by energy weapon.”

Gendo Ikari nodded his head once at the message.

“The potential pilot is useless. A replacement will be obtained.” He switched to Fuyutsuki, up in Command headquarters. “Prepare Rei. I don't care about her physical condition. We need to get Unit 01 working, to save the city.”

This makes no sense, Shinji thought. Why would they go to all the effort of getting me from Japan if they could obtain a pilot here, in London-2. Thus, I am preferable to whoever the replacement is. Which means that the effort required to transport someone to the other side of the globe is considered less than the effort required to find a replacement. Who on earth would keep a potential pilot so far away from the vehicle, anyway? Or not give them any training?

The conditions in which an individual is raised can have drastic effects on their personality. Some Shinji Ikaris, in the tumultuous depths of the narrative universe, had been raised by uncaring foster parents, left to retreat inwards until their self-loathing reached approximately the same density as degenerate matter. One, via an exceedingly complex series of events that had involved time-travel, malevolent deities (on his side), and a very special tutor, had ended up as a Machiavellian genius who put his father to shame. The Shinji Ikari, though, which this tale concerns, was raised from age four by a Federal Bureau of Security (Behavioural Analysis Unit) agent, and an arcanotherapist (medicinal). A bright child cannot help but pick up a few things, especially when heritage is taken into account.

His internal questioning was broken by the humming of a A-pod equipped hospital bed being pushed into the hall. A girl, clad in what looked like a pilot's suit, was lying upon it. Shinji could not help raising his eyebrows, for she looked a lot like the White he had seen by the train station. Then again, Whites tended to look fairly similar, as the lack of normal pigmentation removed so many of the traces that humans and Nazzadi alike used to identify each other.

As she got closer, though, he could see that her skin looked wrong, far too fresh. She had the protective eyepiece that a newly regrown eye required on her right eye, and all the skin he could see was that disturbing, infant-like texture. Gany would have screamed and demanded to see who was in charge if she had seen that; patients shouldn't be out of a sterile environment when it was like that.

Shinji stared back up at his father.

“So, this is your pilot,” he said calmly. He felt a sudden wave of anger, just from seeing her like that, as a petty affront to him. His father was right; they did need him.

He balled his fists in rage

“She shouldn't be out of a sterile environment,” he shouted up at the glass. “She shouldn't be out of hospital!”

Gendo smiled, faintly. He had his son, now. “Your cowardice makes it necessary.”

His moment of triumph of wills was cut short by the Herald firing a beam, down into the earth. Exhibiting more fire-power than a NEGN Battleship, it punched through the thick shielding of Inner London and left a three dimensional hole of death and destruction through the layers of the arcology. Debris rained down through the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation and a section of the ceiling in the Evangelion hall broke away, plummeting towards the White xenomix, who had herself been knocked from the bed as the A-pod gave out as the floor rocked.

Shinji grabbed her to haul her out of the way. Sadly, even the weakest of the four fundamental forces still provided more acceleration than he could provide, and too late he realised that all he had managed was to get himself into a position where he could be crushed. Surprisingly, the lethal debris was stopped short of crushing the two of them as the Evangelion-class Engel lifted its massive hand from the lake to shield them.

“Impossible!” yelled Dr Asaki, prone on the floor. “It broke free! It should even be able to move; the entry plug hasn't been inserted!” She paused in her rant, and checked the AR tool around her wrist. “The D-Engine isn't even enabled! I'm going to get to the bottom of how this could happen,” she added, more softly. “Anyway, prepare Evangelion Unit 01 for a new pilot.”

“Yes, Doctor. Preparing new profile,” came the reply over the loudspeakers.



~’/|\’~



Within a few minutes, Shinji had been changed into a standard issue Engel Suit and loaded into their entry plug. Dr Atagi had been insisting on calling it a “plug suit”, but he was beginning to suspect that, as an Ashcroft Foundation scientist who seemed to work regularly with arcanotechnology, her grasp on reality was a little bit looser than most.

He felt around the neck, feeling a rigid seal. It felt vaguely noose-like

“Hey,” Shinji asked the floating head of Misato projected on the interior wall of the plug, “Isn't there meant to be a helmet for this?”

“Well, Engels need a helmet, but the control scheme of an Evangelion requires that you don't wear one,” she replied. “The plug should start filling with fluid; you can breathe it it, as it's hyper-oxygenated.”

Right on cue, a thick, viscous fluid started pooling and rising in the capsule at an alarming rate. It was a dark orange-red, he saw, and vaguely necrotic, like the colour of a scab. The entire plug stank of blood, with strange currents and undertones to the scent.

Shinji held his breath until it covered his head, feeling somewhat unclean just from its clinging contact with his skin, and then exhaled all the air in his lungs in one go.

The liquid (LCL, he heard the doctor's voice in his ear) tasted exactly as it smelt. That is to say, absolutely vile. Shinji began to gag; a difficult proposition when you have no air in your lungs, and an act that mostly results in pain.

“Don't worry, you'll get used to it soon,” was the somewhat heartless comment over the radio.

Dr Atagi turned to her main assistant, Maya Ibuki, a short, cheerful, yet somewhat withdrawn woman, who was manning the main control desk.

“How is it?”

“The pilot's body remains intact. Vitals are elevated, likely from stress. No abnormal brain patterns.” Maya looked up at her mentor. “He's still alive. Your predictions on the necessary qualities for a candidate were correct. Shall I connect the D-Engines?”

Ritsuko nodded once. “Do it.” She paused. “Monitor the synchronisation ratio once the Evangelion boots up. If it goes above 90% or dS/dt exceeds 3 percent per second, abort immediately. We don't want a repeat.”

“Yes, senpai. Acknowledged and logged” Maya moved her hands through the three-dimensional matrix before her.

A complex spiral appeared in the air before her. Consisting of two sin functions around a central axis, the projection resembled a double helix more than anything. As they watched, the two lines rotated around the axis, moving closer.

“Synchronisation is forty eight... no, fifty one, no, fifty two percent. Stabilising... fifty four.” She snapped her fingers within the AR matrix. “dS/dt is constant, plus or minus 0.8%.”

Ritsuko stared at the graph, almost hoping for it to be wrong.

“Incredible.”

“Harmonics are steady and strong. Vital signs are still strong. No mental contamination, as of yet.”

“It took Rei seven months to achieve a stable connection. This is astonishing. If we can replicate this, we can beat Dr Miyakame and his damn Engel Synthesis Interface.”



~’/|\’~



The mood within the Evangelion itself was somewhat less tranquil, as Misato briefed Shinji on what they expected him to do.

“... so, you don't exactly want me to fight the thing, even after all this,” Shinji said in surprise.

“No, not at all. You'll be backed up by a squadron of Engels, which will be the ones which will kill the target. Your job is the most important, though.”

She pulled up a projection within the capsule.

“You've seen the creature, and some of what it can shrug off. We believe it has a protective field which replicates a second-tier sorcery. It seems to naturally produce it, as the spell shorts out all machinery on the person if we use it. The Evangelion can produce a similar field; we call it an AT field. Two fields, if put in proximity and set similarly, can cancel each other out. Phase, anti-phase, see.”

“So, wait.” Shinji frowned, even as the feeling of the LCL moving against skin made it feel like he was covered in bugs. “Why can't other Engels produce this “AT field”? Or can't you just use the sorcery against a weapon, to put the field it, and then just give it to something else?”

“Because this is an Evangelion, not an Engel!” came the inevitable response from the good doctor. Shinji groaned. He'd hoped that she hadn't been listening. “And anyway,” Ritsuko continued in a more normal tone of voice, “for your latter point, we have.”

An image of Unit 01, certain areas highlighted in red appeared before Shinji, levitating in a messianic pose.

“Evangelion Unit 01 is more heavily armed than anything in the New Earth Government that isn't a naval unit. Note the Hyperedged Horn, Claws and the Spurs on the feet. All these objects have been enhanced with a weaponised variant of Dimensional Shield. We hope that the spell will replicate the effects of the AT field, allowing the weapons to stab through. You also have a Hyperedge Blade, mounted under your left forearm. There are also two, head-mounted XV4 heavy laser cannons, synchronised with the eyes, an LR-15 lightning cannon on your left arm, and twinned CB444/AA charge beams attached to the right arm. We've disabled the ranged weapons though; you aren't trained to use them.”

Somewhat overwhelmed with the list, Shinji simply nodded his head once.

“Prepare launch!”



~’/|\’~



Within London-2, four more unnatural hybrids of man, Nazzadi, machine, and inhuman monstrosity stalked their target. James in Tabris, his Auphan (Codename: Tragedy), Sarah in Ramiel, her Malach (Codename: Mantis), Wera in Iruel, his Aral (Codename: Shadow), and Jenny in Lilith, her Shinnan (Codename: Bloodmare). They'd heard that Alpha Squadron had been completely destroyed by this thing, and so they were trying their very, very best to keep out of sight.

“Shadow, what's the status on the target?” First Lieutenant Jenny Intry, their CO asked their stealth specialist. Around her, Lilith snapped her claws reflectively.

“Target is still advancing through the arcology. It's firing repeatedly at the ground. It's headed somewhere, and that somewhere is down.” He paused, hidden under his stealth field. “It's like it's digging. And it's going straight through the arcology levels.”

The unspoken acknowledgement of all the casualties it must be causing passed between the quartet.

“Ashcroft better hurry with their secret project. I've seen it sniffing the air, and it's jamming most of my unconventional senses. I think it suspects something,” added Tragedy. “And it's a lot more heavily armed that we are. And it shrugged off a Clover strike.”

“Cut the chatter,” ordered Jenny, from within the warm, uterine, control capsule. A panel, embedded in the fleshy wall lit up with a priority message. “Okay, the prototype is coming up through the mag-tunnels. Says it's an “Evangelion-class Engel”, whatever that is. Haven't heard of it myself.”

“But what good can one more of us do?” Wera whispered, in his rather attractive Nazzadi accent.

In front of the target, the ground opened up, with a hiss of supercooled magnets. Riding up on rails, a titanic figure, the same size as the target appeared, in the blues and greys of the NEG. It dwarfed the Engels; Lilith and Ramiel were only (only; it seemed like such a petty word) 13 metres tall, while Iruel and Tabris were shorter.

“Now that is a humongous mecha,” stated Sarah. “If it's similar to the target, we might even be in with a chance.”

“Ready up,” ordered Jenny. “We hit the bastard when he's distracted by the prototype. Try to take out its legs, so it'll stop moving and we can hit it at will.”

Shinji Ikari would have been less than reassured by their confidence. For one, they had disabled his ranged weapons. For seconds, they had also put him in a prototype war machine without any real training. He was able to move; the Operator Side Effect luckily worked even with the massive discrepancies in size, and so he knew instinctively how to make the Evangelion do as he wished.

The figure of the Herald loomed before him. Oddly, now that he was in the Evangelion, it didn't seem so horrifying. Of course, maybe the fact that he was now the same size as it played a role in that. He followed the instructions over the radio; it seemed that the movements of the giant Engel were controlled by his own thoughts, with the controls almost just a prop. He flexed his (the machine's?) clawed fingers reflexively, and took a few, slow steps towards the target.

“Good, Shinji!” Misato sounded delighted over the radio. “Now, try activating the AT field!”

Shinji frowned. Somehow, they had never got around to explaining how he did that.

“How? How do I do that?” he exclaimed.

Back down in Inner London, Misato looked helplessly at Ritsuko.

“Yes, how does the pilot use the AT Field?”

“We don't exactly know,” the scientist hissed back. “We know that the Evangelion can do it, but we're unclear as to how it is performed.”

Misato raised her palm to her forehead. There was a faint slapping sound.

“You mean we risked an Evangelion and an Engel squadron in the hope that the pilot would, in his first go, work out how to use a field that consists mostly of shredded spacetime which we don't understand ourselves.”

“We had no other choice. And, anyway, it would be more accurate to say that no-one sane and still human understands Arcane Theory,” Ritsuko added, more thoughtfully. “Research into something that involves rotating a one dimensional object that curves through two higher dimensions outside the World of Elements has a very high attrition rate. It's predicted by an expansion of the Ashcroft-Yi equations into an n-dimensional chaotic system. I don't think I have to remind you about what happened to Ashcroft or Yi. Or notable amounts of my mother's team. Or Soryu. Or the other Ikari.”

Misato shuddered. Arcane physics was a closed book to her, and Ritsuko, as an accomplished arcanophysicist, arcanobiologist and sorceress, was weird even as an old friend.

“Nevertheless, what should we do?”

Just a little closer, mouthed Jenny within her Engel, as the squadron snuck up on the Herald. The Evangelion-class didn't seem to be doing anything, but it had all the monster's attention. They just needed the field to go down, and they could kill the thing.

The Herald seem to come to a decision. All of its leech-like fingers and the apendages mounted on its shoulders, as one, swivelled to face Unit 01. And in perfect synchronity, they vomited forth their yellow-green beams. The cutting light swivelled and cut scores across the plating of the Evangelion, knocking it down, onto its back.

Within Unit 01, Shinji screamed and clutched at his face, his body, his limbs. He could feel the monster cutting into him, like hot irons on his skin. His body started convulsing, wracked by the pain. Most of the wounds on the Evangelion were cauterised, but some, such as the one punched through his left arm, began spraying blood all over the wrecked interior of this district of London-2. Even the LCL around him seemed to grow warmer, as heat was conducted through the body of the beast.

He slumped back in his pilot's chair, at the edge of unconsciousness. A faint sussuration filled his ears, the whispering of a thousand voices, in perfect harmony and peace. He rolled aside, trying desperately to get out of the way of the burning and pain, but only his body moved, not the Evangelion.

And then it clicked.

Pain is bad, yes.

Like a wire in the head.

But wires are small, thin.

Easily avoidable.

So if you rotate the pain, it cancels itself out.

And if you rotate it again, it can be used as a stabbing tool, to give others pain.

Good, good, yes.


Normally, Shinji was sure that that sentence... chain of thoughts would make no sense.

And yet it did. Like the world itself had been rotated, and he had remained static.

He opened his eyes. A filigree network, like a cage of fractured glass, protruded over him. The beams of the Herald licked harmlessly at it, like a match held against a brick wall.

Shinji fainted.

An observer who was not enthralled by the pyrotechnics would have noticed other things about the filigree cage, the AT field. Like the fact that the strands reflected light wrong, not always showing the same scene, or showing it at another time. Through one strange glimpse, Eva 01 lay against a building, blood pouring from its head. A thousand thousand tales of woe were reflected in that mesh, and a few would be soon enough.

Evangelion 01 picked itself up, off the ground, and roared. A mass of tendrils emerged from its mouth, hungry and scenting, from within its mammalian jaw.

The Aral pilot nodded.

“That's certainly an Engel. Permission to engage?”

Jenny, in her Shinnan, nodded.

“I think this is our best chance. Keep out the way of the Eva-class, though; we don't know what else that prototype can do.”

The Herald was confused.

brotherdietime
bearmessageofill
whyfightwhywhywhyrescue
smallchildrenwerebrothersnotnow
painpainpain


The Evangelion roared with glee, a dreadful sound, like the scream of a drowning man, a reptilian cry blocked and attenuated by the tentacles that filled its mouth. It grabbed the Herald by both arms, and lent in, a bright corona where the two AT fields met, as the tears in space and time, in the corpus of an great being, tore the air apart at the sub-nuclear level.

As the bubbles of shredded insanity breached and passed each other, Unit 01 vomited more tentacles forth, and affixed them to the glowing red core of the Herald. And the ancient scion of a race that pre-dated humanity knew fear. And pain. And endless suffering.

Fuyutsuki stared at the view screen, deep in Inner London.

“He's won.”

The core dimmed, its radiance consumed by a great blackness. As the Evangelion squatted on the body of the Herald, its jaws locked, lamprey style, on the orb, the Engels were belatedly assisting. Twin charge beams from the Shinnan scored further gashes on the core, while the Auphan, its acid-covered manibles slathered, was locked onto the being's hand, consuming a leech-like finger like some alien lizard eating a worm. It consumed the entire finger, then stuck its lightning gun into the wound, its white carapace soaked in blue blood, and fired, leaving the entire hand to convulse.

As the core began to splinter, as the tentacles of Unit 01 moved from place to place, devouring what they could, the Herald realised what danger it was in. Its mask protruded upwards from the blackness of its body, on a tendril of blackness, looking nothing as much as a primordial cobra.

“Get back, Tragedy!” yelled Wera.

As the Auphan jumped away, activating its A-Pods and soaring away into the sky, more appendages of void emerged from the fallen Herald, all wrapping themselves around Unit 01, while the parts of the Core that the Evangelion had not gotten to began to glow even brighter. The synthorg ignored it, mindlessly trying to consume all that it could.

A barrage of fire slammed into the core. Already damaged, and overloaded with power, it shattered, sending pseudo-crystalline shards tearing through the arcology. The Herald, by now nothing more than a mass of black pseudopodia trying to envelop Unit 01, slumped to the ground, flooding the area with its liquefying, unnatural flesh.

Looking to the artificial sky above it, coated in its own blood and the black, tar-like remains of the Herald, Evangelion Unit 01 raised its head and cried out. The gargling, dying scream shifted to a hideous roar, as the tentacles retracted into its jaw.

And the people throughout the land knew fear.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate

Deep in Inner London, Gendo Ikari steepled his fingers and smiled, faintly, in satisfaction.

“And thus it begins. The saving of the world.”



~’/|\’~
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

Tabasco
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Postby Tabasco » Fri Oct 16, 2009 7:45 pm

Welcome to the board.

I've been reading this over on Stardestroyer.net, nice to see it branching out.
---
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one insists on adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
- George Bernard Shaw

EarthScorpion
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Postby EarthScorpion » Sun Oct 25, 2009 4:12 am

Chapter 2

Transitions of a Terminus




Shinji Ikari woke to the sight of a smooth white ceiling above him, and the faint smell of antiseptics in the air. The bed below him was nice and soft. Soft was good. The skin on his front itched, like he had been bruised all over.

Raising his head and looking down, he noticed that this was, in fact, the case. A multitude of red welts, like he had been whipped or pressed into a heated wire, covered his bare torso. They looked days old, though, which raised two possibilities. Either he had been unconscious for that amount of time, after... whatever had happened in the Engel, or arcanotherapy was boosting his healing time. As a primary conclusion, he suspected the latter; a suspicion made more certain by the fact that the door was marked with the symbol of the Ashcroft Foundation, and the room had obviously been prepared as a consecrated area for ritual workings.

In the Strange Aeon, all children were taught to recognise that at a very young age. Bad things (things unspecified to young children, but as they aged some of the badness, such as being smeared across thirteen dimensions while still conscious) happened if a sorcerer were distracted. The more inquisitive, those who showed the greatest interest in sorcery and the occult, were shown some pictures by a New Earth Government visitor to the school. Typically, the interest died down after the twelve-year olds were shown what the human body looked like when that had happened. Lots of pink and grey.

Shinji, of course, had already known that. The room upstairs, where Gany had kept her books and her circle, had been locked at all times, and the four year old had been told explicitly that if he made noise around there, bad things could occur to everybody in the house.

His thoughts were dismissed by the noise of the door hissing aside. A nurse, a dark-skinned human in a gleaming white medicinal suit, entered.

“You are awake.” The English voice came from the ceiling, from the Augumented Reality display that had just lit up, bathing his face in a cool blue light. It was not a question; they quite obviously had access to his vitals.

“Yes.” Shinji blinked his eyes heavily, trying to get his head in shape to speak English. “Uh... who am I speaking to? Is this a LAI or a real person?”

“This is the Type-65H Limited Artificial Intelligence System, attached to the Charing Cross Hospital (London-2), an Ashcroft Foundation medical facility. This hospital is a specialist facility for New Earth Government soldiers and members of the Ashcroft Foundation with both-slash-either physiological and-slash-or psychological injuries.” The voice paused. “Your file indicates that you are fluent in English, Japanese and Nazzadi. Would you like this Limited Artificial Intelligence to switch languages to Japanese?”

“Yes, please.” Shinji winced, as he tried moving an arm.

Limited Artificial Intelligences (or LAI, pronounced as an abbreviation) were common in modern society. They were standard in nearly every computer system or computerised device. Indeed most people (excluding the types of people, who, years ago, would have been the type of people who used Linux) wouldn't be to even able to use their computers without the installed LAI, and its voice recognition and gesture interpretation. True AI, on the other hand, was outlawed for the same reasons as cloning; a cocktail of ethical issues, technical problems that made it difficult anyway, and the League for the Preservation of Nazzadi Culture. For some reason, the race of altered humans created and brainwashed to wipe out their progenitors by space fungus from Pluto (or Yuggoth, as they apparently called it) viewed the idea of creating any other kind of life rather negatively. Of course, inevitably, the rules were bent and ignored. The Magi computer system, developed as an offshoot of the Evangelion Project, was one of those little breaches, both from its composition and its theorised potential intellect. Other exceptions existed; top secret projects linked to the Engels, penguins, the GIA FACADE project...

Anyway, in an Ashcroft Facility, the LAI was always going to be more advanced than that on a laptop. The Type-65H was a high operating one, able to monitor the patient, administer drugs, and respond to the typical questions that patients tended to ask. And call for security, to have the subject subdued or terminated. Such things were needed in the Strange Aeon, sadly.

It took the LAI less than a second to upload the Japanese files to active memories.

“Patient Shinji Ikari.” The voice itself remained exactly the same, but it switched to flawless Japanese. “Do you wish to know your physiological status? You have not yet submitted a psychiatric evaluation to this facility.”

Shinji indicated assent. The machine proceeded to give a full diagnosis, the majority of which Shinji couldn't really understand. After getting it to simplify, he found that he had bruising and some first degree burns, and the LAI indicated that he had been approved for release, subject to mental evaluation.

Well, Shinji thought to himself. Well, well, well. Yesterday...

“LAI, what is today's date?” he asked the ceiling.

“Today is Wednesday, the 22nd of August, 2091. The time is 10:37 am,” the voice added, without prompting.

Okay. The day before yesterday. He'd been out for a day. Flexing, he ached, but nothing really hurt, in the stabbing way. Shinji swung his legs out of bed, and held his head in his hands.

Monday, as a day, all things considered, had really been terrible. He could still see the creature. It shouldn't have been. It was wrong. And whatever had happened with the Engel. He'd fainted after the laser (and that in itself was wrong; why was he being hurt when it was the Engel being hurt. He could understand transmitted pain, even if it seemed stupid not to put in some kind of buffer, but there was no way that he should have been burnt by being in the Evangelion.), and then...nothing coherent. There was the memories of thoughts which didn't make sense now, but in the memory of the thoughts they did.

And worse, in the memory of those thoughts, the monster had made sense.

And that was a horrific concept. Cold shivers ran up and down his spine, just at the thought of that.

Shinji Ikari groaned. He was sure that he could have to climb in the entry plug again. All he could hope was that there were no more creatures with AT fields. The other threats to London-2 could obviously be dealt with by conventional forces.

But the body of the creature had been horrific. That one glimpse, that hurried slight backwards, was burned into his mind. Suddenly the evaluation seemed like a good thing...



~'/|\'~



Inner London, sometimes somewhat jokingly called London-Minus, and one of the prototypes funded by the Ashcroft Foundation as a test bed for the technologies involved in the construction of a geocity, was a construction marvel. It was nearly identical to the original, first Geocity; the one beneath Toyko-3. The sealed buildings, organised for mass public transport and transport by foot, were interspaced with gardens and parks. The arcology even imitated weather, with wind, rain, and snow every Christmas. The D-Engine powered lights, gleaming far above in the greater dome of the geocity, were currently set to day, giving a good replica of daylight, but during the night the lights would dim, and new stars would twinkle above. These were not the night skies of the modern days; the stars were wrong, and kept deliberately so. For one, the glint of the Migou Hive Ship, hypothesised to be the body known as Charon, did not hang above the world, a seemingly ever present reminder of the threat of the Aeon War. The Foundation had designed the entire geocity to have a historic feel, reaching back to the Earth before the modern wars and the ecological damage of the twentieth century. In the midst of this primal beauty, Inner London, a pale girl with a lily, beauteous to the eye, lay. The red lights of the NEG positions, even underground, pooled around the city, marring the corpus while reminding the inhabitants of the price that humanity must pay every day.

The office of Gendo Ikari, in the heart of Inner London, below the London-2 arcology, was the gleaming interior of a sphere. The entire room was a potential source of Augmented Reality projections for his glasses, and the walls themselves could be made transparent, to look down over the domain of the Ashcroft Foundation. The dome, at the peak of Central Dogma, centre of Inner London was the tower for a modern wizard, properly consecrated for rituals as it was.

Currently, the walls were set to dark, and the Ashcroft-Yi equations, source and seal of the wealth and immeasurable influence of the Ashcroft Foundation (still technically a private trust, something its horde of lawyers were very clear to the NEG media, despite the fact that it had a word in every level of government) hung over the surfaces in a profusion of Greek letters, sub-and-superscript characters.

Fuyutsuki stood before his superior.

“We have a problem with Rei.”

Gendo looked up from his computer, the code flowing across its surface reflecting off his face like society of eldritch insects. Fuyutsuki shuddered. This place always put him in a morbid frame of mind. But Gendo seemed at ease here, or at the very least concealed it so utterly that he could neither sense, nor feel in any way, discomfort from the man. But he never had, not apart from that one day, locked in the past.

“Explain.”

“Because of her removal from a sterile ward while the epidermis had not yet fully acclimatised to its new body, we are getting an immune response against her left arm. Moreover, there is a necrotic bacterial infection in the same limb.” The elderly man paused. “Your son was right, you know. Mind you, you were the one who picked out those two women for foster parents. The Nazzadi one was a doctor.” A slight smile passed over his face. “I've always wondered why you did that.”

Gendo's eyebrows raised slightly in irritation. “I know. But you wouldn't be here to tell me about a routine infection; not in person. Therefore, something else had come up.”

“Two somethings, actually. The Committee wishes to speak with you. But, there is a more pressing problem with Rei. The left arm is suffering both dystrophic calcification epidermally and hypophosphoric softening in the actual bone. Moreover, unusual blemishes have appeared around the hand.”

Gendo's hands moved through the projected screen, as fresh data rippled over his glasses. Then:

“It is certain.”

“It is certain.”

He blinked, once.

“Amputate immediately, and grow a fresh one.” The black haired man paused, as something caught his eye. “There has been unauthorised tampering with her samples on the medicinal database. Specifically, chromosome 10.” His voice grew colder, if possible. “I want a full list of every single person who had access to that data. We will need full DNA and mental scans on all of them, and prepare for full use of the Clauses.”

“I anticipated that. The individuals have already been noted to Internal Security.”

“Thank you.” The words were a pleasantry, nothing more or less. “Now, I must talk to a few... people. I will have to justify activating Unit 01 ahead of schedule, and with what they will see as the wrong Pilot.”



~'/|\'~



Rei Ayanami lay in her hospital bed, her luminescent white skin beaded with sweat. As Ashcroft-loyal medical orderlies swarmed around the bed, her left arm already encased in a MAU, she was left to silently blend into the room; almost an irrelevancy. She looked up. The arched ceiling, two metres above her head, was white. To the left, the plain, clinical walls were the same.

She was a ghost.

A non-entity.

And as the sickly-sweet smell of lilies suffused the room, she looked at the orderly (Dr Phyl Laforge, MArcTher), and knew that he was mourning the loss of his wife to him.

And she wondered at the choice of words.



~'/|\'~



The vast flatscreens, mounted against the walls of the interior of the steel canyon that was London-2, blared out their approved message, on every channel. The current channel showed a very attractive Nazzadi, her hair dyed snow white to match her facial tattoos, in what might be generously called a skimpy dress.

“The latest news; the defeat of the latest strike in the Aeon War deployed against the valiant New Earth Government forces on the European front, against London-2. Although the New Earth Government has made no official statements, highly placed sources have stated, off the record, that they believe the vehicle, a bipedal walker roughly seventy metres in height, to have been of Dagonite origin.”

Misato snorted in a rather unladylike manner. She knew very well that the “highly placed sources” were the official briefing, at least at first. She shivered, and wrapped her arms tighter around her HEV suited body. The recovery attempts upon the dead entity, now codenamed by the New Earth Government as “Asherah”, were going as planned, and Ritsuko was positively delirious at the fact that they had a (nearly) intact corpse to poke around in. She had over-heard her old friend talking with some of the NEG scientists poking around in the innards of the beast, and the words “non-euclidean”, “extra-dimensional”, and references to exceedingly complex mathematics were being thrown around far too casually. With signs of intense enjoyment, too.

While obviously better able to deal with such things than, say, her grandmother would have been, Misato Katsuragi still held that there were some things that man was not meant to know. Like, say, how to bend space in a way that parallel lines intersected and then start showing them to her.

Moreover, because Evangelion Unit 01 had still been an internal Ashcroft project, rather than a NEG Army project, she had been the ranking officer, as the individual formally in charge of the military affairs of Inner London. Now, normally she could have deputised someone to over see the project, and got back to filling in some of the paper work that accumulated, like flies on a carcass, on her in desk. She would actually have done it, too. It would have been preferable to spending time around here, with the Arcology wall punctured and the ever-so-pleasant British weather blowing in.

It was raining, despite all her experiences with such things as gravity, horizontally.

Someday, she swore to herself, she would hunt down and find the individual who had approved her promotion to Chief Operations Officer for the Foundation in London. And then she would have words. Words involving coldness, wetness, and being forced to listen to arcane scientists explain what they were doing for very long periods of time. It was clinically proven to drive you mad, after all; what more did they have to show to get it banned...

But maybe she could start with the idiot in the New Earth Government Army who had decided, after their failure to kill the Asherah entity, that they had to be seen to be doing someone big and brave and heroic. As a consequence, they'd sent a dammed O-8, a Marshal to oversee the operations. She'd only been an O-4, a Major, when she'd left the NEGA for the better pay working for the Foundation. As an individual in the odd legal status of being a member of the Foundation's state-within-a-state (and didn't they know it, she added silently, her mind substituting the name “Gendo Ikari” for “they” as soon as she thought it), she wasn't technically outranked, but her instincts were yelling at her to defer to him.

She ignored them. Reluctantly, she got up from her section behind the wind (and rain) shadow of a wrecked piece of wall, and went to get some more coffee. Coffee was warm. Warm was good.

That was the kind of maths that she approved of.

Unfortunately, the path to the nano-fabber set up for hot drinks was blocked by scientists. Talking science. And not even proper science; arcane science.

Approval rating dropping, she thought to herself.

As the black liquid came out of the machine into her waiting voice, she heard the unmistakable tones of Dr Atagi from over her shoulder.

“...so, yes, it seems that the entity, is, quite apart from protruding an extra-dimensional bubble which warps space-time in the same fashion as a massive body to an extent that we'd only really see this degree of the imposition of a non-Euclidean geometry around a singularity... oh yes, did I mention? The WEYL and RICCI tensors are themselves complex... I know! This thing should give research materials for years.”

Ritsuko's voice dropped in enthusiasm, suddenly.

“And keep the whole damn psychiatric wards of the Foundation with a regular influx of patients, too.”

Misato could feel the change in the atmosphere. Colder, suddenly, as if it had just dropped ten degrees. Was that a sniffle she heard? Yes, it was, she decided, and more than one.

She turned around. The flock of arcane scientists was already dispersing, leaving Ritsuko staring down at the ground.

She shuffled towards her friend, steaming cup of coffee in her hand, and a decidedly neutral expression on her face.

“Rits? You want a cup of coffee? It's black?”

Her friend grabbed at it, with a hungry, almost inhuman expression on her face.

She then downed it in one.

“Uh, that was very hot...” Misato began, before fading away.

Ritsuko was crying, her dyed blond face obscuring her face. She began to sob, a thick burble halfwhere between a sob and a giggle.

“Ow. Yeah.” She pulled out a pack of cigarettes from within her HEV suit, and lit up.

“Gods, yeah. Ow. My tongue feels like, well, like the taste buds and the muscle itself have become scalded and engorged from the excess heat.”

Misato looked at her wryly. “I think you meant “I burnt my tongue!” she replied, in a somewhat forced light-hearted tone of voice.

“Yes, sure.”

“Are you sure you don't want to talk about it.” Misato paused, a slightly stricter tone entering her voice. “Have you been going to your weekly evaluations? Have you been taking your pills?”

“Yes, Misato, I have.” Her voice steadied somewhat. “It's just... well, the day before yesterday, I went to the Twin Obelisks. Some new names had gone up.”

The black-haired woman didn't say anything, but merely hugged her friend around the shoulders. Of course, Misato thought. She tends to get like this when she goes near that place.

The Twin Obelisks. There were copies of them in any major Ashcroft Foundation facility, although the originals stood in the Foundation's headquarters, in Chicago-2. The larger White Obelisk, which, engraved upon it in minuscule text, listed the names of every single researcher and arcanotechnician lost to insanity, locked up in the permanent wards of the Foundation's cavernous mental facilities. And the Black Obelisk, listing every single individual killed directly in the line of their duties.

“It's just,” Ritsuko, in a shaky voice, as she wiped her eyes on her sleeve, “it's just, well... the year before last, over half my graduating class in now on one of those two Obelisks. My mother's on the White one.”

NAOKO AKAGI

“You remember Asuka, right, over in the German branch.”

Misato nodded her assent.

“I heard this morning that they're putting Unit 02 off the training position its been in, since the funds were cut, and attaching it directly to the NEGA. Her mother was driven mad by the Evangelion project, and now...” Ritsuko clammed up.

KYOKO ZEPPELIN SORYU

“Hell, you know how I bitch about Dr Miyakame, but he's the only sane one left out of his entire research group. The rest are on the monoliths, one way or another. Simon Yi, the man who developed the D-Engine, is up there.”

SIMON YI

“And then there's Teresa Ashcroft. She did all the theory, from scratch. She's responsible for all much modern technology. People in the past would have killed for the almost free energy, 100% environmentally sound...”

“Apart from when gribbly things burst out and eat the technicians.” Misato bit down on her lip, well aware that her attempts to interject some humour into the situation might just make the situation worse.

“That only happened with the first few prototypes, back in the '30s, as you know quite well,” Ritsuko snapped back, sounding more like herself. “But, anyway, what did that brilliance get Teresa Ashcroft...”

TERESA ASHCROFT

“Nothing, that's what. She was committed in '22, aged 27. If she's alive now, do you think she cares about anything at all.” The doctor took a deep pull on her cigarette. “And that's just the White. I can name several more on the Black. You know the Ashcroft college we'll be sending the Third Child to. Almost all the children there have a parent on the Obelisks. That's what we're doing. The dammed D-Engine is eating up all our best and brightest, and spitting some out, mangled, while it swallows some whole.”

Inside, Ritsuko Atagi was shaking. She realised, now, that she was having one of her episodes. She hadn't told her friend yet that they'd bumped her up to twice-weekly examinations. She was losing it, she knew. But still, all the people she knew were going slowly crazy. And what they were doing to get the Evangelions working. Sometimes, she doubted that the human race was worth what they were sacrificing for it. What she, personally, was sacrificing. It wasn't even going crazy, not really. Because when she looked at it through the new viewpoint that she got through arcanotechnology, it made more sense. What did human emotions matter when you knew, as a clear statement, that all humanity was was a collection of three-dimensional molecules arranged in a complex pattern, embedded in the fourth dimension, and with slight intrusions into the fifth. But whenever she wavered, out of the mists of her subconscious emerged that face. She would never be free of him.

She pulled herself together, internally, following her councillor's guidance. There were a lot of things that Misato both shouldn't (both for the reasons of their friendship and the classified nature of the information) and couldn't (unable to understand from her limited perspective) know, and she would not blab it out to her. She took several deep breaths.

“Don't you have to collect the Third Child from the hospital, anyway? He was assigned to you.” She looked at her friend's face, her eyes still red and damp. “What did you think of him? Before he got in the Evangelion, obviously; they haven't given him a full analysis yet for mental contamination or any of the... problems we had with previous candidates.”

Misato gave a dark look at her friend.

“Don't remind me. I kind of liked him, which is a good start. No tolerance for motion sickness, of course, but you said that the Representative is the same.”

Her friend laughed weakly, her voice still shaky. “Misato, remember Pola? The fighter pilot. He only let you drive him around twice before he left. You know, I think you burned out your vestibular system right when you joined the NEGA.”

Misato looked blank at her for a few seconds.

“Oh. You mean I-N-N-E-R space E-A-R, I think.” Inside, she felt somewhat better. If Ritsuko could needle her by the use of too long words, then she was getting better.

“Yes, Misato, I do.” She pulled a handkerchief out of her suit, and blew her nose, noisily.

“Not my fault I was assigned an Eclipse as my first mecha,” the black-haired woman added in a deliberately childish voice.

“What happened to Pola, anyway. I thought you quite liked him, back in college.”

Misato shrugged “He was only really a handkerchief after Kaji.”

“Handkerchief? Ah, something to sob into, then discard.”

“Well, actually I meant it in the sense that it's only good for a few blows, but your version can be safely explained to children. But, yes, he ended up being moved over to Shanghai from Tokyo-3.” Her voice went cold. “He was probably still there when the Rapine Storm hit China.”

Words were not necessary to explain what that meant. The human Disciples, if the term could apply to those degenerates, would rape you to death, eat you and wear your skin as clothing. These actions could even be re-arranged, without nearing some of the worse things that they could do, things that weren't even released to the general public.

“Look at us,” Ristuko said, in a black tone of voice. “We're in our mid thirties...”

“Early thirties!” Misato replied, in a hurt tone of voice. “I'm still thirty two!”

“Thirties, then. So many people we know are dead. Dead in this stu... this war.”

“Yes, yes,” she replied, her voice shifting into a more authoritative tone of voice. “For your own sake, Rits-chan, I'm formally, as Director of Operations, giving you sick leave. I'm going to the Charing Cross Hospital to pick up the younger Ikari. I'll drive you there, and leave you at the out-clinic. You can't work in this state, and you won't help up if you have a break-down like this when the Evangelions are active.”

Ritsuko sniffed. “You're right. You know, you might actually be maturing.” A weak smile covered her face. “As I can recall, in university it was me driving you to hospital, to have your stomach pumped...”

A pained look entered Misato's eyes. “That hurt. Man, my twenty-second birthday sucked...”

“Among other activities, yes.”

“That was low, Rits, that was low.”

“As low as you went shortly before you tried rock-paper-scissors with absinthe? And, before you ask why I'm bringing this up, I still haven't forgiven you for what you did to my carpet.”

Clutching her rather tattered dignity around her, Director of Operations Misato Katsuragi stalked off to her car, scientist in tow.



~'/|\'~



It was three days before they released Shinji from the in-clinic. He felt better, now. A full psychological profile, of the same level assigned to Engel pilots, had been generated, and he had been subject to eight sessions of talk therapy. They'd prescribed him a course of prochlorperazine, a mild relaxant, which should help with his still elevated nerves. He had been deemed stable and sane, capable of normal activities within society, and, he noted with a hint of displeasure, fully able to operate a standard NEG Sword-class mecha. He wasn't sure how that related to ability to climb into an entry pod, and he wasn't really sure if the psychiatrists knew, either, but he knew that what this meant was that they would pretty inevitably try to make him pilot the Evangelion again.

Well, if they thought that he merely acquiesce, subject to the blackmail of the White xenomix and her physical state and the demands of his father, then they didn't know Shinji Ikari. He knew the law. The New Earth Government required all mecha pilots (excluding certain civil-assigned power armours, defined as D-Engine powered vehicles subject to the Operator Side Effect less than 3.5 metres in height) to have a commission, and they didn't usually accept candidates before age of eighteen. The New Earth Government couldn't legally deploy him. He was vaguer on the somewhat extra-judicial nature of the Ashcroft Foundation and their operations, but he wasn't an employee of the group, and so they had no authority over him when he was outside of one of their facilities.

He smiled faintly. The Ashcroft Foundation. So much like the historical papacy of Historical Christianity, with its own authority and its whispering voice in the ear of the powerful. And, in the faint whispers on the grapevine of society, just as willing to sacrifice a martyr for them.

On the other hand, though, it seemed that they really needed him, to the extent that they would fly him from Japan to pilot the Engel. He was sure that his father would find a way to make him do it. The name of Ikari bore its own baggage; that of the eminence grisé.

Shinji was quite unaware of how true that was.

And anyway, there was the guilt, that he was needed, and to run away was... well, against his social conditioning, for the protection of the tribe. The very fact that he could articulate the thought, that the desire make grandiose gestures “For Humanity's Sake!” was merely biological programming designed to subjugate the mind of the individual to the collective good didn't make the sick, roiling feeling in his stomach, when he considered the so-called cowardice, go away. What to do, what to do?

As his mind ran over these problems, Shinji's body removed the clothing he had been assigned in the mental health hospital. He looked out over the clothes that they had given him to wear. His white shirt and black trousers had been destroyed, he had been told, by the immersion in the LCL.

The question to what that would do to his health in the long term was a nagging itch at the back of his head.

As a replacement, they had given him a generic light blue T-shirt, and dark grey trousers. They were obscured, though, by the ballistic vest. Its black mass lay under the white lights of the sterile room he was in, soaking in the light. He had been told by the orderly who had laid this clothing out that, as pilot, he was obliged to wear this in all places not deemed secure. Apparently he was now a potentially valuable assassination target for Migou infiltrators, Dagonite cultists, malcontent, and possibly even people who might view the late deployment of the Evangelion as the failure of the NEG to save their loved ones.

Not a happy thought at all.

Outside the gleaming entrance to the facility, in a courtyard filled with flowers under the artificial sun, a figure waited for him. As his eyes cleared from the unusual brightness, Shinji was somewhat surprised to find that the Foundation's Director of Operations waiting for him.

With, he shuddered, her car. That loathsome machine, that was merely a tool for her deep seated desires to make perfectly innocent individuals suffer. That finely bladed weapon that was the way that her desires to be a pilot (again, he judged, looking at her posture) could be made manifest. Many fears have been attached to objects in the past; a fear of uncontrolable attached to alcohol, a fear of the unknown attached to mimes, a fear of the unseen attached to shadows. Shinji Ikari was far too logical, in his own mind, to displace fears like that. No, what truly terrified him was the car, specifically when it was in motion. And when the individual greeting him was driving it.

“Hello... uh... Misato,” was all that he could get out, past the waves of nausea and fear. “I... uh... thought that I was just going to be collected by ... someone less important than yourself.” He paused. He would not hyperventilate, he would not faint. “What will... uh... be happening to me now?”

Misato smiled at him, in a slightly desperately hopeful way. She didn't have much experience with children (though Shinji wasn't really a child. On the other hand, he wasn't even born in the '70s, and she was damned if someone who couldn't wasn't really a child, because that would make her old), and it had just been her luck that had resulted in her accommodation being selected from among the few with the appropriate security for such a high value target. She had volunteered for that list, true, but that had just meant that she had got a bigger apartment up in London-2, and a small Foundation funded tax rebate. She hadn't expected them to actually use it, damn it, beyond possibly a nice, sober officer who could maybe help with the tidying. She hadn't expected Rits' Evangelion project to ever a) bear fruit, and b) land her with one of the pilots as a flatmate. Especially since they'd already told her, in private, that if they had to move Unit 02 over to London, she'd be getting yet another visitor.

The fact that, unbeknownst to her, her psychological profile had been noted to “have deep rooted, unfulfilled maternal tendencies”, had also helped narrow the choice, when the first choice for supervision and guardianship of the pilots had refused to have his son living with him.

“I've been appointed your legal guardian. You're an important military figure now, after your success against the first Herald... you do know that we're calling them that, right?” Misato flapped her hand. “Doesn't matter, anyway, silly name if you ask me. Anyway, I've got a big apartment, and one of the few in the entirety of London-2 that fit the security criteria. I volunteered.”

Well, it wasn't technically a lie. She did have a big apartment, it did fit the security criteria, and she supposed that she had sort of volunteered when she filled in that form when Ritsuko had pointed out that it seemed like an easy way to get preferential treatment. It wasn't the boy's fault that she was being forced into it.

“What about Yuki and Gany?”asked Shinji, referring to his foster mothers back in Tokyo-3.

“They agreed, said that they couldn't really legally guard you while you were in London-2. I'm sorry, I meant to collect you three days ago, but they wouldn't let you out before they'd given you the full works. Anyway,” she continued, brushing quickly past the sensitive subject whatever had happened in the psychiatric facility, “It'll be fun, honestly. I'll go out and get food, so there'll be no need to cook anything from the nanofab. We'll have a welcoming party!”

Shinji paused. He wasn't even sure that he wanted to stay here, let alone go anywhere near that monstrous Engel they wanted him to pilot, and here was this woman barging into his life, taking it over, and dragging him off, importantly, in her devil-forged car.

“Excellent,” Misato declared, grabbing him by the elbow and pulling. “I've put in a form to have the rest of your stuff shipped over. I doubt anyone could have enough stuff to fill up my place.”

Shinji, for his part, was merely running to keep upright. How the hell could that woman move so fast? Did she have little A-Pods in her feet?



~'/|\'~



Lieutenant James Hawass, known to his co-pilots as “Tragedy” sat beside his wife's bedside, the bleep of the hospital machine unheard. His olive skin was grey with fatigue and stress, his hair lank, his posture bowed. He'd sent his daughter back, to stay with her friends. It wasn't much, or even the right thing to do, but it was the only thing that he could think to do.

Dammit! It wasn't fair.

It wasn't meant to like this.

He'd helped kill the Herald, felt its finger fill the gullet of his Auphan, while the new Evangelion class tore it apart. He'd helped save London-2. He was getting a commendation for this.

Except it was now just meaningless. He'd come home to find his daughter sitting in the corner, hands clutched over her eyes, crying, while his wife lay motionless on the floor, in a pool of her own vomit. That wasn't the worst of it.

She'd clawed her own eyes out.

She'd clawed her own fucking eyes out.

And now he sat, the big damn hero, saviour of the New Earth Government, by her bedside. She was tied down, with the full in-patient treatment to stop any extra damage.

The doctors had said that they could fix the physical damage. A new set of cloned eyes could be grown; that'd take a few days, and then maybe a fortnight of recovery while her brain got used to it. No, it was the mental damage that would be the problem. They'd said that this was Aeon War Syndrome, which just made it worse for the Engel pilot, who knew what that really was.

Somehow, Katrina, his beautiful wife, had been exposed to something that should not be. He'd seen things like that, and killed them. Hells, he sat in a uterine pod inside something that man was not meant to know, and used it as a tool. That was fair. He knew the risks when they offered him the surgery to get the Engel Synthesis Interface. He was a volunteer.

But what had she been doing wrong? She wasn't an arcanotechnician or an occult scholar. The OSI had already torn up the house, and they'd found no sign of sorcery. She'd been genescanned; one human female of Caucasian/Indian sub-continent origin, no Outsider Taint. She had no previous records of parapsychic abilities.

It wasn't meant to happen to people like that.

But it did. All too frequently. And so he was left to sit here, waiting. He'd seen friends, comrades, in a less bad state, who had taken years to get out of the in-clinic.

God-fucking-damn it. It wasn't fair.

All over the city of London-2, and the rest of Europe to a lesser degree, the same melancholy tale had repeated itself like a sick joke. A mysterious wave of madness had swept through the populace like a dark tide, leaving most unaffected, but dragging some poor, hapless souls into its malevolent vortices where few surfaced. Average people and businessmen; the majority of the populace of the New Earth Government mostly survived untouched, with but a few suffering disturbed nights, and a slightly increased death rate in local hospitals, as those already weakened succumbed to the darkness that lurks behind eyes other than theirs. Some ran screaming from their workplaces, and ran to the nearest bodies of liquid, to cast themselves in, claiming that they must walk the waters to placate that which awakes. The scientists, of both the mundane and the arcane, sorcerer and biologist alike, oddly, were affected less, with most feeling no difference. Perhaps the pursuit of logical thought had in some way inured them to the ripples in the pool behind the senses, where it is all put together. But it was the artists; DJs, painters, and dancers who suffered the worst. In one strip-club, specialising in the Nazzadi, the workers fell upon the clientèle, consuming them in a madness that seemed quite beyond what many of the sickened OIS Agents, who put down the mad souls, had seen before. Painters produced masterworks beyond their skills, with sickening words in Aklo, R'lyehan and Tsath-yo that proclaimed profuse truths about the universe. And scultors made figures cast in bronze, clay and tin, that portrayed a morbid, yet horrifically gravid, vaguely female figure, like a Stygian Medusa stripped of all the romance of myth.

And in a blacked room, under stars which were wrong, a figure, cast in white light, nodded to Gendo Ikari.

“You know what must be done. You cannot back out now. The Human Iteracy Project comes above all. For the Greater Good.”

The figure vanished.

And the glint of the eyes behind the orange glasses spoke of the plans of the Ikaris. The Old Men had their plan, and he would follow his.



~'/|\'~
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

Tabasco
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Postby Tabasco » Sun Oct 25, 2009 9:10 am

Its probably been said many a time, but this fic manages to be even more heartbreaking than the show. On the plus side, it hasn't tipped over into kitsch because of that, so I'm just fine with that.

Did notice an odd sentence just after Simon Yi's name, at "She's responsible for all much modern technology." Not sure if that's deliberate or not.
---
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one insists on adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
- George Bernard Shaw

Themaninblack
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Postby Themaninblack » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:49 am

I think the biggest problem with the first chapter was of all things, pace. You have managed to clean that up here and let the story to take a natural, soothing slow flow.

More comments later, but awseome so far!
I won.

EarthScorpion
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Postby EarthScorpion » Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:54 pm

Themaninblack wrote:I think the biggest problem with the first chapter was of all things, pace. You have managed to clean that up here and let the story to take a natural, soothing slow flow.

More comments later, but awseome so far!


Heh, yes. A nice soothing slow flow downhill, into the dark and tumescent waters of impersonal existential horror. With occasional interludes of personal horror and body horror.

And sarcastic humour, don't forget that. Slightly wry, understated humour, but humour none-the-less. :wink:
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

EarthScorpion
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Postby EarthScorpion » Tue Oct 27, 2009 8:11 pm

Chapter 3

All Alike in Circumstance



~'/|\'~


The earth shook as the beast strode through the bombed out ruins of Old London. A black silhouette, its over-long arms dragging along the ground, as it casually smashed its way through an apartment block. And then it roared, a thin keen, impossibly loud, like a kettle fit to boil seas. The streets were abandoned; those among the squatters dwelling in the ruins who could seek asylum in the Enclaves had done so, while those who feared the scrutiny of the New Earth Government hid themselves in those parts of the Underground that had not flooded.

Target 0005-T was the latest iteration of the Herald-substitute for use in the Evangelion training programme. The direct data derived from the Third Herald, Asherah, had been deemed fully unsuitable for use in training, as the simulation body lacked the filtering effect that helped maintain the sanity of the pilot. The idea that an Eva pilot might be reduced to insanity by a training exercise had been duly considered, and had been deemed enough of a threat that such measures had been put in place. Why this was the case was only known to a number of individuals in the Ashcroft Foundation that could be counted on both hands. It had been justified to the NEG, however, by the little truth that it was considerably cheaper to run a simulation body than a full operation with Unit 01.

Up in the control centre, Misato frowned, and stroked the golden badge of a Major, restored to her shoulder. The operations staff of the Eva Project were, without exception, former officers in the NEGA; after the defeat of the Herald, the Project had been assimilated into the military with almost indecent speed, given the same odd status as the Engel Project. Ritsuko had been crowing about that; not only were they separate, as opposed to subordinate, to the Engels, but, as head scientist on the project, she was, technically in the eyes of the New Earth Government, possessing the same status as Dr Miyakame. She was getting a little intolerable, actually. Misato made a mental note to ...no, it was better than her depression, far better.

She mentally shrugged, and focussed back on the operation.

“Shinji. You have full control... now.”

From the main screen, and the three-dimensional projection in the centre of the room, the control room watched the training of the Third Child. Two projections were up; the first, and larger, showed a model of the environment the alleged Unit 01 was supposedly operating in. The second showed the activities of the simulation body, suspended in fluid. The simulation bodies lacked most of the components that made the Evangelions unique; in practice, the bodies were closer to scaled up Engels. They were mostly unarmoured, only covered enough to help the sanity of the maintenance technicians, and, were they to be removed from the Pribnow Box, strategic removal of muscles and ligaments would leave them barely able to stand. Indeed, the fact that they could remain upright was a worrying situation in both Foundation and NEG contingency planning; despite the lobotomisation of the synthetic organisms, the regeneration that conventional Engels (although not Synthorgs derived from... whatever the Evangelions were) displayed was enough of a theoretical threat that the defences turned in around the simulation chamber rivalled that of front-line bases.

Shinji squatted behind a wrecked front of houses, his (or was it his? No, it wasn't. It was the Evangelion's body. He was just borrowing it)...

Back in the control room, First Lieutenant Aoba frowned. The synch ratio was dropping. He input a series of commands, silently, and the drop ceased. He nodded, once, to himself.

Ritsuko nodded, too. She'd noticed his activities, even though he hadn't unnecessarily announced them. Aoba was a good technician; he had great patience, kept his temper cool (unlike some people in the control centre), was doggedly determined, and had an especially good eye for detail. He wasn't as gifted a scientist as Maya, though, and his dress and habits were... annoying.


...blue-grey arms cradling the 120mm High Velocity Penetrator they'd given him. This was his second week of training, although the first ten days had been a very cut down version of base camp, teaching him to hold a rifle properly, use cover (although the concept of cover for a war machine forty metres high at the shoulders was rather different from that for a man-sized target, so they'd had him in a stripped down conventional mecha, with its control scheme modified to match that of the Eva), and generally some much abbreviated tools of the trade of the modern soldier. The training sergeant, a grim faced man who claimed that his entire body had been replaced over the course of the Aeon War, had groaned and told Shinji that he was useless at first sight, but he had been told by one of the assistants that the sergeant said that to everyone. Then there had been two days, filled with endless repetitions of the tedious phrase “Centre the rifle on the target and pull the trigger.” only yesterday had they actually let him engage in combat simulations, against a varied group of enemies that all seemed to be built around the same template as the Evangelion and the Herald.

“Remember the HUD,” Shinji muttered to himself. “Watch the map. Remember the HUD. Centre the reticule and pull the trigger.”

The Herald's footsteps stopped. The HUD showed that it was five hundred metres away, and he'd chosen this position well. The building in front of him was solid, but the area beyond that had been flattened by a Nazzadi strike, he assumed, and so he had a good field of fire. He straightened up, levelling the rifle on the target, and focussing the head-mounted lasers, and squeezed the...

... and a blue-green beam of light yawned out of the creature's mouth, punching through the building and his (no, the Evangelion's, he reminded himself) body. As the first of the magnetically accelerated Penetrators hit the target, it jerked, knocked back, as its night-black body, resplendent of cthonic depths, was torn apart.

Unfortunately, all that did was cause the beam to arc upwards, cutting through the body and neatly bisecting the human war machine. Shinji felt a slight ache, the faintest hint of the agony that such an injury would cause him if he were a proper Evangelion. The lights in the entry capsule went out, leaving him in complete darkness, in the dense, warm viscosity of the LCL. It still wasn't a nice taste, of blood and other, stranger, undertones, but he was getting used to it.

The lights clicked back on, showing the projected image of what the inside of the entry tube would look like, were it not flooded with reddish-orange goo.

Misato's voice came in, over the radio. She was definitely in “Officer Misato” mode, rather than the indolent, empty-headed, hedonistic, lazy, lowbrow (and Shinji could go on) slob which she seemed to really be.

“So, Pilot Ikari. What do you think you did wrong this time.”

Was that the faintest hint of sadistic glee, like that from his cello teacher, who enjoyed the shouting at a student who had made a mistake almost as much as he praised one who did it correctly? He suspected it was. How could one woman be such a different person from one moment to the next. He vaguely wondered if it were possible to “save up” seriousness and responsibility. If so, Misato was obviously following a Keynesian economic policy.

He blinked heavily.

“I think I waited too long. I was waiting for it to pass me, then I was going to open fire. I didn't realise this was a new type. I thought it was the same as the second one you used against me...”

“...which was, in itself, stupid. You can't fight the next war against the last opponents, and we noticed in the last few simulations that you were relying upon knowing what they were going to do.”

“That's why we programmed in the mutator,” Dr Akagi added. “This was the first test of it. And I have to say, we did rather well,” she said, a smirk emerging in her voice. “It takes the behavioural patterns of the observed Herald, all NEG, Nazzadi, Migou and Dagonite mecha, as well as various extra-normal lifeforms, and develops hybrid attack patterns. Moreover, its weapons are randomised, too, and subjected to a learning algorithm.”

“But I can't even use the AT-field when in this thing,” Shinji protested. “That's not really that fair.”

“It's not fair, is it, Pilot Ikari? Would you like me to make a complaint to the Heralds?”

“But how can I train with the AT field, if I can't actually use it? Perhaps you would like me to practice flying in this flightless simulator?”

“We haven't resolved the issues with mounting enough A-pods on the Evangelion to actually achieve flight, but it does account for the jump pods. As you showed us so very well on trial zero-zero-three, when you managed to jump over the target and land in the Thames.” Dr Akagi paused. “Well, when I say you landed in the Thames, I meant that your flaming wreckage did. Inertial trajectories and momentum are that ever so great bane of the hot-shot mecha pilot, and that just made you an easy target.”

Shinji paused. “Point accepted. There was no need to be so pointlessly sarcastic, though,” he added, in a slightly hurt voice.

He was fairly sure that he was just putting it on.

“English is a good language for being sarcastic in. Would you like to make a complaint to the Ashcroft Foundation?”

“Point also accepted, Doctor.” Shinji smiled wryly. “Nazzadi is a lot more pleasant in that regard,” he added in that language.

“If you have finished with your all-so-clever banter,” Misato interrupted, “and, yes, I do realise that I am being sarcastic too... no, I could see you open your mouth, Rits-chan, don't even start that sentence.” She cleared her throat. “We have a Pilot to train, so that, in real life, he doesn't get bisected by one of the Heralds. Perhaps we could get back to that.”

Ritsuko nodded her head.

“Anyway, yes, to answer the question you initially put, Shinji, you seem to have natural talent at projecting an AT field. What we really need to do is to teach you to use the basics of Unit-01; movement, integrated and external weapons, cover. We'll be running live tests when Pilot Ayanami recovers, and we can pit the two Units against each other.” She shrugged. “Depends if we can work out an attack pattern for the Heralds. If they attack all over the world, we may have to split the Evangelions up. Really, the political pressure to station one in Chicago would be too much. After all, Miyakame's precious Engels can't do anything to a Herald-level entity; they're too small, too weak, and use inferior genestock.”

Misato gave a meaningful cough.

“Anyway, yes. Maya, begin a full program restart. Randomise starting location and feed the new data into the mutator.”

The control room swung into life once again.



~'/|\'~



Shinji clambered out of the opened door to the entry port, and immediately threw up, emptying his stomach of a rancid mixture of LCL and breakfast.

He groaned. He was feeling physically exhausted from the training, despite his body (or was it? No, this was certainly his body.) having done nothing more strenuous than sit in a chair all day, with the pseudo-weightlessness of the fluid in the chamber even removing the necessity to hold his own weight. Perhaps that was part of the problem, he thought to himself. Getting out, and that horrible moment when the tube replaced the LCL with air, just made what seemed like gravity had tripled. And it seemed so cold outside the Entry Plug. He was sure that the London Geocity was kept around five degrees colder than London-2, above them.

He felt one of the technicians take his arm, guiding him gently over the patch of vomit. They had got quite used to that happening; about half the time he threw up, and those incidents coincided with times that he swallowed the stuff. He wasn't quite clear what the LCL actually was, and, frankly, he suspected he didn't want to know. Logically, it was probably related to amniotic fluid, given the whole immersion thing and the biological nature of the Eva-class Engels, which was a thought which had the word squick attached to it.

Indeed, the fact that he had just thought that thought was making him feel somewhat worse. Stupid mind making stupid logical connections.

Someone had just passed him a towel. That was a good thing, he thought, as he wiped his face, and made it so he wasn't dripping wet, and turned to thank his potential saviour. It was Kozo Fuyutsuki, his father's henchman and second-in-command of Ashcroft Europe. The old man, clad in his brown suit, actually seemed to be trying to be nice; at the very least, he was smiling, and, of course, he had provided the towel.

“Pilot Ikari. You did well in the training today; better than yesterday. You're learning rapidly.”

“Th... thank you, sir,” Shinji managed to stammer in return. With surprise, he found he was oddly nervous around the man. Nothing compared to the cold presence of his father, but there was something slightly unsettling about the man, as if Gendo had rubbed off on him.

And, of course, praise from an authority figure felt good. He knew that it was an ingrained instinct, a legacy of the fact that people who didn't settle for just praise from authority tended not to breed, and of the social structures of the apes before mankind, but it did.

“After you've changed out of the plug suit, the Representative... your father wants to see you in his office, to discuss the terms of your employment here.”

Shinji nodded silently.

Fuyutsuki turned to leave, stopped, and, not quite looking at Shinji, said, “That was well done, Shinji.”

The boy frowned, staring at the man's retreating back, towel in hand. This contemplation was broken by Misato snatching it from him, and beginning to vigorously dry his LCL-soaked hair.

“Aaah! What are you doing! Stop...Mmmph” he complained, as his plaintive protests only succeeded in getting an orange-goo soaked towel in his mouth. He tried to squirm away, but the woman was horribly fast and strong.

“You really did improve faster after Ritsuko put in the mutator. For the last few ones, you were really moving as if it was your body. With luck, we'll get permission for some field tests soon,” said Happy Misato happily. “And stop struggling. We don't want you dripping LCL all the way to the changing rooms.”

“But when you do this to it, before it gets washed out, it just ends up sticking all over the ... mmmph,” the reply once again interrupted by the taste of towel.

Misato sighed.

“Very well,” she said, handing the by-now sodden towel back to Shinji. “Go. Clean up, then you can see the Representative.”

She noted the slump of his shoulders as he walked away.

Behind her, Ritsuko and Maya stood silently, on their way back to the offices of the Evangelion Project. Ritsuko, she knew, was judging her. Misato could feel it from the way that she didn't say anything, from her pose that screamed that she wasn't just not saying anything, but that she wasn't saying anything.

But Dr Akagi was most certainly thinking. And what she was thinking was;

“That psychological profile was right on the money. Looks like I owe Dr Tam 20 Tn.”

Maya Ibuki was less skilled, or less prepared to keep quiet than her mentor and teacher.

“How does he do it? How does he bring himself to pilot it?” she asked, softly.

Whether the question was rhetorical, or directed towards Ritsuko or Misato was unclear. Nevertheless, the good doctor took it upon herself to answer.

“It's complicated. It's in part ignorance. We know the truth about what the Evangelions are, and importantly the fact that the numbers of the Children only count the successful candidates. If we counted all of them; well, let's just say that the Second Child would be actually in the double digits, and he'd be even higher.”

She paused, her face lowered in the pure white light of the hallway, staring at the reddish-orange footprints on the white floor.

“And it's his personality. He has an outer shell of cynicism and sarcasm, but he'll go along with what others say eventually. The complaints, inconvenient questions and objections are just a way to make it seem like he has control over the situation, without having to make decisions himself. It's how he copes with life.”

Because you're so different, her inner voice sneered. You're the facilitator, the one who hammers others' dreams into reality, paying for their flights of fantasy with your grip on sanity. He's bright and he asks questions, instead of just obeying, like most of the people around here. You don't know that he'll obey no matter what.

Because asking questions is such a good idea, another voice replied. If Teresa Ashcroft hadn't asked all those questions and read The Mysteries Within, and Simon Yi hadn't asked all those questions about what exactly had driven his colleague mad, and so on to the current day, the Migou wouldn't have come. Were the five-and-a-half billion lives from the two Arcanotech Wars really fair exchange for the knowledge.

“Senpai?” There was a tone of worry in Maya's voice. “Are you okay? You just tailed off.”

“Yes. I am fine.” Her voice came out, cold as ice.

The voices were silenced by a nootropic mood stabiliser, swallowed without the aid of water.

Misato stared coldly at her old friend's retreating back. The Aeon War Syndrome was getting worse with Ritsuko, she thought. The insanities and mental disorders, worrying though they were, were human problems. They were human ways which humans used to cope with things that they shouldn't have to; Ritsuko had her delicate mental stability, and her horde of cats. But the coldness, the apathy, the dehumanisation that some people showed (like the Representative, her mind whispered to herself, within its deepest depths), was worse. Because those people were stable, but their equilibrium point was not that of normal people.



~'/|\'~



Gendo's breath rose before him, in the chill room at the top of the geocity. He stared at his second-in-command over his glasses.

“You talked to him.”

It was a statement of fact, not a question.

“Why do you make these statements, if you already know the answers?”

There was no answer.

“You are nervous, aren't you, Gendo.”

It was also a statement.

“You've closed in on yourself rather than show nerves ever since I've known you. You've preferred to be seen as a magnificent bastard, as the chessmaster, than a human being, ever since it happened. Since they happened, actually.”

Gendo ignored his words, and spoke softly, as if the criticism had not occurred.

“Misato was told to evaluate his performance honestly to him. You praised him, as we planned. Ritsuko made the last few easier than they should have been, deactivating the learning algorithm.”

A faint smirk appeared under the glasses.

“Honestly, Gendo. You shouldn't feel so proud about setting things up so a sixteen year old signs a contract,” Fuyutsuki chided, gently.

“Not a normal sixteen-year old, no. But this is imperative for the YI-plan. It must happen.”

“True, true.”


~'/|\'~


Shinji took his shower while in the plug suit itself. The garment was sealed around the neck, after all, keeping the rest of him dry and clean. He knew, intellectually, that the thing was cleaned in a high technology facility every time it was worn, but it just felt better to leave it superficially clean. He raised his head to the ceiling, eyes closed, and let the warm water wash down upon his face. Unseen, the rivulets of water and other fluids flowing off the suit swirled together, staining the drain red, and making it look like an ancient film, which had almost died from the public consciousness. All that was remembered by most was the music, a shrieking violin tune, and the image of blood on white tiles.

Fortunately, Shinji managed to complete the shower without any unfortunate stabbing incidents. Leaving the plug suit on the hook intended for it, he caught the eye of his reflection in the mirror. He stared at himself, as he pulled up his trousers, and did up the ballistic vest and shirt.

Who is the boy looking at me from the mirror?

Well, obviously, I know it's me. But who is me.

Yes, that question can also be answered by the word “me”. But that's trivial, trite and a bit pointless, like some overblown pseudobabble, of the type that Yuki had always been a bit intolerant of. Has. She's still alive after all. I mean, I only saw her less than three weeks ago.

But why do I feel like I'll never see her again. Who'd have thought that I'd end up being dragged to England, almost killed, and then essentially blackmailed by my bastard of a father into piloting a humongous mecha.

Let's start with the basics. My name is Shinji Ikari.


He unconsciously smoothed his hair down, while staring at his own face.

I am ethnically Japanese. I am looking rather pale, more so than usual. I am one metre, seventy two centimetres tall. I am thin, and rather lacking in muscles. My hand is covered in grey, blue, black and whitish armour plating.

What the hell! That isn't right at all!


Shinji stood, staring and blinking at his hand (was it his hand? It looked like the hand of the Evangelion, the one he had been using all day). He flexed one finger. The hand before him flexed the same finger. He slowly transferred his gaze to the mirror. The hand in that appeared normal.

Well, that's reassuring. I'm not turning into the Evangelion, or some horrific, extra-dimensional being. I'm just going mad.

Wait a moment. That's only reassuring in the sense that... dammit, I can't even think up a good metaphor.

If I close my eyes
he thought, in the dreamy sense of terror that was now overtaking him it might go away. If it goes away, I might have just dozed off. I mean, I'm feeling rather tired from the last two weeks, with no days off. Yes, it's a nightmare. Therefore, if I close my eyes, and then open them suddenly, that will wake me up. And if it's still there, then I think I'll start by screaming.”

He closed his eyes.

Rubbing his fingers together, they felt like flesh, warm and yielding, rather than hard and cold advanced composites. That was probably a good sign.

He opened them again.

The hand was back to normal, if it had ever been otherwise. Human flesh, with human skin, bitten nails, and long, thin fingers.

Had my fingers always been like that? The hand looks thinner, somehow, possessing of more finesse.

He compared it to the other one. It was identical to its chiral twin. He also noticed that he was lying down on the floor of the changing rooms. He didn't remember falling.

No, I was just creeping myself out. I'm fine. My hands are fine. Everything is fine.

Rapidly, Shinji checked that he was, in fact, fully clothed (an important deed, after the incident with the bath), and left the changing room as quickly as he could. It had just been a nightmare, after he collapsed with exhaustion. He wasn't going to tell anyone about that. Actually no, he would tell them in the next mandatory counselling session. Yes, it would be logical that you might have dreams about being in the Eva-class; after all, if he understood Dr Akagi right, with a synchronisation ratio of over fifty percent (which he had been keeping rather consistently, a warm little thought linked to her mixed admiration and perplexed rage that such a thing was possible), it was at least as much your body as your normal one. Yes, he could tell them then, and it would be a bad dream, not real.

And in the upper corner of the mirror above the sink, seen by none, an imprint of a pair of lips, marked by condensed breath, faded into non-existence, as if they had never been.

They would leave no DNA evidence, no layer of the oils that human skin carries. Perhaps they had never been.

Perhaps.



~'/|\'~



Gendo Ikari stared at his son from across his elaborate desk. The walls had been set to black, the dome arching overhead invisible outside the pools of light on the floor. The room appeared as nothing less than an open area on a clouded, moonless night, or, alternatively, depending upon your mode of thought, a vast, cosmic egg.

That mode of thought was possessed by Gendo Ikari. That thought made him smile on the inside.

He stared at his son across the desk, even though the only kin that he would acknowledge in public was genetic. The boy took after Yui in appearance, too. Another thing that drove a wedge between them, though Shinji would not know of it. Could not know of it, for they had been careful to destroy all the images of Yui they could.

And that had been difficult. The metanet was possibly one of the worst things ever for an individual trying to destroy all records of another's appearance. It had taken almost five years to get all of her social networking sites, and he was fairly sure that in some server, there was a back-up copy. It would not do, when the Evangelion Project went public as a separate entity to the Engel Project, for any images of her to be available. It would not do at all.

Shinji was tired, his father could see, and nervous, more so than usual in their infrequent encounters. They'd been working him hard, only slackening off just at the end to make sure that he was in a good enough mood to feel required, to feel proud of himself.

Pride, Gendo thought to himself. Such a wonderful tool. People are proud when they are praised, proud of what they can do, and proud of what they will refuse to do. Gendo had no time for pride. What he could, and would make time for was hubris. Because, when the facts of the universe were taken into account, what god deserves worship? What action is too extreme if it would save mankind from ancient species that care nothing for it, not even giving it good, honest, hatred.

“Shinji,” he began. “You are wondering why you are here.”

He got a nod in return.

“Remember when you first saw Unit 01. You said that I couldn't make you pilot it.”

Shinji glared back at him. His father could tell that the boy wasn't letting himself speak. He was still bitter about the extortion (not blackmail, as that would involve the threatened revelation of secrets) of his services by the means of the injured Rei. She had suffered worse for Shinji's initial cowardice, Gendo knew, but he wasn't going to mention that.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, after all.

“I still cannot. You cannot be legally conscripted, due to the leaving age. You are the only other individual we have found that can pilot Unit 01. Pilot Ayanami can, too, but we only have one of her. Therefore, I will make you an offer.”

Shinji perked up a little bit, staring at his father's eyes. Or, at least, where they would have been had they not been obscured by the glare on the orange glasses. Nevertheless, he held the gaze for a good five seconds, before shifting.

“What do you mean?”

“You will become a legal employee of the Ashcroft Foundation, as what will be formally classified as a “test pilot”.”

Gendo lowered his hands from their steeped position, placing them together on his lap, behind the desk.

“You will continue your schooling at an Ashcroft academy as planned; the same one that Pilot Ayanami attends. They will account for the necessary absences for training, and ensure that it proceeds as uninterrupted as possible. You will remain a full-time student, or as close to that as can be achieved until the age of eighteen, when you would legally be able to leave school. The contract will be renegotiated at that time.” Gendo paused. “Hopefully, you will only be deployed against Heralds, although that is one matter that I cannot guarantee.”

Shinji coughed nervously. “Aa... why not?”

“Because the Project is now partially under the jurisdiction of the New Earth Government, and they could, within the limits I mentioned above, use the Evangelion Titan-class Engels as they wish.”

“I suspect that they will not, however,” added Fuyutsuki, right on cue. “The Evangelions are expensive to deploy, and not as battle-tested as the conventional mecha and Engels of the NEGA. Moreover, to be frank, they are piloted by people five years younger than the normal minimum.” The old man smiled, somewhat wryly. “It would be a public relations nightmare if we let any of you get killed.”

Shinji frowned. “Why are you using sixteen year-olds, anyway? What makes me able to pilot an Evangelion, when the rest of the population cannot.”

The question was directed towards Fuyutsuki, perhaps because he saw the older man as an easier target, more likely to answer truthfully, but his father intercepted it.

“Genetic factors. We believe that they're related to the ones that determine parapsychic abilities, although they, of course, have not been fully mapped. In fact, it might turn out to be a low level form of empathic talent; a form of Machine Empathy, one might say.”

Gendo watched a faint glow of panic grow in his son's eyes. He could understand that. Parapsychics were treated in a manner similar to that members of socially unacceptable subgroups had been in a less enlightened time, with the fear of the different and of the unknown. The metaphor was imperfect, due to the fact that gays, for example, lacked the ability to set people on fire with their mind. In the more metropolitan cities they were tolerated at the very least, but in more backwards places, the force of social pressure was turned against them; social pressure somewhat stoked by the fact that the government and big companies were the most enthusiastic employers of the parapsychic community.

“This is merely a hypothesis, so you would not, under current laws be forced to register.” The threat there was obvious, though veiled. “And, naturally, you would be paid well for your services. The salary would be 12000 Terranotes a month, after tax. Three thousand of that would be available at the time, with the rest paid into a trust fund I will have set up.”

Shinji muttered something, seemingly to himself. Gendo continued, apparently not hearing him.

“You would not have to live with me; I have no time to look after anyone, and, frankly, feelings between us are bad enough that I believe that this would be for the best.”

“Yes.” That one word was spoken with a coldness that made the room seem like a tropical paradise.

“You will live, full-time with Major Katsuragi, who will be your guardian. If any more Pilots are found, they will also live there, unless they happen, by chance, to be already resident in London-2.”

Gendo leaned forwards.

“So, I ask you. Will you do this. For the salvation of mankind?”

He watched Shinji massage his face with his hands. He wasn't even trying to hide his emotions; a mixture of nervousness, fear, anticipation, worry, and a myriad of other human weaknesses.

Shinji was torn in two by his father's sudden presentation. These were the most words that the man had spoken to him in twelve years, and he suddenly presented him with this, this mixture of incentives mixed with a threat.

Why was he doing this?

That, at least, was obvious. He wanted a pilot for his war machine. He wanted someone to get in it to kill things that shouldn't exist, and risk dying in the pursuit of the goal. But it was a good goal, after all. As a human, Shinji was very much in favour of the survival of humanity, and he included the Nazzadi in that category. They could produce fertile offspring, and that damn well made them the same species, despite the protests of the League for the Preservation of Nazzadi Culture.

And why the niceness... that wasn't the right word. Why was his father giving him an incentive to do this, rather than just demanding that he do it, and using a combination of emotional blackmail and whatever leverage he could find to ensure that Shinji got in the Evangelion?

Shinji realised that that had been a silly thought. It was a lot easier to give someone incentives to do something, to back up the guilt in what would have happened to both Pilot Ayanami and London-2, than just leave Shinji overly bitter against him. Well, that at the very least wasn't going to work. The man had abandoned him

and Shinji's mind flashed back to the image of a floor almost covered in opened cylinders white and smelling of hospitals and a dark shape in something white

and he wasn't going to be forgiven. But at least he didn't seem to being actively malevolent, just... uncaring. And Shinji wouldn't have to live with him, which was something, especially since he had gotten Misato's apartment almost clean, now. And that was very good money for a sixteen year-old; for anyone. And, fundamentally, he could see that someone probably had to do it. They had the Heralds...

“One question. How many Heralds do you think there will be? Do you have any way of knowing when they'll come.”

“To answer your two questions,” Gendo replied, putting a heavy emphasis on the number, “there will be more, although we don't know exactly how many. And we can track them through advanced reconnaissance units, and we believe that some satellites may be able to, although we didn't have any in the right position for Asherah.”

That didn't actually answer anything, thought Shinji. But it can't be too many; after all, if only one has shown up (because they don't know if the satellites can track them), then they must be fairly infrequent. I mean, it would be implausible for too many to attack in too short a time, and if they did, then, well, I'm not sure how I killed that one, so if the conventional military is useless, then I'm dead anyway.

Shinji swallowed hard. “I'll do it.”



~'/|\'~



After Shinji had signed the document, and been sent out, to be taken home by Misato, Fuyutsuki looked at his superior.

“You have secured the Third Child. You know why he's doing it, of course.”

Gendo smiled. “Naturally. It's not just one thing, though. He's doing it because he's good at it, because he likes the way that the scientific team praise him, he still secretly wants praise from me, or at least any father figure, and, I suspect, the way that Dr Akagi glares at him for throwing out her theories on AT-field development, which match perfectly with the development patterns of the First and Second Children.”

“You take a bit of pleasure from that, too.”

“A bit. She gets too arrogant sometimes, and too consumed by her inferiority complex towards Miyakame. She needs some problems closer to home, to keep her away from the fevered dreams of the Nobel Prize in Arcanobiology. She doesn't really understand the different between a Type 1 EFCS and a Type 2, and the presence of Rei, who is neither, in her sample data just throws her out more.”

“She is disconcerting, it is true.”

“It is not her fault.” Gendo sounded vaguely defensive. “Anyway, yes, the second reason is that he is a realist. He's seen the Third Herald. He's seen how the conventional forces failed against it. And he, although I didn't plan for it, saw it without the filtering level of the Evangelion. I'm very much surprised he stayed sane. The Heralds and their kin,” his voice dripping with sarcasm, “have been known to seriously damage human mental health. We have the first examples of Aeon War Syndrome from the big incident that allowed us to find Baal Haddad.”

Gendo shook his head.

“Yes, anyway, he knows that he's actually safer in the long run if he pilots the Evangelion. If the Second Child were here, he might not think so, but he doesn't know about her, and knows that Rei is too injured to fight. Call it the kind of cowardice that leads men to do amazing deeds, although, of course historically those individuals didn't have access to devices that cost a notable fraction of a region's GDP. There is the issue of Rei, too. When he first saw her, the biosensors picked up a notable change in his vitals. He showed all the signs of having seen her before, although that's impossible. The chromatic shift and the difference in age should have prevented a pattern match.”

Gendo turned away from his former teacher, and began typing at his computer.

“The money is useful in the persuasion. He wouldn't do it just for that, but when given good reasons, then it becomes a sweetener, a deal-maker. Man is a very corrupt beast. If you wondered what he said, by the way...” Gendo, added, pressing a button on the computer built into the desk.

Shinji's muttering of “Carrot and stick” floated in the room, before being absorbed by its vastness.

“... then you can see he's right. He was able to notice that, at least.”

“Was that a hint of pride?” Fuyutsuki asked, lightly.

Gendo frowned.

“No, it wasn't.”

“I thought so,” replied the white haired man, sighing. “I just furtively hoped that I was wrong.”



~'/|\'~



Shockingly, Shinji managed to not fall asleep on the maglev trip back up, out of the Geocity and to Misato's apartment. He dragged his feet through the DNA scanner separating the two new Londons, aroused their suspiscion, and then got subjected to a brainwave scan, after they got it into their head that he might be under some kind of mental control. The scan had exposed extremely high levels of fatigue, and, after the apology for the fact that he had been wrestled to the ground, the municipal police had, after one look at the profile he had brought up, ordered a squad car to take him home.

Thanking them, he got through the extra blood test at the entrance to the AF-owned apartment complex, and made his way, falling asleep on his feet, to Misato's specific apartment.

The door slid open.

“Wark! Wark!”

Shinji smiled fuzzily.

“Hey, Pen-Pen.”

The penguin was standing on the table, his wings, closer in appearance to feathered ape-like arms turning the pages of the newspaper. There was a pen held in his left “hand”. His prominent red crest was standing upright.

Most people would have dismissed such a sight as a hallucination. Those individuals who resided with Misato could not take refuge in such sweet nepenthe, though, forced by the daily existence of her food to accept that there were things that man, truly, should not be permitted to know. Those who let her drive them anywhere added the seemingly non-Euclidean manoeuvres that she could subject an innocent product of Euro Wagon, and more importantly, the other passengers, to. That she had a pet (or as she called him, room-mate), seemingly sapient penguin, with a fondness for beer and the Daily Telegraph crossword paled against such atrocities against life, physics and chemistry. It had been rumoured by Ashcroft employees that the New Earth Government had investigated her “Many-Meated Chow Mein Ramen Tababsco Tongue-Burner XXXtreme” (or as she called it, breakfast) for use as a chemical weapon, and rejected it as too cruel for use against even the Rapine Storm.

“Wark! Wark-wark-wark.”

“No, sorry. No clue. Nothing of six then three letters,” he replied after a pause.

Yes, and the penguin talks, Shinji thought, quite unaware to whom he was directing the comment. Himself he suspected, but frankly, he was tired enough that he wasn't sure if he existed, and that sentence didn't even make any sense. The penguin talks in penguin, and we hear him in penguin, but I hear him in Japanese, except when I think in English.

This makes no sense. And it's probably illegal.

Misato had, at some point between him leaving his room, and them leaving the house in the morning, found time to leave him a message on the bed, scrawled in somewhat childish handwriting on a piece of paper.

Shinji

TODAY IS SUNDAY. YOU HAVE COLLEGE TOMORROW. SET YOUR ALARM FOR 7.

DON'T WAKE ME UP WHEN YOU GO, OR I WILL KILL YOU. AND I WON'T COOK ANTHING FOR YOU FOR A WEEK.

Misato

Shinji frowned, fuzzily. Did that mean that she wouldn't cook for him after he was dead, or she would kill him with cooking, or she'd only cook for him a week after he died. He supposed that it was meant to be a threat, and noted it down, mentally.

“Wark! WARKARK!”

Pen-Pen poked his beak around the frame of the door. One... wing seemed to be holding a chessboard.

Shinji paused in the middle of slipping off the ballistic vest.

“No. No games. It might only be 7 pm, but I need to sleep. Bother Misato when she gets home.”

The penguin disappeared, with only a disgruntled “wark” which didn't see fit to translate itself.

Shinji slept soundly that night, the sheer fatigue of the last few days kicking in together. He had no dreams; no nightmares. He considered that a fair trade.



~'/|\'~



The next morning, he left the house early. Following the instructions on his Personal CPU, connected to the arcology's PAN, he made his way to the academy. He was somewhat surprised that it was outside Sub-London, just as he had been that Misato lived in London-2. He was beginning to get the feeling that not many people lived below the arcology, that it was much more a research facility, experimental type of geocity, and a work place than it was an actual, functional city.

The collar of his new shirt, of the school uniform, was stiff. He slid his fingers under the neck, trying to release the noose-like tightness of it. It really wasn't designed to be worn with the ballistic vest under it, Shinji thought. He needed to go get the next size up from the 'fabber at home. After all, he was sure that they would appreciate it if he suffocated on his own shirt. And it was Monday, and he was feeling still physically a bit tired, like he had been doing some form of great exertion yesterday. Which, he supposed he had. But, as more of a permanent issue, Monday was a loathsome day, only serving to ruin the weekend.

Shinji knew that the thought was illogical. He didn't care. Mondays were a bad day because they connected to the weekend, but were not of it.

The maglev pulled in to the designated station. The school was meant to be nearby, close to one of the botanical areas. Municipal planing interspersed the internal structure of arcologies with frequent areas of “nature”, carefully pruned and designed for psychological effects. The enclaves in Outer London were largely inhabited, in fact, by the people who either had problems living in arcologies, so-called “Sick Building Syndrome”, or were too poor to afford the more expensive accommodation in the superstructures.

Shinji did not expect to see what he did.

The school, from what he could see, was a fairly standard arcology structure; a selection of cubes, built close together, maximising the volume for their surface area, reaching almost up to the dome separating this layer from the one above. It was a little older than some of the other structures, built in the glass-and-stone aesthetic of the early 2080s', if he was any judge, but kept clean. However, it was surrounded by rather impressive defences. A two-storey wall, reinforced and resembling a castle wall, surrounded it, with some integral hatches that, he guessed, concealed heavier defences.

And there were two suits of power armour at the entrance. And a DNA-scan point.

Shinji was sure that this couldn't all be for him. That would be just... excessive.

Oh wait, he reminded himself, they said that Pilot Ayanami also went here. That would mean that it was only half because of him, which still left it excessive. Mind you, Ashcroft Academies were considered by many to be the pinnacle of education. There were only meant to be two ways to get in; either being very bright indeed, or having a parent working for them (which often meant that genetically, you were likely to be the former.) That made more sense, actually. Ashcroft Europe had headquarters here, and so there were some very high ranking people here indeed, at least as high as in Tokyo, and almost as high as Chicago. That would make their children targets for terrorism and cult activities.

Actually, come to think of it, he was the only child of the Representative of Ashcroft Europe. If his father wasn't an arrogant bastard who had abandoned him to the hands of strangers, he'd be a target for kidnappings. If Gendo wasn't dead inside... well, cultists who hadn't done their research might still target him, or any of his to-be-classmates.

Yes, that made sense. And was perfectly normal. It would just be silly and overblown to set up all this to protect two pilots.

Guiltily, he glanced down at his hands.

Fine.

Shinji Ikari drew a deep breath, and stepped towards the entry gate.



~'/|\'~



From the other side of the road, in a room supposedly for residential purposes, a pair of FSB operatives watched the entrance; one with his mundane eyes, the other through a video feed mounted on the front of the house. They both hated stake-out duty, but it was necessary.

“We've got an entrance at main gate,” called the one on the computer, a Nazzadi woman with dyed white hair. “DNA profile shows it's Acedia. NBV confirms appearance.”

The other one, another Nazzadi, this time male, nodded.

“Yes, BV matches appearance of Acedia.” He lowered his binoculars. “Right, both Acedia and Invidia have arrived. We can ping MS1.”

“Man, she really creeps me out. I mean, I'm fine with normal amlati...”

“I should damn well hope so,” muttered the man.

“... but sidoci just creep me out. And she obviously hasn't been raised as a proper 'mix should be; she really acts more like a... well not like a house-ape, but closer to that than...”

“Listen,” snapped the man. “Just shut up, okay. You don't know what you're talking about. Go on and radio MS1, and then just shut up.”

The woman glared at him.

“Okay, okay. Keep your shirt on, Mala. I'm doing it.”

A brief report was input into the computer on the table, and sent. The data was converted to binary, split up, insinuated into a network of deliberately virus-infected computers, which triggered a burst of spam to an anonymous email account. This was then copied, and the data extracted, whereupon it was noted by the duty officer, and filed in the records which related to the Evangelion Project, with a cross-link to the files on the Ashcroft Foundation.



~'/|\'~



Shinji was directed by the receptionist to a classroom on level four. The door was open, and from the noise coming from within, there either wasn't a teacher, or the teacher was very liberal on discipline, which, from what he had heard of Academies wasn't that likely.

He stepped, somewhat nervously through the door. The room within was big enough for maybe thirty, but he could only see fifteen or so individuals within, all,he guessed, of his age.

So at least this is probably the right room, he though.

The teenagers were somewhat typical of the new demographic emerging. About half were pure human, he guessed, although... there actually seemed to be more xenomixes than pure Nazzadi. An oddity; they only made up about ten percent of the population as a whole. Oh yes. And Rei, sitting by the window, bandaged up, still with the protective thing over her eye. At least, Shinji though to himself, she seemed a lot better than the last time he had seen her. The skin actually looked like normal human skin, for one, rather than the slightly wrong appearance that recent grafts had.

As he looked over in her direction, a xenomixed girl, an amlati, to use the Nazzadi word for the normal offspring of a human and their altered cousins, stepped over, after noticing him hovering around the doorway. Her jet black hair was bound up in pigtails, and he noted that she was wearing the human version of the girls uniform, rather than the Nazzadi one (which would be called “sluttier”, with its shorter skirt and optional bared midriff, were it not for the fact that you were not meant to think like that), which probably meant that she had been raised in human cultures, rather than the rather... experimental Nazzadi one. She certainly had a serious look; she was probably the classroom monitor, or something.

He put on his best smile. Hopefully it wasn't too close to a deathly rictus.

“Hello. I'm Hikary, the classroom representative for L6-5. May I help you?”

A Nazzadi name, though, he noted, with a hint of surprise. And I was right about the position of authority.

“My name is Shinji Ikari,” he said, politely, trying not to stutter. “I... uh... I was told to go here. That I was part of this class. Um... is that right?”

“Ikari, Ikari...” said Hikary, thoughtfully, tapping her silvery-grey fingers on the door. “Yes, I think I saw the name in the register. I'm sorry, a lot of people didn't turn up for the start of term last week, after the attack on London. Let's see...” she added, walking over to the teacher's desk, and gesturing for him to follow her. “G... G... H...H... I... ah, yes. Shinji Ikari. It noted that you transferred here right at the start of term.”

“Yes, well, you know. My father was moved here from Japan.”

About eight years ago, he added to himself, but she didn't need to know that.

The look she gave him was unusually penetrating.

“Another Japanese person. Well, well.”

“Is there something odd about that?” Shinji asked her, somewhat perplexed.

“Oh, no, not directly. It's just that the Foundation... I'm assuming that you're an AF Child, too. I am, too. Well, it's just that there seems to be disproportionately many Japanese people at the Foundation, in London-2. I mean, both the head scientist and the Director of Operations are. It's said that it's some kind of favouritism by the Rep...re..sent...”

Her voice trailed away.

“Wait, “Ikari”. As a surname? The name is written the right way around here, and you're not called Ikari Shinji really? In that case, are you...”

Shinji winced. “Could you keep it down?” he muttered. “He is my father, if that's what you're thinking of, but we don't get on, and I wasn't raised by him.”

Hikary nodded, in an understanding manner. “Okay,” she replied back, softly.

She raised her voice again.

“You should sit here, until the teacher comes to assign you a position. Do you know how the system works at Academies? Have you decided on your options.”

“Well, I honestly wasn't planning to come here. I'd chosen my options for...”

“But you were going to be sitting ACIETs, weren't you.” She pronounced the acronym, short for Advanced Comprehensive Individual Educational Tests, as the word 'assets'.

Shinji nodded silently, somewhat intimidated by her bossy efficiency. She was exactly the sort of person who would become an Ashcroft Advisor, those mysterious individuals who, thanks to the massive debts incurred by the NEG to the owners of the patents on almost all arcanotechnology, wielded massive influence over the affairs of the government.

“Then the options will transfer. Here, we do the broad education that everyone does in the mornings, with this class; that's the languages, the history and the basic humanities. Your options will take place in smaller classes in the afternoon.”

“Um...okay. That's actually the same as where I was going would have done it.”

She smiled. “Then that's fine.” Hikary turned away from him, and stared at the rest of the class.

“Ahem.”

The word was spoken, rather than just a simple cough. Surprisingly, such a simple pair of syllables did quieten down the sixteen year-olds.

Shinji was frankly shocked by this. Either she had some form of mind control (and she wasn't wearing the identifiers than an individual with Invasive parapsychic powers would have to), the other students respected her authority as class representative (and, frankly, that wasn't likely), or she had a truly fearsome reputation, somehow obtained in the week or so since school had started.

Shinji decided that it would be a very, very good idea to get on her side, as a friend.

“Thank you very much,” he said to her, politely.

“No problem,” was her reply.

Shinji took a seat near the middle of the classroom, and left his bag there. He then began watching the rest of the class, seeing what names he could pick up from their conversations. He hated that bit of meeting people, the bit where you're forced to learn a large number of new names, and the phrase “Sorry, what was your name,” is used far too much; at least twice per person.

Such solace could not be held, as Hikary seemed to be intent on introducing the entire class to him. She really seemed to like organising things. Shinji survived through the questions about why he had joined the school with vague answers about his father, and the usual questions about likes and dislikes with the truth.

Then;

“That's a Sentrytech Mk-V, isn't it.”

Shinji looked up. A brown haired, bespectacled boy, ethnically Caucasian, was staring at him, holding a PCPU in his other hand.

Shinji raised an eyebrow unconsciously.

“I'm sorry, I don't think I know your name yet.”

“Ken. Ken Aide. But the ballistic vest with trauma-plate additions. It's a Sentrytech Mk-V. Retail price 495 Tn.”

“Er, probably. I don't really know. I just was given it.”

“Okay.” There was a pause. “Did you see anything of what happened with the thing that attacked the city?” There was far, far too much enthusiasm in that sentence. “It was a massive biped according to reports, which means that it can't have been a Migou unit. They're not bipeds... well, apart from Assimilated, but they're brainwashed human beings, so it doesn't count, and Loyalist Nazzadi. Apparently the army used a new type of Engel against it, bigger than even the Seraphs and Chashmals. It's so awesome!”

Shinji groaned, inwardly, a little bit. Ken obviously held the life ambition of becoming a mecha pilot, but would settle for arcanotechnican, as long as he got to open up high technology and have a poke around. He zoned out a bit.

“And anyway, what additional units are you taking? I'm doing Maths, Extended Maths, Conventional Physics (so I can take Arcane Engineering at university) and Chemistry. It looks to be good; the SCIETs were a bit simplified.”

“Conventional Physics, Maths, History and, Chemistry, I think.” Shinji wasn't quite sure why he chose those options. Obviously, his foster mothers wouldn't have let him take any soft subjects, and he had done best at those four things at the SCIETs, but seeing how Ken had planned out his entire life in front of him, it made him feel...

... well, like a more well balanced person, actually.



~'/|\'~
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

EarthScorpion
Embryo
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Postby EarthScorpion » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:31 pm

Interlude 1

Exposition of a Dream




~'/|\'~



Five figures sat around a table.

Red. White. Green. Blue. Yellow

Physically, genetically, they were human. Mentally, they were less so. None of them could have passed a psychoanalysis test without preparation, and access to memories that the eldest among them had not used in almost seventy years. They could portray humanity, true, act like they still thought like the populace for short periods; act like the people who scurried around on the ground, unaware of the beauty of the higher dimensions that they had all seen up close.

Act like the people that they would save, from the Migou, the cults and the ignominy of extinction. The people that they had given their lives and their minds for.

White spoke.

“It is good to see you all here.”

Green spoke.

“Likewise. Let us proceed, without meaningless pleasantries.”

White spoke.

“I am sorry. I see so few other people directly. Yes, let us proceed.”

Blue spoke.

“The third of the beings that we have designated the Heralds has emerged. The lure of the priest was enough, it seems.”

Green spoke.

“It was to be expected. They are foolish beings. Were they always so, or did the power that they received from the Endless Ones rot their brains?”

Red spoke.

“And, yet such powers. All our intellect will not save us from their dumb wrath if our Evangelions cannot kill them.”

Yellow spoke.

“Yes, they are ours. We can control them.”

Red spoke.

“Are they truly ours, though?”

White spoke.

“Speak your mind. I know what you will say.”

Red spoke.

“I do not trust Ikari. I fear he has been compromised, either by the Society, or the Avatar of the Endless resident on Earth right now.”

There was a note of worry in her voice.

Yellow spoke.

“It has always been a problem. The Society would not compromise with the Crawling Chaos, for they oppose each other innately, but we know that Ikari has had links with people that had links with the Society.”

Green spoke.

“The Society has many contacts in academia, which is where he was before we recruited him. Statistically, it would be more improbable if he lacked a third degree connection to them than the fact that he does. In that case, I would suspect subversion by Chrysalis, as a deep cover agent by them serving the goals of the Lord of Masques.”

Blue spoke.

“Or he may be in it for himself. Or he may be truly loyal to us and our goal. There are so many possibilities. We cannot consider them all.”

White spoke.

“Yet.”

Blue spoke.

“The passage of D-4 granted by the Endless will not suffice. We cannot consider them yet, so we must anticipate. When we can see them all, we will not need to plan. We will merely need to act, and it will be so. Humanity will be safe.”

Red spoke.

“Nevertheless, it is the Society I fear more. I remember her.”

Yellow spoke.

“She is dead. That is why you are here. And bitterness against anyone who died a human does not suit us. We are the loathsome ones, the bloody-winged angels that show the truth and are hated for it. And we accept that role fully, as anyone who condoned what we seek to do while limited by the mindset of an uplifted ape would rightly be declared mad.”

Blue spoke.

“We are not mad. We are sane. The philosopher said that sanity is for the weak, but he was wrong. Madness is for the weak, those who cannot fight through its embrace, and bend. Sanity is for the truly strong.”

White spoke.

“We have recovered a shard of the First. Now, only his kin stand between us and the role that he was slain for by one of his own. The Second is contained.”

Green spoke.

“We have an updated list of that which stands in our way before the Human Iteracy Project can be completed.”

Red spoke.

“Display it on the hololith.”

A list appeared before the five. Few alive could have read it, for it switched between Aklo, Pnakotic, R'lyehan and Tsath-yo at random.


1st CODENAME: El
LOCATION: CENSORED, DECEASED
IDENTITY: KNOWN, CENSORED

2nd CODENAME: Baal-Haddad
LOCATION: CENSORED
IDENTITY: KNOWN, CENSORED

3rd CODENAME: Asherah
LOCATION: DECEASED
IDENTITY: KNOWN, CENSORED

4th CODENAME: Kathirat
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: SUSPECTED - 4th ORDER PROBABILITY

5th CODENAME: Mot
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

6th CODENAME: Yam
LOCATION: SUPECTED - 3rd ORDER PROBABILITY
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

7th CODENAME: Shalim-Shachar
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY/S : SUSPECTED - 1st ORDER PROBABILITY

8th CODENAME: Moloch
LOCATION: KNOWN
IDENTITY: KNOWN - 2nd ORDER PROBABILITY

9th CODENAME: Melqart
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

10th CODENAME: Yarikh
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

11th CODENAME: Resheph
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

12th CODENAME: Choron
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

13th CODENAME: Kothar
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: KNOWN

14th CODENAME: Shapash
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

15th CODENAME: Shamayim
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

16th CODENAME: Qadeshtu
LOCATION: UNKNOWN
IDENTITY: UNKNOWN

17th CODENAME: CENSORED
LOCATION: CENSORED
IDENTITY: KNOWN, CENSORED


White smiled, the corners of her wrinkled mouth barely turning up at the corners.

White spoke.

"How goes the Dummy Plug system?"

Red spoke.

"Not all well as might be hoped. Even with all the aid I can provide in my current state, we are limited by the status of Xue'Vehulu'Ia'Ia."

Most would have shuddered at those horrible words, not designed for a human throat. Yet even that name was but a codename for another project, not a blasphemous entity in itself.

Blue spoke.

"Ikari's project, with the prototype, and access to the Second, goes better."

Red spoke.

"It is the difference between a Type 1 EFCS and a Type 2. I am only familiar with the Type 2."

Green spoke.

"True. The meeting is concluded."

White nodded.

"Yes."



~'/|\'~
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

EarthScorpion
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Postby EarthScorpion » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:35 pm

Chapter 4

Of the Flight of Birds




~'/|\'~



Time passed, as it had a habit of doing.

Shinji settled into his class, although the constant training reaped a toll upon his homework. Three nights a week were spent down in the London Geocity, in the simulation body, and, as he got used to the control, in Unit 01 itself. This was saved purely for the AT-field practice; the cost of activating the Evangelion in repairs to both the machine and the surrounding environment, Dr Akagi had snappishly informed him, was rather high.

Two weeks later, he was sitting in the main classroom, with his .daf5 player on, when a Nazzadi student he didn't recall entered; very tall and lanky, with a sports jacket on, over his uniform. However, from the reaction of Hikary, she seemed to know him, so he put it out of his mind, and let the music of long dead composers drown out the rest of the class. His main desire was for sleep; he had been in a simulation body from six in the afternoon to ten at night, and then had been up until half midnight finishing his homework.

Apparently Misato found it preferable that he fell asleep at school, than he handing in homework late. She didn't really get it, did she?

Groggily, he glanced over at the other Child, sitting by the window on the side of the room which was, most definitely, hers. She was staring out the window, the pseudo-sunlight of the arcology casting her porcelain (and it wasn't just that in colour, he thought, shudderingly, but in some indefinable way in texture too, too smooth and perfect) skin in a yellow light. She was still in bandages, and yet he hadn't ever seen her miss a homework. It was vaguely creepy, like a perfect, clockwork mechanism.

Shinji shrugged, and looked away. It was almost certainly nothing important.



~'/|\'~



“... and we now come to the Second War. This is defined by most reputable,” and here the teacher put a heavy emphasis on that word, “authorities on modern history to have begun with the arrival of the Migou Hive ship in an Earth orbit, on the 12th of January, 2074. There are some who argue that the explosion in Tibet in late December was the true start of the war, in the “First Strike” hypothesis, but study of the radioisotopes found there, before the conquest of that area by the Rapine Storm in mid-2077, clearly confirm that the explosion was that of multiple nuclear-fission devices. These matched warheads that had been missing, ever since the foundation of the NEG in 2059. More specifically, when the Migou,who at that point were using the Nazzadi as pawns...”

There was a faint muttering from the Nazzadi and Nazzadi-raised amlati members of the class. This was still a very sensitive subject; Nazzadi loyalists still appeared in Migou forces, to a level that they were breeding more, or that there were a lot more defections than anyone was willing to admit. The Legion was still active too, and sanctioned by the New Earth Government to carry out inquisitorial purges on their own people, to remove anyone accused, with some (but not enough, according to critics) evidence.

“... attacked by proxy, the predecessor to the New Earth Government, the New United Nations, attempted to unify Earth against the invaders. This ended the Second Cold War, bringing China and the Middle East into the New Earth Government, but hardliners in the Chinese Government opposed this, including an attempted coup which noticeably compromised defences around the east of China, resulting in that region's rapid fall to the Nazzadi military.”

The teacher took a sip of water from a glass on his table.

“Naturally, the hardliners, deprived of military support and facing a foe armed with Migou designed war machines...”

The hands of about half the non-Homo sapiens sapiens member of the class shot up.

The teacher sighed.

“Now, I'm sure that you're all going to raise the same point, so I'm just going to pick one of you, and you can make the objection. Taly?”

The girl, her hair dyed white, rose to her feet.

“While it is true that the Migou did create the warfleet from... the First Arcanotech War, the design was done by the Firstborn Nazzadi themselves. The Migou stayed out of it. I mean, it's not as if their bodies are compatible with the Operator Extension Side Effect.”

“But the Firstborn had been created by the Nazzadi with full knowledge of what they were, as opposed to the vat-grown. Even if they did the design work, which is debated...”

“It is not!” snapped back Taly, angrily. She stopped, blushing, as she realised that she had gone too far with that response.

A good percentage of the adolescent male population of the room sighed internally, and a few externally, at that blush. The general consensus was that she was very attractive indeed.

“It quite obviously is, Ms. Taly, or else it would not be the viewpoint held by the academic community. If I may finish what I was saying before you interrupted... it wouldn't be too much, would it? Yes, as I was saying, the Firstborn were raised by the Migou, as the individuals who would create a false culture to rule over when the Nazzadi had wiped out humanity (which is to be more specific, Homo sapiens sapiens). All their work would be a result of their exposure to Migou culture, not the false mythology that they themselves constructed. I don't believe that I would be wrong in saying that, even if there were no direct Migou involvement in the design of the mecha, they are the ones that designed them, none the less.”

The teacher stared at the class. The gaze implied extra homework and detentions for those individuals who did not quiet down. The threats seemed to work wonders on the more agitated students.

“To break off from this detour, the hardliners were defeated, but it was never determined whether or not they had been completely exterminated. The epicentre of the so-called First Strike was an Ashcroft Foundation facility, and the Chinese hardliners had always been militantly opposed to the Foundation, and the de facto military supremacy it gave to the New United Nations, with the provision of arcanotech. Now, it is possible that the attack may have been provoked by the Migou, as they have been known, historically, to operate in that area; indeed, their name comes from the Nepalese “Mi-Go”, their name for the mythology of a creature called in English “The Abominable Snowman.””

The teacher paused.

“Of course, now we know that the Abominable Snowman is a completely different phenomenon to the Migou, as seen by the use of white-furred beasts, resemblant of humanity in only the most distant, atavistic way, by the Rapine Storm in the Fall of China.” He took another sip of water. “But, again we must return to that dreaded state known as being “on topic”.

Shinji was listing rather intently to this. The Modern History teacher had a pronounced tendency to go off on tangents about things barely related to the overall course, but which still tended to be quite interesting. And, of course, the inevitable arguments that arose over any piece of history which concerned the Nazzadi, before the Firstborn Marshal Vreta, had rebelled after the realisation that the people he was exterminating were far more alike to him than his masters back on Yuggoth, and had taken three quarters of the fleet with him.

Some hadn't really forgiven the Nazzadi for what they'd done before that. There had been over eight billion people alive before the First Arcanotech War. Less than four billion humans saw the end of it. From the way he acted, the way that he was a little colder around Nazzadi members of the class, Shinji guessed that the teacher was one of them. He was the right age to have fought in that war, with the first wide-scale deployment of arcanotech in warfare. The older generations were far less open-minded about Nazzadi and xenomixes, than the younger ones.

He glanced over at Rei. She was surrounded by a circle of empty desks two thick. Of course, there were limits. Normal amlati were fine, but Whites, sidoci, just creeped everybody out. For one, scientists didn't know why they looked like that. Amlati were what you expected someone who had both melanin and... whatever the pigment Nazzadi used, Shinji couldn't quite remember the name, in their skin. Plus, they were all, without question, parapsychics. Shinji wondered what Rei could do. She wasn't wearing the emblems that all Invasive or Dangerous ones had to wear, like some of the ones he had seen around the school. Did it make her a better pilot? He remembered his father's words about parapsychics. No, he wasn't one.

Ken, however, was paying very little attention to the lesson. Why bother? He already knew all the military history that they taught in schools, and quite a bit from higher levels. It wasn't as if they were going over any interesting bits yet, like the battles (the Fall of New Kuala Lumpur, the Assault on Florida, the Defence of Paris). So, as a result, he had his PCPU out on the table, concealed by his datasheets.

Oh, no, he wrote, the older versions of the game, classic ones dating back about 100 years, were rather different. For one, everything in the fluff was a lot darker. The bugs were nerfed, you know, as from a galactic level power to a more minor threat; after all, who wants to play the Migou? The cults were kept, but it was set so that no-one could say that they were the good guys, 'cause of how different modern society is. Of course, they did the opposite to the I...

Ken's train of thought trailed off. He quite carefully made sure that he deleted the last sentence. The moderators were rather harsh, and it was an IP bannable offense to criticise the NEG even by implication, with a possible reference to the FSB, too. Sure, the anti-sedition laws weren't that harsh yet, but the fans of a game that some would already consider treading on thin ice were extra sure to keep themselves beyond reproach.

The screen flashed white, then grey.

Bugger, he thought. It's crashed. Stupid PCPU.

Then an image loaded onto the screen, followed by text.

The headline read:

TOP SECRET ENGEL SAVES LONDON-2

There was a picture of a mecha, doing what looked like a military exercise, to his eyes, in the middle of a forest. But if that was a forest, then the Engel was massive. The normal Seraph was just over seventeen metres tall, the pride of the NEGA. From the scaling provided by the side of the image, that thing looked to be over forty metres at the shoulders alone.

Ken began hyperventilating into his hand.

And the sky above it didn't look really real. It looked a lot like... the London Geocity! From the school trip, back in fourth year.

This means, he thought to himself, that the stories about the NEGA unit that killed the thing that almost got to the arcology were true. It's here. It's very, very nearby.

He scanned through the rest of the text, as fast as possible. There were more pictures. They were so unbelievably cool. The blue-grey behemoth blew up inflatable targets, what looked to be some old Jayne-class artillery units, sprinted through a forest.

Then he got to the last image, and promptly fell off his chair.

The teacher paused his lecture on the early events of the Second Arcanotech War (with occasional detours into other subjects), and raised one eyebrow at the fallen teenager.

“And what exactly do you think you're doing, Kenneth?” the question came, dripping condensation.

Ken picked himself up.

“I... I... I f-fell off m-m-my chair,” he said, wheezing heavily.

Ohmygodohmygodohmygod his interior voice ran. He knew, vaguely, that it made him sound like a thirteen-year old girl. He didn't care.

“Are you hurt? You look like you winded yourself.”

“I... I think I did,” he replied. “Wind myself, that is...I'll be fine; just need to c-catch my breath.”

“Well, if we can get through without any more failed attempts at flight...” and then he paused, for the due sycophantic chuckle from the rest of the class, which merely highlighted the pre-existing sniggering at the fall, “we can continue with the New Earth Government's policy of withdrawal from areas where the superior strategic manoeuvrability of the Nazzadi forces counted most, forcing them into areas where their inferior armour suffered most at the hands of the Army's firepower, which was still, at that time, based around the tank squadron. You see, the mecha is inferior to the tank in the type of battle that was prevalent before the Arcanotech Wars, in the internal Earth conflicts before Unification. Only the systematic violation (and, yes, I am aware of the synonym for that word that I am sure that some of you are applying) of the laws of physics, as commonly understood at the turn of the last century, makes them a viable alternative. I have personally seen an old Mal-class Main Battle Tank gut a Storm main battle mecha...”

But Ken wasn't listening. And the PCPUs of most of the school had received an identical message, spread by a virus which had subverted the internal school network. When the student population switched them back on at break, they too would get the same file, and a corrupted version would be sent to the main PAN of the arcology, spreading further, and alerting the population to the existence of the Evangelion Project.

Something that a lot of very powerful people did not want. At all.

And a few did.



~'/|\'~



A collection of figures met in a darkened room; three humans, one amlati, one Nazzadi. The general effect would have been somewhat more intimidating and melodramatic had they been wearing robes embroidered with occult symbols, the air filled with scented incense devoted to the blind god that was reality, and the walls had been daubed in blood spelling out blasphemous curses against the very fabric of reality. The fact that they were all clad in the functional, slightly dirty clothing of sanitation workers, and the room, which stank of cleaning fluid was crammed with mops and the other tools of the janitor, really ruined the dramatic suspense.

That was because they were professionals.

Well, technically not professionals. For them to be professionals, they would have to be paid for the killings, torture and acts of terrorism that they committed in the service of their organisation. Only one of the people in the room was fully human any more; the others would be shot on sight by the New Earth Government if it had an inkling of what they were, who they worked for, and what they intended. It had no clue. Their organisation had its tendrils deep, buried into the occult underground, the New Earth Government, higher education, the Ashcroft Foundation, and even the Evangelion Project. What it lacked in breadth of influence, it more than made up for in depth.

“This area is clean and safe. There is no monitoring equipment here.” The eldest-looking of them, a Nazzadi woman with prominent strands of white in her jet hair, and pronounced crows-feet around her eyes spoke first, in a manner that clearly would have stated to a hypothetical observer that she was the one who was in charge, and that she would permit no discussion about that fact.

The individual who called herself Jalimony had not been born on Earth, but was in fact a child of the original Nazzadi invasion fleet, grown in a vat by the Migou in 2058 as a three year old, to back up the implanted memory of her genetic parents.

Yeah, she idly thought. Macbeth would be screwed nowadays, what with any Nazzadi over the age of forty.

She had been made as one of a set of tools to ensure Nazzadi loyalty, to make them believe they had a history other than the ones which the Yuggothian fungi had given her people. That loyalty had been broken in 2064, when she was biologically nine. And now she served to enforce loyalty in other ways. She was the handler for a group of monsters. And she was good at her job. She enjoyed it, in the way of the true believer. She looked at her charges.

A nihilist metalhead, an over-curious occultist who we recruited before any of our rivals could, an innocent looking amlati with borderline schizophrenia, and a fanatic who uses her belief to quiet any conscience she may have possessed before we found her, her internal monologue ran. These are the tools I have to use to save mankind.

I'm so proud of them! They're close to perfect! They're a group of devoted killers who nevertheless retain enough of their humanity to appear sane.


She didn't let that internal smile show on her face. She had to maintain her appearance in front of them, after all, even if she was sure that at least three of them viewed her as the murder's mother. And she had to think about them in the names that they'd taken after the change, forget that she knew their real names, to prevent her from telling things if she was captured by the NEG or... others.

“Obviously I've seen the effects of your last task. The D-Generator was crippled right on time, which allowed our other agents to perform the tasks that they had to at the See HQ and in Armourcorp. I must ask a few questions about your choice of methods, though.” She turned to stare at the amlati, a girl who looked barely old enough to be out of school, probably still 18 or 19, with long hair that, in this disguise, was twisted up into a bundle at the back of her head.

“Mantodea. I would question how you disposed of the bodies of the men that See had left to guard the secondary generator.”

“What makes you think that I killed them?” the girl replied, in a slightly dreamy voice, with definite undertones of confusion.

“I do have the police reports, you know. Only you would generate that much blood.”

“I accidentally tore out the throats of one of them. I meant to barb them both, but one got around a corner, and, well,” she raised up her petite hands, “these things aren't meant for subtlety.”

“Mantodea.” The handler's voice was gentler than when she spoke to the others. “What did you do with the bodies?”

“Oh, that?” She chuckled. “I handled them down to manageable chunks, then flew up and stuffed them into the coolant vents in the See facility.” A faint reddish blush emerged on her grey cheeks. “I just thought it would be nice for the See men to get a surprise after we were gone. I mean, they didn't even give us any Dees to make us play with, which was nice, so I thought they could get something pink and sticky.” The smile was too wide. “People like that, don't they. I got some nice sweets on Valentine's Day.”

Internally, Jalimony sighed to herself. Something inside Mantodea had broken when they had transformed her into her true role. Most came through relatively intact, but she had emerged as something slightly stronger than her psyche could handle, and thus it has warped and bent, like a piece of wet wood left out too long under a burning sun.

“Yes, good thinking. However, try to minimise the amount of blood you cause.” She tried to put herself into the girl's mindset. “They'll now suspect something about your present, while if you'd kept it clean, they might not have found them until later.”

The amlati blinked, wide eyed. “Oh, yes. I understand.”

“Good, good,” she said, her gaze returning to the group as a whole. “I presume the rest went as planned? Strange planted the bombs, while Ocellus monitored the facility, and Deva kept the way out clean?”

The three other members of the cell nodded. The one who called himself Strange was a slight man; his face long and thin, with a strong thin nose, which seemed twisted almost permanently into a wry expression of sardonic humour. This pale visage was framed with shoulder length hair, black and greasy, tied into a crude ponytail that it always seemed to be wanting to escape from. He was their field expert in the occult, with a talent for finding books for the organisation; the very talent that had seen him selected first as a agent. He had been subjected to the Rite to help ensure his loyalty, the group had deemed that he knew too much to risk any defection; had he not been loyal, he would have been devoured. Ocellus beside him was almost a younger, cleaner version of the same, with the same style of hair, although his was a medium brown. His fingers idly twitched, sometimes, as he picked out chords on an imaginary guitar. He was a slight problem for their organisation, a valuable resource somewhat underused. He had been expected to leave the Ashcroft Foundation shortly after his ascension to the role of a sacred warrior, but an unexpected promotion, into a top secret Foundation project (Jalimony didn't dare think its name, even in the privacy of her own head), mean that he was more valuable as a computer technician on the project, able to leak information to her group. They had other agents, she was sure, because she knew things about the project that very few other humans did.

And Deva. A little plump, and slightly maternal looking, she was the most experienced of her murder. This normal, maybe even comforting-looking woman, ethnically from the Asian sub-continent, trained as a doctor from a long line of doctors, had, by Jalimony's estimate, the blood of several hundred on her hands, although not necessarily the hands that she was wearing at that moment.

“Then we have another task.” The Nazzadi woman handed over a PCPU to Deva, the leader of the pack. “Contained within are the details on Unama, who uses the surname of Bright. He's...”

“Some figure in See.” It was Ocellus. “He's an engineer-scientist type. He's in charge of a group at Armourcorp, who provide advanced composites to the Project, without overt knowledge of what it is.”

The handler nodded. “Correct. We need him dead.”

“Is he a Dough-Boy?,” asked Strange.

“No, we don't believe so. He checked out negative recently, and he's too prominent for them to risk the exposure. However, we suspect his wife is, although we're not sure exactly which type. Thus we want her dead too. That means that he'll be one of the Children.”

“Do they have children?” It was Deva. Jalimony nodded. She knew that Deva already knew the answer to the question.

Mandotea nodded, frowning. “They need to die, too. They're unclean, all of them.” She paused, screwing up her face. “School run. I can kill them all easily, when they're bunched up.”

“Where do they live?” Deva asked. “I suspect this will be difficult. High ranking Sees, especially when they've got Dees in the family, and are still pretending to be normal, like their space, and will have a lot of security.” She put her hands on her waist. “You know, Manny really did have a good idea, although it depends on whether they're playing family. Doesn't matter, they're unclean anyway. We'll just kill them all, anyway, even if Strange has to just run in through the house next door and drop a bomb in their bedroom,” she added, in a colder tone.

“I'll leave planning for you,” Jalimony replied, rapidly. “We've been in here almost long enough that the next shift should be coming in. Take your cleaning stuff with you, we don't want them finding extras. I'll find you, once the family is dead. All of them, plus the Dee bodyguards they'll inevitably have.”

The janitor's closet emptied after that, leaving at forty second intervals. A family was going to die, because it was necessary.

And because every individual in the room, only one of whom was still fully human, held them to be inhuman monsters, that deserved to be put down rather than murdered.



~'/|\'~



The student concourse was in uproar. A light, airy room, it was given to the elder two years as a privilege, a place with comfy sofas and a nano-fabricator with some good coffees and teas loaded. It was not being used for its intended purpose. A heaving mass of people, members of L6-5 forming the nucleus, was reaching the approximate density of degenerate matter, and was in severe risk of violating the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Hundreds of hands held a PCPU, and all of them were at the last image on the page that the virus had distributed.

The image that showed Shinji Ikari, in the suit of an Engel pilot, standing on the gantry in front of the powered down Unit 01, talking to Misato, who herself was wearing her Major's uniform.

He was getting crushed in here. Despite the advances in material science, a bullet-proof vest, even with integral stab-proof plates, didn't prevent you from being flattened by a horde of sixteen, seventeen and eighteen year olds. Shinji felt vaguely betrayed by this, especially since the thing was hot and heavy, and felt so more that usual.

And the voices. So many of them, calling at at once in a manner that made it obvious that mankind evolved from apes, with the communal cadence as close to nothing as a troupe of chimpanzees. Not bonobos (sadly now extinct), as everyone still had all their clothes on (excluding the people who wanted him to sign their shirts), but still more befitting pan than homo. Certain questions, recurring ones, could be picked out from the refrain, though.

“How were you selected!?”
“Were there any special exams?”
“Is it frightening?”
“What're the controls like?”
“How do you pilot it?”
“Do you have a chip in your brain?”
“What's its name?”
“What do you call it?”
“Is it really an Engel? Not a large normal mecha?”

“Please,” Shinji called out. “Just back away. I can't really breath!”

But his voice was drowned out.

There was a sharp whistle, from over near the entrance, at an ear-piercing volume. As one, the mob turned to face the noise, but with that terrible slowness that indicated that they already knew what it was. A deathly silence washed from the outside, in to the core.

It was worse. It was two teachers, flanked by soldiers in full combat carapace. The teachers looked enraged. The soldiers had stun batons out. To the left, but slightly behind the authority figures, stood Hikary, her face locked in a mask of superiority.

Without any words,the emergent behaviour of the mob played out. The individuals on the other side of the crowd from the teachers began to drift off, their attitude quite obviously screaming that they had absolutely nothing to do with any swarming, and they had just been there to see what all the fuss was. Meanwhile, a subtle shift in the position of those who had been closest to the centre of the mob made it look like they had been valiantly defending their classmate, and had, in no conceivable way, been the ones who had trapped him in the middle and been most feverishly asking questions.

It didn't work. The teachers weren't that stupid. The room ended up sealed, while the Headmaster of the Academy was dragged away from his tea (black, sweet) to give the lecture, complete with warnings under the New Earth Government Official Secrets Act, which he had prepared ever since he had taken over the school, and been told of the status of the other pilot, Rei Ayanami. The warnings were both dire and in the uttermost seriousness. Ironically, of course, he suspected that the parents of quite a lot of the students could have explained it better to their progeny than he could have, given how many layers of NDAs and legal barriers to disclosure they were under. After the speech, he went to his office, and made an urgent call to the Ashcroft headquarters, to reveal that there had been a breach in operational security. The message had already been reported in dodecahedrate by the legions of individuals watching the Academy from Ashcroft, the GIA, the FSB, the OIS, the NEGA and he suspected even more groups, before he had finished the speech, but he had to do it properly.

Shinji himself, the boy who, indirectly, had sizeable amounts of the global intelligence community swearing very loudly at the top of their lungs at the security breach, wasn't actually called into the lecture theatre. That was a small mercy, to be permitted an escape from the inevitable pointing and the stares at his unintentional celebrity. He slumped down into one of the abandoned chairs.

Well. How the the hell had that happened? How had they found out that he was the pilot of the Unit 01? Was this some kind of viral marketing stunt, to “raise morale” and distract people from the fact that the New Earth Government had let an extradimensional creature break into the London-2 arcology itself? Quite possibly, actually. Great, so he got to have people staring at him all the time, as well as being forced... well, he admitted to himself, he had signed the contract freely, that is, now being made to spend his time training in the Evangelion.

He felt a presence behind him, as the hairs on his neck rose.

He turned.

“Oh, hey, Hikary. Thanks for...” he began.

“I'm sorry about that happening...” she said simultaneously.

They stared at each other uncomfortably for a moment. Shinji gestured at her to continue with a slight movement of his right hand.

“Yes. Um, I'm sorry about everyone acting like that.”

Shinji snorted. “Like you could have controlled them on your own.” He shuddered slightly. “It was like they were crazy.” There was a pause. “Aren't you worried about, you know, what people think about you. I mean, you got soldiers to come.”

“Oh, that wasn't really me,” she replied. “They were just standing around a coffee fabber, and as soon as I mentioned your name, to the teachers, that is, they came running.” Hikary perched on another one of the seats, sitting on the back of the chair, and smoothed her skirt down. “And I'm already the goody-goody monitor; have been to them since we were eleven. All the ones who might hate me for reporting on them already do.”

“Eleven?” Shinji queried.

“Since coming to this Academy. This one only covers secondary education. Most of us have been here from the start.” She stared at him, a shrewd look in her eyes. “What do you know about Rei?”

Shinji blinked. The question had come completely out of the blue.

“I... uh... what?”

“Rei Ayanami. The sidoci? Bandages?”

Shinji tried obfuscation. “Not much. She doesn't seem to talk to anyone.”

“Yes. Not talk to anyone for over five years.” Hikary looked at the puzzlement in Shinji's eyes, interpreting it correctly. “Yes. Quite. She's been here as long as any of us, and we don't know anything about her. I mean, she's odd... that is, quiet and introverted even for a sidoci, and that's saying something.”

Shinji raised an eyebrow. “You know any more Whites?” The strange children, who sometimes, among those who knew their 20th Century literature, bore the name of Midwitch Cuckoos, were rare. Perhaps one in a hundred xenomixed children were born completely colourless, with the prodigious paraphysic powers that often manifested in the cradle.

“I know a few. My dad kept in touch with his people, and quite a lot of the ones like him, the ones made as children, ended up marrying humans. It's why there's a lot of us,” and then she held her hands wide, raising attention to her greyish skin, “at the Academy; the scientist types ended up mixing a lot more that the combatants,” she said, smiling vaguely, “and one thing led to another, and my sisters and me happened.” The smile vanished. “My grandfather is an old-school type, one of those “The Nazzadi Race must remain Pure until we have a Cultural Identity” types,” Hikary said bitterly, putting on an affected heavy accent, “so I ended up spending time with my mother's side of the family.”

“I'd wondered about the name, in all honesty, when you act so...” he replied.

“Human?” she said, completing the sentence. “Yeah. I happen to think that the whole Nazzadi culture thing is a bit of a scam. I mean, the original was made up by the Migou, and really, they were not that original. I mean, the whole “Proud Warrior Race” thing. Looks more like the fungi were spending too much time abducting fans of bad 20th century fantasy and sci-fi.”

“I'm sure that... what's her name? Taly? Tary? I'm not really sure, but she wouldn't like you talking like that,” added Shinji, with a faint smirk on his face.

Surprisingly, Hikary frowned. “Okay, don't smirk like that. It makes you look... it just looks weird, okay.” Her face returned to normal. “But, yes, admittedly this little rant was partly annoyance at her and her silly points. You haven't seen how bad it can get; I ended up with her for my SCIETs and we barely finished the History course because of how they dragged out the “The First Arcanotech War” module with their silly objections. But, anyway. You should get away from here. When the lecture finishes, they'll all be returning, and they'll be... annoyed, let's just say, for missing quite a bit of lunch.”

Shinji stood up. He liked Hikary, he didn't mind admitting. She was attractive, in the special way that xenomixes seemed to be; hybrid vigour et al, but that didn't seem to be as important as her personality, to use that eternal cliché. For one, she'd kept the secret about who his father was, or at the very least he hadn't had a mob of people screaming about how he was the son of the Representative. From the resemblance between a legion of fans and a lynch mob, he preferred it that way. Secondly, she actually liked him, or seemed to, at least as far as he could tell. He wasn't a mind-reader, and the female mind was an odd thing.

He sincerely hoped that she wasn't just rescuing him out of some duty to her role. Or that she wasn't a spy working for his father, as a means of control beyond the contract. Shinji wouldn't put it past the bastard to have an elite clan of child ninja to watch over his “elite” Evangelion pilots (putting inverted commas around the word “elite”, unless the definition included grabbing someone who hadn't even been in a suit of powered armour before) .

But, no, that wasn't a good way to think. That way led to paranoia, and not trusting anyone, isolating yourself from humanity for fear of what other people would do.

Shinji was struck by a sudden, inexplicable urge to find out about his paternal grandfather, and whether the man had possessed his own legion of child ninja, of Clan Rokubungi. But, no, that was still a silly thought. Even if it would explain so, so much...

He suddenly remembered that he was still part of a conversation.

“Oh, yes. Seriously, Hikary, thanks. I'm in your debt.”

“No, honestly,” she replied, the faintest hint of a reddish-black blush on her grey cheeks, “it was fine.”

“So, um, yes. Uh, bye.”

“Bye.”

Shinji felt like whistling as he walked away. Sure, the morning had been unpleasant, and there were probably future unpleasantness from the revelation of his identity. But it was quite hard to see how the day could get any worse.



~'/|\'~



Major Misato Katsurugi of the New Earth Government Army and Director of Operations (Military) for the Ashcroft Foundation and the Evangelion Project was not having a good day, and she couldn't really see how it could get much worse. For one, she was still feeling a little hungover from last night, and the beers she had imbibed after returning home at one in the morning. She had been dragged from her nice, soft, warm bed, first by Ritsuko's mundane questions about the status of the Third Child, and then followed by, at around lunchtime for the rest of the population, insane screaming phone calls from ever single agency that knew about the Evangelion Project, and a few that had just found out about it.

She had managed to get from bed to full military uniform and out of the house in four minutes, thirty two seconds, which was an achievement even for her, considering the effort it required to put on heavy carapace armour. It was a compromise. By wearing her Spectrashield Heavy, it excused the lack of make-up, and also reminded the rest of the room that she was a member of the military, not just an Ashcroft civilian.

She looked around the room to which she would have to be explaining the reason why there appeared to be a leak in a supposedly top secret project. The Federal Bureau of Security agents were on the left, as the police with control of pan-jurisdiction crimes and matters of potential regional importance. They wouldn't be too hard to explain to; they were only involved in a fairly minor role, mainly in the protection of the Children, and they too would have to explain how the virus had got past the protection they had put on the area network of the PAN which covered the sector in which the Academy was located. Likewise, the Global Inteligence Agency only valued the project in the sense that it was a valuable military resource, and thus the intense secrecy that the project had enjoyed beforehand was, in a sense, opposed to their goals. They were the NEG's spies, counter-spies, propagandists and information analysts and so, if the project went public, it could see considerably more deployment, and heaven knew that the Fronts were heavily pressed. She had received complaints of the under-use of the Evangelions, even when the project had been on ice, with only the Prototypes and one Mass Production Model. It had been planned that it would happen at some point, so the contingencies would kick in. The New Earth Government Army would side with the GIA, if she was any guess, although they would push for heavier involvement from the NEGA side, probably for a “pure” military officer to have direct control over deployment and tactics, rather than split loyalties she had.

Both the GIA and the NEGA had something to gain from the Project going public. Thus, they were suspects in the leak. After all, nothing important had been given away. By linking the project to the Engels, it gave a false view of their capabilities, and no technical specifications had made their way into the information, not even a formal height. It was almost as if it had been designed this way, which almost certainly meant that it had been.

The Office of Internal Security would not be so forgiving. Name a law that the FSB had to follow, and it was almost certain that the OIS were exempted from it. Due process, habeas corpus, human rights; the OIS had no need to follow those guidelines in their tasks; the regulation of all forms of extra-dimensional activity, whether technological, sorcerous or parapsychic. They took a great deal of interest in both the Engel Project and the Evangelion Project; it was rumoured that they were the ones who had applied the pressure which had seen the latter put on ice, and the former developed in such secrecy. They believed that the public should not know about such things, that they should only see sorcery in strictly controlled situations, and they ran the registration scheme for the parapsychic community, enforcing the markings that all individuals classified as Dangerous or Invasive had to wear, all the time. They would not be happy at a new project entering the public domain which did much the same as the Engel Project, especially the oddities of the pilots, and the use of ... well, child soldiers, if Misato were to be honest with herself. If there was one blessing, it was that when the Evangelions weren't doing... the tentacle thing, she recalled, shuddering, they were about at mundane looking as a Malach or a Seraph. If they looked like a Tarshish or a Hamshal, it would have been a lot worse. They'd propose damage control, she knew, a tailored virus released into the global information network which purged any copies of the leaked data, any scan of it, and certainly any attempt to upload it to anywhere.

Misato cleared her throat, and shuffled her data-slates. She really wished that she had had time to put on make-up. Her face felt naked in front of all of these gazes, some of which were wanting for her to slip up, so they could supplant her role.

“Ladies, gentlemen. I regret to inform you that, at 12:38 GMT today, images of Unit 01 of the Evangelion Project, and of the individual code-named Acedia and designated by the internal standards of the Project as the Third Child, found their way into a virus which overrode all Personal Computer Processing Units it infected and displayed these images, which appear to have come from the internal and external cameras in the London Geocity. Accompanying these images was an overview of the nature of the Project, although only at the lowest security levels,” and here she rolled her eyes, “which is an entirely relative term when it comes to the Evangelion Project.”

The entire audience already knew this.

“The source of the virus appears to have originated from within the grounds of the Ashcroft Academy codenamed “Malebolgia”, which the individuals codenamed “Invidia” and “Acedia” attend. Fortunately, the “grey-box” type firewall installed around Malebolgia by the FSB,” Misato nodded to their contingent, “although not completely stopping it due to the adaptive nature of the virus, at least corrupted it. The phage sub-system ensured that the data was corrupted. Of the virus that escaped to the main PAN, only the first half of the document remained even partially intact.”

That part of the statement should mollify the OIS at least somewhat, she thought.

“That means that, yes, the identity of the Third Child, Acedia, remains a secret to all outside the Academy grounds, in the realworld area of its partially isolated network. This makes this a data issue, not a direct threat to the pilots themselves.”

She noted the slight loosening of the faces of much of her audience,as the level of the threat was downgraded.

“I can assure you that both of the Children are perfectly safe.”



~'/|\'~



The incoming first collided with Shinji's nose, with the impactor coming out considerably for the better. He fell back in surprise and pain, the hot sensation from within his nose telling him that he was probably having a nosebleed.

The tall, lanky Nazzadi boy massaged his fist, and stared at the prone Child.

“Sorry, transferee, but I had to do that. I couldn't really be satisfied with a harang like you getting to walk around unless I got one hit in.”

Shinji stared up at the black-skinned boy, with the skin like anthracite and red eyes glinting, like the eyes of cats, in the false sunlight. Now he really got why the Migou had made homo sapiens nazzadi like they did. The teenager standing over him stood with one foot in the Uncanny Valley.

“You... you just hit me,” Shinji said, his voice muffled by the fingers that he had clamped around his nose. “What the... why... what the fuck?!”

The Nazzadi didn't answer, instead letting Ken, the military geek from their class answer for him. Shinji guessed that he must have been the one that came in in the morning, because he didn't remember seeing this one before. Ken leaned in a conspiratorial manner, his AR-enhanced glasses gleaming in the light. Modern medical technology had made optical correcting lenses redundant; the only people who wore glasses were people who couldn't bear to be away from Augmented Reality, or the types who wore them as a fashion statement.

“Sorry, really, but his younger sister got hurt in the battle. That's why he did it.”

People who might view the late deployment of the Evangelion as the failure of the NEG to save their loved ones had been one of the reasons they gave for why he had to wear the (so far, completely useless) ballistic vest. Just typical, Shinji thought, the one that I think of just being institutional paranoia is the one that comes true first. Not that I'm complaining, he thought hastily, to the malevolent deity which seemed to be managing his life. Upset school students can be dealt with. Migou assassins might be a bit more dangerous.

The mismatched pair turned to walk away.

“Wha... I didn't do it on purpose,” Shinji complained, hoping to reason with the obviously unhinged boy.

The black-skinned boy turned around, face contorted in rage.

“Leave him alone, Toja,” the shorter, bespectacled one said, hastily.

The voice of reason was ignored. Toja yanked Shinji up by his collar, pulling his fist back, red eyes shining.

“Just for that, idiot,” he muttered softly in Nazzadi, the tone in his voice beyond rage, I'm going to give you the beating of your...”

“Drop the boy,” a synthetic voice commanded. When there was the faintest hint of reluctance, the voice continued. “Do it NOW!”

Shinji was dropped, blood running out of his nose and down his face. He licked his lips, tasting the warm, metallic tang, and tried to staunch the flow as he got away from Toja.

A squad of NEG troopers, stun batons and tasers in hand, accompanied by one of the Mk-5 Crusader powered armours that seemed to have nothing better to do than hang around the Academy, all had their weapons levelled at the tall Nazzadi, who, quite understandably, looked terrified at the gaze from the glowing eyes of five helmets and the four optical sensors of the Crusader.

“Get down on the floor! Now!” the Corporal of the squad, his voice filtered by his sealed helmet.

One of the troopers, a single white band around one arm, rushed over to the now-prone Toja and Ken.

“DNA checks human, no Outsider taint or trace of Hybridisation beyond tolerated gene-pool levels,” the trooper, his or her voice cloaked, reported back.

“Secure them, and take them to the OIS examination room, subject to testing for Blanks or sorcerous influence.” At that, both Toja and Ken began to shake, as the troopers handcuffed them both, and walked them off at a brisk trot. “Get up, Acedia.” Shinji blinked, before remembering that was his codename for non-Ashcroft matters, who insisted on calling him “the Third Child.”

“Acedia. Are you injured?” Apparently not trusting his opinion, the one with the white band, who Shinji presumed to be the squad medic, moved over.

It was really difilcult to tell them apart, when all you had was the synethic voices over the external speakers, Shinji thought. Then again, it was sort of the point.

“Scanning. Raised vitals corresponding to an adrenaline rush. Nasal haemorrhage; that's a nose bleed, corporal. Should be fine; the blood will stop on its own, and here's a cloth,” the medic added, handing over a thick white absorbent thing to Shinji, who promptly clamped it to his nose.

“He... he just said that he was doing it because his sister was hurt,” said Shinji, shaken almost as much by the response of the soldiers, who he was beginning to suspect were part of the OIS, as by the fact that he had almost had quite a beating from an angry individual who was both bigger and stronger that he was.

“Hmm,” replied, the corporal, the synthesiser rendering the sound as a word, rather than a noise in back of the throat. “Acedia, you are to accompany Invidia to the Evangelions.”

Behind them, Shinji suddenly noticed Rei standing. He could have sworn that she wasn't there a moment ago, although five soldiers and a suit of power armour do tend to block lines of sight and draw attention, in the same fashion that an elephant in a room does, when the room is specifically an abattoir.

He pulled himself to his feet.

“Right,” he said, following Rei, who had already started walking off.

This was possibly the second time this day that he had been saved by a girl, and a xenomixed one at that. It depended upon whether the soldiers had been bodyguards, or whether they had been searching for him to get him to go.

“Um, yes. Ayanami, thanks,” he said, catching up with her. She walked fast, even with one arm in a cast and still quite heavily bandaged, including a lack of depth perception.

“You had your phone off.” Her voice was quiet, soft, and chilling in an almost literal sense. Shinji actually felt actively colder when she spoke. “It was an emergency call, so I went to where you were.”

Shinji checked in his pocket. He was sure that the phone had been on, and it wasn't likely that the Class 3 D-Cell was flat. They gave 30,000 mA hours, enough to run the mobile phone for over a year.

The battery was loose. Shinji pushed it back in, and made a note to complain. There was something wrong with the design from the nano-fabricator if a new phone could get so damaged so quickly.

“But... how did you know?”

The answer came back like a perfect volley, level and smooth.

“I knew.”

Shinji began to get an idea about how difficult she was meant to be to talk to, even though these were the most words they had ever exchanged.

“Uh, actually I was thanking you for getting the, you know, soldiers. It looked like I was going to be in trouble there, but you showed up at the right time.”

“Yes.”

Surprisingly, she continued, actually adding to a conversation.

“It is a good thing that I waited.”

Wait, what?

A siren started up



~'/|\'~



“Today, at 1:21 pm, a special state of authority has been declared by the New Earth Government. All inhabitants within the Arcology are to remain so. All inhabitants with a temporary arcology pass are to leave, and go to their designated shelter within the Greater London Area. Should conditions change, all individuals are to follow the instructions of their nearest municipal authority, inducing heading to the Internal Arcology Fortifications. Temporary martial law is in full effect. Message repeats, today, at 1:21 pm, a special state of authority has been declared by the New Earth Government...”



~'/|\'~



The Fourth Herald cruised at just over the speed of sound, serene in front of the booming roar it left behind as it tore through the air, its AT field tearing those diatomic molecules unfortunate enough to get in its way in two. A trail of free-radicals from these unnatural severances whirled and bloomed in the atmosphere.

The creature was grossly cephalopodian, its bulbous body, bloated and white like a corpse drowned in some cavern hidden from the face of the sun for countless aeons, trailed by vile tentacles. The appendages twitched and writhed in a manner which suggested that they were not fully under the control of the main body, for, were the beast subject to the restrictions of aerodynamics, the movements would have obstructed its flight. They glistened and gleamed; a thin layer of oil-like protoplasm coated their surface, reflecting the light wrong with the tentacles appearing coated with sea one minute and sky the next. Its main bulbous section possessed three great eyes upon it, a triangle of vision which allowed it to watch the skies and seas alike. The eyes did not glow, as a creature from a bad film might, but instead they reflected an iridescent, shifting pattern hypnotic to the unwary eye. And like its deceased kin, it bore a sanguine orb on its front, a sign of the favours bestowed upon it.

As the Kathirat, as the humans called to it conceal its name (ah, the sweetest of ironies), flew over the North Sea, it brought madness to the birds that swarmed over the sea, in pursuit of the recovering fish stocks. It had been astonishing how fast the seas had replenished themselves after the near destruction of stocks in the early 21st century. Of course, the tendency for the Estoric Order of Dagon to board fishing vessels, and take the crews away to be brainwashed into service of dread Cthulhu, Dagon and Hydra, or taken to the rape camps of the EoD, probably had something to do with it. But now the birds abandoned their foods, and swarmed, regardless of species, towards the Fourth Herald. It cared not for them, and they were ripped apart by their intersection with the AT-field, or sent tumbling out of the air, falling like a fair maiden defenestrated by a cruel patrician to the oceans, where the fish which they had so long preyed upon devoured the corpses. Those which had eaten took on an odd iridescence, and dove immediately, to escape the sun.

The Herald would have been pleased, for the food would go to feed the weak, and thus, by feeding the weak, they become yours, yours to control, yours to own, yours to use. They would make good slaves for Her (insofar as such a concept of gender applied to the species to which the Heralds belonged) beloved Children, and food for Her Children.

After all, the Children were the future. The priest was vulnerable, for the first time since the First had been overthrown and slain. The First, her father, had been a good mate, and their Children had been strong.



~'/|\'~



The New Earth Army's central command post in London-2 was in what could accurately be called a state of organised panic. The operators around the edges of the room were using full access to StratNet to co-ordinate the naval assets in the North Sea with the land-based Army aircraft.

“What's the status of the Migou Hive Ship? Can we use a satellite without risk?” Field Marshal Jameson demanded of SpaceCom. The Hive Ship, an armoured behemoth the size of a small moon, 1207 km in diameter, and held with a fair degree of certainty to be Charon, binary partner of the dwarf planet Pluto, or Yuggoth as it was called by its denizens, was the bane of strategic planning. It forced all of the few intact satellites to go dormant, silent under their stealth fields, to avoid their destruction, and thus locked down satellite communications for almost half the planet at once. Moreover, it could dispatch the lesser Swarm Ships, each larger than a Victory-class Battlecruiser, to potentially any place it could see. It was cursed daily by senior NEA and NEN officers, but it had proved proof against coordinated missile strikes from across the globe, failing to even get past its point defences, let alone harsh words.

“Hive Ship is over the Pacific, 121 degrees, 23 minutes, 3 seconds. Satellite requests are permitted,” came the answer.

“Well, get Burachev-4 on the Herald. See if the Dimensional Analyser can detect the AT Field. If this works, it can maybe find where these things are coming from.”

“It'll be three minutes before its in position, Field Marshal,” noted the operator.

On the other side of the room, Field Marshal Lehy was in overall command of the air forces. She closed the comm channel she had open, and called up a new face, floating bodiless before her.

“NEA Norwich, we have a hostile target of extradimensional nature. The previous encounter with its type was found to cause widescale Aeon War Syndrome. Colonel, you are hereby authorised and demanded to utilise the experimental RALCL serum on all pilots.”

“Yes, ma'am,” the ranking officer at Norwich replied, a specialised fortress-facility designed to protect that part of the east coast from EoD raids, as well as project force over the Sea. Lehy noted the hint of worry on her face. The RALCL (pronounced “Ral-Cal” serum had few noted immediate side effects, but it had never been used on this scale. The potential losses were acceptable, compared to the mass psychological damage that had affected the ground forces which had fought the last Herald, and they couldn't afford to lose pilots, especially when an Aeon War Breakdown was considerably worse when you were piloting a supersonic aircraft.

The third of the Field Marshals, Kora, was back from operations against Iceland, which was completely under the control of the Dagonites, who had turned it into a veritable fortress in the Atlantic. He was in contact with Chicago, the capital of the New Earth Government and the Ashcroft Foundation alike. He was talking to an elderly woman, her white hair tied into a severe bun.

“Field Marshal Kora, the NEG formally instructs you to active the Evangelion Project, and grants you the authority to command it until the current crisis is dealt with.”

The Nazzadi officer smiled slightly.

“Thank you, Minister. I shall do so immediately.”

The old lady, Minister of War, stared back at him.

“See that you do, Kora. You've asked for this control; now let's see what you do with it. This will cost considerable political capital should you fail.”

The Field Marshal saluted his superior.

“We shall not fail, Minister Aristide.”

The old lady did not answer, merely cutting the link. The Nazzadi permitted himself a brief smirk, then turned to face the rest of the room.

“We have the authority to activate the Evangelions. Contact Major Katsurugi, and inform her to prepare them.”

“Not that they won't be doing that, anyway,” remarked Lehy, drily. “If we ask why they're doing it, they'll claim that they're just readying it for training, of course.”

“Something will have gone wrong if it gets to land this time,” added Jameson. “Is the Ashcroft in position?”

“Yes, it is,” answered Kora.

“And multiple wings are on route to intercept. If the serum works, and really does counter Aeon War Syndrome, then this should be a dramatic first test,” added Lehy.



~'/|\'~



Four groups of five F-1 Spitfires roared in towards the Fourth Herald at Mach 1.65. Named for their ancient counterpart which had also taken off from Norwich to defend the UK, the nomenclature was all that they had in common with their spiritual forefather. The modern Spitfire was modular, with a single piece wing and an over fuselage structure design. Twin-linked 20mm railguns with limited autotracking and 16 semi-smart missiles that could threaten ground units (although that would be a bit of a waste of their air-to-air functionality) made it noticeably better than its Migou counterpart, the Dart, and left the attempts of the Rapine Storm, who either went for looted airplanes held together with spit and covered in skeletons, or just rode monstrosities (when the creatures tolerated them), in the dust.

And these pilots were better than they would have been normally. The doctors had given them an awareness booster before take-off, for the purpose of heightening their senses, and now they all were feeling more sane, more aware than they ever had before. They may have been intellectually aware that they should be terrified of the presence they hung over keeping pace with it, but there was no fear. There was merely the knowledge that it was their task to kill this intruder.

As one, synchronised perfectly, the wings rolled in, and began the attack on the Herald. Soon, more aeroplanes arrived, and the sky was filled with missile contrails and the snarl of hypersonic bullets.



~'/|\'~



The Kathirat was getting annoyed, for that was one emotion it most certainly shared with the uplifted apes that assaulted its majesty.

The primitive beasts in their metal boxes that could only just touch the higher dimensions dared attack it? Leave its Children motherless?

The stress of the impact of all of the explosives began to tear holes in the AT field, collapsing the phase potentials of the shredded dimensions that permitted a bullet to be stopped. A raking line of fire from a buzzing metal insect punched into its cephalodian skin, flesh that had withstood the wrath of ages pieced and punctured by magnetically accelerated armour-piercing rounds.

Well, it would take their metal boxes from them!

It slowed down, diverting its gift from the Endless to reinforcing the blessing of Yog-Sothoth that enveloped it, especially its top, where the apes wounded its grace. The bullets and missiles bounced off, or were shredded by the strengthened grace of the Gate and the Key. It then added a pair of burning bright tentacles, like false stars, and sliced at the pests, puncturing their crafts and drawing their souls into it. They tasted somewhat familiar, although the Kathirat could not place them. It lowered itself further, its flight slowed by the effort of maintaining its defence against the upstarts.

The Fourth Herald barely had time to feel a presence beneath the waves, like one of the metal boxes, but massively larger, before it realised how it had been tricked.



~'/|\'~



The Victory-class Battlecruiser, the Ashcroft, one of the prides of the NEN fleet and moved to here from the Atlantic specifically to close this trap, surfaced from beneath the waves like some leviathan from the depths of the minds of medieval sailors. The Ashcroft could sail the voids of space; a little water was nothing to immerse itself in. The air force had forced the Herald low enough that it could target the creature from the surface, instead of having to engage its A-pods, and thus it was all prepared.

Its main, hull mounted Plasma Cannon belched three times in quick succession, draining the hastily installed D-cells that functioned as capacitors and taking almost all the power from the main reactor. Three new-born suns, outshining even the tentacles that the beast extruded, were vomited forth by the steel leviathan. The first was smeared against the AT-field, the ionised gases that it fired dispersed as every single baryon within was given a pseudo-random transformation which excluded the possibility of it touching the Kathirat. The second was partially blocked by the layer of plasma that now clung to the Herald, but it punched through its elder brother, and collapsed the AT-field, boiling away at the hide of the beast with the remnants of its fury, mostly spent.

The third shot tore the Fourth Herald in half, leaving its tentacles and part of its body to fall, severed and partially vaporised, into the ocean. The waters boiled as vast amounts of heat were dumped into them, even as dumb fish swam towards the maelstrom, overcome with an unnatural hunger.

The Ashcroft was not content with that, of course. It followed up its devastating first strike with the rest of its armaments, run off separate reactors. Charge Beams and laser cannons tore at its flesh, punching holes clean through, while further waves of missiles from both the Ashcroft and the air component tore at its armoured carapace. There was no celebration from the pilots or the crew of the Ashcroft, but there were certainly smiles, and declarations of “Fuck, yeah!” in the NEG military command centre back in London-2.

Smiles which disappeared when the Herald, showing speed that it had never before, tore upwards in a hypersonic boom, knocking several planes out of the air with the shockwave that it left in the wake of its still-considerable bulk, leaving a slick of phosphorescent purple ichor floating on the water like some horrific oil.



~'/|\'~



Shinji was positioned on the eastern side of the Arcology, in the middle of a collapsed street of apartments. He had been sitting here, waiting for instructions for a while. It seems that the NEA and the NEN had ambushed the Herald in the North Sea, crippled it, but then it had escaped. He wasn't that pleased about that; they should have just killed it, and then he wouldn't have to be sitting in here. For one, the LCL did absolutely nothing to prevent his bottom going numb from sitting in the control couch.

Suddenly, Misato's head appeared on his HUD. She loo
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

Themaninblack
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Postby Themaninblack » Sat Oct 31, 2009 12:47 pm

Getting to posting all the old chapters huh? Writing up some pointers now...
I won.

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Postby EarthScorpion » Thu Nov 05, 2009 3:35 am

Chapter 5

Rei 01




25th September, 2091

Gendo smiled, a hint of genuine happiness entering his smirk. He had got back from Chicago, the capital of the New Earth Government and the Ashcroft Foundation alike to find that the Fourth Herald had been killed. Surprisingly, he was not at his desk, instead standing by a transparent wall, looking out.

Him and Fuyutsuki were in his office, looking over the London Geocity. The temperature had been reduced, to mimic the evening, and trigger the diurnal cycles of the lifeforms which made the Geocity an ecosystem. Indeed, a migration of its own was occurring, as employees of the Foundation flocked upwards and outwards, to their homes in London-2, above. Very few people actually lived in the Geocity, what with the fact that it was more expensive, due to vastly lower housing density, and the fact that even the strongest at heart were somewhat off-put by the knowledge that arcane research occurred down here.

Above the transparent dome of the room, the false stars, D-Engine powered lights, began their tracked movement over the ceiling, replicating the movement of the night sky from before civilisation.

“Has the origin of the data leak been traced? AHNUNG are furious with whoever managed to subvert Ashcroft security, and broadcast data from our own security cameras, leaking it to the public, and outing the Third Child to the entire Academy. They seem to be taking it personally. The fact that the Evangelion Project is now public knowledge among the intelligence community, and the public itself knows that there is some kind of large mecha in London-2, seems to have enraged them”

The tone was cold, dispassionate, and studiously neutral, revealing nothing about his feelings. Kozo Fuyutski answered in kind.

“I am afraid not, Ikari. The Magi have not been able to locate the source except in the broadest sense. After it was released, a second virus wiped every single optical or magnetic storage device. We will have to live with the fact that the Project appears to be an open secret among anyone who might know, and the information about it is spreading through the public metanet very rapidly, to the extent that the OIS isn't even trying to slow it. They have decided to go public with a speed that stops those old meddlers from pulling on what strings they have. They're already deliberately leaked a second set of images, of Unit 01 against the Kathirat. SFS-level edited, of course.”

“Such a shame. This deliberate blow against the secrecy of the Project has made it impossible for AHNUNG to keep the Evangelions, which are a necessary component of the Human Iteracy Project completely secret. They do not have the NEG completely eating out of their hands; there are other groups with influence, and the vast majority are members of no group.”

“Yes. Such a dreadful shame. It is likely that the GIA and the OIS will be poking around, to find out what else is being hidden by Ashcroft.”

Gendo looked over his shoulder, smiling broadly, his blank façade cracked.

“Well, we wouldn't want that, would we. It would be terrible if the OIS or the GIA were to find any conspiracies. Of course, they would have considerably more problems telling apart AHNUNG, the Eldritch Society, and the attempts by Chrysalis to get people into the project.”

“About that, Gendo,” his old teacher said, frowning, “we caught another infiltrator from the Children of Chaos in our intake pool. Someone had tagged him as suspect, although we have no record of that alteration being made in his file. Probably an assassin; he was a Dhohanoid. Someone (another someone, by my guess) had altered his DNA profile to conceal that marker that those monsters all share, thus he read up on clean with scans.”

Gendo raised one finger to his temple.

“Don't worry. The Chrysalis Corporation has been having trouble recently with the Eldritch Society, from espionage reports from my network. They don't know what we're doing, they're just poking into secrets. Their master will know, for He always knows. We can only hope that what we plan will amuse Him enough that He will not be bored.”

“Gendo,” Kozo said, with a hint of irritation in his voice, “you don't need to explain this to me. I know just as well as you do that the Crawling Chaos basically holds veto over the success of our plan, or of AHNUNG's.”

Gendo shrugged, adjusting his glasses as the movement caused them to slide down his nose.

“I know. I was just seeing how long I could delay you before you asked me where I had been when the Fourth attacked, old friend. In justification, I did take the first flight back when I heard.”

The elder man snorted. “I knew it. Very well, then. Where were you? You knew that the Kathirat was predicted to attack just then.”

“Preparing for the reactivation of Unit 00,” replied Gendo, any hint of levity gone from his voice. “I had to visit the Auburn Facility in Chicago. I talked with the director of the Herkunft Institute, about Rei. We don't want a repeat of the problems we had with her synchronicity with the previous attempt.” He paused. “It is worse that we might have thought. From the omissions in what he said, from what I could tell they were trying to hide, they might be resolving the problems with the Fourth Infant, and thus opening the route to the completion of Xue'Vehulu'Ia'Ia.”

The white haired man looked shocked. “Really? They have found a use for the brain-dead shell?”

“So it would seem. We must keep their agents away from the Heralds at all costs.”



~'/|\'~



The next day, the day after the death of an entity which had pre-dated the evolution of mankind, its killer, Shinji Ikari, was in pain. Not major pain; nothing had been broken in the fight with the Kathirat, but all his muscles ached, and his fingers felt numb and uncooperative. The backlash from repeated use of the Lightning Cannon at close ranges when one would have normally been enough to reduce him to smoking flesh, had left him with minor neurological damage; damage equivalent to that of a very minor stroke. Of course, the command staff had known about it from the internal biomonitors, and as soon as they had extracted him from the entry plug, they had taken him to an arcanotherapist, where the comparatively minor damage was fixed. However, the new neural tissue was still not an exact replica, and thus he had been warned that he would be clumsy for a few days.

Adding insult to injury, he had been reprimanded by Misato, for the use of the Lightning Cannon in such close proximity. According to her, it had risked damaging both the Evangelion and the pilot, which he had found out the hard way. Unit 01 was having to undergo a full cleansing cycle, because the blood of the Kathirat was both mildly acid, and highly carcinogenic, before the repair cycle to fix the damage which the Lightning Cannon had self-inflicted could even be fixed. He hadn't even been permitted a day off, to recover. It was like... it was like she didn't know really how to treat him. She flipped between treating him as a room mate (and thus leaving him to do the cooking and cleaning), and as her command (in the combat situations). She seemed to try to be somewhat motherly, but she had no experience at that, so just followed what the media told her that a good parent did. And one of the things that were done was that parents did not permit their children to miss school. And thus she did it.

The rest of the class didn't flock around him, like they had yesterday. The talk from the headmaster, and the knowledge that he had been the one piloting the Engel in the images that were circulating the metanet put an invisible barrier around him, one of respect, and almost fear. He looked again. Many of them seemed to be stealing glances at Hikary first, before they tried to furtively stare at him, averting their gaze from him if it looked like she was looking.

Ah. Another reason for the lack of the swarm. Obviously Hikary had a talk with them. She's like a secret policeman... no, that's not the right word. And where were Ken and Toja? Maybe the OIS hadn't released them yet.

The two arrived late, sprinting in about an hour before lunch, doctor's notes paraded in front of Hikary, who had leapt to “greet” them at the door to the classroom with such speed that she appeared to have not bothered with passing through the intervening space.

“Doctor's note... it's... valid... don't kill us...” panted the out-of-breath Toja, bent double with exertion.

“Not... our fault...” added his equally winded compatriot.

The amlati stared at the two notes, and at their faces.

Amli katu wha disnu...” she breathed in shock.

Both of them were wearing medical eye protectors on both eyes, just like the one that had been over the left eye of Rei Ayanami. These ones looked like blue-tinted goggles.

“Don't worry... class rep,” Toja said, recovering his breath. “We're not blind... or anything. They're just protectors... just 'till they recover. Where's the teacher? We gotta hand these in.” He waved the pink piece of paper. “Bit stupid if you ask me. Why can't they just transfer the note to our files?”

Hikary shook her head briefly, as if waking up. “This is English Literature, remember. He left us reading the set text for this term.”

“We finally got given it?” asked Ken. “What is it?”

“It's a late twentieth century book, part of the science fiction genre. Called...”

“You know, I don't really care,” said Toja definitely, adding, after Hikary's look of sympathy transmuted into a laser capable of cutting diamond “... in my current, injured state. We had to wait up most of the night for a free arcanotherapist. Obviously I care about such an important part of my ASCIETs... obviously. I would never disrespect the education system... please don't hurt me,” he added, muttering the last bit.

Shinji looked up from his aching attempts to concentrate. The interactions of Hikary and Toja were better than a circus, honestly, he wanted to know how they were injured (although he already had a sinking suspicion, and indeed felt that he might be hit again) and frankly he wasn't in the mood to read. The text just seemed too plodding.

And, honestly, who really cares about an obscure moon of Saturn? The offworld colonies got destroyed in the First Arcanotech War, and the only moon of Saturn we tried to colonise was Titan.

He looked around the rest of the class. Pretty much all of them had been distracted by the combination of the improvised stand up show and the fact that two classmates had walked in with injuries. Characteristically, the only one still reading was Rei, now devoid of bandages, who was flipping through the pages with detached efficiency.

My god... is she really already a third of the way through?

Toja's babbling had come to a stop, while Hikary stared at his face dispassionately. Then;

“So, are you going to tell me what happened, and how you got hurt?” Her voice was surprisingly soft, compared to her previous expression.

“We... um got caught outside when the sirens went off for the second time,” Ken replied. “The... the ceiling...the light...” his voice trailed off.

“We... well, you know that the Arcology got attacked yesterday. The thing... the thing, it got into the Arcology. Punched all the way down to the Wade Plaza.”

“Yes,” replied Hikary, in a slightly confused tone of voice. “The extradimensional entity was crippled by the fleet, then crashed into London-2, where,” Hikary glanced over at Shinji, “it got finished off.” She saw their faces. It looked like they were staring at her from underneath the googles. “That's what it said on the news.”

“There was no way that thing was crippled when it hit,” Toja declared loudly. “It had these... tentacle things, but they were burning bright, like the sun, you know, but closer. We got this from just looking at it.”

Shinji massaged the back of his neck.

Oh dear

An apology was probably best, now. At least here, they wouldn't punch him.

“Um... I'm sorry about that, guys. They did try to kill it before it hit, but the air defences did nothing, and I killed it as fast as I could,” he said, holding his arms before him, against his chest. “In all fairness, I killed it as fast as I could.”

The head of every member of the class, with the exception of Rei's, swivelled to face him. He ignored them; the ones which mattered were the ones up the front. Toja and Ken appeared to be shocked at the apology.

That's... probably a good sign. I hope. Please.

“Seriously, there is absolutely no way at all. At all! That you need to apologise to us. At all!” blurted out Toja. “We're in your debt massively... even more,” he added, shiftily.

“It was the most awesome thing I've seen in my entire life, ever,” declared Ken to the class. “This thing had just broken through the ceiling, with these bright tentacles made out of plasma or something. They certainly looked like a plasma cannon would, if you made a whip out of it, and they made this noise *whuuummm...whuuummm*,” he waved his arms around, synchronising the movement to the noise, “when it swung them. We thought we were going to die! It hurt so much! It was so bright!”

“And then,” Toja continued, taking up the story, for the accolades, and the fact that it appeared to be distracting the class representative, “and then, it moved those tentacles backwards, punching through the ceiling. We never really saw much of the creature; it was too bright at first, and then we were almost blind. But what I really saw was... there was this... orb on the front. It was wrong... the red... it was weird, not like red should be, you know,” he said to the class, who, with two exceptions, didn't. “And then, something tore its way out from the inside of the creature, and starting punching... the orb,” he shivered, and blinked, heavily “ with claws.”

“We kind of fainted with the pain, at that point,” Ken said, softly.

“So you didn't see anything else,” said Shinji hastily, and with reflection, somewhat unwisely. “Did you get any of the blood on you?”

“No. To both questions. But when the medics found us, we could see the tech teams trying to move the Engel.” Both boys glanced at each other, and then walked over to Shinji's desk.

“We owe you our lives,” they said, in not-very-well-rehearsed unison. “We're eternally in your debt,” said Toja, and “We're forever in your debt,” said Ken simultaneously. They glared at each other.

“I thought we agreed on 'etern...'” began Toja, before the applause of the rest of the class drowned out the rest. Even Hikary smiled, faintly.

Rei was still reading. She was up to half way.



~'/|\'~



Asuka Langley Soryu, designated Second Child, and pilot of Unit 02, sat by the mirror in her room, performing the mundane ritual of self-examination and cosmetic products which she carried out twice daily. Once, it had only been had to be performed once a day, but it was happening more and more.

She stared at her face in the mirror. She hated the first part so very much.

Asuka paused, adjusted her dressing gown and got up. She had managed to get a medium sized room in the Beweglichkeit Base, when they had moved Unit 02 forwards, which meant that most of her stuff was still in the house she had been staying in, back in the Berlin Arcology. It was probably for the best; she wouldn't have been able to move, she thought, with it all here. Military bases just weren't big enough. You know, for the accommodation and everything. There was no possible way that she might have too many material possessions.

She put on a thick pair of red, woollen (actually a synthetic fibre, constructed in the nanofactory in this house, but it felt the same) socks, and returned to her seat by the mirror.

First things first. Contact lenses out, into the cleaning fluid.

There were two faint splashes, as the two flexible lenses sank to the bottom. Asuka avoided the gaze of the other girl, the one in the mirror, who stared back at her. It wasn't her at all. She didn't look like that. Those were not her eyes.

Skin... remains fine. I won't need another MSH top-up for another few weeks.

This was her skin, shown as it was now. When the MSH was low, she ceased to be herself. She didn't look like that. That was not her skin.

Hair. My hair. My pride and joy. The first thing to be affected.

I hate it.

I hate it.

I hate it.

The roots are showing. I need to get it done quickly. It makes me look old.


Most of her hair remained a thick, lustrous red, the rich, deep scarlet of open veins. The same red as Mama had had (but she wasn't going to think about that. Not now. Not ever.). But there, lurking at the roots, was the other girl's hair. It wasn't hers. She didn't look like that. That was not her hair.

I have to put the contacts back in. I can't let Kaji see me like this. He knows, of course, but who would willingly go around looking like a freak? I'm not a freak, not at all.

Not at all.


Asuka could look at herself in the mirror again, her blue eyes staring back. That was her. The examination was done. Now it was time for the lotions, and the other things. She kept herself normal with the first step, now she kept herself looking positively divine, if she could say so herself.

Downstairs, Ryoji Kaji, field operative of the GIA, member of the Blackspire division of the GhOST wing, murderer, spy, parapsychic and double-agent was watching television. Well, not really watching it. Looking at it, and paying attention with a tiny shard of his mind so it gave the appearance that he was watching the escapades of a hyperactive Nazzadi and her sardonic human henchman, while he thought of other things would be a more accurate description. But to a theoretical invisible being watching the room, who had managed to get past the multiple and layered wards against mental projections, Outsiders and sorcerous influences which covered such a high value target, it would appear that he was watching television. This was the first time in a very long time that he had been able to use his own name, his own identity. As a member of Blackspire, this particular mission had required his government profile to be “rediscovered after its temporary loss”.

It turned out that he had been working in a low level position in the GIA since he left university, as a data analyst, had anyone broken into his files to find out what he had been doing. To his certain knowledge, there had been three thousand, nine hundred and thirty one attempts to do so as of last Monday, of which twelve had been successful. To be fair, it had come as a bit of a surprise to him that he had been a data analyst all that time (he had thought that he had been legally dead), but he had adjusted, after it had been explained why he was needed for this mission, and why he had to use his natal identity. He was looking forwards to seeing her again.

The phone rang. He picked it up.

“Excuse me, but is this the home of Tanous Reiter?”

Kaji smiled. He thought he recognised the voice, but he had to make sure that protocol was being followed.

“How do you spell the first name?”

“T-A-M-U-S,” the voice at the other end replied.

“Well, no, not any more. We only just moved in, I'm afraid.”

“I'm sorry for disturbing you. Do you have the new number, then?”

“I think I do. Let me just check.” Kaji put down the phone for five seconds, then picked it up again. “Ah, yes, here it is. 456 920 920 445 182 384.”

“Thank you very much.” There was a click. “Okay, Kaji, the line is secure.”

“Good to hear from you, Pax,” replied Kaji, smiling. “I'd thought that you and your “boys”, and the rest of VREES had forgotten about me when I got moved to looking after the Second Child.”

“Now, I'd think that I wouldn't do that, would I,” replied the man, in his cold tone of voice. He always sounded like that, slightly husky, made worse by how heavily encrypted the line was. “I was just sitting on a beach, surrounded by beautiful women, drinking a martini, and so I thought of you.”

Kaji snorted. Pax on a beach, in that red jacket of his, with that slightly hungry look in his eyes that he always had, was an image which just didn't work. The pale man was a very powerful parapsychic, and made more so by the experiments that GhOST was conducting into remote battlefield command, but people were not something that he really got. Or maybe he got them too well; after all, when you can puppet men, controlling them as marionettes, then normal human interaction is always going to be made difficult by the nagging thought that you can just make them do what you want.

“Now, now, Paxy...”

“Don't call me that. I can put up with Pax, but I draw the line at Paxy.” A slightly wry note entered his voice, an unusually strong emotion for him. “After all, I'm not Nazzadi and I am not female.”

“Sorry. Yeah, without me, the rest of the team wouldn't even know where to find a bar. No, what I think you've been doing is practising infiltration of hostile beaches, and the “beautiful women” was Jin being used as the OpFor and shooting at you with a sniper rifle.”

“So you know about Operation CATO, then.” It was a statements, without even the customary pause.

“It relates to my current mission, actually. That's all I can say.”

“Ah.” There was a pause. “So the Children are getting involved, too.” A faint chuckle. “How ironic. You think they'll be sending along the adults, too?”

Kaji frowned. He knew the man had a higher clearance than he did, and he'd liked to appear from nowhere, make cryptic remarks, then leave, but he'd used those words before. And the Commander (his nickname in VREES, he wasn't actually in charge) laughing? Something was up.

“I'm sorry?”

He could hear the verbal equivalent of a shrug over the phone. “Never mind. You're assigned to the Second Child, aren't you. She's not the one who's also an infant, too, is she? Childish behaviour?”

Kaji looked around. There was the faint sound of a hairdryer from upstairs, but that didn't mean anything. He didn't put it beyond her to listen in on his conversations.

“Bit of a brat, to be honest. Seems to have a crush on me, although she thinks it's more than that. She lives up to the codename of Superbia. Quite astonishing pride, and didn't respond well to the news that the first Herald kill was made by someone who wasn't her. And even less well when she found out that the Third Child, Acedia, hadn't even been in an Evangelion before.”

There was a chuckle over the phone.

“And you haven't told her that Acedia made his second kill yesterday, have you?”

“Well... no. I'm just glad she was training most of today with the Branch and didn't catch the news. Out of curiosity, though,” Kaji added, “how do you know about that? Just curious.”

“I can actually tell you that; no need to say “It's classified” in an annoying yet cute tone of voice...” the pale man began.

“Pax, I tell you with the greatest kindness, that you couldn't do cute to save your life. And, yeah, Jin is a bitch when she does that.”

“True. True. I can affect a man's mind so that he remembers someone being cute, though, which is the same thing. Anyway, it's relevant to Operation CATO. And I got Mother to check Sister. Sister is quite interested in the Third Child.”

“Really? I checked Sister, before my current mission, and it didn't have much on the Project,” said Kaji, with a slight hint of confusion in his voice.

“You probably didn't check in the right way,” came an answer.

“Ah, of course. That's why they're moving them to be ready. I'm going to be sorry to miss the black-ops before CATO. That is why you 'phoned me, after all. You were trying to see if I could be reassigned, because you want your pointman back from the nasty evil reassignment of bodyguard.”

“Well, partially,” the voice admitted. “I also wanted to talk to you. After all, you and the rest of VREES are the closest thing I've ever had to a family. I think.”

“That's... well, I'd guessed that before, but I'm surprised that you'd admit it over the phone. Don't get any more sentimental, though,” he added playfully, “or I'll be sick from all the sweetness. As sick as I was at certain times in college, like at... some girl's twenty-second birthday party, or that nasty bug I came down around the start of August.”

There was silence at the end of the phone.

“Lighten up, Pax. Just a joke.” Kaji heard footsteps on the stairs, very light, but enough to know. “Listen, Pax, I'm sorry. And I've gotta go, now. I probably won't be able to talk to you before... the C-word, because these conversations are a pain to set up. Give them hell. After all; they all deserve to die. All the Dagonite bastards.”

“They all deserve to die,” replied his colleague, repeating the team's motto. “Just think about what I've said.” The phone went dead.

Kaji held the phone up, puzzled.

What justified such a comment? What was Pax doing?

Was he trying to warn him? Had he heard something about Herkunft and the strange links that 108 companies had to it? And he knew things about the Evangelion Project too, things that Kaji suspected that the GIA as a whole didn't, and which he only knew from certain... anonymous leaks, confirmed by independent sources, once you linked the clues together.


Which made him suspicious, of course. Reality didn't usually work that way, even in the intelligence community.

His confusion allowed Asuka to get the drop on him, grabbing him around the neck with quite astonishing force, and mashing her breasts up against his arm. He resisted the trained instinct to punch her in the face (target confirmed human, will not risk being bitten), and roll off the chair, drawing the UT-9 at his hip (gas-launched needle weapons are subsonic and silent, and will not risk drawing attention).

Known capabilities of target do not require the use of hyperspeed or any other abilities.

The full flight-or-fight reflex ran through his head in less than a second, before being suppressed, all completely invisible to Asuka.

“Who were you talking to, Kaji?” came the voice in his ear. She was quite deliberately breathing into it, under the misapprehension that he found it romantic. From... some women, yes. From a sixteen year old; under half his age, no.

“A colleague from the GIA. I think you can understand if I don't say anything more,” he added with a chuckle, which sounded perfectly genuine.

Asuka loosened slightly, slumping in disappointment.

“So the Army hasn't got back to you about letting me take the tests to get a commission, then?” she asked, a hint of whine entering her voice.

Kaji twisted to look at her, putting his free hand on the back of his neck, as he tried (yet again) to explain. That was a mistake, allowing Asuka to ensnare his other hand.

“They did... and they said no. Again.”

“But why?” she asked, in a sullen tone of voice. “I've got a degree already, I'm the pilot of a war machine that's bigger than any other one in the NEG... that is, any other mecha, they trust me, and need me, that much, I've been through effectively all the experience needed to get the commission, and yet they won't let me take the stupid tests. So, why, Kaji, won't they let me get a commission?”

“Because you're sixteen, remember? You've still got two years of mandatory schooling, even if you already have the degree...”

“Which is stupid in itself,” the red-haired girl pointed out. “Why should I be forced to go to a school full of idiots who just happen to be my age, rather than be out there, saving the whole species.”

“Well, for starters,” Kaji raised as a counter-point, “the ASCIET is more than just education. It's also psychological profiling to check for cult influence...”

“Which I already have.”

“It's a rounded education, ensuring that you know about history, language, and logic. You may already have a degree in Natural Sciences, but that doesn't make you a well rounded human being.”

In fact, he thought, it pretty much guarantees that you aren't, given that you've been spending your time pushing ahead of normal society, you've been piloting a Engel-equivalent since before there were Engels, and you've been passed between foster parents. I just really hope that Ashcroft can keep you sane enough that you don't either snap and breakdown in combat, or go on a mad rampage in a giant war machine that would probably take nukes or a capital ship to reliably take down. Because I sort of like you, not in the sense you'd like Asuka, even though you're pretty damaged, and I don't want to see what I've seen happen to you.

What kind of a moron makes the control scheme for a vehicle dependent on using teenagers (or something like that. We haven't been able to get how they are controlled from the Foundation.), anyway? No wonder Engels, which
only require invasive brain surgery superseded their prototypes.

“Yeah. I would have done Arcane Sciences, but they said “No” then, as well. But they're deploying Unit 02 to a forwards base for 'Advanced Field Testing',” said Asuka, making the inverted comma signs with her fingers. “When are they going to give up the stupid fiction that I'm just a 'Test Pilot'!”

“Well, maybe you can show them on the battlefield that you're not just a Test Pilot, then,” replied Kaji, trying to changed the conversation. “Anyway, think of what you'd have to give up to become Second Lieutenant Soryu. They'd make you cut your hair, for one.”

Asuka flicked her glossy hair, still subtly damp from the recent wash, into Kaji's face. It felt like a velvet whip.

“Oh,” she asked, in an artfully innocent tone of voice, “do you like it?”

Kaji knew better than to answer such a loaded question. Sadly, the presence about his neck forced him to give a response. So, as any good GIA operative would have done, he cheated.

“Listen, Asuka,” he began. “You're probably going to be told about it tomorrow, but there was another attack on London-2 yesterday.”

“What! Why wasn't I told about it earlier,” shouted the girl, jumping up, and (he thanked... well, not anyone specifically, but just generically thanked) letting go of his neck.

“Because it was classified. As usual.”

“Well, what happened? From the tone of voice you're using, it must not have gone well. It would have been better had they had me there, I bet.”

“Actually... no,” said Kaji, wincing internally for the outburst he knew was coming. “It was ambushed by a Navy taskforce in the North Sea, and heavily damaged. It got past the ships, though, and broke through the arcology wall. The Third Child, in Unit 01, killed it.” He closed his eyes.

After a moment, he opened them again. Asuka had a strand of her hair in her mouth, and was chewing on it, as she stared intently at the other wall. Her left hand was clenched into a fist, its twin still clamped around Kaji's wrist. Then she relaxed, letting go and taking a step back.

“Kaji...” she said, leaning forwards with both hands clasped together in front of her, and a broad smile in her face, “could you maybe see about, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, getting some videos of the Third Child, in his training, and of his two victories so far. After all, if I'm going to be working with him, I should get to see his piloting skills personally, rather than just relying on data and statistics. Please, Kaji, please.”

Yes, I'll see how good he really is. After all, the real advantage of the Evangelions is that they have the AT-Field. That's what makes them better than any other synthorg. And no-one has ever said how hard it is to kill the Heralds, just that they need an Evangelion for it. That just means that they're weak. And so if they let me do it, and I have a lot more than less than two months practice, it will happen a lot faster. Because I'm a better pilot than he is. He probably hasn't even started to have... it show up yet.

And he's an Ikari. He probably only got the position from nepotism. The whole family is useless. It's just as well that Gendo married into that family, or Ashcroft would really be in trouble.

Wait! Why am I thinking that? It's a little extreme, even about such an upstart, trying to steal my position as pilot of the first Mass Production Evangelion.


Kaji was dubious about the request. He knew the girl was exceptionally competitive, and seemed to take the appearance of the mysterious Third Child from nowhere, to suddenly achieve high Synchronisation ratings which she barely exceeded herself, as some kind of personal insult. On the other hand, an unhealthy obsession with someone her own age had to be better than one about someone twice her age, right?

“I'll see what I can do, Asuka,” he said, leaving room to back out later. “The files may be beyond what I can get, but I'll try, okay?”

She nodded her head, a smile on her face.

“Oh yeah, Asuka, and they'll be doing a restart on Unit 00 on Sunday. The First Child seems to have recovered enough from the last time.”

He only received a non-committal shrug. Asuka had already decided that anyone who couldn't even managed a start-up sequence was no threat. And Unit 00 was obsolete, after all, a test-bed for the technologies, while Unit 01, as the first proper Eva, was much more important.



~'/|\'~



The phone rang, an unregistered PCPU with its ID tag wiped by an industrial strength electromagnet, using a randomly generated caller identity. The incoming call marked it as from “James Elford”, but that was a lie. It was being called by an identical twin of itself. Its owner picked it up.

“Hello?”

It was a middle-aged woman on the other end of the line.

“Heya, just to tell you... well, you know that couple we were meant to be taking out to dinner?”

“The one with the two kids? The younger one's a cute little brat, you know.”

“The younger one? Only her? That's not very nice.”

“Hey, I report what I see.”

“Yes, yes. Anyway, they cancelled on us. Said they have a pre-existing appointment at the Too Sinned Sins, that experimental Nazzadi cuisine place just outside the arcology.”

“We were meant to be seeing them on Saturday, right?”

“Yes. I'm not actually complaining... well, complaining much. It's still a bit rude of them. But that means I can work. The agency has found me a placement in catering, and I was going to have to reject it, but this way, I can get some extra cash.”

“Have you told Many,” he pronounced the name as you would 'manny', “about this. She was complaining about being short on cash last time I saw her at a gig.”

“Yeah, actually I have. She's with the same agency, and got the same placement. That's nice, because she's a bit confused, and I can make sure she turns up on time.”

“It's a bit unusual for a restaurant to be hiring so many temp staff at once. Do you know why?”

“Not really. It might just be a bug, or a busy night with a lot of books, or a big party. But I heard, on the grapevine, that a bunch of staff had been like... attacked, arms broken, fingers crushed, beaten senseless with a pool cue, so I'm guessing they got drunk as a group after their pay came in, and tried to pick a fight with people they underestimated.”

“Well, sucks to be them, but it's good for you.”

“Yeah. I'm not complaining about extra cash. What are you going to be doing, now that we have Saturday free?”

“I thought I'd probably go out and get a meal with Jonathan. I still owe him for the last set of concert tickets, so this might be a good way to discharge my debt, and then, maybe hang around, you know, trying to see if we could get into a club for free.”

“Well, make sure you're on time for the big day. We wouldn't want you to be late for the surprise party. You're meant to be finding the location, after all.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Mother!”

“I kid, I kid. Listen, I've got to go; my break is almost over, and I've got to get back to work.”

“Awwww. Are the hard taskmasters of a reliable, consistent job, which means that you have no problems getting food on the table, getting to you. My heart bleeds, it really does.”

“See you, sometime, then.”

“See you.”

The line goes dead.

The man pockets the phone, and finishes the drink he got from the small nano-factory, chucking the can into the recycling receptacle. He still has to finish coding that modification to the EFCS for the restart.

It's just annoying when work and your private life clash in this manner.



~'/|\'~



Monday, 17th August, 2091[i]


Representative Gendo Ikari stared at the projected screen. He adjusted his glasses, pushing them back up onto the bridge of his nose.

“Activate.”

The buzz of the Technical Centre started up again. Status updates came from all the technicians

“Focus on yourself, Rei,” ordered Dr Akagi. “You need mental fortitude to interact with the synthorg.”

Rei turned inwards, her mind calm and cool, an ice-still pool in a blizzard.

[i]The root of the mind is the culmination of emergent effects on an immature neurological morphology. Trace the roots, and I am the end result.

What's the first thing I remember?


What's the first thing you remember? Her own face loomed out of a fog towards her, seemingly projected from the inside of the Evangelion. She was almost invisible to herself, white skin, white hair, only the faintest dusting of grey around her pupil. Only inside her mouth was the faintest hint of the red blood that coursed beneath her skin; even her lips were white, tinged slightly with blue, like snow under a full moon.

She accepted the appearance before her. If she were to become the Evangelion, then it would become her. That was simply logical. She did not fear the loss of self. Why fear which you did not have. She was a fact. Someday she would cease to exist, and then the statement of reality that the individual that had been named Rei Ayanami existed would be false, and it would return to the state in which it had been beforehand.

She was but a momentary aberration. This was a fact beyond her existence, because it would remain true for her, even as it would for the rest of humanity, when she had ceased. It was a comforting thought. It would be a terrible thing if you meant something in the cosmic scheme of things, for when you ceased, the other things which depended upon your existence would also cease. Through meaninglessness, she was free.

She stilled those thoughts from her mind, and turned inwards again.

An exclamation, a bestial shriek of pain and anguish, like a trapped beast. But worse than that, for it was unmistakably human and female, a terrified cry of denial.

“Noooooooo!”

Another voice. It may have been the same, or it may have been another one, but it was young, female and desperate.


Was it her own voice?

“What are you doing with her!”

She, her past self, opened her eyes. The blurred light hurt. Everything else was the same white fog, and another face, seemingly massive, filled her entire field of vision. It stared back at her through glasses covered in data read-outs, the black hair and neat beard the only dark patches in this luminescent white fog.

Rei Ayanami stared at Gendo Ikari
(a younger one, her current self observed) for the first time ever. And then he spoke to her, in a soft tone, barely above a whisper.

“You will show men that they do not need gods.”

Rei stared back at him blankly. She could still hear the screaming in her ears. That was anomalous, for she could not identify any entities capable of making such a noise, and she knew, despite the lack of indicators, obscured by the (illusionary, a product of memory, by her estimation) fog that concealed her eyes, that no-one was trying to communicate from outside the Eva.

Puzzling.


And then it happened.

“Pulses are flowing back!” The alarmed voice echoed through the Technical Centre, as red elements began appearing on AR projections all over the room. This was the cue for a cascade of warnings from the techncians.

“Trouble in the Third Phase!”

The orange Evangelion, still painted in colours which indicated its test status, unlike its siblings, strained and thrashed against the bindings, and the powered armour which contained its flesh.

“The pilot's nerve readings indicate that she is synchronising, but the Evangelion doesn't seem to be synchronising to her!” reported Aoba, from the right of the room.

“Impossible,” declared Ritsuko. “The Synchronisation Function is a linked operator. You can't have a one-way synchronisation with an Evangelion! Evangelions do not work that way!”

“Rejections in the central nerve elements. They're all slamming shut,” added Hyuga.

As the Evangelion strained, an odd wave of static washed over the communications equipment. It faded. As Unit 00 exerted itself more and more, the static came louder and longer.

“Cease the procedure!” commanded Gendo, without taking his eyes off the uncontrolled synthetic organism.

“Cut all contacts now!” ordered Ritsuko. “Release all circuits up to number 6!”

The instruction came up negative.

“I can't! It's not responding! The signals aren't being received,” said Maya, in a panicked voice, as her hands worked furiously over the keyboard.

The Evangelion surged, tearing its shoulders free from the binding that restrained it. As the tiles of the test chamber fell to the floor, the lights above the Evangelion all failed, blowing in a shard of hardened plastics. In the technical centre itself, the lights closest to the large class window began to flicker, giving a strobe effect upon those closest to the out-of-control mecha.

“There's a strong EM field in the chamber, even though there shouldn't be anything capable of making it,” reported Aoba.

Nice to see that he's keeping cool, thought Ritsuko. Now, if I can just survive this, I can let myself have a panic attack later.

“Mental contamination! Mental contamination!” blurted out Maya. “Mental contamination, despite the fact that Unit 00 isn't synchronising with her!”

On the other hand, a panic attack now might be appropriate. Or maybe catatonia from stress.

No, I won't let myself do that.


Gendo stared as the giant orange mecha clutched at its head, roaring. It swung its fist in a perfect arc, smashing into the left side of its face. The head armour fractured, the white skin underneath quickly obscured by the red blood that welled out, running down the orange armour, giving it a new, barbaric appearance.

“Not as planned,” he muttered to himself, softly enough that no-one else could hear. He raised his voice. “Abort the experiment. Eject the D-Engines. Retrieve the Pilot!”

The orders were carried out, with a smashing of glass and a pulling of the big red-and-black lever. Even nowadays, the best compromise between the ability to shut something down, while minimising the risk of accidental activation was the button under emergency glass.

The Class-B D-Engines were ejected from the 40 metre robot, one for each limb, and another bank of four from the small of its back. That was one of the perennial problems with the Evangelions; they were much larger than conventional mecha, and even the Engels, but not large enough to use a Class-A D-Engine, the same one used by the Battlecruisers and major power distribution plants, forcing them to use large numbers of D-Engines. This had been taken into account by the designers.

“Unit 00 has switched to back-up power,” announced Maya.

Ritsuko started swearing loudly in her head. These curses were mostly directed at her mother, but she saved quite a few for Yui Ikari and Kyoko Zepplin Soryu. Yes, they had taken into account the fact that the large number of D-Engines left the possibility that one or two might be damaged, and thus designed the Units to contain back-up supplies, D-cells operating as capacitors, to allow them to function at full efficiency for a short period even if the main engines were damaged.

What they appeared to have not taken into account was the fact that the Evangelions were vicious monsters which had a complicated and dangerous method of starting up which risked losing control and going on a fucking rampage (and didn't members of the Engel Project who knew about the Evangelions know it! They loved pointing it out at scientific conferences. “Oh, Dr Akagi? Good to see you. Would you like some tea? It's made in a long, unnecessarily complex and completely inefficient way. But don't worry. We haven't had a rampaging kettle since last Saturday, and the nano-fabricator has hardly ever killed the repairmen. Aha!” It was so unfair, especially since Engels did occasionally kill people if someone without an ESI implant tried to get in, or the pilot was knocked unconscious, or if they'd used the emergency shutdown feature recently, the Engel was in a bad mood, and it had a chance. Insufferable pricks. Oh yes, and she hated her mother too, for that stupid design decision.) Who the hell had let the power switch occur automatically! She swore, at the next re-fit, she was going to make it so that there was a hard-wired necessity for the pilot to flick a switch to activate the back-up power.

Meanwhile, of course, there was still a rampaging giant robot-thing with claws and spurred feet. Thank goodness they had deactivated the weapons-systems, was all she could say.

The comms link from the Evangelion crackled to life, filled with static. It sounded like the First Child.

“...*crrrsh*...ll...deser*crrsh*... *crrsh*e”

“Rei! Rei!”

There was no response. The Evangelion continued to move, lit only by the emergency lighting, and then only intermittently, giving a tableau of freeze-frames tinted by red. While Unit 01, one week later, would roar as it tore apart Asherah, Unit 00 screamed, a vile dissonant resonance like that of a natural disaster, not some mere lifeform.

It slammed its fist just above the clear viewscreen. The fist went though the wall, ripping and tearing the superstructure of the building. The room had been built to contain an Evangelion in a full rampage. It was failing.

Blood began to drip from the hole, rich and almost black, so dark was its colour. And in much greater volumes than the damage to the armour plating of Unit 00 should have permitted. The second hit the viewscreen, and was stopped. The entire window had been made out of diamond, and was actually the strongest part of the room, in part because it had been calculated that it was the most probably target for a rampaging Evangelion.

But against the unnatural strength of Unit 00, even diamond had its limits. Fractures cascaded over the surface of the clear material, the worlds most expensive depiction of a spider's web. The entire frame screamed, as metal twisted and tore under the force transmitted to the window.

Gendo could hear a faint giggle, or at least the memory of a giggle, as he watched his plan fall apart.

“Force an ejection.”

“But Representative! The pilot is likely to suffer severe injuries if we do it...”

“Do it now,” he ordered.

It's better this way, than the alternative. Oh, Rei...

The back of Unit 00 opened up, as the tubular entry plug was ejected in a plume of gas. Gendo winced as the on-board A-Pod, powered by an internal battery kicked in. It was designed to send the plug far away, away from the threat which forced and ejection. All it succeeded in doing was slamming the tube into the ceiling, where it snaked its way cross, before slamming into a wall and falling, landing with a sickening thud. Gendo was already sprinting down to the fallen plug when the Evangelion shut down from lack of power, the automated systems locking down any attempt to move.

My... whole body hurts. I appear to only have one eye operational. I will need a replacement grown. From the intense agony reported to me by this body, I would suspect that there is a source of intense heat nearby.

Rei looked around the cylinder.

I am impaled upon the broken control sticks. They have entered my lower abdomen. Given the fact that I am able to move my feet, there is no spinal damage. I will not attempt to remove myself from them, for fear of causing extra damage.

She coughed, LCL leaving her lungs. The vortices that it induced in the fluid could be seen by the blood which emerged with it.

The heat is probably coming from the filaments within my suit. The damage seems to have caused them to malfunctioned. I am being cooked alive.

It is exceptionally painful.


Rei realised then that she was screaming.

The blood from her lungs swirled around in the currents caused by her lungs trying to empty themselves. She pulled herself off the control stick (it had pierced her plug suit, she could see), which prompted a fresh flow of blood. The foam within the suit staunched it, but she was feeling faint, indicating that her brain was suffering a problematic lack of oxygen.

By removing the short circuit in the suit, I will not die. However, I am badly damaged. It is fortunate that I have no spinal damage, because that would mandate six months for the regrowth and reforming of connections.

She could hear a voice from outside, screaming in turn. The door opened, letting the LCL flow out in a bloody torrent, and there was light.

Representative Ikari stared at her, slumped back in her seat, her face obscured by her hair, and her white plug suit marred by the yellowish-grey sealant foam, soaked in blood.

“Rei,” he said, tears running down his face, and a look of intense agony on his face. “Rei, are you all right?”

Rei turned to face him, a grim façade soaked in blood and LCL, blood oozing from her punctured eye socket. She nodded.

“Good.” The relief on the Representative's face was palpable. He collapsed to the floor, curled in a foetal position, as the agony of his hands then overwhelmed him.

The first medical team called for a second one.



~'/|\'~



Five individuals dived into the pool. Four splashed upon entry, but one cut into the water like a knife, leaving barely a ripple in her wake. Under the water, her pallid presence was masked, visible only by the black swimming costume she wore. The white walls of the pool were camouflage enough.

She won, of course. Ayanami Rei always won in swimming races, to the extent that unofficially the sports teacher had decided that she was automatically in first place in any school leagues, and thus judged places, and awarded prizes, on the assumption that she wasn't taking place. She was at home in the water, in a way that the other girls were not.

There had been snide comments about Hybrids and Deep Ones from the girls who cared about always losing to her, but Hikary, upon hearing it, had pointed out that there was no way that a Hybrid would be allowed into an arcology, as they show up on the genome scans, and furthermore passed the names of anyone she heard repeating the rumours up to the headmaster, whereupon detentions descended, like manna from the heavens. Not out of any personal friendship for Rei, merely due to the fact that the rules stated that such slanderous rumours were not permitted.

Rei was alone in the world. Like a large natural diamond, a cold, hard-edged wonder, valued by others, but locked away to keep it safe. If asked, she would have said that she preferred it that way, but who can distinguish between desire and the lack of comprehension of the alternatives?

She got silently out the other end of the pool, and walked around to take up exactly the same position where she had been sitting before. She stepped around one of the maintenance staff, a dark-skinned woman drying the floor around the pool, to prevent slipping, without looking or responding to her presence. It was not a necessary thing. While the other girls congratulated the “winner”, she sat, and stared into space.

The Academy separated the genders for certain sports. Swimming was one of them. It was cited that studies had shown that both sexes swimming together resulted in distractions and the possible development of body-image issues.

When the fact, that almost all of the boys not actively participating in the basketball game were trying to stare through the glass wall of the swimming centre, was taken into account, the studies were probably correct.

Toja was almost salivating, as he gazed at the distant figures. Even from that distance, it could be seen that many of them were dripping wet. The mandatory enforcement of a school swimming costume, one of the few items of clothing not to have a Nazzadi variant, somehow made matters worse, as the hormone-driven male imagination worked overtime to fill in the concealed parts.

“Man. All the girls are so hot. They've all got great breasts...”

Ken raised an eyebrow at him.

“Careful, man. That's probably sexual harassment. At the very least, it would have Hikary down on you like a tonne of... very pointy nails. Mind you, frankly that gaze is sexual harassment.”

“You could at least stop staring at them yourself, if you're going to point that out,” Toja raised.

“Not a chance. I didn't say I was opposed to it, at least when the view is this good. And if you looked away, that means that there's more of them for the rest of us.”

“That's really not how it works, you know. Eh, Shinji?”

“Wha?”

Shinji was, along with the other bearers of an XY chromosome not forced to engage in physical activity, staring at the glass back of the swimming pool. Unlike the fellow males, he was not doing it out of a sense of hormonal lust. He was just looking at Rei Ayanami, trying to figure out the other pilot.

Really. He assured himself that, although she was very attractive, in a sort of cold, foreign way, he wasn't paying attention to that. Any attempts to compare her to the other girls were not happening.

Honestly.

“You are staring at them, even worse than Toja does, you know,” said Ken, in a tone of voice that should be classified as a public indecency. “You... like someone, don't you?”

“Rei Ayanami, by any chance,” added Toja, in exactly the same tone of voice.

“Uh... no, n...not exactly...” began Shinji, stammering. He may have been, but they'd just misinterpret his not-in-any-way sexual interest.

He wondered to himself why he was being so feverish in denying that he had an interest. Could it be because he had seen her with his father? Chatting to him in a way that Gendo had never been with him? Actually smiling? Being treated like a daughter by his father?

No, it wasn't exactly that.

His deep, introverted introspection was broken by Toja, using a deliberately childish voice.

“So... Shinji likes Rei, Shinji likes Rei.”

“But what about her, do you think,” began Ken, in a deliberately leading tone. “Her legs, perhaps?”

“Or maybe her tits?” continued Toja. “Or the fact that she's a sidoci, and it is a fact proven by surveys that both amlati and sidoci are exactly ten percent hotter than an equivalent human or Nazzadi.”

“Or those china-coloured calves, and the way that they merge into the rest of her leg,” added Ken. He looked at the stares he got from the other two. “What?”

“You like her too? Why are you so interested in legs in particular,” asked Toja.

“Well, a little,” Ken admitted. “You have to see that she's hot.”

“Anyway,” said Shinji, trying to get the conversation back on topic so he could quell the potential rumours once and for all, “that's not it.”

“So what is it?” said Ken, sceptically.

“Well, I was wondering why she always seems to lonely,” began Shinji.

“And you wanted to be the one who comforted her,” finished Toja. “Seriously, man, that chat-up line sucked. It wasn't even amusing, like, say, 'Are your clothes made by the Migou, 'cause we need to get rid of them!' Or 'I wish you were a mecha, so I could take you for a ride!' Yeah, so they are pretty bad. But they're at least funny, and girls love a sense of humour, right?”

Shinji stared at him blankly for a second, then, “Okay. Two things. Firstly, those were terrible. Really. Hearing them was like dribbling acid into my ears. Please. No. Just no.”

“I'm sorry, Toja, but I'm going to have to second that. Save those chat-up lines for... say, one of those Nazzadi Culture girls, like Taly, say, so they can get Hun Zuti on your arse,” added Ken.

“Hey. They're not that bad, and I know Hun Zuti, too. I can defend myself, and my honour, in unarmed combat.”

“Okay. Just let me finish explaining, and then we can drop this subject, never to return again. Okay. Right,” interjected Shinji. “It's just that, if she's a pilot, too...”

“Aha! So she is an Evangelion pilot! I suspected it, ever since I noticed that you two always seem to leave early on certain days,” announced Ken triumphantly.

“Yeah. And you didn't hear it from me, okay. You just put it together, and told Toja. Anyway, if she's a pilot, I should know more about her.”

Ken and Toja looked at each other.

“Well, we're blank, too. She's been here as long as we have; hasn't made any friends, doesn't talk to people,” said Toja.

“She's got a sort of reputation of an ice queen, who doesn't talk to anyone, always seems to excel at school and at swimming, but doesn't push herself any further. Like, she's got a bad attitude,” added Ken.

“I heard some teachers bitching about her a while ago, when I got sent to the staff room by the Secret Policewoman. Complaining about how she didn't volunteer for anything, how she could make the Academy swimming team brilliant, but apparently refused even when it was heavily suggested that she take part.” Toja paused. “Anyway, should you at least talk to her. It's more than we can do, but you've got to communicate with someone you might have to fight with. Uh, along side, that is.”

“No, we... barely speak,” Shinji replied, pausing. “I was hoping someone else might know more.”

“Nope.”

There was silence, as the noises of male competition were joined by the slight buzz which followed the interior climate changing, and the temperature dropping.



~'/|\'~



Shinji got home on Friday, to Misato's house, to find an acrid smell coming out of the kitchen.

He sniffed. It was... like someone had been trying to fry chilli seeds, spicy sauces, bacon, and some long grained rice, using chilli oil in the pan. The scent prompted a fit of coughing.

“Oh, heya Shinji,” said Misato, as she walked out of the kitchen, seemingly unconcerned by the burning (both in the sense that it was the product of burnt food, and the fact that it hurt his nostrils) smell. “What's the matter?”

Overcome, Shinji groped towards the door, and took deep breaths of the cleansed arcology air.

“Yeah, Rits-chan is meant to be coming over for dinner, so I thought I'd prepare the food. It went a little wrong, although it's still edible.”

Shinji doubted that, or at least doubted that the species for which it was edible was humanity. Maybe some creature that lived in volcanoes, feeding off the liquid magma. And even that would probably say, “My, you do like the chilli stalks a lot.”

“So I thought we could go on a little outing. There's a really good new restaurant just outside the arcology, went there a little while ago, and the food was great. Experimental Nazzadi cuisine. Brilliant. Seriously, it's one of the best things their search for a culture has produced. You'll have to change, but it's not that formal.”

From the safety of the entry, Shinji saw Pen-Pen poke his head out of his fridge. There was a choked “Wark”, and the door slammed shut again. From the slight humming from within, it seemed that the penguin, at least, was prepared for this kind of use of chemical weapons, and had installed some kind of machine which filtered the air within the fridge.

And for the moment, I will ignore the fact that there is a sapient penguin living in a fridge who can install a detoxifier on his own. Which probably means he has his own bank account, to operate the nano-factory, as Misato probably wouldn't pay for it herself. There are some places I will not go.

“And, as it means that we're going outside of the arcology, I can justify using the car!”

A reflection of the nausea Shinji knew that he would be feeling travelled back in time, leaving him to clutch his stomach.

“Misato,” he began. “One question.”

“Yes?”

“How... just how do you manage to burn food, when you have a nanofactory which can assemble it whole, with the right recipe downloaded from the PAN.”

Misato smiled broadly, and sauntered over to the refuge of the door.

“Ah, Shinji. You've got all of student life ahead of you. You'll learn when you're too poor to buy recipes, and have to learn to cook for yourself.”

Any attempt to point out that a) he already knew how to cook and b) most of the time, he did cook, getting the nanofactory to make the ingredients rather than buy a meal template, was overwhelmed by a fresh wave of coughing.



~'/|\'~



Actually, the restaurant, after he had gotten over the nausea induced from Misato's driving, wasn't that bad. It was decorated in a manner best described as techno-Arabian Nights, with lots of brass, neon lighting, and geometrical designs everywhere. And although the food was sold as “Experimental Cuisine”, the owners had been smart enough to realise that by making it truly experimental, they were alienating too much of the market, and so actually made a bunch of dishes which, although superficially quirky, were actually quite edible. And they did chips for fussy children.

Misato would have none of that pandering to the common tastebud and its proclivity for not being burned to a crisp by pure capsaicin extract, and had promptly wandered off to find various chemicals to add to her coconut-oil fried rice dish.

Ritsuko stared across the table at Shinji.

“You know, I'm surprised you're still alive.” She waved a hand in the air. “From the cooking, I mean. I smelt that apartment, and... well, I'm shocked the sniffers in your rooms didn't activate. On the other hand, the men monitoring Misato's building probably have experience. Or they just don't care any more.”

“Uh... well, actually, I
You must have sensed it; she cannot see in your mind, but perhaps you can see into hers. A life of waking from one nightmare only to find yourself deep in another.
Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/C̵͞thulhutech crossover fic. Now with added tropes.
Kill them. Kill them all

Tabasco
Sachiel
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Postby Tabasco » Mon Nov 09, 2009 8:48 pm

Day in the life snapshots are always a plus. Especially knowing how a lot of this is going to come back to haunt everyone later...
---
The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one insists on adapting the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
- George Bernard Shaw

kingofking
Embryo
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Joined: Dec 26, 2009

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Postby kingofking » Sat Dec 26, 2009 11:27 am

The first Angel is Adam (アダム Adamu?)[7]. It appeared just before Second Impact as a "giant of light" that resembles an Eva, and was also shown to have four wings (shown separately). All of the other Angels (apart from Lilith, Adam's "equal") are descended from Adam, although it is not made clear whether this is in a biological sense or a metaphysical sense. Adam's descendants possess the "Fruit of Life", the source of the Angels' power and immortality (also known as the S² Engine).

The second Angel is Lilith (リリス Ririsu?)[9] (Though technically also the first human, due to the GeoFront in which Lilith resides is supposed to be the birthplace of all humans, and the GeoFront where Adam was located is the birthplace of all Angels.). Lilith initially appears as a white, legless giant, whose face is covered with a mask displaying the logo of Seele. Numerous human-like legs protrude from its legless stumps. The Angel is crucified on a giant cross-like restraint in Terminal Dogma, the deepest level of Nerv headquarters. Lilith's torso constantly leaks LCL from an unseen wound, forming a lake of LCL at the base of its restraint which is tapped to fill the Evas' entry plugs.


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