The elevator doors open, and Touji walks through them.
The hospital is quiet. This is not unusual—if there is one thing Nerv is very good at, it is building extensive facilities far beyond what the situation demands. His footsteps are the only sound, it seems, in the entire building.
Until he reaches her room. He pauses at the door, unsure if he should enter, unsure if he wants to enter. But it is only a second's hesitation. He opens the door as quietly as he can, and slips inside.
He can hear her soft breathing, the rustle of her sheets as her chest heaves up and down, the rhythmic sounds of the machine that records, at all times, the proper functioning of her vital organs.
He grabs a chair and pulls it over, beside the bed. There he sits, hands on his knees, rocking back and forth almost expectantly. But he is met only with silence. He slumps over in his seat and stops moving.
Placing a hand on her shoulder, he finds that she is warm. He gets out of his seat and leans over her, so close that his lips are almost touching her ear. He whispers something. In her sleep, she smiles.
He leaves the room to find the hallway beyond is still silent. When he walks, the sound of his footsteps seems louder—as though he now carries an extra burden.
“I don't know why you won't tell me,” Misato says, for perhaps the hundredth time.
“For Christ's sake, Misato,” says Ritsuko, not looking up from her computer. “I didn't even know, until about two days ago. We didn't receive a dispatch from the Marduk Report until the last minute.”
Misato leans in. “Well, why won't you tell me now?”
“You don't need to ask me,” Ritsuko says with a smile. “You could just ask Kaji.”
Irritably, Misato stands up. “I'm not asking him,” she growls. “Come on, Ritsu. Just tell me who it is. You don't even have to tell me, just show me.”
Ritsuko sighs. She pauses, looking at Misato, and then, with a resigned expression, taps a few buttons on her keyboard. Immediately, a window opens on her screen.
A photo of Touji Suzuhara occupies the top left corner.
“Him?” Misato cannot keep the shock out of her voice. “But he's Shinji's friend.”
“Good,” Ritsuko says drily. “They should be happy to work together, shouldn't they?”
Misato steps back and leans against a wall. “Still,” she says. “I wonder why he even agreed to pilot.”
“He didn't do it without question. He made one request.”
“Oh?” Misato raises an eyebrow. “What was it?”
“He asked that we transfer his sister into our clinic.”
Touji is in class the next day, but he has not regained his once-cheerful demeanor. He is not quite sullen; no, that implies a sort of anger. He does not look angry, merely, Shinji thinks, weary. It is a feeling he is familiar with.
Touji arrives late, and offers no excuse. The teacher drones on, and as Touji takes his seat at the back of the room, the class rep does not chastise him, or even shoot a dirty glance in his direction. She seems as mystified by his expression and bearing as anyone.
When Touji sits, he does not prop his feet on top of the desk as he usually does. He sits upright in his seat, hands on top of the desk, fingers intertwined. It is a poor student's imitation of what a good student looks like, and Shinji would have found it amusing were it not so painfully sad to look at.
He looks around the classroom, for someone who might show signs of sympathy for the boy, or at least recognition of the nature of his plight. He sees no such person: the students' attention is elsewhere. Everywhere else, it seems, except the lesson itself.
But there is one, he sees, who does seem to be taking an interest in Touji, although he tries to hide it. Kaworu steals a glance at the boy every few seconds, and then looks forward again, thinking none might have noticed.
“You know something, don't you?” Shinji asks him, on the way home.
“Know something about what?” Kaworu asks.
“Touji,” says Shinji. “He's acting weird. What happened?”
“I don't know,” Kaworu says, too quickly. Shinji recognizes the lie.
“You have to. Come on, tell me.”
Kaworu glares at him.
“It's no one's business but Touji's,” he says. “If he wants to tell you, he can do it himself.” With that, he walks on, leaving Shinji standing on the sidewalk, utterly baffled. He wants to shout something defiant, even angry, but he cannot find it in his heart to do it. So he waits until Kaworu has vanished around a corner, and then he begins to walk again.
Cleanup duty has never been one of Touji's passions. He likes to believe that he has things to do with his life besides stay after school and sweep up, and yet that is what he is obliged to do, at least once a month. Truth be told, he doesn't mind: it gives him an opportunity to be alone, to think and reflect.
At the moment, he has a lot to think and reflect on.
He did not eat lunch today, so he pulls out the bento he'd purchased earlier from his school bag. He cracks open the top and takes a whiff. Immediately he recoils. It is dry, processed food, hardly palatable—but it's food, and that's enough for him, right now. He eats it slowly, and stares out the windows as he does.
He turns his head, and sees the class rep standing in the doorway. “Hey,” he says, raising a hand in greeting.
She steps forward, cautiously, keeping her hands at her sides. “You have to sweep up under the desks,” she says, not in her usual declarative voice, but with an uneven, hesitant tone. It is as though she cannot say the words properly.
“I know,” he grunts. “Just let me finish. I didn't get to eat lunch today.”
She raises her eyebrows, but does not ask for further clarification. He is grateful for that. She also seems to notice his look of distaste as he finishes his meal.
“You don't like it,” she says.
“Nah,” he says. “But this stuff's all I can get. I mean, there's no one at home who can cook for me, and my dad doesn't give me any money...”
The class rep is silent for a moment, perhaps in sympathy. Then, she lights up. “You know, I make lunch for all of my sisters,” she says. “But, there's always stuff left over. If you want, I could make you something...” Her voice trails off as she goes on, and she watches his face meekly.
He is not quite sure what she wants, or what she means by what she says. He has his suspicions, to be sure, but he can't accept them, not knowing what he does about the class rep. But it seems to him that, if he is going to do anything, accepting hr offer would be a good choice.
“Sure,” he says, simply. Then, as an afterthought: “Thanks for doing that, class rep—er, Hikari.”
Hikari's eyes widen in delight, and she nods.
She finds him in the rec room, leaning over Lieutenant Ibuki with a lecherous grin. She announces her presence with a loud “A-hem”, drawing Kaji's attention away from the young girl—who scampers away immediately, relieved.
“To what do I owe the pleasure, Katsuragi?” he asks, sitting down.
“I've got a few questions,” she says. No use in being underhanded, she thinks. “About the Fourth Child.”
Kaji nods. “You know all about it, then,” he says. “What were you wondering in particular?”
“I was wondering,” she begins, leaning against a Coke machine, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “about the Marduk Institute.”
“Careful,” he says, grinning. “That's dangerous territory. Dig too deep, and you might awaken something of darkness and flame.”
“Like I care. Here's my question: why are all our pilots fourteen years old? Why do they all go to the same school? Why are all of their mothers dead? It doesn't seem to make any sense.”
“Of course, it doesn't” he says, standing. “I'll let you in on my secret, though.” And then, the humor vanishes from his voice. “The Marduk Institute doesn't exist. The whole thing is a charade. Commander Ikari is behind all the pilot selections.”
“But how could he know?” she asks.
It seems he is about to answer, and he would, if an interloper did not appear at that very minute. Shinji Ikari comes around the corner, calling out her name.
“Right here, Shinji,” she says.
“Doctor Akagi was looking for you,” he explains, with a note of apology in his voice. “Sorry, I didn't mean to intrude...”
“Not at all,” she says. “I was just leaving. Well,” she adds, looking at Kaji, “I hope we can continue this chat later.”
She walks away, leaving the two of them alone. As she walks out, she thinks she can hear them saying:
“Can I get you a drink?”
A pause, and then:
“...I'm a boy.”
“Well, what do you think?”
Shinji gently prods one of the watermelons with his foot. Instead of answering, he chooses to ask his own question: “Does anyone else know you've been growing these?”
“No one,” Kaji admits. “My secret. But,” he continues, picking up a watering can, “that's enough for me.”
“What do you mean?” asks Shinji.
“You know,” says Kaji. He grabs a watering can from the ground and holds it over the fruits, thin streams trickling down over their green rinds. “I find it enjoyable to cultivate things, to help them grow.” His voice sounds wistful; it is a tone of voice Shinji has not yet heard the man use. He would not have thought it possible for Kaji to sound like that.
A thought occurs to him, and he asks: “And what if they don't grow? What if they die?”
Kaji ponders the question a moment, and Shinji feels almost guilty for asking the question. But Kaji answers soon enough: “Yes, it's painful when that happens.”
Shinji repeats the word: “Pain.” Kaji looks over at him.
“Do you avoid pain?” he asks.
“I don't like it,” says Shinji.
“Few do.” Kaji says it with a hint of amusement in his voice. “Growing up is trying to find a way to enjoy life despite pain.”
Shinji glances over at him. “Are you grown up?” he asks. Kaji laughs.
“Sometimes,” he says, “I ask myself that question. I don't think anyone really knows; it's something you can only observe in other people. But,” he adds, wagging his finger, “that's no reason not to try.”
Thoughts of the conversation occupy Shinji's mind for hours after it has finished, and even days and weeks later—when far graver things have taken place, and Shinji cannot say he is the same person he used to be—it remains, echoing about the recesses of his consciousness.
Lunchtime brings a brief respite from the slog of schoolwork, and many students forgo satiating their appetites to instead mill about in the hallways and chat. Kaworu passes by many such groups as he crosses the hallways, but he pays no attention to them. He is following Suzuhara.
He reaches the doorway that leads to the roof, and pauses. He wonders if he really wants to disturb the boy. If he left—left without his lunch, furthermore—it was undoubtedly because he wanted to be alone. He would not appreciate Kaworu intruding on his time of introspection.
Kaworu opens the door, and steps out. Touji is sitting on the edge of the roof, legs poking through the railings; his head sags below his shoulders, and all in all he appears to be the very portrait of melancholy. With hesitant, careful steps, Kaworu approaches.
“Hey, Nagisa,” Touji says.
Kaworu stops in his tracks. “How did you know it was me?” he asks, slightly disappointed.
Touji laughs. “You walk so quietly.” He then falls silent, staring out, past the confines of the school towards the spires of Tokyo-3. Kaworu wonders what he is thinking about—in specific, that is; Kaworu can guess his preoccupations in general.
“Did you tell Shinji?” he asks.
“No,” says Touji, “and I don't want to. Do you?”
“No,” Kaworu admits.
Touji looks around at him, a faint smile on his lips. “You really care about him, huh?”
Kaworu shrugs. “Perhaps.”
“You do.” Touji says it like he knows it—knows it better than Kaworu himself. “Let's agree,” he continues, “not to tell Shinji. He'll find out when he needs to, right?”
Kaworu wonders about that last statement—if this were Days Of Our Lives, that line would almost certainly be a portent of something disastrous on the horizon. But, Kaworu reminds himself, that is a fiction, not reality. There is no author pulling the strings, no ironic fate awaiting them.
“Right,” he says.
The truck's cabin is elevated several feet off the ground, giving Misato a nearly bird's-eye view of the countryside as it rolls along the highway. The Sun is shining brightly, and with its heat magnified by the glass windows surrounding her, Misato is boiling. She wonders why she even has to appear in full dress for a simple experiment—or why she needs to be present at all.
She asks Ritsuko.
“Trust building,” is the doctor's response.
Misato sighs. “And where's Touji?”
“He'll be arriving later.” With this, Ritsuko finally looks up, glancing at Misato warily. “Did you tell Shinji about it?”
“I'll tell him after it's done.”
They ride for a while in silence, Ritsuko's gaze fixed on her papers even when ever blank space has been filled and every dotted line signed, and Misato's on the rolling hills and seemingly endless rice paddies. This is real Japan, the Japan that she never sees anymore; far from the great city of beams and spires, she finds a world she had thought lost. Perhaps she will return, one day, after the Angels are destroyed, and live the rest of her life in peace.
“Fat chance,” she murmurs.
Ritsuko glances at her. “Did you say something?”
Misato blushes. “No, nothing.”
“Well,” says Kensuke, pointing towards the stream of white cloud in the sky, “there it goes.”
“That's it?” Shinji asks, leaning against the railing. “How do you know?”
“Well, I don't,” Kensuke admits. “It was a bit of a guess.” He pauses, then looks at Shinji again, the sunlight reflecting off his glasses and hiding his eyes behind the glare. “Do you know who the pilot is?”
“No,” Shinji answers truthfully.
Kensuke narrows his eyes in suspicion. “C'mon,” he says. “You must have some idea.”
“I just told you...”
“Even a guess?”
“Look,” says Shinji, growing annoyed. “I've told you a hundred times, I have no idea who the new pilot is. No one told me.” He can feel the heat rising to his face, and he knows that what he says next is not aimed at Kensuke at all, but he cannot stop himself. “No one ever tells me anything. Even at the beginning of it all, no one ever gave me a word of explanation. They just expected me to do as I was told! Again and again, they make me...” He trails off when he notices Kensuke's expression, and realizes he had, at some point, begun to shout.
“Sorry,” he adds quietly.
“It's alright,” Kensuke says quickly, looking away. “It's my fault, anyway. I shouldn't have pressed you, right? It's only fair.”
They both fall silent, not sure how to go on—it seems that this outburst has driven a wedge between them, a scar not easily healed by further words. And yet, that is invariably how one tries to solve the problems caused by such rifts: by filling them with meaningless breath.
So Kensuke says: “Touji's been absent a lot lately. You don't think he's the new pilot, do you?”
And Shinji laughs: “I don't think so!”
The winds come to Matsushiro, necessitating that Misato zip up her jacket; even so, the sun beats down on her mercilessly. She is tapping her foot impatiently against the runway, and has almost bit the unlit cigarette in her mouth in half.
“He's late,” she says to Ritsuko for what might be the hundredth time. She spits out the two halves of the cigarette on the ground and grinds them under her heel. “No one's ever made me wait this long,” she mutters.
“Well,” Ritsuko says, “you never waited for guys when you were dating.”
Misato casts a glance back at her, uncharacteristically humorless. “Not the time.”
Ritsuko looks at her, and shrugs. “Sorry,” she says.
There is a sound like thunder in the air, causing both women to look down the runway. Descending from the sky is a shape like a massive bird of prey, swooping down towards them, carrying from its underside a massive crucifix. And on the cross itself was a figure in black and white, its cyclopean head hanging low from its shoulders. Misato shudders to see it.
“Ugly bastard, isn't it?”
“We don't have the luxury of aesthetics,” says Ritsuko.
The transport slows in its descent, and its cargo descends from wires, like a puppet, to the ground. When the leviathan is only a few dozen meters above, it is released, and the crucifix slams against the ground. The plane flies away, leaving a trail of smoke in its wake.
Ritsuko stares at the supine giant in the distance, as if she might observe some imperfection with the naked eye. Misato turns her head back towards the base behind them. “Has the pilot arrived?”
“Yes,” says Ritsuko. “He's waiting for you.”
Evening, now, and for Shinji and Kaworu it is a quiet one. Kaji is taking a shower, leaving the two of them to do as they please. But, Shinji being Shinji, he has chosen to work on homework and, Kaworu being Kaworu, he is watching Days of Our Lives with rapt attention.
“Look at this,” he says, pointing to the screen. “Kazuo was engaged to Nishida, but she thought that he was only interested in her money, so she broke up with him, but it was really his evil twin, Hikaru, who needed the money to fund his illegal drug company. It's all a bit of a mess,” he adds.
Shinji nods along as he speaks, but then, by way of reply, says: “I wonder who the new pilot is.”
Kaworu looks back at him, too quickly for it to be an idle motion. Shinji notices.
“I don't know,” says Kaworu, looking back towards the television.
For a moment, there is an uneasy silence between them. Shinji narrows his eyes in suspicion, fixing his gaze on the back of Kaworu's head; the other boy tries to look as innocent as he can, but in doing so he cannot help but look suspiciously artificial: poised, as if for a photographer.
“You must know something,” Shinji says, trying to keep his voice free of accusation.
“I don't,” says Kaworu. He looks back at Shinji, an expression of deep injury on his face. “Do you think I would lie to you?” he asks.
Shinji looks away quickly. “Of course not,” he says. “I'm sorry.”
With that, Kaworu looks back at his television drama, just as Kaji steps into the room. His hair is still damp from the shower, and he makes subtle goes at it with a towel. He spies the two boys and smiles.
“Getting along well, I see,” he says. “Now, how about dinner?”
“It's Shinji's turn to cook,” says Kaworu.
Shinji stands. “I'll get something ready,” he says, and walks off to the kitchen. Kaji takes his place on the couch.
Kaworu turns around. He glances towards the door, making sure Shinji is gone. Then he creeps towards the older man, until he is close enough to whisper and be heard.
In an undertone: “Shinji doesn't know that Touji is the new pilot.”
Kaji narrows his eyes. “I'm guessing,” he says, “you don't want him to know.”
Kaworu pleads. “Just keep it a secret until after Misato comes back,” Kaworu pleads. “He'll find out then.”
For a moment, Kaji looks pensive, contemplating whether or not he should do what the boy asks. It goes against his instincts as a guardian and, although he only considers himself a teacher, it would violate that code as well. He cannot say yes.
But he cannot say no.
That night, they lay down in separate rooms—Kaji taking Misato's for the night, winking conspiratorially as he stepped inside. But Shinji cannot sleep. He shifts in bed constantly, rolling onto one side or the other; he pulls the sheets over his head; he listens to an entire cassette tape of music twice. He is tired, yes, dreadfully tired: but he cannot bring himself to sleep.
Finally, he rises, leaving the sheets splayed out over the floor, his cassette player planted in the pillow with the cords wrapped around it. He steps out of his room, trying not to make noise, and sees that there is a light on in the kitchen. Curious, he begins to walk towards it.
Kaji is sitting at the kitchen table, holding a mug of what looks like warm milk. Not liquor? Shinji finds this rather strange.
“Hey,” says Kaji, raising a hand in greeting.
Shinji takes a seat and begins to drum his fingers on the table, staring intently at the calendar on the opposite wall.
Then, out of the blue, he asks: “Mr. Kaji, what is my father like?”
Kaji does not respond immediately. He looks a little surprised and somewhat amused at the question. “Why do you ask?”
“You're always with my father,” Shinji says meekly.
Kaji smiles. “Fuyutsuki's the one who's always with him,” he says.
Shinji looks down, shaking his head. “Fuyutsuki scares me,” he says. “I don't feel like I can trust anyone at Nerv.”
“Anyone?” Kaji raises an eyebrow. “You don't trust me or Katsuragi?”
At this, Shinji blushes. “That's not what I meant,” he says.
Kaji nods. His face betrays neither approval nor disapproval; he seems content to allow Shinji to speak, without imposing himself on the boy. Whatever his opinion of the boy's conclusions, he keeps them to himself. He does, however, voice a question: “Do you trust your father?”
“I don't know,” Shinji says, resting his face on his hand. “I'd like to. I'd like to believe that he's doing something good for the world, and that he's glad I'm here. But he's always so cold. How can you trust someone you can't understand?”
Kaji smiles. “Understanding people is impossible, I'm afraid.” He takes a sip of his drink before continuing. “We're all separated. We can't show ourselves as we are, only as we wish we were, and that is the only side of ourselves the world sees.”
Shinji looks down at his feet. “How lonely,” he says.
Kaji shakes his head. “It's a bit like a game: trying to find out about other people without revealing too much of yourself. It makes life very interesting.”
He lets this hang in the air a moment. Shinji mulls over it internally, turning it about. It makes little sense to him—but little Kaji says does. Perhaps it's because he is an adult, and Shinji a child; perhaps it will make more sense when he grows up. But he wants to understand, or at the very least force Kaji to explain. He asks: “Is that how it is between you and Misato?”
Kaji looks a bit startled by the question. He opens his mouth, but no words come out. It takes a moment for him to regain his composure, don again his roguish smirk. “The kanji used for the word 'she' means 'a woman far away,'” he says. “That's the way of things, Shinji: men and women stand on opposite sides of an insurmountable sea, unable to reach each other.”
Shinji sits back and crosses his arms. This sounds like an excuse, and he suspects it is, but he has no way of knowing. But the subject of “men” and “women” makes him think of Ayanami, and the myriad ways she has entranced and bemused him since they met. How is he to describe their relationship to Kaji? Would he have anything to say, any advice to offer?
Shinji suspects not.
“Maybe you're right,” he says, standing.
Kaji raises his mug as if toasting the boy. Shinji gives a small bow of the head and walks off, back to his room. He does not know if he will be able to sleep, but at least he will have more to think about.
There are people speaking in many languages—English, Japanese, German. Misato does not know how they can process and understand each other's words, for more than once she notices someone giving a command in one language and receiving a response in the other—not to mention switching between languages mid-sentence. It is one of the wonders of belonging to a multinational organization.
“Almost time,” Ritsuko murmurs to her. Misato nods.
“What are you going to have him do?” she asks.
“Nothing. We just need to see if it works, and go from there.” She cuts off, barking commands in German at an apparently terrified technician.
There is only one screen in the room with an image Misato can understand. It is not a graph, not a chart, not something of numbers and lines: it is an image, a face. A grotesque face, to be sure, but one nonetheless, and one surprisingly human, despite its ugliness.
She feels it is staring at her, and looks away.
“Three minutes,” she hears someone say. “The pilot is onboard...”
Inside that thing, then—in the belly of the beast, as they might say. She wonders how he might feel. Is he terrified by his circumstances, barely able to stand the state he has found himself in? Or does this peril exhilarate him, and leave him yearning for more than they allow him at present?
Two? Where has the time gone? It feels as though she hasn't been here a moment. She shifts her weight from one leg to the other uneasily. There is little more to do. Just a few more seconds of waiting, and they'll have their results, and then she can go. But she doesn't know if she can stand it even a second longer. Being here, not being in control: it's a terrible feeling.
“T-minus ten seconds...”
Here it comes.
She stares at the screen, watching at the creature's eyes light up, pale gray and piercing. It raises its head, slowly, steadily, like it has just awakened from a long sleep. If it were any other creature staring at her, it would be almost endearing.
“Something's wrong,” Ritsuko mutters. Misato looks at her sharply.
“What do you mean?”
“These readings can't be right,” Ritsuko replies. She looks up at the screen, shaking her head. “We'll check it out after. But—”
Before she can finish her sentence, they, the room they inhabit, and the entire facility around them are enveloped in an all-consuming ball of fire.
Misato's last thought: Knew we shouldn't have trusted the bastards.
“Something happened in Matsushiro,” is all Hyuga said, gesturing for Shinji to get in the car. Shinji wanted to ask more, but there was no time—they went through five red lights in the rush to base. Once he got there, he was immediately suited up and stuffed in the entry plug. Ritsuko was conspicuously absent among the technical personnel. After that, he could do nothing but wait for the other pilots to arrive.
Now, they still wait—but they wait, not in the subterranean caverns of Tokyo-3, but among the hills and fields of rural Japan. It is nearly sunset by now, and the sun falling in the west looks like a massive bloody eye, set there to look on over the fight to come.
“Visual contact with target in five seconds.”
Shinji holds his breath. He can feel his heart pounding in his chest. He strains to see, to make out a shape against the glare of the sun.
There it is.
“It can't be,” he murmurs.
“That is your target,” comes the voice of Commander Ikari.
“The pilot's still inside there, isn't he?” he demands.
Before he can get a response, his view suddenly shifts. Unit Two has leapt out of its crouch towards the target, progressive knife in hand; Kaworu seems to be trying to cut along the back of the colossal neck, trying to extract the entry plug. But for his efforts, the beast dispatches him in no time at all, throwing him over one shoulder and dropping him on the ground. There is a sickening crack as the Eva hits the ground, and then the lumbering monster moves on, closer to Shinji.
Rei tries her hand next. She hoists her massive rifle on her shoulder and rises to her feet, prepared to shoot the enemy down as soon as she gets a clear shot. She follows it on its course, tracing its motion—but when she finally gets the shot she wanted, she hesitates an instant.
An instant is all the monster needs. It jumps backwards, limbs flailing like a marionette puppet, to slam its body into Unit Zero. The rifle falls useless to the wayside, and the beast seizes Unit Zero's now freed arm, pulling it out of its socket.
Shinji hears Rei whimper, but he can do nothing. He can only say a quite prayer of thanks when he hears the panicked souls in the control room ordering a cut to synchronization.
Now, he is the last one left. The beast turns its head towards him. With a lurch, it begins to walk. Shinji tenses, grips the handles, preparing to strike—but some force causes him to pause. He relaxes his grip on the controls.
But the enemy does not wait, and in the time it takes for Shinji to gasp it has its hands wrapped around Unit One's throat. Shinji feels its fingers digging into his own windpipe, and he allows his rifle to fall to the ground as he claws at his neck, desperate for freedom.
“Shinji,” comes his father's voice. “Why aren't you fighting?”
Shinji can barely breathe, so he wonders how his father expects him to respond—but he tries his best.
“We've got to help him!”
“It's him or you.”
“I won't kill!”
His father roars in frustration, and then the sound cuts out. A moment later, so do the lights. There is the sound of something whirring in the seat behind him.
The Eva's arms begin to rise, not by Shinji's command, to seize its adversary's neck. The Angel's own grip loosens, and eventually falls; Unit One, it seems, is stronger by far. The beast struggles vainly for a moment, before its neck snaps with a nauseating sound.
Then, the slaughter begins.
The first thing Misato sees, after waking up, is Kaji's face. He is staring at her with undisguised concern, clutching her hand in his. As soon as he realizes she is looking back, he releases it.
“Kaji.” She dimly becomes aware that her head is wrapped up in bandages, and her arm is encased in plaster, but she her head is still spinning. Thoughts, facts, recollections: they are only slowly working their way back into her consciousness.
“Ritsuko's fine,” Kaji says. “Better than you.”
Misato smiles. “Good,” she says. An instant later, the smile vanishes, to be replaced by mute horror. “Shinji,” she manages to say. “Did he—”
Kaji hesitates to respond. At last, closing his eyes, he says: “Maybe you should talk to him.”
They give her a phone with a direct link to the cockpit. Kaji offers it to her, gently, and she takes it out with indecision approaching reluctance. Her hand shakes as she holds it up to her mouth: “Shinji?”
His voice comes over the other line, and it nearly kills her. “I killed, Misato.”
“Shinji,” she says quickly, before he can respond, “The pilot of Unit Three—the Fourth Child—is...”
She hears an anguished cry, and knows she need say no more. For a moment, she stares at the receiver. Then she hurls it to the ground, and it shatters into innumerable pieces, cogs and wires. Now, they are broken beyond any earthly power's ability to heal.