シン・Leviathan [Evangelion/Godzilla/Other]

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Thuktun Flishithy
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シン・Leviathan [Evangelion/Godzilla/Other]

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Nov 10, 2021 10:03 pm

Last edited by Thuktun Flishithy on Fri Jun 16, 2023 7:59 pm, edited 22 times in total.

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Prologue

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Nov 10, 2021 10:04 pm

Kaiju.

That is the word we have used for them, a word that has transcended its language of origin and become a part of the world's lexicon. Kaiju. It simply used to mean "strange beast", but now it has a meaning that has both broadened and become more specific- monster. That term in itself carries strong connotations- of aberration, of hostility to Man. It is for a reason we call it the Age of Monsters, not the Age of Animals or the Age of Beasts.

Yet, I would argue that "kaiju", as we know it, does not exist. To lump these incredibly varied creatures into one category is to mislead; and in my view, to demonize. We call them monsters because we make them monsters within our fragile and self-centered worldview, or because we do not wish to see our own hand in their actions.

Many kaiju are merely animals, adapted to specialized ecosystems that may no longer exist, and like all other animals, they have no evil intentions upon the human race. Their seeming assaults on our little world are cut from the same cloth as a racoon knocking over trashcans or carpenter ants eating the foundations of a house- they simply do what nature intended them to do, and we are either unfortunate or foolish enough to be in their way.

It is as the old adage goes- the deer does not cross the road, the road crosses the forest.

Even the kaiju of potentially extraterrestrial origin, such as Hedorah or Dogora, are only aberrations in that they are misplaced specimens. Having evolved to fill a niche in their own environments, when coming to another ecosystem they break down the order of things, like a ball bearing finding itself in a jet engine. They are no more monsters than rats in the Galapagos.

Then we have the kaiju that did not evolve to be the way they are, the ones that seem to be the aberrations worthy of the term "monster", who evidently possess the hostility. What better example than the very first one to make itself known to our world, the one that left a quarter million corpses in Tokyo? I still remember the sight of it, a silhouette dwarfed by the walls of flame it had created. Burned, twisted, agonized.

Yet I would still not call it a monster.

In the case of Gojira, and other more dangerous kaiju as Gigan or Bagan, the true aberration is in the human factor. Without our reckless testing of nuclear weaponry, without our need to weaponize everything we discover, these creatures would have never come into conflict with our world. If they be monsters, then it is only because they reflect our own cruelty back to us.

Perhaps no other kaiju so poignantly illustrates the divide between reality and what we deem real than the most famous one of all. One so far above his kindred that we call him their king. He has gone by many names over history- Kur, The Dragon of Saint George, Leviathan. Since he emerged from the waters of Munin Island and made the world hear his cry, however, he has been known by one.

Godzilla, King of the Monsters.

Many would say that his title is well-earned. In the past half-century he has bested no fewer than thirty kaiju, many of whom had rendered the might of our armies useless. He is called a monster among monsters, the thing that even boogeymen fear. To this very day millions, if not billions, live in fear of his power and his ferocity, deeming him a terror to mankind.

His hostility to the human race has been displayed time and time again, and unlike others he cannot be deterred in the slightest. For decades on end he has systematically targeted almost every single aspect of our infrastructure, with his emergence in the fifties and his return in the eighties heralding tremendous economic crises. Were he a natural disaster, which many nations do indeed label him as, he would be easily be one of the most damaging in history, with a price tag worth the wealth of entire nations.

For this alone, he has been labeled one of the greatest threats to mankind. World-changing advances in technology have been developed in our attempts to keep him at bay, if not to kill him outright. Indeed, I would not be terribly surprised if, hidden deep in the secret vaults of all nations, are annually-updated doomsday scenarios detailing the day he decides to rid himself of the human race.

Surely then, could he not truly be described as a monster?

No.

I do not see a monster when I look at him. I see the balancing force nature has produced, Humanity's Counterweight. A restorative power, not a herald of destruction. It is only in contrast to our own disruption of the world that he can be seen as a menace.

One only needs to look at the targets of his wrath. Petroleum extraction, lumber, coal mining, whaling, commercial fishing, and many types of chemical manufacturing. All of these were incredibly damaging to the ecology before he killed them, despoiling the land and threatening countless species. Left unchecked, we would have wreaked more damage to the world -and ourselves- than Godzilla ever did.

The willful ignorance is readily apparent throughout history. We blamed him for the collapse of the oil industry, yet paid no heed to the rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We bemoaned how shipping became harder and harder thanks to his prowling in the oceans, yet did not connect it to the sharp decrease in whale beachings.

In this light, to call him a monster is to be obtuse. Monsters meant to be fought against, subdued or slain. Godzilla is not something that can or should be slain- rather, we must learn to live with him, for if we can learn to do that, then we can learn to live with nature itself.

It could be argued that we were learning this lesson. I still remember the excitement I shared with my fellow biologists as we noted the changes in the environment with each passing year. Species once thought extinct returning, cleaner air, cleaner water, fewer catastrophic storms. Hardly the mark a monster would leave on the world.

Indeed, if the studies of the late great Miki Saegusa mean anything, then in Godzilla's own eyes we were the monsters. I find it hard to disagree with that verdict. We are an invasive species that enabled other invasive species, causing a mass extinction before we even formed civilization, and were in the middle of another. We have created pollutants that had never previously existed on this planet, and our maddening arms race threatened to scour the world of anything bigger than a rat.

We are the aberration instead of him, and thus a return to the natural state of things seems terrifying, even evil, to us. For Godzilla, this world was his long before our ancestors learned to walk. Our indignation at his so-called intrusion is no different from that of one who barges into a home and call the owner of the house a trespasser.

It is like the adage I quoted earlier, with the deer and the road. We say that an Age of Monsters had fallen upon Man, where in actuality an Age of Man has fallen upon the world.

It is for that reason that I say the Age of Monsters did not end with Second Impact. The age of kaiju, yes -the remains of many have been found and identified, and there has not been a single sighting in the four years since that great disaster- but not the Age of Monsters. We still live, even if our population has been cut in half, our advancements set back.

Some even say that Godzilla himself perished with the other kaiju, though no remains have been found. Many of them say this is reason to rejoice, for we are finally free of his overbearing presence.

As for me?

I have had the great pleasure of seeing him in the flesh, to study him up-close for years at a time. I have seen him emerge from the hellish fires of nuclear weaponry, seen him rise from the sea to save the planet from the only creature I may ever call an abomination, and I have seen him regard me lazily from his lagoon as I rowed by with a camera.

Through it all, I have been fascinated by his eyes. There is something in them, you see. Something old, unfathomably old, yet inviolable against the unceasing tide of time. It is the memory of those eyes that drive me to ask you this:

If we could survive Second Impact, why couldn't he?

Dr. Kyohei Yamane
Author's Note for Monsters and Man: A History of Kaiju in the 20th Century (2004)

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The New World, Part I

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Nov 10, 2021 10:09 pm

"Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope?
Can you put a cord through its nose
or pierce its jaw with a hook?
Will it keep begging you for mercy?
Will it speak to you with gentle words?
Will it make an agreement with you
for you to take it as your slave for life?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house?
Will traders barter for it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants?
Can you fill its hide with harpoons
or its head with fishing spears?
If you lay a hand on it,
you will remember the struggle and never do it again!
Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering.
No one is fierce enough to rouse it.
Who then is able to stand against me?
Who has a claim against me that I must pay?
Everything under heaven belongs to me."


- Job 41 NIV



The sun was low on the water, its light the deep orange of nuclear summer.

He toddled along the damp sand that served as the shifting border between land and sea, sometimes pulling back as the gentle wavelets came rolling in, sometimes letting them splash over his bare feet. The sand was black, the blackest black he'd ever seen, and if he dug his feet in it looked like his shadow was eating them.

After a while, he plopped down on his butt and began to pull at the damp sand with grubby hands, bringing it all into a pile between his legs. Once deemed a suitable size for his architectural preferences, he began to methodically pat the mound smooth, palms slapping against the sand. After a while, it began to take on shape, looking very much like something between a pyramid and a misshapen cone.

All the while, the surf was getting closer, sea spray tickling his face and arms. He had to finish quickly, before he got all wet and Mama got mad that he let himself get all wet. The water was almost about to hit the edge of his shorts when he finished and stood back up. Dusting his hands off, he then planted them on his hips and proudly surveyed his finest work yet.

As quickly as he had built it, however, it was now being undone. The surf began to wash over it, wavelets dragging sand back into the ocean's embrace. The great pyramid soon became a dull dome the color of pitch. He watched intently as the dome slowly smoothed out, getting smaller and smaller with each wave. It was slow work, but the ocean was patient.

Then, even though the pyramid still hadn't disappeared, he felt the urge to look back up. The sun looked different, now. It had nearly disappeared under the ocean, and instead of one there seemed to be two smaller ones, but he knew it was the sun because the color was the same.

Until the two suns blinked, anyway.

He blinked back, staring into the burning bright eyes barely above the water. Then, like Papa told him to do, he waved with a grubby little hand. With the other, he pointed as he called, "Mama, look!"

He heard gentle footsteps on the sand behind him, and he giggled as soft but strong arms hoisted him up. Mama held him close, and all was right and safe in the world.

"What did you see?" Mama asked, face hidden in the light.

He continued to point at the eyes on the horizon. A few moments passed, then he felt her tense up, her skin cold. By her feet, the sandcastle was finally disappearing.

"We're going back inside now," she said.

"Okay!" He waved back to the eyes on the horizon. "Bye bye, now!"

Mama didn't say goodbye, which didn't seem right, because Mama always was sure to say goodbye. She just started carrying him back up the beach, rubbing his back almost mechanically.

"Am I in trouble, Mama?" he asked.

Mama held him out at arm's length. Her face was still hidden by the light, but he could feel her smile anyway.

"No. Everything's going to be alright," she said.

Then she screamed.

Leviathan

לִוְיָתָן


Shinji's eyes snapped open to the whine of the train coming to a stop.

Blinking a few times, he shook his head, half-expecting to see someone sitting across from him, but of course no one was. The entire train was empty, as it had been when he first got on two hours ago. He wasn't even sure if there was a conductor onboard- the entire trip had a sepulchral air to it, like he was being escorted by ghosts to see his father.

Standing up, he slung his backpack over his shoulder and got off the train. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the train station was also completely empty- in fact, it looked like it hadn't been used in years. The occasional tuft of grass poked through cracks in the concrete floors, vibrant green against dull gray, and half the windows were either cracked or gone altogether.

Idly, he wondered if his father had arranged for the reactivation of the entire rail line and station, just to ensure a direct trip to the city.

"Don't be so silly," he chided himself.

Footsteps echoed through the decaying halls as he descended the stairs, and he raised a hand to shield his eyes from the harsh summer sun. The broad street before him was much the same as the station- abandoned and decrepit, with nary a soul to be found. There was even an abandoned fishing boat by the side of the road, its rusting skeleton exposed to the open air.

Another ghost town, just like the dozen others he'd passed by on the train. His teacher had told him about them, of how the people had flocked to the bigger cities or the mountains after the waves, only to stay even after the water receded. Save for the cicadas and their endless droning in endless summer, he might be the only person in the entire town.

Not that he minded, of course. He was used to being alone.

He glanced at his watch. Ten minutes to go before Miss Misato came to pick him up, assuming she even arrived on time. Which, considering how lackluster everything else about his trip had been, seemed a dim hope. He thought back to the utterly indecent photo he had sent him, and shook his head.

He spotted a large chunk of concrete nearby on the sidewalk, just at the perfect height for sitting. He walked over, long grass tickling his hands, then climbed up. Dusting the pollen off his slacks, he drew his knees in and hugged them tightly. A gentle breeze rolled by, ruffling his hair and making the long grass dance.

His gaze fell upon the fishing boat. Now that he was closer, he could see that it had become a practical mural for graffiti, every viable square covered. There was Japanese, as well as the simple rounded script of Mysterian, the complex grid-like characters of Xilien, and even the flowing curls of Simeon, sprayed and scratched and stenciled over the decomposing hull.

One particular artwork, larger than the others, drew his attention. A familiar creature stared at him with fiery orange eyes, eyes he had seen in textbooks and old movies and everything else. The painting had been framed as a mugshot, with only the beast's face visible.

Have you seen me? the top read. Missing since 2000.

The eyes held his attention for a few moments, before he forced himself to look away. Fishing through his pocket, he pulled out his old SDAT and unwrapped the earphones. Slipping them in, he relaxed as the buzzing of cicadas was replaced with soft piano. Closing his eyes, he let everything else fall away, drawing in until there was only him and the music.

And then something hit him on the head.

He yelped and sprang to his feet, hand instinctively going to the new welt on his head. He looked around wildly, until something moving caught his eye and he turned to see a shiny pen rolling to a stop a few feet away.

Pulling out his headphones, he rubbed his head and looked around, trying to see where it could possibly have come from. The streets were still empty, and the rooftops were too far for anyone to have reasonably thrown it. Feeling the welt, it was right on top of his head, as if the pen had fallen on him, but when he looked up all he saw were blue skies.

Stuffing the SDAT pack in his pocket, he warily walked closer to the pen. Now that he was closer, he saw that it wasn't a pen at all. Actually, he didn't know just what it was. It was an odd shade of blue, like the old refrigerators he saw in history books, with black highlights and a silver cap.

A moment passed, then he stooped down and picked it up. It was lighter than he was expecting, and slightly warm to the touch, with a metallic texture. Twirling it deftly with expert fingers, he wondered if it was one of those old-fashioned cigarette lighters. He tried to open the cap, but it refused to budge even when he twisted as hard as he could.

Studying the cap, he saw that it was actually translucent, and inside was a red ball. He stared at it for a few moments, entranced. It seemed to shine brightly, yet it didn't cast any light, and there was a certain vibrancy to it that he couldn't put his finger on.

"Where did you come from?" he asked.

It was then that he realized the cicadas had stopped buzzing. He looked up, half-expecting to see something, but the city was just as empty as before. In fact, it somehow seemed even emptier. A shadow briefly fell over him, and he looked up to see the distant silhouettes of birds flying overhead, thousands of them, more than he had ever seen before. They were all flying away from the mountains, not even crying as they fled.

The air was still now, as though it was about to start pouring rain at any moment, yet the sky was still a bright and clear blue. He swallowed in a dry throat and looked to the mountains. The sea lay beyond them- was there a tsunami coming? He hadn't felt a quake, though, so what could it be?

The silence was finally cut by a distant whine, a low-pitch scream that he could feel in his chest. A tremor raced down his spine, like someone had just scratched their nails across a chalkboard right next to his ears. It got louder and louder, until he swore he could feel his teeth rattle, then it suddenly died.

He didn't realize he'd hugged the strange thing close to his chest until the sound stopped. A moment passed as he looked at it in his hand, then he slipped it into his breast pocket. There was something oddly comforting about having it there.

Standing a little straighter, he looked around. There had to be a phone somewhere.

There. He ran over, backpack bouncing, and grabbed the worn phone. He paused, wondering who he should call, then punched in the number Miss Misato had given him.

"Due to the state of emergency, all lines are currently unavailable..."

He plopped the phone back on the receiver. "No good. I guess something is up..."

The phrase state of emergency gnawed at him, demanding his full attention. That horrific sound from before had to be related to it, but he had no idea what it meant. All he knew was that he was possibly in danger.

He glanced back down at his watch. Miss Misato should've been here already- then again, maybe she wouldn't come at all because of the emergency. He needed to get back to the station.

Then a low rumbling made itself known, shaking the ground beneath his feet, shaking the phone off the receiver. Now, in the distance, he could hear what sounded like fireworks, sharp pops and booms that were more felt than heard. He looked around, trying to find the source of the noise, but he could see nothing, only the same empty town.

There was a loud crash, and he saw something hit one of the rooftops, bouncing off and landing on the street. Green fog hissed out of the hidden object, and as it wafted closer Shinji crinkled his nose at the smell, like rank seawater being poured over white-hot metal. Coughing, he backed away from the fog, trying in vain to wave it away.

The rumbling got worse. A few of the windows began to rattle, and he looked up to see that the power lines were swinging, as though caught in a sudden gale. The hideous whine of before returned, now so loud he thought his skeleton was going to jump out of his skin. He turned to where it seemed to be coming from, only to freeze as his eyes fell upon a thing that should not have been.

An impossible creature emerged from behind the hills, a mockery of the human shape, twisted and expanded into something that towered over the surrounding buildings. Long arms swung from unnaturally broad shoulders, moving in concert with slender legs that supported a vespine waist. The monster's black flesh shone like wet leather in the noon sun, a stark contrast to the dry white bone protruding from its joints.

Aircraft swarmed about the beast, little more than steel hornets. Paying them no heed, it turned slightly, allowing Shinji a better look. It had no head or neck, but instead had a bony mask where its heart would have been, eerily reminiscent of a plague doctor. Directly underneath was a massive red orb, nestled between ribs that clutched at it like skeletal hands.

He stared at the creature, everything else forgotten. They had disappeared, everyone said, before he was even born. They were merely things in worn books and grainy film and faded magazines, their names only spoken by teachers and the elderly who had lived in their shadow.

Kaiju.

Then the aircraft opened fire, and the madness began in earnest.

Thuktun Flishithy
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The New World, Part II

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Nov 17, 2021 12:27 pm

Back and forth, back and forth, did the waves roll against the beach. They had been gentle waves, then they had become violent and without rhythm as the monster rose and the guns fired, and now they were gentle waves again. The sea forgot, as it forgot everything.

Back and forth, back and forth, did the waves crash against the submerged ruins of the old world, against sun-baked concrete and exposed steel beams. Ruins of the new world joined them now, gutted aircraft with broken maser lenses and crumpled sonic emitters. It would be some time before the tides would pull them into the sea, but the sea was patient.

Back...

The sea pulled away farther than the lowest tide, exposing broken roads and rusted cars, and for a moment it was as though the past fifteen years were a passing dream, and the dead town had not been swallowed by the waves.

...and forth.

A wall of water slammed into the broken shore as the sea surged, crumbling the remaining buildings and tossing the broken military equipment like the toys they were. The waves rose up the face of the mountain before they finally came back down, and with them they brought crushed maser trucks and charred gas-canister artillery choked in silt.

A new monster now strode the shore, seawater cascading off its massive frame. It sniffed the air once, and then without any pause went the same way as the previous intruder, and with each step it took the sea shuddered as the earth shook.

The new arrival climbed up the mountain, churning the earth and unmaking roads where the other had scarcely left a footprint. There was no barrage of scent canisters to greet it, no crackling in the air as masers fired, for all the survivors had followed the first in their desperation to stop it. Only the sea and the dead witnessed its passing, and neither were talking.

The surf continued to jump and ripple with each step of the monster, swirling into eddies that spun drowned tanks like tops. Then the beast disappeared behind the crest of the mountains, and slowly the eddies stopped their twirling, and once more did the sea forget.

Back and forth, back and forth, did the waves roll against the beach.



"First defense perimeter has been breached," one of the bridge crew -Hyuuga, was it?- announced. "Target is advancing unimpeded."

"The AG-scent canisters seem to be entirely ineffective," said one of the generals below. "The damn thing doesn't even seem to notice the stuff."

"Have we run all of the sonic emitter frequencies?" asked another general, the older one with a bushy mustache.

"All of the ones within pilot safety have been used," replied one of the bridge crew, the young woman always attached to Akagi.

"Temporarily suspend the safety limits and tell them to up the amplitude," barked the old general, slamming a fist onto the table like the Angel would hear it. "This is all out war!"

"We need to authorize the same for the masers," the youngest general declared. "This thing has eyes, so let's burn them out."

"Sir, Atsugi and Iruma give ETA forty-five for the maser trucks," Hyuuga said.

"Dammit!"

"We need to bring out the conventional ordinance on this thing! Slow it down with Linebackers!"

"What we need is to authorize the N2 strike before this thing gets past the final perimeter!"

Gendo watched the chaos below as the generals began barking contradictory orders and debating the merits of vaporizing a city, his hands tented before his face. A tired sigh escaped him, so soft that it went unnoticed. Ever so briefly, his eyes darted to the telephone on his desk, the fifth time since the attack began.

"After fifteen years, the moment has finally arrived," Fuyutsuki said.

"Indeed," he replied. "The Third Angel has come to test the worthiness of Man."

"It is as expected." Then, more quietly, "How much longer will we have to put up with their little war game? This is a waste of valuable resources."

"This is for us, not for the Angel. Even they know this is not a fight they can win."

"I think you underestimate how quickly we become complacent, Ikari, how quickly we forget even him."

"No," Gendo said. "You underestimate for how long will Man remembers his fears. This is merely grandstanding."

"Do you think he'll arrive, then?"

Gendo did not reply. His eyes fell upon the phone once more.

When it suddenly rang, he was sure to wait a moment before quickly reaching over and answering the call.

"Commander speaking," he said, still watching the generals panic below.

"He is coming," came the soft reply.

The line promptly went dead, and Gendo put the phone back in his pocket, then resumed his pose. Hidden behind his gloved hands, a smirk appeared on his face.



Shinji clamped his hands over his ears and crouched down as the shockwaves of the guns rolled into him, sending his heart into his throat. Then the wind came, a howling beast that pulled at his hair and stung his eyes until he closed them. Loose dirt and grit whipped at his ankles, before the wind began to die down, the roar becoming a steady hiss.

Opening his eyes, he looked up at the battle still raging in the distance. Dozens of aircraft flew around the kaiju, peppering it missiles and cannons, explosions blossoming all round the creature's form. Windows shattered and nearby rooftops crumbled under the intensity of the barrage, yet the thing was unharmed. In fact, it didn't even seem to register the attack, blinking like an innocent child as it moved forward.

A jet screamed overhead, and he flinched as a missile half as long as the kaiju was tall smashed into the thing, the cone warping and flattening against the monster's chest. A split second later, the lone engine of the rocket flared to life, white smoke blasting out and rolling to the streets below.

The kaiju leaned back, its stride halted, then something shimmered in the air. The rocket slid to the side, like a waterdrop against a pane of glass, and flew away uselessly into the air. The monster now raised a gangly arm at one of the aircraft, and Shinji saw a shining violet spur shoot out of its palm, impaling the machine.

He stared at the horror before him, held in place by it. Then the warmth in his pocket seemed to grow, and Shinji instinctively placed a hand over the strange object. Finally, he found the will to move, and began to slowly back away, eyes still focused on the battle. He saw the kaiju destroy two more aircraft before the smoke from the rocket finally rolled over him.

Now, he was in a world of haze, of grey shadows against a white background. He coughed violently as the smell of gunpowder assailed his nostrils. Eyes watering, he stumbled a bit, then tried to get a grip on his surroundings. The kaiju was moving again, that much he could tell. Now, he could hear its footsteps, the beating of a massive drum that shook the ground beneath his feet.

The smoke was banished by the whirring of engines, and he looked up to see a large aircraft passing over him, a wide dish embedded in its nose. A red light from began to blink in time with a screeching alarm, and Shinji suddenly recalled reading about how military masers gave off a warning light before firing, as to not blind anyone witnessing it.

He clamped his hands over his eyes and turned away, just in time to feel the heat of the laser as it fired. It only lasted a few seconds before he heard the screech of bending metal. Risking a glance over his shoulder, he saw the aircraft crashing back down as the kaiju withdrew its spur. He barely had enough time to cry out before the mangled mass of metal hit the ground and exploded.

Then he was sprawled out on the ground, ears ringing, a dull ache in his temple. Something warm trickled down the side of his face, and he numbly wiped at it, more out of reflex than anything else. Pulling his hand away, crimson fingers greeted him.

Blood, he thought, distantly. I think I'm dying.

Slowly, he tried to rise, even as he felt bile in the back of his throat. The kaiju was coming closer, now, so close that it could reach down and crush him with a finger. Then it stopped, blank eyes staring at something distant, before more aircraft drew its attention away. And yet, Shinji could still hear those same footsteps, growing closer and closer.

He lost the struggle to get up, and merely lay back down, staring at the sky. Once the initial pain had subsided, it didn't feel that bad. The booming footsteps were even nearer, now, and there was something almost lulling about it. It was getting harder and harder to keep his eyes open- perhaps it would be alright to close them.

Then through the ringing in his ears, he managed to discern the sound of tires screeching to a halt close by, followed by hurried footsteps.

"Shinji!" a woman's voice called. "Oh, goddess..."

A pair of hands took hold of his shoulders and began to slowly drag him away from the chaos erupting just a few streets over.

"Come on," the voice urged, strained with effort. A few strands of purplish hair entered his vision, and he dazedly realized that the speaker was Miss Misato. "Come on!"

Another aircraft was careening towards them now, smoke billowing from a massive gash in its flank. Misato cursed and began to redouble her efforts to pull him along, but he knew that there was no way that they could both get out of the way in time. Something in the back of his mind told him that he should've been worried, but he didn't pay it much attention. It had to happen sometime, he supposed. He simply closed his eyes, and waited.

A few seconds passed, and he realized that was still alive. His eyes creaked open, and he saw that it had begun to rain. Water fell from dark clouds ahead, swiftly drenching him.

Then his eyes widened.

Not clouds.

Hands.

The aircraft was held aloft in the air by a pair of massive hands, claws the size of cars digging into the hull. Seawater dripped from scaly skin, pouring onto Shinji and the surrounding street like a monsoon, as though the sea itself had begun to walk the earth.

Their unexpected rescuer tossed the wrecked aircraft aside like a broken toy, allowing Shinji to see its face. Even through the haze of pain that enveloped him, he still sucked in a gasp as fiery orange eyes-

twin suns on the water

-gazed into his own. In them he saw the heart of a mushroom cloud, consuming the old photos and films in its flames, leaving only the monster. This was not a legend, a whisper from old men who feared its wrath. This was a beast as big as the sky and as unforgiving as the ocean, regarding him like the bug he was.

"Oh goddess," Misato whispered at Shinji's side. "He's back."

As if bidden, the name found its way past Shinji's lips.

"Godzilla," he whispered.

The King of the Monsters rose to his full height, towering over Shinji, looming even over the other kaiju. His charcoal-grey scales seemed to smolder like a dying fire, now. As Godzilla looked the kaiju's way, Shinji saw something behind his eyes, something that crossed the barrier between man and beast.

Rage.

Godzilla breathed in, inhaling deep enough to ruffle Shinji's hair with a breeze, then roared. It was an old sound, a sound of fury and vengeance that was ancient when mankind first began to walk upright. The windows around Shinji bulged outwards, then shattered into thousands of pieces before his wrath. Misato pulled at him again, and he was finally tossed into the passenger seat of a car. Glass rained down, bouncing off the windshield and hood, but he couldn't hear any of it.

It was finally too much. His vision was fading now, growing dimmer and dimmer with each passing second.

Then, there was only blackness.

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The New World, Part III

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Fri Nov 26, 2021 9:28 pm

He was back. He was back and Shinji was dying and they were probably both going to be pancaked under a giant foot.

"Shit!" Misato barked, leaping into the driver's seat. "Why did it have to be today!"

Shifting into drive, she paused only to glance at the boy. Blood oozed from a nasty gash on the side of his head, matting his hair and staining the upholstery a dark red. His lips twitched, as though trying to form words, but his eyes were closed.

Shit. She'd need to tend to those injuries as soon as possible, but first...

She floored the pedal, turning on a dime and narrowly missing one of Godzilla's truck-sized talons as she rocketed past his foot. She had to drive on the sidewalk to avoid the massive depression in the road made by his feet, the car rocking as it skirted the edge. A shadow fell over her for a brief moment as Godzilla's tail whipped over her head with frightening speed, and she glanced at the rear-view mirror in time to see him slam the Angel with it.

Years ago, during her schooling to join NERV, she had written a small essay debating what a kaiju would be able to do against an Angel's AT field. Her thesis was promptly disproven in a great flash of light, then an impact that slammed into her like an anvil as the Angel was sent flying down the street and into a building, disappearing under the rubble.

Belatedly, she realized she actually couldn't hear the impact. Or anything else, really. Touching a hand to her ear, she felt something warm, and pulled back to see scarlet blood on her fingertips.

"Fuck," she murmured, or possibly yelled. No way to tell.

She tore her attention away from the mirror, and focused on the road ahead. There was nothing she could do about that.

A few moments passed as she raced away, then she ripped away at her skirt and pressed the cloth to Shinji's head wound. It was far from ideal, but the bandages were in the trunk, and she didn't want to risk stopping while Godzilla and the Angel were still in sight.

It threw her mind for a loop, still. He shouldn't be alive, let alone fighting an Angel. She'd seen...

She set her jaw, then focused on putting pressure on Shinji's wound.

"Hold on, Shinji," she pleaded. "Everything'll be okay. It's... it'll be alright."

She wanted to believe that.
†​

Silence reigned in the command center. Gendo glanced down at the people down below, resisting the urge to smirk at their reactions. Some were gasping, murmuring curses or prayers amongst themselves, and others were silent, eyes wide. It was only a natural reaction to seeing the bogeyman of the past sixty years return.

"We need to N2 mine the area!" the younger general exclaimed, finally breaking the silence. "Have the VTOLs pull out!"

He reached towards the red telephone on the desk, only for the older general to grab his arm.

"We are not going to vaporize a city just because he's shown up," he warned in a low tone. He turned back towards the viewscreen and narrowed his eyes. "Focus all available firepower on the Angel. Let's see what he's got."

"Yes, sir," Hyuuga replied.

"She was right, Fuyutsuki," Gendo commented at the back of the room. "The Leviathan rises from the desecrated seas to prove that there are beasts only gods can tame."

"What shall we do, then?" Fuyutsuki inquired.

Gendo simply smiled.
†​

The car disappeared behind the hills, precious cargoes in tow, and he finally looked away. Now, the fight could truly begin.

Before him, hundreds of tons of rubble parted as the enemy rose, standing less tall than before. It stared at him with lifeless eyes, hidden behind its now-cracked mask, and began to lope forward, dragging a limp leg behind it.

A snarl escaped through bared teeth, and he clenched his fists, feeling his power surge back through his limbs as he readied himself.

Then, he charged, the ground shattering beneath his feet as he barreled forwards. The creature responded in kind, a heavenly light suffusing its form, accompanied by a sound like what the insects named Man would call a song. It took to the air, as though lifted upwards by an invisible force, and cleared the ground between them in moments.

It slammed into him, and where they hit a field of concentric field of orange octagons flared into existence, shining like the sun. Skeletal fingers laced about his throat, and the thing's long arms bulged with new muscle as they tried to squeeze the life out of him. All the while, the not-song grew louder and louder, a war-cry against all.

Perhaps the humans would have found it terrible and beautiful to behold. Perhaps they would have been cowed by this creature's show of might.

It didn't even slow him down.

Taking the thing's wrists into his hands, he shattered them in his grip as he pried the creature off him like it were a child, and, still charging forward, swung it about, using the momentum to fling the creature into another building. The tower of concrete and metal pulverized under the thing's body as it fell, dust filling the air. Not slowing his stride, he fell upon the creature again just as it began to rise, and roared a challenge.

The creature's retort was a simple one. It leaned forward, and once more did the field shine before it, the molten-metal light singing and filling his ears with its unnerving tone.

Then he swung a clawed fist at its lifeless mask-face, and the song turned into a dying shriek as the symmetry of the field was undone, the barrier folding in and shattering like glass before his wrath. Bone crunched under his knuckles as the blow landed, and the abominable thing shrieked as it was rendered blind. The sheer force of his punch sent it off its feet and into a nearby hillside, and he resumed his charge.

The enemy rose suddenly, and extended one of its hideously long arms. Millions of years of instincts directed him as he came to stop, but there was only so much instinct could do against physics as a glowing spur shot out of the creature's broken palm and stabbed into his shoulder, using his own momentum against him as it pierced his thick hide. The ground buckled under his feet as he finally came to a stop.

Then, with nary a sound, he took hold of the spur in a clawed hand and twisted. The bony protrusion shattered under his grip, spraying the streets with blood and prompting a cry of pain from the creature. It reeled back, the spur now little more than a jagged stump. Flesh bubbled under its mask as the thing stumbled, new eyes blinking.

He growled as he pulled the spur out of his shoulder, the wound sealed by the time he discarded the offending thing. Before he could advance on the reeling creature, however, it straightened and glared with fresh and hateful eyes. The glare turned into a flash of light that briefly obscured everything from sight as a massive explosion enveloped him in its searing heat, and when it faded he saw that he now stood in a glass crater half as wide as he was tall.

He snorted contemptuously, his hide unmarked by the attack. Two could play at that game.

He inhaled deeply, letting the familiar burn flood his chest as immense atomic energies blossomed within. One by one he could feel the excess heat in his spines and hear their groans, traveling from the tip of his tail to the base of his neck. Wisps of plasma escaped his throat as he opened his mouth in a silent roar.

Then the silence was broken with the scream of nuclear hellfire, the initial flash setting nearby buildings ablaze as the beam hit the creature dead on in the chest. The field flared and died just as quickly, only managing to deflect the blast away from the glittering red sphere. Instead, the creature's arm was made a sacrifice to the fire, the beam burning through its dark flesh before coming out the other side and severing the limb.

A sickly cry of pain filled the air as the thing stumbled back, greasy black smoke rising from the charred stump that was once an arm, only to be silenced when he fell upon it. A single swipe of his tail slammed it back into the hillside, and before it could rise he stomped down on its thigh, relishing in the crunch of bone.

The thing flailed about wildly in an attempt to get free, but it proved to an exercise in futility as he increased the weight on its leg. It raised its remaining arm, spur glowing as it prepared another attack, only for him to seize it in his jaws, bones shattering beneath his teeth. Keeping its body pinned beneath his foot, he shook his head back and forth like a rabid dog until the creature's arm was torn from the socket.

Tossing the limb aside, he focused on the glittering red sphere in the creature's chest. Raising his other foot, he stomped down on it, and a spiderweb of cracks marred its perfection. Growling in satisfaction, he stomped down again, and the cracks widened.

The creature's form suddenly shifted, limbs flowing like water as it tried to wrap around him, but he refused to fall into its grip. Pulling it off of him, he threw it back down to the ground, then stomped down one last time. The core shattered into countless pieces, and the flesh bulged outwards, like a corpse left in water. Then, slowly, it began to deflate, oozing red.

He rose from the remains of his enemy, his claws slick with blood that faded to steam, and roared in triumph, howling at the sky.

Head held high, he began his march back to the sea. The human machines trailed him, but they kept their distance, and so he let them be. Today, they were not his enemy.

The ocean was sloshing about at his hips when he paused. He turned, craning his neck to look at a point beyond the mountains, something he could not see, but sensed all the same.

Then, he disappeared under the waves.
†​

The command center had once again fallen silent. Not the shocked silence of before, Gendo noted, but one of great trepidation, as though no one knew how to react. The old fools of generals from the JSSDF had already left, having ceded authority over all anti-Angel (and now, anti-kaiju) operations to NERV. His eyes danced over the command center, then focused back on the vidscreen.

"Send out a 'do not provoke' order to all forces in the area in regards to Godzilla," he said, voice firm. "I want minute-to-minute updates on his position."

"Yes, Commander," Hyuuga said, shakily.

The air in the command center seemed to warm, as the shock began to fade. The constant stream of information as the technicians read off reports washed over him, unheard.

He smiled lightly. "He won."

"It appears that we will have to wait our turn, Ikari," Fuyutsuki noted dryly.

Gendo straightened in his seat and adjusted his glasses. "It is of no matter. We will have our time soon enough."

The intercom on his desk beeped, halting any further conversation. Allowing himself a small sigh, he activated it.

"Commander Ikari speaking."

"The Third Child will be arriving shortly, but there's bad news, Commander." Dr. Akagi's voice was surprisingly shaky. "The operations director has reported that the boy received a severe head injury during the Angel's attack. We have an emergency team on standby ready to receive him as soon as possible, and we're preparing the autodoc. The operations director was also injured-"

"Irrelevant." The grip on his phone tightened, creaking plastic. "I want every measure available for the Third Child's treatment. Prep Unit-01's core if need be."

"Understood, Commander," Ritsuko replied.

He put the phone back down, more forcefully than intended.

"Ikari," Fuyutsuki began.

"I know."
†​

She didn't even bother slowing down as she approached the entrance, instead ramming right through the flimsy wooden barrier at the security stand. Ritsuko and a medical team were already standing by, courtesy of a screaming message she'd left via the car's phone, and she narrowly avoided running them over as she slammed the brakes.

By the time she shakily got out of the driver's seat, Shinji had already been pulled out and slapped onto a gurney, the doctors and nurses crowding around his bleeding form like ravenous vultures. She couldn't discern what they were saying, what with the whole having her eardrums ruptured by the roar of a monster the world had thought dead for fifteen years, and she bit her lip. She hated being so helpless, so uncertain.

Ritsuko walked over her way, worry clear on her face. Her lips moved, only to stop when Misato pointed to her bloody ears. Ritsuko solemnly waved over a couple of EMTs, and Misato felt the chill of regen-induc spray against her skin as they attended to her.

Sparing a glance over, she saw that Shinji was already being brought to the elevator, about to be brought down into the best hospital on the planet. She prayed it would be enough, but she knew prayers only meant so much.

Before he disappeared behind the steel doors, something caught her eye. Where the boy's shirt pocket was supposed to be, there was now only a hole in the fabric as though something had burned through it, yet the skin beneath was unharmed.

She brushed it aside. There was a lot more to be worried about.
†​

A frenzied, erratic heartbeat.

Silence.

Pushing against the unknown, a lone heartbeat.

Then another, stronger than before.

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The New World, Part IV

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Mon Nov 29, 2021 7:45 am

The sun shone through the windows of the train, its light the color of nuclear summer.

Shinji sat alone on the sidebench, SDAT clutched in both hands as he slouched forward. The tape whirred patiently in the little machine, but no music played through the headphones. Still, he couldn't bother to take them out or fix the music player. In fact, he couldn't bother to do anything at all. Even thinking about doing anything seemed unbearable.

He didn't know how long he had been on the train for. It seemed like it'd been hours, yet he still had the nagging feeling that he'd just gotten on. Where he was going, he couldn't tell, and he couldn't help but feel that he didn't care. He just watched the tape in the SDAT whir around and around, around and around.

"Mama, look!"

Somehow, he found the will to look towards the voice. There a woman stood, holding a familiar little boy in her arms as he pointed out the window. He couldn't see the face of the boy's mother, yet somehow her smile still made him feel warm, breathing life into him.

Straightening in his seat, he looked to where the boy was pointing, and saw that where there had been one sun there was now two. The twin suns looked straight into his eyes-

twin suns on the water, twin suns in the sky, blood and smoke and

-and suddenly he cared where he was going. He still didn't know where the train was taking him, but he knew he wanted off. He needed to get off.

Someone was now sitting across from him, framed in shadow against the light of the burning eyes. A young boy, in a loose white button-up and black slacks that hung loosely on his lanky frame. He knew the boy's face, with its delicate cheekbones and blue eyes and mop of black hair, yet he couldn't recognize it at all.

The boy smiled at him. Not the smile of a friend or brother, yet something just as kind and knowing.

Bᴇ ɴᴏᴛ ᴀғʀᴀɪᴅ

Shinji looked down, and saw that his SDAT was gone. Now something else was clutched in his hands, a cylinder of black and old refrigerator blue that felt so painfully familiar, and a red button that hadn't been there before beckoned him.

It was so easy, he realized. He didn't know why it'd seemed so hard before.

He pressed the button, and looked back to the boy.

"What happens now?"

Nᴏᴡ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴀᴋᴇ ᴜᴘ​

And then he did.

He opened his eyes, and found himself staring at an unfamiliar ceiling.

For a moment, all he was aware of was the rising and falling of his chest, the feel of scratchy cloth against bare skin. The faint stinging scent of antiseptics caressed his nose as gently as sandpaper, like a splash of cold water bringing him back to reality, and he was suddenly aware that he was in a hospital room. He must've been brought here after-

It all came back to him. The kaiju strolling through a city as though it were a model set, the chaos of the military assault. Blood in his hair, blood on his hands, a falling aircraft in the hands of a giant. Eyes like hot coals staring into him, history brought to life, a roar...

Sheets rustled as he suddenly sat up, his hand going to where the gash in his head had been. After a moment's hesitation, he gently traced his fingers over, and felt only cloth. They had wrapped a bandage about his head, but even as he pressed hard into what should have been a ragged mass of torn skin and blood, he found nothing. No stitches, no staples, not even a lump.

He pressed again, waiting for the pain to come, but there was nothing. As a matter of fact, he felt good. No, fantastic. Even the small aches and pains, the ones so small and so omnipresent that he'd simply gotten used to them, had disappeared. It was not exactly a feeling of warmth, nor relaxation, but of something possessing each in part.

Pulling the blanket back, he swung his legs over the edge of the bed. It was then that he realized there should've been all sorts of things attached to him, like in the medical programs his teacher sometimes watched. Heartrate monitors and PulsOx's, maybe even one of those horrible catheters he'd read about, but there wasn't even an IV in his arm.

Maybe medical care had moved beyond that? If he was where he thought he was, they had to have the best medical care in the world.

The chilly linoleum floor nipped at his skin as he gently set his feet down, but the sensation quickly faded as he rose. Taking a furtive step forward, he realized that his limbs felt lither, his skin tauter. There was something emboldening about it, and he nearly ran as he approached the window and opened the curtains.

An impossible place greeted him.

For kilometers in each direction, a vast cavern was stretched out before him, unnatural in its perfectly circular shape. Sunlight shone through countless holes and slots in the roof of the cavern, bathing undulating hills of countryside in a warm afternoon glow. Sheer-faced walls of gray stone curved upwards, meeting at a disc in the sky. So great was its height, that the top of the cavern was obscured by the blue haze of the sky. Yet Shinji could still see the transit cables criss-crossing its vast expanse, as well as the buildings hanging from the roof.

"I'm in the Geofront," he murmured, eyes wide.

He'd read about it in textbooks and documentaries, yet it was so much grander to see in person than he realized. It was like a dream made real, so daring in its very existence. All he could do was gawk at the sight, drinking in the splendor.

He expected it to be a loud and bustling place considering its purpose, but it was quiet, more like a park than the last fortress of mankind. He closed his eyes, savoring it. The quiet reminded him of the house he lived in with his teacher, up in the mountains. Sometimes, he felt, entire days could pass in such silence.

The peace was broken by the sound of the door behind him sliding open. It sounded like it should've been whisper soft, but instead it grated against his ears, and he fought the urge to wince. Turning, he saw a young nurse walk in, wheeling a small cart in front of her. Shinji pulled at the edges of his gown, now painfully aware he was only wearing a threadbare sheet.

She didn't seem to notice him, instead turning to the bed before she stopped. Then, slowly, she glanced back his way, eyes wide.

"Um, hello," Shinji said.

The nurse's face turned ashen, and a small gasp escaped her as she backed away, the cart seemingly forgotten. With nary a word, she suddenly left the room at a near-run, the door sliding shut behind her.

Shinji blinked. "S-sorry?"

He waited a few moments to see if something would happen. When nothing inevitably happened, he slowly started walking to the door. Just as he was about to open it, however, it opened on its own, and a young woman in a lab coat stepped inside. Peroxide-blonde hair framed a tired face, only highlighted by the shaded eyeglasses perched on her nose.

"Good afternoon, Shinji," she said. "I'm Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, head of Project E. It's good to see that you're already awake. You gave us quite a scare."

"Oh, um, sorry about that."

Dr. Akagi peered at him over her glasses, eyes narrowed as if searching for something. Shinji wilted a little under her gaze, until she suddenly gestured with her clipboard to the bed.

"Please sit," she said. "I need to check and see how your wound is doing."

He did as told, hands still keeping his gown down. Dr. Akagi set her clipboard on the cart, then started peeling the bandage away, surprisingly rough hands plying at the gauze wrapped around his head.

"Thankfully, it's clear your hearing's already recovered," she said, not bothering to glance over. "Your eardrums were ruptured during the Angel's attack earlier; we had to treat them with regen-induc spray."

"Angel?"

"Think of them as a unique form of kaiju, distinct from all the others." Dr. Akagi didn't seem intent on elaborating, instead continuing to peel the gauze away. "Major Katsuragi was quite panicked when she brought you in, screaming that you were at death's door."

She paused, finally looking his way. "Do you remember anything about it?"

He pushed aside the memory of locking eyes with a monster. "I remember something hitting me in the head, and... and there was a lot of blood in my hair. Everything felt like I was underwater."

There was a split-second's delay before the doctor said, "Well, thankfully the wound was only superficial. It should be healing quite nicely, now."

She peeled the last of the gauze away, and frowned. "And now it's nonexistent."

"Oh," Shinji said, simply. "That's good, right?"

Dr. Akagi looked at him for a moment, then smiled. "Just a bit faster than expected. Some people take to the soma-based ointment we put on better than others. Any lingering pains?"

He squirmed under her intense gaze. "N-no."

"Hm." She picked up her clipboard, and began walking back to the door, pausing to glance over her shoulder. "Your clothes are on that chair in the corner. Major Katsuragi and I will be waiting outside for you."

The door shut, and Shinji let out a breath. Rising, he padded over to the corner of the room, and saw that his clothes had been cleaned and folded. Gently, he ran a hand over the starchy fabric of his shirt, then paused. There was a hole in his shirt pocket, like something had burned away the fabric, but there was no ash or charred fabric. Looping a finger through, he saw there was also a hole in the shirt itself.

The strange thing he'd found before the Angel attacked had been there. There had to be a link, but he couldn't think of any that made sense. If it was a lighter after all, it should've burned him too. If it was something else... where could it have gone?

He pushed the question aside and untied the gown, before quickly slipping on his uniform. It still smelled of smoke. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. Dr. Akagi and Miss Misato were standing nearby. The purple-haired woman had bags under her eyes, and he felt a pang of guilt.

"S-sorry about the scare, Miss Misato," he mumbled, bowing slightly.

Misato simply let out a sigh of relief and stepped over, laying a hand on his shoulder. He tensed at the touch, but said nothing.

"I'm just glad to see you're alright," she said, tapping her ear. "How are the new eardrums treating ya? Mine are still feeling off, but then again, not everyday you get to have Godzilla roar in your face. I wonder if they have t-shirts for that, like with roller coasters?"

"Ummm?"

"Misato," Dr. Akagi warned, tiredly.

Misato simply rolled her eyes, then winked at Shinji. The boy blushed, then found the power to speak.

"So that was Godzilla we saw?"

"Yep," she replied, matter-of-factly. "I know, it's a shock to me too, especially since he apparently beat the Angel while we were driving over."

"Dr. Akagi mentioned the Angels earlier," Shinji said. "What was it doing there? Is that what NERV is for?"

"You didn't give him the pamphlet, I see," Dr. Akagi noted dryly.

"Gee, it's almost like we were too busy running for our lives from a giant monster brawl," Misato retorted. She looked back to Shinji, her hand falling away. "Yes, NERV is dedicated to the defeat of the Angels. And you, Shinji, have a big role to play in that."

"I do?"

"You do," a familiar voice said.

A chill ran up Shinji's spine, and he turned. Father was standing down the hallway, an older man in a uniform just behind him and to his right.

"Father," he said, throat suddenly tight.

"Hello, Shinji. It's been some time."

A pause hung in the air. Father's eyes were hidden behind the glare his orange glasses, yet Shinji swore he saw a hidden tension leave the man as he regarded him. Then he spoke again.

"You are here because you are needed, Shinji."

"For what?"

It was Dr. Akagi's turn to speak now. "Shinji Ikari, the Marduk Institute has identified you as the Third Child. You are to pilot the All Purpose Humanoid Special Weapon, Evangelion Unit-01."

You have been reading:
シン・Leviathan, Chapter One: The New World

Thuktun Flishithy
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L'Hôte, Part I

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Fri Apr 22, 2022 11:04 am

Lo! the Star of Heroes falls to earth below.
The hand of the faceless clutches it.
Its light shines within their noble heart,
And banishes all the evils that oppose it.


- An excerpt from the Infant Island Fragments, as translated by Dr. Shinichi Chujo in 1962

The view out the window was certainly not a beautiful one- there was no beauty in the expanse of drowned and ruined city stretching out for as far as the eye could see. Yet, she found herself drawn to it, thoughts swirling as she stared out the kitchen window. Picturesque, her father had once called it, like a looming mountain or the wrinkled face of an old man.

She smiled wryly at that thought. At their ages, they were both picturesque.

The whistling of the tea kettle drew her attention away, and she hurried over to turn off the flame. It took effort to lift the heavy iron pot, now, but she ignored the burning in her old arms as she poured hot water over the tea leaves. A grassy aroma filled the kitchen as she stirred absentmindedly, her gaze drawn back to the window.

It was miraculous -or perhaps the opposite- how many trials the old home had endured. From the hilltop it sat on, she had witnessed countless terrors- the firebombings, Gojira, Ghidorah, and the hellish first year of the new millennium. They were uncomfortably close to the barbed wire fences that marked the border of where the radioactivity from the bomb was deemed too high, but as her father had all-too-cheerfully pointed out, they were too old to worry about that.

Setting the spoon down, she set the teapot and two cups on her bamboo tray, then carefully lifted it. The weather was promising for tonight, and she knew her father would enjoy sitting outside and taking his notes about how the foliage was reclaiming the city.

She barely took two steps before the sound came. A low, rumbling sound that made the teacups clatter on the tray, though that may have just been the shaking that overcame her. Part of her wanted to pretend that it was just an earthquake, or perhaps the rolling thunder of a storm. Indeed, many had likened it to thunder, the way it could come over the hills from kilometers away without ever seeing the source, but she knew all too well what it was.

A roar. One she hadn't heard in many years.

She didn't realize she'd dropped the tea until it crashed against the floor, drawing a yelp as hot water splashed against her ankles. She backed into the counter, hands clasped over her mouth. Her pulse hammered in her ears, and she forced herself to draw in a deep breath.

It couldn't be him. He was dead, gone like all the others despite what her father insisted.

She didn't know how long she stood there, repeating the well-practiced deep breaths her father had taught her as a child, when the American planes were overhead. Finally, she forced her hands to her sides, eyes closed. It had to be her mind playing tricks on her, long-eluded senility finally catching up. Then the roar came again, and she let out a sharp scream before she managed to contain herself.

It was then she realized her father hadn't come over when she had dropped the tea, and that seemed to break the spell. Brushing aside the shattered porcelain with a slipper-clad foot, she shuffled towards the living room.

"Father?" she called.

The living room was empty, papers scattered across the floor. Her eyes trailed to the open door.

A bead of sweat rolled down Emiko Yamane's face as she hurried after her fool of a father.

Shinji stared at the monster before him.

It was the only suitable term for what he saw. Not a pinnacle of scientific development, as Dr. Akagi had kept calling it as he was ushered through a battery of simple medical tests, nor a weapon, as Misato said en route to the locker room. Weapons didn't have a great blade-like horn protruding from its nose, so long as to cast a shadow over him. Pinnacles of science didn't rest shoulder-deep in what looked and smelled like blood.

"Is this what my father's been working on?" he murmured.

Shaking his head, he began walking along the gangplank that ran to the side of the Evangelion's head, though 'gangplank' felt like a misnomer as well- it was more like a pier sitting on a sea of blood. As he approached towards the back of the thing, where the so-called 'entry plug' was extended out for him, he had to fight down a pang of nausea.

Were those vertebrae?

He stepped towards the plug, painfully aware of the little squeaking sounds the absurdly skintight suit they'd given him made as he began to climb in. The technicians standing by didn't even seem to acknowledge him as he clambered into the oddly-shaped seat and grabbed the yokes, the plastic creaking under his gloved fingers.

He thought back to an arcade game he played once, some boring shooter he hadn't liked an iota. He remembered how small he felt in in the cracked leather seat, his tiny legs not even reaching the footholds.

This seat fit him perfectly. He liked that even less.

Looking over his shoulder, he could see into the control center some distance above him. Misato gave him a cheerful thumbs up, while Dr. Akagi looked rather exhausted as she read something unseen. His eyes scanned the room, searching, and he frowned in resignation.

The speakers crackled to life. "Alright, Shinji, we'll be commencing the synchronization test. Just stay where you are while the plug is inserted."

He nodded.

There was a faint whirring of servos, and then the plug sealed shut, leaving him in darkness. Shinji breathed deeply, eyes closed as there was a sudden lurch of motion.

It was just a machine. Just something they needed him to pilot. He was not being sent into the cavernous belly of a great beast.

Then he heard sloshing beneath him, and looked down to see blood flood the plug, the smell of copper assailing his nostrils. A startled yelp escaped him, and he almost fell out of the seat as he inched back.

Light flooded the plug as a holographic vidscreen came up, showing Dr. Akagi's face.

"Shinji, calm down. This is the LCL we discussed earlier. It's an oxygenated fluid. Just stay calm and breathe it in."

The rising tide of LCL stopped for a moment, then renewed with a hum, becoming more transparent as it rapidly engulfed him. Shinji's heart hammered in his chest as he held his breath, writhing. The damn stuff was warm, and somehow far less viscous than water, which only added to the discomfort. The burning in his lungs began to intensify, but he refused to let go.

Then, he felt something strange overcome. Emotion? Not quite. It was something within, yet apart, assuredness and calm that was not his own laying over him like a warm blanket, a firm hand on his shoulder that said "you can do this". For a moment, he thought back to the madness of the Angel's attack, that same not-feeling as he made for the phone.

Closing his eyes, he finally exhaled, gagging as LCL flooded his lungs. It even tasted like blood. Smacking his lips, he took an cautious breath, and found that it was virtually the same as breathing in air.

"I feel sick," he muttered.

"You'll get used to it," Dr. Akagi said. "Beginning synchronization test now."

A moment passed, then there was a sudden stillness in the plug. Shinji felt as though something was beginning to press against him. Not his body, but rather another aspect of his self, like his very existence was being held against another. Colors began to swirl in the plug, and he couldn't tell if it was actually happening or if he was hallucinating.

Phantom sensations raced over him- a twitch of hands that were not his own, cool liquid running over skin that was not his, immense pressure both inside and outside his body. He squirmed in his seat, and a split-second later he felt it race down the body of the Evangelion, a distorted echo of the flesh.

Then the pressure lessened, replaced with a new one that seemed to worm between him and the machine, as if it had been roused from a dream. Again the feeling that was not feeling enveloped Shinji. Curiosity, confusion, creeping concern.

Is sᴏᴍᴇᴏɴᴇ ᴛʜᴇʀᴇ?


The feeling suddenly receded, and the colors began to fade. Shinji relaxed as the phantom sensations died away, just as the plug plunged into darkness.
†​

Misato blinked as the testing center suddenly exploded into activity, windows popping up on all of the computer monitors. She heard Ritsuko swear under her breath, and turned to see her friend hunched over one of the techies' shoulders.

"What do you mean, the A10 connection severed itself?" the scientist demanded.

"Readings were normal right until the moment of borderline contact," the technician, who Misato could've sworn was named Maya, replied. "Then they outright stopped."

"What's happening, Rits?" Misato finally asked. "Is Shinji alright?"

"Shinji's fine," Ritsuko said, running a hand through her hair. "I mean, his vitals are astonishing, but that's not the point. His sync is... well, it's nonexistent."

"...wuh?"

"He managed to briefly reach a sync of 49.1%, then all of a sudden-" Ritsuko snapped her fingers. "Zero. Even someone unable to pilot would still produce some manner of sync."

Misato glanced out the window, down to the massive form of Unit-01. "Maybe the Marduk Institute made a mistake?"

"No," Ritsuko said quickly, then added, "If he's truly unable to even sync, we would have to scrap every single theory related to the Evangelions. Even if he was having a grand mal seizure, or if there were other people in the plug producing static, there would be sync."

"Wait, someone had a seiz-" Misato shook her head. "Well, then it has to be an equipment problem, right?"

Ritsuko opened her mouth, as if to say something, then walked back over to the desk and activated the speaker. "Shinji, we're going to do some more tests. Just stay there."

Looking back at Misato, she nodded. "It has to be that. The Third Child fundamentally has to be able to pilot."

"The Third Child," Fuyutsuki declared some hours later, "is unable to pilot."

If that had any effect on the man sitting across from him, there was no sign. Gendo simply placed down his go piece, then resumed tenting his hands in front of his face. One of his gloves was off, the bandage wrapped about his palm stained red.

"I presume Dr. Akagi has exhausted every means of determining that."

Fuyutsuki nodded, faintly. "It's not even a low sync, but outright zero. That should-"

"Be impossible," Gendo finished. "Yes, I am aware."

A pause.

"Ikari, what are we going to do about this? If Akagi's correct, then the boy's been rejected. The Committee wants an Evangelion with a functioning pilot within the week, now that Gojira has returned, but I don't see what we can do, aside from letting the First pilot."

"As far as the Committee is concerned, the First Child will be unable to pilot until past the deadline established. Hence why they will be forced to transfer the Second Child to our jurisdiction."

"So early?" Fuyutsuki frowned. "We may be pressing things. They'll attempt to kick a fuss over the costs of transferring Unit-02 ahead of schedule."

"Unit-02 will arrive at its intended time," Gendo replied. "We simply need the pilot. If the Third has indeed been rejected, then I imagine the Second will be a suitable replacement."

Fuyutsuki readied to say something, then instead slumped his shoulders and put down his go piece. Gendo quickly replied with a move of his own, and captured three stones.

"In the meantime, the Third will continue to undergo contact tests with Unit-01, and will be treated as a pilot. Biweekly training sessions using AR equipment will also be placed on the itinerary."

Fuyutsuki furrowed his brow. "Ikari, he's been rejected. Wouldn't it be better to send him back? He'd be safe there."

"I am not wholly convinced that the Third has been rejected. At least not permanently. Keeping him here will also assuage the Committee's worry over information about Godzilla's return being leaked to the public."

"Leak...?" Fuyutsuki blinked. "Everyone within a hundred kilometers probably heard him fight the Angel."

"As far as three hundred and forty eight kilometers, actually, depending on terrain," Gendo replied. "Unless the old man's voice got hoarse during his nap, that is. Virtually all of Japan knows by now."

"And it seemed you knew before anyone else," Fuyutsuki said. Despite knowing of all the counter-espionage devices in the office, his voice quieted. "She actually managed to do it?"

"Her link is clearer, now that he's more active, but still not optimal. Doctor Akagi is taking advantage of the recent battle to acquire more material for the First's treatments."

"I also presume any surprise reappearances will be a complete surprise to NERV," Fuyutsuki supplied.

"Yes. Let the old men handle public reactions to any future surfacings." A faint smirk crossed Gendo's face. "I imagine this week will have a spike in heart attack cases."

"Count me among them," Fuyutsuki said, slumping in his chair. "We were too close with the boy. He's lucky to be alive."

Perhaps he imagined the slight tension at that. He decided to press it.

"If we are indeed keeping him here, what shall we do for his living arrangements?"

"Our Operations Director has already proven her usefulness in that regard," was all Gendo said.

"With you," Ritsuko repeated.

"Mahara, you sound like I just told you I'm opening a pink lemonade stand in the LCL production plant," Misato said, her voice echoing in the helmet. "I'm just letting him stay at my place."

"Becoming his legal guardian is not the same as him just crashing on your couch." Ritsuko gestured at Maya to hand her a pincer rod. "Are you sure you can handle taking care of a boy while maintaining your line of work?"

"If I wasn't good at multitasking, I wouldn't have this 'line of work', Rits," Misato retorted. "I can take care of him! He's just a kid."

Ritsuko bit her tongue on that last one. "Well, it's not like I can talk you out of it."

"Nope."

"Just..." she paused, trying to think of how to phrase it. "Report any unusual behavior. For our psych evals."

"Gotcha," Misato said. "See ya, Rits. Try not to grow a third eye while you're there."

The line went dead, and Ritsuko chinned the call button. Maya was returning with a pincer rod, and she took it from her, then used it to pick up a thick glass phial from her supply crate. Holding the rod by the very end, she swung it over the congealed brown blob that had dripped to the street from the crushed rooftop above. Honestly, it was miraculous so little of the town had been destroyed.

"Maya, if you will," she said.

"Understood, sempai," the younger woman said, grabbing a pole of her own with a long scalpel attached. "Ready to make the incision."

"Make it."

She did as told, slicing open the thick 'skin' of the congealed blood. Ritsuko dipped the phial in, then pulled it out. It was much like how volcanologists collected samples in the field, though in this situation it wasn't the heat they had to worry about. Already her dosimeter began to tick up, ever so slightly, as she carefully popped a lid on the phial.

Maya sprayed the sample clean with green decontamination solution, and Ritsuko delicately placed the phial inside a lead-lined crate. For a moment she studied the glass tube, bright red with the blood of a god. Governments had fought and killed and died for a few scant drops -which was usually all there ever was- and now she was tasked with collecting liters of the stuff. The security detail would have hell to pay if a microliter went missing.

"We'll fill three crates, then have the CBRN unit run a torch op," she said to Maya.

"Understood, sempai."

"And be sure to take a chem shower after. This is a Level-2 biohazard."

"I already know, sempai."

Ritsuko grabbed a fresh phial, and swung it back over the congealed blood. Theoretically, there was enough material here for years' worth of serum. Then she thought of who was to receive the serum, and suppressed a shudder.

Whenever Godzilla and humankind intersected, the theoretical may as well have been palm-reading.

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L'Hôte, Part II

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Apr 27, 2022 9:43 am

The sea calls to her.

It sings to her in a language she is not meant to know, plying instincts she is not meant to feel.

And yet, she knows them as well as her own.

It is not her muscles that she feels sliding under someone else's skin, straining with unimaginable power. They were not her scales that welcome the embrace of the cool waters, yet she winces all the same.

He is expanding his senses, honed to a degree no human mind could experience, and yet she still drinks in what he sees, what he hears. He tastes for the foul stench of human ships, listens for their rattling metal.

Feelings swim in a heart that is not hers. Contempt, weariness-

-loneliness-

-giving way to iron determination.

There is work to be done.

To break, to mend, to find.

But he will never find her.

For there is no true her.


"Rei."

A familiar ceiling greeted her, half-obscured by the scratchy and unnecessary gauze on her left eye. She rose to a sitting position, arms to her side.

The Commander stood at the foot of the bed, hands in his jacket pockets. The harsh fluorescent lighting of the hospital room reflected off the lenses of his glasses, obscuring his eyes from sight, yet she could feel his piercing stare all the same. The room was silent, save for the incessant beeping of useless machines.

"Status report," he said.

She straightened. "He is swimming towards Old Tokyo."

"He intends on cleaning the fallout, then. Has he attempted to contact the others again?"

"As of yet, he has not."

"You will inform me when he does so." He paused. "The Third has arrived."

"There was someone new in the medical wing. Was it him?"

"Find that answer for yourself," he said.

She did not ponder the odd nature of the request. She reached out, and distance was no object as she traced the thread she had felt earlier and found a young boy at the other end. He was in a car with Major Katsuragi, a backpack in his lap as he studied the glittering skyline of the city, bathed in the glow of the afternoon sun.

Deep reaches into a mind could be noticed, but the surface impressions were enough for her. Confusion, exhaustion, loneliness, all filtered through youth, peppered with deeper memories- practicing a cello alone in a room, the whirring of a tape player. For a moment, she thought there was something else, but the impression was already gone.

"It is the Third," she said.

"That is good," the Commander said, his tone different from before. When he spoke again, however, it was back to normal. "In time you will meet him. You may find his scent off-putting."

"I cannot be put off." It was not an assertion, as far as she knew.

The Commander smiled imperceptibly. "Excellent. You will be discharged tomorrow, after receiving another injection. The dressings and cast will stay on for another week. You are to continue your observations on the Leviathan."

"I will not fail you."

"No." He adjusted his glasses, and now she could see his tired eyes. "You won't."

Without another word, he left the room. She watched him go, blankly, then laid back down on the bed. Closing her eyes, she breathed in deeply.

I do not exist. I cannot feel, for there is no I. I am not I.

She repeated the mantra, over and over, until once more she could feel cool water against skin that was not her own.

The apartment door slid open with a soft sound, and Misato stepped through, before turning to face him.

"Well, aren't you coming in?" she asked, hands on her hips.

Shinji stared at the metal line in the floor, the division between the concrete hallway and the tile of Miss Misato's apartment. Except it was no longer just her apartment, now. It was his as well, or at least that was what she had been insisting.

He stepped through, and despite himself felt a small and awkward smile come upon him.

"I'm home," he said, more to convince himself than anything else.

"And with that, I'm back out again," Misato said. "Godzilla showing back up makes a pile of paperwork almost as tall as he is, and guess who has to go through all of it?"

"You?"

"Cute and smart," she said. "Yeah, you're definitely a keeper."

"Um?"

"I'm just teasing. Goddess, this is too easy." She walked past him, giving him a pat on the shoulder. "I probably won't be back until midnight, if I'm lucky. There's some food in the fridge, but feel free to order takeout if you want. We'll do a proper housewarming tomorrow."

"Thank you again, Miss Misato," he said, bowing his head.

"Don't be so polite. We're roomies now!" She ducked out into the hallway, then popped her head back in. "Oh, and there might be a little mess. I just moved in last week. See ya!"

The door shut, and Shinji was alone in the apartment. At least, he was eighty percent sure he was alone. Maybe seventy. Slouching a little, he walked down the hallway and surveyed the kitchen. Or rather, the sea of used laundry and empty beer cans that called itself a kitchen.

"This is a little mess?" he mumbled to himself.

Hedorah would've had to order a doggie bag for the leftovers after trying to eat the contents of this kitchen. The long-gone brako would have taken one look at the mountains of trash and decided that operations director was too low a station for Misato, that she must've been the Thousand-Year Empress of the planet Earth-

He blinked. He had no idea what a brako was, or how long-gone they were, or why they would've decided to make Misato an Empress. He pressed his fingers against where the wound had been, and closed his eyes, trying in vain to recall where that thought had come from. It gnawed at him, familiar yet so different, as if it was not his own.

Shinji pushed it aside. For now, he had more immediate concerns- there was no way he was going to eat in a kitchen this filthy. Taking care to not step on anything, he made his way through the kitchen, through the living room -only slightly less filthy- and finally found one of the spare rooms Misato had told him was his. Dropping off his backpack, he then tiptoed back to the kitchen and rummaged around until he found the trash bags.

Flapping one open with a flourish, he set to work, starting with clearing off the table. Empty takeout containers, candy bar wrappers, and beer cans -so many beer cans- quickly filled the bag as he got to work, and he soon tied it off and grabbed another empty bag. As he turned back to the table, however, he paused, frowning slightly.

He'd cleaned it off much faster than he was expecting. Sure, he'd been feeling a bit more energetic than usual, but when he looked at the clock, he saw it hadn't even been a minute, and he didn't recall actually grabbing all that much. Cautiously, he opened up the new bag, and started clearing the trash off the floor, not bothering to look at the sack itself.

Then, before he knew it, the bag was full once more, and now he began to get suspicious. He couldn't have picked up more than a dozen pieces of garbage, yet now a huge swath of the floor was clean. Slowly, he tied it off, and this time as he opened the new bag he was sure to look at it as he put trash in. One, two, three, four, five cans.

There were five cans in the bag. Maybe he was just imagining things.

He looked back to his work, but decided to keep counting as he picked wrappers and boxes off the floor. One, two, three, four-

He swore he saw something move in his peripheral vision, and he turned, but nothing was there. Quite literally- the floor was clean, now, and when he looked into the bag he saw that it was full yet again. He didn't even recall getting to work on those parts of the room yet.

Dropping the bag, he pressed his fingers into his temple again. Maybe seventy percent was too optimistic.

This had to be the least impressive pursuit she'd ever been in. She could remember how she could run in her youth, strong legs pumping as she scaled rocky hills alongside her father, searching for remains of prehistoric times, both dead and terrifyingly alive. Now, she could barely manage a swift walk up a polished stone path, traitorous knees screaming at her.

All the more frustrating was that she could see her old man up ahead, close enough that he was obviously hearing her increasingly exasperated calls. For a man who'd turned 108 two months ago, he still trudged forward with determination akin to a child who'd seen a candy store up ahead. For as long as she could remember, he'd always been like this when he saw something that piqued his curiosity, whether it be a strange piece of shale or the footprints of a monster from the Permian era.

Still, he was old man, and the damned tweed jacket he wore no matter the weather had to be nightmarish in this summer heat. Wiping the sweat from her forehead, she pulled out her phone to call medical services, only to see that the cell was down. Swearing, she pocketed the useless thing and tried to redouble her pace.

Her father finally reached the top of the hill, then sat down on a particularly large boulder. A few minutes later, Emiko finally reached him, panting.

Kyohei looked over, brows raised. "Oh, Emiko! I didn't know you decided to join me. Did you bring the tea?"

Her reply was to give him a half-hearted slap on his shoulder.

"Crazy old fool!" she gasped. "You scared me!"

"Ah, no tea," he said, sounding quite disappointed. He scooted over, slapping the boulder. "Come sit with me."

Emiko hesitated for a moment, then plopped down next to him, rubbing her knees. Kyohei took off his old walking cap and put it on her head, as he had done for nearly eighty years.

"Don't want you to get a sunburn," he said, absentmindedly. His eyes scanned the horizon.

"As soon as I catch my breath, you're coming back to the house with me, and I'm calling the doctor," Emiko panted. "You're too old for this, father."

"I'm not going back until I see him," he replied. He glanced over. "I know you heard it, Emiko. It was him."

"You don't know th-" she cut herself off. If anyone alive would know, it was the two of them. "Even if it is him, what makes you think he'd come here?"

"The old man can't resist cleaning up our messes," Kyohei said, gesturing out to the broken city before them. "And we've certainly made a mess of things over the years."

He frowned. "I've heard whispers of some particular messes, ones I pray are not true. I worried they would be too much for us."

Emiko chewed her lower lip, studying her father's face as he continued to peer at the horizon. It hit her, then. He was excited, a barely-constrained glee clear in his eyes. It was something she hadn't seen since the waves.

And so, she sat with him, occasionally looking towards the ruins of Old Tokyo, but more to him. Despite the creaking in her knees and the pounding in her chest, it was easy to think she were a younger woman, watching the city lights with her father and Ogata and Shinkichi...

She closed her eyes, a long sigh escaping her.

She didn't know how much time passed before she heard it. At first, her mind wandered to the times she spent huddled away, listening to the incessant din of American bombs. Quickly, however, she realized what they were.

Her eyes darted open, and she instinctively reached for her father's hand, squeezing tight. She knew what she was going to see, and yet she still sucked in a gasp.

He was there. He was so far away, so small, enough that she could have obscured him with an outstretched hand, yet the way he dwarfed the ruins around him dispelled the illusion.

There he strode, each step made in mockery of all the claims of his death, all the memorials and the celebrations. A faint scar on his chest, shaped like a broken cross, was the only mark of the passing years, the only concession he made.

He surveyed the broken city, head held high, and for a moment she swore his gaze fell upon them. Her grip on her father's hand tightened.

He was alive. Defiantly so.

A soft sound drew her attention back to her father, and she saw that his eyes were brimming with tears. His face was dreadfully pale, and yet a smile crossed it, a genuine smile she hadn't seen in years.

He looked to her, and took her hand in his.

"It's all right," he said, a tremble in his voice. "It's going to be all right."

Then Dr. Yamane closed his eyes, and never opened them again.

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L'Hôte, Part III

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Sun May 01, 2022 7:44 pm

His feet sank into warm mud as he trudged forward, occasionally crushing abandoned vehicles or fallen towers underneath. Each thunderous footstep brought weakened structures tumbling down, leaving only dust and rubble as evidence of their short existences.

Memories were strong here, aeons and moments layered atop another, themselves laid over the land. He was old when this island was young, when it was not even an island, but merely a piece of the unbroken land of his earliest memories. He had fought countless battles here, even before the humans had claimed it as their own.

He realized his gaze had been absently drawn to a particular part of the ruins, close to the water. Before he could stop himself, he marched towards it, bowling over decaying skyscrapers that dared to stand in his way. Coming to a stop, he looked down, and saw what had once been a small home. It was nothing more than drowned foundations, now.

Miki had lived here, when she was not with him. Memories that were not his welled up in the back of his mind- the smell of the stewing vegetables, the laughter of a child, the sight of a glittering metropolis in the rain. They had become more distant, cold.

He'd known that she was gone for some time, along with her offspring and so many others, and yet he felt a fresh ache in his chest. At times, it felt as though she was still in his heart, only to fade.

He turned away, and continued his march inland. Sometimes, he paused at a particular spot as memories became stronger. Miki had loved this human settlement, and even told him its name. Tokyo.

It meant nothing to him. However, apparently he had meant something to it. The old stomping grounds, the inhabitants had wryly called their home. He had no love for their polluting and destructive ways, but their refusal to leave it had been something he could almost respect. It'd been the epicenter of many battles, but it endured it all. Even when the smaller creature had leveled the city, or when the golden one itself had come to lay waste, they simply rebuilt and pushed on.

But now, there was nothing but a tumbled expanse of rubble and mud. After countless invasions and attacks by monsters beyond imagination, it'd ultimately been themselves that'd broken their resolve.

He came to a stop before the twisted remnants of the great red tower, the only thing left that was taller than him. The fire that gave him life was rich in this area, tingling against his skin. Eyes closed, he willed it towards himself, heat running down his spine as power flooded into his veins. In mere minutes, the land was as pristine as it had once been.

He looked around the ruins once again, a low rumble escaping him. Rejuvenation of the body and restoration of the land- that was why he had come here. Nothing more.

Liar, Miki would say.

Turning around, he began the march back to sea, having given Tokyo one last gift.

Gendo sometimes ruminated on the absurdity of the fantastic becoming the mundane- considering his line of work, he had more experience than most in that regard. There was a time where a clandestine meeting in the heart of an underground base, each member disguised with holographic monoliths evocative of that which had made their historic efforts possible, would have been surreal, terrifying. Now, he found it just as trite and soul-sucking as the faculty meetings he once attended in university.

"The Leviathan wakes," Kihl said, hidden behind the inscrutable mask of his monolith. "He has risen from the half-dead seas like a phoenix from the ashes."

"He has survived the passing of the world before," Gendo said, his face a mask of its own. "There was no reason to assume this passing was his last."

"If only that were so," SEELE 04 said. "I fear his power may yet be too great for Man to tame. There may come the time where we shall need to cull him."

"If it is possible," SEELE 06 retorted.

"Anticipation would serve us better than antagonism." Gendo glanced between the monoliths. "His is the way of the storm. We need fear only a guiding hand."

"I have confidence in your ability to avoid the path of the storm, Ikari," Kihl said. "However, I expect you to continue your research, should the need to meet the storm head-on be made known."

"Of course."

"There is another matter." Gendo could hear the creaking as Kihl leaned into his microphone. "The Third Child's inability to pilot."

"I would say this is more concerning than even the Leviathan's resurgence," SEELE 02 said. "This may very well render our efforts to acquire more pilots impossible, and when we are still without a pilot for Unit-01, a possible death knell."

"This whole matter should be impossible," Kihl added. "Unless there are factors we are unaware of."

It was a pointed comment. Gendo was sure to choose his words carefully.

"We are still researching the matter. The exact cause is unknown, but we are confident that it shall not hamper the findings of the Marduk Institute. Should the Third Child be found truly unable to pilot, the Second Child can take his place. Therefore, I am requesting her transfer."

"I think your confidence may be misplaced, if you have not yet found the cause," SEELE 04 said.

"Hmm." There was a pause, then Kihl said, "Done. However, there is still the matter of the boy himself."

"If he is unable to pilot for the reason we theorize, then he shall play no part in our scenario," Gendo said. "There is nothing to fear from him."

In his new room, Shinji stirred.

With near-dramatic flourish he threw the thin cover off himself and spread his limbs, staring at the ceiling. Misato apparently loved to put the air conditioning on blast, yet he felt as though he was roasting in an oven, sweat soaking through his nightshirt. It seemed the newfound vitality of earlier in the day was not to last.

The thought gave him pause. Sitting up on his sleeping mat, he leaned over and grabbed his school uniform, staring at the hole in the breast pocket. No charred fabric, no ash, and yet it was as though something had burned through it, without burning him. The strange thing he found had been there- there was no doubt it was responsible. But where had it gone?

He threw the white shirt against the wall, then laid back down on the mat, running a hand through his damp hair. It felt like he should know the answer, yet it was lost on him, like forgetting something he'd never learned. That went for so many things- the incident in the entry plug, the idea that was not his, and above all the mystery of his recovery.

For the hundredth time that day he pressed his fingers into his temple, teeth gritted. He could still remember the blood, the dull ache and the alarming absence of pain that followed. It had been bad enough that Misato had thought he was going to die, yet now there was not even a scab. Even Dr. Akagi had been surprised at how quickly it had healed.

A tremble came over him as he thought of the strange dream, of the boy across from him in the train, and again the feelings that were not his made themselves known, as though something or someone was rousing from their sleep. Maybe he himself never did. Maybe he was in a coma from a traumatic head injury, or even-

Nᴏ


He froze. Who'd said that?

I ᴅɪᴅ


Shinji turned on the mat, and saw that someone was standing over him, half-hidden in the shadows. Yet he could still recognize the blue eyes and mop of black hair that framed a delicate face, so familiar and yet so alien. The feeling that was not his own receded, returned to its boundaries once and for all as the sleeping presence awakened.

"You," he whispered.

The boy from the train smiled.

Hᴇʟʟᴏ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ​


He didn't say it, and neither did Shinji see anything. It was as though the words simply manifested into existence, making themselves known.

"Who are you?"

The boy's smile faltered.

Mᴇ? I ᴀᴍ ɴᴏ ᴏɴᴇ​


"Then... what are you?"

Pʀᴏᴛᴇᴄᴛᴏʀ. Wᴀʀʀɪᴏʀ. Gᴜᴀʀᴅɪᴀɴ. Mᴀɴʏ ᴛɪᴛʟᴇs ᴀᴄʀᴏss ᴍᴀɴʏ ᴡᴏʀʟᴅs​


"Many worlds," Shinji repeated. "That means..."

Yᴇs​


He suddenly felt very cold despite the feverish heat of before. In a moment, the sky had been opened, and the world became so much smaller. What could he say in the face of such a thing? He was not a poet, or a holy man or scientist. He was the wrong person to be in this historic moment.

I ᴅɪsᴀɢʀᴇᴇ​


Shinji started. "How did you hear me?"

Tʜᴇ ʙᴀʀʀɪᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴏᴜʀ ʜᴇᴀʀᴛs ᴀʀᴇ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ᴡᴇᴀᴋᴇʀ ᴛʜᴀɴ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀs

"You've done this before?"

I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴏ ᴘʜʏsɪᴄᴀʟ ғᴏʀᴍ. Iᴛ ɪs ᴏɴʟʏ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ ᴀ ʙᴏɴᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀɴᴏᴛʜᴇʀ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴍʏ ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ ᴄᴀɴ ʙᴇ ɢʀᴀɴᴛᴇᴅ ᴀɢᴇɴᴄʏ.

"Bond?"

Wʜᴇʀᴇ ᴛʜᴇ Tᴡᴏ ʙᴇᴄᴏᴍᴇ ᴛʜᴇ Oɴᴇ. Tᴡᴏ sᴏᴜʟs, sʜᴀʀɪɴɢ ᴏɴᴇ ʙᴏᴅʏ. Yᴏᴜʀ ᴡɪʟʟ ᴀɴᴅ ʜᴇᴀʀᴛ, ᴍʏ ᴋɴᴏᴡʟᴇᴅɢᴇ ᴀɴᴅ ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ. I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴅᴏɴᴇ ᴛʜɪs ᴄᴏᴜɴᴛʟᴇss ᴛɪᴍᴇs ᴏɴ ᴄᴏᴜɴᴛʟᴇss ᴡᴏʀʟᴅs. Iɴᴄʟᴜᴅɪɴɢ ᴛʜɪs ᴏɴᴇ, ʟᴏɴɢ ᴀɢᴏ.

"But then something went wrong, this time around. Because..." Shinji rubbed his temple. "You had to heal me."

Yᴇs. Yᴏᴜ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴀʟʟ ʙᴜᴛ ᴅᴇᴀᴅ ᴡʜᴇɴ I ʙᴏɴᴅᴇᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ʏᴏᴜ.

"And now I'm perfectly fine," Shinji breathed, eyes wide. "I'm alive thanks to you."

Oɴʟʏ ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ I ᴡᴀs ᴀʙʟᴇ ᴛᴏ ɢɪᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀ ʟɪғᴇ ᴛᴏ ʀᴇᴘʟᴀᴄᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ʏᴏᴜ ʟᴏsᴛ. Mɪɴᴇ.

"What?"

My life is now yours. Should I break our bond now, I shall perish.

"How long will it be before you can leave?"

I do not know. All I know is that your world is in danger.

"You mean the Angels that Miss Misato was talking about."

The creature? Perhaps. I do not know what the danger is, but I do know that my presence on this world is still required. I am pulled to those who need me, like gravity, and still I feel bound here.

"That's what you were talking about earlier, with your power," Shinji supplied. "You give someone what they need to save the day."

Yes. Should you choose, my power shall become your power. Together, we can fight for peace and prosperity for your people.

Shinji averted his eyes. The weight about him grew heavier, pressing in on his skin, suffocating, crushing.

"I can't. I'm... I can't thank you enough for what you did, but I'm not who you're looking for."

I know I ask much of you, Shinji.

"You're asking too much!" he blurted out, then recoiled. "I didn't ask for this. I don't want to be a part of this."

We do not get only that which we ask for. All we can do is learn how to still forge our paths through life with what we are given.

"But why me?" Shinji asked. "Why did you pick me?"

I didn't.

Shinji looked back to the apparition. The phantom reflection had a knowing, amused smile on their face.

I found you, just as much as you found me. And all my years of learned life tell me it is because you needed me, just as I needed you, even if neither of us know why.

"But now you're stuck here with me. That's the opposite of what you need." Shinji rolled to his side. "Maybe you shouldn't have bonded with me."

It was my life to give. I made that choice freely, Shinji, to save your life, and I would make it again.

"But I'm nobody," Shinji whispered. "No one would've cared if I died."

"I would've cared," a voice so much like his own said.

The words hit him like a slap to the face. Shinji turned to look at the apparition again, tears beginning to well in his eyes. They meant it. They really meant it.

"Know this, Shinji Ikari," the phantom reflection said. "I shall never force your hand in a matter. Should you choose to do nothing, I shall do nothing as well, until I am able to safely leave you be and find a willing host."

"And if I actually choose to do something?"

"Then you will have the power to save the world."

The apparition had something clutched in their hand, now, and they let it drop. Shinji reflexively reached out and caught it, and he saw it was the same object that hit him in the head.

"A symbol of your decision, when you make it. Should you agree to accept my power, you would not be my puppet. You would be my partner, my equal, my guiding hand."

Shinji looked at the strange capsule, then back to the apparition.

"Thank you."

"For what?"

"For everything," Shinji replied, haltingly. "For... for saving me. And for giving me a choice."

He weighed the capsule in his hand. "So what happens now?"

"Now, you get some rest. You have a busy time ahead of you."

The apparition disappeared, and Shinji saw that his hand was empty, now. He curled his fingers over his palm, then pulled the sheet over him and rolled to his side. The feverish heat was gone completely, and now Shinji felt dead tired, his eyelids leaden. It wasn't long before sleep found him.

In her own bed, Rei laid with closed eyes, but she did not dream. Even in sleep she had a duty to fulfill.

Thousands of tons of seawater cascade off iron-hard scales, as broad feet begin to press against the warm sand of a beach. The shoreline is still a shadow of its former self, saplings eagerly reaching for the sky among the broken timbers of their progenitors. Moonlight bathes the land in hues of silver, glittering on the waves.

The ruins of the human presence still linger- crumbled concrete walls and observation posts and maser emitters mar the coast. He is sure to take a meandering path that involves trampling them underfoot as he marches into the heart of the island, up the slope of the highest of the three peaks that separates the two halves.

She can feel the weight pulling at him as he climbs, one not of the flesh, for he is mighty. It only grows stronger as he ascends the peak, surveying the broken kingdom below. Then, she feels her ribs creak as he inhales deeply, and lets out a mighty cry. An ancient sound, a roar that had scattered armies and made so-called gods turn tail.

This time, however, it is not a challenge. It is a beckoning, the howl of a wolf calling for its pack. It is a call he has made time and time again, since the shattering of the world, and it is a call he shall make long after this one.

And just as time and time before, there is no answer.

†​

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シン・Leviathan, Chapter Two: L'Hôte

Thuktun Flishithy
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New Arrivals, Part I

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Mon May 09, 2022 11:41 am

Let us not kid ourselves and claim that we have long-since answered the burning question of whether or not we are alone in the universe. Our star-scattered brethren are virtually identical to us genetically-speaking, with variation no greater between us and them than the variation between any terrestrial ethnic group. To call them alien is as absurd as the Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia calling the Swedish aliens.

Neither can we say with any certainty that the Mysterians, Xiliens, or Simeons were relocated to their worlds by some unknown extraterrestrial party, with the revelation of the archaic civilization that had ruled the now-submerged flatlands of the Indies more than seventy thousand years before Christ, possessing anachronistic knowledge and technologies whose heights -and limits- we still know nearly nothing about.

Even the nature of those purported animals and kaiju from space is inconclusive. The elusive Ymir, the various strains of Yog and Dogora, even dreaded King Ghidorah; all of them possess at least in part features eerily similar to terrestrial animals, whether it be the structure of their eyes, or mitochondria analogues in their DNA-organized cells. Whether these are merely examples of convergent evolution, or evidence that these creatures are misplaced and mutated specimens much like our star-kin, remains unclear.

I do not believe we have met aliens yet. But it is my hope that we shall one day, and that meeting shall be wondrous as our most hopeful writers have dreamed.


- Dr. Akio Kinjo, Discussions on Xenology, 1987

She knew she was syncing well when her own body felt like the foreign one.

Though the plug was always heated to body temperature, she felt cold. The LCL of the cage was frigid, and she was up to her shoulders in the stuff, keenly aware of it seeping between her armor plates and her skin. She welcomed the chill, for it deadened the dull ache in her joints, an ache so deep it seemed to be rooted in her very bones.

Her bones, not the Eva's, for in that moment they were one and the same, and it was the fragile little body in the plug that did not feel like her own. It was not her heart that beat against her ribs, but that of some tiny and unwanted creature, a parasite in her chest that clutched puppeteer's strings with unfeeling hands. It was weak, feeble.

She was strong. She was mighty. And by God, she was going to show the whole world just how strong she was.

"52%, Asuka," a tinny voice said. "New personal record. I think we can call this session for the day."

Reluctantly, she retreated away from the Eva, slipping back into familiar skin as she nodded. "Understood."

The plug sank into darkness, and once again she was Asuka Langley Sohryu. With a hiss, the LCL in the plug began to drain, and she felt heavy as she was forced to support her whole body weight again. Soaked red hair clung to her neck and shoulders as she leaned over in her seat with closed eyes, and got the LCL out of her lungs in a well-practiced hack.

Sucking in the cool air, she disembarked -certainly not clambered- out of the plug, meticulously squeezing excess LCL out of her hair. Without waiting for updates or permission from the testing director, she began her walk to the locker room, long and confident strides like a queen strolling through her palace. And much like a queen, no one dared to meet her gaze as she passed by engineers and paper-pushers, a trail of red droplets following her. Someone else would clean that up.

She spent about half an hour under the near-scalding shower, methodically lathering her hair with a veritable beauty aisle's worth of artisanal shampoos and conditioners. LCL actually worked wonders for her hair and skin, but it also smelled like freshly-spilled blood, so every picogram of the stuff had to be purged and replaced with the fragrance of lavender or nectarine blossom.

The A-10 nerve clips stayed on, however. She had to advertise she was an Eva pilot somehow, after all.

The Berlin weather was always on the colder side since Second Impact, but the sundress she had bought for her eventual transfer to Tokyo-3 was too beautiful to not wear, and so she dealt with the chill as she marched between buildings of the massive facility. She liked the cobblestone trails that snaked between groves of transplanted maples- it reminded her of college.

Her quarters was a two-story condo that was meant for four people, cloistered away from the main facility. Kaji lived in the one next to hers- she was sure to knock on his door, but it seemed he was still out for work, and she fought to not slump her shoulders as she marched over to her own quarters.

The door shut behind her with a click, and her posture relaxed. Slipping off her shoes, she walked over to her small office where she'd done the majority of her studying and essay writing for university, the walls packed with books on applied metaphysics and engineering and advanced biology. Plopping into her chair, she opened her laptop and checked her emails.

Right on time, she'd received her harmonics report from the lab, as requested. She preferred to read over her own data- after all, she knew herself better than anyone else, and she had the training and academic know-how to parse it.

Her lips pursed into a slight frown as she read the data. 52% was indeed a new high, but not as high as it should have been. Her sync had increased rather steadily ever since she had started training all those years ago, but the past few months it had seemed to plateau, taking weeks to go from 51.5 to 52, when during that same timespan she'd gone from 12% to 19% when she was eight.

The only consolation was that it seemed the First Child was faring no better, even before her hospitalization in her most recent test with Unit-00. Then again, she was always rather abysmal, so perhaps a comparison between the two was not encouraging.

What was rather frustrating was that there was still nothing on the Third Child, even though he had apparently killed an Angel already despite only recently being identified by the Marduk Institute, a fact that rankled her to no end. No harmonics data, no footage of the combat, not even a picture of her mysterious competitor.

Shutting her laptop, she leaned back in her seat, then got up and walked over to her couch and plopped down, arms and legs splayed out. She stared at the ceiling for a short time, then sat up and perused her tape collection. There was a documentary series on the Second Korean War she still hadn't watched yet, but something told her that the content would all be old news to her at best, or inaccurate drivel at worst.

When a knock came at her door she bolted upright and dashed over, then stopped. Pausing a few seconds, she then calmly opened the door. A familiar face greeted her, one with an easygoing grin and just the right amount of stubble to make him all the more alluring.

"Kaji!" she said excitedly, opening the door more widely.

"Afternoon," he said warmly, stepping inside. "Heard you broke a new sync-test record."

"The previous one being my own, of course," she said. She planted a hand on her hip and leaned against the wall, fluttering her eyelashes. "The problem with being the best is that your only competition is yourself."

Kaji didn't seem to register her posture, instead handing her a thick manila envelope covered in half a dozen anti-espionage stickers and labels that screamed 'TOP SECRET'. Scowling, she stood straight and took the envelope, opening it up like it was just a memo from the office two cubicles down. A notice directed to her caught her attention, and she read.

"Already?" she asked, once she was done.

"You're taking a shuttle flight there next week," answered Kaji.

"But how are they going to transport Unit-02? She's not even ready to..." her eyes widened as it clicked. "No. They can't be serious."

"NERV needs you to pilot Unit-01 for the interim." Kaji stuck his hands in his pockets, stance apologetic. "There's no telling when the next Angel attack is going to be, and you're the only acceptable countermeasure."

"They already have a pilot for that hunk of junk," Asuka retorted. "Apparently the glorious Third Child already bagged an Angel too, so why do they need me?"

Kaji took the unlit cigarette out of his mouth. The grin was gone. "The Third Child didn't kill the Angel. Actually, apparently he's been having trouble syncing with Unit-01."

She snorted. "So he's a wash."

"He's not currently an option for NERV."

"Alright, so then the First Child recovered enough to do it."

"You don't get what I'm saying, Asuka," Kaji said, and she realized he was actually sounding a little uneasy. "The Eva didn't kill the Angel."

He gestured to the envelope, and Asuka dug out the thick report that was also ensconced within. Her eyes widened as she flipped through the pages, and saw a grainy photograph of something that shouldn't have been possible, blasting the Angel's arm clean off with atomic hellfire.

The Hunter of Hunters. The King of the Monsters. The terror of the old world, resurgent.

She looked back to Kaji. "I thought he bit it in Second Impact."

"So did everyone else," he said. "Turns out he was just on vacation. I think you can appreciate why you're suddenly needed- things just got a lot more complicated for us, and a lot more dangerous."

"I can handle dangerous," she said, tilting her head up.

"He killed the Angel in under two minutes, Asuka," Kaji said.

"And I could've done it in under one," she said. Her eyes narrowed. "What, you think I can't handle some overgrown lizard?"

He shot her a look, and her glare intensified. Instead, he simply sighed.

"Just keep it in mind, in case you have to deal with that overgrown lizard. NERV is in bad shape, and you're our only line of defense right now. Not just against Angels now, but any more kaiju that pop up."

"All because the Marduk Institute made a mistake picking that washout," she said, glowering. "Now I have to go and pilot his Eva for him."

"I wouldn't have anyone else doing it," Kaji said, the grin returning. "Think of it as having no competition."

Her glare dissipated, and she smiled again. "Well, I do suppose I still would've been needed, even if the Third could pilot."

"And I'm needed down at the office again," Kaji said, offering a small wave as he opened the door.

"Wait, you aren't staying?" she asked. She batted her eyelashes again. "We could review the files together, maybe get dinner at that Spanish place."

"I need to review the rest of the command staff here on it, and they're not as smart as you, so they definitely need the help," he said. "See you around, kid."

"But-" she protested.

He stepped out and shut the door behind him. Asuka's shoulders slumped, and she plodded towards the couch, sitting down.

"I'm not a kid," she whispered.

She glared at the file in her hand, then tossed it to the side. Standing back up, she marched towards one of her other libraries, rooting through the more dusty tomes until she found the binder containing archived reports on the US's initial attempts to kill Godzilla in the fifties. They were the bedrock of anti-kaiju studies, after all.

Sitting on the floor, she began to read. She couldn't believe Kaji thought it was too dangerous for her. Godzilla was a dinosaur of the old century. Literally a dinosaur. He was only scary to old farts who didn't understand an iota of solenoid mechanics or applied metaphysics.

And she was going to prove it. By God, she was going to prove it.

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New Arrivals, Part II

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Mon Jun 13, 2022 10:52 am

Shinji stirred, and his eyes opened to an unfamiliar ceiling.

For a few moments he did nothing but stare at it, eyes focused on nothing in particular. There was a window to the right of him, and he drank in the warm morning light that seemed to almost flow like honey into the room. For a short time, he could forget the events of the past day, forget the world outside, and simply bask in the sun.

I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ғᴇʟᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ʟɪɢʜᴛ ᴏғ ᴀ ᴛʜᴏᴜsᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴏᴜsᴀɴᴅ sᴜɴs, ᴀɴᴅ ʏᴇᴛ sᴛɪʟʟ I ᴇᴀɢᴇʀʟʏ ᴀᴡᴀɪᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴀʀᴇss ᴏғ ᴀ ɴᴇᴡ ᴏɴᴇ. Nᴏ ᴛᴡᴏ ғᴇᴇʟ ᴀʟɪᴋᴇ.

Then it all came back to Shinji.

"I almost thought it was just a dream," he murmured.

Mᴀɴʏ ʜᴀᴠᴇ sᴀɪᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʙᴇғᴏʀᴇ. I ᴀᴍ... ᴀᴡᴀʀᴇ, ᴏғ ʜᴏᴡ ʜᴀʀᴅ ɪᴛ ᴄᴀɴ ʙᴇ ғᴏʀ ᴏɴᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴀᴄᴄᴇᴘᴛ ᴍʏ ᴠᴇʀʏ ᴇxɪsᴛᴇɴᴄᴇ.

"Well, I guess I have to start accepting now, if you're stuck with me for a while."

Shinji sat up on his mat, rubbing his eyes out of reflex, even though he didn't feel groggy in the slightest. It was still strange to not feel any of the little aches and fatigue he'd been accustomed to his entire life. At the very least, it seemed he'd have some great nights of sleep ahead of him.

Mᴀʏ I sᴇᴇ ɪᴛ?

"See what?"

Tʜᴇ sᴜɴʀɪsᴇ.

Shinji blinked. "Oh."

Turning his head, he stared out the window. The sun was still rising above the mountains, warm orange light peeking through clouds and dancing across the treetops, while the valleys stayed sunken in shadow. Compared to the sight of the glittering city last night, this was comfortable, familiar- he could almost pretend he was living back in the countryside with his teacher, in the small house atop the small hill.

Bᴇᴀᴜᴛɪғᴜʟ.

"I can't imagine it compares to some of the things you've seen."

Wʜʏ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ɪᴛ ɴᴏᴛ? A G2V sᴛᴀʀ ᴀ ʜᴜɴᴅʀᴇᴅ ᴀɴᴅ ғɪғᴛʏ ᴍɪʟʟɪᴏɴ ᴋɪʟᴏᴍᴇᴛᴇʀs ᴀᴡᴀʏ ɪs ɪʟʟᴜᴍɪɴᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴀ ᴛᴇʀʀᴇsᴛʀɪᴀʟ ᴘʟᴀɴᴇᴛ ʟᴀʀɢᴇ ᴇɴᴏᴜɢʜ ᴛᴏ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴀ ɴᴇᴀʀ-ғʟᴀᴛ ʜᴏʀɪᴢᴏɴ, ɪᴛs ʟɪɢʜᴛ Rᴀʏʟᴇɪɢʜ-sᴄᴀᴛᴛᴇʀɪɴɢ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ ᴀɴ ᴀᴛᴍᴏsᴘʜᴇʀᴇ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀ ᴘʀᴇssᴜʀᴇ ᴏғ ᴏɴᴇ ʙᴀʀ ᴀɴᴅ ᴀ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴏsɪᴛɪᴏɴ ᴏғ sᴇᴠᴇɴᴛʏ-ᴇɪɢʜᴛ ᴘᴇʀᴄᴇɴᴛ ɴɪᴛʀᴏɢᴇɴ ᴀɴᴅ ᴛᴡᴇɴᴛʏ ᴘᴇʀᴄᴇɴᴛ ᴏxʏɢᴇɴ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʟɪɢʜᴛ ɪs ɴᴏᴡ ɢɪᴠɪɴɢ sᴜsᴛᴇɴᴀɴᴄᴇ ᴛᴏ ʟɪғᴇ ɪᴛsᴇʟғ, ʟɪғᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴜsᴇs ғᴏᴜʀ DNA ʙᴀsᴇs ᴀɴᴅ ʜᴀs ɢɪᴠᴇɴ ʀɪsᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴀ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ.

The voice seemed to become more subdued. Tʜᴇʀᴇ ɪs ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴇʟsᴇ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴜɴɪᴠᴇʀsᴇ ᴏ̨ᴜɪᴛᴇ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛʜɪs sᴜɴʀɪsᴇ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ.

"Well, I guess when you put it like that..." He fell quiet, and took in the sunrise again, for what felt like the first time.

Sɪᴍᴘʟʏ sᴜʙʟɪᴍᴇ. I ʜᴀᴅ ᴍɪssᴇᴅ ᴀɴ ᴏᴘᴘᴏʀᴛᴜɴɪᴛʏ ᴛᴏ sᴇᴇ ᴛʜɪs ᴛʜᴇ ʟᴀsᴛ ᴛɪᴍᴇ.

"Wait, you've been to Earth before?"

Yᴇs.

Shinji hugged his knees to his chest. "It must've been a long time ago if no one remembers you."

Bʏ ʏᴏᴜʀ sᴛᴀɴᴅᴀʀᴅs, ʏᴇs. Tɪᴍᴇ ᴍᴏᴠᴇs ᴅɪғғᴇʀᴇɴᴛʟʏ ᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜᴏᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴜɴɪᴠᴇʀsᴇ, ʙᴜᴛ ғᴏʀ ʏᴏᴜ, ɪᴛ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ'ᴠᴇ ʙᴇᴇɴ ᴛᴇɴs ᴏғ ᴛʜᴏᴜsᴀɴᴅs ᴏғ ʏᴇᴀʀs ᴀɢᴏ.

"I can't imagine being that old," he murmured.

Oʜ, I ᴀᴍ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ᴏʟᴅᴇʀ ᴛʜᴀɴ ᴛʜᴀᴛ.

There was a sound of a door sliding open, and Shinji turned away from the window in time to see Misato peek her head into the room, a curious look on her face. In stark contrast to how he felt, she looked like death warmed over, with bags under her eyes and frizzy hair.

"Who are you talking to?"

Shinji turned very still, praying he wouldn't break out into a flop sweat. "Oh, um... vocal warmup."

Misato's brow scrunched. "What?"

"Vocal warmup. My... teacher taught it to me. He said it keeps your voice young."

Misato let out a little laugh. "I mean, you are young."

"Well..." Shinji blushed. "That's why you do it now. So it, um, stays that way."

She seemed to buy it. "Makes sense. I guess."

She shook her head, as if to dismiss the thought. "Anyway, not what I came here for. You have school today. Get dressed, have some breakfast, and then I'll drive you over before I head to work."

Her head disappeared back into the hallway, and the door slid shut. Shinji groaned, then rose from the mat and stood up, stretching.

"I am a terrible liar," he muttered to himself.

Iᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋᴇᴅ ᴡᴇʟʟ ᴇɴᴏᴜɢʜ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ. Tʜᴇ ᴛʀᴜᴛʜ ɪs ᴏᴜᴛʟᴀɴᴅɪsʜ ᴇɴᴏᴜɢʜ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴇᴠᴇɴ ᴀ ᴄʟᴜᴍsʏ ғᴀʟsᴇʜᴏᴏᴅ ᴡɪʟʟ ᴋᴇᴇᴘ ɪᴛ ʜɪᴅᴅᴇɴ.

"After what happened yesterday, I'm starting to think it's actually just the normal level of crazy." He shrugged off his sleeping shirt and walked over to the closet. "I really don't want to get strapped to an operating table because of you."

I ᴡɪʟʟ sᴀʏ ᴛʜᴀᴛ I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʙᴇᴇɴ ғᴏʀᴄᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ʜᴇʟᴘ ᴄʀᴇᴀᴛᴇ ᴀ ɴᴇᴡ ɪᴅᴇɴᴛɪᴛʏ ғᴏʀ sᴏᴍᴇ ᴏғ ᴍʏ ʜᴏsᴛs ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴘᴀsᴛ, ᴛᴏ ᴀᴠᴏɪᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ sᴄᴇɴᴀʀɪᴏ.

"That's really not helping."

He fished his spare uniform out of the closet, slipping on his pants and buttoning up his white shirt. As soon as he took a step he felt something was off, and he looked down to see that he was showing more ankle than usual. The shirt felt shorter, too, just enough to be annoying.

"Is this puberty?"

A sɪᴅᴇ ᴇғғᴇᴄᴛ ᴏғ ᴏᴜʀ ʙᴏɴᴅ. Eᴠᴇɴ ɴᴏᴡ ʏᴏᴜ ᴘᴏssᴇss ᴠɪᴛᴀʟɪᴛʏ ᴀɴᴅ ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ ғᴀʀ ʙᴇʏᴏɴᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ʀᴇsᴛ ᴏғ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ.

Shinji frowned. "I'm not going to have a beard by the end of the week, am I?"

Nᴏ. There was a twinge of amusement in the voice. Yᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ sɪᴍᴘʟʏ ᴀs ᴛᴀʟʟ ᴀs ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ɪᴅᴇᴀʟʟʏ ʙᴇ, ᴡɪᴛʜᴏᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴠᴀʀɪᴏᴜs ᴇɴᴠɪʀᴏɴᴍᴇɴᴛᴀʟ ғᴀᴄᴛᴏʀs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴜsᴜᴀʟʟʏ ʜᴀᴍᴘᴇʀ ɢʀᴏᴡᴛʜ.

"Oh. Well, that's neat. I guess."

Grabbing his backpack, he stepped out of the room -his room, he had to remind himself- and made his way to the dining room. Misato was sitting at the table, hastily dressed in her uniform and a can of coffee in hand. A penguin was in the seat next to her, reading a newspaper, and Shinji brushed past him to grab some bread and pop it into the toaster.

He froze. Penguin?

Aɴ ᴜɴᴜsᴜᴀʟ sɪɢʜᴛ ᴏɴ ᴛʜɪs ᴘʟᴀɴᴇᴛ?

Slowly, he looked behind him. Slowly, the penguin turned from his newspaper and looked into his eyes, looking equally confused.

"Wark," said the penguin.

Shinji made a baffled squawk of his own, the toast forgotten.

"Miss Misato-" he called, the power of speech failing him for the rest of the sentence.

"Hmm?" She glanced his way with baggy eyes, which then widened. "Oh! Shinji, meet Pen-Pen. Pen-Pen, Shinji."

"Um." He offered a little wave, even as he realized how stupid it was. "Hi?"

"Wark." Pen-Pen looked back to his newspaper.

"Yeah, he's our other roomie," Misato said, sounding awfully chipper. "He's a hot springs penguin, from the Markham Subterranean Biosphere."

That actually rung a bell. He recalled some of the history and biology textbooks his teacher gave him over the years, the closest things he had to gifts.

"Didn't that-"

"Yep," Misato said, rather forcefully.

That sounded like a topic to avoid. Shinji suddenly found himself interested in the toaster again, and he grabbed his breakfast and sat down.

Oʜ, ʏᴏᴜ sᴛɪʟʟ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʙʀᴇᴀᴅ? I sᴜᴘᴘᴏsᴇ sᴏᴍᴇ ᴛʜɪɴɢs ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ᴄʜᴀɴɢᴇ.

Shinji ignored the comment, focusing on his meal. Glancing across the table, his eyes fell on the necklace Misato had about her neck. He'd noticed it before, in the -utterly indecent- picture she'd given him as part of his summons to the city. At first he'd thought it was a Christian cross of plain steel, but now that he could look closer, he could see some slight markings, more like different textures in the metal that caught the light than anything else.

"What's that?" he asked.

A look of surprise crossed her face, then she looked down at her chest and smirked. "You see Shinji, girls and boys are different..."

"I was asking about your necklace," he interrupted, softly.

She seemed like she was going to poke more fun, but instead she took her cross in hand, looking at it.

"It's from my father," she said. "Church he was part of. Never got very popular here."

"What church?"

"Doesn't really matter now," she said. "Not when its god is dead."

She stood up, chair screeching as it was pushed back, then slung a purse over her shoulder.

"C'mon," she said, cheerfully. "Let's get you to school!"

She walked out the door, and Shinji watched for a few moments. Finishing his toast in a hurry, he shouldered his bag and followed after her.

"Well that was weird," he said quietly.

I ʙᴇʟɪᴇᴠᴇ I ʀᴇᴄᴏɢɴɪᴢᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ sʏᴍʙᴏʟ, ʙᴜᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇxᴛ ɪs sᴏʀᴇʟʏ ʟᴀᴄᴋɪɴɢ.

"You and me both," Shinji said, following a fair bit behind his new guardian. "At least school will be so boring I'll forget about it."

I ᴀᴍ ᴀᴄᴛᴜᴀʟʟʏ ʟᴏᴏᴋɪɴɢ ғᴏʀᴡᴀʀᴅ ᴛᴏ ɪᴛ. I ᴀᴍ ᴀ sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇʀ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜɪs ᴡᴏʀʟᴅ, ᴀɴᴅ I ᴋɴᴏᴡ ɴᴇxᴛ ᴛᴏ ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ɪᴛs ʜɪsᴛᴏʀʏ sɪɴᴄᴇ ᴍʏ ʟᴀsᴛ ᴠɪsɪᴛ. Tʜɪs ɪs ᴀɴ ᴏᴘᴘᴏʀᴛᴜɴɪᴛʏ ᴛᴏ ʟᴇᴀʀɴ.

Shinji snorted. "I think you'll be in for a lot of surprises."

Hᴏᴡ sᴏ?

Despite himself, he felt a little grin at for once being the one in the know. "You'll see."

The cast had to be removed for the injection, as her other arm didn't have any veins near the surface of her skin that were ideal for the procedure. It didn't really matter- her arm had healed within an hour of the incident with Unit-00, and her missing eye had regrown the hour after that. In fact, the cast had been a hinder rather than an aid, restricting her movement and allowing dead skin to build up.

She did not know why she was to feign injury, but she did not ask why.

Doctor Akagi brushed some of the flakes of skin off the crook of Rei's elbow with a gloved hand, then produced the syringe. There was no application of iodine beforehand as the thick needle jabbed into the blue vein, easily visible in her pale skin. Doctor Akagi pressed the plunger forward slowly, and Rei closed her eyes, letting the pain wash over her.

Already she could feel her muscles tightening beneath her skin, coiling with a strength that would've broken bone if the serum didn't also target her skeleton. Her heart began to pound within her chest, then slowed, far more sluggish than before.

"Rei."

Her eyes opened. The world came into greater focus, as if it had become more real than before, hidden sights and sounds becoming known. Akagi's revulsion brewed deep within, hidden under layers of memory and professional drive. Then, there was the deliberate void nearby, one she knew she was to never peer inside.

"Commander," she said.

He stood at the foot of her bed, studying her. Cautiously? Warmly? She did not know. She never knew.

"This is a dose from a fresher sample," he said. "You may find it discomforting, for a short while."

"I cannot be made uncomfortable," she said.

"Good." He straightened his glasses. "You are now discharged. You shall resume classes at the high school this morning. The Third shall be in your homeroom, and when she arrives this week the Second shall also be your classmate."

"I understand."

"Observe them," he said. "Report to me any behavior that may endanger their ability to pilot."

She nodded. The commander then turned without a word, and though she did not feel, the smallest ghost of a frown crossed her lips as she watched him walk out of the room.

Doctor Akagi stood up. "We'll need to put new dressings on you before you go to school. Under no circumstances are you to indicate you are not injured."

"Yes."

The blonde frowned, then lit a cigarette and took a puff, before grabbing some dressings from the medical tray. She started to wrap Rei's arm tightly, perhaps more tightly than was needed. Rei's nose crinkled at the acrid smell of the smoke, and her eyes fell upon the glowing orange ember. The doctor seemed to notice.

"Hmm," was all she said.

Thuktun Flishithy
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New Arrivals, Part III

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Jun 29, 2022 1:04 pm

Even half-empty the classroom had more kids in it than his entire school back home. Much like his school back home, however, they all ignored him, only a few sparing him a glance before looking back to their friends, speaking in hushed and frantic voices. He didn't mind, though- in fact, it was probably for the best that they ignored him. He was used to being the wallpaper.

The laptop under his arm felt strangely heavy. He'd never actually used a computer beyond the ones at the library in his old town, and he wondered if it would even work the same.

Iғ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴄᴏɴᴄᴇʀɴᴇᴅ, I ᴄᴀɴ ʜᴇʟᴘ ʏᴏᴜ ɴᴀᴠɪɢᴀᴛᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴇᴠɪᴄᴇ.

"How would you know?" Shinji said, scarcely a whisper. "You're not exactly from around here."

I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʙᴏɴᴅᴇᴅ ʙᴇғᴏʀᴇ ᴡɪᴛʜ sᴄɪᴇɴᴛɪsᴛs, ᴀʀᴛɪsᴀɴs, ᴇɴɢɪɴᴇᴇʀs, ᴀɴᴅ ғᴏʟʟᴏᴡᴇʀs ᴏғ ᴍᴀɴʏ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀ ᴘʀᴏғᴇssɪᴏɴs, ᴀᴄʀᴏss ᴄᴏᴜɴᴛʟᴇss ᴄɪᴠɪʟɪᴢᴀᴛɪᴏɴs ᴏғ ᴅɪᴠᴇʀsᴇ ᴛᴇᴄʜɴᴏʟᴏɢɪᴄᴀʟ ʙʀᴇᴀᴅᴛʜs ᴀɴᴅ ᴅᴇᴘᴛʜs. Tʜᴇɪʀ ᴋɴᴏᴡʟᴇᴅɢᴇ ɪs ɴᴏᴡ ᴍʏ ᴋɴᴏᴡʟᴇᴅɢᴇ. A ʟᴀᴘᴛᴏᴘ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ɴᴏ ᴄʜᴀʟʟᴇɴɢᴇ.

"Sorry," Shinji mumbled.

Fᴏʀ ᴡʜᴀᴛ?

"I don't know," he replied. "I guess it's just a reflex. Sorry."

Yᴏᴜ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ᴀᴘᴏʟᴏɢɪᴢᴇ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ Iᴋᴀʀɪ.

Despite himself, he felt the ghost of a smile.

He had his pick of seats, and so he chose one near the back, right next to the tall windows that more or less served as one of the walls of the classroom. The sun shone through the windows, and he soaked in the warmth as he sat down and set up his laptop.

Tʜᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀғᴀᴄᴇ ɪs sɪᴍᴘʟᴇ ᴇɴᴏᴜɢʜ.

"I kinda figured that myself." Shinji clicked the homework folder, then paused. "That thing you said earlier, about their knowledge becoming yours. Does that mean you know, um, know everything in my head?"

Nᴏ. Tᴇᴄʜɴɪᴄᴀʟ ᴋɴᴏᴡʟᴇᴅɢᴇ ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴛʜᴇ sᴀᴍᴇ ᴀs ᴍᴇᴍᴏʀʏ. I ᴋɴᴏᴡ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʟᴀɴɢᴜᴀɢᴇ, ʙᴜᴛ ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴏғ ᴡʜᴏ ᴛᴀᴜɢʜᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ɪᴛ. I ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɴᴏᴡ ᴘʟᴀʏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴇʟʟᴏ ɪғ I ʜᴀᴅ ʜᴀɴᴅs, ʙᴜᴛ ᴡʜᴏᴍᴇᴠᴇʀ ɪɴsᴘɪʀᴇᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛᴏ ᴘʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴄᴇ ɪᴛ ɪs ᴀ ᴍʏsᴛᴇʀʏ ᴛᴏ ᴍᴇ.

Shinji let out a breath. "That's good. I mean, not that... my memories are my memories."

Tʜᴇ ғᴇᴇʟɪɴɢ ɪs ᴍᴜᴛᴜᴀʟ. Wᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ғᴏʀᴛᴜɴᴀᴛᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ʙʟᴇᴇᴅᴛʜʀᴏᴜɢʜ ᴏɴʟʏ sʜᴏᴡᴇᴅ ᴍᴇ ᴏɴᴇ ᴍᴇᴍᴏʀʏ ᴏғ ʏᴏᴜʀs.

Shinji looked away from the screen. "I think I know what you're talking about."

A ʙᴇᴀᴄʜ. Tᴡɪɴ sᴜɴs ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴡᴀᴛᴇʀ.

"I think I saw those twin suns again," Shinji whispered. "In-"

"Godzilla," he heard one of his classmates say.

He looked over at one of the huddles of students, the word pulling him in like a hook. They were talking about Godzilla, debating whether or not he'd come back. He idly realized they should've been too quiet to hear, but he also should've been a normal child, not the host to some alien.

The teacher walked in, a worn old man that made Shinji feel tired just looking at him, and the talking died down, only to be replaced by the clicking of keyboards. Shinji noticed the laptop had a student chat section, which appeared to be blowing up.

aida_k: that sound yesterday morning was him, guys
aida_k: it's just like the recordings and history books

nozomi_a: bullshit

aida_k: people here could hear his roar all the way from mount fuji when he fought king kong

arashi_m: my dad said he died in second impact

horaki_h: my dad had to lie down on the couch when he heard the roar
horaki_h: i believe kensuke

aida_k: thanks, class rep
aida_k: he definitely killed the angel
aida_k: they sent cbrn units to the site that got closed off
aida_k: the n means nuclear

suzuhara_t: how are you not in a black van yet man

nozomi_a: +aida_k could've been anything
nozomi_a: the press is saying jack

aida_k: let's ask the transfer
aida_k: anyone know his ping
aida_k: seriously?

horaki_h: +ikari_s did you see anything?


Shinij glanced around the classroom, and saw three students looking right at him. A tall boy in a tracksuit, with tan skin and short-cut hair; a freckled girl with brown hair pulled into pigtails, and a bespectacled boy that Shinji automatically identified as the one who'd been talking everyone's ears off about Godzilla. He looked back to his laptop, and sighed.

ikari_s: i saw him

The one with glasses -Kensuke, Shinij figured- let out a strangled sound that sounded uncomfortably like Pen-Pen, while a few more students suddenly began to look over before going back to their computers.

aida_k: WHAT WAS HE LIKE

nozomi_a: bullshit

aida_k: TELL ME

horaki_h: that must've been scary

aida_k: PLEASE


Well, at least they weren't asking about NERV business. Miss Misato hadn't seemed all too concerned about him revealing anything about Godzilla coming back, or at least hadn't bothered to tell him everything he saw yesterday was classified.

ikari_s: he was big

suzuhara_t: no shit

ikari_s: he smelled like hot metal
ikari_s: there was still seawater dripping off him

arashi_m: i don't believe you

suzuhara_t: +arashi_m and i don't care
suzuhara_t: +ikari_s bad day to transfer in amirite


Shinji grimaced. If they only knew half of it. He exited the chat window and decided to go back to the homework folder- the teacher was rambling on about Second Impact, so nothing of value to be lost by not paying attention. He was done with the assignments rather quickly- one of the blessings -or curses- of living with a teacher was that just about everything in school was old news.

Tʜɪs ᴛᴏᴘɪᴄ ɪs ᴀsᴛᴏɴɪsʜɪɴɢ.

Well, old news to him, anyway.

"I thought you knew what I know?

Yᴇs, ᴀɴᴅ I ᴅᴇsɪʀᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴍᴏʀᴇ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ ᴛʜɪs sᴏ-ᴄᴀʟʟᴇᴅ "Sᴇᴄᴏɴᴅ Iᴍᴘᴀᴄᴛ".

"I thought the giant monsters would be the bigger surprise."

I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴇɴᴄᴏᴜɴᴛᴇʀᴇᴅ ᴏʀɢᴀɴɪsᴍs ᴏғ ᴜɴᴜsᴜᴀʟ sɪᴢᴇ ʙᴇғᴏʀᴇ. The voice had a knowing tone, along with something else Shinji couldn't pin. I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴇᴠᴇɴ ᴀɪᴅᴇᴅ ᴍʏ ʜᴏsᴛs ɪɴ ᴅᴇғᴇᴀᴛɪɴɢ ᴏʀ ᴋɪʟʟɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴇᴍ.

Shinji blinked. "You're that strong?"

Eɴᴛɪʀᴇ ᴄɪᴠɪʟɪᴢᴀᴛɪᴏɴs ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴡᴏʀsʜɪᴘᴘᴇᴅ ᴛʜɪɴɢs ᴡɪᴛʜ ʟᴇss ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ ᴛʜᴀɴ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴡɪᴇʟᴅ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ.

He swallowed. "That's terrifying."

As ɪᴛ sʜᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ. Yᴏᴜʀ ʀᴇᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴ ᴍᴇᴀɴs ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ʀɪɢʜᴛ ᴏɴᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴜsᴇ ɪᴛ.

Shinji focused on the computer screen. "Let's focus on something else. Do you want me to look up stuff on Second Impact for you?"

Yᴇs, ᴘʟᴇᴀsᴇ.

Shinji obliged him, pulling up the main article about Second Impact on the online encyclopedia, the scrollbar little more than a thin block. A familiar photo popped up- a view of Antarctica from orbit, split in twain by the sea, its ice shelves scattered into a thousand-strong archipelago.

Pʟᴇᴀsᴇ sᴄʀᴏʟʟ.

He began to slowly move the scrollbar down.

Yᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ᴍᴏᴠᴇ ɪᴛ ғᴀsᴛ ᴀs ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ. Wᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ʙᴇ ᴀʙʟᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴘᴀʀsᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ɪɴғᴏʀᴍᴀᴛɪᴏɴ.

Shinji's brow furrowed, but he did as requested, the words rushing through the screen, and in a few seconds he was at the end of the main article. Blinking a few times, he scrolled back to the top.

"What did you want to read next? I know the section about the wet bulb incidents and its relationship to the India-Pakistan War was-"

He paused. He didn't know anything about how wet-bulb incidents impacted the start of the India-Pakistan War. He didn't even know there were wet-bulb incidents in that region after Second Impact. Yet he did. He suddenly recalled the wording of his 'guest'- we will be able to parse the information.

Without prompt, he selected the first of the related articles listed, scrolled through it in a heartbeat, then repeated the process. A strange excitement came over him as he realized what he could learn before class was done. When the encyclopedia articles were done, he moved on to the primary sources themselves, only to find that most of them were behind paywalls.

I ʜᴀᴅ ᴀʟᴍᴏsᴛ ғᴏʀɢᴏᴛᴛᴇɴ ʏᴏᴜʀ sᴏᴄɪᴇᴛʏ sᴛɪʟʟ ᴜsᴇs ᴍᴏɴᴇʏ. The disdain in his guest's voice was clear. Aʟʟᴏᴡ ᴍᴇ ᴛᴏ ʀᴇsᴏʟᴠᴇ ᴛʜɪs. Pᴜᴛ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʜᴀɴᴅ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴜᴛᴇʀ.

Shinji splayed a hand over the keyboard, unsure of what he was supposed to do next. Suddenly, the screen changed, and he saw that the paywall was no longer there, the article available for the two of them to read. After everything else, he wasn't very surprised his guest could do that.

I ᴡɪʟʟ sᴀʏ, ᴛʜᴇ ᴄɪʀᴄᴜᴍsᴛᴀɴᴄᴇs ᴏғ ᴛʜɪs ɪᴍᴘᴀᴄᴛ ᴀʀᴇ... sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇ.

"I mean, we've been hit by asteroids before." Shinji selected the next article. "A big one killed the dinosaurs."

Yᴇs, ᴀ ʙɪɢ ᴏɴᴇ. I ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ᴡɪsʜ ᴛᴏ ɪᴍᴘᴏsᴇ ᴍʏ ᴀɢᴇ ᴄᴏᴍᴘᴀʀᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ, ʙᴜᴛ I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴀᴠᴇʀᴛᴇᴅ ᴍʏ ғᴀɪʀ sʜᴀʀᴇ ᴏғ ᴀsᴛᴇʀᴏɪᴅ ɪᴍᴘᴀᴄᴛs, ᴀɴᴅ I ʜᴀᴠᴇ sᴇᴇɴ ᴍᴏʀᴇ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏsᴍᴏs ᴛʜᴀɴ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴍᴏsᴛ ᴀᴅᴠᴀɴᴄᴇᴅ ɪɴsᴛʀᴜᴍᴇɴᴛs. I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴇᴠᴇʀ ᴡɪᴛɴᴇssᴇᴅ ᴀɴ ɪᴍᴘᴀᴄᴛ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴏɴᴇ ʙᴇɪɴɢ ᴅᴇsᴄʀɪʙᴇᴅ. Tʜᴇ sᴏʀᴛ ᴏғ ᴄᴏsᴍɪᴄ ᴇᴠᴇɴᴛs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴀʟʟᴏᴡ ᴀɴ ᴀsᴛᴇʀᴏɪᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴛʀᴀᴠᴇʟ ᴀᴛ .95ᴄ ʀᴇʟᴀᴛɪᴠᴇ ᴛᴏ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴏᴡɴ sᴘᴀᴄᴇ-ᴛɪᴍᴇ ᴘᴏsɪᴛɪᴏɴ ᴛᴇɴᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴀᴛᴏᴍɪᴢᴇ ᴏʀ sᴘᴀɢʜᴇᴛᴛɪғʏ ᴛʜᴇ ᴏʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ ɪɴsᴛᴇᴀᴅ.

Shinji frowned. "But it can still happen, right?"

Pᴜᴛᴛɪɴɢ ᴀsɪᴅᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴏᴅᴅs ᴏғ ᴏɴᴇ sᴜʀᴠɪᴠɪɴɢ, ᴛʜᴇʀᴇ ɪs sᴛɪʟʟ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴀᴛᴛᴇʀ ᴏғ ʀᴇʟᴀᴛɪᴠɪᴛʏ. Eᴠᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇ sᴘᴀʀsᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀsᴛᴇʟʟᴀʀ ᴍᴇᴅɪᴜᴍ, ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴀ ᴍᴇʀᴇ ᴀᴛᴏᴍ ᴘᴇʀ ᴄᴜʙɪᴄ ᴄᴇɴᴛɪᴍᴇᴛᴇʀ ɪɴ ᴛʜɪs ʀᴇɢɪᴏɴ ᴏғ sᴘᴀᴄᴇ, ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴀᴅᴅ ᴜᴘ ᴄᴏɴsɪᴅᴇʀᴀʙʟʏ ᴡʜᴇɴ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴛʀᴀᴠᴇʟɪɴɢ ʟɪɢʜᴛ ʏᴇᴀʀs.

"I think my teacher told me about a type of spaceship that counted on those atoms to be used as fuel. A buzzard- no, um..."

Bᴜssᴀʀᴅ ʀᴀᴍᴊᴇᴛ. Aɴ ɪɴɢᴇɴɪᴏᴜs ɪᴅᴇᴀ, ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜ ɪᴛ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴋ. I ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ sʜᴀʀᴇ ᴡɪᴛʜ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛʜᴇ sᴇᴄʀᴇᴛs ᴏғ ɪɴᴛᴇʀsᴛᴇʟʟᴀʀ ᴛʀᴀᴠᴇʟ, ʙᴜᴛ ғᴏʀ ɴᴏᴡ ᴡᴇ sʜᴀʟʟ ʀᴇᴛᴜʀɴ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ sᴜʙᴊᴇᴄᴛ ᴀᴛ ʜᴀɴᴅ. Tʜᴀᴛ ᴀsᴛᴇʀᴏɪᴅ ᴍᴀʏ sᴜʀᴠɪᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ɪɴᴛᴇʀsᴛᴇʟʟᴀʀ ᴍᴇᴅɪᴜᴍ, ʙᴜᴛ ɪᴛ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ɴᴏᴛ sᴜʀᴠɪᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴅᴜsᴛ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ sᴏʟᴀʀ sʏsᴛᴇᴍ, ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ɪs ғᴀʀ ᴛʜɪᴄᴋᴇʀ. Iᴛ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ʟᴜᴄᴋʏ ᴛᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ᴀᴛᴏᴍɪᴢᴇ ɪɴ ᴛʜᴇ Oᴏʀᴛ Cʟᴏᴜᴅ, ᴀɴᴅ ᴇᴠᴇɴ ᴀ sᴜʀᴠɪᴠɪɴɢ ʀᴏᴄᴋ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ᴅᴇᴛᴇᴄᴛᴀʙʟᴇ ᴅᴇsᴘɪᴛᴇ ʟɪɢʜᴛsᴘᴇᴇᴅ ʟᴀɢ ᴅᴜᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ʀᴀᴅɪᴀᴛɪᴏɴ ғʟᴀʀᴇᴜᴘs.

Shinji thought back to a picture he'd seen of an orbital space station the Soviets had built in the 80's before they were forced to abandon it after Second Impact, how the hull looked as though it'd been sandblasted and pockmarked, all from motes of dust. All from going a tiny fraction of the distance the asteroid would have to travel.

"So you're saying an asteroid couldn't have caused Second Impact." Shinji's throat rather suddenly felt dry. "Then what happened?"

I ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ᴋɴᴏᴡ. Iғ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴀʟʟᴏᴡ ɪᴛ, ᴡᴇ sʜᴏᴜʟᴅ-

The voice suddenly fell quiet, the presence of his guest retreating within. Shinji could hear some of the students shifting in their seats, as if reacting to the same thing. He followed their gazes, and saw the strangest human being he'd ever seen standing in the doorway. She was pale, far paler than he thought a person could be, with blue hair in a roughly-trimmed bob. Her eye, or at least the eye not covered in a medical patch, was dark red, contrasting with her white face like a drop of blood on paper.

It was also staring right at him.

Shinji fought the urge to shiver.

"Ah, Ayanami," the teacher said. "I was told you'd be returning to class today. Take a seat."

Ayanami strode into the classroom, clutching a bookbag with the arm not in a cast, and despite his hopes that she would choose a seat farther away, each step brought her closer and closer to Shinji. As she approached, he could see just how pale she was, her skin a map of blue veins, yet what unsettled him the most was the sense of familiarity. He felt like he'd seen her before, this girl he'd never met until today- she even smelled familiar.

Her eye was still staring at him before she took the seat right behind his. Shinji forced himself to look back to the computer, and saw that something had somehow been typed on his word processor.

CANNOT TALK. NOT NOW.

He felt as though he was being watched, and risked a glance behind him. Ayanami was looking out the window, leaning her face on her hand, yet it still felt as though her eye was boring into his soul.

He fought down a groan. This was going to be a long day.

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New Arrivals, Part IV

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Mon Sep 26, 2022 8:56 am

And a long day it was. All he could do was idly slowly read more articles between glances at the clock whose hands scarcely seemed to move, and all the while fight the urge to look back at the strange girl behind him.

The bell finally rang for the end of class, and he all but bolted upright, hurriedly stuffing his laptop into his bag and zipping it shut. Then he saw movement in his peripheral vision, and realized Ayanami had already gotten up from her seat and was walking past him. Despite himself, he turned to look at her, and she stopped to look at him as well.

Their gazes held for a moment. Ayanami seemed to be studying him, nonplussed by the students jostling by as the classroom began to empty. Her eye somehow seemed even more red than before. Then, for the briefest of moments, it went from dark red to bright orange-

twin suns on the water

-Ayanami suddenly blinked, and her eye was back to normal, or her version of normal. She broke her gaze first and walked away, suddenly in a hurry. Shinji watched her go, and it was only when she was out of sight that his shoulders relaxed and he let out a long sigh.

Tʜᴀᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴀ ᴄʟᴏsᴇ ᴄᴀʟʟ.

"You're back?" Shinji made sure no one was looking before he continued. "What was that about?"

Tʜᴇʀᴇ ɪs sᴏᴍᴇᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴜɴᴜsᴜᴀʟ ᴀʙᴏᴜᴛ Aʏᴀɴᴀᴍɪ.

He fought the urge to snort. "I figured-"

Sʜᴇ ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ʜᴜᴍᴀɴ. Nᴏᴛ ᴇɴᴛɪʀᴇʟʏ.

Shinji glanced back at the empty doorway. "How do you know?"

Oᴜʀ ʙᴏɴᴅ ɪs ᴘsʏᴄʜɪᴄ ɪɴ ɴᴀᴛᴜʀᴇ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ. I ᴀᴍ ɴᴏᴛ ᴀ ʀᴇᴀᴅᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴍɪɴᴅs, ʙᴜᴛ I ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴡʜᴇɴ sᴏᴍᴇᴏɴᴇ ɪs ʟᴏᴏᴋɪɴɢ ᴀᴛ ᴍɪɴᴇ. Aɴᴅ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʟᴏᴏᴋᴇᴅ ᴀᴛ ᴍᴇ ʜᴀᴅ sᴏᴍᴇᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴇʟsᴇ ᴍɪxᴇᴅ ᴡɪᴛʜ ᴛʜᴇɪʀ ᴇssᴇɴᴄᴇ.

"She... she doesn't know, does she?"

Nᴏ. I ᴀᴍ ᴏᴘᴀᴏ̨ᴜᴇ ᴡʜᴇɴ I sᴏ ᴅᴇsɪʀᴇ, ᴀɴᴅ ʙʏ ᴇxᴛᴇɴsɪᴏɴ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴀs ᴡᴇʟʟ. Sʜᴇ ʟɪᴋᴇʟʏ ɴᴏᴛɪᴄᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴏᴘᴀᴄɪᴛʏ ᴀɴᴅ ʙᴇᴄᴀᴍᴇ ᴄᴜʀɪᴏᴜs. As ʟᴏɴɢ ᴀs I ʀᴇᴍᴀɪɴ ᴏ̨ᴜɪᴇᴛ, sʜᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ɴᴏᴛ ᴜɴᴄᴏᴠᴇʀ ᴛʜᴇ ᴛʀᴜᴛʜ.

Shinji's grip on his bag tightened. "I hope you're right."

Then, he blinked. "Do you think that... psychic part of you is why I couldn't sync with the Eva?"

I ʙᴇʟɪᴇᴠᴇ sᴏ. I ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ʀᴇᴄᴀʟʟ ᴍᴜᴄʜ, ᴀs I ᴡᴀs sᴛɪʟʟ ᴡᴀᴋɪɴɢ ᴡɪᴛʜɪɴ ʏᴏᴜ, ʙᴜᴛ I ᴅᴏ ʀᴇᴄᴀʟʟ ᴛʜᴀᴛ sᴏ-ᴄᴀʟʟᴇᴅ ᴘʀɪᴍᴀʟ ᴍɪɴᴅ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Eᴠᴀ ᴛᴏᴜᴄʜɪɴɢ ᴏᴜʀs. Pᴇʀʜᴀᴘs ᴍʏ ᴘʀᴇsᴇɴᴄᴇ ᴄᴏɴғᴜsᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴇ sʏsᴛᴇᴍ.

"You're the transfer, right?" another voice suddenly said.

He glanced to the side, and saw the boy with glasses walking over. Behind him was the taller boy in the tracksuit.

"Um, yeah. I'm Shinji."

"Kensuke." The bespectacled boy pointed back with his thumb. "That's Toji."

Toji simply gave a curt nod, and Shinji returned it.

"So you're new around here, right?" Kensuke pushed his glasses up. "If you want, me and Toji could show you some of the sights this Saturday. There's a pretty good viewing station where you can check out the Road of the Gods, all the way up to Fuji Crater."

"He just wants to grill you about seeing Godzilla," Toji interjected.

Kensuke elbowed him lightly. "No I don't."

Toji returned the elbow, nearly knocking the shorter kid's glasses off. "Yeah, you do."

The tall boy offered Shinji a glance. "This guy's obsessed with kaiju. Dude has collectibles, books, crappy movies-"

"Says the guy with an Anguirus bedspread?" Kensuke retorted.

Toji puffed his chest. "He's a hero who saved my old town. That's just due respect."

"Uh huh."

Shinji cleared his throat. "Um, I-"

I ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴠᴇʀʏ ᴍᴜᴄʜ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛᴏ sᴇᴇ ᴛʜɪs "Rᴏᴀᴅ ᴏғ ᴛʜᴇ Gᴏᴅs", ɪғ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ɪs sᴏᴍᴇᴛʜɪɴɢ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ᴡɪʟʟɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ʜᴜᴍᴏʀ ᴍᴇ ғᴏʀ.

"-can go," he finished. "As long as it's before one in the afternoon. I have something to do."

"Sweet! You can find the observation post on the map if you want to meet us there."

Shinji nodded. "Sure."

Toji elbowed Kensuke again. "C'mon, let's get back."

"See you Saturday," Kensuke said, offering a wave as he left the room.

Shinji shook his head and shouldered his bag.

Tʜᴀɴᴋ ʏᴏᴜ ғᴏʀ ᴀɢʀᴇᴇɪɴɢ.

"It's nothing. It seems only fair after you, well, brought me back to life."

Yᴏᴜ sʜᴏᴜʟᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ғᴇᴇʟ ɪɴᴅᴇʙᴛᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴍᴇ ғᴏʀ ᴛʜᴀᴛ. Iғ ʏᴏᴜ ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ᴡɪsʜ ᴛᴏ ɢᴏ, ᴛʜᴇɴ ᴅᴏ ɴᴏᴛ ʟᴇᴛ ᴍᴇ ᴄᴏᴇʀᴄᴇ ʏᴏᴜ.

Shinji smiled. "No, it's not like that. It's... I guess I don't know. But maybe I'll find out."

With that, he followed the others out of the classroom.

"Did you already move into another apartment?" Ritsuko asked, casually glancing around the living room.

Misato squinted at her friend over her third can of beer. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Ritsuko offered a wry smirk and pushed her glasses back up. "Oh, nothing, it's just that the apartment's so... clean."

"So obviously it means I moved into a new one, huh?" A laugh. "Who says I didn't clean up-"

"Me."

"-when you consider that people are capable of amazing changes, Rits. Who knows, it might've actually been me who cleaned up the place."

"It might've actually been Shinji."

Misato sat straighter on the floor mat and melodramatically cast her gaze down. "It might've been Shinji."

Ritsuko let out a short laugh, and Misato followed suit, chuckling to herself. Sighing, she leaned back, supporting herself on her hands. It was another lazy afternoon in eternal summer- even the light of the sun itself felt sluggish, pouring in through the balcony window rather than shining. She was sure to savor it- you never knew when it could be your last chance.

"I must say, he made quick work of cleaning up," Ritsuko commented. "He only moved in, what, four days ago?"

"Three, actually."

"Hm. He's surprisingly productive, I'll give him that." Ritsuko took a timid sip of her beer. "How has he been taking to it? Being your roommate, I mean."

Misato knew it was more than just the roommate situation that Ritsuko wanted to know about. Looking her friend's way, she offered a slight shrug.

"About as well as you could hope. I mean, I didn't know him before we both nearly got stepped on by an Angel and came face-to-face with Godzilla, but I read his file, so I guess I kinda have a feel for what he's normally like..."

Ritsuko coughed, and Misato rolled her eyes.

"He's about as withdrawn as I expected. Hardly leaves his room when he's here, and even when he's not in the room he's not exactly chatty. School's going okay. He mentioned doing something with some classmates tomorrow, so I'm glad he seems to be trying to make friends. I remember how hard it was for me at his age."

She sipped her beer. "Apparently Ayanami freaked him out a little his first day at school."

"She has a tendency to do that."

"Anyway, I guess that's about it. Not like he talks to me about a lot of stuff." Misato paused, then laughed a little. "Actually, he does talk a lot now that I think about it, just not to anyone."

Ritsuko became still, seemingly forgetting about the can of beer in her hand. "He talks to himself?"

"Yeah, he does vocal warmups-"

"Like he's having a conversation?" Ritsuko set the can down, peering over her glasses with narrowed eyes. "How often does he talk to himself?"

Misato sat up, brow furrowed. "Rits, it's just vocal warmups. He does it in the morning, says it keeps his voice young."

"And you're sure it's just in the morning?"

"I seriously doubt he's hearing voices in his head." Misato frowned. "Where did all of this come from? You're not seriously worried, are you?"

Ritsuko pushed her glasses up with a shrug, her posture relaxed. "No, but you can't be too careful when you're dealing with our only hopes against the Angels."

She paused, then suddenly chuckled. "Vocal warmups, eh? I wonder if they do actually keep your voice young. Maybe I could start doing them in the office."

Misato grinned. "Please no. My ears have gotten enough punishment this week from Godzilla, thank you very much."

"Speaking of, I finally got around to reading your report. About your encounter with him, I mean."

"Uh huh. What about it?"

Ritsuko took a sip of her beer. "I still find it a little hard to believe at parts. You're absolutely sure he caught the VTOL?"

"As sure as the sky is blue," Misato said. "He didn't just bat it out of the way, and it didn't just clip him on the way down and missed, if that's what you're thinking. He had to go out of his way to keep it from landing on us, and I can't figure out why he'd do it."

"My point exactly," said Ritsuko. "It goes completely against his established behavior. Regardless of professional opinions on his intelligence, no one denies he rather emphatically does not like us. I'm shocked he didn't decide to step on you himself."

Misato pursed her lips. Again she imagined the sight of Godzilla's eyes, but this time she didn't feel the endless summer heat or the false rain of seawater, but the biting cold.

"There was that one person he cared about, though," she said instead. "The psychic girl from the seventies, Saegusa or something."

"Miki Saegusa was the exception that proved the rule, and that came straight from her." Ritsuko moved to reach for a cigarette, then seemed to remember the no-smoking rule and curled her hand instead. "Besides, both she and her child are dead, and as far as records indicate that was that for the family line."

"That we know of." Misato waggled her eyebrows. "Who knows, maybe I unknowingly have a little psychic in me?"

Ritsuko looked down at her beer. "Heh... if you were psychic you'd already know I'm thinking you had too much to drink."

"I'm fine," Misato retorted, waving a hand dismissively. "Not everyone gets conked out on half a can. Not like I'm driving anywhere today, either."

"The more important thing to consider is, do you really want to be hungover when you go to pick up Asuka tomorrow?"

Misato paused, then slowly slid her beer can across the table. "Touché."

"When is her flight coming in?"

"She's taking a suborbital shuttle tomorrow and will be here at one in the afternoon."

"And you remember that you're taking her straight to testing as soon as she arrives, correct?"

"I know," Misato said. "I understand why. If an Angel attacks even ten minutes before she arrives, humanity could be extinct before rush hour. That still wouldn't change the fact she'll be incredibly cranky from jet lag when she gets here."

"I'd rather have a jet-lagged pilot than no pilot at all." Ritsuko shrugged. "At least, assuming we can't fix Shinji's sync issue."

Misato stood up and waltzed over to the fridge, making sure to get blood rushing through her legs after sitting for so long. She grabbed herself a water bottle and sat back down, unscrewing the cap. When it came to hangovers -of which she'd had many- an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, at least in her book.

"I'm planning things under the assumption you can fix the problem," she said, taking a sip.

"Is that why you requested for her to live with you?"

"Well, I was her guardian for a while in Germany, and she could use a familiar face in a strange land." Capping the bottle, she leaned back again. "But I want my pilots to socialize with each other, too. Assuming you fix that bug in Unit-01, they're going to be together in a fight we have no idea we can win. When I was in the SSDF, they told us that the only person you can trust in a fight is the person beside you, and that's going to be true even if you're piloting an Eva."

"I don't think Asuka and Shinji are going to become a band of brothers anytime soon," Ritsuko commented, finishing the last of her beer.

Misato looked at her water, then leaned forward and took another pull. "Maybe not, but those two are going to be the ones out there saving the world."

Ritsuko made a strange face at that, but said nothing.

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New Arrivals, Part V

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Mon Sep 26, 2022 9:04 am

The spaceplane was a pre-Impact passenger liner meant for fifty people, but today it would ferry only one.

She chose a seat by the window, buckling herself in then leaning her head back with closed eyes. Even after making sure to go to bed earlier she was still exhausted- it was simply unnatural to be waking up at three in the morning. Why was she the one being inconvenienced by time zones? She was the most important person in the world- Misato couldn't wait until the evening to pick her up?

A dainty older stewardess who rather blatantly had a Section-II sidearm in her jacket checked to see if she was secure. Asuka forced a smile as she nodded, then awkwardly tried to wave her off. Thankfully, the stewardess moved back to the front, probably for security purposes, and once again she was alone.

She didn't mind. Really. She was used to being alone.

Thankfully she didn't have to wait long for the shuttle to start moving- a perk of air traffic being cleared for her, no doubt. The acceleration was smooth, gently pressing her into the cushioned seat. Peeking out the window, already she could see the ground falling away, the constrained sprawl of Berlin looking more like a model set than a living, breathing city.

Out in the distance, she could faintly see two moving silhouettes against the night sky. Fighter aircraft, serving as an escort. She idly wondered how much military hardware was being dedicated to watching her flight and ensuring it was safe from accidents or ill intent.

The angle steepened, until she was all but lying on her back. The only sign that the plane switched from its scramjets to fusion thermal was a change in the airframe's slight rumbling. The shuttle was based off old Xilien designs according to the promotional pamphlet at the spaceport, time-tested and safe, even if the performance wasn't as good as some later models. Safety was good when you had humanity's last best hope aboard.

The sky darkened, the blue fading away as the air thinned, and it was only a few minutes later that the engines cut off, and weightlessness came over her. She supposed she should've felt some sort of sublime glee at being in space, casually fulfilling what'd been the dream of countless people for untold generations, but transcendent joy seemed to be in short supply.

Above her, a speaker chimed. "This is your captain speaking. Laßwitz-27 will arrive at Tokyo-3 spaceport in fifty-four minutes. Please remain seated until we complete our rotation. You will be able to enjoy weightless out of your seat for twenty-two minutes before we begin reentry."

There was a slight lurch as the shuttle activated its thrusters and rotated slowly to have its heatshield face sunward. Then a green light blinked to life, signaling it was safe, and Asuka unbuckled. She was careful to give the scarcest of pushes as she drifted towards the porthole in the ceiling, gripping two of the countless little plastic loops to secure herself.

The part of Earth they flew over was still obscured in night, but the city lights outlined the continents in off-white, providing a near-perfect map. It wasn't hard to find Berlin, and she stared at it, watching the only home she'd known her entire life recede at several thousand miles an hour. Goodbye to crisp mornings and chilly nights, goodbye to all of her favorite stores and libraries and theaters.

She knew she would have to leave eventually, but it still hurt more than she expected. Pushing against the padded ceiling with her thumbs, she drifted back to her seat and buckled again. Suddenly, the stunning view didn't seem all that stunning.

It did not know for how long it had curled itself around the warm stone, only that it was a welcome respite from the deep chill of the abyss, and that was all that mattered.

It had found the stone, round and red like blood, after the shaking of the earth and the breaking of the ice had disturbed its long slumber. How long after? It did not know, nor did it care. It had been confused and weak after its forced awakening, unable to find the nourishment it needed. Then it had found the stone, and at last it could rest again.

Until now.

Its eyes snapped open, its dreaming brought to an abrupt end as the roiling waves of superheated water became too much for even its thick hide. Recoiling, it backpedaled from the now-blinding light of the stone, its muscles screaming as blood was forced through atrophied veins. Instincts clashed within its animal brain, whether to run from danger or to avoid losing nourishment, and that clash paralyzed it.

The light dimmed, only for a new pain to scream its presence with the hiss of boiling water. Tendrils of fire wrapped about its torso, searing its thick skin and pulling with unexpected strength back towards the dying light. Instead of the smooth hard surface of the stone, however, it found itself pressed against cold and chitinous flesh, the tendrils becoming bindings that secured it to the interloper.

The seafloor erupted into clouds of silt as they suddenly ascended, slicing through the dark waters. It tried to struggle, to pull away, but the burning tendrils grew hotter when it did, and quickly it learned to stay still.

Screaming, however, was still an option.

"-even before NERV, before it was called Tokyo-3, this place still earned its spot in kaiju history! Right there, where you're looking? That was where the greatest battle in kaiju, no, just in plain history was fought."

Shinji nodded absentmindedly, looking through the worn tower-viewer at the mix of abandoned city and overgrown forest sprawled out before him. It honestly didn't look much like a battlefield- then again, he didn't know what battlefields normally looked like, so perhaps it actually looked perfectly like a battlefield.

Tʜᴇʀᴇ ᴀʀᴇ sɪɢɴs. I ᴄᴀɴ sᴇᴇ ᴛʜᴇᴍ, ᴀɴᴅ sᴏ sʜᴀʟʟ ʏᴏᴜ.

Looking more closely, Shinji realized he could see some signs of something off having happened. Gaps between the low buildings, likely where they had been crushed underfoot by kaiju, along with strange outcroppings of rock or worn craters in the ground. There was also an awfully straight river that he was fairly certain was the so-called Road of the Gods.

"We still don't actually know how many kaiju were there," Kensuke continued excitedly. "Not a lot of witnesses or cameras when everyone was running away. The confirmed count is still fourteen, though. Fourteen kaiju! All of them led there by Godzilla himself to fight off King Ghidorah!"

I ᴄᴀɴ sᴇᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ʀᴇᴍᴀɪɴs ᴏғ sᴏᴍᴇ.

Shinji saw what he meant. It was hard to tell, with how overgrown with foliage they were, but he could see the skeleton of a kaiju, probably the one the Americans called Behemoth. It was the only one he could think of who had tusks like a mammoth, curling twelve stories into the air.

"Ghidorah killed at least seven of them. Accounts claim he managed to take out both Yonggary and Bulgasari in one hit."

"I remember my teacher telling me about it," Shinji said. He looked away from the viewer. "I think I see the Road, but it's hard to tell."

Kensuke frowned. "Yeah, it's a little hard to see, now. It's that river going towards Fuji Crater. Rain and silt's been filling it in for the past fifty years."

Shinji checked again, and indeed saw the river matched the width of the Road as described in the textbooks. It was surreal, seeing a trench wide enough to fit an ocean liner, created by a giant space dragon as it was blasted along the ground by atomic hellfire. It was even more surreal, now that he'd met the one who'd provided said hellfire, like history coming to life in the most terrifying way possible.

"It's a shame they didn't try to preserve the Road," Kensuke continued. "Apparently it used to be perfectly reflective glass, the same kind of glass the American atom bombs made in the desert, and it was so smooth-"

"-so smooth that if you rolled a coin down one end, it'd reach the other side, blah blah blah," Toji interjected. "Ya know, my grandpa on my mom's side said he and his friends tried that as kids, and it didn't work."

"They probably just didn't have anyone on the other side to grab them."

"Oh, calling my gramps dumb, huh?"

Shinji sighed and tried to ignore their bickering, instead studying the Road through the viewer. It was frightening how far it stretched into the distance.

Dɪᴅ ᴛʜᴇʏ ʀᴇᴄᴏᴠᴇʀ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏʀᴘsᴇ?

"Hm?"

Oғ 'Kɪɴɢ Gʜɪᴅᴏʀᴀʜ'. There was a concerned, almost urgent tone to the voice. Dɪᴅ ᴛʜᴇʏ ᴄᴏɴғɪʀᴍ ɪᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴅᴇᴀᴅ?

Shinji looked back at Kensuke and Toji. "Hey, did they ever find the body?"

Kensuke turned away from the argument. "What, of Ghidorah? Just some pieces, I think. He was probably all vaporized."

Fᴏʀ ᴛʜᴇ sᴀᴋᴇ ᴏғ ᴀʟʟ, I ʜᴏᴘᴇ ʜᴇ ɪs ʀɪɢʜᴛ.

"You fought him?" Shinji whispered to himself.

Fɪɢʜᴛɪɴɢ ɪs ᴀ ᴡᴀʏ ᴏғ ᴅᴇsᴄʀɪʙɪɴɢ ɪᴛ.

Shinji frowned and rubbed his temple. Something told him that was not a particularly enjoyable conversation topic. Glancing down at his watch, he saw he had about half an hour before he'd have to go back to the apartment, so he and Misato could go pick up that new pilot she'd been talking about.

As if on cue, the phone she'd given him rang, and he flipped it open to answer.

"Oh, Miss Misato, I can come back now if-"

"The pick-up's been cancelled, Shinji." There was a sound in the background of the call, and he realized she was driving. "You and your classmates need to start heading to the shelters, ASAP."

He was about to ask why when he heard it- the growing blare of an evacuation alarm, enveloping the city in its cry. Kensuke and Toji noticed it a moment or so later, stiffening at the sound.

"Asuka's going to be escorted to HQ as soon as she arrives so she can head out and fight the Angel. There are emergency shelters in the park; you can find them on the maps."

The line went dead, and Shinji numbly stuffed his phone back in his pocket. He looked back to the others, swallowing dryly.

"We, um, we need to get to shelter. Like right now."

Kensuke had a strange look on his face. "Oh, me and Toji will catch up with you."

"We will?"

"There's, uh, no bathrooms in the shelters, and we've been chugging water since we got up here."

Oʙᴊᴇᴄᴛɪᴠᴇʟʏ ɪɴᴄᴏʀʀᴇᴄᴛ.

Shinji slowly nodded. "Oh, uh, okay. I guess I'll see you there?"

"Yep!" Kensuke quickly waved. "See ya!"

The two started moving down the path in a hurry. Shinji watched them, brow scrunched, then turned and ran in the opposite direction. His feet pounded the path, the forest around him whizzing past as he ran far faster than he thought was possible. Just another reminder of how things had changed since he got his 'guest'.

"They're not going to the shelter, are they?" he said, not even out of breath.

Nᴏ. Aʀᴇ ʏᴏᴜ?

Shinji skidded to a stop, the heels of his sneakers digging twin furrows in the dirt. His hand found his temple, eyes cast down.

"I don't know," he admitted, quietly.

There was a sound above him, and he craned his neck skyward to see a small triangular shape coming in low over the city, towards the main airport. That had to be the new transfer coming in to pilot the Evangelion. He still didn't know anything about her- Misato had been oddly tight-lipped about the whole thing, but he imagined she must've had some training.

"Maybe she can handle the Angel."

Pᴇʀʜᴀᴘs.

"Or maybe she can't pilot it, like I couldn't." He looked away. "Or maybe it'll be too powerful for her."

Tʜᴀᴛ ɪs ᴀʟᴡᴀʏs ᴀ ᴘᴏssɪʙɪʟɪᴛʏ.

Shinji closed his eyes, fists clenched. "Why did you have to find me?"

Fᴀᴛᴇ ᴏʀ ᴍᴇʀᴇ ᴄʜᴀɴᴄᴇ, ɪᴛ ᴅᴏᴇs ɴᴏᴛ ᴍᴀᴛᴛᴇʀ. Wʜᴀᴛ ᴍᴀᴛᴛᴇʀs ɪs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ʜᴇʀᴇ, ᴀʟɪᴠᴇ, ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ᴡᴇ ғᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴇᴀᴄʜ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀ. Aɴᴅ ɪᴛ ɪs ʙᴇᴄᴀᴜsᴇ ᴡᴇ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ғᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴇᴀᴄʜ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴀ ᴄʜᴏɪᴄᴇ.

"My choice," he echoed.

He looked around. The path was empty, the only sounds the blaring of the alarm and the wind through the trees. There was a sign not to far away, giving directions to the shelter.

I mustn't run away.

He turned from the sign and ran off the path, towards the city.
†​

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シン・Leviathan, Chapter Three: New Arrivals

Thuktun Flishithy
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Giant, Part I

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Fri Dec 09, 2022 11:16 am

"Unhappy is the land that breeds no heroes."

"No, Andrea. Unhappy is the land that needs a hero."


- Life of Galileo, Scene 12. Written by Bertolt Brecht, 1939.

It was time.

The past hour had passed in a blur- the nerve-wracking reentry as the shuttle fell back to earth, the burst of frantic radio chatter she could hear from the cabin as the veil of plasma lifted and allowed contact, the veritable fleet of black vans and jeeps waiting for her at the airport as soon as stepped out. She didn't even remember the race to headquarters or slipping on her plugsuit.

"-the Angel is approaching from the south-southeast, and should surface in about ten minutes. If its land speed is anything like the previous one, it can be in the city within half an hour."

She did remember, however, just how fast Misato could talk.

"Do we have an idea of its body plan?" she asked, taking uncomfortably long strides to keep apace.

"Observation buoys indicate it's big, compared to the last one," Misato replied. "Don't get close unless you absolutely have to. Current combat plan is you will take elevator B-9 and use the maser rifle once you've neutralized the AT-field."

Asuka simply nodded. Normally the older woman's rapid-fire talking was grating, but for combat briefings it had its purpose.

Combat. Which she was finally about to do, after eight years of training, more than half of her life dedicated to this one purpose. Her heart pounded in her ears, but that was clearly from the dash to get ready, and nothing more. Not in the slightest.

Her pulse pounded in her ears as she made it to the Eva cage. Unit-01 waited there for her, up to its shoulders in dark LCL, hunched forward and spine protruding. Something about it felt different from Unit-02, the restrained beast underneath closer to the surface despite having a thicker armor plating. Its eyes were covered in milky yellow protective lenses, yet some silly part of her felt as though it was looking right at her.

Misato came to an abrupt stop and turned to her. "Are you ready for this?"

She looked back, head upturned ever so slightly as her eyes narrowed. "Why wouldn't I be?"

Misato didn't answer, but Asuka could see the patronizing worry in her eyes, like she was some toddler being dropped off for her first day of school.

"Good luck out there, Asuka," was all she finally said.

"I don't need luck." She brushed past Misato, towards the Eva.

The layout of the plug was virtually the same as with Unit-02, and so she waved off the technician trying to give her instructions as she secured herself in the control seat and gripped the yokes. The hatch sealed shut, briefly leaving her in darkness before the interior red lighting activated and the plug began to descend into the innards of the Eva. LCL poured into the plug, and she reflexively exhaled, hardly registering the sudden feeling of a chest-cold as she took in a deep breath of the copper-tasting liquid.

Light filled the dark chamber as a holoscreen flickered to life, showing Misato's face. "Asuka, do you read?"

"I read you," she replied.

Another face appeared on the screen, one she recognized from more than a few papers. "Asuka, this is Dr. Akagi. We are preparing to try and sync you with Unit-01. Just be sure to clear your mind."

Asuka fought the urge to roll her eyes. This was something she'd done a thousand times over.

The expected pressure came, against not the body but another whole aspect of her being, something she could not put into words but understood all the same. The primal mind of the Eva pushed against her, then receded slightly, as if hesitant. For a moment, Asuka almost fancied it was studying her, which was silly. The mind of an Evangelion was no more than autonomic nerve impulses.

The pressure came again, then stayed. Slowly, Asuka became aware of the chill of the LCL in the cage washing over skin that was not hers, the familiar dull ache deep within her new bones. She breathed in, and the Eva moved with her, armor creaking and groaning as she stretched muscles that hadn't been used in years.

"Sync rate is holding," Dr. Akagi said, a twinge of excitement in her voice. "32%. Lower than normal, but that's to be expected."

She looked up from the computer. "Unit-01 has a pilot."

Was there any doubt?

Already the LCL from the cage began to drain, the chill receding as the platform holding her aloft began to move towards one of the launch elevators. Asuka leaned her head back in her seat, and idly realized her heartbeat had calmed from the pounding pulse of before. She remembered accounts she'd read from astronauts, how before launch their hearts would race, then as soon as the massive bomb under them roared to life and began to carry them to the stars, they would become as calm as a monk.

Calm was not the proper word to describe her, however. She was not sedate. She was strong. She was mighty.

And by God, she was going to show the whole world just how strong she was.

"Unit-01, launch!"

The city disappeared.

The process was so rapid Shinji hardly had time to register what was happening when the street beneath him shook, and all around the glittering modern metropolis began to sink into the ground. In less than a minute, Tokyo-3 had become naught but a flat plain of armor plates and segmented streets, broken only by a handful of dull gray towers that had to be for military purposes.

He felt exposed, out in the open for prying eyes. There were still public parks and gardens scattered across the retracted city, like tufts of grass erupting from asphalt, and he dashed for the shade of the nearest one.

Tʜᴇʀᴇ ᴀʀᴇ ɴᴏ ᴄᴀᴍᴇʀᴀs ɴᴇᴀʀʙʏ. Wᴇ ᴀʀᴇ sᴀғᴇ.

Shinji didn't relax at that, instead crouching under the low branches of a pine tree. His eyes were fixed on the mountains that led to the sea. He swore he could hear the Angel coming, its ponderous footfalls distinct from what he had heard before.

He could hear something else, the groaning of metal and the whine of high-powered hydraulics, and he turned his head just in time to see a section of the city open up in the distance, closer to the mountains. Close by, another gray cache emerged, just as twin rails shot out of the square pit.

A moment later, a monster rose with them

At least, this was a monster he was familiar with. Even from halfway across the city the lanky frame of Unit-01 was unmistakable. He'd already thought it was frighteningly massive back when it was in the cage, and now it truly was a titan, its towering height at odds with the world around it.

Then it moved, and it was as though the laws of nature had been scrunched into a paper ball and tossed into the trash, for its gait was so much more like a human being than the monster it seemed, and Shinji fought a shiver. It strode forward, not a single motion wasted as it made for the gray box and pulled from it a matte black rifle half as long as it was tall.

Hefting the rifle, it moved closer to the lake, to where the Angel would come, and Shinji saw that where it stepped the segmented streets would press down, yielding but not breaking. A long black cable dangled from the Evangelion's back, trailing towards some small station near the now-closed pit from which it'd risen.

Pʜᴇɴᴏᴍᴇɴᴀʟ ᴇɴɢɪɴᴇᴇʀɪɴɢ. His guest sounded awed. Aɴ ᴇɴᴛɪʀᴇ ᴄɪᴛʏ ʙᴜɪʟᴛ ᴀʀᴏᴜɴᴅ ᴀɴ ɪᴍᴘᴏssɪʙʟᴇ ᴡᴇᴀᴘᴏɴ. I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ɴᴇᴠᴇʀ sᴇᴇɴ ᴀɴʏᴛʜɪɴɢ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛʜɪs ʙᴇғᴏʀᴇ.

Shinji for his part found his attention drawn back to the mountains across the lake. The rumbling of colossal footsteps, of breaking trees and crumbling buildings, was so close it almost hurt his ears.

The Angel crested the mountains.

It was not what he imagined it would look like. The first one had been unearthly, yet eerily humanoid, devoid of any of the trappings of even the largest terrestrial animals. This one, however, looked much more like the kaiju of history books as it scrambled down the mountainside on all fours- it was a reptilian thing, like a child's impression of a triceratops sans frill, with bright yellow scales along its back that contrasted with its dull gray underside.

His eyes narrowed. Was it injured? It looked like it had criss-crossing burns across its back, its hide charred and blackened. Maybe the military had managed to wound it this time around?

It dove into the lake and began to swim towards Unit-01, its tiny eyes fixed on the Evangelion as it paddled forward with broad paws tipped with massive talons. Unit-01 for its part merely knelt down and took aim with the rifle, its posture so much like that of a soldier's. The air about it shimmered, and suddenly Shinji could feel his hair sticking up on end. At the end of the rifle, a red light began to blink.

Cʟᴏsᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴇʏᴇs!

He averted his gaze, eyes squeezed shut. A moment later, he could hear the now-familiar sharp cracks of a maser coming to life, followed shortly after by a pained cry that shook the branches above him. He heard the Angel rush forward, feet pounding the earth, and a low hum that was soon followed by the smell of ozone.

Shinji risked a glance just in time to see the Angel's horns crackle, before an arc of lightning blasted from its snout towards the Evangelion. Unit-01 for its part simply stood its ground, and a field of concentric hexagons suddenly blossomed into being right before it, shining like hot steel. The Angel's lightning washed over the barrier harmlessly, spreading out into a jagged spiderweb of blue-white that quickly faded into nothingness.

"My teacher used to tell me that we couldn't fight the kaiju," Shinji murmured, eyes wide as he watched Unit-01 advance. "We could only scare them off or lure them away. He said it was like trying to fight the storm."

Bᴜᴛ ɴᴏᴡ, ɪᴛ sᴇᴇᴍs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴘᴇᴏᴘʟᴇ ᴄᴀɴ ғɪɴᴀʟʟʏ ғɪɢʜᴛ ᴛʜᴇᴍ ʜᴇᴀᴅ-ᴏɴ.

It felt like watching history happen in real-time. The Evangelion grabbed the Angel by one of its horns, then with its free hand slammed an armored fist into its face, the impact like a cannon. The great horn on the Angel's snout snapped from the blow, and with it a half century of the kaiju's dominance over man shattered.

The monster flailed, and now Shinji could see its eyes had been burnt out by the discarded maser rifle. A lucky swipe of its claws severed the cable dangling from Unit-01's back, but that did not seem to deter the war machine in the slightest. One of the pylons on the Evangelion's shoulders unfolded, and it grabbed a knife that seemed normal-sized in its hands, yet had to be as long as a bus.

The blade stabbed into the Angel's throat, and it let out a gurgle, its movements becoming feeble. Returning the knife to its holder, Unit-01 then took the Angel by its remaining horns and planted a knee into its throat, pinning it to the ground effortlessly. For a moment, it was like seeing a warrior of myth grappling with the dragon.

Despite the monstrous struggle before him, Shinji felt a weight lift from his shoulders. "I guess we aren't needed after all."

No response.

He frowned. "Is something wrong?"

Tʜᴀᴛ ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Aɴɢᴇʟ.

"What?"

I ᴡᴀs sᴜsᴘɪᴄɪᴏᴜs ᴀs sᴏᴏɴ ᴀs ᴡᴇ sᴀᴡ ɪᴛ, ʙᴜᴛ ɴᴏᴡ I ᴋɴᴏᴡ ғᴏʀ ᴄᴇʀᴛᴀɪɴ. Tʜɪs ɪs ɴᴏᴛʜɪɴɢ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴄʀᴇᴀᴛᴜʀᴇ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴀʟᴍᴏsᴛ ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ ʏᴏᴜ. Iᴛ ʟᴀᴄᴋs ᴛʜᴀᴛ sᴛʀᴀɴɢᴇ ᴇssᴇɴᴄᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ᴏᴛʜᴇʀ ʜᴀᴅ, sᴏ ᴜɴʟɪᴋᴇ ᴀɴʏᴛʜɪɴɢ I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴇᴠᴇʀ ᴇɴᴄᴏᴜɴᴛᴇʀᴇᴅ ʙᴇғᴏʀᴇ. Yᴇᴛ I sᴛɪʟʟ ғᴇᴇʟ sᴜᴄʜ ᴀɴ ᴇssᴇɴᴄᴇ ᴀᴘᴘʀᴏᴀᴄʜɪɴɢ.

Shinji looked back to the monster that Unit-01 was grappling with. Again his attention was drawn to the burns across its back, to its more natural appearance compared to the otherworldly Angel. His hand found his temple once again as the realization came over him.

It seemed the others had realized as well. Unit-01's head snapped to look at the mountains across the lake. Then, without looking back, it adjusted its grip on the monster's horns and twisted, audibly snapping the thing's neck as though it were an afterthought. Rising once more, it picked up the discarded maser rifle again and marched towards the lake, the corpse of the monster forgotten.

A few moments later, another titanic figure drifted over the mountaintops, gliding down like a kite. This time, as soon as he saw it Shinji could feel a shiver as he recognized what his passenger was talking about.

Soundlessly, the Angel descended upon Tokyo-3.

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Giant, Part II

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Fri Feb 10, 2023 12:09 pm

The tide was low this morning.

On days like these, when the tide receded and the sky was clear, one could see the shadows of the world that came before.

The roofs of apartment buildings, some so intact one could almost pretend they were not the decaying bones of a drowned city that stretched down into the deep.

On particularly good days, some said they could still see streets, cars, even fences and garden beds.

The tide lowered further.

For the first time in fifteen years, the sunken city tasted air.

The tide rose.

Then, it became low again.

Asuka would've laughed at the absurdity of the situation if it hadn't suddenly reduced her odds of survival.

What were the odds that a kaiju would attack right as the Angel was coming? Maybe it wasn't chance, but she could think about that later, after she'd snagged two kills in one sortie.

The Angel was certainly a far cry from its identity thief. It was taller than her, with a cylindrical body the color of blood and a flared pink head whose shape made the creature look almost indecent. Its core was right where its "throat" was, and she zeroed in on it as she took aim with the maser rifle.

Focusing, she extended her AT-field, and this time she could feel it clash with that of the Angel's, the two barriers corroding each other in an invisible struggle. Doing so made the timer on her reserve power drop faster, skipping seconds, but she still had enough time to kill this thing if she played her cards right.

Squeezing the trigger, she opened fire. At the same moment, the Angel lowered its flat head over its core, and she got an impression of large white eyes like those on a moth's wings. The maser barked in short pulses, circular discolorations pockmarking the chitinous flesh of the Angel as she fired. It wasn't enough- she'd run out of power before she punched through.

The stubby limbs on each side of the Angel flexed, and twin whips that shined like the wire in an old lightbulb lashed out at her, pulling the rifle from her hands. The weapon hit the ground in thirds, glowing a dull orange where the tentacles had burned through. Without delay she drew her knife and charged, weaving between the burning tendrils as she shoulder-checked her opponent and sent it floating back.

"Asuka, pull back and retrieve a replacement umbilical!" Misato ordered, her voice echoing through the plug.

She glanced behind her, then turned back to the Angel. "I'll run out before I can reach the nearest station, even assuming it'd let me turn my back. I need to kill this thing."

The Angel advanced again, lashing out with one of its whips, and she caught it in her hand. It burned, but through the sync of the Eva it was dulled, manageable. Gripping the tendril tightly, she pulled with all of her weight, bringing the Angel right to her, and she drove her knife right into its gullet, just below the core. Gritting her teeth, she pushed forward, knocking the Angel on its back.

Pinning it with her knees, she drew the knife back and aimed for the core, but this time the Angel's free tendril wrapped about her wrist, trying to twist her arm. Phantom pain burned into her skin, but she muscled through it, slowly bringing the blade closer and closer. She was not going to let this thing beat her. She would not let it make her entire life's purpose all for nothing.

The tip of the knife pressed against the hard crystal of the core, just as there was a dying hum within the Evangelion and her arms unexpectedly became lax.

Shinji's eyes widened as the Evangelion's eyes dimmed, and the great machine unexpectedly slumped forward, like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

"What just happened?"

Iᴛ ᴍᴜsᴛ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʀᴜɴ ᴏᴜᴛ ᴏғ ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ, ᴀғᴛᴇʀ ʟᴏsɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴄᴀʙʟᴇ.

The Angel let go of Unit-01's arms, instead wrapping its tendrils about the Evangelion's throat and pulling it off its body like a child's toy. Rising, the creature tightened the burning cords around the machine's neck, and Shinji could see greasy smoke rising where the whips made contact.

"It's going to kill her." His hand found his temple. "It's going to kill the pilot, and then-"

Iᴛ ᴡɪʟʟ ɴᴏᴛ.

Shinji's throat tightened. "You're not saying... I can't. I, I..."

Yᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ. Shinji felt a warmth enveloping him, resolute, just like when the first Angel attacked. Oɴʟʏ ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ.

He closed his eyes. "I mustn't run away. I mustn't run away."

Then he opened them, and saw the burning flesh of the Eva, saw the monster only he could stop.

"I mustn't run away."

There was a sudden weight in his hand, and when he looked down, he saw he was holding his guest's strange capsule, the otherworldly thing of his dreams. Just like in his dreams, there was now a red button on its side, showing him what it really was. Not a key, or a weapon.

A choice.

"My choice."

Standing straight, he held his hand high, and pressed the button.

And then there was light, and it was good.

No.

It was not going to win.

Asuka tugged on the yokes, trying to will the Eva into action. No matter how many times she did, however, the great machine remained inert, with only enough power for her to see through its eyes as Death tried to burn through its neck and get to her plug. She stared at the Angel with wild eyes, a cry escaping her as she pulled the yokes.

"It can't end like this! It won't!"

For a moment, the Eva finally seemed to respond. A heartbeat, twin thump-thumps like someone beating the world's largest drum. Then it was inert once more, yet the Angel abruptly pulled away all the same, the whips laxing their death-grip about her throat. It turned to face something else, and Asuka realized the city was aglow with a warm red light.

Twisting in the plug, she looked out the corner of the Eva's eye, and a gasp escaped her.

A red sun had risen from the ground, emerging from the street and bathing the city in its light, trees bending from the sudden wind that billowed outwards. No, not a sun- a man, or at least something in the shape of one, one arm stretched to the sky as it grew in height, becoming taller than the Angel itself. Then the light died, and Asuka's jaw hung open as she saw it clearly.

"What-"

"the hell-" said Kensuke, lowering the camera.

"-is that?" Misato murmured.

The entire bridge had fallen silent, all eyes fixated on the viewscreen. A giant of silver and red now stood in the heart of the city, facing the Angel. Not a kaiju, not an Eva or an Angel- none of those terms could possibly fit the thing she was seeing. It was far too humanlike, more than even the Evangelions themselves, with a thin yet muscular build she dared to call athletic.

It felt wrong, using such a human term for the thing, but its very semblance to humanity made it wrong. Even its face -or mask, she couldn't tell which- with its large almond-shaped eyes and frozen half-smile screamed human. It was not a beast or an alien invader, but a giant of myth and fairy tales, reborn for an age of space travel and atomic weapons.

Her hand gripped her cross. She'd seen a giant before, in the long night at the bottom of the world.

"Captain?" Hyuuga asked.

She shook her head, redoubling her focus. "Focus all available firepower on the Angel."

"What about the... the giant man?" blurted out Maya.

Misato let the question pause for a half-moment, studying the screen as said giant man got into a crouch, hands held defensively like a judoka ready to grapple as it slowly circled around the Angel. The Angel followed suit, seemingly waiting for a moment to strike. At the very least, it seemed the new arrival's aggression wasn't focused on the Evangelion.

The giant stopped, and Misato's eyes widened when she saw that it'd deliberately placed itself between the Angel and the prone Unit-01. The entire scene after Maya's question couldn't have been more than few seconds, but in those scant moments her mind had been made on the matter.

"Do not engage the unknown," she said, voice firm.

"Captain?" Aoba turned in his seat, a rare look of worry on his face.

"I agree with Captain Katsuragi's decision," a new voice said, and Misato turned around and looked up to see Commander Ikari staring down at the bridge. "I am issuing a provisional DNP on this new entity."

DNP. Do Not Provoke. Technically meant for any and all kaiju operations, Misato knew there was only one other being who had actually ever received that designation in all the decades it'd been in use. She looked back to the screen, gripping her cross tightly.

She hoped they knew what they were doing, all of them.

Shinji had no idea what the hell he was doing.

He'd never been so disoriented before in his entire life. One moment, he'd been on the ground, looking up at the Angel, and in the next the world had become so small, as though he'd stepped into a model set, yet it didn't look like a model set, it still looked like a city, but also not like he was just on a really tall building, maybe because his eyes were five meters apart and he was suddenly in a body-hugging suit that-

Bʀᴇᴀᴛʜᴇ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ.

He sucked in a breath that echoed in his mask, and pushed aside the fact he was wearing a mask, or the sudden weight that pulled at every fiber of his body. Flexing his hands experimentally, he stared straight ahead at the Angel, muscles tensed.

It moved first, whips lashing out towards his face, but the movement felt slower than before, sluggish. Without thinking he reached his hands out and caught the burning tendrils, gripping them tightly just as the Evangelion had. He could see sparks and smoke rising where the glowing violet coils made contact with the silver 'skin' of his suit, but the sensation itself was about as painful as holding a cup of hot tea.

How am I doing this?

Mʏ ʟᴀsᴛ ʜᴜᴍᴀɴ ʜᴏsᴛ ᴋɴᴇᴡ ʜᴏᴡ ᴛᴏ ғɪɢʜᴛ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ. Hᴇʀ ᴍᴜsᴄʟᴇ ᴍᴇᴍᴏʀʏ, ʜᴇʀ ᴛʀᴀɪɴɪɴɢ, ʜᴇʀ ʙᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ ɪɴsᴛɪɴᴄᴛ... ɪᴛ ʙᴇᴄᴀᴍᴇ ᴍɪɴᴇ, ᴀɴᴅ ɴᴏᴡ ɪᴛ ɪs ʏᴏᴜʀs.

Well, he still needed to actually figure out how he was going to use it. The Angel pulled its whips back, and Shinji was nearly yanked off his feet before he righted himself, heels digging furrows in the street. The searing hot coils were strong, enough to lift something as big as the Evangelion into the air, yet Shinji numbly realized he was holding firm, matching its strength almost casually.

The power to fight the storm.

Arms flexing, he pulled back as hard as he could, and it was the Angel's turn to be yanked forward, rushing towards him. Leaning forward, he braced against the ground with one foot, then raised the other high in a kick aimed at the creature's midsection.

For a moment, a field of orange hexagons just like the one the Evangelion had made flared to life, then folded in and flickered away as his kick powered through it. The impact sent a jolt through his teeth as his heel smashed into the Angel, cold chitinous flesh breaking and tearing as the blow folded the thing in half and sent it flying back towards the lake.

Shinji gaped, then looked down at his hands. The material of the suit over his palms merely had a tarnished look to it, like metal that had been exposed to a flame.

I just karate kicked a kaiju.

Fᴏᴄᴜs. Yᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴɴᴏᴛ ʟᴇᴛ ʏᴏᴜʀsᴇʟғ ɢᴇᴛ ᴅɪsᴛʀᴀᴄᴛᴇᴅ ɪɴ ʙᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ.

The Angel righted itself near the shore, hovering above the water. Its symmetry was broken, the upper half of its body tilted to the side. Shinji ran to it, long loping strides that felt slower than what he was used to, yet the air screaming past his face told him just how fast he was actually moving. The whips came for him again, but this time he simply let them coil around his arms as he smashed his shoulder into the Angel and sent it sprawling into the water.

Wading forward, he planted a foot onto its core, then gripped the burning filament-like cords near the 'shoulders' and began to pull, ignoring the heat that now began to sear into his palms. The whips snapped, like guitar string pulled too taut, and Shinji fell back from the sudden jerk. The water actually felt solid for a moment as his back slapped against it, the waves violent and sluggish as they rushed to swallow him up.

Sitting up, he looked at the whips in his hands, and saw the light had already died in them, the coils curling and cracking from the uneven change in temperature. Then a shriek directed his attention back up, and he saw the Angel was backing away, blood spurting from the stumps of its shoulders. Already the torn flesh was warping, new whips slowly forming.

Shinji rose to his feet, hands held defensively as he went into the crouch that his new muscle memory told him was right. He became aware of a beeping sound, a deceptively gentle chime that seemed to be coming from something on his chest.

That can't be good.

Tʜᴀᴛ ɪs ᴀ ᴄᴏʟᴏʀ ᴛɪᴍᴇʀ. Yᴏᴜʀ ʙᴏᴅʏ ɪs sᴛɪʟʟ ᴀᴅᴊᴜsᴛɪɴɢ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ʙᴏɴᴅ- ʏᴏᴜ ᴄᴀɴ ᴏɴʟʏ sᴛᴀʏ ᴛʜɪs ᴡᴀʏ ғᴏʀ ᴀ ғᴇᴡ ᴍɪɴᴜᴛᴇs ᴀᴛ ᴀ ᴛɪᴍᴇ.

And what happens if the timer runs out?

Tʜᴇɴ ᴡᴇ sʜᴀʟʟ ғᴀʟʟ, ᴀɴᴅ ɴᴇᴠᴇʀ ʀɪsᴇ ᴀɢᴀɪɴ.

Shinji swallowed. Great. No pressure whatsoever.

We need to finish this fast.

Aɢʀᴇᴇᴅ. His guest had a knowing tone. I ʙᴇʟɪᴇᴠᴇ ɪᴛ ɪs ᴛɪᴍᴇ ᴛᴏ ʙʀɪɴɢ ɢʀᴇᴀᴛᴇʀ ғᴏʀᴄᴇ ᴛᴏ ʙᴇᴀʀ. Cʀᴏss ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴀʀᴍs.

Asuka watched as the silver giant abruptly folded its right arm so that its fingers pointed to the sky. Then, after a half-moment of what she swore was hesitation, it crossed its left arm over the other at the wrists, forming a '+' shape with its hands. The Angel seemed to notice something was off, and promptly folded its head protectively over its core.

"What the hell are you-"

Her answer came in a flash of light that seared an afterimage in not her eyes, but that of the Eva's. From the edge of the giant's upright hand shot out a blinding beam, a hail of blue-white sparks that punched cleanly through the Angel's AT-field. The armored head of the Angel erupted in a explosion that rattled the plug, chunks of blackened flesh blasting out in all directions as the creature soundlessly fell back.

For a few moments, there was only silence as smoke rolled out over the lake, obscuring the corpse from sight. Then, suddenly, the cloud parted as the Angel rushed forward, body horizontal with the ground. Its head had been obliterated, along with a fair chunk of its upper body, but the core was still intact, shining brilliantly. To resume the assault, or to self-destruct and take its killer with it, Asuka didn't know.

The giant would not let the answer be known. Jumping back, it held a hand above its head, and a glowing disc of the same blinding blue-white of its beam formed. Then, as though it were flinging a javelin, it flung the disc right at the Angel, and Asuka's eyes widened as the creature was neatly sliced in two. The twin halves of the Angel spread apart as airflow did its work, before hitting the water and sliding to a stop right at the giant's feet.

And just like that, it was over. The giant straightened its posture, seemingly relaxed, then turned back to look at Unit-01, at her. It walked towards her, feet scarcely pushing down the segmented street blocks, then came to a stop. Asuka hated how she shrank back in her seat as the giant looked down at her- no, locked eyes with her, through the Eva's own.

Up close, she could see just how eerily humanlike it was. The proportions, the way the muscles flexed under its silver skin with red markings, it was all so earthly. If she didn't know any better, she would've thought it a man in a mask, not some... whatever it was.

The glowing yellow eyes stared into hers. Studying her? Judging? Had it come to decide if she was a threat worthy of its wrath, or had it merely come to silently gloat, to remind her just who had killed the Angel instead of her? She could feel the Evangelion shaking from some tremor in the ground- perhaps the giant was preparing to obliterate her.

The holoscreen in the plug flickered to life, and Misato's concerned face blocked that of the giant's. "Asuka, are you alright? We've been suffering from some interfer- sks - due to the - kch - need to evacuate the plug - zz - approaching."

"I can see the thing right in front of me," she replied.

"Not that," Misato said. "Just eje-"

The giant's head whipped to the side, and Asuka saw it slowly back away, arms held at its side in what looked like fear. The shaking in the plug got more pronounced, and she twisted in her seat to follow the silver man's line of sight.

He must have approached from the southwest, over the mountains in hopes of intercepting the Angel as it arrived. He probably would have, if the giant hadn't stepped in. Seawater was still dripping from his charcoal scales, darkening his massive frame even further as he marched towards her, towards the giant. Wherever he stepped onto the street segments, there would be a whine of hydraulics, and the block would not rise again.

For all of her reading, she had never understood just how huge the monster approaching her was, until now. Even the Angel seemed small compared to him, the false eyes of its carapace a paltry rival of the burning orange glare that was fixed on Unit-01, on her.

Godzilla snarled.

"Oh," Asuka said.

Thuktun Flishithy
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Finale: The Revenge of Dinosaur Tank (THE A-TANKENING)

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Sat Apr 01, 2023 4:30 pm

He had emerged from beneath the oceanic plate near Brazil, the exact antipode to Tokyo-3. From there he had inexorably rolled eastwards, a twenty-thousand kilometer march towards the citadel city.

They knew they were doomed when Godzilla swam to meet him off the coast of Sumatra. Two hours later the island was gone, and the dethroned King of the Monsters with it.

The entire N2 arsenal was unloaded unto the abomination as he crossed the Malaysian peninsula, a gigaton-level barrage that unmade the land, yet he simply rolled across the glowing glass that had been an entire nation, his hide unscathed.

Then an unlikely group of defenders came to their aid. The Angels, all of them from viral Iruel to the "I Can't Believe It's Not Zetton" titan of power that was Zeruel, met him at the coast of Atami, to preserve that which they wished to end on their own terms. Geometric screaming, toilet paper arms, metaphors for the human condition; all were unleashed upon the attacker.

They were all crushed beneath his treads, like democratic protesters.

Gendo watched through the vidscreen as the apocalypse crested the mountains. Unit-00 and Unit-00 awaited him, armed to the teeth, and with a flash of red light the mighty Ultraman rose, arms crossed as he prepared to fire a spacium (specium?) SADAO IIZUKA ray.

"It won't be enough," said Fuyutsuki enigmatically.

"He is the apotheosis of the symbiosis between Man's gods of antiquity, and his new ones," replied Gendo, mysteriously. "He is the ultimate blend of nature and science."

"Indeed," Fuyutsuki said mystifyingly, for the sole purpose of creating a flow to my preferred style of written dialogue.

"He," said Gendo perplexingly, "is a Dinosaur and a Tank. How can one hope to top such awesomeness?"

The commander promptly screamed in pain as he unstuck his hands from his face, and took off his glasses. Reaching into his coat pocket, he produced another set of orange glasses, but like even cooler, and hopefully enough of a descriptor for some people to realize where I'm going.

"There may be one way."

CRUCIFIX SYMBOL PARAGRAPH BREAK
(S Y M B O L I S M)


Shinji fell to one knee, Color Timer blinking as though it was trying to give new meaning to the 'grand' in 'grand mal seizure'. All of his bullshit techniques, rendered useless against the might of Dinosaur Tank.

He had laser eyes. What hope did anyone have of topping that?

Shinji glanced down at the fallen form of Unit-01, and put his hand on its scorched shoulder, shaking it gently. Well, gently by giant standards- the people in the shelters right below thought that death had finally come for them.

"Hey, Unit-01, can you do that thing where you get really mad when I'm in danger, and that really sick music starts playing and you suddenly have teeth and start roaring, and instantly beat the monster?"

No response. It probably couldn't hear him because its ears were on its head, which was missing.

Dinosaur Tank rolled closer, and Shinji quietly accepted that he would be crushed underneath like so many others, which apparently happened so much there was a literal slur about it.

Before Dinosaur Tank could flatten him like a pancake, however, there was a flash of light, and a new towering titan stood in its path. This one was clearly another like him, with a red body with white highlights, silver armor on his shoulders, and a metal crest like a Roman Centurion.

Iᴛ ᴄᴀɴ'ᴛ ʙᴇ, Hayata said, awe in his voice. Hᴇ ɪs ᴛʜᴇ ᴄᴏᴏʟᴇsᴛ ᴏғ ᴏᴜʀ sᴘᴇᴄɪᴇs, ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ᴛᴏᴛᴀʟʟʏ sᴛɪʟʟ ᴇxɪsᴛs ᴅᴇsᴘɪᴛᴇ ᴡʜᴀᴛ I ᴅʀᴀᴍᴀᴛɪᴄᴀʟʟʏ ᴛᴏʟᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴇᴀʀʟɪᴇʀ. Sᴇᴠᴇɴ!

"Seven!" gasped Shinji.

"Seven?" asked Misato.

"They already did this gag in Ultraman Orb," muttered Kensuke.

Ultraseven detached the Eye Slugger from his head-

"oh my god that's so fucking cool"

-and took aim.

"Tanks, but no tanks."

Then he did one of those really sick throws where it instantly returned to his hand, Dinosaur Tank stopped like nothing had happened, then a moment later his head fell off.

Ultraseven triumphantly turned around, and looked down at Shinji.

"Get on my level, scrub."

"No," said another voice. "Get on my level."

Ultraman and Ultraseven looked to the side, as an skyscraper-sized older man with a fishing hat walked over. He took a puff from a cigarette the size of a telephone pole, and exhaled slowly.

"Tohl Narita," Ultraseven breathed in awe.

"Designer of Ultraman and Ultraseven!" exclaimed Shinji.

"And the kaiju for both series," Tohl Narita said. He pointed at the remains of Dinosaur Tank with his cigarette, a grimace on his face. "Including this one."

He took another puff and looked to you, dear readers. "Did you know that this design was forced upon me by the production staff? So terrible was it, that when faced with the prospect of having to design more garbage for a show that didn't appreciate my god-tier artwork, I quit."

Tʜᴇ ɢʀᴇᴀᴛᴇsᴛ ᴛʀᴀɢᴇᴅʏ ᴏғ ᴏᴜʀ ᴛɪᴍᴇ, Hayata said sadly.

"You can count on one hand the number of genuinely great kaiju designs the franchise came up with after you left," Ultraseven said.

"Well, thanks to you, I can finally rest knowing that my worst creation is dead." Tohl Narita nodded respectfully to his greatest artworks.

He turned to leave, then paused. "Just one last thing."

Walking over to Shinji, he suddenly grabbed the Color Timer and ripped it from his chest. Hefting it in his hand, he promptly threw it over the horizon, where its chime could no longer be heard.

"Much better."

With that, he finally left, disappearing into the sunset like Akio Jissoji would've wanted.

Shinji slowly rose to his feet, and looped his arm over Ultraseven's shoulders. Unit-01 did the same to him, the human cast on its horn, and then Unit-00 joined in. They were followed by Godzilla, who of course was going to survive this whole thing.

"April Fools, motherfuckers," Shinji said, and then he and everyone else began to belt out 'Hark, the Herald Angels Sing'.

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Omake: He Has Returned

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed Apr 05, 2023 8:48 am

As Shinji hit the ground, he was beginning to understand the trouble he was in.

It had happened so quickly. They must've had agents on the ground prepping their attack for god knew how long, considering the bombs that had disabled the Eva launch elevators before the monsters even appeared. 'Appeared' was the only way to describe it- one minute the city had been tranquil, the sunset painting the landscape in warm golds and reds, and the next they were trampling everything to dust.

Shinji tried to stand, only for one of the monsters to kick him back down. It was a hideous thing, a child's caricature of a dinosaur with a stocky chest and thick limbs clad in ebon scales, the white horn on its head a bony crown. Shinji lashed out with a kick and caught it in the knee, forcing it to stumble back and buying him time to clamber to his feet.

That was when the other, the one Hayata had angrily called a Nackle, made his move. The pale humanoid circled to Shinji's side and launched a haymaker at his face. Shinji blocked the blow, but as a result he was unable to stop the other kaiju from swinging its tail into his side and sending him sprawling onto a hopefully abandoned building.

He didn't have any time to rise back up before the kaiju stomped on his chest, keeping him in place while the Nackle kicked him in the face. His ears ringed with the blow, anger and frustration and fear flowing through his veins. He knew that he could beat them one on one, but together they seemed unstoppable.

There was no one to help him. The launch elevators were damaged, and Godzilla was almost certainly hundreds of miles away- by the time either he or Unit-01 could arrive, it'd be too late.

It had been such a beautiful day, and now he feared its breathtaking sunset would be the last he'd ever see.

Some distance away, a man watched the battle unfold from the open bay door of his repair garage. Steely eyes studied the chaos before him, and after a moment he set down his wrench and shrugged off his leather jacket, leaving the disassembled car behind as he strode out with a speed that belied his advancing years.

He stopped in the middle of the street, watching as Ultraman struggled to defend his world against those who would wish it harm. Quietly, his fingers brushed over an old and worn watch.

Then Hideki Goh calmly stretched his hand skyward, and there was light.

The rain of blows suddenly ceased, and through half-closed eyes Shinji caught the impression of a blur slamming into the kaiju pinning him down. The Nackle let out a cry of fury, only to be silenced when a foot caught him in the neck and knocked him down. Immediately a wave of relief rolled over Shinji- it seemed Asuka had finally made it up.

Sitting up, he coughed as his ribs creaked, and slowly he began to rise. A strong hand took his arm and helped him up, and the boy finally looked at his rescuer.

He froze as he did.

The familiar visage of Unit-01 did not greet him, but rather his own. It was only after a moment that he realized there were subtle differences between this newcomer and himself. The red patterns on his chest did not extend to his neck, and were more rounded, with an extra line to them. He was of a somewhat more muscular build, and as Shinji stood fully he realized he was taller as well.

Is this... he thought, with widening eyes.

I ɴᴇᴠᴇʀ ᴛʜᴏᴜɢʜᴛ I ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ᴍᴇᴇᴛ ᴀɴᴏᴛʜᴇʀ ᴏғ ᴍʏ ᴋɪɴᴅ.

The new Ultraman nodded, then directed Shinji's attention to the black-scaled kaiju, which was finally rising back up.

"Take care of him! I have the Nackle!"

Shinji nodded, and crouched down, crossing his arms. Blue-white sparks flashed from the edge of his hand as he fired his spacium ray, striking the kaiju in the chest and blasting a huge chunk out of the beast. There was a flash behind him, and he briefly looked back to see that the other Ultraman was firing a spacium ray of his own.

Turning back to the kaiju, he saw it was still standing, and he ran forward, catching it in a tackle. Knocking it to the ground, he began to pummel the creature, shattering its tusks with silver fists. The kaiju shrieked, and its tail wrapped around Shinji's throat, cutting off his airway.

The other Ultraman took notice, and quickly sent the Nackle sprawling. Raising his left arm, he grabbed something from his wrist, and in a flash of light there was suddenly a curved blade in his hand. Like an expert huntsman, he flung the blade, severing the beast's tail like a knife through air, before it returned to his hand.

Now that he could breathe, Shinji stunned the kaiju with a punch to its throat, then climbed off of it. Bracing himself, he lifted the monster over his head, and tossed it straight up into the air. Flying up after it, he produced a cutting disc in his hand, and held it out so that the beast fell right into it.

Its head hit the ground a split-second after the rest of it.

Shinji landed in a crouch, just in time to see the other Ultraman again grab the weapon from his wrist. This time it turned into a strange lance, like a spear with a crossguard, and was promptly thrown into the chest of the Nackle. Still it staggered, and so the new Ultraman rushed forward and lifted the alien over his head, his color timer blinking.

"ULTRA HURRICANE!" he bellowed.

Shinji promptly learned what an "ultra hurricane" was when the newcomer sent the Nackle flying high into the sky, the helpless alien spinning like a top. Right as it reached the apex of its impromptu flight, the new Ultraman caught it in the chest with a spacium ray, and a second sun shone above Tokyo-3 as the Nackle exploded.

Shinji watched in awe, arms to his side, and wondered if this was how Asuka felt watching him fight.

The lance returned to the newcomer's hand, and transformed back into a bracelet. Putting it on his wrist, he then looked to Shinji, and strode over. For a moment, two Ultramen looked each other in the eyes.

I ʜᴀᴠᴇ sᴏ ᴍᴀɴʏ ᴏ̨ᴜᴇsᴛɪᴏɴs, Hayata said.

Iɴ ᴅᴜᴇ ᴛɪᴍᴇ, ᴍʏ ʙʀᴏᴛʜᴇʀ. Belatedly, Shinji realized the voice wasn't Hayata's. Fᴏʀ ɴᴏᴡ, I ʟᴇᴀᴠᴇ ᴛʜɪs ɪɴ ʏᴏᴜʀ ʜᴀɴᴅs, ᴀs ɪᴛ ᴡᴀs ᴏɴᴄᴇ ɪɴ ᴍɪɴᴇ ᴀɴᴅ Gᴏʜ's.

He extended a hand, and Shinji took it, shaking firmly. Then the new Ultraman stepped back.

Lᴇᴛ ʏᴏᴜ ᴀɴᴅ Sʜɪɴᴊɪ ғɪɢʜᴛ ᴛᴏɢᴇᴛʜᴇʀ ғᴏʀ ᴛʜᴇ ғʀᴇᴇᴅᴏᴍ ᴀɴᴅ ʜᴀᴘᴘɪɴᴇss ᴏғ ʜᴜᴍᴀɴɪᴛʏ. Craning his head skyward, he took off, and Shinji watched as he soared into the sky.

He flew towards the sunset, his silhouette growing smaller and smaller, until he finally disappeared from sight.
†​

R.I.P Jiro Dan (1949-2023)
Sayonara, Ultraman

Thuktun Flishithy
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Giant, Part III

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Thu Apr 13, 2023 10:10 am

The chime of the color timer was drowned out by roar of his blood rushing through his ears. His heart beat glacial in his chest still, slowed by whatever had to happen for his metamorphosis to be possible, yet he could feel it hammer against his ribcage.

It was matched by another low sound. Great ponderous footsteps, distant from his new height yet no less deafening than when he'd heard them before. Their maker approached, head held high. Eyes like hot coals surveyed the fortress city, sweeping over the pillboxes and artillery, over the bisected Angel and dead kaiju, before finally locking with Shinji's.

Godzilla stared into his eyes, and it was all Shinji could do to not tremble, to run or scream or whatever the animal part of his brain wanted him to do.

twin suns on the water, twin suns in the sky, blood and smoke and

Godzilla closed his eyes for a half-moment, then opened them again and looked away, a low chuff finding its way past his jaws. Shinji stared as the old king continued to march towards the Evangelion, and found that he could breathe again.

What just happened?

Hᴇ ʀᴇᴍᴇᴍʙᴇʀs ᴍᴇ.

Despite everything, Shinji suddenly found himself rolling his eyes. Of course you met him. Why shouldn't I be surprised?

Mʏ ᴘʀᴇᴠɪᴏᴜs ʜᴏsᴛ ᴏɴ ᴛʜɪs ᴡᴏʀʟᴅ ғᴏᴜɢʜᴛ ᴀʟᴏɴɢsɪᴅᴇ ʜɪᴍ. Hᴇ ᴋɴᴏᴡs ʜɪs ᴀʟʟɪᴇs.

Godzilla paused a half-dozen of his massive strides away from Unit-01. His tail slapped against the ground, ceasing its swinging, and he studied the inert war machine with narrowed eyes. His nostrils flared as he snorted in deeply, and Shinji could see his ears twitch, as though harassed by some invisible gnat.

Then his lips pulled back, baring his fangs as he let out a snarl.

"Oh no," Misato said.

Godzilla's tail lifted from the ground again, and the lenses over Shinji's eyes suddenly dimmed as a blue glow began to creep up the kaiju's spine, hidden patterns revealing themselves on his dorsal plates as they became suffused with that dread light. A low groan made itself known, the revving up of some hellish atomic engine, and Shinji felt his blood turn to ice in his veins.

We can't let him kill her.

Wᴇ ᴡɪʟʟ ɴᴏᴛ. The voice sounded almost hesitant. Sʜɪɴᴊɪ, sᴛᴇᴘ ʙᴇᴛᴡᴇᴇɴ ᴛʜᴇᴍ.

Shinji opened his mouth, as if to protest, to call his guest insane. Then he saw Godzilla open his jaws wide, chest puffed out and eyes alight with the same glow as his spines, and suddenly he was moving, putting himself in front of Unit-01.

The light died immediately, and Shinji found himself more in awe of the strength required to snuff the flame than that of the flame itself. Godzilla snarled again, glaring down at him. Even now, he was so much taller than Shinji, enough that the boy had to crane his neck up to look at his face. His clawed hands clenched into fists, and he took a single step forward, looming over him just as he had before. Their eyes locked.

For a moment, the only sound was the chime of the color timer.

Then, the king of the monsters breathed in deeply, and roared.

It was different from the challenge he'd screamed to the Angel- this one was lower, a primal bellow older than the human race, a hearkening to a time when Man was not the so-called master of his world but a hooting ape that hid in trees from the predators in the dark. A jagged maw filled Shinji's vision, his lenses briefly coated in fog as his helmet rattled from the force of the roar.

Yet he stayed where he was.

Godzilla snapped his jaws shut and glared with narrowed eyes. Shinji half-expected for him to charge his blast again, or to bat him out of the way like a child. He did none of those things, however.

Instead, he nodded.

Shinji sucked in a greedy gasp of air as Godzilla abruptly turned away. It took every ounce of will to not drop to his knees and scream as whatever had compelled him to stay in place left him. Bravery? Madness? Paralyzing fear? He didn't know.

I can't believe I did that.

Yᴇᴛ ʏᴏᴜ sᴛɪʟʟ ᴅɪᴅ ɪᴛ.

Did you know he wouldn't fight an ally?

Nᴏ. Iғ ʜᴇ ʜᴀᴅ ɴᴏᴛ sᴛᴏᴘᴘᴇᴅ, I ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴛᴏʟᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛᴏ ʀᴜɴ.

Shinji laid a hand over the color timer, its chime more urgent. Not like we would've had much of a choice.

Eᴠᴇɴ ɪғ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴇʀᴇ ᴀᴛ ғᴜʟʟ sᴛʀᴇɴɢᴛʜ I ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴛᴏʟᴅ ʏᴏᴜ ᴛᴏ ʀᴜɴ. His guest seemed subdued. Tʜᴀᴛ ɪs ᴀ ʙᴀᴛᴛʟᴇ ᴡᴇ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ɴᴏᴛ ᴡɪɴ.

Shinji looked back to the receding form of Godzilla. He fought the urge to touch his temple.

I believe you.

Thank god the emergency plug release was mechanical and not reliant on the Eva's power reserves.

The elastic ladder to the street below had been only slightly less nerve-wracking than the prospect of being helpless in the plug as Godzilla stomped it to bits. The soles of her plugsuit booties were non-slick, but she still nearly slipped a few times as she had frantically clambered down and ran towards the emergency station. The segments of the city streets moved up and down with each booming footstep Godzilla took, like ripples in water.

She didn't look back, not even when she heard the low rumbling of his atomic ray charging. It was only when she didn't hear Unit-01 get vaporized that she had dared to look back and saw the silver giant standing in Godzilla's way. Her ears were still ringing from the roar that had followed, so much louder than what the documentaries made it out to be.

Yet now Godzilla was walking away, and the silver giant had not been reduced to a charbroiled stick figure along with Unit-01. She stopped running, and turned fully to look as the old kaiju marched with his back to her. Even as he moved away each step made her bones jump in her skin.

The giant seemed to relax, fists unclenching. It turned back towards Unit-01, then its head seemed to snap towards her. Once again she locked eyes with the strange being for a few moments that seemed to stretch on and on.

Then it was gone, vanishing into the same red light that had heralded its arrival.

"Miss?"

She turned and saw the recovery team approaching, guards in full tactical gear and medics with enough equipment to do an open-heart surgery right then and there in the street.

"Miss Sohryu, are you alright?" one of the guards asked again.

She glanced back to where the giant had been, as if expecting to still see its strange half-smile and luminous eyes looking at her.

"I'm fine," she said, slowly.

"Pilot is secured," Hyuuga announced. "She's being escorted to the infirmary for checkup as we speak."

Misato relaxed the grip on her cross. Oh thank the goddess. "Have them prepare a CT-scan and radiation detection. I don't want any problems slipping past us."

"Yes, captain."

"Belay retrieval for Unit-01 until after Godzilla has cleared the city limits. We do not want to give him the impression that it's moving."

"Giving the order now," Aoba said.

She fought the urge to let out a bitter laugh. The most powerful and advanced organization on the planet, scampering around in the shadows like rats to avoid drawing Godzilla's attention.

"Captain, we should also dispatch to the Angel's corpse as soon as it's safe," Ritsuko said, looking up from her computer. She gestured for Misato to come over, then pointed at one of the camera feeds on the computer screen. "The Angel's core was cut neatly in half by... well, the S2 organ should be almost completely intact."

"Something tells me the research project in Nevada would be happy with that," Misato murmured. Her voice dropped to a whisper. "Speaking of that, do you think Godzilla's reaction is related?"

Ritsuko took a puff of her cigarette. "If you mean he smelled Unit-01's genetic donor, then yes, I think he connected the dots."

"Shit. Now we have to deal with our only weapon triggering hostility from the most powerful thing on the planet." Misato rubbed her eyes with a hand. "Goddess, we would've lost an entire Evangelion if it weren't for..."

"For an outside context problem?" Ritsuko finished with mock cheer. "I'm certainly looking forward to the briefings on that."

"It wasn't outside of Godzilla's context, apparently," Misato muttered.

"Captain," Maya called. "Godzilla is approaching the Angel's corpse."

"Speak of the devil," Ritsuko said.

Misato straightened and watched on the vidscreen as Godzilla stomped towards the bisected halves of the Angel, which were already slowly decaying into LCL as their waveforms collapsed. He paused, studying the corpse, then reached down. Misato's eyes widened as she realized he was grabbing the two hemispheres of the neatly halved core.

Godzilla seemed to weigh the crystalline chunks in his hands, peering at the interior with what Misato would call a knowing look, if she knew better than to anthropomorphize him. He looked back to Unit-01, then his gaze swept the city before returning to the twin halves of the core in his hands. His lips pulled back in a snarl.

His hands tensed for a moment, then the hemispheres pulverized in his grip, crystalline material strong enough to withstand artillery without a scratch promptly reduced to glittering red dust. Like they were trash, Godzilla dropped the shattered halves of the core, then shook the fine powder off his hands in a manner that was oddly humanlike.

"So much for an intact S2 organ, huh?" Misato said.

"Hmm."

Godzilla now focused his attention on the yellow and grey kaiju Asuka had slain. This time, he bent down and took its neck into his jaws, the movement surprisingly gentle. Standing back up, he reminded Misato of a leopard casually carrying a hundred kilo antelope in its jaws as he began to walk back the way he'd come, the kaiju dangling from his mouth like a ragdoll.

It wasn't long before he disappeared over the mountains. As soon as his head vanished from sight, Misato gave the order for the retrieval crews to finally bring Unit-01 back down.

"This could have gone a lot better," Ritsuko commented.

"Look on the bright side- we just proved Evangelion is a viable anti-kaiju weapon, leaps and bounds above any other. We still have our Evangelion and the pilot. And..."

She thought to the silver giant. Its inexplicable nature. The ease with which it'd killed the Angel. And how it had put itself between Unit-01 and an aggressor not once, but twice.

"Things could have gone a lot worse."

Godzilla sank out of sight behind the mountains, and Kensuke slowly lowered the camera. Looking down, he realized his hands were shaking now that they didn't have to keep a steady picture. Likewise, it seemed that now that he wasn't focused on filming, the magnitude of what he'd witnessed could truly sink in.

"Holy fuck. Holy fuck holy fuck. Hooooooly fuck." He paused. "Holy fuck!"

There was a thump to his side, and he looked to see Toji had fainted, crumpling onto the grass by the trail. Kensuke immediately knelt down by his friend, shaking him by the shoulder.

"Dude, you alright?"

Toji's eyes fluttered open. "Eh? Ken?"

"You fainted," Kensuke said.

"Oh." Toji sat up, then slowly got back to his feet, waving away a helping hand. "Did all of that happen?"

Kensuke began to grin like an idiot. "You mean, did we get to see Godzilla? Because we totally did. We got to see Godzilla."

He began to cackle, tears in his eyes, and pointed the camera in his face. "We got to see Godzilla!"

Toji let out a nervous chuckle. "Dude, I thought it was bad enough we were going to try and see the giant robot fight the thing."

"I know! We were looking for gold and found-" Kensuke fumbled for words. "Something even better than gold!"

"Ever the poet, man."

"I don't need to be a poet when I got it on tape!" Kensuke waved his arms in the air. "We got to see the Eva kill a kaiju, and then the real Angel showed up, and then that... uh..."

"Ken, you know what that thing was?" Toji scratched the back of his head. "Is that just some kaiju or whatever people don't normally talk about? Please tell me that's the case."

"Toji, I know more about kaiju than I do the back of my hand," Kensuke said proudly. "I have no fucking clue what we just saw."

"Great." A sigh. "Just great. Definitely something I wanted to see."

"I know, right?"

Toji gave a concerned look. "Uh huh."

"I wonder what that thing was," Kensuke continued. "Maybe it's a competitor to Evangelion? Or some order of kaiju! Maybe it's even from outer space!"

"Dude, that thing just looked like a giant... man. No other way to really describe it. Giant man." Toji rubbed his eyes. "That was ultra crazy, Ken."

"Ultra crazy," Kensuke repeated, still grinning. Then, he paused. "Ultra..."

He slapped Toji on the back. "Genius!"

"?" grunted the taller boy.

Kensuke looked into the camera again. "I know what to call him!"

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Giant, Part IV

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Postby Thuktun Flishithy » Wed May 10, 2023 7:19 am

Sʜɪɴᴊɪ?

"Hurk."

Iғ ʏᴏᴜ ᴅᴇsɪʀᴇ, I ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ʜᴇʟᴘ ᴀʟʟᴇᴠɪᴀᴛᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ɴᴀᴜsᴇᴀ-

"I'm fine," Shinji croaked out, wiping his mouth. Then, he retched again.

The iron hand that gripped his belly relaxed its grip, or perhaps a certain someone pried the fingers off, so to speak. Unsteadily, he rose to his feet and flushed the toilet. Small blessing that Tokyo-3 kept its emergency street shelters clean. He washed his hands, then looked into the mirror, gripping the sides of the sink tightly as he studied himself.

Same mop of black hair. Same blue eyes, even when he spread his eyelids open with a finger and thumb to study the red flesh underneath. No new body parts, or some silver hue to his skin that hadn't been there before. He was still Shinji Ikari.

Yet, he wasn't the Shinji Ikari that had woken up this morning. Shinji Ikari couldn't turn a hundred meters tall, or throw a punch like he'd been training for it all of his life, or cut an Angel in half like he was cleaning out a fish. And above all, Shinji Ikari wouldn't get in the way of a furious Godzilla and stand his ground.

He looked down at his hands, turning them over back and forth, tracing up his forearms. He couldn't see any sign of the Angel's whips trying to burn into his skin, no cuts or bruises. It was all so easy to pretend it didn't happen, that he hadn't grappled with a nightmarish kaiju and won, that he was still just a normal boy.

At least, it should've been easy.

Flexing his hands, he crossed his arms just as he had before and watched himself in the mirror. It felt silly now, like something a kid would do while fighting the monsters of his imagination, but the glittering beam he'd fired only a few minutes ago had been far too real to be the work of a childish fantasy.

Neither had been the sight of Godzilla's eyes boring into his own, as the old king's face contorted with anger.

twin suns on the water

The trembling started again, and he pressed his fingers into his temple, teeth gritted.

Sʜɪɴᴊɪ?

"I don't think I can do that again," he managed to choke out. "I can't. I... I won't."

He braced with closed eyes, expecting- what, exactly? Disappointment? Anger? Something to shame him, or an grave demand-

Tʜᴇɴ ʏᴏᴜ ᴡᴏɴ'ᴛ.

Shinji opened his eyes.

Iᴛ ᴡᴀs ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴄʜᴏɪᴄᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴀᴄᴄᴇᴘᴛ ᴍʏ ᴘᴏᴡᴇʀ, ᴀɴᴅ sᴏ ɪᴛ sʜᴀʟʟ ʙᴇ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴄʜᴏɪᴄᴇ ᴛᴏ ʀᴇᴛᴜʀɴ ɪᴛ. Wʜᴇɴ ᴡᴇ ᴄᴀɴ sᴇᴘᴀʀᴀᴛᴇ sᴀғᴇʟʏ, I sʜᴀʟʟ ғɪɴᴅ ᴀ ɴᴇᴡ ʜᴏsᴛ.

"I'm sorry."

Fᴏʀ ᴡʜᴀᴛ?

The question itself gave a better answer than anything Shinji could think of. He looked himself in the mirror, at eyes that were his, but also someone else's.

"Thank you."

Rᴇɢᴀʀᴅʟᴇss ᴏғ ᴡʜᴀᴛ ʜᴀᴘᴘᴇɴs ɴᴇxᴛ, ᴋɴᴏᴡ ᴛʜᴀᴛ I ᴀᴍ ᴘʀᴏᴜᴅ ᴏғ ʏᴏᴜ, Sʜɪɴᴊɪ. Yᴏᴜ ʜᴀᴠᴇ sᴀᴠᴇᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ᴡᴏʀʟᴅ ᴛᴏᴅᴀʏ, ᴀɴᴅ ɢᴏɴᴇ ғᴀʀ ʙᴇʏᴏɴᴅ ᴀɴʏᴛʜɪɴɢ ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴄᴏᴜʟᴅ ʙᴇ ᴇxᴘᴇᴄᴛᴇᴅ ᴏғ ʏᴏᴜ. Wʜᴇᴛʜᴇʀ ᴡᴇ ᴘᴀʀᴛ ᴛᴏᴍᴏʀʀᴏᴡ, ᴏʀ ᴀ ʏᴇᴀʀ ғʀᴏᴍ ɴᴏᴡ, I ᴀᴍ ʜᴀᴘᴘʏ ᴛᴏ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴋɴᴏᴡɴ ʏᴏᴜ.

He smiled. "Everything else has been awful, but... it's been nice, having someone to talk to."

His phone buzzed, and he saw that Misato had shot him a text, telling him to come to HQ. Idly, that made him wonder just where on Earth the phone went when he had turned giant. Or his clothes, for that matter.

Tʜᴀᴛ ᴇxᴘʟᴀɴᴀᴛɪᴏɴ ᴡᴏᴜʟᴅ ʀᴇᴏ̨ᴜɪʀᴇ ᴍᴇ ᴛᴏ ʟᴇᴄᴛᴜʀᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ᴏɴ ᴏ̨ᴜᴀɴᴛᴜᴍ ᴍᴇᴄʜᴀɴɪᴄs ᴀɴᴅ sᴇᴀs ᴏғ Dɪʀᴀᴄ.

"Oh." He shoved the phone back in his pocket. "Well, maybe later. Right now we have to go. Or, um, technically just me, but you know."

Iᴛ ᴀᴘᴘᴇᴀʀs ᴛʜᴀᴛ ᴡᴇ sʜᴀʟʟ ғɪɴᴀʟʟʏ ᴍᴇᴇᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ɴᴇᴡ ᴘɪʟᴏᴛ.

"Properly, anyway." Shinji thought back to the way he'd locked eyes with the tiny figure. Even from that distance, he could see the blue of her eyes, a sharp contrast with her red hair that seemed akin to flame. "I wonder what she's like?"

The bunched-up hospital gown hit the far wall with a soft thump, and she began to throw on her clothes, teeth gritted. If another nurse came in with yet another bullshit medical test, she was going to pull their head off and punt it like a football down the hallway.

There was a knock at the door, and a familiar voice said, "Can I come in?"

"Fine," she said.

The door slid open just enough for Misato to sidle in. The older woman made sure to shut it, then leaned against the wall, arms folded across her chest. She looked older than Asuka remembered, though the harsh lighting of the infirmary definitely was not flattering. She imagined she would've looked like a zombie in the mirror herself, if the room had any.

"How are you?" Misato asked.

"I'm fine," she snapped. "Just sick and tired of all these tests. Radiation screening? Blood tests? Seriously?"

"It's just a precaution," Misato said. "Same with all the others. We have no idea what you might've been exposed to, either with Godzilla or..."

Asuka paused as she pulled on her sundress. "Or that silver thing."

"Whose existence has already been classified," Misato said, rolling her eyes. "Truth be told, we're just as clueless about him... it, as you are."

Asuka thought about telling her about her encounter. How the giant had looked at her, not like how one would study an ant, but had looked her in the eyes, the action so human it made her shiver. Instead, she finished pulling on her dress and started adjusting it, smoothing out some errant wrinkles.

Misato seemed to study her with a knowing look on her face. Asuka hated that.

"Are you sure you're alright, Asuka?" she finally asked. "It's okay to not be okay."

"I told you, I'm fine." She grabbed her hair clips and began to slip them on. "I want to hit the simulator today."

A frown. "Asuka, if this is about you-"

"I had that situation under control." Asuka glared at Misato. "I was operating an inferior model, and then that silver... thing disrupted the operation."

"It saved your life, Asuka. Godzilla was about to vaporize Unit-01 before that giant got in the way and somehow made him back down."

"And if I still had power, you'd be cleaning up giant lizard from the streets," Asuka snarled. "And if I was working with Unit-02 instead of that buggy test type, I could've throw in that giant's head as the cherry on top."

Misato seemed like she was about to say something, then sighed. "You can use the simulator all day tomorrow. Today, we have a lot on our hands. We need to get you settled in, and then I'm off to briefings and mop-up to clean up after that... well, that thing."

It was Asuka's turn to sigh. "Okay."

"You did good work today." The older woman's expression softened. "You just validated the past fifteen years of work on the Evangelions, and scored the easiest defeat of a kaiju in human history. No nukes, no lucky shots, no armies... just you."

Asuka straightened, a small grin tugging at her lips. "Just me."

And just the kaiju, too. The Angel had been stolen from her, by something that shouldn't have existed. The grin faded.

Misato pointed a thumb behind her. "C'mon, let's get out of here."

Asuka slipped on her shoes, and followed Misato out of the infirmary. It was then she realized there was a boy sitting across the hall, looking small in the creaking plastic seat hanging from the wall. He had been listening to music on some outdated tape player, but hurriedly pulled the earbuds out and jumped to his feet when he saw her.

He was slight of frame, the white shirt of his uniform hanging off him, and despite being a few months older than her according to his file, he was a good two centimeters shorter. Even for a teen he had a soft, delicate face, in a way that was oddly cute. In an objective manner, of course.

What caught her attention most, however, were his eyes, as blue as her own. She hadn't known Japanese could even have blue eyes. They locked with hers, and for a moment their gazes held. Something about it felt off- not in the normal way when someone stared at her. The way he looked at her, his stance; something about it felt uncomfortably familiar for someone she'd just met.

The boy broke first, bowing his head stiffly. "Um, hello, Miss Sohryu. I'm Shinji. Shinji Ikari."

She blinked, the spell broken, then tilted her head up ever so slightly. "So you're the washout."

"Shinji's still a pilot," Misato interjected. She stepped between them and planted a hand on each one's shoulder, pulling them a little closer. "Buggy model, remember? We'll get that worked out, and in the meantime, you two will be training together as pilots."

Shinji blushed. "I look forward to working with you, Miss Sohryu."

"Hmm." Asuka glanced at Misato. "So, did the moving crews bring my stuff over already?"

"I got a call saying your luggage is at my apartment."

"I guess you guys actually do work fast after a kaiju attack."

"Wait, she's moving in?" Shinji asked, eyes widening.

Asuka snorted. "Living under the same roof as a boy is perverted. You're getting moved out."

Misato gave an awkward smile. Asuka's brow furrowed in concern.

"He's getting moved out, right?"

"Okay, so hear me out," Misato began, and already Asuka felt a pit of dread forming in her gut. "I figured it would help improve training if you guys were... roomies."

This time, she and the Third Child were of the same mind.

"WHAT?"

"This footage was intercepted by MAGI auto-censors as soon as the boy tried to upload it to the internet," Fuyutsuki said, standing across the desk. "Section II has already given the standard warning."

"Rumors will spread," Gendo said. "Between this and the old man's visit, leaks are inevitable. We will need to prepare our story for the news cycle when the public becomes too agitated."

"Naturally. Of course, the public is one of the smallest issues we have at the moment."

"I will confer with the committee regarding this new arrival. The rest of the operations I trust to the captain and Dr. Akagi." He leaned back in his seat. "That's all for now."

Fuyutsuki nodded, then turned about face and left, his heels clacking on the polished floor and echoing through the empty office. When the door shut, Gendo leaned forward and replayed the footage.

Most of it had simply captured the battle between Unit-01 and the unidentified kaiju, as well as the Angel's arrival and subsequent defeat by the silver giant. It offered no new angles or vantage points that the other automated cameras scattered across the city hadn't already offered, and the swears and screams grated his ears. He fast forwarded through much of it.

"That was ultra crazy, Ken."

"Ultra crazy." A pause. "Ultra..."

The MAGI identified the two boys in the footage as classmates of Shinji- Toji Suzuhara and Kensuke Aida. That information in and of itself wasn't particularly useful, aside from the fact his son was near the epicenter of any potential leaks. Not that the boy wouldn't already know what was happening

The bespectacled boy's face filled the screen at an angle that allowed Gendo to see far more of his nose hairs than he'd ever want to see.

"I know what to call him! He is... Ultraman!"

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シン・Leviathan, Chapter Four: Giant


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