See Chapter 1 for disclaimer.THE IKARI IDENTITY
Chapter 2: Truth Hits Everybody
From a rooftop nearby, another party watched the current scene in Misato’s apartment playing out. “Shit!” a female voice said, looking through binoculars. “Finally shows up only to nearly get himself killed!” Sighing heavily, she prepared to go right into the lion’s den. “Son of a bitch, that idiot had best appreciate this…”
Back in the apartment, Shinji was still laying down trying to wrap his head around what had just happened. He had just disarmed and nearly killed two Section Two agents sent to bring him back to the Commander, but it felt like he had seen someone else do it, using his body; memories and reflexes and reaction that weren’t his own, using skills he was unaware even existed; he had moved so fast, so precise, with movements focused and intended to deliver as much disabling pain as possible in as…little time as he could.
Then there was Rei Ayanami standing over him, with a gun in her hand pointed at him, and Misato’s apartment seemed to have become a war zone; taken apart, furniture and appliances strewn around the floor. And still, there was no trace of Misato or Asuka.
“Rei,” Shinji spoke up, his voice cracking. “W-what the hell is going on?”
“I told you,” Rei spoke in her usual chilly tone, “Commander Ikari has had people looking for you for weeks. You are still needed at NERV. Your whereabouts during that time can be explained another day.” Pointing the gun towards the Third Child’s head, she continued. “Now get up. I do not wish to harm you greatly.”
As he stood up, Shinji felt his instinct take over and decided to even the odds a bit. Lunging for the gun, he knocked it loose from the First Child’s hand and tried to hold her in an armlock. “Stop this, Rei,” he spoke with a voice as cold as his father’s. “I won’t fight you.”
“Then you will force me to hurt you,” Rei replied. Breaking his grip, she gave him a hard right jab to the stomach. Pushing the advantage further while he was winded, she delivered a short kick to his left side.
Shinji grunted, pulling himself off the floor quickly. As Rei came at him with another kick, he caught her leg with his crossed wrists. “Enough!” he shouted, intent on stopping her unprovoked assault.
Rei said nothing, trying to free herself from his grip. Using her light weight, she backflipped and caught Shinji in the jaw with her other foot, freeing the caught leg before landing with a soundless grace.
Shinji, meanwhile, found himself on the floor again. ‘This really isn’t working,’ he thought. Rei was certainly more serious about this than he was, even with the unknown-to-him skills he was using. All he was doing was fending off her strikes, she seemed to be ready to crush what little spine he had.
The sound of glass breaking took the attention of both of the room’s conscious occupants. As the patio door practically exploded inward, a shape came through and hit Rei, knocking her back a few feet. As Shinji regained his footing, his gaze was caught by the room’s newest occupant. A feminine form with a familiar red mane told him all he needed to know. “Asuka…” he thought aloud.
Asuka Langley Sohryu stood before him, wearing a dark beige sweater and blue jeans. The shoes she wore he hadn’t seen since when she moved in, a black pair built in a heel-boot hybrid style. Oddly, Shinji noticed, her hair did not contain her neural connectors. ‘Rarely seen her without them, now that I think about it,’ he thought.
“You okay?” Asuka asked, breaking his train of thought.
Feeling more out-of-the-loop than ever, Shinji could do nothing but stand up and nod.
Shaking her head angrily, Asuka shot him her best mad look. “Idiot! Take this more seriously!” she berated. “She could’ve easily killed you…”
Rei groaned and got to her feet, the mildest look of anger on her face. “Pilot Sohryu,” she spoke softly.
Asuka turned her attention back to the other girl. “Hello again, First,” she said, the last word practically drenched in venom. “Get behind me,” she whispered to Shinji, “this is gonna get ugly.”
Nodding, Shinji edged backwards and well away from both of his fellow pilots. ‘I knew there was some hard feelings…but what the hell is this?’ he thought of the scene before him.
“You would stop me?” Rei asked, her eyes never leaving the redhead.
“I’d be happy to,” Asuka answered, cracking her knuckles.
“My orders say nothing of sparing your life,” Rei warned.
“Never dreamed they would have,” Asuka spat back.
Deciding that the time for words was over, Rei made the first move. A hard left followed by a wide kick, both easily evaded by Asuka. The redhead struck back with a leg sweep that took the First Child off her feet…for just a second. Springing back onto her feet, the pale girl found herself fending off the Second Child’s furious blows while looking for an opening. Seeing a chance, she evaded one of the punches and used the redhead’s momentum to shove her into the wall near the kitchen.
Dazed from that, Asuka shook her head and glared hard at the other girl. The attack hadn’t done any damage, but it did hurt like hell. “Bitch…” she fumed under her breath. Just as Rei attempted another kick, the redhead ducked it and brought out a roundhouse of her own. The First Child caught it easily, but was caught unaware as the other leg was swung around and into her face. Both girls ended up on the floor, only with the redhead keeping her footing.
From across the room, Shinji could only watch the spectacle before him with a strange expression. It was a graceful ballet of violence like nothing he‘d seen before. ‘And I’d bet Kensuke would pay greatly to see it happen,’ he had thought off-hand, the whole thing seeming surreal.
Sprawled out on the living room, Rei picked the gun she’d been carrying back up and brought it around to the others. Just as it drew a bead on her, Asuka kicked the gun high up above the two of them before reaching for it. Her hand finding a grip on the weapon, she brought it down to the winded First Child’s form. “Don’t even fucking move,” she threatened, trying to catch her own breath, “or swear I’ll do it.”
Shinji’s eyes widened at what was going to unfold. He quickly closed the distance and pulled the gun up from Rei’s head. “No, Asuka!” he shouted. “No killing.”
“And why the hell not?” Asuka seethed, not understanding what he was doing.
“She’s still our friend…” Shinji said quietly. “Regardless of what just happened.“ Rei’s gaze moved around to him, her expression one of slight surprise.
Asuka continued to give him an angry stare, but relented. “Fine,” she said. “But it’s on your head!” She then emphasized this by bringing up a boot-covered foot and knocking the First Child out.
“Asuka!” Shinji yelled.
“Hey, she’s not dead…” Asuka stated in a cold voice. Looking out of the window, her expression instantly became much more serious. “Shit! Here they come…” Running towards the door, she grabbed up Shinji’s collar and pulled him forcefully out of the apartment.
“Wha-” Shinji managed after some work. “Who’s coming?”
“Section Two agents,” Asuka said, releasing him and walking over towards the stairs. “Things are gonna get a lot more complicated from here.” Readying the gun, she opened the door to catch sight of one of the agents. Making a mad dash for him, she took a shot at his arm before tackling the man hard, which knocked him out. “See? I can show some restraint,” she said to Shinji in her best haughty voice.
“This really isn’t the best time,” Shinji said, looking down into the stairwell.
“Don’t bother,” Asuka said. “We’re not going that way.”
“Huh? Where else is there?” Shinji asked.
“Up, of course!” Asuka said, her tone even and controlled. “Gotta evade them somehow…”
Walking up several flights of stairs, the two pilots found themselves on the building’s roof. Looking down at the two Section Two vehicles pulling up, Shinji began to feel a great unease. “Are you sure about this?” he asked.
“Not much choice,” Asuka replied. “Not unless you’d like to go with them.” Walking over to one side of the building, she pulled two pairs of gloves from her pocket and handed one pair to the boy. “I think you’ll want these for what’s coming,” she said, putting on a pair herself.
Not understanding, Shinji looked over the side of the building to see what she meant. Attached to the roof and leading down into an alley was a rope. “Wait a minute,“ he began, “you don’t mean-”
“Oh yeah,” Asuka explained, “that’s exactly what I mean. Don‘t think too much about it. Just grab on and slide down. That‘s what the gloves are for.” Hefting her weight over the side of the building, she began the trip down to ground level.
Shinji could only watch as his roommate slid down the rope and onto the street. Sighing heavily, he did just as she had and felt a fearful rush as the ground approached fast. Once on the ground, he shook his head at what had just happened. “And I thought I’d been through everything…” he mused. Walking over to where Asuka stood, he kept watch for anyone coming their way. “Okay, what now?” he asked.
“Just follow me,” Asuka answered. “Stay low and stay quiet.”
Shinji nodded and followed her lead down the alley and out onto another quiet street. After a short walk into a side-street, the two came upon a black Renault Alpine parked in the recess. “Hey, this looks like…” he said.
“That’s because it is,” Asuka cut in. “She’s just been given a paint job.“ Realizing something she’d forgotten, her mood became deadly serious. “Hey, come here for a second.”
Shinji walked over to her, her change in mood increasing his unease. That was only amplified as she quickly turned him around and pulled his shirt up. “Wh…what the hell?” he asked, hearing a click behind him.
Asuka looked over his back, the two healing gunshot wounds sewn up. Staring hard at the lower one, she whirled the boy around to face her. “Alright, where is it?” she asked him, a pocket knife in hand and a deathly glare on her face.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Shinji raised his voice slightly. The knife was nearly at his neck.
Shoving him up against the nearby wall, Asuka continued to stare daggers at him. “Don’t even fuck around with me right now!” she demanded. “Where’s your chip?”
Shinji’s eyed widened at the question. ‘How could she know about that?’ he thought. “I was shot…one of the rounds hit it,” he explained, hoping to redirect her anger. With that, Asuka released him and put the blade away. “It was GPS, wasn’t it?” he asked, feeling glad to be in one piece.
“No,” Asuka said in a low voice, “much worse.” Opening the door to the car, she motioned for him to get in. “It’s something that just needed taking care of,“ she said quietly. “Now come on, we’re getting out of here.”
Seating himself in the passenger side, a thought occurred to Shinji. “Asuka,” he said, “can you even drive? I mean, you‘re only-”
“Now is not the time to be bringing that up,” Asuka threatened him. “Let’s just say we’ve both got some serious new skills…”
Shinji decided right then to shut up and buckle up. Turning the key, Asuka started the car up and slowly eased it out of the narrow alley. ‘Hope there’s no one around,’ she thought as she turned out onto the street. For a couple of blocks, it was all quiet. That is, until a left turn nearly ran them into a Section Two SUV. A few handgun rounds were shot in their direction, one of them shattering the back window. “Shit!” she yelled, shifting wildly and pushing the gas as hard as she could. “So much for the easy way,” she continued while giving the wheel a hard turn.
The sports car managed to keep ahead of the larger vehicle, Asuka trying desperately to lose the tail. After several more blocks, she began to form an idea. “Shinji,” she said to her passenger. “Backseat floorboard, behind you.”
Unbuckling himself, Shinji climbed back and looked for what she’d requested. And there he found it, a submachine gun. “This what you meant?” he shouted over the engine’s roar.
“Don‘t just sit there!” Asuka yelled back, making the car take another hard right. “Take care of it!”
Nodding, Shinji edged himself partly out of the window and aimed at the SUV’s front grill. That same feeling in the apartment took control as he looked for the right spot. Giving the trigger a small squeeze, a short burst erupted from the weapon and struck the engine block dead-on. ‘Not going anywhere now,’ he thought as he pulled himself back inside the car, feeling disconnected from the whole event.
Asuka was trying her best to keep control of the car, heading back to one of the exits from town. As she neared the street she was seeking, another SUV blocked her off. “Goddamn it!” she fumed, having had more than her fill of this situation. “I swear to all that’s holy, I’m not driving next time!” Making a quick 180-degree turn, the redhead put as much weight into the gas pedal as she could.
Shinji pumped out a couple more bursts in the direction of the vehicle following them. One hit the front left tire, causing the SUV to swerve wildly but still keep chase. As he readied to fire another burst, a click told him he’d run the weapon dry. “Oh, for the love of…” he said angrily, tossing the empty gun into the backseat. “I’m out, you’ll have to take care of this one!”
“Just like always…” Asuka said under her breath, sighing. Making another hard turn, the Second Child steered the car a few streets over…and around the lake made by Unit-00’s destruction. The flat front tire on the SUV following them made it nearly impossible for the driver to keep control.
Looking in the rearview mirror, Shinji saw the larger vehicle hit the water running. ‘And that makes two…‘ he thought, realizing that was the only two that had been outside the apartment building. Exhaling sharply, he noticed they were leaving the city limits and out onto a road leading into Japan’s countryside. “I think I’ve had enough of this for several lifetimes…” he thought aloud.
“What?” Asuka asked.
“Nothing…” Shinji replied, the enormity of the night’s happenings setting heavily on him. Looking over the redheaded driver, he afforded himself a small smile.
Noticing the boy’s stare, Asuka spoke up. “What’re you staring at?”
Shaking his head, Shinji continued to smile. “I just realized…you drive like Misato.”
“Oh really?” Asuka said with a smirk. She then gave the wheel a hard jerk to the right and left, tossing the boy about the front seat. “Still think it’s so funny?” she asked, the slow simmer of rage in her tone.
Shinji said nothing, only buckling himself back into the seat and watching out the window.
Miles away, a call was being taken in a large office.
“I see…” a man’s voice said. “That is most…unfortunate.” Placing the phone back in the cradle, Gendo Ikari’s expression didn’t even betray a hint of worry. For him, all was going to plan.
“It was the Second, wasn’t it?” another voice asked from across the room.
“It is of no consequence,” the Commander said. “She will be dealt with in due time.”
“I told you to send me along with the First,” the voice said.
“No, you are my protection in her stead,” the Commander said. “The Second and Third will be no threat soon enough…”
“So she is still alive?” the voice asked.
“Indeed,” the Commander answered. “It seems he isn’t willing to hurt Rei.”
“That could be used to your advantage,” the voice spoke.
“Yes, but I will not have her take unnecessary risks,” the Commander replied. “Now that she is truly…irreplaceable. She is still needed for the scenario.”
“Ah yes, of course,” the voice agreed. “Then all proceeds as planned…”
Nearly an hour into their drive, Shinji decided to stop pacing around the big questions. “Um…Asuka,” he began.
“What?” Asuka asked, her face bearing a mix of tension and deep thought.
Taking a deep breath, Shinji prepared himself for whatever answers she could give. “What the hell is happening?” he asked quietly. “Why did Ayanami attack us? What’s my father want me for? Why can I do these things I did back there?” he continued to ask, his voice raising in volume with every word.
“Quiet!” Asuka snapped at him. After a tense few seconds, she sighed and looked back at the road. “Look, I didn’t mean to shout like that. But right now, I’m feeling very agitated.” Taking a deep breath herself, she continued. “Those skills? That means you’ve been…activated.”
“Activated?” Shinji asked. “What do you mean?”
“It’s a long story…” Asuka replied.
“I think we’ve got the time,” Shinji mused under his breath with a hint of sarcasm.
“Well,” Asuka said, “you remember all those synch tests?” Looking over to see him nodding, she continued. “Turns out there was something else they did to us…subconsciously.”
Shinji sat quietly, his eyes wide.
“They turned us into living weapons,” Asuka said, her expression dropping slightly. “Very useful for taking care of problems quietly.”
“What problems?” Shinji asked.
“People standing in the Committee’s way,” Asuka replied. “And the Commander’s, too.”
“Committee?” Shinji questioned.
“NERV’s not quite on the top of the food chain,” Asuka explained. “The Commander’s been working with this twelve-member cabal called SEELE. They’re the real force behind the EVAs.”
Shinji took a moment to take in what he’d been told. “So that makes my father as much of a tool to them as us,” he said.
“Heh, they wished he’d been that obedient,” Asuka said.
“What do you mean?” Shinji asked.
Sighing again, Asuka continued. “You’ll get the full story in a while. But for now, let’s just say NERV and SEELE had a much darker purpose. And we were just pawns…” Shaking her head, she resumed speaking. “What they were planning was very different that what your father had in mind. And to that end…”
“…he used us,” Shinji finished. “It’s not just me, then. No one means anything to him.”
“Not really,” Asuka interjected. “It was the Committee that used us, the Commander has the First to do that for him.”
“So that’s why she attacked us?” Shinji asked.
“Yeah,” Asuka answered. “And as for why the Commander’s wanting you alive…Unit-01’s needed for his plans, and ever since it ate the 14th Angel and absorbed you, it won’t work except for you.”
“Not even the Dummy Plug?” Shinji asked, remembering the infernal device.
“No one,” Asuka said, her tone flat. “You were part of something so big it’s frightening…and everyone but him and the SEELE had no clue.”
Shinji pulled his legs up to his body and crossed his arms over his knees. “I never wanted any of it, you know?” he said. “All I wanted was for him to acknowledge me…”
“I know,” Asuka said, her voice softening. “And after all that teasing about ‘the invincible Shinji Ikari’…I never would have guessed. I was always just expendable…”
Noticing her change of expression, Shinji decided to tell her where he’d been. “I don’t remember how I got there,” he started, “but I was pulled out of the sea around Tokyo-2 just over six weeks ago. Woke up a week-and-a-half ago to find out I’d been found in an outfit like the one Rei was wearing, shot twice in the back, one of them hitting that ‘chip’, and unaware what had happened.” He took in a deep breath and began again. “The crew let me off at Tokyo-2. I walked from there back to the apartment, all the while noticing these strange lines of thought I’d never had. And then…well, you know the rest.”
Asuka sat in silence, listening to her roommate’s story. When he finished, she spoke up. “Yeah…up until earlier, I thought you’d died,” she said.
“What about you?” Shinji asked, concerned. “Last time I saw you…” he trailed off, remembering how she’d been after the 15th Angel’s attack on her mind.
“I’ve been better, if that’s any comfort,” Asuka said, she trying to hold back the same memories. “They activated me a few days after you disappeared.”
“You keep saying ‘activated’,” Shinji cut in. “What does that mean?”
“That chip that was in your back?” Asuka asked. She glanced over to see him nod. “That’s what it’s for. It triggers the implanted skills we’ve got. The Committee could even keep us on target with it.”
“You mean they were…controlling us?” Shinji asked, the anger in his voice evident.
“Yes, to some degree,” Asuka continued. “They almost made me do something unforgivable…” The redhead’s eyes were threatening to tear up, no matter who was looking.
Shinji placed an unsure hand on her shoulder, trying to calm her. “Asuka…what happened?”
Asuka hit the brakes on the car hard, shaking and trying to hold back the emotions. “Misato…” she said, barely above a whisper. “They were going to have me kill her!” she finished with a shout of anger and sadness.
His eyes going wide, Shinji gave her shoulder a small squeeze. “Tell me everything…” he requested.
Asuka gathered her composure and began to speak, her voice just barely even. “Like I said,” she started, “it was almost a week after you’d disappeared. All I remember was being in the locker room at NERV and then it all goes sideways. Next thing I know, I’m standing in front of Misato with a gun in her face! She never even looked scared, like she was expecting it…”
Shinji could only listen in silence at her story, a faint reminder of something tugging at his mind.
“And,” Asuka continued, “I…I just couldn’t do it. Misato was one of the few people who really cared about me. I couldn’t do that to her…” Asuka sniffled back a few tears that had almost fallen. “I broke down there in front of her, one of the few times I cried. Then I guess she got it in her head to knock me out cold,” she said with a hint of annoyance. “After that, I woke up to the sensation that part of my back was being cut open and something removed.”
“She knew about it?” Shinji asked.
“Oh, she knows about a lot more than that,” Asuka said, her tone evening out again. She then started the car up again and resumed their drive.
“You mean she’s okay?” Shinji questioned, feeling some weight leave his person.
“Where do you think we’re going? She’s been hiding out with me since,” Asuka replied. Noticing the wide smile he was wearing, she spoke up. “What’s with that grin?”
“I’m just so glad to hear you’re both alive,” Shinji said, wiping some tears from his eyes. “It was one of my main worries since I came to. And then finding the apartment like it was…”
“Heh,” Asuka said, feeling her usual mood return, “there’s no need to worry about the great Asuka Langley So-”
“No,” Shinji cut in. “I was deathly worried about both of you. I just didn‘t know if you were alive or not.”
Asuka could only look at her roommate, his concern for them surprising her. ‘Heaven forbid I’d ever tell him, though,’ she thought. “That’s really all I can tell you for now,” she began again, “you’ll get the full details when we get there.”
“Get where?” Shinji asked.
“Where Misato and I have been hiding since…then,” Asuka finished. The occupants of the car falling silent again, the redhead put her foot down on the gas, hoping to get there before night fell…
A few hours of highway travel later, Asuka pulled the black car into an off-road path. A mile or two into the side road, they reached the side of a cliff. “Um…are we here?” Shinji asked, not seeing any way further.
“Yeah,” Asuka said, getting out of the car and walking up to the cliff. Removing a small card from her pocket, she swiped it through a small crack in the surface. Slowly, a fake section of the cliff moved to the left and provided barely enough room to move the car through. Getting back into the vehicle, the redhead noticed the boy’s odd expression. “Neat trick, huh?” she asked, a smirk on her face.
Shinji could only nod dumbly for a few seconds. As she pulled the car into the opening, he turned to Asuka. “How in the world did you find this place?” he questioned.
“Let’s just say an…old friend left it to Misato and I,” Asuka said, a hint of sadness in her voice.
The two teens stepped out of the car once Asuka had parked it and closed the false wall. Shinji took in the new scenery. The place seemed to be quite old, probably pre-Second Impact. The walls were a dull grey, with florescent lights recessed into the ceiling. It smelled of old machines and even older paint. “What is this place?” he asked.
“We figure it’s an old fallout shelter,” Asuka explained, walking ahead of him down one of the halls. “Dunno how long it’s been here, but it survived Second Impact…so I guess that’s good enough.” Finishing with a shrug, she led her fellow pilot into a small room.
As he looked about the room, Shinji noticed nothing strange about it. A neatly-made bed and a table were all it contained. One of the doors in the room led into a shower, something he didn‘t have in his old room. Looking into the small closet, he was met with the sight of what few possessions he owned. His clothes were hung up, his cello propped up neatly in a corner of the small space, and his S-DAT player was sitting on the single shelf inside. “So that’s where it all went,” he thought aloud.
“Yeah, Misato grabbed it all after…” Asuka trailed off, both remembering what she’d told him earlier. “Anyway, “ she said with a shake of her head, “I think she’d like to know you’re alright.” Nodding, Shinji followed her down the hall they had been standing in and into a larger room. In the center was a large table, easily big enough to be used for a dinner party. On one side were a few things, like a refrigerator and other basic kitchen appliances. On the other side of the room, however, he saw a line of large computers, not unlike some of the rooms at NERV headquarters. Nearby were several consoles and projection screens. ‘I guess this was the operations room,’ he thought idly.
Asuka crossed the large room and knocked on a door. “Misato,” she said quietly. “You awake yet?”
Opening the door slightly, the former major tried to put on her best I-didn’t-just-roll-out-of-bed face. “Oh good, you’re back,” she said with a smile and giving a heavy sigh. Looking behind the redhead, the older woman’s heart caught in her throat as her eyes locked at the room’s other occupant. Instantly snapping into the waking world, she walked past the girl and towards the boy. “Oh my God,“ she managed, staring with wet eyes at her other charge. Tackling him with a tight hug, she could only sob a word here and there.
Shinji, meanwhile, was a bit uncomfortable with the sudden attention. Misato had hugged him before, but never quite with this much force. The knot in his stomach, though, had since loosened at seeing her again. Getting one of his arms free, he returned the hug as best as he could. “I’m glad to see you too, Misato,” he finally spoke, small tears forming at the corners of his vision.
From across the room, Asuka looked at the scene with a mixture of annoyance and relief. Annoyance at Misato’s display, relief that her guardian was finally smiling again. The redhead was also relieved that Shinji was alright…but she squelched that thought down just as soon as it had come up.
Wiping her eyes and sniffling, Misato released him from the hug. “Sorry,” she weakly said, “I’m just so glad you’re alive…” Running a hand down his back, she felt the stitches of where his chip would be. “You removed it already?” she asked, turning in Asuka’s direction.
“No,” Asuka answered, shaking her head. “One of the shots hit him in it.”
Nodding, Misato stepped back from the boy and gave him her brightest smile. “Just good to know they don’t have you,” she said, trying to regain her composure. “You told him?” she asked the redhead.
“Not all of it,” Asuka said, taking a seat at the large table in the center of the room. “I left the biggest part for you.”
“Of course you did,” Misato said under her breath. Taking a seat herself, she motioned for the boy to sit as well. “I’d recommend it, this’ll take a while,” she told him. After Shinji seated himself across the table, she spoke up. “Okay, tell me everything that’s happened.”
Shinji took a deep breath and went back over the same story he’d told Asuka earlier, including the events in Tokyo-3. After he finished, the three sat in silence for a long while. “Now tell me what was left out,” he finally asked after some time.
Misato sighed. “First, let’s start at the beginning,” she began. “You remember the ‘truth’ about Second Impact that NERV told you?” Shinji nodded. “Well,” she continued, “that was just another lie. Truth is…the Committee discovered Adam and experimented with its form. That experiment failed…horribly. That’s what caused it.”
Shinji felt his hand begin its usual ritual of opening and closing. “So all this was SEELE’s fault…”
Nodding, Misato resumed her explanation. “Long story short, they established Project E and what was to become NERV to further the Human Instrumentality Project…”
“The what?” Shinji asked.
“Essentially,” Misato answered, “the main goal of SEELE and Commander Ikari. The process of all souls becoming one.” She leaned the chair back slightly, her face a mix of anger and fear. “Third Impact…”
Shinji’s eyes widened as much as they could. “Th-that’s insane,” he said, feeling his anger build. “Why would they do that?”
“To them, this world is stained with too much sin to continue,” Misato said. “Being one with God and all life seemed a better plan than living to them.”
The room fell silent again as Shinji took in what he had been told. “So…this is why I’m needed?”
Misato shook her head. “No…the Commander has something different in mind.” Seeing his curious look, she continued. “Something was taken from him a long time ago. And he’d reduce everything to nothing just to see her again.” She looked up at Shinji. “You know who I’m talking about, right?”
Shinji’s expression fell as he realized who. “Mother,” he whispered, barely audible. “So she was there all along…”
Misato blinked a few times, her surprise obvious. “Wait…you knew?”
Shinji shook his head slowly. “Not until I was absorbed into Unit-01. I saw her there,” he said, his head descending to rest on the table’s surface. “Goddamn you, father…you never told me.”
Misato placed a reassuring hand on his back. “I’m so sorry…” she said softly.
Asuka watched with a clear look of sadness on her face, the scene before her a mirror-image of when Misato had told her of Unit-02’s secret a couple of weeks before. ‘Mama…’ she thought, a small tear escaping her eye unnoticed.
Holding in his tears as best as he could, Shinji looked back up at Misato. “How did you learn all this?”
Misato’s expression hardened, a look of concentration on her face. “Some of it I found on my own,” she said, her gaze looking not at Shinji, but something past him.
“And some of it she had help with,” a man’s voice came from behind the Third Child. Shinji‘s expression went from sadness to shock, recognizing the voice instantly. He turned around quickly to catch sight of the familiar grin of Kaji Ryoji. “Long time no see, mister Ikari,” he told the boy, bowing slightly.
“Ah good, you’re up,” Asuka said with a smirk, not quite in her usual tone when seeing the man.
Misato said nothing, only giving her one-time lover a wide smile.
Shinji, on the other hand, was suddenly caught by a flood of images. A gun in his own hand…a fan…that grin on Kaji’s face…and the same pain he’d woken up to. Clutching at the sides of his head, the boy slumped out of the chair and onto the floor. Landing on his knees, he was unable to hold in tears of pain and sadness. “Oh God…” he spoke softly, “I remember…”
“Sorry, Shinji,” Misato said, crouching down and placing her arms around him. “It was the only way to jog your memory.”
Asuka sat quietly, watching the scene unfolding with an evident look of sadness on her features. She had agreed with them that this was the only way…but the look on his face still hurt her. She had gone thought that herself not too long ago.
Picking himself up from the floor, Shinji sat back in the chair he’d occupied just a few minutes ago. Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, he looked back to Kaji, who was now seated at the table. “Then that means…”
“Yeah,” Kaji said sadly, “SEELE sent you to eliminate me.” Taking a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, he lit one of them and took a long drag before continuing. “What happened wasn’t too far from what happened when they sent Asuka after Katsuragi,” he explained, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
“I couldn’t do it. You were the closest I’d had to a father figure,” Shinji admitted.
“Heh, I‘ll take that as a compliment,” Kaji said. “Sorry for shooting you, by the way. And with your own gun.”
“No real harm done,” Shinji replied. “One of them hit my chip, actually.”
“No shit?” Kaji asked. “Well, that’s something…” His expression returned to serious. “No really, I’m very sorry. I was hoping you were alright, but at the same time I thought…if you were gone, both the Committee and the Commander’s plans would be undone.” Looking at the boy, he continued. “Just made a snap decision. Never been this glad to be wrong.”
Shinji felt no anger at the thought that Kaji had tried to kill him. It made sense, after all. Without him, Unit-01 couldn’t work for anyone. “How did I end up at sea, then?” he asked the older man.
“Simple enough,” Kaji answered. “The docks were near where you found me. I just dumped you there. Like I said, I hoped someone would find you soon…”
As the room fell silent again, a beeping from one of the consoles caught Shinji’s attention. “What is that?” he asked, walking over to it.
“Perimeter alert,” Asuka replied. “Someone’s outside.”
Looking at the screen, Shinji caught a glimpse of a familiar school uniform and distinct hair color. “Ayanami…” he said, his voice barely above a whisper. He then looked to Kaji. “Got a gun I could borrow?” he asked in a cold tone.
“Uh…sure,” Kaji replied with a look of confusion. ”But why?” he questioned, handing the boy his handgun.
“Got something to take care of,” Shinji said in the same icy voice.
As he walked towards the exit, Misato called out to him. “Where the hell are you going?” He ignored her, his pace quickening. The older woman looked puzzled for a moment before she put the pieces together. “Asuka, you didn’t tell him yet?” she asked in a panic.
Asuka considered her question for a second before her eyes went wide. “Shit!” she yelled, running after the Third Child, hoping she could avert what might happen.
Shinji opened the false wall to come face-to-face with the First Child. Who, not twelve hours before, had tried her damnedest to bring him back to NERV. “Ayanami…” he said, his voice an odd reflection of his father’s.
“Ikari,” Rei said, her familiar calm expression in place.
His hand shaking slightly, Shinji raised the gun at her. “Just turn around now and you’ll live.”
“I do not understand,” Rei stated.
Grabbing the First Child around the collar and pinning her against the wall, Shinji put the barrel of the gun under her chin. “I will not go back there,” he said, the calmness in his voice disturbing him. “You will leave now and tell the Commander you found nothing.”
Rei’s impassive face remained. “I do not think that is-”
“Shut up!” Shinji shouted. “You tried to kill Asuka and nearly killed me. I’ve turned my back on that machine,” he said, referring to Unit-01. He took the safety off the weapon. “Now go. Or I will kill you.”
A hint of fear flashed in Rei’s eyes. “I would not do that,” she said, no waver in her tone.
“And why the hell not?” Shinji asked loudly.
“Because she’s not the enemy…” Asuka’s voice came from his side. Misato and Kaji were right behind her, a long look on both of their faces.
“Wh…what are you talking about?“ Shinji yelled. “Back in Misato’s apartment…”
“…was a ruse,” Asuka said in a small voice. “Meet our inside source.”
Shinji suddenly felt sick to his stomach. He took the gun down from the pale girl’s head and put the safety back on. Dropping the weapon with a loud clatter, he dropped to his knees. “Oh God…Rei, I almost…” he said, crying again. “I’m…s-sorry…” he got out between sobs.
Rei was unsure of how to react to this, only holding out a hand to help him up. “No. I am sorry for any misunderstanding,” she told Shinji.
Wiping his eyes with one hand, Shinji took the girl’s hand and stood again. “It’s…alright,” he said, the tight knot in his gut slowly easing. “That still hurt earlier, though.”
“Hey, had to make it look good to anybody who’d have seen,” Asuka said in a calm voice. Walking over to the First Child, she readied her words carefully. “First,” she started. “Good to know you haven’t gotten yourself killed.”
Rei nodded. “And to you as well, Sohryu.” Walking past the others, she entered the bunker with the other women following after a moment.
Shinji could only stare at what had just happened. ‘Did…did they just have a non-hostile talk?’ he asked in his mind, the very idea surreal after having watched what few times they had talked before.
Kaji picked up the gun he’d handed to Shinji. Noticing the boy’s strange look, he spoke up. “Hmm? Something bothering you?”
Shaking his head, Shinji could only give out a weak laugh. “I swear, I could live to be a hundred,” he started, walking back towards the hall, “and I’ll never understand women.”
As the boy vanished from sight, Kaji smiled at his words. “Yeah…you and me both,” he said to himself, closing the false wall.
The five of them having taken seats around the table, the conversation resumed. “Well then,” Misato said, “where to start…”
“I’ve got a question first,” Shinji spoke up, turning towards Rei. “Why’d you go against the Commander?”
A silence hung around the room before Rei began. “I was created for a purpose,” she explained. “I am just as important to his scenario as you and Unit-01 are. But…I have been given a different purpose as of late. And I do not wish to follow along with it anymore”
“And what’s that?” Shinji asked.
Rei averted her gaze. “I…helped him eliminate SEELE.”
Shinji’s eyes went wide. “W…what?”
Taking a deep breath, Rei explained. “With your absence, the Commander was forced to accelerate his timetable. You see, the Committee had no need of you. Only Unit-01. To that end, he sent me to eliminate three of their members.”
Shinji sat quietly, hanging on every word.
“My mission each time was simple,” Rei continued. “Locate the target, learn his patterns, and dispatch them in a way that could not be traced back easily. I followed those orders to the letter.”
“And like all men in power,” Kaji cut in, “they began eyeing each other suspiciously. Even with their higher purpose, they still behaved like all politicians and dictators do.”
“Indeed,” Rei said. “The remaining members began to secretly send their own agent against others within. It took less than four weeks for twelve to become one. The last one left was Chairman Kiel, head of SEELE. Commander Ikari sent me after him last, telling me to make certain he knew it was me before finishing it.” She fell silent after that, letting it hang for a few minutes.
“You mentioned an agent of theirs,” Shinji interjected.
Rei nodded. “Yes. The Fifth Child, Kaworu Nagisa.”
Standing and walking over to one of the consoles, Rei picked up a folder and placed it in front of Shinji. Opening it, he found several grainy pictures showing a grey-haired young man with ruby eyes. “He…he looks like you,” he said to the First Child.
“We’re still not sure about that,” Misato spoke up. “Not even the computers at NERV have anything on him. And I mean nothing. So it‘s a possibility he‘s their version of Rei.”
Rei walked back over to the console and gathered a couple of folders before sitting back down. “And with the Committee gone, the Fifth became the Commander’s personal protection. I believe it is because he still does not fully trust Nagisa, and intends to watch his actions.” Opening one of the folders, she slid it in front of Shinji. “And this also placed construction of the Mass Production EVAs in permanent stasis.”
Shinji looked at the contents of the folder, mostly technical specs and pictures of assembly plants. “Mass Production?” he asked.
“EVA Units-05 though 13,” Rei said. “The Committee intended to finish them and send them to retrieve Unit-01 to begin Instrumentality. The Commander has no need of them, so he simply halted their progress.”
“And just what would he need?” Shinji questioned, his expression stone-like.
“Myself,” Rei explained, “Unit-01, you, Lilith, and Adam.”
The last name made Shinji feel like he’d been slugged. “Adam? The same that caused Second Impact?” Nodding, Rei moved the last folder in front of him. Opening it, he saw a picture of a giant white shape affixed to a cross and another showing an embryonic creature. “What…are these?”
“This,” Rei said, pointing to the white shape, “is Lilith, the 2nd Angel. The Committee has kept it beneath headquarters long since before NERV existed. And the other is Adam in its post-Second Impact state.”
“Why would they keep them there?” Shinji asked.
“I am unsure of why the location,” Rei answered. “But Lilith was kept to be used in their ceremony after the Angels were finished. But that is not the case without the Lance of Longinus…”
“So that’s why they needed Unit-01?” Shinji asked, remembering the weapon used against the 15th Angel.
“Yes,” Rei said, gathering the folders. “But the Commander’s plans do not require it. His was the only one that required Adam, though.”
“And where is it?” Shinji questioned.
“Commander Ikari implanted it into his right palm as a means of controlling his version of Instrumentality,” Rei explained. “I have heard the Commander say that there is still one Angel left, but I do not know its whereabouts.”
“So I’ll still have to use Unit-01 even if Father’s stopped…” Shinji said under his breath. The room fell silent again, this time for quite a while.
“That is everything important,” Rei said, “but there is one last thing you should know.”
“What is it?” Shinji asked, his head already spinning with the information he’d been given.
“You are aware of why he is doing this?” Rei asked.
Shinji nodded. “He…wants to be with mother.”
“Yes,” Rei said. “To that end, he kept a reminder of his purpose.” Turning to look at Shinji, she continued. “When I was created, I was given Yui Ikari’s features…”
Shinji’s eyes went wide and he began to tear up. “I knew there was this…familiar feeling around you,” he said, the shock on his face becoming a small smile, “but I had no idea…”
Rei stood from her seat, walking to the door. “I am afraid I must return. I have been here longer than necessary.”
“Rei, wait a minute,” Shinji said, wiping his eyes. Standing and walking towards her, he put his arms around the girl. “Thank you,” he said, “I needed to hear that. All of it.”
“You are welcome,” Rei said with the faintest hint of a smile. “I will keep in contact,” she said to Misato as the boy released her. The older woman nodded back, her expression business-like.
As Rei resumed her trip out, Shinji called to her. “Hey.” As she turned around, he gave her a serious look. “Take care of yourself…and watch your back.”
Nodding, Rei made her way back to the false wall and out of the bunker. The trip back into the city would take a while.
Back inside, Shinji sat down at the table once again and hung his head. “That about answer everything?” Kaji asked him.
“Yeah…” Shinji said, a look of relief on his face.
Asuka had watched the scene unfold before her with some unease. None of the information had been new to her, save the fact that the First had been modeled after Shinji’s mother. But it was just something about it all that made her feel…empty. And it wasn’t the first time lately she’s felt it…
A few hours later, Shinji had managed to eat and get a shower, a couple of things he hadn’t had the luxury of in nearly two days. Feeling the water run over him, he went over the explanations he’d been handed again and again in his mind. He knew what he had to do, the only real question being was he ready or not. Sighing heavily, he turned the water off and grabbed a towel.
After drying and dressing in a pair of dark-blue short and a medium-blue shirt, he exited the shower to find Misato in the room he was using. “Hi Misato,” he said.
Misato was seated at the foot of his bed, her face carrying a worried smile. “Hey,” she said. “How’re you feeling?”
“Better now,” Shinji answered, laying out on the bed. “A meal and a shower helped. Cleanses the soul as well as the body, remember?”
Misato continued to smile at her own words coming from him. “Sorry to just lay it all on you like that,” she said.
Shaking his head, Shinji sat up. “No, it’s okay,” he told her. “I did need to know. I just wish I knew what to do now…”
“For now,” Misato said, standing from his bed, “we continue to hide here and listen out for anything. We’ve got a lot of bugs planted around headquarters. We‘ll know what they know.” Opening the door, she turned back to him. “Just try to relax for now. You’ve earned some rest, after all.” And with that, she walked out of the room.
Shinji smiled to himself, despite his internal confusion. Just being around them again made the last several days worth the trouble. But the bigger things at hand still persisted in his mind. Trying to shake the thoughts loose, he walked over to the wall and turned the lights off, picking up his S-DAT player on the way back. Putting the earbuds in, he hoped the device would help to ease his mind for a while.
Lying back on the bed, Shinji pressed play and waited for sleep to come…
In the room she’d chosen, Asuka sat on her bed. Unable to sleep, she had paced about the area for a while before looking for something to take her mind off the last two days. Shinji’s reemergence into her life had brought back the confusing mix of emotions concerning the Third Child. After all she’d learned about NERV and SEELE, she felt some regret at her treatment of the boy. Not that she would be telling anyone that, not even out loud to herself.
Looking about the room, the Second Child took in the amount of workout equipment it contained. The room must’ve been the gym at one point, she figured. Asuka had taken it because it was the largest, so of course she wanted it. And working out here had kept her mind off the many things that should’ve been occupying her thoughts. But with him there…
Shaking her head, Asuka began punching the large bag hanging in the center of the room. And while doing so, her thoughts wandered to her fellow NERV deserters. She’d made a small measure of peace with the First, and seeing Kaji again had made her feel somewhat better…especially considering what she’d almost done to Misato.
Giving the bag a hard kick, Asuka was beginning to become frustrated. This usually worked well enough to get the thoughts out-of-mind…so why not tonight? “Of course, it’s obvious why. He’s here,” the redhead said in the dim light of the room.
Then Asuka began to feel some of her old self come back. A smirk crossed her face as she figured out a new ‘test’ for the Third Child. Most definitely not like the last one she’d tried, anyway…
Shinji had put away his S-DAT player and was just about to doze off when a small knock came from the door to the hall. Standing from the bed, he walked over and opened it. As he did, his vision was filled with a redheaded form. “Oh, hi Asuka,” he said with a smile. “Did you want something?”
Asuka stood at his door, dressed in a black workout top and red sweatpants. “Yeah, come with me for a bit,” she said, motioning for him to follow.
Shinji stood in place for a few seconds, his eyes blinking repeatedly. ‘Now what in the world would she want?’ he thought. “Uh…sure,” he said, following her down the hall and into another room. This one contained several pieces of workout equipment and a bed. “This is your room?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Asuka said in a haughty tone, “I figured it would keep me busy. And a girl like me needs the most room…”
“Uh-huh,” Shinji said, tuning her out.
“Hey! Listen when someone’s talking to you!” Asuka said with a hint of annoyance. “There’s something I’d like your help with.”
Shinji blinked a few times. He had rarely ever known Asuka to need help with anything. “Sure, whatever you want.”
“Alright then,” Asuka said, placing her hands on her hips and spreading her feet. “I’d like you to fight me.”
Shinji’s expression dropped sharply at the words. “W-what?”
“I didn’t stutter, dammit!” Asuka shouted. “Come on, I’d like to see how good you are with those…skills.”
“Y…you’re serious?” Shinji asked, almost wanting to pinch himself to see if he was dreaming.
“You’re goddamn right I am!” Asuka said proudly. “Besides, I’ve got some anger to work off…”
Regaining his composure, Shinji shook his head. “That’s just crazy. I don‘t want either of us to get hurt.”
“Oh, you don’t get to back out of this,” Asuka said, putting her left foot down hard. “It’s just a sparring match. No need to take any of it seriously.”
“What about Misato or Kaji?” Shinji asked. “Won’t they hear?”
“Not a chance,” Asuka said, knocking on one of the walls. “This room is soundproof when closed up.”
Shinji didn’t really want any part of this, but he couldn’t find a way out of it. And he did have to admit, he needed to get in some practice with his new hand-to-hand skills. “Okay, fine,” he said with a sigh. “Just this once.”
Asuka’s expression hardened at those words. Getting into a stance, she motioned to Shinji. “Alright, stand a little closer,” she said.
Shinji walked over until he was only a couple of feet from her. Readying himself into a similar stance, he spoke up. “Ready when you are.”
Asuka smiled internally to herself. ‘Good to see him get into this,’ she thought. Stepping forward, her first move was a straight left punch…which Shinji easily sidestepped. But he was caught by the same hand being swung backwards after. The redhead then went to work with her feet, trying to land a kick on the Third Child.
Shinji backpedaled quickly, blocking her lithe legs and looking for an opening. Seeing an opportunity, he quickly dropped and grabbed the leg she was balancing with. The Second Child landed with a thud, but quickly sprang to her feet from her palms.
“Good move,” Asuka complimented. “But I’m not even warmed up.” Rushing at him, she gave a sharp blow to his chest and grabbed his left arm. Using her momentum, she almost threw him across the room.
Shinji grunted in pain, but rose to his feet again. Unfortunately, just in time to see Asuka jump at him and wrap her legs around his neck. Landing with her hands on the floor, the redhead pulled him back to the ground. Getting herself upright again, she looked down at the boy, a feeling of superiority nearly giving her a high. “Get up,” she spoke in a ragged voice. “Not even at half-way yet.”
Shinji took his time rising, his neck sore and ribs aching. ‘She’s really serious…’ he told himself. Deciding to go on the offensive, he closed the distance and grappled with her for a few seconds before getting a grip on her arm. Using his leg, he swept the girl’s legs out from under her and pinned her to the floor. “Ha…” he said, trying to catch his breath. “I win.”
Asuka said nothing, only smiling a dark grin at Shinji. Her arms quickly wrapped around his neck and she hefted his weight over her, the boy landing on his back with a hard smack. Before he could get up, the redhead grabbed him by the collar and dragged him to his feet. Once there, she gave him several hard blows to the sides, finishing with a straight-up kick to the jaw.
Shinji landed on his butt again, now in serious pain. At first, this had seemed like training. Now she seemed to be out for blood, his this time. “Okay…that’s…enough,” he said between breaths.
“No! Get on your feet and back into the fight, you pussy!” Asuka roared. To make her point, she put a hard foot into his left knee. “Don’t make me kill you…” she threatened in a low growl.
Shinji pulled his leg out from under her foot and stood up. As Asuka came at him again, he decided this had gone far enough. Blocking her next punch, he took the girl’s slender wrists into his grip and pinned her to a wall. Placing a foot over both of hers, he spoke again. “Asuka!” he yelled. “Enough!”
Try as she might, Asuka was held fast by his hands and foot. “Get off me now!” she spat, wriggling to free herself.
“No,” Shinji said, his voice calm now.
The look on his face stopped any more of Asuka’s attempts to free herself. Here was that hidden strength she’d seen before, all because of her this time. Relaxing in his grip, she panted heavily and felt the sweat almost pour off her skin.
Shinji wasn’t much better, nearly everywhere on his body in pain, his breathing ragged and drenched in sweat. But he still kept his eyes on her, watching to see if she would resume her attack. When it was clear she was done, he released her wrists and feet. But he didn’t step back.
Right then, both teens looked each other in the face, the same mixture of emotions in one evident to the other.
Pain. Hate. Fear. Loss. Sadness. Determination. Confusion.
Slowly, both the Second and Third Children inched themselves closer to the other.
Heaven help them for whatever was to happen.
*****To be continued…
Well, that’s roughly sixty to sixty-five percent down, only another large chapter and a medium epilogue to go. A lot happened in this part, yes indeed. And, of course, my other main theme just came up. Like I could write something without it…
Oh, and that ending? I know…I’m terrible and a cheap tease.
And it’s not the first time, you’ll recall.
The camera pans into the author’s room. At the computer isn’t him, but Mitsumi. Wearing a tiny pair of headphones and looking over the first two chapters of this work-in-progress.
Mitsumi: Hey, this ain’t half bad. Different from the rest, too…
As she read down to the end of this part, a slight blush came to her as she realized where it was headed.
Mitsumi: (shouting and removing her headphones) BAKA! I THOUGHT I MADE IT CLEAR!
Bard: (poking his head into the room) Ah…get to that point, did you?
Mitsumi said nothing, only fuming and staring daggers in his direction.
Bard: (sweating) Oh come on…trust me on this. (holding up a piece of paper) Here’s the overview for the next part, you can take a look yourself.
Grabbing the paper from him, Mitsumi looks it over carefully.
Mitsumi: (sighing) Okay…fine. As long as it’s for the story…
Bard: It’s ALWAYS about the story, you know that. You know I don’t write smut…
Mitsumi: (blushing at that last word) And you’d best not… (opens her tiny purse and pulls out a VERY large warhammer) …or else you’ll get the business end of this. Are we clear?
Bard: (nervous) Crystal.
Mitsumi: (smirking) Good. Now I think I’ll go practice a little.
Placing the hammer back into its compartment, Mitsumi floats out of the room and into hers.
Sighing, the author plops down in his computer chair.
Bard: (whispering to the camera) Now if any of YOU would like to fill in the above or that “missing piece” of TLaWR, I won’t stop you. But let’s just keep it quiet, okay?
As the camera pans away, we hear the chords to “Vision Thing” start up.
Pre-read for this chapter was again done by the team of Dark Machine, Eric Blair, gesser87, and JimmyWolk. Good work as always, gentlemen.
Small note: this chapter and all previous/following it were written around late June/early July last year. So a quick “sorry” to everyone who may have been waiting for something after TLaWR. Revisions and pre-reading can take quite a bit of time, it would seem…
For any of you who are new to the community, all of my older (2004-2006) works have undergone a small bit of tweaking (as of the 14th of June 2010). So go take a look, tell me what you think. And review! Even if it’s not positive, review!
As usual: good comments will be appreciated, bad ones will be ignored (or kept for firewood). But I do favor good/helpful criticism, so send it my way!-AngelNo13Bardiel-