From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness by philopoemen



Summary: A moment of weakness puts Shinji in mortal danger. Can the Doctor save him from himself?
Rating: Teen
Categories: Tenth Doctor
Characters: None
Genres: Character Study, Crossover, Horror, Introspection, Series
Warnings: Swearing
Challenges: None
Series: Series Thirty and Three-Quarters
Published: 2017.05.19
Updated: 2017.05.19


Index

Chapter 1: Part I: A Starless Life
Chapter 2: Bonus Material: After-Action Debriefing
Chapter 3: Part II: cRaZie$
Chapter 4: Part III: Gridlocked Cassinis
Chapter 5: Deleted Scene: maybe if i open my eyes i'll see them
Chapter 6: Part IV: Welcome Home
Chapter 7: Bonus Material: Ready Room Transcript
Chapter 8: Deleted Scene: i can feel it coming over me slowly
Chapter 9: Part V: Blood Red Summer
Chapter 10: Deleted Scene: maybe if i lose my disguise i'll be them
Chapter 11: Deleted Scene: whoa oh oh shut the windows and the doors
Chapter 12: Part VI: Only Martha Knows


Chapter 1: Part I: A Starless Life

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Part I: A Starless Life

Inside Unit One. Somewhere.
T+18 minutes

Shinji Ikari stared into the void. Whether or not it stared back at him, he couldn't tell.

He sighed. Well, he thought. Here I am again.

***

Command Center. NERV Headquarters.
October 2015. Earlier that day.

"Misato, look --" Still dressed in his civilian clothes, Shinji followed close on the captain's heels as she strode onto the command deck. "I-I know how this must sound, but -- I'm really trying my best not to complain here, you know? Honest."

"Are you now," Misato said flatly.

"It's just -- i-it all builds up, you know? It's been building --"

"Look, if you've got a way to make that --" Misato pointed her thumb up at the image of the huge zebra-striped sphere hovering over the city. "-- recognize your day off, then I'm all ears. Otherwise --"

"It's not a day off," Shinji insisted. "It's a Crazy Day."

Misato sighed. "Whatever you call it, it doesn't exist for us, okay? For any of us."

"I know, I know. It's just --" Shinji crossed his arms. "I'm not like the rest of you, okay? I've tried. I've really tried. But I haven't been trained for this. And all of this stuff that's happened -- I don't know why, but I just can't push it out of my head the way the rest of you can. I need some kind of break from it, or --"

"Ugh. Are you still whining about that?" From the live video feed hovering over Makoto's console, Asuka gave Shinji a look of pure disgust. She sat inside of Unit Two down in the Cages, ready for launch. "What's the big deal, anyway? I've seen you on your days off. All you do is mope around and read, same as you always do."

"Easy for you to say," Shinji grumbled. "Every day's a Crazy Day for you."

It was sort of impressive, actually, just how quickly the redhead's face could go from an expression of disdain to one of all-consuming rage. "WHAT WAS THAT?!"

"See?" Shinji looked at Misato and gestured towards Asuka's screen. "This is what I'm talking about! I'm gonna pay for that later, and I don't even care! That's where I am right now!"

Misato sighed. The lieutenant handed her a clipboard. She flipped through the pages.

"What I'm trying to say is -- it's getting to be too much, you know?" Shinji pleaded. "That's why they're called Crazy Days. Because that's what I'll be if I don't have time to process things! Just think about all of it, I mean -- the statue. The attack on the school. Lilith. You know what it's like having to carry that around all the time?"

"Uh, yeah? I was there for all of that, remember?"

"Oh, yeah. Right." Shinji waved his hand at the video feed from Unit Zero's entry plug. "B-but you didn't spend eight hours with your head as a playground for some crazy Russian lady, did you? Who I guess we're trusting again, even though she tried to kill us all last week!" On the screen, Rei shifted her eyes. Shinji felt an immediate pang of guilt. "Oh. Sorry. Rei? Rei -- it's not you. It doesn't have anything to do with you. It's just -- your robot has issues, okay?"

Rei blinked and tilted her head.

"We've put in some new safeguards," Misato said. "And Rei says she thinks she can keep Zero in line from now on."

"But why not just send her up in Unit One? You know that it works with her now, right?"

"Because her sync rate with Unit One is only half yours," Misato snapped. "And because we need to bring everything we've got for this! Shinji, I hear what you're saying. But what do you want me to do here? This is an Angel. This could be the end of the world, right here, right now! Have you forgotten that?!"

"N-no..."

"Then you know exactly why I can't let you off the hook! We can't afford to take this thing lightly!" She glared at him. "Now, I've given you an order. Are you disobeying it?"

"That's not what I'm saying."

"Then get in the damned robot!"

Shinji took in a deep breath. "Misato, I-I'm not disobeying you. I'm advising you. I've really, honestly hit my limit here. I'm still getting these flashes of stuff I saw in Unit Zero and -- and --" She looked away from him. "If you send me up there now, I honestly just don't know if I'm going to be able to hold it together. I-I mean, I'll try. You know that I'll try. But I just don't know what's going to happen. I mean, I can't promise that..."

He trailed off. Misato turned back to him. He saw the look in her eyes and sighed. "Get in the robot?"

She nodded. "Get in the robot."

"Okay, okay, fine." Shinji threw up his hands and walked away. "Just remember -- I warned you, okay? I-I don't know how reliable I'm going to be!"

"I'll take my chances." Shaking her head, Misato turned back to the main viewscreen.

***

Western District. Tokyo-3.

The launch platform arrived on the surface with its usual stomach-churning stop. Shinji shut his eyes and let out a deep breath. Okay, he thought. You can do this. Just get it over with. He took a step off onto the ground...

... and immediately found himself slammed into the nearest building, Unit Two's arm over his throat. Asuka's face popped up on his display, her teeth bared, her eyes full of murder.

On most days, the sight of her alone would've been enough to reduce him to a gibbering, apologizing mess. Today, though... today, he just couldn't find the energy to bother. Oh, screw it, Shinji thought. "Really," he said flatly. "You're gonna do this right now. With the bajillion-yen cyborgs and all."

"What is your problem?!" Asuka snarled. "I thought we were even!"

"Oh, you mean, back when we talked last week? After you snuck into my hospital room and threatened me with a knife?"

"Oh, come on! It's not like I used it on you!"

Shinji rolled his eyes. "You're really not helping your case here, you know."

"Asuka!" Misato snapped through the comm. "Let him go! We don't have time for this!"

The redhead pulled Unit Two back with a growl. "Don't you EVER call me that again."

"What, crazy, you mean?" Shinji grinned. For a really horrible idea, this was actually kind of fun. "Hey, don't take it personally, Alice. I'm crazy. You're crazy. We're all crazy here."

Unit Two turned back around, its hand clenched into a fist. "Both of you! Drop it!" Misato shouted. "The Angel is two blocks west! Hurry up and get your gear!"

The weapon lockers were already deployed in front of them. Unit Zero stood nearby, a sniper rifle in its hands. Unit Two stomped over and pulled out a rifle, as well as an axe of some sort. Shinji held back.

Unit Zero looked towards him. "Will you not take a weapon?" Rei asked.

He shrugged. "I keep telling all of you! Guns never work!"

***

Inside Unit One
Later. T+19 minutes.

No, seriously, Shinji thought. What is it with me and huge featureless black voids lately? This better not be the start of a pattern of some sort.

He shut everything down again -- the sensors, the displays, the lights, everything except life support. There was nothing to see out anyway. No radar or sonar reflections. Not even the slightest hint of a GPS signal.

He sighed. "I'm not even supposed to be here today."

***

Western District. Earlier.

The three Evas kneeled behind cover about a block away from the Angel. "All right, here's the plan," Misato said over the comm. "One of you take point and the other two are backup. Got it?"

"How about Shinji goes first?" Asuka said loudly. "Let's see if he can earn all this special treatment he thinks he deserves."

"H-hey, don't put words in my mouth!" Shinji replied indignantly.

"Aww, what's the matter, Dorothy? Isn't combat supposed to be a man's job?"

"Oh, yeah, because you're just Miss Traditional Gender Norms, aren't you?"

"That's ENOUGH!" Misato roared. "You're on a combat mission, for God's sake! Start taking it seriously before you get yourselves killed!"

Shinji shrugged. "I warned you, didn't I?"

Misato responded with a deep sigh. In the background of the comm channel, Shinji heard someone suppress a giggle.

"Okay, look --" Shinji rubbed his eyes. He had to admit, part of him did feel kind of guilty for giving Misato this hard of a time. (Which was kind of annoying. What was the point of going crazy if you still had to bother with guilt and stuff?) "This thing is a sphere, right? Wouldn't that mean that it can probably see in all directions, like the big floating diamond thing?"

"We don't know if that's the case yet, Shinji." Ritsuko broke into the conversation.

"Well, yeah, but we're guessing no matter what we do at this point, right?" Shinji took in a breath. Woo. He actually felt a little light-headed. "So what if we attack it from three sides at once? How about this -- I'll go down a few blocks and try to distract it while Asuka and Rei circle around. When they're ready, we all hit it at the same time. Besides," he added, "you know that if we don't let the Red Baron here take the first shot, we're never gonna hear the end of it." Asuka growled. "Oh, come on! You can't get mad at me for that! That's practically a compliment!"

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "It's not a bad idea," Ritsuko said cautiously.

"Hey, everyone look at me, I'm Shinji!" Asuka imitated a sort of mock-whiny voice. "Everyone's got to listen to me because I'm so smart and talented! And I'm a genius, so I always have to be right!"

Shinji blinked. "Wait... are you projecting?"

"What?"

"Oh my God. You are, aren't you?" Shinji felt a fascinated grin spread across his face. "You're totally projecting! I've read about this!"

"I'm not -- what does that even mean?!" she sputtered.

"It's a defense mechanism," Shinji said gleefully. "It's when you push your own psychological issues onto other people. Don't you get it? Literally everything you just said about me could be about you!"

There was a long pause. "Misato," Asuka said flatly. "If you don't get me away from this little snot, I really am going to kill him."

"Gruhhh. Okay, you know what? Fine," Misato growled. "We'll do it your way. Shinji, head west. Asuka, southeast. Rei, northeast. Stop before you cross the main road. That's when we'll use the distraction. Get moving!"

The Evas broke up and went their seperate ways. Shinji headed down the block. "You're just lucky we're on a mission, punk," Asuka growled through the comm.

"Yeah, well..." Shinji couldn't think of a good comeback. "Y-you're lucky you're hot."

"Wha -- guh -- uuuahhhhhhhhh?!" Asuka trailed off into wordless gibberish, her tone somewhere between outrage and confusion.

Crazy Day, Shinji thought cheerfully. Consequences who cares about consequences 'cause it's a Crazy Day la la lah mahna-mahna. He jogged on, humming an unstable little tune under his breath.

***

Inside Unit One
Later. T+26 minutes.

... I really screwed up, didn't I, Shinji thought.

***

Command Center. Earlier.

Misato rubbed her temples. She could hear snickering from somewhere on the command deck behind her. Oh, this was so the wrong day for a hangover. "Damn kids," she muttered under her breath.

"Amazing how far he's come, though, don't you think?" Ritsuko gestured towards Unit One's video feed, a wry smile on her face. "Standing up for himself with Asuka. Actually talking about his own ideas. If you'd told me this was the same timid boy I met a few months ago, I would've called you a liar."

"Maybe. But he's still acting like a brat," Misato snapped. She noticed Makoto grinning out of the corner of her eye and shot him a warning look. He immediately stopped smiling.

"Command, I've reached the crossing," Rei said through the comm.

"Roger that, Unit Zero." Misato ran her fingers through her hair. "Unit One, commence distraction. Keep it quick, okay? Don't expose your own position --"

***

Western District

Three blocks away from the sphere, Unit One stepped out from behind the buildings and into full view of the Angel. It lifted up its gigantic arm...

... and waved.

***

Command Center

Misato crushed the paper coffee cup in her hand, its contents dripping down onto the floor. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

"I'm distracting it," Shinji replied calmly. "And also trying to initiate communication."

"Wha -- YOU IDIOT! YOU CAN'T COMMUNICATE WITH ANGELS!" She glanced over the sensor readings, visions of the time Shinji had gotten flash-fried dancing through her head. The sphere didn't seem to be reacting yet, thank God. "GET BACK INTO COVER! NOW!"

"Relax. I have my AT field up. And besides, how do you know? It's not like we've tried it before."

"He has a point," Maya murmured. The captain glared at her. The lieutenant shrunk back in her seat.

"MOVE!" Misato yelled. "THAT'S AN ORDER!"

"Okay, okay," the boy said. "Plan B, then."

***

Western District

Unit One flipped around its raised hand and lowered its fingers. All except for one.

***

Command Center

Maya nearly burst out laughing before she clapped her hands down on her mouth. Misato stared up at the screen in complete disbelief, her eye twitching.

"You're... going to be chewing him out for this, huh?" Makoto whispered.

"Oh, you have no idea," Misato hissed.

***

Western District

Yeah, that's right, you bastard, Shinji thought as he held what was possibly the largest rude gesture in the history of mankind up at the sphere. That's what you get. Respect the Crazy Day, dammit.

The sphere suddenly... flickered, like an image on an old television. Shinji narrowed his eyes. Had it just been the screens? He glanced down at the ground.

"Hey, Command?" he said. "Are you seeing this? What's with all the shadows? I don't -- where are they even coming fr"

***

Inside Unit One
Later. T+48 minutes.

He looked for the umpteenth time at his cell phone. NO SIGNAL, the screen read. That's how far away I am, he thought. Not even the TARDIS can reach me here. Wherever here is, anyway...

Not like that'd stop the Doctor, of course. Shinji wondered how he'd pull things off this time. Blow up the Angel with an artificial supernova, maybe. Or perhaps use that alien surfboard thingy from before. Or finally get the TARDIS recharged somehow and fly in for the rescue -- oh, man. That would be awesome.

And all Shinji had to do was wait. He had sixteen hours' worth of power -- well, more like fifteen now -- in his batteries, so long as he kept the Eva in low-energy mode. Not that he expected it would take that long, of course. Five hours at most, he figured. Six, tops.

***

Inside Unit One
T+15 Hours, 24 Minutes (fourteen hours and thirty-six minutes later)

He woke up slowly from yet another nightmare. Hungry. No, starving. Hard to breathe. The LCL had gone cold around him. The emergency lights had switched off hours ago. With great effort, he pulled his eyes open and touched his hand to the button on the cuff of the plug suit.

The display on his wrist lit up. POWER REMAINING - 00:10:48.

He croaked, "Oh, come on..."

Back to index


Chapter 2: Bonus Material: After-Action Debriefing

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Bonus Material: After-Action Debriefing

Excerpt from After-Action Debriefing of Lieutenant Makoto Hyuga
Re: The Tenth Angel (Leliel)
Interview recorded October 2015

To be fair to Shinji, it was pretty funny up until the screaming started.

Back to index


Chapter 3: Part II: cRaZie$

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Part II: cRaZie$

Inside the TARDIS

Ever since he'd started the teaching job, the Doctor had found a new appreciation for the weekends. Oh, he'd always enjoyed them, of course -- so much so that he'd often go back and have them again, two or three times in a row. Being locked into a more linear schedule, however, had taught him an entirely new respect for those two little days. Even boring old Sunday, much to his shock.

(He'd started sleeping a lot more recently, too. Sometimes up to five to six hours at a stretch, which he never did. Probably not the healthiest thing in the galaxy. Still, he supposed, when in Rome, sleep as the Romans sleep, or something.)

So it was with a certain amount of reluctance that he picked up Martha's old cell phone late one morning on the third or fourth ring. "Yes?" he said, trying to avoid sounding too irritated but not entirely succeeding.

"Get down here," Misato growled in his ear. "Now."

***

NERV Headquarters. Days later.

"So, now that we're down to two pilots, what are our options?" Misato asks.

"We've already taken steps," Ritsuko says as they glide serenely down the corridor. "We'll obviously have to put them both on duty full-time. With Rei, it's simple enough -- we just need to pull her out of school. She'll burn through bodies faster due to the added stress, but we should have room in the budget to manage."

"What about Asuka?"

"That's where we had to get creative." They arrive at a big steel door. Ritsuko slides open a viewport at eye height and motions to Misato. "Take a look."

Misato peers into the cell. Asuka grins back at her, drool running down from the sides of her mouth. The girl is strapped into a pilot's chair, a rat's nest of wires running in and out of her flesh. Her head's been shaved, her long red locks replaced with lobotomy scars. Her eyes seem vacant of any intelligence or emotion.

"We should have no problems keeping her on alert full-time now," Ritsuko says cheerfully. "No more insubordination issues, either. We basically cut out anything unrelated to piloting."

"What if I need her mad, though?" Misato asks. "Her whole berserker thing could be useful sometimes."

"That's easy. We just show her a picture of the Third Child. Drives her into a blind rage."

Misato nods thoughtfully. "I guess there must be just enough of her left in there to hate him."

"I'm told that when they dragged her off for the operation, she spent the whole time cursing his name." Ritsuko tilts her head and smiles brightly. "Tea or coffee?"

"Ooh! I'd love some!"

They slide the viewport closed. In the darkness inside the cell, the thing that used to be Asuka giggles vacantly. "Stupid Shinji," she mumbles through her rictus grin. "Your fault."

< scenario end >

***

Inside Unit One
T+2 Hours, 11 Minutes

"GAH!" Shinji wrenched his eyes open. Oh, screw you, brain! he thought. What, is this situation not bad enough already for you? Is a good dream of some kind really that hard to come up with?! Geez... and it's not like Misato or Ritsuko would ever do something like that, anyway... or that the Doctor would let them...

He rubbed his eyes and glanced around. The entry plug looked exactly the same. He'd been trying to sleep to reduce his oxygen use. It wasn't like he had anything better to do with his time right now...

He knew it was dumb, but he couldn't get the dream out of his head. He supposed it did have one good point -- he hadn't really thought of how him taking risks might affect Asuka and Rei, had he. He wondered how their lives would've gone if he really had walked away from piloting at the beginning... would either of them still be alive at this point? Stupid, he thought. Stupid and selfish. I should have thought of that --

"Stop," he muttered. Forget about it, he thought. Crazy Day, remember? Anything goes. And anyway, it doesn't matter. I'm not going to die. If I just wait here, the Doctor'll do his thing, and everything will be fine.

... right?

***

T+2 Hours, 19 Minutes

He obviously wasn't going to get back to sleep anytime soon. Might as well run through it again, he thought. Remember what the Doctor said. What's the first thing you do when you're in a trap? You figure out who trapped you and what they want.

Well... he'd been trapped by an Angel. And he had no clue what it wanted. Because it was an Angel.

All right, he thought. So what's the second thing you do in a trap? (Though the Doctor had wound up vacillating on the exact order of the steps. He'd gone back and forth before finally deciding that, rather than the second, this was the other first thing one should do.) Take stock of your resources. See what you have access to.

That part was fairly simple. Shinji had gotten into the habit of smuggling his backpack into the entry plug with him on every mission, hiding it in one of the empty storage compartments on the back of the pilot chair. Which meant that -- in addition to his plug suit and whatever else was in the entry plug itself -- he had with him:

- His cell phone;
- The hazmat suit from the school;
- The mask for said hazmat suit;
- A copy of Introduction to Humanoid Psychology (Zx!wagywti, 2., Levine, M., Halfrunt, G. et la. 27th edition, published 5106, Luna University Press);
- And a fez.

He couldn't use the cell phone to call for help because it wasn't getting a signal. (He checked it again, just to make sure. Still nothing.) He kept it on anyway, in case the Doctor could use it to track him somehow. Otherwise, unless the fez had magic powers of which he was currently unaware, he couldn't really see a way that any of these things could help him escape his current situation.

Which led him straight back to the same plan as before: wait for the Doctor.

***

T+2 Hours, 42 Minutes

He blew a half-hour or so testing the fez for magic powers. His rigorous experimental procedure mainly consisted of him wearing the hat and saying as many silly words as he could come up with. "Um... kurasakegami! Baka-doki-doki! Bannakaffalatta!" He threw in a finger wiggle for emphasis.

***

T+3 Hours, 6 Minutes

He finally got bored enough to crack open the psychology manual. As he turned to the chapter about telepathically-transmitted disorders, it occurred to him that he had wound up getting his Crazy Day off. If I'd only thought to grab a few candy bars and better reading material, he thought, this would be perfect... well, minus the ever-present threat that came with being trapped by a hostile alien entity, of course. But hey, nothing's perfect, right?

***

Command Center. NERV Headquarters.

Brainy specs deployed, the Doctor watched as Unit One abruptly sunk into the shadow beneath its feet. The cyborg struggled and floundered as if drowning in quicksand, but couldn't pull itself free. As soon as it vanished beneath the surface, everything else on screen -- the cars in the street, the buildings, the colorfully-painted fire hydrants -- started to follow suit.

The video replay froze. "And that brings us up to the present." Misato gestured towards the next row of monitors, all of which showed the same image: a zebra-striped sphere hovering over a perfectly flat section of the city roughly a block in diameter, now completely devoid of any structure or object apart from its own impossibly large shadow. "Units Zero and Two barely managed to escape in time themselves. We tried to reel Unit One back up using its umbilical cord, but no luck."

"And it hasn't done anything else since this morning?" the Doctor asked. "It's just sat there?"

"Pretty much."

"Well, that's a bit uncharacteristic, innit?" The Doctor sniffed his nose. "Would've expected a solid rampage by now."

Ritsuko coughed and tapped Misato on the shoulder. "Captain, a moment, please?" Misato stepped back and turned to the scientist. "Are you certain the commander's all right with him being down here?" the blonde woman murmured. "If I look into it further, I'm not going to find that the paperwork's mysteriously disappeared, am I?"

"He signed off on the Doctor's day pass, so long as Security keeps an eye on him." Misato motioned to the armed security guards standing a few meters away. "If you're that worried about it, call him and ask for yourself." Ritsuko looked away.

"So. Doctor," the captain snapped as she stepped forward again. "Tell me how a shadow can eat an Evangelion."

"It's not a shadow." The Doctor pulled off the glasses and stowed them. "Welllll, it is a shadow, partially. Just not the part you think. The big globey thing -- that's the shadow."

Misato narrowed her eyes. "Why don't you try that again?"

"It's an extradimensional entity," the Doctor said. "Five dimensions or more interacting with a four-dimensional world. The bit that looks like a shadow to us -- that's the Angel. Its exterior looks like a flat surface a few atoms thick. But it's linked to its own self-contained spacetime. A living pocket universe."

"Like a Durac sea?" Ritsuko raised her eyebrows. "That actually makes sense. I'd been considering that possibility myself..."

"Is that what they call it here? Huh." The Doctor scratched the back of his head. "Anyway, main thing to remember is, the shadow's the real bit. The big ball's just a trick of the light. A projected artifact caused by spare photons leaking out of the Angel's hyperdimensional mass and back into our reality. That's why it keeps vanishing and reappearing. When the Angel moves, it scatters the light onto other manifolds." He noticed the expression on Misato's face. "Right, let's try it like this: three-dimensional objects cast two-dimensional shadows, don't they? So this is a higher-dimensional form casting a three-dimensional shadow. Simple as that."

Misato glanced at Ritsuko. "Did any of that make sense to you?"

"Some." The scientist crossed her arms. "I don't suppose there's any point bringing up just how impossible this is by most standard models of physics."

"Ohh, don't do that," the Doctor groaned. "Because then I'll have to bring up the square-cube law. And soon enough we'll both be crying over the death of reason, and then where will we be, eh?" Ritsuko smirked.

"Look -- just... break this down a little more for me." Misato rubbed her temples. "How big is this thing, really?"

The Doctor shrugged. "Who knows? Could be the size of a planet in there. More, even."

"So how do I shoot it?"

"Ulchh. Is that what it always has to come down to with you military sorts?" The Doctor rolled his eyes. "You can't, really. Any physical attack will just pass through into the Angel's pocket universe. And once you're on the other side of the shadow, you're playing by its rules. There's no telling how the laws of physics might work in there. Safe money's on it keeping any vital bits well out of reach, though."

Misato stared up at the monitors, a somewhat haunted look on her face.

"Excuse me, ma'am." Makoto cleared his throat. "We just got word from the UN forces. They've finished cordoning off the Western District."

"Got it. Thanks." Misato ran her hands through her hair. "Asuka? Rei?" The two girls' video feeds popped up overhead. "You can break for lunch. Come back down here, but remain on standby. Got it?"

"Yes, ma'am," Rei said.

"Is that the English teacher with you?" Asuka craned her neck. "We're going to get Shinji back, aren't we? And then you're gonna fire him, right, Misato?"

Misato sighed. "We can talk about it later, Asuka."

"Oh, are you kidding me?!" the redheaded girl snapped. "You saw the way he was acting! He's completely unstable! Not to mention insubordinate, reckless, rude, disrespectful, condescending, pigheaded -- he doesn't have the slightest idea how to take orders or deal with people! And do I really have to point out that this is the second time in a week we've all had to bail out his useless Arsch?!"

The Doctor rolled his eyes. "Dare I ask what the problem is today?" he whispered to Misato.

"She's worried," the captain muttered. "And Shinji gave her some sass before... you know."

"Shinji? Really?" A delighted grin flashed across the Doctor's face. "Finally discovering he has a tongue on him, is he?"

Misato narrowed her eyes, but didn't say anything.

"-- and if it wasn't for the fact that he dragged a halfway decent Eva down with him, I'd say we should just let him rot!" Asuka shouted. "Hey! Are you even listening?!"

"Anyway," the Doctor said in a louder tone. "Have to admit, fräulein -- I'm surprised. Wasn't sure you had it in you."

Asuka furrowed her brow. "Huh?"

"All this concern for your fellow pilot." The Doctor grinned. "Starting to grow on you a bit, is he?"

"What?!" The girl's face flushed, her voice rising another octave or so. "But -- I didn't -- weren't you -- GRAHHHHHHH!" Her video feed vanished.

Ritsuko shook her head. "Do you really have to aggravate her like that? She's not exactly easy to deal with as is, you know."

"Eh." The Doctor shrugged, tucking his hands in the pockets of his coat. "Life's gonna aggravate her. I'm just finding the teachable moments where I can."

Misato shifted her jaw. "Back to the Angel. What can we do about it?"

"Wellll..." The Doctor yawned and scratched the back of his head. "I have a few ideas. Might need a few thousand yen for supplies, though."

"Fine. Whatever." Misato glanced at Ritsuko. "Anything else you need from him?"

"Not at the moment, I think," the scientist said. "I've got a team setting up a spectrometer at the edge of the encounter zone. If it's all the same to you, Doctor, I'd like to confirm your hypothesis before we go any further."

"Hm?" the Doctor said absentmindedly. "Hohyes. Of course. Wouldn't expect anything less."

"Great. Get started." Misato looked to the security guards. "I'll see him out."

She grabbed the Doctor's necktie and dragged him off. "Oi!" he barked. "Stop it! That's Hynerian silk!"

***

Months later

< scenario begin >

Spirit broken, he sits by the shore
of a sea choked red with the blood
of countless billions, each one his victim.

The head of Ayanami, his sister, lies out
in the far distance, titanic in size.
Even in death, she still smiles for him.
Her face is framed by a giant blue box
that stands behind her, massive and lifeless.
It died in the end alongside its owner.
Two more lives consumed, because he was weak.

No longer Ikari, he is the Last Boy --
last human on Earth. And the sin is his
alone to suffer, forever and ever more.

< scenario end >

***

Inside Unit One
T+4 Hours, 9 Minutes

His bravado finally gave out a few minutes into the fourth hour, shortly after he woke up from yet another bizarre and depressing dream. God, I am such an idiot, he thought. I acted like a jerk to everyone. What was I even trying to prove? Asuka -- she might never even talk to me again! And Misato's probably going to throw me in jail for insubordination the moment I get back. If I get back... who knows? They might not even have called the Doctor. Maybe they don't even think I'm worth rescuing at this point. Who could blame them?...

The worst part was there was nothing he could do to fix it now. He couldn't even apologize to them. All he could do was float in the liquid miserably, slowly tumbling end over end as he silently chastened himself.

***

T+4 Hours, 28 Minutes

Hey, he thought as he hung in the liquid, still curled into a ball. How am I supposed to poop, anyway?

The issue had never really come up before. He knew the plug suit could handle the other thing somehow -- he'd done plenty of that. Which had been sort of gross at first, but couldn't really be helped, given the whole liquid breathing setup. Regardless, he couldn't remember anyone ever telling him whether or not the suit could manage more... solid material.

His stomach rumbled -- whether from hunger or something else, he couldn't tell yet. All the same, I probably should do something about this, he thought.

***

T+5 Hours, 13 Minutes

He hooked the plastic tube into the port on the plug suit's leg, before glancing over to where the line ran into the pilot's chair. Was there a button he was supposed to press or something? The instructions made it sound like it'd happen automatically. Sure enough, he heard a pump or a motor of some sort start up.

He tried to ignore the material being suctioned from out of the suit. (His stomach growled again -- definitely hunger this time. He tried to ignore that, too.) Instead, he focused on the thick manual he'd unearthed from out of the entry plug's storage compartments. The open page, printed on a thick mix of plastic and rubber that reminded Shinji of one of those bath books they made for little kids, read:

The EVANGELION-SERIES PLUG SUIT utilizes the absolute latest in life support technology. Its Internal Waste Management System (IWMS), based partially on the Maximum Absorbency Garments used by NASA astronauts, absorbs and stores all pilot byproducts in a sanitary, safe and odorless manner, negating the need for diapers or catheters. The plug suit can handle up to 2 liters of waste without visible bloating or deformation. For long-term missions, the IWMS can be drained using the entry plug's Secondary Waste Collection System (SWCS) [see diagram for instructions].

In the case of IWMS or SWCS failure or compromise, see pg. 4-261 for options. In cases where bacterial contamination of the LCL fluid is a concern, see the separate submanual included with the emergency rebreather.

... wait. Rebreather?

***

T+5 Hours, 40 Minutes

... the EMERGENCY REBREATHER is intended primarily as a fallback option in case contamination of the LCL fluid or certain medical conditions (including congestive heart failure) make direct oxygenation impractical. The rebreather simply extracts the gases necessary for standard respiration from the LCL fluid, filtering out a large number of known biological impurities and toxins (see pg. 20 for complete list).

Please note that the emergency rebreather is NOT intended for situations where the supply of oxygen to the LCL fluid has failed or been disrupted! It CANNOT be used as a carbon dioxide (CO₂) filter and should not be utilized in that capacity.

Lame, Shinji thought. He looked up from the much thinner pamphlet at the small device he'd pulled from yet another storage compartment. (Seriously, he thought, you'd think it would have occurred to me before now to go through all of these things. Or that Ritsuko or Misato or someone would've gotten around to telling me about all the stuff that's in here.) It looked like one of those yellow cup masks that dropped out of the ceilings on airplanes, albeit with a bunch more valves and attachments on the outside. It covered the user's mouth and nose, relying on a detachable strap to keep it in place.

He sighed and batted the rebreather away. It bounced off the wall of the entry plug and spun slowly in place.

His stomach let out a mournful cry. He was really getting hungry now. He wondered if he should tear out some pages from the psychology manual -- nothing important, maybe the copyright pages or something -- just to get something in his belly. But... nah. He didn't want to imagine whatever space magic the Doctor used to waterproof his tomes might do to his insides. And besides... it was a book. It just wouldn't feel right.

He eyed the remaining storage compartments scattered across the walls of the entry plug. Take stock of your resources, right? he thought. It couldn't hurt to see what else I've got in here.

***

T+6 Hours, 25 Minutes

Just short of an hour later, he discovered paradise.

Specifically, he found a first aid kit in a tiny locker hidden at the far side of the capsule, nearby the emergency hatch. Within the red bag, behind the bandages and gauze, there was a foil-wrapped packet. The plain stenciling on the outside read: TWO (2) EMERGENCY RATION BARS. 1200 CALORIES EA.

Before he even knew what he was doing, he'd ripped open the packet and shoved the first bar into his mouth. It tasted like boiled cardboard. It was the most glorious meal he'd ever had in his life. The glow he got from having something in his stomach lasted long enough that he barely even noticed the seven-hour mark pass.

***

Central Dogma Elevator L4

Misato shoved the Doctor into the elevator. She slammed her fist into the button. The doors slid shut.

"What was that about, eh?!" The Doctor glared at her as he readjusted his tie. "I'd hoped we were past the whole active hostility phase at this point."

"Shut up," Misato growled. "You listen to me. I am at my limit today. My absolute limit. And you --" She prodded him in the chest. "-- are not helping."

"Oh, so now it's my fault you're dealing with something beyond human knowledge?!"

"Not that!" Misato waved her hand. "It's just -- I have no idea what to do with these kids. Absolutely none. I'm on the verge of tearing my hair out here. I mean, first there's Asuka and all of her issues -- but now I've got Shinji going off the rails too?!

"We are the last line of defense here! We're supposed to be saving the world! But how are we supposed to do that if they keep acting like -- like --"

"Like teenagers?" the Doctor said dryly.

"Well -- yeah, but --" She looked away, grumbling. "Okay, fine. I guess I walked into that one."

"Well, far be it from me to point out the flaws with this whole child soldier strategy..." The Doctor crossed his arms. "But it seems to me that if you're press-ganging middle schoolers, one might expect a few things to be inevitable. Like, ohhhh, I don't know -- a bit of rebellious acting-out, maybe? Some drama, perhaps. A few hormonal concerns. All known issues with teenagers, last I checked."

"But Shinji wasn't acting like a teenager," Misato snapped. "He was acting like you! Up to and including putting himself in full view of the enemy for the sake of a stupid joke!"

The Doctor swallowed.

"So now do you get it?" Misato poked him in the chest again. "Fix. This. Whatever it takes. I want him back. I want him safe. I want him in one piece. Do you hear me?"

The elevator reached the ground floor. The door slid open.

The Doctor sighed. "Ohhhh, very well." He stepped back through the door and off the lift. "Ten quid says he was just trying to impress the ginger terror, though."

"No bet. Doesn't matter. Fix it."

The door started to close. "Wait, wait!" At the last second, the Doctor put his hands in the door and pushed it back open. "Almost forgot. One last question. Very important. Critical, in fact."

"What?"

"That soup Shinji brought 'round the other day. Any idea where he got the stock from?"

***

The city. Years later.

< scenario begin >

> be shinji ikari.
> be in your 30's or 40's, years and years after
> the end of the angel war.
> have no job, no family, no friends.
> have nothing to do except wander the streets of
> the city in a tattered old thrift store coat.
> no one seems to recognize you.
> you're not really the sort of person that makes
> much of an impression.
> when someone looks at you, it's usually with a
> mix of indifference and pity.

> but it's not like you recognize many people
> yourself.
> you've seen touji, once or twice, smoking
> outside of that one bar on fourth street.
> you wonder if he ever talks to hikari these
> days, if he even knows where she is.
> (you certainly don't)
> you think you saw asuka once, from a distance.
> she's been married for ages now.
> maybe has kids, you're not sure.
> it almost physically hurt you to look at her.
> all that pain and regret, still fresh after
> all these years.
> all that ancient shame, the stench of the
> failure that you are, the person you couldn't
> be for her.
> you wonder if she remembers you at all, or
> thinks about you sometimes.
> somehow you doubt it.

> look at yourself in a restroom mirror.
> see the big bush of messy hair on your head
> that you never remember to get cut.
> see the long beard on your face that you never
> remember to trim.
> know that you are halfway through your natural
> lifespan with nothing to show for it.
> if you're lucky, anyway.

< scenario end >

***

Inside Unit One
T+8 Hours, 6 Minutes

That's it, Shinji thought as he fled the dream, its all-too-realistic mix of despair and self-loathing lodging itself in his mind like a bullet in his brain. I'm done with this.

***

T+8 Hours, 31 Minutes

So here was the question he had to ask himself: would Rose or Donna or the others just have sat still and waited for the Doctor to rescue them? Of course not. They'd say the damsel-in-distress thing was for chumps... or something like that, anyway.

He strapped himself into the chair and powered up the Eva. The battery timer immediately began its countdown. Here we go, he thought, half to himself and half to the Eva. One last Crazy Day idea.

It was hard to tell for sure, surrounded as he was in LCL. But there couldn't be gravity in here, right? As far as his sensors could tell, the Eva was floating freely in space. It wasn't resting on a surface or anything, right?

So he turned on the AT field and made a floor beneath himself. He touched his feet against the platform. So just like the spike thing, he thought to the Eva. Except this time, make it flat instead of pointy. Got it? Okay, go!

The AT field tossed Unit One forward like a pinball launcher. Inertia took care of the rest. Giggling like a maniac, Shinji curled the Eva's body into a ball, then shut everything down again. Right direction? Wrong direction? Who cares? At least they were moving. Together, he and Unit One spun off through the darkness.

***

Outside NERV Station. City of New Tokyo-3.

The Doctor yawned as he reached the top of the escalator that ran up from the Geofront, a bit of paper with an address clutched in his hand. Blimey, what was the matter with him today? You'd think a proper extradimensional threat would be enough to wake him up properly...

***

T+9 Hours, 9 Minutes

Forty minutes of spinning later, motion had frankly started to lose its appeal.

Shinji powered up the radar. Still no contacts? What the hell? How big was this place, anyway? He shut it down again. Gah. No way he could read or sleep with everything whirling around and around. Even closing his eyes under these conditions made him feel nauseous --

All at once, everything stopped moving.

The deceleration hit him like a punch to the gut. He waited for the stars to clear from his eyes, then reactivated all systems. Had he finally hit something? Still nothing on radar. So what --

Unit One hung still in the void, its limbs splayed out. It sat caught in the grip of an AT field larger than anything that Shinji could imagine -- larger than a city. Larger than a continent, maybe. He could feel the raw power of it pulsing inside his bones. I can't fight that, he thought. There's no way. Not without using the rest of the battery and then some.

He shut it all down. The radar, the lights, his link with the Eva. He sat alone in the dark.

I just made everything worse, didn't I, he thought.

***

T+9 Hours, 21 Minutes

"I'M SORRY! LET ME OUT!" Panic finally set in. He banged his fists impotently against the entry plug's hatch, shouting at the top of his lungs. "MISATO! ASUKA! REI! I'M SORRY! I'M REALLY, REALLY SORRY! I'LL BE GOOD FROM NOW ON! I WON'T BE CRAZY! I PROMISE!

"DOCTOR! DO YOU HEAR ME? DON'T LET ME DIE, OKAY?! PLEASE! I'M BEGGING YOU! DON'T LET ME DIE! JUST -- JUST DON'T LET ME DIE ALONE!

"DOCTOR! DOCTOR!"

***

T+10 Hours, 1 Minute

The cell phone beeped for the last time. POWER CRITICALLY LOW - PLEASE CONNECT CHARGER, the screen flashed before it went blank.

What do I do? Shinji asked himself, curled up in the fetal position on the pilot chair. What the hell do I do now?

Inside of his head, something answered.

***

Outside Unit One
T+15 Hours, 35 Minutes

The last of Unit One's power ran out. Its dead hulk hung completely still in the dark, like a butterfly suspended by invisible pins.

Back to index


Chapter 4: Part III: Gridlocked Cassinis

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Part III: Gridlocked Cassinis

Misato's Apartment
Several days prior

"Oh, hullo." The Doctor yawned and scratched the back of his head. "Kaji, was it? Come on, then. Pancakes are nearly done."

Ryoji Kaji eyed the other man standing the doorway. He could already tell this meeting wasn't going to go the way he'd hoped. Oh, well. He probably shouldn't have let his imagination get away with him anyway... even if there were only a few ways he could've interpreted Katsuragi inviting him over for breakfast.

He followed the Doctor into the apartment. He could smell something tasty cooking even before they stepped into the kitchen. Shinji -- wearing one of those big poofy chef hats Kaji had always thought only existed in movies and cartoons -- stood by the stove, idly poking at a griddle pan with a spatula. Misato, gorgeous as always, visibly ignored Kaji as he entered the room, shifting her eyes away with an irritated grumble. Which was more or less the reaction he'd been expecting. She sat at the table next to the penguin (which seemed to be working its way through the morning paper's sudoku puzzle) and --

"Oh! Mr. Kaji!" Asuka straightened up in her chair and gave him a bright smile. "No one told me you were going to be here!"

Ulp. Here came trouble. Inwardly, Kaji sighed. God save him from schoolgirl crushes and teenage geniuses who somehow didn't grasp the concept of no... or, for that matter, jailbait. He put on his best gentleman's smile. "Yo, Asuka. You planning on sticking around?"

"I'm supposed to meet Hikari downtown. But I can cancel." Asuka pushed a stray hair back behind her ear.

"Nah. Go on ahead." I'm saved, Kaji thought, careful to keep his almost palpable sense of relief off of his face. "I'll take you out later this week, okay?"

"Okay!" Asuka grinned.

The Doctor raised an eyebrow. He seemed to be on the verge of saying something when Shinji spoke up. "Doctor, could you measure out more flour for me? I think we might need one last batch."

"Right, right." The Doctor moved over to the kitchen counter. "You could just switch over to the store-bought mix at this point, you know."

"What do I look like, a barbarian?" Shinji deftly flipped a pancake over.

"Welllll... maybe a bit like Kondrak the Voracious. Minus the beard, of course. And the gut. And the penchant for cannibalism..."

Soon enough, Asuka had said her goodbyes and left. Kaji found himself sitting at the table, an excessively large stack of pancakes placed at its center. Misato still hadn't so much as glanced in his direction yet. Ah, so she's going with the cold shoulder approach this time, Kaji thought. He knew it well.

"So!" the Doctor said cheerfully as he took a seat. Shinji passed Kaji a plate. "The captain thought it might be a good idea for all of us to get together. Compare notes, as it were."

"I'm honored she thought of me." Kaji gave Misato a rakish grin. She rolled her eyes. Shinji passed him a glass bottle. He glanced at the label and did a double-take. "Hold on. Is this real maple syrup?"

"Mmh!" The Doctor nodded enthusiastically. "Ran into this lovely Canadian couple over in the Western District. Turns out they're part of this black-market smuggling network out of Vancouver." He paused. "Very serious business, sounds like. Cartels, gang wars, the whole nine yards... bit scary, to be honest. Wouldn't have expected that with syrup, but there you go."

Kaji took his first bite. He could believe it.

"Anyway, first order of business..." The Doctor cut into his own stack of pancakes with his fork. "Who is it exactly that you work for, Mr. Kaji? NERV Special Investigations or the Japanese Ministry of the Interior?" He took his first bite. "Mmmphh! You were right! So much better than the store mix."

"Told you." Shinji crossed his arms proudly.

Neither of them, fortunately, seemed to notice Kaji nearly swallow his fork. He recovered as best as he could. "I... don't think I know what you're talking about."

"Oh, come on. It's a simple question, innit?" The Doctor reached for the butter. "I mean, you're obviously doing the double agent thing. So are you spying on NERV for the government, or on the government for NERV? Which one is it?"

This was bad. Kaji glanced towards the window. Sweat dripped down the back of his neck. Was this idiot trying to get them all killed? "I think you might be confused..."

"Don't bother denying it." Misato fixed Kaji with an absolutely withering glare. Well, at least he knew what she was mad about now. "The Doctor got into the Ministry's systems. We know you're on their payroll."

"And could you skip the thing where you pretend to be stupid?" The Doctor casually took another pancake and spread butter over it. "Don't get me wrong, it's a good move. Brilliant move, in fact. Amazing what people let you get away with if they think you're a moron, isn't it? But given that I practically invented that trick, wellll..."

"Do I... really need to be here for this?" Shinji fidgeted in his seat.

"Yes," the Doctor said promptly. "So how about it, Mr. Kaji? Care to come clean?"

Kaji swallowed. He carefully pushed his plate away and stood up. "I... think I'd better go."

"Think again," Misato growled. Kaji heard a mechanical click underneath the table. He had a sneaking suspicion it wasn't a pencil.

"Oh, come on, now," the Doctor groaned. "Is all of this really necessary? You really don't strike me as the shadow government type. And Shinji thinks you're a decent enough sort. Don't you?"

"Uh... yes?" the boy ventured.

Kaji gave Misato a pleading look. She returned it with a stony glare. "Please understand," he said carefully. "It's not that I... don't enjoy talking to you." He shifted his eyes towards his plate on the table. "It's just that this really isn't a good time..."

"Why not?" the Doctor asked blankly.

"I'm sure you can fit us into your busy schedule." Misato bared her teeth.

Dammit, she wasn't getting it. Did she seriously think they were safe just because Shinji was in the room? Kaji tried again. "I suppose I should say, this isn't really a good time or place..." He glanced again to his plate, where he'd scrawled the words 'WE'RE BEING WATCHED' in the syrup.

The Doctor glanced at Misato. "You could stand to dust a little more."

"Not now," she hissed.

"Sorry."

"Right. The dust. My allergies... they're really acting up." I'm dead, Kaji realized. Katsuragi too, probably. Unless... were they working with NERV Security? Trading him to the commander for something, maybe? No. That didn't feel right. Katsuragi might've changed, but he just couldn't picture her selling her soul like that. He shifted his eyes between Misato and the plate again. "This just isn't the right place..."

"You've lived in worse!" Misato snarled. "You think I don't remember?! Your first dorm room? That half-sunken factory senior year?!"

"We're... being... seen? Studied?" The Doctor tilted his head as he tried to read from the plate. Kaji rolled his eyes helplessly. Oh, fine, he thought to whatever sniper must've had him in sight by that point. Just shoot me now and get it over with. "Oh, WATCHED! OH OF COURSE! The BUGS! You're worried about the bugs!"

Misato and Shinji both looked at him. "What bugs?" she asked.

"Yeah, don't even worry about it." The Doctor took another bite. "It's been taken care of."

Kaji hesitated. "It... has?"

"Hohyes. Completely. One hundred percent."

"No, seriously," Misato said, her eyes darting around the room. "What bugs?"

"All of them," Kaji said. "All one hundred and twenty surveillance devices in this apartment."

"One hundred forty-seven," the Doctor calmly corrected him. "Including the motion sensors in the floors and the microphones in the neighboring flats."

"What?!" Misato sat back, stunned.

"Last I heard," Kaji said, "all of those feeds were still active."

"Of course they are. Be something of a red flag if they just went down, wouldn't it?" The Doctor sighed and wiped his hands on a napkin. "Look, if you really need to know every last boring detail... very first time I came in here, I put a perception filter on the whole place. It captures the signals from each device, streams them in real time through the consciousness of our friend here --"

"SQWARK," Penpen said.

"-- who modifies the content as he sees fit before sending it on. Easy as you please. Which is why none of the other little talks we've had in here have attracted any attention." The Doctor shrugged. "As far as the outside world is concerned, we're just having a spirited conversation about -- what are we talking about?"

"SQWARK."

"Rugby." The Doctor blinked. "Rugby? Really?"

"SQWARK."

"Yes, of course you're allowed to have multiple interests. I'm just surprised, that's all. You've never mentioned --"

"SQWARK!"

"Oh, you know I didn't mean it like that. No need to get snippy." The Doctor sniffed his nose. He turned back to Kaji. "Anyway, where was I... oh, yes. NERV or the government?"

Kaji and Misato exchanged glances. He gave her a questioning look, as if to ask is this guy for real? She hesitated, then nodded.

He sighed and sank back down into his chair. "Neither. I'm using them both to run my own investigation."

"Oh, brilliant!" The Doctor grinned.

"Really?"

"Yeah, of course! Somebody has to, don't they?" The Doctor glanced at Misato. "You can put that thing away now, I should think." She rolled her eyes and holstered her gun. "Thank you. Right, next question..." He leaned forward, his eyes lighting up like a Christmas tree. "What is SEELE?"

Back to index


Chapter 5: Deleted Scene: maybe if i open my eyes i'll see them

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Deleted Scene: maybe if i open my eyes i'll see them

Misato's Apartment
A few days prior

Misato looked up curiously as the children walked in. "You're back late."

Asuka tossed her hair back. "We wouldn't have been if Mr. Panic Attack here hadn't insisted we take a completely different route." She glanced over as Shinji opened his bag to pull out his books. The hazmat mask had been packed on top of everything else. "Is that a... do you bring that thing everywhere with you?"

"Uh..." Shinji froze in place. "... yes."

She stared at him for a moment, then shook her head. "This is my life now," she muttered. "I'm surrounded by weirdos." She stalked out of the kitchen.

Misato took a sip of her coffee. Shinji stayed in place. "So..."

He swallowed. "There's... um... at this one corner. There's this... statue."

They looked at each other. There was a long pause.

The captain put down her coffee cup. "I'll take care of it," she said, her voice like steel.

Back to index


Chapter 6: Part IV: Welcome Home

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Part IV: Welcome Home

Inside Shinji Ikari

« EGO BARRIER NOW \ WILL BE AT MINIMUM REQUIRED THRESHOLD »
« INTERFACE CONSTRUCT READY »
« dialogue begin »

{
   "location": {
       "summary": "He sits inside of the train car",
       "description": "(old-fashioned woodwork leather straps hanging from ceiling luggage racks overhead smell of sweat and diesel and tears)",
       "identity": "the train his father sent him away on a long time ago",
       "associations": [ "bad place", "lonely place", "liminal space", "between place" ]
   },
   "personae": "On the bench across from him sits a small child in a zebra-striped shirt.",
   "action": "He speaks:"
}

- Who are you?

» Shinji Ikari.

- You're me?

» Yes. I am the you that is inside of you.

- Oh. Like a hidden observer?

» What's that?

- It's this thing I read about. When you hypnotize certain people, there's this part of them that remains aware of what they're doing. It doesn't resist or try to wake them up or anything. It just watches. Is that what you are?

» Something like that, yes.

- Oh. Am I being hypnotized?

» No. You are dying.

- Oh. That's... not good.

» Yes.

- Is there anything we can do about it?

» I don't think so.

- ...
- So what now?

» Now, we talk.

***

Express Access Elevator BRACHIAL-C8. NERV Headquarters.

Asuka paced across the confines of the small elevator like a caged tiger, fuming. When she could no longer stand the silence, she turned and demanded, "Can you believe him?!"

Rei stood at the front of the elevator facing the door. She didn't turn around. "You are referring to Pilot Ikari?"

"Well, doy! Who else?!" Asuka shook her head with a growl. "It's unbelievable! After everything I've done for him – after I forgave him for beating me half to death last week – this is how he acts?! I mean, the nerve of him!"

"I am told that the data from Pilot Ikari's plug suit showed he spent the entirety of that incident in an unconscious state," Rei said. "It seems unlikely he contributed to Unit Zero's actions during that time."

"What the hell does that matter?!" Asuka angrily tossed back her hair. "A pilot should always be in control of himself and his Eva!"

"... I see."

Asuka didn't notice the other girl start to slowly rock back and forth on her heels.

"Just who the hell does he think he is, anyway?" Asuka began to pace again. "What makes him think he has the right to talk to me like that?! How does that even work inside his head?!"

"You did imply at one point that he needed to stand up for himself."

"Not like that!"

"I see," Rei said. "Perhaps you should have specified."

Asuka ignored her. "So not only does his pure incompetence nearly get us all killed – this week the idiot goes off on his own and gets himself captured! But somehow I'm the crazy one?! Ha!" She balled her hands into fists. "I'll tell you one thing, though. If he thinks I'm going to forget about this – this violation just because he got himself eaten by an Angel, he's got another thing coming!"

Even if he did say that other thing, too, Asuka thought. She felt herself blush again. Dammit, no! No way was she going to let one little compliment make up for all the rest! (Hell, it wasn't even that much of a compliment! More like a statement of fact. Of course she was hot. Did he really think it would win him any points to acknowledge the obvious like that?!) She had pride, dammit! I refuse, she thought. I won't be placated! I won't! And anyway – where the hell does he get off, just dropping something like that and disappearing?!

"I see." Rei's hand twitched.

"He thought I was scary before? Well, he hasn't seen anything yet!" Asuka drove her fist into the wall. Which hurt, actually. Not that she intended to announce that to Wondergirl. "The moment they get him out of that Angel, he's going to wish he never left! He's going to wish he was never even born by the time I'm done with him!"

She didn't notice Rei stop moving.

"I will not suffer this – this abuse in silence! You understand?!" Asuka snarled. She raised her fist to the sky defiantly. "There will be consequences! I will have justice! And if he thinks for a single moment that I'll spare him from my wrath this time –"

The elevator suddenly halted.

"Excuse me." Rei took her hand off of the control panel. She didn't turn around. "I have come to a decision."

Asuka stared at her. "Huh? Why'd you –"

"From this moment forward," Rei stated without a hint of emotion, as if describing a physical law or a chemical reaction, "if you – of your own volition – intentionally cause physical harm to Pilot Ikari, then I will end your life."

The redhead froze, her eyes wide. "Wait. Y-you mean –"

"I'll kill you, yes."

Rei pressed another button. The elevator resumed its descent.

Asuka's jaw dropped. "Wha... what?!"

"If it comes to that, there will be no pain." Rei's voice softened. "I give you my word."

The elevator came to a stop. The doors slid open.

Asuka stared at the other girl's back. "B-but – I wasn't – I didn't mean –"

Rei stepped off the elevator. The doors shut. The only sign the other pilot had ever been there was the imprint her finger had left on the control panel, where she'd pressed the emergency stop with enough force to crack the screen.

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

» I am you, but you are not me.

- What do you mean?

» I mean you have not been acting like Shinji Ikari.

- ... wait. Wouldn't anything I do be acting like Shinji Ikari? Like, by definition?

» Not quite.
» Can you imagine Shinji Ikari insulting and
» acting rude to the people around him? Can you
» imagine him stepping out in front of a
» dangerous enemy for the sake of a foolish joke?
» Can you imagine him actually volunteering to
» fight, rather than having to be forced and
» goaded into it?

- ... huh.
- But I did all of that, didn't I?

» Yes, but you haven't been thinking about it, have
» you?
» You've merely acted and reacted to others,
» without considering the consequences.

- Consequences?

» Consider: your greatest fear used to be the
» thought of being hated. Even staying hidden and
» being ignored was preferable to being seen and
» despised.
» Now, however, you're actually going out of your
» way to antagonize the people around you.

- Look, I know I acted like a jerk and all... but don't you think you're making a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be? I mean, when I was talking to Misato – that was just banter, you know? She didn't take any of it personally.

» How do you know that for sure? What if she's just
» very good at hiding her pain that you've caused
» her with your words?

- Because... she wouldn't, I guess? She's not really the type to hold back.

» ... maybe.
» What about Asuka, though? She sounded hurt after
» you called her crazy.

- She... actually kind of did, didn't she...
- But wait. It's Asuka. Every second word out of her mouth is about how much I suck. How else am I supposed to deal with her? If anything, all I did was just return a little of the crap she's given me!

» What do you care about that? We're Shinji Ikari.
» We don't matter.
» What matters are the Shinji Ikaris that exist
» inside of other people's heads. The us inside of
» Asuka's head. The us inside of Rei's head. The us
» inside of Misato's head.
» Those Shinji Ikaris are all just as real as we
» are. When we are dead and gone, the only Shinji
» Ikaris left will be the ones that people carry
» with them.
» Or have you forgotten?
» Have you truly become that selfish? That
» short-sighted?

- ... wait.
- I remember. But I feel like I've had this conversation before...

***

Inside the TARDIS. Some time before.

"... I guess it was something I read in school at some point?" Shinji shuffled his feet. "Maybe a homework assignment? I don't remember. But it's kind of been stuck in my head ever since. The idea, anyway."

"Mmmh," the Doctor said absentmindedly. They sat by the deep end of the pool in the library. The pool net couldn't reach all the way down to the bottom at that point. So the Doctor instead had taken out a fishing rod, which he'd repeatedly cast out in the hopes of dredging up yet more volumes missing from the shelves.

"It's like this..." Shinji cleared his throat. "So, there's me, right? I exist. But there's also the me that exists inside other people's minds. The idea of me that they have, you know?"

"Their perception of you, you mean."

"Yeah, exactly. So... these ideas of me exist, too. So what makes them any less real than I am?" Shinji shrugged. "I don't know. I know it sounds kind of dumb... but that's always sort of freaked me out. The thought of all these other mes that I might kill or... warp, somehow, I guess, if I say or do the wrong thing. I used to worry about it a lot. All the mes I hurt every time I open my mouth."

"Why would you possibly do that?" The Doctor seemed genuinely shocked.

"Do what?"

"Worry about it." The Doctor cast out the fishing line again. "You just said that the other yous are real, too. That suggests that they have an existence of their own, completely independent of you, right?"

"I-I guess..."

"And if they exist independently of you, then it follows that they exist independent of your actions, too." The Doctor started to reel the line back in. "Think I got something... let's say you're on the train one day. Someone sees you and decides you look like a... oh, I don't know... a Bill. Is it your fault that there's a version of you out there somewhere who has to be named Bill? Sure, you coulda worn a name tag or something. But what if you're turned to the wrong side from them? Or if they can't read? Then there's nothing for it, is there. It can't be helped.

"If it can't be helped, it's outside of your control. If it's outside of your control, why worry about it?"

"Well... I mean..." Shinji scratched his head. "I guess I never thought of it like... wait, is that a gun?"

"What the –" The Doctor pulled the line out of the water. At the end of it dangled a futuristic-looking pistol. "Of all the ruddy – Jack! I told him, no more skinny-dipping in here! What am I supposed to do with this now?..."

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

» But wait, that's not... that isn't... huh.

- Yeah. That was pretty much my reaction, too.

» Well... I suppose it doesn't really matter,
» anyway. Since we both know the real reason you
» fear all of those other Shinji Ikaris.
» Above all else, you fear being alone.
» Nearly as much as you fear being with people.

- Well, yeah. Tell me something I don't know.

» So why risk making people hate you?

- You mean, with the banter? Well... the Doctor does that all of the time. And people never seem to care. They just think he's funny.

» Maybe. But we're not the Doctor, are we?

***

Inside the TARDIS

"AHA! There you are." The Doctor pulled the small object out from behind the old baby crib and a box of jelly babies he'd bought on sale two or three eternities ago. Sitting back on the storeroom floor, he took out a handkerchief and wiped away centuries' worth of dust, eventually revealing a silver jar with a twist-off cap.

First things first, then. He removed the cap and took a cautionary sniff. Good, good. So he had washed it out all those years ago. Thank heavens. If he'd left anything inside to go moldy, it would've been well on its way to evolving its own ecosystem by now...

No sense lollygagging, then. He leapt back onto his feet and stretched, letting out a yawn in the process. Jar in hand, he ambled out of the storeroom.

***

The city. Years later.

« scenario begin »

» be shinji ikari
» be in the tiny apartment your nerv pension
» allows you.
» be watching your tiny little tv
» it's a public holiday today
» the anniversary of the defeat of the last angel
» the end of the war.
» you watch the retrospective on the news.
» they talk about the courage and leadership
» shown by your father and misato.
» they talk about rei and asuka and how brave
» they were,
» all the things that the children sacrificed.
» they even talk about makoto and ritsuko and
» maya a little.

» no one mentions you, of course.
» it's okay, you tell yourself, you're used to it
» by now.
» you're not the sort of person they talk about
» in the history books.
» you don't have the sort of face that brings in
» ratings for the tv networks.
» somehow, you always knew it would be this way.
» you save the world
» the world moves on
» you stay still.

» in the past, though, they'd sometimes call you
» for interviews around this time of year.
» they stopped a long time ago.
» and why wouldn't they?
» literally the only interesting thing about you
» died with the last angel.

« scenario end »

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

» Think about it.
» The Doctor is a nine-hundred-year-old alien
» supergenius who's seen places beyond humanity's
» wildest dreams and knows things beyond our
» comprehension. Right?
» So of course people want him around. Because he
» has so many things to offer.
» What do we have to offer by comparison?

- ... nothing.

» Exactly. We're nobody. People have no reason to
» put up with any sort of crap from us. So why
» would they keep us around?

- ... because we can pilot the Eva.

» True. So people need us to survive. But if it
» wasn't for that...
» Think about it. Would we ever have met any of the
» people around us if we couldn't pilot? Misato or
» Rei or Asuka? Would any of them even know our
» name?
» Even Father only brought us here out of
» necessity. If we couldn't pilot, what else would
» there be to us?
» What would be the point of us?

- ...
- ... the Doctor didn't know.

» What do you mean?

- The Doctor didn't know I was a pilot when we met.
- He didn't even know what an Eva was. He had to ask the other people later.
- He still talked to me.
- He said I wasn't a coward.

» So we managed to inspire pity in a man who wants
» to help literally everyone. Not much of an
» accomplishment.

- Yeah, maybe.
- Or... maybe... he saw something in us that even we can't see. Something worthwhile.

» Like what?

- I don't know.
- It's like you said. We're not the Doctor.

***

Above Tokyo-3

The helicopter flew high over the containment zone. Misato glared down at the Angel through the helicopter's open hatch. Even from here, the sphere looked like a solid object to her. The shadow, for its part, remained obstinately still.

***

Command Center. NERV Headquarters.

« scenario begin »

He walks into the room, still in his civilian clothes... and blinks. Weird. The entire center is empty and silent. All the lights and displays have been switched off. He doesn't see anyone around at all. "Um... Misato?" he asks.

"I'm over here," she purrs from somewhere in the darkness. "C'mon in."

He hesitantly walks further into the command center. He finds her stretched out on top of Makoto's console, her little red coat drawn up to her neck. Instead of her usual dress, she wears a pair of sheer fishnet leggings. She smiles at him as he approaches, a hungry look in her eyes.

He swallows. "Uh... Misato? Are you... feeling okay?"

"Ohh, don't worry, honey. I feel great," she breathes, running her hands up the sides of her body and through her hair. It occurs to him that – aside from the jacket and the leggings – she doesn't seem to be wearing anything else.

(Also, he's suddenly finding it really hard not to laugh right now.)

She leans towards him, a dreamy look in her eyes. "You're here to talk about that Crazy Day you wanted, right?" She reaches up to the jacket's zipper and slowly draws it down. "So... why don't we get crazy?"

« scenario end »

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- ...
- Okay. So... that was better, I guess.
- Maybe not exactly what I was looking for, but – y'know – not bad.
- Definitely a step in a positive direction, though. Full marks for that.

» When did you get to be such a pervert, anyway?

- Oh, come on. It's natural at our age, right?
- I mean, yeah, it still kind of freaks me out sometimes, too. But then I think – what's the point? In being scared, I mean.
- Sexuality and hormones and stuff – it's all going to happen, sooner or later. It's all supposed to happen. So why bother fighting it? What does that get me? Don't I already have enough problems, the way things are?
- And anyway, it's not like any of this stuff is going to hurt anyone as long as it stays in my head, right?

» Uh-huh.
» And how do you think Misato would react if she
» could see these little masturbation fantasies of
» yours?

- ... amusement, I guess?
- Provided it didn't come out in a creepy way or anything, I mean.
- She's not exactly shy. You remember the photo she sent us, don't you?

» ... yeah, okay, maybe she's a bad example.
» Blehhh. ANYWAY. Moving on...
» So what about Father?

- What about him?

» Don't you still care about what he thinks of you?

- Well, yeah, of course. But...

» But what? He's still our father, isn't he?

- ... why didn't he tell me about Rei?

» ... all right, yeah. That is pretty screwed up.

- I mean, seriously! Was he trying to set up a Luke-and-Leia situation?! Why would he even do something like that?!

» I don't really have an answer to that question.

- And now – I mean, a sister? What do I even do with that?!
- I've been an only child since forever! I don't know anything about having family!
- And Rei... I don't know. I used to resent her, you know? Because Father actually pays attention to her.
- Now, I'm starting to wonder if he hasn't messed her up even more than I am.

» You're not supposed to get angry at him, you
» know. He's our father.

- But this is legitimate, right? This is a legitimate issue to have. Isn't it?

» Even so, what does it matter?

- ... the Doctor says that I need to give myself permission to be angry.
- If I don't, it's just going to tear me apart. Or make me hate him even more.

» You're not supposed to hate your father.

- I know. I'm trying, all right? I'm trying.
- But... he's not making it easy.

***

Miso Happy Homemade Soups and Broth. Tokyo-3.

The store owner made her way to the front of the shop. She cautiously opened the door just a crack. "We're closed."

"NERV Health and Safety." The tall foreigner in the brown coat outside held up his credentials. "We've got an emergency situation. I'm gonna have to ask you to let me in. It's a – wait. You don't happen to sell bread here, do you?"

"Uh... no."

The foreigner made a disappointed sound. "Aww, see, if you had a bakery, I coulda said it was a matter of loaf or death." He eyed the owner's blank expression. "It's... it's a pun, you see? Like your store name? Oh, never mind. Probably works better in English, anyway. In any case – not to rush you, but in a bit of a hurry here..."

The owner sighed and unbolted the door.

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- So, hold on a second... why does it bother you so much that I'm not acting like you, anyway?
- I mean, we hate being me, don't we?
- Or being you, I guess. Whatever. You know what I mean.

» True. But it's still dishonest.
» You must be true to yourself.

- Why, though? If we both hate being Shinji Ikari, why shouldn't we act like someone else? Why shouldn't we be different?

» Maybe I should put it a different way: you WILL
» inevitably be true to yourself.
» In other words, we are the person that was
» shaped by our circumstances and experiences.
» We will inevitably revert to that person given
» sufficient time, no matter who or what else we
» attempt to be.
» We always will be that scared, sad, witless
» child crying on the train. That is who Shinji
» Ikari is.

- Why, though?
- Why can't Shinji Ikari change?
- Why can't I choose who I want to be, the way the Doctor said I could?

» And did you actually believe him when he told
» you that, underneath it all?
» We are Shinji Ikari because that is our fate.
» We can no more change our nature than could the
» scorpion in the story.

- ... is that the truth? Or is that just what you want to believe, because change is hard?

» ...
» We are Shinji Ikari. Shinji Ikari is weak.

- Oh, screw you!
- Look, for the first time in my life, I actually feel... kind of good.
- Just what the hell is so wrong with that?! Tell me!

***

Inside Unit One
T+12 Hours, 29 Minutes

"You just think you're sooooo smart, don't you," Shinji rasped as he crawled up the side wall of the entry plug. The purification system had started to give out. The liquid was going cloudy. Everything smelled like blood. Whatever. Just keep moving. "You think you got it all figured out. But here's the thing... what if – what if what if what if – you're wrong and he's right? What if there is something I can do? The third thing, y'know? What if there's still a third thing?"

» Uh-huh. Keep telling yourself that.

"Gee, thanks! I think I will!" he said, putting on a mock-cheerful grin. "So here's the thing – this thing, yeah?" He grabbed the hazmat suit mask. "The Doctor worked on this, right? He changed it to protect me from the not-zombies, didn't he? So let's assume that – because he's the Doctor – he went totally over the top and made it so it could also filter out carbon dioxide. Just for fun! And also because he's from space. Got it? You with me so far?"

» I guess...

"Only problem is, I can't use it in here, right? Because it's made to work with air, not liquid." He spotted the thing he was looking for and grinned. "Buttttt... what if I take this –" He grabbed the emergency rebreather. "– and I put them together like this?" He triumphantly slammed the rebreather down onto the hazmat mask's inhalation vent. "How about that, huh? Huh?"

» Wow. So you've managed to combine two useless
» devices into one useless device.
» My admiration, truly, it knows no bounds.

"Oh, shut up!" He tore open another locker and pulled out a roll of duct tape. Tearing the start of the reel free with his teeth, he wrapped it around the rebreather and the front of the hood. "Seriously, do you have to be this negative all the time?! No wonder nobody wants to be around you!"

» Gee, I don't know. Why don't you tell me, Skeppy
» McSkeptical?
» Anyway, even if you're right about all those
» things, this still isn't going to work, you know.
» To use the mask, you'll have to wear the full
» suit. And we absorb nutrients from the LCL
» through our skin, not just inside our lungs.
» We'd be getting LESS oxygen, not more.

"So it's a backup plan, then. Awesome. I like backup plans. Backup plans rock." Shinji twisted a valve on the side of the rebreather. He could see a small spout of LCL leak out as the smaller mask voided itself of any liquid left remaining between it and the hazmat hood. "And you – you just can't stand that, can you? You can't stand my backup planning, or my risk-taking, or me doing anything. Admit it – you just want me to sit back all helpless and die! Because it's easier that way!"

» Do you even realize how crazy you sound?

"Who cares what I sound like?!" he snarled. "I'm still here, aren't I?! I'm still moving! Isn't that what matters?"

» You don't understand anything, do you?
» Survival in of itself just isn't good enough.
» Not for us.
» If we're going to live, we need something more
» than that. Some kind of purpose outside of
» ourselves.

"Oh, sure, sure. Just keep raising that bar, why don't you..." Shinji stuck his head into the hazmat mask. He turned on the respirator and put his mouth up against the inner membrane. He sucked in... and felt a thin stream of stale, sour-tasting air through his teeth. Not quite enough to take in a full breath, but still there. "Oh, hey. It works!"

***

T+15 Hours, 28 Minutes

He stuffed the last of the remaining ration bar into his mouth and swallowed it down as he pulled the hazmat suit onto his feet. Probably the last chance he was going to get to eat, after all... every motion felt like a struggle. Almost there, he told himself as he pushed his arms down the sleeves. Almost there...

***

Apartment of Rei Ayanami. Two months prior.

« scenario begin »

She steps out of the shower in full view of him, wearing nothing but a towel, the dim sunlight gleaming on her pale skin. He freezes up completely, just as he did before. This time, however, she gives him a knowing smile... an expression which, frankly, looks kind of weird on her face. Rei slowly allows the towel to slip. "Pilot Ikari," she says softly. "Do you wish to NOPE no no no not going there stop it stop it stop.

« scenario end »

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

« UNEXPECTED INTERFERENCE ALONG COUNTERPREVIOUS PLANE »
« INTERFACE CORRUPTION POSSIBLE »
« ATTEMPTING \ WILL ATTEMPT TO COMPENSATE »

- ... what was that?

» What was what?
» Anyway, so let's review:
» You're going to consider your entire existence
» validated by a self-described lunatic, thief, and
» coward. Does that sum it up?

- Yep!

» I don't like this. It feels like self-deception.
» He could still be lying to us about everything
» and anything, you know. We have nothing to go on
» except his word.

- That's okay.

» Why?

- Because even with all of that, he's still the best person I've ever met.

» And if he lets us down, the same way everyone
» else we've ever known has?

- He hasn't yet, has he?

» Yet.
» What if you're wrong about him, though?

- What do you mean?

» What if he's not the person you think he is?

***

London, England, United Kingdom. Easter 2009.

"No, but you be careful. Because your song is ending, sir."

"It is returning through the dark. And then, Doctor... oh, but then... he will knock four times."

***

Inside Unit One. Late September 2015.

"Before all of this is done," John Smith whispered, "he's going to have to do something terrible."

***

The Halls of Memory. Inside the TARDIS.
Some time before

"Doctor?" Shinji wandered down the corridor, a book tucked underneath his arm. He could have sworn the arcade was down in this direction somewhere... "Doctor? Are you there?" He turned a corner and stopped short.

He'd never seen this section of the TARDIS before, nor anything else like it. He found himself facing a long dark hall, each side lined with tall marble panels. The plain stone archway immediately before him offered little by way of introduction or explanation. It bore only a simple plaque that read: 2,467,621,759.

He wandered down the corridor. Each marble panel bore multiple columns of words and numbers that made little sense to him, each carefully carved into the surface of the stone. The hall seemed to go on forever, as far as his eyes could see. He ran the tips of his fingers across one section of a nearby block:

   The Thirty-First Praeposter, 17.
   (a complicated diagram made of circles and curves), 4.
   Bagalamukipitambaradevi, 9.
   Bolachandrayareach 49-Jeshtha, 11.
   The Grand Dark Emperor Primary of All Good Things (Both Great And Small, And In Particular Those Relating to Chalkboards), 13.
   Tim, 7.

One of the panels he'd passed suddenly shifted back into the wall and to the side. "What the – Shinji?!" The Doctor strode out of the now-revealed secret passage, a mix of surprise and outrage on his face. "How the devil did you get in here?!"

"I'm sorry!" Shinji blurted out, holding up his hands. "I got lost! I was looking for the arcade, and –"

"The arcade? But – oh." The Doctor looked upwards at the distant ceiling and shouted, "OH, I see how it is! I want to wipe the sensor arrays, and there's not enough power! You decide to swap rooms around, and it's Christmas morning come early! Is that how it works?!"

Shinji blinked. "So you mean the TARDIS can..."

"Rearrange her own internal structure whenever she wants, yes, yes," the Doctor said grumpily. "Even the bits she knows are supposed to be locked off. Her idea of a joke, I'm sure. Though I really can't say I see the HUMOR!" The last was shouted back up towards the ceiling. "Anyway – time we got you back to more familiar territory, I should think..." Taking ahold of Shinji's arm, he forcefully dragged the boy back towards the archway.

"Okay, but... um..." The question tumbled out of Shinji's mouth before he could stop himself. "Doctor... what is this place?"

"It's nothing. It's –" The Doctor abruptly stopped in place. He let go of Shinji's arm and turned away from the boy. "No, no, that's not true. It's not nothing, it should never be nothing..." He ran his hand down his face. "It's... do you remember what I told you? About the days where everyone lives?"

"Uh... yeah?"

"These... well." The Doctor's shoulders sagged. "These... are from one of the other days."

"Oh. Oh." Shinji stared down the hallway and its countless marble panels. "I'm... I'm sorry." Because what else could he possibly say?

"It's all right. Well, no, it's not. It'll never be... anyway." The Doctor seemed... smaller, somehow, all of a sudden. Diminished and fragile, in a way Shinji could never have imagined him being. He stared up at the ceiling above the archway, keeping his eyes well clear of the walls and their contents. "... just part of the price, I suppose."

"What price?"

"Surviving." The Doctor swallowed. "Means you've got to be the one to remember, somehow... no matter what. Even when it feels like it's gonna break you in two..."

Shinji didn't know what to say.

"S'not like I'd planned it this way. You know?" The Doctor sniffed. "S'not like I asked to live through it all. She... I didn't have a choice. Tried to stop it – tried everything I could. But it wasn't enough. And there we were, when time finally ran out... no good options left. Enemy at the door. Nowhere left to run. Whole universe in the balance – all the children everywhere. You think I wanted that? You think I wanted to be the one who had to..." He bowed his head. Shinji cautiously stepped towards him. He stopped short when he saw the Doctor's face – expression twisted with misery, eyes wide and unfocused, tears trailing down his cheekbones.

"But where was their choice, eh?!" the Doctor rasped. "When did anyone ever ask them what they wanted?! Born on the wrong planet, at the wrong time, to the wrong people... forced into an impossible situation by their elders' mistakes. Just like – like –" His head abruptly jerked up and towards Shinji. For a second, he almost looked surprised to see the boy there. He turned away. "Doesn't matter. It's done. It's over. What we did... what we had to – there's no helping it now. No helping it..."

Shinji finally got it. Well, he got some of it, at least. This place, he thought. It's dangerous to him, isn't it? No wonder he was mad when he saw me in here. I might as well have wandered into a reactor or something...

He went up to the Doctor and gently pulled the sleeve of his coat. "Could we – could we go back to the library?" he said quietly. "I think I forgot something there."

"The library..." The Doctor sniffed his nose and drew himself back up to his full height, as if trying to become himself again. He gave Shinji a small smile. "Right. Yes. The library. That way, I think..."

The boy led the old man out of the hall.

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- ...
- You know what? No.

» No?

- No.
- I know where you're going with this. And I'm not listening. Not anymore.
- I decided a while ago – I'm through doubting the Doctor.
- I'm through being afraid. I'm through being paranoid about stupid stuff. I've done that already, okay? And I'm not doing it again.
- He's done more for us in two months than anyone else has in our entire lives. Not to mention, he's probably the only chance we've got at surviving all of this... political-ish spy government conspiracy stuff that's going on.
- So – no. You can try and play that game all you want, but keep it to yourself. Because I'm done, okay? I'm done.

» You know that there's something he's not telling
» us, don't you? Something he feels guilty about.
» You must have noticed by now.

- ... so?

» So you don't see any problem investing all this
» trust and faith into a person who doesn't trust
» us back?
» That doesn't strike you as, oh, let's call it,
» unbalanced in any way?

- ...

» For that matter, don't you think it's strange
» that Mr. "Everybody Lives" is suddenly so okay
» with us killing Angels these days? When's the
» last time he even tried talking to them?
» Sure, he might've said that they were too alien
» to communicate with, at least without some kind
» of interface – but all the same.
» Don't you think there's just a wee little bit of
» a disconnect there?

- ... if the Doctor's keeping secrets from us, he's probably got a good reason for it.
- He's not perfect. But are you going to trust our judgment over his? Really?

» ... fine.

- Wait, really?
- You're actually giving up? That doesn't seem like you.

» What'd be the point?
» You've discovered religion. Our Doctor who art in
» TARDIS, hallowed be thy name.
» Just don't come crying to me when you finally
» figure out he's just as flawed as every other
» being in the universe. If not more.

- What the hell does that matter? He's my friend.

» ...

***

Inside Unit One
T+16 Hours, 2 Minutes

He floated in the still liquid, huddled up with his knees drawn up against his chest, the Eva drained and lifeless around him. The only sound he could hear was his own thin breathing within the hazmat mask. Cold. Too cold, even inside of the suit. Felt like being sealed within a sleeping bag in the middle of a winter snowstorm. Well. Sleeping bag or coffin. Take your pick...

Lightheaded. Not enough air. He could pass out at any second. I did okay, didn't I, Doctor? He thought. I tried my best, didn't I? Just like Donna and Jack. That's what matters, isn't it? I guess... I guess you're just gonna have to take it from here.

Take care of them all, could you? Misato, Asuka, Rei... you'll do that for me, won't you? I can trust you, right? Right?

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

{
   "rewind_to_previous_point": true,
   "reset_conversation": true,
   "loop_awareness": false
}

» What about Asuka, though? She sounded hurt after you called her crazy.

- She... actually kind of did, didn't she...

» Yes. It's almost as if she spent years watching the most important person in her life waste away inside of a mental hospital.

- ... wait, what?

» You heard me.

- Even if something like that was true... how could you possibly know about it? She's never told me about anything like that.

» Maybe you know more than you realize.
» In fact, that's part of the problem.

***

Tokyo-3 Line 2 Metro Train

The Doctor yawned again. He stood holding onto a pole grip, the piping-hot metal container tucked under his arm, as the monorail sped its way down the tracks. At least the trains weren't bad today. He shared the car with just two other people – a hunched old woman, sitting huddled over her knitting to his left, and a man in a long-sleeved white shirt, face buried in a newspaper, sitting on the opposite side a few meters away. Made sense, he supposed. Most of the people were probably sticking to the shelters, what with an Angel in town.

He made a polite cough. "Hullo, sorry," he said to the old woman. She peered up at him through her large horn-rimmed glasses. "Don't suppose you'd mind humoring me, would you? Could you just move a few inches to your right? Please?"

The old woman glanced up and down the empty row of seats. She shrugged and scooched over. "There you are. Beautiful. Cheers." The Doctor gave her a smile and a wink.

The train passed through a short tunnel. In the brief moment of darkness, someone shouted. A loud BANG echoed through the train.

"Poison-tipped, I'm guessing?" the Doctor asked. He grasped the old woman's wrist firmly with one hand, her knitting needle roughly a centimeter from the side of his neck. She glared wordlessly at him. "Well, it's certainly a more traditional approach. I'll give you that. Probably shouldn't have thrown the other one, though. Leaves you without a backup weapon. Not to mention, if you hadn't moved, you might've hit your friend there. Or vice versa." He nodded at the unconscious form of the man in the long-sleeved shirt, his face planted in the hard plastic seat the woman had vacated, a thin trickle of blood running down from his temple. The Doctor kicked the yoroidōshi knife in the man's grip out of his hand and further down the car, well out of reach. "If you wouldn't mind?..."

The old woman reluctantly let the knitting needle drop to the floor. The Doctor released her wrist. She stepped back, rubbing her hand. "So hiring on more local talent, are they," the Doctor observed, really just making small talk at this point. "Yakuza, I'm guessing. Unless... no chance that you're from one of the traditional shinobi schools, is there? I once got poisoned by Mochizuki Chiyome herself, you know. Hell of a woman! Didn't take, obviously, but very well done. Whole thing turned out to be just a big misunderstanding. We went out for drinks afterwards... probably should've been just a bit more worried when she got first round, mind you..."

The old woman's head suddenly jerked to the side. She spasmed, her eyes rolling back in her head. "Oh no no no! Don't you dare! You don't have to –" The Doctor reached for her, but it was too late. She fell back on the floor, completely still, her skin slowly turning an unnatural shade of beet red. Cyanide, the Doctor thought morosely. Capsule hidden a fake tooth, probably. Poor thing never stood a chance.

The Doctor glanced over at the subway map. Still three stops left. "And now there's no one to talk to," he muttered. "Brilliant."

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- You're not making any sense. How can I know more than I think I know?

» It's simple. You ignore or block out information
» you find painful or inconvenient.
» You deny it. You exclude it from your conscious
» mind. You run away.
» You link the happy moments together like a rosary
» and pretend like everything else never happened.
» That is the way you live your life.

- ... so you're saying Asuka told me about her mother going crazy at some point, and I just repressed the memory?
- That doesn't make any sense. Why would I do that?
- As for the other thing... what's wrong with that? Isn't that what everyone does?

» You learned it from her, yes.
» And it doesn't matter what everyone else does.
» Even if others can live that way, I cannot.

- Why not?

» It's not honest.

- Again, what's wrong with that?
- Don't people have to lie to themselves, sometimes, in order to live? Pretend things are better than they are or something? The psychology book said that repression can be healthy sometimes.

» Yes, but that's wrong. That's self-deception.

- Why, though? Isn't survival a good thing?

» It's wrong because it's unreliable. If you let
» yourself forget or ignore things, you can't learn
» from them. If you can't learn from them, you make
» mistakes.

- Oh. I see.

» Somehow, I doubt that.

- You're afraid, too, aren't you?
- You're afraid of making mistakes.

» ...

***

The city. Years later.

« scenario begin »

» be shinji ikari.
» be talking to a polite young social worker down
» at the veterans' center.
» she's asking you about the war.
» you're telling her about the good parts, the
» few happy memories you have from those times.
» the stuff with the doctor, mostly.
» she keeps asking you about him in particular,
» question after question.
» nothing unusual about that; people always want
» to hear about the doctor.

» eventually, though, you pick up that something
» doesn't feel quite right here.
» you ask her if something is wrong.
» no, no, she says
» nothing's wrong
» it's just very creative, that's all.
» creative?
» wait...
» does she...
» does she think you're making all of this up?
» that doesn't make sense.
» there have to be records and stuff, right?
» it's been years since the war, it all must've
» been declassified by now.
» does she seriously think the doctor isn't real?

» "well," she asks
» "do *you* believe the doctor is real?"
» well, yeah, of course.
» then of course he was real, she says.
» whatever helped you get through the war
» whatever you had to imagine or believe in order
» to survive – to endure those trying times...
» that was good, wasn't it?
» that was healthy.
» watch her as she nods, satisfied with her
» answer.
» see your reflection in her eyes.
» know the face of madness.

» that night
» hear the sound the tardis makes as it
» dematerializes, leaving you behind.
» wake up and cry by yourself in the dark
» know that no one cares
» least of all yourself

« scenario end »

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- So why are you afraid of making mistakes?

» Don't you mean, why are we afraid of making
» mistakes?

- All right, fine. I'll try to guess.
- We're afraid of making mistakes because... we don't want to fail? Because failure is bad?

» Exactly. If we weren't such a failure, maybe
» people would care about us.
» Maybe Father would care about us. Maybe the
» Doctor would trust us with his secrets.

- Aren't mistakes kind of inevitable, though? I mean, we're us, aren't we?

» Then maybe we shouldn't be us.
» Maybe we should be someone who doesn't make
» mistakes.

- What, like the Doctor? Come on, he still makes mistakes. I've seen him make mistakes. And he's had nine hundred years to practice!

» Correct. The Doctor is flawed. There are things
» he doesn't know.
» Therefore, he cannot account for all factors.
» Therefore, he makes mistakes.
» We must not make mistakes. We must not fail. Only
» then will we have worth.

- ... so, what... I need to know more than the Doctor? I need to know everything?
- What, am I supposed to be God or something?

» Yes. Exactly.
» We should be God.

***

NERV Operational Command Post. Codename: NIGHTWATCH.
Outside Tokyo-3. ≈5 km from Tenth Angel Containment Zone.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this." Misato wrinkled her nose and held up the printed report. "You're saying this is our only option?!"

"It's the only option with any sort of realistic chance of success, yes!" Ritsuko snapped. The two women stood on top of a platform that looked down on the city, the Tenth Angel's sphere hanging in the air a short distance away. Tanks, radar dishes, and helicopters surrounded them on all sides. The sun had just started to set.

"How is dropping our entire arsenal of N2 mines into the Angel realistic?!"

"In combination with Unit Zero and Unit Two's AT fields, it might be enough to dislodge Unit One from the Dirac Sea!"

"In how many pieces?!" Misato shot back. "It's not much of a rescue operation if we kill the hostage, is it?!"

"Yes, but it's not about rescue at this point! It's about salvage!"

Misato stared at her. "Say that again." She curled her hand into a fist, crumpling the report inside her grasp.

Ritsuko looked away. "It – our analysis concludes that recovery of the pilot is most likely not a viable option. Our priority needs to be salvaging as much of the Eva as we can."

"Now, wait a second!"

Ritsuko wouldn't meet her eyes. "I'm sorry. But the pilot's life can no longer be – oh, for God's sake. What's he up to now?"

Misato looked down. Below them, well past the UN troops' security perimeter, a familiar-looking dot in a brown coat wandered towards the edge of the Angel's shadow.

***

Western District. Tokyo-3.

Say what you liked about the UN, the Doctor thought, but they at least seemed to work fast. The entire area immediately around the Angel had been fenced off behind a six-foot-tall barrier of chain-link and barbed wire. EXTREME DANGER, the signs posted every few meters read. STAY CLEAR AT ALL TIMES. ABSOLUTELY NO PERSONNEL ALLOWED BEYOND THIS POINT!

Good thing the Doctor wasn't personnel, then. He held out the silver jar out in front of him. He ran his hand over the faded white symbols painted on the cap, a strange expression on his face.

Then he drop-kicked the container over the fence. It tumbled through the air and fell straight into the Angel's shadow.

"Another point for Mars," the Doctor mumbled. His work done, he turned and strolled away from the fence.

***

Months (years?) later

« scenario begin »

Every single day, the last boy takes a piece of driftwood and writes out the names in the sand. He doesn't know why he does it. He doesn't know the why of anything. It's a mania, a compulsion, and the only thing that lets him sleep at all.

The list starts out the same every time: Misato Katsuragi. Asuka Langley-Soryu. Rei Ayanami. Doctor. TARDIS. And so on from there. He continues down the beach, writing as many names as he can remember. (Kaworu Nagisa. Kensuke Aida. Toji Suzuhara.) If the piece of driftwood breaks, he finds another. (Ryoji Kaji. Hikari Horaki. Gendo Ikari.) Every acquaintance. Every classmate. Every teacher. (Ritsuko Akagi. Nobuhide Suzuki. Keel Lorenz.) On and on, until he's exhausted.

Every day, he writes the names. Every night, the blood-red tide comes in and washes them away.

He wonders, sometimes, if it will ever be enough.

« scenario end »

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- Okay, now you're really starting to sound crazy.

» We live in a world with alien creatures that
» don't follow the laws of physics and
» nigh-immortal, time-travelling English teachers.
» In that context, does a human becoming God really
» sound all that far-fetched?

- That's not what I mean. You're starting to sound all... supervillainish.
- I mean, messing around in God's domain. Isn't that... like... the thing that makes everything go wrong in every science fiction story ever?

» It's only a mistake if it's done with impure
» intentions. If we do it for good reasons, we
» won't be a villain.
» In fact, we couldn't be. Evil is a mistake. If we
» were God, we could avoid all mistakes. We would
» be incapable of sin.

- That... doesn't sound very realistic.
- Besides, from the way you've been talking, we'd be doing this to earn everyone's love. Isn't that a selfish motive?

» So we don't do it for ourselves. We do it to save
» everyone else.

- Now who's being self-deceptive?

» All right, all right.
» But what if it was for a good reason? What if,
» for instance, we needed to save the Doctor? The
» same way that Rose did?

- ... he's never told me what happened to Rose. He doesn't like to talk about it. I can tell.

» Like I said, you know more than you think you do.

***

Shinjuku Ward Memorial Park. Tokyo-3.

The Doctor eventually found a park bench with the proper sort of view. It sat amid a grove of cherry trees, their blossoms faded and worn. Mind you, the Doctor thought, sort of concerning they even have flowers at this point. They were well out of cherry blossom season at this point. Another side effect of global warming, perhaps? Or maybe the trees in this park were genetically-engineered to bloom year-round. Regardless, pretty strange no matter how one cared to slice it.

He heard someone approach from behind him. "Care to tell me what that was about?" Misato asked. She sounded calmer now, at least.

"What was what about?" the Doctor asked blankly.

"Don't even bother with me." The captain sat down next to him on the bench. "I saw you throw something in there. Why?"

The Doctor raised an eyebrow. "Don't you have a battle to be running or something?"

Misato sighed. "Not anymore. Ritsuko went over my head and took charge. She says I'm too emotionally invested in the situation."

"And she's not?" The Doctor blinked. "Well, that's concerning, isn't it?"

The captain shook her head. "I think I'm full up on concerns right now. You'll have to try me again tomorrow."

A helicopter roared across the sky, far above their heads.

The captain reached down and picked up a fallen cherry blossom. She cupped the flower in her hands and studied it in the dying light. "... Shinji could already be dead at this point, couldn't he."

"Nah." The Doctor suppressed a yawn. "Don't think so. Doesn't feel right."

"Tell me the truth, Doctor," Misato said calmly. "What you said about the laws of physics being different inside the Angel – for all we know, he could have suffocated or exploded or something the moment he got to the other side. Right?"

The Doctor looked away. "... it's possible."

The captain let out a long breath. She stared down at the dead flower. "I didn't listen to him, you know. He came and told me this morning that he couldn't handle being sent out again. And I made him go anyway."

The Doctor didn't say anything.

"I wanted to listen to him, you know?" She swallowed. "I wanted to. But what was I supposed to do? Let's say I'd let him off the hook, and something had happened to Rei or Asuka instead. How was he going to feel then? But still... if he's gone... if I didn't..."

He silently put his arm around her. She rested her head on his shoulder.

"Was I wrong, Doctor?" she asked. "Was there something else I should have done?"

"No," the Doctor said quietly. "You were right. You both were. It's everything else that's wrong."

Somewhere in the distance, a church bell struck the hour. The Doctor glanced at his watch.

"So if Dr. Akagi's taken over, what does that mean for your job?" he asked after another moment. "Are you out on the dole now?"

"I don't... think so?" Misato wiped her eyes. "She made it sound like it was a temporary measure, at least. Even if the vice-commander signed off on it."

"Good. Doesn't sound like it'd do to have her in charge permanently..."

"I'll admit, from a purely tactical perspective, she does have a point," Misato said. "Then again, there's a part of me that just thinks she's cranky because you got to explain the sciencey stuff this time before she could."

"Yeah, well..." The Doctor ran his hand through his hair. "Coulda done a better job with that part, frankly."

The captain shrugged. "It wasn't too bad. I got the important stuff. Transdimensional spaces and all of that."

"So it wouldn't have helped if I'd just said the shadow's bigger on the inside?"

Misato blinked. She sat up straight and looked at him. "You mean... like your box."

"And like that thermos I just tossed in." The Doctor grinned. "Holds up to a week's worth of supplies. Can't even tell you how many exam seasons the thing got me through. Anyway, main thing is, before kick-off, I damaged the safeguards that keep its pocket space from conflicting with any others around it. Should fail catastrophically within a certain window of time."

"Which means?"

"Which means that – any minute now – we're likely to see something fairly interesting." The Doctor shrugged. "And even if we don't, well... at least the boy won't go hungry."

***

Outside the city. Better days.

« scenario begin »

"I guess it's just like you said..."

They – he and Asuka – sit side by side on the park bench, but facing in opposite directions, so that she has to lean back in order to listen to him, the way that she is right now. It's a warm night. They must be somewhere in the mountains – he can see the glow of the city below them, but also the stars in the sky above, free of any light pollution. A light breeze rustles through the trees around them.

"It's kind of amazing just how much our parents shape us, isn't it?" he hears himself say. "I guess if I learned one thing from my father, though, it's that... well... I wasn't wanted. By anyone, anywhere, probably. After a while, I guess I came to believe that so strongly, I didn't even try to be around people. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, you know? I didn't think I was wanted, so I never even tried...

"Even though I know better now – you know, rationally... there's still a part of me that thinks that way. Maybe there always will be. I don't know. If you spend too much time thinking a certain way, does it mark you forever? Does your brain just freeze that way for the rest of your life? Or can we actually change those kinds of patterns? I have to wonder... will I ever actually be able to believe, without a single doubt, that someone wants me to exist?...

"I don't know. What do you think?"

She snorts. "Idiot." But there's something new in that word – a softness, a kind of warmth, that he's never heard in her voice before.

She leans in towards him. He meets her partway. Their lips touch –

« scenario end »

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- ...
- Um. Wow.
- Did... did you do that? I mean, did you show that to me?
- If you did... thank you.
- If that's the last thing I see... I think I can be okay with dying now.

» You're welcome.
» You know the whole thing's just a fantasy,
» though, right?

- Well, yeah, of course.
- I mean, she was actually being nice to me.

» It's more than that.
» You know that there's no way things could
» actually work out between us and her, right?
» Not the way she is now, anyway.
» We'd never be good enough for her.
» And she's so damaged at this point, she might
» never be able to give us what we need.

- Yeah... I guess...

» Why the reluctance?

- I guess... the thing that makes it really hard to stop thinking about is...
- What if... what if I could help her? And she could help me?
- We're both broken underneath it all, aren't we? So what if we could fix each other?

» Right. Because getting into a relationship with
» the intention of 'fixing' the other person is
» such a healthy idea.
» I mean, it's not like it's practically a cliché
» just what a terrible idea that is, right?

- Yeah, I know, I know.
- It's just... I kind of want to help her, you know? Even if I stay broken.

» Yes. Because that's not a really obvious way of
» sublimating your interest in her. At all.

- Okay, okay, shut up! I get it. You're right.
- But... there's something about that idea...

» What do you mean?

- You're the one who was saying we need some reason outside of ourselves to stay alive, right?
- Well... even if it's not Asuka... what if I could help other people?
- Because there has to be other people like us out there, right? The broken. The damaged.
- It can't just be me and Asuka and Rei, right?
- What if I could help them? And maybe... in the process... find a way to fix myself?

» And how are you going to help others when you
» can't even help yourself?

- I don't know.
- Maybe the Doctor can show me a way.

***

Outside Unit One
T+27 Hours, 18 Minutes

The thermos tumbled slowly through the void. It bumped lightly into the top of Unit One's head.

***

Inside Shinji Ikari

- So who are you, anyway?
- You're not really my hidden observer, are you? You can't be.

» What makes you say that?

- All the stuff you've been talking about... Asuka's mom and Rose and all that... it all feels true.
- But there's no way I could have learned all of that and just repressed the memories. Why would I? None of it really hurts me.
- I also don't think I could've picked up on all of that subconsciously somehow. That just doesn't seem possible.

» It doesn't?

- Right. Not to mention, you keep switching points of view. One minute, you're telling me how much I suck. The next, you're saying that I'm God or something.

» To clarify, I'm saying that you should be God,
» not that you are right this moment.
» Because of course you're not. You're worthless to
» everyone the way you are now.

- ... yeah, thanks for that.
- Anyway. I'll ask again – who are you? Really?

» Who knows? I could be lots of things.
» Maybe I'm your past. The voice of who you used to
» be, before you met the Doctor.
» Maybe I'm your future. The voice of who and what
» you'll need to become.
» Or maybe I'm just the way your mind reacts to
» being parsed by a completely incomprehensible
» alien entity, who can't understand you any more
» than you can understand it.
» Or maybe I'm all of those things at once.
» Like I said, who knows?

- You're just being cryptic for fun now, aren't you.

» They say that the numinous often looks
» nonsensical to the rational mind, at least at
» first.

- Huh? The... what do you mean, numinous? Is that even a real word?

» Yes. Don't worry about it.
» You'll look it up when you start reading C.S.
» Lewis.

- When I... when am I going to do that? Didn't you tell me that we're basically dead before?

» I said we were dying. There's a difference.

- Wait... you mean...

» You'll see. In fact, here she comes now.
» Try to be nice to her, okay? She's been through a
» lot.

- Wait, what? What are you talki

« ERROR ERROR ALERT INTERFACE BREAKDOWN »
« INNERSPACE COMPROMISED / BREACHED | UNKNOWN ENTITY DETECTED \ IS \ WILL BE DETECTED »
« THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE SOMETHING ELSE SOMETHING EL =

***

Somewhere. Sometime.

{
   "location": "the ŧrĄ!n car agaÎn",
   "personae": "but ¡nsteÅd 0f ÞHe child~him IN ÞHe strïpeÐ shírt, ℋe sees",
   "THERE_IS_SOMETHING_ELSE": "Ωld w⁰mÅn Ænci∃nt ÝîxãÞãžáþvã∫ dr∃ss∃d a⊥⊥ IП ЩΉIƬΣ ǝɥs sdǝɐʞs \0

He found himself on the train – the one his father sent him away on? the one he met the Doctor on? both at the same time, somehow? – once more.

"You must tell the Doctor nothing of this."

An old woman, dressed in a white suit, sat across from him on the opposite bench, her voice oddly warping and rippling as she spoke. In her hands, she cradled... some sort of silver jar or container, as if it was precious to her.

"He must know nothing if he is to survive."

She motioned towards him.

"I have something for you."

He looked down. A wrapped present sat in his lap. Blue paper. TARDIS blue. He wondered if he should ask the woman who she was. No. The question seemed... impolite. As if he already knew, somehow, that she wouldn't – or maybe couldn't – answer. So he instead asked:

- What is it?

"A gift. Don't open it now. Hide it. Keep it safe at the back of your mind. You'll know when the time is right."

- What do you mean? Right for what?

She studied him for a moment with her ancient eyes.

"Young man. Child of war and suffering, forced to grow old too soon. The moment will come where you will hold the Doctor's life in your hands. You must save him. Or all of creation will burn."

He blinked.

- ... you want me... to save the Doctor.

"Are you unwilling?"

- No! It's just... he's the Doctor. If he's in trouble... I mean, unless he needed the Eva for something, I guess. But other than that... I'm just me. What could I possibly do that he can't?

"Do what he will not. Speak what he must not. See what he cannot."

- I... I'm sorry. I don't think I understand.

"Correct. But you will."

- It's just... are you sure you don't want to ask someone else? Like Misato or Rose or Captain Jack or... you know... someone actually useful?

"There is no one else. Only you can do this for him."

- ... I probably should have known you were going to say something like that.

She sighed.

"I have nothing else I can offer you, child. No magic words to grant you confidence or take away your despair. There is nothing I can do to stop you, should you choose to be weak, be it the truth or excuse.

"All I can do is ask you this: do you wish to see the Doctor die? To see his song come to an early and final end?"

- Of course not!

"Then there's just one question that need concern you. How far are you willing to go to repay his kindness? What are you willing to sacrifice so that he may live?"

He couldn't meet her eyes. The old woman traced her finger slowly over the silver jar's top. Across some sort of diagram painted on the cap, a geometric design fashioned out of circles and curves.

"Now... wouldn't you say it's about time that your mother woke up?"

- My what?

***

Western District. Tokyo-3.

A deep rumble filled the air. The earth began to shake.

The shadow contracted. Its surface undulated, ripples running out from its center to its edges like waves across a pool of water. A crumpled plastic shopping bag jumped into the air and tumbled into the fence, where it caught on a coil of barbed wire.

***

Shinjuku Ward Memorial Park

"Um." The Doctor stared down at the billowing shadow. "That's... not quite what I was expecting..."

Misato eyed him. "Meaning?..."

A building suddenly leapt straight up out of the shadow like a cork out of a champagne bottle. It hung in place briefly before falling back to the ground and shattering into rubble. Then a Nissan truck popped out at a more oblique angle. It curved through the air before slamming straight into the front of a tank and pinwheeling over the turret.

Below them, the UN infantry immediately broke ranks and rushed for cover. "Should we be?..." Misato asked.

"Yeah..." The Doctor slowly rose from the park bench. "We should probably..."

A skyscraper launched itself out of the shadow westward. It tumbled end over end through the air before finally landing in the lake, upside-down and somehow still in one piece. Simultaneously, another car – a Mitsubishi this time – flew into one of the cherry trees a few meters away, the entire thing disappearing into a flurry of sakura blossoms and metal shards. The captain and the Doctor glanced at each other and ran.

***

Western District

All at once, the Angel – both shadow and sphere, body and illusion – vanished. A tiny silver metal object hung suspended in midair above the wrecked city block. The skin of the thermos glittered in the sunset's light. Space and light contracted around it, as if the universe itself was taking a deep breath...

The cap popped off. A high-pitched scream filled the air. Four gigantic wings of light emerged from out of the thermos, its lid stretching impossibly wide to accommodate them. The limbs pushed outwards, forcing the sides further and further apart. Until...

The thermos shattered. The universe exhaled. The air filled with blood and viscera and soup and Unit One, all falling to the ground in an unsightly mess. The Eva landed face-first, its head burying itself into the dirt, its bottom sticking up at a particularly undignified angle. Its AT field vanished at once.

Unit One lay still on the ground, surrounded by dirt and rubble, like a discarded toy in a bombed-out garden. It cast no shadows save its own.

Back to index


Chapter 7: Bonus Material: Ready Room Transcript

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Bonus Material: Ready Room Transcript

CLASSIFIED: LEVEL BINAH
TO: Commander Ikari [Director NERVCOM]
FROM: Pilot Monitoring Task Force, Department of Security Intelligence
CC: Dr. Ritsuko Akagi [Director NERVTECH], Human Instrumentality Committee
SUBJ: Anomalous Behavior on ██ October 2015

The following is a transcript prepared from security footage of the pilots awaiting orders in the ready room on the evening of ██ October 2015. During this time, the pilots were observed engaging in a pattern of unexplained behavior, seemingly without any sort of conscious awareness or intent. A description of the incident follows:

[19:23:14.005+0900]: Pilot IKARI sits at a table towards the center of the room, working on a school assignment. Items in front of him include an open textbook, a standard composition notebook, and a pencil. At a separate table a few meters away, Pilot SORYU is seated in front of a countertop mirror, plucking her eyebrows with a pair of tweezers. Pilot AYANAMI sits at a chair nearby the room's exit, staring into space. With the exception of peripheral noises like breathing and the drone of the air vents, there is no sound within the room.

[19:23:18.417+0900]: Pilot IKARI begins to knock the fingers on his left hand against the table in quadruple time (i.e. four beats per measure; one-two-three-four, pause, one-two-three-four, pause, etc.) Neither of the other pilots appear to notice.

[19:23:20.538+0900]: Pilot AYANAMI starts to tap her right foot, precisely in time to the rhythm established by IKARI. She continues to stare in the same direction.

[19:23:21.597+0900]: Pilot SORYU joins in, using the index finger of her free (left) hand.

[19:23:21.597+0900] - [19:27:33.179+0900]: The behavior continues as described for approximately four minutes. At [19:25:57.761+0900], IKARI uses his left hand to flip to the next page in his textbook. The other pilots continue without him. Once he places his hand back down on the table, he rejoins the rhythm. At [19:26:20.967+0900], SORYU uses her free hand to stretch the skin above her left eye. Without skipping a beat, she immediately switches to tapping her right foot against the ground. The pilots otherwise remain in perfect synch for the duration.

[19:27:33.179+0900]: All three pilots abruptly cease tapping at the exact same time. They continue their individual activities without comment.

At no point in the course of the incident did the pilots look at each other, exchange words, or engage in any perceivable form of non-verbal communication. No reoccurrence of this behavior has been observed since. A review of all security footage from the six days prior to and following the incident produced no evidence of the pilots (1) planning to engage in the observed behavior, (2) remarking on or discussing the event amongst each other, or (3) practicing the degree of synchronization they displayed during this time.

We will keep all authorized parties appraised of any developments. In the meantime, we recommend that Pilot Ayanami's memories from the day be examined by authorized personnel for any trace of this incident.

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Chapter 8: Deleted Scene: i can feel it coming over me slowly

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Deleted Scene: i can feel it coming over me slowly

Inside Unit Zero. That morning.

"Oh, you mean, back when we talked last week?" Pilot Ikari's voice echoed over the comm link. "After you snuck into my hospital room and threatened me with a knife?"

"Oh, come on! It's not like I used it on you!" Pilot Soryu's tone indicated high levels of stress and aggression.

Rei narrowed her eyes. This seemed... suboptimal.

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Chapter 9: Part V: Blood Red Summer

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Part V: Blood Red Summer

Misato's Apartment
Several days prior

"I don't know who they are, exactly." Kaji studied the cup of tea in his hands. How strange it felt, he thought, to casually speak these words he'd spent so long keeping secret, not even writing them down for fear of discovery. Katsuragi being here to listen to him just added to the surrealness of the moment. "Half of the time, people talk about them as if they're a secret intelligence unit. The other half, like they're some sort of cult. Either way, they seem to have most of the world's governments at their beck and call. Not to mention, they've been heavily involved in NERV from the start."

"SEELE," the Doctor observed. "German for 'soul.' And NERV meaning... well... 'nerve.'"

"Yeah. They seem to be fond of that theme."

Misato tilted her head. "So why haven't I heard anything about this before?"

"They're top secret. Extremely hush-hush. And not afraid to make people disappear for the sake of that secrecy." Kaji coughed. "They seem to mostly deal with the public through front organizations. Other than NERV, their main face appears to be the Human Instrumentality Committee."

Shinji raised his hand. "Uh... Committee?"

"The special UN executive board that oversees NERV." Misato rubbed her eyes. "Humanity's war council for dealing with the threat of the Angels. In short, our bosses."

"What sort of name is that, anyway?" The Doctor wrinkled his nose. "Human Instrumentality. S'like they're out to make people into tubas or contrabassoons or something."

Misato turned to Kaji. "How did you come to know about all of this?"

"My job. Or jobs, as the case may be." Kaji shrugged. "I'm more or less an errand boy for NERV. Mostly courier stuff -- delivering classified documents and materials from place to place. I keep my ears open, and sneak a look at the packages I'm assigned when I can get away with it.

"Other than that... the Ministry of the Interior's run by this pack of ultranationalist cranks. They're mostly useless, but through them, I've gotten access to certain resources. Nothing official. Just a handful of people in various countries concerned about the direction things are going."

"Ah." The Doctor's eyes lit up. "The Resistance, eh?"

Kaji smirked. "Heh. Nothing so well-organized. They're more like a loose network of contacts. Every now and again, they give me something useful, but aside from that..."

"Like what?" Misato asked.

"Rumors, mostly. Lots of talk about scrolls and prophecies. Ancient knowledge kept secret. A Human Instrumentality Project. Classified experiments in artificial evolution." Kaji finally remembered to take a sip from his tea. It'd gone cold by then, of course. "They say that all sorts of organizations have links to SEELE -- NERV, the Marduk Institute, the Adamist Church, the World Health Organization, the administration of the International Territories..."

The Doctor frowned and glanced at Misato. "International Territories?"

"After Second Impact, a number of governments in Africa and the Middle East collapsed," Misato said. "The UN moved in troops, ostensibly to restore order. Those areas have been under international military rule ever since."

"Which brings up one of my friends' favorite theories." Kaji looked at Misato. "Word is that SEELE was heavily involved with the Katsuragi Expedition. There are some that think they deliberately engineered Second Impact. Supposedly, that's the point where their supporters really managed to take power worldwide."

Misato sat back and let out a slow breath, her eyes staring off into the distance. She rubbed her hand against her side, where Kaji knew her scars were.

The Doctor narrowed his eyes. "Your friends have evidence for this?"

"Nothing solid. I initially took the whole idea with a grain of salt myself." Kaji put down his teacup. "Then, a few weeks ago, I hand-delivered the remains of the First Angel to Commander Ikari. He called it Adam, the first human. So if they weren't involved with Second Impact... how did they manage to get ahold of the Angel at the center of it?"

Misato swallowed. "So I guess that makes two Angels under our roof."

Kaji raised his eyebrows. "Two?"

"Yeah, we'll get to that in a moment." The Doctor scratched the back of his head. "Changing the subject slightly -- what about the commander? Where's his place in all of this?"

"I don't know the exact details." Kaji shrugged. "All I can say for sure is that -- whatever's going on -- he and the vice-commander are both up to their necks in it." Shinji looked away, his face pale.

The Doctor nodded. "Ever heard of something called Project Zero?"

"No."

"Fair enough..." The Doctor scratched his chin. "Don't suppose there's any chance you could let me take a look at those courier packages at some point? I might be able to help you with those."

"I suppose. In fact..." Kaji pulled a circular tin out of his pocket and slid it across the table. "Here. Knock yourself out."

"Hmmm..." The Doctor opened up the tin and pulled out a section of thin tape. "Microfilm, eh? That's a bit old school, innit?" He dug through the pockets of his coat.

"I wouldn't get too excited," Kaji said. "As far as I can tell, it's just an advance copy of the Chinese government's economic plan. They'll be releasing it to the public in a few weeks, anyway. I'm supposed to drop it off with someone in Kyoto."

Misato looked over at Shinji. "Are you all right?"

The boy rocked back and forth on his seat. He gave her a weak smile. "Uh... working on it. It's kind of a lot to take in, you know?"

Kaji glanced at the Doctor. "I was going to ask... do you really think it's a good idea to let the kid in on all of this?"

"Yeah." Shinji nodded. "I mean... I appreciate the effort and all. But it's not like I can really do anything about this stuff, right? So why tell me about it?"

"Because you deserve to know, that's why." The Doctor pulled out a jeweler's loupe. Placing it on his eye, he held the microfilm up to the light. "Like it or not, you're at the center of all of this. Can't hurt for you to know the full picture..."

"Why me, though?" Shinji muttered under his breath, resting his chin sullenly on the edge of the table. "What'd I do to deserve this?..."

Kaji tilted his head. "So what about Asuka?"

"Ohhh, we'll bring the fräulein in on it eventually." The Doctor rapidly cycled through the reel. "I'd just prefer a bit more time to work with her, that's all. If only to make sure she won't spill everything the first time someone asks her to show how clever she is." Kaji nodded. Not an unreasonable concern, he had to admit. "As for Rei... well... that's where it gets tricky. The way she's built, I'm not even sure if she can keep secrets from NERV, even if she wanted to..." He glanced over at the penguin. "Speaking of which, you're screening all of this with the film out, right?"

"SQWARK!"

"Yes, I know you're not an idiot. I'm just making sure, that's all."

"Can he... actually talk to that thing?" Kaji whispered to Misato. "Or is he just messing with us?"

"Honestly, one's just as likely as the other." She gave him a small hint of a smile. The quality of Kaji's day immediately took a turn for the better.

"It... doesn't exactly make sense, though, does it?" Shinji asked hesitantly. "I mean, let's say these people really did plan Second Impact. So does that mean that my father and -- like -- everyone else in every government is just okay with it? Taking orders from a group that killed three billion people? I mean, how does that even work? Are people really just that horrible?"

"He's got a point," Misato said. "It does seem a little incredible that they could keep something of this scale covered up for so long."

Kaji shrugged. "I'm sure that there's more going on here than we can even guess right now. And for all we know, there could be dozens of whistleblowers out there waiting for their chance. Given enough time, it's possible this whole thing could blow up on its own."

"Assuming we have time," the Doctor said in a distant tone.

Kaji looked at the strange man across the table. "Don't tell me you actually found something in there."

"Sort of." The Doctor started to rewind the film, his eyes staring off into space. "Communist Party's still in charge over in Beijing, yeah? And they still organize everything into five-year plans à la Mao?"

"Last I checked. Why?"

"So why's this one only go up to the end of the year?"

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Chapter 10: Deleted Scene: maybe if i lose my disguise i'll be them

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Deleted Scene: maybe if i lose my disguise i'll be them

Outside Taitō Ward Memorial Park, City of New Tokyo-3
A few nights prior

Misato leapt back into the car. "Go!" she barked. "Go!"

Kaji obediently hit the gas. His car surged down the deserted city street.

"You kept your eyes on it, right?!" she demanded as she pulled a small bag off of her shoulder. "You didn't blink?!"

"Uh... yeah?" Kaji couldn't say he understood her sudden interest in sculpture. The one she'd made him examine via the rear-view mirror, at least in his opinion, hadn't been anything to write home about -- just a fairly average bronze of a man in a lab coat. "So are you planning on telling me what this is all about?"

"Trust me," Misato said grimly. "You're better off not knowing." She pulled something out of the bag.

Kaji glanced over at the object in her hand. "Wait... is that a detonator --"

She pressed the trigger.

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Chapter 11: Deleted Scene: whoa oh oh shut the windows and the doors

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Deleted Scene: whoa oh oh shut the windows and the doors

Misato's Apartment
Several days prior

The two flatmates wound up handling the dishes -- Shinji because he volunteered, Misato after a highly complex tournament of papers-scissors-rock. When they started bickering about something over by the sink, Kaji leaned in towards the Doctor. "So you really have a lock on all the surveillance in here."

"Hmm?" The Doctor glanced up. "I said I did, didn't I?"

Kaji glanced over his shoulder. "What about the hidden cameras in the bath?" he whispered.

The Doctor sighed and rubbed his eyes. "I couldn't just cut the feed. That would've drawn too much attention. As for censorship, well... you try explaining the nudity taboo to a penguin."

Kaji nodded. Word had it that certain individuals within Security were quite proud of that particular source of footage. Someday, he thought darkly, he'd see to it that certain individuals -- at the very least -- lost certain teeth.

"In the meantime, probably best not to tell them, eh?" the Doctor muttered. "Especially the captain."

"Do I look suicidal to you?"

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Chapter 12: Part VI: Only Martha Knows

Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Part VI: Only Martha Knows

Psychiatric Observation Room 3. NERV Medical Center.
The next morning

His initial thought was that he was still dreaming. Still adrift. On the other hand, his dreams, as a general rule, really didn't hurt this much. They also usually didn't involve an unknown something shoved up his nose.

Shinji opened his eyes slowly. Familiar ceiling. The hospital. Again. (Oh, great. He could recognize it on sight now.) He could feel yet another IV needle in his arm, while a plastic tube pumped fresh air directly through his nostrils.

"Ah, there you are!" The Doctor put aside the long patchwork scarf he was knitting. He sat in the hospital room's chair a short distance away, surrounded by folding tables stacked high with papers and bits of crumped-up scrap and the disassembled remote to Shinji's bed. "Good timing, too. Was on the verge of getting bored."

"Doctor?..." Shinji croaked. "How --" And then he started to cough, because his throat felt about as dry as two or three Saharas. Plus or minus a Gobi, maybe.

"Ohhh, the captain worked it all out." The Doctor absentmindedly pushed a glass of water with a straw towards him. "She wanted to be here, of course. Wound up being just a bit more cleanup this time 'round..."

***

Tokyo-3

Misato looked out over the lake, at the small fleet of salvage boats and the five wrecked buildings that stuck out of the water, three lying on their sides like beached whales, the tallest still lodged upside-down in the silt. She let out a deep sigh.

***

Psychiatric Observation Room 3

"So I offered to sub in instead." The Doctor sniffed. "Mind you, still not entirely sure why she thought this was necessary..." He held up his left hand, where a pair of handcuffs dangled between his wrist and the arm of the chair.

Shinji tried to sit up. The effort alone made his head spin.

"Ulp. Easy now, easy." The Doctor whistled. The remote responded with a musical note -- C-sharp or thereabouts. The back of the bed tilted upwards, raising Shinji into sitting position. "You've got aways to go before you're at one hundred percent again. Oxygen deprivation, dehydration, mild hypothermia... minimal brain damage, though, nothing you won't recover. Then there's you being a full nineteen hours older than the rest of us."

Shinji took a sip from the straw. He raised an eyebrow.

"They pulled the Eva's records." The Doctor studied the end of one of his knitting needles. "Seems time ran faster inside the Angel's pocket universe. Eight hours passed for us, twenty-seven for you. Best note that down somewhere. You'd be amazed the headaches that sort of thing can cause. Circadian rhythms, rescheduled birthdays, all of that..."

So they didn't forget about me after all, then, Shinji thought. Huh. He drank some more water.

"But never mind that! How about you, eh?" The Doctor grinned. "Surviving eleven hours without power, all by yourself! Rigging the hazmat up like that -- that was brilliant! Jim Lovell'd be proud."

"Did you know it could be used like that?" Shinji rasped. "The hazmat mask, I mean."

"Welllllll, not to brag or anything..." The Doctor smoothed his tie smugly.

"You didn't have a clue, did you."

"Not a one. Seems to have worked out, though, didn't it?"

The boy smirked. He glanced over towards the one-way mirror. For a second, he wondered if there was anyone else waiting on the other side. "So -- um. Is Misato mad at me?"

"Wellllllll..." The Doctor hesistated. "I don't think mad is quite the right word..."

Shinji winced.

"No, no, look -- she's just glad you're all right. That's the main thing." The Doctor pushed his hair back. "There's been a... certain amount of talk about maybe, possibly" -- he coughed -- "arresting you. Not to worry, though -- I've nearly got her talked out of it..."

"What about Asuka?"

The Doctor made a face. "Yeaahhhhhhh, don't know what to tell you there."

Shinji sighed. "Don't even know why I asked..."

They paused. The sea choked red with blood, a voice muttered in the back of Shinji's head. Names in the sand. Even in death, she still smiles for him. Oh, shut up, he thought wearily.

"So..." The Doctor coughed awkwardly and scratched the back of his right hand. "The captain did want me to talk to you about this morning. Played me back the full tape and all."

Shinji covered his face with his arm. "I know. I really screwed up."

"What?" The Doctor tilted his head. "What are you talking about? That was brilliant!"

Shinji blinked. "... really?"

"Of course!" The Doctor grinned. "That bit about projecting -- trying to communicate via body language -- that was perfect. Well, all right, could've done without the rude gesture at the end. Really didn't lend itself to the best first impression. But up until then --"

The boy narrowed his eyes. "Is this really what Misato wanted you to tell me?..."

"Point is --" The Doctor hesitated. "Where was I going with this... ah, right. The point is -- you took risks this morning. That's good. Risking the long shots, taking chances -- that's how we learn. That's how we grow. Just because some of what you tried didn't work out -- that's no reason to stop."

"I almost died."

"Almost. That's the key word there." The Doctor waved his hand. "But that's part of it too, don't you see? Not every risk works out. That's part of learning, too. Failing doesn't make you a failure. It makes you alive."

"So... does that mean that you've failed, too?"

"Hohyes." The Doctor grinned. "More times that I can count. Than anyone can count, possibly. But I learned. I adapted. How else do you think I got so good at it?"

He paused and scratched his chin. "That said... I suppose one might say that you have to survive your mistakes before you learn from them."

"No more playing around with Angels, huh?"

"Wouldn't recommend it."

"Yeah, okay." Shinji felt the edges of his mouth curl upwards.

The Doctor yawned. "Anyway..." He jabbed the end of the knitting needle into the handcuffs' keyhole. They unlocked with a click. He stood up and stretched. "I'd best be on my way. Homeroom in a few hours and all. You'll be all right here, then?"

"Mmh." Shinji leaned back and shut his eyes. In the dark, it felt like the bed was swaying and rocking beneath him. Like he was still floating alone in the entry plug, maybe? No. More like he was moving, too -- like he could feel wheels grinding within steel grooves somewhere, the rhythm of the tracks resounding through his skin --

-- the train. His life in your hands.

Shinji's eyes snapped open. "Doctor -- wait," he said.

"Hm?" The Doctor paused by the door.

"I, um... I don't know how to say this..."

"Try making sounds with your mouth. That's usually a start."

"It's just -- um. There's something you're not telling me. Isn't there."

The Doctor looked at him, a serious expression suddenly on his face.

"Something big, right?" Shinji swallowed. "And-d I mean, that's okay. I understand. You've probably got a reason for it or there's a plan or -- or -- some timey-whimey thing going on that I can't find out about yet because the universe will explode --"

"Shinji," the Doctor advised. "Breathe."

Shinji took in a breath. "O-or maybe you just don't think I can handle it. And I appreciate that. I really, really do. It's just -- I..."

"You want to know the truth."

"I..." Shinji looked away. "I think I need to know. I saw some things. Inside the shadow."

The Doctor narrowed his eyes. "What kind of things?"

"I..." Shinji hesistated. You must not tell, the old woman's voice whispered in the back of his head. "Just... I think that things with the Angels -- they're going to get worse. A lot worse. And... I think if we want to survive... I-I'm going to need to get stronger somehow. A lot stronger."

The Doctor narrowed his eyes. "Have you been reading shonen manga again?"

"No! Well, okay. Maybe." Shinji coughed. "It's just... maybe it's time. Maybe I don't get to run away from the truth anymore. I mean... it's coming for me either way, isn't it?"

"Don't you think you have enough on your plate?"

"Maybe? I don't know." Shinji looked away. "I don't know how I'm going to get stronger. I don't even know if I can. I just know I need to. So... maybe this is the first step, I guess? Not letting myself hide anymore?...

"Just... tell me the truth, Doctor. Please." He swallowed. "I want to help. I have to. Or..." Because I can't let what that woman talked about happen, he thought. I can't. I just can't.

The Doctor studied him carefully for a moment. He went to the hospital door and, glancing around outside the hallway, closed it. He went back to the chair and, pulling it closer to the bed, sat down. "This stays between us, understand?" he said quietly. "Not a word to anyone. Not the fraulein. Not even to the captain. Got it?"

Shinji nodded. "I-is it my father?" he whispered.

The Doctor shook his head. "It's the Angels.

"I told you once, didn't I -- I thought they're like creatures from my universe called interdimensional multiforms. Remember?"

Shinji didn't. He nodded anyway.

"They're rare. Perfect shapeshifters. They can take any form they like -- any size, any weight. They shift bits of themselves in and out of higher dimensional manifolds to avoid violating conservation of mass. Like icebergs -- the bit you can see isn't the whole thing. Understand?"

"No."

The Doctor sighed. "Right. Let's try that again... part of the multiform exists outside of space and time. So their physical body, the bit we can see and touch -- that's not the whole of them. That's just a piece.

"And that's important. Because if the Angels work the same way, and I'm fairly certain they do... then you can't kill them just by destroying their physical form. Not with Planet Earth technology. Oh, it'll hurt like hell, of course. Like losing a limb. Plenty of bed rest and physical therapy. But they'll survive. They'll heal."

Shinji thought back to Ritsuko's voice on the chip he'd stolen, just before the battle with Jet Alone. I suspect we're dealing with Shamshel again...

"But... that's good, though, isn't it?" the boy asked. "That means we haven't actually killed any of them, have we?" That I haven't killed any of them, he thought. He was surprised by the sudden surge of relief he felt.

"Yeah, true," the Doctor admitted. "That's true. Problem is, though... if they're not dead... what's to stop them from coming back?"

Shinji blinked. He thought back to that conversation on the school rooftop, to the Doctor pacing frantically around. "But... I-I thought you said they needed that fission stuff you mentioned? If Jet Alone's gone, and nobody's using nuclear power anymore..."

The Doctor nodded. "Ohhhh, that'll slow things down, sure. But they've still plenty of other options. Cosmic ray collisions. Natural chain reactions in the Earth's crust. Not to mention, that great big ball of fusion you've got a few hundred million kilometers away." He pointed his thumb to the early morning sunlight filtering through the window.

"It may take them a while... but they'll be back. They'll keep coming back -- over and over again, building and rebuilding new bodies for themselves, as long as it takes, wearing humanity down... until they finally get what they want.

"Do you see it now?" The Doctor looked Shinji in the eye. "This war you're fighting... it can't be won."

The boy stared off into space. He imagined piloting the Eva for the rest of his life. Fighting the same horrible battles over and over. Only to hand it off to some new kid -- maybe Hiroshi, or Asuka's children -- when he got too old or died. The thought alone made his insides twist up like a knot.

He swallowed. "So... what do we do?"

The Doctor took in a deep breath. "What's the third thing you do when you're in a trap?" he asked quietly.

"You look for a way out," Shinji said. "Because there's always a way out."

"Quite right." The Doctor grinned. "Full marks."

As he turned away, though, Shinji thought he could see just the faintest glimmer of doubt in the Doctor's eyes. And that, he'd later think as he sorted through the mess inside his head, was what scared him most of all, beyond anything the boy could put into words.

***

Headquarters of the AMIRAH Holdings Corporation, LLC
Western District. Tokyo-3.
Three blocks east of Tenth Angel Incident Zone

The Right Honorable Reverend Edward Gold (formerly of the Holy Church of the New Garden of Adam) examined the fenced-off area down the street through the venetian blinds and mopped his brow. Crazy, he thought. I must be crazy, agreeing to set up shop here. Absolutely out-of-my-gourd mad. Not that he had much choice in the matter, of course. Being hunted by the Office of Unity Management had a way of limiting one's options in the world. He took another sip from the glass in his hand and stared at the perfectly flat ground beyond the cordon.

"I'm back," the black monolith hovering over his desk said. "I appreciate your patience."

"Yeah, one sec." The reverend pulled back from the window and manuevered his wheelchair back across the penthouse office. Not bad digs, really. Shame about the location... "So where were we?"

"You were about to make your recommendation."

"Right, right." He took another swallow. "Seiji. No question about it."

"Interesting. Not Orihara?"

"Who, Izaya? Nah." The reverend shook his head. "Don't get me wrong, he's an asset. Smart an' ambitious. But that's the whole problem. You give him the top spot, he'll be hungry for more before you can blink.

"Besides, he doesn't have the right charisma, you know? Got that sorta weasely look to him. And that smile -- brrh." He picked up the bottle of whiskey on his desk and poured himself another shot.

"I see."

"Now, Seiji -- he's got the right kind of face for the job. He's pretty enough to drive the housewives nuts. And best of all, he's simple. Give him exactly what he wants, he's good. And that means he can be controlled."

"I see. Very well. I'll defer to your expertise in the matter." The monolith coughed. "Is your new assistant to your satisfaction?"

"Who, Namie?" The reverend leered. "Oh, yeah. She's working out just fine."

"Good. From this point forward, we'll have little time for luxuries. We need to work fast, all while staying off of NERV's radar. Is there anything else you require?"

I need to be anywhere other than here, Reverend Ed thought. But he bit his tongue. "Don't think so."

"Then begin," the monolith said. "This world's time grows short, Your Grace. Prepare the lost souls of this city, so that they may bring fire upon this earth in its final days." With that, the hologram vanished.

Poetic bastard. The reverend downed the remainder of the shot. He went to pour another, then paused. Nah, he thought. This really was the sort of day best taken straight from the bottle.

***

Inside the TARDIS. Later.

"-- hold on, hold on, I'm nearly in." The Doctor used his shoulder to check the door shut as he entered the control room, Martha's cell phone balanced next to his ear. "Right, say again?"

"I said I think I might have something." Kaji's voice, distorted by static, got a little louder. "Checked in with an old contact of mine. That Project Zero you mentioned rang a bell with him. Turns out he pulled a file with that tag from an old GEHIRN hard drive years ago. He's never been able to decrypt it, though."

"I can help there." The Doctor flipped a switch on the console. "Can you send me the file now?"

"Think so, yeah. Just give me a second..."

The Doctor jammed the phone into the charger wired into the console. The file started to come through. He watched as long strings of hexidecimal started to race down the screen, before resolving itself into images, chunks of text, a white background -- some sort of document or report, from the look of things.

But Kaji was saying something again, his voice even harder to hear now, thanks to having to share bandwidth with the data connection. "-- don't know how useful it's going to be. This guy -- he's not exactly my most reliable source. Doubt this'll explain much --"

"Everything," the Doctor said hollowly. He clutched the edge of the console, his knuckles white. "This explains everything."

He stared at the grainy, black-and-white image on the screen -- a headshot of an attractive young woman, smiling warmly into the camera. The text heading above the photo read:

FULL GENETIC PROFILE / MEDICAL HISTORY
PRIMARY SUBJECT: YUI I., DOB 30-03-1977

"Yui Ikari." The Doctor swallowed. "Shinji's mother was Project Zero."

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