Episode 11: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness
Inside Unit One. Somewhere.
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.
"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?!"
"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
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?"
"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
... 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 --"
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.
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."
Unit One flipped around its raised hand and lowered its fingers. All except for one.
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.
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
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
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..."
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