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Tenth Doctor
From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness by philopoemen [Reviews - 0] Printer Chapter or Story


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.

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   "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.

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