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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-01-02 01:53pm
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Padawan Learner
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Joined: 2008-09-25 02:54pm
Posts: 209
Location: London
Chapter 12

Rei 02, In Fire And Ashes / Some mourning words

EVANGELION




~'/|\'~




“If thou openest not the gate to let me enter,
I will break the door, I will wrench the lock,
I will smash the door-posts, I will force the doors.
I will bring up the dead to eat the living.
And the dead will outnumber the living.”


Ishtar’s Descent to the Underworld
Babylonian Mythology




~'/|\'~




The airlock deep in the bowls of the Geocity sealed itself shut, cutting off the painfully bright blue light from the containment chamber. With a sigh, Gendo Ikari relaxed slightly, and peeled the argoggles from his face, dropping them in the disposal bin. They were soon followed by his ear protectors, and the undyed cotton overall.

The man stood fully naked, eyes closed, as chill mist filled the chamber, thick and swirling and cloying, its scent washing away the odour of the place on the other side of the door. A thin, colourless condensation dripped from his warm body, and he shuddered. The call of instinct was too strong to resist; not when the coldness touched his flesh, rivulets running down over the thin white lines which crisscrossed his back and hands, and dripping in long, stringy drops from the uncapped socket points for the sorcerer’s implants.

The sudden furnace heat was nothing compared to the chill, and the warm water that washed the now-dried micromachine gel off was positively pleasant by contrast. Spitting out a foul-tasting residue, he stepped through to the next decontamination chamber, snatching up the towel and dabbing at his eyes, sinking his face into the absorbent material, before he began to dry the rest of his body.

As Gendo dressed himself again, motions hurried, his eyes unconsciously avoided the transparent window on one side of the room where, on the other side of a one-way mirror, an opaque white box, corners smoothed to nanoscopic precision, was undergoing its own decontamination procedure.

703’ was all it said, in big black letters. That, and the Greek character ‘α’, a black symbol in the centre of a yellow circle. The warning for arcane materials.

Gendo Ikari had descended to Irkalla to obtain a way to tilt the odds in their favour. And this box, and its contents, was his weapon.



~'/|\'~




It was the start of a brand new day for the students at the Academy, filled with fun and excitement. Even if they wished that it wasn’t, especially when the ‘fun’ included an evacuation notice. The only mercy was that the school was deep enough down, that it, in itself, counted as a valid evacuation shelter, and so it was not necessary to move. This came with the attendant downside, however, that there were still going to be some lessons. The entire class was muted, with a considerable fraction deciding to use the tutor group period to catch up sleep.

“Come on,” Hikary said, folding her arms and glaring around the class. “I know it’s Thursday, but do you all have to be like this?”

There was a mix of groans and vaguely assent-sounding noises from the subdued figures.

“Not my fault, Class Rep,” Toja managed, voice a little muffled by the way his face was mashed into the desk. “I didn’t get much sleep last night.”

“How is that not your...”

“Face it, Hik,” said Ayesha, with a shrug, “people just kinda suck.”

There was a clatter as Beautriu, a tanned girl with short, mousy-brown hair, managed to trip over her own shoelaces, and send both her arglasses and her bag full of books spilling over the floor. There was applause, and even a few wolf-whistles, which were cut short when Hikary straightened up, and directed a glare around the room.

“Case in point,” Ayesha added, smirking.

Hikary glanced at her fellow xenomix. “That wasn’t where I was heading,” she said. “I was just wondering why everyone seems so tired... more tired than normal for a Thursday, that is.”

“Yes, well... doesn’t make it not true,” remarked the Student Council Representative. “People are lazy. I mean, I hate Thursdays too, but no more than any other day.”

The pig-tailed girl shook her head. “It does make it not relevant. For one, you hate the world generally.”

The other orange-eyed girl sighed, adjusting her headscarf slightly. “Because... I refer you to my first point. I did stand for Council on a policy of jaded cynicism and misanthropy, after all, and I got in, so... meh.” She shrugged. “And on that topic, you did get the minutes from the last meeting, right?”

“Yes.” Hikary nodded. “I hope everyone will do their best, with the minimum of fuss. It shouldn’t be too bad; the class play is usually quite popular.”

“Class play?” someone asked from directly behind Hikary, panting slightly.

“Good morning, Taly,” the Class Representative replied, flatly. “Yes, class play. You’re late, by the way.”

The other girl shrugged. “He’s not here yet,” she said, referring to the teacher, “so I’m not late.”

“That’s not how it works, and you know it.”

“Plus, I have a totally valid reason. You know, there are evacuations everywhere. I don’t know if you have been paying attention, but there are. And even before the notice came through, the central dome in Princechurch was sealed off completely, and there are delays all along the Ascension line. It’s a mess trying to get down from higher in the city. Which, you know, you’d know if you weren’t you.”

Hikary narrowed her eyes. “Maybe,” she said. “Now, Ayesha,” she said, turning away from the girl with the dyed red streaks in her hair, “back on the topic... perhaps without any interruptions,” she added, sweetly.



~'/|\'~




Dabbing carefully at her face with the wet towel, wincing every time the skin shifted over the bruising around her forearms and lower back, Ritsuko stared at herself in the mirror. She ran her tongue over dry, cracked lips, tasting blood.

“Self-inspection reveals epidermal haematomas on face, specifically over the cheeks and around the jaw.” She winced again, as she added, voice rough, “Discomfort in talking, dry throat, sore eyes. Majority of tissue damage is located around grounding implants in soft-tissue, as expected. Self-examination complete. Now, will you let me out of here?”

[Medichine initial diagnosis is still in process. Please wait.]

“Sorry, Dr Akagi,” added a Nazzadi-accented woman, the subtle inflections in her voice distinguishing her from the LAI, “but you know the rules. After a ritual of this magnitude, we have to check for organ damage, and...

“There is something rather more important right now,” Ritsuko said, her jaw locked. “So, forgive me if I...”

[Medichine initial diagnosis is still in process. Please wait.]

“Dr Akagi, you know the rules. We need to make sure that any bleedthrough aftereffects aren’t going to kill you. So, please, wait while we wait for the medichines to provide a diagnosis.”

There was an uncomfortable silence.

“Okay, it’s coming in,” the medical technician announced over the speakers. “Some minor internal bleeding...”

“Where?” The word was short, terse.

“Uh... liver, small intestine... grade 1.”

“Nothing in anything immediately important, then?”

The nazzady paused. “Uh... no. It’ll be dealt with by the medichines, but you will need to take it easy for the next few hours, and you shouldn’t be nanoscrubbed until they’ve sealed off the bleeding.”

“Of course I plan to take it easy,” Ritsuko lied. “Now...”

There was a faint sigh from the medical technician. “Just wait a moment, please.” A container slid out from the wall, containing a white jumpsuit and attendant jacket. “We’ll need to make sure that you’re plugged into the monitoring gear in case of complications.”

“Yes, yes,” the blond snapped, already threading the cable out from the neck of the clothing to the port just under her left ear, before roughly pulling on the suit. “It’s not like I haven’t done this before. Now, can I...”

“Yes, I’m reactivating your data access rights. The sealed bag has...” the other woman noted that the scientist had already torn it open, to get to the equipment. “Yes,” she sighed. Scientists were all the same, in her experience. Pure sorcerers tended to treat their bodies better.

“Right, so,” Dr Akagi said to herself, as the initialisation text ran along the insides of her harcontacts. “Come on... come on, ah. Athena,” she began, addressing her muse, “check mail. Filter for relevancy based on List 3.”

[Yes, doctor. You have 149 new relevant messages.] the LAI said, formally.

Ritsuko blinked, heart suddenly racing. What had happened while she was out of contact? “Sort by urgency,” she instructed the LAI, as she slipped on the plimsoll-like shoes provided. “Prioritise by relevance: subjects Evangelion, Harbinger-5, Ikari, Harbinger.”

[51 of 149 new messages are urgent, doctor.]

“What?” she blurted out loud. Pulling out a stylus from the bag, she began to flick down the list in front of her eyes, rapidly scanning the headers. The door unsealed, and, barely paying attention to what was going on, Ritsuko shuffled out. Pausing for a moment, she told her muse to bring up a route-line for her to follow to get to where the Unit 01 team was working, on the repairs, before resuming the reading that left her blind in one eye.

Her jaw dropped open at the sight of the annotated diagrams.



~'/|\'~




All across Eastern Europe, the fires of conflict raged. All across Eastern Europe, the New Earth Government was being pushed back. The Migou had committed heavily to this front, and so the forces which tore into the human lines with ruthless efficiency were not the normal mix of Nazzadi Loyalists, backed up and honed by Migou units. No, these were pure Migou formations, filled with the technological horrors of the fungi from Yuggoth, interspersed by the Loyalist Elite, who were, in mind, more akin to their masters than to their genetic source.

A flash of light blinded the midday sun, as an antimatter warhead blew a glowing crater into the hillside, the direct hit crushing the NEG fortification dug into the geography like a tin can. The Migou fliers which had broken away just before launch returned, black knife-shapes tearing through the air and slashing at those human gunships which had survived the shockwave, the aircraft now denuded of their surface to air support. The sudden shift in the tactical situation was enough to allow the silent, ellipsoid shapes of the Migou heavy ground units, and their strange mecha, which approached the technoorganic aesthetic from the other side, to break through. Beams of relativistic plasma illuminated the contrails of worryingly smart missiles, as blasts reaped their way through the armoured units of humanity.

Second Lieutenant Salou Danda swore in his head, over and over again, and tried to crouch down further, to make his Dawn an even smaller target on this battlefield. Half his squadron was already KIA, and with the loss of the firebase, they certainly didn’t have enough forces in this area to hold off. And without Lieutenant Santiago, they didn’t have the drones, and so were blind... not that drones would be much use in this emwar environment, he thought, staring morosely at the haze on his passive radar. The clouds of interfering micromachines and nanomachines released by both sides were staining the air silver, replacing the ones destroyed by the blast, and high above, the sun was once more a blood-red disc, as if it was dusk, despite the fact that it was not even midday yet.

“Orders, sir?” It was Tirtzah, over the tightbeam laser.

The man took a single breath, and let it out, slowly. They had been forwards recon for the base; that was, obviously, now useless. Their EWAC aircraft and drones were down, so they were cut off, completely. They could try to retreat, but the emfog was dense enough that the damnable Migou sensors would have a worrying chance of seeing their stealthed mecha, just from the displacement patterns left in the clouds. It was one of the reasons that both sides used them, after all.

“We hold,” he lased back. “Go Ghost-Niner, Lima-Lima.”

“Roger.”

It was that simple. Two Dawn-class reconnaissance mecha couldn’t do much against the armoured legions of the Migou. Even if Tirtzah was the heavy weapons specialist, she only had one ACMRM left, and a one tonne-yield warhead was not enough. Not when there were Mantises out there, which weren’t even always mission-killed by a close proximity blast.

But wait, wait and watch, while the emfog dispersed and settled to the ground like silvery snow, wait and track the Migou movements, and then try to re-establish contact, to report their findings? That was a worthy cause.

You didn’t give up, and you didn’t throw your life away. To do either, was to court extinction.


~'/|\'~




Evangelion Unit 01 was a titan covered in ants that swarmed and crawled across its surface; exosuited workers and autonomous drones alike replacing damaged external plating. The parts which had come from Unit 02 were obvious; they were the crimson of that Evangelion’s test colours, and a sharp contrast to the intact parts of the armour, which had been stripped down to its base purple to check for microfractures.

Dr Sarany Akanubalaki vy Saranupakalarti, head of the Unit 01 team, brushed a cowlick of black hair away from her eyes, and continued, “... and that about summarises the repairs. To cut it short, Unit 01 is nothing more than functional. We did our best, but...” she bit a lip, “... there’s only so much you can do. The internal damage is enough that after this is over, if we’re all alive, we’re going to have to strip off the chest, and put it through a localised moult-regrowth. There’s a hole in its tissue, in its chest, about the size of a tank, once we cut out the crystal-contaminated tissues. It goes all the way through. It’s a miracle it missed anything we couldn’t replace. Four of the D-Engine/D-Sink pairs were hit by that alone. And there’s more. I can tell you that any activity is going to damage it more, but,” she shrugged, “you’re going to say that it’s an unavoidable necessity, aren’t you?”

“Yes,” Ritsuko said, tersely. “Now...”

The nazzady fixed her eyes on her immediate superior. “It’s almost ready to move, when the inspection is done but... I don’t like the additional modifications we have to make.” Her red eyes were narrow, as she added, “I’m not blind, Ritsuko. I can recognise what the modifications are for. But the orders came straight from the Representative, and what Ikari wants...” She paused. “What the senior Ikari wants, that is,” she corrected herself. “I doubt Test Pilot Ikari will want it. But... eh.”

The blond nodded in slightly peeved agreement.

“Of course,” the other woman continued, looking at Ritsuko from the corner of her eyes, “have you checked that the Test Pilot will actually be piloting? I wouldn’t, if I were him.”

“Mis... Major Katsuragi is seeing to it,” Dr Akagi said, “or least, she should be. She’s Operations, so the pilots are her responsibility. We just need to ensure that the equipment is in the best possible state for her.”

The head of the Unit 01 team acknowledged the mild rebuke with a nod.

“Dr Akagi.” The voice came up from her PCPU.

Reaching down, Ritsuko acknowledged the call, even as Sarany turned on her heel, and hurried off. “Yes, Tola?” she acknowledged the head of the Unit 00 team.

“Unit 00 has been fully recovered. I’ve sent you the damage report from the sortie, but you haven’t responded yet.”

Inwardly, the Director of Science sighed. They had recruited Dr Sopheap from the Engel Group, where she had been in charge of frontline testing and deployment for one of their Species sub-Projects, and it showed. “No, Tola, I haven’t,” she said, already bringing up a harcontact display to read yet another Urgent message. “I have, literally, just got out of a ritual.”

“I do require your formal authorisation to proceed,” the other woman chided her.

Eyes flickering across the display, Ritsuko scan-read the message, and the attached diagrams. “Are you sure you can get the repair work complete?”

“Yes.” The word was solid, confident. “It’s a B-2 part, but the hand design is the same. It’s very fortunate that the Unit only took a glancing blow like that. It’ll make the repairs much easier... which we will want, if we want Unit 00 to carry a handheld weapon. Oh, and the Test Pilot’s synch ratio was low enough that she didn’t even take mild sympathetic burns,” Dr Sopheap added, as an afterthought.

“Don’t do it,” Ritsuko ordered.

“What?” The tone was confused.

“I mean, ‘permission is refused’,” she said acerbically. “That’s the arm we’re installing the blast shield on. She doesn’t need a hand for that arm.”

“But...”

“Get the Unit loaded onto the train ASAP. You can finish the important repairs in the L2 Geocity. A hand isn’t important compared to the extra armour.”

She could hear the gritted teeth in the, “Yes, Doctor,” and the cursory way that the line was cut. Ritsuko didn’t care. Like too many of the staff recruited from the Engel Group, Dr Sopheap tended to treat the Evangelions as little more than enlarged versions of their child-technologies. As a result, Tola was looking as this as the loss of the primary weapons system of the Unit. But that was not that the mission profile that Major Katsuragi had designed called for, and so, simply, it was not needed.

It was that simple.



~'/|\'~




Shinji Ikari awoke again to a subtle swaying motion. Like a babe in his mother’s arms, he lay, eyes closed, surrounded by warmth, gently rocked from side to side. Slowly, one hand crept up, to rest upon the smooth skin of his chest, to feel the thud of his heart and the rhythmic pulsation of his breath.

It felt good. Through the depths of bone-deep weariness, there was a tiny spark of exaltation. He was alive, and he was warm, and it was good.

Two blue eyes slowly opened, feeling gummy and sticky. Though slightly blurry and indistinct, Shinji could not recognise the... no, it wasn’t an entry plug. It wasn’t curved enough, and it was the wrong colour. What was the word? Ah, yes. Ceiling. It was an unfamiliar ceiling that arched above him, low, clean snow-white, and covered in what looked like handholds. It was a utilitarian thing. It was something designed for a role, and, hence, it would carry out its role.

Somewhere, from outside his field of vision, there was the snap of a book being closed, and the faint, wet sound of a lid being reattached to a pen. With an effort, he tilted his head, to gaze upon two frigid grey eyes, locked upon his face. Two grey eyes, in a milk-coloured face, situated above a white plug-suit. It had obviously been used; he could smell the LCL, which plucked at the chords of memory like a knife. It was a scent that both repulsed and called to him.

The heartbeat became a hummingbird’s wings. He knew her from somewhere. She was familiar. Very, very familiar.

“Ayanami,” he croaked, through disobedient vocal cords. “Rei.”

The girl tucked her book back into army-green rucksack by her chair, along with the pen, and then removed a PCPU. All the time, her gaze never left his. “I have come to provide necessary equipment for the as-yet-unnamed operation to engage Harbinger-5 again, in defence of London-2, as well as the interim briefing.”

His eyes began to droop shut again.

“I bought you a meal.” The girl paused. “There are also stimulants. The dosage requirements are on the packet,” she continued, standing up. With a faint clink, she lifted the tray in one hand, and, the other hand working its way across the ceiling, she made her way to place the tray beside his bed. The clink of the plastic was reassuringly solid.

“My... head...muscles... everything aches. And tired.”

“Medical micromachines are currently rebuilding nerve connections throughout your body. The discomfort is tolerable,” Rei said, shifting slightly to unconsciously flex her right arm. “Now,” something heavy impacted his legs, as she dropped a sealed packet in black on his legs, “here is a fresh plug suit. You will wear this plug suit on the operation.”

“You’re... okay?” he managed, ignoring her comments. It seemed a little unfair to Shinji, in his current state that, she seemed to be so completely untouched by anything, while he was lying here incapacitated.

The girl tilted her head slightly. “I took only minor fractures in the first engagement against Harbinger-5, and they were self-induced in my attempts at evasion,” she stated. “I have also been deployed again, while you were dead. I lost a hand.”

Shinji frowned. She appeared to have both hands. And... “I w-was dead?” he stammered, his breathing suddenly laboured.

“It was not the hand of this body. I was piloting the Evangelion at the time,” Rei added. “My synchronisation ratio with Evangelion Unit 00 was low enough that I did not experience sympathetic damage.”

“W-wait. I. Dead?” Shinji managed. It was a matter of some importance to him.

“Yes.” The girl blinked. “You got better,” she said, no shift in intonation at all.

There was spluttering from the figure on the bed, which turned into coughing. “I. I. W-wait, do you just mean ‘clinically’. Not dead, dead?” he asked, weakly.

“You were clinically dead, yes.” Rei paused, and continued, her voice sounding as if she were reciting something she had memorised. “We are on a heavy transport train, connecting Ostberlin-2 and London-2. Evangelion Units 00 and 01 are also on this train, repairs having been made to them, to get them operational. That will not prevent your deployment.”

Shinji winced. That had been an objection he might have bought up, had he thought of it. That she had already pre-empted it was... he yawned, and closed his eyes.

The cold voice of the white-haired girl still managed to piece his fatigue. “You are to eat, and take the dosage of stimulants provided, as to ensure that you conform to the timetable.”

Slowly, groggily, the boy shook his head, but nonetheless managed to force himself to sit up, muscles in his back screaming at unexpected use. Opening his eyes, he started down at the plug suit, neatly packaged. The ‘01’ visible on the front seemed to be winking at him.

“You will wish to put that on. It will be cold outside.”

Shinji looked up, to see the girl’s head tilted slightly, as she stared down at him. No comprehension dawned on him. She stared back. Shinji shook his head, trying to dispel some of the blurriness which still hung over him. “I’m... what? I... what are you talking about?”

“You are naked.”

He squinted. He looked down. Huh. So he was, under the sheets. He hadn’t noticed that. And the act of sitting up had made them roll away. He wouldn’t have been aware of that, unless Rei had pointed... Rei... girl... naked... naked Rei...warm... exposed...

A squeak, and a hurried grab of bedsheets left him in a somewhat less exposed state. His head drooped, the fringe of dark hair just protruding into his vision, to shield him from the stare of the white girl. “Sorry,” he muttered.

“For what?” There seemed to be a hint of curiosity in Rei’s voice.

“Because... um... well, just, sorry.” He paused, and swallowed. “I... I’ve been saying that a lot recently,” he remarked, almost to himself, eyes half-closed. “Still... at least we’re now even?” Shinji pre-emptively flinched, as he realised just how stupid that statement was.

“You will eat.”

The food, if that was what one deigned to call the broth-like drink, looked singularly unappetising to him, and he said as much.

“You will eat,” Rei said again, her intonation identical.

“I’m not hungry,” he said, turning away, and slumping back down.

“You will eat. You require nutrients.”

“Why?”

“To maintain focus while piloting.”

Oh. Yes. “Must I?” he asked, the self-pity audible.

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to,” he blurted out. “It... it hurts, and I just want to sleep! You... you can only stand and tell me that I must do it because you haven’t had to... do...” he trailed off. After a moment’s pause, he looked back at her.

The two grey eyes were fixed on the wall, above his bed. He felt, somehow, that not only was she not looking in his direction, she was not looking in his direction, and that was utterly different.

“Sorry.” There it was again. “But... but...” he bit his lip. Indeed, he bit a little too hard, and tasted blood. “I don’t ever want to have to do it again.”

“Stay here.” The unexpected words came through the veil of tiredness.

“What?”

“Stay here. I will pilot. Unit 01 can be reconfigured for me.”

There was an odd feeling, almost akin to pressure on a forgotten bruise, deep within his stomach. That they could... would... he blinked. That was what he wanted, wasn’t it? “They can do that?” he asked.

“Yes. You know that. Dr Akagi can order such a change.” Rei straightened out, subtly. “I will go. You will stay here, in this bed. I may see you afterwards.”

The way she said ‘bed’, despite the lack of audible emotion, nevertheless filled Shinji with an odd feeling of rage, of anger at the way that she was patronising him. “Fine,” he snapped back, jolting upright even as his body protested. Wincing, groaning, he nevertheless glared at her.

She did not even look at him, but continued to stare at the wall. “I will inform Dr Akagi that the Third Child is not willing to carry out his duties.”

“Yes! They’re... they’re duties I never wanted, never asked for, never... never ever was really asked about or... or anything! Why? Why should I do it?”

“It is necessary. It must be done by someone.” She blinked, once. “Lie back down. You may damage yourself,” she said, turning around and heading towards the door. She paused for just a moment there, and there was the slightest twitch of her head, as if she were about to turn around. She did not do so.

“Goodbye,” she said, her tone not only cold, but dead.

The door slid shut behind her, and Shinji was left alone, in this white, cold, clinical room, the burning reds and crimsons of rage and shame painting themselves behind his eyeballs. One hand jerked out, and, unlooking, he grabbed the cup. A long slurp resounded through the room, as he took a mouthful of nutrient broth.

It didn’t make him feel better.



~'/|\'~




The OIS perimeter around the building was secure, and growing more so by the minute. The hulking figures of power armour were joined by stationary anti-tank emplacements, the dark-grey-and-blue capsules keeping their anti-armour railguns trained on the designated locations.

Almost all of the people were gone. Only a few, specially chosen, manned the necessary command sections, and they were few indeed, because there was very little that could not be controlled remotely. Humans, no matter their subspecies, were to evacuate away from any instance of Budapest Syndrome.

And yet a fresh armoured truck was permitted past the security cordon at the dome entrance, its wheels silent on the road. The man driving it paused and held an arm out of the window, as his genetics were checked again; as it retracted, he winced, sweeping back his red hair. “We’re here,” he called back, as he pulled to a stop, at the point where the tank traps blocked the robe.

The side of the van unfolded, and a tall nazzada, his hair combed up into an afro, straightened, unfolding out of the vehicle. Stretching, he cricked his neck, a slight muttered comment providing his opinion of the seats, and stepped out, followed by two, slighter figures. Both women were wearing transparent facemasks, and light armour, but compared to the heavy armour and unmanned vehicles around here, they seemed comically underprotected.

These were specialists, here on the direct orders of Deputy Director Echo. They were aware that armour, or even ANaMiNBC protection, would not help against Budapest Syndrome.

With a nod, and a few curt words, the women strolled in, their eyes alert. The larger man, meanwhile, returned to the vehicle after stretching, and began the process of connecting up all the systems of the building, routed through the OIS containment station outside this dome, back through his vehicles. Any objections were routed through the fact that this team were specialists directly under orders from Deputy Director Echo, the Section Head of the London-2 branch of the OIS, and were promptly withdrawn.

The driver leant back, hands behind his head and an uneasy expression on his face, as muffled curses in Nazzadi resounded through the vehicle’s chassis, interspersed with the calm voices of LAI systems, which, for some reason, did not seem to be helping.

Inside the building, though, all was quiet. The two women had already removed their masks. One was blonde, the other darker-haired, but there was a certain similarity in their blandly attractive faces which suggested some relationship.

[So, what do you think, ASPARTAME?] the blond ‘said’ over her interface, her hands running over the barrel of her stubby, bulky pistol, fingers tapping and stroking it unconsciously. Obviously, she was eventually satisfied, because a button was depressed, and the rails extended and expanded, the systems in the railweapon coming online with a hum. [Authorisation APHRODITE, reconfigure for special ammunition, Classification ‘Flayer’,] she instructed the weapon’s LAI over a link.

[Acknowledged. Please Insert Specified Ammunition Type.]

The darker-haired one shrugged. [The OIS got it contained quickly,] she ‘replied’. [And no-one seemed to have stumbled into it when they kicked down the door. So we got... maybe twenty, thirty people in this Budapest? Not much.]

[That’s what I was thinking,] the blonde said, sliding the magazine in. There was a tone, and a light on the handle turned green.

[We’ve had worse,] her companion remarked. There was suddenly... something in her hand, a line of distortion and anomaly and darkness and light and paradox; a vague barb of a sword which seemed to writhe as something alive.

[Yep.] The dark-haired woman shrugged. “Hey, APOSTATE, get them to give us access to local systems, would you?” she asked, verbally, over the comms link. “They still haven’t.”

“On it.” A slight pause, followed with some profanity. “Done,” was the next word said which was suitable for polite company.

The blond tapped a button on her PCPU with her thumb, and paused for a moment. “Okay... okay... and, get it open,” she said, working her way through the menus.

[Yes. Opening.]

The interior doors opened, and the two women stepped in, sealing the door behind them.



~'/|\'~




The door to Shinji’s room slid open again, and Misato stepped through, her uniform marred by the filter mask slung around her neck and the thick mass of body armour over her torso. Slowly, almost painfully carefully, she picked her way over to his side, one hand always clinging to the nearest ceiling hold.

“Hey,” she said, her voice softer than usual. “I think we should tal...”

“No.” Shinji’s voice was flat, almost dead, as he interrupted. He didn’t even meet her gaze, instead keeping his eyes locked on the unfamiliar ceiling. He didn’t want to look at her. “No. I’m no-not doing it. I’m not getting back in that th-th-thing. Not again. It killed me.” He sucked in a breath. “And... and you said it. Before... when I was feeling all nervous.” He swallowed. “You said I wasn’t going to be killed. I was. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but... clinically dead is still dead, if only for a while!”

There was an uncomfortable silence, only broken by the waver and sway of the train.

“Well,” Shinji said, bitterly, shifting slightly to prop himself up on his arms a fraction, before sinking back down. “Aren’t you going to s-say something like ‘You only died a little bit’, or ‘You got better’, or... or anything? Anything...anything trite to try lessen the fact that it h-h-hurt and I was sort of de-dead and I never want to have to get in that thing again ever!” He swallowed hard, his throat suddenly dry. “It was so... cold,” he muttered. “Cold and dark. Except when it wasn’t. But... it was... no. Never again.”

“No.” Misato’s voice was quiet, hollow-sounding. “I can’t lessen it. I can’t justify it. I can’t explain it. If Strategic Missile Command hadn’t mismanaged the deployment of warheads, we could have hit it with multiple ones, like the ones we initiated in the first attack, and we know that managed to get through the AT-Field. If the Migou hadn’t moved interdiction forces into the North Atlantic, Asuka... that’s Unit 02’s pilot, could have been moved over. If I’d pushed harder, I could have maybe had Unit 02 stationed over in L2 already, and it wouldn’t be needed.” She slumped down in a chair by the bed, not meeting the boy’s gaze. “There’s so many ways we could have not needed to do this. But we do need to. And it’s a terrible thing.” She bit on her lip. “It’s wrong that we want you to do this. It’s wrong that we need you do this... except we don’t. That’s the worst thing. This isn’t the only option.”

“Then why don’t you...”

“Because Rei, in Unit 00, doesn’t have the fine AT-Field control,” the dark-haired woman continued, in that same, broken-sounding voice. “She can’t, physically, do it like you could. Remember, she had her first successful start-up test yesterday. So if we use her... we’ll have to get her to nearly point-blank range, and even if she survives that, the odds are that she will not survive the use of the weapon.”

“So you’re getting me to pilot again by putting her in danger.” It was a simple statement.

“No.” Misato shook her head. “As you said, it left you clinically dead. Believe me, I’ll understand if you don’t want to. I might not agree, but, believe me, I’ll understand. All too well. But I am going to tell you the facts. And this is a fact, that because Rei only has simulator practice, she is worse at AT-Field manipulation than you, has a worse synch ratio, and so will probably die. The MAGI give her odds of survival at about 10%, even if she survives getting into position. You saw what that thing was like; how it was able to target everything. And if she fails, the odds are that we’ll need to use the RAPTURE contingency.” She lifted her chin slightly. “Do you want to know what RAPTURE is?” she asked.

“Uh...” Shinji frowned, trying to ignore the sudden churning, swirling acidic feel in his stomach, and glanced over at her for the first time. “Well, the word means ‘happiness’, doesn’t it? But I don’t th-think that’s a happy thing.”

She shook her head. “No. Not happy at all. There are enough fusion warheads built into the structure of London-2 to reduce the entire city to something like a three-kilometre deep crater.”

“Wh-why? What’s so important that you need to...” the boy paused, unable to continue. Unwilling to continue

“Because we can’t let them win.” The Major’s voice had changed; although it was still quiet, it was quiet in the same way that a tiger in the night is quiet; something only made more dangerous by the lack of volume. “We can’t let them get any benefit, even from taking a city. And I don’t just mean the Harbingers by ‘them’. I mean anyone who’s not us. Migou, Deep Ones, Stormites, a Harbinger... whoever. They all make use of people. Make people less than people. Use them against us. I don’t... we won’t let them. Every major arcology is set up the same way. After what I saw in China and after A... it’s something I fully agree with.” The woman’s eyes flickered over to the armoured wall of the train, breaking his gaze. “It’s better than the alternative.”

Shinji took several shuddering deep breaths, and let them out slowly, feeling the muscles in his chest ache from so little. The idea of such things, that the New Earth Government, the good guys were willing to go to such lengths to stop... “What happens if the Harbinger wins? What will it do?”

“I could tell you,” the Major said, still staring at the wall. “And I said earlier, that I was going to tell you the facts. I... I’ve studied the reports from Harbinger-1 and I w... and looked at some of the after-effects. But, again, just like with RAPTURE, I’ll ask you again. Do you really want to know?”

There was silence. Then, “No,” Shinji said, staring back up at the ceiling. “I d-don’t want to know. B-but,” he stammered. “Do I have a chance about not-knowing? You’re not going to tell me anyway?”

There was a single nod from the woman. “No. If you don’t want me to, I won’t force you to listen.”

“Then, as I said, I don’t want to know.” The boy paused. “You look like you know, and... no, I don’t want to. But...” and he swallowed hard, trying to search for the right words “... I really don’t want to go against... to get in the Unit. B-but, from what you say?” Images of Unit 00 being annihilated in Harbinger-born radiance, swiftly followed by the faces of his classmates, of everyone he might have seen in London-2, throbbed in his head. “I don’t have a choice.”

“No. You have a choice.”

“No... that’s n-not quite the same thing,” the boy said, wanting to gesture with his hands to explain, but feeling too weak to even manage that. “I mean... well, you’re giving me a choice. But I don’t have a choice. I want to run away, far away, and never see any of this again. But I won’t.” He let out a weak chuckle. “And can’t, too. I mean, I’d collapse before I got...” the words were broken by coughing.

A watery smile crept onto Misato’s face, at the poor joke. “You’ll do it,” she said. It was not a question.

“Yes.” Several deep breaths. “Yes. I don’t know if I can actually,” he winced, “actually physically do it, but... I want to do it. I have the intent of doing it. Because... I can’t not.”

Stepping over to the side of the bed, Misato squatted down, head at his eye level, reaching out to squeeze his hand. “I’m sorry, Shinji,” she said, in a tone carefully purged of elation. “But... thank you.” Reaching into her pocket, she pulled out a widescreen PCPU. “Now, see this?” she asked, thumbing it on.

Shinji nodded. “It’s one of the training placards? Isn’t it? For the AT-Field stuff.” He frowned. It was notably more complicated than any of the other ones; the three dimensional image a mess of layered red and blue lines. It had some resemblance to the ‘spike’ shape they used to show him how to surround a blade, but... different.

“Correct. We need you to memorise this. Completely. Perfectly. It will be the only way that you can fire the modified LANCE system we’re fitting to Unit 01.” She swallowed. “I am going to explain what this will involve. Please,” she almost begged him, “listen to everything that I have to say before you say anything.”


~'/|\'~




And now the two women stepped out of the building, masks back on, weapons no longer there, stepping promptly into the decontamination centre that the OIS had erected. They showed up clean, and there was a sigh of relief from the watchers and their handler.

“Captain Joyeuse,” the blonde said, opening a link to the OIS team outside. “We have examined the bravo-type ENE.”

Ori, safe away from the... the thing, shuddered slightly. Those disposal and examination experts were far, far braver than her; she’d had nightmares after the bit when they’d explained Budapest Syndrome to her, and the knowledge that one of the people on her team, Gjorgji, had actually been in Budapest in ’67... well, she didn’t envy the man. “Yes, Agent Biksisu?” she asked, trying to keep her voice calm.

“It seems to have been a deliberate formation,” the specialist stated, with a slight shrug, which Ori felt was rather inappropriate. “That’s both good and bad. Good, because it hasn’t self-catalysed, and so it has a small absorption radius. Bad, because there’s someone out there who knows how to do this.”

The captain paled. “I... I see.”

“The site has been contained adequately,” the darker-haired woman added. “Grade 5b sterilisation will be required, to purge the ENE. I would also recommend that you flood the section with carbon monoxide, to prevent any aerobic lifeforms from getting near, and adding to the coalescence. I have attached the recommendation to our initial report.”

“Yes... yes, that makes sense.”

“We have been ordered to another site,” she continued, her brow furrowing slightly. “This looks to be a busy day.”

“And to think that this was meant to be our day off,” her co-worker added. “A city-wide evacuation notice, and all these Budapests. Well, we’re certainly earning our monies today.”

Captain Joyeuse swallowed slightly. Gallows humour. How... funny. “Understood. I’ll just need you to submit your provisional containment report, before we can acknowledge this.”

“Talk to Agent Garta,” the blonde said. “We’ve given him our data; he’s the team leader.”

“Okay, I understand.” Ori sighed, and cut the link, letting her head slump into her hands. Looking around, at the faces of her colleagues, she was not alone in this feeling. A deliberately caused instance of Budapest Syndrome.

This was bad.


~'/|\'~




It was now late afternoon, and the reduced timetable which the Academy had put on had finished. It was questionable how much attention had been paid, of course, because the combination of widespread tiredness, and the natural inattentiveness when a full-scale warning was still in place, had unified their efforts to make the intricacies of mathematics lose their lustre, somewhat.

The fact that there had been two absences; ‘Ayanami, Rei’ and ‘Ikari, Shinji’, had been noted. The Academy was a highly selective school, designed to train the next generation of world leaders and scientists for their future careers, and to engender a love of knowledge and the ability to solve puzzles in its students. They were more than capable of putting facts like ‘Shinji and Rei are not here’ and ‘last time something like this happened, some kind of monster attacked’ together.

“I wish we were allowed up to the surface to watch!” moaned Kensuke, sitting at his desk, and glaring at the security notice warning of restricted Grid access. “I bet they’re being deployed right now. Just think of it; two shining titans, weapons firing bright high energy lasers and plasma, valiantly standing forth against the abominations which imperil humanity. And Nazzadity,” he added, with a sideways glance at Toja, which somewhat ruined his attempts to puff up his chest. “And then come the large explosions and the awesome flawless victory!”

Red eyes were rolled at that comment. “It’s not that pretty,” the taller boy said. “It’s messy, and the things are terrifying, and... delo kivilita pla kontrunosesa, he’s braver than me if he chooses to do that.”

“Yeah, well, you got to actually see a battle,” the human said, crossing his arms, and pouting slightly. “Why’d it have to show up at your Social Work Task, not mine, when I was actually... argh. I’m thinking the fates are conniving to stop me from ever seeing an Eva in action. What I’d give to be let in the cockpit of one! I wouldn’t even need to be allowed to pilot. I’d just want to get to touch, to see it!”

Toja looked away, and the other boy sucked in a breath.

“Sorry,” he apologised, leaning back a bit. “I forgot... how is your sister, anyway?”

“Actually... they’ve got her in physio right now,” Toja admitted, with a weak smile. “She managed to take her first steps... her second first steps, come to think of it, anyway, well, she’s really wobbly, but...” he choked up. “I saw how... hard, and I... so proud.”

They sat in stoic, and manly, silence for a few moments, before the teacher at the front of the class stood up, his chair scraping along the floor, and cleared his throat.

“Ahem. If you will all... thank you.” He coughed. “Yes. I’ve just received notice that... well, I guess you’re all aware that the school serves as an evacuation shelter for other schools too.”

“Yeah, the lunch hall was packed with little kids,” Ala, sitting on the other side of the class, could be distinctly heard to mutter. “They ran out of chips because of them.”

“They’ve been cooped up in the emergency shelters for most of the day, and so, apart from exercise breaks...”

“It’s bad enough at the start of term when the new first years are all there, let alone this.”

“Yes, thank you, Ala,” the teacher said, with a sigh. “Yes, it’s annoying, but you’re meant to have more community spirit.” He coughed, again. “Well, they’ve... ‘they’ being the Headmaster, have decided that we need to spend a few hours stopping small children going stir-crazy, and so each class is being assigned a class of children from another school. We’ll be expected to keep them entertained for a while, and also... well, most of the schools are feeder schools for the Academy, so they’ll have a chance to see where they’ll be able to go, if they’re good enough.”

“Great,” the boy drawled, no longer even attempting to conceal it as a stage whisper.

“Did I mention, Ala, that they’ll be counting this as a SWP occasion, with the time counting towards your overall mark for the module?”

The boy suddenly sat rigid upright. “I am suddenly overcome with a desire to help small children,” he stated.

“I thought you might be.”

Gingerly, Kimuna, sitting in the middle of the class, raised his hand. A slightly dreamy look, as usual, was present in his pink eyes. “What age are they?” he asked. “I mean, will we have to change their nappies, or what?”

The teacher snorted. “Not quite. They’re Year 5s; that’s nine and ten year olds. They’ll be going to secondary school the year after next, and although it might not seem like it, to you bunch of grizzled teenagers, it’s not that young.”

“Do I detect some sarcasm there, sir?” asked Taly, a smirk on her face.

“Well, that entirely depends on whether your sarcasm detector is working or not,” was the rhetorical answer.

Toja blinked twice, eyes suddenly wide. They wouldn’t have, would they? Year 5s, from a feeder school? It couldn’t be...

“Hello!”

“Oh, look, it’s Kany’s big brother!”

“Yes! I told you askin’ for it would work!”

“Hey, Toja! Look at me!”

It was.

Hikary raised one eyebrow at him. “Toja.” There wasn’t even a need for a question.

“They’re in my sister’s class,” he explained with an affected tone of boredom, trying to keep it to that. “I’ve been SWP temping with them. That’s how they know me.”

“Oh, okay.” Hikary nodded. “Well, that will be helpful.” She smiled at him. “I hope we can rely on you to help with names and...”

“Don’t worry everyone!” a platinum blond little girl declared loudly. “If any of you get lost, Toja will rescue you!”

“Yeah! He’s really, really brave!”

With surprising velocity, the nazzada’s head collided with his desk. “Why me?” he muttered to himself.



~'/|\'~




In the dark room, Director Khoury twitched slightly, as the sustained lack of sleep and the drugs in her system designed to counteract it warred for supremacy.

“London-2. News refresh,” she said, her voice flat.

[Director] stated a voice. [ANARCHY Cell. APOSTLE reports that APHRODITE and ASPARTAME have secured the Bravo-Sierra sample from Site Alpha-3, in London-2. They are proceeding to Site Alpha 4.]

“Good,” the woman said, red eyes reflecting the light from the screens. “It is contained?” she asked, unnecessarily. The woman blinked, slowly.

[Yes.]

“Good. Continue.”

[Nothing else, Director.]

“Praetoria-B? News refresh.”

[CENOTAPH Cell is en route. No other changes, Director.]

The burble and susurration of voices resumed, as she moved onto other topics.


~'/|\'~



“Rits. He’s in. He’ll do it.”

The blond raised her eyebrows at the news, and briefly considered checking if her cochlear implant was, in fact, functioning properly. “Really?” she asked. “How... how did you manage that? I was sure that he’d refuse.”

“He did. So I explained the facts to him.”

“All of them?” There was concern in the scientist’s voice. “But...”

“Of course not. That would be cruel. But enough that he could make his decision whether or not to pilot, actually knowing what he was doing by choosing either way.” She heard a sigh over the link. “And I told him I was sorry.”

“Sorry? For what? What did you do wrong?”

“Rits, they don’t pay you to deal with people. Robots, yes. Ackersby organisms, yes. People, no. As Director of Operations, I have to.” There was a click, and hum over the line. “Look... we have him, so we can proceed with the primary plan. Now, Director of Science, do your thing, and get me Unit 01 in the best possible state for this. I owe him that much. For lying to him by telling the truth.”



~'/|\'~



The sounds of feet against the metal floor was a constant backdrop to the bustle and bluster of the evacuation process. The rich, who lived deeper, in the larger arcology domes built more recently, might be already pre-evacuated, but the masses that lived in the slums of the surface and in the oldest, shallowest domes, were not so safe. Millions of people had to be moved, in a population movement which put the daily commute of rush hour to shame.

A man, sweat beading on his forehead, pushed a heavy cart, laden down with nanofactory feeder capsules. His eyes flicked nervously from side to side. Around him, the crowd was snarled and disordered; voices raised in worry and agitation as the orderly evacuation was slowed to a snail’s crawl.

“Hey!” The man pushing the cart flinched slightly, but forced himself to relax, as an ArcSec officer stepped over, red eyes somewhat annoyed, and weary. “What’s this?” the man asked, in a strongly Nazzadi-accented deep voice.

The man shrugged. “Moving stuff,” he explained, unhelpfully. “That is,” he hastily added, “I just got in an order that more refills get moved down to one of the safety bunkers.”

“Then why aren’t you using the supply corridors?” the officer asked.

“I didn’t have a specialist pass, okay? I’m not normally with Resupply, but the guy lives deep, and so is already evaced. They grabbed me from Waste Disposal. ‘Least I’m earning overtime for this.”

The nazzada coughed. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to come with me,” the officer ordered, eyes flicking at the crowd which was forming behind him.

“Urgh. Umm... that is, fine, yes.”

The cart was pushed to the nearest transit corridor, and from there, it was only a short distance to the nearest ArcSec waystation. The man pushing the cart was taken to be genescanned, and a full verification done on his background, while the items themselves were taken for a closer examination, to check that they were actually what the RFID tags on the packages claimed they were.

“What do we have here?” the technician manning the scanner asked, an unlit cigarette sticking out from between her lips.

“Flagged as suspicious,” the nazzada who had bought the delivery in explained. “Crate ID say that they’re nanofac refills for Bunker NNE 00102, but... he was acting suspiciously. Wasn’t moving them along the supply corridors, for one, and...”

“Yeah, yeah, just getting the ‘bots to grab the crate info,” the woman said, her forehead crinkling. “Just push them through the arch... yeah, walk through too. Okay.” Her machine bleeped, and a red light appeared on her arglasses. “Okay. Yeah, I’m gonna need a random one...” she raised a hand, “okay, randomiser selected package number ZZA9WYA923Q. That’s the one, right hand corner, middle layer. Just going to have check that it’s clean, as per protocol.”

The checks were run, as the bulky, heavy capsule was moved by the technician, in her exosuit, into the sample nanofactory set up to test the contents. She stepped back, servos whining, as the machine accepted the sample, sealing after entry, and began to extract tiny amounts of the theoretically homogenous contents. There was a faint whine, as the mass spectrometer warmed up, and the tests began. The nazzada officer flinched; the technician showed no sign that she could even hear it.

After about a minute or two, it bleeped again, the light coming up green.

“Okay, yeah, it’s okay, and all the other ones are null-tamper,” the technician said with a shrug, bending down to lift the refill out of the device with a grunt. “I’ll just stick it back on the cart, then you can get the idiot out of here. Tell him and his ‘corp... Armourcorp, isn’t it? Yeah, issue them a caution for breaking handling auth’.”

“Don’t tell me how to do my job,” the officer said, his eyes narrowing.

The woman shrugged. “Look, I’m overloaded already. The ‘corp fuckers have to be reminded not to waste ArcSec time because they don’t get the proper transit auth’. Bastards who think that money buys them immunity to the law.”

The cart was sent on its way, and the hapless courier received a lecture from the ArcSec officer.

And no-one was any the wiser that package ZZA9WYA923Q had stayed in the scanning office, and been replaced by its identical twin.


~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-01-02 01:55pm
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~'/|\'~




There was a crack on the wall, a thin, spiderlike-break right at the join, so the ‘legs’ ran on either side of the wall. Someone, sometime, Toja noted, had drawn around it, making it more arachnid, shaping the lines with a border of grey. Shaking his head, he sighed, and glanced down at his MP. Services were still cut. He couldn’t even access his music collection, and briefly he muttered a short complaint at his sister, who had wiped the internal memory at some point. He almost asked himself why he had even let her borrow it, but then the memory of why returned, and he sighed again.

“Hello.” The voice was young and female, a piping voice directly behind him. “I came to talk to you.”

Toja glanced back, to see the girl with the dark-brown hair, tied asymmetrically. Two green eyes were staring at him. “Hello,” he said back, not trying to be particularly friendly. “Imi, yes.”

There was a pause. Then, “Why? Why are you being like that?”

The boy glanced around again, twisting his body to face her. “Being like what?”

“I just said ‘hello’.”

“Well, I’m kinda not feeling welcoming,” Toja said back, narrowing his eyes. “I’ve had a long day, my MP’s playing up, so I’m kinda bored, and I’ve...” he paused, and pushed on, after seeing that there were none of the other ones in the younger class nearby, “... and I’ve had your friends being annoying.”

A pause. “You mean PCPU,” Imi said.

“What?”

“The device. It is a Personal CPU, not an MP.”

“It’s a manuprokedi. Same thing, different word. And MP is shorter.”

The nine-year old gave a one-shouldered shrug. “That’s not why you’re in a bad mood. You are just sitting here, staring at the wall. Even when people try to talk to you.”

“And what’s that to you, huh?” the boy almost snapped.

“You were the one who left the bunker to find me. Even though I did not need finding,” Imi said, returning his stare. “Why are you in a bad mood?”

“Look... I don’t want to be reminded of that, right?” the nazzada said, his eyes narrowing to slits. “I just wanna forget that it even happened.” He shook his head. “I have nightmares about it,” he added, in a softer voice.

“I do not.”

“Well, lucky you! You were in the cupboard!” He realised he was raising his voice, and that Hikary was staring in his direction from the other side of the classroom, where she was talking with the teacher, and lowered it again. “Look, I...”

“Then you shouldn’t have done it.” The girl folded her arms and glared at him, eyes level despite the fact that he was sitting down. “I’d have been fine.”

Toja could feel her eyes on him. “Well... no,” he admitted. “I... I couldn’t just leave someone out there. I know I shouldn’tve done it... but I wasn’t thinking, so I’d prob’ly do it again.” He sighed. “It’s more the idea that another thing like it is up there again.”

Imi pushed herself up, to sit on his desk. “I know,” she said, eyes staring up at the ceiling. “It’s up there. Somewhere. At least we got moved to a deep shelter this time. We didn’t, last time.”

“I know. And the fact that we’re stuck down here, just... trying to hide from something that probably knows where we are, and...”

“Yes.”

The boy ran his hands over his face. “I hope Shinji is okay,” he said, suddenly. “Him’n Rei.”

A pause. “Who?”

Toja blinked, rapidly. “Oh, friends,” he said. “Well, Shinji is a friend, Rei is... Rei. But they’re... stuck in another bunker, because... they were off sick.”

“I see.”

“I just hope I could... like, help them...”

“To get better.”

“Yeah, that.”

Imi tilted her head. “Have you sent them a get-well message?” she asked. The girl gave a mono-shouldered shrug, again. “That’s what we did for Kany, and what they do for me when I get ill.” She blinked. “Oh yeah,” she said, slipping the bag off her shoulder, to pull out a red device, which looked a little like a large highlighter pen; a similarity which only grew more pronounced when she took the cap off. Without hesitation, she rolled up her skirt slightly, and then jabbed it into her thigh. Toja gagged slightly, and looked away. He hated needles.

There was a bleep from the device, and Imi glanced at the light beside it, which was green. “Good,” she said, putting the cap back on with a click. She glanced back at Toja. “You can look back,” she said, to the older boy, a faint twist in her voice. “I’ve had to have this done since I was very small.” She seemed to be prompting a question.

Toja asked it. “Why?”

“It is necessary. And I hate it. It wasn’t meant to happen,” she said, eyes narrowed. “I’m ‘fixed, you know. I shouldn’t have to put up with things like this. But I had an episode when I was very little, and I’ve been on this ever since. ” There was sudden vitriol in her voice. “It hurts. All the time. The injections only keep it under control.” She blinked, and her face was suddenly calmer, more placid. “I’m sorry, Kany’s brother,” she told the boy. “I should not be telling you that.”

Toja blinked. “I’m sorry,” he said, glancing at her. Yes, that explained a lot about the way she was acting, and the fact that she seemed a little too mentally mature for her age. Humans had been doing all kinds of odd things to their genetics in the years before the First Arcanotech War, the nazzada knew. Most had been fairly mild, removing genetic defects, tweaking for genes linked to long lives and high intellects. Some had been more extreme, done in the genetically liberal states of Japan and the European Union. At every Academy he’d been to, there had been a few children who were suffering from some condition caused by the modifications on their parents. Pre-natal selection and screening was meant to catch such conditions, but genes were recipes, not blueprints; with such small runs of original subjects, something often got missed. It was probably something metabolic or something; those were the most common problems you tended to see, because they didn’t have the same level of handicap as the mental problems. “It’s... well, you’re just unlucky. It could happen to anyone.”

“No,” she said, the bitterness returning. “Only to me. They found the risk factors afterwards, and took steps to stop it happening again. There’s only a few other people it could have affected, anyway.”

“Oh.” Toja looked with pity at one of his sister’s friends. This did make him feel better about his stupid-yet-brave actions to rescue her. She was ill, and did need helping; even if she continued to insist that she hadn’t needed to be rescued.

And she had certainly given him things to think about. Yes, she may have been misunderstanding what he was talking about, because of the hasty cover story, but there was something that him and the other people in the class could do to help Shinji. He’d had to put up with little girls praising him, for something which really hadn’t been heroic; the least he could do was to make sure that the praise went to the real hero, right?

He stood up, and taking his leave of the little girl, headed over to Hikary, a smile on his face.



~'/|\'~




“You know, of all the elements of your plan, Miss Director of Operations Katsuragi, this is probably the most surreal,” Ritsuko remarked, hooking her fingers into the pockets of the fresh lab coat she was wearing. “I mean, everything involving Unit 01, yes, it’s very much a million-to-one chance kind of thing...”

“But it’s not,” Misato said, mildly, leaning on the railing, gazing down at the Evangelion launch chutes. “Your MAGI give us a thirty-one percent chance of success with no losses, as of the most recent estimate.”

“And what were the errors bars?”

“I dunno. Can’t remember. Anyway,” she shrugged, “error bars go up and down. Big error bars might as well mean we’re even more likely to succeed.”

Ritsuko snorted. “Okay, right, now you’re just trying to annoy me.”

“Guilty.” Misato shook her head. “But, seriously, what’s so surreal about this?”

One eyebrow was raised. “Misato.” One finger was jabbed down towards the chutes. “We’re packing the chutes with sports cars. We’re attacking them to the same launch systems we use to launch the Evas! It’s just... ridiculous!”

“Hey! I like driving! You think I like dooming so many high-end cars to their doom?” She blinked. “Well, apart from the ForGM ones. Those things handle like pigs.”

“Misato...”

“No, I don’t see what’s surreal, as you put it. They’re the cheapest source of steerable A-Pods, and we just need to activate the control overrides and an LAI can drive for us. We don’t need mil-spec drones as decoys. They’re chaff, nothing more.” She tightened her lips, “I’d rather see any number of cars be destroyed, than watch more human pilots get swatted out of the air by the Harbinger. More drones have to help, even improvised ones. And if it means that it can’t see the Evangelions...”

“I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense, Misato.” The blond shook her head. “I’m just saying, it’s kind of surreal to be loading these sports cars into the Eva chutes, as... as if they were some kind of giant blunderbuss.”

“Just think of it as a capital-grade decoy flare,” the Major advised her.

“Certainly... it’s a good idea. I can think of ones a lot worse.” She let out a chuckle. “I was half-way afraid that you were going to try to take a naval-yield weapon, and connect it up to the L2 power grid, under the principle of ‘more power = more good’.”

“Don’t be silly, Rits,” Misato said, rolling her eyes. “I am...I mean, was a mecha pilot. We’re expected to know the operating principles behind our weapons. And I know that neither lasers nor charge beams work that way. You can’t expect to pump in orders of magnitude more power than something’s designed for, and not blow every fuse. If you’re lucky and don’t melt it solid.”

They stared, for a moment, as the cars manoeuvred their own way into position, technicians in exosuits manually checking their placement and bolting them into the launch platform. Small explosive charges would separate them after they emerged, but it would be necessary to hold them in place for the accelerations involved in the launch.

“I wonder if the Misatomobile is going to give its life for the cause?” Ritsuko said, slyly.

“Nope. Not a chance. And nobody calls it that.”


~'/|\'~




The Harbinger could now have been seen from the highest residences in the arcologies, had their occupants been there to watch for it. They were not. The inhabitants of the above-ground buildings had retreated to chthonian safety, to cower like worms from the unyielding predator of the skies. Now the only eyes which watched the heavens were technological, as soldiers, ensconced within the dubious safety of their warmachines, veins flooded with antizonals and phobinhibitors, waited for their foe. Except that was not quite true, for some of the degenerate beasts and creatures which dwelt in the depths of the Old London Underground had come to the surface, to gaze upon the Harbinger.

And if they were too close, it was the harbinger of their destruction. Mot did not care for, or possibly ‘about’, their worship. Though it had its own master, it did not call upon the Crawling Chaos for aid. The Beast Nyarlathotep was that which it feared and venerated; to call upon it was to draw its attention, and that was unwise. No, Mot was a blinded god; Polythemus without a Poseidon to call upon.

The metaphor was inexact.

The NEG had no intention of leaving the blinded Cyclopean beast alive.

And yet they could not kill it yet. The London-2 defences, already maimed by the onslaught of the last two Harbingers, were no match for even an injured Mot.

Radiance scythed out from the vertices of the geometry of the Harbinger. Armoured fortifications burst in light and fury, nothing more than white-hot craters remaining. The shockwaves crushed shallow arcology domes like empty cans, the black material of the outer sphere rupturing and tearing the buildings within apart. Slowly, inexorably, destructively, Harbinger-5 advanced, bringing death with it.

And then it stopped.

Not long ago, such a thing would have been a moment of victory.

But now? Now, the Harbinger had reached its destination. And its fall was not the work of its enemies. The bottommost point of Mot crushed a skyscraper, the edifice of steel and glass splitting like an overripe fruit, and the shockwave as it pierced the ground sent abandoned cars tumbling through the air like grains of sand in the desert wind. The great trapezohedron, warped and distorted by the perilous bows and arrows of fortune, burrowed a third of its way down, before coming to a halt. The lesser fractal clusters which had survived the assaults rose, to orbit, halo-like, around its head in the evening twilight, still spewing forth light against anything that it could ‘see’.

And then it... unfolded.

Like a flower of Stygia, a blossom that might bedeck the hair of Persephone in December nights, it abandoned the seed that it had once been. No longer was it a pentagonal trapezohedron; no, though it retained its five-fold symmetry, it cast off the confines of geometry and embraced the vicissitudes of change. In perfect coordination, the facets that had been its uppermost faces extruded their nature outwards, sketching a path in the air around them, before fracturing into five themselves. From each prismatic face, two night-dark columns of crystal shot down into the earth, crushing buildings and roads and underground tunnels beneath them; ten lances seeking their path down towards their goal. Two more skewed outwards, only to unite with their compatriots, hemming the Harbinger with a ring of its own selfhood, which began to spin.

NEG observers, watching from behind autocensors, watched in fear, for this ring, now free from its main corpus, and, yet, irrefutably part of the Harbinger, somehow seemed to move in both directions at once. From one viewpoint, clockwise; from another, anti-clockwise, and each blink, each subtle motion of the eye, each flicker of attention, seemed to invert the rotation, until the brain gave up, and it became a circle of black motion; a velocity without a vector. The fear grew into terror, as white light, brilliant and radiant, a pure blend of spectral components, began to arc irregularly from the ring to the seedcore of the beast, and each impact reverberated with unearthly resonances. Even the heavens began to act to meet this motion, as the clouded evening sky acquiesced to the spin with its own vortex. The dark rain clouds were torn apart above Mot, as a cyclone formed, the red of the near-night sky as bloody light above the darkness of the Harbinger.

And perhaps that was a way of honouring the final deed. For the uppermost spines rose into a point above it, a tower, growing ever upwards just as the hungry spears reached down to break the doors to Irkalla, and, perhaps, release the dead. But that was just speculation for the purpose of Mot, while the spire that formed above the Harbinger was fact and truth; a vast, five-sided obelisk, seeking the heavens for their own domain.

And slowly, oh so slowly, the void of darkness began to form around the Harbinger again, as the lesser traphezohedrons, vessels of its chrysalis, dissolved back into its night-sky corpus.

Once again, Mot was home.

And it was almost time.


~'/|\'~



“Misato. It’s doing something different. Look at this.”

The Director of Operation’s mouth tightened into a thin line, a curse in poorly pronounced Mandarin escaping from her lips.

“We’re trying to find where the core-equivalent is. As far as we can tell... it hasn’t moved, but,” the scientist shook her head. “I don’t trust any data we’re getting. The AT-Field... it’s the second densest we’ve ever recorded, and the volume...” Ritsuko trailed off. “I’m not even sure that the concept of ‘volume’ in normal 1-space is applicable in the area around the Harbinger.”

“We’re going ahead with the operation,” the Major said, forcing calm into her tone. “Its behaviour is within the contingencies. We’ll know where the core is, by the time Shinji needs to fire. It’s doing just what I expected. How are the Evas?”

Ritsuko nodded over at Lieutenant Ibuki. “Both Unit 00 and Unit 01 have been fully unloaded down in the Geocity,” the younger woman said, promptly. “Unit 01 is, on the orders of Representative Ikari, running last-minute calibration checks for the superconducting QUI device transceivers, after MAGI flagged a possible anomaly. Unit 00 is being fitted with the ablative torso dermal plating and the blast shield.”

The Major turned on her heel, eyes wide. “How long will Unit 01 be?” she snapped. “What’s wrong?”

The Operator’s Eyes went blank for a moment, irises lighting up, harcontact style. “Estimated time of completion; 22:03... seven minutes. The MAGI one-to-two evaluated that there was a risk that a slight flicker in IP-21 was indicative of larger damage. They’ve swapped out the plug for one of the spares; Representative Ikari insisted,” she stated. “They’re just running checks to make sure that the Third Child’s profile has transferred properly.”

The dark-haired woman relaxed, slightly. “Understood,” she said. “I want to know as soon as it’s done. Is the LANCE system fitted properly to Unit 01?” she asked, again.

“Yes, Major,” the Operator nodded, making the thick cable that snaked into the back of her skull bounce up and down, synchronised to her motions.

Hands balled into fists, Major Katsuragi glared at the projections of the two Units. “You’re going to do this,” she muttered. “You’re going to do it properly, and you’re going to kill this thing dead, and you’re not going to get damaged doing this, understand.”


~'/|\'~




Shinji could see it when he closed his eyes, painted against the back of his eyelids. The complex wireframe shape of reds and blues was always there, forcing him to pay attention, the focus shifting around to ensure that he could visualise every single part of the three-dimensional image perfectly.

That was not a metaphor. They had actually fitted him with sofcontacts, which displayed it, as a way of making sure that he paid attention.

But for the moment, he had been permitted a short break, after he had complained of a headache, and they ran checks to make sure that the stimulants he was on were not interfering with the other medications in his still-stiff, still-aching body. So, for the moment, he could just rest for a moment, in the warmth.

It was midday on the surface levels of the London-2 Geocity. The artificial sun had been fixed high overhead, perhaps as a sign of defiance towards the night-black crystalline mass overhead. No matter what the reasons for its placement, though, it was directly above, its bright light shining vertically down on the central pyramid in the Geocity. When the battle began, it would be deactivated, moved to a safe place to cool down, but for now it was there as a source of light.

Once again, his thumb pressed the play button, on the screen on the forearm of his plugsuit.

“Hey, Shinji,” Toja’s voice said, in the recorded message. “Listen... I don’t know if you’ll get this, and so I’m not sure how useful this will be... and...”

“If he doesn’t get this, he won’t know that it was sent,” one of the girls, Jony, he thought. “Stop wasting time.”

Once again, Shinji snorted. For some reason, he found this section unreasonably funny. It was probably the things that they were using to keep him able to focus, he thought, with a smile.

“...okay.” Toja could be heard to take a deep breath. “Listen, Shinji. You’re not here, and from what we know, and what happened the last few times you were away like this... well, we don’t know exactly what you’re doing. But we know that you’re doing something important.”

“We know that it’s something to do with the giant Engel-things,” Kensuke added.

“And so,” Hikary said, “we, as a class, want to tell you ‘good luck’. Good luck with everything. And, above that, we believe in you. We really think you can do it. So, everyone...”

“Good luck!” the class cheered, the speaker crackling from the noise.

“And,” Toja added, his voice soft, “I do know, and I’ve seen you in action. You’re a braver man than I am, really. I know you can do it.”

There was a bleep. [Message ends], the muse stated.

Shinji leant back again. It was mostly meaningless, he thought, a little cynically. Most of them probably had no clue what he was actually having to do. Even Toja, who had actually seen him piloting, probably thought that the Eva was like a nice, normal mecha, and that he was some brave hero getting to fight valiantly against the foes of humanity.

He glanced sideways at Rei, who was sitting, hugging her knees and staring at the lake. In the light, he could see faint beads of sweat on her forehead, in the false-sunlit warmth. He wasn’t a hero. He was just a coward. He should have volunteered at first, even though he had been injured. That’s what real heroes did, in films and TV shows. He had been willing to let her do it instead, and had only changed his mind after Misato had told him that she would die and the mission would fail. He didn’t think that was heroic.

But, still, it was comforting. He couldn’t deny it, and had no desire to do so. And... and it helped remind him. They were somewhere above him, in the school bunker, which meant that they were even closer to the Harbinger than he was right now. Their voices; if he didn’t stop the Harbinger, this message, this badly planned, stumbling message, would be the last that he would hear of them. One way or another.

“Rei?” he said, letting the warmth of the false sun shine down on him. “Did... did you get a message? From the others?”

“Yes.”

There was silence. Then Rei spoke.

“I did not listen to it.”

Shinji frowned. “Why not?”

“Why would they send me a message?” There was unusual emotion in the girl’s voice.

Shinji looked over at her. She was looking at him. “Because it’s a nice thing to do,” he suggested, pulling himself into a sitting position. She actually seemed surprised that anyone would do something as small and as easy as... as just sending her a voice message wishing her luck. And that cold, empty dome where she lived, in an apartment block where she was the only inhabitant, the fact that she never spoke to others at school, but merely sat in a corner, reading, barely even paying attention to the lessons... Shinji frowned, slightly. “Rei?” he asked, again, but this time with a hint of nervousness in his voice. “Why do you pilot? The Evangelion, that is.”

Silence. She glanced down, to stare at her gloved hands, and up again. “It is necessary,” she said, her voice nothing more than a whisper, her hands twitching as if invisibly grasping control yokes. “All things have a purpose. An Evangelion is made to be piloted. I am the pilot of Unit 00.”

The boy looked away, for a moment. “You’re brave,” he said. She didn’t need to be pushed into it, by threats to others, be reminded of the consequences should she not do it. She merely did what was needed. Not like him.

“This is not bravery,” she said, in the same whisper. “But you should not be afraid. ”

Shinji blinked. “What do you mean?” he asked.

“I will protect you. I have been ordered to do. And above that, it is necessary.”

“What do you mean?” he asked, again, blinking off her other comment. “Why is it not bravery?”

No reply.

“Why?”

“I have nothing else,” she replied, finally. “Only necessity.”

“‘Necessity’?” Shinji echoed, eyes widening.

Beside him, Rei stood up, her plug suit squeaking faintly as she moved. Taking a step towards him, she towered over him as he lay on his back. Her head blocked the false sun above them, and lit her white hair as a ghostly halo, even as her face was cast into darkness. “It is time,” the girl said, staring down at him. “We must go. We are needed.”

A sound chimed in their ears. "Test Pilots, please report to the station point for last checks. I repeat, Test Pilots, please report to the station point."

She turned on her heel, and walked off, again. But this time she turned, to look back over her shoulder. “Goodbye,” she said.

~'/|\'~



[Intrusion 02 has broken through Layer 029, and is... is growing through 30,] one of the MAGI Operators reported, his eyes wide. [Rate of descent has accelerated.]

[It’s still within projected limits,] Lieutenant Ibuki sent back to her subordinate. Immersed in light, the Operators were in a full dive in the MAGI, the full computing resources of the other great accomplishment of the first Evangelion Project dedicated to what was about to come. The hybrid machines, with their unique operating system and clunky code architecture, were in their forte. [July? You have the optimised line of approach for Unit 00?]

[Of course,] replied Lieutenant Cheung. [Forwarded to Operations already. It’s set up to live-update based on Harbinger behaviour.]


~'/|\'~



Above, on the surface, Harbinger-5 was embedded into the ground, the original pentagonal trapezohedron now little more than a seed for the growths from it. Ten ophidian daggers of obsidian crystal were twining around each other as they worked their way down, making some strange ten-stranded helix. As they grew deeper, the components solidified, and began to branch, interchaining and interlinking, until the probe that resulted resembled nothing less than some complex, degenerate cousin of DNA. The only light that it permitted to exist was the period arcs of white brightness, which came from the rings of undetermined velocity which budded off from the first, spaced at intervals up and down the Harbinger. The initial seed was expanding, too, both upwards and downwards, consuming the helix as its scaffolding as it sought the Geocity, and reaching up to bring the starless night it bore with it to the heavens themselves.

And as a result of these changes, it was now unclear where the core would be.

Major Katsurgagi’s plan, however, had taken this into account, because she had suspected that that Mot, who now resembled some vast five-sided obelisk, would take some action to conceal that vulnerability. The tactics for this battle were simple when looked at from afar. Unit 00, fitted with an improvised shield made from capital-grade hull plating, and a normally-stationary plasma turret stripped from its mount and fitted to the Eva’s arm, with power leads connected to the city grid, was a diversion. It would be launched from the normal Eva chutes, along with the mass of improvised decoy drones. It was believed that the modifications would be enough to allow it to survive a few hits, of the level that Unit 01 had taken in the first battle.

And Unit 01 was the hammer, or, perhaps, more accurately, the lance. The LANCE prototype, a Huitzilopochtli-class shaped nuclear charge designed for space combat, had been mounted on the Unit’s chest, in the hole left by Mot’s attack. The weapon, still in the early prototype stage, was designed to be a possible ship-killer. It was surrounded by carefully layered wards and fields which would, at the moment of initiation, warp the fabric of spacetime to such an extent that, while in the frame of reference of the blast it would appear to omnidirectional, to the outside world it would form a tight cone. The pre-existing warding, though incomplete, was to be reinforced by the AT-Field of the Evangelion, and so the flesh of the Evangelion had been grafted around it, and fresh armour crudely mounted on the top. Unit 01 was still in the launch bays. It was not to be moved until the Harbinger’s core had been located, and, even then it would be taking the shot from within the launch tubes.

The risk that Unit 01 would be targeted immediately on being launched had been deemed too high for it to take the shot from the surface, and the imprecise nature of the LANCE required it to be rather too close for the Major’s preferences. This was the best compromise.

It was at the more detailed level that it got more complicated. Routes of approach, timing of diversionary assaults, the optimal distance for Unit 01 which would minimise the chance of being it targeted, while also handling the inevitable spread of the weapon... it was too much for a human to handle. The MAGI were working on it, from the best data they had at the time, but their theories were all too fallible and it took precious time.

But that was the other reason that the operation had even been approved. By letting the hostile dig itself into the city, it was ensuring that it would absorb more of the blast if, or when, the Rapture contingency was activated. It had reached the stage where the NEG was willing to bet everything on two experimental machines, neither of which were even Mass Production models, because the inevitable alternative was worse. Already, there had been a very limited evacuation of important assets, but there was no way that the millions of inhabitants of the metropolis could have been moved.

And Shinji hadn’t exactly been pleased when he had been told that he was expected to have a nuclear charge embedded in his Eva’s chest, and to use his AT-Field to shape the blast to form a discrete beam, and, incidentally, not kill himself. But after Misato had explained the stakes, he couldn’t say ‘no’.

As he waited, lungs filled with LCL, in the entry plug, he was regretting it. His chest felt... odd, off, not quite right, as if it was lacking something vital, which he was used to. But that was nothing, compared to how his head felt. Everything, every sense felt like it was bathed in ice, his vision crystal clear, the inside of the plug suit terribly cold against his skin. He flexed his fingers, feeling the way that he knew exactly where they were, and the texture of the LCL, even through the gloves.

“Don’t do that, Shinji,” Ritsuko ordered, over the communications link.

He blinked. “What?”

“You’re running at 72 plus-or-minus 9 percent.” She shook her head. “That’s... that’s astonishing. That’s a personal best for you, by far. I don’t know how you’re doing it, but...” she blinked, “... that message must really have been helpful,” she muttered to herself, before her expression settled again. “But it means that the Unit’s catching stray thoughts. If you can’t keep things confined to the animaneural sync... to how you’ve been trained to think about controlling the Eva... please, try not to move.” She winced. “And, really, don’t make any large movements with your arms. Or legs. Just... try to sit still. Are you ready to try again shaping it?”

Of course, once that had been said, Shinji’s nose began to itch. He suppressed it, and swallowed. “How long?” he asked.

“That doesn’t matter,” Ritsuko said, tersely. “We’re going to keep you practising until the last possible moment.” She blinked. “T-minus 8 minutes until operational start,” she added. “So, please, try again. The better you can get it, the further away from the Harbinger we can deploy you. As it is, we’ll need to have you within 340 metres of the core.”

“That’s bad, isn’t it?”

“You’re the pilot,” Ritsuko said drily, before adding, “But, yes, that is much closer than the Science team would like. So, much as I hate to pressure you...”

“That’s a lie,” Shinji muttered, through numb-feeling lips.

“... okay. True. But you need to get better. Fast.” Ritsuko paused. “Please.”



~'/|\'~




Field Marshal Jameson put his head in his hands. “I don’t really know what to say, Major Katsuragi,” he remarked, his expression over the link exhausted. “This is a horrible gamble. But, as it stands, the only other choice is to destroy London-2, and... looking at the... at the,” he struggled for words, “... metamorphosis that Harbinger-5 has undergone, I’m starting to doubt that even that would work.” He shuddered. “I don’t care to think that the Migou are doing right now,” he said, “because the Hive Ship... it’s sprouted multiple bright fusion torches, detaching from it. They’re pulling away from the Sun-Earth L2 point.”

Admiral Tatuta looked faintly sick, as he added, “The fusion torch on those things; alone... well, it’s quite possible that that’s what they’d use as a main weapon. They’re pulling five-gees; we’ve got six separate ones, and those are only the torches. Who knows how many A-Pod craft we can’t see, because the torches are blinding us.” He folded his hands in front of him. “We think those are actual Migou warships,” he admitted. “Not just the light S-class vessels, like the Swarms, they use in atmosphere; the ones with A-Pods. Actual, capital ships.” The Nazzadi blinked. “We know what the ships they made for AW1 were like; how bad must their actual warships be?” the man, who had been grown in vats in the Oort Cloud, asked.

Misato winced. Yes. Bad. Very bad. Nevertheless, “For this, I will require full operational authority to be formally confirmed. I need you to verify the provisional control you have given me. The MAGI must be given interlaced access to the TITAN-controlled systems in the defence-grid.”

The six individuals who made up the Army and Naval Tripartites, glanced at each other. The votes came in, with unanimity.

The Major saluted. “Thank you, sirs. We can now begin the final preparations.”

Field Marshal Lehy shook her head, her close-cropped iron grey hair pale compared to her skin. “You’re not going to be a Major after this, Katsuragi,” she muttered. “One way or another.”

“Well, yes,” Jameson said, rolling his eyes. “She refused evacuation, to run the operation from the L2 Geocity. If she fails, she’ll be dead.”



~'/|\'~




The Harbinger dug deeper, the black, five-faced obelisk growing both upwards and downwards. There were already riots in multiple bunkers, as those unfortunate enough to be close to the monstrosity succumbed to contagious hysteria, while other fell into deep depressions, all higher brain functions slowed to a crawl compared to the vast, overwhelming, inhuman presence of the being.

The necessary steps were taken to control the populace, as remote-activated and autonomous systems came into play.

And the clock counted down.

Inside his entry plug, Shinji shivered, the same icy wrongness with every sense still there. He flexed his fingers, and closed his eyelids, running over and over the shape that he had to visualise.

Within Unit 00, Rei’s hands were vice-like on the control yokes, but her breaths were slow and controlled. Slowly, lazily, she blinked.

Major Misato Katsuragi was paying full attention to the countdown on the inside of her Eyes, watching as the numbers inexorably descended. Her hands were balled into fists, knuckles white, and if her nails were not kept short, they would have been drawing blood. Slowly, slowly, she counted down, her words matching with the numbers, as she cowered down in the darkness, hearing the cries from elsewhere, her voice rising up to match them listened to the organised chaos of the last few moments before the operation began.

“Final confirmation check!” she ordered.

[Oranous-00; Unit 00 is in position. Hull compromised; Right Hand Missing. Unauthorised modifications to Unit. All other systems Green within modified parameters.]

[Oranous-01; Unit 01 is in position. Hull compromised; Torso Heavily Damaged. Foreign body in chest cavity. Pilot synchronisation Standard Deviation Grade 2 Warning. Abnormal ANW-Patterns in Pilot Synchronisation. Anomalous Type-2 Attunement Component in Type-1 Attunement. Anom...] the LITAN was cut off by Ritsuko.

“Sorry,” the scientist said, “the LITANs haven’t been modified to accept the field modifications. We didn’t have time to suppress their warning systems and code an interface patch.” She glanced at the Major. “I did tell you all this,” she reminded her friend, “we are going to be getting dummy error messages, especially for Unit 01. We’ve hooked Unit 01 straight into the MAGI, instead; the LITAN is just there in case the connection is cut, and...” she waved a hand, “Maya?”

“This is Lieutenant Cheung, and I’ll be handling Unit 01,” one of the other Operators reported, over the link. “We’ve recompiled the error handler in the MAGI, and both are reading green, when we’ve got the modifications in place.”

The Major turned, to face Gendo Ikari. “Sir?” she asked. “Should I proceed when things are... should I proceed?” There was only the very slightest hint of hesitation, the faintest chance that she was asking him if he wished to send his son, and the girl who he was guardian to, out to their possible deaths.

“Yes,” the man said, from behind his opaque arglasses. His voice was flat. “This is the best chance we shall have.”

“Yes, sir.”

Turning around, Misato gave the final authorisation.



~'/|\'~




There was a chime in Unit 01’s entry plug, and Shinji opened his eyes to see, to his left, Unit 00 rocket up the launch chute. Its ascent was slowed slightly by the mass of the hull plating bolted on its right arm, to cover and take advantage of the missing hand. Past it, to his left and right, he could see the cars, converted into crude decoy drones shoot up too, row after row be moved, like ammunition, into the launch chutes.

Taking a deep breath of LCL, he closed his eyes again, staring at the image on the sofcontacts. They were committed, now. Rei was deployed.

Now everyone was depending on him.



~'/|\'~




The depleted arrays of the defences of London-2, eroded by the previous two Harbingers, and silenced by the orders from Headquarters, opened up with the vengeance and the wrath of an angry god. The atmosphere filled with ionisation trails, as the ferocious batteries of charge beams, plasma cannons and lasers opened up, blue-green trails sketched in the air. The rocket exhausts filled the sky, a false dawn out of the wood etchings of the medieval Catholic church as the flames lit up the sky.

Had it not been for Asherah, who had slagged most of the defences to the east in its approach, and the more generalised damage that Eshmun and its spawn had done, it might have done something. Maybe.

The obelisk of night, almost invisible against the dome of darkness that now covered the city, arced actinic white light, from the rings that rotated around it. From the peak, where the five sides met, a sustained cutting beam eradicated the remnants of the fleet, and dug unnaturally smooth craters into the landscape of the city. From its vantage point, for the obelisk now reached almost two kilometres up, there was little that could not be targeted. A faint red glow emanated from the dark crystal, and the shallow arcology domes were sliced open, the guts of civilisation exposed for the world to see, before they too were unmade.

“Rerouting Unit 00,” an Operator called out. “Point Alpha has been compromised by hostile fire.”

The Major stared at the screen. Already the plan was imperfect; the casual damage done by the Harbinger had destroyed one of the entry chutes. She merely thanked that Unit 00 had been deep enough that they had been able to do that.


~'/|\'~




Unit 00 slammed to a halt, faster than the equipment was designed to do, now exposed on the surface. The metal of the launch cradle shrieked, and with a faint hiss of coolant, the Evangelion stepped free of its cradle, hull-plating shield already raised. All around it, cascades of dummy drones were being launched into the air, adopting erratic patterns simply designed to ensure that the Harbinger took the longest possible time for its death-brining beams from target to target. Against the black void which Mot was generating, the beams were precisely geometrical, and blindingly white.

A yellow light on the internal wall of the entry plug turned green, and Rei Ayanami triggered the plasma turret which had been bolted to her left arm. The recoil from the relativistic particle beam kicked at her arm, but she compensated, holding it as steady as she could on the lowest ring that spun around the obelisk-shape of the hostile.

The fractured radiance of an AT-Field was all that she got for her efforts, and she cut the beam, stepping to the left, behind an armoured building, as the Harbinger retaliated. The lesser beam scored its way across the armour plating, across the hastily raised shield, which shimmered with a sudden heat haze.

“External,” Rei ordered her LITAN; a single, terse word. Her internal D-Engines cut their power, and suddenly sluggish, she stepped again further to the left, to avoid the falling building. The metal superstructure of the armoured structure, now exposed, was not even glowing. It had been cut, as if it were clay and the beam a sharp knife. That property was not so inaccurate, as the building that fell warped and deformed, sagging and deflating, as it were suddenly more akin to jelly.

The Harbinger appeared satisfied. Something had tried to strike at it, something which housed within it foetid wounds in reality. It had taken actions against the source. The wounds had disappeared. Hence, the insect was dead.

Simple.

Slowly, sluggishly, Unit 00, now running exclusively from the power cable and its batteries, stepped around to the next designated firing point. It was not designed to run off an external feed, and without power, the armour was heavily locked down. Nevertheless, it could be done, because some genius in its design process had decided that this was something it should be able to do.

The first component of its mission was now complete. They now knew how long it took the Harbinger to acquire an Eva-sized target with whatever senses it used.


~'/|\'~




The peak of the obelisk flared again and again. The Victoria Arcology, still damaged from the Asherah incident, took a direct hit, as it opened up with a barrage of fresh missiles. The force of the impact reduced the man-made mountain of steel to a volcano, molten metal cascading down its slopes and burning through armour plating and weapon batteries, and the shockwave sent the just-launched missiles tumbling off course. It was a sudden, shocking source of red light in the whiteness of the Harbinger’s beams, and the adamantine fracture of its AT-Field, flaring afresh whenever a weapon would attempt to violate it.

“Its AT-Field,” Ritsuko muttered, to herself. “It’s almost as strong as...” she blinked. “No,” she whispered. “Misato!” she called out. “It weakens its AT-Field to fire! The beams... they’re extensions of it. We have to keep it firing! No matter what!”

“I understand,” the Major said, her jawline set, as she stared at the sweeping, overlapping arcs on the surface, which were systematically wiping away the decoy-chaff. Unit 00 couldn’t go back to internal power sources, not in these conditions; it was a mercy that it hadn’t been hit by incidental fire. “Operators! Maintain the decoy density! Do you know where the core is?

“Nearly there,” Lieutenant Aoba said, from his seat. “I’m getting the readings from the Operators, and...”

“It’s... it’s moving!” Maya blurted, over the speakers. “Up and down. We’ve isolated its energy signature, and... those rings? That’s why they’re only firing at certain points. It has to be nearby, we think, for them to do it!”

“Of course!” Ritsuko said, sudden, horrified comprehension on her face. “It’s growing downwards, in a way which means it never has to expose its core, or even let us know where it is!

“Can you isolate the movement!” the Major hissed.

A pause, then;

“Yes! Yes! There it is!” A small red dot, bouncing up and down the multikilometre spire with terrifying rapidity, its motions inertialess, was added to the diagram.

And then Misato grinned, a shark-like grin. “Got ya,” she said to the representation of the Harbinger on the screen.



~'/|\'~



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Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-01-02 01:56pm
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~'/|\'~




“Okay, Shinji,” the Operator’s voice said, in his ear, the amlaty’s modulated tones replacing the normal mechanical flatness of his LAI. “We have a firing position. We’re going to move you there, now.” She paused. “Remember, pulling the trigger at your end only announces that you’re ready to fire. The system won’t do it until it’s ready.”

“Yes. I know,” the boy said. It was the only reason that he was willing to do this at all, after Misato had explained that they would, in fact, be mounting a nuclear bomb, with some kind of magic on it, into his Eva’s chest cavity. A space which, it should be noted, was rather close to his entry plug. It would only fire when it detected that the AT-Field was shaped properly to reinforce the warding. He swallowed, the LCL tasting almost... perfumed, a sort of minty, floral taste, in the funny, cold way he felt. It was certainly an improvement, he thought; much more comforting. And less horrible. “I’m ready.”

“Then hold on tight.” The lieutenant paused. “But not too tight.”

The acceleration kicked in, pushing him back into his seat.


~'/|\'~




In the bunker, filled mostly with the staff of Armourcorp, and other employees of the subsidiaries of the Chrysalis Corporation, the bomb hidden in package ZZA9WYA923Q did what it was designed to do.

The modified vECF shell, salvaged after the Asherah operation, initiated, with the explosive force of about a tonne of TNT. Local casualties were high; something made worse by the arcanochromatic elements used in the fusion-catalysis.

And each action has ramifications.


~'/|\'~




The first thing that Shinji knew of anything wrong was when the Eva-cradle derailed, slamming into the side of the wall and kicking up a shower of sparks which fell, cascading down the chute, as Unit 01 dug into the metal walls. He yelped, in sudden pain, and reflexively threw out a hand, to steady himself; the Eva mimicked the gesture, and one vast hand smashed into the wall. In the confusion, the failsafes kicked in, and the blast doors closed underneath the Unit, just in time for it to fall. They were straining under the incredible mass of the Evangelion, but just holding. There was a hiss of fire extinguisher systems, as flames and smoke burst from the damaged sections of the tunnel, only to be smothered.

“What just happened!” the Major asked, face suddenly pale.

“Derailment!” Lieutenant Makota reported. “Reports coming in, explosions all over the city. Multiple blasts in evacuation bunkers.”

“One’s flagged as right by the chute Unit 01 is in!” added Aoba.

The Major’s eyes narrowed. “Cultists,” she said, immediately, with disgust. “Bastards.” With a force of will, her voice was professional once again. “Find an alternative route!”

“On it!”

“This is bad,” Ritsuko said to her, softly.

“Yes.”

“What... argh... urgh, what happened?” Shinji asked, his face appearing on the main screen.

“I’ve got a new route,” an Operator called out. “Down one level, then we can run parallel.”

“Get a new cradle in position!” Misato ordered. “Shinji, it was a derailment,” she told the boy, who was looking even paler than normal. “Don’t worry. We have everything under control.”

“Don’t worry? Don’t worry!” the boy shouted back, an edge of hysteria in his voice. “You’re not the one with the nuclear bomb in your chest, who’s going to have to use a... a magic field to stop it blowing yourself open! Things aren’t meant to go wrong when things are like this!”

“No,” Misato replied, trying not to grit her teeth. “They aren’t. Be prepared for a small drop, brace yourself against the wall. We’re going to close the next blast door, and then open the one below you. As long as you lower yourself onto it, you won’t fall.” She glanced over at Ritsuko, who nodded. “Lieutenant Cheung will guide you.”

“And how do you know that isn’t going to go wrong, too?” he continued, the hysteria growing. “The metal is making bad sounds, and... and everything is going wrong, and...”

“Shinji.” Gendo Ikari’s voice was cold, efficient. “Accidents happen. Follow your orders.”

On the screen, the boy could be seen to grit his teeth, his emotions flickering between anger, shock, and dislike. “Yes,” he said, eventually, taking a deep breath of LCL. “Okay.”



~'/|\'~




Hands tight around the control yokes, her hands working as she forced the lumbering, power restricted Eva to move, Rei Ayanami’s eyes constantly flickered over the mess of windows and data-feeds that she kept open. Compared to the simple, mostly-automated displays of Unit 01, designed for its untrained pilot, her entry plug was a mess of lights and information.

Moving the reticule onto the Harbinger, she emptied a barrage of fly-like missiles from a shoulder pod. The empty container crashed down onto the ground, bouncing and crushing an empty, abandoned car. That was the most damage it did, because the AT-Field merely flared into adamantine life as the flock approached, where they harmlessly burst. Even the arcanochromatic taint was doing nothing against the integrity of the AT-Field; the soul of Mot was proof against such blemishes.

“Internal 1,” Rei said, her voice chilly.

Deep within the Eva, a single D-Engine awoke, sending a fresh jolt of power into the Eva’s veins, to supplement the trickle from the external source. It was a risk, yes, but she was still ‘smaller’ than many of the other targets. And with the sudden agility it afforded, she was able to duck under the white cutting beam that lunged for her, catching its back-sweep on the shield, and bursting into motion, as she relocated. Too soon, it was necessary that the engine be cut again.

She had been playing this game with it, slowing it down, letting it see a hint of her AT-Field, before fleeing its wrath. Representative Ikari had ordered her to slow it down, after all.



~'/|\'~




The replacement catapult vessel slowed, much more carefully than before, and with a commiserate lack of derailments.

[Eva 01 is in place.]

“Alignment verified... checked! Hostile core status?”

“Moving, but we have it tracked. We’re feeding the data to the Eva!”

Eva 01 was deep underground, stationed in the tunnels which they normally used to move the Evangelions to the surface, up from the Geocity ten kilometres below the surface. Now, it was a mere kilometre above the Geocity, and the shaft of the Harbinger had already passed it. These tunnels were now the frontlines where the Unit would fight, for the core moved along the full length of the obelisk. The extrusion of the Harbinger into reality was horrifically fast, unnaturally so, and seemed to show no care at all for little things like “conservation of mass”.

“Rotate... okay, microadjustments done,” the Operator whispered to Shinji. “You can start.”

The boy took a deep, deep breath, of this cold, strange-tasting LCL, and felt himself slide slightly deeper into the Eva.

Think.

Think of the shape. Form the AT-Field.

Think.

Think of everyone. Form the AT-Field.

Think.

Think of killing the Harbinger. Form the AT-Field.

Think.


The air in front of the Eva began to boil, glowing and writhing and thrashing, strange bubbles of light popping as Shinji Ikari began to force the very fabric of reality to the shape he desired.



~'/|\'~



“It’s not forming right!” Ritsuko barked. “He doesn’t have fine enough control to get it tight enough. Even with the AT-Field weakened, it won’t be a kill.”

“Just give him time,” Misato said, her hands clutched to her chest. “We trusted him enough to drag him back like this, after it almost killed him. After it did kill him. He chose to get in that thing, and I explained the risks of what he was doing.” Her face hardened. “I believe in Shinji.”

A pause.

Gendo leant forwards, pushing his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose. The overlays on the spectacles suggested that he was looking at a more detailed version of the main screen. “No,” he said, simply. “Move him to the surface. He will be closer. It will work.”

“But...” Ritsuko began. That’s suicide, was what the scientist didn’t say. “It’ll detect the AT-Field for sure, and he’ll be defenceless while trying to shape it.”

“That seems... unwise,” the Major agreed. “He’s close. He can do it.”

“You said you believed in him,” Gendo said, eyes hidden. “Then believe in him when he is on the surface, and in effective range. The Harbinger must be killed.”

Misato twirled around. “Sir,” she said, her voice utterly professional. “Prepare for Eva redeployment... Shinji, we’re going to move you closer, to try and...”

“High energy reaction in the target!”

“What?” Ritsuko snapped. “It’s seen him! It’s seen the AT-Field!”

“Emergency move!” Misato ordered, slamming one hand into a button. “Shinji! Drop that AT-Field right now! Cut all internal power to Unit 01! Get it moving!”



~'/|\'~




But on the surface, Rei Ayanami was already moving. With a flat “Internal 9,” all of the Prototype’s D-Engines kicked into full, screaming activity. Sudden power hit the Unit; power and more, because she had not ejected the external supply. A word was all that was needed to dedicate that exclusively to the weapon crudely attached to her left arm. And she was off, gloved hands fastened around the controls, pale face in a rictus of concentration, as she forced the Eva into motion, despite her poor synchronisation ratio.

“Override power lockdowns,” she said, simply. “Maximise energy consumption, autonomous weapons are free.”

Feet pounding against the ground and tearing it up, she leapt over the trench of what had once been a superheavy charge beam installation, and now was nothing more than a crater, which punched a hole in the top of a buried arcology dome. Stumbling upon landing, the white-painted Unit nonetheless managed to retain balance, even as its path led it through several apartment complexes, and it came to a sliding halt, knee drawing a line of sparks, close to the Harbinger. Its lesser weapons, the remaining missiles and rockets and laser turrets, were already firing, the blue beams visible through the dust that her motion had kicked up.

Within her plug, Rei closed her eyes, and raised the shield welded to her handless right arm, bracing for the impact that she knew would come. The plasma turret on her left arm was already firing, spewing burning sun-matter at the Harbinger. Her plug suddenly jolted down, her synch-ratio spiking before settling at a higher level.

She was not surprised by the attack. She never was. And in this case, she had gone out of her way to draw its attention.



~'/|\'~




Again, Unit 01 was kicked into too-sudden motion, heading vertically upwards. Looking down, Shinji just saw a white beam cut through the rocks, through the armour plating, through the base earth, to where he had been, seconds before, before the blast doors slammed shut, to the sound of rapidly dopplered alarms.

The boy whimpered into the LCL, one hand going to his chest despite the crushing force of the acceleration. That had been close. Far, far too close. The pain of the beams cutting into him, last time, were his only truly clear memory of the last fight.

“Shield integrity failing!”

“AT-Field weakening! Pilot attunement is dropping and destabilising, One-Two fluctuations in 3-RT channel detected!”

“Shinji! Shinji!” Misato’s face appeared before him, to the sound of hubbub in the control room. “Surface! Fire!”

“What?!” He blinked, his hand forced back to the controls. “But I...”

“Loss of external power source. Unit 00 is running on Internals.”

“You can do it! You will do it! Understand? Shinji,” the woman said, a slight dampness around the corners of her Eyes, “we’ve put everything into this. You chose to pilot. You’ve already killed two of them. Make it three for three, okay?”

Above them, the night-black crystal met the outer layers of the Geocity.

“Energy probe is attacking G1,” Lieutenant Makota yelled. “G1 is pierced! G2... G3! G3 has fallen... G4!”

“We’re all counting on you,” Misato said, finally.



~'/|\'~



The warning sirens which told of the Evangelion chute opening were useless, screaming into a night where there were none to hear it, and where they were drowned out by the conflict. But, still, the sirens sounded and the red warning lights illuminated the street, as the 50 metre cradle came up, directly facing the Harbinger. The ground around it warped and crumbled, as the AT-Field, already forming in front its chest, began to glisten and sparkle in the air.

Shinji slammed his fist into the side of the plug wall, into the red button they had installed to indicate readiness, and stared up at his foe, the overlay of the association-image merging with the Harbinger. It truly was a monster now; maybe a hundred metres wide, but reaching three kilometres into the air, and all the way down to the Geocity, with only a slight bulge at ground level showing what it had once been. It was a needle fit for the Norns to use, one through which the threads of fate might be woven.

But all that was irrelevant, because the totality of its firepower, the totality of its will was focussed on one thing. The white shape of Unit 00, was, according to his overlays, somewhere in the middle of that apocalyptic display of firepower, with only the hull plating of an all-too-feeble human ship, the kind that it might trivially slice through, between it and the terrible light.

The plume of light from Unit 01’s chest grew stronger and brighter, a cone-like shape composed of distorted, warped, and yet perfect concentric circles. Through it, things were seen warped and distorted and... other, off in ways both tangible and intangible, similar and dissimilar.

“Yes!” shouted Ritsuko. “He’s done it! It’s... it’s nearly perfect!”

And that was when the light of the Harbinger ceased, and it swelled and bulged, pulling all the darkness back into itself. The spire shrunk, grew anaemic and withered, as for once, for the last time, Mot grew fully aware of what it faced, of the death that came for it.

[Energy Reaction Detected]

[Warning! AT-Field exceeds mission parameter!]

“No!” Misato yelled. “No, damn you!”

The void-dark blossom of the Harbinger, bloated and imperfect, widened, as it drew in more of its stuff. And Shinji who, a trickle of blood leaking from his nose, was holding the AT-Field ready, saw reflected in its depths, so many lights, all aimed for him from the barbs of crystal now growing down its front.

Something shrieked.

And it was almost an entire second before Shinji realised that it wasn’t him.

Behind it, now ignored, Rei Ayanami slashed again at the Harbinger, the fused, melted remnants of the shield her weapon of choice. Like an axewoman, she beat repetitively at the base, her AT-Field flaring around the crude, improvised weapon, and with each slash, barbs of crystal came flying out, inexorable cutting at the very root of the Harbinger.

It shrieked again, a pure, beautiful note of agony, and perhaps instinctively recoiled.

That weakening was seen by the sensors on Unit 01. It was all the excuse they needed.

The LANCE prototype initiated. Hydrogen fused with hydrogen into helium, the energy released to force more such reactions. Energy equal to five hundred kilotonnes of TNT was released, radiating out on straight lines. But thanks to the AT-Field, and thanks to the cruder human sorceries layered onto the bomb, what might have seemed straight was, to the rest of the world, curved.

In a tiny fraction of a second, a nuclear blossom grew within Unit 01’s chest, within the AT-Field, before, in a perversion of nature, growing out into the stem.

And through the entry way, it hit the two Harlequin samples crudely added, to make this a wonderfully Colourful weapon.

The cone of unnatural light, five metres across by the time it reached the AT-Field of the Harbinger and still ensheathed in Unit 01’s soul, punched straight through. Punched straight through the AT-Field, punched straight through the crystal, punched straight through the core, and left cleanly through the other side.

Mot gave a noise which was not quite a shriek, and was silent for evermore.

In the silence that followed, as normal night returned, and rain began to fall from the violated clouds, the sound of Unit 00 collapsing was terribly loud.


~'/|\'~




Standing on a rooftop, on one of the few buildings intact in the area, a man laughed. Vast giggles shook his body, contorting it, as tears flowed from his face freely. His parted lips revealed shining white teeth, and one bare foot, coal-black, quite deliberately crushed the glass of wine he had dropped, letting his crimson blood mix with the spilled drink.

“Wonderful!” he screamed into the night, though laughter. “Magnificent! Simply... wonderful!”

The rain that fell burned the coruscating, phosphorescence of the Colour Out of Space.


~'/|\'~




“Rei!” Shinji yelled, at the fallen Eva. “Rei!”

The white-armoured Eva was down. Its armour, once white, was now nothing more than metal and blackened, scorched ceramic. The left arm was even more heavily damaged, and the shield which had been on the right arm, and which had seen use as a weapon, was torn off completely. Compared to that, Unit 01 seemed to be in a good state of repair, even with the hole in its chest, and the faint arcanochromatic patina of dust.

He had to get her out of there.

With force, he pried open the ruined back of the Evangelion, carefully, as if holding something young and vulnerable, cradling as he laid it down on the ground. Closer examination, though, revealed that the plug had already ruptured.

That was bad, Shinji knew.

Very bad.

Frantically, he scrabbled in the equipment pod for the facemask he needed to wear until his lungs were emptied of LCL; the one that Dr Akagi had called, with a chuckle, the Eva EVA Equipment. It snapped cleanly onto his cowl, the metamorphic material sealing itself, and it was a matter of moments to shrug on the backpack with the LCL supply; moments which, to Shinji, seemed like an eternity.

And then he was out of the Eva, ignoring the command staff completely, and running through the phosphorescent rain which streaked down his facemask, and painted the orange-tinted world in strange colours. Yes, the entry plug was ruptured, right at the end, the metal torn. Clambering onto it, he could feel the heat through the blood-slicked surfaces, but it could be tolerated. He found a hole large enough that he could bend the metal out of the way, and, yelping as it sliced through the palm of his plug suit, bent it out of the way. He didn’t even notice how the plug suit sealed itself up afterwards. Clambering through the hole, ignoring the pain in his hands from the sharp, burning-hot metal, he stared at the girl, who lay, unmoving, head slumped. LCL pooled around her legs, but she didn’t...

“Hold on!” he shouted, yanking open the equipment capsule, to retrieve her transparent mask. With much more care, he knelt beside her, and sighed into the LCL as it clicked back into position, noting as he did that he felt much more normal. Much more normal, and as if all the sleep he felt he was owed was being called in all at once.

“Ayanami! Rei? Are you... are you all right? Are you okay?” he tried again, once he saw that the air bubbles were no longer there, which meant that she was breathing the LCL properly.

Raising her head slightly, two grey eyes stared back at him, almost quizzically. And for some reason, Shinji found that incredibly funny, and began to laugh, great heaving sobs, which left him doubled up.

“Ikari? Are you all right?” Rei echoed, looking at him with something which approached concern.

“There’s... there’s more to life, to stuff, to... to everything than what is necessary,” Shinji burbled, relief and exhaustion flooding his system in equal amounts. “And... and don’t ever, ever say ‘goodbye’ like that. It’s not going to be a goodbye.” Behind the transparent mask tears leaked into the LCL, tiny spheres of saline water which quickly dispersed into the fluid. “Not... not if I... I... can...” he faded away into incoherency.

Eyes widening slightly, Rei straightened up, her head no longer lolling. “Why do you cry?” she asked, voice distorted slightly by the fluid that still filled her lungs. “You are not in pain.”

Shinji sniffed, and went to wipe his nose, only for his hand to brush against the faceplate. “I kn-know,” he managed. “I’m not crying because... because I’m sad. It’s because I’m happy.” He smiled then, a faint, watery grin. “And so should you be.”

“I should be crying?” Behind the faceplate, wide eyes blinked. “I am sorry. I don’t know how to express myself in this kind of circumstance.”

“You should be happy.” He took a teetering step forwards, as the adrenaline wore off and the bone-deep fatigue returned, leaning against the heated plug wall, and recoiling from it with a yelp. “We’re both alive, and the Harbinger isn’t, and... you were amazing, and...” he chuckled, even through the tears, “...you should smile more.”

Two grey eyes focussed on the face before them, focussed on the jaw line and the cheekbones and the shape of the face, at the way that the corners of his lips turned up and the crinkles around the corners of his eyes, comparing them to those of the boy’s father. Slowly, awkwardly, Rei’s face distorted, muscles moving in a way that they were not quite used to, and she too smiled.

With a burbling chuckle, Shinji collapsed, sagging at the knees. The exhaustion, induced by his death and rebirth, and postponed by medication and adrenaline, surged back, and the sweet nepenthe of rest took him. The LCL pooled at the bottom of the entry plug splashed with his impact, dripping back down the walls.

There was an expression of faint concern on Rei’s face, as she stared down at the sleeping boy. With a wince, the girl sat upright, and with unusual care and hesitancy, leant forwards, to stare down at him. Her lips twitched, and she smiled again, no less awkwardly than the first time, as she reached down to place one gloved hand against his cowled head.

Outside, the tainted rain, burning in terrible phosphorescence, cascaded down, running over ruined buildings and leaching the colour from them, to pool and flow in rivulets down abandoned streets. It poured in sheets off the darkness of the corpse of the Harbinger, the dark tower that now reached into the sky, bringing light to the darkness, and through the single hole punched straight through it. It dripped and ran down the two abandoned Evangelions, marking their damaged armour with streaks of grey. The world seemed to shimmer in this light, as if all things were one in this opalescent, coruscating glow.

And through the holes in the clouds, torn asunder through the violence of the conflict, the nearly-full moon shone down in whiteness upon the world, wearing a tainted rainbow as a halo.



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-02-06 06:50pm
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Chapter 13

Rei 02: And Then Silence / which in our feeble tongue would come in this like accenting

ENTELECHY




~'/|\'~




She was a very disturbed child. Terrible, dehabilitating nightmares. Hallucinations. Hysteria. She never had a chance at a normal life.

Harlan Wade
“Case Notes: Subject [REDACTED]”




~'/|\'~




3rd of October, 2091

Rei Ayanami opened her eyes, and took a deep breath.

A pause. A second breath.

Beside her, the alarm chimed, as it hit 06:00.

The girl ignored the alarm, and stared up at the blank white ceiling, untouched by the scribbled text that covered the walls. She did not blink as the artificial light of the arcology streamed in through the window.



~'/|\'~




Good morning, this is EBO 4, and this is the six o’clock News on Sunday, the third of October. You’re listening with me, Felicia Andrews, and with my co-host, Omina Ominumadeski va Garameta.”

“This morning’s headlines; the top story remains the aftereffects of the successfully repelled extra-normal incursion against London-2. Casualty figures are still coming in, but remain lower than expected, with the success in minimising attributed to the prompt evacuation. Nevertheless, the damage is widespread, with many of the surface arcologies and upper layers having suffered heavy damage. The Senator for Region 11, Japan, Kikunae Esaki, and Chair of the Committee on Urban Defence told us ‘The overall integrity of London-2 as a Fortress City remains strong, although some population relocation will be needed while repairs are made.’”

“We are waiting for a formal statement from the NEGA, and Grid communications from and to London-2 remain highly restricted. However, all the evidence suggests that hostile forces were comprehensively eradicated, with no survivors. The hostile extra-normal entity spearheading the attack appears to have been unaffiliated with the Migou, Dagonites, or the Storm, and its death should mark the end of this threat. But with this, the third attack on London-2 in a number of months, we ask; is a new front opening up in the Aeon War?”

“In other news, the Migou forces conducting a widescale offensive across the Eastern European Front have been pushed back, with minor gains for NEG forces in some regions of the counterattack. The assault, a broad push, was stopped, with minimal use of tactical ANaMiNBC weaponry, and appears to have been, according to the Army, a test of defences, called off when the hostiles were unable to find a weak spot.”

“And later in the programme, polls indicate that the popularity of the Nyanda administration has fallen slightly, down to 41%, with repeated criticisms from Unionists, that she has failed to carry through on the reforms that she ran on, while Federalist groups bemoan the latest removal of Regional rights. Meanwhile, with the discovery of new gold reserves in Africa, we take a look at how this will affect the price of your nanofactory refills.”

“Today’s newsreader; Sasany vy Harmoky.”

“Thank you. The news is dominated by the effects of the third wide-scale breaches of the defences of the British Isles, the northern part of Region 33, in as many months. The assault, however, unlike previous ones, came from the south and east, first detected at Nova Prokharov, and cutting across Region 34. Pictures have not yet been released, but official NEG releases state that the hostile ENE was a large, crystalline entity, akin to a battleship, and that moreover, it was not Migou. According to Field Marshal Jameson, of the European Triumverate, ‘The simultaneous Migou assault appears to have been a coincidence, and the ENE was observed to engage Migou forces in combat. We can reassure you that this was not, I repeat, was
not some new kind of Migou superbattleship, capable of breaking through the lines.’ Propaganda broadcasts issued by Migou-loyal forces, in contested areas support this observation, although the evidence is still under examination...”



~'/|\'~




There was a crack in the bathroom mirror, a small, hairline fracture that splintered up the side, right in the corner. Clouds of steam drifted out from the shower, condensing in the chill, the air currents suddenly made visible, and leaving streaky lines on the glass.

Certainty.

A white figure stepped out of the shower, eyes shut, water dripping off her onto the floor where it pooled. Bare feet slapped against the cold floor, as a towel was obtained, and she placed it like a shawl over her shoulders.

Rei Ayanami did not look at herself in the mirror, even though, without sight, she reached out, and touched the crack, fingers running up and down its length.

Imperfection. It is flawed, but it can still serve its purpose.

She stood before the mirror, naked. She opened her eyes, and stared into the misted surface, her expression twisting for a moment into a simulacra of a smile, before returning to normal.

But functionality does not discount imperfection.

Stepping into her slippers, which were incongruously baby-blue, and had once been fluffy, she headed through to the kitchen, littered with rubbish and discarded food boxes, to retrieve the dried cubes of protein and carbohydrates which were to be her breakfast.



~'/|\'~




Doctor Akagi was still in her office when Misato walked in. The scientist was mussed, unwashed, her hair a mess and deep bags under her eyes. Discarded mugs littered the table.

“All right,” the black haired woman asked tersely, “the last time you slept was?”

“I caught a few hours some time yesterday. About midday,” Ritsuko replied, not looking up. “And I took two hours off last night.” She paused. “I had to wait for teams to finish the damage reports on Units 01 and 02. No time to sleep, though.”

Misato’s eyebrows raised. “That’s what I came in to talk to you about,” she said, pulling up a chair, and propping her chin on the back. “Specifically the estimates.”

“Look, I can’t do anything to speed it up,” Ritsuko said, in a dead monotone. “As I have told several other people.” She sighed, slumping down to her elbows. “Unit 01 is out of operation for at least two weeks. It has a giant hole in its chest, and, in case you don’t remember, we stuck a nuclear bomb in there.”

Misato indicated that, yes, she did remember.

“A nuclear bomb with... oh, where was the exact number? Yes, of the order of ten to the five discrete wards of at least Barret-level.” She blinked, and for once turned off her harcontacts, pulling out the cable from behind her ear, as she leant back. “They caused a massive, but localised, distortion in the Weyl-Ricci-Xi tensors, and...” she shook her head, trying to explain, “they wrecked large amounts of the containment systems in the Eva. It’s going to take multiple man-years of trained sorcerers to reward... uh, that’s re-ward, not reward... and repair 01 properly, and we have to do some of them before we can let the Unit regrow.” She made a disgusted noise. “Some of those wards have been there since the thing was first built.”

“Oh.” Major Katsuragi’s mouth was a hollow circle. “I thought...”

“No, if only it was just an issue of just regrowing the flesh,” the blonde sighed. “It makes Unit 00 look easy.”

“Yeah, that makes sense. I was wondering why you were prioritising Unit 00 like that, because they don’t look that differently damaged. But...” she shook her head. “We don’t have any active Evas,” she said, softly.

“We can get you Unit 00 back online and functional, if not optimal, in 4 days,” the scientist said. “It’ll still be missing a hand, but we’re growing a new one, and most of the damage is either to the armour, or is tissue damage. We have a small surplus of the Type-A armour that the Prototype was originally fitted with, so we’re downgrading to that until we can get a proper Type-B set running. And the internal systems are fine.” She tilted her head, letting it loll back. “Well, apart from the plug damage that the Third Child did,” she added, acerbically. “I don’t know what he thought he was doing.”

Misato stared at her, blankly. “Rescuing the First Child?” she said, in a tone which was trying very hard not to suggest that her old friend was an idiot. And failing.

“Hah! Rei didn’t need rescuing!” There was something which could have been annoyance, and could have been bitterness in that voice.

“Well. He wasn’t to know that, was he?” continued Misato in the same tone of voice, before she, too, sighed. “Rits. You need sleep.”

“I know.” The blonde’s voice was quiet, as she stared down. “But I have to get these authorisations done, because we need to get military-grade nanofac access from the NEGN for the replacement hull-grade breastplates. I can sleep after that.”

She felt a hand on hers.

“I can do that,” Major Katsuragi said. “I have the authority. And the Representative is in, for anything I can’t.” She gripped her friend’s hand tighter. “I’m worried about you,” she said.

“I know.”



~'/|\'~




Removing the diagnostic sampler, Rei glanced at the reading on the digital display on the side. Carefully putting the cap back on the device, she placed it in the receptacle for medical waste she had been provided. Undoing the scrapelock on another box labelled MEDICATION TYPE-4A, she removed a white-capped syringe filled with an orange fluid, and folded back a tab of synthskin on her left arm, screwing the syringe into the port in exposed.

Her arm tightened for a moment, hand locking into a claw, and a small whimper escaping her lips, before she breathed out again. Unscrewing the now-empty syringe from the port, she put the now-red cap back on, and placed it back in the box she had removed it from. The girl took several deep breaths, and swallowed.

Raising her left hand before her, Rei stared at it, turning it over to watch dark traceries of veins and arteries exposed for a moment beneath her milky skin, before they vanished. Waggling her fingers, she stared at the way the tendons on the back of her hand contorted.

“Numbness,” she stated, out loud, to the listening, watching LAI. “Senselessness. No feeling at all.”

She let her arm fall.

“When the feelings return, it hurts. Why? Why paraesthesia? The sensation of ten thousand tiny pins violating the surface of the skin. Breaching barriers, demolishing walls. Pain. The body greets sensation with pain.”

She blinked, heavily.

“Why?”

Suddenly, she tilted her head to one side, and in a blink of an eye was upright and already halfway across the room, towards the table in the kitchen. Another blink of an eye, and she was there, motionless.

Rei Ayanami blinked again, and picked up her PCPU with her right hand.

It rang, once, before she answered it.

“Representative Ikari,” she said, her voice soft.



~'/|\'~




It was early enough in the morning in Chicago-2 that, for Ryoji Kaji, it was still late at night. And the phonecall that dragged him out of bed was very unwelcome.

“Urgh,” he grumbled, blinking in the lights which his muse had turned on to force him awake, “this better be important.”

[Call is Priority Two, Ryoji. GIA override codes are valid.]

The man let out an incoherent groan, and rubbed his eyes against his bare arm. “Answer it,” he ordered the muse. “It’s Kaji.”

The voice was far too awake for his tastes. “Agent Kaji,” a young-sounding, male Nazzadi-accented voice stated. “We’ve had one of your subjects of interest show up dead.”

The man coughed, a sudden expulsion of surprised air. “What?”

“Male, human, name of Charles Habegger. His corpse was found in a cargo container, evacuated from the Eastern European Front. Decomposed, but sealed, so there wasn’t a smell. The file says the NEGA only found the body when they did a manual inventory check?”

Kaji shook his head. “Reanimated corpse?”

“Well... um, initial check suggests that he died about a week ago, and body shows no sign of reanimation... although large amounts of the flesh have been removed, apparently with a knife.”

The man sucked in a breath. “Hmm.” It was a single, flat noise. “Well, then I’ll deal with it in the morning, unless there’s a special reason I need to be there. Is he going to get deader?” he asked. “Anything special I need to know?”

“No, nothing that requires your presence.”

“Then why was I woken?”

“Sir, you’re the one who flagged it for a Priority Two alert.” The junior agent’s voice somehow managed to convey his annoyance at superiors who set up unnecessary warnings, only to ignore them, while still staying utterly professional.

Oh yes, Kaji remembered; yes, he had. He’d meant to set it up so it was only if the man was found alive; obviously, that hadn’t been conveyed. “Well, thank you,” he said, out loud. “Receipt of message acknowledged. Goodbye.”

The line disconnected, and the agent massaged his brow. He was too tired to deal with this right now, he thought, as he ordered his muse to shut off the lights again, and lay back down.

He fell asleep to the sound of water running, elsewhere in the temporarily assigned apartment.



~'/|\'~




The board at the station was flashing up with red, as maglev after maglev reported delays and disrupted services. All of the First and Second Circle lines, the two shallowest of the maglev loops, were down, and large areas of the upper reaches of the underground city were sealed off. The platform was packed, as people waited for the next inclinator carriage, to move vertically around the city. The layered carriages ran through a network of tunnels which were the forefathers of the Evangelion launch chutes, and which, in an emergency, could be used for that function.

Rei Ayanami waved the back of her hand at the sensor, and stepped through the turnstile, followed by several bulky individuals. Her school uniform, complete with black overcoat, stood out among the mess of brightly coloured, entopic-covered shirts and clothing of the populace. The girl stood silently in the midst of the babble and noise, which washed around her, the air slightly stiller, slightly colder, and almost unconsciously, the crowd parted around her.

A small child began to cry. The noise was lost in the hubbub.

Her arrival at the edge of the platform coincided perfectly with the chime over the announcement system, warning of an oncoming inclinator. With a hum, it entered the station, rising from the depths and pulling to a halt before the barriers and carriage doors opened. The white-haired girl stepped on board, surrounded by her bodyguards, who for some reason served to dissuade this carriage from being as tightly packed as it should have been.

Rei stared into nothingness as the inclinator began to rise again, ignoring the crowd and the bodyguards alike.



~'/|\'~




The clacking of a keyboard was the only noise in the room. Fingers running over buttons, eyes flicking to his other screens filled with reference materials, Kensuke Aida typed away.

There was a flashing icon in the bottom left, alerting him to a new conversation. He opened it.

[Toja]: heya

[MegaMechaMan]: hey

[Toja]: your up early.

Kensuke squinted at the clock in the corner of one screen, rubbing his eyes.

[MegaMechaMan]: Is it morning already.

[Toja]: yh... yeah. u know that. Its’ int he corner of yur screen

[MegaMechaMan]: Someone’s making a lot of typoes today.

[Toja]: so sue me.

The brown haired boy paused, and began to type again.

[MegaMechaMan]: Dear Toja,
You are being issued with a formal summons, to face a court charge for excess types. It is held that on Sunday 3rd October, 2091, you did willfilly and deliberately do lots of typoes. I am writing on behalf of Kensuke Aida, who wants compensation equal to 500000000000000 Tn for the eye-pain incurred when reading stuff you wrote.
Yours sincerely
A. Lawyer

[Toja]: ...

[Toja]: ...

[Toja]: screw you

[MegaMechaMan]: haha

[Toja]: no, seriously. Hate you so much right wno.

[Toja]: *now

[Toja]: since youre being an arse about it

Kensuke smirked.

[MegaMechaMan]: “you’re”, not “your”

[Toja]: ...

The human boy massaged his eyes with his palms, and looked away from the screen. His windows were set to opaque, so even the artificial day-night cycle of arcology domes didn’t exist for him. Nevertheless, he did feel rather tired right now. And it seemed that his dad hadn’t made it home at all last night; Kensuke wasn’t surprised. It wasn’t as if he was ever really home, but it was worse than usual, now. Apparently there had been a bunch of bombings at some bunkers at work, at the same time as the attack, and his father was still handing the aftereffects and the fallout.

A second notification pinged up, and he opened a second conversation window.

[Zidony]: Zy haridy

[MegaMechaMan]: Hey, Taly. /Za harida/ and all that : D .

[Zidony]: So you didn’t log off at all today and yesterday at all, huh?

[MegaMechaMan]: nope

[Zidony]: thought so. Dedaka kicked me off at 2am... Queen yergusisisily is bitching about it again. She got dedaka to put in a house cutout... fuck her.

Kensuke cocked his head, and ordered his muse to pull up a fast-translate. Taly tended to sprinkle her sentences with Nazzadi words, and he wasn’t exactly fluent, at more than the ‘Hello my name is Kensuke I would like food how much would it be thank you’ level which the educational system required.

[MegaMechaMan]: och

[MegaMechaMan]: *ouch

[Zidony]: anyway. Watching the AF broadcast?

[MegaMechaMan]: AF?

[Zidony]: So no.

[Zidony]: grid.ashcroft.af.eu/live

[MegaMechaMan]: thanks.

[MegaMechaMan]: wonder what thay’ll say, cough cough.

[Zidony]: *rolles eyes*



~'/|\'~




Gloved hands resting on the desk before him, Gendo Ikari stared into the bright camera lights and the masses of journalists before him. His arglasses were mostly disabled, solely serving to shield his eyes from the glare, and he was wearing a pair of sofcontacts underneath. It would not be done to allow frame analysis to read the projections against the lens, after all. The man dismissed a slight twitch of irritation that he, of all people, was required to give this statement, and kept his expression professionally mask-like. The public relations experts had advised that it would be better for these words to come from the mouth of the European Representative, and, much as he disliked it, they were correct.

He cleared his throat.

“Ladies, gentleman,” he began. “On the 30th of September, a hostile extra-normal entity made an incursion into reality in Eastern Europe. It was assigned the designation ‘Mot’. The entity was not, from what can be discerned, of Migou, Dagonite, or Storm in origin.”

He paused, for a moment, as the journalists stirred, a slight sussuration breaking his flow.

“The hostile made its way across Europe, attacking all targets which its path bought within visible range. I can confirm reports that the Ashcroft Foundation was called in to support New Earth Government forces, with elements of the Engel Group taking a lead among mechanised units which assaulted it. In addition, upon the request of the Army, additional assets of the Engel Group were released to support the wide-front assault on Army positions on the Eastern Front, against Migou testing probes. I have been informed by the European Army Triumvirate that their assistance was of great use.”

Gendo paused, and tilted his head slightly, to the position that he knew would make the lenses almost opaque to the primary camera.

“I can also confirm reports that experimental Ashcroft prototype units were deployed to directly combat the hostile extranormal entity, due to the severity of the incursion. I cannot comment on the role played by these experimental units.”

There was no need to comment on that. Those words, those hints which played on reports that the Foundation itself had arranged, would be enough.

“The experimental units, and their precise nature remains classified. Additional information will be released in the near future.” He bowed his head slightly, letting the main camera see his eyes. “The Ashcroft Foundation finds the loss of life inflicted by the extranormal entity to be deplorable, and will be aiding the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts in London-2 to the best of its capacities.”

He inclined his head, and stood.

“That is all.”

Gendo Ikari stood up, and, to the uproar of the watching journalists, exited, stage left. He strode down the corridor, flanked by his bodyguards, as a makeup assistant ran a cloth over his face, wiping away the traces around his eyes and in the wrinkles on his face. He, eyes watering, slid the sofcontacts out, placing them in the cleaning fluid, and turned his glasses back on with a welcome sigh. Much as many people would have been surprised to find out, Gendo really hated wearing contacts. Striding down the corridor, he paused to accept a glass of water offered by one of his guards, and drank it, passing it back to the woman for it to be destroyed. A contact chimed, and he tapped the frame of the arglasses.

“It seemed to go well,” Kozo Fuyutsuki said, his picture a static logo filling the left eye. “The press are information-starved, of course, but that was always the intent. They’ll be reading to gorge themselves next week, won’t they?”

“Yes. Have you finished implementing the changes we’ll need when the Evangelion Group goes public?”

“On it.” There was a smile in the older man’s voice, as he added, “Dr Akagi will be pleased.”

“Yes. Why would she not?”

“But will you be, Gendo?” There was an added twist to these words.

“It is no longer viable for it to remain covert. It should aid in securing other assets for the Group, too, and aid our strategic visibility.”

“But that’s a mixed blessing, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

“That was rhetorical, Gendo.” A sigh. “What would Yui say?”

The elder Ikari paused in his steps, and around him, the escorting team piled up slightly, from the sudden stop. “She would understand,” was the reply. “She would agree.” Gendo straightened up, from his slight stoop, and began to walk again. “I’m heading to the surface next, as on my itinerary. Rei will be accompanying me.”

“So noted.”



~'/|\'~




The white girl was waiting for him outside, where he had told her to wait, on time.

He expected nothing less from her.

“Rei,” Gendo told her. “I will want a report from you on what you observe on this.”

“Yes, Representative Ikari.” The girl paused. “As you wish.”

The man adjusted his glasses. “Ms Egger will be with me,” he said. “Go to a different viewing section, but ensure that you observe her.”

There was no response from the girl, but she nodded, once.



~'/|\'~




In the early October sunlight, shining down from a barren blue sky, the full extent of the damage that Harbinger-5 had done to the city could be seen. Palls of ash still hung in the air, smears against the cloudless sky, and surfaces were covered in dust. Swathes of the aboveground parts of the city were simply levelled, radial lines projected from the line which Mot took to enter the city. The Victoria Arcology, already damaged in the fight against Harbinger-3, was simply missing the top third of its pyramid. And everywhere, surfaces were streaked with grey, or smeared with white, now-hardened foam, which covered the sick iridescence of the Colour-contaminated sections.

But nothing compared to the kilometre high spire that now rose into the heavens, up from the centre of the city. The blackness was now wrapped in shrouding, yes, but it was there, present, a tombstone and corpse united. The staggered perimeters of gunships and larger vessels, patrolling endlessly, were like children’s’ toys compared to its monstrosity.

“It’s astonishing, really,” said Christina Egger, the Ashcroft Representative for Research, as she stood on the viewing platform, staring out over the city. “I saw the reports from Harbingers-3 and -4, but this... this is something else. And now it’s dead.”

Gendo said nothing. His glasses were set to opaque; behind them, his eyes were on the woman, not the view, as he sat.

“You did well, Ikari,” she stated. “This is concrete proof of the value of the Evangelion Group.”

“Were the last two Harbingers not proof enough?” he asked, rhetorically.

She laughed, and flicked her head. “No. Asherah was a mess for all concerned, your good self included, and Eshmun was not sufficiently... emphatic for many. After all, the Army had managed to blow it in half.” Her expression twisted into a momentary sneer. “As if doing that to Eshmun was some great accomplishment.”

There was silence, as the viewing platform banked slightly, circling around to the still-quarantined area where Unit 00 had been damaged.

The woman cleared her throat, one hand going up to tuck back her brown hair, and she opened her mouth to speak.

“Please, sit,” Gendo said, with a nod of his head towards another chair. A smile crept onto his lips. “I’m straining my neck to look up at you.”

She shot an irritated stare at him, before smiling back, and sitting. “Thank you,” the Representative said. “How thoughtful.” She cleared her throat again. “You know the real reason I’m here,” Ms Egger said.

Representative Ikari sat back. “Yes,” he said, a single, flat word. “Evangelions.”

“Yes. The products of Project Evangelion, part of the Evangelion Group.” Hands in her lap, she tilted her head, the corners of her lips twitching up.

“You bought it up at the meeting yesterday. I didn’t not expect for you to physically visit.” That was a lie. Gendo had expected her to do this, exactly. It was the next logical step for her, in the power plays which they had engaged in since she had become Representative for Research, seven years ago, in the aftermath of Berlin-2.

“We should dispose of the masks,” the brunette said, eyes suddenly narrowed. “You know I know that you’re only using Dr Akagi as a pawn, using her objections to keep Project Evangelion away from... well, I could list the people you’d want to keep it away from, but that would take rather a lot of time. More to the point, though, I know both Miyakame and Sylveste have expressed interest in aiding. You really should get over any bitterness you might have over how the original Project... dissolved, Ikari,” she added, her voice like a barb.

There was a painful silence.

“What do you want, really?” Gendo said, voice like ice. “It is not merely the Evangelions. You have other interests.”

“I might ask you the same question. What do you want?” Her arglasses glittered blue, tinting her green-brown eyes, and her face grew slightly pink. “What I want? I want proper access to Project Evangelion. I want to see these incredibly capable combat machines mass-produced.” She let a breath out, the intensity in her voice slightly scary. “I have seen the data from the Mass Production Unit and its pilot, seen its combat performance. I want a thousand of her and a thousand Evangelions. I want to see the Migou dead and scattered and gone, I want to see the cities of the Deep Ones melted into slag and their idols cast down, I want to see the only remnants of the monsters of the Storm to be the samples we deigned to keep for research.” She sighed. “But, failing that, I want you to stop obstructing access to the Evangelions and their data so I can at least make some steps towards these goals.”

Gendo said nothing, steepling his fingers before him. “Production is continuing at the 0343 facility, in Australia,” he said, simply.

“Yes, I know that Unit 03 is being worked on, and... well, the limited assets of the Evangelion Group, compared to the cost of each Unit, really does show,” the Representative for Research replied, tartly. “But... let’s talk.” She leant forwards, propping her chin on her palms, almost as if she were infatuated, any anger which she might have shown gone. “What would be needed to recover Unit 04?”

“Ah. I wondered when you were finally going to raise that topic,” the man said, with no trace of amusement.



~'/|\'~




It was silent in the back of the car, as it descended vertically, back down one of the A-Pod vehicle shafts that ran through the city, for the movement of smaller cargos and for those with the money and influence to afford an access pass. The man was reading something on his arglasses; the pale girl was focussed on him, only moving to blink.

Finally, he turned off his glasses, and looked back at her. “Rei?” It was a simple, short syllable.

“Your assumptions were correct, Representative Ikari.”

The man’s smile held no pleasure in it. “Thank you, Rei.”

There was silence again, and Gendo sighed, and reached into a pocket, pulling out a chocolate bar, tearing open the wrapper. He snapped it in half, and offered part to the girl.

“Thank you, Representative Ikari,” she said, taking the offered section, and nibbling at it. The man popped his half into his mouth, and as the peppermint flavour washed over his tongue, he paused to think. He had just set several things into motion, yes, and he needed to be calm. Representative Egger was good at getting under his skin, too. He had first met her on a flight back from Antarctica, in 2073, and she knew enough. Morosely, he wondered if it was because he, as a happily married man, had turned her down when she had tried to hit him on him, back then, and then dismissed such a hypothesis as ridiculous, as he had every time before that such an idea had come up. Their differing priorities, ambitions, and end-goals were more than enough to explain any dislike.

Glancing back at Rei, he noted as she licked her fingers, removing the discolouration of melted chocolate from the milk-white. She caught his gaze, and her mouth twitched. “Thank you for the books you sent me, Representative Ikari,” she said. “They are interesting. Even if they are wrong in parts.”

“You have noted the errors?”

“Yes, Representative. Thank you.”

“Good girl.”

“But...” She trailed off.

“Yes, Rei?” he asked.

The girl licked her lips, a pink tongue a sudden, unusual contrast, and paused. That alone was enough for him to pay more attention to her.

“Yes?” he said, again.

“Gendo Ikari,” she said, voice softer than usual. “Shinji Ikari.” She paused, both hands clasped behind her back. “Rei Ayanami.”

The man stared at her.

“Gendo Ikari,” she repeated. “Shinji Ikari.” A blink. “Yui Ikari.”

“Your point is, Rei?” he asked, face an expressionless mask.

“A three-body system is chaotic,” she said, slightly louder. “It is deterministic, and yet you cannot predict its state at a future time.”

Gendo froze, sliding down his glasses, to look at her with his unaugmented eyes. “Does Pilot Ikari disturb you, Rei?”

She blinked. “He is known.”

“That does not answer my question.” His gaze was steady.

Rei’s flicked over his features. “He does not.”

“He is your co-pilot, and has a duty to risk his life, as do you. Do not mistake compliance with duty for anything else. You will follow my instructions for interactions with him?”

“Yes.” A blink. “It is necessary.”

“Good girl.”

There was an awkward silence, which stretched out.

“You do not wish for me to be present any more,” Rei stated.

The man nodded, with only a slight narrowing of his eyes. There was no point in lying to her.

“I apologise if I have said anything wrong, Representative Ikari.”

The rest of the journey passed in silence.

“I will have your record on my observations the next time I see you,” Rei said, as she climbed out of the car. She turned around, and walked in a straight line towards the exit from this landing area, past the parked cargo haulers, stepping between automata-driven lifters, towards the Loughborough Dome, a mid-sized dome which connected to the Fifth Circle Line, where the bodyguards were already waiting. She would be able to make her way home from there, easily.

Once she had left, the man sighed, and picked up his PCPU to schedule an appointment with Dr Akagi for the girl today. This had been flagged as a potential problem once she successfully attuned to her Evangelion, and Gendo was a proponent of solving small possible problems before they became large, real ones.



~'/|\'~




“To think, I’d only just managed to move out and get away from you lot,” Kodamy grumbled, an exasperated faint smile nonetheless still on her lips. She paused for a moment, hefting the crate in her arms slightly, before continuing onwards.

Behind her, Hikary frowned. “It’s only for a short while,” she reassured her sister. “I’m sure they’ll...”

“Hik, I’m not worried. Vaguely annoyed about the commute, yeah, but the uni’s paying for the ‘lev, so... yeah.” She groaned, shaking her head. “More pissed off about the stuff I lost, really. Well, that and the fact that Dad’s going to be putting severe cramps on my social life.” She snorted. “I can hear you disapprove, little sis.”

“I am not disapproving,” said Hikary, who in fact was doing so, quite strongly.

“Uh... okay. I believe you.”

“You’re saying that in a not-believing voice,” the pigtailed girl said, putting her own bag down with a sigh, as she massaged her fingers, and then put her left hand in place for its microchip to be read and a skin-scraping taken.

“Well, you know. I’m a medical student,” Kodamy said, with a smirk and a flick of her long black hair, as she placed her hand in. “I am, legally obliged, to get hideously drunk, cut back on sleep so I can get reports done, and have as much promiscuous sex as possible. All at the same time.” The light turned green, and the two sisters headed through.

Hikary giggled.

“Made you laugh.”

“Kodamy, you can do what you want.” The younger girl smiled. “I just think that, you know, being more upset about the effects on your social life from your halls being blown up than about your halls being blown up is kind of... odd. You knew that Dad didn’t want you taking the halls on the surface.”

“Cheaper. And not really more dangerous.”

“But they actually got destroyed!”

“Hey,” Kodamy said, looking vaguely offended. “They’re not destroyed. They’re just... like, permanently contaminated with a-chrom stuff so they have to be demolished.”

So much better.”

“I was technically correct, though,” the older girl said, with a smirk. “The best kind of correct.” She leant over, to rub her hair against her sister’s head. “Don’t tell me you were worried about me,” she added.

“Well... yes. We weren’t sure you’d evaced deep enough.” Hikary shrugged, a gesture hampered by the bags, her lips twisting slightly. “Plus, you know, Dad making me go along to help you carry the replacement stuff you had to get? That’s not fun. I was planning to do something today,” she said, archly, as they stepped through the entranceway to their housing, the gurgle of water running over the rocks, suddenly audible. “You could have waited for the nanofac to make some of these stuff, instead of getting me to carry it. I mean, did you really need...” she glanced down into the bag, “... a new bunch of cutlery?”

“I bought you the skirt, didn’t I, with my hard-earned free-money-from-the-Foundation student grant. I don’t know what else you want apart from bribery.”

Hikary snorted. “A good point, well made.” She noticed her younger sister sitting on a bench reading, her white hair a veil hanging over her face. An orb of white light was floating over her shoulder, orientated down towards the text. “Nozomy,” she called out. “Come help, would you please?”

“I’m reading!” her little sister called back, not even looking up.

“I don’t care. I had to go help Kodamy carry all this from Blackstone Dome, and the ‘levs are a nightmare. You can help at least a little bit.”

Fine!” the 13-year old snapped, slamming her reader down, and letting the light disperse.

“Don’t do that!”

“Oh, so you don’t want me to help,” Nozomy said, sulkily. “Why’d you bother, then?”

“No, don’t treat your reader like that.” Hikary took a breath. “You know very much what I meant, and... really, is a little bit of helping bad?”

“’You could have done it in the time you spent mucking around and delaying’,” the sidocy said, deliberately mimicking her sister’s tone.

“That’s my line. So, please, Nozomy, help. Or I’ll tell Dad.”

“There’s no need to be so bossy all the time!”

“I’m not bossy! You just don’t do anything to help around the house!”

Kodamy left out a breath, and glanced around the garden-space, an inner courtyard around which their house wrapped, which bloomed with exotic and genemodded plants. “Ah, family,” she said, loudly. “I never knew how so very much I’d miss it until it wasn’t around any more.”



~'/|\'~




And once again, Shinji Ikari was staring up at the ceiling of the hospital. It was getting remarkably familiar. The idea that he just move in here permanently had occurred to him. To the extent that he had also suggested it to Misato, when she had come to both congratulate and apologise to him; that had prompted a weak chuckle. That was not to say that Misato had not been his only visitor, of course. There had been plenty of appearances from medical staff and his assigned psychiatrist, and there had been questioning about how it had felt to be clinically dead. When he had told them all he could remember, it had been explained that randomly firing neurones produced anomalous images, which, combined with a precipitous fall in core temperature and that he had been immersed in LCL, explained everything. In his opinion, that had been a little lacking in sympathy. But he hadn’t wanted to say anything, so hadn’t.

His father had not visited. Shinji had not seen him, even through the observation window.

Now, though, it was quiet. The testing and the questioning and the prodding and the examination were complete, and he was merely being left to rest, to rebuild his strength, and overcome...something which Dr Akagi had ‘explained’ with a long sequence of polysyllabic, frequently hyphenated words, but which seemed to be a side effect of spending time clinically dead, and the sorcery and technology used to get his heart beating again. If anything, it was merely boring.

In all honesty, Shinji felt that he deserved a surplus of boredom, after the interesting times, in the Chinese sense, he had been through recently.

And it was not as if this weakness was unfamiliar to the boy. It was the same exhaustion, the same bone-deep fatigue as he had suffered after the Harbinger-3 incident. And that merely reminded Shinji that he still didn’t know, couldn’t remember exactly what had happened that first time.

Muscles aching, he propped himself up in the bed a little more, and continued to make notes from the history textbook he had open on his reader in front of him, trying to catch up on work. This was not helping his boredom. Who cared about the 1946-1992 period, really? The Second Cold War was much more interesting than the First, and everything in the First Cold War was so... dull. Dull and tired and hard to undertstand and... Shinji yawned. He felt his eyelids droop, and forced them open again.

The chime of a call came as a welcome relief. He put the pen back on the workdesk which was built into the bed, and dragged the call onto the screen. His face broke into a smile when he saw who it was.

“Yuki! Gany! Hikary! Haruhy,” he said, in Japanese. “I’m... it’s so good to see you.”

There was the customary pause, as one excitable six-year old girl, and one very excitable six year old girl said their hellos to their foster brother.

“... and we’re missing you so, so, so much,” Haruhy concluded, the amlaty’s lavender eyes wide. “When are you coming back, Shinji?”

“We’ve been trying for days to contact you,” Yuki added, her eyes alert and intent on him. “The contact lines have only just opened back to London-2, and...”

Shinji nodded. “Yes.” He coughed. “Um... before I say anything else, I’d just like to say that there is nothing really wrong with me and it’s fine and...”

“... there’s something wrong with you?” Gany asked, suddenly suspicious.

Shinji’s heart twisted. “It’s the same thing as I had before,” he lied. “Some kind of thing where I’m all tired and have no energy. Nothing to do with anything that’s happening in London-2 right now.” He just had to stick to the story that the Ashcroft people had told him to tell people. It was easy, simple, and there was evidence to support it. It wouldn’t distress them, and it also meant that they wouldn’t be questioned because of the leak of classified information, which was always a plus.

If only it didn’t involve lying to the only permanent family he’d ever really had.

“Are ua being sick?” Hikary asked with undue enthusiasm.

“No, I’m not being...”

“Have you got such a temperature that you’re actually catching fire and then running around burning and screaming because you’re on fire because your temperature is too high?”

Shinji blinked at that. “Um. No.” He blinked again. “I mean, do I look like I’m on fire?” he said, weakly.

“Well, maybe ua got better. Did you know that soli giantumonsteri attacked Londoni-twi?”

Gany placed one hand on her daughter’s head, and carefully messed up her short, almost boyish hair. The little girl immediately let out a shriek, and began scrabbling to get in back into place. “Hikary, stop harassing Shinji,” she said, with a smile which didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I’m sure he must be fine. I mean, he wouldn’t lie to us about that,” she added, with a clinical stare.

And as a medical sorceress, specialising in arcanotherapy, she knew clinical stares. Shinji squirmed under it.

Yuki smiled at her wife, and then glanced down at her more-excitable daughter. “Yes, Hikary, calm down. I know you’ve been missing him, but you’re mixing up your languages.”

“Pah! But, no, really. What about the big monster-thing? I wanna know!”

Shinji winced. “I don’t really know myself,” he said. “There hasn’t really been information getting to normal people,either.

“See, Hikary,” Yuki said, nudging her daughter. “I told you that he wouldn’t know.”

“But he’s Shinji! He knows lots of things. Get better soon, Shinji!”

The boy smiled; an expression tainted by nostalgia. Less than two months ago, this had been all that he had to worry about; normal, simple life. And then the letter had come and he had been dragged off to London-2 and almost been trodden on and then almost been nuked and then had to fight a giant monster and... he took a mental breath, and cursed his father, and then...

There was a knock at his door. He looked up from the screen for a moment. “Come in,” he said, idly, before realising that he’d said it in Japanese. He repeated it in English.

The door slid open with a hiss. A pale figure dressed in a school uniform stood by the entrance, satchel clasped in both hands.

Shinji blinked heavily. He had not expected Rei to turn up at any time. “Hello,” he said.

“Shinji? Who is it?” asked Yuki.

“Oh. She’s... it’s Rei. She’s... someone I know from school.”

The woman smiled. “Aww. She’s showing up because you’re ill. That’s sweet.” The look on her face was rather dirty as she added, “So, have you had any success?”

Gany elbowed her. “Yuki,” she hissed. “Don’t pressurise him like that.”

“I’m not pressurising him. I just think it’s nice that he has a girl visiting him when he’s in hospital.”

Shinji shook his head slightly. “It’s...” He trailed off. It wasn’t as if he would object to it; she certainly was attractive, but... she was Rei. She’d saved his life, he’d used that to kill the Harbinger. How was he meant to explain something like that to them, when he couldn’t even say the word ‘Evangelion’ to them? Couldn’t say it; probably wasn’t even meant to think it too loudly.

“See,” Yuki said, smugly.

The boy looked up, from the embarrassing spectacle of his foster mothers teasing him about what they saw as romance, to face the girl... who he had seen naked... and on whose breast he had accidentally left a handprint maybe-bruise.

Wait. Maybe that wasn’t such a good idea.

She hadn’t moved.

“What is it, Rei?” he asked.

Her face twitched into a brief, forced smile, a flicker of an expression, before it returned to its normal passivity. “Test Pilot Ikari,” she said.

His eyes widened. “There’s no need to call me by my surname,” he said, hastily. “I’m just talking to my foster mothers, not with the doctors or anything.”

“Test Pilot Shinji?”

“No... just, Shinji. Please.” He forced a smile. “Rei, why are you here?”

The girl blinked, but did not move.

“Rei?”

“I bought you a book,” she said, the words coming out in one staccato burst. “You are bored in hospital.”

“Oh.” He looked around the room, eyes skipping from object to object, before jumping back to her. “Thank you. But... um... you didn’t need to go to this effort and come all the way down here. You could have just sent it to me, and then called me. But... um... thank you.”

“I could not send it. It is a paper book.” She tilted her head. “And I had a medical check-up scheduled. I was only inconvenienced slightly.” She reached into her bag, and bought it out, stepping over to his bedside, into view of the camera, to place it on the workdesk that lay across his lap.

Shinji turned it around, and picked it up, scanning the title, and flipping over to run down the blurb. It was written in the old-style alphabet, before the phonemic structure of Reformed English was implemented, but he could still read that, albeit slower.

“The presence of the word ‘Children’ in the title does not mean it is a training manual, even for desert operations,” said Rei, suddenly. “It is fiction. The events within did not happen.”

Shinji snorted. “I think I picked that up from the blurb and the...”

“Also, it is not a proscribed book. I checked, and you are cleared for it,” she added. “It was written before bholes or dholes became common knowledge. Any resemblance is a coincidence.”

The brown-haired boy nodded. “Thank you,” he said, for lack of anything else to say. He coughed again, and cleared his thoughts. “Yuki, Gany,” he said, checking with a glance that she was on camera, “...um, this is Rei. She’s... someone I know from school.”

He glanced back down to the screen, and flinched slightly at his foster mothers’ expressions. Yuki, her eyes wide, mouth open. Gany, her face rigidly blank.

The two little girls, of course, didn’t seem to be acting oddly at all.

Haruhy pulled a face. “You know a sidocy, Shinji?” the little amlaty asked.

“It’s not like they’re way uncommon,” Hikary interjected. “I mean, I know Barana’s older brother’s one, right?”

“Girls. Don’t stare,” Gany said, face still blank. “It’s nice to meet you, Rei...” she left the words hanging, as an implicit question.

Rei blinked at her, and turned back to Shinji. “I have bought you a book,” she said. “Read it. I must go to my appointment. I must not be late.”

“Yes,” the boy said. “Um. Thank you, again.”

Her face twitched, into another forced, flickering attempt at a smile. “Sorry. This was not necessary,” she said, before turning on her heel and walking out.

“Sorry?” the boy asked, almost to himself.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-08-21 09:42pm
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Chapter 14

Archives I / how frail to that large utterance of the early Gods!

AEON




~’/|\’~




“Let us speak of the self-defence mechanisms that human societies appear to have developed throughout the ages. Let us speak of the allegations of ‘witch’, of the contempt for the insane and the abhorrence of those ‘who know too much’, of the countless inquisitions and of the fits of paranoia and suspicion that have hit every past society. Let us, in fact, talk of the delineation between ‘barbarians’, where all things are earned by one’s own deeds and through one’s own will, and ‘tribals’, where all things which are not mandatory are forbidden.

I propose that, soon, mankind will cease to be tribal, and revert to barbarism once again.”

Luru Parz
“Es gibt eine Klinge in den Mittelpunkt der Welt hingewiesen: ein Essay”, 1912




~’/|\’~




I. The Loss of Ignorance

I write these words from my hospital bed, surrounded by cold, sterile whiteness. The chill smell of antiseptics permeates past even the tube that the nurses, who control this place, have inserted into my nostrils. I think back to my youth, to my childhood, and lament that I have fallen so far, to be constrained here against my will, in what they claim to be my infirmity and dotage. They claim such things, yes, they claim that the dementia has stolen my cognition, but I know the truth, and so I must set it to paper, even though it pains me greatly that such knowledge be permitted to exist. I do not wish it to be so, and yet it must, because it is better than the alternatives. Men, and now women, of science dive blindly into the incoherent chaos which is all that surrounds us, and they babble tales about things which I have wisely feared all my life, publish them in scientific papers and talk of ‘reality-states’ when they should be more afeared of that which will come. Hence, I must write this, and allow this cursed knowledge which I never truly sought but which was forced upon me by events, to spread, and infect others, like a disease of the mind.

And in this, I am aided by the lies that the doctors tell the nurses, for they believe that I am crazy, that my mind is softening due to causes internal. I let them believe that, for I am smarter than them, smarter than they will ever be, and so the occasional action which encourages their delusions is best for me.

But in this, I grow distracted, for I must tell my tale, and there is only so much time that I have left. It is for this reason that I begin my tale where it must, at the beginning, where I gained my first, truly unwelcome sight into the darker truths of the cosmos, and where the tales that I had so fancily read in books suddenly took on a new, horrific tone.

It was the summer of 1922, and I was a young man in Berlin. I was enjoying the first, bright spring of my own days, and in truth I had a reason to be joyous, for I was engaged. I had been too young to be conscripted in the Great War, the so-called ‘War to End All Wars’, and my family, a respectable family of bankers, had been wealthy enough that the worst elements of the Allied blockade had not subjected me to the famine and suffering that so many of my countrymen had been afflicted with. I, myself, was at university, and I filled my days with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Proust alike, while my nights were filled with the regrowing pleasures of our capital. The worst of the violence between the Communists and the Freikorps had long since passed, and once again civilisation grew strong, the dark days of seasons past long gone.

Or so I believed at the time. Time alone showed me as a fool in the eyes of the rest of the world within two short decades. But such human foolishness is nothing compared to what I know now, which would drive the masses mad if they knew, and the learning, the gaining of this knowledge began with that summer. It is for this reason that since that night, I have not smoked, and indeed the taste and texture of tobacco smoke leaves me choking, the inside of my mouth rebelling against the noxious fumes. I am pleased when the nausea inevitably comes, for the honest taste of bile, which is merely a sign of the body’s displeasure, is far better for me that the lurking, perfumed odour which the burning of those hateful leaves produces.

At the time, as a yet-unmarried man, away from my parents, I took private accommodation. To reduce costs incurred to me, as well as to spread the burden of cleaning and cooking – which, as a young man, was not my preferred activity – I had looked for fellows of the university to lodge with, and so I had found three more gentlemen, of similar age and background, and together we rented a house half-an-hour’s walk away from the place of study. Although I could have afforded a more pleasant lodging, I did not, for my parents had taught me the value of money. As a result, the house was somewhat bare, and in times of inclement weather, the roof above my attic study leaked. One might ask why I had chosen that room, and, in truth, in winters so did I, but it was now summer, and that season bought a pleasant cool breeze through the large, southerly-facing window, catching the light from sunrise to sunset, which was most pleasing.

I pause now, for a moment, to remember the names and faces of the other men I lived with. It is funny how the human memory works, for although there are so many things I long to forget, their faces have become nothing more than sketches, pencil lines drawn on paper now yellowed and translucent from age. Perhaps it is better that way. Who knows? Not I, for sure. But I still digress, for perhaps I am seeking, unconsciously, to avoid telling this tale.

The bedroom at the back of the house was taken by Wilhelm, a tall, blond man, strong of feature and face, and the one next to it was Pieter, who must have had some ancestry from the south, for he showed the strong nose and olive skin of the Romans, despite the fact that his family was from Hamburg, and had lived there for the last four generations. The two of them were artistic indeed, and I was often invited to the theatrical productions that the two of them would involve themselves in their free time, along with my fiancé. She grew to like them greatly, and indeed introduced them to some of her friends, but Wilhelm in particular seemed to have no luck with love, and remained a bachelor for the rest of his life. Still, the two of them were pleasant, cheerful, and I was pleased to call them my friends.

The man in the north-facing bedroom, though; Paul Brandt, was a rather different matter. Short, he was, with shifty, pale features, and a slight twitch in his left eyebrow. He was adverse to society, and rejected many attempts by myself and the other two to get him to socialise with us. Then again, he was a medicine student, and they always kept to themselves, never willing to truly associate with the rest of us at the university. The man was up all times of the night, and the light from under his door was always seemingly on when I woke in the small hours. Nevertheless, after several months, even he opened up a bit, and then I found his inner self. The man was one of the most widely read individuals I had ever met, fluent in all kinds of archaic German, Latin, Arabic, and even the tongues of the Orient, and his room was filled with texts both new and old, hand-written annotations packing the margins. Under his guidance, I delved into the history of our nation, looking past before the reunification under Bismarck to the disparates before then and back, further back, to the Romans and the barbaric tribes who dwelt there before the coming of civilisation, who worshipped strange, dark gods, at whom the two of us together sneered in our arrogance.

But one could not stay within darkened hallways forever, and I had no desire to. Strolls through the warm summer nights of Berlin were always pleasant, whether I was with my beloved or not, and I took the occasion as frequently as I could, for I felt that the summer was always too short compared to the autumn and winter, which always left me with a thin veil of black melancholy if I could not see the sun or get out into the fresh air for too long. On that fateful night, I was returning from the amateur production of some play which I now cannot remember, when I found that I had managed, somehow, in the late-evening light, to get myself turned around. Despite how I looked around, I could not tell where I was, and that in itself perplexed me, because I had gained familiarity with the area. The search of a few minutes revealed that I had left the theatre the wrong way, and evidently I had not been paying enough attention, something which was not aided by the drink or two that I might have imbibed with Wilhelm and Pieter before I had left their company, and they had gone for further merriment.

Nevertheless, it was, as I had said, pleasant, and I felt that there was no need to hurry home. This area of Berlin looked elderly, the houses rich, although somewhat degraded, as if they had not been repaired since before the Great War, and so I did not take the most direct route that I could have. Indeed, I could tell that I was entering the older parts of the city, from the way that the height of the buildings rose even as the streets narrowed, and I paused for a moment, as I heard from above, from some upstairs garret, the rich, deep melody of what seemed like a cello. By that point, I was in a sated mood, and so I slowed down further, peering in through the barred and often shuttered windows of the townhouses, curious as to what this place of the city was like.

Indeed, I did find another public house, and, because I had worked up a thirst from the exercise, I went inside, to quench it. It was only as I left, almost an hour later, into the premature twilight caused by the narrow streets which were still lit by elderly gas-lamps, when I realised that I had no idea where I was. A hurried conversation with the serving-girl behind the bar remedied this, however, and so I set off, following the somewhat slurred directions she gave me and assured me was the fastest route, heading deeper into the older parts of the city.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I merely, in my inebriated state, managed to get even further lost. And by that point, as night fell, I was beginning to get alarmed, for what in twilight sun had seemed to be pleasant and quaint, now seemed to bring to mind the worst visions of medieval thieves, which this area had most probably seen in the time that the stones had stood.

It was then that I found the church. Ancient, it was, ancient beyond even the surrounding buildings, for its ivy-covered spire predated the Gothic and the Baroque and looked, shockingly, to even have some of the brutish style of the post-Roman savages in its most base supports, though that was a ridiculous idea. I would like to say that I shivered upon seeing it, as a premonition of what was within, but, in truth, the only shiver came from the wind, channelled between the narrow buildings.

I do not know what came over me. I believe that it could only have been the beer talking, for I decided that the best way to find out where I was could only be to climb the bell-tower, for it reached above the houses, and from there I might be able to see some other landmark which could be used to guide my way home, or, at the very least, to get out of this ancient place and back into the modern, electric-lit Berlin which I knew.

The metal gate creaked as rusty hinges protested at their movement, and I stepped into the graveyard which surrounded the house of God. There was a nasty, damp swampy smell to the ground around here, and I realised that the buildings that surrounded the graveyard on all sides would be enough to block the light of the sun for much of the day, leaving the foetid humours of the soil to fester. Certainly, the acrid scent of juniper, from the thin, spindly trees that were planted around the surrounding wall, was a welcome relief from the marsh-like odour, and I tried not to think of the condition that the corpses interred in this place would be in, drowned after their death. I paused for a moment, to wonder why they had chosen to build a church here, because I shook my head, as the fact that the main building appeared to predate the surrounding houses came to mind. In all probability, this had once been the village church of some smaller settlement, long ago subsumed by Berlin.

Though I was a rational man, this was far too stereotypically sinister for me to feel entirely comfortable in myself, and, perhaps buoyed up by the liquor, I stepped promptly towards the main building. The gravestones were themselves tall and somewhat ornate, and I made a note to myself that it would be an interesting day’s excursion to maybe make a more detailed examination of them, to find out the history of this place, but it was not to be done now. Much as I am loathe to admit it, I was almost running by the time I reached the aged oak door that led into the chapel, and I stepped through the smaller door-in-a-door with relief. The interior of the church itself was a far less real source of macabre imaginings, for it was as modern as any other old church, with gas lamps and candle-stands casting light, as well as scattered bundles of candles. I took one, fumbling in my pocket for a coin to toss into the donations box, and lit it. Although the light was dim, it was somehow very reassuring, and I proceeded with more confidence further into the edifice.

It was a steep climb to the top of the church tower, and several times I did ask myself why in the name of God I was doing this, in this abnormal church thick with ivy which crept over its surface like the hands of some lecherous priest, caressing the stone with its invasive roots. But then I reminded myself that I was lost, late at night, in an area of Berlin I was not familiar with, and that I was merely doing this to get to a high point, so that I could get my bearings outside the warren of older buildings within which I was trapped. I would try to see if I could find where I was from up here, see if I could recognise any other spires, and, failing that, I would merely try to find some public house or the like which remained open at this hour, and, if I could not get coherent directions of them, attempt to get a room for the night. And, indeed, when I got to the top, and had rested for a good few minutes, for I was exhausted and still somewhat inebriated, I could see the domes of the Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church over to my right, rising above the lesser architecture, and that itself told me that I had wandered far further than I had thought. Nevertheless, I resolved that I would head in its direction, for I knew that from there, I could get a night bus towards my home, and at the very least, I would not be in these squalid, dark, under-populated streets, which I was sure was an improvement.

That was not to be. As I descended the steep stairs again, I could hear voices from below, male and female alike, and a sudden feeling of shame hit me, as I realised that I had wandered into this church without warning or precaution, making no attempt to find if it was occupied. Skulking in the shadows, I vowed that it would be easier all around if I could leave this place without being seen, because I did not wish to face the embarrassment of having to face the priest, especially in my tired and emotional condition.

Fast of mind, I blew out the candle, snuffing out the light which could have been used to locate me, and looked around, and slunk behind a rood screen, the aged cloth faded and tattered by the infirmities of age. Nevertheless, I lurked there, moderately safe in the conviction that I would not be found by whosoever would look for me casually. And this suddenly became something of the utmost importance to me, because I heard the heavy clank of the great old door at the front of the church closing, and, more than that, I heard the grinding of the rusty iron bar which sealed that portal.

Now, insofar as I knew, I was trapped in here, and animalistic panic gripped me, the fear of any small animal suddenly stuck in a situation which it had not expected or desired, and in such a state I froze rather than fled, my muscles seemingly disobedient and possessing a mind of their own. No matter how hard I willed them to flee, to escape, to leap through a stained-glass window in a flight most dramatic, or more sensible to search for some other way out, I could not do so. Indeed, my mind first leapt to the idea that I should conceal myself in the spire once again, and I must confess that I was tempted, for it was unlike that whoever was here would head up to such a high place, but I had snuffed my candle, and some rational part of my mind told my most stridently that I imperilled my life by making such a climb in the pitch dark, for, indeed, without a candle, I would be climbing stone worn down and smoothed by uncounted footsteps of others before me, and that seemed to me to be too dangerous to countenance. Hence, I chose to stay concealed down here, for the rational mind also raised a most Pandoran spark of curiosity in me, and I wished to see what was happening, for it might just merely be a normal church meet, but the gothic strangeness of the grounds had drawn my interest, and my mind was whispering dark tales of mystery to me.

God! That I had ignored that part, and simply risked the stairs! I can only assume, looking back, that I was more inebriated by the copious amounts of liquor than I knew. But I stayed, and I watched, and so I saw the collection of men and women, their clothes all too normal for the modern inhabitants of Berlin, but they wore masks the colour of bone, strange and loathsome, and terribly akin to some grotesquery worn by the apothecaries and bonesawers who, in their ignorance, believed that such garb would save them from the many plagues of the barbaric medieval times. They made their voices echo strangely, in a way which I can still recall to this day, a susurration and rattle accompanying every word that they spoke. I could see no sign of faces, nothing of skin or eyes under the face-shrouding masques and hats and cowls, and I shuddered, because it is a principle well known that the face and the eyes are the windows of the soul, and to conceal the face, especially with such dress, is to remove the traces of humanity to a viewer.

And yet they chatted casually. That was the thing. Despite the twisted aberration of their enunciation and garb, they chatted about the weather and how they were feeling, all the time while they appeared to emplace some strange iron contraptions, long and crude and rusty, with multiple thin stands propping up a centre ellipsoid, like some disgusting and ugly piece of modernist art; all lines and corners and angles and blockiness, with no regards for the more refined tastes which are clearly acknowledge to be the superior aesthetic choice. I recognised the censers which hung like gaudy, gold-coated baubles from the crowned oval at the centre, for they were marked with the cross of the Lord, and I was disquieted, for such an ugly thing to be bought into a church of this antiquity was distasteful indeed. Still, if the local congregation wished to do such things, then I was no man to stop them, and had no desire to, as by this point my upmost desire was for my own bed, where I could rest, dreamless and quiescent.

Such thoughts were shaken from my head, though, when two individuals in the crowd removed their clothing, and the man and woman who had done so stood naked before their fellows. Before my readers get unduly excited, though, I must dwell on the grotesqueries of real human flesh. It is pale, and flabby and malformed. It bends and curves and sags and wobbles and moves without the will of the possessor. Where limpid, lank hair does not sit, then engorged veins bulge and flex as it moves. The two who removed their clothing were no film stars, no beautiful people tempting and arousing, and in truth, had I not been shocked and appalled by this action in a house of God, especially one so ancient, and had found a new wave of wakefulness that fought off sleep from new, sudden, unsuspecting fear and confusion; if it had not been so, I would have stood, and asked them to don their garbs once more. The man especially was aged and wrinkled, lines of scar-paled flesh criss-crossing his upper arms and a long, curving one on his abdomen which I can still recall to the day, but the woman was grotesquely obese. It was not the obesity which comes with the primal fecundity of the idols of primitive tribes which cavort and roll around their crude fetishes; no, it was morbid, and vile, the fat of the decadent and the self-indulgent, which show their own body as little regard as they do the common decencies of society.

These two, one thin and cadaverous and scarred, the other bloated and bulging and morbid, lit the censer, and my nostrils flared, as I smelt the pungent, scented odour of what to me seemed to be cheap commercial tobacco, the kind that anyone might purchase in your common corner shop, or bulk buy from the traders in the markets of Berlin. It was true that there were other things in there, yes, a certain acrid scent of rubberised fabric which made me feel light in the head, the incense of the church that their deeds were profaning, a hint of metal, and certain things which I now recognise to be used by various superstition group in the Americas as a way of communing with the tribal gods, who are their ancestors, and who they believe watch over them, interceding with greater deities.

“Hail to He who Dwells Outside the Angles of Time,” cried the man, and I recoiled in shock, for I knew that name. Some of the elder texts I had read with my friend, not least the Daemonolatria of Remigius, printed in Lyons in 1595, had mentioned it, in some of the more obscure passages. It was said to be an unnatural, spindly thing, more akin to a sketch in the air than anything concrete or mundane, worshipped as the father of the blasphemous spider-god of the Indies, Atlach-Nacha. Fortunately, I held my breath, and did not make a sound, for I feared to be heard, for I had heard lurid, trashy tales, not worth the paper they were printed on, of groups that met in places such as this, and though I did not care much for such grotesque absurdity, nevertheless I felt ill at ease at the idea that I might be in a real-life story of that kind.

“Hail to Him!” the voices of the gatherers called back, and I shuddered, for there were patterns of intonation and pronunciation which were far too similar to me. There were those among this gathering who, I was sure, would normally have been seen in more reputable environs, and who merely journeyed to the place of the old city for this; and I, a poor, drunken student was hidden in their midst. They would not appreciate my presence; that much was sure to me, and that was the last straw for any chance for me to confess that I was here. A braver man than I would have run away, fled far from this damned church and its foetid graveyard, but I was not a brave enough man to flee, and so I stayed, hidden, because I feared discovery too much.

Long I stayed hidden, and too much did I hear and too much did I see, for my insatiable, sick curiosity would not permit me to turn away. They spoke further, of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, whose influence on the world waxes and wanes like the moon, and like the cycles of life from winter to summer and back again. They spoke of one who they only called The Beast, but whose description brought to mind certain passages found in the grave goods of the pharaoh Seth-Peribsen, and at that my blood ran cold. And then the names came fast and quick; Kuash-Seargh who seals all gates, Hermes Trismegistus, child of the mating of Hermes and Thoth and father of the dark priest Imhotep, and of the Queen of Eyes and the Blinded Scion, who wait for us at the end of everything. And as the lights burned low, the talk changed to Glaaki, to Remiel and Barakiel, who they claimed were twin gods, merely appropriated by the Christians, who would dance and prance through ten thousand years of history entwined together, to Yaun’ghe and Tssuggothia, to Juses and Zummofon. The acrid smoke they burned filled by lungs, and once or twice a forced cough left my lips, but fortunately they too were choking on the perfumed haze, and my slips went unheard. And although my eyes grew tired I could not sleep, for their droning voices bore into me, and moreover if I slept, I might make a noise which would be heard, and that, that for certain I could not permit.



~’/|\’~




II. The Darkest of Dreams

And yet, the sleep claimed me, and though I long to claim that it granted me the sweet taste of Lethe, in truth the night has only ever since permitted me to sup from the Cocytus and the Acheron. I found myself, all of a sudden, standing in a street that I had not seen before. And, furthermore, not only was it not any of the streets of the Berlin I knew (and I was well enlightened of those streets by now), but it was unlike any street I knew.

Above me, from horizon to horizon, the sky was striated in void darkness and brilliant light, and the air felt humid, as if a storm was soon approaching, the gritty taste of tin crawling along my tongue. The figures that surrounded me, though, were seemingly uncaring of this ungodly weather, and though I tried to take in the sights around me, I was swept along in the crowd, carried from place to place by the unyielding swarm, and I could no more stop them than I could turn back the passage of the tides.

I must slow down here, for this lies many decades in the past, and I must record every detail that I can.

First, I shall speak of the city. I had seen Berlin, growing again after the end of the War, and it was fair indeed. I had seen Paris the beautiful, and Rome the ancient, and London the mercantile. But all of those cities, mighty places, were as nothing to the vast spires of stone and glass and steel and other, stranger things, that reached up and up, putting even the skyscrapers which the Americans are so proud of to uttermost shame. The geometries of the city were familiar, yet alien; although the fascination of the modernists with the lectures of Euclid and brute functionality was retained, they appeared to be old, and the newer structures, made of something which was not glass, and which shone like diamond in the strange light, were curving. In between these spires were vast ziggurats and pyramids, which put any accomplishment of Babylon or Egypt in the shade. God, they must have stretched half a kilometre or more into the air, more akin to a mountain than anything built by the hands of man!

The sky, as I have already mentioned was patterned, unreal, without a trace of blue in its white and black, painted onto the heavens and marred only by the wisps of grey which blurred the two opposites together, but the strangeness of the atmosphere was a lesser draw of my attention. Instead, the things that hung in the air, impious spires of Stygian metal and lucreous gold which could only be strange, alien temples, speck after speck of smaller things in near-constant lines and links drawing geomantic diagrams against the altered sky, and things that flapped and squawked and roared against the raucous noise of this titanic city, the calling of the beasts barely audible. At first I thought they may have been birds, but no birds could be that large, could ever be that size no matter what the discoveries of archaeologists might say, and still fly. The way that they clawed through the air was grotesquely similar to the ungainly, graceless flight of the flying rodents men call bats, and there was something shockingly reminiscent about their posture and shape that I dared not place for subconscious fear of what it was.

And the people, who packed the boulevards and alleys alike in countless numbers? They were a disparate sort, I thought, at first; Germanic and Mediterranean blood mixed with swarthy Arabs, hulking African sorts, and the teeming hordes of the Orient. But then I began to notice the oddities; men and women who seemed to be afflicted by an odd illness, healthy skin that was tinged with a nauseating grey, which made them look like they were in the last stages of some wasting illness. Perhaps, I thought, the city was afflicted with such a plague, and I cried out, in warning, before I realised the foolishness of such a deed, and instead removed my jacket, to warn against any aerosol transmission that might occur. But none listened, and none stared at me, and as I was pushed from place to place, I instead saw that demons lurked among these people, skin like the uttermost depths of the darkest night, with eyes that reflected the lights like an owl’s, reflected in the burning torches that some of them carried, and I grew afraid. What degeneracy had happened in this place, I asked myself, and resolved that I not be caught as one not used to their customs, for, in a way, I still remembered the terrified concealment from the cavorting cultists, and was determined not to repeat it.

Round and round I was swept, and I grew sick of being battered by the random wanderings of this great crowd, grew sick of the blows to my stomach and back from inopportune elbows, so, with effort, I divested myself of the masses, and left them to their fruitless wanderings. It was quieter away from the great boulevards of this terrible city, and I could breathe, and wander. There was text flowing along the walls, like leaves in a current, and I reached out to touch it. Imagine my surprise when I saw no light on my raised hand, as there would be if there were cunningly concealed cinematographists’ booths, and felt nothing but smoothed glass underneath. And their text was unfamiliar, strange; I saw hints of the Roman alphabet, but there were new and unreadable symbols, and I could not comprehend what any of the words said.

Wander I did, for what felt for hours, before I paused for rest, and while there, succumbed to curiosity, despite my fear. Adjusting my clothing, and smoothing down my hair, I approached a woman stood on a street corner, clad in a mantle the colour of snow, and I asked her what was happening, for I was new to this city and unfamiliar with their customs.

“We wait for our god, and her consort,” said the woman, twitching her cloak and at that point I realised that she wore nothing under the garment. “They will come and they will consummate our glory, and we shall consummate theirs.”

I longed to ask her what god they spoke of, but my resolve to not be found out was strong, and so I held my tongue. Nevertheless, dark thoughts of the non-Roman gods of Germania and the horrors which I had read that pagan witches conducted in the Black Forest momentarily flashed through my find; tales of Tan, and the foul naked rites conducted by witch-women in the depths of night, men drowned to feed the spirits of the rivers, and other such things which I had condemned as ridiculous but now, uncalled-for, jumped to mind.

“Ah,” said I, my words clear, trying as best I could to copy the accents that I had heard, for I wished to remain concealed. “In truth I have just arrived, and my journey has been long and left me both wearied and hungry. Pray, madame, that you might aid me by directing me to the nearest place where I may garner both accommodations and foodstuffs.” The words were thick in my mouth, filled with what seemed to be to be much unneeded archaisms, and so I made my best attempts to imitate them, no matter how foolish I sounded to myself.

At those worlds, the white-clad woman laughed, and it was worse for how innocent, how pure it was. My discomfort only grew, too, from the laughter, for it seemed to confirm my suspicions that I would truly be found as an outsider. “My mistake,” she said, “for it is my fault that I did not see that you were a pilgrim.”

“A pilgrim,” said I, hastily. “Yes. But sadly I was assaulted by strangers as I arrived, and they took everything of value of mine. I reported it to the authorities, of course, but my journey has been disrupted by this, and I require a place to wait while such matters are dealt with.”

Her mouth went then into a “oh” of exclamation, and I noted the unnatural, almost luminescent whiteness of her teeth, and the glowing vein-like lattice which seemed to run across her tongue, in a matter which looked almost artistic, as if it were a tattoo of some form. But that was impossible, I told myself, because even if these people could do such a thing, surely no-one would be foolish enough to do such a thing to their tongue, for the pain would truly be unbearable, and even if one could find the fluorescing dyes to produce such a thing from within the manifold of the natural world, to do such a thing to the tongue was mad.

“Come with me,” she told me, “and I will care for you until the adjusticars resolve your problem.”

Now, for me, this was a statement of some concern. I did not wish to end up entrapped in this strange place, and in my head curiosity and fear warred for dominance, for though I wished to know more about this place, from my trips to other countries I was already aware of how social custom was different in one place to another, and that was in the waking world, where there are ties of communication and bonds of trade. In this strange world I found myself in, I knew so little, and surely I would give myself away if I interacted with the individuals here for too long, and then who knew what would happen? Not to mention that the oddities of this woman herself, for despite her beauty, which drew from the most ancient bloodlines of German in seemliness, she indeed appeared more to me as some quasi-divine nymph than a flawed mortal, and the oddities in her garb and appearance were more than enough to make we wary. “I dare not impose upon your charity,” I told her, trying to disengage from the conversation, “and so, despite the fact that I thank you for your offer, I must refuse.”

She laughed, her voice a silver peal. “Nonsense,” she said, with a casual shrug that made her loose robe slide over her body. “The First Consort insists on charity, after all, and I would be remiss, and, indeed, I would be vulnerable to allegations of religious disrespect if I did not provide all the aid I could to you. It is no imposition; it is a blessing.”

And with that said, she took me by the hand, and whirled me away, the sound of her bare feet slapping on the floor a staccato beat broken only by the splashing as she, without a care, trod in the puddles which pooled around the edges of the strange vegetation which blossomed in black and white throughout the city.

I cannot say, truly, how much I remember of the later times. It was as a dream, even within a dream; a blur of activity and motion, best described with incoherent sensory impressions than with words. But as I cannot obtain the sights I saw, I shall only scattered disparate words throughout this tale, and hope as best you can reconstruct that which I cannot, myself, remember true to life.

We ate foods which were far beyond my student’s budget; served en-masse in sprawling dining halls where what must have been the uneducated proletariat of this place came in their thousands to eat. We drank, and there was something off about the sickly sweetness of the bright blue fluid, which left all the colours in the world bright and radiant, haloes of monochromatic light shining around faces like the pale aura of the full moon. Then she took me down, down through steeped stairs and moving rooms, though corridors lit through lurid, shimmering panels which illuminated the same recurring themes of black and white. I can remember shivering, for my eyes were aching now from the disjointed and emergent chaos of the striated light and void, and it seemed to me that the world was spinning, as if I were in the uttermost depths of fever.

We emerged further down, to a place with a sunlight sky, blue unlike the mad horizon in the world above, and beside me, in chill mountain-tasting air, was the insidious sound of lapping water from the forest-ringed lake. Yet the water was too dark for the lighting, and as I gazed into its depths, along with many others, something moved deep below, and the depths were replaced momentarily with the same black and white striation which suffused the upper layers, before the simulacra of nature returned. The fever-heat inflamed me, and I moved to place my hand in the cooling fluid, before the white-robed woman moved to stop me.

“Do not do that,” she said, “for that is where they rest when they do not war.”

I asked who she talked of, and she shot me a glance of uttermost confusion tinged with disdain, and I wisely did not ask any further on the topic.

By this point, I was near-fainting, gasping for air, and, looking slightly alarmed, the white-robed woman took me underground once again, through this time we did not re-emerge in sunlight nor in further sky-tainted realms, but instead went into a warren of tight spaces which I would have called a street, had it not been for the ruthlessly geometrical ceiling that hung a metre above my head. She led me into what appeared to be housing, and I gazed upon an Erebus of decadence, for there were shared beds with both men and women in them in haze-filled fog that left me only choking further – and at that moment I remembered the choking scent of the tobacco – and the sounds of their inchoate activities. Around me, the thin piping and whine of instruments I knew not the names of could be heard, the sound of wind in reeds mixed with the brassy rattle of drums, and I spun, looking for the players, but she merely eased me down. I moved to object, but the strength in my body left me, and I sunk towards the woman.

She was muttering prayers at me, a babble of names and incantations and melded profanities, but I cannot say I can remember her words, for consciousness barely was retained within me, and my vision was hooded with black.

And then came the voice, and all stopped their deeds

The cruel face of one of their rulers, who she informed me was the Consort, stared out from cinematographs-like windows all across the room... nay, indeed the city. The man was one of the teeming masses of the Orient with a deep, malevolent cunning in his narrowed eyes, and he spoke a few words, which had the crowds falling down in what I could only describe as religious ecstasy, and I joined them, for those words, which have burned themselves from my mind, seemed to inspire a terrible devotion in me. I remember a perfect moment, an understanding that the face which leered down at me was no more his face than the sky above was, but I cannot understand nor remember why, and for that I am grateful, for at that moment I could no more think like the rational man which I must believe that I am than I could disobey. The woman and I made love immediately afterwards, and I believe our actions were little more than grovelling obsequiousness, in the midst of rutting flesh and orgiastic madness as little more than beasts, and it was not until afterwards that the guilt struck me, for out in the Berlin that I knew I was engaged to a woman I loved, and I said as much to her, as my flesh aged and the post-coital fatigue overcame me.

She only looked at me in misunderstanding, as if she did not understand any concept of love beyond that of beastly, animalistic lust, and the lack of comprehension in those beautiful eyes was not truly human, and at that moment I grasped when and where I was, and that she was little more than one of the temple prostitutes of ancient Carthage, in a world where there would never be a Cato to burn the degeneracy to the ground and sow the ground with salt such than none could ever repeat those ancient sins.

And then she spoke to me about dreams, in these rooms that stank of the acrid and bitter scent of human sweat, the sickly odour of lust permeating everything, and the noise coming through from the other parts of this profane residence which they, in their depravity, called a church. She entailed me on great lengths – and I had to ask her to repeat the convoluted, alien syllables several time before I could grasp them - of shilicobtenarunosi, the midnight dreams of pleasure sent by the Consort to women, and the Empress to men, as to ensure that they were rewarded for their service and she expanded that as a priestess, she was granted far more of them, in her decadence, than a normal citizen might receive. My talk of temperance and balance went unheeded except with confusion, and she instead moved onto haetarobtenarunosi, dreams of respect and authority, and juenaxobtenarunosi, dreams of happiness. But these were but casual things, compared to the veritobtenarunosi, and as she spoke further and further on them, a horrifying idea began to shift in my mind, underneath the deep dark waters of consciousness.

And it was this revelation, that this was a revelation. This was yet to come. This was not some dream, not some realm of fantasy which I had wondered to while drugged by Baccahean cultists, washed up past the Gates of Horn and Ivory to some fevered and inebriated imagining. All the glories, all the triumphs of these people will be built upon our own, and they will all be meaningless, because our descendents, the fruit of our loins, will be the subjugated slaves of vile sorcerers. They will rule in the minds of men, and use them as currency when trading for favours from things much mightier and more terrible than anything within the ken of man. These blasphemers, these heartless arcanocrats will be as among the ancient gods of mythology, except worse, for while the children of Athens and Rome alike could reassure themselves that the rites and rituals could protect them, warded behind a layer of faith that was needed because they could not observe their gods walking among them, our children, or our children’s children, will have those comforts stolen from them, and will exist only as cattle for things that were once men, and who shape them and their society for only their own profit.

My mind snapped at this, I must confess, and I ran screaming from her room, a mindless flight through cloistered halls of white and black, running from forever and to forever that I might escape that which was not within my mind. The certainty filled my every thought, and so I did not see the skull-faced things that began to track me until one raised its wand, and I collapsed, a terrible burning agony coruscating over my skin, and opened my eyes to see the interior of the aged church once more, the chill light of the early morning shining through the ancient stained glass. Pulling myself upright, I convulsed and vomited, a shudder such that it felt like my body was aware and warring against me, tendons rupturing from flesh. In the depths of terror, I could feel the beaded rivulets sweat run down my spine.

But the wall between the sleep of men and our waking is precious and thankful, for once one has passed through it, the deeds and happenstance of the other side is far less meaningful, and already, as I crept out of the now-empty church, it was beginning to fade in importance, as the rationalisations and febrile justifications of mortal society came to me. Surely it was just a dream, a dream aggravated by a lack of sobriety and the sinister look of this old church – something which was much reduced in the daylight, when it had a certain grandeur and an ancient, though decaying, splendour, rather than the unabashed malignancy which I had perceived in it in the night. There had been merely a dream, merely a fevered imagining of cults and night-terrors when, in truth, I had merely got lost on my way back from a play, and stumbled into an old church, sleeping off the beer in there much as some aged and disreputable vagrant.

I could have held that, could have accepted it for the truth, were it not for the scent that permeated all of my clothing; a hint of metal, of burning rubber, and incense, all woven together with the odour of the heavy smoker. As I made my way home, I knew that the dark worshippers had been real, and as I endured the mockery, which concealed relieved concern, of my peers for having got so lost, my mind nagged at me about everything else.

And so, to this day, the scent of vile tobacco smoke haunts me, and even the slightest whiff will leave me gagging and choking. But more than that, the terror and horror of what might lie ahead of us drives me onwards, and as I write this, at the end of my life, it is with uttermost honesty that I say that this fear has lead me to do what I have done. It is the terror that lead me to dream of that dread city, and of the white-robed woman again. From that day onwards, it has sat in me, quiescent, nursing, and there it stayed, until the day that I met Wingate Peasley, and it blossomed into grotesque flower.



~’/|\’~




End of Book I of Aeon Entelechy Evangelion



~'/|\'~




Coming up soon in Aeon Entelechy Evangelion


Seagulls, tiny white shapes against the blue sky circle as, below, the vast, ponderous grey shapes lumber along, themselves dwarfed by the black spire that rises into the heavens.

“The year is 2091, and this is the Aeon War. And there are foes on every side.”

“To be honest, Shinji needs to try harder,” the man says clinically. “At the moment, he’s just not doing well enough.

“But there still is hope.”

THE EVANGELION GROUP

The titanic shape of UNIT 01 straightens up, a vast, tubular contraption held in both hands. Beside it, UNIT 00 kneels, charge beam held firmly in hand.

NEGN PROJECT DAEVA

Something vast and hulking and terrible.

"This is my little baby," the young woman says with a smirk.


“The Second Child in UNIT 02 enters play...”

The red giant snaps from position to position, each motion precise, each motion measured, each motion deadly. There is polite applause from the onlookers.

YAM

“... and faces her first Harbinger.”

Four green eyes ablaze like miniature suns, the red comet of Unit 02 breaks the sound barrier, leaving a shock-wave of ruptured air behind it.

“To less than universal acclaim.”

“What are you doing, idiot!

“Me? It’s your fault!”


“New foes.”

SHALIM

A hulking shape emerges from the darkness, water cascading off its back as it rises from the depths.

“New challenges.”

SHAHAR

Two... three... four... more

“And new enemies.”

“From this, we can deduce that the group has large scale organisation and a decentralised, yet coordinated command structure. The perfect cell network.”

“And do you know who’s behind it?”

“No.”


“Prepare for action!”

Side by side, Units 01 and 02 stand, the bright lance of plasma from the green-eyed behemoth melting rock and metal, and counterpointed by the earth-shattering explosions of its sibling.

“Prepare for revelations.”

Asuka squints at Rei. “What kind of thing are you meant to be?” she asks, a slight sneer twisting her face.

The pale girl tilts her head. “I am a serial killer,” she says, her expression calm. “They look like everyone else.”


“And prepare for conspiracy.”

“What are you doing, Ikari,” the white-haired woman asks, her voice aged, ruined. “What do you have planned?”

MOLOCH

And a dark island erupts in light.

“And, of course, even more fanservice!”



~’/|\’~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-08-21 09:46pm
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Chapter 15

Rest for the Wicked / how frail to that large utterance of the early Gods!

AEON




~'/|\'~




“The prevalent view of history would have you believe that the Second Cold War was a conflict between the democracies of the New United Nations, and the authoritarian states of the Middle East and China; a conflict over the rights of man. Such a view is, not to put it lightly, a falsehood. China liberalised heavily over the end of the twentieth and early twenty-first century, and the NUN, just like the UN and the League of Nations before it, would always put realpolitik above the absolute values of human rights and personal freedoms.

The Second Cold War was the result of economics, not ethics. And the first blow was struck by the post-industrial societies of the so-called ‘West’. How could it not be? Together, the nanofactory and the D-Engine wrecked economies globally. This was economic warfare on an unheard-of scale. Forget about tariffs and embargos; what do you do to deal with the man who tells you that he no longer needs the services which you have structured your economies to perform and who keeps the technology which makes it possible for himself, as far as he can? And even though the technology proliferated, the economic conditions in the post-industrial nations could survive the transition in a way that industrial economies could not. Imagine a black-box replacing the export trade, manufactured goods without a source, and the reason for that is clear. Between 2020 and 2035, the Chinese economy shrunk by a tenth in real terms, while the Western nations leveraged their edge into a great divide.

And we need not even get started on the details of the petrochemical economies of the Middle East, to realise that the D-Engine and A-Pod together were a knife into the back of the social order, and how the local oligarchs had to cling to China to maintain their personal power. Was there ever any question that there would be a rise in nationalism and protectionism, to protect their own struggling markets from drowning in nanofactory goods? Was there any question that an entire generation of men and women would have their livelihoods taken from them and grow bitter? As history has taught us, and they would have known, such conditions make for militancy. And yet the NUN actively promoted both technologies, without a care for how it would affect non-member states.

Why? Apathy, or malevolence; neither are palatable.”


Pravlin Lal
“The Lies of History’s Consensus”



~'/|\'~




POLLEN-Contaminated Zone – Central India

The howl of the wind was a thin whine, razor-high and promising pain to any outsider. Thunder cracked above, casting the dusty, ruined land in bruise-coloured light. The plants that survived in this once-fertile, now-withered land clung to the land around the river. Some of the iridescent, oily slick that covered its surface was manifesting yellowing leaves. There were patches of other growths, away from the water, but they were dark and lacking in the green chlorophyll of Earth. Instead, the sick fungoid bulges were painted in hues of blue, which ranged from midnight to midday’s sky, and which sprawled weed-like across the terrain, covering the old cities and tearing the concrete apart from within. Low to the ground, a choking haze of toxic spores hung, whipped around by the movements of the air.

Within the security cordon established by the New Earth Government, the old world had been abandoned. The weapon emplacements and barriers and aircraft were to the west of here, though, for the r-state here was elevated enough that NEG technology frequently malfunctioned and ceased to work; the physical properties of the matter warped by the reality-state, turning delicate microelectronics to junk. Only the crudest technology could work at times, things with vacuum tubes which would have looked more in place a hundred and fifty years ago. This hellhole was left to the Rapine Storm, children of the Ruined King, the degenerate hordes swarming out en masse to dash themselves against the armies of the NEG and the Migou, who were no less determined to maintain quarantine than the forces of panhumanity.

And to the east, murky green-red clouds covered horizon to horizon, rising up high and cascading down from the heights, bringing with them the tainted land of Leng. A storm was coming.

Through the city overgrown with alien vegetation, a predator slunk. Larger than a car, it was roughly centauroid, although its forearms were overdeveloped such that it frequently used them for movement, knuckle-walking across rough terrain. Dropping lower, it continued to stalk its prey, a pack of feral dogs, twisted by their environment, but nonetheless surviving on what they could scavenge from those elements of the Terran ecosystem which survived here. Slowly, meticulously it moved, creeping through the ruins of the buildings, and up and down walls, until it was within range. And then the leathery-skinned beast charged towards the pack, which did not react one bit to the sudden blurred movement.

Perhaps in the beast’s mind, it wondered about the complete lack of response. It was not that fast, after all. Surely it must have been seen, its movement must have stirred some suspicion. Why would they not run? But such approximations to thought were meaningless, compared to the hunger from its crossing of these barren landscapes and the desolate hellholes the forces of panhumanity made when they set up breakzones with arcanochromatic weapons. Vaulting up, it snatched at one thin, starved canine with a hand, bringing it towards its vertically-split maw, even as it crushed another one beneath its bulk.

Something was wrong. The one in its hand snapped, yes, bones crushed, but there was a terrible viscosity about it. Instead of squishing it properly, its hand sunk into the dog like it was made of tar. And the canine beneath it did not flatten; instead, it was a thorn, a hardened manikin of bone and carapace that the beast crushed down into the overgrown pavement, traces of red blood smearing the alien blue plants. From within the hand, there was a cacophony of whines, and the balding, unkempt fur of the dog lengthened, miniature copies of its head appearing, sprouting within its flesh. Howling, these mouths bit into the hand of the beast, tearing out flesh and doing what bullets could not have done, as barbed fangs injected the venom-that-was-its-self into the flesh.

And then the rest of the pack piled in. Maws and fangs and glowing opalescent eyes and tarry-black flesh intruded and tore into the intruder, and around it, growing from underground, the mosses and fungi born of Terra, within the clogged-up sewer systems blossomed forth, in tendrils streaked with chlorophyll green as well as the night-dark tar of the substance that every one of those things was made of.

The child of Leng tried to fight, but every move just drew it into the terrible predatory presence of part of the ecosystem of Earth, woken from billions of years of slumber by the resources and the physical laws needed for repair.

Repair, and reactivation.



~'/|\'~




“Ladies, gentlemen.” Gendo Ikari’s words were flat, level, and exquisitely professional. “Three Harbingers have been eliminated, and each time, as predicted, their target was London-2.”

Oversight raised her eyebrows, red eyes glinting. “The calculations were correct,” she said, flatly. “Procedure has been followed adequately, too; I can report that at no point have we violated our permissions. Representative Ikari is to be congratulated for both his efficiency, and his strict obedience to protocol. At no point has the Foundation been exposed to criticism due to actions he has authorised.”

“Thank you.” A pleasantry, but nothing more. Ranaby was an ally, but an ally was not a slave, and had he made any egregious errors that could have been smoothed over, he would not have been spared. But he had talked to her in private, and she had been pleased about how the situation with the Evangelions had improved the Foundation’s status with the NEG as a whole.

“With that in mind, I propose that the requested authorisation for the Evangelion Group that, once evaluations are complete, they be permitted to move the Production Model to reinforce their assets. In L2,” the Representative for Research said, shooting a glance at Gendo.

The man fumed inside. She had broken his flow, and he was sure it was intentional. “Seconded,” he stated.

“What is the current status of Harbinger-2?” Oversight asked, drumming her fingers on the table.

“Harbinger-2?” Representative Rosaiah, Gendo’s old superior for whom he had been Deputy Representative, frowned, the wrinkles deepening. “No signs of activity.”

“So we won’t have to keep Unit 02 on standby in Tokyo-3 case of sudden activity? It might have to be moved in to... remedy a breakout of containment, and Tokyo-3 is the n...”

The old woman sighed. “I really don’t think it would make a difference in such a situation,” she said, a hint of resignation in her weary voice, “while an extra Evangelion in London-2 will have concrete benefits.”

And that was that. It was approved.

The Representative for Africa ran a hand over his shaven scalp. “Status of the European Front?” Aires Mocumbi asked, tone clipped. “How are repairs going?”

“Northern Europe is a mess,” the Representative for Society, Jeltje Aschear, said, her tone harsh. The skin was drawn tight around her eyes. “The NEGA has taken heavy losses, and the NEGN lost the entire North Atlantic Reserve against Mot. The loss of convoys...”

“Up 34%, year-on-year,” Finance interjected.

“Yes, thank you, Carmen,” she continued. “Convoy losses against Migou interdiction assets have increased, and they’re switching to a roaming-bird model, issuing more antimatter weaponry to their air assets.”

“The Engel Group has had very promising results with the new Engel Species based on Harbinger-4,” the Representative for Research said, adjusting her blue-tinted glasses. “With a proper air combat Engel, we should be able to...”

“But that’s in the future,” Representative Aschear interrupted, coldly. “We already have enough pie-in-the-sky Projects and Groups and...”

“The Shamshel has already reached the prototype phase. It will be starting testing within six months, at the outside,” Ms Egger stated. “It’s not ‘pie in the sky’.” She smiled, faintly. “Well, it’s not pie, at least.”

“... and what we need more of is conventional forces!” Aschear slammed her hand down into the desk, making her image shake as she knocked her own camera. “It is logistics that matter, and if the Migou can choke us, split our lines of transfer to joined landmasses, then we are defeated!” Gritting her teeth, the woman sighed. “I forwards a motion that the Ashcroft Foundation, as a whole, promote funding for the NEGN, with a pro bono effort to get more factories capable of building more capital and corvette-grade hulls. We need ships!”

“Then perhaps, Jeltje,” Representative Egger said, with a twist of her head, “you could suggest that the Navy to stop wasting resources on things like Project Daeva, and put the resources into conventional forces.” The corner of her mouth twitched up, and she shot a sideways glance at Gendo.

“That is not an option,” he stated, ignoring her, and moving to take control of the conversation. “Project Daeva is the Navy’s ploy against what they see as our undue influence in the fields of R&D, just as they also have Project Osiris to play against the Herkunft and Amunet Groups. It would be acceptable if they would just improve conventional weapon platforms, but what they have done is wasteful.”

“Such... pettiness is foolish,” the Representative for Research agreed. “Of course, the Evangelion Group going public will take the wind from the sails of Project Daeva.”

The Representative for South America smirked, red eyes glinting. “It is a tragedy that the Evangelions will suggest that Project Daeva is obsolete before it even got out of the testing phase,” she remarked. “And because of the methods used, individuals from Herkunft, Engel, Evangelion and Achtzig will be on their evaluation board. If they must fuse technologies like that, the NEG would be ill-suited if they were insufficiently safe.”

“What a shame,” Representative Egger agreed, insincerely. The Representative for Research grinned. “We did warn them that such a project was flawed from the start, and would be obsolete before it was finished, didn’t we?”

Gendo smiled, face concealed behind his gloves. “Yes,” he said. “Six years ago.”



~'/|\'~




13th of October, 2091

Slumped on his desk, his headphones drowning out the sound of the rest of the classroom, Shinji Ikari was feeling both melancholic and annoyed. This was not exactly a rare occurrence. It was, in fact, common enough that he was aware that he was feeling like this, and the fact that he knew it was a common state of affairs was contributing to the annoyance.

For one, he was a child soldier being used as a weapon against horrific monstrosities, and worse yet, just because his particular blasphemy against all that was right in the natural world was damaged, didn’t mean that he got to miss training sessions. They just put him in simulators instead. And today was a Wednesday, so he got to spend this afternoon in simulator practice, drowning in LCL despite the fact the fluid wasn’t necessary for the practice session to work. For two, there was a guardian-teacher conference today, and he was just sure that either Misato would turn up in inappropriate clothing and thus embarrass him, he would be made aware by his teachers just how much he was lagging behind due to his ‘illnesses’ and the general lack of free time, or, he thought morosely, both.

And for three, it was his birthday today.

“Happy birthday to me,” he muttered, slumping down further and letting the music wash over him.

From certain points of view, he might be said to be making a bit of a melodrama over it. Yuki and Gany had called him this morning, and he had received a very enthusiastic rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ from a pair of six-year olds. His inbox had been flooded with the normal automatic birthday greetings from various companies and organisations, and some ‘Happy Birthday’ messages from people he had known back in Tokyo-3 and a few people here in London-2. He had, once again, received his present from his father. A fabrication template had been added to his personal Intellectual Property Library, just as one had every year before; a cold, sterile message accompanying the gift. It would be more meaningful if it meant anything, if it wasn’t, every year, an item recommended by Shinji’s muse based on his buying preferences. It would also be more meaningful if it wasn’t an Ashcroft fabtemplate, so his father had probably got a massive discount on it. The man probably had a subroutine set up to buy the present without having to become aware of the date, the boy thought bitterly.

He hadn’t even scheduled buildtime for it on the nanofac. And that was despite the fact that he had wanted a new PCPU, because he was still using the borrowed one after his one had been crushed in the Harbinger-3 mess. The dull automation of the ‘gift’ from his father made it worse for Shinji than if he’d paid for it himself.

His fingers drummed out a repetitive beat on the table, as the sounds of the rest of the class washed over him. Besides him, Toja chatted loudly with a shorter nazzada, discussing something which they’d seen last night, while Kensuke was hunched over his PCPU, an external keyboard plugged into the device, fingers clacking away. Towards the back of the room, Dathan, the one who Shinji remembered was heavily involved with the OIS Cadets, blathered on at a short nazzady with a ponytail... Jony, that was her name, the one who had talked to him on his first day. She seemed to be mostly ignoring him. And at the front of the classroom, there was a quiet conversation going on between the Class Representative and the Student Council Representative, the two amlaty looking more awake than most of the rest of the students, on the subject of plays. And their relevance to the class.

Shinji was pretty sure that he’d be able to get out of that. Put simply, he didn’t have the time.

“Did you forwards the minutes to the drama club too?” Hikary asked her sort-of-friend.

Ayesha shrugged, tucking a stray wisp of hair back into her headscaff. “Yes,” she said, her accent – a mixture of Nazzadi and Arabic – initially hard to place, and, if one were to ask male members of the class, rather attractive. “None of them have replied yet... anyway, I did cee-cee you in on it.”

“I know. I was just wondering if they’d just replied to you.”

A shake of her head. “No. Because they’re drama club. And so all useless idiots.”

“Be nice to them,” Hikary warned.

Ayesha snorted. “No, we wouldn’t want to upset the drama queens, would we? Well, yes, I would, but that was my own rhetorical question so I should probably shut up right now.”

The Class Representative raised her eyebrows.

“Yeah, yeah,” the headscarved girl said, flapping a hand at her. “Next question.”

The raised eyebrows furrowed into a glare, before the amlaty shrugged at her fellow xenomix. “Actually, I do have one,” Hikary said. “Got any ideas for what should be put on the list? I don’t.”

“Nope,” Ayesha said, drily.

“Helpful. Really helpful.”

“Look, I’m only on the student council because it looks good on the list of stuff I do. I even stood on a policy of ‘the student council has no real authority’.” She rolled her eyes. “Making decisions would be against my campaign promises.”

“I can’t believe people voted for you,” Hikary said, with a hint of sullenness in her voice.

The other girl pursed her lips. “Most people are idiots one way or another. And despite that, they still voted for the Truth. Even if it’s a painful one for people like you who are adorably idealistic.” Her face suddenly went blank. “Anyway, don’t worry. Surely you can just go ask Taly. I’m sure she’ll be glad to help.”

Hikary groaned at that. “Not helpful,” she muttered.

“What’s not helpful?” the aforementioned nazzady asks, drifting over to the table with a flick of her red-streaked hair.

“Nothing. It’s not interesting. Please, go away Taly.”

Two red eyes narrowed, and the taller girl straightened up slightly, glaring down at the two seated girls. “Okay, if you’re going to be like that, Horaki.”

Hikary gritted her teeth. “I didn’t want to talk to you.”

I was actually going to ask you about plays and your opinions,” Ayesha said, intruding before the conversation degenerated further. “Boring student council stuff.”

“Okay, I’m interested,” Taly agreed, before adding, proudly, “Remember, Sola Homosapa oa Garemeta was my idea, last year, and it was a triumph.”

“Yes,” Hikary remarked, more than a little bitterness in her voice, “if you count the fact that we got marked down as a class, because of the fact that we did it, as a triumph.”

“Says the person with nazzadukivility issues who can’t appreciate anything outside the dominant anfrazzadi cultural paradigm which attempts to force homogeneity on...”

“That is not at all relevant!”

“Well, I’ll leave you two lovebirds,” Ayesha drawled, stepping back, and receiving two hostile glares in response. “Taly, just make me a shortlist, and I can go show it to dramsoc and see what they think.”

“That’s not helping, Ayesha.”

“Yeah. Ha ha, I don’t think. I’ll do it, but... look, you’re asking a favour of me, so could you be less of a... a bitch, okay?”

“My mistake,” the other girl said, slumping down in her seat and pulling out her PCPU, while the amlaty and the nazzady resumed their debate. “Now, how long do we need to wait for the dramatic kiss?” Ayesha remarked, in a stage whisper, to laughter from the rest of the class, who apparently had been roused from their apathy and tiredness to watch the argument.

“Shut up, Ayesha!” came a synchronised response.

Shinji snorted, and rested his head back down on his arms, only to be roused almost immediately by a tap on his shoulder. It was an amlaty, a pair of violet eyes staring out from under blue-streaked hair, a smile on her face. The boy blinked. Her name... name... uh... ‘R’-something...

He forced himself to smile. “Hi?” he asked.

“Hey,” she said, her hands folded in front of her. “Not looking forwards to the parents... well, guardians in my case... conference?”

“Trying to forget about it,” he groaned, slumping down again.

“That bad?”

Shinji blinked. “Yes,” he said, slightly more slowly. “Well, I’ve been... ill a lot this term, and I transferred late, and...” Shinji didn’t mention the fact that he wasn’t looking forwards to Misato being there for him to... damn it, still couldn’t remember her name. Firstly, it wasn’t actually any of her business, and Shinji had never been the most open of people. And, secondly, what was he supposed to say? ‘I’m worried that my guardian might show up in a strappy top, and embarrass me in front of people, and then I’ll have to put up with more than just Toja and Kensuke making eyes at her’? Better to stay quiet, and shrug. “Well. Yeah,” he said out loud, looking up at the brown-grey skinned girl. “I don’t know how sympathetic the teachers are going to be.”

She nodded sympathetically. “That is pretty bad,” she said, leaning forwards, slightly. “Listen.” She hefted the PCPU in her hand. “I’m having a party on Saturday... it’ll be an evening thing, so we can still have the afternoon for stuff, after morning classes. I’m inviting a lot of people, do you want to come? You’re feeling better, right?”

Inwardly, Shinji groaned. He wouldn’t mind doing it, probably, but he had training scheduled then. As usual. Despite that Unit 01 still wasn’t working after the damage that Mot had inflicted, and the fact that Unit 00 had been given priority for repairs because they wanted to get on Eva operational, they would still go and stick him in the entry plug, for synch tests. Which were fairly pointless, in his opinion; certainly, far more pointless than the simulator training that he did afterwards, because at least Shinji could see the reason that training in a simulator could be useful, rather than just sitting in the plug with his eyes closed, listening to the babble of people tracking a number, when he – which was to say, the Evangelion - couldn’t even move. And another thing...

“Uh... hello?” the girl asked. “My face is up here.”

Shinji blinked. “Sorry,” he apologised, blushing, eyes raised from where they had drifted to when he zoned out. “Uh,” he added, pinching the bridge of his nose, “I’ll have to see if I’m free.” He groaned. “And if I’m kept in... after this teacher thing,” the boy added, as a spur-of-the-moment justification, which he was somewhat proud of. “I don’t think Rei would be free, either.”

The girl looked at him strangely. “Why would I inv... what, are you friends with her?”

“Uh. Not exactly friends, I mean we’ve talked a bit, nothing serious, she’s quiet, no big deal... uh...” The boy trailed off. Probably best not to mention the whole ‘nudity’ thing. Or the ‘saved each other’s lives’ bit, though for a different reason.

A pair of eyebrows raised. “Well, I suppose it’s good for her to make friends; she’s been in the class for years, and she just sits there, being... Rei. If you’ve managed to get through to her, that’s more than I’ve ever managed.” A shrug. “I’ll send an invite to your gridlink... and hers too, then,” the amlaty said. “Try to make it if you can.” With a nod and a smile, she drifted off, to talk to other people.

Shinji slid back down, shaking his head. That just wasn’t fair. Now it was going to look like a deliberate snub when he couldn’t make it to the party. And...

“Hey, Kensuke,” he asked, leaning across, speaking softly. “Who was that?”

“That? You mean Reyokhy? Sounded like her,” the bespectacled boy asked, without looking up from his own PCPU. “Blue streaks in her hair, got Hispanic blood on her human side?”

“Yeah, probably,” Shinji said. “That is, yes.”

Sliding a finger across the screen of his handheld device, Kensuke turned to face Shinji. “What’d she want, anyway?”

“She wanted me to come to a party on Saturday.”

On his other side, Toja nodded. “Yeah, she does that sort of thing a lot. Her guardians are pretty lenient with her... and she is rather hot. They’re usually pretty fun... you coming?”

Shinji winced. “Probably not,” he admitted. “I have... I’m going to be busy with practice, like I am every Saturday evening.”

Kensuke snorted. “I didn’t get an invite,” he muttered, eyes flicking back down.

“’Cause that’s a really big shock,” Toja interjected, with a smirk. “Don’t think you’d even go... or if you did, you’d stay in the corner with your MP.”

“That’s not true!”

Toja’s eyes glinted, and he grinned, broadly. “Oh, wait, no. I remember now.”

“Don’t say it.”

“You’d go and show off that you’re a lightweight. And be almost catatonic after two beers.”

Kensuke flushed. “Someone spiked those drinks, okay!”

“Weren’t they cans?”

“You could spike cans by...like, changing the label!”



~'/|\'~




The door to the classroom slid open, letting in a cool breeze, and a pale figure padded in, her skin and hair a stark contrast to the black of the uniform’s overcoat. In her hand was a pink slip, which she handed to the homeroom teacher.

“Medical appointment,” Rei said, tersely.

“Oh, right, yes,” the elderly man said with a nod, after scanning over the form. “Matches the email... okay, just sit down, we’ve already taken registration so...” he trailed off, as the girl stepped away, heading towards her customary seat at the back of the room. The noise of the classroom, which had dipped slightly, rose again.

Standing up, Shinji ran a hand over his face, and took a breath. Then he reached into his bag, and withdrew a book, an old-style paper one. It was better that he do this now, rather than wait until later.

If he waited, he might have to visit her home again to return it, for one.

Ignoring a slight sense of vertigo, no doubt from standing up so quickly, he made his way over to her. The girl had hung her bag up on her Desk, but had not booted it up yet, instead staring out the window to the artificial dome environment outside.

“Ahem,” he said, clearing his throat. She wasn’t going to look at him otherwise, it seemed, which was rather awkward. “Um. Uh. Sorry for taking so long, but here’s your book back.”

“Your opinion,” Rei asked, in an unquestioning tone, still staring out the window. He was feeling a little discomfited by her continued refusal to make eye contact.

“I have... um... to admit, it didn’t make much sense,” Shinji admitted. “It seemed to assume a bunch of stuff I didn’t know. I was a bit foggy at the time, because of the tiredness. And... well,” he let out a short laugh, “...also the painkillers.”

Rei blinked. “It is the third book in the series.”

“I... see,” Shinji said, slowly. One hand went up to massage his neck. “Yeah... that would explain a lot.” His lips twitched. “Sorry. But... uh... why did you...”

“I am,” the girl paused, for a fraction of a section, “fond of this book.” Her hand reached out, thin fingers brushing against the cover. “It was a present. It feels right.”

“Oh, okay.” The boy looked around, eyes skipping over the sidocy. He didn’t follow why that meant that she had to give him the third book, rather than the first one. Maybe the others weren’t very good. Or... yes, this was Rei, after all. At least she had all her clothes on.

“Well... it was interesting enough,” he blurted out, “and it’ll probably make more sense once I read the plot summary and... thank you.” He blinked, as Rei picked the book up, and, still looking out the window, flicked through it without a glance.

“It is not damaged,” she said, after a moment.

Nervously, compulsively, Shinji brushed some imaginary dirt off his sleeve, and made a noise of agreement. “Well, uh, I’ll be seeing you this afternoon, and...”

“Yes.”

His flow slightly disrupted, he nevertheless continued, “... so I hope that, uh, the conference goes well for you.”

“It will.” She placed the book back down on the table. “My academic standards are satisfactory.”

He snorted. “Mine aren’t.”

“Try harder.” The words were cold and razor sharp, and Shinji almost bristled at their immediacy, before a motion out the window caught his attention. The doors, on the far side of the dome, which led to the adjoining train station had opened. Already, stationed in position across the school grounds were the bulky forms of power armour, three metre high figures that stood like silent sentinels. There was something disturbingly un-alive about them, a mechanical lack of motion which reminded the viewer that the human pilot was only a single component in the warmachine. The bulky, human-sized figures in SP-armour with their oversized weapons cradled in their arms were a relief.

Shinji was pretty sure that the ecstatic noise of glee to his left was Kensuke.

A motley crowd of adults was swarming through, now that their security profiles had been cleared; the delay enough to allow the youngsters to get in, and to their homerooms first. The mix of clothing they were wearing was quite in contrast to the regiments of black-overcoated students who normally passed through. Even from this distance, and through the window, Shinji could hear the buzz of automated speaker systems kindly requesting that they stick to the path and keep off the grass of the playing fields. He could also see that these requests were not being followed.

The parents and guardians had arrived.

Squinting, Shinji peered at the crowd. Was that... yes, that was Misato. At least she was wearing business dress, rather than, say, the strappy yellow top she tended to wear around the house, although, as she got nearer, Shinji was rather of the opinion that her outfit was a little too form-hugging. And the top two buttons didn’t look buttoned, if he squinted a bit.

He sighed, with a glance sideways at the other students at the window. Call him paranoid, but he was sure that they were paying rather more attention to her than he would like. It was probably just...

“Wow,” Kensuke exhaled, sliding open the window, camera in hand. “Major Katsuragi looks even better than she did the last time. And... zoo~ooom, wow. What I wouldn’t give to see her in a full BDU, with a large gun... maybe even SP-armour!”

... right. Well, it seemed he wasn’t paranoid, Shinji thought. The world really was out to get him.

And then another cycle of motion, and a pair of scout mecha, painted white, emerged from unseen compartments built into the wall of the arcology dome. The figures, long-limbed, hybridising quasi-organic and utilitarian aesthetics, loped into their positions, over twice the height of even the bulky power armour, and set up a vigil.

If there was some small mercy, Shinji thought, it was that the sight of such things had distracted Kensuke from the sight of Misato. The other boy was making high pitched noises, and being harassed by Taly, to make sure that he was getting all the pictures of the mecha that he could.

But even that conversation was not enough to dissuade Shinji’s line of thought, because he was fairly sure that there was only one man who could dignify such an excessive, and, frankly, showy display of protection and force.

A figure emerged from the entrance, flanked by bodyguards, dressed mostly in black, and wearing his customary arglasses. Even from this distance, Shinji could recognise his father.

He suddenly knew who the guest speaker would be this year. It wasn't as if... if that man was going to be there for him.

A movement of white in the corner of his eye caught his attention. He looked over, to see Rei waving down, slowly and solemnly, each movement of her hand a precise tick of some unseen metronome. She was smiling slightly, her face unusually animated by her standards.

Shinji looked down to see his father wave back up at Rei, ignoring his biological son completely. He felt rage well up in his stomach, twelve years of suppressed anger at those horrible memories that he didn't think about from the second worst day of his life, immediately after the worst. Silently, he turned on his heel, and strode back to his desk even as the others stared out the window, his lips thin with anger.



~'/|\'~




With a sigh, Dr Ritsuko Akagi reached forwards, and tapped the paw of the waving cat before her, stilling it. Then, with a flick, she set the figure back into motion, and returned to her work. The messages from Tola and Sarany all needed a response, there was the conferencing with Dr Schauderhaft over in Chicago-2 about the Unit 02 demonstration, and then there was the nagging presence of the Ministry of War asking for more details about the Evangelions, requests from the Achtzig Group for data to update the strategic schema of the TITANs, the series of meetings with the Representative for Research, oh, and did she mention that she was doing this all with a lack of staff, because a considerable number of people had leave this morning, including Representative Ikari and Misato, meaning that several key people weren’t answering emails, and...

There was a bleep, and the woman leant back, noting the caller ID displayed in the upper-right of her vision. “Yes, Maya?” she asked the Operator, nerves humming.

“The detailed analysis of the damage to Unit 01 has been forwarded to me, doctor,” the voice of the younger woman said, even as her body floated down in the Operator dive tanks. “Do you want an abridged summary to be prepared, or I can send it straight to you?”

Ritsuko massaged her brow. “A summary would be lovely, Maya,” she said, with a slightly forced smile. “I don’t have time right now, but I need to know if there’s anything important.”

“Right away, Doctor Akagi!” Lieutenant Ibuki said enthusiastically, cutting the communication.

The dyed-blonde shook her head slightly. Maya was young... except she wasn’t. It wasn’t as if there was that much of an age difference between the two; maybe five years, at the most. But she felt young. The fact that she, like all the Operators, had cybernetics woven into her spinal cord and cerebrum, didn’t seem to have taken away from her natural liveliness at all. It was somehow... a little reassuring to have people like her around.

[Doctor,] said the emotionless voice of her muse. [New mail from Dr Sopheap, marked Urgent.]

Ritsuko sighed, mentally cursed, and got back to work.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-08-21 09:49pm
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~'/|\'~




It was dark in the main hall. For the majority of the audience, this was a mildly special occurrence, because the Ashcroft Representative for Europe had chosen to speak here, of all places, and rapt attention had been given to the speech.

Shinji narrowed his eyes at the slightly sycophantic laughter to the end of the speech. He was almost certain that his fa... that the man was just reading it off the inside of his glasses, that he hadn’t even bothered to memorise the speech. Bland, meaningless platitudes of... bland meaninglessness. Just as superficial and artificial as the man himself. They were even in the same building, and he hadn’t even taken the chance to wish his son happy birthday.

He certainly wasn’t about to stand for the round of applause which the headmaster called for. Shinji Ikari merely stayed seated, glaring at his father. Misato nudged him in the side, motioning for him to stand. He chose not to.

“That was a bit rude,” the dark-haired woman said, afterwards, as they stood in the corridor outside the assembly hall.

The boy shrugged.

“I know you might not get on, but you could at least have stood,” Misato remarked. “I mean, it’s not normal for him to give this speech. It’s not usual for the European Representative to take time out of his schedule. It’s the first time he’s done it, and you’re here, so...” she trailed off.

“I don’t assume my father does anything good for me,” Shinji said, drily, trying to stop any other feelings from showing. “It saves disappointment later. In fact,” he added, as a thought struck him, “he’s probably only here because his Deputy Representative is ill. He is pretty old, after all.”

Misato winced a little, a slight cold feeling running down her neck. It was true, Fuyutsuki was over in Geneva-A today, touring some new facilities, but that wasn’t necessarily the only reason that Representative Ikari was here. Probably.

And to speak of the devil, here he was, striding past, with his eyes concealed and his jacket streaming behind him, flanked by the inevitable guards. Trailing behind him; cold, fragile-looking, was Rei Ayanami, her customary expression of detachment on her face. She felt, besides her, Shinji shrink back slightly, as that obscured gaze scanned from left to right, settling onto her.

“Major Katsuragi,” Representative Ikari said, a factual statement of indemnity.

“Yes, sir.” The woman stared back at him, trying to discern his intent, but his eyes were concealed to even the IR and UV of her Eyes. She couldn’t tell if he was staring at her for Shinji, or, indeed, neither of them. Perhaps the rows of school photographs behind her were a sight of exquisite fascination.

He tilted his head slightly. “You are prepared for this afternoon?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” she repeated, retreating behind military formality in the awkwardness of this open place.

“Good.” A hint of a nod. “I will be waiting. Now. Is it mathematics first?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Rei, lurking behind him, hands limp against her sides.

“Okay.” White-gloved hands flexed. “We will go see him, then.” And he was off again, the crowd parting like the waters before him, no doubt aided by the armoured figures as well as the fact that he had been the one giving the speech. Misato watched him go, not quite sure whether the sheer normalcy of the conversation was disturbing or amusing.

She soon discarded that, though because the boy beside her had gone stock still, nostrils flared, his breathing forced. Misato paused for a moment, caught in indecision, before reaching down to take his wrist. She could feel the muscles corded like wire against the too-thin arm, feel it shake slightly with suppressed feeling, before it went limp. She squeezed his arm, in an attempt at reassurance, and it seemed to work somewhat, because the boy followed her lead, even if he said nothing.

“Come on,” Misato said to Shinji. “Let’s get this over with, eh?”



~'/|\'~




Hikary Horaki smiled to herself, as her father thanked the teacher who handled the Ethics modules. Once again, another glowing report. She couldn’t resist looking a little smug, as, seated behind her, Kensuke Aida shuffled up with his father, but that was only for a moment, and she managed to suppress it as she headed down the corridor, confidently leading the way.

“Well, that was good,” her father said. His deep voice was almost a rumble; his native Nazzadi accent was almost completely gone. “The Ethics modules aren’t just a dead-weight; future employers, especially the Foundation, really do look at them. And universities are so competitive nowadays, especially for the high end.”

“I know, Dad,” she replied, looking back, her orange eyes meeting his red ones. “I do need straight A1s for everything. And... yes, I think it’s English Lit next... that’s Mr Daye, brown hair, brown eyes.” She rolled her eyes. “A bit of a bumbling academic sort,” she remarked.

“Thanks... I think I can remember him. Native accent? Fan of... oh, I can’t remember the author.”

“Yes, that’s the one.” Stepping aside, she nodded to Kaga and Tsuka, as their grandmother took the twin boys around, and smoothed down her skirt with one hand. “And it’s Koch, the author he raves about. Early twenty-first... or maybe end of twentieth century.”

“Ah.” Her father let his hand brush against the wall, jet-black against pale blue paint. “Have I said what the current big thing at work is?” he mentioned, casually.

“Oh, Dad,” Hikary sighed. “Let me guess... you finally got permission for a new school?”

“It’s sort of needed, ‘Kary,” he said, a hint defensively. “The old surface schools aren’t fitting for the modern era, and...”

“... it gives you a chance to get better facilities for the ghettoes?” she teased.

“Yes,” the man answered, assertively. “The self-segregationist policies of too many of the poor Nazzzadi harm everyone, themselves included. I keep trying to persuade the L2 Board, in my role as Advisor, that the best way to break the cycle of poverty is...”

“I wasn’t making fun of it,” Hikary said defensively, a hand going to one of her pigtails. “You don’t need to treat me as if I’m a political opponent or anything.”

Her father winced, flashing chisel-like incisors. “I’m sorry,” the nazzada told his amlaty daughter. “It’s been getting rather heated, with those,” he glanced around, “Nazzadi Culture League sorts around. And of course, I’m meant to be objective, so I can’t let my dislike of them show. Even when I know that they’d keep us poor and unskilled if it meant that they could be ‘separate’ and preserve a culture which isn’t even real.” He sighed. “We’re all human,” he said, forlornly, “yet why do some of us fight it?”

“I know how annoying they can be,” Hikary said, a hint of weariness in her voice. “And, again, Dad, you don’t need to speech-ify at me. Just... try to keep it down, okay?”

He grinned, then. “Heh. You sound just like your mother. And you’d be doing her proud right now with your grades...”

“Dad. Don’t try to change the topic by bringing her up.”

“Sorry.”



~'/|\'~




Things were not going well, as they went from teacher to teacher, their reports all blurring into one another.

“While I understand the fact that he’s been off ill,” said the physics teacher, her face rigid, “the amount of homeworks and remedial works that he’s missed means that he’s severely lagging behind the class mean and the expected level for his year group. If he doesn’t want to be looking forwards to resitting a year, he should step up his game now.”

“He’s coasting,” said the teacher who taught the Nazzadi language. “I’d guess that he’s already fluent, and just took it as an easy option... oh, don’t look so surprised.” The dark-skinned woman folded her arms. “But even so, I expect the work to actually be done.”

“His grasp of history is poor. He doesn’t know what happened, or the roots of the current conflicts. If one does not pay attention to the past, how can one know what is happening in the present?”

“... and his presence has been responsible for several noted disruptive influences,” was the opinion of the maths teacher, who seemed to be holding a grudge for some reason.

"To be honest, Shinji needs to try harder," the biology teacher said, clinically. "At the moment, he's just not doing well enough.”

No, indeed things were not going well.

“Remind me why I can’t be privately tutored?” he asked Misato, bitterly, as they headed off to the next teacher who was no doubt going to blame him for something that wasn’t his fault.

The woman sighed. “It’s complicated,” she said, simply. “From what I can tell, the programme is really set up before... um,” she looked around, aware of the fact that they were in an insecure location, “things really started to happen. So back then, getting a guarantee that you get to keep normal schooling was a good thing. But... we didn’t expect for the timing to be what it was like. We’ll probably look to getting you a tutor, though.”

“Oh. Joy,” Shinji sighed. That looked like it was more of his free time gone.

“And it does you good to be out and about and have a life of your own to worry about,” she added. “Imagine how boring life would be if everything was easy.”

“Yes. That’s what I’m worrying about. Being bored.”

Misato snorted. “That’s the spirit,” she said, with a grin.



~'/|\'~




The teacher crossed her legs nervously, and shifted, gripping the PCPU with her notes on tighter. She ran her tongue across her lips, and took a breath, swallowing yet again. Her eyes flicked between the cold grey gaze of her student, and the eyeless stare of her guardian.

“Um...” began Ms Sweet-Corazon. “So... Rei’s performance in her physics modules so far this term...”

The girl stared at her, barely blinking. Representative Ikari was just as still.

“... her academic... uh... performance is good... excellent, actually, and... uh...” She shivered slightly. “Uh...” she continued, trying to steel herself, to continue along the notes that she had made for herself, “... I do believe that she has a certain attitude problem in lessons?” Inwardly, the teacher cursed. That shouldn’t have come out as a question. But this man was disconcerting. No wonder Rei Ayanami was as she was.

Before her, Representative Ikari tilted his head slightly. “Continue,” he stated, one gloved finger going up to push his arglasses back up to the bridge of his nose.



~'/|\'~




It was the disappointment that was getting to him, Shinji thought morosely. A certain air of patronising disapproval, which indicated that they were being very understanding about how much he was off ill, but he was pushing their patience, and should try harder to keep up. And he was fairly sure that he could track the teachers that his father had got to first, because he could feel them scrutinising him, as more than just another pupil. The one he wasn’t sure about was the maths teacher, and Shinji suspected that the man probably hadn’t forgiven him for being responsible for the heavily armoured soldiers breaking down his door to recover the pilot, for what had turned out to be a false alarm.

About the only person he’d seen who looked as bad as he felt was Taly, one of the girls from his class, who had been sitting sullenly beside a woman who looked barely to be in her twenties. The nazzady’s skin and red-streaked black hair stood as a stark contrast to the peroxide blonde human. He had exchanged a wincing, sympathetic nod with her, and received a smile in return, but it really wasn’t that much.

And now this.

“Oh, Shinji is doing well, despite his illnesses,” the balding man said, with a toothy smile. “He’s not quite good enough for the first team, but with a bit more practice, he could be on the bench, eh, and he’s doing a really good job keeping fit despite all those illnesses. I mean, I have to tell you, there’s a boy two years below who’s off all the time, and he’s a spindly little thing, but Shinji has good physicals all around. Sound about right?”

“Yes,” the boy replied, flatly.

The sports teacher missed any lack of enthusiasm. “A real problem with a lot of kids these days,” he continued to Misato, his eyes rather lower than they should have been. “They just don’t get the exercise. I mean, you really have to try nowadays, and arcology life means if you don’t go to the gyms... well, these younger lot, eh? They think diets are the same as eating properly and burning it off, and are all scrawny and useless at sports!”

Misato nodded. “Yes,” she said, with a nod, as she looked him up and down. “I apologise for asking,” the Major said, “but... you’re ex-military, right? Infantry by the build?”

The man grinned wider. “Yep. Groundpounder all the way. Served in Ghana and was there for Madagascar. You? Look like a flygirl or an earthshaker, from the body.”

“The second,” the woman replied, with a smug grin. “Heavy assault mecha. Now on secondment to the Foundation.”

The teacher laughed, a noisy exhalation of breath which drew stares from the other people waiting. “Listen, Shinji, that woman,” he pointed at Misato, “is officially nuts. But in a good way,” he added, with a sideways glance. “’Least flygirls are nice and up in the air. People like her?”

“What’s the point in having time to know you’re going to crash?” Misato completed.

“That!” The sports teacher ran a hand over his head. “Yes,” he continued, “you’re doing well, Shinji. Just try to be less ill, okay?”

“I’ll try my best,” the boy said, with a smile which was only a little forced.

Had he really sunk that low? Was he really looking for praise from one of the sports teachers? It said something about the day that he was having that Shinji didn’t mind the depths he had sunk to. Even if it meant that to the teachers, he was ‘not that bright, but good at sports’, which sadly wasn’t enough at an Ashcroft Academy.



~'/|\'~




Ryoji Kaji leant back on the hard chair, PCPU in hand, and idly scrolled through channels. Asuka was in the changing rooms, getting dressed in her plug suit, and... he stretched out and yawned... it was too early in the morning to be up and about like this. With a groan, he pulled himself to his feet, and went in search of something that did coffee. He would ideally like a cafeteria, but he would settle for instant coffee, if needs be.

Well, actually, he would ideally like a extra-hot, no-whip, white chocolate macchiato served by scantily clad ladies who would also be willing to give him a massage to remedy his stiff back, but the chances of him getting that on this military base were... not good.

Flicking through, he selected the NABO News channel, and spared a glance at the elegantly coifed man reading the early morning news. A flick, and he purchased the rewatch, and then turned the screen off, ambling idly through the halls. He stroked his chin. He needed to shave, Kaji thought; the stubble was getting to the stage where it was stopping being stubble, and starting to be a beard. Well, he hadn’t had time early in the morning, and Asuka had been hogging the bathroom.

Of all the things that he had found as her temporary guardian, all the oddities and abnormalities, she was still very much a teenage girl in that one particular aspect. And a few other ones.

There was a bleep as Kaji scanned the chip in the back of his hand, and the vending machine hummed and whirred, and eventually spat out an overpriced cup of hot chocolate. The man took a sip, and grimaced. They’d been out of coffee, and this wasn’t good at all. Still, at least it was warm, and would do something to keep him awake. He checked his PCPU again, and noted the new message. Switching to harcontact mode, the lens fused to the front of his eyeballs initialised, and he sat down, drinking his vile drink.

Because, as the news had been going on, all sort of clever technology behind the scenes had been associating a squirt of noise into the public datafeed with a one-time pad on his PCPU. And once the decyption was done, he now had his orders.

[Agent Doorknob. Approval has been given to your transfer. The resources are in place. Pathway is open at ABN on assigned date.]

Well. This was it, then.



~'/|\'~




The spoon clinked against the side of the cup of tea. Weighting the teabag, Shinji stared down into the brown depths, before letting go. It still had to be left to stew for a while.

“See,” Misato said, through her mouthful of noodles, “... that wasn’t so bad, was it?” The chatter of the cafe around them, located deeper than the school, but still in the main portion of L2 rather that the Geocity, was a constant background noise. In his school uniform, he stood out among the neatly dressed professionals. He suspected, strongly, that if it wasn’t for the bodyguards he was sure were all around him, he would have been asked why he wasn’t in school by the ArcSec officers on the way here.

Misato blended in perfectly.

Glowering slightly, lips pursed, Shinji nonetheless nodded, and agreed, because it seemed like the easiest thing to do. “I suppose not,” he said, tapping his fingers against the synthwood surface of the table. He couldn’t resist adding, “And, of course, they wouldn’t be complaining if they took into account how little free time I have, and how much time I’ve been...” he sighed, looking around the public area. “How much I’ve been ill this term.”

“Yeah, well.” A half-shrug and a slurp as she took another mouthful of noodles . “Come on, Shinji, eat your soup,” the dark-haired woman said, changing the topic. “Or drink your soup or... is it thick enough to eat, rather than drink? Anyway. You’ve got a busy afternoon ahead.” She paused, tilting her head slightly. “And,” she added, more gently, “I think you did okay.”

“Really?” Shinji asked, cynically.

“Yes,” Misato said, her voice definitive. “Certainly much better than I was doing at your age.” There was a slight silence, before she added, “And... look, speaking as... well, in my role, I... I’m sort of asking you as a favour here, don’t take it personally against Rei. He’s her guardian, so he had to attend.” Except he didn’t, she knew, considering his position, and she resolved to look into it a little deeper. There were certain... similarities in appearance between the First and Third Children, beyond their ethnicities, after all. “Blame him if you want to, but... try not to feel jealous of her.”

“I’m not jealous,” Shinji snapped. “She’s welcome to him.”

Misato declined to comment, and instead chose to change the subject. “Come on then, eat up.”

The boy grumbled, but complied. Fishing out the teabag with a spoon, he took a sip, and then moved onto the soup, scooping up a chunk of protein in the first spoonful. It tasted of chicken. Not like the LCL that he would be spending the afternoon breathing, and swallowing, and tasting. It never got better. Although that reminded him;

“Misato?”

“Hmm?” She seemed to be slightly wary.

“Um.” Playing with the spoon, he tapped it against the side of the mug, until he realised what he was doing, and stopped. “I... that is, I’ve been invited to a par... to do something with some friends this weekend, and I was wondering if I could be excused from... that is, if I can go. I mean, uh, I’d just be doing things on computers, rather than for real, and so it doesn’t really count in the same way, does it?”

He noticed the way that Misato stiffened up slightly, her face rigid and mask-like. “Your activity schedule is fixed; you can’t just have time off,” the Major stated, her voice flat. “Especially... well, we can talk about it when we get down to the Geocity, yes?”

With a groan, mostly suppressed, Shinji nodded. It wasn’t like it had been too likely that he would have got to go, anyway, was it? He was a hero saving panhumanity, apparently, and seemingly that meant that his time was state property. If... if only they sort of understood that there was a person at the heart of the giant ACXB war machine.

“If it helps, I’m sorry for this.” The cold expression broke, and Misato grinned. “And,” she added, with a grin, “there’s going to be something interesting for you to see down there. It might change your mind about a few things.”

Shinji sighed inwardly. That sounded like it was going to be unpleasant, no matter what Misato thought.



~'/|\'~




It was early morning in Chicago-2, clear and warm. This was not directly relevant down in the deep military bunkers, which remained at their constant light levels, but the bright autumnal day was somehow pervasive, even down here.

“Ah, it looks good, Captain. We have clearance confirmation on the test; security cybirds are in place, and report an all-clear for hostile unmanifested ENEs,” said Dr Shauderhauft, drumming his fingers against the wall as he stared at the weather projections on his bulky argoggles. “We’re going public, and it looks good for us. It’s a brand new day, and the sun is high.” Perfect weather for such a public demonstration, as they both knew.

The Deputy Director of Operations responsible for Unit 02 groaned, elbows resting on the railings, as he stared at the titanic face of the Evangelion. It had been repainted in a flat military grey for this test, and it made the behemoth feel somewhat soulless. “You better not be slipping,” he muttered.

“Huh?”

“A single technical mistake and everything could go wrong. Everybody will be watching. And if this goes wrong, I’m blaming you, Wilhelm.”

Plug suit already donned, cowl down, A10 clips in place, Test Pilot Soryu made a disgusted noise. “It won’t go wrong, Captain Martello,” she said, her tone clipped, eyes jumping between the two older men. “I will make no mistakes, and my test display was perfect.”

“Well.” The shrug, and the tone of voice said everything to the teenager, and she bristled, before forcing herself to relax in front of her superior.

“Were there any flaws in my performance in the test run, sir?” she asked, letting a hint of sarcasm creep in.

“There is such a thing as overconfidence.”

“Indeed there is,” an older man said, the click of his shoes echoing in the storage bay. In the brightness of the storage facility, his dark suit, the shirt a deep, deep red sucked at the light, the authorisation entopics floating around it visible to anyone tuned into the right band.

“Ah.” Captain Martello cleared his throat. “Uh, Professor Sylveste. What are... that is, this is a restricted zone, and...”

“... and I am no longer a member of Project Evangelion?” the man asked, one eyebrow raising elegantly. And then he waited, his silence uncomfortable for the staff of the modern Evangelion Group.

Asuka smirked.

“Have you come to wish us luck?” Dr Shauderhauft ventured.

“Luck?” A twitch of the mouth, a crinkle of the eyes. “No.” And then a faint sneer creased his face. “Luck is for people who aren’t good enough. If I was here to wish you luck,” and the disgust was evident, “I would be telling you that I think you needed it.”

“Oh, thank you, Uncle Cal,” the red-blonde girl said, a smile on her face. That was high praise from him, and she treasured it. He was one of the few people who she could accept such words from as genuine and earned. “The captain seems to have his doubts, but,” she giggled, a girlish and unprofessional display of emotion, “I suppose he just hasn’t been involved with the Group long enough.”

“I think...”

“You may be right there, Asuka,” the man with the rust-coloured hair said, smiling. “Now, I would like some time with Asuka before she is loaded,” said Calvin, tilting his head. Despite the phrasing, it was not a request. And although he was not part of the Evangelion Group any more, he had been part of the original Project, and was the head the Herkunft Group, a man who, together with Naoko Akagi, had been instrumental behind the LITAN system in the Eva. Such an individual was not a man one wished to needlessly aggravate. “Alone.”

The man and the girl stood alone in silence, until they were the only two standing there. Just as the Captain had before him, Dr Calvin Sylveste sighed, and stared at the mask of Unit 02. “You know,” he said, glancing over to Asuka, but his voice soft as if he were almost talking to himself, “I never thought this day would come.”

“Why not?” the girl asked, with a half-shrug. “You shouldn’t be so pessimistic, Uncle. I was always going to be good enough for the Evangelion Project to go public... in fact, I was good enough two years ago. It’s just they finally seem to have decided to acknowledge it.”

The two of them stood in silence, before the man sighed. “Asuka,” he began, “before you go, before the demonstration... I had intended to give this to you on that dinner we had together, but...”

“... but a Harbinger interrupted,” the girl interjected.

“... yes. And there never seemed to be the moment.” There was a snort. “That was the real reason for the dinner,” he said, darkly. “But, here.”

The box he passed to Asuka was rosewood, and from its weight and feel, it was genuine, not just a thin texture imprinted on plastics. Even through the thinner material at the fingertips of the plugsuit, she could feel the whorls and bumps; a sniff, and the scent of old varnish filled her nostrils. The sides were engraved with a recurring ribosomal motif. After a moment’s examination, she flipped the catch at the front, and her eyes widened at the contents.

Within the archaism of the ancient box was a fully modern containment unit, sealed utterly by the fact that it had been constructed around the thing that was to be protected. Through the adamant faceplate, Asuka could see something brownish and curved, part of some greater object, like a piece of pottery or...

“... a skull?” was her response, as she lifted the sealed unit out of the box. Now that she could see more of it, it was clearly a skull, one of an adult, with the lower jaw bone missing. The bones were the colour of mud, and one of the eye sockets was heavily damaged, the jagged breaks a contrast to the smooth curve of the other socket.

“Yes.”

Her blue Eyes met his, one eyebrow raised. “Why? Why would I want a skull piece? And who’s?”

Almost reflexively, the man ran a hand through his rust-coloured hair, now greying from age. “No one you know,” Calvin remarked, the corners of his eyes crinkling up, although the girl could see the disappointment in his eyes.

Asuka flinched at that. She hated to disappoint Uncle Cal, and her breath sped up, her mind whirring. What did he want? What did he expect her to know that she didn’t and what had she missed and what was she doing wrong and what did she need to do to make him happy again and...

“Unless you’re about 170,000 years old, of course,” he added.

She let out a breath. Information. Yes. A clue. He was letting it out and she had to work it out and... “Archaic homo sapiens,” she said, Eyes narrowing, as she tried to control her breath. “No... 170,000 years ago, that’s... there are both archaic and anatomically modern examples at the time.” She gazed up at him. “I... I don’t know. There isn’t enough information yet.”

There was a gentle sigh from the man. “Asuka, I’m not trying to test you.”

He always did this! He always tested her. What did he want? What game was he playing right now? What did he want? “Looking at it... I d-don’t think it’s an ape one, and...”

“Calm down.” There was a slightly sharp note in his voice, now. “It’s a present.” The man glanced over at Unit 02, running one hand along the neatly trimmed beard. “Yes, it’s an example of anatomically modern homo sapiens, from around 170,000 years ago; part of the skull.”

Asuka stared down at it. “Well... um.” She swallowed. “Thank you.” There was an awkward silence. She glanced up at the man, who was staring back at her, as if looking for some other response. “Thank you very much, Uncle Cal,” she said, before closing it, and giving him a hug, which he seemed to freeze up at, not shrinking away, or reciprocating. “I... I can’t say I was expecting it, and it isn’t my birthday for a while, but... yes,” she continued, her voice growing stronger, “... today is a special day, after all.”

“You’re welcome,” he said, finally, before smiling. “Your mother gave it to me as a present, before you were born,” he continued. “About two years before... yes, that would have been in ’73 or so. You’re old enough, and you’ve grown up enough that... well, especially today, I felt I should return it.” And then he returned the hug, hands clad in sterile gloves squeaking against the outer material of her plug suit. “Kyoko would have been proud to see how you turned out,” he said, staring over her shoulder at the four eyes of the Evangelion. “Even without her influence.”

Asuka bit her lip, and hugged tighter. “Thank you,” she said, voice soft. And then she looked down, and coughed. “Um. Can you hold on to this for me, Uncle Cal?” she asked, as she let go of him. She ran her hands down her body. “Sort of lacking pockets here,” she explained, with a smirk.

“Oh. Yes. Right. Of course.”

Footsteps behind them. “Asuka,” Kaji said, a half-smile on his lips. “They want you in the plug now.”

“Oh, good,” the girl said, spinning to beam at the ponytailed man. “You’ll be watching, won’t you, Kaji? A chance for them to see how amazing I can be, and you can be my lucky charm, yes?”

“Sure, why not?” The man shrugged. “Of course, I’m not allowed into the entry plug, but I’ll be in the stands.”

Asuka grinned. “Okay!” she said, over her shoulder, as she skipped over to the entry port. “I knew you’d be there, and this is going to be good! Just watch me closely, Kaji!”

The GIA agent was uncomfortably aware of the head of the Achtzig Group glaring at him.



~'/|\'~




“01-Nerv reports green on limited synch test, although activation is sealed off due to damage.”

“00-Selee is fully operational in Unit 00 and is ready.”

“We have confirmation that both Ouranous LITANs are green, Dr Akagi.”

Shinji hiccupped, and tasted bile in the LCL that filled his mouth, before it was washed away by the all-consuming tang of the orange fluid. Of all the things they made him do, carrying out synch tests in Unit 01, when it was still heavily damaged and inoperable, was probably one of the least painful. That didn’t make it not-pointless.

“Ready,” he informed Misato, flexing his fingers around the butterfly grips. “Let’s get this over and done with, so you can stick me in the training simulation. And then it can be time to shoot at Asherah. Again.”

Major Katsuragi appeared in his left eye. “Actually, no, we’ll be doing something different.”

Shinji blinked. “Oh joy,” he said. “Of course, you’ll be adding Mot to the training simulators now.

“No, I...”

“That was my favourite bit, the bit when the bomb went off in my chest. Even better than the bit when I got shot and died.” He swallowed. “I do hope that I get to do it again.”

A second window joined the first one. “That is not true, Test Pilot Ikari,” the milky-skinned girl stated. “You do not wish to do so again.”

The boy’s eyes narrowed and he looked away, hands clenching around the butterfly controls. He... he wasn’t sure how he felt about Rei, now. His previous confusion had collapsed into perplexity. She was brave and mentally strong and he owed her his life and she had bought him a book. But she was also off-putting, and above that, his father seemed to pay more attention to her than he did to him. The man had attended her parent’s day, and ignored him even when they were in the same class. The boy had seen him smile at her; he had never seen that. And she had hit him when he had said something which, if it had been said about another man, would have been an insult, but which for his father was merely a statement of fact.

Shinji Ikari understood, intellectually, that it was not Rei’s fault that his father only ever wanted to use him, and would bribe him with casual offerings to obtain loyalty, but never give him anything that mattered. That didn’t change how he felt.

Why would his father effectively adopt a sidocy like her, anyway?

“Look left, Test Pilot Ikari,” instructed one of the Operators, intruding into the conversation. “We want to check the vision calibration, because Nerv isn’t synching with the superconducting QUI devices... they’re still in damage-constrained mode. So just look at the red lights when they appear... sorry, Major, but we’re going to have to go to Audio Only for this.”

“Okay,” the Major said. “So we’re going to not put you against a sim of Mot, okay? Feel better?”

A bit, the boy had to admit.

“This is going to be purely conventional training, against smaller targets... man-sized to tank-sized,” she continued.

“Look left, Ikari. Please,” added the operator, running the checklist.

Shinji complied, but groaned. “Dealing with smaller enemies?” he asked. “What’s the point of that?” He squeezed tighter on the control yokes, wanting to get the synch test over and done with, so at least he could get out of the plug of this damaged Eva. “I’m not a soldier. And the Harbinger are giant... giant evil monster-things which are Eva-sized. You’re just trying to...”

“Yes, because of course the Harbingers will always have the decency of showing themselves at a scale that you can fight them properly,” Ritsuko snapped. “But, oh, fine. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it when you’re swarmed by... oh, say, car-sized centipede things that can cut through an AT-Field.”

“Oh.” Shinji winced. That did actually make sense. “So I’m going to be practicing against that kind of thing?”

“... Ikari, I’m going to need a check on the vertical alignment. Please don’t frown. And try not to make facial expressions,” ordered the Operator, and he complied. “Okay, look up.” Not making facial expressions was, in the boy’s experience, harder than it seemed when one was talking with Ritsuko Akagi; nevertheless, he looked up to the red light at the top of the screen.

“No,” the blond said, her voice clipped. “That will be initial training, so you will be practicing a mixture of anti-armoured-vehicle and anti-infantry tactics, in the simulator, using your mean synchronisation value for combat effectiveness and Evangelion behaviour.”

“Bottom right, Ikari. Please look as soon as you see the red light.”

“This is also to teach you how to use your LITAN better, Shinji,” the Major added. “Nerv is meant to handle the anti-infantry systems, but it still needs guidance. Rei’ll be working, independently, on sync and AT-Field control, so you will be on your own. We’ll be using Migou units as the OpFor,” she continued. “They don’t act quite in the same way as normal vehicles, and...”

Shinji pursed his mouth. “Okay,” he said, unwillingly, “... and you think that I might have to fight them.” It... yes, it seemed fairer that way. The Migou were a threat, after all, and it wasn’t like they were people. As long as they didn’t plan to use him as a proper soldier; he had read the contract he had signed, and it was clear that as a Test Pilot, he was restricted to anti-Harbinger deployments, except in cases of immediate attack.

“Yes.” The black-haired woman’s words confirmed his suspicions. “Unit 02 has already seen field use in emergencies on the Eastern European Front, and we can’t be sure that the Migou won’t try to take out the Evangelions. They’ve tried before.”

His eyes widened. “Tried? When?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Dr Akagi intruded. “Suffice to say, we are not wasting your time with this.” The woman coughed. “Now, if you could just hurry up and set up the Costal Urban Arctic sim, Maya, then we can get started.” The blonde cut the link to the plug, tapping her fingers on the control console in front of her, with the sound of calibrations in the background.

“Nervous?” Misato asked, resting one hand on her shoulder. “The 02 test?”

Ritsuko slipped away with a shrug. “No,” she said, flatly. “I trust Schauderhaft enough to know that there won’t be any mundane problems with the Unit, and there’s no point worrying. I can’t change anything, so I should just accept it, and make the most of it.”

“Bet you’re biting your nails, though,” the dark-haired woman said, with a faint grin.

“I am not!” Ritsuko protested, balling her hands into fists to prevent any examination of her fingers. She sighed. “Although I’m going to have to get my roots touched up,” she added. “Haven’t had time, and I’ll need to be looking good for Saturday. It’s just such a waste of time, though.”

“Which bit?”

“Precisely,” the scientist said to her old friend, with a sigh.



~'/|\'~



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See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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 Post subject: Re: Aeon Entelechy Evangelion (ANE rewrite) PostPosted: 2011-08-21 09:51pm
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~'/|\'~




Dr Calvin Sylveste leant against the wall, the light recess preventing the breeze from stirring his immaculately coifed rust-red hair. Besides him, the man from the GIA, his blue shirt unbuttoned, lit a cigarette, and sucked in a breath. The slight wrinkling of the scientist’s nose was testament enough to what he thought of Ryoji Kaji.

Nevertheless.

And it was in the mood of ‘Nevertheless’ that the silence, which was hostile on Sylveste’s part, and inattentive on Kaji’s part, continued. In fact, the red-haired man was pretty sure that the agent was wearing softcontacts and a subvocal microphone, and was doing something in a little world of his own. They needed to talk.

“Ryoji Kaji?” he asked rhetorically. “You are with the GIA?”

The ponytailed man blinked heavily, and turned around, his eyes focussing on the scientist. “Huh?” he asked. “Oh, yes. Office of Administration only; I’m with Human Resource Protection.”

That was almost certainly a lie, and Dr Sylveste made a mental note to see how far he could probe this man’s background to find out what he really did. “One might query why a member of the GIA is assigned to bodyguard duties, as the guardian of a teenage girl,” Calvin remarked idly.

A smile and a shrug from Kaji. He knew the other man knew exactly why; he suspected that he knew that he knew, too. But that didn’t make asking someone who’d just said his job was with Human Resource Protection why he was Protecting a Human Resource any less inane. “She is a high value target,” he said. “Her safety is rather important, and,” another shrug, “I’m primarily her guardian.”

Behind the bland, smiling mask, the agent was letting none of his opinions of Dr Calvin Sylveste slip. It would be enough to say that they would not be polite.

“You are aware of Asuka’s... infatuation,” the other stated, Eyes narrow, as he raised one hand to stroke the rust-coloured stubble that decorated his jaw.

Kaji winced, and nodded. “Yes,” he said. “Whatever else she is, she’s a teenage girl. Emotionally and physically.”

“And you’re keeping both of those facts in mind?” Sylveste asked, words slotting into place with mechanical precision. “That she is sixteen, and no matter how she acts around you, it is only teenage hormones, and so she’s not being rational about it?”

The younger man was not smiling any more. “Don’t take me for either an idiot or some kind of predator,” Kaji said, his voice dropping. “She’s half my age, someone I’m tasked with protecting,” and suddenly the genial smile was back, “... and, anyway, I prefer my women curvy and experienced, rather than bony, still-awkward teenagers.” He waited to see what the response to that baited statement was.

The injection of humour produced no visible shift in the scientist at first, besides a slight tightening of the muscles around the edge of his Eyes. Nevertheless, the feel of the atmosphere shifted, and after a moment’s contemplation, Calvin Sylveste nodded. “Good. Just so we have it clear. She’d mentioned you repeatedly, but I hadn’t seen how she acted around you until just then.”

“I’d heard of you, too, from her and others,” Kaji said, casually.

“Ha! Good things, I hope.”

“Asuka seems to... well, look at you as a father figure,” the agent said neutrally, eyes flicking across the other man’s rust-red hair and complexion. And, yes, that was something he had wondered about. That wasn’t who her father was recorded in her profile, and the lengths that one would need to go to, to conceal something like that, would be extreme, but... “She only has the highest regard for you,” Kaji said.

The smirk on the scientist’s face suggested that he had noticed the evasion. “I’ve known her all her life, and I’m the closest thing she’s had to family since Ky... since her mother died,” Calvin said, a hint of cold defensiveness creeping into his voice, despite his expression. “She lived with me when she was younger, back before my wife died, as you quite well know.”

The agent nodded, smiling. “Yes.” Time to change the subject. “And, of course, I’m fairly sure how much this means to her.”

“Oh, yes. It means a lot to me, as well, but...” Calvin Sylveste trailed off. “Excuse me,” he said, straightening up, with a somewhat predatory look in his eye. “We can talk later; there’s someone else I need to talk to.” Hands in pockets, with an almost insultingly nonchalant swagger, he made his way over to the nazzada who had just moved into sight. “Oh, Tokita,” he drawled. “It’s wonderful to see you on this fine morning.”

Two red eyes narrowed at that. “Ah,” the man said, clearly repressing a shudder of annoyance, and Sylveste’s smile grew. “Dr Sylveste. How nice to see you.”

“I know, I know.” The auburn-haired man flashed a glance to the side, up at the sky. “Hmm... looks like it should be clear for at least the morning, wouldn’t you say?”

“I suppose so.”

“But of course.” He inclined his head towards the woman accompanying the nazzada, in her early twenties and dressed in the uniform of a low ranking officer in the New Earth Government Navy. “I get ahead of myself. Tokita, please introduce us.”

The nazzada, the head of the NEGN Project Daeva, straightened up subtly, taking a step back from Dr Sylveste, who was leaning in. “Uh... yes. Sylveste, this is Lieutenant Mana Krishima. Mana, this is Dr Calvin Sylveste, head of Ashcroft’s Achtzig Group, and...”

“That’s the AI one, isn’t it?” the woman asked him directly, in a slightly distracted-sounding tone.

“Indeed,” Sylveste said, running hand along his neatly trimmed beard. “Tokita also forgot that I have the Yi Prize for Advances in Cognitive Neuroscience, the Dyson Prize for Computer Mind-Theory, and have a history of getting on his nerves,” Calvin continued, in the same cheerful, friendly voice that, if one were not to listen to the words, would sound amicable. “Well, no, I flatter myself.”

“He’s an egotistical, arrogant, smug...”

“... exceptionally intelligent, gifted, talented...”

“... self-righteous Ashcroft type, basically,” Tokita concluded. “And... why is he even here? I was under the impression that this was meant to be the test of some new Ashcroft prototype weapon, not anything to do with the Achtzig Group... unless you’ve loaded one of your precious TITANs on board?” he hazarded, fishing for information.

“Heavens no,” was the response. “This is a personal matter, why I’m here, to give support. And, no, it’s not a TITAN on board; it’s cruder than that, and nothing that the Achtzig Group has made,” Sylveste said, with misleading honesty.

Tokita relaxed subtly. “I’ve been hearing about this ‘Evangelion’ prototype,” he admitted. “I have to say, it’s a little mean-spirited of the Foundation to schedule this on an emergency, when you damn well know that our thing is scheduled for this weekend. Of course,” he snorted, “maybe you’re just afraid of what our Daeva will do, eh, Mana?”

“Maybe, sir,” the woman said dreamily.

The expression of Calvin Sylveste’s face was studiously blank. “We will see,” he said, before glancing down at his watch. “Only a few minutes to go,” he said, staring out over the testing grounds.



~'/|\'~




Sirens sounded. They were not the high wail of an evacuation notice; no, they were the precautionary sounding of a prearranged alert. Yellow lights lit up within the hollow bowl-shape of the testdome, cascading along the walls, while emergency floor markings directed the way to the nearest halt-point. It was merely a safety precaution, because no-one should have been inside the testdome by now, but it was still protocol.

“Cameras are check-lit green. All rolling, and we’re pseudo-live. Transmission status check?”

[Transmission status is: Operational. Functionality is green.]

“Keep an eye on it,” Dr Schauderhaft ordered. “And make sure the testdome walls are responding properly to flash stimuli, then go to green.”

They didn’t want anything to go wrong today.

[Warning. Special Weapons Test In Progress,] proclaimed LAI systems out in the test dome and in the command centre, repeating their warning in Nazzadi. [Rahui prekati. Nekwekutermumani xamoni nowetemagini.]

Captain Martello leaned forwards. “Well, looks like everything’s in place, people,” he said, cracking his knuckles. “Get Unit 02 up. Let’s go and make the news.”

In the entry plug of the Unit, Asuka Langley Soryu took a steady breath of LCL, the taste as nothing to her, and flexed her fingers around the control yokes. Closing her eyes, she took a second breath, and rolled her neck, and her Evangelion moved with her. Synchronisation was holding steady, and the unique qualia of piloting the synthorg were already at the forefront of her mind.

[Are you ready, Test Pilot?] asked Nerv, her Ouranos LITAN, in its harsh, synthetic voice. [Captain Martello requests confirmation that you will carry out the drills as rehearsed.]

“Yes,” she said, simply. Both Kaji and Uncle Cal were watching her, as well as the eyes of the world. She would not contemplate anything less than perfection, because she would not fail. At all.

The four-eyed behemoth rose from the chute, clouds of chilled gas enveloping it. The titan was motionless, dead, still, arms limp, head lowered.

And then it moved.



~'/|\'~




“Turn up the news,” the elderly man ordered Hikary, sitting at the edge of his seat, aged hands clasped around one of his walking sticks. Beady eyes stared from under snow white brows, darting between the girl and the screen.

The amlaty suppressed a sigh. You had to make exceptions for people this old, because even the heights of modern medical science couldn’t keep the edge of the mind sharp when one was, as he had told her several times, 101 years old. “I can’t,” she explained to the individual she was helping on her Social Work Programme today. There were entire arcology domes of people like this, all humans, usually without any family and having problems caring for themselves. “Remember, Mr Britton, you have the muse locked to your voice.”

The old man blinked. “Oh, right,” he said, tone distracted, as he peered around, before settling his gaze back on the screen, and leaning forwards even further. Evidently, he had given up on whatever he had been looking for. “You know, I don’t approve of all these mecha,” he said to her, with a nod. “They aren’t natural. How do they not fall through the ground, that’s what I’d like to know? They don’t look like they should be real. Like something from science fiction.” The man snorted, and reached behind him, pulling out an old fashioned remote control which he had apparently been sitting on. “Mind you, I started thinking I was living in the future when I was twenty, and things have only got more so. Look at all the ‘arcano’ stuff that’s all around... I can remember when it was all theoretical physics and blather. Far less theoretical, still as much blather to me. Can’t trust it. I can remember when we had proper science, you know. None of this ‘r-states’ and ‘arcano-magic’ stuff that drives people mad.”

Hikary noted the shake in his hands, as he looked away from the screen, to a picture propped up on the side, taken in the 2050s, before the Nazzadi invasion. A younger him and a woman about his age stood by a lake, with a woman who looked like a daughter, another man, and at knee level, what could only be a young grandchild, sulkily glowering at the camera.

“All these magical mecha... and none of them can make you happy,” the old man said, voice querulous and soft.



~'/|\'~




One foot broke the armoured ground, one subtle shift to the balance of the thrusters sent the Eva springing off, and the indomitable will of the AT-Field thrust with heat-shimmers back, to vault the simulated barricade. Eyes half-closed, barely breathing, a flick of her Eyes across the screen painted the model hostiles in red, and the salvo of micromissiles took them down. A few managed to return fire, the dumb drones acquiring the hulking shape, but their dummy shells rattled off battleship-thick hull plating and then they were eliminated.

Check for balance, adjust posture for recoil, keep low because hostiles may aim for the head.

In a half-crouch, the Babylon cradled in the Unit’s hands roared, and a cloud of smoke replaced the effects of an arcanochromatic shell, ‘wiping out’ an entire block. Inwardly, Asuka sneered, because the plume was nowhere near authentic, but only for a second, because the traceries of artillery paths on the inner wall of her plug indicated that her opponent had located her, and had apparently decided to take no chances that she might intercept the on-target shells.

As if that would be enough.

“Counterbattery targets,” she instructed her LITAN, and began a dodging weave designed to maximise the fire-time for her laser defence grids. She could feel her plug move deeper and deeper as her synch ratio increased, and, eyes hooded, she smiled.

And leapt, boosting the A-Pod thrusters in the Type-B(F) armour to max as an AT-Field punched a hammer blow in the air in front of her. Yes, she wasn’t meant to do it this way, but she’d had the simulations checked, and as it turned out, the shockwave of her jump sent shells tumbling. The sonic boom of this sudden transition pulsed through the test dome, sending drones flying, and she took her chance.

One step, two steps, spin-kick low – and the air cracked like a whip as she demolished the building – and leap. Two shots from the Babylon at the stationary defences and a missile barrage to clean out the foxholes with fire. And then there was only the burning hot whiteness of the plasmathrowers, sadly only simulated for this, and her triumph.

Test Pilot Asuka Langley Soryu opened a channel back to her commanders. “Objective completed; total destruction of assigned targets.” Her Eyes flicked up to the clock. “Mission time, T-plus one minute and nine seconds. Which is four seconds better than the test run. And a new personal best. Oh, and a new Test Pilot best, but that goes without saying, because I already had the record for that.”

And only then did she let out a slow breath of LCL. “Nerv, stand down,” she ordered the Eva.

[Yes, Asuka,] the LITAN said, obeying.



~'/|\'~




Leaning against the wall, Ryoji Kaji let out a slow breath. He had seen more that his fair share of Evangelion operations – and had the increased security clearance to show for it – but it was hard to become jaded. Even if the sheer scale of the behemoth-class mecha could be adjusted to, the way they moved and the organic grace of the underlying ackersby organism still drew the eye. And that had been a more impressive than usual display.

Right on cue, his muse alerted him of an incoming call.

“That was very nicely done, Asuka,” he told her by way of greeting, letting his lips creepy up as to make sure that his approval could be picked up by the throat-mike. In his experience, it was best to get that in as soon as possible, before she could start to fret that she had let someone down or failed in some way.

Kaji put the blame for that directly on Calvin Sylveste’s head.

And true to form, her first words were, “Are you sure?” spoken in a concerned tone. “I mucked up one of my landings. I came in too quickly and there’s a minor stress-fracture in the plating on the right leg. I can see the warning icons.”

“Trust me, Asuka,” Kaji said, lips barely moving. “You did fine. I didn’t see anything wrong with it at all.”

A pause. Then, “Really? You think I did my best?”

“Yes, really.”

“Thank you so much, Kaji! Wasn’t I amazing!” the girl said, smirking from within her plug. She tried to keep it out of her voice. He had believed that she’d actually mucked up on a landing, in public like this. It was so sweet of him to tell her that she was perfect, even when she’d ‘admitted’ to him that she hadn’t been so. It was part of the reason he was so wonderful; he could see enough to see that she was just that good.



~'/|\'~




The spluttering noise coming from Tokita was like music to Calvin Sylveste’s ears. He was, in fact, rather pleased that he had chosen to record all of this conversation, because this would mean that he would get to listen to it any time he liked.

“Just our little humble offering to the field of ACXB design,” he said, not even trying to conceal his expression. “Nothing much, really. I’m sure that your war machine will come with an AT-Field which can take the ventral weapon of a Migou capital ship without breaking.” He paused. “And I’m sure that your in-atmosphere flight capabilities put the way that this forty-metre mecha can go supersonic in atmosphere to shame.” Another pause. “There’s no way we can beat you, right?”

“Should be a fun challenge,” Lieutenant Krishima said, a faint, almost distracted-looking smile on her lips.

Tokita shot her a disgusted glare, and seemed on the edge of saying something, but chose not to. “Very nice,” he managed instead, glaring at Sylveste. “No wonder you wanted to get your prototype out before ours. But...”

“Oh no, dear boy,” Calvin said, slapping his hand down on the other man’s shoulder with unwelcome forwardness. “That’s the Production Model. The Test Model and the Prototype have already seen active combat against Harbinger-class entities, and the Production Model itself had to be moved over from the Eastern European Front for these final tests.” One finger went to his lips. “Oh,” he said, with mock sympathy. “Are you still in the prototype phase? I suppose it will be a while before you iron out all the bugs.”

The nazzada slid away from the violation of his personal space, face darkening with anger. Rather than respond, though, he turned heel, and with a barked, “Come!” he marched off, trailed by the woman.

“See you on Saturday!” Dr Sylveste called after him, his grin reaching from ear to ear. “Good luck!”

Leaning back, the Ashcroft scientist cracked his knuckles. That had been fun. It wasn’t often enough that he got to do things like that, and that would almost certainly leave the head of the NEG Naval Project Daeva in an appropriate mental state. Though, really, it was just a shame that Tokita just wasn’t good enough.

He’d have been more of a challenge if he’d been better.

Whistling, Calvin Sylveste reached for his PCPU to check how the news organisations were responding to this revelation.



~'/|\'~




There was a high-pitched noise coming from Kensuke Aida, as he stared at the screen. His hands were shaking, and his fumbling attempts to reach for his PCPU were in vain. The fact that he refused to take his eyes from the display was another handicap in this objective, and would soon pose a problem to any attempts of his to talk about this on the Grid.

Any chance that the other Naval Cadets would get on with their tasks was similarly remote. And their supervisors were similarly distracted.

It was, all present agreed, fair enough.



~'/|\'~




Toja felt his MP vibrate against his thigh, and ignored it. He had it on silent, its muse only vocalising in emergencies, and he was in the junior classroom, helping nine and ten year olds with their spelling.

It was probably Kensuke getting bored in the Naval Cadets, he thought, with a roll of his eyes. Honestly. Didn’t he know that some people needed the marks from the Social Work Programme to bring their grades up, and couldn’t just answer their MP any time?

He drew his attention back to the classroom, running a hand through his dark hair. “Uh,” he said in response to the platinum-blonde girl. “I think... yes, it’s an ‘e’ there, not an ‘o’. It’s... it’s sort of an ‘er’ sound, not an ‘or’ one, if you sort of say it to yourself. Makes sense... uh, Christine?” he hazarded.

The little girl nodded enthusiastically. “I see,” she said. “Thank you, Kany’s brother.”

His attention shifted to the girl sitting next to her, who had her chin propped up on one hand, staring out the window at the shrouded pillar in the centre of the city, rising up, still surrounded by the flocks of containment vehicles. “Are you stuck?” he hazarded. That was one of the things he had to do, remind students who looked like they weren’t paying attention that they were meant to be working. “Want help?”

“I do not need your help,” the dark-haired girl, Imi said, not looking at him. “I have finished already. And I don’t need your help with the spelling. Spelling is just remembering things. It’s easy.” She paused. “I’m thinking,” she added.

Toja nodded, and moved on to an amlata who has his hand up, and who was having problems with the word ‘instrument’. He liked the brighter ones, because they made his work easier. They meant that he had to do less things. And things with Imi were still... awkward, after that bit with the Harbinger. Clearly she felt the same way, if she wasn’t going to look at him.



~'/|\'~




Towel around his neck, his change of non-school clothes folded on the bench next to him, Shinji Ikari stared at the mirror. Rivulets of water ran down his front and back, painting traceries on his skin. He was not cold, because the changing rooms were heated, but nonetheless he shivered.

He really hated how normal showers, even with the hair wash they provided, never quite got rid of the scent of LCL. In the warmth of the men’s changing room, he could still taste it with every breath he took, through his mouth and through his nose.

And sitting here, in this quiet with only the slight drip of water in the background as his companion, he had experienced an unpleasant realisation. Heavens knew, he didn’t like his father. There were so many reasons. The fact that he was cold, unpleasant, manipulative... the list of personality flaws that Shinji assigned to his father could have filled a tome of ancient curses. The man was the bane of his life, someone who only ever used him like a toy or a puppet, who threatened others to force him to obey, and who never seemed to show him the slightest bit of love of affection. And if Gendo had ever loved him, ever treated him as his son, he certainly did not do so now save when it suited him. Shinji wanted rid of him, the bonds of blood severed with a knife, so that they could go their separate ways. That was what he told himself.

Yet he had still been jealous when he had seen the man taking Rei Ayanami, rather than him, around for the teacher’s conference.

The disappointment, the nausea-invoking heart-pounding anger to see that, against his expectations, Gendo Ikari had turned up, but had not turned up for him, wasn’t something he wanted. He wanted to be rid of the man, didn’t he? He wanted nothing more to be allowed to go home to Japan, back to Yuki and Gany who valued him as more than a component in a machine, more than an unwilling child solider necessity, who actually talked to him for reasons other than they wanted something.

And yet jealousy was still there.

Shinji sighed, and slumped forwards, wrapping his arms around his bare chest. He took several deep, shuddering breaths, before letting them out explosively. Fine. Fine. Just fine. He was seventeen now, so got to be the big brave hero soldier – even if he didn’t want to be, and if he wasn’t stuck as an Evangelion pilot, he would have to be twenty-one – and so clearly he could stop anything that got in his way. He was strong! He was tough! He didn’t care that his father seemed to want to take a creepy White girl to the teacher’s conference, but not him! He was a veritable powerhouse of... power. His name was a killing word and why was he even thinking that?

He managed to keep that attitude up for all of about ten seconds, before he started to snigger at the sight of himself in the mirror, posturing like this. He wasn’t a hero. He was a fairly skinny Japanese teenager staring at himself, ribs protruding against his skin, because he hadn’t put on weight since his last growth spurt. He was all pale, almost washed-out under the bright-lights of the changing room, and... and just not that kind of thing. Shaking his head at his own stupidity, he sighed again.

And... hmm, he should probably put some underwear on before he thought about trousers or the t-shirt. It would be cripplingly embarrassing to forget.

So suitably attired, he made his way out of the changing rooms. And so he was rather surprised to find Misato, and quite a few of the other staff waiting for him there. With... with a cake. And paper party hats. And balloons. And... well, and everything.

“Happy birthday,” the dark-haired woman said with a grin. “Heh. I bet you thought I wasn’t doing anything and was just going to make you do tests.”

“...not that there’s anything wrong with tests,” Ritsuko said, leaning against the wall and giving off an aura of forced joviality, the pink hat incongruous with her dyed hair. She caught Shinji glare. “Joking, joking,” she said, raising her hands up, and gesturing the younger woman in the loose overalls of an Operator forwards with the cake. “And there isn’t even anything like LCL in the icing.”

“There also isn’t LCL,” Maya added, as she put it down on one of the seats along the hallway. “Who had the knife? I’m pretty sure I put it down over there.”

“No, I’m pretty sure you had it in your pocket,” Shigeru Aoba said, with a shrug. “You tucked it in.”

“No,” Maya said, patting herself down. “Not in the pockets.”

Ritsuko sighed. “Right!” she called out. “Has anyone seen a knife?”

“Rei was practicing with the prog-knife today,” Misato contributed, with a grin.

The blonde glowered. “That’s not very helpful,” she snapped. “Okay, people. I want a proper search for this. Maya, where do you think you left it?”

“... we were keeping it in the fridge in the office on 6V,” the brown-haired woman said, with a moment’s thought. “But I’m sure we took it out of there.”

“We did,” contributed another one of the Operators. “Remember? Because Sary started humming the music from Madness Place while pretending to kill Hukary, and that was in the lift.”

“Okay, which lift was it?”

Misato sighed, and shuffled closer to Shinji as the Great Knife Hunt began. “Eh,” she started, massaging the back of her neck. “It was going to go better in my plan.”

Shinji let a smile creep onto his face. “At least you’ve never lost the Eva’s prog-knife,” he said, softly. “It’s probably better this way around.”

“That’s the spirit,” she said, sounding delighted. “Anyway, the prog-knife has all sorts of tracking things on it. And...” she paused. “Rits, does it need to be this knife? What’d be the nearest staff-kitchen where you could get a new one?” she called out, provoking a new flurry of debate.

There was a pause between the two of them, then; “Thank you for remembering,” Shinji managed. “It means a lot.”

Misato ruffled his still-wet hair. “Hey, I’ve missed birthdays too,” she said, a lilt in her voice. “It’s not fun. It’s just we had to get all the teachers complaining about your grades and the training out of the way first, before we could go do something this evening, right? Better this way?”

Shinji made a noise of agreement.

“And that’s the other thing I wanted to tell you now,” she continued. “You’re getting the weekend off, and I’m taking you on a trip over to Chicago-2.” Shinji stifled a groan at that; when would people understand that he didn’t like flying? Misato continued unabated, “There’s a bit of formal technical stuff which is the ‘real’ reason we’re there, but it’s also a bit of a chance for a break for you. I mean, your synch ratio is back to what it was before Mot... actually slightly higher, which is really good...”

“It actually is,” Ritsuko called from the other side of the room.

“... and, well,” Misato shrugged, “it was your birthday. So we’ll head over Friday night, get the business out of the way, and then it can just be fun stuff, right?”

The boy felt a slight urge to protest that she was treating him like a child, and that he really just wanted to do nothing and catch up on homework, but suppressed it. After all, Misato was trying to be nice, and... yes! He deserved some time off from training and away from the Evas!

“Oh, and you should take some of your friends,” Ritsuko added, as she approached, knife in hand. “Aoba had it,” she clarified. “I mean, don’t expect to get many more weekends like this off, so you should make the best of it, right?”

The boy nodded, silently.

“We’ll also be picking up the Second Child... that’s Test Pilot Soryu, and her Evangelion, Unit 02, which is the Production Model, while we’re there,” the blonde added. “She’s the most experienced Test Pilot, and has seen combat on the Eastern European Front; she’s the one who was used when we went public today. Apparently she was furious that she got transferred to America just before Mot showed up. So she’ll be stationed in L2, too, so we have another Evangelion here.”

That did sound nice, Shinji had to admit. An experienced pilot would mean that he wouldn’t have to be the main Evangelion pilot, and... maybe they wouldn’t need him as much, then. Which means there wouldn’t be painful sympathetic burns and tedious recovery because horrific monsters had damaged his giant robot, and the idiot who had designed the thing had decided that he should suffer because of that. A world which that happened less was one which, if perhaps not all was right, then at least considerably more was.

“She’s a bright girl, and a very good pilot,” Misato said, cheerfully, nudging Shinji in the ribs. “I heard she’s already interested in you. I think you’ll like her.”

The boy blushed, but smiled nonetheless, as the cake was cut. Maybe today wasn’t so bad after all.

And then he blinked, as something sunk in.

“... wait. The Evas went public?”



~'/|\'~




The tinted coloured figures sat around the desk, the immaterial, intangible entopics blank and emotionless.

Yellow spoke.

“The initial phase is now complete.”

White spoke.

“Phase II is now in progress.”

Red spoke.

“D-d-deviation from extra...polated ssssschema; minimal. There, but m-m-minimal.”

Purple spoke.

“Interference from hostile powers; within tolerated levels.”

Green spoke.

“Conclusion. The path remains viable.”

Gendo Ikari leant forwards, eyes hidden by opaque glasses. “All is going according to the scenario,” he said, simply.



~'/|\'~



Image
See the Anargo Sector Project, an entire fan-created sector for Warhammer 40k, designed as a setting for Role-Playing Games.

Author of Aeon Natum Engel, an Evangelion/Cthulhutech setting merger fan-fiction.

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