Chapter Eleven

“The Bigger They are…”

 

            “I won’t go easy on you!”

 

            “That’s the way I like it!”

 

            The peaceful morning was disturbed by the sounds of motion and flesh on flesh impacts.  Asuka threw a punch at Shinji’s head, which he easily avoided.  His leg shot out in return, sweeping Asuka’s legs out from under her.  She twisted in air to perform a round off that ended with her in a ready stance.  Shinji lashed out with a three-punch combo that she weaved through, only to grab his wrist on the last punch.  She pulled his overbalance and dropped her shoulder under his arm, throwing him over her shoulder.  The young boy made a tight ball in midair to land hip-to-hip with her.  He freed his wrist, moved it behind her back, and reversed the throw.  Asuka grabbed onto his shirt on her way over, pulling him along with her.

 

            Shinji rolled with it until he was flat on his back and kicked Asuka over his head.  She flew forward until she tucked and rolled.  Her feet hit a nearby tree, and she used it to kick off of to come back to Shinji’s position.  She managed to tag him in the shoulder before he got out of the way.  She finished with a dive roll that left her, once again, in a ready stance.

 

            They began to circle each other, weighing one another’s openings.  Shinji, in his blue copy of Ranma’s teenaged outfit, sneered at Asuka.  “What’s the matter, tired already?”

 

            Asuka, in a red Chinese outfit, smirked back.  “What’s wrong with you?  Am I too much woman for you?”

 

            They charged at one another once more, resuming the high paced martial arts display.  They carried on like there was nothing else in the world except for the battle.  They paid no mind that they were fighting in front of a NERV hospital, and to the fact that two women were watching them from the upper windows.  The first one was wearing a conservative housedress with her hair in a loose ponytail.  The other wore a pants suit with her hair shorn in a pageboy style.

 

            “It’s almost like watching Ranma fight his girl form.”  Ukyou commented as she pulled her long chestnut hair back over her shoulders.

 

            “It’s amazing how good they’ve become in such a relatively short time.”  Akane commented as she looked back down on the two combatants.  “I know Ranma is good, but I didn’t think he was THAT good.”

 

            Ukyou smirked.  “It’s not just him, it’s mostly the kids.  I’ve felt it from all the kids in Toji’s class.  They have amazing natural chi abilities.  With just a little bit of instruction, they can go a long way.”

 

            “Why didn’t you train Toji?”  Akane asked.

 

            The former chef sighed.  “I wanted him to be a normal boy.  I didn’t want him to get caught in the life that we all lived.  I never even told him he had a legacy of martial arts in the family.  Granted he probably would have laughed if he knew it was a cooking art.”

 

            The former ‘uncute’ fiancé smirked.  “At least you have a legacy.  All I’ve got is a wasted life, pining away for someone who would never be there.”

 

            The other smiled back at her.  “Don’t you have that Kaji guy now?  He may not be mister right, but it’s a start.”

 

            Akane chuckled.  “I’ve worked to hard on him for just a ‘start’.  You don’t know how long it took me to get him cleaned up.  You’d think the guy never shaved before in his life.”

 

            The two enjoyed a pleasant laugh.  Ukyou looked down toward the kids again.  “Where’s the other one?  The one with the blue hair?”

 

            Akane shrugged.  “She comes and goes as she pleases.  She’s not officially living with Ranma until they finish renovating the condo.”  She shook her head with a rueful look on her face.  “I still can’t believe him.  The day after a major battle, and what does that jerk do?  He dumps three kids in my lap, buys the two adjacent condos to his, hires a contractor to make them all one residence so the kids can’t even stay at their own place, and then finishes his day by eloping with his girlfriend and running off for a romantic honeymoon.”

 

            “Do you really think it’s that romantic?”  Ukyou asked.  “This IS Ranma we’re talking about.  He wouldn’t know romance if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.”

 

            “I just needed something to vent about.  It feels good to be myself again.  No more living a lie.”  Akane took a seat and looked over to where Toji was still in a coma from his battle.  “So where is his father?”

 

            Ukyou thought about having a form of revenge by telling Akane the truth about Toji’s father, but resisted the temptation.  She made Ranma swear that he wouldn’t tell anyone, and she wasn’t going to let Toji think of anyone but her husband as his father, despite his knowledge that he wasn’t.  “My husband works in old Tokyo.  It was the only job he could get and he can’t come home for about a week from when an angel attacks.  It takes NERV a while to get the rails up and running again after an assault.”

 

            “Oh.”  Akane sighed.

 

            “So, are you enjoying a bout of being a parent to three teenagers?”  Ukyou smiled.

 

            The youngest Tendo sneered at the chestnut haired woman.  “Those two kids down there are a handful.  They’re both afraid of getting close to one another, and yet it’s so obvious that they love each other.  I just want to slap them both!”

 

            Ukyou smirked.  “Sounds like a certain pervert and tomboy I once knew…I think its karmic justice.”

 

            Akane regarded her.  “Were we really that bad?”

 

            “Yes.”  Ukyou answered simply.  There was a knock at the door.  “Come in.”

 

            Hikari timidly walked in carrying her school bag.  “I’m sorry if I’m intruding.”

 

            “Don’t be silly.”  Ukyou smiled brightly at the girl and walked over to put her hand on the girl’s shoulder.  “I’m sure Toji would miss you if you didn’t show up everyday to talk to him.  I know he’ll come back for a pretty girl.”  She winked at the teenager.

 

            The girl blushed slightly and walked over to Toji’s bed.  Akane smirked as she watched the girl watch over the unconscious boy.  “It’s good that you talked the staff into letting her come as often as she likes.”

 

            Ukyou popped her knuckles.  “Yeah, I only had to break a couple noses before they saw the error of their ways.”

 

            “Well that’s one happy ending on the way.  Now if we can just work on another…”  They both looked back out the window to the kids outside.

 

 

 

            Down below, Shinji made one final move.  He waited until Asuka made another punch.  He ducked below her swing and grabbed her shoulder and pulled forward.  She fell forward and he wrapped a leg around both of hers.  She wound up flat on her stomach while Shinji sat on top of her.  “I win.”  Shinji proclaimed as he smirked down at her.

 

            Asuka struggled against him.  “It’s not over yet!  Just let me get out of this!”  She wriggled on the ground a while, but Shinji kept a firm hold on her.

 

            The boy smiled down on her.  “I guess there’s only one way to make you admit defeat.  Chinese Tickle Torture Technique!”  He ran his arm up her side and started tickling.

 

            “Stop…It…”  Asuka barely managed between laughs.

 

            “Not until you give up!”  Shinji continued his torture.

 

            “A…student…ha ha…of…<giggle> Anything Goes…<snigger> doesn’t…give up! <snort>”  Asuka’s laughing was getting out of her control.

 

            “Wow, I didn’t know you did barnyard impressions!  Let’s hear a cow!”  Shinji taunted.

 

            “I will not do a cow!”  Asuka growled.

 

            “Just say uncle.”  Shinji pinched her side, hard.

 

            “AHH!  Uncle!!!”

 

            “Now say aunt.”

 

            “Just let me up!”

 

            Shinji smirked as he let her back up.  He shifted to the side, sitting down on the ground cross-legged.  Asuka turned where she was and sat facing him.  They sat there for a moment catching their breaths, staring into one another’s eyes.

 

            The auburn haired girl finally broke the silence.  “So where did you learn that lock?  Ranma hasn’t taught me that.”

 

            The boy’s smile dropped from his face.  “Ranma told me how to do it while I was fighting Toji.  I used it to keep his EVA pinned while I pierced his core.”

 

            Asuka put a hand on Shinji’s shoulder.  “Stop saying it like that!  You weren’t fighting Toji, you were fighting an angel!”

 

            “I know.  I just feel bad about fighting with one of my friends trapped inside.”  He dipped his head a little.

 

            She saw the pain in his eyes and felt sorry for him.  She knew how hard piloting the EVA had been on him when he first started.  He had since gotten used to it, but she could still see some sorrow when he had to confront a friend.  “Come on, Shinji.  Let’s go check on Toji.  He wasn’t hurt, so he should wake up soon, right?”

 

            The boy nodded and followed her lead back up to the room where Hikari, and the adults were watching over the unconscious boy.  Shinji walked to the bedside.  “Yo, class rep.  Any changes?”

 

            The freckle faced girl sighed.   “Not yet.”  Shinji’s face looked downcast.

 

            Ukyou walked over and put a hand on Shinji’s shoulder.  “It’s not your fault he’s like this.  Actually you saved him.”

 

            He looked up at the former chef.  “What do you mean?”

 

            She smiled down at him.  “He could have been hurt much worse or even killed if you hadn’t done what you did.  At least this way he’s only in a coma and not fighting for his life like his sister.”

 

            Shinji looked a little better.  “How is she?  I heard she took a turn for the worse.”

 

            It was Ukyou’s turn to look downcast.  “We take it day by day.  She’s in the ICU now.  She still has an optimistic attitude though.”

 

            The boy put a hand on hers.  “I’m sorry.  I didn’t want to make you sad.”

 

            The chestnut haired woman smiled at the boy.  “Such a compassionate boy.”  She thought.  “Not putting himself before anyone else.  He really does care about everyone.”  She turned and looked at Asuka, whose eyes were glued on the boy in front of her.  Ukyou nodded and reached into her pocket and pulled out some cash.  “Why don’t you kids go get some ice cream?  That’ll cheer you up.”  She turned to the freckled girl.  “Do you want some ice cream?”

 

            Hikari shook her head.  “I’d like to stay here, if I may.”

 

            “Of course you may.”  Ukyou looked over to Akane who was sharing the knowing smile.  “You don’t mind if they go off alone do you?”

 

            “Not at all.”  Akane’s smile broadened.

 

            Shinji, who was oblivious to the obvious setup, took the money and went to leave the room.  “Come on, Asuka.  Let’s go.  We might see if we can find Rei as well.”

 

            Asuka frowned at the mention of the other girl but went to follow Shinji out the door.  She was stopped by Ukyou’s hand on her shoulder.  The former chef whispered into her ear.  “If you want to comfort him, give him a hug the next time he starts feeling bad.”

 

            “You sure he won’t mind?”  Asuka asked.

 

            “I think it will do him a world of good even if he does mind.”  Ukyou smiled.  “Now, get out of here and go have some fun.”

 

            The two teens headed out from the hospital toward downtown Tokyo-3.  They both took it at a leisurely walk.  After a bit Shinji’s expression started to fall again.  Asuka looked at him and considered what Ukyou had said.  She stepped in front of him and stopped.  Shinji stopped and noticed the determined look on Asuka’s face.  “What’s wrong, Asuka?”

 

            She didn’t say a word as she reached out and pulled him in for a hug.  Shinji stiffened as she held him tight and rested her head on his shoulder.  He stood there, stock still, until finally his arms wrapped around her as well.  They hugged each other for a while until a soft cough from the side got their attention.  The started and jumped apart when they saw Rei standing beside them.  They both looked abashed as Shinji spoke.  “Hello, Rei. We were wondering where you went.”

 

            Asuka turned to Rei and put her hands on her hips.  “Is there a problem, wonder girl?”

 

            Rei walked purposely toward Shinji.  The boy unconsciously took a step backward.  He tensed up as Rei reached her hands out toward his face.  She grabbed him and pulled him in for a kiss.  The kiss only lasted a few moments, and then blue haired girl let him go, both of them slightly breathless.

 

            Asuka’s jaw dropped.  “W-w-what are you doing!”  She shouted as she tried to recompose herself.

 

            The first child turned to her.  “That was a kiss.  Did I not do it right?”

 

            “It was fine by me.”  A still slightly stunned Shinji commented

 

            “That was nothing.  Let me show you how it’s done!”  Asuka strode forward and pulled Shinji in for another kiss.  The auburn haired girl held this kiss longer than Rei and slid her tongue into the shocked boy’s mouth.  Shinji didn’t know what to do.  He was put into shock by the fact that the two other pilots were in a kissing contest using him as the guinea pig.

 

            Asuka broke the kiss and spun around toward Rei.  “Beat that!”

 

            Shinji dropped to the ground like a marionette with its strings cut.

 

 

 

            Back at the hospital, Akane and Ukyou had stepped out to get some food for themselves and Hikari.  The freckled faced class representative still watched Toji diligently for any changes.  She was beginning to despair when a small groan came from his mouth.  She jumped to her feet and went to his bedside.

 

            Toji slowly opened his eyes and was greeted by the sight of Hikari looking down on him.  “C-class rep?”

 

            “Suzuhara.” She smiled down on him.

 

            “Have long was I out?”  He groaned as he tried to sit up.

 

            Hikari helped him to a sitting position.  “About three days.”

 

            He turned to her.  “You weren’t here the whole time were you?”

 

            Her face flushed.  “N-no!  I’ve just been visiting.  Your mother, a friend of Ranma’s, and the other pilot’s have all been looking after you.”

 

            “That’s nice of all them.”  He relaxed back.  “Can you do me a favor?”

 

            “Yes?”

 

            “Can you tell my sister that there’s nothing wrong with me?”  He groaned a bit as he slid back down in the bed.

 

            “But there IS nothing wrong with you.”  Hikari raised an eyebrow at him.

 

            He turned his head to her.  “Then why do I feel like crap?”

 

            “Because you’ve been on your back for three days.  Shinji saved you from any real injury, you were just knocked unconscious by the angel when it took over you’re EVA.”

 

            “Wow.”  He smirked.  “I guess I owe him a lot then.  Where is he?”

 

            “He and Asuka went out for ice cream.”  The freckled face girl replied.

 

            “So are they a couple now?”  He asked.

 

            “Sort of.  They still won’t open up to each other.”  She smiled at the thought of the pair.

 

            “What about Rei?  She has a crush on Shinji too.”

 

            Hikari gave him a questioning look.  “How do you know?  I can’t read anything from her.”

 

            “I just know.”  He smirked.

 

            At that moment, Akane and Ukyou walked back in the door.  Upon seeing her son awake, Ukyou dropped the food she was carrying and jumped to his bedside and smothered him in a bone-crunching embrace.  “You’re all right!!!”  She began to weep into his chest.

 

            Toji’s face turned red as he tried to get oxygen.  He started tapping his mother on the back.  “Too….tight…”

 

            Akane smirked shook her former rival.  “Hey, the kid won’t be all right if you break his back.”

 

            Slowly releasing Toji, Ukyou came back to herself.  “Oh my son.  You’re okay.”  Tears were falling freely now.  Toji hugged his mother again and she returned the embrace.  He slowly rocked her until she settled back down.  Akane took that as her cue to step out for a little while.

 

            Hikari started to get up as well.  “I’ll just leave you guys alone.  This is family stuff.”

 

            She hadn’t gone two steps before Ukyou caught her arm.  “No, please stay.  I’m sure that my son would not have come back without you.”  The teenaged girl’s face went beet red.

 

            “MOM!!!”  Toji shouted.  “You’re embarrassing Hikari!”

 

            Ukyou smirked as she watched both of the kids turn humorous shades of crimson.

 

 

 

            At about that moment in the streets of Tokyo-3, Shinji was just waking up from his sensory overload.  He absently rubbed the small bump on his head from fainting and absently wondered how two women could fight over loving someone and not care if they were hurt or not.  He looked up to see the two girls staring daggers at one another.   Well, Asuka was staring daggers.  Rei just looked mildly perturbed.  He shook his head and stood back up. 

 

            Shinji was in the midst of trying to find his way through the dense forest that was woman, when he felt something coming.  “Uh, Rei?  Asuka?”  The girls continued their stare down.  “Uh, guys?”  They weren’t paying any attention whatsoever to him.  He shrugged and charged in between them, grabbing each under an arm.

 

            “HEY!  What do you think you’re doing?”  Asuka asked incredulously.  Rei just enjoyed the ride with a small smile on her face.

 

            “I’m getting us to headquarters.  You two weren’t paying any attention to me when I tried to tell you something was wrong!”

 

            The auburn haired girl had a confused look on her face.  “What do you mean?”

 

            “Can’t you feel it?”  Shinji picked up the pace, as the feeling in the pit of his stomach got worse.

 

            “Feel wha-?”  Asuka cut herself off as she opened her senses.  She felt something enormous coming toward Tokyo-3.  “Why didn’t I feel that?”

 

            Shinji gave her a condescending look.  “I wonder…”

 

            They made their way to NERV headquarters as fast as Shinji could carry them (Asuka wasn’t about to let Rei upstage her again by being carried the whole way).  He rushed past the guards and made his way to the staging area.  Shinji dropped the girls unceremoniously as he charged up toward his EVA.  Asuka recovered quickly and rushed to her own.  Rei had to run toward the repair dock where the arm of her Evangelion was still being repaired after the last assault.

 

 

 

            Up in the operations area everyone was scrambling for his or her posts.  Someone had sounded the general alarm when the children had come charging through like bats out of hell.  They scrambled to their scopes desperately trying to find what was causing the alarm.

 

            “Report!”  Gendou shouted from his desk.

 

            “Unit’s 01 and 02 are activating.  Unit 00 is being prepped even without an arm.  Unit 03 is still inactive for lack of core.”  Maya read from the status displays.  “Units 01 and 02 will be on the catapults in two minutes.”

 

            The commander folded his hands.  “Launch when ready.”

 

            A flash of electricity went up as the magnets were instantly charged on the enormous catapults that sent the EVAs surface bound.  Shinji popped his neck and calmly put his hand on the control handles in front of him.  He knew that these controls were mostly superficial, seeing as how the robot ran mostly on thought, but he still gripped them like a weapon.  Asuka’s hands tensed as she took a hold of the controls.  A grim smile of anticipation crept across her lips.  Rei’s face held a look of determination.  She was not going to let anything happen to the third child, if there was any way she could prevent it.

 

            “So what’s the plan?”  Shinji asked.

 

            “Intercept the angel and keep it away from NERV headquarters at all costs.  We’ll advise on strategy when we know the nature of the attacker.”  Gendou replied.

 

            “That’s just GREAT information.”  Asuka commented sarcastically on a private line to Shinji’s cockpit.  “So what are we REALLY going to do.”

 

            Shinji chuckled nervously.  “Keep them away from headquarters and we’ll figure how to do it when we get there.”

 

            “There’s the mighty third child in action.  Like father like son.”  Asuka commented snidely.

 

            “Hey, it’s all we can do.”

 

            Three sets of blast doors opened and the gantries came up, ready to receive the Evangelions.  The robots soon follow and were quickly released from their restraints.  They quickly reached for power couplings that they attached to the receptacles on their backs.  Shinji and Asuka each grabbed a rifle from the hidden arsenals, while Rei grabbed a pistol, hoping to be of some use.  They sat back in anticipation while they waited for the angel to rise over the hills.

 

            At last their patience was rewarded as the enemy topped the hill.  It looked like a man with no neck or arms.  Its face was like a robot with its mouth stuck open.  In its eyes a deadly light glowed.

 

            “Engage the city defenses.”  Gendou’s order came over the EVA’s communication systems. 

 

            The city erupted as all the hidden gun and missile placements opened up and emptied their contents onto the angel.  Shinji and Asuka opened fire as well, both of them targeting the creature with unerring accuracy.

 

            After a minute or so Shinji dropped his rifle.  “First bit of intelligence, conventional arms don’t work, big surprise.”

 

            “Hey, that’s the first bit of intelligence I’ve ever heard out of you.”  Asuka quipped.

 

            “Ha, Ha.”

 

            “Seriously, aren’t we negating his AT field?”

 

            Shinji looked at his displays.  “Nope.  We’re having no effect at this range.  We’re going to have to move in and go hand to hand.”

 

            The sound of popping knuckles came over the com.  “Then let’s go, third child!”

 

            “Rei, stay back.”  Shinji dropped his rifle and drew his progressive knife from his shoulder holster.  He looked behind and saw that Asuka had her trusty polearm at the ready.  “Where the hell does she put that thing?”  He thought to himself.

 

 

 

            As they charged forward, Gendou and the rest of the operations crew watched the Evangelions go into action.  Fuyutsuki, wearing a few bandages from the botched Unit 03 activation, walked in and stood beside his commander.  “Shouldn’t you be issuing a few more orders?  The kids seem to think they can run these intercepts anyway they choose.”

 

            Gendou’s expression didn’t change behind his bridged hands.  “Unfortunately, thanks to experience and Ranma, they know how to handle this better than we do.  We’ll just be here when something goes wrong.  Is doctor Akagi awake?”  The graying man nodded.  “Have her come up here as soon as possible.”

 

 

 

            Back on the battlefield, Shinji and Asuka were just closing on the angel, when its eyes flared and a blast emitted from them.  The two EVA dove to the side to avoid the blast.  They both rolled and came back to a kneeling position. 

 

            “You okay, Asuka?”  Shinji brought his knife back to bear.

 

            “I’m fine, but take a look behind us.”

 

            He turned and saw an enormous crater behind them.  He listened to the status report as it came in over the communications array.  “…blast penetrated the first eighteen layers of armor.”

 

            “Damn it.”  Shinji stood back up.  “Let’s keep this thing busy and make sure it doesn’t fire anymore.”  At that moment, two squares of white appeared on the angel’s torso approximately where the arms should have been.  The two squares unfolded like old printer paper.

 

            “I don’t think we need to worry about that.”  Asuka jumped up and swung her massive halberd down toward the abomination’s head.  At the same time, Shinji charged in with his knife.

 

            The angel waited until they were totally committed and then unleashed its attack.  The paper like arms straightened out and went straight for the oncoming EVAs.  It was only their honed reflexes that kept them from taking damage.  Unfortunately, both of them were left staring at the severed ends of their weapons.

 

            “That was my favorite axe!”  Asuka shouted as she charged in again.  She started raining blow down on the angel, but the monster nimbly avoided them.  Shinji charged from the side and added in a few kicks and punches of his own.  They managed to land a few blows, but they apparently didn’t cause any damage.

 

            They fell back to reevaluate their situation.  Asuka keyed into Shinji’s private line.  “Should we try the Saotome Final Attack?”

 

            “Things aren’t that bad yet.”  Unit 01 got into an offensive stance.  “We just have to keep beating it into submission.”  Shinji keyed to the operation line.  “Rei, get us some more weapons.”

 

            While he was giving orders, the angel’s eyes began to glow again.  Shinji felt the buildup of power.  “Move, Asuka!”  His shout came a split second before the beast lashed out with its eye beams.

 

            The land rumbled with the force of the blast.  Unit 01 charged into the remaining smoke and debris to find the other EVA.  The dust cleared in time for Shinji to see the angel preparing to strike a damaged Unit 02 with its arm razors.  He charged forward, dove forward, and shoved the injured Evangelion out of harm’s way.  Unfortunately, Unit 01’s power cable was severed in the process.

 

            Shinji’s breath quickened as he watched the five-minute timer go down on his power.  He had to do something quick.  “Asuka, can you still fight?”

 

            “Too much damage.  If I’m lucky I can limp back to a retraction gate after the diagnostics are done.”  She answered as she cursed her machine under her breath.

 

            “Clear out of here as fast as you can.  I’ve only got five more minutes.  I hope Rei found some good weapons.”  Unit One charged forward once again.  In brutal display of martial arts, the large robot still failed to effectively harm the monstrosity before it.  Shinji felt his link with his EVA as he tried to push it for more performance.  He felt a barrier.  He had felt it before when he was doing his synch tests, but he remembered the last time he had broken that barrier.  In the back of his mind, he remembered his first battle when the EVA had gone berserk.  On some level he knew that he had broken the synch barrier then, and it was all coming back to him now.  The only problem was he didn’t know how.

 

            With a powerful kick to the angel’s midsection, the timer expired.  Shinji’s eyes went wide as he tried to will the EVA to move again, but to no avail.  He yelled in horror as the angel counter-attacked. 

 

            The first blow came from the razor-arm, severing Unit 01’s left arm at the elbow.  The next strike came for his chest.  It didn’t pass through him like he thought it would.  The razor went through the first plates and impacted on his AT Field protected core, sending the robot flying into a mountain that surrounded Tokyo-3.  Shinji could only sit helpless as he watched the angel lash out at the core of his EVA.

 

            A flash of movement in the corner of his eye got his attention.  He choked as he saw Rei appear with a positron cannon mounted on her good arm.  She was drawing a bead on the angel when it turned to face her.

 

            “NOOOO!!!”  Shinji shouted as he helplessly watched the angel sever Unit 00’s remaining good arm with its own.  The damaged EVA was still standing, so the angel advanced for the kill.

 

            Shinji released a primal yell of frustration, pain, and anger.  He felt the chi gathering within himself again.  His felt the power climb, but he felt the ceiling again.  Knowing it would cost him his consciousness and, quite possibly, his life; he knew what he had to do.  He surrendered to Evangelion Unit 01.

 

 

 

            Everyone in the operations area’s spine went ramrod straight as they heard that terrible roar.  They all remembered the first time Shinji had gone to battle and the terrifying sound that the berserk EVA made as his came to life.  Ritsuko had just arrived, head still bandaged from the wounds sustained at the last EVA activation.  She charged up behind Maya and demanded a progress report.

 

            “His synch ratio is over 400%!”  The young tech reported.

 

            Ritsuko frowned.  “She’s awake.”

 

Gendou and Fuyutsuki smiled from their terrace above the others.          “Finally something happens according to plan.”  The gray-haired man commented.

 

“At last, it begins.”  The commander’s grin became more feral in nature.

 

 

 

On the battlefield, Unit 01 roared in rage as it rose from its resting place.  It turned on its heel and delivered a powerful kick to the side of the angel, sending it reeling away from Unit 00.  The purple robot then grabbed its severed arm and set it against the stump from whence it came.  The arm was joined to the body once more as if no damage had ever been done to it.  The armor creaked around the face of the robot as it mouth opened for another blood curdling roar.

 

The angel had regained its balance and unleashed one of its razor arms again.  Unit 01 caught the paper-thin extrusion and pulled on it, causing the angel to come rocketing toward the robot.  Unit 01 aligned its shoulders for maximum body structure and stability with its fist extended.  The angel’s face impacted on the fist.  The fist didn’t move, but the angel continued its forward flight, driving the fist through the angel’s head.  The evangelion withdrew its fist with sickening squishing sound when it withdrew. 

 

The angel staggered backward like a gunshot victim that was still standing from shock.  Unit 01 released another terrifying roar.  As everyone in the operations area watched in fear, the armor creaked and strained.  At last the restraints gave way and the steel-plating feel away from the robot’s body, revealing a hideous creature underneath.  The monster lashed out and kicked the angel’s legs out from under it.  As soon as the angel hit the ground, the EVA was on top of it.  It swiped its hand across the angel’s chest, causing it to open wide.  The Evangelion then proceeded to begin feasting on the innards of the enemy.

 

 

 

Back in the control room, almost everyone was staring in shock, everyone that is except for Gendou, Fuyutsuki, Ritsuko, and Maya.  The first two were watching with a smug look on their faces, the third was smiling knowingly, and the last was retching from the sight on the screen.

 

“She’s breaking out of her restraints.”  Ritsuko continued to look proud.

 

“It finally happened, it’s aware.”  Fuyutsuki stated.

 

Gendou smiled at the scene playing across the monitor.  “She’s taking the S2 unit into herself.”

 

 

 

The people in operations weren’t the only witnesses to the gruesome event.  Atop one of the remaining standing buildings stood Akane and Kaji.  Akane had both of her hands covering her mouth in an attempt to keep her lunch down.  Kaji looked between the feasting Evangelion and his new lover.  He at last decided to speak.  “This is the world I live in.  Now you know why I never told you what I do.”

 

“This is terrible!  What is that THING?!”  Akane gasped.

 

Kaji took a deep breath.  “The Evangelions were created by man, in man’s own image.  They are an artificial life form with a human will inside.”

 

“Why are you showing me this?  What does this have to do with your job?”  She finally pulled her eyes away from the carnage to stare at Kaji in disbelief.

 

“I have a lot of secrets that I keep, Akane.  One of them is now public knowledge as it stands out there eating the enemy.”  He turned to her with a sorrowful look on his face.  “I have two jobs, one for NERV and the other for Japanese intelligence.  My second job has become public knowledge.  I was sent here to be the bell around Commander Ikari’s neck, and now he knows.”

 

“Why are you telling me this?”  She asked cautiously.

 

His countenance hardened.  “They’re going to be after me soon.  You have to leave the country and take your sister with you.  Get as far away from me as possible.  I will not have you hurt because of my mistakes.”

 

Akane’s face firmed into a look of determination.  “Is it a male thing to send their women away at the first sign of danger?”  She stepped up and jabbed a finger into his chest.  “Now, you listen and you listen well.  I’m used to being around someone whose life is always in danger.  How many times do you think someone has tried to kill Ranma over the years, and still is?  I’m not afraid, and I can take care of myself.  The only way I’m leaving the country is if you are in the plane riding beside me.  Is that perfectly clear?”  She turned to leave the rooftop.  “Now lets get to the headquarters and see what we can do about the children.  We still have that duty.”

 

Kaji nodded absently as he rubbed the spot on his chest where Akane had poked her finger.  “I guess I can’t argue with that.”  He thought.

 

 

 

After a few hours, Evangelion Unit 01 finally wore itself out.  The crews recovered it and moved it into the holding cage in the staging area.  The other two EVA were recovered and placed in their designated spots for repairs as well.  When Rei and Asuka were released from a medical examination, they both ran to the operations area.  “Where’s Shinji?!”  Asuka nearly screamed.

 

Ritsuko, who was a little shocked to see the pilots standing there, pointed toward the screen where a screen was showing a blue plugsuit floating in LCL.  Asuka gasped and Rei’s eyes got wide.  “He was absorbed by Unit 01.  He hit 400% synchronization ratio.”

 

Tears threatened Asuka’s eyes.  “But you can get him back, right?”

 

The doctor frowned at her.  “We have a salvage plan and data, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be able to bring him back.”

 

“Asuka?  Rei?”  Came Akane’s voice from the entrance.  The auburn haired girl turned and ran into the woman’s arms, crying upon contact.  Rei slowly followed, but made no move to join in the reassuring embrace.  Akane reached out and brought her in as well.  The blue haired girl hugged the woman back.

 

Gendou looked down on the scene with some dismay.  “Even when Ranma’s not here, his influence still remains.”  He thought.

 

 

 

Shinji awoke with a buzz in his head.  He seemed to be floating in a dim haze.  “So this is what death is like?”  He thought.  “Wow.  I thought it would be singing, flames, or something other than just nothing.”

 

At that moment his mind was struck by myriad images.  He closed his eyes and watched as random images from his life flashed before his eyes.  The images passed quickly, but soon they started to focus on the angels.  He saw each one he had fought and thoughts began to come with the images.   “The angels?  Each one has different powers.  Each one has a different name.”

 

“Are they the enemy?”

 

“Who is my enemy?”

 

“Those who try to hurt the weak are the enemy.”

 

Images of his father flickered in between the scenes of the angels.

 

A memory of him and Rei traveling down one of the NERV escalators.  “Why do you hate your father?”  She said this time.

 

Shinji turned around to her with a determined look on his face.  “He thinks that the world exists only for him to manipulate.  He thinks everyone should serve him.”  His hand shot out and seized Rei by the throat.  “WHO ARE YOU?!?!”  He demanded.

 

 

 

Several days had passed in the real world.  Most of the NERV personnel were working frantically to get the salvage operation under way.  Toji had been released from the hospital.  At this moment, he and Asuka were on the platform in front of Unit 01.  The armor still hadn’t been replaced, so the eerie human-like visage was staring back at them.

 

Toji looked like he was trying to stare down the uncovered EVA.  “So this is the true form of Evangelion.  They’re monsters just like the angels.”

 

Asuka shuddered and hugged herself.  “I don’t care.  They’re just tools, a means to an end.  Why not use angels to kill angels?”

 

The taller boy turned to her.  “Don’t you care that your driving something that’s alive?”

 

“I don’t care.  I don’t care about any of that!”  Asuka turned violently until she was facing away from the uncovered EVA, her arms still wrapped around herself.

 

Toji reached over and put a hand on her shoulder.  “I know you’re worried about Shinji, but don’t worry.  I’m sure they’ll get him back.”

 

Tears welled up in the second child’s eyes.  “I…I don’t want him to die.  I want him here yelling at me.  I want to yell at him.”

 

“You have a funny way of showing you love somebody.”  Toji teased.

 

“I’m not in love with him!”  Asuka protested.

 

Toji tilted his head and looked at her.  “Then why are we here?  I swear I haven’t seen two people more in love then you two.  If either of you would back down on your pride a little, you’d be a happy couple.”

 

Asuka gave him a stern look.  “What about you an Hikari?”

 

“The class rep?”  He asked with a confused tone.  “What about her?”

 

“She’s in love with you, dope!  She was there most the time that you were unconscious!”  Asuka had moved her hands to her hips.  “Your mother was practically arranging the marriage.”

 

Toji nervously scratched the back of his head.  “You think so?”

 

“Duh!”  Asuka glared at him.

 

He chuckled nervously.  “My mother’s funny about marriages.  She seems to want to get me married off as soon as she can.  But Hikari wouldn’t be too bad…”

 

Asuka had a self-satisfied smirk on her face seeing Toji crawl in his own skin in nervous agitation.  She turned back toward Unit 01 and the smile left her face.  Toji noticed the change from playfulness to sorrow and put a hand on her shoulder.  “Do you really think he loves me?”

 

“Yup.”  He nodded.  “But you might have to share him with Rei.  She has a crush on him as well.”

 

Asuka had a pleading look on her face.  “Who does he love more?  Which one of us will he choose?”

 

Toji smirked at her.  “I don’t know.  You’ll have to ask him.”  He turned back to the EVA and frowned.  “I sure hope they bring him back.”

 

“Why?”  Asuka asked out of curiosity.

 

“If he doesn’t come back, then I’m stuck piloting this thing.”

 

 

 

Inside of Unit 01, the standoff was still in progress.  Shinji stood with his hand around the false Rei’s throat, subconsciously keeping the scene from changing by sheer force of will.  “I’ll ask you one more time.  Who are you?  Are you another angel?”

 

The girl gave him an even look.  “Why do you think there is someone else?”

 

“Listen, I don’t like people messing with my head!”  He squeezed her neck.  “An angel tried this on me once, and I wasn’t too happy about it then either!”

 

The scene shredded like paper and swirled in into a vortex in midair and then disappeared, leaving a landscape that looked like a barren beach at sunset.  A shade of red covered everything and all he could see to his left was sand, and water to his right.  “What is this place?”

 

“This is the void.”  Shinji heard a voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere.  “This is the place between death and life.  This is where I dwell now.”

 

Shinji had heard this voice before.  He remembered it from when he was trapped in the black hole angel, and he also remembered it on some other instinctual level.  “I remember your voice.  Who are you?”

 

As if stepping through a hidden doorway, a woman appeared.  She was just a little taller than Shinji with hair styled like Rei’s.  Her features looked a lot like Rei as well, the only differences were that her skin had a tint of life to it and her hair and eyes were brown.  Shinji memories flooded again.  He looked at her with a great longing.  “Mother?  Is that really you?”

 

Ikari Yui nodded her head.  “Yes, my son.”

 

He ran to her, threw his arms around her waist, and cried into her bosom.  “I’ve missed you so much, mom.  Why didn’t you tell me you here this whole time?  God, I’ve missed you!”  He cries went over and over along the same lines for several minutes.

 

Yui just continued to hold her son until he had finally wore himself out.  At last they both sat down on the beach.  Shinji dozed off as Yui held him and watched over him affectionately. 

 

After a few hours, Shinji came to again.  He gazed up into his mother’s eyes and smiled.  “Why didn’t you show yourself earlier?”

 

She looked up from his eyes and gazed out onto the see.  “The void inside the Evangelion is an infinitely large place, and my consciousness has been spread over it to the point of madness.  I’ve wander around in a phantasmagoric haze that is like a hallucinogen-induced state.  Its only brief instances like this that I can pull myself together for a ‘moment of clarity’.  Those moments are few and far between, and I’m only able to do it briefly for you.”

 

“Why have you been able to be with me this long then?”  He asked.

 

She smiled at him.  “It’s thanks to your willpower.  It’s your ability to hold onto yourself through the void that provided me the chance to find you.”

 

“Was that what all those images were about?”

 

“That was the void pulling your consciousness out.  It tears you to pieces slowly, and momentarily gives you insight into your life, a focus.  If you hadn’t locked onto that one scene you would have drifted in and out of lucidness forever.”

 

“Mom..uh…”  Shinji had an uncertain look on his face.

 

“Yes, Shinji?”

 

“Is Gendou really my father?”

 

Yui looked at him with an inquisitive face.  “Why do you ask that?”

 

“I’ve gathered that you and Ranma knew each other a long time ago.  He still has some feelings for you, but he never talks about it.”

 

Yui laughed.  “That man is as stubborn as a mule.”  She calmed her features before continuing.  “We did know and love each other a long time ago, but Gendou is your father.  Ranma and I never did anything more than kiss.”

 

“Oh.”  Shinji looked downcast.

 

She lifted his head so that she could look in to his eyes.  “Shinji, your father is not an evil man.  He just loved me to the point of obsession.  He felt that if he succeeded in our work, he could bring me back.  I loved him as well, Shinji, remember that.”  The boy nodded.

 

They sat there for a while and talked some more, getting to know each other.  At last Yui stood up.  “Shinji, it’s time for you to go back.”

 

He had a confused look on his face.  “What?”

 

Yui smiled down at him.  “Someone is calling for you.”

 

“Huh?”

 

She motioned with her hand and a rift appeared in midair and expanded into an oval.  Shinji looked on as he saw Asuka clutching his plugsuit to her chest, crying out for him at the top of her lungs, tears rolling down her face.  He looked back and he saw Ranma and Misato looking on from the side, holding each other tightly as they watched Asuka with sorrowful eyes.  Rei was there as well.  She stood on the other side of Asuka from Ranma and Misato, her eyes watering.

 

Shinji looked on with wonder.  “They’re all there for me?”  Even though he had been living with most of them for a while now, he still couldn’t believe the emotion being shown.

 

His mother nodded.  “They all love you Shinji, and I couldn’t think of a better set of people to raise you.”  She gathered him into a hug and kissed his forehead.  “Go, my son.”

 

He looked up at her.  “What will happen to you?”

 

She smiled reassuringly.  “I’ll go back to the fog of the void, but I will always be here for you.”

 

Shinji nodded and hugged her back.  “But how do I get back?”

 

“Just will yourself back.” 

 

As he watched she faded from sight.  He turned back to the view screen that he assumed was the view from the EVA’s eyes.  He watched as Asuka sobbed uncontrollably and shook off any form of comfort.  “Asuka…”  He longed to comfort her.  He never wanted her to feel that bad ever again.

 

Suddenly the world around him swirled and twisted.

 

 

 

On the catwalk in front of the restrained EVA, Asuka continued to cry.  Ranma and Misato had tried to soothe her feelings of loss, but she wouldn’t let anyone near her at this moment.  She had lost someone else she had dearly cared for, and didn’t want to open her heart again.  The Saotome couple had just got back from their honeymoon in time for the failed extraction operation.  They clung to each other for support, and mourned the loss of Shinji’s life and Asuka’s heart.

 

Just then they all heard a sickening crack that sounded like bone breaking.  The exposed core of the EVA had formed a crack long enough to eject a nude body onto the deck.  Asuka jumped over to him and pulled him close to her.

 

“Baka Shinji!”  She cried in between tears of joy into his chest.  “Baka, baka, Shinji!”  Suddenly she felt something poking her.  “Shinji, you PERVERT!”

 

She would have hit Shinji with the slap if he weren’t already diving for his plugsuit.  He grabbed the clothing, wrapped it around his waist, and leapt what he felt was a safe distance away from Asuka, which landed him with his back to Rei.  The blue haired pilot put her arms around him from behind, much to his surprise.

 

Asuka’s eyebrows twitched.  Not to be outdone, she launched herself over toward him to glomp onto his front.

 

Ranma chuckled from the side.  “You know, one of them is going to have to let go if he’s ever going to get dressed.”  Misato nodded in agreement with a large smile on her face.