Age of Evangelion
Age of Evangelion
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Standard Anno/Gainax/ADV disclaimer here.

***

1 - Gathering

***

Gendou Ikari looked impassively at the vast aparatus before him.  He felt
more than heard the technician walk up beside him.

"Sir?  Excuse me, Sir?"

"What?"  He didn't turn to look at the man.

"Sir, here is the data you requested on the clones."

A sheet of paper was held out to Gendou, and he took it.  He scanned the
data, noting with satisfaction the status of various portions of the
project.  He suddenly frowned as he reached the section that described
the developing clones.  "Destroy them and start a new set."

"Sir?!"

"You heard me.  Destroy them and start a new set of clones.  Make the new
ones male."

"B-b-but we'll need another set of genetic material!  We'll need to
splice a man's code onto the clones."

"Use mine, there are several samples on file."

"Yessir!"  The technician quickly walked off, thoroughly confused by what
had just occurred.  He had only made it a few steps away before he
stopped and walked back to the commander.  "Sir?"

"What now?"

"Uh...Sir, did you have a name for the clones?"

Gendou was silent for a long time as he considered his response.  The
slightest hint of a smile touched his face for a moment.  "Shinji.
Shinji Ayanami."  *He might have been our son, Yui.*

***

A young girl with long dark brown hair and wearing a blue high-school
uniform stared at the far off giant that walked by her, frozen by a
mixture of fear and awe.   Her hand was still on the phone she was about
to dial, and she made little whimpering noises in the back of her throat
as she watched the monster demolish the UN planes that attacked it.

The giant was a mixture of grey and black, and although it seemed to be
mostly metallic, had an oddly biological motif to it, almost like it was
liquid under it's skin.  It was both gangly and graceful at the same
time, and absolutely alien.  

A car screeched to a halt beside her, but the girl paid it no attention.
She was completely absorbed in watching the giant fend off the attackers
like mosquitoes to a man.  

"Rei!"

As she watched, a huge plane fired a gigantic missile at the monster.

"Rei!"

The monster reached up with one of its claw-like hands and caught the
missile.  For a moment, the missile hung in the air, like it was a baton
being held by the monster at its very end.

"Rei!  Damnit!"  She felt a hand grab her arm and drag her into the car.
Suddenly brought back to focus, she shrieked in fear and slammed the door
shut.  Out of the window, she saw the missile try to push itself over the
giant's hand, reducing itself to ribbons before it exploded, enveloping
the giant in a fiery cloud.

Rei was thrown back into her seat as the car suddenly accelerated.  She
turned to look at the driver of the car, and recognized the woman in the
photo she had been sent.  The woman shot her a grin as she guided the car
down the streets, taking them out of the city.  "Sorry I'm late," she
cheerfully apologised to Rei, then looked the girl up and down.  "I'm
Misato Katsuragi, by the way.  You must be Rei Ikari.  You're not what I
expected."

"I'm a girl, for one thing," Rei replied primly.  Somewhere in the back
of her mind she realized she was in denial of what she just saw moments
before.  "You obviously expected a boy."

Misato's eyebrows shot up in surprise.  "How did you know that?"

Reaching into her bag, Rei pulled out the photo she had been sent.  It
showed Misato in shorts and a low-cut shirt, on her hands and knees in
front of the car they were now sitting in.  Written on the picture were
the words 'Look at this' accompanied by an arrow pointing to her
cleavage.  She showed the picture to Misato.  "Unless you were trying to
make me jealous."  Misato had the decency to look sheepish.

"Well, I didn't see the information on you until today," she tried to
explain, and then made an embarrassed sort of laugh.  She pulled the car
to a stop in the middle of a majestic view that showed a good portion of
the valley the city was situated in.  Right now the view was dominated by
the battle between the underpowered UN forces and the giant.  Misato
pulled out a pair of binoculars and looked out at the battle.

Suddenly the planes surrounding the monster pulled back.  Misato dropped
the binoculars from her face and looked at the giant, puzzlement all over
her face.  "What the..." her eyes widened and she gasped.  "They're going
to use an N2 mine!"  She grabbed Rei, forced the girl's face down into
her lap, and curled her body around the child.  "Get down!"

Moments later, the car was rolled by the shockwave of a low-level nuclear
explosion.

***

"Is there any word from Captain Katsuragi?" Gendou asked again.

"Nothing, sir," the technician nearest him reported.

"We have no time left," Kozou insisted from behind him.  "We have no
choice."

Gendou didn't reply, he merely stared at the data running across the
screens in front of him.  "Prepare Unit 00, and then Unit 01."

Makoto whirled to voice his protest.  "Commander, we can't.  Shinji is in
no condition-"

"He is alive," Gendou replied, cutting off the other man.  "Do it."  He
opened a channel to the infirmary.  "Shinji, the new pilot has not
arrived yet.  You will have to fight the Angel."  His voice was quiet
enough not to carry far, so only his aide noticed how he now spoke with a
much softer tone.  He seemed almost apologetic.

A neutral, emotionless voice returned over the link.  "Understood."
There was a pause as a short conversation was held in the background.
"There will be a slight delay, Commander.  Ten minutes at the minimum."

"That is acceptable," Gendou replied, and cut off the link.

***

Misato headed the battered car down the highway at the best speed it
could handle.  "Here," she said to Rei, handing the girl a book that read
'Welcome to NERV.'  "Read this."

"NERV?" Rei asked, taking the book and starting to flip through it.  "Is
that where we're going?"

"Yup," Misato replied.  "A super-secret organization controlled by the
UN."

"Is that where Daddy works?"  Rei asked as the car pulled into a odd
tunnel that ended with an elevator.  The doors closed behind them, and
the platform they were on began to sink into the earth.

"Well, yes. Don't you know what your father does?"

"No," Rei said miserably.  "All they every told me was they he was doing
something that was very important, and that he wanted to see me."  She
suddenly gasped as the platform rushed out of the tunnel they were in and
started moving through a vast underground cavern.  "This is a Geo-Front!"
she exclaimed, looking out the window in delight.  "It's so pretty!"

Those words rocked Misato.  She had heard people use many words to
describe the Geo-Front, but 'pretty' was not one of them.  High overhead
hung the buildings of Tokyo-3, like some perverse reflection of the city
above.  Far below sat the buildings of NERV, including the pyramid that
held Central Dogma and the Evangelions.   Orange light filled the cavern
and reflected off the water far below.  As she took in the sights, Misato
smirked.  "I suppose it is pretty," she conceded with a chuckle.

A few minutes later, the platform stopped and they exited the vehicle.
Misato led Rei through several hallways to an elevator.  Rei read as much
of the NERV document as she could, but she only understood about half of
it.

They entered the elevator, which used an odd mechanical device that
clicked to mark passage from one floor to the next.  The elevator
stopped, and an attractive blonde woman wearing a blue bathing suit and a
lab coat got on.

*Now that's informal attire,* Rei thought.

"R-ritsuko!" Misato stammered, surprised.  "What are you doing here?"

"Where have you been, Misato?" the woman demanded.  "We do not have the
time or the manpower to put up with your antics!"  She looked at the
silent Rei.  "Is this her?"

"Yes, the Marduk Report says she's the Third Child.  Rei Ikari, this is
Ritsuko Akagi."

Rei looked up from the NERV handbook.  "Hello," she said nervously.

The elevator opened and the two women led Rei down several halls.  She
soon lost interest in the featureless hallways, and once again became
absorbed in the handbook, using a small portion of her mind to follow the
two women, and trying to ignore the voice in the back of her mind that
was trying to tell her something was wrong.  She was going to see her
father after three years, and she was looking forward to it.

The group entered a dark cavernous room, and the doors snapped shut
behind them.  "Hey!" Rei yelled, a bit of panic in her voice.  "What's
going on?"  The lights snapped on again, and Rei found herself face to
face with another giant.

The events of a few minutes before still fresh in her mind, Rei shreiked
and backpedaled a few steps, almost falling off the catwalk they stood
on.  "Wha-what is that thing?"  Seeing that the thing wasn't moving, she
took a few steps closer and examined it more thoroughly.

It was the head and shoulders of a giant robot, submerged from then on
down in a strange orange-pink liquid.  It colored a familiar purple - the
same color Rei had claimed was her favorite a few years ago.  The giant
head had a large horn sticking out of it, on a line with the rest of the
forehead like the start of a crest.  The eyes of the giant were of a
sunny yellow and seemed to be staring blankly ahead in a perpetual scowl.

"That is the Test Type model of the artificial lifeform Evangelion,"
Ritsuko said.  "Unit 01."

"Mankind's last defense against the Angels," Misato supplied helpfully.

"Did...did Daddy build this?" Rei asked tentatively.  *I remember seeing
something like this, I think.*

"Yes, Rei, I did.  And you will pilot it," said a man's voice from a
nearby speaker.  Misato and Ritsuko turned around and looked up.
Following their gaze, she saw her father looking down at her from a booth
high overhead.

Rei's face almost shone with the smile on her face.  "Daddy!"  The smile
faded and faltered under her father's impassive gaze.  She hung her head
and glanced at the Evangelion.  "Pilot that?" she said in a small voice,
then shook her head fiercely.

"You have GOT to be kidding me," Misato yelled, more at Ritsuko than
Gendou.  "She has no chance of piloting that thing!   It took Shinji
almost half a year to synchronize with his Eva, how is she going to do it
now?  She doesn't even have any training!"

"She doesn't have to do anything, only sit in it and follow our
instructions," Ritsuko returned calmly.

"What about Shinji?" Misato demanded.

"He is coming as well," Gendou said, interrupting the argument.  "Rei,
you must pilot the Eva."

"Is this why you brought me here?" Rei asked in that same small voice.
"Because you wanted me to pilot that...that thing?"

"Yes," Gendou replied flatly.  

Any further discussion was halted by the entry of a handsome young boy,
roughly Rei's age, being pushed on a gurney.  The two men who guided him
along the catwalk were careful not to bang him up too much.  The boy was
covered in bandages from the legs down, had a cast on his right arm, and
his head was wrapped in gauze that covered his right eye.  Attached to
the gurney was an IV bag that dripped fluid into his left arm.  He had
short bluish-white hair, and the palest skin that Rei had ever seen.

They locked gazes, and Rei felt herself blush as she looked into the
boy's red eye.  Somewhere in the back of her mind she felt an attraction
to the boy unlike one she had ever felt before, a strange attachment to
him.  The boy blinked his eye once, and for just a moment she thought saw
some emotion flicker in them.  

The boy began to struggle to a sitting position, his face twisted in pain
and effort as he worked himself up.  The medical technicians at his side
removed the IV from his arm, but other than that they gave him no aid.
"Commander," he hissed in a quiet, emotionless voice.  "I am ready."

Gendou nodded in satisfaction.  "Good."  He turned to a technician.
"Prepare Unit 00 for.." he was cut off as an earthquake shook the
chamber.  The medtechs around the gurney scattered out the doors, leaving
Shinji alone as the gurney toppled, sending him to the floor.  He cried
out in pain as he landed on his bandaged arm.  Rei made to run to the
boy, but was restrained by Misato.

"The girders are breaking! We have to get out of here!" Misato yelled,
dragging the girl away.

"No!" Rei yelled, and broke free of Misato's grip.  The woman could only
watch as the girl ran out under the girders that began to fall.  Misato's
analytical mind saw that there was no chance Rei would reach Shinji in
time, and even if she did, they would be killed.  As she watched, a mass
of metal fell towards the fallen Shinji and the running Rei.  Misato
closed her eyes, not wanting to see the result.

She heard the screech of tearing metal, and opened her eyes to see both
hands of Eva-01 lift out of the suspension liquid, one hand covering
Shinji and the other covering Rei.  The girders hit the hands and
bounced, smashing against the sides of the chamber before falling with a
splash into the liquid below.  Looking up at Gendou's face, she noticed a
combination of glee and shock on his face.  Obviously, he was as
surprised as everyone else by what happened, but he was very pleased that
it did.

The only person who didn't realize what had occurred was Rei, who was
kneeling at Shinji's side, trying to help him up.  She stopped herself
from pulling away as she noticed blood seeping through his bandages and
into his clothing.  "Are you OK?" she asked, then cursed herself mentally
for saying such a stupid thing.

Shinji opened his one eye slightly, and looked at Rei again, but said
nothing.  Rei turned her head and looked up at her father.  "Daddy, if I
don't pilot that thing, you'll send him alone, won't you?"

"Yes," Gendou replied impassively.

Rei looked down at the injured boy for a moment, then back at her father,
and spoke in a whispered voice that carried through the whole chamber.
"All right.  I'll pilot it."

"Good." Gendou started to walk away from the window.

"Daddy?" Rei said tentatively.  Gendou halted, and turned back to the
window to see his daughter looking at him with a hopeful smile on her
face.  "I like the color."

Gendou stood there silently for a moment, and then nodded once.  "I
thought you would," he said, and walked away.

***

Rei never knew anyone could blush as hard as she did when she put the
plug suit on.  It seemed innocuous enough, nothing more than a loose
skinsuit with sensors and the like in rather strange places.  Then she
had touched the button on the wrist like she had been told to, and the
suit contracted around her body, and it suddenly looked like it had been
painted on.

It didn't help much that when she walked out Misato took one look at her
and said, "I don't think you should feel jealous."

They had guided her to a long white cylinder that was connected to the
back of the Eva, and told her to get inside.  Rei had done so, and was
now staring at the blank screens of the Eva, nervous with anticipation.

"Connecting Unit 01," Shigeru reported.

"Filling the entry plug," Maya said.

Inside the plug, Rei started to panic as an odd yellow liquid began to
flow in.  "Wh-what is this stuff?" she yelled, and held her breath as it
went over her head.

"Don't worry!" Ritsuko attempted to soothe.  "Once your lungs are full of
LCL they'll oxygenate normally."

Realizing that she had no choice but to trust them, Rei let out her
breath and began to fill her lungs with the liquid.  "I think I'm going
to be sick," she finally said, then after a moment followed with "it's
not so bad after all."  She paused and reached a hand to her head.  "I
hope it doesn't ruin my hair."  Her statement was rewarded with some
slight laughter from the control room.

"Connecting primary power," Makoto reported.  "Secondary linkups
activated."

Rei felt a sudden disorientation as the screens in the plug played a
beautiful light show in front of her, first showing a rainbow, then a
Julia set, then finally resolving into a picture of the surrounding area.

"Harmonization successful, synchronization at...41.3%!" Maya looked at
the screen in shock.  Over her shoulder, Ritsuko gaped in awe.  Maya
tapped at her console some more.  "I detect no anomalies!"

"She's ready," Ritsuko said to Misato.  "Let's do it!"

Misato turned to Gendou.  "Can we really do this?"  In the background,
one of the technicians reported the release of the restraints.

Gendou folded his fingers together under his nose before replying.  "If
we do not, humanity has no future."  Misato and he locked gazes for a
moment, and she nodded.  Another tech was running a litany of status
updates on the Evangelion's relocation to the launch pad.

"Gendou, are you sure?" Kozou murmured.  Gendou's only reaction was a
slight grin that didn't reach his eyes.

"Get ready for a ride, Rei," Misato said with a sigh.  "Eva LAUNCH!"

With the shriek of metal rubbing against metal, the giant purple robot
shot up like a rock out of a slingshot.  Rei wasn't sure if she screamed
or not as she felt herself crushed into the seat by an incredible force.

High above, the Angel felt something moving in the ground.  Something
moving towards the surface near it.  Walking around a building almost as
tall as it was, the Angel turned to see a large section of the road flare
red and slide out of the way.  Moments later, a giant purple robot, a
hideous parody of a man, shot into view.

In Central Dogma, the control team watched the events unfold on the
screen. "Good luck, Rei," Misato murmured.