At the End of the World 3
Neon Gensis Evangelion: At the End of the World
by Luna Ayanami (ayanami@highlandgrey.com)

Chapter 6

   It knocked me over at first -- not very far, of course, but it did place it's hands on my shoulders and shifted it's weight to overbalance me. I started to go down, but I had been in hand-to-hand fights for years, and my instincts kicked in.
   I grabbed the other Unit by it's forearms, near the elbows, and as I went down, I shifted my own weight further into my legs. I twisted, folding one leg up beneath me and landing on my hip, Using the other leg as a kind of lever, I jammed it up against the Unit-00's body and threw it over my head. Neither of us had let go of the otherm and I pushed myself up and over in a gravity-defying movem landing squarely on Unit-00 beneath me.
   The other Unit was still for a moment, then it tried to throw me off. I had expected that and prepared for it, so it didn't have a chance. I held it down until it finally stopped trying to fight me.
   Tashi's speakers came back on. "It's over," he said wearily.
   "What the hell hapened?" I asked flatly.
   "It's volatile. The personality is very strong, and I get the feeling that it doesn't really like anyone." There was a pause, and then he sighed. "You said this was easy," he said, making it not quite an accusation.
   "It was. For me," I said. "I never once said it would be the same for you, if the Unit would even accept you. Are you up to trying again?"
   Another pause, then he sighed. "Alright," he said resignedly. "If you would kindly get off of me?"
   I got up, bending over to haul Unit-00 to it's feet. When it was upright, I got around in behind it to hold it there. "You have to relax, open yourself up to the Unit," I instructed softly. "That's all that should be the same. Now turn off your speakers and try again." There was a click as he did so.
   I sighed and waited, holding Unit-00 upright with both arms. I wondered if it would work...
   It didn't. Unit-00 went beserk again.
   It didn't try to attack me again, which was a relief. It did try to break free of the grip I held on it, which I refused to loose. It took a shorter time to stop, but it also came more suddenly. I nearly fell under the dead weight of the Unit, managing to stop our fall only by kneeling awfully fast, leaving a nice big divot in the cage floor. Even then, Unit-00's cracked agianst the ground.
   "Mei?" Tashi asked softly. He sounded tired or scared; I wasn't sure which.
   "Yes?"
   "I want out. I don't like this.'
   "Does your entry plug release work?"
   Silence in which I could hear him hitting buttons in the background. "Nope. It's dead."
   That was the moment Unit-00 came to life again. I was really off-guard this time, though in hindsight I really shouldn't have been. Because I was surprised, it managed to throw me off and ran to the far corner, clawing at the walls, leaving gouges deeply into the cement as though it was trying to climb out...but it was completely ignoring the half-repaired hole in the outside wall and the EVA-sized hole leading back to the rest of NERV.
   I sat back and watched it, wondering what kind of personality would make anything reak out like that.
   I knew them, Unit-01 cut into my thoughts. It's voice sounded very sad. They weren't very stable.  The voice faded away.
   "I can tell," I said, my eyes glued to the viewscreen. "Wait a minute! What do you mean, 'they'?"
   On the screen, Unit-00 started punching the wall. I decided that it had run amok long enough, and I got up to stop it.
   Not that it was doing itself much damage. Huge chunks of the wall were coming off, but I knew that the wall was several meters thick before reaching any other open space. Maybe the hands and fingers would be scratched up bad and need some repairs, but nothing hugely serious.
   It took quite a bit muscle to get Unit-00 pinned again. I managed to get it faced down and forced open the entry plug access, pulling the plug out. The Unit went still with the plug removed, so I got off of it and set the plug down, upright. Then I waited tensely, heaving a sigh of relief when the door popped open and Tashi half-stumbled, half-fell out of the plug. i put my hand down for him, which he climbed up into, and I raised it until it was behind my head. Then I released my own entry plug.
   The plug twisted out until it was mostly out of the hole for it, but not enough that it would fall over or out, or slip back in, yet I could get in and out of the plug as I pleased.
   I waited for the LCL to drain before opening the door and crawling over the back of Unit-01's neck until I could join Tashi in the palm of the huge hand.
   He was laying down, curled up tightly on his side with his back to me, and he was shuddering. I approached him as carefully and quietly as I could, kneeling next to him and placing a hand on his shoulder. The muscle beneath my hand twitched -- the only indication that he had felt it.
   "Tashi?" I asked softly. "Are you alright?"
   He made a sound like a whimper.
   "I guess not. Okay, that's enough for today. I'm going to put you in the plug with me, then I'm going to straighten this up, and then we're going back. Sounds good? I thought so." I didn't wait for him to reply before bending down to pick him up. I managed to pry one of his arms out from around his legs and hooked it over my shoulders, hauling him to his feet.
   By no small feat, I managed to get him over the back of the Unit's neck and into the entry plug, behind my seat. Then I reactivated the controls, and the plug twisted back down inside.
   I could sense that the Unit didn't like having Tashi inside with me, but it didn't say anything. As an afterthought, I climbed up into my chair, leaned around it and plucked the thought sensors off of Tashi's head. I turned back around and dropped them in my lap as I settled into my seat. Then I got to work.
   Unit-01 didn't function as well with Tashi in the plug, I discovered. I figured that the thoughts running through his head at the moment were so "loud" that the Unit could pick them up without the help from the sensors, and they were disrupting the workings of the Unit.
   I stood up and promptly fell over, because of the thought disruption from Tashi. I had to readjust my own thoughts and got up again, this time only overbalancing myself, and nearly falling over. I wasn't sure if I should attempt to pick Unit-00 up and "put it away," as it were, when I could hardly stand up straight. But the other Unit was far too important to just leave lying there, like it had drowned or something....
   It was another great feat to get Unit-00 upright and back into it's "holder." Then I picked up Unit-00's entry plug and stumbled my way back to Central Control.
   Once there, I set the plug down as close to CC as I could get, locked Unit-01 back into it's own "holder" and ejected the entry plug. Then I got me and Tashi out, still having to all but carry him back to our living space.
   I set him down in the sleeping area, laying him down carefully on our blankets. He stared up at the high ceiling blankly, his breath coming a little faster than it normally did. I wasn't a medic, but it worried me, I waved my hand in front of his face; he didn't even blink. I frowned, got up and went to get a cup of water from our supply. When I came back, I dribbled a bit on his face; he still didn't react. I got him into a sitting position and made him drink the water, which he did, but I could tell it was an automatic reaction. I sighed and laid him back down, hitting the button on his cuff to release his suit from his body. He sighed a little and closed his eyes. His breathing evened out a bit, and I relaxed. Even so, I pulled the closing of his suit apart and started to get it off of him. He was difficult to undress when he was unconscious; his limbs moved like they were made of rubber, but he was heavy.
   I was glad I decided to take his suit off for him when I pulled one of his arms out of its sleeve and my hand brushed his. It was freezing. That worried me too. I got the rest of his suit off and pulled the blankets up over his chilled body. Then I brushed his hair back from his forehead before going back to CC.
   It felt wierd, doing something in CC without having Tashi nearby doing something else. Yet I turned the computer on and sat down, my eyes locked to the screen...
   I pulled up all the information I could find on Unit-00 and it's original pilot, Rei Ayanami, complete with pictures, graphs, charts and any number of things that made little or no sense.
   I must have spent at least three hours there, there was so much information. Tashi and Rei were very much alike, whch came as a bit of a surprise, though I suppose it shouldn't have. They were both quiet, introspective and highly independant individuals. Maybe that was why Unit-00 reacted to him that way...I sat back in my chair when I finished, a chart of Rei's synchronization rates with Unit-00 on the screen. I stared at it without seeing it. It was a few moments before I sat up again and pulled up all the info on Unit-01 and Shinji Ikari, as well as the tiny bit Tashi had entred on me. Mostly, I wanted to compare my synchronization chart with the original pilot's.
   It was amazing; the rates were very similar, though Shinji's chart had much more informationon it that mine, for the simple reason that he'd been in Unit-01 longer than I had so far. And I didn't have a bunch of executives hanging over my shoulder making all sorts of notes and doing all sorts of tests.
   I sat there looking at the two charts overlapping each other for a long moment, and then I started to pull up all the information on how the Units and their pilots had been tested.
   I was halfway into that, waiting for the system to finish opening a paticularily large file when Tashi put in an appearnce. He came up behind me, laying a hand on my shoulder before pullingup another chair. I spun mine around to face him, worried a little by the faint circles under his eyes, the clouded look of them and the vague expression on his face. I noticed that he hadn't put his suit back on, or even bothered to get dressed again, though he had wrapped a blanket around his body tightly.
   "How do you feel?" I asked, leaning forward to lightly touch his arm.
   He flinched. "I don't know," he replied, avoiding my eyes. He sounded tired and confused. "That was...like nothing else. I'm not sure I want to go through that again."
   "I'm sorry," I said. "I should have done all those tests that you did on me when we found Unit-01's entry plug."
   He looked at me briefly. His eyes were tortured for a moment; then they clouded over again and he looked away. "Just...let me recover a bit first."
   I smiled. "Of course." I turned back to the computer just as it finished pulling up the file I wanted.
   It was another hour before I was finished with the computer. By that time, my eyes were hurting and my leg muscles had begun to cramp. I sat way back in my chair, stretching my arms above my head and stretching my legs out beneath the desk. Then I pushed the chair back and stood up, stretching again. Tashi stood up as well, although more slowly. He still had that haunted look, and he pulled the blanket a little bit tighter around himself.
   I looked at him for a moment. Then I stepped towards him and pulled him into a hug. His entire body stiffened like a board for a brief moment, but then he relaxed and opened the blanket up, pulling me inside of it as he returned the hug.
   I rested my head on his shoulder, knowing somehow that he needed this at the moment. Afterwards, in a minute, or an hour, or maybe even the next day, he'd be his usual, remote self.

Chapter 7

   Tashi was doing better. It had been a month or so since he had first tried operating Unit-00. Since then, I had been doing all sorts of tests with him, mostly by throwing him into the entry plug and monitoring it on the computer. I had brought Unit-00 into the same space as Unit-01, so the "connection" between him and the Unit was a little more complete. And he was doing better.
   It was just too bad that Unit-00 was stolen.
   It happened the night before our "big test", where I would put Tashi and the entry plug back inside Unit-00. I had moved both the Unit and the plug back to it's original cage, though looking back on it, I can't see why I did that. So the next day, when we went to the cage to do the test, the Unit-00 was gone.
   The thieves had left plenty of evidence as to where they had taken it, and how they had managed to do so. There was big tire tracks, a lot of rubble had been cleared away, and there were so many footprints...I was rather put out to find that Unit-00 had been taken. I had been all for going after them, but Tashi managed to convince me that all in all, it wasn't really worth it. So I sulked about the loss of Unit-00 for a few days, and then Tashi and I went about the rest of NERV, trying to find anything else we could use.
   I had been all set to go searching through the other cages to find a useable EVA. Tashi said that it wasn't really top priority, and then he pointed out what else we could be doing. There was still the power source we were using to be fixed and set up properly, the computers to get running, not just my little terminal, an area where we could set up a proper living space for ourselves, plus we had to make another food run and get some more water. In light of all this, I had to agree, however reluctantly.
   It was weeks before we could get back to the cages. Tashi and I spent many, many sleepless nights getting the main power generator back on its feet, as it were. It was disconnected for three days straight as we rearranged the wiring properly. Then it was back up and running smoothly. Tashi and I had cheered our success and then promptly fallen over and started sleeping.
   Our next task was the computers, the main ones. One was already running, but on minimal levels. That took a bit longer than the generator, perhaps three times longer. Once the computers were back up, I had to spend another day or two weeding out all the corrupted files and fixing what I could. I just hoped that I didn't do worse damage to them than had already been done...
   While I was working on the corrupted computer files, Tashi had gone out exploring and found some rooms where we could live, close to Central Control. There was a room with actual beds in it, though they would need some serious cleaning. They were covered in dust and pieces of the ceiling, and who knew what else. Another room was just outside with some dusty and almost unrecognizable furniture. When we cleaned it off, we found a table or two, a chair and a longer chair that Tashi called a couch. Then we found a closet with blankets and pillows, which was probably the biggest find of all, next to the Units. So for the first time in close to ten years, I slept in actual bed with real blankets and a real pillow, not some moth-eaten covering and a hard lump of what used to be a pillow. The only problem was, I was so used to sleeping next to Tashi that I found it hard to fall asleep without him next to me.
   Our next mission was to find food, which I had to take Unit-01 to the surface to find. It took the better part of a day, but I finally found a dried goods warehouse, judging by the weathered and almost unreadable lettering on the side of the building, which still had it's walls intact. I got out of Unit-01 to gather what I could, because I wanted to leave it intact. In the end, I had taken enough to last us a few more months.
   While I had been gone, Tashi had gathered more water and stored it in some wierd looking boxes. I didn't question it; water was a necessity, and however we could get it, as long as it didn't run out or spill, was a good thing.
   After that we had to spend another week or two fixing up our living space. The ceilings were rather untrustworthy-looking and there was so much dust and mess everywhere....
   Then, I could go back to the cages and search through them.
   It was a fascinating search. I'd had the opportunity to go through them before, and I had found the other six EVA's that Unit-01 registered as there. I hadn't had time them, however, to check and see which ones were which. Now I had that opportunity.
   But first, I had to clear away a lot of rubble.
   The EVA bay, where I stored Unit-01 most of the time, was just covered in debris from the ceiling and the walls and from who-knew-what-else. I used Unit-01 to clear away the big chunks of rock and cement, and then I attempted to make doorways or at least door frames out of the holes I had bashed into the walls and EVA cages so long ago. Tashi had found some white powder that made up a wierd and sloppy-looking paste when it was mixed with water. It was supposed to make some sort of glue, I think...it didn't work very well, but at least it held the smaller pieces of the walls in place when I thumped around.
   Once those were stabilized, I went to the covered lumps that were the other EVA Units and brought them out of their cages into the EVA bay. I waited until they were all there before removing their covers, even though it took two days and ate me from the inside out with curiousity.
   And then, on the third day, Tashi and I woke up nice and early and went to the EVA bay to uncover the seven mysterious EVA Units.