At the End of the World 7
Neon Gensis Evangelion: At the End of the World
by Luna Ayanami (ayanami@highlandgrey.com)

Authors Note: In Chapter 14, Mei says "yamete" which, for all you non-Japanese speakers, means "stop" or "don't" ^_^. Chapter 15 contains a smattering of what could be considered mature material and may not be suitable for younger readers.

Chapter 14

   My systems shut down. "What on earth..?" I start. A red light flashes in front of me and to the sides on my viewscreen. 'Activating Dummy Plug System' they say.
   "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" I scream. "I WANT CONTROL!!!"
   "You are not doing your job," my father says, calmly, coldly.
   "But there's a person in there!" I try to argue. "I can't kill someone in cold blood!"
   "It is an Angel, and it must be destroyed," he tells me, and that is the end of the argument.    My viewscreens activate again, only this time I am an observer. I can only watch helplessly as Unit-01 reactes to the dummy plug. I am surprised at the intensity of it's attack, as well as sickened. The Unit is ferocious, attacking the Angel Unit-03 in a way that I could never bring myself to do. I try the controls anyway, hoping that it will respond to me in some way and stop.
   "Stop it! Stop! Stop!" I repeat over and over again. "Stop! Stop it!"
   Unit-01 rips Unit-03's arms off. A liquid much like blood sprays out, coating all the buildings nearby with it.
   "Stopstopstopstop!!" I am almost desperate now, shoving at the crossbar that holds me in place. "Stopstopstopstopstop!!!"
   The entry plug in Unit-01's hand. "DON'T!!!" The fingers close.
   "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Only then does the Unit stop. After it has taken someone's life.
   I only sit there in shock as recovery crews try to get inside the entry plug of Unit-03, to try and recover the pilot.    
   "Shinji-kun..." Misato's voice enters softly into my ears.
   "Who's the pilot?" I ask softly.
   "I'm sorry, Shinji..," she says. "The pilot is...the pilot is..."
   She doesn't need to finish the sentence. I can see for myself who the pilot is. His body is limp between the two mens' arms, his head dropped down to his chest.
   Touji. My best friend.
   I scream.
   I came to myself again, feeling as though someone had just hit me in the stomach with a board. "Why?" I whispered. "Why kill someone..." I actually had tears slipping out from the corners of my eyes.
   *Because it was necessary.*
   That was the last thought of the Unit as the entry plug ejected and drained of LCL.
   I was pretty useless for the rest of the day. The primal quality of the memory was stuck in my mind. All I could really see was the Unit's hand, crushing the entry plug of Unit-03 beneath it's fingers, over and over again. Tashi eventually gave up on trying to get me to do anything useful and productive, and Kyle just refused to talk to me, probably because of what had happened with Unit-01.
   The highlight of the day was that Risa and Unit-00 finally synchronized. We had been working for months to get Unit-00 fixed and then it reacted violently, but now it would accept her. We had a long moment of triumph that didn't fade until after we had gone to bed.
   I dreamed of Jun and Lina again. I was actually relieved that the Unit's memory fragment didn't enter my dream, but I wasn't sure how much more mild this dream was.
   *****
   Tashi had me and Risa testing together now. He and Kyle had somehow managed to fix the system up to handle up to three testees at once to do comparitive charts. This was the second time we had done it this way, and it seemed to work.
   During the middle of the test, the Unit assaulted me again, without any warning. It wasn't as much a memory this time. It was more like a simulation like the ones Tashi has shown us on the computer, where you see things as though they were really happening, but they weren't.
   Dummy Plug System Activated the screens say.
   "What? No, they can't be!" I cry, swinging the controls around. The Unit doesn't respond. I feel the shift in it as the dummy plug comes into full activation, and it registers as unconcious. The Angel on the viewscreen starts extending it's arms, preparing to attack.
   Unit-01 becomes the attacker, leaping at the Angel and beating up on it. The Angel falters under the onslought.
   "No....stop..." I whisper as I watch the Angel be all but ripped apart by an out-of-control Evangelion. I swing the contols again. No response.
   "Stop...stop....stop!!" I start to struggle to get out of the plug's seat but it holds me fast and I can hardly move. With my hands, I shove the controls violently from side to side, using my whole body as leverage. One of them breaks off in my hand, bits of the metal and wiring flying off into the LCL and suspending there for a moment before drifting down.
   The Unit still doesn't respond to me and continues to destroy the Angel.
   The other control breaks off in my hand. I stare at them in shock for a moment before shaking them loose off my hands and pushing at the crossbar. "Stop! Stop! Stop!" I feel so trapped. Outside, the Unit is using a part of the Angel's body to crack the red globe set in it's chest. Inside the globe I can see the curled form of another human being. The globe's surface cracks.
   "YAMETE!!!" I scream. With all the strength in my body, the crossbar gives way and breaks off into the LCL. The vision fades away.
   "MEI!!!" Tashi's voice interupts into my ears, a strange sound after the silence induced by the Unit. I gasp as I see the hand controls and the crossbar floating in the LCL in front of me. I can't say anything, do anything, until everything hits me at once.
   "LET ME OUT!!!" I shrieked, getting out of the seat and pushing at the door of the plug. "I HAVE TO GET OUT OF HERE!"
   I fell back into the seat as the plug was deactivated from the outside and twisted out. The controls and crossbar sank to the bottom as the LCL was drained out. I got back up as soon as it stopped moving and started pushing at the door again. It opened and I all but leaped out.
   Tashi was on the other side, along with a dripping Risa. I fell out of the plug, hitting the walkway on my side and heard as well as felt my arm pop in its socket. Before they could do anything, I struggled to my feet and ran away from Unit-01.
   I stopped running when I could hardly breathe from exertion. I didn't know where I had run to, but I once I took the time to look, I recognized it as the bottom level of NERV we had taken the time to look at. None of us had gone further. I sank down to the dusty floor, closing my eyes and resting my head against the wall behind me to catch my breath.  Once I did, I struggled to my feet and wandered back.
   I wasn't really eager to go back. Unit-01 was more a nightmare now than the haven it used to be. Tashi was sure to yell at me for damaging the plug so badly. I honestly didn't think I was strong enough to break the controls and crossbar off... Risa would want to do a full examination and ask me a barage of questions to determine if I was alright or not. Kyle...well, I didn't know about Kyle. Maybe he would laugh at me for running away.
   I didn't know how long I had been gone, but I wasn't ready to face them yet, so I went to my room, changed for bed and went to sleep. For the first time in months, I slept without dreaming.
   *****
   Tashi didn't yell at me, which I was surprised at. He only calmly asked what I had been thinking when I had damaged the plug. My eyes to the floor, I told him that I hadn't really been thinking about anything. He raised an eyebrow at me and was silent for the longest time. I felt my tentative control break. I started crying.
   Luckily, he had sent the other two out, telling them to start scrounging supplies for rebuilding my entry plug, which could take awhile. Now, as I brought my hands to my face and covered it with them, he got up from his chair and put his hands on my shoulders.
   "I'm not blaming you, Mei," he said softly. "All I want to know is what possesed you to destroy the only plug for Unit-01 we can find." He hesitated a moment longer and then awkwardly pulled me into his arms.
   It was a long time before I could reply. When I did, it was barely audible. "The Unit...it's showing me things I don't want to see."
   "What?" He sounded like he almost didn't believe me.
   I nodded against his chest. "It has a concious mind, but it's been quiet for a long time now. I think it's been sending me the dreams I've been having for months, and the other day it showed me what happened when the previous pilot didn't live up to what was expected of him. Yesterday...it just took over. I thought it was really happening..." I took a deep breath to supress the lump that rose in my throat, which prevented me from speaking for a few more moments. Tashi was silent until I continued.
   "It was an Angel...whatever an Angel is...and Unit-01 just took over all controls. It wouldn't respond to me at all. It was trying to kill it...and there was a human inside...and it killed the Angel...with no thought or regret...it just wouldn't respond!" I burst into tears again. Tashi continued to hold me and gently stroked my hair.
   "It's alright," he said. "You'll be okay. Do you think you'll pilot Unit-01 again once we rebuild the entry plug?"
So much to ask right now... "I'll try," I said, doubtfully. "I won't know until it's rebuilt."
   He smiled; I could feel it. "That's all I can ask," he said.

Chapter 15

   Lucky for us, I guess, that the entry plug was rebuilt in less than a month.The most difficult part to rebuild and attach was the crossbar. Part of it had been left on the plug's seat, and trying to get the new half to match was a very hard task. It taxed the patience of us all, but we somehow managed to hang on until it was done. The power test finally had a green light. We cheered.
   Now I had to face my fears. I hadn't had a bad dream since the plug had been ruined, except from the normal dreams most people had, the ones that made next to no sense. Now, I put the plug suit on with the realization that I would be getting back into the plug, and testing it out. I stared at myself in our mirror for a long time.
   "You can do it," I whispered to myself. "I know you can."
   *****
   The LCL flowed up around my ears and over my head. I breathed in, feeling the liquid fill my lungs. It felt good; I hadn't realized how much I had missed that, although I knew I didn't miss getting it out of my body afterwards.
   The viewscreen changed colours and then focused; everything was much larger, as I had come to expect.
   "Here we go again," I said to myself, leaning back in my seat.
   The test began. Tashi wanted to see how long I could stay in the plug without having to come out. He said something like it'll give him an idea how long I can stay in the plug before they can rescue me safely. I chose to block out the implications of that. He said that he would make Risa take the same test soon as well.
   So all I could do was sit there with my thoughts and stare at things around me. After awhile I fell asleep. I woke up once or twice. The dreams came back. I was Midori again, and this time in a situation I KNEW never happened. I could actually feel the Unit taking over my mind this time, even though I was mostly asleep.
   "Shinji-kun...," I whisper, staring up at him.
   I stirred.
   "Shhh..." he breathes, his eyes dark. He barely moves,
   "No..." I muttered. "These...."
   "I love you Midori." He bends his head and presses his lips to mine.
   "Aren't....mine...."
   I return the kiss, moving my arms around his back to pull him closer.
   "Not...mine..."
   One of his hands travels into my hair, raking it back gently, while the other travels down my side, pulling my shirt out of my school skirt.
   "Not mine!!"
   The feel of his skin sliding over mine, our bodies locked in a passionate embrace.
   "STOP IT!!!!"
   The Unit released it's hold on me. I woke up, shaking and struggling against the crossbar of the plug. "THOSE WERN'T MY MEMORIES!!!" I screamed, almost incoherent. "WHY WERE YOU FORCING THEM ON ME?! THEY AREN'T MINE!!!!!!"
   *I wanted to know you.*
   The voice was so different, I stopped dead. "What?" I asked. It was so hard to breathe. It was difficult to supress the panic I was starting to feel. I could barely see, barely breathe...
   *I wanted to know you,* it repeated.
   "Who...who are you?" I whispered, holding myself absolutely still. My stomach clenched violently with terror. The LCL, normally a clear yellow-tinted liquid, was murky and clouded.
   *My name is...I don't remember my name. But I used to be human...once...*
   More images of the dark haired boy from the false memories flashed quickly through my head.
   "You're..." My voice was barely audible. "Let me out! I want out! Please," I begged.
   *I only wanted to know you. I'm sorry if I made you unhappy. I promise there'll be no more dreams.*
   "You're...you're Shinji..." The plug went dark again.
   *****
   I woke this time to Tashi's face right over me, and Risa's just beyond his. "Mei, Mei, oh thank everything, you're alright," he was babbling. He pulled me up tight against his chest, burying his face in my hair.
   LCL still ran down my forehead, temple, cheeks and neck from my hair, some of which was plastered to my skin. It itched. My vision was fuzzy at the edges. I blinked slowly, trying to make sense of the dizzying height of the Eva above me, it's head bent as if to watch me.
   *I wanted to know you.*
   "What...what happened?" I asked, my voice cracking. I closed my eyes to stop my head from spinning.
   "It was the Eva," Risa replied, placing her hand in mine. "It wouldn't let go of the plug. We were doing another test -- do you remember that?"
   A flash of the entry plug, open and waiting; Tashi's face and voice as the door closed. "It'll be over soon."
   "Yes," I whispered.
   "The Eva...it accepted the plug, but then it wouldn't let go. We tried everything...even prying it open. You've been in there for almost 16 hours...it wasn't supposed to go that long. It only just let you go. The plug came out all on it's own."
   I opened my eyes to stare up at the Unit again. It was more in focus. "Shinji...," I whispered, wondering if I actually said anything at all. Then I closed my eyes and passed out.
   When I came to, I was lying on one of the long pallets Risa used in her medical area. Kyle was sitting next to me, a bored expression on his face. "Oh, you're awake," he said. He got up and walked to the door, leaning out of it and hollering down it that I was awake.
   I tried to ignore him. There was something in his manner today that I didn't like, but couldn't pinpoint. It became easy to ignore him once I turned my mind back to the experience in the plug.
   I guessed then that the dreams were a result of the turmoil inside the EVA. I still remember the Unit telling me that I was lot like it's son, Shinji. I can't understand why the Unit would switch it's concious like that, and I suppose I never will. The memories of what he was supposed to look like flashed quickly through my mind. He reminded me of Tashi. Dark of hair and eye with a brooding, almost pensive expression on his face...I shook my head clear of those images and focused my mind on something else. Like how long I had been in the plug.
   Sixteen hours, Risa had said. That was a long time. She also said that it wasn't supposed to have gone that long. So just how long was I supposed to be in there?
   Risa and Tashi came in then and took up chairs by my bed. "How do you feel?" Risa asked right away.
   I smiled weakly. Just like a doctor..."Better, I suppose," I replied softly. "Better than I did in the plug, at least."
   She nodded professionally. Then she dropped the medical front and hugged me."Don't ever scare us like that again," she whispered in my ear. She sounded like she was trying not to cry.
   I managed to get one arm up off the bed to drape it over her back and hug her back. "I won't," I promised.
   She sat up, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. It was Tashi's turn to hug me. He didn't say anything for a long time. When he did, his voice was so rough with suppressed emotions that I couldn't be sure of what he said. It sounded like, "I thought I'd lost you."
   "What happened?" I asked, the events I could remember being all mixed up in my mind.
   Risa and Tashi looked at each other for a moment. "It's kind of a long story..." Tashi started.
   "And I, as your doctor, am forbidding the complete hearing of it until after you eat," Risa said firmly. "You need to wake up a bit more; you've been asleep for a whole day.
   A whole day?! That's a long time! My mind shied away from the possibilities of what I could have done in that time. "So what have you been doing in that time?" I asked then.
   Tashi shrugged. "A lot of repairs again," he avoided the question. "Unit-00 had a fit earlier today."
   My head swung around to Risa right away, my eyes focusing on her as quickly as I could get them too. She was showing the signs she had displayed earlier when Unit-00 had fits with her in them. A certain tension and weariness in her stance and face, the way her eyes darted about nervously...I felt sad that the Unit would subject her to that after they had finally synchronized.
   "Any idea why?" I inquired, still watching Risa, though I already knew the answer. None of us had any idea why Unit-00 had fits.
   "Mei, does Unit-01 talk to you?" Risa interupted.
   I was a bit surprised. "Sure he does," I replied, almost without thinking about it.
   She smiled. "I knew it! Unit-00 talked to me today. It's the first time it's ever done that...Wait a minute! He?"
   It was my turn to smile. "It's kind of a long story," I explained. "I, as your patient, forbid the retelling of it until I hear everything else I missed while I was asleep."
   She laughed outright at her own words thrown back at her. "All right, I'll wait and suffer until you finally get around to telling me."
   I stuck my tongue out at her.
   Some time later, both of us had said our pieces. I had woken up just in time for dinner, apparently, and they were quite ready to stay up for a while longer with me and keep me entertained.
   It turned out that the test had run hours over the time Tashi had slotted for it. He, Risa and Kyle had all been keeping an eye on the monitors to make sure that I was alright. They had taken turns to keep themselves awake after staring at a screen for hours on end. They had tried everything to get the Unit to release the plug when my life signs started wavering and eventually dropping, rather rapidly. Nothing had worked. Then it had just released it all on its own.
   That led into my story. I told them how Unit-01 had talked to me almost since the first day we had "met" and how it was the mother of the previous pilot, Ikari Shinji. Then I told them about the dreams and detailed a couple in, glazing over most and not mentioning a lot of them at all. It all ended with Shinji being the Unit's concious rather than his mother's. And then I had been asleep since then, so I didn't know anything else.
   "That's the wierd thing," Tashi said when I had finished. "We weren't anywhere near Unit-00 when it had a fit. It activated all by itself and started pounding the walls. It didn't last long of course, and only it's knuckles were scratched a bit. But Risa just dropped to the floor, clutching her head and clawing at the thought sensors." I had noticed a long time ago that only me and Risa wore thought sensors almost all the time. Tashi had stopped wearing his when he found out that he would never be a pilot. I remembered something then.
   "Has that white Unit we cut the chest plate off for Unit-00 done anything?" I asked suddenly. They looked surprised.
   "No..." Tashi said slowly. "What's that got to do with anything?"
   I thought over what I wanted to say so it wouldn't come out in a big mess. "When I was cutting the plate, I thought it was making some kind of thought noise that was pain, but it said 'exultation'. I don't know...maybe I'm going crazy that the Units can talk to us if they want to, as long as we're wearing the thought sensors."
   "No, it's a good theory," Tashi said thoughtfully, tapping his chin with a forefinger and staring off at nothing.
   "It said that it didn't like Unit-01," Risa confided, leaning close to me. "It said that it wanted to get away as fast as it could."   
It was my turn to be thoughtful. "I think there was a record on the computer before that file got lost that Unit-00 reacted badly to Shinji," I told her slowly, my brow wrinkiling with the effort of thinking back so far to files long beyond our reach. "I bet if we were to switch for a day and take compatiability tests, I'd do horrible in Unit-00. It didn't like me the first time. I'm sure that Unit-01 would have no problem with you."
   Not long after that, I felt tired again and had to go to bed.