At the End of the World 11
Neon Gensis Evangelion: At the End of the World
I suppose I was used to sunlight by now.
Luckily, the press conference was held indoors.
Carson was ready to "present my lovely presence to the world". He still insisted on calling me Precious.
The conference had been in planning for weeks. He had fussed over every tiny detail. He had the conference room scrubbed three times, floor to ceiling, until he was satisfied that it was clean. "No sense in letting the public eye know how bad a state N
ERV was in," he reasoned, almost cheerfully. Even so, I never saw the first cleaners of the room again.
On the day of the conference, Carson had kept me out of sight from everyone even remotely associated with the press. It went on all day.
I could watch it on a screen out of camera lines until the inevitable question came up: How does the Evangelion operate? Carson smiled charmingly and said, "I'd much rather let my associate handle that question. Mei?" At that point, I walked out into c
amera sight and up to the table on a raised platform, trying to get used to the millions of light flashes that went off and continued to go off.
The questions poured in as I sat down. The first one clear to me was, "Mei, what is your job here at the rediscovered NERV?" A tall blonde woman of middle years -- who looked incredibly old to me -- was asking the question.
Carson turned to me, smiling encouragingly and put his hand on my back, pushing me forward towards the little black thing on the table in front of me. "You speak into it," he whispered in my ear.
I leaned forward, clearing my throat and hearing it echo over the whole room. Startled, I leaned back, only to be pushed forward again. The gathered crowd was growing impatient.
"I um...I am the pilot of Eva," I said, surprised to hear my voice thrown back at me.
The crowd buzzed excitedly.
"What do you mean, 'pilot'?" the same reporter demanded over the noise.
I hadn't had a chance to see Tashi, ask him what I should say or couldn't say. Carson tried to keep us seperated as much as possible, though he was trying to hide it. He didn't do a very good job.
"Um, well, I'm the pilot," I said, a little confused. "I sit in the entry plug and Eva responds..."
"It's a long tube...the pilot sits in it and controls the movements of Eva..." The flashes going off were beginning to hurt my eyes.
Carson took the microphone. "Ladies and gentlemen," he said charmingly, "I think this would be much better explained if we were to see the Evangelion."
I was really uneasy about letting so many people near Eva, but I didn't have much of a choice. The look on Carson's face as I turned to protest wasn't exactly what I would call sane, and I wasn't about to risk angering him. Maybe some other time, but n
ot now. So I shut up and led the way to Eva.
They all watched in rapt fascination as I climbed into the plug, shut the door and activated it. It slid in as smoothly as ever, filled with LCL and showed the perfect view of the outside world.
**Why are THEY here?** Shinji demanded coldly. I hadn't moved; the reporters standing all around me were still intent, though getting impatient.
"Shouldn't they be?" I asked, confused.
**Eva was a top secret project,** he informed me.
"I'm sorry," I said, feeling like I had somehow betrayed him.
**I'm not mad at you, Mei; I know you didn't know. I'm mad at HIM for exposing the world's deadliest weapon to the entire population of Earth!**
"It's not moving," I heard one reporter say on the externals. He sounded annoyed. "Are you sure it's piloted by that girl?"
"Mei, why don't you show these nice people that the Evangelion is a machine?" Carson asked persuasively.
I turned on my speakers. "Why don't you get the catwalk out of the way so I can move?" I replied sweetly before shutting them off. I watched as Carson herded the reporters away, into the glass-walled room above, while the technicians cleared the cage a
nd moved the catwalk away from my neck. I paused, making sure that everyone was watching very, very closely. They were.
I walked out of the cage, loving the feel of the huge Eva responding to my commands, even the subconcious ones. I paticularily enjoyed the look of shock on their faces. I walked out into the bay and did a little dance, which probably looked pretty stup
id since I didn't have the first clue about dancing.
"I present to you once more, Evangelion," Carson said.
I bowed. This was my show, not his, whether he knew it or not.
I despised him now.
Carson had somehow translated Tashi to be a threat to me and kept us apart at all times. He had security people around at all times, ready to keep us seperated. I started to hate everything. I hated my doctor, my dietician, the technicians who worked o
n the red Eva, Carson, even Risa. She was progressing so far in her studies. I barely saw her anymore, except during sync tests, and even those were becoming few and far between. I was even starting to hate myself, because I was becoming Carson's puppet,
and I didn't know how to stop. I didn't know how to stop him from controlling me.
The only things I didn't hate were Shinji and Tashi.
I snapped at Shinji during a sync test one day, and instantly regretted it. He withdrew, and wouldn't speak to me. I felt so bad that my ratio dropped to below what Tashi had determined to be the standard starting ratio, and the test was lost. Carson w
as mad at me for the sudden drop and had a several loud words with me right afterwards, when I still dripping with LCL, shivering from an internal cold that I could never warm on my own, and feeling worse than I ever had in my whole life.
**I drove him away,** was all I could think, watching blankly as he stormed towards me, looking like the storm that had covered Tokyo-3 for so long. **How could I have done that? He left...**
"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?!" he screamed as soon as he was close enough for me to wince from the volume. I didn't wince though my ears did hurt from it. I just stared at him, my arms wrapped around my chest.
He came close to me, grabbed me by the upper arms and shook me. "We can't have dropping sync ratios like this, Precious," he hissed, lifting me off the catwalk and holding me in front of his face. "It'll destroy us if the public finds out about this!"
I just stared at him, knowing there was this blank look on my face. He only grew angrier and shook me some more. I felt like my head was about to fall off of my shoulders. I caught a brief glimpse of Tashi coming up the catwalk behind Carson. I remembe
red the look on his face...
"Leave her alone," Tashi said from behind him, quietly. It was the same quiet he had used on Kyle. I felt my insides stop. For a moment, I could see Kyle; it was him holding me and not Carson. I felt something inside snap.
I screamed and struggled to free myself, trying as hard as I could to get out of his grasp. I shrieked at him to let me go, tossing my head violently from side to side and kicking my legs as hard as I could. He was so startled that he did let me go. I
hit the catwalk and almost fell off, but managed to gain enough wit in the short time it took for me to hit the grated catwalk to save myself. I backed away from him by crawling. I couldn't stand up. My ankle hurt abominally.
A ripping sound -- the horrible sound of metal tearing metal -- ensued then. Before anyone could move or even blink, and huge purple hand slammed down on the catwalk between me and Carson, bending the catwalk dangerously.
I couldn't remember a time when I had seen Eva's hand up close, although there probably was a time when I stood on it for some reason or another. Now, I stared at it in shock, noticing, perhaps for the first time, that it was battered, dented, chipped.
For some reason, I thought of Risa's hands.
I looked up at Eva. It looked exactly the same as it did when in the cage. The teeth gleamed ever-so-slightly in the lighting. The yellow eyes glowed dimly in their dark sockets. Otherwise nothing had changed. I couldn't tell if anything even remotely
alive stirred within that huge head. "Shinji..." I whispered. Then I glanced to the top of the hand. No one could get over that hand. They had to come in from the other side of the cage.
Tashi was the first one around to my side of the hand. He was breathing hard, like he had been running. He probably had been, I thought later. At that moment, I was just too shocked, too surprised, to think much of anything.
He dropped to his knees and slid on the grating a little bit as he fell beside me, catching me in his arms. "Are you alright?" he gasped, holding me tightly.
I was staring up at Eva again, the way he was holding me. "I'm fine...." I started, but then I felt the tears come. "Oh, it's just awful!" I cried. "I hate Carson! I hate everything about him, everything he makes me do!! I drove Shinji away, I told him
to leave me alone and he left -- "
"He didn't leave you," Tashi assured me, even though I knew that he didn't like me talking about Shinji. He said that he didn't believe in spirits, and I wasn't going to try and force my own beliefs on him, especially since Shinji didn't like him. "See
? He protected you. No one was inside Eva, no one else has been accepted inside Eva except you. He wouldn't leave you, I know he wouldn't." His words weren't very big, but they were comforting nonetheless. I didn't know he was wondering how Eva had activa
ted itself and moved it's hand after it had been placed in the restraints. The thought didn't even occur to me until my mind had had a chance to calm down.
Carson had strolled the way around the cage and was now approaching us. He was absolutely livid. He stopped a fair bit away from us, but close enough for us to hear him as he talked.
"Let her go," he demanded, calmly.
"No," Tashi answered, just as calmly.
"Don't let him near me," I whispered. I remembered that tone of voice. I remembered what he had done to Kyle...
"If you don't let her go," Carson started, his voice threatening, "I will have you thrown out of NERV -- "
"And if you don't shut up, I'll break your neck," Tashi interupted. I tried not to think about what it would be like to witness that. "Don't think I can't do it, or that I won't. I don't care what happens to me, but leave Mei alone. I won't take it if
you turn her into something she doesn't want to be. Are we clear on that?"
I was actually shaking. This was so much worse than with Kyle...Had I ever thought that I would never survive a worse experience? Everything was so wrong now....so upside down. I wanted to cry.
Carson fumed silently for a moment before he spun on heel and stalked away.
It happened in the middle of the afternoon.
Carson had left me alone for all of a week. Then he had tried to gently persuade me back to his side, and when that didn't work, he tried more forceful measures, including having guards escort me everywhere and stand outside my at night. It still didn'
t work. He would turn me into something I didn't want to be.
He would have turned me into a monster.
Risa and I were sitting on the catwalk between Units 00 and 01. It had been repaired, for the most part. A few of the grates were still twisted and bent. We were eating a bit of the lunch Tashi had left for us. It had been a paticularily stressful sync
test, another one of Carson devisions; all I wanted to do was go to sleep, but I recognized how stupid that would be after a sync test on an empty stomach.
She finished off what was left of her food and sighed, leaning back against the railing.
"I'm thinking about moving on," she announced quietly, looking up at the ceiling, finally visible in the bright lighting.
"What?" I asked stunned. "Where would you go?"
She shrugged. "Back to school, I guess."
"In the city?" I snorted. "You'd never get that far. You'd be swamped by the adoring fans!" I sat up and waved my arms around, though the whole time I was screaming inside. **What's happened to me? I WAS someone I didn't want to be! Someone save me fro
Risa looked at me, almost in shock. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Mei," she said, hurt.
I winced and bit my lower lip. "Sorry....But WHY would you go?"
"I'm tired of piloting that hunk of junk for no reason." She sighed again. "All we ever do is sync tests and the occasional trip above ground to the public presentations or whatever it is. It's just no fun anymore. I used to do this because it was fun.
You and Tashi are both healthy, and you will be for some time; you don't need me, especially since you got that other doctor now, what's her name...And you know what's worse? Ever since HE came, I hardly get to see Tashi or you anymore...or at least the
'you' I used to know. You're different now, Mei. I don't know how he did it, but he's changed you so much I barely recognize you anymore." She looked at me now. "I want to do more, Mei. I know I can help more out and about in the world than just what I'd
do down here, living like a mole -- "
She never got to finish the sentence as a huge explosion sounded through the entire facility. The lights flickered dangerously and the ceiling rained on us. Somewhere to my left, I heard one of the workers scream in pain and shock, which was abruptly c
ut off. I felt my heart stop dead in my chest.
"What's going on?" I asked Risa, not expecting her to answer.
"I don't know but we'd better find out."
Tired as we were, we to our feet and ran to C&C.
Tashi was picking himself up off the floor. Blood ran down the side of his face from a cut above his eyebrow. He looked a little stunned and kept trying to wipe blood away from his eyes. No one else was in C&C at the moment.
Risa made him sit down and stay there as she pressed a hand tightly to the wound to stop the flow of blood while I ran to get the medical kit we kept in the room. It wasn't where I thought it was; I had to go searching for it. In the meantime, I had to
take cover under one of the consoles as another explosion rocked the place. I finally found the kit, grabbed it, and stumbled over a chair as I rushed to get it to Risa.
Tashi explained, between "ouch"es and "ow!"s as we wiped the blood off his face with some sort of strong-smelling liquid, that the one monitor that had always remained silent and he thought it was broken but could never find anything wrong with it, had
suddenly flared and then gone dead again, right before the first exlosion shook us up. He suggested that we go topside -- carefully -- and see what was going on.
Carson burst into the room then, demanding to know what was going on. His hand was wrapped up in a cloth that was beginning to darken with blood. "I want an answer and I want it NOW!" he shouted.
Risa and I looked at each other, pausing in our in our fixing-up of Tashi; I was still wiping blood off, and she had to actually stitch the cut closed. I raised an eyebrow at her, and then laid my cloth down.
"I'll go," I said blandly. "You follow, if necessary. 'Not much fun anymore', huh?" Without waiting for an answer from them, I started to run from the room.
"Mei, stop," Carson said. One of the first times he didn't call me 'Precious' when not surrounded by cameras. "I can't let you go up there. Who knows what will happen?"
I grinned with excitement, and I'm sure it was not a nice grin. I saw it in the fear reflected in his face and eyes. "That's what I'm going to find out." I pushed past him and ran to Unit-01.
"How could she ever think of leaving?" I muttered as I climbed into the entry plug.
**Are we going?** Shinji asked as soon as the neural link was connected.
"Yes. Do you know what's going on?" Out of the cage, to the launch elevator...
**Of course. It's an Angel.**
Out of the shaft, above ground. I didn't move. I was on my own out here...Tashi couldn't watch what was going on, and even if he could, he wouldn't be able to tell me what to do. He was as new to this as I was.
And it was an Angel.
I suppose I didn't really believe in them. I'd only ever seen one in my dreams, and even then they weren't clear. I couldn't see it now, either, but even the mere thought of it was enough to make me nervous. I'm sure my mind would have conjured an imag
e of it, but nothing would come up. At best, it looked like a giant, disproportioned Carson in my head. I actually wanted to laugh. I almost did.
**What are you laughing about?** Shinji sounded like he couldn't believe it. **This is hardly the time to be laughing about anything!** Now he sounded mad.
"I'm sorry!" I said. "See, I pictured it like it was Carson..."
**I'm serious, Mei. You will have absolutely nothing to laugh about.**
I ducked my head. "Sorry..." I apologized. What was I doing? I was apologizing to a **spirit**. No wonder Carson didn't want me going out.
Where did that come from?
My speakers crackled. "It's close to you, Mei," Tashi's voice came, all scratchy and hard to hear. "Just follow the street behind you and turn left behind that tall building." There was nothing but static now. I shut the speakers off, took a deep breat
h in and let it out a moment later. I moved Unit-01 away from the launch shaft and in the direction Tashi had told me. Surprisingly, I was incredibly unbalanced and almost fell over.
"What's going on?" I asked, more to myself than anything. Unit-01 was bent at a funny angle in the middle of the street -- feet wide apart, back hunched and arms out to my sides.
**It's called an AT Field. It's kind of like a shield of energy around the Angel to protect it. This one isn't a flat one like I thought it would be...**
"Thank you for that helpful explanation, Mr. Science," I said sarcastically. I tried to right myself and walk again.
**It also has the ability to affect the pilots. That's why can you walk, and why you're being mean.**
"How can I help something I didn't even know was going on!" I protested and promptly fell into a building.
**It's hard to combat an AT Field, especially one that affects the mind.**
"Great words of advice," I muttered, picking myself out of what was left of the building. I managed to stay upright long enough to get around the corner.
I stopped dead and couldn't move. I would have found it eventually, or it would have found me. It was heading towards me anyway; as I stopped, another explosion went off and the building next to me creaked noisily and shuddered. It was an ugly sight.
The Angel was huge and black. It stood even with the top of Unit-01's nose blade, or it would have if it wasn't hunched over. An angry red stripe the colour of blood zigzagged down it's front and back. Two ovular black eyes surrounded by white bone wer
e set wide in what could have been a head. In the center of it's abdomen, that accursed red globe sat peacefully, dark red in the center and fading to bright red on the outside.
It looked up at me, blinking the eyes from the outside corners in once or twice. I shuddered. It could almost have been human...
A gaping hole appeared beneath the eyes and distorted the stripe around it. A red glow appeared and grew both larger and brighter. Before I could begin to think of how to react, a red beam shot out of the hole, hitting the building beside me.
The sound was incredible. The glow died and the beam faded; all was quiet. The Angel shuffled forward on huge feet. Then the building exploded.
It didn't collapse like I thought it would have, like I had seen other buildings do, especially if I hit them accidently with a wayward arm or leg. It went outwards rather than down; I got hit with metal support beams. The rest of the materials were to
o old to withstand the forces involved; they crumbled into dust.
I had tears in my eyes and Eva almost fell over again. One of the beams -- a monstrosity that must have been a corner support for the entire building -- had all but wrapped itself around my leg. The armor was shattered where it had hit. Pieces of the a
rmor were buried in the flesh beneath where it had been and cut deeply into it. I favoured that leg, taking most of my weight on the other.
"What do I do?" I asked, my voice tight with pain.
Silence. It was hard to clear my head of the pain. I tried to tell myself that it wasn't mine, my real leg was just FINE, but the thought went practically unnoticed.
"Shinji? What do I do?"
Another explosion. The street started to break apart under my feet. I nearly fell over and widened my stance to balance, forgetting about the damage done to my leg. I cried out in pain as I was forcefully reminded and dropped to one knee. It was so har
d to see...
"Are you there? Shinji?"
The Angel turned back to me. The red glow in the gaping hole appeared again. I tried to crawl away, get out of the way...
The beam passed over my shoulder. A moment; the building it had hit behind me exploded. The air pressure actually pushing me away, further down the street. My shoulder armor shattered. I screamed in pain and collapsed to the gound, gasping for breath a
nd clutching my shoulder.
The building fell on me.
Everything went dark.