At the End of the World 12
Neon Gensis Evangelion: At the End of the World
by Luna Ayanami (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When I woke up, all I could remember was the pain.
I stared at the ceiling, trying to remember where I was. When my
sluggish mind finally placed where I was, I turned my head to one
side, and stared at the tubes running to the plastic mask I wore over
my mouth, at the tubes that ran to a needle inserted into my arm. I
hated needles...why wasn't I scared of that one now?
My head felt light, and it was hard to think. I tried to remember
how I had gotten into this bed, and what had happened to me to warrant
the use of a breathing mask and IV tubes. The last thing I did
remember was the pain in my shoulder.
I lifted my hand to feel my shoulder. It was fine.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Why couldn't I
I stared up at the ceiling, at it's bright whiteness. I thought
absently that I had no idea how the workers Carson had brought in had
gotten everything so clean. It had all been so dirty... I hissed as
the thought of Carson sunk in. Why couldn't he just go away and never
The door opened. I swung my head to see who it was. It was Risa.
She was dressed normally for once, in a pair of pants and a
shortsleeved shirt. I couldn't see what she wore on her feet.
She walked up to me, carrying a tray. "You're up," she stated
obviously. "How do you feel?" She set the tray down by my feet and
walked around my bed to check the monitor by my head.
I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"It's alright, you don't have to tell me. I can see that you are
just fine." She smiled at me and laid her hand on my forehead. "Let's
take this mask off now. You should be able to breathe by now." She
took hold of the mask and lifted it up and over my head. "Better?"
I nodded. Fresh air...
She let me out that evening. In the course of the day, I had
regained my voice and my strength, and my eyes stopped being blurry so
that I was looking at everything normally and not like it was through
water or wavy glass. Carson pretended that he was _so_ relieved that I
was alright. He must have been feeling sick; he let me spend time with
Tashi and Risa.
Tashi **was** relieved that I was alright. He hugged me and then
held me at arm's length and stared at me, like he was trying to etch
my face in his memory. His eyes were haunted.
"So what happened up there?" I asked finally as we finished dinner.
I hadn't eaten much; I didn't really feel very hungry yet, but I had
to eat to keep my strength up.
Tashi and Risa both froze for a moment and looked at each other.
Tashi slowly set his fork on the edge of his plate and dropped his
hands to his lap.
"We don't really know," he said slowly. "We did have to go up to
recover Unit-01 though..."
"Why? What happened?" I looked back and forth between them.
"It was...stuck," Risa said uncomfortably.
"Stuck? What the hell does that mean?"
"We should show you," Tashi said, standing up. "It's messy..."
I was almost angry that they wouldn't tell me. I had a right to
know. It was _my_ Eva they were talking about!!
I wished they hadn't taken me to see it afterwards.
The shoulder that had blown apart was in bandages of some kind. It
looked wierd, one shoulder standing straight up as normal and the
other just a stub. More bandages covered the leg that had been
damaged. I knew about those.
The others...I didn't know about.
The chest plate was bent in four or five places. One or two of them
had some kind of liquid dried around the edges. The left side of the
jaw was missing. I could see pieces of the armor stuck in the flesh
underneath. No bandages covered that. The right arm was bent at an
awkward angle. Technicians were busy, hard at work setting up a sling
or something next to it. An awful smell blanketed the entire area.
"What happened?" I asked again, trying not to be sick.
"There was even less left of whatever it was," Tashi said, a little
"It was an Angel," I told him.
"Mmm. At any rate, Unit-01 ended up in the side of a hill. It took
us two days to dig it out."
"Two days?! How long was I out?" My head started to hurt.
"Three," Risa said. "The first priority was the entry plug. It
wasn't really hard to get it out, 'cause the Unit was lying on it's
side. We nearly lost you..."
"Shinji could tell me what happened," I interupted her.
I saw Tashi set his jaw at my comment. "Maybe, but I am not letting
you into the entry plug until the Unit has been repaired -- "
"Why can't you believe me that Shinji is real, that Eva is a
person?" I demanded of them both.
"We do believe you, Mei," Risa started.
"No you don't!" I stamped my foot. I had never been this frustrated
before. Since when had I ever displayed such childish emotions? "I
can't show you Shinji -- I've never seen him myself, even, but he is
_REAL_! That was an Angel out there, and I am far more likely to trust
what Shinji tells me than anything you two could! He's been there,
he's done all of this before!" I turned away from them and ran off.
Where on earth had _that_ come from?
I lay facedown on my bed, holding my pillow in my arms. I stared at
the wall. The lights were off. My door was locked.
I felt horrible. How could I have yelled at Tashi and Risa like
I wanted to apologize to them, but I didn't know how. I had meant
everything I'd said...but not the way I'd said it. How can someone
apologize for the way they tell the truth?
Carson had come once, asking to be let in, but I ignored him. He
asked me politely that he'd like to talk to me about some things when
I was feeling better. The words barely registered in my head.
My doctor left food at my door, asking me -- no, pleading with me
-- to eat.
Tashi and Risa didn't even walk by.
I closed my eyes. Had I driven them away? The only friends I'd ever
Tashi did eventually have to talk to me. He stopped at my door,
knocked once on it. "Mei, Unit-01 is finished repairs. We'll be
running a sync test tomorrow." Then he left.
I was there for the test. I didn't talk to him except for when
asked questions. I didn't say anything to anyone after it was over.
Just went to take a bath to get rid of the LCL and then went back to
my room, locking the door again.
A week after that, Shinji started talking to me again.
**I'm sorry I disappeared like that,** he said during another sync
"What happened?" I asked.
**I needed to focus everything on the Angel.**
**Well....you were knocked unconcious. I had to protect you.**
"Is that the only reason?"
**Pretty much...Mei, I never told you what I was going to that
"I don't want to hear it now."
**If I don't tell you now, I'm likely to never tell you.**
"Mei, the ratio just dropped 0.4%," Tashi's voice came. "Please try
"I'll try," I answered emotionlessly, even though I knew he
couldn't hear me. I had my internal microphones turned off.
**I care about you Mei...more than I should.**
**So I look at everything as how I should protect you. From Angels,
from everything dangerous in your life that I can affect!**
"You really want to protect me?"
"Then protect me from myself."
Pause. **You're not taking me seriously.**
"No, I'm not, am I."
**I wish you would.**
**Because I am being completely serious! I really do care about you
Mei...I know you're upset about what you said to Tashi and Risa, but
you had to do it. We are facing a serious threat here. Who knows how
many more Angels will come? They have one purpose -- to destroy NERV
and Eva and unite with Lillith. That's all they want. We have to keep
them from doing that! It happened once before...I'm surprised there's
still people around, even. How could anyone have survived...In short,
I want to make sure that you survive through this. We need you... I
need you...I need you to be a part of me, to be one with me...**
What was he talking about? Something inside of me snapped.
"Abort the test!" Tashi was shouting one moment, and the next,
"Mei! Mei, are you alright?"
I looked up at him and tried to clear my eyes of the bluriness I
saw him through. I managed to gain enough of my senses to tell that I
was covered in LCL, lying on the catwalk outside the entry plug in
Tashi's arms. "What happened?" I asked, my voice choked.
"Something went wrong. All of a sudden, the ratios reversed
entirely and we had to abort the test...Whatever happened, it was
because of you." He wasn't trying to be accusing. I knew it was
because of me. I had felt it snap. I started to cry.
"I'm sorry," I said, tears slipping silently down my cheeks. I
smiled weakly at him. "I shouldn't have yelled at you...I didn't mean
to yell at you. It was all true though...It was an Angel, and Shinji
knew it, so I knew it as well. Eva is a person, a soul lives inside
it. That soul belongs to Shinji, yet it is a part of Eva..."
"Mei, be quiet," Tashi said. He looked horrified or something close
to it. "You don't know what you're saying--"
"I do know what I'm saying," I assured him, lifting one hand to pat
his cheek. The LCL-soaked glove of my plug suit made a wet
-splatsplat- sound against his skin. "I finally understand..." I
smiled again and then passed out.
Things were finally getting back to normal.
It had been a month since the Angel attack. Unit-01 had been fully
and completely repaired. I decided not to ask where the materials had
come from. Risa had decided to stay with us, after all. Best of all,
the red Unit was finally finished all of its repairs.
The last of the corrupted files had listed the red Unit as Unit-02.
The identifying features -- four eyes, among others -- matched. It was
really ugly. Worse than my Unit-01. It gave me the creeps...four eyes,
staring at me...
Tashi had me run the preliminary test on it, using my entry plug
and inserting it into Unit-02 so I could give all the systems a check
and make sure they ran properly. I was willing to do it; Risa
professed that she couldn't even walk near the thing, why would she
want to go inside it?
"I'll just disrupt all the systems because I won't be able to think
straight," she explained.
The Unit felt different...much different, but I expected that.
However, it responded to every command I gave it and before the test
was over, it felt almost normal to me. Maybe it would feel better to
whoever it was we got to pilot it.
I climbed out of the plug, dripping in LCL. Carson was waiting to
hand me a towel to dry my face with. "Bad news," he said quietly as I
I buried my face in the towel. "So what is it?" I asked, my voice
"There was a demand for another press conference of sorts about an
hour ago. A bunch of people in western countries got together and
talked it over. Then they called me. Apparently, it has to do with
that thing that attacked us last month."
I looked up at him, the towel still covering my nose and mouth.
"Tell them no way," I said flatly.
He gave me a frustrated glare. "We have to, Precious. I don't know
a thing about what happened."
"Lemme tell you something -- I don't either. I was unconcious for
most of it. Unit-01 did all of the fighting, not me. If you really
want answers to what happened, ask Unit-01." I know I was only making
him mad. I had just about had it. I still hated him.
He narrowed his eyes. "It doesn't talk to me the way it talks to
you, Precious," he said sweetly. "I couldn't ask it anything that it
would respond to. Well, except...I'm not getting into that." He raised
his hand and took my chin into it, forcing my head up so that I was
looking at him. "They made threats, Precious, very ugly threats. All
they have to do is print an article about how NERV is nothing but a
well put-on show and that we're a sham, and we are DONE for. We are
getting corporate support from some of the most powerful companies in
the world. We can't afford to lose that support -- _I_ can't afford to
lose that support. If you ruin this for me, I will be very, _very_
angry. Do you understand me?"
I nodded. He let me go; I rubbed my cheeks where his fingers had
pressed hard into my flesh. "I'll tell them we'll host it at the end
of next week," he said calmly. "I'll talk to you again before then,
Precious." With a charming smile, he spun on heel -- that annoying
coat swinging out -- and walked away, his shoes clicking on the
I glowered at his back for a moment before returning to wiping my
face clean and giving my hair a quick rub.
After my shower, I joined Tashi and Risa in C&C. There were more
people here now; the place didn't feel so huge anymore, with more
bodies filling it. They were going through a pile of papers that were
spread out over a corner of the floor.
I sat down, making a triangle with them. "Can I help?" I asked.
Tashi reached beside him without looking and handed me a small
stack of papers. "Look through these," he said, not looking up. "These
are applications for Eva pilots, believe it or not. That pile is all
the candidates who are the right age and have no mothers or prominent
female figures in their lives."
"Why should that matter?" I asked, flipping through the stack. All
of them at least had pictures attached, some came with a disk as well.
"It was in the files before I lost them," he explained, glancing at
another paper and putting it on a stack that was already quite large.
"Only 14-year-olds with no mothers or prominent female figures can
pilot. It didn't explain much more than that. That's why I couldn't
pilot in the first place. I had a mother. I didn't look up to her very
much, but she was there."
"My mother was never around anyway," Risa said. "She was a doctor.
I never got to see her. She was never there for me. My dad was,
though, but that's not the point."
"I figure you'll be able to choose the pilot better than either of
us could," Tashi went on. "You were inside it. You know it better than
I made a face. "Not _much_ better," I said, reading what I could of
the top piece of paper. I was surprised that I could understand a lot
of it. It still took me three times as long as Tashi or Risa to read a
We were there for a very long time.
The conference went much like the last one had, only this time I
was in front of that crowd of people for the whole thing rather than
just a part of it.
The expected questions came up. 'How is it that Evangelion needs a
human pilot' was practically the first question asked. Next was 'how
do the human pilot and the Unit react together', etc., etc. Around
lunch time the questioners got to the questions that really mattered:
What was that thing that had attacked the city.
I answered them as best as I could. It was an Angel, the Angels
were creatures that came from beyond our planet, I didn't know what
they were made of, I didn't know how it was defeated, I was
unconscious, I was told that Eva was dug out of the side of a hill...
One of the last questions surprised me. One reporter, a young man
with dark hair and startlingly pale eyes, held his microphone up and
asked, "I hear that there is a new Unit ready. Have you chosen the
I blinked a few times as the words sunk in. I thought quick. I
smiled at him. "Yes. We will be notifying the chosen person in a few
days." I wouldn't tell them the name, because I didn't even know
myself. I still had another stack of papers to go through.
Shortly after that, the conference was closed. I escaped as soon as
I could, making myself unavailable for private questioning. The nice
thing about having security around, they kept away people you didn't
want to see. I only wished they could do that for me against Carson.
Late that night, we were going through the last of the stacks of
letters that kept piling in daily. My reading of them had improved a
lot; they all said more or less the same thing.
"Who asked these kids to do this?" I asked, disgusted. I was going
over the application of a 14-year-old boy from America. All of them
had been organized the same way: Name, age, family, school, location,
country, personal interests and then a section written by someone else
about their good and bad qualities. He would have been accepted, but
in the "bad qualities" section, it said that he was showing sadistic
tendencies which may or may not come into full bearing. I had to ask
Tashi what "sadistic" meant, he told me, and I tossed the application
into the box that was almost overflowing with rejected candidates.
"I think Carson put out an ad or something," Tashi answered
absently. Risa was catching up on some sleep in her room. She had been
staying up late for that past four days trying to get the papers
sorted into piles. I had ordered her to bed, finally. Tashi and I were
the only ones in C&C. The other scientists had gone home already.
I rolled my eyes. "Figures," I muttered.
After many more hours of eye-straining, neck-hurting reading, I
finally got throught the last of the stack. With a sigh, I stood up
and stretched, then wandered out to get something to drink.
NERV was silent. It seemed unnatural, now that there were so many
people wandering around. I thought absently that I had come to take
everything I had now for granted...there had been a time when Tashi,
Risa and I would have had to move the entry plug from Unit-01 to
Unit-02 on an elaborate pulley system. Of course, that would have been
assuming we'd been able to fix it up in the first place.
I passed by the huge glass wall that looked into the Eva bay. There
they were...purple Unit-01, blue Unit-00, red Unit-02, all lined in a
row in cages with catwalks stretching across their necks, connecting
each cage to the one next to it. Further down, away from the finished
ones, two of the five white ones were undergoing their repairs. The
other three were just slouched in their cages, either waiting
contemplation of repairs or waiting to be disposed of. The one with
the side of it's head crushed in would be disposed of first. It wasn't
even worth trying to save.
I paused there, cup of water in hand, and stared at them. They
really were ugly creations. One eye, two eyes, four eyes...Unit-01's
eyes glowed ever-so-slightly in the dim light of the bay. Unit-00
stared ahead with its cycloptic vision, seemingly unalive. Unit-02's
head was down, awaiting the arrival of the child to pilot it.
Had I any right to chose the pilot? Probably not. I was nearly 16
years old now. I didn't even deserve to pilot Unit-01. I was too old,
according to Tashi's explanation. How could I possibly make the
decision that would change someone's life? It was different for me and
Risa. We had had time to get used to Eva, get them to recognize us as
a part of themselves. This new kid, whoever it would be, would have
next to no time. Shinji was sure that the Angels would come again. I
believed him. If Risa or I was put out action, temporarily
or...permanently...the new kid would be forced to take our place,
ready or not. I didn't know if I could handle the responsibility of
I watched the silent Eva's for a few seconds more, and then went
back to C&C, feeling inexplicably cold.
I threw the sheet down on Carson's desk. "There. That one." I
suppressed a yawn. I had been up all night, going through the very
last of the applications, the ones I'd set aside because they'd looked
the most promising.
Carson didn't even glance up at me. He calmly set aside whatever he
was working on and picked up the application, reading it over calmly.
"Kaori Tetsukawa?" he asked, finally looking up at me with a raised
"Yes," I answered, hoping I didn't sound as tired as I felt. "She
lives in the city already, and her uncle is a member of the
reconstruction committee. Her father is currently in America working
with some sort of business over there, and her mother died when she
was quite young." I was reciting everything from what I'd remembered
on her sheet. All the details were there; he could read them for
himself. "I want her."
He looked at me again. I returned his gaze with an icy stare that
challenged him to argue with me.
"Very well," he agreed, setting the sheet aside. "How would you
like her picked up? I can go, I can assign some people to go, you
could go...any way, I'll have transportation and accompaniment
Wow. He was being _nice_? "I'd like to go," I said, hiding
everything I was feeling at the moment. I was feeling
almost...grateful..."I'd like Tashi to come with me too."
His eyes narrowed marginally, almost imperceptibly. "Alright. I'll
call her father, and have a time set up this evening. Agreed?"
"Agreed." Without another word, I turned around and walked out of
the office. Tashi was waiting for me.
"So?" he asked, falling in step with me.
"We can go this evening to pick her up," I said wearily. "He's
having someone assigned to drive us there, or something.
'Transportation' he said. I don't know. I want to go to bed right
"You should. I've rescheduled today's test for tomorrow, so you can
go sleep until we leave." He smiled at me. "Sleep well, Mei." Then he
turned and walked back the way we had come.
I stared at his back. He seemed different now...
I knocked on the door of the small house, hoping that someone was
I stepped back, waiting for an answer. I glanced at Tashi again,
who stood just behind me. He looked very attractive, dressed in dark
pants, white shirt, and a long dark jacket like the one Carson
favoured. His hair had been carefully combed into a style that looked
messy, even though anyone could tell it wasn't.
Carson had insisted that we look "presentable" when we went that
evening to pick Kaori Tetsukawa. He had brought in several people that
had kept us occupied for several hours before we had left. That was
Tashi's end result. I liked it. I wasn't so sure about my own.
I was now dressed in a long skirt and long-sleeved shirt with a
light, shaped jacket over top. One lady had cut my hair again and
styled it. Tashi claimed to like it. I wasn't sure. I still looked
like me, only....different. The weather was cloudy, so we had an
umbrella too, in case it started raining.
The door was opened by a middle-aged woman in a severe black dress
and white cap. "May I help you?" she asked somberly.
"We're here to speak with Mr. Yuji Tetsukawa and Miss Kaori
Tetsukawa," I said. I felt so wierd, visiting a stranger's house. How
often had I done that when I was young, looking for shelter or food?
"We're from NERV," Tashi added.
"Please follow me," the lady said, opening the door wider. I went
in, followed by Tashi. The lady closed the door behind us and then
stepped around us, leading the way down the hall.
I was impressed. The house was small, but well-kept, and
well-furnished. Painting's hung on the walls, and a fine carpet
covered the floor. The lady took us to a room with large, comfortable
chairs and a low, dark, handsome wood table in the center. Many plants
stood in pots all around the room.
"Please wait here. I will bring the mister and miss to you," she
said, closing the double doors partway.
Tashi walked slowly around the room, carefully studying the
paintings or the plants. He even bent over to study the table. "Come
see this, Mei," he said, leaning closer to the surface of the table.
I stood beside him, bending a little to see what he was looking at.
"I don't get it," I said.
"You have to look at the grain of the wood." He placed his hand on
the table and traced out one of the patterns of wood. "See this one?
What does it remind you of?"
I stared it a moment longer, and then started to laugh. "It looks
like -- "
"I know!" he agreed, straightening and turning to me. His laughter
quietly died away. "I want to tell you something, Mei," he started.
The doors opened. The lady in the black dress held them open as a
man with greying hair and a young girl walked in. I recognized the
girl from her picture on the application.
"Thank you, Linna, that will be all for now," the man said. The
lady bowed slightly and closed the door. "How may I help
you...people?" he asked then, almost coldly.
"We're from NERV," I said. "Did Adam Carson call you today?"
"Yes," he admitted cautiously. "Does this have something to do with
"Yes it does," I said. "Were you aware that your daughter had put
in an application for the pilot of the newly-restored Evangelion
He looked down at the wide-eyed girl beside him. "No, I was not,"
he said stiffly. "I think we should sit down and talk about this.
Please, have a seat." He indicated two of the chairs side by side,
took one of the ones opposite those two, and his daughter sat down in
the one next to his.
"Introductions are in order, I believe," he said, reaching his hand
across the table. "I am Yuji Tetsukawa," he introduced, shaking first
my hand, then Tashi's. "This is my daughter, Kaori." He waved his hand
at the girl next to him.
She smiled shyly at us. "Hi," she said.
"I'm Tashi, and this is Mei," Tashi supplied.
Mr. Tetsukawa looked somewhat surprised. "Mei?" he said, startled.
"From NERV? That means you're the pilot of that big robot!"
I felt heat rise in my cheeks. "Yes, that's me," I admitted.
"Alright. So what's this business about Kaori being chosen as a
"Well, as you probably know," Tashi said when I hesitated, "there's
another Evangelion Unit finished repairs and ready to go. Without our
knowledge, Adam Carson put out an ad or called schools around the
world or something and had students fill out applications of a sorts
for the pilot position. We spent quite some time going through them,
and Kaori was the one chosen."
He sighed and leaned back in his chair. "So what does this entail,
exactly?" he asked.
"We'll taking Kaori back to NERV and over the next week we'll run a
number of tests to make sure that she is compatible with the Unit,"
Tashi explained. "If not, she'll be returned to you, and we'll search
for a new pilot."
**Real smooth, Tashi,** I thought. **Like she's a toy or
"What, you mean she can't live here with me?" He seemed profoundly
"I'm afraid not," I answered. "While it does help that you live in
the city, we absolutely must have her live at NERV for extensive
testing and synchronization."
"I'll be okay, Daddy," the girl finally spoke up. "Really! I knew
what I was getting into when Sensei asked us to write the forms up."
"But Kaori, it's so dangerous!" her father protested, ignoring
Tashi and I and turning to her. "Remember that attack last month?
Remember how scary that was? Remember the damage done?"
I turned red again. Tashi leaned over; "It's not your fault," he
whispered, for my ears only.
"I know that," I whispered back, "but if I had been better prepared
"Shhh. Don't worry about it. If the city thinks that they can fend
off those creatures better than we can, I'd sure like to see them
"Are you sure you'll be alright?" Mr. Tetsukawa was saying to Kaori
now. His eyes were filled with tears. I wished fleetingly that my
parents had cared so much about me. Then I wished even more fleetingly
that I even knew my parents.
"Of course, Daddy," she assured him. I could tell she was trying
not to cry. "I'm sure they'll take real good care of me." She looked
over at us, her eyes begging for reassurance. Her father also turned
to us, hopeful.
I smiled as best as I could and hoped it looked convincing. "Of
course," I said.
He sighed. "All right, you can go," he said mournfully. "But please
write me letters or something and let me know how you are, alright?"
"Of course, Daddy," Kaori said, jumping up from her chair and
hugging him fiercely. "I'll go pack right now!" she cried happily.
"What do I need?"
The truth was, I had no idea. Luckily, Tashi filled in for me.
"Just enough regular clothes to keep you dressed for quite a while,"
he said. "We provide everything else." Kaori ran off to get ready.
Mr. Tetsukawa turned to us again, wiping his eyes with the back of
his hand. "So you're sure she'll be alright?" he asked us. "Nothing
bad will happen to her?"
"She'll be fine," Tashi said, his voice carefully comforting. "Mei
has been a pilot for almost two years and the worst that's happened to
her is a twisted ankle." He didn't say _how_ I had gotten the twisted
ankle, and he didn't mention Kyle at all.
"You will keep me informed of her progress, won't you?" Mr.
Tetsukawa asked, moments before Kaori came pelting back into the room.
"Weekly," I assured him.
"I'm ready!" Kaori said, sliding to a stop on the polished floor as
she ran into the room. She had a large, ovular bag slung over her
shoulder that looked hastily stuffed with clothing, and assuredly was.
Tashi and I rose. "Thank you for your understanding," Tashi said
formally, bowing to Mr. Tetsukawa as we left the house. "We will keep
you updated." He turned and walked back down the pathway with Kaori
I bowed as well. "She'll be safe," I promised. "I'll keep her that
way." I ran after Tashi and Kaori.
"Parent's are such a pain," I muttered to myself before getting
back into the car. "I'm glad I never knew mine."