After being submerged in the Sea of Dirac, Shinji emerges in a world very unlike the one he left...and what on Earth's a Dorem, anyway? [Crossover: RahXephon]
Through the Belly of the Beast
Ikari Shinji was floating through space. Or whatever else could describe this place inside the Twelfth Angel. Although considering the fact that there was absolutely nothing around him, space just about summed it up. Wait, was this maybe the Angel's stomach. 'Does this mean they literally have bottomless pits for stomachs?'
Shinji shook his head as he remembered how he wound up here. He had, stupidly, decided to jump into the battle before everyone was ready-although he had to wonder if he would have still wound up inside the void of the Angel's 'belly' or wherever he was if he had waited.
'It's so quiet.' Shinji thought to himself. And it was. He was floating through a formless void. There was nothing in any direction. Just blank white. The emptiness was painfully oppressive.
He was alone. Shinji couldn't help but chuckle darkly.
'I always wanted to be alone. But now that I am-completely-I can't stand it.'
He leaned back and tried to think of a way out of his predicament.
Nothing came to him. Shinji sighed and slumped in his seat.
Then his world exploded in pain.
"Brethren, I have done it."
"What is that, Hermanubis? Might I add that I still think it ridiculous that you insist on that moniker?"
"That is fine, Aeternitas. I find it fitting. And I have dealt with that purple-colored nuisance."
"What? How? That mockery bested Morrigu, Ketea, Daramulum, Janus, and Vishnu in combat! You could never hope to match it in battle!"
"Whoever said that I bested the pestilence in combat, Mamaragan?"
"Perhaps it would be best if you told us what you did, Hermanubis, instead of taunting your brethren."
"Ah, of course Eupatridae-Loki. I've sent the spiteful construct from this realm."
"...Do you mean to say that you sent the imitation there?"
"YOU FOOL! What were you THINKING? Sending a monstrosity that bears our secrets through the Barrier? You-"
"That is enough, Draug."
"WHAT?! Don't tell me you're standing up for him, Loki!"
"I said, that's enough Draug. Do not make me tell you again."
"And I never said I was standing up for Hermanubis."
"What you did was foolish, little brother. There are valuable secrets hidden in that beast, Hermanubis. Secrets about us. Should the enemy realize it, they would be in a perfect situation to capitalize on your blunder and find countermeasures for our weapons, while we still know nothing about them."
"...I thought it would give us the opportunity we seek to exterminate the enemy. It has almost single-handedly staved off our efforts. Without It, the Lilim will crumble and we will reach our goals."
"...True. But it will have to be done swiftly. And Aeternitas, begin awakening the second generation, just in case."
"Yes, Rex Loki."
Shinji sat alone on the train. A blood-red sunset peered in from the window in front of him. He frowned slightly. There was something vaguely wrong about this place. And his head was throbbing with pain. Wasn't he supposed to be somewhere else?
"Ah, but you are somewhere else, Shinji-kun." A melodious voice trailed out. Shinji stiffened as he saw two people sitting in front of him. One was a four year old boy whose eyes held wisdom well beyond his years. The other was a girl in her early teens with pale gray hair and bright green eyes.
She smiled at him gently, and Shinji felt a disturbing familiarity rising up in him. It felt like he should know her, and more importantly, fear her. But he couldn't remember why. But there was something about those eyes. Why the hell couldn't he remember? He winced as another tendril of pain laced through his mind.
--Shinji felt the darkness slowly recede from his eyes. He glanced around, completely nonplussed. He was still in the entry plug, but the last thing that he remembered was Sachiel wailing away at his-no, the Eva's head.
'Did I die?'
As if on command the plug fully reactivated. Before Shinji could take a good look at his surroundings, motion at his peripheral vision drew his attention. But, before he could try to identify what moved, the mask covering the Evangelion's head fell off, landing with a loud crash on the ground.
Shinji blinked. 'The covering came off?' Suddenly curious, he glanced over at the skyscraper that stood next to him. After all, hadn't Doctor Akagi mentioned that the Eva was biomechanical? Shinji suddenly had visions of an Eva-sized cyborg, like that one in the movie he saw. Termina-something-or-other. Unfortunately, what he saw was completely like what he thought it would be.
What he saw would haunt him for life.
A fleshy, skull-like head poked out of the armor covering the Evangelion's jaw and neck. Where its eye should have been was simply an empty socket. Then flesh began bubbling out of the void, quickly forming eyelids. It opened, revealing a piercing green eye where a gaping socket was. But that wasn't what really frightened him.
It was the fact that the...thing...was looking through the reflection at him. It's gaze probed his soul, thrown out for the creature to see. And Shinji swore he felt hunger lingering in its Cyclopean eye.
As its stare burned through his core, Shinji screamed.--
Shinji jerked back, falling out of his chair onto the floor.
"Y-yo-you!" He gasped, staring at the girl. "You'r-re Unit 01?" The avatar of his behemoth steed smiled at him. The boy turned and looked up at her as she continued to cradle him in her lap.
"O-nee-chan? Is that really me?" Shinji blinked. Had that kid just said...
The aforementioned kid shot a glare at the pilot. "Yes, I'm you."
The human mind is famous for being able to handle unbelievable amounts of stress. Instead of cracking under the pressure, which many people would expect when observing the unfolding events, the mind rises above it. Shinji's behavior up until this point is proof positive of this, as he had not turned into a nervous wreck after all these months. Unfortunately, every man has a breaking point. Shinji just reached his.
"Wh-wh-wha-what the HELL?!" Shinji screamed. "Where the hell am I? Who the hell are you people?" The boy-no, his younger self seemed somewhat disturbed and faintly disgusted at his outburst. The Evangelion however, continued smiling at him as if he didn't say anything at all. He started shaking uncontrollably. This was just too damn much.
"Your mind is an unusual thing, Shinji-kun. Never before in my...well, limited experiences have I met someone with such broken self-perceptions."
Shinji shivered. He knew not to trust her. He knew not to listen. But her voice slid through his defenses, burning themselves into his consciousness. Yet it felt as gentle as the kiss of a summer's breeze. His mind screamed at him to get the Hell away. Nothing ever came from the Evangelion except pain and suffering. He knew that. But why the hell was he relaxing at the sound of her voice?! He wanted to scream in frustration, but his voice refused to work.
The avatar nudged the little boy off her lap and stood up, towering over Shinji, who had not even bothered getting off the floor. She walked over and knelt in front of him, so that they were eye-to-eye.
"So many of you exist...but there is no you."
He blinked, his mind distracted from his internal ramblings by the non- sequitur. What the hell was that supposed to mean? The pain in his skull pulsed again, then images began to float up in his mind. Images of him.
"The Ikari Shinji in Katsuragi Misato's mind."
He saw himself, alone and vulnerable, standing at the railway platform. He saw the demonic Evangelion lunging forward, allowing itself to be impaled by the glowing tentacles of Shamshel, the Fourth Angel, so that it could destroy the invader. He saw himself rousing a drunken Misato and helping her into her room.
"The Ikari Shinji in Suzuhara Touji's mind."
Shinji saw himself taking the punch unflinchingly from a raging Touji. He saw himself take the symbiotic pain in the entry plug before stabbing the Fourth Angel in the core. He saw himself laughing alongside Touji and Kensuke as they walked from school.
"The Ikari Shinji in Ayanami Rei's mind."
Shinji saw himself ripping open the hatch to the entry plug and peering inside, concern etched into his face, only to have that image superimposed-briefly-by an image of the Commander standing just as he was. He saw himself declaring his mistrust of the Commander's motives. He saw himself trying to speak to Rei while the rest of the world averted their eyes as she passed.
"The Ikari Shinji in your father's mind."
He saw a brown haired woman carrying a newborn boy, exuding warmth and caring, while her husband stood off to the side outside the warmth. Shinji saw a little boy standing on the sidewalk, crying out to an older man who ignored the child. He saw a teenager who flinched whenever the older man passed.
"There are many more like this. They are perceptions of you. But for all these perceptions, one is missing. The most important perception." The girl cocked her head, looking inquisitively at Shinji. "Tell me, do you know where it is? The true Ikari Shinji-the Ikari Shinji within his own mind?" Shinji frowned at her, his fear forgotten for the moment. Why the hell was that the most important?
The Evangelion, as if reading his mind, raised her hand palm up and held it in front of his eyes. He tensed up for a moment, his paranoia resurfacing. When the avatar didn't move from where she was standing, he let himself relax. Slightly. His eyes focused on what was lying in the center of her hand.
"Imagine a person is like a diamond, Shinji-kun. Each facet is someone else's perception of you. Each side captures a part of your personality, as seen by another. However, it is your actual personality that is the glue, the underlying structure that holds all the facets together. Without that..." The diamond, as if on command, dissolved into sand.
"If you concern yourself only with how others see you, there shall be nothing to you. Just a void where a great man should be." Shinji flinched and looked at the ground.
"I'm not a 'great man'. I-" The avatar laughed.
"Of course you're not." He blinked at this. Was he supposed to be relieved by that fact or insulted? Shinji decided to settle for being very confused. "You're not because you choose to obsess over what everyone thinks about you. You want to keep everyone from hating you. But you cannot succeed, and thus you become a void." She leaned in very close to Shinji's face. His nervousness returned in spades, battling with the soothing tones of her voice. He wanted to crawl away, put space between the two of them, but he couldn't move. He couldn't turn away from her emerald eyes. He could feel her breath washing over him, sending tingling sensations across his body.
"There will always be those that hate you, Shinji-kun. You can't control that. But you can control why they hate you." She moved even closer, so that she was practically lying on top of him. "If they must hate you, make them hate you for what you have done, instead of what you refrained from doing." A mocking smile graced her lips. "Now, that doesn't give you full license to do whatever you want. But whatever you do, don't make people hating you the deciding factor. And remember, no matter what you do, even though some will hate you, there are those that love you."
At the last statement Shinji froze. Love him? Who the hell would love him? And what the hell would a goddamn Evangelion know about it? All the damn thing brought him was pain. Was she taunting him? There was a burning in his gut that made him want to scream. Was the blasted thing playing with him? Why the fuck would it say something like that?
"How the hell do you know?" Shinji whispered harshly. The Evangelion smiled again.
"I know because I have seen your memories, Shinji-kun." She chuckled as shock and horror made their presence known on his visage. "What else do you think happens when we sync? And as for those who care about you, why else do you think that your guardian keeps you around? Why do all those people at NERV do everything in their power to keep you safe? They care about you, Shinji-kun." She looked him in the eye, pinning him where he sat. Although he wouldn't have been able to move anyway. Memories flickered forward in his mind, images of Misato, Maya, Aoba...they went on and on. They all cared about him. That was true. But love him?
A single image arose in his mind, stronger and clearer than anything else he had experienced. He saw Misato standing by her car, looking at him. Her smile; small, understated, and warm. 'Welcome home.' Two words he'd wanted to hear for years.
The avatar watched as Shinji's expressions swung from disbelief, to remembrance, to doubt, to acceptance. Then she delivered the final blow.
"And they trust you." Shinji's developing good mood evaporated like a snowflake in Hell as he felt like he had been punched in the stomach. They trusted him? They trusted the coward? The ignorant fool who trembled before an opponent, who could not even stand up for himself in front of that thing that he called a father? That's who they trusted?
"Of course, you realize that by running away, by giving in, by refusing to face your problems, you betray that trust? You hurt them by turning away." The fist in his stomach had become a knife twisting in his abdomen, cutting and slashing through him. As the knife continued to twist, his frustration built. He had wanted to turn away from the fear, but he couldn't. They knew that and they still trusted him. Why?
"Why?" He hissed out to the world, his eyes clenched shut, not caring who heard. "I'm so afraid all the time. Everyone else is so brave. Why would they trust a coward like me?" The pain in his head throbbed again. His eyes jerked open again as cold fingers stroked his cheek.
The Evangelion was hovering over him once again. He shied away from her fingertips, unnerved by the contact. Her smile took on a sadder shade as he did this, but otherwise she made no acknowledgement of his action.
"Who said anything about fear causing cowardice?" Shinji opened his mouth to prove the point, but fell silent as the avatar laid a single finger on his lips. "The presence of fear proves nothing, Shinji-kun." She paused, as if considering it. "Well, it does prove you're sane." Seeing Shinji's confused look, she smiled and elaborated.
"Fear is a natural reaction. Everyone feels it, even that purple-haired woman you live with. It's how you deal with that fear that determines whether you're a coward or not. And when it really counts, how often do you run away?" He frowned, running through his memory. Before he could respond, the avatar cut him off. "You never have. So enough of this talk of cowardice." He stared at her with wide eyes. He had never actually thought of it that way. An unknown feeling bloomed inside of him as he considered that. It took a moment for him to recognize it as hope.
Shinji then grimaced as his headache reasserted itself in his skull. "What the hell's up with this headache?" He grumbled to himself. Then he caught sight of the avatar's slightly guilty smile, and worry started burrowing in his gut. "What are you doing to me?"
"What's necessary, Shinji-kun. There will be many battles ahead, and you will need more knowledge than you already have." Shinji frowned at her. What kind of knowledge? As if hearing his thoughts-which Shinji suspected she actually could-she clarified herself. "You know how to move my body, but you do not know how to use me. Do not worry. You will understand with the passage of time."
Shinji started to protest, but was overridden by the Evangelion. "You will remember what was said here, won't you?" How the hell could he not? The knowledge that all those people had their trust in him was not something he could easily forget. Not to mention that his fear was natural, of all things.
No, he was not going to forget this for a long time-if ever.
The Evangelion flashed a smile at him, affirming his suspicions about her mind-reading abilities. But after a moment of consideration, he figured that he just might have a really bad poker face. He wasn't sure which. Either way he figured it would be best to answer the question, even if she already knew what it was.
"Good. But, just to make sure..." Shinji's eyes bugged out as the avatar leaned in and claimed his lips in a searing kiss. As the Evangelion started to probe inside his mouth, he faded from view, leaving the avatar, looking somewhat put-out, and the little boy alone on the train. After a moment, the boy spoke up.
"I cannot believe that I was that easily manipulated. And did you HAVE to kiss me?" The Evangelion turned to him.
"Oh, hush you. It's in our best interests." She told him playfully. Then she blushed slightly. "And yes, yes I did."
Captain Miwa Shinobu liked to consider herself unflappable. After all, she had barely batted an eye during the Olin's escape and her quick thinking nearly prevented it. Granted, that wasn't nearly enough to brag about but it was a helluva lot better than anyone else. Excluding Lady Maya, of course, but Shinobu was convinced that the woman didn't have emotions. At all.
But the captain was always on top of things. Always with a cool head. She could discern what was happening in the most chaotic of environments and make efforts to halt them. She was imperturbable.
The sirens were blaring all around her, flashing like strobe lights. She glanced around her, trying to understand what was happening. She had never seen anything like this. 'What the hell's going on?!'
She ran down the hall to the main control room. The fool Kuki was already there, trying to access some program. While the man was her superior, he was completely inept when it came to computers in every way shape and form. So she didn't hesitate to sprint over to the console and shove the man out of the way before diving into the console herself.
Her fingers pounded across the keyboard, calling up graphs, images, anything that could answer the question of what just happened. Finally she found her answer...and stared at the screen, in transfixed disbelief.
"Captain Miwa!" A scream sounded in her ears. Jerking, she turned her gaze and saw Lady Maya glaring balefully at her. She winced inwardly, realizing that the Lady had been calling her for some time, but didn't let it show.
"Yes, Lady Maya?" Her superior's glare lessened.
"Report." Miwa nodded, called up several graphs, and began her explanation.
"Less than ten minutes ago, the spectrograph array picked up a large energy wave emanating from Outpost A-14. The wave was followed by multiple smaller pulses, increasing in frequency to the point where, currently, they are coming in a continuous stream." The Lady Kamina gave her a look that screamed 'How the hell is that supposed to help me?' Then Miwa dropped the bombshell.
"More significantly, the nature of the wave is remarkably similar to the Omega-12 sound-wave." Lady Kamina paled significantly. Kuki's jaw dropped. Both of them looked like someone struck them upside the head with a rather solid two-by-four. Miwa stood there and enjoyed the fearful look for once gracing the commanding officer's porcelain features.
Surprisingly Kuki shook himself out of his daze first. His brow furrowed. Miwa could practically see the gears turning in his head.
"How is this possible? The only Omega-12 we've ever encountered was when the RahXephon was escaping through the time-dilation field." Miwa loved getting one-up on Kuki, and would have been grinning from ear to ear if the situation were different. As it was, she continued with the explanation.
"While I said the energy wave was similar to the Omega-12, I never said that it was an Omega-12." Lady Maya shook herself out of her funk at this.
"How is it different?"
"Well, as far as we can tell, it's made of raw energy. And it has to be at least a hundred times more powerful than the Omega-12." Her explanation was cut off then by another alarm. Miwa whirled and dove back at the keyboard. A few seconds later the alarm cut off and Miwa visibly stiffened. "Ma'am, we have a visual image from Outpost A-14."
A screen flickered to life, and everyone in the control room gasped. In the center of the outpost was what seemed to be a portal of darkness. It seemed to fill the entire sky. As they watched in horror, something emerged from it. A horned, dark purple head was revealed first, its jaw set in a mad grin.
The rest of the creature followed quickly. Strange, jutting wing-like fixtures on its shoulders; a metallic armor coating its entire body; and what looked like either a tail or a...power cord. The portal disappeared behind the being, severing the thing dragging behind it. The shower of electrical sparks confirmed that it was a power cord.
The creature's eyes glowed for a moment before fading. Then it slumped lifelessly to the ground.
The control room was silent for a moment, and then the sounds of a phone being grabbed frantically filled it. Miwa tore her eyes away from the screen and saw Lady Kamina, looking more confused and frightened than the captain could ever remember, dialing like a madman.
"Hello? I need to speak with Him. Immediately. It's an emergency, damnit! That's why!"
Shinji gasped as he felt himself in the entry plug of the Evangelion once more. The pain in his head had lessened to a faint throbbing in the back of his skull. He ignored it and focused on syncing with the gigantic Evangelion. There was a swirl of colors, and then he saw outside the beast.
Nothing but blank white. Shinji let out an explosive sigh and collapsed back into his seat, cutting the connection with the behemoth. Was all that with the Evangelion just a dream? And if it was, then why were his lips tingling as if he was still being kissed? For some reason, he really hoped that it wasn't just a deam.
He wasn't sure, but he could have sworn that he felt something...amused in the back of his mind when he thought that. He shook himself mentally.
Okay, now he was imagining things. It was at that point that the entry plug shook violently. 'What the hell?' Flipping switches like a madman, Shinji managed to sync with the Evangelion. What he saw both filled him with hope and scared the shit out of him.
There was a black nimbus cloud condensing in front of him. And it was growing closer by the second. Shinji tried to move the giant beast, but his attempts had no effect. Then before he could react any further, the cloud was upon him.
He jerked as his vision went black. He shuddered as tendrils of cold wormed their way into his core. Then he threw his arms over his eyes as blinding light poured into the plug. A moment later the pilot realized that he was standing on solid ground, and slowly pulled his forearm away from his face.
'Oh hell. We aren't in Kansas anymore, Toto.' Shinji thought as he looked across the landscape before him. There was not a single thing that Shinji could recognize. There was no sign of any skyscrapers, E-lift shafts, or anything else that would signal his presence at Tokyo 3. The buildings that were there reminded Shinji of army barracks. The ground was completely flat around him, forming hills off by the horizon. Definitely not Tokyo-3.
He gulped as he felt his guts clench. That was not a good sign by any means. He was God-knows-where in an Evangelion, one of the most volatile and divisive things in existence, with next to no power. 'Shit.' He started wracking his brains for ways out of this mess. He quickly narrowed it down to one possibility: contact the military wherever he was and hope they could help him.
Shinji lunged at the controls and started hailing on any channel he could. It only took a moment for him to locate a channel.
"He-hello?" He called out hesitantly. Then he ground his teeth at how timid he sounded.
'It's how you deal with that fear that determines whether you're a coward or not,' the avatar had told him. It was high time that he started dealing with that fear. "Hello!" He called out again, much more clearly. Moments later, a fearful reply came over the radio. Shinji blinked. Wasn't he supposed to be the frightened one?
But, then again, whoever it was that answered probably wasn't used to gigantic purple robots dropping out of the sky. A screen flickered to life in front of him. He saw a nervous looking technician peering at him.
"Wh-who are you?" The technician stuttered out.
"Ikari Shinji. Look, can you tell me where I am?"
"What are y-your allegiances?" Shinji blinked. 'The hell?' He opened his mouth, closed it, and then opened it again. His guts clenched even tighter than before.
"I work for NERV, it that's what you mean."
The technician stared at him like he had grown another head.
"NERV? What the hell's that?" He asked, seeming to get over his earlier fright. The clenching sensation in Shinji's stomach amplified. He was aware that, for a top-secret organization, NERV was very well known, especially after the Angel attacks started.
"The organization built to combat the Angels." Shinji explained. He didn't think that it was possible, but the technician seemed even more nonplussed than before.
"Angels?" The fist in Shinji's gut was growing painful now. This was not going to end well. Not at all.
An older man sat alone in a darkened room. A bright red sigil was emblazoned on the floor beneath him. A door opened, casting a pale sliver of light on his wrinkled face.
A blonde woman stood before him, her expression one of cool indifference. However, the man knew her far too long to be fooled by her look. Subtle offsets in her posture screamed out at him. Something was wrong.
"Yes, Helena? What is it?"
"Something's come up, sir." An ancient bushy brow rose at that statement. They had planned out every possible contingency-so what could have arisen that required his personal attention?
"And what is that?" For the first time in many years, Helena openly showed uncertainty. The sense that something was wrong was now screaming in his ears.
"I'm afraid I can't explain it, sir. It's something you'll just have to see." The old man frowned.
"Lady Kamina is on line five." Helena walked over to him and seized the handles of the wheelchair he was seated in. She then turned him and pushed him over to the desk in the corner of the room. The old man paused for a moment to admire the machine that sat upon the desk. It was one of his more subtle creations. He had found a way to force a Dorem into an alternate dimension, which incidentally inspired the Jupiter time-dilation field. It was a remarkably easy matter to hook up a radio connection between the Dorem and himself, and then bouncing the signal into Tokyo-3, avoiding all difficulties in communications.
He leaned forward and flipped several switches. A screen flickered to life before the two of them, showing pure pandemonium. His eyes focused upon the woman standing in the forefront. Kamina jerked into a stiff salute as she noticed that the screen had activated.
"What's the situation?" He couldn't help but notice that the woman seemed rather rattled. The aged man frowned internally. Kamina never showed any emotion. His sense of foreboding increased tremendously.
"Twenty minutes ago our sensors picked up an energy reading similar to an Omega-12 sound-wave located in Outpost A-14. The wave increased in oscillation until the point where it came as a continuous stream. That occurred ten minutes ago. Eight minutes ago, a...anomaly occurred." The old man stiffened. 'Anomaly? Could it...no, it couldn't be that.'
"A black...portal of sorts opened in the center of the outpost. And..." She seemed to struggle with what to say. After a moment, she shook herself and tried to regain control. "And something emerged from the portal. We assume that it is some kind of robot." She saw him raise his eyebrows in question and shook her head. "I can't begin to explain, so it would be best if you saw it for yourself."
The screen flickered for a moment and then the aged man was looking at a behemoth straight out of some child's nightmare.
The...thing (for he refused to call it a robot) was dark purple, interspersed with lurid green stripes. It seemed to tower over the bunkers built onto the hillside, leering at them with its death's-head-grin carved into the armor on its head. The wheel-chair bound man felt a chill of recognition race down his spine. There was a familiarity towards the monstrosity. But it was not benevolent. Every instinct screamed at him to destroy it, the soft breathy voice that existed in the back of his mind told him not to trust this creature, this...traitor...
The man grew aware of the fact that the Lady Kamina was speaking again.
"-ve made contact with the pilot and he's-well, he's not making any sense. He keeps talking about this NERV organization and Angels." The man frowned.
"Is there any connection to TERRA?"
"No, sir. It seems that he was completely unaware of its existence."
"What about the 'Angels' he mentioned?" Lady Kamina paused for a moment.
"Truth be told, sir, what he said didn't make much sense. One thing that stuck out was this 'AT field' that he kept mentioning. It evidentially shields these 'Angels' from all conventional weaponry, and the only capable of penetrating this shield is another 'AT field'...Sir?" Kamina prompted, worry clear in her tone.
Her superior jerked to attention, looking more frightened than he ever had before. His face was disturbingly pale and his hands were trembling. The old man's brows furrowed.
"Destroy that abomination immediately! No questions!" Kamina blinked and stared for a moment before nodding her assent. Then the monitor blinked off, leaving the aged man to his thoughts.
'Has it begun? Has their invasion started?'
Shinji jerked as the intercom went dead. He leapt at the switches sitting in front of him, trying to re-establish contact. All that he found was dead air, the crackling hiss hanging ominously in his ears. He sat back in his seat, worry gnawing his insides.
The technician he first spoke to had been replaced by a hardened military officer. The man had promptly started demanding information from the young Eva pilot. It had taken every ounce of self-control he had not to break down in terror of the man. But now the officer had cut off all contact. 'Something's wrong.'
Acting on the growing feeling of dread in his stomach, he synced with his monstrous steed. And started swearing as he saw tanks, rocket launchers and other military weapons he didn't recognize begin to draw a bead on him. He desperately shoved open his AT field as the army opened fire.
Elvy Hadhiyat really hated being right sometimes. Not because she was some prophetic Cassandra-type. Nope, she hated being right because she always got the ideas right...and the details completely wrong.
Case in point, the three D-1s that were bearing down on her along with a decent-sized conventional army contingent. Oh, and did she mention the fact that her gun had jammed?
Some days it really sucked to be her.
She shoved on the yokes of the controls and forced the Vermillion out of the line of fire. Again. The roar of artillery filtered through the mech's auditory systems and the Indonesian woman swore under her breath. How the hell did she manage to get herself into this mess again? Oh wait, that's right, she literally asked for it.
--"Commander." Elvy called out as she stalked down the halls. Her quarry for the past half-hour halted and looked back.
"Yes, Lieutenant?" Commander Kunugi held a placid look on his face, much like the expression someone wore when dealing with an incredibly irate child. Elvy couldn't blame him, though. She definitely hadn't been the most cooperative person around recently.
"Sir, permission to speak freely?" He didn't respond at first, but then he slowly nodded his head. "I was thinking...we've been acting rather reactively recently." The Commander raised a brow at that comment. "I mean, we're just sitting on our asses waiting for the Mu to send another D-1 to attack us." Now Kunugi's face darkened visibly.
'Oh shit. Think fast before he blows you off!'
"Not that we're doing poorly, sir. It's just that our luck is bound to run out some time." The Commander's face cleared at this. Somewhat. "So I was thinking, now that we have the Vermillion, why not use it? Strike them for once, I mean." Her superior stood there for a moment, scrutinizing her. Then:
"I assume that you're referring to the Moons?" Elvy's eyes narrowed involuntarily at the mention of the most recent development in the war against the Murians.
They had decided to gain further footholds in the world, and had set up outposts shielded by the same time-dilation field that held Tokyo Jupiter prisoner. There had been no warning, no indication of their plans. The fields just appeared one day. Elvy was pretty sure that, if they felt the need, the Murians could snatch Kunugi bald without him even realizing it.
"Yes sir, I am. I've done some investigating and it seems that radio traffic between known Murian outposts always increases dramatically whenever the RahXephon is heavily involved in a sortie against one of the D-1s. However, in the few sorties we've had against the D-1s not involving the RahXephon there's absolutely no change in radio contact.
"So I was thinking, sir, that as the Murians seem excessively obsessed with the RahXephon, we have it feint an attack one of the closer Moons, like Ganymede. While they throw a fit about the attack, I take the Vermillion and wipe out one of the more distant Moons, such as Io."
The Commander stared at her for a long moment. Elvy found herself resisting the temptation to scuffle her feet against the floor like a little girl. Then, finally, Kunugi spoke.
"Are you sure about this? Using the kid as bait?" Elvy felt her face shut down at the reference to Ayato. Her reaction to Ayato's Murian blood had become the fabled elephant in the living room. The boy had even taken to avoiding everyone in the base. Haruka was quickly growing frantic at his behavior, believing that he was angry at her. And Elvy had heard of a betting pool on when she was going to snap and beat the kid to a pulp.
"With all due respect sir, he's been through much worse than what this plan entails. And this time he'll have back-up." She gave a self-depreciating grin. "If anything, sir, I'm the one at risk."--
Of course, looking back Elvy figured she had jinxed herself with that cocky utterance. She prayed inwardly that the rest of her team had not run into similar defenses.
A strangle, lilting sound shook her out of her reminiscence. She shoved on the yokes once more, launching out of the way of the D-1's attack. She moved not a second too soon as her cover was annihilated by the sound-wave. Unfortunately the dodge brought her right into the path of another D-1. It was a gigantic creature, with arms as long as its body and fists as wide as its torso.
And it was winding up one hell of a haymaker.
Shinji let out a sigh of relief as he realized that he was fine. He brought the behemoth to its feet, planning to get the hell out of there. However, his plans were altered as something connected with him. Hard.
It felt like a mountain had decided to broadside him, Shinji decided as he flew through the air. It was then that he heard a strange thrumming sound. Before it could fully register what that might mean, something connected with him again. He gasped as all the air was driven from his chest.
Shinji hit the ground painfully and rolled back to his feet. There, floating a few hundred yards away was the strangest thing he had ever seen. And, considering the fact that he had spent the last several months fighting aliens with an obsession with Tokyo-3 inside a gigantic biomechanical monster that clearly had a mind of its own, that was saying something.
The thing was slightly shorter than the Evangelion. It seemed to hover in place above a group of army barracks. Its body was strangely abstract, as if someone had snuck into a museum and stolen a piece of modern art, made it over eighty feet tall and brought it to life. However, what caught his attention was the head of the creature. There was a crown of sorts resting on its forehead, shielding its eyes. The rest of the head was clearly feminine in form, actually reminding him of Misato a bit.
However, his observations were cut short as the thing opened its mouth. Shinji had a moment to recognize the noise as the strange thrumming sound from the last time he was struck, before whatever the creature was using to attack him impacted against his torso again, sending him sprawling on his back. 'Oh shit. Shit, shit, shit, shitshitshitshit!'
Panic was beginning to flood his veins. What the hell was this thing? Was it an Angel? Was it a part of this army? Why was it attacking him? Thousands of questions and scenarios ran through his head, as his breath began coming in quick, unsteady gasps.
'It's how you deal with the fear that decides whether or not you're a coward.'
Shinji took a deep breath, trying to get his rattled nerves under control. Unfortunately he took too much time doing so and the creature landed another blow on him, sending him head over heels. This time as he rolled up he keyed the release of the progressive knife. Pulling it from its sheath, he took another breath and lunged forward at the floating art-exhibit. He launched himself into the air, sailing straight into the creature, which tried-far too late-to dodge.
He swung his arm down on its head, the blade sinking deep into the creature's forehead. The thing screamed in agony as he tightened his grip on the knife and dragged it down to its chin. He paused for a moment when he realized that it was still screaming. He quickly yanked out the weapon before swinging it horizontally across its shoulders, separating its head from its neck.
His opponent collapsed onto the ground like a puppet with its strings cut, Shinji falling with it amidst a rain of blue ichor that streamed from the thing's neck. He leapt back up, looking for both more threats and a way out of the place.
An explosion rang out across the country-side. Shinji turned to see smoke rising from the hills. As he squinted his eyes he saw a blood-red mech flying around, pursued by creatures similar to the one he had just decapitated. The bodies of the creatures were radically different, but they all had the strange crowns and feminine faces. The red robot jerked between them, trying to evade their attacks. An odd saying he had heard floated to the forefront of his mind.
'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.'
Shinji's eyes flickered to the power-readout to the right. A little over four minutes. 'Crap.' His skull pulsed painfully, and then his hands flew out towards the dashboard in front of him. In moments he had opened a panel he never noticed before and had disconnected several wires before reconnecting them in an entirely different sequence. The readout quickly scaled to twenty minutes. Shinji knew instinctively that after the timer was up, however, he was screwed, no ifs ands or buts. Then he paused.
How the hell did he know how to do that? It felt like his hands had moved on their own. It made no sense! Then his head throbbed again and a piece of his 'conversation' with the Evangelion emerged from his memory.
'You know how to move my body, but you do not know how to use me.'
Was this what she meant? Did she somehow give him this knowledge? Why? And more importantly, how? Did she enter his mind? Did she invade the absolute last sanctuary Shinji had? He tried to move his hands to run them through his hair to find that only his left hand obeyed his mental command. His right hand was still clenched tightly around the joystick.
What the hell? He tried to unclench his fist, but it wouldn't respond. His brow furrowing, he tried again. It was after the fifth time that he realized that his forearm was repeatedly contracting. On a hunch, Shinji tried to relax his entire body. Soon his hand released the joystick. Massaging his forearm, he frowned thoughtfully.
An explosion caught his attention. One of the creatures had destroyed the cover the robot was using, and the red mech was flying straight into a set-up. 'Looks like it's time to step in.' with that, Shinji tore off after the mech and his only hope for an ally.
'Mustn't run away. Mustn't run away...'
'Fuck!' Elvy swore mentally, trying to maneuver her way out of the D-1's reach. However, the D-1 decided to vacate the area. Or rather, something else decided that for the Murian weapon. Elvy saw a purplish blur slam into the giant, and then they were both gone.
Curiosity overcoming her better senses, which were screaming at her to get the hell out of Dodge City, she turned to see her rescuer. She saw a purple behemoth rolling off the D-1, dragging something through its torso. She fought the impulse to rub her eyes as she saw it was a gigantic bowie knife.
Then she gave into the impulse as she got a good look at the...thing's head. A grinning metal death mask leered at her as the D-1 collapsed into two severed pieces. Elvy started reaching for the trigger of the Vermillion, so she could blast this...whatever-the-hell-it-was into orbit if it tried anything, when the creature held up its hands in submission.
Elvy stopped, rather thrown. It was surrendering? Did that mean that it was on her side? That it was just hunting D-1s? What the hell was going on? A beeping went off on her right side. She jerked in surprise and turned to the dashboard, making sure to keep the purple creature in her line of sight-just in case.
She had received a hail from an unrecognized source. The radio crackled for a moment.
"Need any help?" Came a somewhat-hesitant question.
"What the hell?" She murmured under her breath. Her entire focus was now on the dashboard. After a few moments of hesitation she flipped a switch and responded.
"Who is this?" There was a long pause before the voice responded.
"The pilot of the big purple mech in front of you. And an ally." Elvy blinked and then checked her scope to make sure that the...mech was still in her sights.
"That's it? That's all the explanation you're gonna give me? And you expect me to believe that?" If she didn't know any better, she would have sworn that the purple behemoth flinched. Or shrugged. She wasn't sure. But either way it was impossible.
"Sorry, but you probably won't believe anything else I tell you. I'm short on time too." Elvy didn't lower the gun at all.
"And why wouldn't I believe you?" This time she was sure the thing shrugged. Then she saw the Dorem floating behind the leering beast, aiming at it.
Shinji paused for a moment, trying to decide what to say. It wasn't easy as his gut instinct was screaming at him to get away from the crazy pilot woman before she pulled an Asuka and beat on his ass. Then he heard something behind him. A moment later he recognized it as the blasted thrumming noise those things made before they attacked. Acting on instincts honed by months of training in Tokyo-3, he whipped around and spread his A.T. field, shielding both himself and the other pilot.
The blast itself was halted by the field. However, Shinji could still feel his teeth rattle as the sound wave passed through him. Then the radio crackled to life, and the other pilot shouted across it.
"Holy crap! How the hell'd you do that?"
"A.T. Field." Shinji responded automatically. He paused for a moment as he belatedly realized that the woman didn't know what an A.T. Field was. He spared a glance at the power-readout.
Fifteen minutes left.
"Is this...ah...A.T. field one of those things I wouldn't believe?" Seeing no reason to lie, he responded with an affirmative. His eyes narrowed as the creature started moving again.
"I see. Okay, I'll buy the whole 'won't believe me even if I tell you' thing-for now. Now, why are you my ally?" The other pilot questioned. "And what's this about limited time?" Shinji shifted his grip on the knife as he thought about the answer. He decided it would be best if he stuck to the truth.
"I'm your ally because we're both fighting against those things. And I have an internal battery that has fifteen-" He glanced at the power-readout again and swore, "fourteen minutes left." There was a slight pause, and then the other pilot spoke up.
"What's your name?"
"Ikari Shinji. Yours?"
"Elvy Hadhiyat. Ple-shit!" The other pilot, Hadhiyat, cut herself off as the creature charged in. There was a cracking sound behind him as Hadhiyat opened fire on it. The creature drifted away from the fire and right into the waiting arms of Unit One. Shinji wrapped the Evangelion's arms around its torso, and planted the unit's booted feet on the creature's lower body. He then pivoted and drove the knife into its chest with the unit's right arm and seized the beast's chin with its left, and started pulling. With a smooth tug its head flew off and fell to the ground behind it.
Shinji dropped to the ground as the decapitated creature collapsed and rolled up into a crouch. He barely had time to smile in vicious satisfaction before Hadhiyat shouted for him to move. Not bothering to question her statement, he dove as the other pilot opened fire.
As he got up, he glanced over his shoulder to see another creature, standing just behind where he was before Hadhiyat's warning, swaying on its feet and riddled with bullet-holes. It collapsed in a boneless heap as the radio crackled.
"You're not bad Ikari." There was a long pause. "You from TERRA?" Shinji blinked. 'Huh?'
"Uh, I've never heard of it."
"...you serious? Then why'd you help me?" Shinji thought about it for a moment, absently popping his neck as he felt the adrenaline drain out of him.
"...uh, 'enemy of my enemy is my friend.' They were attacking you and I figured you could use some help." Shinji answered, deciding to stick to short responses. Hopefully that would keep the inevitable questions at bay until he could convince her that he was not a threat. That's what he figured what went wrong earlier with the military he encountered. Appearing out of nowhere, spouting utter nonsense probably didn't lead people to believe that you weren't a threat.
Shinji knew in his gut that there was something wrong with that statement, but he was too tired to think about it in depth.
"And why were they attacking you?" There was a guarded tone that had been present in her voice throughout the conversation. In that last sentence it had ratcheted up to paranoid suspicion. Through long-ingrained self defense mechanisms, he knew that he'd have to step carefully to avoid trouble.
"I don't know. One minute I was talking to them-whoa! Let me finish!" He yelped as the red mech brought the gun to bear. Granted, he could easily defend himself with his AT field, but he really didn't want to upset the one person in this place that hadn't tried to blow him sky high on sight. Yet. "I didn't know where I was, I contacted them and they started attacking me. That's all I know!" He rushed out, trying to keep the hysteria from showing in his voice.
There was a long pause before the mech lowered its weapon. Slightly.
"And how did you get here without knowing where you are? Another thing you can't explain?" The incredulousness was dripping from her voice. Hell, if Shinji weren't already soaked from the LCL, he figured he'd be soaked by it.
Wait. That made absolutely no sense. Shit, he was tired. Still, he had to explain.
"Um, yeah. It actually had to do with...teleportation, I guess. I really don't know."
"Care to run that by me again?" Shinji sighed. Maybe he should have just explained it, crazy military types be damned. Then again he was incredibly short on time. On that note, how much time did he have left? He glanced at the power read-out and swore.
"I was, uh, engaging an enemy and some sort of shadow appeared underneath me and sucked me in. It wound up sending me here. Okay?" He rattled out. He needed to get this solved quickly. He absently noted that the adrenaline was pumping through his veins again.
"Is this one of those freaky things it would take really long to understand? Like that AT field thing?" Shinji noted with a sigh of relief that the paranoia had left her voice. It was still guarded, but he could work with that.
"Yes, yes it is. Sorry." The gun slowly lowered.
"So, ah," Shinji started, hesitant to be on the receiving end of the gun. "What exactly is TERRA?"
"We're a private organization created to combat the Murian menace." She said with the air of someone reciting a memorized fact. 'That sounds like NERV. Wait, what's a Murian?' He vocalized his question, eliciting a very long pause from Hadhiyat.
"Are you serious?" She finally asked. "You seriously don't know what the Murians are?" When she received his answer in the negative, she laughed a little hysterically. "And how exactly do you not know? Or is this another one of those 'won't-believe-it-even-if-you-told-me' things?"
"Sorry. It is."
"Once we get the hell out of here, I really want to hear this explanation." She fell silent for a moment, before talking again. "Would you be willing to surrender yourself to TERRA?" Shinji blinked. 'What?' "At least until we ascertain that you're not a threat?" The other pilot clarified.
"Alright." Shinji said, hoping that this TERRA would treat him better than the military that he'd already encountered in this strange place.
"Oh, and to answer your question, the Murians are the ones who run this base and control the D-1s-the things we were fighting."
"Oh. Umm...how do we get out of here?"
"Give me a sec to finish up business here, Ikari, and we'll be on our way." With that, the red mech rose high above the Evangelion and swung over to the center of the camp. Shinji watched in awe as the gun snapped open to reveal several odd-looking rods that started glowing rather ominously. After a moment a burst of light blasted from it and connected with the ground. As a cloud of dust and flame plumed into the air, Shinji felt something shift. He couldn't place what though.
That was when he felt the cold coating him like a second skin. He grimaced as the feeling passed over him. If felt way too much like being submerged in the Twelfth Angel for his liking. Then he started as he realized that he was beneath the stars.
What the hell? Wasn't it mid-day just moments ago? What just happened? It was only when Hadhiyat responded that he realized he had asked that last question out loud.
"The Murians like hiding in trans-dimensional spheres." Shinji blinked.
"Huh?" He asked, not too brightly.
"Don't worry. I didn't get it first time I heard it either. They basically use a field to create a pocket dimension." 'Is that supposed to be an explanation? 'Cause I still don't get it.' The red mech flew down to eye level. "Alright, try and keep up. We're headed for the shore." With that Hadhiyat turned her mech towards her destination and started flying at a sedate pace. Shinji quickly ran forward and caught up with her.
"You can go faster, you know." He told her over the radio. After a moment she complied. As Shinji increased his pace to match hers, he asked the question that had been bothering him since he had heard about it.
"So, what exactly are the Murians?" After a moment, she told him.
"The Murians showed up around 2012 A.D. Nobody really knows where they came from, but I've heard a lot of people say they're from a different dimension. Sounds kinda far-fetched to me, but not much else makes any sense." Shinji frowned at this. People showing up from different dimensions would be a big deal. Yet he hadn't heard anything about it. Why?
"A war wound up breaking out between the Mu and us. I dunno who started it, but we wound up launching a nuclear strike against them. In response, they covered the entirety of Tokyo in a time-dilation field, just like the one I destroyed back there." Shinji nearly stumbled at hearing this. A war breaking out? Tokyo was captured? But he was sure that Tokyo was destroyed well before then, in the aftermath of Second Impact.
What the hell was going on?
"Sorry, did you say Tokyo?" There was a pause before Hadhiyat answered.
"Yeah, why?" There was a cautious undertone to her voice that Shinji barely picked up on. Was she afraid?
"And it was captured when? 2012?" Fear was starting to amplify in his gut. Shinji had thought that he had been sent across the world somehow. But this...the only semi-plausible explanation was that he was somehow in another dimension. In Shinji's opinion, that was only plausible in Kensuke's wildest dreams. So what the hell was going on?
"...Yeah." Came the response. Shinji didn't notice, but her tone had lost its suspicious quality. He groaned and cradled his head in his hands. It would seem that the Kensuke-theory had gained much more credence.
"Have you...have you ever heard of Second Impact?" 'Please say yes. Please say it. Please. Please, please, please-'
"No, I can't say that I have. Why?" 'Damnit.'
"It-it plays a big part in the explanation that I owe you. I'll tell you later." Shinji tried to keep the growing depression from his voice. He didn't think he succeeded.
"...Alright. Anyway, so they managed to capture Tokyo in a time-dilation field. After they did that, they fell silent. No attacks, no troop movements, nothing. Hell, if it weren't for the Jupiter system, we'd probably have thought that they had left."
"Jupiter system?" What the hell was that?
"Oh, sorry. Forgot you didn't know. The time-dilation field looks like the planet Jupiter from the outside, so people started calling Tokyo 'Tokyo Jupiter.' The name stuck, and we started referring to the technology as a Jupiter system instead of whatever fancy name the scientists had dreamed up.
"So once the attacks stopped, we were left to pick up the pieces. Lotta people wanted to make the Murians pay for what they had done. However, after seeing what happened to a military spy-plane sent to check out what was going on in there...well, that idea fell out of favor."
"What happened?" Shinji asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"I'll spare you the gory details, but the long and short of it is that the field distorts reality, and anyone who tries to cross it without the proper protection gets, for lack of a better word, shredded."
"Yeah. Trust me, you don't want to know more." She told him. After a moment, Shinji shrugged. He didn't have any reason to push the issue. "So, after a few years we managed to develop the technology needed to pierce the time-dilation barrier. TERRA launched Operation Overlord soon after." Shinji noticed that her voice dropped off as she mentioned the operation. He couldn't place it, but he knew that he had heard that tone before.
"It was a disaster. Barely anyone got out alive. And now we're trying a different method." Shinji realized where he had heard that tone before. He heard it each time Misato talked about Second Impact. It was with that thought that reality crashed down on him.
He was in what appeared to be a different world.
Since the Angel had sent him here, he probably couldn't return to Tokyo-3
He'd never see Misato again.
He shivered as if struck by a physical blow. Losing Misato was one thing he never wanted to experience. She had been the one to accept him when no one else would. She had cared. And if he believed what the Evangelion had told him, loved him as well.
He'd never hear those words again. He'd never hear her morning war-cry...
Furiously shaking himself from his depressed thoughts, he wiped at his brow. Oddly enough, half-way through the run Shinji had started sweating profusely, which was made ten times worse by the LCL that forced the sweat to cling to him like a second skin. His legs ached, almost as if he was the one running. His lungs felt like they were on fire. And his bones felt like they were going to be crushed.
He shook his head and ignored the discomfort. After all, he could see the beach...and several odd looking cruisers.
"Alright, Ikari. I've radioed ahead and explained the situation, so they're expecting us. Just hop onto the cruiser all the way to the right." Shinji nodded and turned towards the ship in question, only to stop at the sound of Hadhiyat's voice. "Oh, and I'm afraid that you'll have to be under armed guard. Security protocols and all that."
"Don't worry about it, Hadhiyat. And thank you for doing this." Shinji then turned and proceeded to the ship that was pointed out to him.
"Don't mention it, Ikari." Shinji, focused on getting on the ship without capsizing it, missed the odd tone in her voice.
Disembarking from the Evangelion was rather anti-climactic. After having heard about the armed guard he was going to have, he honestly anticipated at least four guys in suits and shades. He couldn't help but stare at the single unassuming woman that stood on the deck waiting for him.
Oh well, at least all that discomfort faded when he got out of the Evangelion, even though his head still continued to throb absently and he still felt like lying down and sleeping for a week. But he figured he was still good enough to be escorted to wherever. With a mental shrug, he finished clambering down Unit 01 and greeted the woman.
When he saw the woman up close, Shinji started re-evaluating his opinion of her. She actually reminded him quite a bit of Misato when she got serious. Especially the look in her eyes that said clearly: 'do what I say and we'll be fine; cross me at your own risk.' The woman had dark, short-cropped hair, deep amber-red eyes, and wore a slightly oversized jacket. He noticed that her eyebrows rose as she got a look at him. He blushed slightly and cursed Dr. Akagi for making the suits so clingy.
"You know, for all that Elvy's been saying about you, I'd have expected you to be older." Shinji blushed slightly and ducked his head, mumbling a quiet apology. He grimaced as he realized that he was slipping into his old habit of frightened non-confrontation.
'It's how you deal with the fear that decides whether or not you're a coward.'
He took a deep breath and looked back up at the woman, who seemed puzzled.
"Only people my age can pilot one of these, miss..." She shook herself with a blush.
"I'm sorry, Ikari-san. My name's Shito Haruka." Shinji bit back a flinch when he heard her family name, before bowing.
"Pleasure to meet you, Shito-san." She smiled and motioned for the NERV pilot to follow.
She led him through the ship up to the helm of the ship. The entire time Shinji couldn't help but remember the last time he was on a military ship. Not that much was different. Kensuke would probably be completely stunned to learn that there were no fancy new developments in this area, beyond some sturdier doors.
Shinji jerked as a wave of nausea hit him. The room spun and his stomach clenched painfully. His head was pounding. Then the pain vanished as soon as it appeared. He came to leaning against the bulkhead.
"-kari-san? Ikari-san? Are you all right?" Shinji realized that the woman, Shito-san, was looking at him concernedly. He gave her a slight smile to try to tell her he was fine. Judging by the look on her face, he most likely failed.
"I'm alright, Shito-san." The woman still didn't seem convinced, but let it go. As Shinji fell into step behind her, he couldn't help but wonder what was going on. He was never the healthiest specimen around, but he never had sudden dizzy spells either. Was this an after-effect of whatever the Evangelion had done to him?
He shook himself from his thoughts as they reached the helm. He saw a large group of people crowded around the windows, trying to get a glimpse of something. He glanced at Shito, who smiled and shrugged, clearly as lost as he was. They stood there for a moment before Shito cleared her throat and the crowd turned as one.
Shinji felt a blush develop on his cheeks as all the eyes in the room were focused on him.
"Ah...H-hello." He stuttered out, before blushing even harder. Shito decided to have mercy on him and spoke up.
"Everyone, this is Ikari Shinji. It's thanks to him that Elvy got out alive."
A soft wave of murmurs rippled through the crowd. Then a woman stepped away from the crowd. In Shinji's personal opinion, the woman was gorgeous. And considering the fact that he lived with Misato that was saying something. She was gaping open-mouthed at him, disbelief burning in her eyes. "Ah, and this is Elvy Hadhiyat." The woman gave no response or acknowledgement.
Shinji shifted slightly from one foot to another as another jolt of pain shot from his skull. Trying to distract himself from the pain, he focused his attention on the other pilot. She was clearly Middle Eastern in origin, and her fragile-seeming features belied a fierce self-confidence. Yet Shinji could see it fleeing from her eyes as she stared at him. He felt a jolt in his stomach as he came to the realization that she was shocked.
'I know I don't look all that good, especially with LCL still all over me.' He thought irritably. 'But still, I can't look that bad. I hope.' Recognizing that last thought as another remnant of his prior mindset, Shinji shook himself. He wanted to say something, but what?
With everyone's eyes on him, the courage he had managed to find within the Eva had evaporated. It took a supreme act of will to keep his eyes from staring solely at the floor. Even then they kept dipping down, keeping from making eye contact.
'If you concern yourself only with how others see you, there shall be nothing to you. Just a void.'
'Easier said than done.' Kami-sama, he just wished that they could start over. He wished that he could just have wiped away whatever had made her stare like that. Hell, while he was at it, why didn't he just wish that he hadn't jumped into action so blindly against the Twelfth Angel while he was at it?
Maybe he could try and start again. After all, what else did he have to lose? 'Besides, it always works in the movies.' He thought with a dry chuckle. Taking a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and met eyes with Hadhiyat.
"Sorry, it seems that we got off to a bad start. I'm Ikari Shinji."
"Elvy Hadhiyat." She responded absently, her face not changing in the slightest. Shinji felt a brief pang of disappointment at the lack of reaction.
"Nice to meet you." Shinji bowed slightly to the dusky-skinned goddess. However, the woman didn't seem to notice as she was still staring at him in shock. He held back a grimace as his headache reasserted itself in the forefront of his thoughts.
After a moment, Shinji managed to bring his focus back onto the foreign woman. What the hell? If anything, he should be the one staring in shock at her, although admittedly living with Misato had managed to inure him somewhat to beautiful women.
Finally Hadhiyat managed to find her voice. "You're just a kid..." Shinji nodded, recalling what Shito-san had said when she saw him.
"You know, for all that Elvy's been saying about you, I'd have expected you to be older."
Was that what she was so shocked about? Was it the fact that he was a puny boy of fourteen? He supposed it was rather shocking, but she didn't need to stare. The headache reared its ugly head again, and this time Shinji didn't manage to hide it.
The pilot staggered as he felt a stab of pain drive itself into his head like a rail-spike, coupled with an overwhelming case of vertigo. His knees buckled and bile rose in his throat. His vision faded, and the last thing he heard before everything went black was Hadhiyat calling for a medic.