Afterwards... An Evangelion fanfic

Author's note

This story follows on directly from the end of Evangelion 3.33 "Q".  It will be incomprehensible if you haven't seen the films.

It was my first attempt of writing fiction of any kind since I was a child at shool over fifty years ago.  The first few scenes came more easily than I expected, but I was aware that there were greater difficulties to come, and progress was erratic.  In the end it took nearly nine months to complete.

I could not predict from the start how the intertwined stories of Rei, Shinji, and the others would play out - I just had to find how they let me tell them.

Signature: Paul

Scene 1 - On the journey

Eventually they came to a stockade of some kind.

It seemed to him that Asuka left them and went in, but he had no idea for how long.  Time had stopped for him; all moments, past, present, and future, were the same as far as he was concerned.  She reappeared, presumably after an interval, with three horses and a meagre supply of rations to enable them to continue their journey.

She didn't explain, and he could not have understood, that they had come to a settlement of survivors who had found ways of scratching a living from the remains.  The settlers had helped out the travellers simply to enable them to be somewhere else when either rescue or capture caught up with them, in the hope that the settlement itself would not be noticed by Nerv or Wille - which they presumed would be the end for them.

He was on the back of a horse.  Presumably Asuka had put him there.  He'd never been on one before.  He did nothing, and the horse moved, and was warm; and that was enough.  He could see the other pilot on a horse as well.  Presumably she had also never ridden horseback before, but she sat there with an air of accepting that people did this, and it worked, and there was nothing more to consider.  Had Rei, his Rei, ever sat on a horse?  Perhaps there had been an opportunity for her at school; but then, what did he really know of her?  Had she also been a clone, like this other pilot?  What would that mean?  After all, his Rei wasn't like this other one.  But what did it mean to be a clone?  Were they human?  Was he human himself?  If he had spent fourteen years inside Unit-01, that was surely not anything a human could do - so what was he now?

They travelled on.  He stayed alive, if this was life - he could no longer tell.  The other pilot seemed to be more human than he himself.  She silently followed Asuka's instructions, and led the horse that he couldn't conceive of controlling.  But he still couldn't be sure what she was, really; he couldn't even be sure that Asuka herself was human, after what had happened to her so recently, as it seemed to him - but so many years ago in fact.  He recalled that her eye seemed strange, even with the patch, but knew nothing more than that.

Thinking, if we may call it that, of eyes brought his mind round to Kaworu.  Kaworu, whose eyes had looked deep into his soul and shown him trust.  Kaworu, who had started to fill the void in his heart that the other one, so reminiscient of Rei, had failed to do.  Was he starting to recognise some greater similarity between Kaworu and Rei, he wondered, and, the thought struck him, did that mean that perhaps Kaworu was a clone, if Rei had been?  His heart quickened for a moment, but then he was overwhelmed again by despair - if there were to be another Kaworu, a clone, would that one be like...  no, he couldn't bear that.  Better not to think than to have thoughts like that.

They travelled on.  It is not recorded whether he stayed on the horse himself, or whether the others had to keep putting him back up.  It didn't matter to him.

Scene 2 - Rei's thoughts

I exist to obey orders.

That had been all she had known: obey orders.  But she was becoming aware that there were other things.  After all, someone gave those orders; she didn't know why, and had no interest in that - but giving orders was different from just obeying them.  The red one ordered her to get on a horse, and she obeyed; the red one ordered her to lead the horse bearing Shinji, and she obeyed.  It was natural, it was the way of things.

I exist to obey orders.

She had been ordered to fetch the one called Shinji from where he had been.  The pink one had tried to stop her, but she had not allowed that to prevent her from carrying out her order; she presumed the pink one had been ordered to stop her, but that was of no consequence to her.  She had fetched Shinji, as she had been ordered to, and he had come without resisting.  Shinji had been ordered to stay, to resist being fetched.  She had heard the order being given.  But if he had resisted, she would still have fetched him, as that was her order.

I exist to obey orders.

Shinji puzzled her... What was this puzzlement anyway?  It was something that she had not experienced before fetching Shinji.  This was the source of her puzzlement: he had not resisted - he had not obeyed the order.  Although he had been ordered to stay, he had come with her willingly.  There were those who gave orders, otherwise there would be no orders; there were those who obeyed orders, otherwise the orders would not be carried out.  That was her world, but Shinji didn't fit into it.  He had been given an order, but he had not carried it out, he had not obeyed.  The pink one had been given an order, and had attempted to carry it out, though it had been necessary to ensure that she didn't succeed; the red one now gave her orders, but this was not so puzzling as receiving and giving orders were both parts of the world she knew.

I exist to obey...

But Shinji was different; he had not obeyed.  He had been different after they had arrived as well.  He said strange things to her; he gave her books; but he didn't give her orders.  And yet he seemed puzzled - upset, was that the term? - when she didn't read the books even though she had not been ordered to, and when she didn't say things to him.  He called her by her name, Rei Ayanami, but seemed to expect her to be someone else, even told her that she was not Rei Ayanami.  But what should she say?  She had no orders to speak to him.

I exist to?...

During the fight the other pilots had spoken to her the same way that Shinji had done.  So she had asked for an explanation, asked what "Rei Ayanami" would have done, but received no answer.  She was Rei Ayanami; but like Shinji, the others seemed to be expecting a different person, even referring to "the original", another Rei Ayanami, as he had done.  So when the end came, she survived.  She had not been ordered to; but she had not been ordered to let herself be destroyed either.  She had made a choice.  She had acted without an order.  This was strange, but it had seemed fitting, and it was why she had survived.

I exist!...

She had seen Shinji with the music player.  She supposed it gave him pleasure, though this was a remote concept for her.  He had dropped it, which she had not expected him to do, because he always carried it.  Why had she picked it up?  So that he could have it again, the thing that gave him pleasure?  At the moment of doing it she had felt a flicker of... familiarity?  As if it was something she had done before.  But she couldn't have; she remembered what orders she had been given, and that had never been one of them.  So, what?...


Scene 3 - Arrival

Shinji! you stupid brat! Pull yourself together and hold on to that horse!  We're nearly there and you're slowing us up!

He heard her, but he didn't hear her.  It was like a dream, but it was not a dream.  It had become apparent to him that he was no longer human, not a part of this world any more.

I saved Rei, but she was not saved;
I destroyed the angel, but the world was also destroyed;
I set out to repair what had been done, but it was made worse;

He had trusted Misato, who had restored to him a kind of family life which his parents had left him without; but she had broken his trust, and lied to him.  He had trusted Kaworu, who had patiently shown him that even after all that had happened there was hope; but he had been deceived and they had both paid the cost, and now he was left alone with the burden.  He would never trust again; how could he, why would he even want to?

The horse moved on steadily; its warmth and motion were reassuring, or could have been.  But he was not comforted by them.  He would never be comforted; there was no way in which he could ever find consolation in a world which he - yes, he - had twice destroyed.  The dead couldn't console him; and why should the living, whose lives he had made a misery?

He could hear talking.  They had reached the point where it was safe for the rescue craft to pick them up.  Asuka was speaking to someone about their journey, telling of how she had brought him only so that they knew where he was, how difficult the journey had been with him, how she would give them a detailed update.  She told them to release the horses to find their own way home.


A strange man's voice addressed him.  He ignored it.  As he knew he was no longer of this world, why should he react to it?


The voice was compelling, and somehow stirred him to glance towards it.  The face seemed familiar, though changed by the years.  He reluctantly allowed his mind to search back through memories of his past life, until he found the answer.


I won't punch yer face again while y're all screwed up.  But when y've come to yourself enough, however long that takes, y'll have just one chance to persuade me not to do it right then like I did before!

He collapsed on the ground in tears.  They could do nothing with him.

Scene 4 - Anger

Asuka was furious.  All her submerged rage from Shinji's betrayal of her when she'd needed saving had surfaced when she saw him again, after all those years, but still looking the same pathetic child.  Punching the security glass had felt cathartic at the time, but resolved nothing.  Back then he'd just sat there in his Eva wailing and feeling sorry for himself while the angel started to consume her, and then apparently he'd had the gall to run away rather than face up to his failure - and now on top of it all he had the cheek to say he was glad she was all right.  All right!?  Damaged goods, more like, and whose fault was that?  Then the business with the spears; he wouldn't listen, just like in the old days.  What was he doing there in the first place?  Was he deluded or just crazy?  She wouldn't have been sorry if he'd got himself killed right there.  And now here he was, curled up in a ball, doubtless feeling sorry for himself again.  She'd always seen him as an idiot, but he was worse - he was simply a deluded self-regarding brat.  Yes, in the past, in moments of weakness she had thought of him as a redeemable fool, even slightly endearing; but was he now?  She found it increasingly hard to envisage the possibility.  But whether or not he was worth saving for his own sake, she'd had to drag him along - she had to accept that leaving him for Nerv to get their hands on would have been worse; though possibly not, from her point of view.

Then there was the other pilot, the Ayanami series puppet who'd invited herself along.  Why had she come?  She was Nerv's creation, after all, why wouldn't she want to go straight back to Nerv?  Wille certainly had no use for her.  Not that she was actually being a nuisance, since she never said anything or got in the way; but she was this baleful presence, hovering on the edge of being noticed all the time - it was just too creepy.  And anyway, she was the enemy, and had to be considered and treated as such.  Still, in spite of all that, she'd actually proved useful, at least to the extent that she'd removed an irritation from Asuka herself, because she'd been able and apparently content to lead the horse that Shinji had shown himself more likely to fall off than control - the idiot!  How many more ways would she stumble across to highlight his incompetence?

And now she was stuck out here in the back of beyond, though she was pleased enough to be in a proper base after that trek through the waste land with not one but two complete liabilities dragging at her heels.  The horses had been a godsend, and had marginally improved the company as well.  But why couldn't she just get back to the Wunder?  OK, Unit-02 had been destroyed, but surely there were still useful things she could do back there, rather than acting as nursemaid to these two apologies for humanity.

Scene 5 - An argument

No, Asuka, I won't let yer keep disrespecting him like that.  It's no help going 'n ranting at him; no wonder he's still curled up in a ball!  That's why I'm barring yer from the detention wing.

Yer got it, I'm pulling rank.  Here, in this back-of-beyond base's security block, I'm the boss, get it?

No, yer don't need to talk to him, 'cause they're sending Sakura; it seems they think she has the best chance to pull him out of his funk, 'n I think they're right.

Yer seem to f'get that I knew him before you did.  Yeah, I even punched his pretty face when he hurt my little sister.  But y'know what? - then he went and saved my sorry skin, just like nothing had happened.

No, you don't get it.  I was in there with him.  They'd compromised the operation to save me 'n Kensuke, but he knew he still had to win, even when they said to give up.  Thing is, he's all about doing what's right, yer see, whatever the trouble it brings him.  Man, he was hurting during that fight, but he just kept on!

Don't yer go calling him an idiot like you always do!  He's weird, right enough, but he's not an idiot. And yeah, I'd trust him with my life.

Sure yer got hurt, and he didn't save yer.  But y've seen the recordings, y've seen how he tried to do nothing just to avoid hurting you, and he tried to stop the dummy system hurting you too.  He wanted to save yer more than anything; he was desperate!  Y've had the pain, course yer have, but can't yer see the pain he went through 'cause of that?

He ran away, sure, but he came right back when he was needed, and defeated the strongest angel yet.

I know, everything went crazy after that, but y'know what - I don't buy the official report; looks like a whitewash to me, specially seeing how Nerv broke up not so much later.  I wanna hear what he says!  No one's even asked him yet, have they.  And remember, apparently it seems it was like only a few weeks ago for him, so his memory's still fresh.

Yeah, yeah - it all went down again; I know well enough.  That's why y're here.  And that's why I wanted to punch his face when I saw him - he hurt my sister again disregarding her heartfelt plea to stay out of the Evas.  But like I said, I wanna hear what he says before I do that, 'cause back then I trusted him.  Anyways, first we gotta get him human again, and y're not helping; so like I said, stay away and leave Sakura to deal with him, right?  Right?

Scene 6 - Drawing out

(In which Sakura is patient with Shinji - the scraps of conversation reported here take place on different days at varying intervals.)



You don't have to answer if you're not ready; but remember, I'm just here to listen, 'kay?


Shinji?  I want to take the opportunity to say: thank you.  I know that the day I was injured, what you did saved us all.  I got better afterwards, but that was only even possible because you saved us, so thank you!




Shinji?  Can you remember what happened?  Are you able to tell me about it yet?

K-kaworu told me that the ruin of the world was m-m-my fault, so I, ... I ... I was going to m-make everything right again.  Kaworu said I c-could.  B-but ... then that happened.  And Kaworu ... died.  He was w-wrong; what he t-told me was a lie.  How could he lie?  We were friends!  Everyone lies to me!  Has it really been f-fourteen years?  You've been l-living in this ruined world f-for fourteen years?

Yes, Shinji, we have.  As you can see here, it's not all like the area you saw at Nerv; but it's bad enough.

But you didn't lie.  You told me n-not to get in the Eva, and I did, and you were right, and it would have been better if I hadn't.  And now you must be angry with me; and T-touji will punch me again.  And I deserve to be punched - though it won't make the world better.

Shinji, can you tell me: why did you get in the Eva?

My father t-told me I would have to.  I didn't want to, but Kaworu told me that we could change the world back with the Eva, so I went with him, and we were going to pull the spears out which was how we were going to repair the world, and Asuka was trying to stop us, and Kaworu was saying things, but I was getting confused so I did it anyway to make things better, and Kaworu died, and...


Shinji, can you remember anything from before?

There was an angel.  It was supposed to be a new Eva, but it was an angel, and it had trapped Asuka!  I was there to stop it, but I knew that if I attacked with the plug still in Asuka might be killed!  I didn't want to do anything that would kill or hurt Asuka.  I refused to attack Asuka, but then my father made the Eva do it anyway!  And I tried to stop it!  I tried to get him to stop!  And then the entry plug got crushed and I thought Asuka must have been killed.  I couldn't save her!  I wanted to save her, but my father made the Eva attack without considering her, and I couldn't stop it!  That's why I never wanted to pilot again!  The angel was killed, but the Eva had killed Asuka, I thought, though in fact she was alive, but perhaps the angel had also injured her, and I couldn't stop it!


Could I have stopped it?

If I had attacked, could I have controlled the Eva and killed the angel without crushing the entry plug?  

I could, couldn't I?  You said it was okay when you got injured that time, because I killed the angel!  I could have saved Asuka, or killed the angel while giving her less injuries!  It's my fault what happened!  Just like every time, it's my fault!  I let my father do it!  Oh Asuka!  Asuka!  I'M SORRY, ASUKA!


Shinji?  Can you talk again?  Are you ready to tell me about Rei?

The next angel came, and I was leaving because I never wanted to pilot again, but then I saw the angel eat Unit-00 and Rei, and I saw it disable Unit-02, and the new pilot helped me get away but she made me think about what was happening - and I knew that I had to choose between letting the angel destroy the world or getting back in the Eva to fight it.  So I went to fight the angel, and I was able to stop it.  But it had eaten Rei, which made me furious, so I reached into the angel somehow to try to find Rei and rescue her.  I don't know what I was doing, but I found her; she said she could only survive where she was, but I was able to bring her out, and I was so happy that I'd been able to save her.  I was in ecstasy - but then I don't remember anything else, and I woke up surrounded by guards ... and you told me that fourteen years had passed.

Then Ritsuko told me that I had been in Unit-01 all that time, but Rei had not come out with me - but I know I saved her!  And then Rei came and rescued me and took me to Nerv, so I knew they'd been lying.  But then it seemed that she wasn't like Rei had been before.  She didn't read books, she didn't remember what had happened to her, it seemed as if she didn't even know me!  But she said she was Rei Ayanami!  And after Kaworu had shown me the state of the world, and told me it was my fault - though I have no idea why - Vice Commander Fuyutsuki told me that Rei was still in Unit-01 and that she was a clone - of my mother! - and I suppose that means the other one is a clone too.  And now I'm confused and I don't know what to think, or who's who, or what I've done, or who to believe.  

I don't even know now who actually knows anything anyway.  What has happened to the world?  What has happened to me?  What has happened to Rei?


Can I ask for something?

What is it Shinji?

I want to try and understand for myself what's happened to Rei; so I'd like to be able to speak to the other pilot, the one who calls herself Rei Ayanami.


Scene 7 - Identity


What is memory?
Where does my memory come from?

I remember...  orders.
I remember...  obeying orders.

Shinji spoke of rescuing me...  I do not remember being rescued.
Shinji brings me books to read...  I do not remember reading.
Shinji behaves as if he knows me...  I do not remember Shinji.

I am me;
What does it mean for there to be another me?
The Wille pilot spoke of another me;
Shinji spoke of another me;
What is "me"?

How do I decide, if I am not given an order?
Do I choose a decision from my memory?
But I have no memory of decisions;
And yet, I have chosen.
I chose not to be destroyed;
I chose to come here with the others;
I chose to bring the player Shinji dropped;
Why did I choose these things?


The Vice Commander told me that Rei is a clone of my mother.
But she is not my mother.

My mother is gone;
He told me that she is still there in Eva-01.

I rescued Rei from the angel;
He told me that she is still there in Eva-01.

I was in Eva-01 for fourteen years.
I was there with Rei, but I don't remember it.
Was I there with my mother?  I don't remember it.

Is the other pilot, the other Rei, a clone of my mother?
But she is not my mother.
Is she a clone of the Rei I know?
Is she not the Rei I know?

Who is Rei?
Who is my mother?
Who am I?

What is it to be someone, anyway?
What is a clone?

What is Eva-01?
What am I?

Scene 8 - Meeting

Present: Misato Katsuragi (remotely), Asuka Shikinami Langley, Touji Suzuhara, Sakura Suzuhara.

M: As you know, I hate having to meet remotely like this, so I want to keep the meeting short.  In a moment I'll be asking each of you for a report on what's been going on.

A: Fat lot of good asking me, as that ass over there has kept me locked out of the detention block!

M: Your turn will come, Asuka!  Say it then.

M: As I was saying, I'll be asking for your reports, but before that I'll tell you what the arrangements for the detainees will be for the time being.

M: It has been decided that Shinji Ikari is to be kept at the frontier base until further notice.  We feel that there is still a significant risk that Nerv might make an attempt to gain custody of him again; but we are also concerned at the possibility that they might also attempt to recover Unit-01 from its present position in the Wunder, and so it's in our interest to keep their possible targets well apart so as not to make it any easier for them.

M: Quite apart from that, it is felt that Shinji Ikari should in any case be kept as far away from Unit-01 as possible.  It is vital that there is no possibility of them coming together, as the results of such an event might be disastrous, and cannot even be predicted with any confidence.

M: We see no reason to treat the Ayanami type specially, but you already have her in custody, and there is no reason to move her - so it's convenient for her also to remain at the frontier base.

M: Touji, do you need any extra facilities as a result of this, or will your present arrangements suffice?

T: The present arrangements are adequate, thank y'.  The detention block is otherwise empty, and our security barriers are in good order; in any case, neither of the prisoners has shown any sign that they might try to get away.

A: What would Impact Boy need to do to escape anyway - curl up into a ball again and roll out under your gate?

M: Asuka!

T: Y' see the problem I've been having with 'er?  Now where was I? Ah yes: they are currently being kept in solitary confinement, fed in their cells, and given separate opportunities for exercise - which neither of them has made use of.

M: Are you worried about their health?

T: No, physically they seem fine; but Sakura can probably give you a better picture.

M: Sakura?

S: Yes; no, well, they both seem to be in good physical health.  I was worried about the Ayanami type as I understand their metabolism can become unstable without medication, but in this case no problems have become apparent so far.  She's weird, though - she just sits there and says nothing unless spoken to.  Doesn't do anything ... oh, except sometimes she stares for a while at the table where she's left that ancient music player she was carrying; it's as if she's puzzled by it.

M: An old music player? ... ah, I see ...

M: Carry on; what can you report about Shinji Ikari.

S: Ikari; yes, er, Shinji.  Well, um, he's started talking at last.  But he still finds it difficult.  It seems that however I prompt him, or whatever I ask him about, he ends up talking about a disaster of some kind, which upsets him, and then he has a bit of a relapse.

A: Story of his sorry little life, eh?  Do you think perhaps we should just put him out of his misery?

M: Asuka!  Will you just stop that!

S: Lieutenant, really, I mean, if you could hear some of the things he says!  I truly think you might see him differently,...

A: (humph)

S: ...but he's not really in a fit state to talk to anyone else yet - let alone face you, lieutenant!

S: There is one thing, though.  He's been talking about Rei; that was the name of the first child, wasn't it, who died in his last battle?  It's also the name that the Ayanami types use, of course, but he seems to be confused by the difference.  After all, he's not been around to see the Ayanami series before.  Anyway, he's asked to be allowed to talk to the Ayanami type - to Rei, as he calls her - and I wonder if we should let him?  This request is the first thing that he's managed to do off his own bat since he arrived here, and I get the feeling that it's really important to him and I wonder if it might even help him recover some more mental stability.

A: Wants to plot his next impact, I expect...

M: Please, Asuka, just wait your turn.

M: Yes, Sakura; I think that should be allowable.  I'll want to run it past Ritsuko as well, so wait for my confirmation - but I think it'll be all right.  Touji can provide a secure room with monitoring, I presume.

T: Yeah, can do.

M: Now, Asuka, do you actually have anything to report?

A: Me?  What would I have to say?  I'm not even being allowed to see the prisoners, or hear what they're saying.  Why am I stuck out in this God-forsaken spot anyway?  I just want to get back to work!

M: I understand; but right now your work is being my representative on the spot in case anything important changes.  Sometimes you just have to be patient, and accept the boredom.  Please put up with it for a bit longer.

M: Now, I know we're all on edge because of what's happened, but I think it's got to us more than we should let it.  Touji, Sakura, I understand why you want to prevent Asuka and Shinji meeting right now; but you've taken it too far, keeping her out of the loop.  Please ensure that she is kept fully informed about Shinji's progress; remember, she's my personal representative in this situation, and I want to be able to have her perspective on things from now on.

T, S: (gulp) Yes, ma'am!

M: Anything else?  No?  Well, thank you all for your reports, and I'll be in touch shortly about that request.  Goodbye for now.

Scene 9 - Searching

They met.  They were seated on opposite sides of a table in an interview room.  They were alone, but they were not alone - for naturally they were also overheard and overlooked.

They sat in silence, Rei looking at her hands on the table, and Shinji staring fixedly at her, trying to find a flicker of something, of anything, that would tell him that this was indeed Rei.  He failed to find what he sought.

After a while, his face crumpled, and a tear rolled down his cheek.  "Rei?", he said hesitantly, "do you remember me?  From before you fetched me from the Wunder, I mean."  She looked up at him.  "No", she said, and let her eyes fall again.

They sat in silence a little longer.  Shinji was struggling with his thoughts: "I mustn't give up," he told himself, "I must keep talking until I find out what's wrong."  More tears came, but he wiped them away.

"Who are you?" he said.  She looked up again: "I am Rei Ayanami."  "Why do you not remember me?" he said, trying, but failing, to keep a slight sob out of his voice.  She was silent for a moment, and then some thoughts came together unexpectedly in her mind, and she looked up at him with an expression of slight surprise, saying: "The Wille pilot said there was another Rei Ayanami, my original, one that was nicer than me. Perhaps that Rei Ayanami remembers you."

Shinji looked at her blankly.  His resolve was crumbling, as he realised that he might have to admit that what he had been told, that this Rei was a clone, not the same as Rei, his Rei, that this was true.  But if she was a clone, if they were both clones - his Rei as well - this meant that they were the same, didn't it?  But they were not the same.  If they were the same, but also not the same, why was this, how could this be?

Rei looked at Shinji.  She had spoken to him of her own volition; she had chosen to speak, to say something she seemed to know, without being ordered.  But it appeared that what she had said upset Shinji; did this mean that she should not have said it?  But he had seemed upset from the start of their meeting.  Had she upset him, or was he simply upset?  In any case, she didn't understand being upset - it was outside her limited experience.  It would be better for her not to speak without being ordered or questioned, she decided; it would be less confusing, and cause less trouble.

They sat in silence again; Rei looking down at her hands on the table again, and Shinji glancing around the room, no longer able to bear to look at her face.

But in the silence, a second thought came to Rei.  She remembered the music player.  She had picked it up because of a vague recollection that it was something that gave him pleasure, of a sort (she wasn't very sure about pleasure, any more than about being upset).  The player was in her lap, because she had, without deciding to, picked it up when they came and brought her to this room; she didn't know why, perhaps she had thought she might not be taken back to the same room again, and so should not leave it.  But it was his player, so now, without a word, she picked it out from her lap and put it on the table between them.

Shinji looked at the player.  His jaw dropped slightly, and he looked up at Rei, down at the player, and up at Rei again.  He stared at her for a while, but he couldn't make out anything from her expression.  "You had it before!" he whispered, "you had this player when I rescued you!  And now you've brought it to me again!"  There was a long pause, then: "No," she said, "I do not remember that."  Shinji stared at her, aghast, and then with an incoherent shout he jumped up and ran to the door, sobbing, and clamouring to be let out.

Scene 10 - The neglected child

I'm sorry, Shinji; perhaps I shouldn't have let..."

No, no!  It's all right!  ...  It's ALL RIGHT!  ...  I HAD to see her; I had to know, you see, to find out finally if she was Rei!  But..., but ... she's not Rei.  She doesn't remember anything that Rei would know.  She didn't know about the music player.  She doesn't even know me!  She's not Rei.  I can't call her Rei.  I..., I'll ... call her Ayanami.  That would be best.  Ayanami.  Not Rei.  Not ... Rei.

Shinji, we tried to tell you.  We told you that Rei had not come back from Unit-01.

Yes, yes..., I know.  I didn't believe you, because I knew that I had saved Rei.  I did save Rei!  And then Ayanami came, and I heard her voice!  She called me.  She called me by my name: Shinji!  How could I have known she wasn't Rei?  How could she not have been Rei?  So I went with her.  Of course I did; I thought you were all lying to me, so I went with R..., with Ayanami.

If there had been time, if you had stayed, you must understand that we would have told you about the Aya..., about Ayanami.  Nerv create or activate a new clone when required; she's just the latest - a replacement for one before her who was lost.

I still wouldn't have believed you.

But wait!  You say Ayanami was created?  Created recently?  I suppose that's what cloning means - but I've never had to think about it.  So she was created as she is now?  That's why she's so strange, isn't it!  She's been created, and ... I expect ... programmed somehow to understand and speak and operate an Eva and obey orders ... and that's it.  She doesn't know anything else.  She doesn't know anything else because she's never had the chance to learn anything else!  That's why she didn't read!  She's like a neglected child; she should be learning from those around her; she should have people around her!

But Rei wasn't like that.  Perhaps because she was the first, perhaps she was created younger, and did have the opportunity to grow up like a child!  I should ask ... her.  ...  No, I can't, can I...  But I know that I saved Rei; I just need to find her, or to understand where she is.  I wish..., I wish I could have proof.  I know I rescued her.  I brought her back from inside the angel, so we must have been together in Unit-01.  She was in my arms!  But then..., the next thing I knew was waking up surrounded by guards, and being told that Rei wasn't there with me.  But she was!  I was holding her - it made me so happy!  I don't know why they didn't get her out, or why they couldn't find her, or what had happened to her...

But then, at Nerv, Vice Commander Fuyutsuki told me that she is still in Unit-01!  He told me other things too, which I found hard to understand; it all made me crazy.  He said my mother was in Unit-01 as well - my mother! - Rei and my mother, both there.  But I was there, too - why am I out of Unit-01 and they are still inside?  Why is it different for them and me?  What are they doing in there?  It was then that he told me that Rei and Ayanami were both clones of my mother!  But why?  Why clone my mother?  And why are they there in the Eva when I'm here?  I want to rescue them!  I want to go back to Unit-01!  Perhaps I can get them out; at least let me try.

No Shinji, that will not be allowed; you cannot be allowed near Unit-01 or any Evangelion.  Whatever the reason, we have seen that it is too dangerous.  It seems that you have the capability, when you enter an Evangelion, to end the world.


End ... the ... world? 


Is that ... what was happening ... after Kaworu ... died?

Yes, Shinji; the first time it was stopped by Kaworu using the Lance of Cassius; but this time it was only stopped by getting you out of the Evangelion.

Is this..., is this why ... people hate me now?  Kaworu said they hated me; he said it was because everyone thinks the ruin he showed me when I was at Nerv was my fault.  The Geofront ruined; Tokyo-3 ruined...  My fault...

My fault?  How was it my fault?  What did I do?  That wasn't even like this time.  All I did then was rescue Rei, and then...  Then - nothing; nothing else; I woke up here with guns pointed at me.  Why?  What did I do?

Scene 11 - New arrangements

Sakura found Touji having an afternoon snack in the canteen.  "Hey, big bro!" she called.  "Hey little sis - what y' doing here? - wanna share this?" 

"No thanks", she replied, "I want to talk about Shinji.  You know I'd been worried how he'd be after getting so upset about the Ayanami type." 

"Yeah, right," said Touji, "he did seem pretty shaken up; perhaps we shouldna let them meet." 

Sakura settled in a chair opposite him.  "No, actually, it's turned out OK.  Sure, he's upset, but he's in control of himself, over that anyway.  At least he's finally accepted that she's not the Rei he knew from back then.  I mean, he's still pretty chewed up about that, but at least he can talk about it without bringing the latest clone into it, though his mother's starting to figure in his thoughts a lot instead." 

"Hmm," grunted Touji through a mouthful of bread, "Doesn't get us any further with the things that matter though, does it." 

"Perhaps not; but you know, bro, he came out with something really interesting - he was talking about the Ayanami type - he's decided to call her Ayanami instead of Rei, by the way, so perhaps we should too, just to make it easier - anyway, he was talking about her, being a clone and all, and he pointed out what it is that's funny about them, something I'd never thought of myself." 

"Yeah?" said Touji, trying to show a little interest, "so what's this great revelation Shinji's given you?" 

"They're young children!" 

"Children?, whatcha mean?" 

Sakura started to explain: "Well, you see, the clones are just activated in the form that we see, and programmed with what they need to know.  But they don't know anything else, not even how to interact with other people - all the things we learn as children are missing: social skills, curiosity, fun..." 

"Fat lot of that we have these days!" grumbled Touji. 

"Oh, you know what I mean," Sakura carried on, "children have to play to learn and all that sort of thing.  Anyway, I get the feeling that he wanted to help her.  Not because she's Rei, because he knows now that she isn't, but because he thinks she hasn't had the chance that Rei had to become properly human!" 

Touji paused, then made as if to get up  "Well, there's not a lot we c'n do about that, is there.  We c'n hardly take her in as family - I c'n just imagine what Hikari would say if I suggested that!" 

"And you'd be wrong, I expect - but that's not what I was thinking, at least while this is still a security matter.  Hey, hang on a moment while I explain!  No, what I'm wondering is, why do they have to be kept in solitary confinement?  Honestly, can you see either of them as a risk while they're in here?  If they were allowed to use the prisoners' day room together for some of the time, then Shinji could try showing Ayanami how to socialise, or teach her things, or read with her - oh, I don't know; but it would give him something to do, and help stop him brooding too much!" 

Touji gathered up his plates:  "Well, mebbe that would be no big deal; but I guess I'd better clear it with Asuka to show we're cooperating.  Though the first thing she's gonna ask is when we can start to interrogate him properly - it's bin several weeks now." 

Sakura looked thoughtful for a moment, then replied: "Well, I think he might be getting there; but it would have to done gently, I mean just you doing the interrogation, and not Asuka yet - I doubt he could face talking to her."

" you see, Asuka, Sakura suggested that they don't really need to be kept in solitary in any case, and that we sh'd let them share the day room.  It's just as secure as the rest of the block - there's no extra danger of escape." 

Asuka glowered at him.  "Well, I suppose it would make no odds, though I'm not sure that making them comfortable is all that sensible.  But more to the point, you know that's not what I want to hear about.  When are we going to be able to interrogate him properly, that's what I want to know right now.  I want to sort out what's what so I can get back to the centre of things before I atrophy from the boredom!  So, when?" 

Touji took a step back as she pushed her face up to his.  "Well, actually, Asuka, that's what I w's coming to next." 

"Spit it out!" she snapped. 

"Sakura reckons he might be ready, but only, er, if I do it, not you." 

"What?" she yelled at him, "Do you think I'd beat him up or something?  Give me some credit for professionalism, at least!" 

"No, no! that's not it, Asuka." Touji replied.  "It's just that we think he'd be too intimidated by you to stay focussed; and you do have rather a record of shouting at him, don't you?" 

"And richly deserved, every bit of it!  How am I meant to stay calm talking to that brat?" 

"Exactly!" said Touji, "so don't.  I'll do the talking, but if you promise to keep quiet, I'll let you sit in to observe - but not a word, mind you!" 

Asuka stared at him for a moment, then said: "Well, OK, I'll try - but I can't promise."

Scene 12 - Men and Angels

The First Interrogation - Subject: Initiation of 4I

Asuka was sitting next to Touji, facing Shinji.  She had rejected the suggestion that she sit further away during this first interrogation; she wanted to see his face as he spoke.  He was sitting waiting, looking anxious, apprehensive even.  But looking at him started to bring back the anger she had felt when she had first seen him in the Wunder.  Why had she reacted so violently?  After fourteen years of suppressing her emotions about his betrayal, the feelings had just exploded again when he was there!  And now, there he sat, looking at them with this face that whatever he was feeling always had the appearance of being in danger of dissolving into tears.  This was the boy who had changed her life - how could she look at him dispassionately?  But as Touji went through the conduct of the examination with him - boring, but dictated by protocol - she made the effort to pull herself together and rein in her emotions.

She turned her thoughts instead to Touji.  He could still be irritating; but here was someone she could respect.  He'd been the school jock, showing off his athletic prowess whenever the opportunity arose, and liable to run his mouth off without thinking too much about what he was saying.  But that had all changed when he was selected as a pilot while she was convalescing; he had become subdued, as if he thought that here, in spite of his braggadocio, was something that he was not cut out to do.  And then when the eleventh angel came, he had been sent out in place of her, with Mari.  He had done what he should, and fought well; but his Eva was destroyed by the angel before Mari managed to defeat it in turn.  Fortunately he was not badly hurt; but afterwards he had seemed more mature.  He had accepted defeat without rancour, but had said plainly and with absolute assurance that he would not pilot again.  And he had held them to that.

Unlike this miserable creature in front of them.  He had seemed incapable of making a decision.  From the start, even before she arrived (the records showed), he wouldn't fight, would fight, ran away, came back, and just couldn't make up his mind.  Though he had fought in the end on each occasion, and done well, it had been a drain on other people to curb his whingeing, get him into the right frame of mind, and keep him focussed.  And then on that fateful day that she was trapped by the ninth angel, he failed them all, he failed her!  She had never really felt before that he was trustworthy, and what he did that day destroyed any chance he had of changing that.  She respected Touji, even though they were so different in spite of their common experience; but her feelings for Shinji were not to be described as mere lack of respect!

After finishing the initial formalities, Touji had moved on to asking Shinji about the recent events.  He had just asked why he had got into the Eva, and Asuka forced herself to stop musing and to listen.

My father said I should pilot with Kaworu when asked.  I didn't want to.  But then Kaworu showed me what had happened to the world outside Nerv; he told me that everyone thinks it's my fault all that happened, so it should be me who put it right.  I don't know why it was my fault, but I wanted to put it right anyway!  That's what we were going to do.  Then people would have stopped hating me.  Kaworu said that if we went to Central Dogma in the Eva we could remove the spears from Lilith's corpse and use them to restore the world.  He said this was his plan, not my father's, so I agreed to go with him.  It was to put everything right!

"Kaworu said, Kaworu said..." muttered Asuka.  "Hush, Asuka" said Touji, as she realised she had spoken her thoughts aloud.  And now she was thinking of Nagisa, that enigmatic figure who had apparently saved the world by stopping Unit-01 while she was in hospital.  But then Gendou had taken him into his inner sanctum, and everything had changed.  When the twelfth angel had broken through and finally caused Third Impact, it had been Nagisa's Eva that had trapped it in the end.  But there had been something fishy about the way that had been handled, what with the Eva operating autonomously, and after a while it became clear to the rest of Nerv that Gendou was pursuing an agenda different from theirs - which had finally led to the split.  Everything was wrong about Nagisa, and she had come to the conclusion that he himself must have been an angel in human form.  And of course it was just typical of Shinji that he should be fooled by such a monster!  But he was still talking:

... Kaworu and I were piloting, because the other pilot, A...Ayanami, couldn't help Kaworu; he said her soul was wrong or something.  Ayanami came with us in Eva Mk 9 to provide backup or something.  Lilith was there in Central Dogma, and another Eva, and Kaworu told me she was dead.  We could see the spears.  But then Asuka and Mari appeared and Asuka attacked us.  She was trying to stop us.  I kept trying to explain to her that I wanted to repair the world, but she wouldn't listen!  Why wouldn't you listen, Asuka?  Why?

Asuka couldn't stay quiet at that: "Because you're such an idiot, and you don't know anything!"  Touji shushed her again, and asked Shinji to continue, which he did after a frightened glance at Asuka.

When Asuka's battery ran out, I was able to get to the spears.  Kaworu had stopped helping, and was saying things I didn't understand about how they'd changed, and he seemed to be getting cold feet, so I went ahead and took hold of them anyway.  But then really strange things started happening!  Lilith exploded!  Then there was an angel in the Eva by Lilith ... and Ayanami cut the Eva's head off and it came out!  And then I found I couldn't do anything any more, because the Eva's controls had stopped working!  Kaworu started saying the weirdest things, like how he had changed from one angel to another - angel? - I couldn't understand what he was going on about.  Then the Eva shot up out of Central Dogma into the sky, and Kaworu said that we had started Fourth Impact, and it was his fault, and he was sorry.  He said he'd stop it, and made Eva-13 stab itself with the spears - and then the collar blew his head off!  I ...

At that, Asuka pushed Touji to one side and faced Shinji directly.  "Shinji," she said, "Nagisa was an angel.  The collar we put on you was designed to kill angels, or anyone who made an Eva awaken like yours did.  We put it on you because we didn't know what you were or might turn into when you came back from Unit-01.  But how come it was on Nagisa and not you?"

K..Kaworu said he wanted to make me happy.  He mended my music player.  And then he took the collar off me and put it on himself - h..he said it was made for him!

Asuka thought for a moment; Nagisa must have been able to handle the collar precisely because he was an angel.  Presumably he'd put it on himself so that it wouldn't warn of having been removed; and presumably he'd been able to suppress the warning it should have given of him being an angel, at least until whatever happened to him in Central Dogma - because, in the end, it had warned them, and then it did kill him.  She would have to tell Ritsuko about this, though.  But Shinji hadn't stopped speaking:

But Kaworu was my friend!  Why are you saying he was an angel?  We're supposed to kill angels.  I don't understand - you're confusing me!

"You don't know anything about Nagisa", Asuka said.  "Nagisa was never your friend; he just manipulated you, used you for his own purposes, as an angel.  And you let him - you let him!"  Shinji stared at her in shock for several moments.  Then he slumped forward onto the table between them and dissolved into tears.  "Pathetic!" Asuka said, and got up to go, leaving Touji to sort out the blubbering fool.  Shinji wouldn't be able to tell them any more about what had happened; and in any case, he would know nothing of the underlying mysteries: whether the expedition had really been Nagisa's plan, or Gendou's; and what had happened that had led to Nagisa's death, which he surely had not intended for himself in spite having taken the collar.

Scene 12a - Germination

The failures of his life tumbled through his mind as he reeled from this last blow.  But in among them, one stood out; and he knew what he had to do.  She was putting her hand to the door when he raised himself just enough to speak:

Sh... Shikinami!

She stopped, startled, and turned her head to look at him.  He was still bent over the table, his head hanging down; but now he rose, turned to face her, and bowed low.

Shikinami, I'm sorry!

"What!!" She turned to face him now, quite thrown by how formal he had become.

Back then.  I ... I was wrong!  I should have done more!  I ... I'm sorry!

He fell back into his seat, dropped his head to the table again and wrapped his arms tightly round it.  She stared at him for a moment.  Then she shook her head in puzzlement, and left, walking more slowly than before.

Scene 14 - Turmoil (Asuka)

Asuka sat in the canteen with her habitual scowl on her face.  She was thinking about Shinji, and his responses during and after the recent interrogation.  Presently she raised her fist and banged it down hard on the table.

"Woah, there!" said Touji, leaning over from the next table: "What's got into yer?"

"As if you can't guess," growled Asuka: "It's that idiot - he's got right under my skin, again.  And it's not like I can pretend that his apology wasn't genuine..."

"Of course it was, 'Shikinami'!" interrupted Touji.

Asuka bridled at that: "Yeah, yeah, I get it!  Clearly it was; and from what Sakura has told us, it seems that he really does understand what he did and why I am so angry with him.  But the thing is, what does it change?  If I forgive him, does that make me want to trust him any more?  Of course not!  No amount of apologising will change what he is, that's the trouble...."  She paused, and then went on:  "You know, the problem with stupid Shinji is that he simply doesn't belong in this world; he's too nice."  She sighed: "In a different world, I imagine I would have taken the time to get to know him more; but in this world, how could I?"

She lapsed back into silence, and after a moment Touji turned away again as she lost herself in her thoughts: recollections of arriving in Japan, already a trained pilot, a soldier in effect, and finding herself in the company of a cloned girl and a boy conscripted by his father.  Naturally she was going to sneer at him - an untrained daddy's boy... and being treated as equal to her!  She'd seen the reports of his previous fights; against the fourth and fifth angels he'd only won by pure luck - and in the second case he'd disobeyed direct orders as well - something no proper trained soldier would do!  Touji tried to excuse him because he and Kensuke had got in the way, but that was irrelevant when it came down to it.  No, she sure wouldn't want someone like that in her team!

When she'd arrived she hadn't really wanted to have anything to do with the other pilots - they would only have cramped her style; and hadn't she dealt with the seventh angel almost incidentally during her flight in?  But she accepted that Misato had needed them to work together for the eighth angel; it was just chance that Shinji was the one who was in the position to get inder the angel first, and he did stop it; and he held on until they'd reached him and after, in spite of the damage it was doing him.  As a soldier, he was simply doing his job, but thinking of him as a mere amateur, as she preferred to do, she had to admit that it could also be seen as bravery.  Indeed, she reflected, the same could be said of how he (and Rei) had apparently stood up to the sixth angel, preparing their fatal shot under retaliatory bombardment.

That much, she reflected, was admirable.  Possibly she could even have brought herself to admire him; not that he realised that - or at least he couldn't bring himself to admit it.  "And then...", she thought, shutting her eyes for a moment, remembering: "... he let me down."

She turned to Touji at the next table, saying: "Hey you!  You defended his failure to fight that time; do you really believe that?"

Touji thought for a moment and then replied: "Yes, I do.  Remember, even with the experience he'd gained he was still not a soldier, like you were, and so he shouldn't be judged as one."

"But you weren't the one he should have rescued!" Asuka snapped back: "what would you have thought then?"

"He rescued me once before", Touji replied mildly.

She snorted and turned back to her own table, giving it another thump with her fist which Touji wisely ignored, and retreating back into her thoughts: He'd disobeyed orders, and refused to fight!  He was not professional!  Previously he had only needed to be brave - that time he'd had to make a choice, to fight or not, and he'd made the wrong choice!  But it was obvious why he'd made that choice - it was because he was kind! and thoughtful! and caring! and anything else you can think of that made him unsuitable to be fighting in a war!  And that's why she'd ended up in a coma.  She'd also thought of him as a daddy's boy; but then, it seemed, he'd gone and defied the commander, threatening Nerv itself, precisely because of what had happened to her, to the point that they'd had to disable him while he was still in the Eva - and then they'd sacked him.

Touji's companions had left, so he came to join her.  "D'yer mind?" he said. "Penny for yer thoughts?"

"Oh, I suppose so", she muttered.  "I was just thinking about when I saw Shinji in the Wunder after his reappearance.  I was so angry; the rage I'd been nursing for fourteen years all boiled right up again, and I just couldn't help myself - did you hear that I broke a safety-glass window trying to punch him?  But you know what?  He was being nice!  It embarrasses me to admit it, but he was genuinely pleased to see me; I now realise that when he was last aware of me he didn't even know if I'd live - and he cared."

"Well," said Touji, "I'm glad that you recognise that."

Asuka pulled a face, and continued:  "But then, as you know, the stupid brat went off to Nerv with that imitation Ayanami, and everything he's done since has been as bad a decision as that one back then.  Oh, there's a reason, every time there's a reason, as he's just told us, usually naively following the suggestion of the nearest person who'll talk to him - but how does his apology for what happened back then help with all the things he's done since?  Can't he think for himself at all?  It's absurd to think that I could trust him again; ... but you know," she said, and her face softened slightly: "in a moment of weakness I might wish that we were in a world where it no longer mattered."

Asuka blushed a little as she realised what she'd just said, and then leant forward close to Touji's face. "Why am I saying this to you?" she said.  "I didn't say anything, right?  If you even think I did, I'll murder you!"

Touji smiled as he replied: "What was that?  Do you want something more to drink?"

Scene 15 - Turmoil (Shinji)

He was at peace, to some extent, for the first time since he had reawakened in this changed world.

Of course, he realised that there were many things which he had to work through, to find the truth of, and to understand his part in and even responsibility for.  More shocks still to be revealed to him.  And all the losses he still had to come to terms with - Rei; Kaworu; Misato; trust...  He might never understand them all, he feared, at least that's how it felt at this moment.  Was that how everyone felt at some level?  But since he had finally understood the enormity of how he had failed Asuka back then, while talking to Sakura, he had also known that he couldn't be at peace until he had apologised to her in a manner that she might not instantly dismiss.  Now he had done it.  She hadn't scoffed, as she might have done in the past, and he could only wait to see if she had in any way accepted it.  But with the sense of release that flowed from that one act, he had been able to sleep well at least for that night.

But what of Kaworu?  And what of this strange new world in which there was an angel walking round?  Was what Asuka said true?  Could he believe it?  He was supposed to kill angels because they were a threat to humanity!  But Kaworu had been kind - he had been his friend - how could he have known he was an angel?  How could he have been an angel?  What were the angels?  Ritsuko had said their DNA was almost human - so why were they enemies in any case?

And so, should he have trusted Kaworu?  Did Kaworu lie to him?  He had shown him the outside world, and had talked of extinctions, and how people hated him; but he had only spoken of "the world", not "the whole world" - of "people", not "everyone".  And now here he was in a base whose landscape was not like that which he had been shown.  Had Kaworu lied to him, or had he himself taken the wrong meaning from Kaworu's words?

Once again, he was lost in confusion; for how could he judge what he was told?  How could anyone?  This was, he supposed, the meaning of trust - but what was trust, and where did it come from?  He trusted people, if they had not given him a reason not to do so; people did not trust him; but now he knew at least one reason why that might be so.

Then it came to him.  To trust another was just a matter of faith; the decision to trust was a matter of judgement, which could be right or wrong - and that judgement could only be improved by experience.  So he had trusted Kaworu.  It seemed now that he was wrong to do so; perhaps he should have looked for more reasons to trust him - but what was done was done, and his heart had already been torn apart by the consequences. 

And what of people trusting him?  That was their choice; he could do nothing about that.  All he could do was to find a way to live and behave that might in time be seen by them as worthy of trust.  Right now he didn't know how to do that; but he could try to work it out, and perhaps one day...

As he sat in the day room mulling over these thoughts in his mind, Shinji started to feel very small and insignificant.  What difference could someone like him make to anything important?  Was it worth the effort to try doing anything at all?  But then it occurred to him that even the smallest and most insignificant member of a team could be the one that made the difference between failure and success; and a determination to be able, once again, to be even that smallest part started to take root in his mind.

Scene 16 - A distant horizon

Shinji was still sitting in the day room, staring at nothing, lost in his thoughts, when Asuka strode in, planted herself in front of him with her arms akimbo, and spoke.  "Well?", she said.

In confusion, Shinji tried to stand up and bow at the same time, making a mess of both:  "Sh... Shikinami!" he stammered.

"Idiot!", she said.  "You've done that; just call me 'Asuka' like you used to, and I'll continue to call you 'Stupid Shinji' like you deserve."

Shinji fell back into his chair, looking up at her: "B... but, Asuka...", he started saying.

Asuka ploughed on over him: "You've apologised.  I accept that you meant it, and I believe that you understand what you did back then; but even so, I'm not sure that I should forgive you for your failure!"

"A... Asuka!  P.. please...!", Shinji managed to blurt out, his face falling.

But Asuka wasn't ready to stop: "Shut up, fool!  Knowing what you did and being sorry for it is all well and good, but it doesn't erase what happened - you do realise that, don't you?  Even you can see some of the damage I suffered, can't you?" 

Shinji managed to nod, and tears started to form in his eyes. 

"But what I want to know, Stupid Shinji", continued Asuka, "is just this: can I trust you?  Will I ever be able to trust you again?"  She stopped, and glared at him, waiting impatiently for his response.

Shinji slumped forward, putting his head in his hands.  He seemed on the point of collapsing into tears, and Asuka looked at him with disdain.  But then, deep inside himself, Shinji felt the beginnings of an unfamiliar sense of resolve, as the thoughts of the past day insisted on being remembered; and slowly he sat back up straight, wiping his eye - and matching Asuka's gaze he gulped, and then said as firmly as he could manage just one word: "No."

"What?" exclaimed Asuka, clearly taken by surprise, "What do you mean by that?"  She pulled up a nearby chair and sat down, still facing him.

"I mean", said Shinji slowly, struggling to keep his voice under control, "that I can't expect anyone to trust me until I trust myself!  And I don't yet know if I can do that."

"Mein Gott", muttered Asuka to herself, "Does this mean that Stupid Shinji has started learning to think?"

"Please let me explain", said Shinji, gaining confidence with every word. "I don't want to be told any more what I may have done wrong, because I don't know how to trust what people tell me.  I need to work it out for myself, and I've only just started trying to do that.  Call me 'Stupid' if you want; but I'm not going to believe that I'm stupid simply because you tell me so.  I'm going to find out what it is I've done, and decide for myself what was wrong with it; only then will I discover how to change the things that it's possible for me to change."

Asuka was struggling to reconcile this new Shinji with the indecisive idiot she had once been familiar with.  But it was not in her nature to listen without making a scornful comment.  "So how do you intend to make this great discovery, and what's it to do with me?"

"I want to stay here", he replied simply.  "I want to be able to ask questions, and read reports, and just think about all the things that I remember I have done until I find enough answers, ones that enable me to understand what I've done, and maybe how I can start to do something worthwhile for myself rather than simply following someone else and so avoiding any responsibility.  But I don't yet know if I will be able to find an answer that I can myself trust is right - which is why I said that you won't be able to trust me either.

Unable to find a response to this, Asuka was silent for a moment; then she remembered there was another question she had wanted to ask:  "Shinji, did you help me when I was fighting out in space?"

Shinji was completely thrown by this. "Space?  When was I ever in space?  And what fight are you talking about?" he replied, puzzled.  "I mean, I think I once had a childish dream in which you called out because you needed rescuing, like a princess in a fairy tale..."  He tailed off, embarrassed.  "It was just a silly dream; please don't be angry!"

Asuka stared at him for a moment; then, shaking her head as if to clear it, she stood up again.  "Well, you get your wish to stay here, at any rate.  You've already been told that you won't be allowed to leave, and why; and that gives you something to think about as well.  But it won't be my concern any more, because I'm not staying; I don't suppose I'll see you again."

"What!" said Shinji, startled.  "Why?"

"I'm leaving here", replied Asuka, "and going back to the Wunder at last.  I'm not needed to take part in your next interrogation, as I was in a coma at the time the events happened.  I'll be glad to be back where there's something going on; and what's more, I won't have the irritation of dealing with a certain idiotic brat, either.  So... I'm saying goodbye."

"I'm sorry", said Shinji, after a pause.  "I had hoped I might be able to talk to you some more, so that you could help to set me on the right path." 

Asuka snorted, and turned to go.

But Shinji called to her one last time: "Asuka, a... auf wiedersehen!"

Hearing that she looked back and replied quietly: "Eh?  No, I really don't suppose we'll meet again."  She hesitated for a moment, then added: "At least, only if you do something that makes it happen."

Scene 17 - Puzzlement

Since he had awakened in this topsy-turvy world he had not kept account of time.  How long had it been?  Hours in the Wunder, no more than a day or so; days or a couple of weeks at Nerv; a month or two here in this Wille outpost...  So little time to take in a world that was so different.  Although he was no longer unable to face anything outside his head, his mind was still numb with trying to come to terms with the shocks he had been given.  And not only the world had changed - the people were different too.

His father: Cold and distant.  Well, he always had been, even when they had gone to his mother's grave together; but now he seemed even more remote.

Misato: She had started to become, even if just a little, something of a substitute for his vanished mother; not a replacement, to be sure, but something.  But now it was as if that had never been; she was hard and dismissive.  In the few minutes he had been with her he had seen no trace of her ability to love, no remnant of her sense of fun.

Ritsuko: Previously merely business-like, she now seemed to have a need to subdue the world around her.  She had put an explosive device on him, calling it a symbol of his punishment.  If she had given him no cause to like her before, he certainly felt he had cause to hate her now.

Asuka: Even the indomitable Asuka had changed.  He had been both relieved and glad that she had survived, but the explosion of her anger had rocked him on his heels.  But now he understood that anger, and had accepted it and been saddened by it, and had made an apology from the depths of his heart, which she seemed to have recognised.  But still, even in their last meeting, there had been none of the competitive Asuka he had known before - simply someone who was clear about her place in the world, and that his place was not in the same world as her.  And yet, as she had left, had her look shown something more?  He didn't know.

Touji: But at least he could recognise Touji, once a friend - and even now, it seemed, although his gaoler perhaps not his enemy.  Still, he was older now, and had responsibilities, and he couldn't picture the kind of friendship they'd had before returning. 

Sakura: He hadn't even known her before, though he had injured her; yet here she was looking after him.  She had sent a message of forgiveness before, and had now repeated it to his face.  Was she the only person that this world had not changed?  How wonderful it would be if even one person had come through whatever had happened unscathed!

Kaworu: Who was Kaworu?  What was Kaworu?  Asuka had said he was an angel, yet he had seemed so human!  Should he not have trusted him?  Should he have hated him?  All he knew was that it felt right at the time, until it all went wrong at the end.  Perhaps he could no longer judge people in this changed world - it was as if he had to learn about being with other people all over again, like a child.

And Rei.  Rei!  He had failed Asuka, and his anger with his father and with himself had been such that his father had thrown him out; but he'd had the opportunity, if not to put things right, at least to redeem himself by saving Rei.  He had saved Rei - he thought...  But Misato said Rei was no more; Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki told him that she was in Unit-01, with his mother.  How could this be?  But it seemed that he had also been in Unit-01 for fourteen years; if he had come out, why had they not? 

Then there was Ayanami, this other Rei that was not Rei.  She was, it seemed to him, the only innocent person in the new world he had been catapulted into.  If she was given the opportunity, what..., who could she become?

He came out of his reverie as he became aware that Ayanami had come into the day room to read.

"Good afternoon, Ayanami", he said, as she made to pass his chair.

"Good afternoon, Shinji", she replied, stopping in front of him, and after a moment's pause she added: "Was that appropriate?"

He looked up at her solemn face.  "Yes, it was; you remembered correctly.  But you need to know that while I don't mind, as it seems you've known me no other way, other people prefer to be addressed formally until they give you permission to use their familiar name."

"So I should really have been addressing you as Ikari?  I will if you tell me to."

"No", he answered, "there's no need to change what you've become used to.  Besides, it...", and he paused slightly as he felt a slight catch in his throat, "it reminds me of someone I don't want to forget."

"I remind you of the other Rei Ayanami that you knew before; is that correct?"  When he nodded, she went on: "But we are both clones, the former Rei Ayanami and I.  Are we not therefore the same?"

Shinji felt the sadness welling up inside him, and he had to look away from her as he pulled himself together.  "No, Ayanami", he started to explain, "I suppose you started the same, or pretty much so, but what makes you a particular person is what comes after - what you are taught, and what you learn.  Especially what you learn about other people, but also about the rest of the world and how it affects you.  And you should not only learn what other people tell you to, but also things you discover for yourself."

"Is this why you have told me to read these books - so that I learn from them?  Will that make me like the other Rei Ayanami?"

"Yes ... No," Shinji spluttered as he tried to sort out answers to both of these questions.  "Yes, you can learn from books; but not only books!  From watching people, from looking at the world around you, not because you've been told to by me or anyone else, but because you want to!"  She looked at him puzzled; but before she could express her puzzlement he went on: "But No, it will not make you become like another person - it will make you more of yourself, a person in your own right."

"But how do I know what I want to learn?" she said, hesitating a little more than usual.

"You don't,... until you do."  He answered.  "I can't explain it better, because that's what you learn as you find out other things.  Wanting to learn is called curiosity, and each time you ask me a question you are showing a little more of it."

She looked at him, her expression indecipherable.  Then she sat down, saying: "I shall continue reading this book.  Perhaps I shall learn from it."

Shinji watched her for a while.  Her concentration was complete, and he envied her that.  Although she was puzzled by the world she found herself in, she was not saddened by it, and it made him feel a little better that he seemed to be able to help her understand things. 

But he was saddened by the world, and helping her was little enough consolation.  He could see no possibility of an end to his sadness, even as he was coming to terms with living with it.  He felt that he would never be happy again.

Scene 18 - Getting away

"Good evening, Colonel Katsuragi!", Touji and Sakura said in unison as Misato stepped out of the transport craft. Then they winked at each other before going on: "Welcome to the Wille country retreat!"

Misato dismissed their banter: "Thank you; but I'm here on serious business: I need to know what part our problem boy really had in what happened fourteen years ago, as well as recently."  As they started walking over towards the visitors' quarters she went on:  "I suppose we can by now be completely certain that he is human and nothing else, that we are actually dealing with Ikari himself - you've seen nothing to indicate otherwise, according to your reports. So all I really need to know now is what state he is in - how will he cope with persistent and detailed questioning?"

"He'll be able to cope, I think", said Sakura. "He took some time to recover from the state he was in when he arrived here, but now he seems fairly well in control of himself. He has been thinking about what he has done and what he's been involved in."

Touji stepped in: "I think y'd've been impressed by the way he apologised to Asuka if y'd seen it! But y'asked about how he'd stand up under the pressure of more questioning - better than y'd think, probably, but y' might have to wait for him sometimes."

"The thing is", Sakura picked up, "he is still quite confused, but he seems to be finding an inner resolve which is helping him manage. He might collapse if you press him too hard, but I would suggest that if it happens you simply wait patiently and let him recover - because I think he will be able to pull himself back up if given the chance.  But I do think he's very nervous about meeting you again - not that I was going to tell him you were coming, but he worked it out for himself after Asuka left and asked me directly."

"And y' have to remember", Touji took over again, "that it seems he's still really the same boy as he was fourteen years ago. It's quite clear that for him the events of fourteen years ago were only a couple of months back, immediately before he came out of Unit-01, and he's still very disorientated by the way things have changed."

They lapsed into silence as they walked, Misato looking thoughtful while thinking over these comments.  When they arrived at the quarters she turned and excused herself:  "Well, I'd like to retire straight away; I want to make the most of this chance for a quiet night away from the hassle of running the Wunder!"

But for a time Misato couldn't settle; and troubled thoughts of the past, and of Shinji, filled her mind:

I called him "problem boy"; and "Ikari" this evening.  How could I do that?  He was always "Shinji" to me, back then, when for a little while I acted as - no, was - a surrogate mother to him.  It was so long ago; ... but such a connection doesn't just go away or die, however deeply it may be buried by time and circumstances.

Why did I do it, anyway?  Why did I take him in when he came to Nerv?  Was it to fill a need of my own, or for his benefit?  Did I just do it because I was lonely at home, or was it even to compensate for not being able to make a life in which I could have children of my own?  All these years later it's hard to judge my feelings back then; but I'm sure that I saw that he needed me.  His mother gone, his father simultaneously distant and demanding... he wouldn't have stood a chance on his own, so I tried to support him and to give him a home.

But was it the right thing to do - did I really rescue him?  Maybe all I did by keeping him around was ensure that he was able to be pulled into the hell that his father, even then, was building for us all!  But he was growing and maturing, and perhaps I can take some credit for that.  The tragedy was that I had been injured when the ninth angel appeared - if I had been at my post to support and guide him in that operation, could it have gone differently?  Might he even have been there to fight the tenth angel from the start, and so perhaps even have prevented the loss of Rei?  Could the dreadful things that followed have been prevented - or would his father just have found another way to use the poor kid as a tool in his plans?

And what of Shinji himself?  If he really has no awareness of the past fourteen years, then I suppose he still views me as being in loco parentis!  But what can I do for him now?  In any case, I must try to understand what he did back then, to see what further implications it might have, and how it relates to what happened just a few weeks ago.  We are in conflict with his father - in fact at war, no less - and he has spent time in his father's base, the enemy's base, and even piloted another Eva for him.  I can't just assume he is the same boy I knew back then, or that he still deserves the same sympathy.  Which is why I'm afraid that tomorrow I will feel as though I'm interrogating an enemy!

Oh Shinji!  Will you be able to forgive me for seeming so hard-hearted?  Will you understand why I had no alternative?

In the end exhaustion took over, and she slept.


Scene 19 - Ending the world

The Second Interrogation - Subject: Initiation of N3I

Misato sat at the table preparing herself.  Her face gave no hint of the difficulties that she was anticipating in the coming interrogation.  "I have a duty", she thought, "to find out what I can about what happened; for the sake of Wille, of everyone, and yes, even for his sake.  Where will it lead?"  She gave an inward sigh: "I cannot tell, but that is why I have to find out what I can."

Touji led Shinji into the interrogation room, and indicated the chair opposite Misato.  "Sit here, opposite Colonel Katsuragi", he told him, "and as before, just answer the questions."

"Misa..", Shinji started.

But Touji interrupted him.  "It's 'Colonel Katsuragi' in here!"

"Colonel K... K...  NO!  Misato!  Please..." Shinji tried again.

Misato spoke this time: "Leave it, Touji.  Shinji: I will be asking you questions about what happened when you attacked the tenth angel.  Are you clear which incident I mean?"

Shinji answered: "Yes; but Misato!..."

She continued, speaking over him. "You had returned to pilot Unit-01, even though you had been dismissed; for that we were grateful.  You then trapped the angel on the elevator, and we fired you together back to the surface of the Geofront.  After that you engaged the angel, and destroyed it.  I'd like you to describe how you did that, and what happened next."

"Misato, you were there!  You saw what I did! But what I want to know is..."

But Misato cut him off: "Shinji, just answer the question.  Start with your arrival at the surface and describe what you did."

Shinji's face fell: ""

She didn't respond, but just sat there watching him and waiting.

After a few moments he started his account, speaking hesitantly and almost inaudibly:  "I'd seen the angel swallow Unit-00 and Rei, so I was determined to kill the angel and rescue her.  But it was very strong, and Unit-01 had lost an arm earlier.  So I hadn't managed to destroy the angel when the Eva's power ran out.  But I was still determined to rescue Rei, so I called out, and the Eva heard me and came back to life."

"What did you do to awaken the Eva like that?" asked Misato.

"I didn't do anything.  I just called out that I wanted Rei back, and the Eva heard me and responded again.  It even got its arm back somehow, and I was able to destroy the angel at last.  It was horrible! - it looked as if it was pretending to be Rei!"

"And after the angel was destroyed, what did you do then?"

"I went into the angel's core to rescue Rei.  Don't ask me how I did that, I just did it.  At first I thought I was reaching in, then the whole of me followed, and I was in the core where Rei was.  She said she had to stay there, but I knew I could rescue her!  So I took her hand and drew her out.  I was hugging her, and was so happy..."  He paused, and tears appeared in his eyes.

"Please continue", said Misato.  "What happened after that?"

"I,... after,.... the next thing I remember is,...  waking up surrounded by your soldiers.  Why, Misato?  What happened to my life?  What happened to Rei?  Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki told me that she's still in Unit-01.  Why didn't you get her out?  And where is Unit-01 anyway?"

Misato ignored his question:  "Think back to the point when you started to fight the angel.  You called out 'I don't care what happens to me; I don't even care what happens to the world' - what did you mean by that?"

"What did I mean?  What did I mean?  I meant that I was going to concentrate on saving Rei - and to hell with sync ratios or anything else!  Saving Rei meant killing the angel, and that would help save the world, right?  But that was not why I was doing it; I was doing it to save Rei.  What else might I have meant?"

"Were you aware of Unit-01 becoming awakened as you did this, and of the starting of Third Impact?  In fact, was starting the impact your intention?"

Shinji bridled at this:  "What are you talking about?  I was in the Eva, and I did what I've just told you.  Aren't you listening?"

But Misato persisted:  "Were you aware of the Eva awakening?"

"What do you even mean by awakening?" Shinji replied, his voice rising as his frustration came out.  "The Eva enabled me to kill the angel and rescue Rei, as I said."

"Please just answer the question." Misato said, "Were you aware..."

Shinji couldn't take any more.  He jumped up and leant across the table, shouting in Misato's face: "I don't know anything!  Nothing!  NOTHING!  Why do you keep asking?  I've told you!  I rescued Rei, and then I woke up with guns pointing at me!  What has happened?  I don't know why the world is like this!  What's it got to do with me?  What has caused it?  Tell me!  Why won't you tell me?"  Touji was on his feet, ready to restrain him; but, his passion spent, Shinji collapsed back into his chair and whispered:  "Why, Misato, why?  Please tell me what's happened!"

Misato had sat back in her chair, shocked by Shinji's outburst, and now she closed her eyes, let her head fall back and sat there, silent and not moving.  After an uncomfortable pause, Touji realised that the interrogation was not going to continue, so he quietly helped Shinji to his feet and started to take him out.

As they were leaving the room Misato was heard to mutter, almost inaudibly:  "Oh Shinji!  What have we done to you?"

Scene 20 - Overtures

They sat facing each other across the day-room table.

Sakura had contrived a reason to take Ayanami somewhere else so that they would be alone.

They sat in silence. Shinji's expression was wary, suspicious even, and Misato was fiddling with her cap on the table in front of her.

Eventually Misato spoke: "Shinji, I'm sorry; sorry for how I've treated you, and sorry for how you've been treated by others. If you'll let me tell you now what has happened, then at least you might be able to understand how it came to this."

Shinji's expression didn't change; he continued to watch her cautiously without a word.

Misato fidgeted for a moment and then pulled herself together and started to explain: "When you called out to the Evangelion, and it came back to life, it appeared to be displaying new powers which we'd never seen before; this is what I meant by 'awakening'. As you killed the angel, Third Impact seemed to start, centred on the Eva itself; I recognised the effects from having witnessed Second Impact. It was beautiful - a terrible beauty that seemed to herald the end of the world as we knew it - and it seemed to be caused by the Eva itself, piloted by you. I pressed you on this yesterday because we didn't know what part you had played in causing it to happen; the entry plug monitor showed that you disappeared at about the point that you say you were rescuing Rei. Your sync ratio had gone too high, and you had become absorbed into the Evangelion, become part of it, as your mother had done before. She had not come back, and we presumed that you could not come back either, in fact that you were no longer human but had taken on the nature of the Evangelion itself."

Shinji had been continuing to watch her without any visible reaction to what she was saying, but at this he spoke: "When I was brought here, in my madness I thought perhaps I was no longer human. Maybe I was right."

He relapsed into silence. After another pause Misato went on: "But this time was not like Second Impact. This time another Evangelion appeared - the Mark 6, piloted, as it turned out, by Nagisa - and pierced Unit-01, which had floated up into the sky, with a spear, causing it to fall back to earth, and cutting short Third Impact."

Shinji flinched at being told that Kaworu had stabbed the Eva - had stabbed him if he was then part of it - before; but this time he did not speak.

Misato continued. She told him of how people had been led to believe that he, Shinji, had caused this. She described the uncovering of Commander Ikari's secret plans, and what they were expected to do to the world; the banishment of Unit-01 into space; the last angels and the triggering of Third Impact again, this time to completion; and the formation of Wille and the fight to prevent his father from completing his plans and bringing down the final catastrophe on mankind. Throughout all this Shinji sat silent and attentive, but unresponsive.

Finally, Misato described the recovery of Unit-01 from space, with the intention of using the power it had gained on awakening to drive the Wunder. "That was the operation that Asuka spoke about when she asked you about helping her. She told me you had a dream about it; perhaps in some way you were still aware while you were part of the Evangelion, and your dream was a memory of it. But when we recovered Unit-01, we had no thought of recovering you; we knew you no longer had a separate identity. So we were startled when suddenly you were there, lying naked on the floor next to the Eva. We looked in the entry plug, but found no trace of anything, not of Rei, just your music player. We didn't know how you could have materialised like that, so we had to assume that you might not be human, but perhaps an aspect of the angel you had fought, preserved until this moment in Unit-01, and imitating you to deceive us. We had decided that you were, somehow, in fact human - you, yourself, Shinji - and were planning to tell you the things I have now just told you; but at that point you were snatched away from us by Ayanami, on your father's orders, and taken off to be used in his plan. What happened to you then you have already talked about; and I hope that you can now see why we reacted the way we did, both in the Wunder, and subsequently when you piloted Unit-13."

She paused to try and gauge his reaction to all of this. Then he spoke, flatly: "I wish to be alone. Leave me to think about this."

She got up and walked to the door. Then she turned back and said: "I have to return to the Wunder this evening. Before I go, I will come back to talk to you again. You need to know what happens now."

Shinji looked at her blankly, and she left, taking his lack of objection as acquiescence.

Misato returned to see Shinji later in the day. He was still sat at the table, and it appeared that he had not moved. But now he turned as she entered, and spoke to her: "Thank you for telling me all that. I understand, though I do not like what was done to me now any more than I did before. I realise now why Asuka said to me that she didn't know whether she could forgive me for what I did to her, because now I feel the same way."

"If you can avoid becoming embittered by it, that would be as much as we can hope for", replied Misato, "and I won't ask for more".

She sat down opposite him again. "Let me tell you what I have decided we will do for you now. You are no longer in detention here. However, you will be confined to this camp. We still do not know why two Evangelions have awakened with you piloting them, and we simply cannot take the risk of your being near one again. But within the camp you are free. Suzuhara, I mean Touji, will find some work for you to do, to earn your keep as all the people here must do, and I will give you remote access to our archive, as you asked Asuka for."

Shinji appeared to relax a little at this, but then he asked: "And what about Ayanami? What will you do with her? She knows nothing of what's going on, and doesn't deserve to be treated as a prisoner of war."

"She will also be confined to this camp, because simply by being here she now has information that we would not want our enemies to be able to get from her. But I will allow her to be free within the camp, as you are."

Misato stood up again. "And now it's time for me to leave to get back to the Wunder. And Sakura is coming back with me; I need her to resume her duties there. But I want to ask one thing of you, though perhaps I have no right to: will you come and see me off? It would mean a lot to me. And Sakura would also like to say farewell."

Shinji made no reply. But after hesitating for a couple of moments he got up, and they went out together.

The four of them approached the transport. When they got to the steps, Sakura turned to Shinji and gave a little bow, telling him how pleased she was to see him socialising at last, and urging him to look after himself.

Misato took him in her arms for a short hug; this caught him by surprise, and he looked uncomfortable but did not resist. As she let him go, she said: "I don't expect to see you again before the end of this conflict. But I hope that then you will be willing to meet again."

When the transport had left, they turned to go back to the quarters, and as they walked Touji put his arm round Shinji's shoulders. This time Shinji resisted, but Touji held on to him saying: "Welcome back! I don't suppose anyone's said that to y' since y' appeared on the Wunder, and it really is time! And what I've arranged for y' is that y'll work in the kitchens. No one here cooks as well as you used to, and y'd be doing us all a big favour if y' accept this post!"

Scene 21 - Discoveries, thoughts, and daily life (tribute to John Cage)

(Author's note: The style of this scene is inspired by that of some parts of the composer John Cage's book Silence in which he presents several lectures or essays simultaneously, interleaved sentence by sentence, sometimes randomly reordered; he also mentions mushrooms.)

From: Katsuragi, M
To: Ikari, S
Subject: Archive access

Shinji: The attached login gives you full read access to the archives. You may choose to use it or not, as you will. The archive is not complete, as we didn't manage to copy everything before the split from Nerv, and of course rather little has been added since. We've already studied it thoroughly. However, if you think you may have seen something at Nerv which might fill a gap or change an interpretation that you want to let us know about, we would be grateful; but please don't feel any obligation.


"How do you manage to make something as commonplace as miso soup better than anyone else here?"

"Hmm, I dunno. I just select what seems right from the ingredients available rather than tossing them all in, I suppose; I always like to include shiitake mushrooms, though. Oh, and it's important not to cook the miso paste, which changes its flavour - you should make the suspension of the miso in the stock separately and mix it into the soup at the end."

My mother worked for this "Seele" organisation? What was their deal, I wonder. The next stage in human evolution? - sounds a bit of a crackpot idea to me. Surely evolution is something that grows in later generations, not something you can apply to an existing one. And who did they ask for permission to go ahead with their plans anyway?

Ayanami seems to be opening up a bit at last. It was really good that Hikari was able to persuade Touji to let her stay with them. But I'd prefer it if she didn't ask about Rei; it wouldn't be right for her to try to be like her, and honestly, I'd be uncomfortable with it as well.

The dummy plug was based on Rei? For real? Its behaviour had nothing recognisably like Rei about it! If it had done, then perhaps Asuka wouldn't have been so badly injured. ... I still wish I'd made a different decision then; I wonder if I'll ever really be friends with Asuka again!

"Hey Touji, I see in the records that you got to pilot an Eva! Why didn't you say?"

"It was horrible; I was injured, and I refused t' do it again. It seemed to mess with my brain, too!"

"Huh? You refused a fight? I tried to stop a couple of times, but somehow I always ended up back in the entry plug."

"Well, it was y'r fate, I s'pose; but it wasn't mine, and I'd rather not talk about it..."

A base on the Moon? Why on Earth... oh, ha-ha! And that's where Kaworu came from? If I'd known about his relationship with Seele, well, if I'd known about Seele at all, that is, I'd never have trusted him. Never! But then, would I have trusted my father instead?

I miss having Sakura to talk to.

It seems that my mother wanted to use herself as the template for the Evangelion's control system. That's what the contact experiment that Vice Commander Fuyutsuki told me about was for; but it didn't go as expected, and she got absorbed. Absorbed just like I was, I suppose, but she chose to take that risk; perhaps she was feeling as passionate about it as I did about saving Rei, maybe that strength of feeling is what made it happen for both of us. I wonder if she still has any consciousness, or if she is asleep, as I was...

I fully understand why Misato treated me the way she did when I appeared on the Wunder. But it did hurt, it really did.

"Yoo-hoo, Shinji!"

"Sakura! What are you doing here! It's great to see you!"

"Misato needed someone to come here on an errand, and I asked if I could do it; I wanted to see you again - to see how you're getting on, I mean."

"Well, do please call by for a chat when you're finished."

"Oh, I will, I will!"

My father was devastated by my mother's disappearance; he even made Rei as a clone as part of trying to recover her! And from what Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki told me, he's planning something - to get her back? To join her? There's nothing written here about it. In the past, like everyone, I thought that his obsession was simply with destroying the angels.

So Asuka's injuries, although serious, were not really life-threatening. The worst thing for her was the angelic contamination, which even now is contained rather than removed. ... Maybe I would have had no chance to prevent that, even if I had fought as I should have done; but it makes no difference now - I see that her loss of trust in me was in some ways as bad as any of her injuries. ... Can a broken trust ever really be repaired? I'd like to try, but I don't know how - and I'm too scared to contact her.

Kaji was a spy?! It figures, I guess; he always had a certain ... swagger? about him. And he discovered about the plans that my father was undertaking for Seele. Using the Evangelions to ... No, that can't be right! But then he and Misato formed Wille specifically to stop my father and Seele, so they must have really thought they were ... nothing less than evil, I suppose. ... My father was harsh with me, but do I now have to believe he is evil?

I need a break!

"Come in, come in! - let me make some tea."

"I gather you're doing a lot of cooking. I'm sorry I won't be able to stay long enough to sample it!"

"Oh, it's just a job; but I like to do it all the same. But actually, what interests me and keeps me occupied is trying to find out about the past and why all this has happened. The trouble is, though, that my parents had - have, I guess, in the case of my father - such a large part in it that I feel guilty by association as I read about it."

"That must be tough!"

"Well, yeah - sometimes I just have to take a break to calm down. Anyway, on top of that, it's really confusing, because there are so many gaps in the record - and I think some of the crucial things were never recorded at all. I may never find out everything I'd like to know."

Is my mother still conscious in some way? Is she choosing to stay in the Eva? I mean, I didn't choose to come out - perhaps she made that happen... What does she think about me? What does she think about father? Now I see it! - she rejected the dummy plug after she'd seen what it did the first time it was used, so that I would be the one to pilot! Were you right, mother? Or was your faith in me misplaced?

It would seem that when I rescued Rei, all I did was take her from the angel's core to the Eva's. Perhaps that would even have happened without me being there - and maybe she was right when she said she couldn't come out. But still, why has she stayed in there, with my mother, while I am out here having to face the world again? Perhaps because she is partly a clone of my mother, it's natural for them to be together. Is she conscious? Is she happy, I wonder; I don't suppose I will ever know now. ... But at least I have my memories of her; that's a small kind of survival for her, isn't it? it?

My mother abandoned me, in effect, when she was absorbed by the Eva. At the time I was too young to understand, let alone hate her for it... But now I find myself asking, did she love me? And, unclear though it is, I'd like to believe that, yes, she did. Why? What makes me think that? Well, there were a couple of times when the Eva seemed to do things beyond what was expected, and this saved me, or at least enabled me to defeat the angels. Was that her influence because she knew I was there? I can't know; but I choose to think so - it helps me accept the way things are.

"Well, I have to go back to the Wunder now. I'll report to Misato that you're getting on OK; I'm sure she'll be secretly pleased, even if she won't show it!"

"Er, look, can you do something for me? As you were here, I've made up this bento box for Misato, things I remember she used to like - could you take it to her, please? I know it's nothing much in the grand scheme of things, but I want her to know that I really do appreciate what she's been able to do for me."

"Yes, of course I will; it'll be a pleasure."

"I thought of making one for Asuka as well, but then I didn't dare to; I was afraid that reminding her of my existence would just get her angry again. But, er, I did make another one. Here; it... it's for you."

Scene 22 - The Call

"Shinji! Shinji!"

He turned to see Touji running towards him, his face flushed.

"Shinji! Here, now! Get y'rself to that plane; that one, there! Quick! They're waiting for y'!"

He stood there, uncertain, flummoxed by Touji's unexpected behaviour. "Wha..?"

"No time to explain - just go! Go! Now! Fast as y' can! Don't take anything. Run!"

Misato sighed as she heard the klaxon; another day, another alarm. Sometimes the alarms were false, sometimes the attacks were no more than a nuisance, sometimes they were a real challenge - what would today's be like, she wondered.

She was finishing off the latest bento box that Sakura had brought back from Shinji. It was just as well, she mused, that Sakura had persuaded him on her subsequent visits to make one up for Asuka as well; that first time - four months ago, was it? - although she had said nothing, Mari had read Asuka's mind and taunted her, saying: "Hey, Princess, are you feeling the need for a puppy to kick when you're annoyed?".

As she reached the bridge, Misato became aware that the atmosphere was more tense than usual. Ritsuko was blunt: "This is different; this isn't just a couple of Nemesis series. I think this time Nerv may be starting their end game."

"Tell me", said Misato as she scanned the screens for a hint of what was up.

"There appears to be an army of Evangelions coming out towards us; presumably they're piloted by Ayanami series clones, because they show more intelligence than the Nemesis series. Even so, according to Asuka, individually they are not a particular threat; and they're coming slowly, but the number that are coming, and still emerging, is giving her pause. She and Mari certainly can't hold them back for more than a couple of hours on their own - we'll have to take the Wunder up to have a chance of dealing with them."

Ritsuko paused as Asuka's voice came over the intercom: "Shit! This is a pain - some of them can fly! Fighting this lot off's getting to be a whole new ball game."

Sounding as unconcerned as ever, Mari chimed in: "Oh Princess, you know they only want to get to know you better!"

"Oh, they'll get to know me much better - you'll see!" Asuka snapped back.

Misato made her decision: "We need to take the Wunder to the fight immediately. At the least we need to show them that we mean to hold out here; and if they're after Shinji again they mustn't see through our misinformation - we need to keep them focused on us, as we can't afford to have them realise where he actually is."  As she ordered the preparations for take-off, amid the hubbub that ensued they heard Asuka yelling again:

"Oh crap! Now they sent out some Nemesis series as well. This is getting too hot for us (take that!); Misato, you need to get the Wunder here right away!"

As soon as all the systems were shown to be ready, Misato gave the order to take off. The Wunder started to lift smoothly into the air. But almost immediately, without warning, it slumped back down as everything went eerily quiet and the lights went out. Within moments the emergency lights came on and the silence was broken by a chaos of shouting voices: "The engines have shut down!" "The AT field is down!" "The power supply from Unit-01 has vanished!"

"Disconnect the engines!" Misato shouted, and as that was done the lights came back on. More shouting indicated that the dials were returning to normal. Misato gave orders to prepare for take off again; but when she gave the final command, the same shutdown was repeated.

"Where are you?" they heard Asuka call.

"We have a problem", Misato replied brusquely. "You just keep them at bay while we try to resolve it."

"Get a move on then", Asuka responded, "We can't do this alone (no you don't!) for ever, you know!"

Ritsuko was staring intently at the screens: "This looks like the same behaviour as when we tried to start Unit-01 with the dummy plug at the time the tenth angel attacked."

"Then you recognise what's happening, don't you," said Misato, "and you know what the answer was then as well!"

Ritsuko stared at her, appalled. "You can't be suggesting... It's too dangerous - we agreed he simply can't be brought here under any circumstances!"

"And without the Wunder, what then? Ikari gets what he wants, and the end is the same as you fear, but with his hand on the controls! This is what we've been fighting to prevent, and it's looking as though now we have only one way left that gives us even the slightest chance of succeeding in preventing it."


"There's no time for your 'but's any more, Ritsuko. I'm calling them now to send Shinji here immediately by the fastest means possible!"

"Will we even have time for that?"

"We can still use the Wunder's armaments, the ones we used before Unit-01 was installed, so once Asuka and Mari are forced back so that the enemy is within range we should be able to hold the first phase of the attack back for long enough to get him here."

Ritsuko protested: "But in any case, we know he can't even sync with Unit-01 any more!"

"Given that he's piloted another Eva since you checked, are you as certain of that, Ritsuko, as you were of there being no chance of success for some of my plans to defeat the angels?"

Misato turned back to the intercom: "Asuka, Mari, we can't move the Wunder at this moment. Slow them down as much as you can, but fall back if you have to. When they're within range, we'll use the Wunder's armament to help out. But at any cost just keep them from actually reaching the Wunder!"

This time Mari responded:  "Okey-dokey!  We can probably hold them from reaching you for about ninety minutes, or perhaps two hours if they get the Princess really annoyed!"

Shinji stepped onto the bridge of the Wunder. The tension in Misato's face was tempered by relief as she turned to him and started to explain. "Unit-01 is refusing to power the Wunder; and the only option we can see to give us enough strength to withstand the attack that's starting is for you instead to pilot Unit-01 into battle alongside Asuka and Mari. We know that we've told you it's too dangerous, and you know why; but we've reached the point that we can see no alternative to this. Will you help us!"

She stopped and looked at him expectantly, the tension returning to her face as he paused before replying: "I got your message on the way here; and yes, I will do what I can", he said, "but first there's something I want you to do for me."

Misato stared at him, taken aback. "What do you mean? There's no time for playing games!", she shouted.

"None the less", Shinji said, "I want you to do one thing first. It's not a game, and I'm sure you have a means to do it. I want you to set up a communication link for me to speak to my father."

Scene 23 - The Child and his Parents

Shinji stood waiting alone in front of the monitor.  The others were remaining out of view, at his request.  He showed no awareness of the time and effort it was taking to arrange the connection, but tension showed in the way he had balled his fists.  After a short while, the screen flickered, and Commander Ikari's image appeared.

Shinji spoke immediately: "Father, please stop what you are doing!"

Gendou ignored what he said and replied, irritated: "What are you doing contacting me like this?  I shall speak to you when you have been returned here."

"Father", Shinji replied, "Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki told me about my mother, and a little about what you are doing.  I have also been searching for more information about it in the records."

"It is no concern of yours.  Why are you wasting my time like this?"

"I know, Father, that you have used both me and the Evangelions to try to advance your plan.  But it's clear to me now that what you are doing is wrong, and I believe that Mother would think so too.  Therefore I am asking you to stop it."

"You will follow my instructions when I give them to you.  Wait there; I can see from my reports that the renegades you are with no longer have the capability of resisting me."

"No, Father!  I will not let you use me again; and furthermore, I will do all I can to ensure that you don't have the opportunity to try.  But if you agree to stop, there would be no need for further conflict."

"This will continue, with or without your cooperation."  And with that, Gendou cut the connection.

Shinji turned to Misato:  "And now, as I promised, I will do what I can."

The intercom crackled and Asuka's voice came through, sounding desperate:  "Misato!  What the hell is going on?  Where are you?  We can't hold them back much longer!"

"We still cannot launch the Wunder", Misato responded.  "We are planning instead to send Shinji out with Unit-01 to he..."

"WHAT!" shouted Asuka, "Have you taken leave of your senses?  You know what happened the last two times that idiot got in an Evangelion!  Do you really want to just give in and do Nerv's dirty work for them?"

"Nevertheless", replied Misato, gritting her teeth, "it's the only possibility we have remaining.  I believe that Shinji understands what's at stake, and is now capable of the self-control necessary to do this - and if I am wrong, at least whatever happens will be on his terms, not Commander Ikari's!"

Asuka just shouted back: "That's no comfort - you're mad, mad!  Please someone, anyone, just stop her while I get on with the fighting here!"

Misato turned back to Shinji:  "We'll get Unit-01 ready for you to pilot now", and she made to start giving the necessary orders.

"No!" interrupted Shinji.  "Leave the Eva alone.  Take me as close as you can to Unit-01, and then leave me there on my own."

Misato started to object: "But you can't pilot unless we release the Eva, and get you into an entry plug!"

"No!" said Shinji again.  "Take me there and leave me.  I do not wish to pilot Unit-01, that is not what I am going there for; I will not pilot Unit-01!"

"Then how..." Misato started, shocked; but Shinji spoke over her:

"You can watch on the monitors, if you want.  Just take me there and let me do what I have decided to do."

Shinji stood facing the inspection hatch through which he could see Unit-01.  He closed his eyes, and seemed to be preparing himself; the tension he had showed facing his father had almost dissipated, and he rocked gently back on forth on the soles of his feet.

The watchers seemed to have taken on his former tension, as they waited to see what he would do.

Then his rocking stopped, and he stood stock still.  Opening his eyes he called out loudly towards the inspection window:  "Mother! Hear me! Rei! Hear me!"

He paused, as if collecting himself again, and then continued in a normal voice: "Mother, Rei.  Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki told me that you are now in Unit-01.  But Mother, I have been reading about what happened when you vanished, and I think you are more than that - I think you are now part of Unit-01, Unit-01 is you, and...", at this point Shinji hesitated for a moment; then he gulped, clenched his fists again, and continued: "and Rei is you!  I also think you are aware of me, whether that is by hearing me or something else.  So I will talk to you.

"It seems to me now that I brought Rei to you after she had been swallowed by the angel - was I at that moment also part of you?  I don't think I was; perhaps you prevented that and kept me apart from you in order to be able to send me back to this world when the time came.  So it seems that I must thank you.

"Did you have a job in mind for me to do when I returned?  I suppose not; or at least no more than to live my life, the life that you gave me!  But now I have found that there is a job that I do have to do, and it is to ask you to help us!

"I do not understand, could not find out, what you and Father planned back then.  But this I do know: Father has taken it on himself to go beyond those plans, and as a result he will destroy the world.  He says it is for you, to be together with you again; but the cost is too high.  Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki told me that Father is sacrificing his soul for this.  I believe that if you could see what he is doing you would want to prevent him from continuing.  I have asked him to stop, but he won't listen to me.  Therefore, I ask you to help us to stop him, which you can do by powering the Wunder just one more time!

"But in return, I make this promise: when we are done, you will be free.  Free to throw off the bindings placed on you by Nerv, free of your recent servitude to Wille, and free to go as you will - even to find your husband and try to save his soul.

"Mother, Rei, please help us!"

When he had finished Shinji stood motionless, his eyes fixed on Unit-01 through the glass.  The watchers saw no sign that he had been heard, but after a moment he drew himself up and spoke out loud, to be heard by the monitors:  "Misato! You can take off now!"

As the Wunder moved smoothly into the air, Shinji felt a great weariness enveloping him.  He leant back against the wall, and then slid to the floor in a deep slumber.

Scene 24 - The Promise

As the Wunder rose from the dock, Ritsuko glared furiously at Misato. "Why did you let him make a promise like that?" she said. "Where will we be left afterwards without the power we get from Unit-01?"

Misato replied mildly: "We had no way to stop him, did we? And we already had no power from Unit-01. But when we win, we'll have no more need of the Wunder, so we can honour his promise!"

An observer would have thought the Wunder a thing possessed as it fought. Misato seemed not to care what damage her manoeuvres imposed so long as the craft's fighting ability was not impaired.

The Wunder was able to do what Asuka and Mari alone could not, to stop and reverse the advance of Nerv's army of Evangelions. Those which could fly tried to attack the Wunder directly, and Asuka and Mari now concentrated on swatting these away. In time the army was destroyed, and Misato ordered the Wunder towards Nerv's headquarters.

As the Wunder approached Nerv, the Nemesis series appeared to defend it. There were more of them than previously, and it began to look as though the Wunder might be overwhelmed by them. Misato tried more and more frenzied tactics to try to separate them to destroy individually without success, but finally, as she desperately tried to think of yet another ploy to fend off their attacks, a hole appeared unexpectedly in the hull of the Wunder, cut by a beam which then proceeded to play havoc with the Nemesis units surrounding them. As had happened before, Unit-01 had acted to ensure the continued safety of one particular person.

When the last of the Nemesis units had been destroyed, Misato ordered a bombardment of Nerv.  Once the outer parts of the complex had been reduced to rubble, she turned the Wunder's attention to the Nerv command centre itself; but when she ordered fire to be opened on it, the power to the armaments failed. Misato looked thoughtful for a moment, and then commented to Ritsuko: "It seems we are no longer able to determine Commander Ikari's fate!", and ordered the Wunder to return to the base, leaving the command centre untouched, standing alone and incongruous in the midst of the devastation.

When Shinji had collapsed as the Wunder had taken off, Misato had ordered that he be made comfortable where he lay, and he had remained there throughout the fighting. But now he stood, and once again faced Unit-01 through the observation window. He remained silent and still, waiting. 

Misato left the bridge as soon as she could, and went down to where Shinji was standing. As she entered the room where he waited, he turned his head towards her and said: "I made a promise; the time has come for me to honour it." Misato acknowledged his words with a single nod.

At that Shinji turned back to face Unit-01, bowed low, and spoke: "Mother, Rei, thank you for helping to defeat our enemy. As a result we can now start to rebuild the world which has been so damaged by my father's plans. However long it takes us, we will do this by our own efforts, because now you are free to go as you please, as I promised.

"Mother, I know now that you saved me before, on those occasions when I was not strong enough to fight the angels on my own. But for the future I must make my own way in the world that you returned me to, and which you have helped save. I have no memory of you as a mother as I have of Rei as a friend - and yet I will miss you as if I had. Go, both of you, with my thanks, and the thanks of the rest of humanity who can continue their lives."

Shinji fell silent; and as he and Misato watched, a trembling could be felt as Unit-01 broke its links with the ship, pushed aside the parts of the ship which had been cut loose during the fighting, and stepped out. Then, as the Evangelion stood alongside the Wunder, there was a sharp cracking sound as the armour which had once bound her to Nerv's will, and then to Wille, was broken off and fell away.

Then as Shinji and Misato, and now the whole of Wille, watched, the Evangelion, no longer "Unit-01", walked to the perimeter of the dock, where she stopped, turned back towards the Wunder, and raised an arm briefly in salute. Then she turned away and set off at a run towards the remains of Nerv.

The scouts watching the command centre in the remains of Nerv reported that she approached the centre and stopped outside it. Shortly afterwards Commander Ikari emerged, and was taken into the Evangelion's hands. What then happened to him could not be seen, but shortly afterwards, the Evangelion strode off without looking back, eventually vanishing behind the hills. She was never seen again; but soon stories began to circulate about the sighting of a strange meteor that instead of falling to Earth had appeared to rise from it and vanish into space.

Scene 25 - Aftermath

Shinji had been tagging along with Misato as they watched the reports from the scouts of the Evangelion's visit to Nerv and subsequent disappearance.  But now, as she busied herself with starting the decommissioning of the Wunder, and with everyone else ignoring him while they worked, he wandered off to find somewhere quiet to sit.

"What can I do now?" he thought. "There's nothing I can help with; I have no purpose any more."  His eyes moistened. "I'm useless here, I just want to go home."  A tear ran down his cheek.  "But I have nowhere to go; and now my parents are gone as well.  I'm just an orphan..."  He put his head in his hands, and his shoulders began to shake.

"Hey, stupid!" came a familiar voice, "What are you doing resting in the corner?  I heard that you already spent the entire length of the battle sleeping!"  Asuka planted herself in front of him with her hands on her hips as Shinji looked up at her, his cheeks stained with tears.  "At least", Asuka continued, "that meant you weren't able to spoil things at the end this time!"

"Don't mind her, Puppy Boy", he heard the cheery voice of Mari say.  "She loves you really, you know she does!  And I suppose I can't be calling you 'Puppy Boy' any more, can I?  Not now you appear to be growing up."

"What she means", said Asuka, looking more serious, "is that this time you seem to have made the right decision on your own for once."

Shinji looked back and forth at the two of them.  This was all too much for him to cope with right now; no longer able to contain his tears he jumped up and dashed out into the corridor, where he ran full-tilt into Misato.

Seeing his tears, and seeing Asuka and Mari appearing behind him, Misato waved them away.  She took him in her arms until his sobs subsided.  Then he looked up at her, wiping his eyes, and said: "Misato, I want to go home."  He snivelled, and went on: "But I don't even have a home...".

As his face started to pucker again, Misato took him back to the quiet corner and sat him down again.  "Wait here", she said.  "I'll send someone along to take you back to the camp - back home.  You can recover there."

He sat waiting, with his eyes closed and his head down.  After a while he heard footsteps, and then someone sat down next to him.  He opened his eyes, wiped them clumsily with the back of his hand, and looked round.

"Mr K-Kaji?" he exclaimed.  "Is that really you?  I didn't even know if you were alive - no one's said anything about you, and you're not mentioned anywhere in the records I've been looking at!"

"Yes Shinji, it's me"  Kaji replied.  "Misato's asked me to take you back to the camp.  I think she wants me out of the way!  Come on - I'll explain as we go."

During the journey, Kaji kept talking, hoping, as Misato had suggested, to keep Shinji's mind away from his maudlin thoughts.  

"You see, I've spent my life acting as, let's say, a knowledge broker.  Don't look so puzzled - I'm a spy.  Misato formed Wille on the basis of information I was able to get for her; but then I stayed in the background, continuing to feed her information all the while about Seele, and about Nerv when I could, though that became harder as time passed.  That's why you won't have read anything about me - what I was doing had to remain secret and unrecorded, obviously.  But now there will be no more secrets, so I've come out of the woodwork, and here I am.  Still, Misato's going to be busy for a while, so she'd rather I wasn't under her feet; she's contrived this by giving me the honour of escorting you back home!"

From the moment he had arrived at the Wunder, Shinji had known, somehow, that it would end with Unit-01 leaving, with the departure of his mother and Rei.  He had realised he would be sad about it, but had not anticipated the force with which it would hit him.  So now that he was back at the camp, he had thrown himself into more study of the records archive to take his mind off his loss, and with the idea of finding out yet more about why all this had happened.  It seemed to be helping.

Ayanami was sitting across the libary, studiously reading a book that Shinji had picked out for her.  Occasionally she would ask for clarification of something she found difficult.  From time to time Shinji glanced up at her; but now a thought came to him, and he walked round the desk to stand in front of her.

"Ayanami", he said, "I would like..., I mean, would you mind..., er", he paused in confusion, and then blurted out: "Ayanami, can I call you Rei?"

She looked up at him.  "It is my name", she said.  But then she continued: "You told me that you didn't want to call me Rei before because that is the name of my original that you knew before."

Shinji was flustered, but he hastened to explain:  "Did you know that when you fetched me from the Wunder to Nerv, I had just come out from Evangelion Unit-01, where I had been absorbed for fourteen years."

"Yes", she replied, "I was told that much, but no more."

"Well", Shinji went on, "Vice-commander Fuyutsuski told me that my mother and Rei - your original, as you call her - were also in Unit-01 and that they have remained there.  I thought it was unfair that I have returned and not them, but now I think it was their choice.  It seems from what I've read recently that my mother chose to enter the Eva of her own free will, for a purpose I haven't yet discovered.  Rei must have been absorbed at the same time as I was, when I thought I was rescuing her.  But now I think that my mother and Rei wish to remain in the Eva together for whatever purpose my mother had, and that somehow they prevented me staying, so that I could come back to lead my life here."

He paused for a moment, but Ayanami simply watched him expectantly.  So he continued:

"When I was on the Wunder a few days ago, I talked to them.  That's to say, I talked to Unit-01, in the hope that they heard me.  The Eva helped us win the battle, so I think they did.  Afterwards, I spoke to them again, told them they could leave, and said my goodbyes."

"Will you miss them now they have gone?" Ayanami asked.

"Yes", he answered.  "However, they may have left me, but", at this point he tapped the side of his head: "I have them with me in here.  I have my memories, and those I will never lose.  And even though I have no real memories of my mother, I know that she helped me at earlier times when I needed it, and in the end when I asked her to."

"Is that enough for you?"

"It has to be; I will learn to live with it.  But anyway, now they are gone, I'd like to call you Rei, not because you are like her, or as a substitute for her, but because it is your name, and because you are different - so I can't confuse you with her in my mind any more."

Before Ayanami - Rei - could respond, the door was thrown open, and Touji put his head round it, saying:  "Shinji, there are some visitors for y'.  I wanted to ask if y' were ready to see them, but they wouldn't let me." 

If Touji said any more it was lost under a torrent of words from behind him: "Stupid! Did you think you could run away and hide again."  "Can you guess how much the Princess has been missing you?"  "Shut up, you!"  "You'll frighten him off if you go on like this, you know."  "What are you doing with this other pilot?!"

Shinji waited for a pause, and then said: "Hello Asuka; hello Mari!  And don't call her 'this other pilot' - her name's Rei."

There was a big party.  Misato had found, no, made the time to come with the pilots, and Sakura was there too.

Afterwards, as they were preparing to leave again, Misato took Shinji to one side and spoke to him quietly:  "What do you want to do now?" she asked him.  "Kaji's talking to various authorities about setting up a new body - we're calling it 'Hoffnung' - to oversee whatever can be done to restore the world to a better state.  We would like you to find a role in it if you're willing."

"I'm not sure", Shinji replied.  "Although it seems that what's happened wasn't entirely my fault, I still find that hard to understand properly; and considering how deeply I was involved in it in any case, I wouldn't be comfortable working alongside the people trying to undo it all."

"All right", said Misato, "I can see why you might feel like that.  But what would you like to do now?"

Shinji thought for only a moment before responding:  "I'd like to stay here and carry on with what I'm doing now.  If I study the records enough, I may be able to understand what's happened, and come to accept my part in it.  Perhaps then I could write an account of the whole business, so that the history is preserved in an accessible form."

Misato just nodded thoughtfully, as Shinji continued: "And if Rei can stay here, I can continue helping her to learn; I'd like to do that."

"That can all be arranged", she said.  "And Sakura can help.  You know she's transferring here?  She wants to be with her family again; at least that's her excuse - but I think she also wants to come back to be near you."  Then she took him in her arms and hugged him, saying quietly: "But now I have to say goodbye, for now.  And thank you; thank you for surviving..."

Suddenly there was a commotion, as Asuka and Mari came in giggling together.  "Hey, Misato", said Asuka, rather drunkenly, "Do we really have to go back now?"

"Yes", Misato replied.  "You know how much work we have to get done decommissioning the Wunder and preparing for whatever our new place in the world will be.  I've finished here with Shinji, so please pull yourselves together and get ready to go!"

"Don't we even get to say farewell to Puppy Boy here first?" said Mari.  "You'll always be Puppy Boy to me, Shinji, whatever you do with yourself!"

Asuka went over to him and like Misato gave him a tight hug.  "Goodbye for now, Stupid; at least you managed to make a good decision once in your life.  You should try doing that again - it suits you..."

And then, as the three of them were leaving to return to their transport, Asuka turned back and called out to Shinji: "Auf Wiedersehen, Schätzchen!"

Scene 26 - Past and Future


People who made our World

Number 20 (August 2045)

The Pilot of Unit-01


Angels and Impacts, the official report into the recent "War for Humanity", doesn't name the pilots of the Evangelions which played such a crucial role in the war.  For this month's article in our series People who made our World, your interviewer sought out the man who is rumoured to have been the pilot of Unit-01, Shinji Ikari.  I found him, with some difficulty, in Porth y Nant[1], an obscure coastal village near the Western edge of Europe.

I started the interview by asking him about his reputation as a recluse:

Shinji Ikari:  (laughs)  No! I'm no recluse.  I have a partner and a family, and we are active members of the local community.  I teach in a nearby school, and enjoy it especially when a child comes who shows an interest in music.  I value my privacy, but the remoteness of this setting provides enough of that; and as you see, I am willing to talk to anyone who takes the trouble to find me.  But in fact you are the first!

Interviewer:  I'll get straight to the question my readers will want answered first - were you the pilot of Unit-01?

SI:  Yes.  Yes, I was.  But in the aftermath of the war, it seemed best that the identities of the surviving pilots should be hidden to give them space to recover from their experiences - we were all just teenagers at the start, remember - so I left their names out of the account.

Int:  Wait, do you mean that you wrote the report as well?

SI:  Yes, I did - but my name was left off the book for the same reason.

Int:  Well, I guess that should give me confidence in your answers!  Do you have more information that you didn't publish which you could share with us?

SI:  Not really.  I put everything verifiable into the report.  But there are a few matters where I have only a theory, and these I have kept to myself so as not to mislead people into thinking we know more than we do.

Int:  I presume from your name that you are related to the arch villain of the war, Gendou Ikari, Commander of Nerv.  How do you feel about that?

SI:  He was my father, yes.  And like all Japanese children I was taught that one should honour and obey one's seniors.  But maybe there are circumstances when this is no longer possible.  However, I'm not sure that I can describe him as evil; in some ways the decisions he made were better described as tragic, though the effect on the world was no less terrible.

Int:  So, if I can go back to the beginning, how, in your view, did the war start?

SI:  The responsibility really goes back to Seele, as I describe in the book.  They had theories about the development of the human race which led them to plan an event which would transform the whole of humanity into a single being with what they viewed as a higher state of consciousness.  The sheer arrogance of this group in attempting to decide the future of the race is breathtaking.  The first step in their plan caused the Second Impact, which released the Angels which started to attack sixteen years later[2]; the Evangelions were prepared to be the defence against them.

Int:  Where does Gendou Ikari enter the picture, then?

SI:  My mother, Yui Ayanami, was employed by an organisation preparing the technology - the Evangelions - that Seele knew they would need for their plans; though Seele kept their connection with the project, and even their identity, well hidden.  My parents met at that time and got married.

Int:  Do you think that Yui Ayanami was involved in the plans that either Seele or Commander Ikari subsequently tried to put into operation?

SI:  No.  And here I have to start speculating a bit.  It's my understanding that Seele had some ancient documents that they called the Hidden Dead Sea Scrolls, which gave instructions for the plans they wanted to carry out, and details of what would happen at each step - such as the appearance of the Angels.  No trace of these documents can now be found.  But from a few notes my mother made that have survived, I think that she came to a different understanding of the Scrolls, that they described nothing less than the origin of humanity on Earth.

Int:  That's startling, if true!  I can see why you didn't write that in your report, if there's no proof.

SI:  Just so.  Anyway, it seems that using hints in the Scrolls my mother conceived the idea of using the Evangelion that she was helping develop to spread humanity beyond Earth, or at least to act as an ambassador of humanity to the rest of the universe.  But this involved her becoming absorbed into the Evangelion now known as Unit-01.  It's not clear whether my father knew the extent of her vision (mad as it was when I look back at it); but I'm certain that he did not know that her disappearance would be permanent.  The unexpected loss of his wife, with whom he was deeply in love, tipped him into madness; and after failing to find a way to get her back, he planned to use a modification of Seele's plan for merging humanity as a means of getting together with her again.

Int:  You have just told me straight out that you think both your parents were mad - how do you live with that belief?

SI:  (laughs)  I have no choice, do I!  If my mother's plan was crazy, it was also visionary - and I can't really criticize her for that.  I can't deny, though, that the execution of it was selfish, abandoning both my father and myself like that.  And as my father became obsessed with his plan to reunite with her, he could no longer look after me, and I was abandoned again by being handed over to people I barely even knew to be brought up.  That is, until he realised he had a use for me, piloting Unit-01.

Int:  Your time as the pilot of Unit-01 is described in detail in the book; but is there more you can tell us about it?

SI:  Not really.  I didn't hold back anything I knew, not even my failure when I should have tried to save the pilot referred to in the book as "S"[3].  S and I eventually came to terms over what happened then, and we are now firm friends.  As we've grown up we've been able to see more clearly what a hard time it was for all of us as mere teenagers.

Int:  Can you tell us more about growing up?  I came here expecting to meet a man in his mid forties, and was startled to find myself talking to someone who seems barely thirty.

SI:  We called it "The Curse of Eva".  It turned out that being within an Evangelion, even just for piloting, stopped the aging of the human body for a while.  The other pilots, S and M, also appear to be about fourteen years younger than you'd expect (being the length of the war during which they were piloting regularly).  But they were active during that time, and so they continued learning, and their minds continued maturing, which made for some awkwardnesses for S and M when they rejoined normal society.  Fortunately normal physical development resumed a little after they stopped piloting.  T only piloted once, so didn't show the effect significantly.  In my case, I was fully absorbed into Unit-01 for most of that time, and had no consciousness, though I subsequently had one dream which I believe was an awareness of something Unit-01 did while it was being fetched back from its exile in space.  Anyway, as a result I returned mentally still 16 when the others had grown to be mentally 31.  I think S in particular found that hard to cope with at first.

Int:  How did you return from Unit-01 after all that time?

SI:  I don't know, and nor does anyone else.  My belief is that my mother threw me out, so that she could continue with her plan when the opportunity arose, while I could continue what would eventually become a normal life again.  The pilot of Unit-00, R, who had been absorbed with me, I learnt later was a clone of my mother, and so I suppose they decided they would be best together.  I'd grown rather close to R, so it took me some time to accept that, even when I knew that she was - what to call her? my sister?

Int:  You have a very mixed-up family, it seems!

SI:  Had; the family I have now is delightfully normal I'm relieved to say.

Int:  So, on your return from Unit-01, you found yourself again piloting for your father - on the wrong side, as we would now say.

SI:  I had no idea of sides at that point.  Previously I had simply been fighting angels, and now I found myself being blamed for the wreckage of the world caused by Third Impact, and being offered a way to repair it.  How would you expect any traumatised 16-year-old to respond to that?  But it was wrong - it was all wrong.  I had been fooled by Nagisa, whom I had accepted as a friend when there was otherwise no one - apart from A, who seemed almost brain-dead at the time.

Int:  But in the book you describe Nagisa as an angel - what did that mean?

SI:  When Seele had first released the angels in Second Impact, they had managed to keep some material from them.  This enabled them to create a human body - cloned presumably - with the additional properties of an angel.  That was Nagisa.  He was intended to trigger the last part of Seele's plan; however, my father had his own plans which included destroying Nagisa at the last minute so that he would then be free to do things his way.  But I was needed as the second pilot for Unit-13; and it fell to Nagisa to groom me for the role.  Afterwards, when he was dead, and the way he'd fooled me became obvious, I hated him - more than I've ever hated anything.  Later, once I'd studied the background, and when I came to write it up, I understood that he was merely a tool created by Seele.  The hate belonged to Seele, not to Nagisa, and though his friendship was fake, for a time it helped me when I was confused and lonely.  I even wonder sometimes if he himself felt confused and hollow, having no life other than that programmed for him by his creators; perhaps his friendship with me even gave him a little pleasure - in retrospect I hope it did.

Int:  And then you write that you slept through the last battle.  Presumably everyone had expected you to pilot Unit-01 again, and ride out to save the world like a knight-errant.

SI:  I suppose they did.  But I never liked to fight.  It had brought me a great deal of pain; and on some occasions I'd only survived because of unexpected help from Unit-01 - from my mother, I now presume.  Instead, I acknowledged this, and talked to my mother and to R, and although I couldn't tell if they heard me they responded by giving the necessary help without me having to pilot.  And I told them they could leave afterwards, so that my mother could complete her plan; I did this without permission, but at that point I think no one would have dared to cross Unit-01 by trying to overrule me.  She went first to the ruins of Nerv to find my father.  We don't know if she killed him as a punishment for what he'd done; I prefer to think that she realised that what had happened was to some extent her fault in the first place, and so she forgave him and took him into the Evangelion with her and R - but there's no way to know now.

Int:  That, of course, is where the book ends.  What happened next?

SI:  Well, I had some catching up to do. My friends were fourteen years older than me, for a start!  Most of all I wanted to find out for myself what had really happened, and so I threw myself into the research which I wrote up as a report for Wille before they finally disbanded.  The new body, Hoffnung, then decided that it should be published as a book for the world to know how and why it had been so damaged and then saved from the last disaster.  I also spent a lot of time with A, the pilot I rather rudely referred to earlier as "almost brain-dead".  It turned out that she was also a clone, and that she had not even been programmed with an upbringing - just instructions for piloting.  So I took it on myself to start teaching her, like a young child, and eventually persuaded my friend T and his partner to give her a home, which is where she lives to this day.

Int:  But what about you, and your family?

SI:  After Nagisa had died, and it seemed that I had started Fourth Impact (which mercifully was stopped by M removing me from Unit-13), I went more than a bit mad myself.  But T's sister looked after me and gently brought me back to sanity, though without sparing me the need to face some of the mistakes I'd made on the way.  Afterwards as I was studying and writing she kept an eye on me, and eventually we became partners.  Once the book was published, and the old Wille base we had been living on became a Hoffnung centre, we moved away; I didn't want to be involved with the recovery effort, because I felt that it would make those I would work alongside uncomfortable to have me there, at least those who knew who I was; and for myself, I wasn't sure I could face being so closely involved with what I had done - even if I had merely been my father's tool.  Instead, I felt that I could become a teacher, and that was as useful a job as any other - teachers are always required, right?

Int:  That's true. But then how did you come to live here?

SI:  Initially we went to a small settlement in another part of Japan, and there our first child was born.  We called her Yui, for my mother.  However, fate decided that it hadn't quite finished with me yet, and little Yui died in infancy.  We were devastated, as any parents who lose a child must be, and to try to escape our misery we decided to get right away, to the other side of the world, which is why we are now here in Western Europe.  My partner's strength was again a great help in getting us both through this, and after a while we were privileged to gain a pair of healthy twins, who are now five and just starting school - though that's not much change for them, as I will be their teacher!  Their names are Kensuke and Kyoko.  Kensuke's named for a school-mate of mine who became a weapons technician on the Wunder, though I didn't happen to meet him there; and Kyoko is in memory of S's mother, which she greatly appreciated.

Int:  So you keep in touch with your friends from back then?

SI:  All those of us who have survived try to meet every year, usually in different parts of the world.  Generally somewhere arranged by S, in fact, because her job as a project manager for Hoffnung involves her regularly moving to new places - and she likes telling people what to do!  M joins us, and Kensuke, but A prefers not to travel, and so usually T and his partner can't get away either.  I try to get to see them at their home instead.  Misato Katsuragi and Ryoji Kaji, the leaders of Hoffnung, also try to join us, though understandably quite often they are unable to manage it.  And, of course there are plenty of ways of keeping in touch remotely.

Int:  And what of the future?

SI:  All I want now is to live quietly, and to be as useful as I can in the hope that the next generation will be able to have a better life than we have been cursed with.  I am hopeful for the future; but now it's theirs, not mine.

Int:  Thank you, Mr Ikari, for your time, and for sharing so much intimate detail of your life with us.


AUTHOR'S FOOTNOTES (not part of the interview)

[1]  Porth y Nant is a real village in North West Wales that I came across in its abandoned state while a student.  It has since become home to a community, but is still very isolated.  I realise that in the world of Evangelion it would probably have been flooded after Second Impact, but it can stand for whatever similar village survived.

[2]  A note on dates.

While I was writing this, I had in mind the conventional thought, carried over from the series, that the angels came in 2014 when the children were 14, and so Q must happen in 2028.  But a beta reader pointed out to me that the dates are not given in Rebuild, and an article in the Evageeks Wiki gives evidence of calendars pointing to Jo being in 2016 and Ha being in 2017, thus placing Q in 2031.

I decided off my own bat that the ages worked best with Shinji being born in 2001 and Asuka being born in 2000.  The Curse of Eva is already distinctly less squicky if Asuka is a 31-year-old with a 17-year-old body than the often-mentioned 28/14 combination.

[3]  In the book and the interview the pilots were coded as follows:

I = Shinji [I]kari
S = Asuka [S]hikinami
M = Mari [M]akinami
R = [R]ei Ayanami (pilot of Unit-00)
T = [T]ouji Suzahara
A = Rei [A]yanami (pilot of Mark-09)

Kaworu Nagisa, being both dead and an angel, was named; there was considered to be no reason to protect his identity.

Scene 27 - Memories of pain

Pen-pen had died.  It was fitting, as he had made a good age for a sheepdog, though no one knew quite how old he was.

When Shinji had arrived at the village, a young man with a somewhat older partner, the old folk had peered at him and muttered amongst themselves: "He may be just 23 years old; but there's already enough pain for a full lifetime behind those eyes!  If he finds solace here, and settles, maybe he could even end up as one of our elders."  Obviously such a man needed a companion, something more than a mere human partner, and so a dog was selected for him as a welcome gift - not a puppy, but a working dog, healthy, but no longer able to work on the mountainside following an injury.  Shinji had called him Pen-pen, and had indeed found comfort in his company; and now he had died.

Shinji had thrown himself into village life as soon as they had arrived, and after the birth of the twins had become an outwardly happy man.  But the old folk looked at their young teacher and thought: "he is not yet fully healed", and so now a new puppy was brought round to the teacher's cottage.

The twins had spent all day playing with the new puppy, and at last it was exhausted.  After supper Sakura had sent them to get ready for bed, while Shinji sat down by the fire, fondling the little puppy's ears.  He drifted into a doze; but then he was awakened by a merry giggling.  "Daddy looks like an old man when he goes to sleep by the fire", said a little voice.

He opened his eyes.   "Kenny, Kyo", he said, "are you ready now?"

Kensuke planted himself in front of Shinji's chair and folded his arms.  "Daddy", he said, "this is IMPORTANT".

"Yes", said Kyoko, "we've named the puppy".

"You said that she was like a little angel", said Kensuke, and Kyoko continued: "and you said you couldn't bear to tell her off! so we decided...", and they chanted together: "her name is BARDIEL!"

A shadow flitted across Shinji's face; but in an instant it was gone, and he smiled.  "All right", he said. "Bardiel she is.  Now go and get into bed; I'll come and read you a story in a moment".  And as they went, he closed his eyes for a few more moments of thought, while he fondled Bardiel's ears.






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