Human Intervention [18–19]

 

Now

I look up and the clock tells me it's been twenty minutes that I've been staring at this page, trying to take in a trivial manga story, a piece of fluff, with romances, and duels, and spells, but I just can't concentrate on it.

I wonder if this is how the grown-ups feel. I should be glad it's not me having to face whatever threat this new Angel poses — but at the same time, I feel so useless, helpless.

I am a pilot now, another of the Chosen, another of the Damned, cut off from the others at school.

I still say hello to Tamayo-chan and little Hatoko-chan, but the burden I have taken on, the one I could have chosen to put aside, keeps me apart from them. I have seen and done too much to ever be innocent again.

Then

It is a school-day afternoon when the call comes, and today I am on rota for EVA-01. Asuka and Rei stand, and begin to walk out of class. I get to my feet, and look over to Shinji, where he is sitting. He looks up at me with shock, and even regret, on his face; and I can only muster a faint smile in response, and a V-for victory salute, before slinking, as if ashamed, out of the classroom.

As I run to follow the other pilots, I have to keep wiping away the tears that start to form. I promised would take this load from him — but have I also taken his pride? after all, in the last round of tests, he even managed to beat Asuka's score, for all that was not one of her best showings. The desolate feeling that almost overwhelms me each time I synch with EVA-01 clutches at my heart.

By the time I get to NERV, I'm a mess, having had to run to keep up; but at least that hides the other feelings of distress, feelings that remain as we deploy.

I have to push them aside, I have to be brave, because today, I have been assigned to be point.

There is a tension in the air that is more than simply having to face what might be another Angel. I can hear it in Misato's voice, as she is curt with Asuka, not even calling her by name. Shinji tells me that something happened between them, while he was out with me one day. He had come back home to find Misato sullen, and several beers the worse for wear; and Asuka simply gone.

I can tell the difference when she orders me to investigate this thing, like a crazily striped balloon, Misato calls me by name. I am painfully aware that every step I take now, I am chipping at Asuka's pride, and I don't want to hurt her any more — I know she has been hurt enough.

Finally, feeling my way along the buildings, all attention on the thing, I step underneath it. And that is when all the alarms go off.

The balloon bursts, silently, like a soap bubble, and Lt. Hyuuga is yelling that there is an Angel under me.

I look down, and there is a spreading pool of blackness that is slowly swallowing the cars and buildings — and me. I discard the rifle I have been carrying, try to run, to swim, crawling over the sinking blocks, but the darkness spreads faster than I can move. I just have time to realise that it is Asuka who is calling out encouragement, before I sink into a night that goes on without limit.

Now

I don't want to remember what happened next. I think I went slightly crazy, though that is not surprising, after all. The giant reassuring presence of the Eva helped me, but I was still terrified that I was lost there, would die there, in a void emptier than Outer Space — except that there seemed to be something else in there with me, teasing at the edges of my mind, and nagging at painful memories, of when my father died and mother went away. All I could do was wait, and eventually doze.

Now I am left with no other option again but to wait. The 13th Angel is approaching.

Then

“Asuka-senpai?” Although I've not officially been told that I can — or should not — tell, the news demands to be told; and out of respect, I will tell her, before I even tell Shinji.

She looks up from where she is sitting in a shaded corner of the schoolyard, reading a book in Roman characters.

“Yes?” she asks. She seems distracted, rather than cross, at my interruption.

“Asuka-senpai, you do know why Touji-kun was called out of class, don't you? He's been chosen, as the pilot for EVA-03.”

“Yes. 'nee-chan told me the other day, when the decision had been made.”

“Your … sister?” I realise that I don't know anything about Asuka's family, though I had simply assumed that they would all work for NERV, here or, more likely, in Germany.

“Lt. Ibuki … I'm … she's my guardian now. The Third Child could have told you I'd walked out,” a wry smile plays on her lips, as she looks away, then back up at me, “Thanks to you, Misakichi.”

“Me?” What is she accusing me of? This catches me off guard, while I'm still wondering about her and Maya-san.

“No,” she adds, hastily. “I really mean Thank you, Misakichi. If you hadn't been looking after Ikari-kun, these past few weeks, I would have had to. And I guess I would still have been at Misato-san's and still going up the walls there.”

Phew. She's not going to explode at me. Or is she?

“So you're really not cross with me?”

“Whatever for?”

“Stealing Shinji-kun from you.”

At that, Asuka thinks for a moment, barks with a surprised laugh.

“No. On balance, no. I would have been looking for the wrong things in the wrong places. And I think the two of you are more suited together.”

With that, she smiles at me, and turns back to her book.

I realise, as I walk away, that I'm weak with relief. It seemed that she was glad about what I had done; though had she been trying to say that she, you know, with Maya-san? Was that what she had meant?

Whatever the answer to that, if I didn't know that she already went to college and had her degree, I would say that it was like Asuka had grown up — there was an air about her, in the way that she acted, that certainly seemed like one now.

So, that task done, now I have to tell Shinji the same news. After school, perhaps, when we can go for a walk out into the countryside.

Now

I'm awoken from my distraction by the chatter on the pilot's channel — the target is in sight; and it looks like another Eva. It must be EVA-03.

My heart sinks.

For the first time today, I'm glad that I'm not out there in Ayanami's place, as Lt Hyuuga had argued I should be. I don't envy the others in the decision that they have to take, that is no decision at all.

Although I don't need to, I hunch forwards to listen to what is going on. Asuka-senpai, Rei-senpai — please, please keep my Shinji from having to do this thing.

But even as I make that prayer, there is a shriek, and reports that EVA-02 is down follow it.

If Asuka cannot manage this… I am feeling almost physically sick as I listen to Rei's attempt to stop the Angel; and the Commander's callous response when she fails. And now it is all up to Shinji.

“I can see the entry plug. He is still inside!” I hear him say. And then he starts to choke and gurgle. Something bad is happening to him and I am here and I am useless.

“Shinji, why don't you fight?” the Commander speaks as if there were no urgency here, as if it was just an idle discussion.

Oh, Shinji-kun — if only there was something I could…

And then I focus on the page in the manga I'd been staring at for ages. I know what I have to do.

I leap from the bench, out of the ready room, running for the exit before any of the technicians can stop me. Against regs, I switch on my microphone, and call to him:

“Shin-chan — If I were in there I would want you to rescue me. No-one else can.”

If only he can see what he needs to do, what he has to do. I can try to persuade him, if only he will listen

“But synched — like Ayanami — I'll be hurting him.”

He is too gentle for this, too sensitive.

I am out into the evening sunlight now, my shadow racing ahead of me along the road, towards the navy blue giant striding towards me. At the back of my mind is a little voice telling me I could die here, and I have to tell my self, that I will be brave. It's not as if hiding would be any use. Now I have to do it, to hurt him, to make him do what he has to.

“If it were me, I would have to be brave — you have to be too, Shin-chan. Fight for him! And if you won't fight for him, fight for me. I'm walking down the road towards you now.”

The effect is immediate and horrifying. I think he calls my name as EVA-01 springs after the Angel, knocking it to the ground. And then… And then…

I crouch by the side of the road, hoping that none of the debris will come my way, and throw up.

“Stop it! Stop it! Enough!” I yell when, once again, I can. And mercifully, he stops.

“Unit 03 — the target — is silent.” Lt Aoba announces.


The motorized clean-up units are already racing past me as I get up, and begin to trudge towards where EVA-01 is sat, ready for dismounting.

He is clambering down, looking as bad as I feel, when I arrive, and I run to him, to hold him, and as I do, the Commander comes on line.

“Pilot Ikari — you will report to my office at 09:00 hours tomorrow,” he says.

Shinji scans the scene, then fixes on one of the trucks. I follow his gaze as he spits out the words “That saves me the trouble of making an appointment, Father.” then tears off his head-set, and gently removes mine. I understand what he is doing — he wants to talk without eavesdroppers.

I take his hand, and we walk away.

“Shin-chan, I should have been there. You shouldn't have had to do… ” I can only helplessly wave my arm to encompass the carnage around us, “You know I did what I had to.”

He looks helpless, choked with frustrated anger.

“He didn't care what happened to Touji!” he finally bursts out.

“You were the only one who could make a difference — but there was no good way. Is he…?”

“Alive. Hurt, hurt bad. And I did it!”

He shakes his hand free of mine, holds his palms up, and stares at them as if they should be running red with blood like the road and river around us.

“I can't do it any more” And he looks at me, and I can see the lost little boy who stole my heart.

What I have to do now is as clear as it was when I threw down that manga, but minutes before.

“You don't have to. I promised, didn't I, that I'd help you, take the burden when it was too much.

“Tomorrow, I will be there with you. Tell him you quit. I will offer myself as the obvious replacement — I can synch better with EVA-01” I deliberately avoided using his mother's name, under the circumstances, “than either of the other EVAs”

I hold him close, wishing I were taller, so he could rest his head on my shoulder.

“Besides, I'd much rather have a famous cellist as a boyfriend.” and I snuggle up to him.

“Me?” He shorts a brief laugh, but the smile that remains on his face is genuine.

Later

Well, it is done now, no turning back.

I don't think I have ever been so terrified — not even in my first real Spirit Warriors contest, nor in the finals, nor even when facing one of the Angels.

The Commander — Shinji's father, though it is hard to think of him as that — was scary enough when I first saw him, when he had simply come to inspect me as a new recruit, and had found the wrong pilot. To face him and make demands of him when he was furious with Shinji — I could not have done that just for myself.

At least it worked — after all, he could force us into the entry plug; but once there only an Angel or another EVA could constrain us. And wonderful Icchan-san had come through, and let Misato-san know what needed to be said.

I'm not sure the Commander expected me to be there as well, but he made no comment. We just spoke — and it was all done, no voices raised, not even Shinji. And I swear, as we turned to go, when Shinji would not have seen, the Commander smiled at me, as if he was pleased with what I had done, smiled just for an instant, then turned back to his work as if we were not there.

I give Shinji's hand a reassuring squeeze, and doing so can feel the tension in him. Once we are outside, he explodes:

“This time I was going to tell him how much I hate him!”

“And given him that satisfaction?” I ask. He looks startled at that. I hope he understands. This was the least I could do, and still face myself.

The storm soon blows itself out, and a strange, distant, expression takes the place of anger. He leads me to one of the windows that look out over the GeoFront, and just stands, staring out at the underground country, intently scanning for something.

“There's something I have to show you, now that I am free of Eva,” he says, turning to me.

“Can anyone touched by Eva every truly be free of her again?” the voice comes as a shock.

I had thought that we were here alone, but Dr. Akagi has joined us, standing across the corridor from where we are looking out.

“After all, Shinji-kun, both your mother and mine were sacrifices on Her altar, to bring NERV to where it is today. I know how hard it is to try and break that sort of tie — and I am not even a pilot, have never been required to synch with Her.

“And if She doesn't call you back, Misaki-chan here will still tie you back to Her.

“But I'm being rather philosophical for this time of the morning, when I should be chasing the pair of you back to school!”

She fakes a smile, which makes her look more like a teacher trying to ingratiate herself with her class, but her words are enough to make the meaning clear — “Run along, now!”

So we do. But all her talk of human sacrifices has killed the mood, knocked Shinji down again. And Dr. Akagi is right. I am not free of Eva, and it is his burden that I carry.

Neither of us feels like speaking; we are just silent. Being together is all we can do to try and forget the horrors past, and those that await us. It just has to be enough.


© Steve Gilham 2005
© Mr. Tines 2005


[12] The Day An Angel Flew Down

[25–26] The Case of Suzuhara Misaki

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