Beyond Endurance/Stolen Fire [19–20]


[Intro track — Fallen Angel : Blve Öyster Cvlt]

“I'm sorry. I screwed up.”

Maya looked across the table at the disconsolate face of the pilot of Unit 02. She doubted that Asuka would even consider framing, let alone uttering, those words in the hearing of any other person. She felt strangely honoured that the girl accorded her that much respect.

“But,” and the more usual fire showed, “If you ever schedule me with that idiot again, I swear, I'll kill him first, then worry about any Angels.”

She nodded.

“I think that might not be necessary. The Commander has called Shinji to see him tomorrow morning. He was furious.”

That moment was etched in her memory. She had been monitoring the recovery operations at the scene of the battle, had seen Shinji stumble out onto the ground, and a weeping, beaming, Misaki had run to embrace him. Shinji's expression had started to change from one of ashen-faced shock almost to a smile.

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

Both pilots had turned to face the camera, still embracing. Both had the same grim expression.

“That saves me the trouble of making an appointment, Father,” and Shinji had spat the last word like an insult.

Gendo Ikari looked at the two young people across his desk. He had only summoned the one of them, but that two had arrived came to him as no surprise whatsoever. They were their age, and they were very much in love. Even the way that they had positioned themselves across from him spoke of it. And, in a way, was that not the whole purpose of this Work of his?

But that would be for a later phase, after the necessary immediate business. And in that intervening period, he would have to continue to appease the Committee, keep it plausible that their left-handed path was still being followed. And that meant pilots who hewed to discipline.

“Shinji Ikari, you are relieved of all responsibilities as pilot of Evangelion Unit 01.”

“You can't dismiss me, father. I'm leaving anyway.”

“Pilot Suzuhara?”

“If Shinji goes, if you send him away, then I shall go with him.”

“But you are otherwise content to continue as a pilot?”

The girl nodded.

If only Yui had borne him a daughter, the true Rei. A child who was strong where his son was weak. A child like this one.

“Very well. For administrative purposes only, Shinji, you will remain officially assigned as a pilot for Unit 01. However, your roster will be changed to that of emergency reserve, with no assigned dates for active status. You will retain all your privileges as a member of NERV, but you will no longer be required to perform any of the duties of a pilot. Nothing else will change. In particular, Major Katsuragi has asked, as a personal request, that you continue to stay at her apartment.


“Sir!” Misaki saluted.

“Yes… Father,” Shinji sounded as if he was about to say something more, and his expression showed a faint sense of disappointment. He had not been given the shouting match he had so obviously expected, no excuse to storm out, to burn bridges that might not be repaired in time.

Gendo allowed himself a small smile as the girl took his son's hand, and led him away. Come the Day, things would be that little further arranged to his favour. But for now, it was just another little crisis smoothed away, erased from the records that would be seen by other eyes. How many more while the last four Angels still remained?

“He's awake, now. You can go and see him.” Misato gently shook the sleeping girl by the shoulder. Hikari jolted awake under her touch. She had sat up until the small hours, waiting, until Misato had found her asleep, had had to carry her from Toji's bedside to this waiting room, and find some blankets.

The girl smiled a brave smile, but her general manner was sober as they entered the ward. Toji was sitting up in bed, gazing glumly at the TV.

“Here's a visitor,” Misato announced briskly, then left, shutting the door behind her.

“How are you?” Hikari asked. The boy turned awkwardly to face her, shrugged his right arm.

“I don't think I'll be able to play in the pro leagues,” he tried to put a joking tone into his voice, but it would be all too clear what the matter was. Not the comparatively superficial stitching and bruising under the bandages under his pajama jacket, but the limp appendage at his side. “My arm. It's not there any more. There's something still attached, but I can't feel it.”

“But you're alive.” The girl grasped his good arm, as if she was never going to let go.

Watching from the corridor, Misato sighed. ‘Poor kid,’ she thought, ‘she's going to have to be tough. That's a big responsibility she's taking on there. And how far down the Committee's list does her name appear?’

“So, what happened?”

It hadn't been until the afternoon, in the changing rooms after swimming, that Asuka had managed to get to talk to Misaki alone to ask. Both the pilots had been looking subdued when they had turned up late to school, and had retreated off together at lunch.

“I think I'm pilot for Unit 01.”

“And Shinji?”


“What do you mean ‘isn't’? You mean he quit?”

“It was the Commander's idea too. But, no, he doesn't have to be a pilot again.”

“And he didn't chew you out?”


Asuka paused.

“What gave you the idea, you know,…”

“It was just like a manga I'd been reading. The hero's best friend had been enchanted, and sent to attack the hero — but she didn't want to fight him, so another friend went to fight in her place, but he wasn't as good a swordsman as either of them. So she had to fight to free him from the enchantment, after all, to save her other friend.”

Huh? Asuka was taken aback. Not what she would have turned to for inspiration, but it had worked. She bit back a first, disparaging, comment, rephrased it.

“That's so crazy, it could have been one of Misato's ideas!”

Misaki nodded, smiled, then became serious.

“I'm glad it worked — I wasn't sure whether Shinji would… Oh Asuka, you know that there can be no secrets, when we share an Eva. I had to be strong for him when I knew he couldn't be by himself.”

Asuka recoiled. The things she tried to keep buried — what did this girl know? But then she remembered the feeling of reassurance she herself felt in the LCL. There was no malice here.

“I bear your hurts, each time I synchronize with Unit 02. And I can feel your strength, too.”

That smile again.

“I would bear them more if I could, but Shinji needs me most. Someone else will have to be the special person, just for you. But we are still friends, aren't we?”

Asuka supposed so. But apart from being Eva pilots, what else did they have in common? Not that between school and all the work that piloting an Eva involved, she had much time for other things these days. But there was one thing that might be worth a try…

“I don't suppose you play console games?”

“Well, I used to play Spirit Warriors, when that was popular.” Misaki admitted.

“Hey — I did too!” Well, one point of contact, at least. “What was your dæmon called?”

“Magic Knight.”

Asuka boggled. Time for some serious re-evaluation here. This was not the plain and simple airhead of first impression, nor even the comforting soul imprinted in LCL. This was … different.

The Magic Knight? But she was a net.legend! Everyone thought it was one of the programmers who just went on-line every so often. Like Athena.”

“My grandparents live out in the country, and they only had a dial-up line, so I didn't get to play very often. And I was never as good as Athena - she beat me cleanly the one time we fought.

“Who was your dæmon?”

“Red Heat. You beat me one time.

“I think you were right Misaki — you're not a pilot like the others. Spirit Warriors together, eh?”

And maybe not so surprising, at that — the control headset for the dæmon, the fighting spirit, was not all that different from the A-10 shunt used to synch with an Eva, when you looked at how they worked. But at the moment, there was one more piece of business to transact:

“Fancy a rematch, if you still have your gear?”

“Well, what do you think?” asked Asuka, emerging from the changing room.

“I think I shouldn't have left my sunglasses at home.” Maya decided.

It was that rare thing, a weekend without synch tests, or any homework that just could not be kicked into the long grass, and with Maya off shift as well. So Asuka had decided “Today, we shop.”

And, as she had thought, having for a long while had little time to do anything purely frivolous, she had accumulated a reasonable amount of her allowance. This had left Maya carrying a large number of carrier bags, and Asuka wearing the black leather trousers she'd bought a couple of stores before, and now a bright scarlet — neon bright — top that left a hand's breadth of midriff bare.

“I'll take it, then” Asuka decided, “and that's a good idea. Shades next. What do you think? Aviators or wrap-rounds?”

She dived back behind the curtains, and emerged shortly wearing her white school shirt, carrying the luminous garment. She had found, she concluded, that fashion was Maya's weak point — even today, off duty, she was wearing fawn cargos and a beige shirt, an outfit that could at first glance have been taken for her normal uniform.

At the till, she handed over a the necessary notes, continuing her one-sided conversation.

“And I was thinking of maybe having my hair done — spiked up a bit, maybe an American — you know, get this bit at the front bleached.”

She was just taking the bag from the cashier when her mobile went. And so did Maya's, a second or so later. And it was that ringtone.

Not good.

She juggled bags, pulled the phone out. Angel 14, she read.

She sighed, put the phone back in its holster and took her NERV card out of her wallet, clipping it to her shirt pocket.

“So much for a weekend off,” she growled, as the public alert started to sound.

“Hello there, you two.”

“Hello, Kaji-san!”

In the midst of the semi-wilderness parkland of the geofront, under the luminous cavern sky, a way off one of the paths, Kaji was standing, leaning on a hoe. He was still wearing his usual rumpled suit, though he had discarded the jacket to roll up his shirt sleeves.

“See” — Shinji.

“Ooh” — Misaki. “What are you doing?”

“In broad, growing watermelons. Just now, I'm weeding. We get weeds, even here.”

“May I help?”

He looked surprised.

“I always looked after my grandparents' vegetable garden. I haven't done anything like this since I got here. Aunt Shouko only has houseplants, and no garden.”

He straightened himself, and handed the hoe over.

“When that's done, they'll need watering. Come on, Shinji, let's fetch the watering can.”

Misaki was already intent on her task, hoeing, then squatting every so often to pick up the loosened weeds.

As they headed down the slope, in the general direction of the lake, Kaji spoke.

“You're a lucky fellow, you know that, Shinji?”

“Uh? Oh — Misaki.” He looked down at his feet. “I don't deserve her — and she deserves someone better than me.”

“If all we got was just what we deserved, that would only be recompense — just plain payment for fair exchange. What you have received is a gift. And if she is finer than you could have hoped for, isn't that just another way of saying that you adore her?”

“But what can she see in someone — someone like me?”

“Something she she feel merits it. But you can't easily tell what. You can't understand another person fully without being that person. And women even more so. You just have to take them as they are. And when they've set their minds on something, there's not a lot you can do about it.”

They had reached another path, and here a standpipe was fitted, and on the concrete underneath, there was a watering can. Kaji knelt to hold the can under the tap, and began to fill it.

There was a low rumbling sound, and the earth shook. Birds, startled, flew up out of the trees down towards the lake shore.


And then the sky opened, over across the lake — a gout of white fire and incandescent debris spat silently out, casting strange brief shadows in the normally diffusely lit environment of the geofront.

Kaji continued to fill the can, but he was now looking about intently, and muttering under his breath.

“One and… two and… three and…” the earth shook again.

“Shouldn't we…?” Shinji began

“Down!” Kaji pulled the boy to the ground as a wave of movement swept the treetops. The noise rolled like distant thunder, but it was as loud as if lightning had struck the earth beside them.

As Kaji turned off the tap that was still running into the now overflowing can, sirens began to sound, while a mottled white, vaguely humanoid, form drifted through the hole that had just been blasted through the overlying armour.

The conventional defenses began to respond, a useless display of fireworks that eventually added a rolling background grumble.

Kaji stood and picked up the watering can.

“We could just stand here and watch, but that won't get any melons watered.”

“Shouldn't we be doing something?”

“It's up to the Evangelions, the Eva pilots now. Nothing I can do will make any difference, heh, I'm not even on the combat roster any more, since some of my extracurricular activities got noticed. And if the Angel isn't stopped, and it manages to penetrate down to Terminal Dogma, to where Adam is held…”

He drew his thumb across his throat.

“Third Impact.

“Game Over. Bad End. Everybody dies.

“We're as safe here as anywhere. And if the worst happens, there are far worse places to die than in a garden, somewhere where you've cherished the soil. Though I'd rather be with Misato when it happened.”

As he spoke, the red form of Unit 02 emerged, wading through the trees towards where an arms dump had been exposed just in front of the main command pyramid. They waited, as the seconds dragged on.

“Where's Unit 01? Kaji-san, where?… Rei — something's happened to Rei, I know it.”

They ran up the slope to the melon patch. The hoe was speared into the loose earth. Misaki's bag had been looped around it, and her jacket hung from its end. But she was nowhere to be seen.

“Well, Shinji-kun, You'd better follow your woman. She'll want your support.”

‘If only Misato saw things that way,’ he added to himself.

“But what about you, Kaji-san?”

“These melons don't water themselves, you know. Now hop to it!”

Asuka was fuming in the cockpit of Unit 02. This thing was taking all her firepower and shrugging it off, despite her own AT field suppressing its defenses — and those blasts it was firing were Not Fun. Her AT field was coping, but that was only because the actual impact was only transient. If this thing could sustain like whichever of the Angels — the one that had still been littering the skyline when she had arrived here — had been able to, then she would have been toast several times over.

“Misato!” she yelled, “If you're serious about that backup, can I have it some time this year please.”

When she had arrived, gasping, at Launch Control, and dived into the changing rooms, Rei had already been fitting her plug suit, and casting disapproving glances at the way Asuka had just dumped an armful of carrier bags full of new clothes all over the floor, had left before Asuka had had the chance to show off her newly purchased underwear. She should have been out here even before Unit 02, and heading to her assigned station.

Now it was a case not so much of “wonder girl” as “wonder where the hell the girl is”, she thought.

“We're having some technical difficulties with Unit 01,” Misato admitted.

“Oh, great!”

The gun she had been firing ran out of ammo, and the Angel was still there, untouched. She slung the weapon away.

“Well, then, screw the plan. We'll try this the messy way.” Time to get medieval on what passed for its ass. She drew her progressive knife and began to charge.

She had just gotten Unit 02 into a sprint, when the Angel unfolded arms like blinds — like blades — that reached out and struck her on each shoulder. She could only scream, curling up in agony, her hands loose from the controls, as the dismembered Evangelion lost balance, and began to stumble.

The blades retracted, and then one of them flicked out again.

“Not fair!” she yelled. And everything went black.

Misaki was running as fast as her legs would carry her. The only problem with being short, she reflected, as she pounded down the gravelled path. She knew something had gone badly wrong when she had seen only the one Evangelion going up against the Angel. For a while, it had seemed that Asuka would at least be able to hold the thing at bay, but even as she started on the last stretch towards the main pyramid — its capstone already shattered by one of the Angel's blasts — she saw her fail.

What had happened to Unit 01?

Something major, certainly — there was Unit 00 now, still one arm missing, with something cradled under the other arm, running like a rugger player making for a try, directly at the Angel. The sound of its footfalls followed after it.

She heard running feet behind her, human scale.

“Misaki-chan!” It was Shinji. “Kaji-san said — if the Angel isn't stopped — Third Impact.”

The Evangelion slammed into the Angel, whose AT field flared into brightness. For a few seconds the Eva struggled, and then there was a blaze of light. She held one arm to shield her face as she stumbled into the welcoming darkness inside the pyramid, accompanied by the screaming of stressed AT fields, and the crack of detonation.

The two pilots dived into the express elevator down to the cage, panting for air. The ride only took seconds, but to Misaki, it seemed like forever.

“Shin-chan,” she gasped, as the doors opened, “Go to Misato.” She squeezed his hand, and then sprinted for the cage, while the noises of destruction echoed about her.

She emerged on to the gantry before Unit 01. In the window above, she could see the Commander pacing. She stopped to draw breath.

“Reserve Pilot Suzuhara reporting for duty, sir!” she called up to him, as a broadcast message began, calling on all personnel to evacuate.

There was no time for anything else but to hurry to the pilot's seat, no time to change into her plug-suit. She noticed vaguely as she was being set into the entry plug, that everything was still damp with LCL, as if someone had only just emerged; and when she settled into an abbreviated warm up to synchronization, she felt some strange undercurrent of suspicion, and the taste of Ayanami.

“Yui, it's me, Misakichi,” she thought, and felt an enfolding warmth welcome her.

“It's in Central Dogma!” she could hear the sound of walls being breached directly, as Lt. Hyuga called out. Shinji would be there, along with all the other people she thought of as her friends here. And they were all just the other side of the wall behind her.

There was no scope for finesse here. She could not spare the seconds it would take to go the long way around; and walls, at least, had no AT fields to protect them. She turned and punched, slamming her fist through meter-thick reinforced concrete, then pushing her whole body through the breach. The Angel was there, its mask hovering over the command station, where Misato stood, holding Shinji tightly against her. A fire was gathering in the darkness behind the mask.

She expanded her AT field, squeezing down on that impeding eruption, and slammed bodily into the Angel, carrying through the far wall, into one of the other cages. As they tumbled through the debris, she lost her choke hold on the Angel, and the blast that she had been trying to smother burst forth, severing her left hand. There was pain, but she would deal with that later, after she had saved her friends.

She kicked the Angel free, then followed up with another shoulder charge that carried them up to the launch catapults.

“Launch!” she yelled.

Someone was still keeping calm through the mayhem. She felt the surge of the platform, as she kept the Angel's head pinned against the reinforced walls, striking sparks that joined with the arcing and whining of the overloaded electrical system.

Spinning numbers in a projected field caught her attention. Her power umbilical had been severed at some point, and the estimated reserve time was dropping like a stone. She remembered Ritsuko's briefing, all those weeks ago — the on-board power was good for about five minutes normal activity; but heavy AT field usage would cut that down severely, and she was doing nothing else but.

She felt the catapult stop beneath her, and she and the Angel arc into the air, before tumbling to earth in the wooded part of the geofront, down by the lake. And the power reserve dropped to zero.

[The NERV staff evacuated from Central Dogma are assembled on the steps in front of the pyramid. They see Unit 01's eyes go dim, and gasp in horror.]

“Yui! Wake up!”

She had long been out of power that last time, when the Angel had swallowed them, but the Evangelion had been able to fight for as long as had been needful. She felt something wrapped around her head, being held up by it, and then brief flight before impact.

“Wake up! We have to save my friends! We have to save Shinji!”

Something was slamming into her chest, pounding at her heart, in an unceasing sledgehammer rhythm.

[The Commander emerges behind the others. On one side, he is covered head to foot in gore. He has made some attempt to wipe his face and glasses clean, but that is all.]

“Little warrior, lend me your strength. We must loose the bonds that are upon me.”

She could feel something like iron chains about her body, restricting her limbs. But she had to move, had to be strong, had to carry out this task. “Shinji!”

She felt the bonds loosen. In the darkness of the entry plug, light, like blue water.

[Ritsuko gasps, casts a sideways glance at the Commander. She cannot tell for certain under the smearing, but she thinks he is smiling with satisfaction. “The restraints. The Eva is freeing itself from our bindings.” She elaborates, when others show incomprehension. “That is not just armour she is shedding, but restraints that allow us to control the Evangelion.”]

The same spectral hands joined hers at the controls, the form of the woman sliding down to be coterminous with her own body.

She opened her eyes, lifted her remaining hand to block the oncoming blow.

[“Eva has reactivated.” Ritsuko announces.]

The blade that had dismembered Unit 02 cleft like a sheet of water, running through her fingers. She clenched the streamers in a fist, and pulled. The Angel tumbled on top of her, as she brought her legs up, and then straightened into a thrust. The Angel went flying.

[Shinji looks on, awe-struck. Misato puts a protective arm around his shoulders, and holds him to her side.]

For some instants, she looked at the shreds of Angel-stuff in her hand, then held it against the stump of her left arm. She could feel it bond, and writhe, and then she could feel, could see, her own hand again.

[“Incredible!” Misato whispers.]

She felt weary, she felt an intense hunger, but the job was yet to finish.

[Maya continues to work, kneeling at her laptop which she has set on the grass. At least the wLAN was still up. “Her synch ratio is off-scale. 400% at least.” “Does that mean she has awakened?” Ritsuko asks, of no-one in particular.]

The Angel started to pick itself up, but it was slow, now. Misaki reached out her AT field, saw the brief prismatic play of interference as it tried to counter her onslaught, and then all resistance failed. She felt hunger like she hadn't eaten for days. Carefully, she picked herself up, and staggered over to the still twitching form. There was what would sate her.

She bent over the Angel's body, and ripped it open. Inside, still fresh, the thing she craved. She plucked it out. It went down like an oyster.

[“It's eating the Angel!” Misato cries in disbelief. Shinji buries his face in her shoulder. “She's ingested the S2 structure.” Ritsuko adds. Maya pushes her laptop to one side, leans forwards on her hands, and vomits.]

She stood, and yelled her triumph. She was awake, and free. And very, very tired.

[In his garden, Kaji leans on his hoe, and thinks, ‘Well, that will have put the cat amongst the pigeons!’]

Day 1

Shinji stands on the catwalk, looking up at the transformed Unit 01, the mummy-like bandaging around the exposed flesh. Tears have left tracks on his cheeks.

Misato enters, along with Makoto Hyuga.

Misato — “It may be restrained — but is it safe?”

Makoto — “The Eva is completely silent on all wavelengths. Not even any significant chemical activity, now it's in cryostasis. It's as if she is sleeping. Even the S2 unit is quiescent.”

Misato — “Yet that was the third time it has moved by itself without power - once for Shinji and now twice for Misaki. We can't take anything for granted.”

She puts her hand on Shinji's shoulder. He does not acknowledge it in any way, but allows her to lead him away to the launch control. Ritsuko, Maya and Shigeru Aoba are there, working.

Maya — “It's hopeless — even the direct command link to the external access ports is being blocked.”

Shigeru — “We have visuals established.”

The screen lights up with the picture from inside the Eva.The entry plug is filled with a blood coloured light. There is no sign of Misaki beyond her school uniform, floating discarded in the LCL.

Misato — “What the hell is this?”

Ritsuko — “Off hand, I'd say that's what a 400%-plus synch ratio looks like.”

Shinji — “I can't believe it — What happened to Misaki-chan?”

Ritsuko — “Apparently, the Eva has absorbed her into itself.”

Shinji — “What do you mean? What is that thing that I piloted?”

Ritsuko — “Something created by us in our own image. That's all our language has words for to describe it.”

Misato, interrupting, angry — “That's not a creation. It's just a copy of what I saw in the Antarctic — but what is it a copy of?”

Ritsuko — “It's more than just a copy. There is a human consciousness behind it.”.

Misato — “Do you mean that this was someone's deliberate act?”

Ritsuko — “Yes, the Eva's.”

Misato slaps Ritsuko

Shinji — “Please, do something.”

Misato — “You built it, Dr. Akagi — now you fix it.”

The void was filled by the constant sound, the mantra “I” spoken once, but continuing forever. An awareness sufficient to be self aware. And then

“Misaki. I am Misaki Suzuhara.”

She opened her eyes, or something like.

There was a void, lit by a gentle sun. She felt herself present there, tenuously. But not alone. Yui was there, the ghost of a woman.

“My friends?” A kaleidoscope of memories. “Are they all safe?”

The woman smiled in reassurance.

“All is well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

“I have to see them.”

“All things proceed at their own measure, little warrior. You spent deeply of your spirit, you must recuperate, here, in the womb of the world.”

She was aware of the entry-plug. And that it was empty, no-one there at all.

“This sun that warms us. That is your gift to me.”

Another rush of visions, from somewhere else. A crag, surrounded by eagles, a cavern where a serpent coiled, and more, and more.

Day 2

Asuka slips surreptitiously into the cage. She is wearing the red and black outfit she bought a couple of days earlier. She looks about carefully, assuring herself that no-one else is present, that no-one else is able to hear what she will say.

“I know you're in there, Suzuhara-sama. You can't get out of a rematch that easily.”

‘And you'll hand me my ass, again, Magic Knight.’ she thinks ruefully.

Maya and Ritsuko enter. Asuka looks around, draws a deep breath, and stays.

Flashback — Maya's flat. Asuka in school outfit curled up miserably on the cushions under the window.

Asuka — “I know Ayanami's alive. Our everyday miracle. I don't care about her. What about Misaki?”

Maya — “I thought you'd be happy to be number one pilot.”

Asuka — “Pilot of what? None of the Evas are fit for use. And if it's only Ayanami left as the other pilot, what's the point of being number one? Without Misaki, we'd all be dead.”

The cage again

Maya — “What do you mean, salvage?”

Ritsuko — “Her life force still exists. You can see that in the figures.”

Maya — “But Senpai — doesn't NERV just want Unit 01, regardless of its pilot?”

Ritsuko — “Losing her now is out of the question. Ask Commander Ikari, if you want to.”

Ritsuko — “Our hypothesis is that in oversynching, she broke down the inherent AT field, and her consciousness is now a quantum disturbance in the LCL. Certainly her body has dissolved into it.”

Maya — “So we have to rebuild her body and soul? Can we do that, Senpai?”

Ritsuko — “With help from the MAGI, yes, I believe we can.”

Asuka, emerging from the shadows — “When?”

She woke again, to the gentle sound of wind and wave. Blue sky overhead, sun and fair-weather clouds. She seemed to be lying in warm shallow water, sand firm under her back, her face exposed. There were voices, a man and a woman.

She was standing, ankle deep in the water, unselfconsciously naked as in a dream. The shore was only a few meters away, lush green with grass, fading into rolling hills. A cherry tree in blossom stood near the water's edge, and in its shade a man and a woman. He had his back almost to where she was standing, and she could not recognise him.

“… in this living hell.” he concluded.

The woman had dark hair, and was sitting, bent forwards, over the child she was suckling, her face obscured in the shadows. Then she looked up, at the man, and her face was Ayanami's — was Yui's.

“He will be able to make his own heaven. ‘A loaf, a jug, and thou’ — was that not the poet's recipe for a little heaven on earth?”

And then she turned to face Misaki as she was standing there.

“Misaki-chan. You may join us here, if that is your true will.”

She could feel that there would be peace on that island, rest for the weary soul. She did not move, maybe could not. The baby had finished feeding, and the woman held the child up for Misaki to see.

“This is our son. You will find him on the further shore, little warrior.”

Day 3

The cage. Gendo Ikari enters, stands before the Eva, stares it in the eye. His expression is unreadable. He does not speak.

Shinji enters from the far side of the chamber. He stops short, seeing his father there.

Flashback — outside Gendo Ikari's office.

Shinji — “This time I was going to tell him how much I hate him.”

Misaki — “And given him that satisfaction?”

Shinji looks startled.

The cage again. Shinji stares at Gendo stares at Eva.

Awareness came again. Light, seen from under blue water. She could smell the far shore now, taste it in these sweet waters. And through the blue, a flickering of red.

Misato enters, looking anxious.

Misato — “Commander. There are anomalous energy readings.”

He holds up his hand for silence.

Misato shows shock. Her eyes light on Shinji and she shows more surprise.

There is a sparkle of light in the dull red globe that is the Eva's core. All three turn to it. Misato and Shinji show surprise. Gendo shows exultation. He smiles grimly, his teeth bared.

Red light colours their faces, becomes white.

The source of the light grows from a point to have definite shape — the outline of a young woman, eyes closed, floating upright, arms crossed on her chest. She drifts out from the globe, and down to between where the three are standing, the tips of her toes a handsbreadth above the metal.

The light quenches. The figure is Misaki. She begins to slump to the ground. Both Shinji and Gendo rush to catch her. Father and son stare uncomfortably at each other over their shared burden.

Misaki opens her eyes, and smiles.

“Shinji-chan, I came back to you. Commander, I wish to report mission accomplished.”

[Outro track — The Whole of the Moon : The Waterboys]

© Steve Gilham 2004
© Mr. Tines 2004

#include <std::copyright> — most of the characters and situations in the fic belong to GAINAX/Project Eva, and almost all the rest to the ladies of Clamp. It's just this form of words that is mine.