AUTHOR'S NOTE/DARKFIC WARNING: Evangelion, simply put, was not dark enough. Too often, Gainax did not see the story through to a strong enough point, or compromised the impact of their storytelling. This story was inspired, in part, by the author's meditation on this fact. Although the author has not attempted to be overly cruel to the characters, he has not spared them, either. You will be offended by this story. ------------------------------------------------------ SPOILER WARNING: Although allusion is made to incidents that take place after episode 8, the casual reader can also interpret these allusions as figures of speech. This story can be read by anyone who has seen through episode 8 of the television series, and no acquaintance with the manga is assumed. ------------------------------------------------------ EVANGELION:DAMNATION Adapted from the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime and manga by GAINAX. ------------------------------------------------------ The cockpit was a womb, and Shinji sat within it, safe and serene. His motions, though not his perceptions, were muted by the amniotic fluid lifeblood, the LCL. No: his perceptions were heightened beyond the norm, like light in a lens, superbly aware of his surroundings...and himself. His link with the Eva was manifest intangibly and tangibly as well. The intangible effect was the symgnosis between pilot and life form, what for the soul symbiosis is for life. Only Shinji was aware of the tangible consequences. His nervous system was so accustomed to the controls and to the feedback he received from the Eva that releasing his grip would set his teeth on edge and touching his body while he was synched induced nausea. "Commence maneuvers, Unit 01," came the voice into Shinji's ears. _I know this woman. Katsuragi Misato._ There was no cookie-cutter operating system for the Eva units. Each pilot, as a consequence of his or her synchronization and adaptation to the job, associated specific actions with his or her symgnostic's actions. Shinji moved the right armature and put pressure on the upper part of the grip, so 01 made a sinusoidal motion with her right arm. _She is my housemate, my superior, my friend? My friend? Do I trust her? Do I feel for her?_ TRUST FEEL 01 raised her right lower arm perpendicular to the ground, then rotated her wrist and touched each fingertip, one by one, to her thumb. Her right arm jerked to her side; then her left arm began the same complex series of actions. _I hear her speak._ SHADOW IN THE DOORWAY _I obey what she says. I behave towards Katsuragi Misato as it seems appropriate._ SAKE TOAST 01's actions changed to the even more baroque. She stood on one foot, then only on tiptoes, arms splayed out for balance. She executed deep knee bends and squat thrusts in rapid succession. Her performance climaxed with her reaching one arm behind her shoulder while the other came up to grasp it at the wrist; with her arms locked thus, she shuffled backwards in a tight circle, without any visible signs of stress. _Her path and mine intersect again and again, touching. Touching. Touching. Touching._ disintegratedflashesoflifefacesimagessensationscolorfastfast "Very good, Shinji. You're done." -- "The exercise you have just been through," said Misato, "is simple and straightforward. We should've executed it a long time ago, but fate has intervened." She flipped through a pad of yellow paper on her clipboard, then swung it back to her hip. "We need to observe pilots under the stress of physical maneuvers that will test your command of the Evas, even though your motor actions in combat will never need to be as precise as these. We need to know our safety zone." "I'll push it to the limit!" shouted Asuka. "I can do it! My Eva and I can do it!" "So it seems," replied Misato with a smile. "You're finally showing some turn-around in your synch ratio. That's something to be proud of right there, Asuka!" "Yay! I did it!" she squealed, pumping her arms. "Did you hear that, Ikari- kun?" "Yes," said Shinji softly. His eyes were fixed on the projection screen in the conference room. Digital recordings of the trio's gymnastics were on display, looped to repeat every few seconds. Kick, twist, punch, lift leg, stomp, crouch, kick, twist... The dim lights, small room, and sussuration--garbled with his own drowsiness--of human voices subtly horrified Shinji. Something about the mechanized, sterilized tarantella in replay before him set him ill at ease. He remembered the Greek legends of the Fates; and he pictured cobwebs looped around the extremities of each Eva, cobwebs that snagged and snarled and formed macramé measures of time, time that did not mercifully end, but only repeated itself... ...or were the cobwebs knitting themselves, and simply dragging the Evas with them? -- "Hey, would you believe it?" "This isn't going to be more about how wonderful Kaji told you he thinks you are, is it? Asuka-chan, could you please get down? You're blocking my rear-view mirror." Misato toyed with it, then looked over her left shoulder as another car overtook them. "I _thought_ he was trying to pass." "Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, this is about Commander Ikari. _He_ told me, he was pleased with my turnaround too, AND he wanted me to keep up the good work!" Asuka put her head on Shinji's shoulder and cooed, "I'll bet you're SOOO jealous!" "Yes, I am." Shinji's head was resting up against the window of the car. Numb, he watched the reflection of the car's headlights in the reflective bumps down the median stripe. Each one would flash to life far off down the street. As the stripe came into view, and black resolved to gray and then yellow, each bump would glow brighter and brighter under the lamp, until finally, as bumper and bump drew parallel, there would be a flash of ultimate radiance and then nothing. -- Lightness in darkness. The white rumpled shirt was a quantum of albedo brighter than the rest of the unlit room. Ikari Shinji was awake, fully dressed, crouching on top of his bed. He rested his left forearm atop his knees, his right hand touched the sheet of his bed beside his right calf. His Walkman lay silent at the foot of his bed, and the earbuds on the long cords looked like two seed pods on an antediluvian plant. Demons danced in his head. Intangible though they _may_ have been, their stinging felt real. SCHOOL The teasing of Misato and Asuka aside, Shinji knew his grades were mediocre at best. He also felt the pain of the uninformed. The geometry proofs and terminology he was supposed to be learning were unintelligible and nonsensical. English was, literally, a foreign language to him. History was coming to him as isolated names, dates and places rather than a dynamic continuum. _Have I...have I even learned...anything...since the start of the term?_ FRIENDS Shinji watched them. Touji. Hikari. Touji watching Hikari. Hikari watching Touji. He studied the two carefully. They were two charismatic young people, each with a large amount of pride and self-worth, yet who found themselves willing to compromise that pride for something; a desire, at heart, and nothing more. Intangible, so far. When they talked, or argued, they acted no differently it seemed. But Shinji's analytical mind began noticing patterns. Touji never seemed as boisterous when he was talking directly to her, and Hikari's criticisms were always more diplomatic when they were for him. There was no gossip to substantiate his hypotheses yet, aside from everyday murmurings. Still, again and again, he studied the pair of them. Two days after his battle with the angel code-named Sandalphon, Shinji had returned home and borrowed a mix of music Misato was fond of. He listened to it five times through that evening. At first, he listened only to t he selections from _Carmen_ and Beethoven's Sixth symphony, but by the third iteration he had added Sarah McLaughlan's _Touch_ and Leftfield's _Melt_. He even concluded with Depeche Mode's _Somebody_, though the lyrics were meaningless to him. He watched Asuka. He watched Rei. Sometimes he thought that they watched him too. More and more, he felt as though they did not. Once upon a time, Kensuke had told him that people idolized him because he was a pilot. Time had let that slip from people's minds. He felt free. He felt lonesome. NERV "Do you want any of this tendon? I can't finish it." "No thank you, Misato-san." Misato nodded, and set the Styrofoam container on top of a computer monitor. Though the glass of the Pribnow box, she and Shinji watched Rei firing a mock rifle at Angel-shaped targets. Her kill rate was between 70% and 80%. Shinji spoke. "Misato?" "Mm-hm?" "What if we fail? I mean, what if we absolutely fail? What if all three Evas are destroyed, and everybody gets killed, and an Angel tears apart the Geofront and destroys everything, what'll happen?" Misato considered it for a moment, then said, "Everything in the base is destroyed?" "Yes." "Then the JDF has plans to use every N2 mine we have to destroy the Angel. If that doesn't work...then it's the end of civilization as we know it." "Again." "Yes, again." Misato broke off to speak into an intercom. "Very good, Rei, you're done. Put the cannon on the ground there, and Asuka will take her turn." When the Evas had traded places and the practice session was again underway, Shinji spoke again. "Misato? Do we know that the Angels are our enemy?" "Of course, Shinji. You've read Orson Scott Card, you should know that." He was taken aback by what seemed to be a literary non sequitur, so Misato explained. "The criteria that NERV and the UN use are touched on in _Xenocide_. We cannot communicate with the Angels; even directly attacking them doesn't always produce an apparent response. Therefore, they present a risk to us. This risk is combined with overt acts of hostility. Therefore, the Angels are our enemies." "Oh, I see. So, we tried to communicate with them? How? When?" "Oh, I don't know. Someone certainly did. Ask your father. Asuka, you're done too." SILENCE _To have friends, to go to school, I must work for NERV. I must be a pilot. I don't care about school, and I don't care about friends. I only care about their absence._ He shifted his position on the bed, and pulled himself into a tighter little ball. _I don't care about NERV. I don't care if I die, I don't care if an angel kills me. Others care. Friends, classmates...I don't care for them, but I need them. They need NERV. Do I matter, apart from NERV? If I wasn't a pilot, would I still matter?_ Inarticulate thoughts, like kinetic kanji, moved through his mind. Some were old and strange, some were the product of the moment. He shifted from question to conclusion with ease; and, half-asleep, slipped from the bounds of linear thinking. -- Shinji woke up. He raised his head, and ripples of pain ran from his neck along his back to the base of his spine. He groaned, and carefully swung himself around into a slouch, with his feet dangling to the ground beside his bed. Aware that the telephone in the next room was ringing, Shinji delayed answering it, concentrating on assessing his own status and his path to it. He recalled picking his way through dinner and going into his room at about 2100 hours, but nothing beyond that. Had he simply fallen asleep on his bed? Before he could settle on that conclusion, he realized that he still was fully clothed, and his Walkman was at the foot of his bed. He had left responsibilities and obligations in limbo and slept instead. Dazed from his conclusion every bit as much as from his sudden rise to the world, Shinji staggered out into the living area as a message was being recorded on the answering machine. "...gotten up yet, you're either lazy or a coward. Or sick, I suppose. So DON'T INFECT ME, you infantile coward! I'll bring home your homework and stuff today. *click*" Shinji stared at the answering machine numbly for a quarter of a minute, then erased the message. He didn't feel like going to school, to suffer through pointless classes and put up with the jerks and freaks of nature that he spent his time with. His heart was rotting in his chest. He went back to his room, lay down on his bed, and stared up at the ceiling. He wasn't tired, so he didn't sleep. He wasn't hungry, so he took no food with him. He did nothing but stare at the ceiling for six hours until Asuka returned home, when he finally got up to greet her. -- Night came. Dark, oily night that seeped its somber tentacles into the world around; nighttime, when the lines between shadows blur and the ape-beings that call themselves human huddle around campfires of neon and halogen. Shinji loathed it, every bit as much as he had loathed the day that proceeded it. He wanted it to end: the repetition of temporal cycles that characterized the human mind as well as the Earth's motion. "It's beautiful, isn't it," murmured Misato. Beside him at the window, she felt a warm breeze--unusual for the time of year--blowing past them and into the room. The bright lights of the city shone through the darkness like bioluminescent algae. She listened, and out from the urban white noise she picked out particular horn honks, shouts and brake squeals. _Yes, people are still people. God _is_ in his heaven, all _is_ right with the world._ She slurped some sake from her can and asked, "Shinji...Asuka says you weren't at school today." He replied, "I didn't set my alarm. I just didn't get up." Misato accepted the explanation and they fell silent again. Shinji was at the point of revising his excuse and expounding on the underlying reasons, but he didn't. There were no adequate words to describe what he felt inside him; in fact, there were no coherent words to describe it. And certainly, if he tried, Misato wouldn't be able to understand him. Did he completely understand himself? "Just make sure you set your alarm tonight, all right? One day probably won't matter, but two in a row is pushing it." "I'll do what you say." _You're right, Misato. One probably won't matter._ -- Shinji stormed out of the classroom. "A quiz. That's just great, a quiz right when I don't need it." "Ikari, you idiot," said Touji, "nobody needs a quiz. We're all in trouble." "So what?" Shinji shot back. "Don't you remember? I wasn't here yesterday. I didn't know anything, Asuka didn't tell me." The sextet had fallen into a phalanx with Shinji at the point, Kensuke and Touji behind him, and the girls hurrying along at the rear. Shinji was steering towards their next class, PE. "Sorry, Shinji," she muttered. "I forgot about it too." At the locker room door, Shinji wheeled around and faced her. "Is your failure supposed to make ME feel better?" he snarled. Without waiting for her reply, even for her reaction, he shoved open the door and stomped inside. The door slammed in a suddenly quiet hallway. The group stared at the door blankly; then the boys and girls went their separate directions. Asuka undid the combination lock to her locker and thoughtfully extracted her gym clothes and shoes. _That's odd, I've never seen Shinji so worked up about anything before._ "Asuka?" She turned to see Rei standing behind her. _This is going to be a weird afternoon, all right._ "Yeah?" "Ikari didn't bathe yesterday, did he?" Asuka slapped Rei with enough intensity to raise a welt. "What do you want to know that for, you pervert?" A trace of color appeared in Rei's pallid cheeks, and she turned away. "I'm sorry." -- "Asuka...Asuka..." She turned and saw Shinji hurrying after her. He drew up alongside her, paused a moment to catch his breath, then bowed at the waist. "Asuka, I'm so very sorry for shouting at you today, it was rude and uncalled for, please forgive me." "It's fine, I forgive you." She turned and walked away, making for the school's front gate. "Now let's go off to NERV, it's going..." "Asuka, listen to me." He walked beside her with an imploring look on his face. "You don't understand. I feel really bad about my behavior, I really do." "I'm sure you do, Shinji," she replied. She stopped in her tracks, assumed perfect posture, and smiled. _I like this Shinji a lot better._ "I know you didn't want to hurt me." "I didn't!" he said emphatically. "But I just lost control of myself, I said something I didn't really mean, I...I don't know." Asuka clicked her tongue, then took Shinji by the arm and pulled him along behind her. "Shinji, don't worry about it. Getting down on yourself doesn't solve anything. Now, we'll have a good afternoon at NERV, then hurry home, have a delicious dinner, and get a good night's sleep. We'll both feel better in the morning." _Especially me._ From behind her came more inarticulate, dejected mumbling. Shinji was a weight upon Asuka, and though meekness on his part was always welcome, pusillanimity was NOT. "Shinji, come on or we're going to be late. It's not as important as all of this! I don't want to be late on your account," she added, and let his arm drop to speed along in front of him. Shinji felt the world slip out from underneath his feet. _I botched my apology. She's angry at me again._ RED TOWEL "Shinji, you idiot! Can't you do anything right?" SUN DRESS "Dumkopf! Dumkopf! Dumkopf!" THE DESK "Father!" "You are of no use to me if you won't pilot." _Sohryu Asuka Langley is my friend. I must work with her. She is 'friend'. I mustn't run away. I mustn't run away. I mustn't..._ -- Once again, Shinji was within the womb. The entry plug lay beside two of its kinsmen, next to a bank of computers. Shinji felt the eyes of a host of people upon him. Staring at him. Analyzing his every move, his every thought. The ghosts of his paranoia would not leave him. His concentration faltered, and his brain waves became irregular. Synchronization in the patterns fluctuated by a standard deviation, then two. Ritsuko made a disappointed noise. "Shinji's dropping like a rock. He's in good health, and hormone levels don't affect this sort of thing. I wonder what it could be." "He was agitated earlier," said Misato. She was looking over her co- worker's shoulder, grasping her arms at the elbows. "I think he did poorly on a quiz earlier today. That might have some affect." "If he really is agitated about it, it's perfectly possible. But he didn't seem so fixated on it earlier, did he?" "No." Misato smiled. "Still, he's a teenager. He's liable to sulk." They both laughed. -- The late afternoon sun warmed the earth below, and all the green in the countryside hills reached toward and suckled from the golden source in the sky. The rivers and bay flowed around and through the brown Earth, and the air above them was humid and filled with energy. The skyscrapers of Tokyo-3, in the warming daylight, seemed to be megaliths honoring a technopagan god, which in a sense they were. The city had been created to serve every need and whim of the populace, to deaden their cares and facilitate their pleasures. From thousands of years of science and civilization, a new Eden had been built on the Eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean. As with the first Eden, there were angels with swords of flame seeking to drive them out. The humans of Tokyo-3, unlike their legendary ancestors, were intent on defending their homes. Incongruous, crouched atop a hillside within sight of the megapolis, was Artificial Human Evangelion 01. Formed in man's own image, she towered as tall and mighty as any one of the skyscrapers she had been constructed to defend. Her armor was chartreuse, purple and black. She had one long horn mounted on her snout. At her side she carried a very large gun. Shinji was staring out the window of the cockpit, looking southeast towards Tokyo-3. In the back of his mind he wondered why he was being allowed to pilot with a 50% synchronization average. It was a sufficient score, but it had apparently produced none of the indignation he felt inside in the other members of NERV. His thoughts were on the city. The time was about 1700, millions of people were still at their jobs or otherwise occupied with their lives. Yet not 10 kilometers away, he--in a machine that could easily destroy the city unaided- -was about to commence a live fire training exercise with the JDF. Shinji was nauseated. What if something went wrong? What if his Eva went feral, as she had done at least twice while he was a pilot? What if one of his weapons misfired? He shook his head to clear it. _Nonsense_, he thought, _I'm thinking about nonsense. None of this has happened yet. Nothing will happen. And even if something DID happen, there HAVE to be safeguards. People know how to evacuate areas. There...there has to be some kind of intercepting system for errant missiles or bullets. Nothing will happen. Calm down, Shinji. Get a grip on yourself. It's not like it's an Angel. _It isn't..._ IMPACT The memory of the beating Touji had given him welled up in his memory. Out of the seemingly random facts, he made the connection: when he had fought the Angel, people HAD been in the buildings, people like Touji's sister. Memories of urban combat with angels danced before his eyes. How many people had he killed or injured in a fight for what he didn't believe in? There was no way to know; NERV didn't release those numbers to the public, and they wouldn't tell him because he didn't need to know. SUZUHARA Touji had told him that his sister had been furious with him for beating Shinji; but Shinji saw, now, that Touji had been right all along! It was wrong for him to fight when he didn't believe in anything himself. There was nothing to fight for, nothing worth risking his life--or anyone else's-- for. He didn't care if he died, but he knew now the value of the lack of a single human life upon the Earth. He had to know that he was wrong, he had to suffer, to make himself understand as a retribution for harming others when his own soul was hollow. The facts were perfectly lucid in Shinji's eyes: he was a risk to himself, he had to stop himself from himself, and only he could accomplish that. -- The clock read 5:59. Shinji rolled over and switched off the alarm with seconds to spare. Still awake after 30 hours, he looked out into the bleak morning light. He was aware of the odor that had accrued on his body during the night, and that his underclothing was not clean. Neither fact interested him. He went to his desk and mechanically loaded schoolbooks and papers into his backpack, placing his pencil case on the top. He slipped two CD ROMs into their cases and put them into the outside pocket. His schoolwork preparations complete, he set about his breakfast plans. He went into the kitchen, opened a tin of fish, and laid out two sardines for Pen-Pen. He plugged in the rice steamer, measured out rice and water, and closed and sealed the top. Shinji crossed the apartment and, not taking any precautions to mask his noise, pushed open the door to Misato's room. She was dead asleep on her bed, two empty sake cans next to her pillow. Shinji jerked open her underwear drawer. From beneath her brassieres he lifted out her holster and sidearm. Slipping the holster underneath his arm, he released the catch on the gun's magazine. It was loaded. He returned the magazine to its place, slid the safety off, chambered a round, then slid it back on. He left Misato's bedroom, taking the gun and holster with him.