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
Adapted from the Neon Genesis Evangelion anime and manga by
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

"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

_I hear her speak._


_I obey what she says. I behave towards Katsuragi Misato as it seems

        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._


"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

"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-

"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

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.


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?_


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
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


"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?"


"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


"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


"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

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."


_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

_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

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

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

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._


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

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

"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


"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

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..._


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.


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.