Kensuke Aida searched the narrow streets of Osaka-2 to find the new house of his old friend Toji Suzahara. The Suzahara family had been evacuated from Tokyo-3 a day before the city center was destroyed, moving to the vacant home of one of Toji's grandfather's old classmates. The family (consisting of Toji, his little sister, father, and grandparents) made the trip from Tokyo-3 to Osaka in an ambulance, necessary as his little sister still required constant medical attention.
After thirty minutes of searching Kensuke found the new house, a narrow green-painted two-story structure that looked like it had seen better days. Kensuke could see several boxes and shipping crates still sitting in front of the house. In a family with two invalids and two seniors, unpacking would present a real challenge. Fortunately the Suzaharas wouldn't be living on their own, once the Horaki family arrived later that day.
Kensuke looked at the doorway and saw there was no family nameplate. However the address was correct according to Toji's instruction and he promptly knocked on the door. A few seconds later it was Toji, hobbling on crutches, that opened it.
“Hey, there!” Kensuke greeted Toji with a wave.
The other boy eyes brightened up. “There you are. Sure came a long way to see me.”
“Yeah, it took a while to get here from Tokyo-2. How's the leg?” Kensuke motioned to what would have been Toji's left leg, now just an empty pant leg that was tied up in a knot.
“Still missing. Can't play basketball for shit!” Toji smiled weakly at his friend who just chuckled.
Toji got into a wheelchair and wheeled his way out of the house and onto the street. They both traveled to a nearby park where there were basketball hoops, and Toji took a basketball that he had brought with him and started shooting baskets from his chair. After each shot Kensuke would run down the ball and give it back to Toji for another try. He went shooting for about twenty minutes (and nearly as many missed baskets) until he made a clean shot and breathed a sigh of relief. At least he was starting to get some kind of groove back.
Once he was more relaxed Toji concentrated less on making baskets and more on talking with his friend. “The TV news said that Tokyo-3 was blown up by terrorists. That’s not really true, is it?”
Kensuke retrieved the ball again after Toji successfully made another shot. “Nope. EVA-00 went into self-destruct mode and exploded, taking an Angel with it.”
Toji looked at Kensuke in shock. “Ayanami? Self-destructed?”
Suzahara just shook his head. “Oh, no. That’s gonna be hard on Shinji. What about the noisy one?” He referred to Asuka.
“Unit 02 is not currently operational,” Kensuke replied, handing Toji the ball. “It’s just Shinji now.”
“He’s alone again,” Toji sighed. “That kid just can’t buy a break.”
Kensuke was silent for a while as Toji shaped up another shot. “There’s more,” he finally said. Toji stopped shooting baskets and looked at the other boy, who was wearing an unusually serious expression.
“I got my dad’s laptop and downloaded the hard disc before NERV confiscated it. Something big is about to happen.”
“Like what?” Toji asked.
“Don’t know,” Kensuke shrugged. “But after Tokyo-3 was destroyed the government was making a lot of noise about how NERV has been nothing but trouble for Japan. They may try to shut it down. I’ve also seen a lot of activity with the JSSDF recently. Seems they’re planning on something big, too. It’s got to be connected in some way.”
“Bah!” Toji exclaimed. “Nothing we can do. Did you warn Shinji?”
“I couldn’t get through to him. They’ve got tight security on all the phone lines! But the Major’s not going to let anything happen to him if she can help it.”
“Mph.” Toji carefully lined up another shot and then bounced the ball off the rim. “Damn, this sucks!”
Stumbling around the ruins of Tokyo-3, Asuka found herself wandering the streets in a daze. Having lost her ability to link to her EVA she had been thrust out to the battle with the 16th Angel anyway as a decoy. After the battle had ended with Unit 00’s destruction, Asuka was released and told to go home. She didn’t. Instead, for the last few days she just walked aimlessly through the above-ground wreckage of the city.
I’m a nobody now. I’m worse than a nobody. I had everything I wanted in the grasp of my hand and I lost it.
I did everything I could. Use every ounce of strength I had. Every bit of skill. For ten years I put my whole being into piloting. But in the end it was worthless. I just fell apart.
13th Angel… I got rammed into the ground…
14th Angel… I got my Eva’s head cut off…
15th Angel… I…Oh, God what did it do to me? It attacked me there, in my mind, in the place I dare not go. I tried so hard to forget. I piloted so I could forget. So I could forget about what happened to Mama. About the day she took that doll and she…
He took me right there and I had to see it all over again, like I did when I was four.
Mama, why did you die? Why did you leave me?
Can’t you see me now? I need you now, more than ever before!
I’m sorry. I just couldn’t win with the EVA…
She was numb to all feelings and didn’t sense the rain that had started to come down on her. As she turned a corner around a destroyed building, she viewed the charred remains of a store that she once visited with Shinji. Seeing the burned out building and broken glass brought back memories of earlier happiness.
I couldn’t win with him either…
I just want him to hold me. Doesn’t he know that? Doesn’t he know what he does to me inside?
She reached out to the broken windows as if to touch Shinji, as if he was still standing there, but the image of him in her mind was an illusion and one of many that had been broken. The girl hung her head low and stood there in the pouring rain.
I don’t want to die, but I don’t want to live either. I just want to go away from everyone
After spending some hours with Kensuke talking and wondering all over Osaka-2, Toji left him at the local subway station and then wheeled himself back to the house. Kensuke offered to walk him home but Toji insisted on going by himself, telling Aida that he needed the challenge.
Once arriving at the house Toji saw the rented moving van parked in front, with additional shipping boxes now neatly arranged in the entryway next to the Suzahara family’s shipping crates. Upon seeing that Toji smiled to himself as he knew Hikari and her family had finally arrived.
Toji opened the doorway and rolled in, seeing even more boxes now stacked all over the living room. Looking around he watched as a nine-year old girl was leading a large bird through the hallway as she was carrying a beverage can. Toji looked at the bird again and immediately recognized that it was none other than Misato’s Pen Pen, who seemed to be tottering as the young girl swirled the can around his head.
Hikari was in the house too, busy unpacking dishes and other ceramics in the kitchen. She saw her little sister taunting the penguin and without even noticing Toji, Hikari rushed right up to both the girl and the drunk penguin.
“Nozomi what are you doing with dad's beer!?” Hikari grabbed the gold beer can from the girl’s hand.
“I was giving it to Pen Pen!”
“Don't let him drink that!”
“But he likes it!”
“Just a little bit. Not the entire can!” Hikari picked up a tottering Pen Pen underneath his wings and gently shoved him into the little refrigerator that was now plugged into the kitchen wall. “Here you go, Pen Pen. Just sleep it off.” Pen Pen belched a little as Hikari closed the door and then looked sternly at her sister. “Nozomi, go and unpack your things.”
“I can't find my books!” the little girl protested.
“They're in there, just keep looking. Get your clothes out or else you won't have anything to wear tomorrow.”
“I don't like this house,” Nozomi pouted. “It's too crowded. The old man scares me!”
“That's Suzahara-sensei and you'd better be nice to him for letting us stay with them.” Hikari looked around and then suddenly noticed Toji sitting there in his wheelchair. She smiled weakly at him and he smiled back.
“Why can't I play with that other girl? The one in the other room with all of the weird machines?” Nozomi referred to Toji’s sister.
“She's can’t play with you. She’s really sick, honey,” Hikari softly rebutted. “Now just go unpack, Okay?”
“Okay...” Nozomi found the stairway and marched upstairs, still disappointed in losing her penguin playmate. Hikari watched her go up stairs and then turned to face Toji.
Toji smiled at her again. “Class Rep!”
“Hi.” she wearily smiled back.
“How are you?”
“Okay, I guess.” Hikari rubbed her forehead.
“You look tired.”
“Yeah. We were driving all night to get here. Dad pulled in just after you left the house. Where were you?”
“Out with Kensuke. He came earlier this morning. They got out of Tokyo-3 yesterday too.” Toji pointed to the little refrigerator. “Isn’t that the Major’s bird?”
“Uh, yeah. She gave him to us for safe keeping. I checked in on your sister a few minutes ago. It looks like she’s improved a bit.”
“Yeah. I think she's just glad to be out of the hospital.” Toji rolled up to the kitchen as Hikari turned around and continued to unpack. She didn’t face Toji but still spoke to him. “Did Aida-kun say anything about what happened?” she asked him.
Her voice was nervous as carefully she took out another bowl from a box, her hands shaking slightly. “I heard my father talking earlier and he said something happened to one of the pilots. I tried to call Asuka but she didn't pick up her phone and...”
Toji took a deep breath. “Aida said it was unconfirmed but…Ayanami's dead.”
The teenaged girl gasped, dropping the bowl on the floor. “No!”
“He also says something happened to Asuka...she’s not in the fight anymore. Shinji’s by himself again.”
Hikari bent over to pick up the pieces from the broken bowl on the floor, and turned around to face Toji as she clutched a broken piece of ceramic. She was crying, her eyes quivering in anger. “I wish he had died instead of Ayanami!”
“Don’t say that!”
“I mean it!” she clenched her fists. “Look at what he did to you!”
Toji looked at Hikari calmly. “This wasn’t his fault!”
“Of course it was! How can you be so forgiving of him?!”
Toji stood up out of his chair, balancing carefully on his one leg. “I saw Shinji go through a lot, more than anyone should have a right to.” He grunted, “All I did was lose a leg, but what he went through was a hell of a lot worse than this.”
Unable to continue working Hikari just stood there and started crying more, saying weakly “I’m so sick of this! I just want all of this to end!”
Suzahara-kun carefully hobbled over to where Hikari was standing, using the boxes and appliances to help him move right next to the girl. Hikari put her hand over eyes and turned her head while he struggled, as she couldn’t bear to watch him be like this.
After a few moments Toji finally got next to her, reaching out to touch her shoulder. “Hikari-chan...”
As Toji leaned against the kitchen counter Hikari buried her head in his chest and sobbed “I just wish everything was back the way it was...” Toji brought both of his arms around her and held her tight.
The first thing Rei saw when she opened her eyes was that she was in the Dummy Plug Plant again. Initially to her it had seemed like the scanning process was taking quite a while this time, but then something seemed wrong to her. Her body felt different somehow, slower to react to her thoughts. Her mind was being rapidly flooded with memories and feelings of all sorts, randomly flashing by in quick succession. Her brain felt inflated like an overfilled balloon.
Rei looked out of the plexiglass tube and saw Dr. Akagi working alone at the control station. Ritsuko looked up and noticed that Rei’s eyes were open and immediately went to the speaker.
“What is your name?”
A very unusual question from her, Rei thought. “Rei…Rei Ayanami,” she replied weakly.
“What is your NERV serial number?”
“What is your function?”
“I am an Evangelion Pilot.”
“What is the last thing you remember before now?”
Rei hesitated at first as she struggled to recall. “Entering this scan tube.”
“And before that?”
“I had lunch… with Commander Ikari.”
“What was the last Angel that was defeated?”
Why such obvious questions? “15th Angel.”
“Did you go with the Third Child to the glade in the Geo Front yesterday?”
“No.” Why would she ask that? I just discovered that two days ago.
Upon hearing Rei’s answers Ritsuko smiled to herself and picked up the phone. The Commander answered it. “Yes?”
“The new one is ready.”
“And the memory?”
“Restored as of the last session. There will be some confusion as the synapses adjust to the massive inflow, but language and emotional conditioning are present and functioning and she should have adequate motor function within a few hours.”
“Good. See to it that she’s seen by others but that she has no direct contact with the other pilots or anyone else.”
As Ritsuko and the commander spoke further on the phone Rei tried to search her feelings to find out why she felt so disoriented. For a moment she concentrated hard, trying to sort out the rush of memories that were flashing through her mind. Probing into her thoughts, she felt the shadow of something very familiar to her. Making contact with it she then realized who it was.
The Me inside the EVA. She is here! She is now inside me. But how can that be? Why is she not inside the EVA? Why is she here?
Her thoughts began to assemble the picture in front of her.
What happened to the EVA? Why does Akagi-sensei ask those questions?
Unable to move her body much Rei slowly touched her fingertips to each other. She tried to sense the calluses on her fingers but as she touched them one by one she felt that her fingertips were completely smooth, as if her fingers were never used before. At that moment she knew what had just happened to her, and her mind fell into shock.
Why couldn’t you just let me die…
Go To Chapter 9