Can ya tell me what ya see?
Is it ghosts or just the mirror,
That makes ya want to flee?
Chapter 3: seeds
The boy walked along the busy streets of an unfamiliar city. Yellow taxis passed him and the din of the blaring of horns seemed to be the song of choice of this city's inhabitants.
He has no idea of where he is, for the few people he can see on the mostly empty sidewalks seem alien… or worse, dead. He looks to his right and sees the old UN building (in real life destroyed by an Israeli missile in one of the wars following the Second Impact), that means he is in what used to be New York. He bends down to pick up a newspaper that has been blown into the gutter, the date reads January 1, 2000. Then he looks up and sees that it's snowing around him; but he doesn't feel cold, he should be though- he's only wearing a second skin of white and blue neoprene rubber, a plugsuit. He should be freezing.
The boy lets go of the newspaper, letting it flutter away in the slight wind. He walks until he comes in front of a burned-out bookstore, a former Manhattan's Restaurant of the Mind. The smell of burnt wood and paper lingers even now in the snow and the cold. There is still a wire bookrack that is there, the kind that spins on its base. There is one, red-leather bound book on it. The boy goes through a destroyed and gaping doorway to reach it.
He picks up the book and reads the title and author printed in gold leaf on the front cover,
"Reapportion" by a man named Walter Hodji. He opened the book and read the first line of the story, "The towers of Tokyo-3 looked like blades of light impaling the ground with the sun further powering them." Disturbed, the boy closes the book and walks out of the burnt ruin of the store, still holding the book.
"Hey mister!" a familiar voice suddenly cries out from behind him.
The boy turns around slowly, afraid that he has disappointed the owner of the voice. He is never good enough for the voice, never!
A man crawls out of an alleyway, covered in filth and clothed in rags. The boy sees, without surprise, that it is the image of his father down to the beard, gloves, and tinted glasses. Sunlight glints off of those glasses, hiding his father's eyes.
"Change, you got change mister?"
The boy gave the beggar that looked like his father the book, the red leather changing to blue as the book changed ownership.
"Thanks mister," the beggar says as he takes off his glasses, revealing empty sockets instead of eyes, "the Red King smiles down in favor upon you."
The boy turns away, evidently unaware of the eyeless horror masquerading as his father anymore, and he starts to wander aimlessly.
Eventually, the boy came to a restaurant at 61st and Lexington called the Dixie Pig. Flesh-pink blinds block the view into the building. Its outer decorum is that of a fancy Southern-American BBQ joint. There is a brass sign on a chrome pole that says:
For Private Function
"I wouldn't go in there if I were you," says a girl's voice behind the boy.
The boy spins around quickly, expecting a kick to the belly or a punch to the jaw or some other attack. It's the second child- the red one, he thinks, he doesn't know what it means, but he absolutely knows that it's absolutely correct.
The red one doesn't strike at the boy though, she appears damn near unable to. She's smiling the first real smile at the boy that he has ever seen. She stands as if she's on her way to school and got interrupted by an old friend, complete with her schoolbag held behind her back with both hands.
The boy just stands there, fist clenched to ward off an attack that never comes.
"The last time I went in there, Third, I got salllmooonilla! Besides, you shouldn't go in that barbaric place, good thing it's locked."
"Asuka? What's going on?"
The red-head devil of the stooges kept on smiling, "There are other worlds than these, as your about to find out in there," she said, and then she vanished into thin air.
"Wait! Asuka! I need to get in there and I don't have a…" a slight pressure in the palm of his clenched fist made his palm itch, he opened his hand and looked at the object in his possession "… key?"
A key made out of brass lay in his hand, it somehow reminded the boy of an owl's talon or a spider's fang.
The boy shivered, the key felt rotten in his hand. As if metal could rot…
He walked up to the double oaken doors of the Dixie Pig and inserted the key. It turned under his hand all on its own and then snapped in two, its purpose spent.
The door then opened like a maw into blackness. Like some deep pit that led to the gullet of some eldritch monster.
Taking a deep breath, he stepped into the doorway…
Harsh chimes that sounded vaguely Hawaiian bashed against his ears, and the pungent metallic and onion smell punched in his nose.
The Med Bay aboard the Executor was one of the best in the Galaxy. It had to be, Vader kept his flagship on a short leash and a large budget. The doctors here were some of the best paid in twenty Core systems.
All that made failure be at the bottom of the list of things that you wouldn't want to do.
An officer walked into the well-kept and well-lit area, blinking against the sudden change of light from the dimmer hallway outside. After getting his bearings for a moment, he walked to the balding doctor in charge of the boy found on Hoth and now strapped down to a bed, "Lord Vader wants an update on the boy."
The doctor looked up from some datawork, "Tell him that the boy is about to wake up, at least, according to his last brain scan."
The doctor went back to his datawork, the officer didn't move, he stood there awkwardly, the doctor looked back up, "Is there something else you needed?"
"Yes, we found something interesting when we were investigating the mech."
"What does that have to do with me? I'm a doctor, not an engineer damnit!"
The doctor paused for a moment, "Really?"
"Yes," the officer confirmed, "and since you are the man in charge of the child's file, Vader has deemed it to be that you will be in charge of the mech's file too."
"Your new crew will be waiting for you in docking bay twenty."
"Why would I need a new staff?" the doctor implored irately, "I already have one helluva medical team here."
The officer explained, "You will need a few engineers and technicians because of the artificial parts, and at least one linguist and cryptographer for the markings on the walker's armor, and don't forget that we will need a biol…"
"All right, all right; I get the picture."
"Good, now do you have any more specific time than 'about to' as to when the boy will wake up?"
The balding doctor shook his head, "The best I can tell you is either today or tomorrow, and not even Vader could change that."
Gendo stared at the large, central monitor, who were these people? What nation… scratch that, WORLD were they from?
More importantly, why did the angel send them?
"Contact our defensive positions and tell them to heighten the alert level to level three then try contacting the…" he was loath to say UFOs; but they were objects, they were flying, and they were sure as hell unidentified, "… objects with radio broadcasts on all channels."
"Yes sir!" Ibuki sharply responded.
"Sir," Aoba reported, "Preliminary scans show that the objects have extremely large power sources, though whatever the angel did and some sort of energy field that are surrounding the objects might be interfering with our scans."
"Are they AT-fields?"Captain Katsuragi asked.
"Unknown," Aoba answered, "but eighty percent probability that it's not."
Ritsuko broke in, "How powerful is the objects power source?"
This time it was Hyuga that answered, and even then- it was as if even he didn't believe it, "…as powerful as the sun."
Far above them, another conversation was unfolding among their leaders in half-whispers. "So it probably isn't the committee toying with us then, the power of a sun is far above them," Fuyutsuki smirked.
"The old men wouldn't be working through an angel anyways, nor would they send a technologically advanced craft to us as a gift," Gendo quietly, and sarcastically, responded, "No, this is just the angel's doing."
The sub-commander nodded; he had thought as much, or had turned his thoughts in that direction, "the question of why remains, of course."
"Of course," Gendo agreed, "It functions to no benefit to the angel, it can't gain from this."
"At least, not a benefit we can see yet."
There was a long step down of about two feet from the door of the Dixie Pig to the ground below.
The grassy ground.
The boy carefully lowered himself onto the grassy knoll. A dark red castle stood before him. So dark that it was a scabbish color. Pennantless edifices rose from the four corners like needles.
Everything in the area that the boy had stepped into looked diseased and poisoned; the water in the castle's moat had curdy, yellow foam, the grass around him was gray and dry, even the red white and blue bunting around the edges of the castle, the most vibrant thing around, appeared incredibly muted into rust, gray, and navy.
A dilapidated, wooden ghost-town lay on the downhill side that seemed to be transmorphing into dust lay several miles down hill of the boy's position, with the red castle at the apex of that hill.
He looked back at the door that had led here; it hung in the air, apparently hinged to nothing. The boy could still see Calla New York (Calla? What was that word? Where had he learned it?) through the door, the occasional car whizzing past. A low rush of wind blew the door shut, and then it fell backwards into the dead grass- its purpose now gone to wherever the key's purpose went.
The boy though the door looked dull and unimportant now where it once had some sort of splendor.
Commalla-come-come to the castle, O you talan, come to Le Casse Roi Russe, gaze upon it's mighty splendor and despair, something seemed to whisper to him, or maybe it was just part of this dream.
The earth sank and flowed to form a pounded dirt road from the boy to the red castle.
With only a moment's hesitation, the boy started to walk down the road.
Great, bloody stalagmites punched out of the polluted moat, splashed with yellow foam, scratched with carvings of eyes. Ancient skeletons, yellowed like parchment with age, hung from the pillars… a testament to violence long past.
The boy shuddered all the same.
More red, white, and blue bunting that had faded to rust, brown, and gray hung from windowsills and from the top of the gatehouse. Gates made out of ironwood and steel hung open for him to enter. The boy ran his hand over the deep etching in the gate, a giant, staring eye with the epitaph I see who enters here underneath. Here, he realizes that everything that he has read in the course of his dream has been written in English… he's never been able to read English before, speak some, yes (and even then, just the necessary phrases like "where's the bathroom?") but read and write it? No.
The courtyard was surprisingly well-kept, neatly trimmed green grass and bushes, vibrant flowerbeds and weeded gardens all brought to life with no one around but him to enjoy it.
A low rumble filled the courtyard, making leaves rustle uneasily. The boy looked around nervously, he couldn't see anything.
The rumble got louder as the wall of the castle in front of him began to bulge outwards like a tumor. A cold gust of wind started to blow from the bulge and past the boy, chilling his core. The sky turned black like an ichor had poisoned it. Red eyes opened in the blackness and gazed down at him with unblinking stares.
The bulge shaped itself into a scraggy face with two red orbs for eyes, a stone beard flowed down from the face that was split with a mouth of masonry that opened into a void.
The boy stared at this face with awe and fear.
"HILE TALAN," the voice boomed, yet the boy's ears did not cry out in protest from the volume and sheer magnitude, "HILE SHINJI THAT WAS, LONG DAYS AND PLEASANT NIGHTS TO YOU. YOU HAVE BEEN WORTHY ENOUGH TO BE CHOSEN TO DO MY BIDDING."
"What is your bidding?" Shinji shouted out over the wind and the voice.
"TO KNOCK DOWN A CRUMBLING EDIFICE AND REPLACE IT WITH ANOTHER SO I CAN START THIS IMPERFECT CREATION OVER AGAIN IN MY IMAGE."
Shinji shouted again, "Who are you? Are you a god?"
The face laughed at this one, making an unpleasant EEEEEEEEEE sound, "I AM THE MIGHTIEST FACET OF A GOD. AS TO WHOM I AM… I AM THE CRIMSON KING WHOSE EYE SEES ALL."
"What is it that you want me to do?"
"STAND AND BE TRUE TO YOURSELF AND DO NOT CHANGE YOUR BASE WAYS, FOLLOW THE ONE WHO CALLS HIMSELF EMPEROR AND FOLLOW A VADER. PILOT THE EVANGELION FOR THEM. AND BECOME A RESTORATION OF MY GLORY. THIS IS YOUR KA, YOUR DESTINY. AND ONE CANNOT ESCAPE DESTINY WITHOUT PAYING A HEAVY PRICE… NOW GO!"
Something grabbed the back of Shinji's plugsuit and pulled him away into a calm blackness.
Awake, small one, and meet your Ka. Do what he says and hope for the best…
'Tis the will of the White too, with any luck…
Shinji Ikari opened his eyes in the hospital, his dream already fading somewhat; it had to be the hospital, what other room could be so white?
But he did not notice the room; he noticed the robot's head that stared him down with glowing eyes.
Shinji screamed and tried to bolt for an escape. Strong straps that crimped around his joints prevented this; he didn't notice and so continued to thrash against the restraints like a minnow against a net.
The robot's head swiveled around in a full circle, revealing electric eyes that crowed its top. It must have said something if a low rumble could have been considered speech, for a man's voice yelled from the left in response followed by a small object that the unseen man had thrown at the robot and bounced off its head with an audible thunk!
I've finally snapped, Shinji thought, I've finally snapped and they threw me in the Loony Bin. I bet I'm hallucinating too, that's probably Rei above me and my subconscious has taken Asuka's words to heart. And I bet whatever the red guy was called was some Freudian thing for my father and his shades.
(What about the little voice and that strange(calla) word? How about New York? He had never been there before.) said a voice that could be more accurately called a silence said.
Damnit, that stuff didn't happen! Shinji countered.
(It did to and you know it.) it seemed to smugly respond.
Shinji realized that the robot was holding him down in place of the broken restraints, he wasn't screaming anymore. Just the opposite in fact, his mouth was clenched shut.
And he was floating.
"Wha-what!" Shinji squeaked with surprise.
And as if that stammered word was enough to blow away whatever was happening like a web in a hurricane, Shinji fell, soundly.
Divining a opening through its sensors, the robot pressed on to grab the boy's head and force him to drink a vial of a red liquid that tasted rotten. (When the cork popped out of the glass vial Shinji saw an eye burned into the bottom with the epitaph I see who opens me)
Chemical lethargy descended over Shinji as his hearing faded, disappeared entirely, then it came back into existence. "xshfae bsuew, gog? RrrrI've also already contacted Vader that the boy is awake and still feral."
"Excuse me sir… who's Vader?"
Ges Ellor did not like the situation he was in, "do the Nav-charts match anything at all with the local system?"
The woman working at the Nav-Com station pressed a few buttons, letting the computer compare the charts with every available scan of the system they were in, "No sir," she regretfully said, then added hesitantly, "There is a comet cloud completely surrounding this system though, it may have thrown our scans off."
The Duro captain knew better than to hope for that to be the case, it was very unlikely that any sort of thing could throw off the scanners, and he was about to say so… then, he let it go, praying to whatever god would listen that the navigation equipment really was thrown off by a comet cloud. Arguing wouldn't achieve anything here; plus, if it was just thrown off scanners, there could be a chance that they might find their way home.
"We should probably find a place to land until we get our bearings," Shaak Ti, ever the intuitive one, suggested.
"Sir, our scanners have picked up a field that we can land in."
"Alright," Ges decided, "take us there. Also passively scan the area for any threats, we don't want to goad them but we need to know, somewhat, of what's going on."
"What about the X-wings?"
"Keep them in the air over us for the moment."
"Look!" another one of the technicians pointed out of the window, "A section of the street is rising!"
"Get a scan of that," Ellor commanded, "The rest of you keep going through landing proced… What the hell is that?!" Everyone peered forward with interest.
A humanoid, blue walker stood staring at them from behind one of the armored buildings of the city through the iron sights of a battle rifle so big that it would have been considered a turbo-laser on a ship.
"Shouldn't that thing be off balance?" Ges asked, "Is anyone here an engineer and can answer that?"
Ti laughed, a totally irreverent sound for the occasion, "These people can build humanoid walkers and yet still put wheels on their transports, how backwards."
Confused, Ges asked, "Where do you see that?"
Shaak Ti pointed to a convoy of five, squat block-like things were rolling their way up a road that would lead them from the risen section of street to the Occulous. "It's too small to be overtly hostile, so they may have just sent out a few of their forces just to gage our intentions."
"Well, let's give out our own welcome wagon then," Ges said, "I want a diplomatic team there, and a few armed guards, no major weaponry though. And I will be there in a few moments to meet them as well."
"Let's just hope that your right though," Ti joked, "otherwise this might be your only flight as a captain."
Ges shot a glare, he didn't find the joke very funny.
Vader stood in front of the boy in the blue and white bodyglove in the detention wing. The chair that the boy was sitting in seemed to be engineered specifically to be uncomfortable to the user, but he was sitting dutifully in it and watching him with large eyes.
Vader could feel the fear radiating off of him; of course the boy was afraid, in fact, Vader probably wouldn't have trusted the boy at all if he wasn't afraid of him. He might have just alright killed the boy if he weren't afraid of him, and Vader was already very close to just killing the boy to spite that guy… Ronald.
Vader obviously didn't believe Ronald Fisk was as powerful as he hinted that he was.
But at least he would listen to the boy, at the very least to see if he would dig himself into a hole of some sort, giving him the excuse to kill the boy.
"Why did you attack my men?" Vader implored.
Shinji snapped to attention, "I told you!" he nearly yelled, fearful for his life, "My Eva went berserk! I don't remember a thing!"
Vader stood impassively, letting the outburst settle, then dropped a bombshell, "That doesn't explain the fact that when a squad of my troopers opened up the cockpit of your walker, you jumped out and attacked them like some feral monster."
Shinji flinched, dumbfounded, "What?"
"You deliberately attacked the squad and…" the door to the cell opened, "What is it?"
An officer of some sort that appeared to be dressed in a WW2 SS uniform to Shinji stepped over the threshold and into the room, "M'lord, Captain Needa ordered me to tell you that the Emperor is demanding to make contact with you."
"Very well," Vader inwardly sighed, "Move the ship out of the asteroid field so that we can send a clear transmission to Courescant." He then strode past the unfamiliar officer and out to confer with the Emperor, his cape fluttering behind him.
Shinji let out a small sigh of relief, Darth Vader was scary. He would rather be in his Eva than around him.
The man in the SS uniform, was still in the room with him, smiling a too-toothy grin, "I can't remember if Needa is a captain yet or not. I mean, I ain't that much of a nerd- I haven't seen Star Wars in a very long time. Would come in helpful though. But enough about me! YOU'RE the star of this galactic-comedy!"
"Huh?" Shinji was dumbfounded at the man's sudden exuberance.
"Or galactic-tragedy, if you prefer that title better (I don't know why you would though), but either way you slice it, you're still the star. Oh, by the way, you may call me Fisk, if you want to call me by a name, since I answer to everything including, 'hey you, guy with the hair!'… trifle excessive but oh-la-te-da, right?"
"You're not with these people, are you?" Shinji asked, he tried to describe Fisk in his head and failed, Shinji's eye just had a way of sliding over Fisk, except the grin- that stuck out like jutting tumor.
"Of course not!" Ronald interjected, "These people think too small for me. No, I work for someone whose' name you should be somewhat familiar with, three guesses as to who, and the first two don't count."
Shinji waited a moment, unsure of the man named Fisk with too large and too toothy of a grin, until he was urged to go on by the grinning man, "My Father?"
"No, guess again."
"Negatory on a that'un uh meester! They're small fry too, but it's good that the first two guesses didn't count. Next?"
"Um…" Shinji didn't want to say his third option, he didn't want to look like a fool and be laughed at.
"Come on," Fisk cajoled.
"The… the Crimson King?"
Fisk leaned forward to Shinji, his grin becoming more predatory now. Shinji scowled, why couldn't he make out the face? "Yes," Fisk breathed, "which makes us coworkers, in a way." He then recoiled away with a his smile wavering for just a moment, "Anyways, the reason I am here, despite the King's better judgment, is that Vader ain't exactly welcoming you with open arms. Like what I expected. This is one of those times that it would have been good for me to have been a nerd, because I forgot that Darth Vader is totally concerned with the capture of a certain Jedi named Luke Skywalker; because of his obsession with Sai Luke, he just wants to kill you instead of taking you in. But, not to worry, the King takes extremely good care of his servants, and he is friends with Vader's master- the Emperor- who will hopefully talk Vader out of mood. Any questions?"
"Um… yes," Shinji began, trying to sort out all the info that had just been given to him, "where am I?"
Fisk shook his head, "That's right you ain't from Keystone, you haven't seen the movies. Well, you are aboard an eleven-mile long mechanical pizza-slice that is flying through space. Understand?"
"I'm on a spaceship?"
Fisk laughed, "Good! We can move on then. Vader may still want to kill you after talking to the Emperor, unlikely but possible; but we don't want it to happen at all, now do we?"
Shinji shook his head, "No sir, not at all."
"Correct on everything except the sir bit, I ain't your boss after all… I work for a living."
"Sorry sir," Shinji quickly amended, ignoring the irony of what he just said.
"I'm just going to ignore that."
"You're sort of funny to mess with, you know that?"
"Um… sort of."
Fisk grimaced, "The King's telling me to hurry up and do what I'm going to do, or to get out of here… He sort of has this position of non-interference at the moment, I'm trying to talk him out of that. Anyways, Vader might still want to kill you, and I just happen to be a sorcerer of some skill so I made you this." Fisk reached up his sleeve and started to root around, after a moment he pulled out a tiny copper chain.
"Um…" Shinji started to say something, but closed his mouth again just to open it back up and say what was on his mind, "It's just a tiny necklace."
"Of course it is!" Fisk lauded, "but the way that magic works is the less crap you have on an object, the more magic you can put in it. Exactly the opposite way that D&D nerds think."
Shinji raised an eyebrow.
Ronald shrugged, "Just put it on and I'll show you."
Shinji Ikari put it on and waited.
The man in the SS uniform tensed up for a moment; then, faster than Shinji's eyes could track, Fisk's hand plunged behind his back and pulled out a knife and swung it at his throat in one strong, fluid motion. Yellow sparks flew off the blade as it hit an unseen force that stopped it dead two inches from his neck. Shinji's reflexes then caught up with him and he dove, too late, under the stopped blade. "Why did you do that!" he shouted.
"To see if it worked," Fisk chuckled, "It did. Well, I gotta go, people to do and things to meet. Thanks for giving me a few laughs too," then he walked out, his shoes making deep echoes for a moment. Then those echoes too were gone.
"He's neurotic," Shinji said to himself.
Darth Vader strode briskly down the steps into the private Holo-chamber, it did not pay to keep the Emperor waiting.
Two circles, one inside the other, were etched into the floor of the dark room; Vader stood over these, went down to one knee and bowed as much as his artificial parts would allow. The outer-circle lit up as the action he was doing was transmitted many thousands of light-years in an instant, "What is thy bidding, my master?"
"Rise, Lord Vader," croaked the Emperor in his wavery voice, Vader raised his head as bid. "I have felt great disturbances in the Force," the Emperor finished.
"I have only felt one, my master." Vader was confused, what other disruptions could he be talking about? And how could they be more important than the Force-sensitive Rebel?
"That is because you are short sighted and obsessed!" the Emperor rebuked with a tongue that was sharp enough to rend marrow from bone, "Did you not since the untamed power that you have found?"
"So you have received the data of the walker?"
The Emperor raised an eyebrow, "I have received the data, and the walker would be an awesome show of dominance on the battlefield. I am more interested in the boy, however, his file interests me."
"What has interested you in the child master"
"His blood work is extraordinary, specifically the high midichlorian count."
"This boy is sensitive in the Force?" Vader asked dumbfounded, the boy did not exhibit any of the characteristics of a Force sensitive.
Or was he really obsessed about the Skywalker that blew up the Deathstar that much?
Yes, but no one could blame you for wanting to make sure, could they?
"You should read your men's reports, he levitated on waking. This boy and his walker could be a great asset for us, another Dark Jedi- this time in a fearsome weapon!- would tighten our hold on the galaxy."
"He was easily beaten by my forces."
"Oh, is that so?" said Palpatine with a mischievous glint in his eyes, "I heard from a reliable source that your forces were helped along by a man named Ronald Fisk."
Vader balked in surprise, but he also knew that he shouldn't have, nothing of importance escaped the Emperor's notice for long. "Nevertheless," Vader recovered and went on, "The Rebel that destroyed the Death Star is still a high priority."
"Yes, this young Jedi named Luke Skywalker… There is no doubt in my mind that this Luke is the spawn of Anakin Skywalker!" The Emperor spat out.
Again taken off guard, and so soon after recovering it too, Vader inquired, "How is this possible?" He did have those suspicions, but to hear them coming out of another person's mouth had driven it home that Obi-Wan had somehow tricked him.
"Search your feelings, you know it to be true," Palpatine said in the closest he would ever get to "It should be fucking obvious!"
But no, Padme had died pregnant. And yet…
The Rebel's last name had been Skywalker, and he just happened to be strong in the Force? That may have been just a coincidence; after all, the galaxy was a big place, there could be many billions of Skywalker's for all he knew.
But then, why did Kenobi take interest in this particular Skywalker? Especially sacrificing himself to his stroke, Kenobi would not have done that lightly.
There was a simple answer for the interest, Obi-Wan knew something that he had not. And what would that be? Why, Ani, or Vader if you prefer, I'm training your son to usurp you and the Emperor and to restore the Jedi Order. So far, he has proven to be a far more impressionable youth than you were. And nevermind that noise you just heard; that was either the sound of irony about to strike you down, or me blowing the raspberry at you from beyond the grave.
"This Jedi needs to be eliminated in someway, he is a threat to our power," Palpatine warned.
Wait, he could use this to his advantage, and make not-quite-dead-yet Obi-wan's arrogance to work for him, "What if we turned him to the Dark Side?"
The Emperor's eyes widened with excitement, "Yeeessss," he drew out, "yet another Dark Jedi would be a valuable commodity. You shall be my arm, and these two boys shall be the weapons that you hold in our service."
"Yes, my master."
"Actually, to have them become fully fledged Sith Lords would be of marvelous advantage to us."
Darth Vader, sort of put off by this, one of the few rules that the Sith even had were being broken, asked, "What of the rule of two?"
"Darth Bane started that tradition to keep us hidden from the Jedi, which are no longer with us, and to keep us from fighting each other; and I think that neither of us or the two children would try to be involved in any… intrigue against one another. Breaking that tradition will not harm us."
"Go ahead and dub the boy now, there is no reason to wait."
Vader bowed once more; he might not agree, but Sidious was his master, "As you wish."
Misato stared at the live video feed of the angel, burning a hole in it with her grief slowly turning into anger, "Has the Section-2 security convoy made contact with the object yet?"
"Not yet ma'am," Aoba answered, "The smaller objects are doing a bunch of flybys though, buzzing them, no contact with those either, even though Section-2 has itchy trigger fingers and are trying to keep themselves from shooting. But, it's a good bet that whatever's in there knows we're coming."
"Good," Misato didn't really think that anything was good at this point, but Section-2 acting intelligently ,for once, was better than the rest of the day had been going so far. But then, one might have asked Ms. Lincoln how the play was except for the whole Boothe thing, "Rei."
"Are you still covering the convoy?"
"Good, continue doing so please."
Misato took a deep breath and held it for a moment, trying to keep her composure together, "Asuka, where are you at the moment?"
"I'm by the angel, making sure it doesn't move Misato."
Misato pinched the bridge of her nose, the headache that had been cooking beneath her skull threatened to burst forth in a full-fledged boil, "Good, do not make contact with the angel should it decide to move. You can't do anything except get sucked in at the moment."
Ritsuko tapped Col. Katsuragi's shoulder, "There may be a way we can destroy it," she whispered, "I don't know if it will get approved… it's very risky, we may only be down to one Eva, permanently, if it goes wrong."
"Hopefully, it won't come down to that," Misato responded, "but what's the plan?"
"If the MAGI's calculations are right," Dr. Akagi said waving a short stack of printouts, "Then the angel can only be destroyed from the inside."
"So Shinji might be the only one that can kill the angel?"
"Yes, if he watches his power consumption and is still even in the angel," Ritsuko ventured.
"Oh, what makes you guess that?" Misato inquired, surprised.
Ritsuko pointed at the UFOs, "Why are they here? Why did the angel bring them? The angel might have simply exchanged the objects with Shinji due to some law that it has to follow, or something."
"How can we get inside it then if it will just exchange the Evas for something else?"
Ritsuko paused, "I don't know," she admitted after a while, "but there still is hope."
Misato felt a ghost of a smile rise on her face. Hope, that word made her feel better. She wouldn't have know the technical details behind why Dr. Akagi felt the way she did about the situation, but the fact that she did feel a small hope made Misato feel that the situation that they were all in might turn around in their favor.
Above them, Gendo Ikari stood to leave. "Take over for me Fuyutsuki," he said quietly, "I'll have to inform the committee of the recent events."
"Oh?" the Sub-Commander smugly replied, "Want to rub their broken scenario in their faces?"
"Partly," Gendo admitted, "their scenario always hinged on the assumption that the scrolls would be proven true word for word. I made mine more flexible than that." And with that note he turned to leave.
Fuyutsuki waited until the elder Ikari had left, "I wonder if your plan is really as flexible as you think it is. Something like this might bend it beyond the breaking point."
The door to Shinji's cell slid open, reveling an armed guard of five of the white guards, stormtroopers. The first one that came in manacled Shinji's hands and stood him up. The trooper then led him to the other four who took a defensive posture around him.
They led him down the sterile, gray and black halls to a elevator. It opened, Shinji heard the breathing before he saw the source behind it.
"Leave him with me," Darth Vader commanded the stormtroopers.
Shinji walked into the lift with the dark lord, the door slid shut and they traveled upwards.
Vader's hand motioned for Shinji to stand at his side, "You're afraid, aren't you?"
Shinji was at a loss for words, he didn't know where this was going, but eventually decided on the truth, "Yes." In fact he was absolutely terrified. "Sorry."
"Sorry for what reason?" Vader asked.
"For attacking your men and being afraid," the boy quickly responded.
Vader said, "I accept your apology for the attack," Shinji was surprised about the sudden change-of-heart, "But you do not have to be sorry for your fear. Fear is the path to strength."
Shinji could say nothing to that, and neither could the lord next to him apparently- for there was an awkward pause. Then, "A person once told me that fear leads to anger, and anger leads to hate. He then said that hate leads to suffering, but I now know that he was wrong."
"How come?" Shinji asked all the wars he had ever heard of, minus the Angel War of course, had their foundation in hate, so he could easily see how this person that Vader was referring to could have gotten his idea.
"Fear leads to anger, yes. But if you channel that anger, it leads to power. And with power comes glory and the ability to…" Vader trailed off, "… the ability to save the ones you love."
Shinji instinctively knew in his gut that Vader had strayed too close to something in his past and tried to stay as unobtrusive as possible, just in case Darth Vader tried to take out his anger on him- like Ronald had warned him.
Vader scowled behind his mask, he hated being wrong –it was a weakness. His master had been right, this boy was strong in the Force; he had to be in order to touch minds. The boy was untrained though, the reading of his surface thoughts had been brusque and haphazard. He had easily seen the boy's intrusion as one could see a drunk stumbling through a door. The boy had only noticed that he was angry about something that had happened in the past, and then promptly withdrew. But still…
Evidently the boy's use of the Force was on a instinctual basis only. That was good, no one could have corrupted him with lies then.
But why? Why had Fisk sent him? Why were these "angels" going to come to try and destroy the galaxy just because the boy was here? Why was his "Evangelion" the only thing that could destroy these angels? And who the hell WAS Fisk? That was probably the most important question, talking about other universes, magic, and a Crimson King as if it were common knowledge… And the Emperor wasn't worried about him.
That little bit vexed Vader. The Emperor wasn't worried about Fisk and whatever force stood behind him.
You shouldn't worry yourself needlessly, he told himself, I'm sure my master would tell me to watch out if Fisk turned out to be dangerous to the Empire.
But then, my master is also commanding me to break the rule of two with this boy and Luke; he might be aware of something that I am not, or he might be... compromised somehow.
The lift stopped and the doors slid open, ending his thoughts. "Follow me," he told the boy. Shinji dutifully followed him into a dark room lit only from two rows of floor lights that flanked the path that the dark lord of the Sith took.
The door slid shut and all was silent save for Vader's breathing.
The blackness of the holographic chamber was only curtailed the slightest bit by the slight glow of the monoliths. They circled around like the sarsens of a pagan landmark, the red glow of their numbers radiating into the inky blackness the only to tell them apart.
Nineteen monoliths circled around the image of a formally-dressed, bearded man at his desk like vultures waiting for death to fill their bellies. The man did not appear to be worried though, he appeared stony faced with his hands crossed over it; however, if one were to view his face at the moment without the hands, one would see that the man was amused- if the smirk on his face were any indication. Even though there were extra members on this council, the Committee had to be worried to send this many delegates besides the usual twelve.
"You did well to inform us of this event as soon as you were able to Ikari, but Unit-01 is the contingency plan if the fusion of Adam and Lilith with the Lance is somehow compromised. If it is, then there will be nothing in place to initiate a Third Impact or a buffer to keep an angel-controlled third-impact from spiraling out of control," the monolith labeled 07 said to the man at the desk- Gendo.
"That is true," Gendo conceded, "the potential loss of Unit-01 could make it difficult for us to initiate a controlled impact, at least immediately, but I still have faith that it still can go berserk to destroy the angel and bring itself back."
The monolith marked as 01 faded out of its electronic existence, and a hologram of another man at a desk- this one an old man whose various ailments required the use of cybernetics- appeared in the faux room.
Lorenz Keel spoke, and the rest of those assembled listened, "That might not be entirely possible Ikari, these aliens that you have mentioned to us may have taken the place of our best shot at Instrumentality and Completion."
Gendo blinked in surprise that they knew that, he had to offer an option "If we could use these alien's technology to supplement our own," Gendo offered, "it could lessen the blow of losing Unit-01."
"To what end?" sneered monolith 08, "Mankind will still be a race of flawed, imperfect beings which has reached the end of its natural evolution. We still have that ticking time-bomb of a gene within our DNA that will cause humanity to become extinct in the near future."
"Enough of this pointless bickering," Keel venomously scolded, "Ikari, you are dismissed."
Gendo bowed his head in a thin veneer of respect then got into his usual pose as the hologram representing him faded away.
Back in his office, the lights brightened as the hidden holo-projectors died, banishing the blackness with a queer shade of red. His cavernous office that formed the tip of the pyramid of NERV always seemed sterile and utterly devoid of life, even the Fichus trees that flanked his desk and door only stood watch as skeletal guards.
Kouzou stood in front of Gendo's desk quietly and still, just outside the area where the old men of SEELE could see when the holo-projectors were turned on, "I assume that the committee was running around like scared dogs?"
"Quite true," Commander Ikari confirmed, "Though they were trying to hide the fact that their plan is in total disarray now."
"Like yours are?"
Gendo winced at the remark, he was glad that his hands covered his face to hide it from his old teacher, but Fuyutsuki was right… his plans were in tatters, but… "There is still a way to conduct Instrumentality."
Kouzou nodded, "The road there will be hard."
Beneath his mask like hands, Gendo smirked, again his hands hid it, "Anything of worth is difficult to achieve; besides, my plan has always been more…" he searched for the right word, "…fluid than the Committee's." Then he stood, "This group of aliens, the 'Alliance' might have some resources that would enable us to travel down that road as well."
"Their captain has been anxious to see you," Fuyutsuki stated, "Oh, and one more thing, Ikari."
Kouzou held his breath for a moment, thinking about what he was going to say, then- he had it, "Try not to stick your neck out too far on this one."
Gendo first opened his mouth to say; Don't worry, when I left you-I was the learner, now I am the master. But something made him hold his tongue. His vice-commander always did have a point.
Back in the room that was not truly a room, the monoliths and Keel continued their palaver.
"The loss of Lilith's spawn will make it much harder for us to open the chambers of Gauf," reiterated monolith 11, "Our best hope is to get the seventeenth angel and the nephillum that NERV has to merge with the Lance of Longinus while the ritual is enacted around them."
"True," Keel admitted, "however, it will be hard for us to control the shift into Instrumentality due to the inherent chaos of the seventeenth. And, Adam would still be around to influence events."
"We will have to act quickly once the Eva series is completed," added the 7th monolith.
"Correct," agreed number 17, the designated caretaker of the seventeenth angel- and the dummy-plug system of it… "We will have to send the captive angel once the MP Evas are complete."
"Someone will have to notify Fisk that our plans have changed the next time he joins us."
"That won't be needed," a familiar voice tittered, "I've been here the entire time… well metaphorically speaking anyway" continued the voice as the speaker materialized into the black pseudo-room between Keel and monolith 19.
"What is your take on this situation Fisk?" asked the 3rd monolith, "You always seem to show up when you happen to be able to do something or set the record straight."
Fisk smiled his smile, one of the younger men hidden behind a monolith recognized only the smile; his eldest son had come home with a CD of Metal "music" called Ten Thousand Fists by some group of miscreants calling themselves Disturbed, they obviously were so after seeing the cover art.
But it was of that "art" that he was reminded of: Fisk's smile, demeanor, and gray hooded sweatshirt reminded the man behind monolith number nine of the demon raising his hand into the air along with those who had strayed from a moral path. It was the smile… too many teeth.
Fisk spoke, evidently unaware of any insights made by other people, great or mundane; he spoke like a comedian on the verge of telling the funniest joke in the world.
Except, in that great Monty Python skit, the funniest joke killed people.
"There is no situation, everything is mostly going according to plan."
"Can you share this plan with the committee gathered here?" Keel asked of Fisk, "We would like to be informed of things that would make us uneasy."
Fisk laughed the matter off, "Not to worry, the Red King always keeps his promises, especially when it comes to those dealing with the final judgment of the world." He paused for a moment and looked around, unwittingly revealing a weakness to those who were not captivated by him (which would be only you, the reader, as you are viewing these events through the scrim of words and a computer screen, even I am enthralled by him as I see these things happening in my mind's eye all too well) and the weakness is, he is afraid of those concealed behind the guise of a monolith and a number- not because they are more powerful than him in strength, but because of the fact that they are concealed; others' secrets put him at unease. Like his put others at unease as well… if they are aware of him at all.
But it comes to no surprise that SEELE doesn't notice his slightly different rate and sound of breathing, or that his eyes had widened a hair (most never have noticed his eyes at all, if they had they might have run away screaming from what that gaze promised). He doesn't give away his slight nervousness though, he's been doing stuff like this for far too long, he might have even convinced himself that he is not afraid of what the black monoliths represent to him; but it is just barely in his words when he tells SEELE, with a grin, to, "Turn on your visual connections so I can see your bright shining faces."
They do, showing themselves as elderly men (and two aging women), and Fisk falls back into his "normal" role, "Everything that has been promised to you will be fulfilled," he walks out until he is in the center, then he turns to the graying man that was behind monolith 14, the descendent of an Indian sepoy from the time when the sun never set on the British Empire, "The Kashmir region will be given to you by your Pakistani brethren, Mr. Duttagupta; restoring your country to its former glory- before even the British." Then he pointed to a woman where the chemo took away her hair, a Spanish Woman from the Basque area, "You, Senora Blanco, will see your country's power shift from its many tyrannies into a stable, single democracy… as well as France, you have Family there that will appreciate the King's gratitude, correct?"
"Si, Fisk. You speak true, I say thanks to you."
Fisk kept on pointing at random around the circle of the Council, reminding them of their own reasons for being there- what was promised to them that would push humanity past the limits of its evolution and what could help them there… plus a few things for their countries… Until he got to a Japanese man (number 17) that had kept his regal bearing throughout the years, time could not steal his ability to be prim and proper. Fisk just froze in mid-point, then said, "I'll have to speak with you after the meeting."
The Japanese man raised an eyebrow, then bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement.
Fisk went on to the rest of the council, "You have all been a wonderful help to the Red King so far, but we have no more real use for all of you…" he went on even though the resulting clamor and outcry called for him to stop and retract what he had said, "This is because, soon your plans will go past the point of no return, as will the King's, and it will require little more meddling on our parts. The only place where we…" he gestured around the circle, "…will come into play again will be the ritual at the end."
"What is the meaning of this?" Keel demanded, "Why are you cutting us all loose?"
"I'm being cut loose too," Fisk shrugged, and lying through his many teeth, "but I have been told that the Geofront, and all its inhabitants, will soon be taken through the Dirac Sea into the same universe that Unit-01 is in, so we won't be able to do anything at all except the ritual."
There was a loud uproar as each member of SEELE present reacted in shock and then in indignant anger.
"But we'll be defenseless against the angels!"
"… is an outrage!"
"…leave us hanging!"
"What do we do now?"
"…should not have done this deal!"
Fisk raised a hand, instantly, all talk vanished- though no one could give a reason why they did or should, it seemed to be just instinct.
"Gentlemen… and Ladies, calm down please. The angels are attracted to either Lilith or Adam right?"
"That is correct," the Frenchman of SEELE intoned. He, along with the rest of the committee wondered what Fisk was leading towards.
Fisk obliged their wonders, "The angels, what's left of them, will follow NERV to the other world."
"Including the seventeenth?" Keel asked.
"No," Fisk amended, "Tabris will remain here for the time being- his destiny will take him down a different path, with number seventeen sitting right there," he pointed to the elderly Japanese man who only responded with the slightest smile.
"Any reason as to why?" Keel asked.
"He will tell you later if he wants to," Fisk said, "It is his story to tell."
Keel frowned, but nodded and said, "I know when we are not going to get anymore information out of you."
Fisk gave a sarcastic smile and nod, "Got that right."
"Then nothing more can be gained from this meeting."
An instant later all the members of SEELE, save one, disconnected from the faux room. Fisk walked up to the last one, the Japanese man.
"What did you wish to speak to me about?"
The Japanese man nodded, "What I was promised can not be given to me if NERV travels to this other world."
Fisk nodded, "The King has an offer for you."
The man's eyebrow peaked as his interest rose, "Oh? What sort of offer?"
Fisk held out his hand, "the offer is to come with me to the other world and for us to fulfill our obligations to you there."
"What else is required of me there, there has to be some other reason."
"Well…" Fisk held back, "You… are the only one who knows the layout of the Geofront, and we… oh, how do I say this? We need someone to lead the assault of NERV."
The man grabbed the still outstretched hand and shook it.
"Then we are in accord?" Fisk inquired, "That was quick, you must really not like him."
"I don't, not one bit"
"Great! Meet me in Chicago in about, ehh… two weeks, bring the seventeenth with you."
"I can see at least part of your plan already."
"Oh, trust me," Fisk assured, his smile almost splitting his face, "you ain't seen nothing yet."
The man smirked as his hand reached down to disconnect him from the holo-chamber. "Oh, and by the way Mr. Ikari," Fisk hastily added.
The eldest Ikari froze, "Yes?"
"Your grandson is quite the character."
Mr. Ikari's eyebrows rose, showing mixed surprise and anger before he was able to disconnect- leaving Fisk by himself, laughing in the dark.
"Where are we?" Shinji asked, he could barely see the caped cyborg, though the telltale breathing made his presence known.
Vader chose not to answer, instead letting the wall open up before them do his talking. The serenity and beauty of space expanded into eternity. Stars shone in their unblinking gaze, the Hoth system's star palely burned like a glowing marble. The ice planet hung suspended- the pastel, ever-living sapphire. Clouds and storms rolling over the planet like God's face hovering over the deep.
Shinji was transfixed by the spectacle of infinity- rooted to his feet through awe and wonder of eternity.
"You have never seen space before," Vader observed, that meant that the boy's world was at a low tech level compared to the Empire… for surely to be piloting such a military piece of equipment like the walker would mean that he would have been deployed in at least a few space-borne campaigns if they had the technology to do so.
The walker itself would be an enigma then, he wasn't a scientist but he had been a gearhead earlier in his life, and even he could see that there would have to be at least some sort of asteroid mining operation to make one even within the easy grasp. And there would have to be at least two of the things for redundancy in case if one went missing or was destroyed. Then there would have to maintenance and repair costs.
The entire planet would be bankrupting itself in order to produce even one, but two or more? How was that possible? Something would have to make it worth it: like survival. But how bad could those angels really be?
Bad enough apparently.
A trifle disturbed by hiss train of thought, Vader rose his hand and closed the window through the Force. Darkness flooded the room again, filling every hollow.
The distant hum of the ships engines and the ragged breathing of Vader's breathing were the only things that kept silence away. The dark lord stood unmoving for what felt like an eternity, letting the lowest amount of sound that he usually heard sooth him. The boy, thankfully, stayed silent as well, which was unusual for most people in his place. Most babbled in front of the dark lord.
Finally, he unhooked his lightsaber from his belt, ready to ignite the crimson blade.
His thumb paused above the button, second thoughts suddenly entering his head again. Thoughts about the Emperor's orders, and Fisk.
(Good, you don't believe in magic.)
What if the Emperor was somehow compromised? The rule of two was not something that was supposed to be willingly broken. True, he had apprentices before, but he had trained them to help him overthrow the Emperor. Palpatine knew that. So why was he allowing it now?
(Good, you don't believe in magic.)
If Fisk had somehow gotten to and subverted the Emperor…
But no, that was impossible, the Emperor had too strong a will for that to happen, and to what purpose? What would Fisk gain, if anything, by giving this boy to him and making the Emperor be ok with it?
There was only one way to find out, follow orders; and even if nothing was going to happen, he still had to follow orders. So what was he waiting for?
Vader ignited the lightsaber, its crimson light pushed back the inky blackness. The boy winced against the sudden brightness and unfamiliar action.
"Kneel," he commanded.
Shinji's knees collapsed under him, sending him to the ground- the neoprene of his plugsuit squeaked against the durasteel plating.
Vader lowered the crimson energy blade down to Shinji's shoulder, "You have a strong connection to the Force."
"I don't know what that means!" Shinji blurted out.
"I will teach you, the Force brings power to those who learn how to use it."
"What would I want with power?"
Vader froze, taken aback, the boy was right. What would he want with power?
After a moment, Vader had it, "The power to be able to go home, the Force can grant anything to those who master it completely."
"I can go… home?" Home might be an increasingly ruined city where his only purpose was to pilot Eva; but there were still people there that he cared about, or, at least, felt a connection to. And his sense of honor would not let him leave them without doing anything possible to get back home.
"Do you accept?" the Sith Lord asked, "Will you become my apprentice?"
Shinji bowed his head, he couldn't run away from this… he mustn't run away. He repeated that to himself, letting the mantra guide him. "I accept."
Behind his mask, Vader's lips twitched upwards into the best smile his ruined head would allow, "Then your name is no longer Shinji," Vader thought quickly for a good name that would stick in people's minds as they shrank back in fear from him, the he had it, "you're name is now Darth…"
"…Talan. Now, rise, my apprentice, and come with your master to begin your training."
Darth Talan rose from Shinji's place, "Yes master."
Vader gave an appraising glace over his new apprentice's garb, "Such an outfit is not becoming of a Sith. Get a droid to take you to an outfitter, and change into whatever's offered, then get yourself quarters of some sort." He handed Talan a tiny aluminum cylinder, "This is a code cylinder, it will lead whoever is getting you clothing or rooming to my account, making them get you better quality care."
"Yes master, Thank you Master."
The Emperor shuffled his datawork around in his palace on Coruscant. Requisition orders from Kuat about a few hundred more Imperial-class Star Destroyers. Authorizing the use of a BDZ operation on an unruly planet out near Wild Space- really it was just easier to destroy the planet's inhabitants than try to subjugate them, they had no useful resources anyway.
He hated doing it though, him and the rest of the galaxy, but it was necessary to keep the cogs of his empire running smoothly lest it froze in place or worse.
He had posted his guards outside the room, he suspected that he would have a visitor soon- the boy and his walker was some way for him paying back for all the help he had been given. That much was evident in the way he could feel Vader's mind dwelling on the subject, dwelling even more than on his son that had blown up the Death Star.
"Nice to see that you kept the light on for me," a now familiar titter (to us at least) floated across the room. The Emperor looked up to see the too-wide grin of Fisk beaming at him.
"I assume the boy is my part of the bargain?" Palpatine seethed.
If possible, Fisk's grin became wider, "No sai, it's actually the walker that's the important part, the young soh is just a… fuse for the Evangelion."
"I wish I had knowledge of that fact before I had Vader dub the boy. I could have just had him killed and replaced him then."
"Oh, how naive Palpy, yes the boy is technically replaceable, but…"
"But?" the Emperor croaked.
"But, the only replacements are in his realm."
"I still had to dub the boy!" Palpatine roared, "Vader was thinking about executing the child! I gave the order to make the boy a Sith to get Vader to realize the magnitude of the situation!"
Fisk allowed Palpatine's tirade to go on for a few more moments to give him a chance to realize who he was talking to.
"Enough," Fisk finally spoke, his voice contained no humor this time, nor his smile.
The Emperor shut his mouth instantly, that smile looked like a predator's.
"Are you telling me," Fisk continued in a low, even voice that somehow was worse than his unnatural mouth that formed the words, "that you don't want to fulfill your part of the bargain after the Crimson King to see fit to make a deal with you? That you are not gracious enough to repay the King's benevolence on giving you a plan that would ultimately destroy the race that inhabits your nightmares?"
"Not at all," Palpatine backtracked growing paler than usual, "I merely was trying to…"
Fisk continued, ignoring the excuse, "That you aren't thankful that I was there to guide you to glory through the manipulation of events that you could not? That you have become too accustomed to this pitiful position of power to realize true power of the Red King?"
"No, I would never!"
"Good," Fisk continued in the even tone, "because if you were we could undo everything that you have accomplished so far… including your training in the darkside."
Palpatine lowered his head, he knew it all to be true.
"However," Fisk continued, "Making Shinji a Sith was a possibility that I had not entertained."
"What was I supposed to do then?" The Emperor asked.
Fisk chuckled, "I had originally planned to have him thrown in some cell, bringing him out only when you or I needed him… but a Sith! This could get very interesting..."
"Why did you come here?"
"My purpose was to let you know that it was time to pay your dues, it seems that I have made that abundantly clear to you now." And then he was gone.
"Distinctly clear," the Emperor spoke to the empty room, "I'm just wondering if there is some way I can avoid this."
I beg ya tell me!
Is it ghosts or just your darker self
That makes you want to flee?
PFC Collins reporting back from basic (currently in the middle of AIT), all I've got to say is that Basic would be great fun if it weren't for the idiots that constantly get everyone in trouble. Also, if you can (legally! I hold no responsibility here!) get your hands on some grenades, I'll say this about them… they're very fun to use.