26.a--"Your gods and my gods; do you or I know which are the stronger?"

Twenty seconds.

"Are you in the Magi?"

"No.  It's that security program.  The files are constantly moving. I can't read them."

"Keep trying.  I need to know who's piloting the 02."


"It's either my father or the dummy plug.  I won't kill a human pilot; not even him."

Ten seconds.

They were out of options.  Almost out of power, all the umbilicals were dead--

No.  There was the power grid; the high-voltage lines that fed Tokyo-3.

Between the ninth second and the eighth, Shinji experienced an insight into his Eva.

"Rei, do you trust me?"

For answer, she reached forward, clutching his shoulder.  He put a hand on hers, and let go of the manual controls.  Guided by Shinji's thoughts, 01 raced toward the power lines.

Five seconds.

The Eva yanked out two live feed lines, one in each hand, each carrying 400,000 watts.

"Itadakimasu," Shinji whispered.

"Shinji!" Rei shouted.  "I have it!  The pilot!"

At the last second, the Eva jammed the live end of both cables into its chest.

Lights, appliances, computers, elevators, VCRs--everything connected to the grid exploded all over Tokyo-3.  Eva 01 spasmed as massive amounts of current shot through its body.  It stayed on its feet for a few seconds, then fell to its knees.  The current continued to surge into the Eva, backing up throughout the rest of the city.  Fires broke out.  Some emergency generators kicked in; others were themselves blasted apart by the disruption.


The control room in Central Dogma was on its auxiliary generator, but barely.  Power surged and lights flickered on and off all over the geo-front.  It took over a minute for the backup generator to stabilize.

Ritsuko tried to abort the scrambler program in the Magi; nothing was happening.

"I can't stop the loop.  It's too fast."

"Just cut the power," Misato said.

"If I do that, and we lose control even for a millisecond, Rei could get it back again."

"Do you what you have to do," Gendou said.  "We have to know what's going on."

Ritsuko went back to work.  "Let me try deleting the code itself.  If the Magi can read the End Task--"

Two seconds later, the Magi was back online.

They could see Tokyo-3 now, and it was a wreck.  There had been no time to sound an evacuation warning; the battle of the Evas and the power disruption had caused a major emergency.  Misato didn't want to guess at the damage, human and material.

Eva 02 was still standing.  The live wires had finally fallen from Eva 01's chest; the giant was unmoving, on its hands and knees.

"Time to finish this," Gendou muttered.  Eva 02 walked the few dozen yards to its opponent, withdrew the progressive knife, and placed the blade against 01's temple.

The knife smashed once into the side of the Eva's head with no reaction.  A second time; no reaction.  Just as the blade was being retracted for a third strike, 01 swiftly brought its hand up, grabbing 02's wrist and wrenching the knife out of the way.

Then, with a noise like a dozen steam locomotives, Eva 01 inhaled.

A dull glow came into its eyes as it turned its head to look at Eva 02.

Everyone, including Gendou, froze.

As 01 exhaled, it spoke.  With the voice of auto bodies being mangled in a scrapyard, 01 said its first word: "Chi-chi."


It works, Gendou thought.  Finally, it's done.  It lives!  I--

Then 01 spoke again: "Chi-chi no BAKAAA!!!"

The tables were turned.  Eva 01 now attacked 02 unrelentingly, giving it no quarter, no chance to regroup.  It smashed the 02 against the ground, buildings, whatever there was, rapidly landing blind punches, kicking when fists wouldn't reach, apparently to soften it up for the kill.

They carried the battle down to Tokyo Bay.  01 had picked up 02 and hoisted it above its head.  It was ready to toss 02 into the sea when--

they both stopped.

Gendou tried to take direct control of 02, but the plug override wouldn't function.  Then he noticed--they all noticed--a command flashing on the bottom of the screen:


"Akagi, did that just happen?"

Ritsuko tapped out a query.  "The command just got to the Eva, but it entered the system just before the power failure.  It must have been trapped in the pipeline."

01 had set 02 down on the ground.  The Evas simply stood, face to face, no longer fighting.  They weren't talking, but somehow Misato felt they were communicating.

Ritsuko tried to access 02's dummy plug.  "It's 'read only'; I can't break through to change it.  But it's erased the harmonics of Commander Ikari and--"  Her voice trailed off.

"And what?  What did they replace it with?"

"I can't be sure, but I think that 02 is now controlled--by Rei.  At least, it's her personality harmonics in the dummy plug."

Eva 01 took a few uncertain steps back toward the NERV base, then collapsed onto its hands and knees, before falling over in a fetal curl.  Meanwhile, 02 had walked to the entrance where 01 had appeared, drew its knife and jumped down the shaft.

Security doors started locking all over NERV.  NERV needn't have bothered.  02 cut through them as if they were paper.  It had very specific targets anyway: Adam, Lilith, the Fifth Child.  And Artificial Evolution Lab #3, the birthing-room of Rei Ayanami.

That was the 02's first stop, and it made quick work of the room.  It halted for a moment when it saw the tank with dozens of Rei Ayanamis, each waiting for life.  Then it told itself, in Rei's voice: "No.  None of them are me.  They are dolls, puppets.  They were built for a game of make-believe; to pretend that I had eternal life.  But life is not eternal, for a human or for an Eva.  I know that now.  And only when I am able to die will I be able to live."

Eva 02 smashed the equipment, and did not stay to watch the Rei-dolls dissolve back into the LCL.  There were other things at NERV that needed to be destroyed.


While 02 destroyed the last of Adam, Magi began sending a message around the world:


"Could those children be doing this?" Gendou wondered aloud.

"No."  Misato's answer was a sob.  She wept openly now as she read the Magi's analysis of Eva 01.  The entry plug's LCL temperature was 160 degrees Celsius.  Nobody could survive that.


Kaoru, the Fifth Child, was just awakening when Eva 02 entered the chamber.  He looked vaguely like Rei, and vaguely like Shinji, with one difference: the face.  Kaoru's face was a single note: cold, emotionless evil.  He had the eyes of a child who would strangle a puppy or shoot a grownup with no care.  He had a tight mouth, sensuous and at the same time capable of telling whatever lies suited his purpose.  His face was the seat of lies; but then, another Angel had once been called Father of Lies...

He looked up mockingly into the face of 02.  "First Child?  Daughter of Elysium?  Are you my bride or my executioner?"


And so the people of Tokyo-3 gathered to marvel at the Eva 01 and the Eva 02, which arose from the geo-front to stand by its companion.  And members of SEELE and NERV and the other builders of the Evas also assembled before them from around the world, not knowing what to expect.

And on the morning of the third day, Eva 01 stirred itself, to the wonder of the people assembled, and drew forth out of its body the entry plug.  He placed it upon the ground and opened it.

From out of the LCL there arose two children, a young man and a young woman, whose skin and hair were as white as the lotus.  And Eva 01 lifted these two and placed them on its shoulder, that they might address the assembled multitude.  And they were both naked, the boy and the girl, and they were not ashamed.

The boy spake thus:

"The Angels are no more.  We will no longer be invaded by these monsters, for those who have created the monsters shall be brought to justice."

To the assembled scientists and politicians of NERV and SEELE, including Commander Gendou Ikari, the boy spake thus:

"Language contains no word for the terrible crime you have committed.  You have brought death and pestilence and fear upon an entire planet.  Yet, were we to put you to death, we would sin as surely as you have done.  Your punishment is to go down into the geo-front, apart from the human race you detested, to live out your lives in loneliness and penitence.  The equipment has been destroyed; the Magi will refuse to cooperate with your experiments.  The Evas you created shall stand guard over your prison."

A cable-car was connected to the surface, in which the scientists would be lowered to their final home.  The guilty ones entered the car and prepared to leave Tokyo-3 forever.

Misato Katsuragi had felt dead inside when she believed that Shinji and Rei had died in the entry plug.  Now, she didn't know what to think, except that she could have acted sooner, said something to someone--not just been one of the herd.  NERV might have been stopped before this, lives might have been spared, if she had only done something.  She could have helped Kaji; instead, she betrayed him.  She considered herself guilty and prepared to enter the cablecar.

She was stopped, though, by Fuyutsuki.  The senior NERV officer handed her a letter, telling her,  "I am to give you this message, and to tell you that you do not belong with us."

"Wait for me!"  Everyone turned to watch Asuka Sohryu Langley force her way through the crowd to climb into the cablecar with the others.  She looked like a being from another era; hair and clothes dissheveled, a wild light in her eyes.  She looked easily twice her age.  She clung to Commander Ikari's arm as if she were still an amorous schoolgirl, but the people saw only a grotesque mockery of her former self.  "You know the old saying: 'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.'"  Everyone, including the condemned, looked at her with undisguised loathing.

"What's wrong with you?  You surprised I know Goethe?  I am German, after all, and I was German before I even heard of this God-forsaken island.  You can have it!"  She stood by Commander Ikari as the car was lowered into the geo-front.

The girl spake thus:

"Within the geo-front, and within Tokyo-3, is a computer known as the Magi.  It too has been reborn, and will serve three purposes.  It will assist the condemned as they live out their lives in exile in the geo-front; it will assist Tokyo-3 in its rebuilding and its daily life; and it will become a part of the global net, speaking to all who would listen of SEELE and NERV and the Angels, revealing all that was kept secret, that such a sin might never happen again."

With that, they stepped off of the Eva's shoulder, and when the people went to look for the two children, they were gone.

Misato had forgotten until now about the letter, which Fuyutsuki had apparently written in haste that morning.  He wrote:

"Misato-san, last night I was asked in a vision to give this message to you.  It seems that an exception is being made in your case.  I have no right to speak of your guilt in this affair; only my own.  I admit it, and must take responsibility.  I told myself so many times that my goal was scientific that I believed my own lie; the truth is, I thought only of myself.  Whatever fate I suffer, it will be because of my lack of compassion.

"Misato-san, I fear that the Bible God has forsaken us, but we are both old enough to remember that Japan had gods long before there was a Bible.  Maybe we should get to know them better.  When you choose to make that journey, you will find a map on the other side of this letter that should guide you.  My life is almost over and has been a series of mistakes; I hope that you do not repeat those mistakes in your life.  from Fuyutsuki"


In fact it took about a year before Misato acted on those words.  She went back to her apartment and she and PenPen lived there as long as they could, until the building, weakened in the battle of the Evas, had to be condemned as structurally unsound.  By then, most of the money she had saved during her time with NERV had run out.  It was time for a fresh start.  She threw things into boxes, threw the boxes into her car, and she and PenPen set off.

It was all she could do to coax her car down the coast as far as the map said she needed to go.  Near what was left of the Nara peninsula, the car finally gave up the ghost when the drive shaft fell out, on the very spot where the map told her to stop.  The Second Impact had created a hot springs here where there was none before, and a town had grown around the hot springs.  She let PenPen out of the car; he dashed happily off toward the warm waters.  Misato took one of the cardboard boxes, and entered the gate of the home where she had stopped.

A small fire was burning, and what seemed to be an old man was raking dead leaves into the fire.  At least, he seemed an old man from the back, with his short stature, snow-white hair and old-style summer yukata.  He turned when he heard Misato's footsteps.  "It's been a long time, Misato-san," he said quietly.

"Yes it has--"  Misato caught herself about to call him "Shinji-kun" out of reflex.  "Are you happy, Shinji-san?"

"Yes I am, especially seeing you again."

"Well, that is, I found this box of your old things, and--"  Misato let the sentence trail off as she handed Shinji the cardboard box.

The first thing he picked up was the sign proclaiming "Shin-chan's Room".  "Oh, please burn that!" Misato said.  "That's so embarrassing!"

"No," Shinji said.  "It's a reminder that once I was a stranger in a strange place, and that you cared enough to give me a home."

He looked through the box, searching for something specific.  "This, on the other hand--"  He pulled out an audio cassette.  Shinji had almost worn it out.  It was his "running away" tape, labelled "program #25" and "program #26".  Without a second look, he tossed the cassette onto the fire.

"Things are a little crazy," Shinji went on; "the town is preparing for the Obon Festival in two days.  But let's go inside."

Shinji picked up the box and led Misato to the front door of a house that was built fairly recently, but based on an older style.  Leaving their shoes in the entryway, Shinji called out, "She's here."  He motioned for Misato to go into the next room.  She passed through a traditional reception room, and followed her nose through a study littered with a mix of scrolls and printouts.

Several dishes were being cooked at once in the kitchen, and to Misato each smelled better than the next.  She noticed that they were all "temple" cuisine: no meat was eaten in this house.  At the kitchen table, preparing ingredients for yet another dish, was Rei.  She wore a yukata identical to Shinji's, and she also wore her baby slung to her back.  The baby slept; her ruddy pink skin a contrast to the pure white skin and hair of her mother.  Rei turned her red eyes on Misato, and her smile broadened.  "Okaeri."

Misato got a lump in her throat.  They knew she would come.  They had always known.  Rei had just welcomed her home.  Blinking back tears of joy, she sat down at the kitchen table, and completed the formula: "Tadaima."

I'm home.