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A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack

Chapter 2: Omen

Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is not mine, but instead belongs to Gainax and Hideako Anno. The text of this fanfic is mine, however, and may not be used without permission. The Power of Cheese compels you!

Suzuhara Touji was not prone to deep thoughts. Indeed, he was known as almost anything but a great thinker. He was well aware of, and indeed more than content with, this fact. Back when such things had mattered far more than they did today, he had been at best indifferent towards his education. He had, in fact, in his younger years been something of a bully, often convincing others to follow his commands through the strength of his fists, rather than that of his arguments.

Had the world continued as it had once been, he would not ever have amounted to much, he knew. He might have been able to make some sort of a living off of his physical strength, but it would have likely been a poor one. When he had been crippled, even that possibility had vanished, leaving him with nothing but the generosity of Nerv to rely upon.

In this world, though... in this world Suzuhara Touji had done more than amount to much. This world had dire need of people like him. He was one of the not much more than a hundred people who stood between the people of Tokyo-4 and pillage, starvation, and eventual death. Not only that, but he was one of the best of those few.

They were called scouts, but their duties extended far beyond simple patrols and exploration. Tokyo-4 was not the only settlement to have risen up in the aftermath of Third Impact, and it was the scouts who maintained relations, such as they were, with those other groups. Between the settlements lay vast stretches of uncontrolled territory, and those spaces were home to uncountably many groups of bandits, some numbering over a hundred themselves, for there were always those who found it easier to take from others than to make for themselves.

Despite these accomplishments, the fact remained that Touji was not a deep thinker. Yet, as he sat on a cracked sidewalk, idly sharpening his large, if crude, broadsword, he found himself lost in thought, countless figments floating through his head, being replaced as quickly as he could consider them, and he was well aware of the catalyst that had provoked this storm.

Ayanami. He had never expected her to return. Nobody had. After the first few years, the pace of returns had slowed to a crawl, so any new arrival was an unexpected event. However, Rei in particular... he would have expected to see just about anyone more than her. Very little was known about what exactly had occurred six years ago, but he had heard enough fragmentary testimonies to conclude that Ayanami had been intimately involved. For her to return... he could not think anything but that it must have some greater meaning.

As, he felt, must the dream that had awakened him the previous night. He could not truly recall it; in his memory it was little more than fleeting, unknowable images and strong feelings. However, it stuck with him in a way that his more ordinary dreams did not. He could still remember the raw, unreasoning panic that had gripped him when he had awoken, a feeling matched in intensity by only one other he had ever experienced... one he deeply hoped he would never feel again. Fortunately, he had little fear of that ever occurring.

Another thought presented itself - what of Ayanami's memory loss? Everyone seemed to have some - he himself was missing most of a day, from what he could gather. Yet for most, it was no more than a matter of hours, at most a day or two. Ayanami had seemingly lost more than a month, by far the most of anyone he had heard of. Another odd fact, one of many that had presented itself the previous day. Far too many to be a coincidence, he thought.

That was why he had decided to examine the site of the meteor landing. He knew it was a totally irrational feeling, but he felt that something surrounded by such odd events had to be important. There had to be some significance to the past night's events. More than that, he felt that something dangerous was coming. There was no real basis for the feeling, no more than a dream and coincidence, but Touji always trusted his gut feelings.

"Ah, finally. What in the world was the food doing here?" Nakamura Katai said, holding up a small package in triumph. "I thought I'd never find it."

"Where was it?" Kensuke asked, looking up from the squad's small two-way radio transmitter. It had broken during the course of their patrol, and he had been trying without success to repair it for the past several days.

"It's all in the same bag as the dirty laundry," Katai replied as he began to busy himself preparing lunch.

Hiruma Kuro, the squad's oldest member, made a disgusted noise. "I know things were confused this morning, but who would've done that?"

Touji decided to change the subject, as he thought he recalled packing the food that morning. "What have we got for lunch, anyways?"

"Not much," Katai replied. "We were supposed to finish the patrol yesterday, and we do have an extra mouth to feed - even if she doesn't look like she eats much."

"We'll have to forage tonight, then," Kuro said. "Or hunt." He fingered the bow that lay by his side.

Touji grunted in agreement, then bent himself back to the task of sharpening his blade. An instant later, this task was abandoned. A howl echoed throughout the shopping center, sending chills down Touji's spine.

"Dogs," Hiruma said. He grabbed his bow and quickly strung it.

Katai spat as he set the food aside and reached for his sword. "Just what we need."

"Sounds like they're on the other side of the building," Kensuke commented.

Touji grimaced, rising. "And so are the others." Kensuke blinked and scrambled up as Touji continued. "Aida, you guard the packs. Nakamura, Hiruma, follow me."

The three quickly followed the other group's path, and were soon able to hear the sounds of combat. When they turned the corner and were able to see the shoe store, they were met by two large, mongrel dogs, which quickly moved to intercept their path.

Kuro was swifter, though, and was able to shoot the arrow he had nocked before they could close the distance. It hit the lead dog in the shoulder, and the beast fell. The second dog turned to flee, but Touji stepped forward and cleaved it nearly in two with a two-handed swing of his massive sword.

The dog Kuro had hit whimpered in pain as it struggled to rise. Katai walked over and silenced it with his sword. "I had a dog like that before the Impact," he commented, moments before the three raced towards the shoe store, spurred on by a sudden, human cry of pain. In a matter of seconds, they were at the store's door.

Inside, Aoki had fallen to one knee, clutching his bloody sword arm while his blade lay discarded on the floor beside him. A gigantic black dog loomed over him, but as it heard footsteps behind it, it whirled about to face the newcomers, a low growl in its throat. Behind it, twin daggers appeared in Himiko's hands, while Rei took a step backwards, away from the confrontation.

The black dog leapt at Touji, and he moved his sword to block the attack, but not quickly enough. The dog got inside his reach and bit at his leg, though fortunately Touji was able to dodge fast enough that its sharp teeth met only air. He cursed, trying to back away far enough to swing his sword, but the dog pressed forward.

Himeko hurled a dagger that struck a glancing blow on the dog's back, but that was not enough to put the beast down. A moment later Touji's retreat had taken him out of the store's narrow entryway, and Katai immediately moved to flank the dog, and quickly delivered a solid strike on it. This gave Touji enough time to back away far enough to finish the dog off with a swift blow.

Even as the dog's final death cry sounded, Kuro shouted a warning. Behind Rei, another dog leapt from the darkness. Cursing, Touji dropped his blade and drew his pistol from its sheath, quickly taking aim. "Everyone down," he yelled, mere instants before he fired.

The shot missed, and the dog barreled into Rei, snarling and snapping at the girl. She toppled, and the dog struck for her throat. Before it could finish her off, Himiko killed it with another thrown dagger.

Touji hurriedly entered the store, followed closely by Kuro and Katai. He paused to help Aoki up, asking, "Are you all right, Toru?" he asked.

"I'm fine," the other man replied. "What about the girl?"

"I am unhurt." All eyes turned at that simple statement. Unnoticed, Rei had risen from where she had fallen, and the truth of her assessment was self-evident. Even her borrowed clothing was undamaged.

"But that dog-" Kuro began, only to be cut off by Himiko.

"There are some more dogs in the back. Let's get out of here before they work up the courage to attack."

Touji nodded in agreement, and they all swiftly left the store. Less than a minute later, they had reached the campsite and rejoined Kensuke, who reported that no dogs had come near. He then began to bandage Aoki's wound, which had proven to be relatively minor. As he continued to tend to the wound, the others busied themselves repacking and preparing to leave. None of them had any intention of eating lunch near a dog pack.

It was a shame that they couldn't take the time to butcher at least some of the dogs, but they all knew that they should get out of the area as quickly as possible. They'd been pretty lucky to escape as uunharmed as they were, and there was no telling how long it might take for the remainder of the pack to strike.

In a matter of minutes, they were on the move again, and soon the shopping center was well behind them. It took half an hour to make up the distance they had traveled out of their way, but the lack of a break for lunch still put them well ahead of where they would have been without the detour. Touji ignored Aoki's half-serious griping about that lack and the resulting banter.

Instead, his unusually unruly thoughts focused on the young girl - it was so odd to think of Ayanami like that - who walked beside and slightly behind him. Every so often he snuck a glance at her, almost to remind himself that she was still there. Each time he did, he marveled anew at the latest mystery her presence brought.

What had happened to her, at the end of the fight? Touji clearly remembered seeing the last dog biting and clawing at Ayanami, and her falling under the onslaught. He had expected to see her at worst dead, at best seriously wounded. Yet she had suffered not even a scratch. Ayanami was a strange girl, but she still bled just like anyone else. He had seen her come to class wounded often enough to know that.

After tripping over a fairly large rock, Touji forced himself to force his distracting musings on the subject aside. Whatever had happened, he could do nothing about it, and was not likely to discover anything on his own. He would simply have to keep an eye out for anything else unusual about... Ayanami. Touji felt like hitting himself. The girl was walking not five feet behind him. He could ask her what had happened! It couldn't hurt. Well, not much, in any case.

"Ayanami," Touji said, slowing slightly to allow the girl to catch up with him. After several long moments passed with no response from her, he repeated himself.

"I heard the first time," she said flatly, not looking at Touji.

"Then why didn't you answer?" Touji asked.

At this, Ayanami's eyes did flicker sideways to glance at him. "You did not ask me anything."

"Err... I guess you're right." Touji scratched the back of his head, trying to come up with a subtle way to broach the subject he was interested in. "Ummm... back at the fight, how did ya keep from getting hurt? It sure looked like that dog had got you pretty bad at first." Well, this was Ayanami. There wasn't much point in subtlety with her.

Ayanami stopped walking suddenly, and Touji stumbled as he tried to stop his own motion. Rei closed her eyes for a moment, then answered. "I... I do not know." To Touji's ear she sounded quite disturbed. Before he could come up with a reply, Ayanami started walking again at a rapid pace.

Touji raced after her. "Whoa, wait up a moment!" Rei slowed her walk, but only slightly. Touji thought he could feel most of the squad's eyes on him - it seemed as though their conversation had attracted an audience. As he caught up with Rei, he asked her quietly, "What... what do ya remember about it?"

"I do not know." Rei's voice was, if anything, even flatter than it had been before her unusual display of emotion, and her eyes remained fixed on the path before her.

"Well, I know but... I mean, did the dog manage to bite ya or what?"

"I do not wish to discuss this."

"I... see." Touji hesitated a moment, then continued. "Well, what do ya want to talk about then? I can tell ya 'bout Tokyo-4-"

"I do not wish to talk," Rei said, and irritation was evident in her voice. She sped up, moving so quickly that she almost ran into Nakamura's back.

Touji stared after her. Something truly had to be bothering Ayanami, for her to have such an outburst. Well, it was an outburst for her. He'd gone to school with her for years, and he'd never seen her that upset. Even Soryuu hadn't been able to get that much of a reaction from her! He slowly shook his head as he continued to walk. Whatever it was, he wasn't going to find out. Pressing the girl would be fruitless, and likely counterproductive.

Besides, he supposed he'd be a little out of sorts if he'd suddenly awoken in an almost unimaginable future, then almost gotten killed by a feral dog. Best to give Ayanami some time to adjust and recover. Even if she was physically fine, her mental state had to be at the least upset.

Touji started as he heard a sudden, pained curse from behind him. His head whirled about, but he soon relaxed as he saw that it had been nothing more than Aoki probing his wound. As he picked up his pace, he heard the other man mutter a few more choice words under his breath.

"Don't play with it," Yamada said. "You'll just make it worse."

"Oh, shut up," Aoki replied, and the conversation deteriorated from there.

Smiling despite himself, Touji turned his head back again and said, "Quiet down! Haven't you two had enough fighting for today?"

Behind the two, Hiruma chuckled. "Yeah. The rest of us don't want to hear your lovers' quarrels."

"Wh-what?! We- we aren't-" Aoki sputtered.

Himiko merely snorted, but she did not continue the argument. Touji smiled again as silence descended on his squad for the moment. Yet, after only a few minutes, he heard Katai and Kensuke arguing over something. He sped up and walked past Rei to approach the two. "What's up?" he asked as he neared.

The two men looked at each other, then Kensuke spoke. "We're not sure, but it looks like the meteor may have attracted some other people. Look," he said, pointing across the wide plain they were traversing. "See that cloud of dust?"

Touji shaded his eyes, and after a moment nodded. There did seem to be a dust cloud just on the horizon. "It could just be the wind."

Nakamura nodded. "It could be. Or it could be a car."

Touji noted the cloud's direction, "From home, maybe?"

"Maybe," Kensuke said. "Maybe not."

Touji grimaced. It was rare to find a bandit group that was organized enough, but occasionally one did salvage a mostly-intact vehicle and lay claim to a gas station's tanks. The added mobility made those groups very dangerous. "True. Just keep an eye out, and we'll have to be careful when we get to the site."

The two men nodded, and Touji fell back to spread the warning. Rei did not respond when he told her, but he could feel her tensing slightly. When he told the other three, the response was little different. Yamada merely nodded, while Aoki grumbled slightly under his breath. Hiruma took his bow off his shoulder and restrung it, but did not yet nock an arrow.

This complete, Touji moved back towards the front off the column. As he passed Rei, she spoke. "Suzuhara-san. If we encounter hostiles, what should I do?"

Touji frowned. "I guess ya should just try and stay outa the fight." He paused. He would feel a lot more comfortable if she had some way to defend herself. "Do ya know how to use any weapons?"

"I have been trained in the personal analogues of most weapons available for the Evangelions."

Touji searched his memories, trying to remember what exact weapons that implied. Ah, the progressive knife! "So ya could use a dagger?"

Rei nodded.

"Then go on back and ask Yamada for one of hers. That way you'll have somethin' to defend yourself with if things go bad."

Rei nodded again, and began to fall back to where Yamada was walking. Touji let out a soft sigh. This was starting to get much more complicated than he had thought it would. And to think that he had thought he'd be back in Tokyo-4 by now!

Something stirred. Touji couldn't tell what, but there was a definite change in the air. He stopped, ears straining but hearing only the slow whistle of the wind. Looking around, he noticed that Rei too had stopped. The others moved forward a few steps more, then halted as well, puzzlement evident on their faces.

"What's wrong?" Himiko asked.

Touji frowned. "I don't..." He trailed off as his straining senses heard something. A peculiar ringing, almost too soft to hear. Each chime resounded inside him, and he could feel raw terror crawling its way into his mind. With a sudden effort, he forced it down and spoke. "Do you hear that?" He noticed that he was spasmodically clenching and relaxing his right fist, and he forced himself to stop.

"Hear what?" Aoki said.

"I hear it." Rei's quiet whisper seemed far louder than it was.

Ahead of Touji, Kensuke shook his head. "I don't hear anything." Similar negatives soon came from the other members of the squad.

The ringing stopped, and Touji shuddered. "Let's get moving," he said, his voice weak. As they began to resume their journey, Rei walked up beside him. For several minutes they walked along side each other in silence, until the dull aftertaste of terror had left Touji's mouth and he had began to wonder whether he had imagined the whole incident.

Then, Rei spoke. "Is that... usual?" Her voice was filled with hesitation and fear - not emotions Touji had ever expected Ayanami to show.

He shook his head. "No." He found himself clenching his fists again, and slowly relaxed them.

Rei frowned. "It felt familiar." This time it was puzzlement that showed in her voice.

Touji opened his mouth to state the opposite, then reconsidered. He could remember one thing that had felt like that, one memory he had tried for years to forget. He glanced sideways at the young girl, then slowly spoke. "I felt like that once before." He paused. "In the Evangelion, when the Angel..." He did not complete the sentence, and felt there was no need to.

Rei nodded once, then let the distance between her and Touji increase, signaling an end to her unusually talkative mood. Touji smiled weakly. At least Rei seemed to be getting back to normal quickly, even if he was still shaken by the strange occurrence.

Something crawled at the base of his spine as he remembered the sensation of purest, absolute terror. He wished he could think that it was just nerves. If that feeling had any basis in reality, he was not looking forward to meeting its cause. He could only hope he wasn't walking straight toward it.

Fortunately, the only other incident to occur before nightfall was less disturbing. Hiruma managed to shoot a passing bird, and the squad was delayed slightly while it was plucked and cleaned. This took only a few minutes, and the squad soon continued on its way. With the rest of the rations, the fresh meat could just be stretched to feed everyone for the night, but they would need to take time out to find more food tomorrow.

The sun was just sinking beneath the horizon when the meteor's landing site came into view. A thin plume of smoke rose into the darkening sky, though Touji could not tell whether its cause was the meteor or a campfire of some other group come to investigate it. He gestured harshly for a halt, and within moments this was accomplished.

"Let's wait till it gets a little darker before we move any closer," Touji said. "If there's anybody there, no reason to let them know we're coming." He paused. "Everybody be ready, but nobody make any hostile moves. They might be friendly, and there's no reason to get into a pointless fight."

This statement was met with general agreement, and they settled down to wait in the shadow of a small hill. As he sat, Touji gazed worriedly at the still-visible smoke. He still did not know what caused it, but he suspected that, even if the smoke was not a sign of such, someone had beaten them to the site. But who?

When only the tiniest sliver of the sun still hung over the horizon, Touji rose. "Let's go," he said in a soft whisper, and the squad came to its feet. The quickly circled the hill that they had sheltered behind, and began to move towards a thin line of hills, the sole obstacle between them and their destination.

As he neared the hills, Touji could hear the sounds of people on the other side. He loosened his sword in its sheath. If there was to be fighting, it would be soon. At the base of the hill, he saw Rei next to him, and he flashed her a smile he wasn't sure she saw in the dim twilight. "Don't slip this time." He thought he saw her nod curtly in response as he began to climb.

They all made good speed, and he was halfway up the hill when he heard the voice from above him. "None of you move or we shoot!"

He could feel Ayanami tensing nearby, but it was a grin that came to his face as he placed the voice. "Ah, get yer finger of the trigger, Uoya! Don't want you to screw up and waste bullets!"

A rueful chuckle came in response. "It had to be you, didn't it, Suzuhara? Get your squad up here, we were about to eat dinner."

Touji's stomach rumbled in response, and moments later he had reached the crest of the hill. As he took in the small camp on the edges of the crater, he turned to Uoya. "Weren't you supposed to be resting in the city?"

The other squad leader shrugged. "Our glorious leaders wanted to check this out, so we took the jeeps down. Come on, let's get you all settled in, and you can tell me who that new girl is." Uoya gave Rei a curious glance.

A few minutes later, as his squad was setting up camp on the outskirts of the already existing one, Touji heard another familiar voice. "I thought I smelled stooges! Shinji was starting to get worried since you didn't radio in."

Touji turned, and smiled. "Nice ta see ya too, Soryuu. I didn't know you were here."

The redhead shrugged. "It seemed like a good idea, after..." She trailed off, staring over Touji's shoulder. "Is... is that..." she began, her voice trembling.

Touji looked behind him and saw Ayanami. He turned back to Asuka and nodded. She shuddered slightly. "I never thought she'd come back."

"Neither did I," Touji replied.

Asuka walked over to the other girl. "Wo... Ayanami?"

Rei nodded. "You are Pilot Soryuu."

It was not a question, but Asuka answered anyways. "Yes. Though I haven't been called that in a long time."

Rei simply nodded again.

Asuka stared at her a moment, then spoke again. "It's... good to have you back." To Touji's ears she sounded like she was forcing herself to say the words. When Rei did not respond, instead simply staring at the nearby campfire, Asuka walked back to Touji. "I'd forgotten how... creepy she was." She suddenly shook her head. "I almost forgot! You'll never guess who Kumon's squad brought in last week!"

Touji felt a sudden hope in his heart. "Was it..."

Asuka's face fell. "No." She was silent a moment. Then a smile appeared on her face. "But it was one of your old flames."

Touji raised an eyebrow.

Asuka sighed. "Not in a guessing mood, I take it. It's Misato!"

"Really?" Touji said. "That's wonderful."

"She's got a lot of adjusting to do," Asuka said with a laugh. "She can't quite handle the fact that we aren't kids anymore."

Touji glanced sideways at where Rei still sat motionlessly. "Speaking of adjusting," he began, only to be cut off when Asuka waved him off.

"Not now, Suzuhara. I'm hungry, and not in the mood. Let's go get something to eat, and then I'll show you the..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "We'll talk about that later." She paused, then raised her voice. "Wonder... Ayanami."

Rei's head turned to look at her.

"We're getting dinner. You can come with us, if you like."

To Touji's surprise, Rei rose. As she neared, Asuka smiled, though it seemed a little forced. "Come on. Let's eat."

A few moments later, Touji and Rei were seated around a different campfire, waiting for Asuka to return with the food. Rei gazed into the fire's depths, as though she were searching for something. After a few moments' awkward silence, Touji forced himself to break it.

"Are... are you all right?" he asked. When Rei did not respond, he continued. "I know this has to be hard for you. It was hard enough for me, and I came back after less than a couple months."

Rei did not speak, and Touji felt rather awkward. "Err... if you want to talk about anything, Ayanami, I'll listen." He scratched the back of his head nervously. "That's all I wanted to say."

Rei opened her mouth, but Touji would never know what she was about to say as Asuka returned, bearing two small trays. "Here we go. We have some random meat - I didn't have the heart to ask what - and some roasted vegetables for you, Ayanami." She set the trays down where everyone could easily reach them and took a seat next to Touji.

For several minutes, there was little conversation as the three concentrated on eating. Eventually, Asuka began to speak. "I know this is going to sound really weird, but... did either of you feel anything strange this afternoon?"

Touji and Rei shared a glance, then the man spoke. "Yes."

Asuka breathed a sigh of relief. "Good. I thought I was going crazy. Nobody else felt it."

"We were the only ones in my squad," Touji said, and Asuka frowned.

"Strange," she said.

"We are the ones who can synchronize with Eva." The other two looked at Rei, surprised that she had spoken.

After a moment, Asuka nodded curtly. "Did either of you have a dream last night?" Touji and Rei nodded in unison, and Asuka muttered a German curse under her breath. "Shinji did too."

Touji noticed Rei stiffen at the mention of Ikari, but she did not speak. He, however, did. "I don't like this."

For some time, the three were silent. When only a few scraps of meat remained, Touji spoke again. "Soryuu. What about the meteor?"

Asuka started. "The meteor." She rose. "Come on. You too, Wondergirl. You should see it."

Touji stood, a churning feeling settling into the bottom of his stomach. "What... what is it?"

Asuka shook her head. "You should see it yourself."

Frowning, Touji followed her as she strode through the camp, and Rei trailed after him. Along the way, they passed Kensuke, who was once again fiddling with the innards of the squad's broken radio. "Yo, Suzuhara!" he called. "What's up?"

"We're... going to go look at the meteor," Touji replied after the barest instants hesitation.

"Cool," Kensuke said, putting the radio down. "I think I'll tag along."

Asuka muttered something, of which Touji caught only the tail end. "...'ll probably get a kick out of it."

The four now moved to the edge of the camp, Asuka pausing only to grab a torch from Uoya. Soon they reached the crater's edge, though Touji could not make out the bottom. "Be careful," Asuka said. "The footing isn't good, and there are still some hot spots. One of Uoya's squad burned herself pretty badly."

Touji frowned. "Maybe we should just wait till dawn? It'll be easier with better light."

Asuka shook her head in reply. "You need to see this now." She laughed bitterly. "Though you probably won't thank me for it."

As they prepared to descend the steep slope, Touji turned to Rei. Before he could speak, she spoke. "I will not slip."

Touji blinked in surprise, and merely shook his head at Asuka's puzzled glance. She shrugged, and started down the slope. It was tough going, and Touji nearly slipped more than once. Fortunately, there was a relatively safe path already marked out, so all he had to do was follow the red glow of Asuka's torch. Still, he breathed a sigh of relief when they all reached the bottom safely.

He frowned as he looked toward the center of the crater, seeing a massive, oddly shaped shadow that he couldn't quite make out. Asuka rested a moment before continuing across the crater floor. The other three followed after her.

The churning feeling in his gut strengthened as they neared the object - he couldn't call it a meteor - and the smell of burnt flesh filled his nostrils, almost making him wish he hadn't eaten yet. As the object drew ever closer, his mind began to make patterns, patterns that he did his best to force himself to believe were coincidence. It wasn't possible. It simply wasn't!

Finally, the object loomed overhead, many times the height of a man. Asuka raised her torch to the object's side, illuminating part of it. Kensuke let out a tortured gasp, and Touji was sure he saw Rei start, though within moments the girl's features were once again controlled.

Touji himself simply stared at anything but the Latin characters. His eyes wandered along the metallic plating, noting its scorched and battered condition. He kept trying to tell himself that this couldn't be what he thought it was, that this was some sort of joke. Yet he knew that this could not be the case.

Slowly, unwillingly, his eyes returned to the writing. He traced it in his mind, mouthing the syllables, trying to make sense of the occurrence. Why? How? Why now? What did it mean? Those and a thousand more questions whirled through his mind as he stared, unable to tear his eyes away.

Ikari was not going to be pleased. For some reason, that thought was stuck in his head. He had... no, they all had tried so hard to forget how the world had become what is was. To forget all that had occurred six years ago. Forget the pain, forget the tears, forget the blood. To forget and heal. Slowly, all those memories had been pushed into the background by the never-ending struggle to survive and rebuild.

But now, these simple words brought it all crashing back. It wasn't fair. They had thought these words, and all they represented, were long behind them. Even if this event had no greater meaning, was no warning, it had already shattered that illusion. These simple words...

Evangelion Unit-01.

Author's Random Ramblings

1) Thanks go to Ryan Hupp and Angus MacSpon for their efforts in prereading this chapter.

2) C&C of any sort is, of course, greatly desired and appreciated.

3) The prelude and previous chapter of this fanfic can be found at my website ( ).

Started: May 13, 2003
Draft Finished: May 27, 2003
Draft Released: May 31, 2003
Final Released: June 05, 2003