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Shinji and Warhammer 40,000


Indentured Artist
Yes. Posting this here in preparation for reposting at Webnovel.com.

Some minor changes for now, larger divergences from the original later. Thoughts and corrections would be appreciated. Please remember, I seek to (re)write this for the easy understanding of those who have never heard of Evangelion or WH40k before.

For those who have not read or heard of this shitty yet 750,000 word story before,

So I heard you like God-Machines. We put yer god-machine on your god-machine you can machine gods while you god machine.
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Prologue 1.1 (This is How The World Dies)


Indentured Artist

Antarctica. 13th of September, 2000.

The frozen continent burned. Four gigantic eye-scouringly bright featherless wings rose high over the South Pole, accompanied by a explosive roar. Dark blast rings expanded over a glowing blood-red landscape. Motes of red light were thrown up by the blast, and scattered away into the furthest reaches of the planet.

The explosion rippled through the the continent, shattering the ice cap and breaking open the crust. The Earth itself began to change its tilt, as if like a wounded animal recoiling in pain. The quakes caused by the Event caused gargantuan tsunamis all through the Southern Hemisphere. Beaches retreated as the oceans rippled, and billions died almost instantly in hammering return of their waters.

Antarctica continued to bleed red.

In the days after, more millions would die in the ensuing world-wide coastal flooding. First skirmishes, then all-out wars, erupted due to food and resources shortages and the panicked movement of millions of refugees. A mere two days after the disaster, a nuclear exchange happened between Pakistan and India. On the 20th of September, 2000, for mysterious reasons a nuclear bomb was detonated in the heart of Tokyo, killing half a million people. Fighting would spread across the planet, only ending in the February 14th, 2001 and the Valentine Treaty that formally put a halt to the fighting so that the nations could try to recover.

From 13 September of 2000 to 14 February 2001 was merely 153 days. In that time, global human population was halved. Thousands of plants and animal populations were made extinct. Many many more millions would die in the years ahead.


No one knew that Second Impact was not an asteroid strike as had been reported, but man's attempt to wield the hands of godhood.

Second Impact brought them all low, and purged humanity of its arrogance. No longer masters of the Earth, barely able to control themselves, nothing mattered now except survival. Impact reshaped the world and set billions of souls screaming into the night. Those that were left behind had to struggle the shivering remains of their proudest era.


Japan, being an island nation, was among the worst affected. The seas had risen dramatically, drowning their interlocking coastal metropolises. Tokyo had to be rebuilt further inland. Worse, due to the change in axial tilt, Japan was no longer a nation that could know winter.

The children who were born following Impact could only know a world vastly reduced, vastly sapped of its vibrant exuberance. The age before them could only be dreamed about as the apex of humanity, an age of innocence abruptly taken from them. Things would never be the same again.

Everything before Second Impact was a time of reckless energy and optimism that they might ever achieve again, an age brimming with wealth, ideas, and fervor, and many of its ideals were drowned by the sea or set aside in the call for survival.

And in this shattered, traumatized world, there lived a boy named Shinji Ikari.


Shinji Ikari grew up along the hills, which were now the new coastlines. In a little town in Sendai, he lived there with his uncle and aunt. They dutifully cared for him physically were emotionally distant.

They were related to him via his mother's side, Yui Ikari. But they didn't see him like that. The boy's father had thrown him away to the nearest relatives, apparently unwilling to care for him in the wake of his mother's death.

They had lost their own son in the Impact, and taking care of Rokubungki's child could not truly fill that emotional void. In a house without smiles, Shinji only learned to be silent and obedient, further deepening the dissimilarity between him and the child they once had, a boy full of laughter and easy tears. He was sullen and moody, much like his father, who left an instantly unpleasant and aloof impression on people.

Shinji did not expect much from his guardians. As he never asked for anything, they took it as a sign he was content. That it was how he liked things. He as a consequence grew without lavish attention, without toys, without the competitive bonds of playmates. He watched silently as the others played, bragged and then combined their amusements. His heart was cold, he did not dare reach out and beg to be included in their games.

Apathy was his bulwark against envy.

This was the years before he discovered the cello, the solitary music, and the gentle stirrings of the classicals. Before that, he had the sea.

He would walk back then at the edges of ancient bitten cliffs and the newly worn beaches, watching the unceasing motion of the tides beating powerfully against rock. Lying there, staring up at the sky, letting the sounds fill him and consume him - he felt like a part of something greater. It reminded him that man was small, that such needs and such painful emotions were as nothing at all.

Remember well, that the latter half of the twentieth century was an spectatcular oversaturation of entertainment. Anime, movies, TV shows, international stars! These glittering lights all but vanished as studios sank under the waves and all efforts were funneled into the practical. Frivolity was laid to rest beside the gravestones. That left a somber land and a somber people.

Shinji grew up without frivolous TV shows, without the spread of manga or the glorious wrath of Godzilla. The few books around the house and at school were simple texts, intended mainly to be instructional than entertaining.

One day, as he lay there, as if daring the sea to make that surge and swallow him up, it all changed.

For the sea did surge, and the waves did flow over him, and he gasped and flailed and something big and black rose along with the tides to clonk him upside down the head.

The ocean surged over him and dragged him off the beach.

He washed back up on shore, coughing and wheezing. Shinji rubbed at his head, and he thought it pitiful that for those brief moments he thought he was going to die it was nonetheless the most exciting thing to ever happen to him. His heart was still pounding, his skin cold and over-sensitive. For those few moments he was close to death he felt so thoroughly alive.

The waves seemed to push the black object further to him, trying to get him to accept it. Shinji decided to haul what turned out to be a big black suitcase away from the sea.

It was made of tough plastic, and sealed shut with protective hard plaster lining at the seams. The boy looked around. He was alone there. It wasn't that far from his house, but in the aftermath of Second Impact many properties still remained abandoned. Shinji gave in to curiosity and decided to open in.

In any other point in time he would have sheepishly brought it over to a person in any authority, too afraid to be accused of stealing anything. Too afraid of any form of negative attention. Right then however, he was still filled with his first shot of adrenalin and his head throbbed enough with pain to interfere with common sense. He brought it over to a slab of flat rock, and broke the seals with another sharp piece of rock. The suitcase lock had only three digits, and was easy enough to crack.

Inside, were books. Big, colorful books, and utterly unlike anything he had ever seen before. Packed to the side were little figurines in dynamic poses, painted in exquisite detail. Skulls, monstrous figures adorned the contents in many places, but for some reason it didn't scare him any, he who was nervous of little mice. He picked one book up and hesitantly ran a small palm over its glossy cover. Its title was adorned with a strange double-headed eagle. He didn't recognize any of the letters… but the sight was burned into his mind. He had to know what it said.

He opened the book, the pages crackling with newness. Illustrations, paragraphs, numbers, all there and incomprehensible. None of it made sense. The pictures matched the figurines though, and scenes of conflict and deaths on a massive scale were clear enough.

He did not understand, anything, but knew enough that he held in his hands something epic.

For the first time in his life Shinji learnt NEED. He needed it. He needed to know what it meant. He would never let it go, never give up this discovery. For a time, he considered just burying it as a treasure all his own, but then there was always the risk of someone else finding it and taking it from whatever secret stash he could make.

Slowly, furtively, he dragged the suitcase back to the house. He felt utter terrified. Every shadow could be someone who would steal it away. Every shadow was someone to seize him as a thief. Up, up, difficult as it was for a boy his size, he wrestled it over stairs and into his room.


When his guardians came home, he hesitated and stumbled over his words trying to explain that they thought he had stolen it. Something like that obviously was valuable. Just as he expected, they wouldn't trust him any! So why should he trust any grownup in turn?

For the first time he felt anger. He found it by the beach, he insisted, and it was his by right! He shouted at them that it's not fair to take what's not theirs either! The seaweed and small cockle-shells clinging to the case convinced them. It looked like it had floated for years through the bloated Pacific.

When he asked what it was, they said it was perhaps too grown-up for him. "This… this means something." he said, suddenly too serious, his face such a focused mask that reminded them all too much of Gendo Rokubungi. Shinji pointed to the title. He took out one of the figurines, and matched it to the frowning helmet on the cover. "I don't know what, but it's this. What does it say? What is it?"

His uncle sighed. His wife disapproved of the blatantly violent and unchild-safe contents of the suitcase. "It says… Warhammer 40,000. Codex Space Marines."

What the hell was a Space Marine? It was a being clad in thick, knightly armor with oversized pauldrons emblazoned with a distinctive symbol of their brotherhood. It was a helmet cast into a terrifying scowl. It was a warrior firing off into the distance and battling aliens preying upon humanity with high-caliber hand cannons and chainsaw swords.

Inside, the grown man was bubbling. He saw the hope in Shinji's eyes and shared it. He recognized how most people would see the insides, the figurines, as nothing but toys. Yet it was in its own way a true treasure. It was something for the men in that house to share, his son would have enjoyed these things as much as Shinji would… in that respect he would allow it. It was all vintage.

The art, the figurines, the shamelessly exuberant slaughter. He nodded somberly to himself. He found the contents as damn cool as Shinji did. The boy could keep the things.

/'Mine too!'/ he was shouting inside. He did not dare glance aside at his wife. /'Man rights! Man rights! We are never too old for toys!'/

"What's that…?" Shinji asked. "That wasn't helpful at all!"

"It's in English, Shinji. A language different from Japanese. You need to know it to really see what this is all about."

The boy nodded. "Then I will learn this… Ing… lesh? I want to learn it, uncle! Please teach me!"

The magic word was WANT. His guardians suddenly saw the same burning self-determination so apparent in his father. Gendo Rokubungi had never needed anyone apart from himself, except his wife Yui, and he would never deign to ask anyone for help. Gendo's eyes, which held only contempt, and a demeanor that bubbled with barely contained violence. Even a Yakuza would be kinder, and could be mostly trusted not to betray his bosses.

Who was Gendo Rokubungi? That gaunt-faced man with a trimmed goatee and distinctive orange eyeglasses started as some no-name thug that married the incredibly talented geneticist Yui Ikari, then on marriage took her name (becoming Gendo Ikari), and shortly thereafter became a powerful paramilitary leader. His grief seemed genuine, but her death catapulted the depth of his powers and responsibilities. Shinji's aunt and uncle couldn't say no at all when the boy was dropped off at their doorstep.

Gendo was too busy to deal with something as petty as a child.

There was also an impression Gendo might murder the constant reminder of his greatest loss.

Now the boy, young as he was, was ready to give himself over to something separate from himself. He was ready to beg for it, but also to fight for it. If they took away the suitcase and its contents, literally anything might happen. Gendo was unpredictable in such a manner, and his son, so easily following in his steps… it was probably easier to just tolerate his odd dreams than to give him reason to become even more morose or unstable.

Besides, his uncle really wanted to play with that Dreadnought model over there. He reached over to pat the boy's head, and stopped as he saw the child flinch. Although they had never raised a hand or voice to the boy in anger, for some reason Shinji cringed from them like they were always on the verge of abuse.

"I'll help you learn it, Shinji." He smiled gently. "It's okay," he said aside to his wife. "It's… educational…?"

Her nostrils dilated. She didn't fully believe that either.

The boy smiled happily and his eyes teared up with tears. He was so prepared to have everything taken from him, that this left him shocked and reeling with relief. They allowed him this little indulgence.

And this was how the world began to die.


AN 2018 retrospective:
Oh dear lord mah purple prose. What the hell was I thinking back in 2007?
Prologue 1.2 (Guardian of Dreams)


Indentured Artist

The universe of Warhammer 40,000 was already heady stuff for a grownup, and mind-warping to a little boy. For most people it should have remained clear, even to the worst obsessive fan, as nothing more than entertainment. It was all just some crass commercial product, not to be taken seriously.

Even the people who went around professing faith and calling other people heretics were doing it for fun. It was very fun to pretend.

Shinji was determined to puzzle it out. Not only was it his first exposure to in-depth creative entertainment, but of science fiction as well. It was a world of excitement and purpose far beyond his daily life, and Shinji was in elementary school; far too soon for chuunibiyou/middle-school syndrome. It was perfectly fine for young children to be deluded about the difference between media and reality.

Everything else he could see he began to link to Warhammer somehow. His childish daydreams involved hunting for xenos, Titans in the bushes, the sky above seemingly higher and bluer with the knowledge that beyond that might be alien worlds like the stories. His uncle grew hooked as well and soon put the books on prized display over at his desk. Armed with dictionaries the two slowly figured out the mechanics of the game.

Laughter rang in that house, for the first time in many years.

"Filthy xeno! You will be cleansed from this planet!" the office worker screamed in badly accented English. "In the name of the Emperor!"

"Waaaagh!" retorted Shinji, pushing a tray full of orkish figures and paper cut-outs to stand for missing pieces. It had gotten to the point that the two would not talk to each other except in English. And in this martial combative style.

His wife hated it. She hated the ugly, warlike setting. She hated the way they laid claim to the kitchen and sections of the living room as battlefield. Most of all she hated how her husband was treating the boy as a replacement for her son. He was forgetting who it was that he owed his love to. She hated how she was being cast aside, in their rapid exchanges in a language she was not really all that familiar with.

"You're Japanese!" she screeched. "At least speak that in this house!" /Nihonto/, to be exact. It was as if they were making fun of her ignorance.

They were taking her for granted. She had to clean up after them, and they would get annoyed if she did anything that might damage their toys? She expected more from her husband, he should act according to his age!

They should... they should remember... that there were more important things in life.


One day, while they were away, she took and stuffed all the figurines into a sack. Space Marine and Land Raider, Ork mobs by the whole, Eldar so spindly and fragile, and the horrific Chaos specially… into the bag, out the door. She had to get it all out of the house, she had to take back her life.

Shinji arrived, smiling and polite. He noticed their absence. He looked frantically about, making noises, leaving messes. She snapped at him, told him to do his homework. With such accusing eyes, he looked at her, and he ran upstairs to get it all done.

All too soon he was back down, gasping for breath. He stood there clutching his notebooks and waiting, as she sat by the table and cradled her face in her hands. Minutes inched by, in silence, perhaps she hoped he would go away. Shinji's little body shook, but he stood there, as long as it would take. He did not dare to poke her and see if she was asleep.

"It's gone, damn it! GONE! They're trash! Worthless, useless, trash!" she screamed at him suddenly. "I THREW IT ALL AWAY! YOU'LL NEVER GET IT BACK!"

Shinji let out such a howl and dropped his notebooks, that she feared he might actually attack her. Instead, he cried. He had thought as much. "WHY?" was all he said, between whining sobs. He had stood there long enough that his legs were numb, locked into place. He wiped his face on the sleeves of his shirt, staining it with yellowish snot.

"Stop that!" his aunt shouted. "I have to wash that…!"

Shinji didn't care. He felt malice for the first time. It passed into him and then back outside. He blew his nose but it just came out in dribbles. He turned back to her, eyes red and sniffling… wetness down his cheeks and out his nose. "Why…?" he asked again.

"STOP THAT!" she screamed again. She launched off her chair and made as if to hit him. He shrank back, though still rooted to the spot. The aunt grimaced and pulled back her hands… she clutched them over her laboring chest, constricting emotions gripping her as well. She sniffled a bit as well, her eyes starting to tear up. The boy's howling never stopped.

She was sure the neighbors, though far enough away, could hear him. "Stop it…" she whispered. "You're not my son…"

"I'm sorry." said Shinji. "Whatever it is, I'm sorry."

"Stop it! No!" She placed her palms over hear ears and squeezed her eyes shut. She considered herself a good person. All she wanted was some peace! "Don't say that!"

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry… I'll try to be a good boy." He coughed as air went down the wrong pipe. "I'm sorry. I know I'm not your son. I won't play with uncle anymore. I'll help out more with the chores." Gendo's son wanted to kneel, but his knees were still locked. He wanted to run away. It was so painful! Why did he have to feel that way? It was better when there was nothing he actually liked!

"I'm sorry!" he shouted now.

She threw herself at him, her eyes glittering madly, and the boy screamed.

However, his aunt was just embracing him.

There was a crying child in her house and what sort of mother would she be if she just exulted in her power over him? That malicious bullying delight...? She thought about what would happen when her husband would come home, and he would just feel betrayed.

She worked so hard to make this home safe. But if one's home wasn't safe, then where else could anyone go? It wouldn't be worth it.

She could almost hear her own child's voice echo from beyond the grave /"Would you have treated me this way too, mother? If I annoyed you... then I can't count on you anymore?"/

If she wasn't a mother, then what's left for a woman like her? She had accepted her sister's child in the hopes that she could keep doing as she was living before her child's death, and in some way all that activity helped to keep her sane.

"Stop crying..." she whispered. "Stop making me feel bad about this...!"

"I'm sorry!"

"No, I'm sorry," she sobbed out as well. /My hair is now full of snot, a part of her mind noted/. Being a mother is disgusting, difficult job. Sometimes that what makes it worthwhile, to be so needed. "I'm sorry, Shinji…"

She pulled away at wiped his tears with her apron. She had served the domesticated wife for too long, she even wore her hair in the prim manner so demanded by the role. Every day without her son made it all meaningless, but still did so in a ritual to forget, to immerse herself in being needed that it only heightened her isolation.

"It… is… my fault… I didn't understand. I was selfish, too." she said. She all but collapsed, and Shinji had to support her with his tiny arms. "My son is dead! I can't… every day, I can almost hear his voice. /Kaa-san/, play with me! /Kaa-san/, where's father? Mother, look at me!"

Her hair came undone, she touched her forehead to his. Her bloodshot eyes met his. "You are drowning out his voice! When you laugh, it's like he can't be here anymore. It's like he was never here. Your room was his room. Your clothes were his clothes… you look so much like your mother, my sister, and me, it hurts! It hurts me! I can't let you be my son. I can't abandon him…! I have to prove he was alive! He was here! And he's NOT YOU!"

Neither were in any rational state of mind.

"I'm sorry…" Shinji said again.


"I'm sorry."

"Stop saying that!"

"But I am!" he shouted. "I never wanted this! You're not my mother. My mother is DEAD! My father doesn't want me! And I do nothing except cause everybody pain…!"


"All I had was a place where I wasn't myself. It wasn't real… it made me happy because it wasn't real. I hate my life! I hate it! I hate this world!" He was grimacing so much veins in his neck were bulging out. "But over there, without hate you can't live. They're heroes out there. I want to be a hero. I want to die, that I did something that was worth everything before it… and it's not even real!"

He sniffled some more. "I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…"

His aunt drew back, staring at him in mute horror. Children were prone to the dramatic, and in their ignorance could be the cruelest creatures. Children were capable of being intolerant in totality. They were also in their way heartrendingly sincere. A child should not be entertaining such thoughts. She could blame part of that on his violent little hobby… but most of it, in a world and a family that had no affection to spare.

"…humanitas…" he mumbled. "For humanity. It was so big. It was so awesome. It was everything this stupid stupid world should have been…" He looked up, seemingly through her, his young eyes dark and piercing. "I want never having to be alone with the brotherhood of the Space Marine. I want to have a God-Emperor to trust with all my soul. I want the orks and their Waaagh and their joy in being alive, and the Eldar who are all so wise where I'm not. Even the Chaos and their demons made it all seem so worthwhile.

"Everything made sense. Everything had a purpose…"

Shinji had actually gained better grades from the box, his drive to learn English and understand the concepts in science fiction made elementary school… well, elementary. As long as he could tie the concepts into his hobbies, he could learn things amazingly quickly. Math for example. Children hated maths and memorization. Shinji could calculate sums and multiply and divide very quickly because ranges and Invulnerability Saves were IMPORTANT.

Much like his father, he had let himself become absorbed by something greater than himself. The main difference was the he had swallowed a happy lie rather than building an edifice of it to entrap others.

"I'm not your son…" he continued. He clenched his fists and quivered in place. "What am I, really?"

"Shinji… I never realized it was this bad for you…"

"Who is Shinji? Someone please tell me! What am I supposed to be?" he asked in all desperation.

His aunt slowly shook her head. "You're just a child. Shinji… you shouldn't be thinking those things. You can be whatever you want to be, it's still all so far away for you…"

"Whatever else other than your son…" he finished. "I'm sorry. I'm not him. I can't ever be him. I'm sorry you thought I was trying…" he trailed off into silence.

Crickets chirped outside, the room was stained red.

She placed her hands on his shoulder, as if ready to push him away and sighed. "No, you can never replace my son…"

Instead, she pulled and crushed him into a hug. "But I think I can love you anyway…"

The boy began to cry again. He was, after all, just ten.

/"Baa-san."/ Aunti!


In the growing darkness they sat there, true family at last.


She blinked. That was one of the few English words she knew. What an odd thing to yell out in such a dramatic moment. Shinji struggled to get out of her embrace and she let him loose.

The boy tried to walk and nearly toppled over to smash his head on the table edge, luckily he was fast enough push away with his hands. Too quick, his aunt was left stunned silent. He could have died, right there!

Dammit, children in the house were always a danger to themselves! A mother's job was never done!

Shinji weaved past the dining table and into the kitchen. He reached into the shadows behind a shelf and brought out a figurine, a bald man, scowling, in thick stubby blue armor. "Hu-waaa." the boy gasped out. "I found it! Master Librarian of the Ultramarines!" He looked wildly around the kitchen. He pointed to another dark area. "Is that… is that, hey!" He rushed to over the refrigerator and pulled out a "Dreadnought-sama!" and "Wah! Tankbusta-dono! You were fighting again!"

Well, he was ten.

He turned around and gave her such a big, happy smile - so bright and honest, that it hurt. "That was a dirty trick you pulled, auntie." He wanted to hug her again, but his arms were rather already full. "But I'm glad we had this talk."

His aunt simply sat there, her eyes glazed, her hair frazzled. She managed to get herself to moving just in time to clean up after herself, and present a welcoming face to her husband. Meanwhile, Shinji went around finding Warhammer 40k figurines all over the place. He was having fun in this odd variation of hide and seek. It made him love - for yes, he finally identified that feeling - his aunt all the more.

They never mentioned again what happened then. They got along just fine, and it was from her that Shinji learn most of his cooking skills. She never interfered again in the boys' (both ages) playing, and went deliberately out of her way to allow them their time for bonding.

The miniatures were always clean and their colors bright and fresh as the day they were painted.


[In the grim dark future of the forty-first millennium, there is only war.]

Warhammer 40k was perhaps one of the most violent, depressing, over-the-top mindscapes ever created. It dripped with blood, with dreams juiced into unrecognizable slurry, decency and morality stretched to the breaking point. The very intro proclaimed; this is the worst regime imaginable. There are no innocents, only degrees of guilt.

Shinji basked in it. The boy absorbed it into every corner of his being. There was nothing else at that time in Japan that could compare. The gods had abandoned man, cast him in the fires of their own stupidity. Shinji had no idea of what was behind Third Impact, whether it was punishment or mere random chance, and he didn't care.

In the grim solace of his pieces and codices, the human struggle outside paled in comparison. People were under pressure looking for work, to keep themselves fed, and to improve their social status. Desperate, but not grim. Daunting, but not dark. His dreams of untrammeled violence made the living world of the present look bright and new and still worthy of exploration.

It could be some cosmic irony, that a galaxy torn in strife and populated with the worst and best of zealotry, lusts, hatred, fear, deceit, mutation, and just senseless murder… was the one thing that could turn him… normal.

Shinji was, by nature and nurture, a nervous, easily frightened child. The very first power blackout he ever experienced froze him in mid-step. There was a typhoon, and the old house groaned as what sounded like a howling army of vicious toothy beasts beat themselves against it. He had suffered through tropical storms before, but it was the first time having read of the dark future and the science behind typhoons, that it struck him all at once how massive the world was and how little he was. Everything was dark and hopeless. He was cold. Unsurprisingly, that realization was how it was all the time to the mere grunts in Warhammer.

It was an odd time to feel empathy for mere mortals who were thrown into the meat grinder of war, facing xenos that were their physically or technologically superior or cursed traitors to humanity itself. That sheer helplessness was similar... but at least they had a lasgun to shoot back before they inevitably got eviscerated and their souls devoured. You can't shoot a typhoon. The great eye stared back balefully, and without remorse.

A roar, and his window broke from a flung branch and icy air rushed knife-like in, seeming to grasp him in great claws. He screamed his little head off in terror. His uncle went rushing in, and his candle blew out.

It took the man a few moments to rekindle it, every second sending the over-imaginative boy further into cold shock.

Shinji's aunt led him away while his uncle boarded up the cracked glass window. They boy felt the universe dammed away in the warmth of her arms. "Are you all right, Shin-chan? Maybe you should stay with us in our room." The boy was not her son, and with regret she wished that if he had lived, her own child would have been so well-behaved.

Shinji shook his head. He didn't want to impose even further. His guardians likewise didn't want to force anything they wanted, even for his own good, to him.

They left him alone. The boy sat silently in the center of his room, bundled in multiple layers of blankets, the candle-lights sending strange writhing shadows dancing on the walls. Outside the primordial fury still raged. He closed his eyes. Total darkness was actually less scary.

He rushed to a place he was absolutely certain on, where he had stashed his miniatures as the family prepared for the storm. He opened the cardboard box and took out a Space Marine without his helmet. His square-jawed faced and steely gaze held a Space Marine's unfaltering will.

The Adeptus Astartes, surgically transhuman warriors designed by the God-Emperor of Mankind, were unflinching in their duty and brutal in their war against the xeno, and the traitor, and the mutant. They were the bulwark of the Imperium against the terrors of the endless dark, with bolter and blade and their own lives burning it away so that humanity may live and thrive in a galaxy that HATED them.

And he whispered that old litany:

"In great armor shall I clad them,
"And with the mightiest weapons shall I arm them.
"With wills of iron and sinews of steel,
"They shall be my finest warriors,
"These men who give of themselves to me.
"Like clay I shall mould them, and in the furnace of war forge them.
"They will be untouched by plague or disease,
"No sickness nor age will blight them.
"They shall have the mightiest tactics, strategies and war machines,
"No foe shall best them in battle.
"They are my bulwark against the Terror.
"They are the Defenders of Humanity.
"They are my Space Marines.
"And they Shall Know No Fear!"

He took that figurine and set it on the desk near his bed. He lay down, with the Space Marine standing between him and the shadows. Its own shadow loomed large over Shinji's bed, and it was good. When the candle died, and all was rage and darkness, Shinji was no longer afraid. He believed, with a child's pure and utter faith, that the Space Marine stands as a guardian against all darkness, that the light of the Emperor will yet prevail. He stands as the rock upon which the hope of humanity is built.

Shinji never feared the dark again, no matter where it was. As long as his Space Marine stood there, he never had any bad dreams. Scary movies, ghost stories, among the pastime of children, had him listen there unflinching. The kids he played with called him the boy without fear. Graveyards and old buildings were merely gothic grounds, and in their dark stillness he felt as if welcomed.

His nights would always be safe, thanks to his Space Marine.

Prologue 1.3 (Ere We Go)


Indentured Artist

Shinji was doing well in class, even going so far as to be on the honor roll. His teachers could not say anything much about him, though. He was still small, he was still so slight of demeanor and stature that he was easy to ignore. He always seemed to stop just short of pushing himself or getting noticed. He did what exactly what was expected of him, and nothing more.

That didn't mean he wasn't noticed. His classmates saw his improving grades, how he devoured books that he saw, specially seeking out hard to read English books in the school's library. He always had a dictionary nearby. He was becoming a proto-nerd.

He was a weirdo that talks to himself, they saw that. He was weird. Not a cool sort of weird, no one good at class was ever cool at that age. They all felt as if Shinji was judging them somehow, intentionally setting himself apart. That was starting to piss them off.

And in some way, he really was doing. Shouts of "Geppie Robo! Combine!" and the frantic rushing about beating on space monsters did not appeal to him. It was the most popular game on the playground. Giant robots and boys naturally sought each other out.

Shinji never indulged in that play. He even refused any invites to play kaiju. He did not really know much about that sort of thing. He could never play along because in his dreams his robots never played.

They were epic.

Their stride was unstoppable, their will indomitable. They did not leap, they did not shout special attacks. They simply were. Their home was battlefield, and where they went they brought it along. They made it with every stride, every glance. The Giant Robo is a little boy's god. They that walked in the vistas of his mind were the [Titans] of their age, archetypical, the God-Machines.


The Titan Legions marched, and their walk was death. They were not mere giant robots, they were embodiments of the Machine-God, walking castles of faith, engines of purification. Their Void Shields crackled in the air, and their weapons cast down Hive cities that housed a billion strong. They called the immolation of the nuclear battlefield home.

Shinji liked the swings, trying to get himself soaring higher and higher, and the fall was the best part. He did not compete with the other children, nor shared any of the playground until he had to. To him, the seesaw remained unused. Those he could call 'friends' were all older than him, and their classes ended at different times and they'd find it annoying to have a brat tag along besides. He was academically advanced for his age and felt more comfortable talking with older kids and adults -perhaps as a side effect of being so attached to his uncle as a model for his behavior


One day Shinji got another perfect score on his English test. It was a required subject in the higher grade levels, as the world's devastation forced countries to become more and more interconnected as they shared and traded dwindling resources. His reading ability was nothing short of phenomenal, but his teacher said that his speech was not too good. Unfortunately, neither of them could actually pronounce proper English anyway.

It was likely that Shinji was further along with that. Where he acquired such an authentic accent, not even he could say.

They followed him that day, three boys skulking along the long deserted path back to Shinji's house. They saw him again talking to himself, his face full of animation absent when at school or speaking to another person.

"Hey!" shouted the token leader of the three. "Hey, you! Wait up!"

They ran up to him. They were all taller than him, and Shinji looked up at him with his customary bland gaze. "Oh, Kobayakawa-kun." He nodded to each. "Minato-kun, Yohta-kun." Inside Shinji was strangely expectant. No one had ever talked to him outside of school before.

"Shut up!" shouted the tallest, and roundest, who was Kobayakawa. "You likes talking down to us, huh?"

"Yeah! You think you're better than us!" put in Minato, a short boy only barely bigger than Shinji. "We don't like that."

"You're uncool, you're a kiss-up, and you're useless." piped up the third.

"So why don't ya say something?" Kobayakawa finished, his round face crumpled into a sneer. He poked at Shinji. "Say something in English."

"A-no sa…"

He poked Shinji again, harder.

"In English, I said!"

Shinji, bewildered, only said "/Wot?/"

The boys made blanching sounds of frustration. Shinji began to step backwards, preparing to run off away from the insanity, when the leader noticed him having his left hand stuck in his pockets. Kobayakawa grabbed it, keeping him from bolting for it.

"What's that you have there?"

Shinji tried to break free, but couldn't. The pudgy boy tried to get at whatever was in his pockets, but Shinji had enough leverage to keep the hand forced in. "Hey, help me out!" Kobayakawa told his buddies. They managed to pry it loose.

"Hey! Look at this!" said the boy. "It's a monster!" He held up an Orkish warboss to the light. "It's so ugly!"

"That's so cool…" breathed Yohta. He reached for it with his long, dirty fingers but Kobayakawa pulled it away. The boy scowled. "Where do you think he got it?"

"Probably stole it." Minato put in.

"Yeah. That sounds right. He probably stole it." A pathetic loser like Shinji didn't deserve a cool toy like this. Look at those teeth! Is that a machine gun for an arm? "If he stole it it's okay if we have it. That's okay, right? If we share it's all okay." He still planned on playing with it most, though.

"I didn't steal it!" Shinji said, his voice pitching up. "It's mine! Give it back."

"Bii-!" Minato stuck his tongue out at him. "Make us."

"Please give it back." Shinji begged. "I can pay you…"

"Ask it in English." Kobayakawa said haughtily. "Ask for it politely."

/"Kood you pleese gib it back to mi?"/ he ground out. Could you please give it back to me? He even bowed low.

"Hm…" The boys laughed. "No!"

Slowly, ever so slowly, Shinji raised his head. /"Gib back da warboss."/

They laughed and began to ignore him. They waved it in the air and made growling noises.

/"Gibbet!"/ Shinji said sharply.

Kobayakawa turned to see the smaller boy standing there, half-crouched and eyes all wide. He laughed again. Someone so small and so mad. "No…" he said again, all so slow and deliberate. What could he do?

/"WwwwWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGH!"/ Shinji shouted and launched himself at them.

"AAAH! Get it off! Get it off!"

"He's biting my toes! Oh god why is he biting my toes?"

"The pain! I didn't know there could be such pain!"

Pain? What is this pain you speak of? Shinji had a busted lip, bruises all over, blood spattering his uniform, maybe even a hairline fracture in his left arm. Through it all he had this big, open-tooth, completely happy grin, total joy dancing across his face and out through his fists. The adrenalin, that he only felt once before, he realized then that he didn't have to risk killing himself just to get that feeling again.

"Get away from me!" Kobayakawa managed to push him away, sending Shinji tumbling across the dusty street. He noticed that he still had the figurine in his hand. He looked from it to the small boy slowly rising from the ground, with all the languor of a hellcat.

He scowled and lifted his hand high, to throw the orkish figure down at the ground and stomp on it, winning that way.

Shinji said something low, heartfelt, and threatening. Then, realizing they couldn't understand it, repeated it in Japanese.

"I'll burns your houses, I'll choppas your cars, I'll stomps on yaz where I find yaz. I'll smacks your townz, I'll throws your pets, I'lls rips ya to pieces!" He got up and laughed, his jaw hanging down, in har-har-har manner. "GIMME BACK DA WARBOSS!"

"You're crazy!" Kobayakawa hoarsely shouted back.


"Here!" The boy threw the figurine at him. Shinji ignored it as it went sailing past his head.

He grinned some more and made a lunging motion at them. The boys screamed and fled.

Once they were out of sight, he dropped to his knees, drained and in blinding pain. He shuffled over to where the warboss lay face-down on the concrete. A drop of his blood fell on it as he bent down to pick it up.

"…good…" he whispered, his vision fading to black. "…not a scratch. I did good." He rolled over and lay there by the road. "…I didz gud, dident I, warboss…?"

He decided it was a good time to go to sleep.


The galaxy did not belong to humanity.

It belonged to the Orks.

Remnants of a sixty-million-year-old war, they were the perfect biological weapons now runaway without anything to control them other than intercine strife. The greenskins plagued the galaxy from the end to end with their ceaseless warring and strife. They were a race rooted so deeply in war that peace was utterly incomprehensible to them.

Ork 'kultur' was based entirely on the next conflict, in having fun killing worthy foes and enslaving the rest. They could not be bargained with or bought save with weapons that they will inevitable turn against those who tried to bribe them.

But in some ways theirs was also a very resilient culture. No Ork ever suffered angst or struggled for a reason for their existence. For the Orks, the great struggle was one. As long as there was always someone to fight, they lived in an existence of perfect satisfaction.

They grew from spores, and with their unconscious psychic might that grew stronger the more Orks were in vicinity, force ramshackle constructions that should not physically work into war machines that could rival even Imperium Titans. Killing an Ork would only spread fungal spores on its death that would germinate in the ground and become more Orks for a persistent nuisance later on.

Fortunately, Orks found fighting each other as much fun as fighting other races. Indirectly they served as the galaxy's stress testing mechanism - inevitably every society grew up to be able to deal with Orks and how their populations were to be found almost everywhere in the galaxy. Civilizations were forced to grow strong, and united, there always being an external xeno threat that would punish stagnation and weakness. A xeno threat that could never truly be eradicated, for orks were as resilient as they were constantly underestimated about possessing raw cunning equal to their own blithe disregard for propriety or their own lives.

Shinji was a studious child and while he trusted the Space Marine and the ideals of the Imperium, he admired the Orks for their utter peace of mind. And they were never boring. They were proactive in ways others were reactive, and for strange reasons having the Warboss nearby helped to keep him focused as a study aid.

He didn't study because he had to. He studied because he wanted to. Touching the Ork's figurine drained away the tedium of the classroom days, for though an Ork might not know patience or anything even close to temperance, he was always happy as a clam just being an Ork.

The boy was so happy just to be in his own skin. There was no reason to worry about tomorrow, no reason to be afraid of any social nonsense.


His guardians found him there passed out on the road, and in all panic rushed him to the hospital. They screamed at the police, they screamed at the school officials, and the parents of the boys who were telling such out and out lies! After all, there were three of them! And look at how they left Shinji! How dare they try and pass themselves off as the injured party here? Shinji would never, never, attack someone. He was so shy and well-behaved, everybody said so!

And so kind. Shinji actually insisted that the boys not be expelled. He was so firm about it. He didn't want anyone to be in trouble. They had to have learned their lesson.

No one would be able to prove otherwise. Shinji actually liked that the boys escalated to physical bullying and was disappointed he couldn't get into another scrap.

The reputation of the three boys took a nosedive. No one wanted to play with them. In the end, it took Shinji to approach them. Over time as it seemed he'd forgiven them, they were accepted back into the community of kids. Even if they didn't call Shinji, poor little easily-embarrassed Shinji, anything but Boss. He called them 'da boyz' which, literally speaking, they still were.

Shinji smiled at them, jutting his lower teeth over his upper teeth and let out a ga-haha'ing sort of laugh. He wasn't afraid of them. /Wot ya beat is yers to boss around./

If they beat him once, then he'll just come back and try and try again until they're properly krumped and docile.

They would never be able to truly defeat him. Orks were annoyingly persistent that way. The boys, in their child logic, understood that perfectly. They were Da Boyz, he was Da Boss. He may be tiny in form but he was a Gargant in spirit.

There was something terrifyingly inspirational about that little tyke's complete self-satisfaction.


School in post-Impact elementary schools were notable that they taught history up to, but just short of, Second Impact. The children might ask why the world was as it was, but they would have to know it from other sources. They would not be given official word until the next stage in education.

His final years were about rediscovering the finest stages in humanity's history. In another timeline this would have been when he discovered the more cultured eras, and classical music. He would have found its haunting patterns more to his liking, instruments uniting and falling, relics of a much more hopeful era. It was dead music suited for a dead world. The past was gone under the seas, with all its frenzied beauty. All that lay in the future for Shinji were ruins and damaged goods.

He would have known this, and was part of what would made him so depressed. He could not imagine in what possible way things could be better. How could it possibly compete to the sheer perfection of these concertos? How could it be anything but a tarnished, imperfect reflection of these long dead? It made him believe that the luckiest died in died at the most glorious portion of humanity's history. They would remain with it, and never know how ugly and uninspired the world could be.

A Shinji Ikari, who saw Titans in the shadows of buildings and walking tombs in the trees, had a much longer view. Compared to the bleakness of the forty-first millennium, it was still so much the better. So very much! He had faith in humanity, he was told how it could rise and fall, burning anew like a phoenix from the ashes. History itself supported this. That a cathedral once gilded now lay moss-stained and ruined was nothing to be sad about. It was enough that the shape still remained. It was all the more impressive to him, that it could still be so defiant against the tide of history.

It was only right and proper that things should fall into ruin. The greater the fall, the farther to new heights they could reach, climbing upon the remains of those before.

TV was a rare pastime as he grew up, filled mainly with cheesy reruns and news reports. The radio was slightly more lively, but the most cheerful of music didn't find its way into the airwaves. J-pop, mind-melting, sugar-filled J-pop, this was a vanished piece of Japanese cultural heritage. Shinji still wasn't very interested in mass media.

This Shinji did not need the cello to chase away the silence of his bland hours. He and his uncle played the game less and less, but they still shared in its ambiance. His aunt was no longer the remote specter she was, and the house never seemed so tomblike anymore. He had been to tombs, he knew what that felt like.

His hobby, unsurprisingly, was sculpture. There was plenty of clay to be had and there was an oven right there in the kitchen. It was a hit and miss process, and he wasn't really all that good with it. His creations had a tendency to fall apart, as no one had told him about frameworks and bracing. He acted as if it was one big secret, and his guardians were careful not to make too much notice of it even when it was obvious. It was certainly nothing to be ashamed of, but Shinji was embarrassed easily. They supposed he was ashamed his efforts looked very little like the miniatures.

"Shinji…" his uncle said finally. "The miniatures are made of plastic, not clay. Maybe instead of sculpting them into something, you can sculpt them out of something."

He gave the boy a bar of bathing soap and a utility knife. It was the best gift he could have given, and it was not even his birthday! In a different time, his uncle would simply have given over money as a token gift during birthdays, in thinking quite reasonably (if callously) that the boy could just go out and get what he wanted.

Affection proved a much better present.

Shinji did not actually improve in his sculpting efforts, but became the cleanest, sweetest smelling boy, ever, in his school.


In another place, Shinji would have saved up his money to buy a cello, being so unwilling to present himself as a bother. Here he was comfortable enough with his guardians to ask them for the money to get one, and so unwilling to lie (it displeases the Emperor!) that he told them why. He was of course, red-faced and stuttering as he said it.

For it turns out, that there was this girl, in the school band…

His guardians shared a look. So, it was about that time, eh? His uncle looked like he had swallowed a prune, and ran out of the room. Shinji supposed it was indigestion. His uncle went right out the house, and collapsed there, completely unable to contain his mirth. Shinji had always been a serious boy, but now he was… GRIMLY serious. The man began to roll around trying to keep his giggling from being heard.

That left his wife to just shake her head and sigh. She motioned Shinji to take a seat by the table and explain. Her comforting, serious, motherly manner coaxed the information out of him. She didn't tease him, or give advice on any tricks to win affection. She made a mental note to make sure her useless husband didn't try anything. Instead she just told him to make friends and find a common interest.

"That's why I need a cello, auntie." he said, nodding and likewise calm. "It's the only position empty in the band. If I own an instrument, I can get in sure."

"Ah, Shin-chan, but music isn't so simple. If you don't love music for itself, you'll never succeed. And you would only dishonor yourself and the girl if you build your friendship on a lie."

Shinji nodded. He knew all about honor. It separated humanity from the foul xenos. One had to be ready to go to extraordinary lengths to defend it, even breaking a world was nothing, rather than let it fall into the chaos of falsehoods, broken oaths, sacrilege, dishonor.

Even Orks had a crude honor of sorts. They would lie, cheat, and steal all they want, and spat at oaths, but once they made a promise they did all they could to meet it.

His uncle came in, breathless, and saw the two sitting there with their backs straight and hands folded over their laps, with faces placid and polite. All that was missing was for them to be sitting cross-legged, maybe throw a few big banners around, for it to be all out of some samurai drama. He gurgled something that sounded like "Bahah-!" and fled.

His wife shook her head again. Useless.

"Remember, Shinji, if you do go into practicing music, you need to see it through. No matter what happens, no matter how difficult it is, even if you don't make friends. Music is something that requires dedication all through your life."

The boy's eyes widened. She could not have phrased it any more attractively to him. "I won't fail!" he said, puffing his chest out. "I'll give my life if that's what's asked!"

Shinji's aunt couldn't resist anymore. She pinched both his cheeks and cooed. "Shinji's a good boy!"

Her husband finally managed to get back inside, saw Shinji's grotesquely distorted face, and continued to be useless.


Rufus Shinra

Well-known member
Remembering the early chapters highlights for me the uncertainty on what the story would look like, wondering if it would be a point of divergence involving Shinji himself and an in-universe pre-Impact tabletop game or something more. A good decade later, we know what the answer is, but I kinda wonder what you were planning at the time, @bluepencil : were you already intending to go all-in or was there a time during writing when you intended something less... drastic than what we saw?


Indentured Artist
So I'm curious, are we going to see 40K leak into reality or is this all in Shinji's head?
... I see a person who has not read this story before. NOBODY SPOIL SHIT. :p
(ᴰᵒⁿ'ᵗ ʷᵒʳʳʸ ᵃᵇᵒᵘᵗ ᶦᵗ, ᵗʰᶦˢ ᵗʰᶦⁿᵍ ᶦˢ ˡᶦᵏᵉ ᵃ ᵠᵘᵃʳᵗᵉʳ ᵒᶠ ᵃ ᵐᶦˡˡᶦᵒⁿ ʷᵒʳᵈˢ ᵖʳᵉ⁻ʷʳᶦᵗᵗᵉⁿ ᵃˡʳᵉᵃᵈʸ. ʸᵒᵘ'ˡˡ ᶠᶦⁿᵈ ᵒᵘᵗ ˢᵒᵒⁿ ᵉⁿᵒᵘᵍʰ.)

More seriously, in partial answer to @Rufus Shinra , around the time of the Jet Alone fight it was quite clear that a retread of the canon would not be very interesting and things had to subtly change in the background.

And then Kaworu happened and by god I had no goddamn idea how badly things could go off the rails.

Rufus Shinra

Well-known member
More seriously, in partial answer to @Rufus Shinra , around the time of the Jet Alone fight it was quite clear that a retread of the canon would not be very interesting and things had to subtly change in the background.
This does explain the stylistic shift indeed.
And then Kaworu happened and by god I had no goddamn idea how badly things could go off the rails.
Heh heh. I know this feeling when you are writing a story and suddenly, a character hijacks it completely and even as the author, you are powerless to stop them and are trying to catch up as all your plans are collapsing faster than a recently deceased villain's lair. Happy Fun Times for everyone involved.
Prologue 1.4 (Threads of Fate)


Indentured Artist

Completely unknown to him, Shinji had actually gathered a few admirers at school. He was not all that 'cool' to the boys, still something of a nerd, but to the girls he was more appealing.

It was by simple matter of selection.

First off, he was clean and orderly. Boys as a rule were dirty, sweaty and rude. Shinji was not merely neat, he did so on his own without seeming to notice and without looking a like a pretty boy. Orderliness without being told was the first sign of maturity.

Secondly, while he was smaller than most of his classmates, he seemed /more/ than them somehow. His eyes were deep and unflinching, and he had a well of silent self-assurance. Whereas he was once a recluse for the lack of it, now he was set apart because he had /too much/ of it.

Thirdly, he was mysterious that way; independent, aloof. Many of the children knew that those he lived in were not his parents and unfortunately being taught to be an orphan was fangirl fodder. Whatever shyness and awkwardness they could see, instead they believed as a plea for caring and attention that would be honestly returned.

A Space Marine feared nothing, and his every step was to purpose. The books however told little about the ways of human interaction, specially towards the opposite sex. There, he was lost.

If only the girls were more like the Adeptus Sororitas! Then there would be no problem. He had never thought women would any be weaker than men. Unfortunately, the Sisters of Battle and their pyromania and religious fanaticism would also be hard to find.

Ever since the event years ago, in which he pulled out a singular Waaagh! that he swore never to repeat, he had learned to keep his figurines at home. They were too precious to risk, despite the emotional comfort they provided. He kept their existence to himself.

Thus, he was lost. He had no idea how to relate.

Shinji's little crush was a girl taller than him, and so delicate she looked like made of flowers. He felt himself hesitating every time he even gets close to her. Though he was smaller he feared as if his slightest touch could damage her somehow.

"Shinji?" her opinion of him. "That little weirdo? I don't know, he kinda creeps me out. Always just standing somewhere, staring into the strangest things. I saw him stare at those flowers for like, almost an hour."

"Eeh, Minase-chan? So you WERE looking…" was the reply of another girl, her voice peevish.

"Oh, just drop it, Acchan. Why are you asking me? I don't care."

It was just by accident he overheard. He would swear! He was just walking along the bush. It wasn't stalking! Fortunately he was indeed very good being unnoticeable when he needed to be. Like his father he was prone to possessiveness, and now he had found a new target.


"What should I do?" He paced the room and asked himself. He looked at the figures at his desk and as his gaze rested on each of them could almost hear the Warboss respond… /'I dunno'/, the Space Marine /'…have courage'/, and the Chaos Marine /'… you are… actually asking… ME?'/

He picked up the Farseer. "You're a girl. What should I do?"

/'Shinji, I'm speaking only as a figment of your imagination,'/ her voice was almost at his head. /'How do you seriously expect me to solve your problems?'/

"Aah!" he began to spin around. 'What should I do?'

Learning about the school band was a fortunate turn of events.


He had his cello. He had a manual, and later his guardians would find him a teacher. In the meantime, he put his stick to rest at a string and filled his head with illusions of how he'd show her his skill in music, at how they would create music combining and completing each other…

He slid it against that string and killed his eardrums.

"Aaaagh!" he screamed. It was horrible! It was impossible! She would hate him! Hate him utterly!

He turned to the Space Marine at his desk. "Don't look at me like that. All right, I'm not giving in to despair! I gave my word of honor!" And to the Chaos Marine up on the shelf. "So you can just stop celebrating right there!"

Shinji could not really talk about it to his guardians, and so turned to the only companions he knew he could completely trust.

His old friend the Warboss was an asexual being that reproduced through spores and the blessing of the Ork Gods, and could only offer advice /'Stop overfinkin' and go bash somefin'./ A good dose of violence would let him forget ALL about this love foolishness. It's so puny humie of him.

"I AM a human." he retorted.

/'Yous a bloddy ork inside-'/ The warboss seemed to shake. /'And don't you forgeddit. Wez got da blood to prove it!'/

The boy sighed and lay back on his bed. "She's never going to like a creepy, violent crazy weirdo like me…"

The Space Marine continued to stare. /'This uncertainty is unworthy of you./' He seemed to say. /'Remember that doubt is for the dying.'/

/'I agree!'/ an imagined voice that was harsher, even less forgiving than a Space Marine's put in. Though mortal and frail compared to the surgically transhuman knights that were the Imperium's finest warriors, the men of the Imperial Guard were the hammer of the Emperor. /'To lie to oneself is the first step into lying to others! Guard your thoughts, boy. For such thoughts lead to Chaos!'/

"Oh, Commissar-san!" Shinji noticed one of the regimental Commissars by the flowerpot. He was orderly except for one thing, he was apt to pick up his figurines and absent-mindedly place them back down one he has finished a 'conversation'. That was the likely reason they were always all over the place. "Thanks. That really cheered me up."

/'Yes… sure…'/ ground out the Thousand Son Chaos Space Marine over at the shelf with his oily voice. /'Gang up on me. I have NOTHING to do with his thoughts, though I follow the Gods of Chaos, even I find such whining disgusting. Why do you think we send so many cultists out as meat shields? We will not suffer even such emos in OUR presence.'/

He was still confused, however. He was almost half-asleep when he heard a commanding female voice say /'To look too far into the future leads to madness. To Hope is to be Disappointed. If you must plan, Shinji, then you must define your goal and choose the paths that will lead to it. Choose the best future nearest, and see only that future. Do the steps that will lead you to that. Then the next simple outcome. And the next. Only then will you find that which you seek.'/

He turned and saw a skirted figure near his head. "What do you mean, Farseer-sensei?"

The other figurines made outraged noises at that suffix of respect, and various warnings about never trusting an Eldar. Chaos, self-recognizing as evil and misleading, was even the loudest at it. Shinji could almost feel her pride. His eyelids were heavy, and through his wavering vision he could almost certainly see her turning her head and lowering her arm from its salute with a sword. The Eldar placed her hands to her hips as Shinji began to cross that boundary between sleep and wakefulness.

/'Time is planning, Shinji. Many believe that the future is what you make of it. You mon-keigh are determined to force fate to your whims.'/ She radiated amusement. /'Only we Eldar see that the future is already set. The future only calls for events to be altered to suit itself. It is the present that is malleable, never the future. Do you want me to teach you?'/

/'Eldar witch!'/ the Space Marine spat. /'I will not have him as your pawn!'/ The others made similar cries.

/'Silence! He is not your Emperor's! Not yet! I will not have his blood spilled just like any other meaningless fighter in a meaningless Waaagh! I will not have his beautiful soul consumed in Chaos! I WILL GIVE HIM WHAT NONE OF YOU CAN GIVE HIM!'/ She turned to him and spoke softly. His eyes already shut, Shinji could pretend freely he felt the barest of pressure on his nose, like a tiny hand pressed upon it.

/'I will give him a Choice. He will know just why it is he so willingly walks into Hell,'/ said the Farseer. /'I will give you A Mind Forever Voyaging, Shinji. Will you accept me as your teacher?'/

"S-sure, Farseer-sensei…" the boy mumbled in his sleep.


The Farseer stood over him, her cloak billowing in the breeze. The world was all mist, dense and endless. She stood tall and proud, her armor the fruit of thousands of years of expertise in crafting and warfare; light and effortless to move in, unlike those crude slabs of armor by the younger races, yet no less protective. Her facemask looked even more severe, more disapproving than a Space Marine's. Their thick helmets merely made them look Angry, All The Time. The Eldar's pointed chin and frown instead made him feel all his insignificant years.

Maybe it was a bad idea. He knew full well he was dreaming, but even there he felt in complete /lack/ of control. What was a boy to an Eldar, a person thousands of years old, even if it was one he imagined into being?

The Farseer reached into the back of her helmet, and unlatched it. Unseen seams came apart with a hiss. She pulled up a bit, and removed her helmet to the front. As her face revealed itself, with one last flick away from its darkly discouraging mask, Shinji felt his heart stop.

There were illustrations, but they simply did not do her person any justice. She was an Eldar, pointy-eared and arrogant in the supposed perfection of her Race. Three thin red lines were marking the sides of her face, from eyes to chin, as if she had been crying blood. Her lips were as red, as if she'd been drinking blood. Her skin was smooth and seemingly glowing with an inner light, such was its silken fineness.

It was there Shinji recognized why he found Minase attractive. Her delicate, regal features was the closest to living Eldar he had ever seen.

The Farseer smiled. It was an unnaturally beautiful, frighteningly serene smile. "Shinji…" she said, her lips barely moving. "Clear your mind."


"The mind is full of noise, going hither and thither. The mind is a spoiled child. It is without order, without structure. The mind is a journey. Is it freedom to just let the wind and waves take you? To let yourself drift wherever it might take you on its whim? Is to take the helm taking away from that freedom? Freedom, is choice. This has always been the gift of the Eldar. To be able to decide where and when you want to go. To take that future, and only that future you want. You must clear your mind, if we are to begin."

She sat cross-legged on the imaginary ground, a wind helpfully setting her cloak out of the way as she sat. It was a standard meditative seat. "Shinji, please sit."

The boy nodded and complied. He looked at her for a while, so deathly still, so artistically perfect. A comparison to a spider would have been easy, as she was wearing black and bone-white. Shinji could not compare her to any creature, she was just as moonlight to him. Cold, but at the same time elegant light, hiding flaws, enhancing grace, holding secrets.

She opened her left eye and slightly quirked her lips.

Shinji turned red and quickly shut his eyes. "Clear the mind… clear the mind…" he muttered. She was right! It IS full of noise. Everything it seemed passed through the forefront of his thoughts. It didn't help that he had completely memorized all the codices, every angle he could view the miniatures, the sketches, the novels. Everything there, and constantly churned over in his mind, was what made him capable of recreating the personalities of fictional beings so thoroughly.

He began to frown. He began to sweat.

"Aaah! This is harder than it looks!" he had to say. It's unfair that the Eldar could do it so easily. Eldar seemed always at peace with themselves, without the internal struggle of the mon-keigh. It was a point of irritation that the closest thing to it was the simple crude mind, never without any insecurities, of an Ork.

"I would have been surprised if you succeeded in your first try, Shinji." She lifted her right hand and held it palm down in front of her. She then had moved it about in gentle, swaying motions. "The mind is like a butterfly. You can see it resting on a flower, but it leaves. It goes where it will. But it comes back to that flower again.

It is perfectly all right to let the mind wander. As long as it returns. Then, the mind may be taught to remain. All life, is suffering, Shinji. All suffering, is in the mind. Only in the mind can one become free. Take your time, Shinji. Time is meaningless here. We can take as long as what proves necessary."

"Won't I just forget when I wake up?" He began to think of a butterfly. Come on butterfly, don't move. Don't move. Ah! No… bad butterfly! "This is a dream, right?"

"It is a dream, true. But a mind in control does NOT lose control. To wake is not to disappear. To wake, is simply to BE, to exert even greater awareness of the mind, as connected to body."

Eventually, Shinji realized that forcing the butterfly to remain still actually encouraged it to fly away. The butterfly, if left alone, will choose to return to the flower. It would flitter away, then return. Away and back again. By ignoring it, Shinji knew that he actually found the stillness he was looking for. Motion in stillness. Stillness in motion.

Time was indeed meaningless. It could have been minutes, or hours, or hundreds of years before he came to that conclusion. Eons more as he learned to be satisfied with it. That damn butterfly's never going to just stop at the flower. To fly IS the natural state of the butterfly. The flower's natural state IS to provide a place for a butterfly to rest.

"You're teaching me patience, aren't you?" he said after some time. "A clear mind doesn't equal an empty mind. Only that it knows."

"Very good, Shinji. We Eldar meditate to bring out knowledge that we have always known. You have always known this." She stroked at his mind and had him open his eyes. "Now, come sit with me, and we shall learn how to apply it."

Shinji scooted closer and prepared to enter a meditative state again. The Farseer stopped him. "No, I said sit with me."

"Um, so, closer then? Should I sit to the left or right?"

The Farseer patted her crossed shins, and motioned the boy to sit on her lap. Shinji just knew his face was flaming, but the Eldar still had her eyes closed and seemed unconcerned. Reminding himself that it was all just in the imagination, he complied.

She laid her chin right over his head, her long black hair flowing like dark rain to either side of him. She grabbed his hands under her gloves and crossed them over his chest in much the same way Pharaohs would have rested. Needless to say, Shinji had a vastly more difficult time at achieving meditative serenity.

"The future… to reach for it, one must first define your goals. What do you want, Shinji?"

"Want…? I want Minase to like me!"

The Farseer hmm'ed. He could feel the vibrations passing through the chestplate and into his back, going deep and prickling into his spine. "Vague." she said. "That is not a goal, not even an idea. A future must be specific for it to happen."

He closed his eyes again and reached for that timeless calm. "Specific, huh? I want Minase to SAY she likes me."

"Like you? In what way? Or for what?"

"Um, just LIKES me, I guess. I want her to say someday, Shinji I like you…" Wait. He could feel himself drifting. The was muddying the vision. "No… I want her to like my music. She can like me later."

And then, it suddenly came all tumbling into his brain. It was all so obvious, in retrospect. He gasped.

A myriad of possible futures, given what he already know of his classmates, his teachers, his classroom, and what they might be doing. What he had imagined, was hope. It was wish. What the Eldar had were a burden. The future was no mere fantasy. It was a series of specific events happening at specific points in time made by specific people. There is no 'might be'. There was only 'will be' or 'will not be'. An event once past cannot be undone. It only reduces it further, the choices available to it, closer and closer to one eventuality.

He can't predict Minase's movements or her opinions. He can mold events however, to arrive at a specific scenario at a specific time. But to lock on to that ideal would be to ensure it would never happen.

It was an odd paradox.

But there was a way out…

"What future do you reach for, young Mon-keigh?"

"I reach for no future, ancient Eldar. I see it, and it will come to me."

The Farseer kissed the top of his head. "And thus you have taken the first step in a winding road once traveled by the Eldar."


The Eldar – what others may refer to as the space elves, with all the smug self-righteousness that implied – also had much to be smug about. A psychic and long-lived race, they wielded the powers of the Warp in way that was safe and refined, woven into their technology, while other lesser creatures risked their heads exploding or being eaten by daemons. They were sixty million years old, and their Eldar Pantheon fought the Star Gods and their Necron servants in the War in Heaven, and as both the Old Ones died off and the Krork devolved into brutal violence (becoming the Orks), they remained and they flourished. They claimed and expanded the Webway and became truly the undisputed masters of the galaxy.

The Imperium of Man could only dream of ever matching the glory of the ancient Eldar Empire, who captured suns in artificial dimensions for warmth, and made infinite skies out of the skein between the Materium and the Immaterium.

The Imperium of Man could also only look to the Eldar as an object lesson of mislaid power, they whose hedonism birthed the Chaos God Slaanesh, the Prince of Excess; tearing open a rent into the fabric of reality in the heart of their Empire; becoming the vast roiling expanse known as the Eye of Terror. All Eldar on their deaths, no matter how far from the Fall they’ve been born, all their souls would be claimed by Slaanesh to be raped and tortured forevermore.

The Eldar knew much about the secrets of the universe, but in the end they lost knowledge of themselves and empathy with all the other beings around them. Only the few, the Craftworld Eldar, survived the Fall by fleeing the very pleasures and intensities of their civilization.

And the Dark Eldar, who lived in the irrational scream-filled city of Commoragh, built within the Webway itself, warmed by captured suns. They who never stopped in their debauchery and malice, surviving by raiding and enslaving and bartering a few more centuries of existence by sending delectable other souls to Slaanesh.

The Eldar Farseer would not brook a similar fate born of ignorance and denial to fall upon her charge.


Shinji taught himself how to plan ahead. He drew a line in the sand and took a leaf. He held it above the line and felt the Farseer ask. /'Now, which way will it fall? The right or the left?'/

"Left." he decided.

He let go of the leaf. It drifted slowly down, twisting over in mid-air now and then. It landed to the left.

No way! He had really, really focused on-

/'Do not hope, Shinji. The future is not built on hope.'/ she admonished soundly. /'An object does not move through time. It is time that flows around an object. The leaf, the wind, even you, and here only you can make the choice and only you can create the future that you desire.'/

Shinji picked up the leaf and held it up again, this time much closer to the ground over the left side. "It will fall to the left." And so it did.

/'What have you done, Shinji?'/

"I saw the future I wanted, and knew the steps that would have it happen. This was the simplest I could see."

/'Well done. May your sight serve you well in the days ahead.'/

People, because they made choices, were simpler to predict. It is unknown when Gendo himself learned this, but Shinji for all intents and purposes, taught this realization to himself. Information was needed to craft a scenario, for the future was a series of steps, each of which built upon each other, reinforcing each other, until finally there was no choice but to arrive at that outcome.

Shinji visualized a future in which his teacher would arrive and say "Sorry class, I… overslept."


It was just a day after getting his cello. He did so by simply asking his teacher "Hisoka-sensei, why don't we just use China for farming? They've got plenty of space over there that they don't need, and we… we don't have enough people anymore. They still have lots of people."

"Um… shouldn't you be asking that to your Social Studies teacher?" A child talking about naked conquest was clearly not what he expected this afternoon. The boy had an intense burning stare and he just couldn't look away.

Shinji dropped his eyes. "I'm sorry, I just had to ask someone…" He backed away and ran out of the classroom before his English teacher could say anything more.

And because he couldn't say anything so Shinji, had to say it to himself. It got stuck in his mind as he went home. The boy watched him go. Shinji knew that Hisoka-sensei lived in a small old home with a multi-generational family.

And he just knew that he would blurt it out to his wife, as he thought things over on the way home. And also somehow he just knew, that Hisoka-sensei's wife would bring it up over the dinner table.

And he could see, though the faces were blurry, Hisoka-sensei's brother saying how stupid it would be, hadn't they learned from history? The horrors of the Empire of Japan should never happen again, and they were still paying for it morally and spiritually into the next century.

And if meaning was only land-lease, piracy in the sea of Japan was still a problem.

The father would just shout out to shoot them. The problem's from their side of the sea! All that land, and they wasted it, most of their population died of starvation, not the rising seas. Supply and demand worked like that. Manchuria was warmer now. He would froth at the mouth in nationalist madness. If not Manchuria, Sakhalin! Get that oil flowing!

Both Japan and China lost 3/4th of their populations - but while that meant about 25 million for Japan, that was over 300 million for China lost in the immediate cataclysm, in long-term climate impact, and their short but intensely bloody civil war. China prior to 2000 was on the verge of becoming the world's factory, but now they starved for foreign business.

A decade was too short a span to recover from the death of half the human race. Where others saw it a time for common humanity, others saw it as proof that one should put one's own selfish interests first and don't give anyone else an even break.

It would not be wise to rely too much on foreign assets, Hisoka-sensei's brother would say. Even if by some insane miracle they could just take it without anyone deciding to go to war about it, certainly they can't afford to KEEP it. Even if they buy it, someone else could just take it along the way. Food was the first strategic concern of any nation and should be self-sufficient. They learned that the hard way, half a century ago. Besides, the Chinese had nukes.

The father would retort: And so do we! Though to be precise, N2 warheads, almost the same anyway. They had the will and ability to preserve their own rights now. Damn it, he had enough of being forced to feel guilty.

And Hisoka-sensei would have sat there in uncomfortable silence, as his stronger-willed family got to shouting and debating. Each time he opened his mouth to speak, his father or his brother would say something hateful to each other. His brother would sneer at their father, who in turn would roar for the respect he was due as the patriarch of this household.

His wife would just pat at his hand and give him a look that said /'Yours is the only word that I trust'./

He would kiss her that night, but try as he might, he would not be able to go to sleep or concentrate on much anything else. A question like that brought out the discontent stewing in the family, and on a greater level the self-loathing of their generation. Some tried to overcompensate by being strong and putting down others, others found meaning in remaining civilized in the worst of times even if that meant giving others a smug superior air.

Too many died of starvation or disease in the first six months after Impact. No mere World War could ever equal that trauma. It flensed humanity straight to bone and exposed the scared animal beneath.


The next day, he did arrive late, his clothes crumpled with hurry. His eyes were bloodshot and weary. "Sorry, class…" he started to say. "You overslept, Hisoka-sensei?" Shinji said suddenly. "It's okay."

The teacher laughed weakly. "Yeah, sorry class. I overslept. People do that from time to time."

The children nodded, forgiving him instantly. They never wanted to get up early either. Until then, they just assumed adults did so because they wanted to, but even they were human. They paid a little bit more attention in class that day in sympathy.

Shinji caught him again by the end of the day. He felt guilty and just had to give him back his nights.

"Oh, hello, Shinji, about what you said…"

"I'm sorry to be bother, sensei. But I just thought, we don't NEED to go to China after all. We can use their land without taking it from them. That's selfish and bad. Can't we ask for help somewhere else?"

The teacher's eyes widened. "Yes… that's what I thought too. We can just lease it from them for a guarantee of production. They provide the land, we provide the seedlings, the technology and the expertise. We still have the best agricultural and genetics research after Impact, but it is true that when it comes to people... we just don't have enough anymore to choose between farming and construction."

He had no idea why the government was so obsessed with materials science and reconstruction, though it would all become clear why in the highly unorthodox wars to come. "China's greatest resource has ever been its people. Unfortunately the history between us is just too deep. There's too many things in between."

Japan had done too many sins to China, Russia and Korea for anyone to feel comfortable with their resurgent Navy. However, that had to be counterbalanced with the present threat of Chinese and Russian friction and the instability of South East Asia. This was why many merchants traveled in convoys despite how it it added costly delays - countries were secretly attempting to prevent each other from becoming too powerful too quickly in the Post-Impact world, but not to the level of provoking outright war.

Japan was a nuclear power now, and the fact N2 weapons didn't cause as much radiation poisoning afterwards made them even more likely to be used if ever someone dared to let the genie out of the battle. Which was why the Sea in the west of Japan boiled over with harassment and secret wars.

And even in politically safer oceans, the weather itself had grown more unpredictable and energetic. Convoys were necessary for ships to be able to rescue each other. Lone ships had a tendency to just mysteriously disappear.

"But that approach to America and South America, now that's different! It might be farther away, but they actually have the military power to protect their convoys, and without any need to ask for a guarantee of production. There would be less deliberate deal-breaking or lapses in piracy protection."

The US Bases in Okinawa were no more, the island as a whole was left barely habitable by Second Impact. However, the empty Pacific didn't need much attention. The years after impact was noted by mass sickness and starvation, and even ten years later food shipments were a nice easy and lucrative target. Very easy to take and offload and repackage.

But even so there was still one nation that was the foremost naval power in the world. Arrogant and self-assured about their place in the world as the Americans may still be, only a fool would dare to attack a convoy bearing the red, white, and blue.

He stared down at the little boy. "That was surprisingly deep of you, Shinji."

"Um… sensei? You said all that stuff."

"Uh. Right. I guess I did." He began to laugh again, at seeing his own ridiculous attention to the question… "But such thoughts you have. You should apply yourself more to schoolwork, Shinji. You're wasting your potential."

"T-thank you, sensei. I better be going now… Please stay safe, sensei."

The next day, Hisoka-sensei showed up early, smiling and well-rested. His wife made sure he eased off to bed, and his father and brother were finally off to another business trip. They owned a transport truck business. The teacher felt more energized, and ready to prepare his class for a world where cooperation was the best way to achieve anything.

And a certain child's eyes glittered with dark satisfaction.

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This is pretty awesome. It promises to be one of those rare interesting and well written fanfiction stories. Great stuff.

New to this story, but a quick look at ff.net convinced me to wait for new chapters to appear here instead of reading ahead. I appear lucky to read it in it's best form first.

Please remember, I seek to (re)write this for the easy understanding of those who have never heard of Evangelion or WH40k before.
Working quite well so far. I have zero knowledge of Evangelion and only minimal of 40k. I didn't feel the need to look something up even once in those first 14k words. :D

Secondly, while he was smaller than most of his classmates
If only girls was were more like the Adeptus Sororitas!
...This is hell without the multi-quote

Rufus Shinra

Well-known member
This is pretty awesome. It promises to be one of those rare interesting and well written fanfiction stories. Great stuff.
Yes, yes it is. It manages to embody awesomeness.
I have zero knowledge of Evangelion and only minimal of 40k.
Heh heh. Well, welcome to one of the best ways to discover franchises: through crazy awesome fics that are going well beyond the original material. Amusingly, it will shape your perception of said material in an unforgettable and really enjoyable way. My first encounter with EVA was with a Cthulu mythos take on it (no, not the old Aeon Natum Engel CthuluTech/NGE fic on SB - not sure I have the title right). EVA... is a pretty good franchise to explore afterwards, and lets itself be a really good host to unlikely cross-overs.
Prologue 1.5 (Pull the Trigger)


Indentured Artist

Shinji had a problem. The problem, he supposed, was not that his friends were dumb. It was that they kept doing dumb things. They were children, and they lived fast, and demanded everything should happen instantly, and didn't know how to pick their battles.

The constantly begged him to play and find interesting things to do. But the things that actually interested him were either terribly boring or possibly terribly unsafe.

Shinji had a multitude of voices inside his skull, and continually forced himself to reflect on his desires and the consequences of every decision. As such, he could not really expect anyone to live the same way he did, enjoying chores for their own sake. He ran and jumped and made push-ups and pull-ups to feel the burn, because to endure pain and overcome adversity was how mankind proved its right to exist. Pretend Imperial Guard training regimen was a go!

If they could have his same dedication, they would find that in doing more, they have more free time to do as they wished. But of course he could not just tell them that. It was hugely unrealistic to expect other happy innocent children to live like a laser.

Now that he had real friends, he found that as much as it was fun not to be alone anymore sometimes he really just /needed/ to be alone. It was exhausting to be around the chaotic emotional energy of other people. It was terribly exhausting to be a pack leader.

It was the 2010s, and there was not really an Internet as much as a non-Impact world considered normal. Many households did not own a computer, considering it a needless luxury. If one had to look up information about biology, philosophy, literature, and such, the best place to look for it was still the library and its networked computers. The world was moving back into the mainframe and thin client system of computing like in the 70s because it was more resource-efficient.

It also meant that it was easier to control information. There was no such thing as video sharing sites or social media. The boyz relied on one trusted resource, who had to take the hassle of looking things up and phrasing the results into a way they would accept.

"Do it because I sayz so" was not something other children would just so easily take from another smaller kid, after all.

Shinji originally conceived of a pamphlet quickly explaining and reminding his friends of the common "Why Should I?" questions. "Why go to school, why go to sleep early, why do the dishes, why I shouldn't mouth off to my parents, why I shouldn't take my little brother/sister's stuff?", and etc. were all essential to telling the boyz to take the battles they can win.

Orks are made for fightan and /winnin'/ – they should really remember the last part more often.

/"Jez krumpin' wildboyz ent gunna do nuffin,"/ the Warboss explained. Even the orks understood that violence had to have a purpose, even if it was amusement. /"Ya gotta lets them know when they're mukkin' about en when dat's just not acceptable, dat is."/

So, Kobayakawa did not like to eat vegetables. Shinji didn't like to eat vegetables all that much, but they weren't exactly horrible to his tongue. It was an acquired taste… but he looked deeper. Vegetables were eaten for the nutrients. Adults liked vegetables.

Maybe it's because they needed a lot more of the nutrients, maybe children really do need more protein and sugars? Maybe people's tastes change as they grow?

Where Kobayaka asked Shinji "Why should I eat yucky vegetables?", Shinji would instead ask his uncle "Why do you even like this bitter leaf juice?"

Shinji uncle looked down at his teacup and wondered.


If he were older, he could probably have compiled his findings into an essay or research paper to be rewarded with praise and high grades. Instead Shinji had to think deep about how to condense everything into some very common-sense sentences that his friends would accept.

Nutrition and parental authority and having a tantrum on the table that will only lead to punishment and losing time for the things they enjoyed, and wotnot.

1) Eat Yer Veggies

Do it so youz can stop bein' such a grot and get big enuff not to get pushed around.

2) Do Yer Chores

Wot did you give for the food you eats and the roof over yer head? Wots dat? Nuttin? Den stop muckin' about. Ask if yoz can get sumffin extra for doin' yer chores kwik and gud, so yaz can get paid twice for doin' a thing wunz. Dat's wat kunnin' is, dat is.

3) Go Ta Sleep

Yu ain't gonna be no giant robot until ya dreamz, ya git.


He reduced the pamphlet into three sections: Git Gud (self-improvement), Git Loot (negotiation), Git Loud (getting along with others). It was when he realized he was a hundred items in that he considered condensing it into a flowchart.

And then he rolled up the cardboard paper used to make the flowchart into a tube.

And he called his boyz together, raised the Learnin' Stikk high, and roared "IZ YOU MUCKIN' AAAAAABOUUUT?!"


This was the childhood of Shinji Ikari. It could have been a lot less comfortable, and he was thankful for it. He had friends. He had family. He had friends. He had accomplishments. He had friends (it bears repeating).

But soon enough, this time of innocence and lack of responsibilities had to end.

Years passed, and he grew, and graduation time was around the corner. He entered his teenage years. In its confusion not even his plastic advisers, being weird extensions of his awareness, could really help. The Ork never had to worry about puberty, the Space Marine had genetic enhancements for that sort of thing and had been surgically transformed into a transhuman warrior while still a young teen, while to the Chaos Sorcerer it was just mutation not worth his time.

The Farseer was a girl. She was being so amusedly unhelpful about it all.

Strange urges, mood swings, and the world being suddenly so slow… he needed someone other than himself to tell him how things worked in the real world. Books helped, to an extent. But here Shinji realized he needed his father. His uncle tried, but this was a parent's job.

Surely his father would come to his graduation, right? As the day grew closer, Shinji became more and more expectant. It's something that only happens a few times in a person's life after all. The boy had actually managed up to second in school, just below Houko Minase in grades and everything else. Many of his teachers believed he could have been more, had he been a bit more focused. He was such an absent-minded kid.

He couldn't visualize that future, as he actually had very little idea of how his father looked like anymore or of what he did.


A few days before graduation, while Shinji was sitting at the living room reading the printed-out story of Ciaphas Cain, there was a knocking on the door. The boy answered it, and found standing there two very foreboding men. They had one crisp black suits, black sunglasses, and each carried a small black suitcase. One seemed older than the other, pale and grey-haired. The other had the tan of someone who spent much time in the beach or open seas.

"Wah! Yakuza!" Shinji cried out at seeing them. He quickly closed the door.

"See? See? That's what I'm talking about." The younger and slightly taller man said to his companion. "Just once, just once! I'd like to have someone NOT think we're the goddamn Yakuza. Why can't we wear white suits instead? That's got to be saner than going out in black Armanis in the middle of summer."

"What, and have people go 'AAAAH! It's the Gay Mafia!' It tends to scare them even more," the other man replied in an even no-nonsense tone.

"… you tried that once, didn't you?"

"… shut up, Jiro. If you've been in this business even half as long as I did, then you should know even our clothes serve a purpose. The anonymity of a well-tailored black suit say that our chief weapons are surprise and fear."

"Surprise and fear," the younger man echoed. "And an inordinate fondness for the classics."

The older man tilted his head and gave his partner a look filled with such disdain. He received a bright and utterly unrepentant grin in response.

He rapped at the door again. "Hello in there! No, were are not Yakuza. We are official representatives of the United Nations Special Agency NERV, out of Tokyo-3, and we are here on official government business!"

"I'm not opening this door regardless of your credentials until I can get an adult to verify it. Please stand by until then. Um. Sorry."

"Huh. Wordy kid," said the younger operative. "But sensible. I didn't expect that."

"You should have. Remember whose progeny we're dealing with."

"I'm still a firm believer of nurture over nature, by the way."

After a while, the door opened and Shinji's uncle stepped out. He steeled himself for a confrontation and asked "What's this about?"

"Are you Shirogane, Kouta, who is the guardian for Ikari, Shinji?"

"I am. Who are you?"

"I am Agent Kentaro, and this is Agent Jiro. We are from NERV Section Two, and we have official business to discuss regarding your guardianship. This is but a visit to check up on the status quo, no need to worry." He showed his ID and upon it was NERV's red leaf symbol beside the familiar blue globe of the UN.

Shinji's uncle scowled. "… then I guess you better come in."

Agent Kentaro turned to the boy and asked him in a gravel voice. "Are you Ikari, Shinji?"

"Y-yes sir."

Agent Jiro waved. "Hi, Shinji. Are you doing okay in school?"

"Umm. I'm number two in my grade level. Not just in my school, but in the whole town." Yes, people will notice if I suddenly disappear; this is what he implied.

Agent Jiro whistled. "Nice."


As it turned out, they really were government agents. And they were there on authentic official government business. Only this had the stamp of Gendo Ikari all over it.

"We've been examining his academic records. The expense account allocated to his welfare is well-spent from this perspective," his uncle was told. "But how's he holding up emotionally?"

"What, Gendo can't even see how it is about his own son? You know he hasn't bothered even once these years to ask, so why should he care now?"

"Mister Ikari is a very busy man." replied Agent Kentaro. "He can't just drop his important duties for something so small. It would be dangerous to show so much attachment, his child could be used as a hostage against him. This is why he cannot risk coming here and revealing his location."

"Bullshit." his uncle said. "The bastard can't even show ANY attachment."

Agent Jiro looked from the relative to his own partner. "Uh… look, I know he's… difficult to get along with sometimes, but could please not say things like that about our direct superiors to our faces? It might…" He stared long and hard at his partner's cold professional facade. " …complicate things. Mr. Ikari requires respect."

"Phff. The name Ikari used to mean better things…" Shinji's uncle leaned back on his chair, but his hands were shaking slightly.

"Answer the question, please. How is the boy?" the other continued.

"Shinji?" His uncle thought carefully. Gendo wouldn't send his thugs over for something so small, sadly enough about family that was true. "He's a pretty normal kid. That's about it."

"Are you sure? He has not been… mistreated in some way?"

"Just what are you implying?" he bristled.

"Mister Ikari only wishes to make sure that his son receives all the proper attention due to him." Very little, but not too little. It was a large part of his plan. "It would be unfortunate if he was damaged in some way."

Shit. The way they went on about Shinji as nothing more than an object. Just what was going on here? Shinji's uncle was starting to worry. "He's a kid, that's about it. Ask around. Ask him. Gendo threw him here to keep him out of the way, and if that's the furthest he can show about his concern then he can just go fuck himself."

"Please!" said Jiro suddenly. "Not to our faces!"

Crap. Kouta blinked and leaned back on his couch. /'You're both wired, aren't you?'/ he mouthed. They nodded.

"Gendo? You're an asshole!" Shinji's uncle shouted towards their neckties, making sure no way his works could be mistaken in their recorders. "And I thank the gods in heaven that your son is absolutely NOTHING like you!" Then looking up to their faces. "That's it. Now get out."

That seemed to satisfy them somehow. "We'll be in touch."


Hiding and listening in by the door, Shinji took in deep breaths. He fled as the agents stood up to leave.

He had always believed his father had some reason for sending him away, and sometimes he had bleak thoughts about it. It was his first direct confirmation of being unwanted though.

Silently, he went back up to his room. He just did not know how to feel about that.


In post-Impact Japan, just because school was ending and most of the tests were done, that was no reason for the children to start slacking off. The school board devoted the final weeks towards community-building, sending the children out in various cultural pursuits designed to bring them closer to the society they belonged. Usually this meant cleaning up the still-standing pre-Impact buildings, planting new trees, putting up decorations, help out in the preparations for celebrations, and various other tasks in free labor.

He pitied the boyz outside. Eh, he'll pick up a watermelon for them later, this he decided.

Shinji and the others in the music club were luckier in that they were allowed to stay indoors, being part of the artistic side of the school's contributions. He grinned a little at a joke their pianist made. Music was the only real common interest he shared with normal children. He had succeeded in his plan to become friends with Minase through common activity, and in her friend Ayane he found someone he could more easily talk to. He wasn't blind. He could see her liking for him, but she was just so… plain. Her hair, her glasses, her dress, all made her seem stumpy in direct opposite to Minase's tall lithe form.

Houko Minase and Shinji Ikari were academic rivals, and more often than not they got into subtle arguments about methodology. Shinji often preferred to let her take the lead in group projects. He liked Ayane for being Ayane, someone reliable and undemanding instead of someone up on a pedestal.

He lost track of what she was trying to say to him as he happened to glimpse the agents - they were just so nondescript that even he had difficulty remembering their names, so they were just agents J and K in his mind - at the school courtyard. From the second floor he could just make out that they were talking to his English teacher.

Interrogating most of the people he knew wasn't the sort of attention you gave to someone unwanted. He tuned out the world. It was a paradox, and the Eldar in him hated paradoxes.


After school, he cornered Hisoka-sensei again. It was well known that he favored Shinji above other students, mostly because they seemed to have the same reserved, retiring personalities. He always just let Shinji initiate these little exchanges, and found it amusing to surrender control over the conversation. It was always more interesting that way.

"Do you know my father?" Shinji asked then.

The teacher licked his lips. The boy had the oddest habit of asking such simply-phrased but... difficult… questions. "No, Shinji. I do not know your father. And I don't mean from a certain point of view, I mean that I personally know almost nothing about the man. But I do recognize the /name/."

"Those men you were talking to earlier. They work for him."

He nodded. He had long since stopped wondering how Shinji knew about things. The boy was so naturally curious, his thoughts drifting to the oddest of things. He never imagined it could possibly be calculated to provoke a specific response. "They were asking about you. I tried not to be too effulgent in my praise."

That was a private joke. They both knew just how much Shinji hated to be the center of attention.

"My father sent them. If he wants to start noticing me again, I should know something about him." the bitterness in the boy's voice was unfeigned.

"Shinji…" Why was it that he felt so utterly out of his depth when he speaks to this child, no… young man? It puzzled him and exhilarated him. He shouldn't feel so challenged by someone at least a decade younger. "Your father is an important man. For you to realize how important, know that almost no one knows ANYTHING about him. He doesn't appear on the lists of the world's most important people. He never goes on TV. Very few even know what he LOOKS like. I only know because he tried living here for a while."

"He did?"

"Yeah, at your uncle's house. Your uncle threw him out pretty quickly. It was a short time, while he was between jobs and your mother had to support him." He shook his head at the boy's wide-eyed expression. "Sorry, Shinji. I never even knew your mother. Her sister only married into this town."

The boy flinched as if someone tried to stab his face, but nodded for him to continue.

"Look, the most I know is that your father is out doing something very very important for a very very big organization." He decided to add something for the boy's sake. "Who knows? It might even save the world."


His graduation was supposed to be a joyous time. Parents were supposed to bask in their children's achievements, and the children in passing that threshold realize how they changed and be prepared to be treated differently. But mostly it was about celebrations. Life in the post-Impact era had little to celebrate, as the planet and its people would take a long time to heal. The progress, the confirmation of a new generation to carry their legacies was well within that reason to exult.

Shinji brought all four of his favorite miniatures to school. They were precious, irreplaceable, but as risky as it might be to have them in his pocket, he felt he owed it to them as he received this symbol of one step closer towards adulthood. Being a responsible citizen. And having power all his own.

He fidgeted in his seat. The rites were perhaps unnecessarily long, full of speeches from the guest speakers about future and glory and hope and coming together and (heavily implied) please vote for me next election. He drew further emotional support from the presence of Warboss-sama, Space Marine-dono, Chaos Marine-kun and Farseer-sensei. Their snarky remarks all through the proceedings made it all bearable.

It dragged on until it was time to hand out those little slips of paper that would permanently kick them out of their classes. He felt as if building up a static charge until it got up to his name. It released as a thunderbolt in his skull.

He went up to the stage to receive it, met by his uncle who gave him a deep bow. He bowed back. Then, back to his seat.

The feeling didn't fade, not until the very last instant, the very last congratulations, and they were all outside in the sunset. He winced as a sunbeam got into his eyes. Dramatic sunsets and portentous events, yeah right. How inconvenient instead, he supposed. He regretted not asking for those orange-tinted sunglasses, even if he'd outgrow them rather quickly. Even if he'd look silly in them. He rubbed at his eyes.

He looked around, past every happy parent and simply exhausted young teen. His guardians let him even roam around a little.

After a Shinji returned, his face an emotionless mask. "He didn't show…" he muttered numbly.

"I'm sorry, Shinji." said his aunt. Shinji looked nothing like Gendo right then.

"I shouldn't have Hoped." the boy continued. "I really shouldn't. I had no way of knowing whether or not he would show up."

Shinji's uncle clasped the boy's shoulder and patted it reassuringly. "Not to worry, we're here, ah? I don't know what your father must be thinking but he's going to regret not being here. Come on, let's get something to eat. Chin up! You're a high schooler now!"

Shinji tilted his head, as if listening to something. His eyes cleared. "Yeah, courage. I'm a high-schooler now!" He even grinned. "Excuse me, uncle. I have to do something."

It didn't take long for him to find Minase and her parents. They were rich and stood out from the sea of sensible clothing. He steeled himself and walked right up to them. "Houko-san!" he shouted, his voice breaking at the end.

Three sets of calculating eyes turned to him. He repressed a squeak. It was like being in the presence of the Inquisition! Shinji turned his gaze down and addressed the girl. "May I talk to you, Houko-san?"

"Mina, who's your little friend?" cooed her mother, almost a jade figurine herself in all that green lace. Her father seemed to look past the boy, instantly dismissing him.

She sighed. "Mother, father, this is Shinji Ikari. Please excuse us, we won't be but a moment."

They moved aside and there the girl waited with narrowed eyes. She'd been brought up to consider her time as precious, specially when it is spent in the company of her parents. It was simply rare when they were all together, a condition shared by many families in the scattered employment of post-Impact industries.

"So, we're like high-schoolers now." he blurted out. "And I thought maybe now we could go out… as friends! As friends! Um, yes. Celebrate and eat strawberries or something." He was feeling a double dose of embarrassment. Not only did he burn in his own daring humiliation, his four other pieces were groaning with and /at/ him. "We can invite Acchan if you want…"

Minase sighed and looked above his head to where her parents were, their eyes twinkling with merriment. He sighed again and grabbed his arm. She pulled him off to a more private spot, uncaring of how that might look.

And there, she took a deep breath. She looked straight into his oddly hopeful eyes and said, "Look. You're right. We're teenagers now. And I've just had about enough of your little elementary attitudes!"

Shinji's mouth hung open.

"I tolerated it back then because it was kinda cute, but it's getting annoying. I don't want you following me around in junior high. Don't take it too hard. Why should I go out with a short little weirdo like you when there's already someone cool waiting for me at the next school? There's some things no books can teach, you've to be born with it. You're only going to make yourself look even more foolish trying to compete.

"Why don't you just go out with Aachan and get it all over with? You both deserve each other anyway."

She flicked back her hair and walked away. She nodded to herself. Yes, fast, hard, clean. It was the kindest thing she could really do. Better have him hate her a little than pine away uselessly. That way her two friends can actually move on.

/'They really did deserve each other'/, she thought. They were cute little kids.

It was going to be high school for her, after all. Things would be a lot different, more people, new hassles and more things to reach for. She was made for more than just this little town, no reason to get too attached. In time perhaps she would view this quaint little place with fondness, but she saw no reason to allow its little concerns to cage her potential.

"Let's go, mother, father." she said in a sweet and guileless voice. "Best not to waste any more time here."



Indentured Artist

/"T-that was…"/

/"What in the Warp?"/

/"Waddahel? Wadda wada!"/

/"I… am speechless. Completely, utterly, speechless."/

Well, that was totally unexpected. A miniscule part of his brain prodded him about being totally spontaneous, acting on his feelings. Well, there's the delightful surprise he was looking for. He didn't see that coming.

The shock was wearing off. And there's the pain. And now the "WHAT DID SHE SAY?!"


"Don't. I don't want to hear it." He shook his head and bid all the voices in his head to go dormant again.

The young teen stalked over back to where everyone else was, his limbs hesitant as rubber. Someone recognized his unsteady small frame easily.

"Hey! Boss! Hey!" Kobayakawa gleefully made his way over to him. "How's it feel, hey? We made it! My parents really like my grades now, thanks for that, boss." He nodded, though Shinji had yet to respond. "I saw ya going with Minase. First rank and second rank, sounds good huh? How'd it go?"

Shinji looked up with a hollow gaze. "…"

Though round and considered somewhat stupid-looking, Kobayaka wasn't that dumb about matters right outside the books. "Ouch." He scowled. "You want the boyz to do something?"

"No." Shinji shook his head slowly, trying desperately to clear his thoughts. "Any of you hits a gurl, I'll be the first ta krump ya in turn." Only puny grots need to slappa someone weaker.

"… and revenge, for something like this…? Being shot down… it happens," Shinji hiccupped. "Wots the worth of flyin' if there ain't no crashin', yah?"

Kobayakawa nodded. He swallowed Shinji's words like gospel. It was he that started the trend of calling Shinji 'boss'. However, it wasn't until the boy forgot and lapsed into another mode of speech that it really stuck in. Shinji was a scary little dude when he had to be.

That however was nothing, to da boyz he was scary in how much he knew. Whatever question they asked, he had an answer for. He set them up a standard of behavior that had them using their strength to help others rather than push them around. Da Boyz, as they became known, were the anti-bullies. They went around stompin' da respekt back into other would-be thugs.

Shinji was Da Boss. No ifs, no buts. What he says goes. It was a very small gang that knew about, and that was the secret that bound them together. Outside, the world saw a polite, obedient little boy growing into a fine young man. When around his boyz and no one else, he could relax, laugh and shout. And he told great stories. /'Ere we go!'/ was Da Boyz chant, as they walked the streets. /'Ere we go, were we go, not gonna knows till we gets dere!'/

The world was full of wonder, and it was the best feeling in the world to uncover it all with your best pals by your side.

He owed Shinji more than he felt he could actually repay. He actually got da respect from the littler kids and gud feelins' from those bigga. Kobayakawa could never gotten that the old way of doing things. Da Boyz got their own subsidiary formations of littler boyz, and the Gretz as a messenger squad. It was a community within a community, a select brotherhood of, well… boys (plus a few particularly awesomely ferocious girls), and it felt good.

"She sedd somefin' about a high-skoola waitin' for her," Shinji said absently. "Have a lookat dat."

"Sure thing, boss!" Kobayakawa enthusiastically replied, almost snapping into a salute. "You want us to stomps on him for a little bit?"

"Nah, just… curious. Just gather information." His gaze was so far away again. Da Boss had a tendency to space out like that. The boyz took that as a sign of dismissal.

Da Word passed quickly, and even as they went home they were happy at getting a direct order for a change. Things to do tomorrow, some hearts were singing. Things to do! Purpose and sense of belonging post-Impact fulfilled a most basic human need.

Shinji returned to his guardians, a fake smile plastered to his face. "Okay, that's done. Let's go home."


He was not going to go throwing things. He was not! Mostly because the only things he could throw were his figurines and they were too valuable to waste on some little fit.

Shinji grabbed at the sheets of his bed and pulled at it until almost tearing. "RrraaaaAAHHHH!!" he snarled out. He then slammed his face into it, letting it soak his tears.

He had never felt anything so ugly. It swallowed everything. He dimly remembered saying a long time ago it was better when there was nothing he liked. When you valued nothing, you were like, invulnerable.

/'So you would rather not feel anything at all? That is foolishness!'/ counseled the Farseer. /'Nothing remains unchanged by the music of creation.'/

/'Leddit out, lil'boz. Nuddin's going to makes ya feel better dan a good STOMPIN'! WAAAAGH!'/

"How could she do that to me?" the teen sobbed. "Am I really such a bad person? Sure, I'm scrawny and weak, but…" He wailed. "Shinji is a Good Boy!"

He felt a mental slap.

/'Get a hold of yourself, commander! You're getting emo! You're breaking the fourth wall!'/

Shinji stopped to catch his breath. He blinked.

"Wait… what did you say?"

/'I said… uhm...'/ The Space Marine seemed to squeeze his face in concentration under the dim night lights. /'Get a hold of yourself. You're granted some ammo. Prayer may cleanse the soul, but pain purifies the body. What does this prove, but that the soul is weak? Only in pain and suffering do we stoke the fires of our spirit.'/

/'Endure.'/ said the Eldar softly, as if her pain of rejection resonated with his. /'And in enduring grow strong.'/

The young teen sat back up on his bed and sat there cross-legged. He took several deep breaths. No. The pain was still there. The rage was still there. Nothing he could do would simply make it go away.

"Why do you all sound little more respectful now?" he asked after a while. "You never gave me titles before."

/'Am I not your protector? Am I not born from the depths of your mind? You are the Primarch of my will, the bastion of my discipline! Command me, and I obey.'/

/'Wez ya thoughts, hummie. Ya saids to shaddap, so we did.'/ The warboss radiated disdain at the wordy gothic parlance. See? Short, to the point, orky. That was da proppa way to talk.

/'Never have we been anything but your helpers, Shinji.'/ The Farseer seemed to curtsy. /'What pleases you, pleases us. What hurts you, hurts us.'/

/'We felt it all!'/ came an oily presence. /'All of us. Your pain! It is OURS. And it is GLORIOUS.'/ Shinji looked up at the Chaos Marine standing on the shelf, its bolter still crossed over its chest. Its scarred face and mutated still looked fierce, but also oddly at peace. /'She HURT you, and we know how it is to hurt. The only way to make it go away, is for HER to hurt back.'/

Imaginary shouts erupted all around the room. /'Foul spawn of Chaos!'/ The Space Marine was understandably the loudest among them. /'I knew this! I knew this day would come. I knew you would wreak your temptations, but I say NAY! You will not succeed this WAY!'/

/'Wot da zog?'/ The Warboss seemed to stare cross-eyed at the lyrical turn. /'Look, just come down heres so I can stabs ya.'/ he told the Chaos Marine. /'Ma lil'warboss is no squig-head to go stompins no puny feemie.'/

/'He will not turn,'/ the Eldar said in all confidence. /'It is easy to See the facile methods of Chaos towards corruption.'/

Shinji hadn't realized it until then, but it was raining outside. In a brief flash of lightning, the Chaos Marine seemed to turn its head and sneer.

/'So he is to just accept it? Become a whipping boy? He is meant to be abused and be glad for it, a martyr without a cause?'/ The Chaos Marine began to laugh, booming for such a tiny figure, competing with thunder outside. /'Where is the respect, ork? Where is the justice, astartes? And where, you soggy old witch, is his choice?!'/

The three could not answer.

/'She disrespected you, oh my bright lord, and it is only justice to let her see the error of her ways. It is your choice to be a WIMP or heed the call of POWER. Your education is incomplete, intentionally so. THEY wanted to keep you WEAK.'/

/'That is a lie!'/ screeched the Farseer. /'I taught him all that he needed to know!'/

/'Did you? He may have needed only that much THEN, but this is NOW. Can you teach him all that he CAN do?'/

/'Just because one can… does not mean one must… the road to damnation begins...'/

/'PAH! You all disgust me. I can complete your education, Bright Lord, and show you how to command rather than be commanded, to take rather than be deprived, to be revered rather than reviled!'/

"Um… isn't all that like, evil? I'd rather not do anything criminal, thanks anyway."

/'You know us, Shinji. Evil is a LABEL that only given by the other side. It cannot be TRUSTED to be impartial. People will tell you that evil is a slippery slope, and good a mountain. It is hard to do good, while so many do evil. This only says the natural state of man is EVIL.'/ The Chaos Marine seemed to grin. /'Are YOU evil?'/

"Heck, no I'm not evil!"

/'It can also mean INSTEAD that there are great goods, little goods. Great evils, little evils. There are many things, EVIL THINGS one can do to serve a Greater Good, but one must ask WHOSE good? The Imperium and its corpse of a God, the Orks and their ongoing wide scale murder, the Eldar and the many souls they so easily send to ignorant doom - MANY might call us ALL evil. We are only GOOD in the sight of those we serve. Methods are equal, it is the goal that casts it all in its light.'/

"Those are excuses. I'm not going to start worshipping Chaos and wishing harm to Minase-san." said Shinji with conviction. "I don't like the Dark Gods you serve."

The Chaos Marine laughed even more. /'Bright lord, it is YOU that I serve. I am only EVIL if and when you are evil. I am your SERVANT and only your will is my CREED. I am CHAOS! I am neither Good nor Evil. Chaos bids me serve you, and serve you I SHALL. I ask for NOTHING. I require for you to do NOTHING. I give you ALL, for such is the favor of CHAOS. It is already IN you, my bright lord, and it is how I speak.

/It is in you my bright lord, and it is the POWER that you SEEK.'/

"W-why do you keep calling me a Bright Lord?"

/'Are you like the Dark Gods I once served? You are bright and limitless my lord. I will not ask as to their GOOD or EVIL, you shall shine either way. Ask for justice, and I shall give you justice. Nothing more. Nothing less. CHAOS shall serve you well.'/

Shinji was dumbstruck. He knew these conversations were all just in his head, he knew he did so to entertain himself, he knew their advice so far had been useful as they opened up possibilities he normally wouldn't think of. These visions... /ACCURATE/ is the only way he could have described them thus far.

Prophecy wasn't supposed to be so easy.

Outside the rains still fell, and the unrestrained sounds of a wounded nature continued to be the breath of an enraged wolf at his windows.

He had never expected his fantasies to turn out to be so thorough. He HAD been doing it for years now. He exhaled and sat up. "What can you do?" he asked it.

He could feel its triumph. He could also feel the truth in every single thing it said. Chaos was not an evil separate from him. His figurines could not, ever, force him to do any action against his will. It was his delusion, and it was only his choice to allow said delusions.

/'The last half of what the Eldar has wrought. That which continues to escape you.'/

The young teen stood up.

/'Wassat? Whys you lissnen' to dis Chaos-boyz? No need to make stuff all complicated and wot. Just bash somefin'! You'll feel betta, you'll see.'/

/'Commander, no! Chaos promises many things, and always have they led into ruin. Even the greatest of us all could not stand uncorrupted by its touch. Do this, and forever will it hold a piece of your soul.'/

/'Shinji! Remember!'/
the Farseer cried out, the most desperate among them. The Eldar knew its warping influence. Against it even their Sight could avail them not. Only the mon-keigh and their defiance of fate seemed able to beat it back, but always at cost of in themselves being the monsters they battle. /'We may only offer our advice, but ultimately it is you who must do these things. It is you and only you that must suffer. Turn back now and or these thoughts will consume you!'/

"I don't care!" shouted Shinji. He shot up to his feet and snatched the Chaos Marine off its shelf. He walked over to the window and stared at the howling darkness outside. He put the figurine down.

He stared at his own reflection in the glass. He was barely more than a boy just yet, his frame without physical power. The Chaos Marine stood there in mute steadfast obeisance.

Lightning flashed. Everything in nature, everyone he has ever seen, seemed more capable and more powerful than he was. No one truly wanted him, his guardians ached for their son, his father had no need for his own, and the first one he ever opened his heart to ripped his hopes to unrepentant shreds.

"Show me."

/'As YOU desire, my Bright Lord…'/

He slept well that night, no dreams at all. He stewed in the newly-discovered power of spite. To harm oneself as long as someone else hurts. In another time, in another place, after a lifetime of alienation he would have known of it much later - forced to fight, tamped down into the bursting savagery of the berserker. But only here was it still pure and malleable.

Prologue 1.6 (An Intrument of Pain)


Indentured Artist

A light drizzle accompanied sunrise. The air was sweet, and a gossamer curtain of dew clung to the tops of trees and the edges of buildings in this seaside town. Purple foliage drifted down the mountain streams to greet this land of always-summer.

Shinji woke up late for once. Unlike other children, for the past few years his guardians never had to wake up him every morning to force him to go to school. Without an alarm clock, every day with regularity he woke up just as the sun crested the mountains.

He woke up and all was... silent?

Birds were chirping, above him was the ever-present chopping hum of the ceiling fan, in the distance he could hear a truck garbage truck, and all was... silent?

His head felt light and cool, as if there was some preposterous grim dark weight now lifted out of his skull, leaving only silken relief in the nerves right behind his eyeballs.

"…guys?" his looked over to his plastic miniatures, and in the morning glow they were simple unmoving plastic. It was the first time in many years that Shinji was alone in his thoughts.

[An Imprint Lost / Resin Dross]

Even the Chaos Marine had nothing to say. A sudden dread gripped the boy.

"Oh come on. Do you all hate me or something?" There was no response.

The young teen sighed. He shook out the last scales of sleepiness from his body and walked over to the window. He opened it up and let the air in. He took a deep breath of the salty-sweet morning air.

The world was all anew. Yesterday seemed so far away. Yes, he supposed he was just being silly. For far too long he'd structured his life around seeking Minase's approval, but now that he no longer needed to worry about it, it was a heady liberating feeling.

The memory still stung, but he could willfully avoid thinking about it. He was to be a high-schooler now. He supposed he was just growing up, and no longer had to rely on something else to do his thinking for him. "Congratulations, Shinji." said his uncle over breakfast. "How do you feel?"

[Mild Concern/ Middling Conversation/ To Work his Mind Wanders ]

He paused and really thought it over. "Empty, somehow."

The middle-aged man smiled. "Yeah, it's because you've been doing the routine so long that you don't know what to do without it. But change is good, Shinji. For now, just relax and have fun. You're going to go back to the old grind when the classes start again anyway, but for now society asks no more from children like you." Shinji's uncle waved at the air. "Best to enjoy this while you still can."

[Expectations Met/ The Prince is as He Promises]

Shinji nodded. He focused on his breakfast. With his brain feeling as if a partial vacuum, he was void of all the strong painful feelings of yesterday, and open to accept whatever new may come his way.


Meanwhile, even as the young Ikari felt barren of purpose, other children were starting the day filled with spirit.

These were the adventures of Round Boy, Tall Boy, and Glass Boy.

Round Boy was Kobayakawa Mashita, who was rather plump for his age. However, his shape belied uncommon endurance. He was unofficially the second-in-command of the Boyz because he was the first to receive [Da Book] and the first to try and live completely by its rules. The results still continued to astonish him, fueling his innocent loyalty.

Tall Boy was Minato Kumi, who was freakishly tall for his age. His height meant that it was possible, with the right clothes and posture, to look as a teenager anywhere from thirteen to sixteen. He used be made fun of for his height, but with the Boyz he acquired the strength of will to simply… stand above… ignorance. They would never make fun of him for finding out he had a talent for acting. One also needs to be shamelessly brave to turn into someone else.

Glass Boy was the one who changed the most over the past three years. Yohta Asagiri was still a small boy, who now wore large glasses to look smarter. He was smaller than Shinji, and envied deeply how the other boy was both smart and feared. However, since he knew he could never really acquire that core of viciousness that little Shinji Ikari possessed, he could at least try to look more reliable. That made it easier to believe when you're talking the adults into giving you all sorts of loot for free.

It was still very early in the morning, and the air had that sweet taste of morning new. Sunlight filtered through the gaps in their little clubhouse. They built Da Boyz Hut at a corner of the farm Kobayakawa's grandfather owner.

"I'm callin' dis meetin' ta order," Round Boy announced. "We've a mission from Da Boss."

"Is this about Minase again?" Tall Boy huffed. "Girls are such a bother."

[In Fellowship Formed/ In Purpose Proud]

Glass Boy adjusted his glasses. "It is illogical for our leader to lose his senses over mere… prettiness, but it's not our place to question his orders."


Glass Boy sighed and dumbed down his response. "Ey, who cares? A mission's a mission. Dis may be fun."

Round Boy nodded. "Boss said to me to look out for some guy in junior high that Minase likes."

Tall Boy took his feet off the donated desk. "Oy, is dis some Kommando type mission?"

Glass Boy thinned his lips. "We already have a Minase early warning system. Mebbe we could ask out Smaller Boyz contacts to ask their Big Bros."

"That's gonna take too long," Tall Boy whined. "Followin' the gurl around is the easiest way ta find out."

"You're just saying that because we have a tailin' budget. We shouldn't have to pay for your snacks and milkshakes just so you can walk around window–shoppin' and changin' clothes from the drops every fifteen minutes."

Tall Boy sniffed. "Sometimes I have ta wear a dress ta blend in. You have no idea of the sacrifices I have to do to get useful smarts."

"/Intelligence/, that's the proper word," Glass Boy noted.

"Spystuff~!" Tall Boy insisted.

"Hokay, dat's enuff a dat." Round Boy pushed them apart. "Let's just do whatevva and see wot happens."

"Sounds legit," Glass Boy agreed.


At the opposite end of town, a certain Ayane Mitsugane woke up with the words of last night's phone conversation still ringing in her ears.

/"What's the point in clearing the way for you, if you don't have the courage to go down it yourself?"/ said Minase Houko.

/"I… I didn't ask for you to do this!"/ she shot back. /"There's no reason you had to be so… rude… about it. What if he starts to dislike me just because I'm your best friend?"/

/"Then that kid isn't worth your time."/ Ayane could almost see Minase picking her teeth with her pinkie fingernail, a very uncouth habit that the local 'princess' only showed in privacy of her own room. For a moment there, Ayane's thoughts was side-tracked by how much her best friend seemed to want to be a Yakuza princess instead of just some boring politician's daughter.

She shook her head. /"That's not how it works!"/

/"Aya-chan, you think you're in love, but the love you know is different from the love I know. A crush is made of dreaming and hoping, but real love is about passion and wanting it all not matter who or what stands in your way! If you're looking for acceptance, just go for it. This isn't anything worth thinking over so hard,"/ she scoffed./ "Do it or don't do it, I don't care. I'm not going to live your life for you."/

[A Little Bird in a Very Small Cage/She Does Not Sing/A Princess Who Cannot Exceed]

And then Ayane could hear was the metallic tone of hung line. She put the cordless phone down onto its charging station. There was something unsettling about how Minase could speak so confidently about love. She pulled her knees up to her chin and hugged herself in the dark.

She just wanted to be liked. Was that so bad? She felt she was not a very interesting sort of person, and sometimes it seemed she was like a lamprey just hanging on to Minase as she moved through life with the effortless composure of a shark.

They were best friends, but as much as Minase cared for Ayane, the girl felt that of course her friend also looked down on her a bit. She was completely sidekick material.


She clenched her fists. Maybe Minase was right. She lacked courage. Ayane clenched her fists. But having courage is not equivalent to lacking kindness!


And that was why, very early in the morning, she found herself on her bike pedaling across town.

[Too Much Hope in Grand Gestures/Only Sacrifice Brings Satisfaction]

She suddenly pressed on the brakes. Wait, was that-?

Ayane pulled the bike over by the sidewalk and turned around. A teenager in a grungy leather jacket was strutting down the street, his hair gelled into hard spikes with pink highlights.

"Hey, cutie!" the young street punk whistled at a woman passing by. She flinched and gave him a wide berth. He continued walking, exaggeratedly swinging his shoulders and legs, arrogant in the springtime of his youth.

Ayane shook her head. Obviously she was mistaken. Minato was a tall boy, but a nice boy. It was probably just some odd resemblance. She resumed cycling towards a certain house near the beach.


Mitsugane Ayane knew where Shinji lived, through careful nonchalant interrogation conversation with his trio of friends. She knew the boys went over there every weekend to play.

Her nerves sparked with nervous frenzy the closer she approached. "What will I say…?" she mumbled to herself. "What am I doing? This is hopeless!" Her bike wobbled, and Ayane barely had any concentration to spare to avoid the puddles in her path.

"I'm apologizing for my friend's rudeness, but I'm also going to use that rudeness to make myself look good," she whispered to herself. "It's like lying, isn't it? Shouldn't I deserve to fail because of this selfishness…? Maybe I should just go back…"


She arrived to hear music drifting out from Shinji's window. His playing was fast, as usual precise in the chain of notes, but she could tell it was bursting with an angry energy. She didn't know what expect at seeing him, and was relieved he looked at her by the door with only puzzlement and without puffy eyes.

"Of course," she thought. Boys don't cry themselves to sleep as she had. "Do they?"

A part of her resented that he would be so unaffected if she spent all that time unable to sleep with worry.

"Mitsugane-san, hello." Shinji smiled politely, but he seemed diminished somehow.

"Uh, we're out of classes now, Ikari-kun. There's no need to be so formal."

Little bits of amusement showed in his eyes. "Kinda hypocritical of you, isn't it, Ayane-san?"

Ayane adjusted her glasses and tried to hide her embarrassed blush under her hand. She looked at him from the corner of her eyes, and his relaxed stance by the door. Maybe even too relaxed? Was he in denial somehow?

"Please come in" he said. They entered to an empty living room. "So, what brings you around, Ayame-san?"

She huffed. She supposed that was the most she could get out of him. "Can we… talk?"

Shinji looked back over his shoulder. His guardians had all but vacated the premises. They were giggling like mad to learn a girl had decided to visit him. Why? He supposed grownups were weird that way. So easily amused. It was quite pathetic, really.

His uncle went off to work, and his aunt went out to hang laundry at the back yard.

"Are we friends?" Ayane asked as she sat on the couch.

"Um, I guess so? I mean, yes. Yes we are."

"I… see. So may I just call you Shinji, and you could stop calling me Mistsugane-san or Ayane-san?"

"If that's what you want." He tilted his head slightly. "Ayane."

Ayane clapped happily, clenched her fists and went 'Eeeee!'. She quivered in her seat. Then, after a few excited moments, she stopped and turned to face him again. She gave him a very serious, thin-eyed look. Shinji was blinking, wondering how he never noticed she was this bipolar before.

"Shinji. I heard about what Minase did to you. That was such a mean, nasty thing to do! You deserve better than that!"

"Oh. So I suppose she told you, then?"

She hesitated. "Well, it wasn't that much, but everybody saw the difference in how you looked before and after your talk. Oh, Shinji!" she felt her eyes tearing up. "Everybody knows!"

He winced. And he imagined Kobayakawa would have gone blabbering on about it to his closest friends, and with a Gretchz nearby it was certain another silly rumor would be flying all over the town. There went his hope the fact-finding mission would be carried out low-key.

He put his face into his palms and sighed. "Oh, well. There's nothing to be done about it."

"You shouldn't say that!" she almost yelled. "Just because she's pretty and rich doesn't mean she gets to treat the rest of us like we don't matter. What she did to you was just… wrong."

"I guess she could have been nicer about it…"

"How do you feel about it? Are you angry?"

"Maybe a little." Shinji sucked in his breath. "It's just... I tried my best. What am I doing wrong? Why am I still not good enough?! I don't know what I'm doing anymore. Will I ever be good enough?"

Ayane's eyes shone. /'That's exactly how I feel!'/ She fought to suppress an excited squeal.

Instead, she said "I really don't understand why Minase wouldn't at least like you a little."

"Um. Wait, so she actually dislikes me?" That whole friendly rivalry thing for the top student, did he accidentally piss her off by beating her grades sometimes? Maybe Minase was pissed off from him being the "Number Two" so often, she thought he was holding back on purpose? Shinji scowled. That would have been very disrespectful.

"For someone who wants to be female crime boss, I don't get why she doesn't go for a face so well-suited to organized crime," Ayane muttered.

"My face is what?!" Now it was Shinji's turn to recoil in surprise. "Is this the sort of thing girls actually talk about?" A terrifying mystery was slowly unveiling!

Ayane blushed again. "No! Forget I said anything!" She clenched her fists again and continued "Why not you? You're kind, and smart, and gentle… and cute…"

Despite her determination, tears were starting to well up in her eyes. She doggedly pushed through. "…and you don't deserve to have your feelings thrown aside just like that! You should… you should know that you're not disliked by everybody. You should know that there are others who can care for you as much as… you were so brave, at least.

I wish I could be so brave…"


"Oh, I'm sorry, but-"

"I already know."

She looked up sharply, her eyes wide behind her frames. "What?" she gasped. Her face burned. Of course he would know. But then, why didn't he ever say anything before? That was cruel too. She bit her lips. Boys could be so cruel so carelessly.

"But there's really someone else."

The girl nodded, and took out a handkerchief. "I know that too. I just can't compete can't I? I'm not as smart or pretty or sophisticated and…"

Shinji can sense she was about to enter into familiar territory and decided to head her head off at the pass. "No. MINASE has someone else." He shrugged. "So I can't stand in the way of that."

Ayane looked up again, her face open with shock. "She does?"

"She does." Shinji didn't know exactly why, but recounted word for word what happened. He relished speaking about the ugliness behind the façade he had worshipped for so long.

"T-that's scandalous! How long do you think this has been going on?" The best friend stood up and began pacing. "Seriously! What could she have been thinking! You only asked her out to eat…"


"Eat strawberries." the girl nodded. "With milkshakes?"

"Of course."

"Okay. That's not very thrilling date, Shinji, you have to admit. But it's good to start slow!" She raised a fist to the window. "To have someone waiting for her already in high-school? What is she thinking?! What is she doing?!"

"I'm not sure. I can't really say I understand her motivations, but…"


"That's what really annoys me, you know? That she just dismissed me so completely. She didn't even bother to tell me what I was doing wrong. It hurts to be rejected, it hurts to be criticized, but being insulted for simply being me… Who the hell does she think she is to tell me who I am?! I should be sad, but I'm just happy that I don't have to deal with her anymore."

Shinji leaned forward, put his elbows over his knees and laced his fingers together. "So in some way, I recognize what she was trying to do. A clean break." Then he glanced aside to Ayane. "But if she dismisses me like that, now I wonder what sort of person she actually likes."

"Someone older?" Ayane licked her lips. "But what does that mean? Someone older, taller, more handsome?" She frowned. "I… don't see it. Minase actually hates pretty boys."

"Minase wants something. I have a strong feeling she's the one to start it off. Maybe it's something of a status symbol. Maybe it's an attempt to feel stronger and more in control. Maybe he's really just more handsome. I don't mind if I'm not as thrilling." Shinji shrugged. "I don't think they both know what they're doing."

He sighed and rubbed at his face. "We're too young."

"You… don't sound young." said Ayane. That had always been what drew her to him. That super seriousness, with eyes that seemed to want to peel you apart to get to the core of your being. She wondered what it would be like to be cherished not just for herself but for everything she could become.

Shinji laughed, but sadly and at himself. "A part of me always feels like ten thousand years old." He took a deep breath and leaned back. "Or it might just be undigested cheese."

The girl did not know what to do with this more casual, more playful Shinji. She felt guilty, but it was perfect. It was like everything was made for this chance.

"No, I don't think we should be going out." said Shinji, still with his head slumped back over the chair and almost asleep.

Ayane felt her heart stop. So THIS is what that felt like. She could finally, truly empathize. It hurt so much!

"What are we, Ayane-san? Aren't we friends? We are still so young, why change that? So why mutate this comfortable connection we have to something we can't really [See]?" He raised a hand, and made little flitting motions. "Feelings are like butterflies… let them fly as they wish, and they return to that flower time and again."

Ayane snorted in amusement. How so utterly characteristic of him. She could deal with this. "Usually people say that about horses. Set it free, and if it returns, it's yours forever."

He lifted his head and blinked owlishly at her. "They do? I didn't know that."

She giggled and sat back down, kicking her shoes off. She copied his lazy slouch on the chair. "So… what should I do?" she asked him, while staring at ceiling too.

"Hmm? Do?"

"Yeah, you're free, Shinji-kun. Whatever you want, let's do it. What you want me to do, I'll do it. We're friends and that's what friends do."

"Umh, you're describing more like a minion, actually."

"If that's the sort of game you want to play... then command me, your most loyal minion!" She giggled again and clapped her palms together over her face.

Shinji sighed and let his eyes remain unfocused. He was pretty sure he had one (or three) of that already, but said nothing to spare her feelings. The future was closed to him. What did he really want? Others made it their choice to make his wants their wants. The more pertinent question would be: what could he possibly want from another person?

Let's just hang out. That would be the simplest, easiest, and most productive request. A deeper friendship is born from simple companionship. His mind was now fresh and empty of all expectations, and numb, and dark.

He exhaled.



"I need you to go now." He didn't need to see her face to know she looked hurt. "I need you to go out and tell Minase I don't hate her. She might not care about what I think, but I need you to tell her to be careful. This is not a threat, this is just honest concern about what she's doing behind her parent's back. No, don't stand up. Not exactly now. Please go home and think carefully about what you'll say. We both know she's not going to take it kindly. She will mock you. She will mock me. So please prepare yourself well. We can talk later when we've cleared the air."

Shinji wanted to curl up into himself in disgust, but his body felt too loose and relaxed. These words, dripping with manipulation like sweet oil, there and so obvious and yet she couldn't see it. She refused to see it. Instead what could only be described as sheer determination filled her. Joy, at simply being needed. And power, as if his will and wisdom was pouring into her being.

[An Instrument of Pain/Is Better Pliant/To Trap, Not to Cut]


"I will…" she said. "T-thank you, Shinji."

He smiled thinly as he bade her goodbye.

Ayane grinned as she got back on her bike. Right. Minase had gone for too long without someone telling her off. If she didn't think her best friend had the right to ask about what she's trying to do, trying to grow up too fast, then what are friends for?

"I need to be strong enough to stand up to Minase, but wise enough not to destroy our friendship just to feel superior. Shinji forgives her, so I will forgive her, but she has to know why she needs to be sorry."


Sometime later, Kobayakawa arrived. He bounded into the house with his usual fervor, moving with deceptive quickly for someone so plump. "Hey, boss! Got news boss!" he called out after being shown in.

"More of your friends, Shinji?" said Shinji's aunt. "I have some more rice cakes. Would you like some?" she asked the rotund boy. She got a happy nod in return.

Shinji put away the little eye-within-a-star symbol he was carving from soap. His brain still felt like loose cotton, so light and free. "I think we should take a walk. Thank you, and could you please wrap a few in a plastic bag?"

Prologue 1.7 (Dats Da Word)


Indentured Artist

Shinji led him a good ways out from the house, near weather-beaten cliffs overlooking the all-devouring ocean. Kobayakawa followed content with having rice cakes to munch on. He waited patiently as Shinji stared off into the distance.

"What have you found?"

Oh, so it's to be THAT sort of Bosstalk, eh? Well, he could not expect Da Boss to be fun about this sort of thing. "We gots the Gretchz workin' boss. One'a dem saw Minase stop at a call booth to phone someone instead of using her cell phone. She ducked into a store and came out looking different, hair up in bun and everything. Dude in a moto-bike came by and took her off."

Shinji nodded absently. "You know, I SHOULD be feeling some dismay at how you have kindergarten kids stalking people, but I just can't seem to raise it right now. I'm impressed though, they're surprisingly patient and hard to fool."

Kobayakawa lifted his double chin up. "My Gretchz are da best, boss. No one ever notices a little kid. Have four of dem squatting in a corner and nobody cares what dey do. It's like derr invisible. If dey look playing, they can do anything."

"Good job. Now what's about dis runty squig? I don't think the Gretz can follow dem on a bike, can they?"

"No need ta, boss!" His voice then brightened. "We gots dis little Gretz, we call 'im Bike Boy. He knows the bikes of EVERYBODY in dis town. If its on two wheels, he knows it. Dat cause his brudda runs da bike shop. He works da Gretz on messenger service. We gots him and other shops on it, so we always haz a stash of candy for all da boyz back at da hut. No toyz is too expensive if ya can share it. No one messes wid da mob without da rest chippin' in."

Shinji nodded approvingly. Da Boyz were actually loved by the merchants downtown. Let them grow up a bit more and that cut off an entire generation of thugs who would bilk local businesses out for 'protection'. Da Boyz would actually protect these people. They were basically ad hoc militia already for reasons completely outside his control.

"We gots some bad news for ya, boss. Da squig's Kotaru Jishin, he's in high school, third year. Now HIS brudda's actually Yakuza. He's in prison right now so the squig's behavin'. He's 'ard though. Runs da junior high mob, nutting like OUR mob." Kobayakawa seemed to shrink into himself. "If we gets at him, a lot of da boyz are gonna get hurt."

"So? Don't. I only asked you for information."

"But you're DA BOSS! Who hurts ya hurts all da boyz. Who don't respects da don't respects da boyz! We should stomp him! STOMP HIM GOOD! W-"

"DON'T!" Shinji turned, his eyes glittering madly. "That word is NOT to be used so lightly, so foolishly. Do you understand me?"

Kobayakawa took a step back. "Uh, sure boss."

"The Waaagh! is sacred. It is not for the boyz to waste. Da Waaagh! Is to be done when and only when da world needs turnin' back to the right and proppa. You smacks someones, you stomps someone. But you don't call Da Waaagh! without a warboss! And you don't have a warboss until you HAVE A WAR! Do you hear me?"

"Boss! I hear yas!"

"When you calls a Waaagh!, I expects there to be nothing left! You will stompz da target until it is gone, you will breaks der stuff, you will digs der landz up until nobodys can remember where dey once waz, you will send da boyz and da boyz will not stops until da odda side is all right and propa and OURS! DAT, IS DA WAAAGH! Do you getz it?"

"Y-yes, boss. I getz ya, boss." Kobayakawa had an expression which could only be described as religious awe. "You Da Boss."

Shinji stepped back, and sighed heavily. "So, don't say it."

"…not gonna say it."

"Something has to be done about this Jishin. He's got that broody bad boy image young girls love." Shinji steepled his fingers, and held it up to just under his nose as he thought. "He wants her money. He wants her body. He will use her, he will break her. I can See it."

/And I can just let it happen. Wouldn't that be perfect? Let people just have the consequences of their own actions./

He closed his eyes and sighed. /But that would be bad./

He sighed again. "Send someone to follow him and Minase around, ready to call the cops." Crap. He blinked as he realized. He had just sent Ayane out to find Minase. "You know Mitsugane Ayane? She's my friend. I need you to watch out for her. If she's in trouble, I don't care what, jump in. Protect her."

"Yes, boss. Sure thing boss…"

Shinji turned and smiled now. "Auntie makes good rice cakes, doesn't she? It's the sliver of cheese she puts on top. Come on, let's get you some more."

"Thanks, boss!"


Shinji was still waiting. The silence in his skull was deafening. For years now he had imagined life into those little plastic people, and filled his bland moments with the joyful noise of their bickering. He had made them the companions who would never disappoint him, would never abandon him.

He took deep breaths and tried to clear his mind. He went out into the beach where he found them and listened to the waves. A constant pattern in the background helped him concentrate, he had no need to control the pace of his breathing to enter into a meditative trance. He breathed in with the surf, out with the riptide. No wonder so many temples were built near the shore, he mused.

Though it all there was only the serenity, the utter and artificial silence within his mind.

He was starting to hate it. He would usually seek that meditative state to help him think, but now that he could reach it so easily he found himself preferring the chaos of their little voices batting away thoughts back and forth.

He made them as the ones who would never betray him, so the logic was that he betrayed them. They did not leave, but were shut away. How? He had no idea, just as he didn't know at what point it time they crossed from mere voices in the head into distinct seemingly self-sufficient personalities.

He thought that he should have brought the figurines, they helped him focus. But really, did they reside in all that plastic? He had used them as a crutch for too long.

"I STILL NEED YOU!" he shouted into the silence. "COME BACK!"

There was no response. If this was what it meant to grow up and decide from oneself, he could do with remaining a child for a while longer.

He stood up and looked down at himself. Black pants, white shirt. Even out of school he preferred those simple clothes. No wonder Minase found him weak and boring.

He kicked off his shoes and began to walk over to the shorelines. He stopped right at the water's edge and let the waves lap at his feet. The horizon stretched out to beyond time, the sky vast and infinite. Under it, his problems faded into their temporal insignificance.

"Was it the pact with Chaos?" he asked the silence. "But… Chaos doesn't exist…!" Even then, shouldn't his Chaos Worshipper remain?

What happened while he slept? He missed them, missed them terribly.

He yelled out to the crashing waves: "What will you take for them, oh sea? You brought them to me from your depths. What can I offer so you can bring them to me again?"

The winds blew but there were no answers. The waves rushed on, but it was no reply.

Shinji bent down and scooped up some water in his palms. He splashed it into his face. He scooped up another handful and drank in its salty tang. He let most of it dribble down.

He fell back and lay down there on the beach, much like he did all those years ago. He felt the same pointlessness, the same sourceless sadness. "What am I doing?" he whispered. "This is so worthlessly dramatic. I'm brooding. Brooding, damn it!"

He slapped at the sands on either side of him, palms up. "They were awesome." He felt that if he could touch that, that thread of awesomeness once more, he could follow it and pull his miniature companions out of whatever box they were sealed in.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Waves up. Waves down. Clouds grew and shrank in his vision. He had a feeling of timelessness, as if in the future he would lie down on a shore again, always in sunset with all that dramatic red. The waters were all orange, the sky as red as blood.

He felt something watching him. Like a big floating head. He looked down, suddenly cold, but the post-Impact sea was still a wine-purple darkness, wounded but eternal, and completely uncaring of humanity. The sky was starting to darken even, though. He saw a single star weakly twinkling out in the distance.

"I'm sorry." he said, but there was no one to hear it.

He clenched his fists. "But this is pathetic. I am my own person! If the future is closed to me, then I'll break it open with my bare hands! I will teach them all to respect me! I'll take my own justice! I'll never be afraid again! Thank you for everything you've done. Thank you!

"If we never talk again... I think I'll be... fine, somehow."

Shinji got up and walked back to his house. He still had his own life ahead of him. He felt more powerful than he had ever before.


He found there a child waiting by the front door. The boy stood up, and looked at him doubtfully. "You're scrawny." he said.

/'Great. Now I'm being criticized by a being even smaller and bonier than I am.'/ He actually chuckled a bit. Being made fun of by tinier things was familiar. "And you're little." he said back. "Who are you?"

"I'm da Gretz" the little boy proudly said.

"I thought there was more than one? Collectively, you're Gretchin."

His eyes widened. "You don't look like one of Da Boyz. But you're right. We're all da Gretchz, but nobody knows dat secret name…" He scowled. "But I'm the Gretz here and I have a message. I've gotta make sure."

"Um, okay. What do I have to do?"

"You gots to prove you're one of Da Boyz."

"How do I do that?"

The child put both hands behind his head and half-turned away. "I dunno." He said casually. "If you're one of Da Boyz, you know."

Shinji blinked. All things considering, he wasn't actually one of Da Boyz. He'd never been part of their meetings, he had no idea of their initiation rites or how they identified each other. His contact with them were limited mostly to the three other kids who had legitimate reasons to fear the heck out of him and elevated him to their boss.

He slapped a fist down into an open palm in the common Japanese expression of 'eureka!'. "Wait here." he said, and rushed into the house.

When he returned, he had his cello. The little kid squinted at the spindly, fragile-looking instrument. It didn't look properly 'ard and awesome like the boyz would use. Shinji smirked a bit, and mouthed 'try this'.

He held the cello improperly, head down like a fiddle. He stomped his right foot down on the concrete, hard. Then, twice more, faster. He began to play. It was a simple melody, repeating, rapid, violent. He went at those strings as if he wanted to rip them right off the wood.

(Bassline: Orks. Orks. Orks. Orks. Orks.)

Ere we go! Ere we go!

Troo da cosmos.
Troo infinity.

Orks are made fer fightin' and winnin'!

When he finished his hair was all mussed up, his eyes were wide and his teeth were bared in a feral grin. He held the cello up to the sky like an axe. "Ere we go. Ere we go. "Where we go? NOBODY KNOWS TIL WE GETS DERE!



"Nobody cares til we gets dere…!" mumbled the child. "That was awesome! You ARE Da Boss!" He kicked his heels and stood up straight. "Gots a message for you, boss."

Shinji made a wearied 'heh-heh' with his chin jutting out. "So wot's Da Word?"

"Something's going down at da old Salt Park, boss. Boss'yakawa's already dere. He tolds me to come gets ya. We gots to go!"

He blinked. "Then what's with all the dancing around for? We should hurry."

"Da Word was for Da Boss. I had ta be sure. If you're the boss I shouldn't be wasting your time." The boy sniffed. "But if you're not Da Boss, then you're a squig-head wastin' MY time, and I don't gots to show you any respect."

Shinji sighed. He went back indoors only long enough to shove his cello into his aunt's hands and mutter a quick "Sorrygottago!" He ran back out again, but stopped after a distance. He looked back to see the Gretz scampering to keep up on his stumpy little legs.

He crouched down and motioned for the child to get up on his back. Though he did look scrawny, Shinji was actually quite fit for his age. Subconsciously a lot of his roaming around and exercise was physical conditioning geared towards endurance and ignoring pain rather than strength. He bore the burden well as he went off at a steady lope towards the town.

"What's going on?" he asked the child hanging over his shoulder.

"Dunno. I was tolds to come gets ya just as he was headin' in. My feet were already moving, so I hads no time to ask."

Shinji tried to turn his head. "Wait, are you telling me you RAN all the way from the Salt Park to here?" At the boy's nod, he added with simple admiration, "You had better be getting lots of candy…"

"What, are you crazy? I should be expecting candy for this?" the child's indignation threatened to topple him off his feet. "Da Boyz needed me and I was dere. Da Boyz are always happy ta do what da boyz gots to do."

Shinji groaned. Such fanatic dedication. How many young lives had he inadvertently corrupted thus far? He kinda envied that sense of brotherhood a little bit. Being the boss means never being actually welcomed so completely by the group.

He ran, and swiftly, his steps lightened by fear and worry.



Ha, Da Boyz are insane. Insanely entertaining.

Ere we go! Ere we go!
What have you done to this poor, innocent link?

I do wonder what happened to the figurine voices. I somehow assumed Chaos not be a thing existing outside Shinji, but this does make me fear reaching out somehow destroyed his connection. Than again it might just be a case of "he learned everything they could teach". He seemed surprisingly little upset over loosing his friends and mentors (though me may be more Space Marine than kid at this point, so WTF do I know).
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Prologue 1.8 (Light of the Soul)


Indentured Artist

What the Boyz called the Salt Park was actually what used to be Mamoru Community Park, now half-swallowed by the sea. It was one of the most secluded portions of the town, with tall weeds hiding it from the road. Behind its tangled reeds opened up a clearing with several benches, with an excellent view of the sun sinking into the sea. It was a properly romantic spot, remote and intimate and mostly unknown to the grownups.

Shinji dropped the Gretz upon reaching downtown. "Go gets the boyz. Bring food and rocks. Big sticks. Nothing sharp or could stab, all right?"

He panted for breath, and kept running the rest of the way.

He arrived at the Salt Park to see it no longer an unknown secluded refuge for troubled teenagers. Police cars ringed the place, their warning lights bathing everything in harsh flickering red and blue.

There were already a few curious people milling around. They were outnumbered by blue-garbed policemen though, who kept everyone away from the police line. Behind that yellow barrier was an ambulance, and Kobayakawa surrounded by cops. The round teen seemed unafraid though, and easily broke away from them to get to Shinji.

He ducked under the tape and bounded over. "Hey boss! Good thing you got here boss. Da cops were getting annoyed I wouldn't talk, but I had to tell it all to yas first." He grinned. "I dids what you wanted me to, boss. I saw Ayane-san and followed her, but without her seeing me, you understands. I heards some yelling and her screamin' so I went right into da park. Dere I saw Minase, and she was naked and cryins' and that grot Jishin gots Ayane-san, and he was just abouts to slap her. So I jumped him, boss! I jumped him good like you told me to!"


Kobayakawa's face was a mass of cuts and bruisers, his left eye purpled and shut. His grin only made it look even more grotesque. "He gots me a few times but I didn't really feel it." He patted his belly. "All dese fat's gotta be good for somefin', ha!"

Shinji's was surprised at his own tone of voice. It was cold and calm, and yet he still wanted someone to tear apart. "What happened next? What happened to Jishin?"

"Dat's whats awesome, boss! We was muckin' about dere and Minase just up and gets him at back of a head with dis big 'ard rock! He turns around and looks all confused and he sees her and she's cryin' and she bashes him AGAIN with rock at the side of his head. He makes dis little spin in the air as he falls over. Minase falls down too, and cries there for a little bit, then she gets up and STOMPS ON HIM IN DA GROIN and den Ayane-san hugs her and the girls can gets on so some propa cryin'."

He nodded and looked proud. "I coulda looked, but I didn't wants me groin stomped too. We was gonna sneak her back into town but it turns out da Gretz went to da cops first before headin over to yas. Da cops came by and dey was actually scary for a while until Ayane-san yelled at them. They led us away and gave us blankets and coffee. I think I like coffee, boss. It's bitter, but you need it to fight the sweet of the round cakes we was supposed to dunk into it."

Kobayakawa shook his fists over his face. "We stomped dat Jishin good! Da boyz rule!" Shinji looked behind his follower to see a covered stretcher being loaded into the ambulance. He didn't have the heart to correct the statement, not just Stomped but Stomped Ded. "Now I gots ta talk to the cops. Thanks for gettin' here, boss."

Shinji watched him go, and hoped the police would get something more substantial out of him. Or perhaps into him, the least he was owed was something good to eat after his battle.


Intellectually, he knew about rape. He could somewhat understand the reasons behind it, the biological imperative, the desire to dominate and reduce someone else to just an object. Minase was quite well-developed for her age and without ever even seeing Kotaru Jishin's face could deduce to some extent why he'd taken this particular day to lose it.

But emotionally? He got it all in one lightning-hot glance as Minase emerged from the Park, bundled in a thick warm blanket and flanked by her parents. Her hair was matted with dirt and sweat; her skin bluish pale; and her gaze hollow. She was just /shattered/.

Life only returned to those eyes when she saw him, and all the shame and the horror there could likely be matched only by his own.

Jishin may have been sixteen. But Minase was /twelve/. This was an atrocity.

"Don't look at me!" she shrieked and hid herself behind her parents. "Not him… anyone but him." she said into their embrace. Her words came out in sputters. "Just yesterday I told him… I never wanted to have anything to do with a short little weirdo… when I had someone cool waiting for me."

She wailed. "I didn't want to be seen with someone like him. Now even he would never have anything to do with me!"

"Mina-chan…" her mother hugged her well. She looked at Shinji standing there, whose young face was stricken with grief. "Such a pity. He seems like such a nice boy."

Minase continued to sob. They went into their expensive new car, and drove away.

The future might have been closed to him, but the past was not. He /knew/ that /somehow/, that he could have prevented this. If he had just been paying attention. If he actually cared enough instead of dismissing it as a low-priority task to keep the boyz busy with little spy games as he tried to deal with his pathetic little emotions and move on.

To bigger and brighter things.


Next to come out was Mitsugane Ayane, escorted by policemen as her parents hadn't arrived yet. Her frightened expression abruptly brightened as she saw him, numbness faded from her joints as she abruptly rushed him and fell into his arms. "Shinji-kun!" she sobbed into his shirt. "Shinji- kun. Shinji-kun." She repeated his name as if it would drive all the bad things away. "It was so horrible, Shinji-kun."

"What happened, Ayane-san?"

She looked up with tear-stained eyes, her glasses gone, and said. "I thought about what you said, and what I would say. I just knew Minase would just ignore me if I went over to scold her, so I had to go where she couldn't escape what I would say. So I came here, because I knew she would come here…" Then in a softer voice, her train of thought unwisely leaking out her mouth, "and I was hoping that someday we would go here too…"

Then louder, "... And she did arrive. She had her boyfriend and he was older than her. And they were celebrating her getting out of elementary, she was saying he couldn't feel so guilty anymore. I was hiding and I can see his eyes and I knew the he wasn't ever guilty of anything. They were doing things, Shinji, things we shouldn't be doing yet and I just had to get out there and say it to her!

"And I went out there and said it! It was wrong! She should be ashamed. It was all wrong, and it would end wrong, and how could she throw aside the good that you would have brought her?" Ayane gripped his shirt tightly and pulled herself closer to him, grimacing with heartfelt pain she spoke it to his face. "And she stood up and spat out what was in her mouth and told me I was a child. And you were a child. And that she wasn't anymore and that she didn't have to listen to us. Going here and there, crying and asking for help, we're so useless. She was better than us. She didn't have to listen to us."

She collapsed into sobs. "She said it, like I knew she would, she didn't care about any of us at all. That's where I slapped her. That's where I told he she might not need to listen to me, but she had to live with her parents."

Ayane buried her face into the folds on his shirt. "I told her it was wrong, and her parents would find it wrong, and they would do something about it. She slapped me back. She told me I wouldn't dare. She told me no one would believe an attention- seeking brat like me. She was afraid." The girl continued her tale in between wordless desolation. "She grabbed my hand and told me she would find some way of making me regret it. I wouldn't tell anyone, would I? Would I? Her parents would lose face, and a word to the right people MY parents could lose their jobs. The Houkos are a proud family, they wouldn't see it as a favor. She pushed me away and told me to go away. And, I did! I left her there and I shouldn't have!"

And Shinji could see it. Minase's words hurtful aside, she must have reconsidered. She must have thought over how continuing her charade at being grown-up could harm her later. She had forgotten one thing. Other people had their pride too.


He could almost hear it:

/'Who do you think you're talking to?/' she would have said with her chin up in the air. /'Just because I grace you with MY attentions is no reason for you to think you're actually WORTHY of me.'/

/'What, should I be scared of you now? I won't go away like a dog, not while I still have this here.'/

/'You SHOULD be. My parents will-'/

/'Your parents aren't here, you little bitch. Now get down and finish it!'/

She would have resisted, but she would find her strength was nothing against his. They were alone, she had made sure of that.

/'Let go of me!'/

/'You're not better than me! You're the one that wanted this, you were the one who threw yourself at me. This! Take it! Take it! You want to be treated like you're grown up! This is what grown-ups do!'/


Shinji wanted to gag. Experiencing many emotions simultaneously was something he had cultivated a little with his imaginary conversations, but never to such an extent! His imagination was running away from him! No way it could it be that accurate!

"But… Ayane-san, if you left her… then what are you doing here now?"

"Because I thought of you!" she said back, such hurting in her face. "I thought of you and how you were brave and I was such a coward. I was almost home when I thought of you saying it was all just alright that I couldn't do anything when it wasn't! I should have been able to DO something! I shouldn't have just run away. You wouldn't have run away. I mustn't run away! I turned around and went back. She wasn't going to get rid of me that easy. I would drag her out of there, it was for her own good. She was MY friend! I had to help her. You wanted me to help her!"

She had already ran out of tears. She was shaking. "But I didn't really expect them to still be there! He was just zipping up his pants, and told her she would enjoy it more next time. She was naked, Shinji-kun, and she was… bleeding! There was blood!" She screamed her words. "I screamed. I was scared! And he looked at me, and I couldn't move. He was so angry! I couldn't do anything! I was completely worthless!"

She stopped and looked down. "And that's… when he arrived. He jumped and wrestled him away from me. I never really noticed Kobayakawa-kun before, but he was really bigger than the rest of us. He was fighting that high schooler without any fear, no hesitation whatsoever. He was laughing, Oh, Shinji-kun...! /'Stay away from Ayane-san!/' he was shouting. /'Dis is for Da Boss!'/ I never knew he could be so fast or so brave… "

Ayane shook her head. "It wasn't enough. I saw him almost beaten but he was still saying /'You don't mess wid friends of Da Boss!'/. He was going to keep throwing himself to the fight until he died! I could see that he could, he would! His enemy was going to have to kill him just to keep him down!" She shivered.

"But he was so intent on beating Kobayakawa-kun that he didn't notice Mina-chan get behind him. Mina-can had this… this rage, this despair, and this big rock, and she hit him with that. She hit him again! She kicked him. She killed him. He hurt her and she hurt him back. But I could tell it wasn't enough to take the pain away. That's where I saw she needed me. I tried to help her, Shinji-kun. I helped her the only way I knew how.

"I took off my own clothes and gave it to her. I cried with her. I stayed with her. I told her I'd never leave her again."

She sniffled, and her eyes upon him held some emotion he couldn't decipher. "Kobayakawa-kun stood guard until the police arrived. He was so brave. He was so strong. He wouldn't let me look at his wounds. He told me Da Boss sent him to protect me. His Boss wanted to make sure that nothing ever harms me. He didn't care about anything except that I was safe. I didn't care about anything except that Minase was safe."

She whispered directly to his ear. "You're his Boss, aren't you? You sent him."

Shinji could only nod.

She gave him a bone-crushing hug. "I'm sorry, Shinji-kun! You're so kind and good and I know this must be hurting you! It's not your fault! You had nothing to do with it."

But it IS my fault! he wanted to scream. Don't you get it? If I hadn't sent you out to confront Minase, you wouldn't have set this in motion. It was all so premature! I could have planned to separate them instead of this! I didn't want to ever see her hurt!

/…but you did. You wanted her to hurt as you have been hurt. Your will is ABSOLUTE, can you see it, my bright lord?/

That voice, its return filled him with equal parts relief and simple terror.

Ayane stared at him, and he realized that without her glasses and with her hair down, she could be even… beautiful. Her face held such strange trust and serenity in it now. "Thank you, Shinji-kun. Thank you! I'm sorry for being so useless…"

"Y-you're not useless, Ayane."

"Yes I am! Please don't be too kind to me. I can't bear it! Shinji-ku… Shinji-san." She put her head to his shoulders again. "Shinji. From now on I… I…"


The girl lifted her head and turned. There behind them stood a big police officer, his thin moustache keeping his face looking always fierce. "Dad!" she yelled with renewed relief. "Oh, dad…"

She looked up at Shinji, waiting for his approval. At his slight nod, she fled from his embrace and into the waiting arms of her police chief of a parent. "My little Acchan…" said the big man gently. "You're safe now."

"I've always been safe, Dad." she mumbled. Ayane turned to look at Shinji. Her father noticed it and frowned at her attention towards a boy. Well, any member of the opposite sex. He was predictably protective that way.

"Who's that?"

"That's Shinji-san." said Ayane. "He's my friend."

"He's Da Boss!" piped up Kobayakawa form nearby.

The father's expression lightened up seeing him. "Ah, you're the one I have to thank for saving my daughter! Thank you, young man! You're a hero!"

Kobayakawa looked down and wrung his hands. "It was nuttin'. Ayane-san is friends o' Da Boss. His friends are friends o' da boyz. Da Boyz are always ready to help their friends."

His frown returned a fraction. "Boyz, huh? And he's the boss. How is he the boss? Can you tell me?"

Kobayakawa, simple and unsuspecting, went on. "Sure! He tells us whats to do. He shows da boyz da right and proper way of things. He's told us that the use of strength is to protect da weak, and da weak can be strong when they needs ta be. Deres no strength like having a lota friends." He nodded. "Da Boss is NEVER wrong."

"Shinji's my FRIEND, dad." Ayane added.

The policeman's face softened, up at that boy… no, a young man, who still stood there with his head bowed, his shoulders shaking in grief. A natural leader, eh? He looked back to the side towards Kobayakawa, and saw that beneath layers of fat was a good heart and a good policeman in the making, maybe even Chief someday. His daughter could be anything she wants to be, maybe even the Mayor! And the one the little hero showed such loyalty to, that little one over there, he had a feeling he would be Very Important Someday. With such kids around, the future didn't seem so bad.

"He sounds like a nice boy."

"Yes." Ayane whispered fondly. "He is." She waved at him one last time. Shinji only looked back at her with such misery in his face, before he fled back into the darkness.


"I never wanted this…" he said under his breath.

/But see! He that has stolen from you has paid for it with his LIFE.

/She that set herself above you now lies humbled and broken, the BLOOD of that she once loved on her hands.

/He that follows you is now a HERO, respected by many.

/And she who once held you in high regard, now WORSHIPS you.

/Chaos IS. And in CHAOS all things are possible./


Shinji screamed.

Rufus Shinra

Well-known member
Ha, Da Boyz are insane. Insanely entertaining.

What have you done to this poor, innocent link?

I do wonder what happened to the figurine voices. I somehow assumed Chaos not be a thing existing outside Shinji, but this does make me fear reaching out somehow destroyed his connection. Than again it might just be a case of "he learned everything they could teach". He seemed surprisingly little upset over loosing his friends and mentors (though me may be more Space Marine than kid at this point, so WTF do I know).
Space Marine? Not exactly. As the policeman noticed in the latest published chapter, more of a natural leader, in the sense of someone telling people what they knew inwardly yet did not realize.


Indentured Artist
At this point in time, Shinji is still just a deeply delusional 12-year old boy. He's not yet particularly aligned to any of the four figures, but rather shaping his ideals to their most positive qualities.

Wait. Four?


It occurs to me that way back in 2007, nobody gave a shit. But now this sort of thing would probably need to undergo moderation approval before being posted on SB.
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This was even worse than I feared.
I guess Minase, Ayane and Shinji will be burdened by this for their whole lives...

I have no idea what it is, but this writing is, somehow, even with or because of the over-tover-the-top crazy in the background, extremely good at conveying emotions.

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