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NEON GENESIS EVANGELION: SENSHI NO MICHI

CREDITS: 1/1

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If there was one word that could accurately describe Misato Katsuragi's mood at the moment, it would be exasperated.

The woman drove with an almost hateful gaze, the bags under her eyes evidence of fatigue, and lack of a good night's sleep. Eyes flitting about and scanning the roads in front of her, Misato held back a curse as a small form – some kind of wild animal – darted across the dirt road in front of her.

She was currently navigating a large forest in Wakayama Prefecture, the heavily forested surroundings making it difficult to keep any sense of direction in the multitude of narrow, twisted roads.

As her eyes fluttered shut, and stayed so for a second – a second too long when one was at the wheel – Misato realised she needed to pull over and get herself together. The last thing she needed was to crash into some tree and have spent well over twelve hours driving amount all to nothing.

As the car's engine stopped in time with Misato removing the keys from the ignition, she collapsed back in her seat with a heavy sigh. Already, she could feel sleep taking over, and the last thing that passed through her mind was the bizarre order she'd received from none other than Commander Ikari himself.


Fourteen hours earlier.


Stepping onto the main bridge, her heels clacking against the metal floor, Misato scanned her surroundings – the ever present team of Makoto, Aoba, and Maya present just ahead of her, their heads practically buried in their monitors as the team juggled phone calls and constant messages from other sections of the NERV branch.

"-Request for more flexi-alloy for Unit-02's calve-"

"-Maam, you are aware of NERV regulations, I can't just-"

"-For the last time, this is not the Project-E hub. You'll need to redirect to-"

"Admiring your stalwart crew?"

The old, but somewhat mirthful voice from behind caught Misato's attention, and she spun to face Kozo Fuyutsuki.

While age had lined his face, and lowered his posture the slightest inch, there was still an ever-present gleam in the man's eye, hinting at a desire to understand whatever could be understood, but it was tempered – as if that same gleam had been darkened some years ago.

Misato could empathise – everyone around her had endured the Second Impact.

Quickly moving into a salute, which was dropped a second after Fuyutsuki gestured tiredly with his hand to stop it, Misato stepped over to the Vice Commander.

"Vice Commander." Misato's tone was professional, and somewhat cold, despite the man's attempts at alleviating any pretence of superiority between them.

"Captain. I trust you've found our facilities and staff satisfactory, in the two weeks you've been here?" Fuyutsuki cocked one eyebrow slightly, in subdued interest.

Misato nodded firmly in reply, her tone starting to defrost somewhat. "Very much so, sir. Again, thank you for the recommendation."

The vice commander simply shook his head and smiled. "It was no trouble. Your talents were recognised, and we need you here, in Tokyo-3. No doubt you'll prove yourself many times over here. But for now, the Commander would like to see you, as soon as possible."

At that, Misato's brow furrowed slightly, but she said nothing, instead bowing slightly, then moving away to the nearest set of stairs which would lead away from the bridge, and deeper into NERV.

She had only seen NERV's so called "Bastard King" a select few times, but every time, she found another reason to regret being called to his attention.

His office was cavernous, his gaze unflinching and hidden behind those really, really weird glasses, and his voice could raise the hairs on the back of a skeleton's neck.

While she had only needed to listen to a few snippets of conversation in the canteen to get a general impression of what NERV thought of Commander Ikari – where she had heard the previously mentioned nickname slung around like a swear from a schoolchild – she hadn't found much reason to disprove what she'd heard.

As the Captain advanced down the corridor, a familiar figure appeared in front of her, turning a corner and heading towards her.

Ritsuko Akagi, head of Project E, was a close friend. The two went back to college, but despite the fact that they had an otherwise amiable and friendly relationship, it was in the workplace that her friend became somewhat professional to a fault – focused entirely on her work.

Whilst Misato found that dedication admirable, Ritsuko's resulting grating tones were not so prestigious in her book.

The doctor merely stopped for a brief moment to adjust her collar, then moved on, the only sign that she had acknowledged Misato a brief nod and grunt. Rolling her eyes after Ritsuko had passed, Misato pressed on, blowing a stray strand of hair out of her eyes as she approached the double doors that led to the office of Commander Ikari.

The captain hesitated, and then rapped the door three times.

"Come."

The commander's reply was barely audible, but even then, Misato could hear the powerful timbre of his voice, though restrained.

She entered with far more hesitation than she would admit to herself, pushing the surprisingly heavy doors open, passing into the lair of Commander Ikari.

The décor was distracting – the massive murals and symbols etched onto the floors and ceiling drew her attention for a brief moment, before she caught herself staring and focused on the only human presence in the room.

Gendo Ikari examined the woman before him with a clinical gaze, as one might eye a prime rib just before leaning in to tear it apart. And those glasses, Misato noted, were just as weird as she remembered.

"Captain Katsuragi. I trust you are settling in?"

His voice shattered the awkward silence that had begun to permeate the expansive office, and Misato couldn't help but flinch, before she replied.

"Yes, sir. I can only offer my thanks for how well you and NERV have provided for me." She bowed low, and held the bow until Gendo made a small grunt of supplication.

"Despite your unfamiliarity with the region, a matter has come up that requires both your attention and discretion." The commander began, leaning further over the desk, hands folded and hiding any discernable expression.

Misato's brow furrowed slightly, but she remained impassive and ramrod straight, deciding that the last thing she needed to do was get grouchy when the commander finally had an important task for her. A solid week of administrative paperwork and similar had left a bitter taste in the Captain's mouth.

"NERV has assets in Wakayama that need to be retrieved as soon as possible. To be specific, two VIPs. They are of the highest importance."

Misato's mind raced with the possibilities – VIPs? Who could they possibly be? Scientists, with priceless research intended for Project-E? Or perhaps they were simple political assets, talking heads of little use save to help NERV keep face.

The commander slid two previously unnoticed manila folders across his desk, making the smallest motion of his hand to beckon the captain over.

Approaching, Misato took both folders from the desk, and with a small measure of interest and anticipation, she opened the first smoothly. In the low light of the office, it was somewhat difficult to read, but the daylight that shone through the sizable windows lining the nearby wall helped somewhat.

The first thing that drew her attention was a picture – labelled with a timestamp that indicated the photo was two years old. A copper-haired girl, of twelve or eleven years stared out at Misato with unblinking, sapphire eyes, her mouth set in a tight line despite the softness of her youthful features.

Frowning, Misato read on, eyes flicking over the barebones information.

NAME: SOHRYU, ASUKA LANGLEY

AGE: 13

D.O.B: 12/04/2001

NATIONALITY: AMERICAN

DESIGNATED: SECOND CHILD

The phrase 'Second Child' immediately set off alarm bells inside Misato's skull.

She was going to retrieve Eva pilots? But if so, why was the commander only calling this matter to her attention? Why not to a crew of Section-2 men and an armoured transport at the very least? She must have been frowning in confusion, because the Commander picked up on it.

"I assume you wonder why you are being notified, of all people? The reason is, as I said before, discretion. An armoured transport will be sent to the other side of Japan, with heavy escort, to draw attention away from you and your objectives."

The commander's tone was somewhat smug – the kind of tone one had when they knew exactly what they were doing, and exactly what was going to happen. Gendo Ikari had always had a reputation as a chessmaster of men – and now Misato was beginning to see proof of that. She moved to the next folder.

The boy in the picture, it was clear, had a gentle countenance about him. While Asuka Sohryu stared ahead with a challenging gaze, this boy had a softer expression, blue eyes staring ahead, partially hidden by the fringe of his dark brown hair.

NAME: IKARI, SHINJI

AGE: 14

D.O.B: 06/06/2001

NATIONALITY: JAPANESE

DESIGNATED: THIRD CHILD

This time, it was the name that drew Misato's eye. Was it possible that the commander's very son was selected as a pilot? Truth be told, the picture didn't give the same impression that Asuka's did, but Misato didn't comment on the identity of the Third Child.

After sifting through the second folder for a moment, she found a map, which indicated the location – it was a seven hour drive, at least, not accounting for traffic or any other circumstance. Wincing minutely, she closed the folders, and tucked them under her arm. Gendo spoke again, quieter and less powerful.

"You will leave as soon as possible." He spoke, blunt, and Misato nodded stiffly, before bowing.

When she was somewhat sure that she had been given silent permission to leave, she moved out of the office, closing the doors behind her.

Misato took the opportunity to instantly lean against the wall for support, blowing out a puff of air and taking the folders out from under her arm to give them another brief look. Gazing at the images of the two children, she allowed herself to grimace, her thoughts dark.

To think, we're going to be putting these children into those mechanical monsters? Part of me doesn't want to go, and not just because of the drive time. But if it's to destroy the Angels…to protect our race, then there's no choice whatsoever. At least for me.


Now.


Slowly blinking awake, Misato let out a loud yawn, and sat back up in the car, having slumped somewhat in her seat.

Through the windshield, she saw that the sun had moved lower, and the Captain glanced at her watch – it was well into the afternoon now, and she winced – she wasn't a fan of getting reprimanded for taking unnecessarily long to bring the Pilots back to Tokyo-3.

Driving on, Misato followed the map to the best of her ability, biting her lip in concentration. More than once, she let out an exasperated curse and turned the car around, realising she had followed the wrong, miniscule path, as opposed to another.

Thankfully, her perseverance seemed to be finally paying off, and she began wheeling around narrow mountain roads, and then across a large plain, both indicated on the map as notable landmarks. Soon, Misato was driving across earthen and sandy paths, and as she turned a corner, she finally spied some sign of civilisation – and her objective.

Some ways up from the path she drove on, on a higher section of land, sat what appeared to be a modestly large house, of classical design.

As Misato drove closer, more details became apparent – what appeared to be an outdoor exercise area, with weights and – training dummies, Misato noted, with some surprise. More than a few trees had heavy cords of rope wrapped around sections of their trunk, and appeared heavily weathered. The smaller path leading up to the house was lined with ornamental stone torches, all unlit.

As she killed the ignition on the car, and unbuckled her seatbelt, she glanced back up at the house, and saw a man – of considerable age and uninspiring stature, possibly in his late fifties or early sixties, dressed in a drab robe.

Before Misato could signal to him or get out of her car, he had disappeared into the house, and she sighed, before opening the door and swinging her legs out. The sandy ground was a little unsteady, and she berated herself for choosing boots with more prominent heels.

Walking up the path to the house, with the two folders still tucked under her arm, Misato began to wonder what exactly she'd find.

Boots rapping against the hardwood of the porch, she realised there was no doorbell to ring, or doors that were hard enough to be knocked – only the two sliding panel doors in front of her.

Before she could do anything, the two doors were quickly and firmly slid apart, and Misato stepped back, a little surprised.

In front of her stood a man, different than the one before – he was tall, at least six feet, and had a muscular build. His hair, raven black, but streaked with some grey, was pulled back into a ponytail and secured with an ornamental wooden bead. His features were sharp, and the beginnings of age were showing through the odd line around the eyes, and the flecks of grey in his closely cut beard. However, what caught Misato's eye was his manner of dress.

The man wore a dark blue gi, belted at the waist. The top portion was sleeveless, and around his wrists and forearms, as well as his shins, were white wrappings.

His eyes were older than he was, and the gaze of them almost stung the Captain.

Stepping back once more, she lowered herself into a bow, which the man returned.

"I take it you are from NERV?" The man said, his voice firm and composed. Misato nodded. His formerly rigid stance seemed to slacken for a brief moment, his eyes aimed at the floor, before they looked back up.

"I am Gouken."


After a long while, I'm back. Expect a consistent update schedule - each 'episode' will be broken into four 2000-2500 word segments, and posted as quickly as possible. I finally have a definite idea of what I want to write - something that I lacked whenever I tried to write my previous crossovers. Hopefully this will go over well with you guys!