DISCLAIMER: At first glance it might appear that this story has a large number of original characters. In point of fact almost every character with a first and last name given are from the EVA franchise. If you do not care about being spoiled, you can go to the character list in the author notes of Epilogue Delta to see who is who.
Generalmajor Margaret Klinge was widely respected as a dedicated, disciplined, and demanding woman to work for. This in many ways made her the perfect woman to lead Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst, its foreign intelligence agency. The BND had evolved considerably since Second Impact, transforming more and more into a branch of the military than a predominantly civilian service. That transformation was not without its critics, but due to General Klinge's demonstrated competence the only arguments they could bring to bear were theoretical ones about the necessity of civilian control over the military. In the chaos of the post-Second Impact world, those arguments were less convincing than they might have been in a more peaceful time. And it was hard to argue with results seeing as the BND under Klinge detected and then thwarted numerous threats to the Fatherland and its allies as the world slowly recovered. Little wonder then that she was often referred to as the 'Iron Lady,' sometimes affectionately and sometimes in exasperation. For if there was one absolute truth about Klinge, it was that her will was indomitable and more than one politician or bureaucrat had made the mistake of underestimating her determination or overestimating their own relative importance.
For all that though, Klinge did have another nickname, one that few ever dared to say to her face. The cause of this nickname was no great mystery, though it was a source of some wonder amongst her subordinates and associates. For General Klinge was not only competent and controlled, she also likely consumed each day enough alcohol to kill a normal human. And while 'Liver of Steel' was not quite as endearing as her other nickname, it was in many ways even truer. How the general remained completely sober was another mystery to her staff for never had they seen so much as a shaking hand or a single slurred word in her crisp and precise German. But being Germans as they were, having a boss that could outdrink every single one of them combined was certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Especially when, despite her high expectations, General Klinge gave as much as she demanded. While she had never married, the men and women that made up the BND were more than willing to think of themselves as much as her sons and daughters as that of their biological parents.
Of these surrogate children, there were a select few that could get away with a modicum of affectionate disrespect for their commanding officer. Two such individuals were seated before her now in one of the 'black' offices the BND maintained for conversations that not only had to be kept off the record but completely and utterly nonexistent as far as the rest of the world was concerned. Hence why officially Klinge was in a meeting with her department heads, the younger woman present was officially working through a logistics snafu for materials destined for NERV-Tokyo, and the man here officially on his way to a practice with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Of the three technically the man was on the tightest timeline as there was no way to hide his absence from members of the public if he failed to show for the rehearsal, but no one here had much time to waste.
"The contract with NERV-Tokyo's gone through," the younger woman said. "Both contracts, actually. I'll be heading to Tokyo-3 next week and Soren'll follow the following week."
Klinge nodded and regarded the man referred to as Soren. It was his real name, or 'real' in the sense that all of his documentation stated it to be and had done so since his life began. Just as that of the other woman and Klinge's own.
"Here's hoping the Tokyo Philharmonic still exists after next week," Klinge said. "A shame we couldn't get you over there sooner."
Soren tilted his head, about as much of a physical reaction as he was likely to ever give. "The timing is unfortunate, but Amanda should be able to handle the situation. Assuming NERV does not suspect anything, we should be able to proceed."
"Good," Klinge nodded. "Movement of the rest of our assets are also on schedule so you should get some more support quickly. With any luck we can start reducing casualties from the get-go."
Amanda frowned, not of disagreement but of concern. "I'll do what I can, but we both know our projected rate of success is 10% under expected conditions."
"If I am in position, the projection is upwards of 70%," Soren said flatly. "While we have no room for slippage, so long as the Angels remain on schedule we should be fine."
Klinge sighed and sank into her chair. "There've been enough permutations already that we can't be entirely sure of anything. If we're lucky, our disruptions have been minimal enough to not affect the original timetable. Once we start intervening directly however, all bets are off."
"That's kind of the point," Amanda stated. "The only way to effect change is to disrupt the original scenario. Beyond our immediate actions however we cannot guarantee any specific consequences."
"The intended effects are achievable," Soren said again in a matter-of-fact tone. "By the time we are done, I expect quite a few people will be, displeased, with us."
Amanda and Klinge both snorted at the understatement.
"Well, I suppose at this point all I can do is have a little faith," Klinge said. She stood, picking up her glass of scotch. "Amanda, Soren."
The other two did likewise and raised their glasses in response.
"To a new dawn. And see you on the other side."
The three drank to that toast and set down their glasses. The younger pair made their leave first and Klinge watched them go, smiling slightly as Amanda looped her arm with Soren's. That was a sight she would never grow tired of. Maybe this time around, it would start happening much, much earlier.
Lieutenant-Colonel Midori Kayabuki was in a foul mood. Bad enough that the JSSDF forces were being thrown fruitlessly at the approaching monstrosity, the generals were obviously too pigheaded and stubborn to know when to quit. They had expended probably the entire year's defense budget lobbing missiles, bombs, and shells at the thing and nothing had so much as fazed it. Her own unit had been able to keep out of the thing's way, if only because not even the brass was stupid enough to think that a single mechanized infantry battalion could make a difference when their opponent had basically laughed off the efforts of an entire armored division and its air support elements.
"Colonel, the target's made landfall," Lieutenant Kudo reported.
Kayabuki nodded, not that she really needed to be told. Looking through her binoculars, she was greeted with quite the lightshow as the military continued to pound away.
"Any new orders, ma'am?"
"No," Kayabuki said. "We'll remain here."
"But ma'am, if we don't-"
"If we don't what? Or did you see something besides us wasting a couple billion yens' worth of ordnance?"
"Uh, well ma'am…"
"If our orders change we'll try to carry them out," Kayabuki said. "But until then we'll hold position and not try to play hero and get a lot of people killed for nothing. We're soldiers, Kudo, not undisciplined kids."
"Besides," Kayabuki said as she looked back into her binoculars. "I'm pretty sure dealing with this particular monster's way above our paygrades."
Kayabuki was just in time to see the VTOLs flittering around the Angel suddenly disperse. She reacted instinctively.
"Button down! Prepare for detonation!"
"It shows up now, of all the times," Misato complained. "Geez…"
"I wonder if it's karma," the woman seated next to her in the car said.
"Oh hush you," Misato said. "Remember you're the one that wanted to ride shotgun here."
Amanda chuckled and looked out the window. The area they were driving through had yet to be reclaimed and so ruined buildings were a dime a dozen. Still the road was paved at least, though how long that would remain the case was an open question if the increasingly deafening scream of engines was any indication. Then the explosions let loose and the car began to shake.
"Not good!" Misato cried out and gunned the engine. "Damn it, where is he!?"
Amanda was searching as frantically, praying that they had not diverged already. And then she caught sight of a lone figure on the streets, frozen in fear at the chaos erupting around him.
"There!" she shouted even as Misato spun the car around, having caught the same sight.
The Alpine A310 was a sports car and its performance lived up to that label. It almost flew across the asphalt and skid to a stop with a sharp turn right before the boy. Amanda threw open the door.
"Get in!" the brunette shouted.
The boy pulled himself up but seemed to hesitate with the lack of an open seat. Scowling, Amanda grabbed hold of him and hauled the boy into his lap before slamming the door shut.
Misato wasted no time gunning the engine, making their escape with all due haste. The boy seemed a bit dazed but as he began to realize just why the current padding he rested on was so 'soft' his face flushed a bright scarlet.
"Oh calm down," Amanda not quite snapped. "What is it with you Japanese and your rigid politeness? If you hadn't noticed, we've got more important things to worry about!"
Amanda rubbed her temples in abject frustration and despite herself Misato could not help but laugh. Sure they were running for their lives from a giant monster, but the disparate reactions to stress of her passengers was just too much. People were if nothing else quite diverse.
"Ah don't worry about it, Ikari Shinji-kun," Misato said. "You'll get used to her."
They were now some distance from the fighting, the Angel having made another leap to momentarily shake the irritants nipping at it with their puny guns. Apparently deciding they were clear for the moment, Misato began slowing down.
"Keep going!" Amanda suddenly shouted.
"Don't stop! Get us behind that ridge now!"
Not sure what her friend was going on about but trusting her instincts, Misato spun the car behind the hill before braking hard. The moment the car stopped Amanda pushed all of them down. The next, a massive boom ripped through the air and the car was buffeted by a fierce shockwave. Even with their eyes closed, an unbearable light flooded their sight. For what seemed an eternity, it was hard to know if they were even still alive as the light and sound overwhelmed their senses.
"Well that sucked." Amanda was the first to speak. "We all still alive?"
"I think so," Misato said. "What about you, Shinji-kun?"
"Umm, yes. Thank you, Katsuragi-san, and umm, miss."
Misato chuckled as she leaned against the steering wheel. "No need to be so formal, Misato is just fine. And the lady you're sharing body heat with there is Amanda Sommer."
Shinji's face flushed red once more but before he could apologize Amanda cut in.
"Yes, yes, you know all about sharing body heat with the opposite gender Misato," Amanda retorted. "Mr. Ikari, if you wouldn't mind, could you get in the back? Or at least get up and let me move there."
"Oh! Yes, of course."
Shinji moved with all due haste and let out a sigh of relief once he had a seat of his own. Misato chuckled even while giving Amanda a look to let her friend know she would be getting her back for the remark. And then a thought seemed to occur to her.
"Say, how'd you know about the explosion?" Misato asked his friend.
Amanda snorted. "When your own side decides to get the hell out of an area, it's a pretty safe bet they're about to drop a really big bomb there."
Apparently satisfied, Misato nodded. "Alright, let's get to HQ. That N2 warhead might have bought us some time, but let's not push our luck."
With that Misato fired up the car once more and got them on their way. Amanda glanced at the now very misaligned side view mirror and caught sight of Shinji in the reflection. The boy looked unsure of himself, sneaking glances at the two women in front of him. He was obviously feeling out of his depth much as his father intended. Amanda grimaced. Well, if she had anything to say about it the backbone she knew Shinji had would be making itself more known soon enough.
Soren walked through the hallway, easily avoiding the few police out doing their duty trying to make sure everyone was evacuated. Night had fallen and the Angel was once more advancing into the city. If things were still on schedule, Unit 01 would be deploying within the next few minutes and Shinji Ikari would make his disastrous debut as an EVA pilot. That debut would be life changing for quite a few people, not least the two people still in this apartment complex. Even now he could hear the distinct sniffling of someone trying to hold back tears. Stopping before the door, Soren knocked.
The sniffling went silent as if nothing had been there, but Soren was not fooled. There were two distinct AT signals in there, after all. Soren knocked again, not that he was expecting a response. Thus it was to his pleasant surprise that the door did open and a boy in a tracksuit appeared. Soren was struck by a faint hint of nostalgia as he looked at the boy and his face almost slipped into a smile. Almost, but Soren had not spent the last decade or so learning to maintain his composure for naught. The boy on the other hand looked at him suspiciously, obviously unsure what to make of this foreign stranger knocking at his door at a time like this.
"Excuse me," the boy said, "but what are you doing here?"
"I could ask you much the same," Soren said in perfect Japanese. "It is my understanding there is an evacuation order."
"Yeah," the boy said. "So why ain't you evacuated?"
This time Soren did smile, not from loss of control but because he felt he could show at least that much humanity to the boy. "My wife has not returned yet. I can't very well leave without her."
The boy looked at him in surprise before cracking a small grin of his own and nodding. "My lil sis is sick. Can't really move her by myself."
Soren frowned. He knew the details of course, but that did not make him any happier.
"May I be of some help? At the least the two of you should get down to the shelters."
"Oh uh, that's okay, I mean-"
The world seemed to be thrown upside down as the two were thrown off their feet. Soren recovered more quickly, looking out the window to see Unit 01 outside. Instead of lying there letting the Angel beat on him however, Shinji had slammed his EVA into the monster. That had pushed the fight away from the apartment complex, which bought them a little bit of time. It would have to be enough.
"Where's your sister?" Soren snapped.
The boy pulled himself up and jerked his head back inside. "Bedroom."
Soren wasted little time, bursting in and finding the little girl curled up in her bed. Without giving her a chance to react, he picked her up and hauled her out into the halls.
"Let's go," he said.
Suzuhara Sakura looked about in a panic before catching sight of her brother.
"It's alright," Toji assured her. "He's here to help."
Sakura stopped struggling, instead tightening her hold on Soren. Nevertheless her gaze remained on her big brother, seeking assurances that everything would be alright. Toji offered her a smile even as they ran and eventually Sakura returned it.
The three had made it out of the apartment and Soren quickly caught sight of a shelter entrance. He began toward it when Sakura began struggling again.
Halting abruptly, Soren turned around and saw the boy staring at the carnage before them. Unit 01 had torn off the Angel's arm and blood rained down upon the cityscape. Even now the EVA was busy smashing away at its opponent, raining blow after blow onto the red core.
"Boy!" Soren shouted, shaking Toji out of his shock.
Toji scrambled after them, but his lapse had cost them dearly. The Angel suddenly jerked up and wrapped itself around the EVA. Soren cursed. They were out of time. Hugging Sakura tightly against his chest, he raised his free hand. And then the world disappeared in a bright flash.
Shinji's eyes snapped open, his mind a flurry of panic and confusion even as his heartbeat continued on a steady and measured tempo. The tiled ceiling was a sterile white, not helped by the harsh fluorescent lighting that blanketed the room. Rising slowly, Shinji noticed the IV in his arm. Deciding it was best not to try pulling it out himself, he simply sat there trying to gather his thoughts. He had a vague idea of why he was in this place, presumably a hospital. He had fought in a battle, piloting for the first time some giant robot. That he was still alive suggested he won, though how was still fuzzy. But despite the haziness of his memories, one thing did cut straight through, the words that Misato's foreign friend said to him before he climbed into the EVA.
"You can fight because you don't want to get hurt, or you can fight because you don't want others to be hurt. The choice is yours, Ikari Shinji, and I think you know which one you've already made. Just never forget that."
Had he made a choice? Perhaps he had, Shinji conceded. After all, how could he not after holding that bleeding girl in his arms. Looking at his hands, Shinji cringed. Just what kind of monster was his father that he would send someone so hurt out into battle? And just what was the approval of such a man worth? Shinji shook his head. It hurt from trying to think about all this and he had yet to find any answers in his headache. It felt as if he would never untie the thorny knot of emotions that tore at him. If only someone else could do it for him.
"He's an idiot."
Misato looked up at the seemingly sullen woman in her office and smirked.
"Talking about your beloved husband again?"
There was something almost endearing about the way Amanda Sommer-Reimer was ever so willing to lay out her husband's faults and flaws in blunt and direct ways. The frequency in which she did so tended to increase exponentially when he was physically present, but the other German remained as aloof as ever even when his wife was badmouthing him. The real entertainment however came in when he decided to snark back at her, still in that trademark aloof manner, and Amanda's exaggerated reactions were always good fun to watch.
Amanda snorted. "That's a given. No, I'm talking about that retarded man-child of a commander of yours."
The smirk disappeared to be replaced with a frown as Misato regarded her friend.
"May I, ah, assume that your report will include a similar such conclusion, albeit worded a bit more tactfully?"
"You may," Amanda said, dropping her legs from the other chair she was resting them on and sitting up to face Misato. "As the duly appointed UN Auditor-General for NERV-Tokyo, it's my job to make sure that NERV is doing its job to the best of its abilities. That includes the most effective use of its personnel resources, and if I'm not mistaken then Shinji Ikari will be a most important resource."
"He's a person, not a resource," Misato said somewhat defensively.
"I know," Amanda said. "Which brings us back to my original comment."
Amanda stared levelly at Misato and the other woman could not help but look away. Her friend had a point, both spoken and unspoken. While the commander had not exactly conducted himself in the best light, Misato's own actions towards Shinji were hard to defend as well. After all, there was no getting around the fact that they had harangued a 14 year old boy into fighting a multi-story tall monster, that they would likely need to do it again, and if he ever chose not to fight humanity was well and truly screwed. And as Amanda was making clear, it was as much her job to make sure such eventualities did not happen as it was Misato's.
Due to the turmoil of the post-Second Impact world, the UN had been forced to deal with a variety of minor crises and bushfires on a nearly continuous basis. It quickly learned that nipping problems in the bud was a much better long term strategy than letting problems simmer until they exploded into some large scale disaster. To that end the UN began employing dedicated troubleshooters, who generally fell into two categories. Auditors like one Amanda Sommer were generally fixed assignment officers, stationed in one place for a long period of time to monitor the day-to-day situation and deal with any problems that cropped up. Inspectors like a certain ex that shall not be named generally only showed up if there was an imminent crisis or upon the request of an auditor if said auditor felt outside support was needed.
Amanda had served as auditor-general for NERV-Berlin for five years before her reassignment to NERV-Tokyo and her tenure there was actually fondly looked upon by the Berlin staff. Sure Amanda had been an outsider, an interloper sent to breathe down their necks to make sure they were doing their job, but Amanda had proven them wrong. She had basically adopted the staff as her own, looking out for their best interests not only as members of NERV but also as people. This had eventually resulted in a hilarious confrontation between herself and another UN oversight official over the matter of maternity leave and day-care services, a confrontation that Amanda had won without even needing to put the man in the hospital for blood lose, solidly putting all the women of NERV-Berlin in her camp. That meant that the staff was all the more willing to go to her if there were problems and by the time of Amanda's reassignment NERV-Berlin had one of the highest efficiency and morale ratings of any of the NERV branches, much to the chagrin of NERV-Tokyo's previous auditor, Misato knew.
Now that Amanda was here, Misato did not doubt her friend would be applying her considerable energies towards rectifying any similar problems she might come upon. If Amanda really did decide that one Gendo Ikari was one such problem, things could get very sticky.
"Amanda, I know the commander didn't give you a very good first impression," Misato began, "but he is the commander and there is a method to his madness."
Amanda gave Misato a deadpan look.
"Maybe," Misato conceded.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but did the commander not send out a completely untrained and untested pilot against an Angel?" Amanda began. "Despite the fact that we have two trained pilots in Germany and another in America? Any three of whom we could have gotten on a supersonic jet to get them to Tokyo-3 within an hour and deployed in Unit 01."
"Yes," Misato tiredly agreed.
"And then there's his method of motivating Shinji, or I suppose his complete lack of attempt at it."
Again Misato nodded, not finding anything she could disagree with in her friend's statement.
Amanda sighed and shook her head. "I don't know what the hell that asshole's trying to do, but if the intent is to actually use Shinji as an actual pilot, then the commander did went out of his way to do everything wrong. Shinji should have been brought in weeks ago, given some time to actually acclimate to being a pilot and at least given some rudimentary combat training. The only thing throwing him to the wolves like that should have accomplished is gotten the boy killed."
"But he wasn't killed," Misato pointed out. "He won."
"Unit 01 won," Amanda countered. "We were both there on the bridge and you don't seriously believe that Shinji was the one going on a wild rampage ripping the Angel to pieces?"
Reluctantly Misato shook her head.
"What I thought. We got lucky this time, but if NERV's only game plan is to rely on luck then it's not doing its job at all."
"So what do you plan to do about it?" Misato asked.
"Nothing immediate beyond filing a report ripping Gendo a new one," Amanda said. "Right now though our problem is Shinji. He's the only person physically able to pilot right now and if another Angel shows up before we can transfer the Second or Fourth, he needs to be ready."
"Sounds fair," said Misato. "Assuming he's willing to continue piloting."
"That's your job," Amanda said. "Though even assuming he does, he's an emotional trainwreck. I'll need to assign him a few therapy sessions at the very least if he stays."
"That, might actually not be a bad idea," Misato said.
The phone rang before Amanda could reply and Misato quickly picked it up to make sure her friend did not get a chance.
"Yes? Alright, understood." She stood and hung up. "Shinji-kun's awake."
Amanda nodded but made no move. "Then you better go check up on him."
A shake of the head. "I've still got some paperwork to deal with after that last battle. And something tells me that you're the one that really should be looking out for him, Hauptmann Misato Katsuragi."
The hospital was mostly quite beyond a few random PA calls for some doctor or another. Shinji looked out the window into the Geofront, not really seeing anything but just letting his senses wander. The rustling of wheels caught his attention and he turned about to see a gurney roll past. There lay the blue-haired girl that he had met before getting into the EVA, bandages still covering much of her body. The two locked eyes as she was wheeled past and Shinji somehow managed to resist the urge to look away. He had gotten into the EVA because she could not. He had gotten hurt because she was already hurt. That foreign woman's words echoed in his mind over and over again as his fist tightened. Thus he stayed until Misato made her appearance.
The voice was almost gentle and the concern Shinji saw on her face looked quite genuine.
A playful bop descended on his head. "That's Misato, remember?"
"Ow. Uh right, Misato-san."
"How are you feeling?"
"Umm, okay I guess. I don't remember much."
"That's alright, it'll come back eventually," Misato said reassuringly. "C'mon, let's get you checked out. I'm sure you're eager to get out of here."
Shinji simply nodded and followed the older woman back to his room. After a few minutes changing into clean clothes and Misato signing some paperwork, the two headed for the exit elevator. When it opened however, neither moved. Before the two stood Gendo Ikari, commander of NERV and Shinji's father. The teen flinched and felt his body tense up. Almost reflexively his gaze started tearing away, but something forced him to hold his father's gaze. The man's eyes were cold, hard, and with absolutely no remorse or concern. Shinji found his own growing harder with every passing second. Then, Gendo blinked. Shinji's eyes flickered in surprise but before anything could be said or done the elevator doors closed once more. As he stood there bewildered, Shinji did not notice Misato gazing at him, concern once more etched across her own face. Things were just getting started after all.
By all rights I really should not be starting this project while Darkness Risen is still unfinished. The problem of course is that I have a problematic writer's block for that story. I know what needs to happen within the next two/three chapters that I expect will end that story, but I just haven't been able to write any scenes. And so this story is basically me venting and giving my creative energy an outlet.
In Tune can actually be considered a major reworking and expansion of one of my much earlier pieces, one that never truly developed. For this one however I have a fairly concrete idea of where I want it to go. I think the basic premise will be obvious to most fans of the EVA fandom, along with what 'type' of EVA fic this is. And if it is not blindingly obvious already, only one 'named' character in this story can actually be considered a completely 'new' character to the EVA universe. I'll let all of you figure out who's who. And yes, quite a few other characters will be getting 'reintroduced' as well.
Ultimately I'm not going to try to make this a big mystery per se, there will be parts that are vague and are foreshadow, but I generally find it more interesting to just write the interactions of characters and reflections of their inner thoughts. This is why I've created the particular setup I have here. So for the most part, quite a few of the background items should be easily guessable, or I think so at least. Either way, I hope you all enjoy this first bit. I make no promises about rate of updates, though chapter 1 already has about 1500 words/3.5 pages written. Prologue is about 4600 words. I'll let you all extrapolate.
Mandatory Disclaimer: I don't own EVA, though if I did I'd have gotten the last damn movie out already. And paid for more readable fonts than what they're using for subs in the official BD releases.