Asuka finally opened her eye again to find herself floating in total darkness. She hated the darkness, it was in the dark where everything could get to her. It had been tolerable in the last few weeks because she now had Shinji next to her but this time he was nowhere to be seen.
She looked around and narrowed her gaze in an attempt to try to see something, a shape or wall but there was nothing around her. Asuka was completely alone in this place with no idea as to how she even got here.
The last thing she could remember was piloting the Eva during the mission. Evangelion Unit 02 had been surrounded by those strange Tripod Machines. One of them was about to attack Unit 02, she could remember that quite clearly.
'What did I do? I froze again didn't I? I wasn't able to move or get out of the way in time so I held out my hand in some attempt to stop it but then what...'
A feeling of panic started to set in as she recalled just what had happened next. She had raised the hand of Unit 02 to stop it and it had felt like time had frozen. Suddenly the world had dropped away from her, just as it had done fourteen years ago.
'Did I... Did I die?'
"Hah, die? What are you stupid?" Replied a voice that she recognized to be eerily similar to her own. It didn't sound like her now though, it sounded younger with that hint of arrogance she had before the Third Impact.
As the voice finished speaking the ground suddenly started to shake beneath her. Asuka made an effort to maintain her balance and looked around frantically calling out, "W-Where am I?"
Asuka asked her question and all of a sudden there was a bright flash of light. She felt something shove her backwards and she landed on some sort of seat. As the light dissipated she looked around to find that she was no longer in the dark but was now within some sort of train carriage. Asuka looked up out of the window to see the sun setting over the city of Tokyo-3.
"Well... here we are in this place again. It's always here isn't it?" Spoke the voice again. This time Asuka could see its owner. She was sat across from her and was wearing a yellow sundress. It was definitely a younger version of her, Asuka was unable to see the face clearly due to the girl facing down but she could see no trace of an eye-patch.
"Where is this place?" Asuka asked.
The younger Asuka opposite her laughed, "What does it look like you idiot?"
"Tokyo-3 but this makes no sense. Am I dreaming?"
The young Asuka shrugged and nodded her head to the right, "Ask him, he's been here before."
Asuka slowly turned her head towards one of the other seat. She looked across in shock to see Shinji was sat there his head down. Clutched in his hand was his SDAT, trailing up to his ears were the earbuds. He slowly took out both of them out and looked at Asuka.
"Shinji... what are you doing here?"
Shinji gave her something of a sorrowful smile, "This is where we come sometimes when... we reach into that which she shouldn't. You're just like me now."
Asuka frowned at him, "Just like you? Shinji what are you talking about, we already know we're alike. I mean our mother's and..."
Shinji shook his head and cut her off, "Not in that way, you accepted its help didn't you? You let it used its full power. Just like I did."
"I..." Asuka trailed off thinking back to the battle. She could remember what had happened now, she could remember the fear she felt as she was about to be hit. She could remember the anger she felt as she fought and the desperation she felt as she thought she was going to die. Then she could remember seeing the entity that had sprung forth, the figure of an older woman. Her voice soothing and her presence warm and inviting.
Asuka could remember the happiness and joy she felt as the entity passed over and through her. It was only for a brief moment but it had felt like nothing she had experienced before, or at least for a very long time. Being in that things presence was like reclaiming something she had lost a long time ago.
"I... did what you did?"
The Shinji opposite her said nothing, instead he looked away and put his earbuds back into his ear. He spoke, "We are not alone any longer Asuka, we can both advance now. Do you understand?"
Asuka shook her head, "Wait I don't... I don't understand."
The younger Asuka opposite her now spoke, "Time to wake up..."
"WAIT I NEED TO KNOW MORE, WHAT DID I DO?"
As Asuka yelled out there was a final flash of light and this time when she opened her eyes again she found herself in what she recognized as a quarantine room onboard the Wunder. As she sat up she groaned in pain, her limbs were still aching from the battle earlier that day, adding to her dismay she could feel her body was completely covered in sweat, likely a result from the bizarre dream.
The room was remarkably similar to the one she had spent so much time in after coming out of her coma fourteen years ago. There was a toilet and sink in one corner of the room, partitioned off for privacy. A shower cubicle, also partitioned. A bed, and various other basic amenities. Along one wall was the giant observation window for visitors. At the moment the window had been set up to allow her to see into the observation room. Normally it would be made up to look like a mirror on this side.
Asuka gingerly got herself out of the bed and started to try and piece together what had happened to her. She felt disgusting as the gown stuck to her body and she wanted over to the window. As she wandered over a feeling of panic swept up inside her.
The voices in her dream had been right, something had offered her power within the Eva. She had accepted it and anything afterwards was a complete blank. She picked up speed rushing towards the window to look for any signs of life.
'Did I… Did I end up doing the same thing Shinji did? Did I end up pushing the Eva too far just like he did? No… I couldn't have done, otherwise I wouldn't be on the Wunder. Why am I in here though and not in the medical wing? Where is everyone?'
As she passed over the cold tiled floor she glanced down to see that a small digital tablet had been placed against the wall underneath the observation window. Curiosity got the better of her and she picked it up, wondering if perhaps whoever had brought her in here had left it behind. There was something already open on the device, part of a report written by Doctor Akagi.
'At approximately 1043 we large surge of Q-Particles was detected within Asuka's body. It is our belief that these Q-Particles are remnants from when Asuka was invaded by the Ninth Angel fourteen years ago. This surge is in fact the third recorded incident in the past few months and the most severe.
On experiencing this surge of Q-Particles we lost contact with Pilot Shikinami and it was reported by her co-pilot that physical transformations had taken place on Asuka's body. Whilst we have seen this before when pilots have activated what we call the Evangelions 'Beast Mode' this was also accompanied by a loss of control of the pilot and the lowering of depth of the entry plug. These circumstances endangered both pilots, the Evangelion and even put it at risk of 'Awakening' in a similar fashion to Unit 01 many years ago.'
Asuka's hands started to tremble with fear and anger as she stayed focus on reading what remained on the tablet.
'It is for those reasons that the call was made to sedate the pilot and transfer control of Evangelion Unit 02 to Makinami. Asuka has been placed in quarantine until we can decide on a more appropriate course of action and until we are sure she is not a danger to the Wunder and its crew. In the meantime Makinami will be made the sole pilot of Evangelion Unit 02.'
"Like hell she is!" Asuka yelled out, "This… this isn't true! I didn't…"
She trailed off and continued to read.
'In truth we should have expected something like this to happen. This was why we decided on a dual entry plug system for Unit 02. I am just surprised that it happened so soon. It does however confirm that the contamination caused by the Ninth Angel is still within her body and that if she pilots again there is not only a risk to her but to the rest of the world. My only hope is that Asuka understands this.'
"No… no no no no NO!" Asuka shook her head, "I didn't… I don't… They can't do this to me! They can't take Unit 02 away from me like this! They can't… It's not… It wasn't like fourteen years ago it was… it was something else… I'm not contaminated! They promised me!"
Asuka gripped the tablet tightly in both of her hands and felt her body start to shake with anger. She looked down at the report once more trying to take it in.
"I was lied to! They told me I was fine and that nothing was there anymore. The two of them knew this all along! They lied to me just like they're lying to Shinji! What the hell is going on here? I can't… I can't…"
Asuka felt more rage surge up inside her, she screamed out, "YOU BASTARDS!"
The tablet hit the wall on the opposite side of the room and broke into a number of pieces on impact. Asuka felt her breath shorten as she turned around and hammered her fist against the glass separating the two rooms.
"LET ME OUT OF HERE YOU BASTARDS!"
She hammered against it again, "LET ME OUT! EXPLAIN WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING TO ME!"
She continued hammering, ignoring the pain being caused by her futile efforts, "GIVE ME BACK MY UNIT 02! EXPLAIN WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED! TAKE ME BACK TO SHINJI!"
Finally she sank down to her knees and felt the tears trickling down her cheeks as everything she had just learned ran through her head. What she had thought to be true had turned out to be a lie. They had lied to her and when what they were scared of happened they had just abandoned her and left her alone. Discarded her like she was nothing.
Asuka looked up, "If they were lying to me about this then what else are they lying about? I can't trust them anymore. If they couldn't tell me this then what else haven't they told me? They know all about Shinji and the truth of Third Impact and haven't done anything about it. This is just NERV all over again… I can't be here anymore."
Almost as if in response to her words the door leading into the observation room suddenly opened. Asuka turned around and wiped away her tears using the back of her hand and awaited the visitor. After it was clear there was no one there she cautiously rose to her feet and made her way to the door. All she found was an eerie silence on the other side.
She stepped into the room and could see a table with a few items on it. Two of the items were plugsuits, neatly folded. She identified the first one as being her own but the second one she knew as belonging to Shinji. Positioned on top of her plugsuit was another digital tablet. This one also had a message on it but not as long as the first.
'By this point you'll have seen my 'gift' if it can truly be called that. You're a smart girl so I fully expect you'll already have come to this decision but if not I am telling you that you need to leave. You need to take Shinji and get off the Wunder. These is something rotten within WILLE and unless you and Shinji get away from the Wunder you are both at great risk. I urge you to take my gifts and get to Unit 02 immediately. I have made sure your path is clear and I will be waiting for you.'
Asuka set down the device and felt a feeling of unease in her stomach. She didn't know what the think now, whoever had left both the plugsuits and this message had also left her Akagi's report to read. They also were urging her to leave the ship. She wondered for a moment just what she should do. Maybe this was some sort of trap to get hold of Unit 02 but that didn't make any sense, besides the person also said that they would be waiting for Asuka and Shinji.
'No… it was right, there is something wrong with WILLE. We knew it for a long time. NERV managed to get in somehow and now… I need to get away from her. If I don't then… then they can get to Shinji. I won't let them. I have to protect him. That's my purpose now, contamination be damned. I'm not letting them end this world.'
Asuka sighed and removed the hospital gown throwing it down to one side. She quickly put on her plugsuit before grabbing Shinji's and the keycard that had been left behind for her. She gave the room one final look before starting to make the journey back to her quarters.
Shinji glanced at the clock for what must have been the hundredth time in the past hour. Twelve hours had now passed since he had been told that Asuka and Mari's mission had completed. Mari had told him that it was a success but that Asuka had been taken to the medical bay immediately afterwards and Shinji was to stay put in their quarters until she returned.
He had asked what was wrong and why he was unable to visit her. He had even tried to force his way past her only for Mari to promptly put him back into the quarters and grin at him.
'Sorry puppy, it's nothing for you to worry about though. Just sit back and relax, she'll be back soon. That's all I can do for ya.'
Whilst her words had told him Asuka was fine her eyes told a different story. He had seen those eyes before, he had seen them when he had come back from fighting an Angel himself or whenever Asuka returned. Before he could press her further she had already backed out of the room and he was locked in.
Since that moment he had tried to wait as patiently as he could for news of Asuka. He didn't know why Mari would lie to him, or even if she was. Maybe it was just his imagination but if all was fine then why wasn't he able to go and see Asuka? Why wasn't she back?
He had tried to distract himself since that moment by doing other things. He had baked some cupcakes for Asuka's return and tidied up the quarters as best he could. He had even set things up to run her a nice bath for when she got back. As evening drew near he cooked himself a meal and settled down to play some video games but the distractions they all brought were now gone. All Shinji was able to do now was watch the door, his eyes darting to the clock every so often whilst he hoped that Asuka would step into their quarters at any point.
'Something happened to Asuka didn't it? No one wants to tell me what it is or what something happened but I'm not an idiot. I know this isn't a normal situation. Why won't they tell me though? They know what me and Asuka are to each other. Do they think that I wouldn't be able to take it if she was hurt or something?'
Shinji hated the idea that Asuka could have been seriously hurt during the mission today but it hurt him more that people weren't telling him what had happened. He didn't want Asuka to be hurt by any means but if she was then he was going to be there for her. He would help her in any way he could. He knew that it'd likely be tough, especially with someone like Asuka.
Shinji could only imagine what she would be like if she did have to rely on him for help like that. She would most likely hate it. He'd probably be yelled and screamed at by her at first. She would probably tell him a hundred times how she doesn't need his help. He knew why she would do that though, he knew that it'd just be her pride talking and he knew how to deal with it.
He let out a long eye as once again his eyes turned to the door. A part of him was telling him that maybe he should just go to bed. There was after all nothing that he was able to do right now and he didn't feel like anyone was going to come by at this hour. Communication out of the room had been cut off so any attempts of that nature were pointless. He was completely isolated.
'I want to be here just in case though… even if it takes all night I'm going to stay here for her.'
Mari turned herself over once again in her bed and closed her eyes tightly to try and get to sleep. She knew however that very little sleep was going to come to her tonight. Each time she closed her eyes all she was able to see was the image of that transformed Asuka in front of her. She could see it perfectly, the glow of the eyes, the shape of her fangs and the loss of humanity. More disturbing she could remember the glare she got from Asuka before the girl was sedated. Pure hatred and anger within her.
Mari was no stranger to the extreme toll that the Evangelion's beast mode had on the human body but what had happened to Asuka seemed different to that. Usually when tapping into the power of the Eva like that they expected a few changes to the body. The changing of the teeth to fangs, the glow of the eyes and an increase in primal urges as the primitive functions of the Evangelion were accessed.
Yet in those cases despite the increase in aggression and changes to their bodies the pilot always remained in control. They would still be able to respond to others and if necessary stop what they were doing. Asuka had gone far beyond that. It seemed to Mari that in that moment, the person in front of her had ceased to be Asuka and had become something else entirely.
It chilled her to the bone, Mari had absolutely no desire to lose her friend to something as horrific as that. What scared her even more were the feelings that passed through her body as she tried to wrestle control of Evangelion Unit 02 back. Everything negative washed through her body. She knew the Eva's did have a soul and a will within it but she had never felt it like this before. It was like Evangelion Unit 02 hated her for taking control from Asuka.
Mari shuddered as she quietly peeled back the covers and got out of the bed. She took a look behind her and smiled at the nude form of Rei Ayanami on the other side of the bed. Rei was sleeping peacefully and Mari took a moment to admire her. She suppressed an urge to reach out and lightly stroke the girl's cheek lest she wake her and instead just smiled.
'You're so beautiful blue, even when you sleep.'
Mari felt some guilt as she had not told Rei the truth of what had happened just yet. She had instead used the same cover story for Rei that she had been told to use regarding Shinji. Asuka was fine, she had been taken to the medical bay and as of now no one was able to visit her. Despite Rei's personal growth recently she was not the sort to question this sort of thing. She accepted the explanation and expressed a wish that Asuka gets better soon. Somehow that just made Mari feel worse about the situation.
Mari had also not told Rei about any of the troubles she was having regarding Kaji's death or her feelings since the mission. She knew that Rei likely suspected something was up but in typical fashion Mari just flashed her a grin, told her all was fine and suggested they resume their new activities from the night before. Mari had learned two things from this, one was that Rei was a quick learner and very eager to explore further and that Rei was also incredibly ticklish in certain places.
So instead of confronting them Mari ignored her troubles. Her troubles could wait for the moment and Rei didn't need to know about them yet. There were much more important things to deal with.
Shinji finally felt himself start to drift off just as the door to the quarters opened. Shinji leapt up from the couch and before he was able to say anything Asuka strode through the door. He looked across in confusion to see she was wearing her plugsuit and had something clutched under her arm. From the scowl on her face she did not seem to be in a good mood.
"A-Asuka… you're back! What happened?"
Instead of saying anything she threw the item she was holding towards him. He caught it to see that it was his plugsuit. She simply nodded towards it, "Put that on, I'll explain on the way."
He glanced down at the plugsuit and then back to Asuka, "My plugsuit? Asuka what… isn't it a bit late for the simulator? What's going on?"
She shook her head and spoke again, Shinji couldn't help put pick up the annoyance in her voice, "Not the simulator. We're leaving the ship. Just hurry up and put it on. We don't have much time."
Shinji draped the plugsuit on the side of the couch and started to move towards her, "Asuka what's going on? What happened to you? Mari told me you were in the medical bay, is… is everything alright?"
She held out a hand to keep him away from her, "Shinji, I am absolutely fine. Just do as I say and put on the plugsuit. We need to leave now!"
"But…" Shinji started to protest again.
"WILL YOU JUST DO IT!" Asuka yelled suddenly, Shinji immediately jumped back from her, his eyes widening with fear. He watched as her gaze dropped, she moved forward and softly cupped his cheek with her hand. He could see her body shaking as she spoke to him, her voice much softer now.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell. It's just… this is really important. Do you trust me Shinji?"
Shinji nodded reaching for her other hand, "You know I do Asuka."
"Well then please just do as I ask right now. You need to put that plugsuit on and then we need to go to Evangelion Unit 02. We need to get away from the Wunder, there is… something really wrong and we need to get away."
For a brief moment Shinji considered protesting again or even suggesting that Asuka gets some more rest or returned to the medical bay. What he was seeing was certainly not what he had expected from her and he began to wonder exactly what had happened. All this was doing was confirming his suspicion that Mari had lied to him and something was wrong but just what it was he didn't know.
"Asuka… has something upset you?"
"You have no idea Shinji, you really don't. What were you told about where I was?"
Shinji replied, "Mari said you were taken to the medical bay. That I had to wait here until you got back. Nothing else."
Asuka sighed, "That was a lie, I wasn't in the medical bay. I've been… somewhere else. Something happened on the mission and I learned something. We have to leave."
Shinji looked back to the plugsuit and nodded, "Fine, I trust you Asuka."
Shinji picked up the plugsuit and considered ducking into the other room to put it on. From the way Asuka was talking he had to be quick so he promptly removed his clothes there and then before stepping into the plugsuit. He brought it up over his shoulders and ensured it was on properly before pressing the button that molded it to his body.
As Shinji finished putting on the garment he watched Asuka take out two backpacks and start to fill it with a few things from the quarters. He saw her put a first aid kit into each one, a few bottles of water and some rations. When she had the two of them filled she tossed one of them to Shinji.
"Here, take this. We leave now."
Shinji put the pack on over his shoulders and just as they were about to leave he pulled on her hand stopping her. She looked at him with minor annoyance before he pointed to his neck, "Wait, what about this? If they detect I leave then they might..."
Asuka looked at the DSS Choker and gritted her teeth. She hadn't considered that when they had travelled to the quarters. She was unable to remove the device itself but she did know it had a limited range. If they could get far enough away then it wouldn't matter. Maybe after that she could work on a way to remove it.
"Don't worry about it, we'll be long gone before they even notice we're missing. Besides, they aren't going to execute you. It's little more than a fashion accessory now."
Shinji nodded back at her hoping that she was right, "O-Okay… let's go then."
They had ran all the way from Asuka's quarters to the Evangelion hanger. Shinji had noticed that the corridors seemed thankfully yet strangely empty and much too both their surprise as they rounded the final corner to the hanger there was no one in place to guard it.
Asuka cautiously approached the door and ducked her head inside as it opened. Once she was sure the coast was clear she beckoned for Shinji to follow her in. She took a quick look around to see if the source of the aid she was given was anywhere to be seen before making her way over to a console to start the launch procedure for Unit 02.
Shinji in the meantime took the opportunity to catch his breath after running most of the way here. He looked up at the form of Unit 02, this was the first time he had seen the new version up close. He could see the large entry plug above it being moved into the appropriate position on the Units neck. Below he could see the large doors that would open to allow Unit 02 to fall down to Earth.
"Asuka… what is happening? Why are we running away and why did they lie to me about where you were?"
Asuka didn't take her eyes off of the console, "We're running away because we were lied to and because… someone advised me to do so. As for why they lied to you, I don't know. I wasn't in the medical bay though, instead I was kept in quarantine for all that time."
"Quarantine? What happene-" Shinji started to ask but before he could finish his question a familiar voice echoed through the room. The two of them froze in position and slowly turned around to confirm the person who the voice belonged to. Shinji immediately back away as he saw Misato walking towards them.
"So you made it then? I'm happy that you're taking my advice."
Asuka slowly turned around and scowled at Misato, "You!"
Misato glanced at her and smiled, "Yes me. How else did you think you were able to get out of that room and around the ship like that without anyone knowing? How else did you think you were going to bring Shinji here without me knowing?"
Asuka took a step forward, "You mean… you're the one who left that note for me? Akagi's report too? It was you?"
Misato said nothing but only nodded. As soon as she did Shinji watched as Asuka's hand clenched itself into a fist. The made a move to dash forwards towards Misato but before she could leave her position Shinji had moved towards her and placed an arm around her waist. His touch was light and certainly wouldn't have held her back but she did stop herself.
None of her anger subsided through as she yelled across to Misato, "You know what was happening to me Katsuragi! You and Akagi knew all along and you failed to tell me! Even when I asked you said nothing!"
Misato's face softened, "Yeah… I knew. I knew for a while and I made the call to now tell you. I know this doesn't make things any better but I'm sorry Asuka, if I had known something like this was going to happen then I wouldn't have made that call but… I did and I'm sorry."
Asuka snarled at her causing Shinji to tighten his hold of her, "How long did the two of you know about the contamination?"
Shinji looked up in shock, "Contamination?"
Asuka looked at him, "Yeah contamination. From the Ninth Angel all those years ago, remember how I told you about them saying I was fine. Turns out they were lying to me all along! There was something there. Go on Misato, tell me how long you've known!"
Shinji looked across as Misato, starting to feel anger himself, "I-Is that true?"
Misato nodded, "Yeah it's true. It isn't… it's more complicated though."
"How long did you both know?" Shinji asked the question for Asuka.
"Since the two of you returned. Ritsuko flagged up that something happened back then and that was why the dual entry system was used with Unit 02. It was our hope that the presence of another pilot would prevent that sort of thing from happening again."
Asuka made an attempt to move forward but Shinji kept her in place. He pulled her into more of an embrace as she yelled across.
"I ASKED YOU BOTH AGES AGO! YOU BOTH SAID THAT I WAS FINE!"
"I know what we said and we thought that was true… we didn't see a reason to worry you with it." Misato let out a sigh, "Look Asuka, I wish I had time to explain everything that has happened. It isn't… as clear as it seems though. There are other things in play but yes… I made the call to hide this from you, I thought if you knew then it would…"
"It'd what? Come on Misato spit it out! What did you think was going to happen? That I'd get angry? That I'd be upset? No I know what it is, you were scared you'd lose a pilot weren't you? You were frightened that I'd regress to how I was fourteen years ago or otherwise be unable to function. You couldn't risk that happening to you didn't tell me the truth, just like you can't face Shinji and tell him the truth about Third Impact. You're nothing but a coward!"
Misato looked up again, "So Shinji told you…"
"Of course Shinji told me! What I want to know why the hell hasn't anyone done anything about it? Why is he still being treated like a prisoner and…"
Misato shook her head and cut Asuka off, "He isn't! Not anymore. Look Asuka I really can't explain everything but I will try to as best I could. I know I don't deserve to have you hear me out but I thought what I was doing was for the best. I'm sorry for lying to you and for the way I've treated Shinji and… god knows I don't deserve this but I need you to do something for me, I need you both to take Unit 02 and get away from here."
"Why?" Asuka bit back.
"Because you're both in danger and it's the only course of action left. Please, just trust me one last time."
"And what about the danger I pose? I saw that report Misato! It said about the risk to my body and humanity! It even said that there is a risk of me causing an awakening in an Eva, so why let me go like this?"
Misato glanced down, "Because I don't believe that what is in that report is completely accurate and even if it is… you two are the only hope this world has of surviving regardless of some goddamn Angel inhabiting your body!"
She continued, "I know it's a risk Asuka but the two of you… you're capable of amazing things. Please just get Evangelion Unit 02 ready to go. We are running out of time."
Asuka wrestled herself free of Shinji's grasp and made her way over the console again but not before shooting a look Misato's way.
"Fine. Just to get away from this place though."
She went back to work on setting up Unit 02 and as she did so Shinji turned himself around to face Misato. He no longer felt the same fear he had been feeling for the past few weeks when she was around. Maybe it was because the Misato he was seeing now was more like her old self, he could see her emotions coming through and he could see how broken she was. In a way he felt sorry for her and yet at the same time he found himself hating her for what she had done.
"Shinji can I… can I talk to you. If… you'll allow that Asuka?" Misato spoke, her voice shaking as she did.
Asuka looked back towards Shinji and just shrugged, "It's his choice, not mine."
Shinji wondered just what he should do he looked to Asuka for some kind of advice but she went back to looking at the console. Finally he nodded, "Fine…"
He walked over to Misato and stood a short distance from her. There was an awkward silence as the two of them looked each other in the eyes. Neither of them seemed to want to say anything until eventually Misato took a step forward. She sank down to one knee to meet his height and pulled him into a hug.
"Shinji… I'm… I'm so sorry…" She started to speak but trailed off as the words got caught in her throat. Shinji didn't move instead he stood there as she pulled away and looked him in the eyes. Tears were flowing freely down Misato's cheeks as she held onto his shoulders.
"Shinji… I'm so sorry about everything I've done to you. I know I don't deserve any forgiveness from you."
"Misato…" His mouth went dry as he spoke and he could feel tears burning in his own eyes.
"I regret so much of what has happened. I regret the way I treated you when you were brought on board here, I regret not speaking to you properly then and explaining what had happened. I regret how I treated you when you returned, I regret not talking to you when I found out about Third Impact. I was… I was scared. I was scared of you and scared of what I had become. I thought the best thing to do would be to keep my distance and hope that it'd all work itself out."
She brought up one hand to softly cup his cheek and used her thumb to wipe away one of the tears that was falling down his face. Shinji stayed completely silent.
"I saw the video Shinji of Third Impact and I know you didn't do it. The truth is I always wanted to believe it even before that but I just couldn't… I blamed myself for it because I was the one who told you to push that far. I was the one who said you should do things for yourself and look at what happened. Asuka is right… I am nothing but a coward, I projected my own guilt onto a scared boy and locked myself away."
"Misato you… I was so scared of you! I thought you hated me…"
Misato pulled him in to a hug again and held him tightly, "Oh god Shinji I could never hate you. I could never ever hate you, you're the closest thing I've ever had to a family in this stupid world. I just… I thought doing nothing was the best thing."
"But… you did do something! You put the collar on me! You had me put into a cell and then you did this to Asuka!"
"I know! I know! I can't ever make up for that, I don't expect you to forgive me for any of it but I want to try to make up for it in some way."
As Misato spoke Shinji felt her hands moving up to his neck. He felt her fingers lightly touch something there and a moment later the feeling of pressure that he had had to live with for months now slipped away. Misato pulled away from him and dropped the DSS Choker onto the floor.
"Please Shinji…" She now reached around her own neck and removed the cross shaped necklace that she was known for wearing. She held it out and in response Shinji held out his own hand. She placed it into his trembling hand.
"This is… everything you will need is there now. If you can… I need you both to finish what I've started because I can't do it anymore."
Anger flared up within Shinji, "Finish what you've started? Misato you're… After what you've done you're asking us to do something for you! Why should we?"
Misato looked towards the door of the hanger and then back at him, "You shouldn't… I don't deserve it and I know how unfair it is to place the fate of the world in your hands again but you're the only two who are capable now. If you don't then… this world is over."
"Misato that's… so unfair, what you're saying it…"
"Look Shinji… After today I will no longer be Captain of the Wunder and I won't have a place in WILLE. WILLE was infiltrated and we don't know who by but it was. This is why I need to get you and Asuka off this ship, if I don't then we all lose. I know what I'm asking and I know I don't deserve to ask it but… you both need to find the tower and do what I can't anymore. You're the only hope this world has left."
"What Tower? Misato I… I don't know anything, I'm not a pilot anymore and… you can't ask this of us!"
"I know I can't! I know that Shinji and I wish there was some other way but there isn't."
"Please Shinji… we're out of time. Just promise me you'll do… what you think is right."
Shinji was pulled into another embrace and he felt his own arms slowly wrap themselves around her.
"I love you Shinji. Please don't ever forget that, I know we can never go back to how it was but… all this time I never stopped loving you."
Shinji nodded, "I… I love you too Misato."
With those words Misato broke the embrace and shoved Shinji away towards Unit 02 and an Asuka who was getting more impatient. As he turned to leave Misato nodded at him him, "Shinji… what's happening to Asuka. I think they're wrong, I don't think it's the Ninth Angel at all. Please… tell her that and also… look after her. She needs you."
Shinji wiped a tear from his eye and nodded back at Misato, "I will."
Misato took a moment to regain her composure as she watched the hanger door finally come to a close. She wiped away any stray tears and stood up straight. She felt beyond awful about what she had done and even more so about making the request for Asuka and Shinji to finish what had been started. Yet she felt that she had to do it.
She didn't know whether the two of them would carry out the mission. She certainly didn't deserve for the two of them to fulfil the request and if anything the two of them should just settle down and make a new life for themselves.
She wondered where she had started to go wrong. Who it was she had trusted when she shouldn't have done or which decision she had made that she should have made. In the end it didn't matter, she wasn't going to be able to go back and do it again. All she could do now was face up to her mistakes.
'I won't be able to do a lot anymore but I'm still going to try. I'll do what I can to show that NERV got into WILLE and something is rotten in this organization. I know someone killed Kaji and I know they tampered with the mission today. Asuka shouldn't have been able to do that in Unit 02, the Dual Entry System made sure that was locked away.'
It was the realization that someone might have tampered with the mission that had made Misato take such drastic action. On the transfer of control to Mari she had started to construct a plan to get Asuka and Shinji off of the Wunder. She knew that it would be tough for them and the risks to her were great but out of here there was at least a chance.
It was mere moments before the door to the hanger opened once again. Misato smirked as she watched the armed security team enter the room and surround her. Seconds later Maya Ibuki stepped into the room and made her way towards Misato.
In response to seeing her Misato withdrew the pistol she was carrying and placed it carefully on the ground. He put both he hands up and offered no resistance as Maya spoke into a radio.
"We have Katsuragi. Evangelion Unit 02 is nowhere to be seen nor are the two pilots, instructions?"
Seconds later Ritsuko's voice came over the radio, 'Have the former Captain escorted to a cell, we are currently handling the retrieval of Evangelion Unit 02.'
Misato kept the smile on her face as Maya walked around her in silence. Misato's hands were then placed in a set of cuffs and she was prompted to start walking forwards out of the room towards the ships cells.
Shinji's entire body was shaking as Unit 02 made its descent to the ground below. He looked up out of the cockpit to see the rapidly approaching ground. In front of him Asuka was skillfully navigating towards the harsh red landscape.
Neither of them had any idea where they were at this point. It had been at least twelve hours since the mission had finished. With how fast the Wunder could travel in emergencies they could theoretically be anywhere.
Shinji looked down and saw the cross shaped necklace Misato had given him. He clutched it tightly in his hand and felt the tears well up in his eyes again. He sniffed as one fell down his cheek. He brought up his hand to wipe it away just in time for Unit 02 to start to slow its descent and reach the ground.
There was a loud thud and dust and dirt was kicked up all around the Evangelion as it landed. Asuka quickly brought the Unit up into its feet and discarded the rocket boosters attached to it. She quickly span around until the Wunder was back in view and brought out Unit 02s progressive knife.
Shinji looked on in horror, "Asuka! We're not going to fight them are we?"
"Don't be so dense! We don't have a choice right now! You heard what she said, we're on our own now and I don't think they're gonna let us go just like that."
"But… they're people! We're not supposed to fight other people!" Shinji protested.
"It's either them or us! They're the ones attacking us!" Asuka paused, "I'm not happy about it either but… if it comes down to it… I'm not ready to die nor am I going back to them."
"Shut up! Here they come!"
The two of them looked up to see the huge hulking form of the Wunder start to rotate itself. They could both see another door opening along the base and Asuka readied herself for the attack. She wondered if she should have just ran away. Unit 02 could have covered a lot of ground in this time but she also knew that the Wunder could have caught up quite easily
As she watched it something strange happened. The hanger door started to close again and the Wunder continued to rotate before moving further away from their position.
"They're… leaving?" Asuka muttered in confusion.
Behind her Shinji breathed a sigh of relief, "We don't have to fight them…"
"No… not today." Asuka said, herself thankful that she didn't have to fight other humans, "We should move then. Put as much distance between us as we can. Along the way take a look at what's back there. I hope you won't need it."
Ritsuko locked her gaze onto the large overhead display. She tried to ignore the varied stares she was getting from the members of the bridge crew in relation to her recent announcement. She could not worry about how they felt in regards to Misato being removed as captain, there were more pressing matters.
"Kitakami, have the five pilots from earlier today rounded up and loaded into TARKUS Unit's. We're going to deploy them to retrieve Evangelion Unit 02. Inform them that the pilots are to be brought back alive and unharmed."
Kitakami nodded and seemed to stutter, "Y-Yes Ma'am."
Ritsuko now looked across at the other members of the bridge crew. Hyuga and Aoba were sat in their positions seemingly indifferent to the situation. The youngest bridge Nagara and Tama seemed to looking somewhat confident and pleased by the change of guard. The eldest member of the crew, Takao had his eyes locked firmly on her. His eyes drilling a hole into her. She ignored it, this sort of thing was to be expected after such a dramatic change.
In the end they would all learn she was only doing what she had to do. They would all understand in time.
"Nagara, bring us closer to the ground. Follow Evangelion Unit 02 at a safe distance."
Ritsuko placed one hand on the railing of the command centre as she felt the ship start to move. She glanced up at the display to see the eerie red landscape ahead of them. Eventually the form of Evangelion Unit 02 came into view and almost immediately afterwards a loud high-pitched alarm was heard.
"Kitakami, what's happening?"
Kitakami turned around and looked up at Ritsuko in shock, "It's… we're getting a distress call from the southern outpost, they've detected an Angel."
"North of here, back towards the French coast."
Ritsuko tightened her grip on the railing, "Damnit, just what we need right now. Fine. Recall the pilots and tell them we are breaking off our pursuit of Evangelion Unit 02. Have them prepare for Angel combat instead."
"Good, Nagara, put in a course for the Angels position and take us there. We'll deal with our runaway pilots when this has been resolved."
Asuka checked the clock on her HUD, it had been half an hour since she had started to sprint away from the Wunder in an attempt to put as much distance as she could between themselves and the ship. She was now starting to reach her limit. She was exhausted physically and emotionally. Every part of her ached so she started to bring Evangelion Unit 02 to a stop.
She looked around and saw they were in some sort of canyon. She carefully brought Unit 02 down alongside one of the cliff edges trying to make sure it was as hidden as possible from anything over head and lay the Unit down onto its side.
Behind her she was aware of Shinji sniffing quietly seemingly attempting to hide the fact that he was crying from her. She let out a soft sigh and ejected the Entry Plug from Unit 02 enough to allow them out onto the ground below.
"We should be alright now." She said softly as she leaned back in her seat.
Shinji took a look around this landscape, in the darkness he could barely see anything but soft shapes indicating the walls of the canyons.
"Where are we?" He asked.
He watched Asuka shrug, "Hell if I know or even care right now. We're just… we're far away from that ship and away from them. We need to rest and we can find out where we are tomorrow."
"Asuka… what happened during that mission?"
"I don't want to talk about it. Not right now anyway."
Asuka closed her eyes and started trying to process everything that had happened today. She wondered if maybe she should have seen something like this coming. If maybe she should have known that she would lose control like that. She had felt it in the past and asked about it but they had said nothing. She wondered if maybe she should have pushed harder for answers.
"At least… now I know how you feel I guess…" She muttered.
"What do you mean?"
"To lose yourself in an Eva… to completely lose control and not recover. That's what happened to me Shinji, I was fighting and I thought I was going to lose. There was something there and… I just wanted to survive and anything else be damned. I let the damn thing take over me and then… If I had been stronger or something then I wouldn't have…"
"Asuka you…" Shinji was immediately cut off.
"You know it was so easy to be angry at you when I saw you push the Eva like you did and caused it to awaken. It was so easy to blame you for losing control and doing that, like think that you must have felt it do what it was doing or you could have just stopped it at any time. I know that you weren't really to blame but I just didn't realize…"
"How easy it is to lose control in the Eva?" Shinji finished the sentence for her.
Asuka was still facing away from him but he could see her nod her head, "I just wanted to survive Shinji, I didn't want to die. I'm scared of dying, I still have things I want to do here. So I let whatever it was in and take over me. I didn't think that… I could have done what you did without realizing it. Even worse this is an Angel that's inside me… I could have killed everyone!"
Shinji was shaking but he reached out his hands to her shoulders and softly started to massage them to calm her down, "Asuka you didn't do that though, so it doesn't matter."
As he spoke he remembered the last thing Misato had said to him, "Misato said… she said she didn't think it's the Ninth Angel inside you. She thought it was something else."
"Heh… like what she says matters and did she show you any proof? For all we know she's just lying again."
"I don't think she was lying about something like that. I know what she did was wrong Asuka but… she did the right thing in the end didn't she?"
Asuka raised her voice, "And if Misato had done the right thing sooner then we wouldn't have had to run away like we have done! If she had spoken to you sooner or told me about this sort of thing a lot sooner then we could have done something about it! She's… She's an idiot! A fool! And…"
Asuka trailed off midway through her ranting and suddenly stood up out of her seat. She made her way around to the back of the entry plug before handing her head down, "It doesn't matter what she is… we're both stuck now and have to deal with it."
Shinji couldn't help but flinch as Asuka's hand suddenly curled itself up into a fist before hitting the solid steel sides of the entry plug. She immediately drew it back and clutched it in her hand. Shinji reached forward to ask if she was okay but Asuka spoke again.
"I'm getting out of here…"
Shinji reached out his hand but by the time he had made any movement she had already pushed the door to the plug open and had hopped out onto the ground below them. Shinji scrambled forward and also escaped into the coolness of the night. He looked ahead to see that she had stopped a few metres from the Eva and was looking up at the starlit sky.
Shinji remained motionless at the entrance to the entry plug and kept his eye on her. It didn't look like she was going to go and further and had instead moved to looking down at and nursing her hand. Slowly he made his way over to her.
"I'm sorry…" He mumbled.
He head snapped upwards and he felt her glare, "What?"
"I said I'm sorry…" He repeated.
Asuka playfully punched him on his arm, "Idiot! What the hell do you have to be sorry for?"
All Shinji was able to do was shrug and smile weakly, "I… don't really know. I just felt like I should apologize."
She gripped onto his arm, God you're so annoying! If you have nothing to be sorry for then don't say you're sorry! In this case I'm fairly certain you don't have anything to be sorry for."
"Sor…" Shinji started to say before feeling Asuka's glare on him again. He stopped immediately and smirked, "It's a habit…"
"Yes I had noticed!" Asuka replied dryly before sighing and looking around the landscape, "So… here we are again. Stuck on the wasteland only this time we don't have a destination and no allies."
"Yeah… no Rei here with us either this time."
Asuka nodded, "True…"
Shinji tensed up as he thought of Rei and Mari still on the Wunder, "Asuka! What about Rei and Mari? Will they be alright?"
Asuka shrugged, "I don't know… I haven't even thought about it. I think… they'll probably be fine. Mari has never really played by the rules as it is and she's resourceful. If she needs to get away then she'll do so and as for Rei… Mari isn't going to let anything bad happen to Rei. The two of them will probably be fine."
"I hope so… I don't want anything bad to happen to them."
"Neither do I. We can't worry about it now though, we need to think of ourselves for now. We can deal with that when it comes to it."
"So what do we do now?"
"I have no idea. I suppose we wait until morning and continue our journey. We've got enough supplies to last us two weeks and we have what Mari would call a sixty foot death robot to call our home. In the morning we'll try to figure out where we are and locate the nearest settlement. Something untouched by WILLE and try to negotiate something."
"A settlement untouched by WILLE? Those exist?"
He saw Asuka nod, "Of course, WILLE isn't the only faction in this world. It's the most powerful one but there are many settlements that exist outside of WILLE."
"So if we find one what do we do then?"
"I don't know!" She snapped again, "As hard as it is to believe I don't have the answers to everything right now. We just make it up as we go along I suppose."
"Sorry… I guess I just…" Shinji fell silent and reached into his pocket. He rummaged around before pulling out the necklace Misato had given him. Asuka eyed it curiously recognizing it immediately as belonging to Misato.
"Misato gave you her necklace? Weird."
Shinji nodded in response, "Yeah… she was acting all weird when she gave me it. She said she didn't deserve our help but she wanted us to find some tower. She said that this'll help us in some way."
Asuka simply sighed, "Of course she did. She was obsessed with finding that thing, let's take a look then."
Shinji handed over the necklace and watched as she passed it over in her hand. Her fingers felt the smooth edges of the cross and she weighted it in her hand before passing it back to him. She had no idea how this was supposed to help nor did she know if they should even carry our Misato's request.
"Are we going to help?"
"I don't know, part of me says that we should just ignore her and run away but… from what I understand finding that thing was important and... Well I don't really want to see this world end because of NERV or SEELE. If they were after it too then we have to stop them." Asuka paused, "Don't get me wrong I'm not doing this for Misato or WILLE… I'm doing this for us and so that I can see the looks on their faces when we save their asses."
Shinji felt himself smile as she spoke, "I'll help."
"Damn right you will. For now let's just forget about this whole thing. It's late and I think we're safe, we should probably get some sleep."
Misato sat alone in her darkened cell, her back against the wall and her facing directly towards the doorway. All she had to keep her company in the time that she had arrived were her regrets. Regrets over what she had done since the rescue of Shinji Ikari, regrets over her treatment of Asuka, regrets over how she had acted as the captain of the Wunder and regrets over her relationship with Kaji.
She kept on going through all the things she could have done differently. From the first moment she had Shinji back on the bridge, to his return from NERV and even when she learned the truth of the Third Impact.
'Not that it'll make any difference, I can't go back and change my choices so why am I even thinking about it. All I can now is move forward and hope that they're able to finish what was started.'
Misato looked up as the room brightened slightly due to the opening of the door. She couldn't help but smirk a little bit as she watched Maya Ibuki enter the cell. Maya was frowning, a clear indication of the status of Asuka and Shinji.
"So… they were able to get away then?" Misato teased.
"Only briefly, fortunately for them an Angel has been detected. We are currently on our way to destroy it."
Misato stood up in shock, "An Angel? Where?"
"I'm afraid that that information is both off limits and no longer relevant to you. You can rest assured that we will engage and defeat the Angel with minimal problems and afterwards Evangelion Unit 02 will be tracked down and brought back here."
"I would doubt that, they'll be long gone by now."
"Do you really think they can hide from us?"
Misato nodded, "I have little doubt."
"We shall see. In the meantime I've been asked to bring you this. Enclosed are the details of the charges that will be brought against you. I would advise reading it carefully, I assume you will need it to properly defend youself."
As Maya spoke she threw the small notebook across to Misato and then turned around to leave. She stopped one last time at the doorway, "I would advise you be careful in the way you act going forward Katsuragi. I do not think they will want to see you hurt when we bring them back."