Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode VII: Awakenings


Chapter 10 – Into the Fire
August 1, 2020 – NERV HQ

Mari was in her Simulation Plug waiting for their latest combat drill to begin. It had been almost twenty minutes since she began breathing through LCL, and even though she was excited for the combat training, it didn't make her any less bored while she waited.

"Oh my god!" Mari exclaimed. "What's taking so long?!"

"Who knows with them…" Asuka muttered.

"Who cares?" Rei added. "We just have to be patient. Remember when the system crashed the last time? I'd rather wait then have to redo everything."

"Yeah, and I almost had the high score." Toji said indignantly. "Total bullshit."

"Yeah, your score was total bullshit." Asuka said. "Cause you're not that quick on the trigger."

"The hell I'm not!" Toji said.

"Guys, come on…" Hikari said. "The scores are irrelevant."

"They're really not though…" Shinji said. "That's how we know how accurate we are… and Asuka holds the record."

"For everything but sniper work." Mari said. "That would be a tie between Shinji and Rei."

"Well, Hikari's actually correct in this instance." Maya said as she joined the comm line. "The scores won't matter today because you're not doing simulated practice runs… you'll be facing something more challenging seeing as everyone has qualified for all the weapons we have available."

"We'll be what now?" Kensuke asked.

"You're going to be placed in an eight level simulation against digital recreations of some of the Angel's we've faced over the years." Kaji explained. "This is to test your ability to work under actual combat conditions. Maya's set it so that any damage you receive will be fed back through the simulation to make everything as realistic as possible."

"Each of you will face the first two stages alone." Maya said. "Everyone who passes those two stages will be dumped into stage three where the remaining pilots will fight through the remaining stages until either all the Angels have been defeated, or all the Evangelions have been knocked out."

"So… what does that mean exactly for our Evangelions?" Rei asked.

"Your Evangelions have been recreated just as faithfully as, or even more so than the Angels in the simulation." Kaji explained. "Based on the data we have, everyone who can will be able to manipulate their A.T. Fields as they normally would. Friendly fire is not disabled, so check your line of fire and don't hit your allies."

"What about anyone who gets knocked out?" Kensuke asked. "Do we respawn or something?"

"Nope, if you're eliminated, you're eliminated." Maya explained. "Damage is not cumulative so your EVAs will be in perfect fighting shape for each round. There are 20 difficulty levels to get through, and we're starting today at Level 1."

"Great…" Kensuke muttered.

"So when do we begin?" Mari asked.

"Right now if you want." Maya replied. "Unless you think you're not ready."

"Oh, I'm ready." Mari said.

"Mari, you don't get to make that choice." Kensuke said. "Shinji and Asuka do."

"Well, hurry up you two!" Mari said impatiently. "I wanna start killing AI Angels!"

"Relax, Captain, we're ready to begin at their convenience." Asuka said.

"All right… battle sim set up… all Simulation Plugs ready… loading stage 1…" Maya said. "Begin."

–––

"Stage 1… Begin." A voice said.

Toji watched as the scenery around him changed. The view had changed to one showing the outskirts of Tokyo–3 where the edge of the city met the hilled grassland that surrounded it. The landscape outside looked very realistic, almost as if it were real. But Toji had to remind himself that it wasn't real and that this was a combat test.

"Damn this is like the VR I've ever seen…" Toji muttered. "Fuck you 4K… this is where it's at… now where is that Angel…"

An alarm went off with arrows pointing to a Pattern Blue off to Toji's left. He turned and saw Sachiel, the first Angel he ever saw, coming straight at him. Toji rolled left to avoid her strike as Sachiel extended her spear to impale Unit–03.

"Fucker…" Toji muttered. "I saw how Shinji fought you the first time. I won't be that easy!"

Unit–03 stood up and Toji flipped on his comm. "Uh… I need some weapons."

"What kind of weapons, Toji?" Sumire asked.

"A beam sabre." Toji said.

"Air drop in one minute." Sumire replied. "Good luck."

Toji rolled right again as Sachiel charged headlong at him. Unit–03 kicked at Sachiel's ankles, causing Sachiel to tumble onto the ground. Unit–03 rocked on its back and leapt back to its feet, with Toji staring down the felled Angel.

"Don't fuck with me, pal." Toji muttered. "Cause I'm about to kick your ass…"

Toji looked up and saw a single VTOL flying towards him which dropped a crate that parachuted down. Unit–03 jogged to the crate and ripped it open, revealing a beam sabre. Toji switched it on, and its deep purple blade hissed to life as Toji stood ready to attack Sachiel, who was now back on her feet.

"Well, come at me, bro!" Toji shouted.

As Sachiel charged again, Toji raised the beam sabre up like a baseball bat and swung at Sachiel as her spear shot out from her left hand. The beam sabre cleaved through the spear, sending it to the ground, and the tip of the beam sabre grazed Sachiel's chest and even hit the Core, cracking it slightly. Sachiel stumbled backwards with blood pouring from her left hand and chest

"That was for my sister…" Toji muttered. "And this is because I don't like you!"

Unit–03 lunged forward, sending the beam sabre straight through Sachiel's chest. She had no time to react as the hilt of the beam sabre slammed into the Core and Unit–03 cut to the right, cleaving Sachiel almost in half. The Angel collapsed in front of him, dead.

"I know it's only a simulation… but that felt really good." Toji muttered at Unit–03 kicked the lifeless Sachiel. "Well… its dead."

"Stage 1… complete." A voice said. "Rank… B."

"Yeah…" Toji paused "Wait, what?! I only get a "B" for what I did?! That's worth at least an "S" you bastard!"

"Stage 2 loading… please wait." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with a glowing neon green grid.

"Bite me." Toji snapped.

–––

"Stage 2… begin." A voice said.

Hikari found herself standing in the hills around Tokyo–3, near Lake Ashinoko. She was still out of breath from a tough hand to hand fight with Sachiel in the previous stage. But now she was looking directly at the next Angel she had to face, which was slowly coming towards her, Shamshel.

Hikari flipped on her comm to NERV HQ. "Can I get a weapons drop please?" Hikari asked.

"What would you like?" Midori asked.

"A railgun with extra ammo, and a beam sabre please." Hikari asked politely.

"Two minutes till weapons drop." Midori reported.

"Thank you." Hikari replied as she closed the channel.

Shamshel was still off in the distance, but Hikari wasn't too worried. Just as she had done with Sachiel, she was planning on engaging Shamshel at a distance. While she almost got hit a few times, she was able to kill Sachiel without too much difficulty. Hikari decided to zoom in on her opponent and was stunned by her appearance.

"Ugh… that thing looks disgusting…" Hikari muttered as she saw the VTOL approaching with her weapons. "Ok… just need to grab those, and then I can get out of here…"

Unit–06 moved towards the dropping crates and grabbed them before they hit the ground. She pulled them open and stowed the beam sabre on a clamp that popped out of the shoulder pylon and picked up the railgun and its ammo.

Unit–06 turned to Shamshel, who flying horizontally and was almost on top of her. Hikari waited a moment and then opened fire in short, controlled bursts, just like she had been taught. The shots all hit Shamshel's head, ripping though it's A.T. Field and flesh, spraying blood everywhere.

"Oh… I forgot…" Hikari said as she watched Shamshel writhe in pain and float into a vertical position. "I didn't check to see where the Core is…"

Hikari saw the Core in Shamshel's chest, exposed and easy to hit with Anti A.T. Field rounds. "Sorry about this…" Hikari said as she opened fire again, hitting Shamshel directly in the Core, shattering it to bits. Before Shamshel could even attack, she was dead.

"Huh…" Hikari muttered. "Something tells me this won be as easy as it is in real life…"

"Stage 2… complete." A voice said. "Rank… A."

"I guess I did better than last time." Hikari said.

"Stage 3 loading… please wait." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with a glowing neon green grid.

"Oh… good." Hikari groaned. "At least I won't be alone anymore…"

–––

"Stage 3… begin." A voice said. "Seven pilots active."

Rei sighed. She had only ever seen Sachiel and Shamshel from the safety of NERV HQ. She had never been able to face them directly, so being able to face them, even in a simulation, proved to Rei if she had been able and allowed to fight them, she would have been able to beat them.

"I'm glad I could finally defeat those Angels…" Rei said to herself. "It's been a long time coming…"

As the scenery popped up all around her, she looked and saw Tokyo–3 in the distance with Lake Ashinoko between them and the city. It looked as though there was an octahedron floating above where NERV HQ was, stationary, and even from this distance, a little imposing. Rei glance around and saw that the other Evangelions were all around her.

"Right… we're all in this together from here on out." Rei said. "That could come in handy right about now…"

"Yeah, after those first two stages, I'll be glad for some support." Toji said. "This is really fucking hard!"

"Well, it's about to get a whole lot harder." Rei said. "Onii–chan… I mean Major… do you recognize where we are?"

"Yeah." Shinji replied. "We're facing Ramiel."

"That's what off in the distance?" Kensuke asked.

"Yes." Rei replied. "If we move much closer, Ramiel will fire on us with all its power."

"So, what's the plan?" Hikari asked.

"We charge it and kill it." Mari said.

"That won't work, Mari." Shinji said. "This thing will shoot if you get within a certain distance, you'll never be able to get close enough."

"And the Core is buried deep within its body." Rei said. "We will have to shoot at extreme range from here, just like before."

"With what?" Asuka asked.

"A Buster Rifle at full power should do it." Rei said. "What do you think onii–chan?"

"Well… is the S2 Engine more powerful than the entire power grid of Japan?" Shinji asked.

"Evan more so, puppy." Mari replied.

"Then it should work." Rei said confidently.

"What if we all equipped ourselves with railguns to distract it?" Kensuke suggested. "Just to distract it."

"I doubt the ruse would last very long." Rei said. "But who's going to take the shot?"

"Rei will." Shinji said. "Asuka and I will guard her with our A.T. Fields."

"We will?" Asuka asked.

"I needed her to guard me when I did this." Shinji said. "With our A.T. Fields combined, we should be able to deflect the shot completely."

"What if you're wrong?" Mari asked.

"If this was real life, we wouldn't even be thinking about that question." Asuka said. "I'm in, baka." Asuka opened her comms. "This is Asuka, we need four railguns with extra ammo and a Buster Rifle."

"Coming right up." Sumire replied. "Estimated time to drop, four minutes."

"Mari, you take Toji and flank from the left, Hikari and Kensuke, flank from the right." Asuka ordered. "I guess I'm here with Shinji to protect Rei."

"What do we do to distract it exactly?" Toji asked.

"Shoot it." Asuka said.

"A lot." Rei added. "A simultaneous attack will distract it and split its focus onto both fire teams. I will fire as it splits focus." Rei saw the VTOLs approaching from behind them. "Looks like its time. I will get into position."

The crates dropped, and the Evangelions wandered over and opened the crates up. Unit–03, Unit–04, Unit–05, and Unit–06 took the railguns and ammo and split off, with Unit–05 and Unit–03 on the left, and Unit–04 and Unit–06 on the right. Unit–07 took the Buster Rifle and lowered itself into a prone position facing Ramiel and took aim. Unit–01 and Unit–02 took up defensive positions in front of and on either side of Unit–07, with their arms outstretched.

"A.T. Field to maximum on my command, baka." Asuka said.

"Right." Shinji replied. "You guys, move out… and stay low."

"Got it." Kensuke replied.

"We'll be careful." Mari added.

As the four of them moved out, Rei watched in serene silence as she tried her best to stay calm. She looked out though the targeting sensors at Ramiel, and located his Core. She locked onto her target and was ready to fire at any moment.

"Whenever they are in position, have them attack." Rei said. "I have the shot."

"Will do." Shinji replied.

"You people heard her." Asuka commanded. "Get into position and open fire!"

Rei saw flashes in the distance on either side of Ramiel as four streams of Anti A.T. Field tracer rounds flew at Ramiel's motionless form. Its form however began changing shape. Ramiel unfolded into a set of suspended triangles and charged up a shot and aimed towards Kensuke and Hikari's position.

"Hikari, Kensuke, move!" Shinji ordered as Ramiel fired its bright purple beam at them and decimated the hillside.

"We're fine." Hikari said breathlessly. "Continuing assault."

Ramiel spun around and began charging again, this time aiming at Mari and Toji's position.

"We'll move at the last possible second." Mari said. "Otherwise it'll track us."

"Wundergirl, please tell me you're ready…" Asuka asked.

"I am." Rei said as she steadied her hand. "Charging Buster Rifle to maximum… red lining S2 Engine output to 115% of safety limitations."

"Is that safe?" Shinji asked.

"It is an acceptable risk." Rei said as the Buster Rifle in Unit–07's hands began to crackle with power as Ramiel turned on them.

"A.T. Fields to maximum!" Shinji ordered as red aura erupted from Unit–01 and Unit–02 just as Ramiel fired again. The beam collided with their combined A.T. Fields, and was held back from making contact, unlike the last time.

"It stopped…" Asuka muttered.

"Not for long…" Shinji replied. "Look."

Ramiel discontinued his attack and began to change forms again, this time into an unfolding five–pointed star, unfolding continuously until the beam was charged. With the high–pitched whine, he fired the massive bright purple blast towards the three Evangelions.

"Rei, now!" Shinji implored.

"FIRE!" Rei screamed as the Buster Rifle released all its stored energy into one, powerful blast. The yellow beam of energy ripped through and dissipated Ramiel's shot and vaporized the Angel's Core on impact, causing its body to collapse back to its octahedral form and fall uselessly to the ground.

"You did, Rei!" Asuka shouted excitedly. "What a fucking shot!"

"Stage 3… complete." A voice said. "Group Rank…S!"

"Nice job, Rei." Shinji said.

"Thank you, onii–chan." Rei replied. "Though it feels weird to kill the Angel this way… and not how it originally happened."

"Well, this way is just as good as the original… but no one got hurt." Shinji said happily.

"Yes, no one nearly got vaporized this time." Rei said. "It was not a pleasant feeling…"

"Stage 4 loading… please wait." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with a glowing neon green grid.

–––

"Stage 4… begin." A voice said. "Seven pilots active."

Kensuke was in a pretty good mood. He had easily survived the first two stages, using his knowledge of military tactics to evade and confront Sachiel and Shamshel's digital copies. Even in the third stage he had faired pretty well overall, and was eager for more. Kensuke looked in front of him and saw a single large Angel he recognized as Israfel.

"Really, this one?" Kensuke asked.

"Oh, look, a blast from the past." Mari joked. "Try not to get stuck in the ground again, guys."

"Blow me…" Asuka said. "So, baka, how are we handling this?"

"Beats me." Shinji said. "It took us a week to synchronize ourselves to kill them simultaneously."

"Why don't we all just shoot them till they can't move and obliterate their Cores when they're defenseless?" Kensuke asked. "He just need firepower, and lots of it…"

"What, more railguns?"

"And Buster Rifles?" Toji asked.

"Yeah, shoot it dead." Kensuke replied. "Then shoot it more."

"This plan excites me." Mari quipped.

"Unnecessary violence and shooting always do that to you…" Asuka grumbled.

"Well, at least she's consistent." Hikari joked.

"Thank you, freckles, that means a lot." Mari said sweetly.

"Ok, people, focus." Asuka said. "Weapons are inbound, but we don't have the time to wait, cause they're right on us."

"What do we do?" Kensuke asked.

"Avoid them till we can shoot them." Mari said.

"Otherwise, unless we kill them simultaneously, the other's Core will heal them both." Rei said.

"What other one?" Hikari asked.

"This is the one that can split, isn't it?" Toji asked.

"Yep." Asuka replied as Israfel split into Kou and Otsu. "Looks like they're tired of waiting."

"Dodge!" Rei shouted as the twin Angels came for them.

All seven Evangelions jumped and scattered in seven different directions. Kou followed Unit–04, and Otsu followed Unit–07.

"One of them is following me." Rei said. "I will keep it occupied by heading east."

"The other one's following me." Kensuke said. "I'll lead it in the opposite direction."

"Once we have the weapons, circle back and lead them in for the kill." Shinji ordered.

"We'll give you two a couple seconds to hit the deck so we don't shoot you too." Asuka replied. "We may need you for the next stage."

Kensuke kept running, keeping a safe distance between himself and Kou. Kou could do nothing but focus on Unit–04, and even though it was out of striking range, still tried its hardest to make contact.

'Figures… I can't even prove myself here…' Kensuke thought. 'I'm just bait because it decided to follow me. How will I ever show them I can be a great pilot?' Kensuke sighed. 'This sucks…'

"We have the weapons, bring it back"

"Roger." Rei replied.

"Understood." Kensuke replied as Unit–04 turned heel and guided Kou back towards the others. 'Now I can prove myself… I think…' Kensuke thought.

Unit–04 and Unit–07 turned towards where the other five Evangelions were waiting with their weapons. Kensuke charged forward, outpacing Rei by a few dozen yards. As Kensuke approached the others, he saw them raise their weapons.

"Almost there…" Kensuke muttered. "Come on… stay with me you ugly thing…"

Kensuke saw Unit–07 running towards him with Otsu following closely behind.

"Rei, am I jumping, or are you jumping?" Kensuke asked.

"I don't believe that's something we should concern ourselves with!" Rei snapped.

"But how are going to avoid crashing into each other!" Kensuke snapped back. "We don't need to get hurt, do we?!"

"Both of you, just jump left!" Asuka ordered. "In 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… NOW!"

Just as Unit–04 and Unit–07 were on top of each other, they both jumped to their left, clearing the line of fire as the other five Evangelions let loose with their railguns and filled Kou and Otsu with Anti A.T. Field rounds. As their Cores were riddled with bullets, both Angels collapsed, twitching wildly, to the ground.

"Well… I guess that plan worked after all." Asuka quipped. "Nice job everyone."

"Wait, so we got chased round by Angels on a fucking whim?!" Kensuke snapped.

"Well, no plan we ever come up with will ever really work unless we try it." Asuka said.

"That's not the point he's trying to make…." Hikari said.

"Stage 4… complete." A voice said. "Group Rank…A."

"Yeah, don't we have some other way of coming up with a plan?" Kensuke asked.

"Not really…" Shinji said. "We've always sort of made things up as we go along."

"We caught a falling Angel with our hands once." Mari said. "Now that was a fucking stupid plan."

"Stage 5 loading… please wait." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with a glowing neon green grid.

'How will I ever be able to prove myself worthy of being an EVA pilot?!' Kensuke asked himself. 'This is infuriating!'

–––

"Stage 5… begin." A voice said. "Seven pilots active."

Mari saw the scenery appear around her. They were in the Geofront, it looked relatively pristine. NERV HQ looked perfectly normal, and Tokyo–3 hung down from the armored ceiling above them.

"Uh… guys?" Mari asked. "What other Angel has gotten this far before?"

"Only one that I can think of." Rei replied. "Zeruel."

"Oh… good… ribbon hands…" Mari said as she flipped on her comms. "Uh… we need a weapons drop."

"What would you like?" Sumire asked.

"All the weapons." Mari said. "We need all the weapons."

"Are you sure about that?" Sumire asked.

"Don't argue, just do it!" Mari snapped.

"Please go ahead, Sumire." Shinji said. "We'll need the fire power."

"Not that it did much good last time…" Asuka muttered.

"We'll just have to try harder then." Rei said with stony resolve.

"Well said." Toji added as the weapons appeared all around them from hidden armories in the ground. "Let's kill the fucker."

"Yeah…" Mari said as she grabbed a pair of beam sabres and stowed them, and picked up some railgun ammo and a pair railguns. "Lock and load."

"So, what, are we just shooting it?" Hikari asked.

"Until its nothing but a pile of unidentifiable mush." Mari said. "Right, Majors?"

"It's working well so far." Shinji said.

"Why mess with a winning formula?" Asuka added.

"That still seems excessive." Hikari said.

"For this Angel, nothing is excessive." Mari replied as the ceiling above them exploded. "Looks like we've got company!"

Zeruel came out of the fireball created by its attack and settled itself onto the Geofront's surface and faced them defiantly. The Evangelions rushed to grab their various weapons and waited.

"So, what are our orders?" Mari asked.

"We can't be this clumped together." Asuka said. "We can't do anything effectively like this, we need to split off into groups." Asuka sighed. "Mari, with me. Shinji, take Hikari, Toji, pair off with Rei."

"Sounds fair." Shinji replied.

"Well move!" Asuka commanded. "Mari, we'll face it from the front. Shinji, to the left, Rei, to the right!"

"Roger." Rei replied.

"Got it." Shinji replied.

As Unit–02 and Unit–05 stood firm facing Zeruel head on, Unit–01 and Unit–06 split off and went left, while Unit–07 and Unit–03 went right, leaving only Unit–04 near the unclaimed weapons.

"What about me?" Kensuke asked.

"Scheisse…" Asuka muttered. "Sorry Kensuke."

"Follow us." Shinji said.

Unit–07 and Unit–03 reached their position first, followed by Unit–01 and Unit–06 reaching theirs moments later. As second. While Unit–04 moved quickly to join Unit–01 and Unit–06, Unit–03 readied to fire on Zeruel.

"Eat shit!" Toji shouted.

"Toji, hold your fire!" Shinji shouted as Unit–03 opened fire sending several bursts of rounds towards Zeruel, and consequently, Unit–04. "Kensuke, get down!"

"What…?" Kensuke replied.

Before he could even react, Unit–04 was hit with four rounds to the head and dropped to the ground motionless.

"Kensuke!" Hikari shouted.

"He's not moving…" Mari muttered. "We lost one…"

"Yeah, but were about to lose more!" Shinji shouted. "Look!"

The rounds that actually hit Zeruel had drawn his attention towards Unit–07 and Unit–03. Even though he was hit with six rounds in the right shoulder, the Angel shrugged off the injury and moved quickly towards Unit–07 and Unit–03.

"Guys, move!" Shinji shouted. "Hikari, Asuka, Mari, support fire!"

"Right!" Asuka replied.

"Fuck yeah!" Mari shouted in reply as she opened up with her pair of railguns trying to draw Zeruel away like the others were, but it was too late. Zeruel unfolded its arms and shot them forwards toward Unit–07 and Unit–03. They both dodged the initial attack, but were unprepared for Zeruel's follow up attack. While Unit–07 and Unit–03 were still in the Zeruel targeted both with a sweeping blast from its eyes. Toji was sent flying into the ground, creating a crater in the ground on impact while Rei hit the ground and bounced several times before stopping. Both Evangelions lay motionless on the ground as the dust settled.

"Toji, please respond!" Hikari shouted to no avail. "TOJI!"

"REI!" Mari screamed as Unit–05 turned towards Zeruel and she leveled her railguns at him. "NOW YOU DIE!"

Unit–05 emptied its clips into Zeruel's body, wounding it enough to cause it to bleed, but completely missed hitting the Core. Unit–01, Unit–02 and Unit–06 followed suit and opened fire as well, but were unable to hit the Core.

"Fuck this shit!" Mari shouted as Unit–05 dropped the railguns. "Cover me!"

Unit–05 deployed the par of beam sabres it had stored on the clamps in its shoulder pylons and activated them. "Time to fucking die!"

"Cover fire!" Asuka shouted.

Unit–05 charged Zeruel with the deep purple blades crossed in front of her and as she got close, she saw a glint of energy charging in Zeruel's eyes.

"Not today, Satan!" Mari shouted as she slashed outwards with beam sabres, cutting across Zeruel's chest and cutting his Core into four pieces. "Fuck you!"

Zeruel collapsed in front of Unit–05 and Mari deactivated the beam sabres. "We're done here…" Mari muttered.

"Stage 5… complete." A voice said. "Group Rank… D."

"No fucking shit, you stupid ass computer." Mari snapped.

"Stage 6 loading… please wait." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with a glowing neon green grid.

"Take your fucking time." Mari said. "Not like we can do much with three less Evangelions anyway…"

–––

"Stage 6… begin." A voice said. "Four pilots active."

Asuka sat sullenly inside her Simulation Plug. They had lost three people in the last stage from a stupid mistake, and it both pissed Asuka off and made her upset.

'How can I be a good co–commander if shit like that happens?' Asuka asked herself. 'It's total bullshit… Toji fucked up and we lost Kensuke, Toji, and Rei…' Asuka shook her head. 'And I completely forgot about Kensuke when I was barking orders… I'm an idiot…'

"Asuka, don't blame yourself." Shinji said as the scenery came into view and they stood in a field not far from Lake Ashinoko.

"I wasn't talking out loud baka." Asuka said. "How can you even think I'm blaming myself?"

"Because I know you." Shinji said. "It's Toji's fault for not being more careful."

"At least it's only a simulation…" Hikari said.

"That's not the point." Asuka replied. "If this was real, our friends would actually be dead from a stupid fucking mistake…"

"Enough." Mari said. "We have to move on without them and focus, otherwise we won't make it out of this simulation successfully."

"So, what Angel are we up against next?" Hikari asked.

"Well…" Asuka wondered. "There are only three possibilities left. Armisael and the two new Angels… given we've gone in order so far, I'd guess it's Armisael." Asuka looked around and noticed the Armisael in the distance, floating eerily in its round double helix form. "Scratch that… it is Armisael."

"The tentacle?" Mari asked. "Seriously?"

"Yeah… and if it is no one is allowed to self–destruct, got it?" Asuka asked. "Because we need to use real tactics here… something we can replicate in the real world."

"You didn't even need to give that order." Mari said. "But how are we going to defeat it? It's body is its Core."

"We just have to utterly vaporize it." Asuka said. "Shinji, wanna try something out?"

"You don't mean…" Shinji asked.

"Oh, I do." Asuka replied. "Think we can do it?"

"It'll have to be lured into a trap." Shinji said.

"I'll be the bait." Mari said.

"What about me?" Hikari asked.

"Assist Mari by providing covering fire." Asuka said. "And we should be able to make this work." Asuka smiled. "Or die trying."

"Sumire, can we get four Buster Rifles please?" Shinji asked.

"They'll be with you in one minute." Sumire replied.

"Ok… let's get ready." Asuka said.

Just as Unit–05 and Unit–06 took up their weapons, Armisael began moving towards them. Unit–01 and Unit–02 ran off into the trees to try and hide from Armisael's approach.

"We'll tell you when and where." Asuka said.

"Just don't be late." Shinji added.

"Right." Hikari said.

"Yeah, no problem." Mari replied as they took up their own position right in Armisael's path. "Just don't let it touch you, ok?"

"Why?" Hikari asked.

"It'll do things…" Mari replied.

"Ok…" Hikari said.

Asuka took up her position opposite Shinji, she looked to see how Hikari and Mari were doing. Unit–05 was pointing its Buster Rifles at Armisael, while Unit–06 held its own aloft.

"Ok, we're at your ten o'clock." Asuka said. "Run for the tree and we'll do the rest."

"Ok." Hikari replied. "Go for it, Mari."

"Here Angel, Angel, Angel…" Mari muttered as Unit–05 began firing on Armisael, and miraculously causing some minor damage to its body.

"Wow… it did damage…" Shinji said in amazement.

"Well… id hope it would do something to grab its attention…" Asuka replied as Armisael lashed out in its noodle form and tried to strike Unit–05. Unit–06 fired at the striking tendril, hitting it with two solid shots and Armisael writhed in pain.

"Time to run!" Mari shouted. "You two better be ready!"

"We are, don't worry about that." Asuka replied. "Shinji, get ready…"

"Right." Shinji replied.

As Unit–05 and Unit–06 ran towards them, Unit–01 and Unit–02 stretched out their arms and readied their A.T. Fields. As Armisael followed behind Unit–05 and Unit–06, they each took turns firing blindly behind them in an effort to hit Armisael and keep it distracted.

"Just keep running… just keep running…" Hikari muttered to herself.

"We're almost there!" Mari shouted.

"Just get the fuck out of the way when you get here." Asuka said as Unit–05 and Unit–06 passed Asuka and Shinji's position. Seconds later, Armisael crossed the line and the pair sprung their trap.

"A.T. Field to maximum!" Asuka shouted as pale blue auras erupted around Unit–01 and Unit–02, causing the scenery to disappear and reappear from the simulation. A shimmering blue and purple bubble had been formed around Armisael, trapping it completely inside.

"Armisael's trapped in our bubble!" Shinji exclaimed happily.

"Now we nuke it!" Asuka said as energy built up on her side of the bubble they created.

"I know!" Shinji replied as energy began to build up on his side as well.

Inside the bubble, as Armisael lashed out at the impenetrable wall surrounding it, the energy from both Evangelion grew large and larger. As it touched Armisael, it recoiled and tried to stay away from the energy, until it was entirely surrounded and with nowhere to go, Armisael was engulfed by the energy and the bubble exploded into a fiery blue light which dissipated, leaving nothing behind.

"And that's how you kill an Angel." Asuka said proudly.

"Stage 6… complete." A voice said. "Group Rank… S!"

"Damn right it is." Asuka said. "All's right with the world now."

"Stage 7 loading… please wait." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with a glowing neon green grid.

"We still have two more stages, Asuka." Shinji said.

"Yeah, don't get all cocky." Mari added.

"Please, if we can handle this, we can handle anything." Asuka retorted.

–––

"Stage 7… begin." A voice said. "Four pilots active."

Shinji looked around and saw that they were in the foothills around Tokyo–3 again. Shinji looked around and identified the Angel they needed to beat, Iblis.

"Asuka, we have a problem." Shinji said.

"What?" Asuka asked.

"It's the Eighteenth Angel." Shinji said. "We're in big trouble now…"

"What the exploding turtle?" Mari asked.

"The very same…" Asuka muttered. "I'm not sure of what to do…"

"Repeat how we beat it before." Shinji said. "Use its own energy to kill it."

"All we have to do is hold our A.T. Field in place until it dies again!" Asuka added.

"What can we do?" Hikari asked.

"Support the A.T. Field." Shinji said. "We'll need all the help we can get."

"Right." Asuka said. "We're gonna need an airstrike with like four N2 bombs."

"You can't be serious." Sumire said. "You can't authorize his!"

"According to Colonel Kaji, we can." Shinji said.

"Yeah, we're in charge here!" Asuka said proudly.

"Very well…" Sumire said. "Airstrike inbound in five minutes."

"What do we do until then?" Hikari asked.

"We follow the Angel and then we surround it and put up our A.T. Fields to max." Shinji said. "So let's roll out."

The four remaining Evangelions marched slowly towards Iblis. As the came over a hill, they saw the turtle–like Angel going through a small valley, the perfect place to isolate and destroy him.

"How long till the airstrike?" Asuka asked.

"Two minutes or so." Shinji replied.

"Do our pylon railguns have Anti A.T. Field rounds?" Asuka asked.

"As far as I know." Mari said. "Why?"

"We need to hold it here." Asuka said. "Hikari, take the back, Mari, take the front, I'll take the left side, and…"

"And I guess I've got the right side covered." Shinji finished. "Mari, be wary of the claws and mouth, ok?"

"No need to worry, boss." Mari joked. "I've faced worse."

"And Hikari, don't mess with the tail." Shinji added.

"Roger that." Hikari replied.

As they surrounded Iblis, their shoulder pylons opened up, revealing small caliber railguns meant solely for close quarters defense. However, with Anti A.T. Field ammo loaded in them, they could be used effectively as a distraction against an Angel. They opened fire on the unsuspecting Iblis to hold him in place while they waited for the airstrike. The rounds, while small, still did enough damage to cause him to bleed and lash out towards them. But with four Evangelions firing on him, he didn't know where to attack first.

"Airstrike is inbound." Sumire reported. "Be ready."

"Copy that." Shinji said. "It's time everyone."

"For?" Mari asked.

"Extend you're A.T. Field to maximum!" Asuka snapped.

"Yeah, yeah…" Mari quipped.

"Right." Hikari replied.

All four Evangelions extended their arms outward. Blue auras erupted around Unit–01 and Unit–02 while weaker red shimmers formed around Unit–05, and nothing really visible formed around Unit–06. The wall solidified itself just as the N2 Bombs dropped, and hit their target creating a massive mushroom cloud. The blast was held back by their combined A.T. Fields, but what came next would be the hard part.

"We gotta make the dome!" Asuka cried.

"I know!" Shinji replied. "Come on Shinji… focus…"

Iblis retracted his tail into his shell while the eye symbol on his shell began to glow brightly. The spikes on the shell began to glow white. As they gathered a massive ball of energy between them, the sky started to turn black, and electrical discharges shot off from the ball as it got steadily larger, impacting the sides of the dome. The ball of energy then pulsed three times, and Iblis released the energy and the inside of the dome shined white as the massive explosion of energy tried to force its way out. The dome began to strain under the pressure as energy started to bleed out from several fissures.

"Shinji, it's not gonna hold!" Asuka cried.

"We have to hold it!" Shinji shouted back. "We did it before!"

"Yeah, but look!" Asuka shouted. "We're done for!"

"Do we have time to run?" Mari asked.

"No… we can't outrun this…" Shinji said. "But everyone did a great job."

"Yeah… good job everyone." Asuka added.

The A.T. Field dome, now filled with micro fissures finally failed. As the energy was released, all four Evangelions were blown backwards and disappeared into the white light.

"Stage 7… incomplete." A voice said as the scenery disappeared entirely and was simply replaced with the blank walls of the Simulation Plugs. "Mission parameters failed… simulation terminated… please wait."

–––

Back in the conference room, everyone was still in their plugsuits and looked rather upset. Unlike their usual banter while waiting for Misato and the others to arrive, they sat in silence until Misato, Kaji, and Maya walked through the door.

"Wow, so quiet in here." Misato remarked as she sat down. "So… do you guys feel like talking?"

"We failed, what else is there to talk about?" Mari asked.

"We were unable to complete the mission…" Rei muttered. "If it had been real life, we'd all be in the hospital… or worse…"

"Yeah, can't we just leave?" Asuka asked.

"Major Soryu, that's not how officers act." Misato said. "You have to learn from your mistakes."

"What mistakes did we make?" Kensuke asked.

"It was only one mistake that sank us." Shinji said.

"Shinji…" Hikari muttered.

"Who's mistake?" Maya asked. "Kensuke's?"

"It wasn't Kensuke fault." Shinji said matter–of–factly.

"Then who's was it?" Misato asked.

"Toji fired without authorization." Shinji said. "He not only took out Kensuke, but put himself and Rei at risk and ultimately Kensuke and Rei paid dearly for his mistake."

"Is that your official after action report, Major Ikari?" Kaji asked.

"Yes." Shinji said curtly.

"Do you agree with that assessment Major Soryu?" Kaji asked.

"Asuka…" Hikari murmured.

"Yeah, we were down three Evangelions in stage 7 and we lost without their additional assistance." Asuka replied. "If it wasn't for Toji's mistake, we could have made it to the final stage and probably completed the simulation successfully."

"What are you two blaming me for?!" Toji asked angrily. "I shot the Angel!"

"You shot me too, Toji!" Kensuke snapped. "Did you even look before you fired?! Because what I saw in the replay, you only grazed its shoulder and didn't even hit anything important!"

"I was taking the Angel on!" Toji replied.

"Come on guys, let's talk like adults…" Hikari begged.

"Yes, but you also drew its attention solely on us." Rei said. "If we fired together, we could have at least confused it, if not subdued it without anyone getting injured."

"How was I supposed to know that?!" Toji snapped.

"Because you're supposed to listen to orders!" Mari retorted.

"Guys… just stop…" Hikari pleaded.

"Because you listen to orders!" Toji snapped.

"I do when they involve the life of others!" Mari retorted.

"And she didn't shoot any of her allies!" Asuka shouted back.

"Well, he should have dodged!" Toji shouted.

"I SAID SHUT THE FUCK UP!" Hikari screamed getting everyone to quiet down immediately. "Arguing is getting us nowhere! Toji fucked up, we get it, but shouting at each other won't make things any better!"

"Well said, Hikari." Kaji said. "So… we're going to forego any more of this debriefing… for the very same reason Lieutenant Horaki mentioned so… eloquently." Kaji paused. "As long as the Commander approves of course."

"Wholeheartedly." Misato replied. "So… go home and relax. I'm also spending sync tests for a few weeks so you can all cool off."

"We are?" Maya asked.

"Yes." Misato said. "Save for Asuka and Shinji coming in later this week to go over some of their additional training."

"Understood, ma'am." Asuka said.

"Yes, Commander." Shinji replied.

"Dismissed." Misato ordered as the kids, silently, and without argument, all filed out of the room. Kaji followed them and closed the door behind them as they left.

"Well… that could have gone better…" Kaji said.

"Well, the simulation worked better than expected." Maya said. "And the results proved out your theory, Colonel."

"That they may all be fairly skilled, even the newbies after a month of training and exercises." Kaji said. "But they lack cohesion as a team."

"A blind man could see that, Kaji." Misato said. "But this is serious. We haven't seen any signs of an Angel in some time, but they could attack any day now."

"They were doing so well too…" Maya said sullenly.

"They are still doing well." Misato corrected. "They can all pilot effectively and understand individual tactics… but if we were to send them out a team…?"

"I suspect the result would be something close to what we witnessed in stage 5 and stage 7." Kaji said. "A costly mistake, and a loss of morale."

"Well, let's hope things improve before the next Angel shows up." Misato said. "Otherwise all of humanity is in danger…"


August 4, 2020 – Tokyo–3 Senior High School, Class 3–A

The kids were leaving for the day after another grueling day at school. Toji was missing, as he had been the past three days, as he refused to speak to any other them after being blamed for the simulation training being a failure. Hikari had been unusually morose the past few days as well, and hadn't really talked to anyone outside her usual duties as Class Representative. As Shinji and Asuka packed up their bags and were just about to leave, Hikari walked over to them quietly.

"Hey… Shinji?" Hikari asked quietly. "Can we… talk?"

"Yeah." Shinji said.

"What about?" Asuka asked.

"Toji." Hikari replied. "I'm really worried… he's been gone for three days now. No answer at his apartment, and he's phone's off. He's never been like this before."

"He hasn't talk to you at all?" Shinji asked.

"No." Hikari replied. "I was wondering if you'd heard anything?"

"He's not likely to call me." Shinji replied. "I started this all off, didn't' I?"

"What an asshole…" Asuka muttered.

"Asuka… not helping." Shinji muttered.

"Just pointing out the truth." Asuka said. "He's being an asshole."

"Who's an asshole?" Mari asked as she and Rei walked over.

"Toji." Asuka replied.

"Oh…" Mari said.

"Have you seen him at all?" Hikari asked.

"Well, yeah." Mari said.

"Really?" Hikari replied hopefully. "Where?"

"In a tree out in the courtyard." Mari sad as she pointed her thumb behind her towards the windows. "He's just sulking. Been there all day."

"Seriously?" Hikari asked.

"Yeah." Mari said. "Rei saw him too, right?"

"Yes, he's out there." Rei replied. "Tracksuit and all."

"That… that…" Hikari stammered.

"Asshole?" Asuka offered.

"Dumbass!" Hikari said as she stormed from the room.

"We should probably follow her…" Shinji suggested.

"Hey, where's everyone going?" Kensuke asked as Hikari stormed past him.

"Toji's outside." Mari said simply, and Kensuke followed them out of the classroom.

Hikari ran outside to the courtyard and stopped in the middle of it and took a deep breath. As the other kids came out of building, they saw her cup her hands around her.

"Toji Suzuhara!" Hikari screamed. "Get down here right now! I know you're here! Mari and Rei saw you hiding out in a tree!"

They watched as Toji dropped from a tree near the front door as he called out to Hikari. "I'm over here, babe."

"Don't you "babe" me you fucking dumbass jerk!" Hikari snapped as she stormed over to Toji and slapped across the face. "Don't you EVER disappear on me again! Otherwise I'll dump your ass so fast and find someone else, you won't know what the fuck happened!"

"Hey, that hurt!" Toji shouted.

"Well, so are my feelings, but you don't seem to care about those, do you?!" Hikari shouted. "Three days, Toji?! Three fucking days?! You had me worried sick! I thought you were hurt… or worse! What the fuck were you thinking?!"

"That I was pissed off and didn't want to talk to anybody." Toji replied. "Everyone blamed me for the simulation…"

"Because it was your fault, Toji!" Hikari replied. "But running away doesn't solve anything! Just ask Shinji!"

"Don't drag me into this…" Shinji muttered.

"Hey, you used to run away all the time." Asuka said. "Suck it up."

"Well I really don't want to talk to that two faced jerk anyway!" Toji snapped. "He called me out in front of everyone!"

"Because you fucked up, Toji!" Hikari said. "Just admit it! You shot without looking and took Kensuke out! Say it!"

"And he had no choice!" Kensuke said angrily. "He had to accurately report what happened as our co–unit commander! He couldn't lie to cover your bad judgment… that would make him a bad leader!"

"Oh shut up!" Toji snapped. "I didn't fuck up!"

"Suck it up, you big pussy!" Mari shouted back. "You had that poor, sweet girl worried about you, you don't deserve her if you're gonna pull that shit! And you shouldn't be a pilot either if you can't even own up to a legitimate mistake!"

"No one's perfect!" Toji shouted back.

"We're aware of that, but we can also admit out faults!" Mari shouted back. "I'm a reckless freak who loves blowing shit up for fun! I blew up my last Evangelion because I thought it wouldn't old up to anymore fighting! I have a genius level intellect, but I refuse to think about what I'm about to do before I do it!" Mari paused. "Just fucking admit you fucked up and shot your friend so we can move on from this bullshit!"

"I… I didn't mean to…" Toji muttered. "I just wanted to… be the hero… to prove myself."

"Well, in our line of work, that's liable to get people in some deep shit." Asuka snapped.

"Or worse…" Rei said.

"Worse…?" Toji asked.

"She means dead, jockstrap." Mari said bluntly. "So, do you get it now? Don't fucking shoot without orders… and maybe learn how to fucking aim."

"And own up to your mistakes." Hikari said as she punched his shoulder. "And don't run away again!"

"Fine…" Toji muttered. "But I'm still upset."

"Why?" Kensuke asked. "You didn't get shot."

"Oh… it doesn't matter…" Toji grumbled.

"No, it does matter." Asuka said. "So tell us what's bugging you."

"Well… everyone seems to have forgotten that I almost died in that thing… and you all jumped on me for making a mistake."

"Yeah, and?" Mari asked. "The four of us have almost died a few times. Asuka and Rei actually have."

"Yeah, but I wanted to get it over with." Toji said. "So I was… I was in a rush."

"Finally… he admits some fault." Mari quipped.

"Ok, so you were in a rush." Asuka said. "Maybe you need to talk to someone about what happened that day."

"Maybe this should be a private conversation." Hikari muttered.

"It can't be if his performance is going to affect us all." Asuka said. "If we can't trust him in a simulation, how can we trust him when an actual Angel attacks?"

"I… I don't know…" Hikari said.

"Look, tell Hikari about it." Asuka said. "Get it off your chest, trust me it helps. Then maybe you won't be afraid anymore."

"Yeah… I understand." Toji said.

"So are you done hiding, or would you like to run off again?" Mari asked.

"I'm good now." Toji said.

"Good." Hikari said. "Because I have the printouts of everything you've missed, and you have a lot of work to make up mister!"

"Yeah him and a whole bunch of other people…" Kensuke muttered. "Or have you forgotten a huge chunk of our classmates has been sick?"

"No, I didn't forget." Hikari said. "But they had reasons! Toji was just hiding!"

"How many kids were sick exactly?" Toji asked.

"Oh, about a third of the class has been out since Monday." Hikari said. "Some kind of stomach bug is going around."

"Yeah, so you not being here wasn't really noticed all that much." Mari joked.

"Still, it's not your excuse for being absent!" Hikari said angrily. "So you're not off the hook yet pal!"

"But vacation starts next week!" Toji protested.

"Well, that's your own fault for skipping the beginning of the week!" Hikari snapped back. "Now, no more excuses, you have a lot of work to catch up on!"

–––

Shinji and Asuka were in the Evangelion Cage after having returned from a live fire exercise outside the city. Over the past month, Shinji and Asuka had been directed to practice using their A.T. Fields in the wasteland surrounding Old Tokyo where no one would be at risk form their attempts. They were still dripping wet with LCL, but they were proud of what they had accomplished today. Misato, Kaji, and Maya rushed out to meet them to see how they were doing.

"Well, well, well." Kaji said. "Nicely done you two. Those are the first offensive things you've done with your A.T. Field."

"Under your own control." Maya added. "Unit–01's done far worse while it was berserk."

"True, but now we know you're harnessing your power." Kaji said. "Hopefully we have more time before the next Angel comes, and maybe you'll have better control of it."

"It was only a few energy blasts." Shinji said modestly.

"Weak ones at that." Asuka said humbly. "We still need more practice for something more sustained."

"And capable of actually killing an Angel." Shinji said.

"You guys don't think those blasts would hurt an Angel?" Maya asked.

"Nope." Asuka replied. "They were practice shots, and they were rough."

"How do you know though?" Kaji asked.

"It's because of how we visualized the attack." Asuka replied.

"And how exactly did you accomplish that?" Misato asked irritably.

"Well… the attacks we need to pull off are a little like using ki, right?" Asuka asked.

"Using what?" Maya asked.

"Using ki, from Dragon Ball…" Asuka replied. "We just have to focus it like they do in the show. Concentrate on what we want and focus our power in our hands."

"Asuka, that's an anime." Misato said. "It has no bearing on real life. This is the real world, it won't work."

"Shinji, back me up here." Asuka said. "How did you get the energy to form?"

"I concentrated on making some kind of attack." Shinji said. "And I formed a weak ki blast… isn't that what we talked about the other day?"

"You're both insane…" Misato said.

"No we're not!" Asuka said. "My idea worked, and now we just need to make something useful out of it!"

"Well… the data from today certainly helped things along." Maya said. "Especially for the completion of some new Evangelion Equipment."

"What Evangelion Equipment?" Asuka asked.

"The new Type–I Equipment." Maya said. "The A.T. Field Control Equipment. It's been in development since the last time around, but recent technological developments have helped us put it into limited production for two Evangelions thus far. "

"Can't imagine which two would be being equipped like this…" Asuka muttered.

"Well, the generators and antennas on the armor modules will amplify your attempts to control you're A.T. Field, at least until you can do it yourselves." Maya explained. "But it has some downsides… the armor, like the Type–E Heavy Armament, it adds extra weight to the EVA, about 20% more weight, so your movement will be slowed somewhat. But the projected sheer increase in offensive A.T. Field power outweighs the disadvantages."

"So, this is all untested?" Shinji asked.

"For now." Misato said. "We'll be installing the Type–I Equipment tonight so that its connectivity can be tested, and next week, you'll have it for your next live fire test."

"That's insane." Asuka said.

"That's NERV in a nutshell." Kaji quipped.

"What if an Angel attacks?" Asuka asked. "And that stuff is still on it?"

"Yeah, that's a big issue!" Shinji added. "We can't be slowed down like that when an Angel attacks! We need our mobility!"

"Look, either it gets tested first and put into combat, or put directly into combat." Misato replied. "Either way, you'll end up using it in combat at some point, so there's no use in complaining."

"Just drop the unrealistic way of conjuring your attacks." Maya said. "I don't think it'll really help you all that much."

"No." Asuka replied defiantly. "When we do the tests next week, we'll show you how well it works."


August 8, 2020 – Comfort 17 Apartments

It was very early in the morning, and Shinji rolled over and woke up suddenly. He looked to Asuka's side of the bed and found it empty. It was unusual for Asuka to disappear in the middle of the night. Shinji got up and went to the bedroom door to check if Asuka was in the bathroom, and heard a horrific sound.

HUUUURGGEHH

"What the hell was that?" Shinji wondered aloud.

Shinji walked to the closest bathroom and heard the toilet flush and flung the door open. He saw Asuka hunched over the toilet, vomiting so hard she was crying.

"Asuka!" Shinji shouted. "Are you ok?!"

"Stay… HUUUURGGEHH… away baka…" Asuka muttered weakly as she threw up again mid–sentence. "You can't… HUUUURGGEHH… get sick too… HUUUURGGEHH… call Kaji… HUUUURGGEHH…"

Shinji left the bathroom and looked into the others. Rei and Mari were in the next bathroom over, with Mari vomiting into the tub because Rei was using the toilet. Shinji ran to Misato's bathroom and heard the same thing. Shinji ran back to Asuka.

"I'm calling for help, just hold on." Shinji said frantically.

Shinji ran back to his room and picked up his cell phone and dialed Kaji.

Brrring… brrring… brrring…

"Hey Shinji, what's wrong?" Kaji answered. "Why are you calling so late?"

"Kaji… uh… everyone's sick up here! They're all throwing up!" Shinji replied frantically.

"Who's sick?" Kaji asked.

"Asuka, Mari, Rei, and Misato!" Shinji replied. "They're throwing up a lot!"

"Ok… go to your room and hang tight." Kaji said. "I'll be there in a few minutes."

"What do you mean?" Shinji asked. "Aren't you home?"

"No, I'm at HQ." Kaji replied. "Just sit tight and avoid contact, ok?"

"Ok…" Shinji muttered as he hung up the phone. "I guess I'll just sit and wait…"

–––

After almost an hour of hearing everyone in the apartment puking their guts out, there was a loud commotion out in the kitchen. Shinji got up and walked out and was met with a dozen people in hazmat suits. Kaji had Pen–Pen under his arm, and he himself was also dressed in a hazmat suit.

"Shinji, come with me, you can't stay here right now." Kaji said. "We're heading for my apartment, ok?"

"What about clothes and stuff?" Shinji asked.

"No time." Kaji replied. "Don't argue, just come with me right now, please."

"Right…" Shinji said as Kaji led him out of the apartment and downstairs to the old apartment. "What about them…"

"Shinji, come on!" Kaji urged as he pulled Shinji from the apartment.

Kaji stripped out of the hazmat suit and flopped down on the couch. "Sorry to rush you out of there, kid." Kaji said. "But we have a big problem."

"What's that?" Shinji asked.

"With Misato incapacitated, it leaves me in command." Kaji said.

"Isn't there like a Sub–Commander?" Shinji asked as Pen–Pen waddled over to him.

"No one's been appointed yet, so as the next highest ranking officer, I'm it." Kaji said. "I had to notify the U.N. about Misato's condition… and she's not gonna be too happy about that." Kaji sighed. "And with Asuka, Mari, and Rei out of commission, you're the senior pilot, so if an Angel attacks…"

"It's me with Hikari, Toji, and Kensuke against an Angel." Shinji said as Pen–Pen laid in Shinji's lap and Shinji began stroking his head. "But they're not ready for that yet."

"Yeah, no kidding." Kaji said. "So if you believe in god or whatever… start praying, because if something attacks, you're essentially on your own."

"Wouldn't be the first time." Shinji said. "But who's gonna take care of the four of them? I really should at least check on them…"

"Shinji, I know you care for them all very much, but you staying healthy is the most important thing right now." Kaji said as he noticed Shinji's grimace. "But… if you put on a hazmat suit, you can at go tell them why you can't look after them yourself, ok?"

"Ok." Shinji replied. "Just so they don't think I abandoned them…"

"I doubt they would ever think that, Shinji." Kaji replied. "Now let's go get you suited up, ok?" Kaji smiled. "But Pen–Pen has to stay here…"

Shinji looked down and realized Pen–Pen had fallen asleep in his lap. He gently nudged Pen–Pen until he reluctantly woke up.

"WARK!" Pen–Pen squawked angrily.

"Sorry, I didn't want to stand up with you still on my lap." Shinji replied.

"WARK!" Pen–Pen squawked as he rubbed his belly with one fin.

"I'll get you some jerky when the stores open up." Shinji said. "You can have a whole bag for breakfast."

"Wark, wark!" Pen–Pen squawked in reply as he hopped down and wondered to his old freezer unit.

"Even after all this time, I still can't get used to how intelligent he is…" Kaji muttered. "Anyway, let's get you suited up."

–––

Shinji waited patiently inside the apartment while the medical team finished their examinations of everyone. He sat in the bulky, and frankly uncomfortable hazmat suit he'd been provided with to keep him from getting sick. The suit was muggy from his heavy breathing, even though there was a fan pack meant to keep the suit humidity free, and it was heavy and hard to move around in.

As the medical staff filed out past him, Asuka, Mari, Rei, and Misato moved slowly behind them and collapsed into the chairs, looking gaunt and pale, with Rei somehow managing to look even more pale than usual.

"I assume Kaji's assumed command?" Misato asked.

"Yeah." Shinji replied. "He's also sorry that he had to inform the U.N. about your… condition…"

"Rules are rules I suppose…" Misato mumbled.

"So Shinji, what's with that get up?" Mari asked. "Are you here to make us feel better?"

"I can't… Kaji's orders…" Shinji replied. "He doesn't want me to get sick."

"Why not?" Mari whined. "You're really good at playing doctor!"

"Kaji's just not thinking straight." Asuka said.

"No… Kaji's absolutely right." Misato replied. "We can't afford to get Shinji sick… so we'll just have to manage."

"Why?" Asuka asked. "He's gonna better than some quack doctor…"

"Asuka, he's the only senior pilot available." Misato said. "And I don't think our new pilots are quite ready to potentially face an Angel alone."

"Oh… I didn't think about that…" Asuka muttered.

"Neither did I…" Mari said.

"How could that not cross your mind?" Rei asked as she shook her head. "We've been training so much over the past month."

"Look, that's not the issue." Shinji said. "If the threat of an Angel gets you better soon, I'm all for that." Shinji sighed. "But what's going to happen to you guys?"

"The doctors say we're severely dehydrated and need saline drips." Misato said. "Something about continued vomiting could be a danger to our health. So the medical team will be monitoring us the next few days here at the apartment."

"But don't worry, we're perfectly fine." Asuka said. "Just focus on being a pilot."

"Yeah… we'll be ok with your help I guess…" Mari mumbled.

Rei slowly got up and hugged Shinji weakly. "Be safe, onii–chan." Rei said quietly as she steadied herself and sat back down.

"I will guys…" Shinji said. "But just so you know, I'd rather be here helping you than having to stay away."

"We get it." Asuka said as she got up. "Now, shouldn't you be at school already?"

"No." Shinji replied. "Kaji called me out sick seeing as I was already two hours late, plus it's the last day before vacation, so it really didn't matter…"

"Well… take these then." Asuka handed Shinji the keys to the Ferrari. "Go have fun, and don't worry about us." Asuka kissed the hazmat suit's helmet and hugged Shinji weakly. "And if an Angel does come… please be careful…" Asuka smirked. "I won't be there to pull your ass out of the fire this time around…"

"If anything happens, I promise to be careful." Shinji said.


August 10, 2020 – NERV HQ

The Command Center was unusually quiet. With Misato being sick, there was much less banter for Sumire, Hideki, and Midori to listen to between Misato and Kaji. Kaji was also unusually nervous, and instead of casually leaning against the wall while on duty, he was pacing back and forth over the platform, glancing up at the main holographic display and sighing in relief when nothing was out of the ordinary showed up. Yuki walked in to speak with Kaji, something he had been avoiding all day to deal with the pressing concern of making sure n Angel wasn't going to catch them with their pants down.

"Colonel, if you keep pacing like that, you're going to ruin the floor." Yuki said.

"We have unlimited funding, we can replace it." Kaji joked.

"That's not the point…" Yuki sighed. "I need an update on everyone's condition for my superiors… they're very worried."

"We're all worried." Kaji said. "But I presume they're worried for different reasons."

"Being down three Evangelions is very concerning for all of us." Yuki said.

"We've managed with less before." Kaji said. "There were times we barely had two Evangelions ready to sortie at any given time. We can fight with four Evangelions… that's not the issue."

"Then what is the issue, Colonel?" Yuki asked. "In your view anyway."

"The three pilots that are sick are all veteran pilots." Kaji said. "If we had two veteran pilots, I wouldn't be so worried… but we have Shinji and our three rookies. Their inexperience could mean the difference between success and failure."

"Oh… I thought they'd been trained." Yuki replied.

"Training is one thing, but actual experience is another." Kaji said. "But let's hope it doesn't come to that." Kaji sighed deeply as he looked at the screen once again. "But with Misato being out of commission in addition to them… I'm feeling a little exposed."

"Still, I'm sure Ikari can more than handle himself." Yuki said. "And maybe he won't be alone for much longer."

"Right, their condition…" Kaji replied. "Well, they're still in bad shape. Horrible dehydration, and they can't hold any food down for more than ten minutes without it coming back up."

"So they aren't fit for duty?" Yuki asked.

"They're light years from being able to return to duty." Kaji replied. "That's why I'm so damn worried."

"I'll pass the report along." Yuki said. "Though I won't mention what has you worried."

"I appreciate that." Kaji replied. "But why aren't you telling them?"

"It's not going to improve their view of the current situation. It would probably just make it worse." Yuki replied. "So, it would best if they were left to believe what they wanted."

"Well, I appreciate it." Kaji said. "No need for…"

"Colonel, I'm detecting an anomaly!" Sumire reported.

"What?!" Kaji snapped as he looked at the main screen. "Identify!"

"Pattern Orange, Colonel." Sumire replied. "And it's moving towards us."

"Verify the reading with wave form analysis." Kaji ordered.

"Performing the scan now, sir." Sumire replied.

"That's just a formality isn't it?" Yuki asked. "Don't these Pattern Oranges always turn out to be an Angel?"

"I'm holding out hope that it's a false alarm, or something unrelated to what we should be dealing with." Kaji replied.

"Pattern Blue!" Sumire shouted.

"Confirm that!" Kaji ordered. "I want to make sure it's not a false alarm!"

"Pattern Blue confirmed! Being identified as the Twentieth Angel is approaching the city at low speed!" Sumire reported. "Estimated time to arrival at city's northern boundary is four hours fifty minutes."

"Damn it all to hell!" Kaji snapped. "Well… you can add this to your report, Iwasawa."

"I intent to." Yuki said as she began to leave. "If you'll excuse me…"

"Of course." Kaji replied as Yuki left.

"Colonel, what are your orders?" Sumire asked.

"Midori, issue an evacuation order and begin evacuation procedures, have all vehicles and flights sent east away from the danger." Kaji ordered.

"Right away!" Midori replied.

"Hideki, set Level–2 battle stations, and get the AIS on standby. Have it set to track and target that Pattern Blue." Kaji ordered.

"Aye, sir!" Hideki replied.

"Sumire, I need you to get Shinji and Maya up here, and get some scout planes in the air to observe this one. We need some data to analyze."

"Colonel, what about the other three pilots?" Sumire asked.

"Hold off on calling the rookies in." Kaji said. "We need a better handle on this before we pull them in here."

"Colonel, I don't think Shinji should be sent out there alone." Hideki said. "I wouldn't be very fair."

"I'm aware of that, but let's see what this Angel is before we go all out." Kaji said as he turned to leave. "I don't think Shinji can handle the Angel, and manage the rookies all on his own. We just need a plan…"

"Sir, where are you going?"

"I have to make a call." Kaji said. "Sumire, hold down the fort while I'm gone."

"Yes, sir!" Sumire replied as Kaji left.

–––

Kaji was in Misato's office on the phone with the medical team at the apartment. He wanted an up to date status on everyone at the apartment.

"Doctor?" Kaji asked after being on hold for several minutes. "What's their current condition?"

"I'm sure, they aren't in any condition to fight." The doctor replied. "If that's what calling to find out."

"Damn… it is why I'm calling" Kaji replied. "Are they improving at all at least?"

"Very little." The doctor replied. "They'll still need another day or so to get back on their feet."

"Damn." Kaji repeated. "Can they be moved to NERV HQ's Medical Wing?"

"They can be moved." The doctor replied.

"Good, get them here double time." Kaji ordered.

"Understood, Colonel." The doctor replied.

"Can you put the Commander on, please?" Kaji asked.

"Certainly, just a moment…" The doctor replied as the line went silent for a few moments.

"Hello?" Misato asked.

"Hey beautiful, how are you?" Kaji asked.

"What's wrong?" Misato asked. "You never sound so chipper on the phone."

"Well…" Kaji sighed deeply. "It's an Angel."

"Of course… it would happen when we're short four key people…" Misato muttered angrily.

"I'm having you and the kids moved here as a precaution." Kaji said. "We have almost five hours to prep for this one, the evacuation order should be going out any minute now."

"So, are you calling them in?" Misato asked.

"I'm not sure yet." Kaji said. "I have my doubts, as does Shinji… but I don't think he can do it on his own."

"Don't make me order you, Colonel." Misato said. "Call in all of your available pilots."

"Fine… but the others are only for fire support." Kaji said. "Shinji will have enough to focus on without playing babysitter too."

"Fair enough." Misato replied. "And for the love of everything, be careful."

"We'll be fine, Misato." Kaji replied. "I love you."

"I love you too, Ryoji." Misato replied as she hung up.

Kaji put the receiver down and called down to the Command Center.

"Hello?" Sumire said.

"It's me." Kaji said. "Call in all available pilots."

"Understood, Colonel." Sumire replied. "If I may… what changed your mind?"

"A suggestion from on high." Kaji replied.

"Understood, sir." Sumire said. "Shinji and Maya are waiting here for you."

"Tell them I'll be right down." Kaji said as he hung up the phone.

–––

The hills were silent. As the Angel moved towards Tokyo–3, it made no sound. She glided slowly and silently on her course towards the massive power she could feel emanating from Tokyo–3, her brethren.

She was similar in appearance to her brother, Ramiel, though did not sing or whine as she floated along towards her final destination. The Angel looked like a massive, slightly bluish crystal, some 90 meters tall, floating upright, shaped with 12 faceted sides glistening in the sunlight. At either end of the Angel's upright crystalline structure were two tapered ends that came to sharp points, made up of more faceted crystal–like structure.

As she slowly got closer, the faceted points on either end of her body retracted inside, and a middle ring of faceted crystal separated from the top and bottom of the main body, each holding in its center a blood red Core. The rings began to spin slowly in opposing directions with the Cores suspended eerily inside them

Shateiel was ready.

–––

The four pilots were standing nervously in the Command Center, waiting for Kaji to have a free moment to talk with them. He and Maya were in deep conversation with the bridge crew about a significant change in the current situation, which had all the adults very worried. Kaji and Maya walked over to them with stony grimaces, telling them they would have a tough fight ahead.

"So… the Twentieth Angel." Kaji said. "Look like you'll be going into combat sooner than we'd hoped kids."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Toji asked.

"It means while you're still trained, you're still not entirely prepared for what's about to happen." Kaji replied. "No offence… but I don't want anyone to get hurt unnecessarily."

"Look, if this has to do with the simulation…" Toji began.

"It doesn't." Maya said. "It's just fighting a well programmed computer simulation and the real thing are very different. Your lives are really at stake this time."

"So?" Toji asked.

"And it's against this." Kaji said as he motioned to Hideki. "Put it on screen."

The screen displayed Shateiel floating slowly along the ground.

"That's the Angel?" Kensuke asked. "Seriously?"

"Yeah, that's it." Maya replied. "This is a live feed from a VTOL monitoring the Angel. We're getting some limited data from it that's concerning, but we don't yet know the full extent of its abilities until we enter combat with it."

"It's just a floating crystal!" Toji snapped. "We should be able to handle it!"

"Doubtful." Kaji said. "Unless you can move your EVA effectively through gravity 1.5 times stronger than normal."

"What?" Hikari asked.

"See that rotating thing on top?" Maya asked. "There's a second one underneath rotating on the opposite direction. Their counter–rotating around the Cores is affecting the gravity in an 800 meter radius around it, making the field stronger than normal. We don't know if it can increase the gravity more, but because it's using an A.T. Field to do this, none of you three have one strong enough."

"So?" Hikari asked. "Can't we still fight it?"

"Not within 800 meters." Kaji said. "You three will be supporting Shinji while he goes head–to–head with the Angel."

"Seriously?" Toji said. "All that training and we're only second string?"

"Unless you want your bones crushed." Kaji quipped. "Now Shinji, you're uncharacteristically quiet there."

"Is the Type–I equipment still attached?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah." Maya replied. "With the Angel's A.T. Field, I thought you may need all the help you could get."

"Yeah, but won't the extra weight cause a problem with… this?" Shinji asked as he gestured to Shateiel on the screen. "The gravity… thing?"

"Your A.T. Field will be more than enough to compensate for the effects." Maya said. "Though movement may become difficult if the gravity increases to any great magnitude…"

"What about us?" Hikari asked. "How can we be of any help when were 800 meters away?"

"Well, that's easy, you'll also be getting some heavy weapons of your own." Kaji said. "Maya's better acquainted with the weapons systems, so she can explain."

"So, while Shinji and Unit–01 will be utilizing the Type–I Offensive A.T. Field Control Equipment, the rest of you will be using something as well." Maya explained. "Hikari, you and Unit–06 will using the Type–G Precision Targeting Equipment paired with our old Positron Rifle from 2,500 meters away from the interception site, from the west so the sun will be behind you."

"What about us?" Kensuke asked.

"As for you two, you'll both be getting a variation of the Type–E/2 Heavy Armament Equipment. Like Shinji's additional armor, movement will be slowed somewhat with the extra weight, but its more than manageable." Maya continued. "Kensuke, Unit–04 will be using the Type–E/2A which has a pair of large caliber Quad–Barrel Rail Guns loaded with special exploding Anti A.T. Field rounds, with some fifty Anti A.T. Field missiles. As for Toji, you and Unit–03 will be using the Type–E/2B which uses a pair of specially designed combo positron/beam rifles. The beam is surrounded by the positron stream, adding extra penetrating power to the weapons. It also has the same fifty Anti A.T. Field missiles as a secondary armament."

"So, what's the whole plan?" Shinji asked.

"The interception zone is located ten kilometers from the city's northern boundary." Kaji said. "There, Shinji will confront the Angel head on with Unit–01. Hikari and Unit–06 will be stationed approximately 2,500 meters to the west of the Angel for long distance precision fire support as Maya mentioned. Toji, you and Unit–03 will be stationed 1,250 meters northwest of the Angel with a clear line of fire. Kensuke, you'll be stationed to the northeast at a similar distance with the same clear line of fire."

"So, what are we looking at for offensive abilities?" Shinji asked. "Is it going to be like Ramiel?"

"Ah, you noticed it too." Kaji said. "The similarities."

"Yeah, it's creepy." Shinji said. "But two Cores is a problem, isn't it? Won't it regenerate like Israfel did?"

"We have no idea if the Cores are linked or not." Maya replied. "And so far the only data we have is that it can manipulate gravity with its A.T. Field."

"Is the gravity anything like Leliel's?" Shinji asked.

"No." Maya replied. "There is no Sea of Dirac waiting for you. It's just a plain gravity field, so it's slightly less worrisome."

"So, we have three hours before you launch." Kaji said. "Maya, how long until the other equipment is installed and tested?"

"Less than two hours." Maya said. "Then we'll be clear for launch."

"Alright, so go get ready and relax for a it, and be ready in ninety minutes, understood?" Kaji asked.

"Yes, sir." Shinji replied.

"Good." Kaji said with a smirk. "Dismissed."

–––

In the locker guys' locker room, things were quiet. Shinji was used to the stress before battle, and had an idea of what to expect, while Toji and Kensuke didn't necessarily know what was coming. As Shinji got his plugsuit on for what seemed like the millionth time, he felt a tap on his shoulder.

"Hey… Shinji?" Kensuke asked. "Is it really as bad as they said it is?"

"Probably not." Shinji said reassuringly. "Misato always says to plan for the worst and hope for the best, so they're just trying to keep us from being reckless."

"But it's a crystal!" Toji said. "It can't be that dangerous…"

"If I remember correctly, you two almost died from a floating vagina with tentacles for arms." Shinji quipped. "Or did you forget?"

"No… but I wouldn't call it a vagina, more like a dick." Kensuke replied.

"Well whatever it was, it didn't look that dangerous either." Shinji said. "None of them look dangerous, but they are. Just don't forget that." Shinji sighed. "And whatever you do, don't get too confident… it tends to lead to disaster."

"Personal experience?" Toji asked.

"More than one." Shinji replied.

"So, are you ok being the only one going against it?" Kensuke asked.

"It's not about me going up against it." Shinji replied. "We're not supposed to be taking any unnecessary risks, so you guys being farther away is going to keep you safe."

"Well, what about you?" Toji asked. "Who's keeping you safe?"

"You guys." Shinji said. "If I need out, you guys open up and put it down."

"That's it?" Toji asked.

"Well, it's not as easy as it sounds." Shinji said. "Nothing in this job is."

–––

Kaji was standing nervously behind the bridge crew in the Command Center. He was stating at a feed in the Cage as Unit–01, Unit–03, Unit–04, and Unit–06 were moved into their launch positions. Yuki was standing awkwardly behind him, unsure of what to do or even what to say.

"Colonel, do you mind if I stay here to observe the battle?" Yuki asked.

"As long as you don't try to order me around, I don't mind." Kaji replied. "Just observe and relax, everything will be dealt with shortly."

"Understood, Colonel." Yuki replied. "And thank you."

"No problem." Kaji replied. "Ok, let's get down to business… final checks." Kaji said. "Midori, evacuation status?"

"Block captains and military personnel report all civilians have been moved from the city or are in emergency shelters, Colonel." Midori replied.

"Excellent." Kaji said. "Hideki, city status?"

"Level–1 battle stations have been declared and the city is in combat mode." Hideki replied. "The AIS is online, all weapons are tracking the Angel, and will engage immediately if it comes into range."

"Great work." Kaji said. "Sumire, the status of the intercept zone?"

"The Positron Rifle is in position awaiting Unit–06's arrival." Sumire replied. "Markers have been placed to mark the position for Unit–03 and Unit–04."

"Well, this is looking up." Kaji joked. "Maya, Evangelion status?"

"Unit–03, Unit–04, and Unit–06 are all equipped for ranged combat." Maya replied. "And Unit–01's new armor is as ready as we can get it."

"Awesome!" Kaji exclaimed.

"So, is that it?" Yuki asked. "Just some final checks?"

"Unless one of us is suiting up to go out there, yeah, this is all we can do." Maya replied. "This is really as normal as these encounters get."

"Really?" Yuki asked.

"Yeah, really." Kaji replied. "I need an update on the Angel's position, Hideki."

"The Angel is still heading towards us at constant speed." Hideki reported. "It will be in the intercept zone in thirty–five minutes."

"So, are you sure no one of the other pilots…?" Yuki began.

"Yes, I've checked twice since they were brought in." Kaji said. "So, we just have to trust these guys to do their level best."

"If you say so." Yuki said.

"As the acting Commander, yes, I do say so with the support of our actual Commander." Kaji replied. "Launch status, Sumire?"

"Launch pads locked in place… all four Evangelions are running on external power… closest intercept point has been selected… launch paths are clear and open… all systems online… verified all systems online… board is green." Sumire reported. "Evangelion Unit–01, Unit–03, Unit–04, and Unit–06 are all cleared for launch at your discretion, Colonel."

"Great!" Kaji said proudly. "Sounds like we can take off now. Kids… gonna need to know your launch status."

"Ready to go." Shinji said.

"Let's do this!" Hikari replied.

"Yeah, let's go kick that Angel's ass!" Kensuke replied excitedly.

"Whenever you're ready…" Toji muttered.

"Good… really good…" Kaji said. "Good luck kids, and be careful. Shinji, remember, if things go south, fall back and regroup."

"Understood." Shinji replied.

"Alright, let's light this candle… LAUNCH!" Kaji ordered as the four Evangelions were shot up towards the surface.

–––

As the Evangelions reached the surface, they were released from the launch platforms and began to move individually to their designated positions. Kensuke was excited, though after talking with Shinji in the locker room also a bit nervous, but that still couldn't stamp out his overall excitement.

"Weapons safeties are engaged, and location marker set… navigation package loaded." Kensuke muttered excitedly. "Damn, this is gonna be fun!"

As Kensuke began to move towards his designated firing zone, some ten kilometers away, he found his Evangelion a bit harder to move than he imagined.

"Uh… Shinji?" Kensuke asked. "Is it supposed to move this slowly? It moved so much faster in the simulations."

"That'll probably be the extra weight, Kensuke." Shinji replied. "Right, Maya?"

"That's correct." Maya said. "You'll just have to concentrate harder on moving, like you're carrying a hiking backpack or something like that."

"This is one hell of a hiking backpack." Toji quipped. "One that could probably level a whole city."

"An Evangelion on its own could level a city." Maya replied. "However, instead of focusing on the destructive power, why not focus on the task at hand?"

"Right, sorry." Kensuke replied. "So, how long will it take us to get to our positions?"

"About thirty minutes." Kaji said. "Just stay off the beaten path and you encounter the Angel. And again, please be careful."

"Roger that." Kensuke said as he continued slowly on his way.

–––

Asuka was sitting impatiently in her hospital room. After being dragged from the apartment and settled into a room with other three, Asuka just couldn't get comfortable. Knowing that Shinji and the others were out facing the Angel, while her Unit–02 was stationed not that far from here, she was unable to do anything, which pissed her off.

"What the fuck is the point of being here?" Asuka asked. "We can't do anything to help, so why torture us like this?!"

"Because we're still sick." Rei said.

"And because the Angel wouldn't be that far from the apartment." Misato said. "Kaji thought it best to move us here."

"Why, I'd rather watch them kick this thing's ass!" Mari said. "Better than sitting here on our asses with nothing to do other than waiting to be rehydrated like space food."

"Look you three, while exceptional pilots would be more of a hindrance than the rookies in your current condition." Misato said bluntly. "I'm sorry you're upset, but that's just the way it is."

"But I hate not being able to help, or at least see how he's doing!" Asuka protested.

"Asuka, we can't afford to get everyone sick in the Command Center just so you can watch your boyfriend fight from the sidelines!" Misato quipped.

"If I had my way I'd be out there with him!" Asuka snapped as she stood up quickly. "I'm tired of sitting around… WAHHHHHHH!" Asuka lost her balance and fell back into the chair she'd risen out, slamming her elbow into the chair's metal arm.

"In that condition, I doubt you'd be of much help to onii–chan." Rei said. "The best we can hope for is that they finish this quickly."

"Yeah, whatever…" Asuka grumbled as she rubbed her elbow. "I just hope that idiot's being careful…"

–––

A short time later, Shinji was waiting patiently for Shateiel to arrive. He stood in full view right in Shateiel's path, ready to engage the Angel when she arrived. Shinji was waiting until the last possible moment to deploy his A.T. Field and hopefully catch Shateiel by surprise and take her out in a single attack.

"Ok… I can see the Angel." Shinji reported. "It's big and shiny."

"Just stay calm." Kaji said reassuringly. "And remember the plan."

"Shinji, the Angel's gravity field will be on top of you in forty–five seconds." Maya replied. "Brace yourself."

"Roger." Shinji replied as he saw some of the trees in the distance lose their usual shape, and begin to sag under the additional weight enforced by Shateiel's gravity field. As the field made contact with Unit–01, Shinji felt the change as his body began to shake under the strain. He could hear the armor creaking as Unit–01 shrunk under the additional pressure.

"The Angel's not reacting…" Maya said. "Shinji, deploy you're A.T. Field!"

"Here goes nothing… just gotta focus…" Shinji muttered. "A.T. Field to maximum!"

Unit–01 erupted in a fluttering blue aura. Its eyes glowed purple as it stared down Shateiel. Shinji felt the effects of the gravity fade away as his A.T. Field began to repel it.

"It seems to be working, Shinji." Maya said. "Unit–01 isn't straining to stand up anymore."

"Shinji, give that thing everything you've got!" Kaji said.

"Right!" Shinji replied. "Here I go!"

Unit–01 turned to the side and raised its arm straight out. It held its hand flat as a shimmering ball of energy charged on the palm. As the ball was charging, a large circle of light emanated from Shateiel's lower Core and Unit–01 was sent flying backwards, the small ball of energy flying off into the distance and exploding in a giant fireball.

"WAHHHHHHH!" Shinji screamed as Unit–01 slammed into the ground and its blue aura disappeared.

"SHINJI!" Kensuke shouted.

"Shinji!" Kaji shouted. "Are you ok?!"

"Shinji, please respond!" Hikari called out.

"I'm… I' ok." Shinji muttered. "What the fuck was that? I didn't see or hear anything…"

"We're looking into that now, Shinji." Kaji said. "But you need to get up before the Angel's gravity field is on top of you."

"I… I know…" Shinji stammered as Unit–01 struggled to its feet.

As Unit–01 staggered back into a standing position, its blue aura reappeared, not as brilliant as before, but still no less impressive. As Shateiel's gravity field washed over him again, Shinji and Unit–01 were almost forced to the ground by the unexpected power.

"What… what is this?!" Shinji shouted. "I can barely stand up!"

"The gravity's increased to twice that of normal!" Maya said worriedly. "Shinji, can you extend your A.T. Field anymore?"

"I'll try!" Shinji replied.

Unit–01's weak blue aura flickered brightly several time, but did not stay that way. It weakened further as Unit–01 was pushed further towards the ground.

"Uh… should we distract it?" Toji asked.

"Now, it may increase the gravity if we do that." Kaji said. "Everyone just hold your positions and do not fire!"

"Understood." Toji said.

"Come on, concentrate…" Shinji muttered. "Everyone's counting on me… " Shinji sighed. "What would Asuka say to all this… she'd probably call me an idiot for not concentrating… and I wouldn't want to disappoint her!"

Unit–01's weak blue aura burst back to life, illuminating the ground around it in a soft blue glow. Unit–01 rose to full height and faced Shateiel once again. "Let's try this again!" Shinji shouted confidently.

Unit–01 overlapped its hands in front of it forehead horn and charged an energy attack. As the ball filled out the Evangelion's palms, Unit–01 quickly and fully stretched out its arms in front of itself and fired the attack. It impacted and ripped through Shateiel's A.T. Field, but lost all it strength and fizzled out before it could do Shateiel any damage.

"But… it broke through…" Shinji said as the two crystalline rings began to rotate faster. "Why didn't it… WAHHHHHHH!"

–––

Shinji's scream echoed through the Command Center while everyone watched helpless to respond to his cries for help.

"Maya, what's going on?!" Kaji asked as Shinji continued to scream in the background.

"The gravity field increased to 5.5 time's normal gravity after Shinji's attack." Maya replied frantically. "I think the Angel's retaliating."

"Shinji, increase you're A.T. Field!" Kaji ordered.

"Kaji, it's already at the maximum!" Maya said. "It can't go any higher!"

"Is there anything we can do?" Kaji asked. "Anything to help him?!"

"I… maybe… the Type–I Equipment." Maya said. "I can set the amplifiers to 15% and see if we can counteract the gravity field, or at least mitigate the effects somewhat…"

"Do it." Kaji said as Shinji continued screamed in pain.

"Working on it…" Maya said worriedly. "Come on… please work…"

"I'm sure it'll work, ma'am." Sumire said.

"It has to." Maya replied. "Otherwise…"

"Don't think about it." Kaji said. "Shinji's been in worse situations… he'll pull though."

"Online!" Maya said as Shinji's screaming began to subside. "Shinji, can you move?"

"A little." Shinji replied. "It's hard to stand up… I feel really heavy… or Unit–01 does… and… I can only take little steps."

"Good work, Maya." Kaji said.

"Well… it's not a permanent solution." Maya said as she switched off the comm.

"Why not?" Kaji asked.

"The gravity is continuing to increase." Maya replied. "Unless we defeat the Angel, even with the amplifiers set to 100%, Shinji and Unit–01 will be crushed like soda can."

"Can we overload the amplifiers?" Kaji asked.

"Yes, but only temporarily." Maya said. "It'll give him only an additional few minutes at most… but still, there's maybe an hour or two before…"

"Then we'll just have to kill it quickly." Kaji said as he switched the comm back on. "Alright, Shinji. I need you to get closer to the Angel. Can you do that?"

"Why do I need to get closer?" Shinji asked.

"Your last attack lost power after hitting the A.T. Field, and we're on a time limit." Kaji said. "Point blank is the way to go, unfortunately."

"Understood." Shinji replied.

"But if you think of something better, let me know." Kaji said.

"Can't we all just attack it together?" Shinji asked. "I mean… they're heavily armed."

"No harm in trying…" Kaji said. "Do it."

–––

Toji was sitting anxiously in his Entry Plug and was relieved that Shinji's screaming had stopped. Though Shinji said he was now standing, he could not make out Unit–01 because his view of the purple Evangelion was obstructed by the Angel.

"Guys, are you still there?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah, just waiting for you to tell us what to do." Toji said.

"And we're hoping you're ok…" Hikari interrupted.

"Yeah, I'm fine." Shinji said. "But we don't have a lot of time to defeat this Angel, so we need to attack it together."

"Why?" Hikari asked.

"The gravity field is getting stronger." Shinji responded. "It's at 5.5 times Earth's gravity already, and from what they told me, it's still increasing."

"That's awful…" Hikari muttered.

"Yeah, that doesn't leave you a lot of room to escape…" Kensuke quipped.

"What's the plan then?" Toji asked.

"You and Kensuke are going to give the Angel everything you've got." Shinji said. "Hikari, you're going to shoot at the Core on top and try to destroy it."

"What are you gonna do?" Kensuke asked.

"Charge another attack and hope it works." Shinji replied.

"Seriously?" Hikari asked. "After what happened last time?"

"There isn't any other choice." Shinji said. "We don't have a lot of time, so get ready."

"So, just shoot it?" Toji asked.

"With everything you've got." Shinji replied. "And Kaji approved the plan as well."

"Ok then…" Toji replied. "Arming weapons."

Unit–04 stood tall and braced itself for the weapons activation. It raised the positron/beam rifles and activated the targeting equipment while the missile hatches scattered about the heavily armored exterior opened up.

"Sending targeting data… adjusting for fluctuations in local gravimetric constant… multi–lock on targeting viable… co–opting with Unit–03 for target selection… all missiles locked on target." Sumire said. "Remove safeties and prepare to fire."

"Alright, I'm ready." Toji said.

"So am I." Kensuke added.

"I have a clear shot of the upper Core." Hikari replied.

"Hikari, as soon as the A.T. Field drops, take your shot on the upper Core and try for the lower Core." Shinji said. "Right, Kaji?"

"You got it, kid." Kaji replied.

"Got it!" Hikari replied.

"Ok then, Toji, Kensuke, fire at will!" Shinji ordered.

"Take this!" Toji shouted as he pulled the trigger and his positron/beam rifles fired massive streams of energy directly at Shateiel and their missiles streaked off to their designated targets.

The positron/beam shots and railgun shells hit first, ripping through Shateiel's protective A.T. Field. As the missiles came close, Hikari fired her Positron Rifle and hit Shateiel's upper Core, damaging it. The missiles impacted, shattering and splintering Shateiel's crystalline body, sending shards in all directions

"Awesome!" Kensuke shouted as Toji turned and saw the flashes of railgun tracer rounds fly towards and slam into Shateiel's body.

"Keep firing!" Shinji ordered.

"Right!" Toji replied as he continued to send beam after beam at Shateiel's body. The continued barrage of weapons fire began chipping away at Shateiel's exterior, pot marking it, and taking away tis distinctive sheen.

"I don't have a clear shot on the lower Core!" Hikari said. "The computer can't calculate a firing solution!"

"Then this'll have to do!" Shinji shouted as several dozen bright yellow orbs of light appeared around Shateiel. "TAKE THIS!" Toji watched as all the orbs flew at Shateiel and exploded on contact, creating a bright yellow lash that blinded him. As the dust cleared, Toji's face fell as he saw Shateiel still floating there, and now appearing unharmed.

"What the fuck?!" Toji shouted. "How is it healed?!"

"The second Core!" Shinji shouted. "Kensuke… Toji… retreat!"

"We're not leaving you!" Toji shouted back.

"Yes you… WAHHHHHHH!" Shinji screamed.

"Shinji?" Toji asked worriedly.

"I said, go!" Shinji shouted back.

"You heard him, cease fire and fall back!" Kaji shouted. "Unit–03, Unit–04, that means you!"

"But…" Toji protested.

"Now!" Kaji ordered.

–––

Kaji stared in disbelief at the main monitor, which was displaying the gravimetric effects of Shateiel's gravity field, which was expanding after the recent attack.

"Well… that worked well…" Kaji muttered.

"Amplifiers are at 40% and holding." Maya said. "This level should work for now."

"So we have 60% of those amplifiers to play with, is that it?" Kaji asked.

"The long and the short of it, yes." Maya said.

"And what's the current situation?" Kaji asked.

"Gravity has increased to 20 times normal levels and still rising." Maya replied. "And the field has expanded by 200 meters in all directions… encompassing a 1,000 meter radius."

"Great… now we have more problems to deal with…" Kaji said angrily. "Can this day get any worse."

"The field is continuing to expand, slowly, but it will double from its current size in less than two hours." Maya replied.

"Great…" Kaji muttered. "Do we know how long Shinji can survive under that strain?"

"None." Maya replied. "I can't even give you an estimate…"

"Contact the Medical Wing and ask them for an opinion on what happens with that much gravity on the human body." Kaji ordered.

"It'll only be theoretical…" Maya replied. "It's not like any human has ever been exposed to this kind of force before…"

"Doesn't matter." Kaji said. "We need a dead stop time limit on when to order an N2 strike to pull him out of there."

"Do you want him to reverse course and leave?" Maya asked.

"No… I'm just not sure what to do." Kaji said. "If the gravity field is expanding and getting stronger, his best bet is to try and get closer and destroy the Angel up close."

"Well, there is a dead zone close to the where the Angel is." Maya said. "It would be safer there, but it would also put him extremely close to the Angel."

"Well, at least he won't be turned into a pancake." Kaji quipped. "Sumire, have Toji and Kensuke move towards Hikari's firing position and reinforce her. Make sure the gravity field is clearly marked for them to avoid."

"But they won't be able to assist Shinji from that position." Sumire replied.

"It wouldn't do any good." Kaji said. "All the attacks have only caused the gravity to increase. Unless we can strike it down in one hit, it won't do any good."

"Understood." Sumire replied.

"I'll keep adjusting the amplifiers to keep Shinji out of any immediate danger." Maya replied. "Though I don't know how long I can keep up the adjustments."

"Just keep it up as long as you can." Kaji said. "Now all we need to hope for is a miracle."

–––

Asuka and the others were sitting quietly in the Medical Wing. While they were trying to watch TV, alarms kept going off out in the hallway and there was a lot more talking than Asuka remembered. Unsure of what was going on, Asuka grabbed her I.V. stand to help herself up and walked to the door and listened.

"Asuka, sit down before you hurt yourself again." Misato said.

"Can you shut up, I'm trying to listen!" Asuka hissed.

"Fine… whatever…" Misato replied. "Not like you can do anything about it, anyway…"

"Gravimetric effects on a human body…" Asuka muttered. "Why would they be talking about that…?"

"Princess, stop worrying so much!" Mari said. "I'm sure puppy has everything under control."

"But they're talking about someone's body being subjected to intense gravimetric forces!" Asuka snapped. "Out of the four of them, who do you think is most likely to be the one trapped like that?! And you want me to not worry?! Are you retarded?!"

"Asuka, will you calm down?" Rei asked. "Onii–chan is fine."

"No he's not!" Asuka said. "I've got a really bad feeling about this, but none of you are paying attention!"

"He's a trained pilot, he'll be fine." Misato said.

"Are none of you listening to me?!" Asuka shouted. "He's in trouble, I can feel it! It wouldn't be the first time he's gotten stuck in something he can't get out of!"

"Asuka, there's nothing to worry about." Misato said calmly. "Now sit down and relax…"

"NO!" Asuka screamed. "Call Kaji and ask him what's going on and prove me wrong!"

"Asuka, he's in the middle of a fight, we can't…" Misato began.

"Fine, if none of you are going to bother to find out what's going on." Asuka shouted as she ripped her I.V. out of her arm. "I'll go deal with it myself!" Asuka flung the door open and was met with two guards.

"Miss please get back inside for your own safety." One of the guards said. "You're not well."

Asuka glared at the guards in front of her as they repeated their order.

"Miss, you're ill…" The other guard began.

HUUUURGGEHH

Asuka retched all over one of the guards. She had worked herself up so much she'd made herself very queasy, and let loose on the guard again. He staggered backward in shock and couldn't do anything more than stare blankly back at Asuka. The other guard ran to get help and Asuka took her chance and jabbed her I.V. stand into the stunned guard's gut, taking him down.

"Disgusting…" Asuka muttered as she stepped over the downed guard and shook her head. "But… they moved…" Asuka said.

"Asuka, get back here!" Misato called from the doorway as Asuka jogged off unsteadily.

"Fuck that!" Asuka shouted back. "If Shinji's in trouble, I'm helping him out!"

–––

Shinji was gritting his teeth in pain as he stood surrounded by the immense gravitational forces being given off by Shateiel. Unit–01, even with the amplifiers on, was still having some trouble staying upright, and was moving forward at a snail's pace. Shinji was even having trouble breathing as the LCL was being partially compressed by the gravity.

"How're doing, kid?" Kaji asked.

"Been better…" Shinji muttered. "Having trouble… breathing…"

"LCL pressure is up 12%." Maya said. "It would be a little more difficult than usual."

"Is there… a new… plan?" Shinji asked.

"Not yet." Kaji said. "We just need you to hold on."

"I'm not… sure…" Shinji began as he looked towards Shateiel. "Wait… it's… attacking!"

A large circle of light emanated from Shateiel's lower Core and Unit–01 braced itself as a wave of energy passed it by. Shinji felt the Evangelion rattle and the armor creak as the wave of seismic energy passed over him.

"You ok?" Kaji asked.

"It passed… right by." Shinji replied. "No… damage…"

"Ok, we'll come up with something." Kaji said. "Just keep trying to move towards the Angel."

"Please hurry…" Shinji replied as another attack was deflected by Unit–01's A.T. Field. "I keep… feeling… heavier…" Shinji breathed heavily. "I'm starting… to lose… feeling… and my body… hurts…"

–––

Asuka had made it all the way to the elevators before anyone caught up to her. With her back cornered against the elevator bank, Asuka frantically hit the elevator call button and did the only thing she'd knew would work at keeping them at bay and buy her some much needed time.

HUUUURGGEHH

Asuka vomited all over the floor in front of her and wiped her mouth defiantly.

"Anyone gets any closer, and you'll get that all over you!" Asuka shouted. "And I promise you'll regret it because this stomach bug sucks major ass!"

As the gathered nurses and security staff stepped back the elevator dinged behind her and Asuka stepped inside and slammed the "close button" until the doors sealed in front of her. A few moments later, Asuka found herself near the Cage and rushed towards it. She went inside and saw Unit–02, still equipped with the Type–I Equipment stowed in front of her. Her Entry Plug was stored next to the Evangelion, and Asuka rushed over to it.

"Good… the stuff is still attached." Asuka said. "This should be easy…" Asuka limped over to the crane and looked at the controls. "How the hell do I operate this damn thing?" Asuka looked over and saw the Entry Plug was still attached to the crane. "Ok… so I need to be in it… but I have to put it in…"

"Just go get into the Entry Plug." Misato said, appearing behind Asuka and startling her.

"Wha…?" Asuka replied. "Where the hell did you…?"

"Look, you were right." Misato said. "The doctors gave me the details of what's going on, and Shinji needs help… and seeing as you're on your feet, you're going to help him."

"So, what… you're operating the crane?" Asuka asked.

"Well, how else do you think you're going to get in?" Misato asked.

"So how bad is it?" Asuka asked.

"Long story short… The Angel putting out a gravity field that's crushing him." Misato replied. "So… no time to waste."

"Great… he always gets caught up in the most ridiculous position…" Asuka muttered as she climbed into the Entry Plug. "And Misato… thanks."

–––

Back in the Command Center, while monitoring Shinji's slow progress towards Shateiel, Midori got a message from the Cage.

"Uh… Colonel…?" Midori said worriedly.

"Yes?" Kaji replied a she kept his gaze fixed on Unit–01's progress.

"Unit–02 is online." Midori said. "And it's being moved into launch position…"

"Colonel, I don't recall you authorizing a launch…" Yuki said.

"I'm very aware of that, thank you." Kaji replied.

"Sir, Unit–02 is in launch position." Sumire reported.

"Yes, but who sent it there?" Kaji asked.

"I did, Colonel." Misato said over an open channel.

"Misa… Commander, shouldn't you be resting?" Kaji asked.

"No, things were looking dire, so we're releasing Plan B." Misato replied.

"Plan B…?" Kaji muttered.

"Asuka broke out of the Medical Wing, so I followed her." Misato chuckled. "She puked on a guard and threatened to repeat the process again if anyone tried to stop her."

"Gross…" Hideki muttered.

"Seriously?" Maya asked.

"That… sounds like her…" Kaji replied cautiously. "Is Asuka aware…?"

"Yes, Kaji, I'm aware of the pile of shit that baka of mine has gotten himself into." Asuka replied. "So clear me for launch already, cause there isn't time to tell me no!"

"Asuka, you're not well…" Kaji said. "This could…"

"I don't care." Asuka replied. "He wouldn't let a stomach bug stop him from coming to save me… he ripped free of wall restraints once to come out and save me from my own stupidity…"

"Asuka, you could die!" Maya said. "Please, rethink this!"

"If I die in the attempt, so be it." Asuka replied. "But I ain't going down without a fight!"

"Asuka…" Maya began.

"Don't bother." Kaji interrupted. "Her mind is made up, and she's not changing it. Just get amplifiers set up." Kaji sighed. "Sumire, clear a launch path and get her as close as possible."

"Right." Maya replied.

"Understood, Colonel." Sumire replied.

"Asuka… good luck, and stay safe." Kaji said reassuringly.

"Don't worry about me, I'll be fine." Asuka replied. "I have a half–cocked plan and everything."

"You wouldn't be an Evangelion pilot without one of those!" Kaji quipped.

"Path is clear and locked in, Colonel." Sumire reported. "Awaiting your order."

"Ready to go, kid?" Kaji asked.

"Do you think I'm here for my health?!" Asuka snapped.

"Yeah… stupid question…" Kaji replied. "Give 'em hell, Asuka… Evangelion Unit–02… LAUNCH!"

–––

As Unit–02 slammed to a stop on the surface and was released from the launch elevator, Asuka could see Shateiel in the distance. She could see Unit–01's figure silhouetted in front of the Angel, and it appeared to be stationary. Its A.T. Field was still going strong, but it was flickering a bit, showing Shinji's fatigue.

"Well fuck…" Asuka muttered exasperatedly. "Shinji… you are a literal magnet for trouble…" Asuka sighed. "Maya… how is Shinji?"

"He's vitals are starting to creep dangerously high." Maya replied. "And his A.T. Field is fluctuating just a bit."

"What's the gravity?" Asuka asked.

"50 times the norm, and the amplifiers are at 85% trying to compensate." Maya replied. "But I'm honestly surprised he's still able to stand."

"He's not gonna quit." Asuka said. "Cause he's not allowed to die without my permission."

"Asuka, that's not…" Kaji began.

"It's because he knows better than to upset me." Asuka replied. "He hates seeing me upset."

"Asuka… you are too much."

"Shinji doesn't seem to think so." Asuka quipped. "Anyway, I have a baka to save." Asuka closed the channel and saw a notification pop up on her display and clicked to open it. "Hello? I'm kinda busy trying to save a baka."

"Asuka, what are you doing here?" Hikari asked. "You're sick."

"Well, Shinji's in trouble again, and I'm not that sick… so I'm here to save his cute little ass." Asuka joked. "So uh… can we chat later?"

"Sure, Asuka." Hikari said. "Do you need any cover fire?"

"No, just stay alert and away from the gravity field." Asuka replied. "I don't want you guys getting hurt."

"Copy that." Hikari replied.

"Ok…" Asuka said as she closed the channel. "Those amplifiers are online… and now it's time to get this show on the road… A.T. Field to maximum!"

Unit–02 erupted with a massive blue aura, casting bright blue glow on all directions. The ground shook as Asuka coughed in pain. "Ugh… all this power… not used to it…" Asuka muttered. "Just need to focus." The aura stabilized and flowed gently around Unit–02's exterior.

"Ok…" Asuka said as Unit–02 began floating. "Huh… that's new…" Asuka smirked. "Well, this'll make moving a lot easier…" Asuka leaned forward and Unit–02 took off towards Unit–01. "Here comes the pain, you stupid fucking Angel."

–––

Shinji was still straining against Shateiel's gravity. As he was still trying to move forward he caught a red flash in the corner of his eye and looked over to see, much to his surprise, Unit–02 standing next to him.

"What…?" Shinji said as he blinked several times. "The gravity must be getting to me… I'm hallucinating…"

"Bullshit, baka!" Asuka snapped. "You can't tell when your wonderful and beautiful girlfriend comes to pull your cute ass out of the fire?!"

"But… are you ok?" Shinji asked. "Last I knew you were…"

"I know what I was doing, baka, we don't need to discuss it!" Asuka snapped. "And I'm the one who be asking if you're ok, cause you're real close to becoming a pancake!"

"Well, so are you." Shinji said. "Unless you have a plan."

"Of course I do." Asuka replied. "What do you think, I'm stupid or something?" Asuka laughed. "The tag team attack we talked about the other night… you aim high, I aim low."

"Are you sure?" Shinji asked. "I tried, but I couldn't make the attacks work."

"We're hitting both Cores together." Asuka said. "Don't think about it, just go on instinct like we always do… ok?"

"Fine…" Shinji said. "I think I can still do this…"

"Full power… don't hold back, baka!" Asuka shouted.

"I know!" Shinji replied.

Both Unit–01 and Unit–02's auras exploded with a power and intensity similar to an untamed flame. The ground around them turned blue and their energy forced Shateiel to move backwards several meters in surprise. Shateiel fired several circles of light in quick succession, all of which dissipated harmlessly around both Evangelions.

As Unit–01 dropped to a semi–crouched position and drew its hands together near its right hip and Unit–02 outstretched its arms with its fingers spread apart and then slammed its palms together, energy began to gather for both their attacks. Shateiel relentlessly continued to fire seismic attacks at them to no avail.

"Ready?!" Asuka asked.

"Ready!" Shinji replied.

"Have a taste of oblivion!" Asuka screamed.

"HHAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Shinji screamed.

Unit–01 fired a massive beam of blue energy at Shateiel's upper Core while Unit–02 fired a ragged beam of yellow energy at Shateiel's lower Core. Both attacks hit and fractured the Cores into several pieces, only being held together loosely by the squishy innards of the S2 Engine gripping to the outer edges.

"Come on!" Asuka screamed. "This is bullshit!"

"Asuka… why not try that one last attack!" Shinji suggested.

"Do you think we can do it?" Asuka asked.

"The gravity field's increased to 100 times normal, you need to get out of there!" Kaji shouted.

"We can't run!" Shinji shouted.

"We have to stand and fight!" Asuka added.

"Are you two sure?" Kaji asked.

"Maya, overload these amplifiers for us!" Asuka shouted. "We're gonna need all the help we can get!"

"125% coming up." Maya replied.

Unit–01 and Unit–02 joined hands and raised their other hands into the air. Above them, as Shateiel began healing itself slowly, grew a massive blue ball of energy larger than either Evangelion, or even Shateiel herself. As Shateiel got the power back to fight, it was taken off guard by an attack from the west.

"Well, hurry up guys, you need to finish this thing off!" Hikari said. "We can only distract it for so long."

"Yeah hurry it up!" Toji added.

"Shut up!" Asuka snapped. "We need to focus!"

"Asuka, do you think it's ready?" Shinji asked.

"Well, a kitchen timer isn't going to tell us when it's ready, baka!" Asuka snapped. "Let's do this!"

"Yeah!" Shinji shouted as they threw the massive blue ball of energy at Shateiel in unison. The ball slowly enveloped Shateiel, hiding her from view. As the energy ball swallowed Shateiel whole, it exploded moments later, leaving nothing but a smoking crater behind in its wake.

"Well… that actually worked…" Shinji muttered.

"Did it though?" Asuka asked.

"Oh, it did." Kaji replied. "Screens are clear… the Pattern blue is gone. Nicely done you two… now get back here so we can check you both into the Medical Wing."

"Why?" Asuka asked.

"Because you're still sick, and Shinji's been compressed by a heavy gravity field for the better part of three hours." Kaji replied. "That's an order."

"We'll be there." Shinji replied. "I'm glad that's over."

"You should be." Asuka said. "You could have died!"

"I know." Shinji said. "But you saved me."

"Well, who else is going to cuddle with me?" Asuka joked. "Now let's get back before Kaji rips us new assholes."

"Yeah… let's…" Shinji replied as the two Evangelions began limping their way back towards Tokyo–3.


August 12, 2020 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Mari was sitting in the living room with Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke. The three rookies had come over to see how everyone was doing after the fight. Mari however wanted the opportunity to talk to them about the last Angel attack.

"So… how do you guys feel bout tackling a real life Angel?" Mari asked.

"We really didn't do much." Toji said. "It was all Shinji."

"Then it was Asuka and Shinji." Kensuke added. "They did all the work, we were just sort of… there."

"Tends to happen." Mari said. "Someone always steals the show."

"But we could have helped!" Hikari said.

"You did by shooting at it." Mari said.

"I meant closer support!" Hikari said. "We could have handled it."

"Doubtful." Mari said. "You're A.T. Fields weren't strong enough to hold back that gravity, Shinji's was. And so is Asuka's. You did what you were told and didn't complain, that's the best kind of help there is."

"But Asuka broke out of the hospital…" Hikari began.

"Well, Asuka's stubborn like that." Mari replied. "But she was right, Shinji needed help, and she was well enough to save him, but she knew what she was doing." Mari smiled. "As much as they may deny it, those two are stronger together than they are apart… it their love that gives them the extra kick."

"You've got to be kidding." Toji said.

"Nope… love saved Asuka's life back in the Geofront against those freaks, it helped them remember their pasts, and it helped them kill the Eighteenth Angel." Mari said. "Love makes their power all possible."

"You're insane." Kensuke said.

"No I'm not." Mari said. "Think about their relationship, their connection with their mothers and their piloting skills… it all makes sense doesn't it… it's what the rest of us are lacking when we pilot."

"But Toji and I love each other." Hikari rebutted.

"Yes, and I love Rei…" Mari muttered. "But… their love is strong… it's what got Asuka out of bed and p there in the first place." Mari smiled. "I swear, I'm not making this up… it's literally the only explanation."

"But these are giant robots!" Toji said. "Love is not involved in giant robots!"

"Right… remind me to tell you a story about the Burning Gundam…" Mari quipped. "But the Evangelions aren't robots, their living creatures sealed inside advanced armor with human souls… and their rules are governed by metaphysical biology."

"Ok… it's still not making sense." Hikari said.

"It's a long story." Mari said. "But things are never straightforward with the Evangelions. Get used to that and you'll fit right in." Mari got up and stretched. "But you guys did a great job, so be proud of that."

"Will we ever be able to kill an Angel?" Kensuke asked.

"Maybe." Mari said. "Maybe not."

"That's not very reassuring." Kensuke replied.

"I know, but it's the truth." Mari replied. "You don't want me to lie to you, do you?"

"No…" Kensuke muttered.

"Oh, they're fine." Mari said. "Should be back to full health in no time."

"Can we see them?" Hikari asked.

"Not unless you want to be rehydrated just to heave more of your guts out." Mari said. "I mean, some people are into that kinda thing… and who am I to judge…"

"Just tell them we hope their feeling better." Hikari said as they got up. "I'd rather avoid that…"

"Ok…" Mari said. "See you guys later."

–––

Shinji and Asuka were both lying in bed. After their successful fight, Asuka had tired herself out so much she got even sicker than she was before, as the doctors put it, from excessive overexertion. Shinji on the other hand, after having been squished for several hours, finally succumbed to the virus that had been incubating inside of him since he'd been exposed to it by Asuka and the others. Rei, having already had the stomach bug was immune and was watching over the both of them. Misato had walked in, also immune to the effects to give them some good news about their fight with Shateiel.

"So, how are you feeling?" Misato asked.

"Like death warmed over." Asuka replied. "What's it to you?"

"Well… I wanted to talk." Misato said. "But if you'd rather me go set up a wake instead, I think I can arrange one."

"Oh, shut up and tell us the news!" Asuka snapped.

"So testy all the time…" Misato tittered. "You need to relax."

"I would relax if you got to the fucking point!" Asuka shouted.

"Misato, please stop antagonizing her." Shinji said. "You're not helping."

"Onii–chan is right." Rei said. "They both need rest. So either stop and tell them what you wanted to say, or just go."

"Fine, I'll behave." Misato said. "Anyway, we finished analyzing your data from the fight, and I have some exciting news."

"Here we go again…" Asuka grumbled.

"You two were in perfect sync." Misato said. "Far beyond anything you ever achieved with Israfel. Your sync scores even synced up."

"What, at 150%?" Asuka asked.

"No… 155%." Misato said. "You both dug deep for those… and it paid off."

"So… we were in sync?" Shinji asked. "Perfect sync?"

"As soon as you two started attacking, your patterns matched each other. If there weren't two clearly unique data streams, it would be impossible to tell them apart… they are literally identical." Misato said. "Maya can't even explain it, but it happened."

"Well… I can explain it." Mari quipped from the doorway. "But no one will believe me."

"I doubt you could explain it." Misato grumbled.

"Well, she did create some of this damn technology that created these things… maybe she knows what she's talking about."

"Thank you, Asuka." Mari said. "It's love… plain and simple."

"Bullshit." Misato said.

"Good lord… why is that so hard to believe?" Mari asked.

"I believe you, Mari." Rei said.

"Yeah, so do I." Shinji added.

"You are such the romantic, baka." Asuka said.

"How can you believe that?" Misato asked.

"Love does amazing things." Mari said. "And our A.T. Fields are tied to our very existence, so why wouldn't powerful love or any other powerful emotion make them stronger… or even unified as one… like two people in a relationship."

"Yeah, it can even make ki based attacks work out in the end…" Asuka said bluntly.

"Yeah, you were skeptical about that." Shinji said. "But you were wrong too… maybe you're wrong about writing this theory off."

"Ok, I can't deal with this right now." Misato muttered as she left the room. "But I'll tell Maya your theory… may give her a laugh…"

"Well, at least she's gone." Mari quipped.

"Mari, were you really being serious?" Asuka asked. "Is love really what makes us stronger?"

"Well, it's the best possible explanation." Mari said. "Whenever you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

To Be Continued


A/N: I do not own Evangelion or any of the characters, GAINAX and the other distributors of NGE related material do. I am simply using them as a backdrop for my fanfic.

Sync Score Rankings!
Shinji – 155.0% (No Change)
Asuka – 155.0% (+10.0%)
Mari – 99.9% (+3.6%)
Rei – 98.7% (+8.3%)
Kensuke – 42.7% (+34.5%)
Toji – 41.2% (+35.7%)
Hikari – 40.8% (+33.2%)

Today's chapter title comes from the seasons 4 finale of the sci–fi series Babylon 5. The episode concludes the Shadow War arc. I used the name because of the evens of the chapter, with the new pilots being forced into battle with only one veteran pilot to fight alongside them, and themselves being relatively untested and unsure of themselves.

Another Angel appears! This time, I took a concept Angel rather than one from NERV White Paper but the results are the same. As the Angel of Silence, I decided that, even though Shateiel was the basis for Ramiel, and was supposed to shot lightning bolts, I've already done that with the eighteenth (Iblis), and thought that powers of manipulating gravity would be far more fun to deal with.

And before anyone asks, Asuka and Shinji, while dealing the killing blow to the Angel use attacks inspired (or for them actually derived) from Dragon Ball Z. First, Shinji tries using the Big Bang Attack, but is knocked down by Shateiel's beam before he can get the attack off. He tries again, and fires a successful Masenko at the Angel, though it's not enough to kill her. Shinji's follow up during the bombardment is the Hellzone Grenade. When they damage the exposed Cores, Shinji uses the Kamehameha, and Asuka uses the Final Flash, indicated solely by the arm movements they made. As for the finishing attack, they used the Spirit Bomb to finish off Shateiel. It's mentioned in the chapter by Asuka that manipulating their A.T. Field should be like manipulating ki which is where they get the idea for executing attacks, so this will not be the last time they do this. Also, their auras have changed color with their extended training. Instead of the wild red auras of the berserk Evangelions, their auras are now blue, showing they have gained active control of their Evangelion's latent power and are using that power without motherly intervention.

Now, I chose for the older pilots (sans Shinji) to get sick because it was time to throw everyone out of their comfort zone. Kaji was in literal command of NERV with Misato out of the picture, and Hikari, Toji, and Kensuke, still in training, are now faced with an Angel, and Shinji has no competent backup. This also forces Shinji to be in command, something he's not very good at, and shows his vulnerability when Asuka has to drag herself out of bed to rescue him.

The simulation I used at the beginning was inspired by many different side scroller videogames, chief among them was NGE: Battle Orchestra. I took the basic story mode layout of those types of games and used it to base the idea of eight different Angels having to be fought at varying degrees of difficulty.

Also, the simulation, while it was originally meant to be a small portion of the chapter bloomed out of control when it was written. But the original intent behind it remains to show the combat progress of the pilots as a team, but also display the faults between them which will need to be addressed.

Finally, while I've never specified how the school year work in the world of NGE, it roughly corresponds to the current Japanese school calendar. April is the beginning of the term, considering with the beginning of spring, they basically go to school year round, or at least Tokyo–3 does, because of the Angels. Even in the three years they were gone, the school system stayed the same in order to account for all the days missed because of the mandatory evacuations.

As I said before, and will always say at the end of chapter, please leave comments, as I would like to try to improve the story going forward any way I can. And, hell, constructive criticism is a good thing.


つづく