Neon Genesis Evangelion: Legacy
Episode VII: Awakenings


Chapter 4 – Pattern Blue?
March 27, 2020 – Comfort 17 Apartments

Shinji woke up after an uneasy sleep. For a moment when he awoke, he felt 14 again, all alone, staring towards the ceiling of his room after Asuka had taken his room from him when she moved in. As he looked up at his old ceiling for the first time in three years for the fourth morning in a row, he felt truly alone. He rolled slowly out of bed and looked around, missing his new life upstairs, even if it had just been an illusion while the Evangelions slept, he still wanted to have his normal life back.

"Just another day…" Shinji muttered to himself as he got dressed. "Asuka will talk to me soon… right?"

Shinji sullenly walked out of his old room to see Kaji sitting lazily on the couch. He was flipping through the TV channels to find something good on, he heard Shinji come in and turned around to face him.

"Morning, Shinji." Kaji said. "You sleep alright?"

"No…" Shinji muttered. "I didn't really sleep at all."

"Are you ok though?" Kaji asked.

"Not really." Shinji said quietly. "I miss Asuka."

"So you're not worried?" Kaji asked.

"Well, I'm worried Asuka and Misato will never speak to me again." Shinji said. "They were just so upset…"

"Well, Asuka was more upset." Kaji said. "Apparently being thought of as unable to keep a secret got to her."

"She can keep a secret." Shinji said. "And I wanted to tell her…"

"But you heeded my waring about putting everyone in danger." Kaji said.

"Only because I knew you were right." Shinji said. "After everything Fuyutsuki explained, it just made sense that if anyone else knew, we'd all be in danger. Even if it did suck to not tell them, I'd rather them be… well… alive."

"Have I ever told you you're a good kid?" Kaji asked.

"Once or twice." Shinji replied. "Not that it matters…"

"It matters." Kaji said. "Whether Asuka or Misato are mad at you just means they care an awful lot. You don't push people away like this unless you really care about them. They'll get over it in time, you just have to have patience."

"They might for me, but what about you?" Shinji asked.

"Shinji, I was comfortable with the fact that I may never get to talk to you guys again, I'll be fine." Kaji said confidently.

"I don't believe you." Shinji said. "You love Misato and Asuka."

"And Mari, Rei, and you." Kaji said. "Would I like to get back together with Misato? Sure, I love her, that's never going to change. Is it going to happen? Probably not, I've fucked up too much, she's not going to want anything to do with me. Id completely understand if she didn't love me anymore."

"Kaji, if me and Asuka can get past everything that's happened between us, you and Misato can too… even if it takes years, I know she still loves you."

"How do you know?" Kaji asked.

"She all but said it the other day." Shinji said. "She was moving on, but that means she couldn't let go, right?"

"Huh… she still loves me…" Kaji said. "When did you get so knowledgeable about women?"

"The last three years." Shinji said. "I've gotten a lot of experience dating Asuka."

"I bet it's not just words of wisdom either…" Kaji joked.

Shinji blushed. "Kaji, don't talk like that!"

"Still a bit shy about that topic, eh, Shinji?" Kaji asked.

"Maybe." Shinji replied.

"Well, that'll pass in time too." Kaji said.

"It's not that…" Shinji said. "I's just weird to talk about Asuka like that with you… or anyone for that matter."

"See, you're a good person, Shinji." Kaji said. "Make sure that never changes."

"I'll do my best." Shinji replied as the doorbell rang.

DING DONG

Kaji pulled a gun out from behind the couch cushion he was leaning against. "Shinji, where's yours?" Kaji whispered.

"My room." Shinji replied quietly.

"Get it and meet me by the front door." Kaji whispered in reply.

Shinji nodded and ran quietly to grab his gun. Once he got it, he saw Kaji standing at the end of the hallway, his gun aiming straight for the door.

"Go open it." Kaji said. "I'll cover you."

"Right." Shinji replied as he crept to the door, gun at his side, and opened the door, to reveal Mari.

"Is the gun really necessary puppy?" Mari asked.

"Yes, it is." Kaji replied as Shinji closed the door behind her.

"You too, scruffy?" Mari asked. "I didn't think I was walking into a shooting gallery…"

"Still can't be too careful." Kaji said. "I have killed a quite a few important people these past three years."

"Yeah, but they don't know where you are… right?" Mari asked.

"Think of it this way, Mari." Kaji said. "I had people watching you guys, they could have their own people doing the same thing. They would have seen me come up with Shinji, if they didn't see us meeting in the middle of the city at dawn."

"Fuck…" Mari muttered.

"Yeah, so me having a gun is so I can be prepared." Kaji said.

"I think you're being a bit paranoid." Shinji said.

"Shinji, I did a lot of things in my old job, nothing is out of the realm of possibility if you have enough ingenuity." Kaji said. "If they want to, they'll strike."

"Scruffy, can you stop?" Mari asked. "You're worrying me."

"Sorry, just trying to be realistic." Kaji said.

"It's fine… I just never knew we were being watched." Mari said quietly.

"Well, a good spy knows how to stay hidden." Kaji said.

"Did you ever come and… monitor us?" Shinji asked.

"No, way too dangerous to be seen in the city again." Kaji said. "Especially before when SEELE was still at full strength."

"Oh, I thought you might have… ya know…" Shinji muttered.

"I was tempted to, Shinji." Kaji said. "But it was safer for someone else to do the leg work on that and report back. But enough about the old days…" Kaji smiled. "So what brings you down here this morning, Miss Makinami?"

"What, are you making fun of my age again, scruffy?" Mari asked. "Cause it's getting old since you started with that shit the other day…"

"Well, you are technically older than me." Kaji joked. "So I'm gonna rib ya for it."

"How did you find that out anyway?" Mari asked. "Puppy, did you…?"

"Nope." Kaji said before Shinji could respond. "I found out through some very deep research… then I uh… made sure the evidence was lost permanently."

"Why?" Mari asked.

"After the life you had, you deserved some piece from it." Kaji said. "A fresh start."

"So… no one will ever find out?" Mari asked.

"Only if someone tells them." Kaji said.

"Wow… I thought Fuyutsuki buried everything." Mari replied.

"He did." Kaji said. "But these were old files about your research… which would lead to our time with Project Alcion, which would lead to the stories that a girl appeared out of Unit–XP's Core. Connect enough dots and it all leads to you."

"You are really good at your job if you were able to do that." Mari said.

"Ikari wanted you to be safe." Kaji said. "Something about honoring Yui…"

"Weird…" Mari said. "I didn't think he cared enough…"

"Well, he was an asshole, but he had his moments…" Kaji muttered.

"That's truly shocking." Shinji muttered. "That he could even think beyond himself…"

"Anyway…" Mari interjected. "We have sync tests today, that's why I came down."

"Ok, I'll meet you there." Shinji said.

"No puppy, I need a ride." Mari said. "Asuka and Rei took off in Asuka's car."

"They left you here?" Shinji asked.

"I uh… got into an argument with her and Misato this morning…" Mari said.

"About us." Kaji said.

"No, just about Shinji." Mari said. "I don't have a death wish."

"So what, they got pissed?" Kaji asked.

"Well… yeah, they didn't want to hear that Shinji was just trying to protect us." Mari said. "I mean, Rei gets it, but she stays out of it."

"So what happened?" Shinji asked.

"Misato left in a huff telling me to be careful or I'd be joining you down here, and Asuka took Rei and left without saying anything." Mari explained. "So uh… can you drive me?" Mari held up two sets of keys. "Whichever car you want…"

"We'll take the Ferrari." Shinji said as he took both sets of keys. "Kaji, if you need to run, take the Ford Kuga downstairs. It's blue."

"Ok." Kaji said. "But I don't intend to run if they come for me."

"What, you're going to make a stand?" Mari asked.

"Yeah, I have plenty of ammo." Kaji said. "I won't go down without a fight. Just take your gun with you, ok?"

"I will, Kaji." Shinji replied.

"Good." Kaji said. "Now get going you two, you don't want Misato and Asuka to hate you more for being late."
––

Asuka and Rei were on their way to NERV with Asuka's bright red Nissan Skyline GT–R streaking down the road. However, it wasn't Asuka who was driving, but Rei.

"Ok, Rei, slow down a bit." Asuka said calmly. "You actually have to drive the speed limit for the test."

"I am aware of that, Asuka." Rei replied calmly. "I just want to get there on time."

"Don't worry about that, I don't care if we're an hour late to this shit." Asuka said. "I don't really want to go, so you can slow down if you want to."

"It would be unfair to Maya if we were late to the test she set up for us." Rei replied. "But I wish you hadn't left Mari behind to get onii–chan all on her own."

"I don't want to talk about him Rei." Asuka grumbled. "Just leave it alone."

"Asuka, you're being unreasonable." Rei said as she pulled around a car going slower than her. "As much as I don't like to say this… Mari's right. He didn't say anything about Kaji because he wanted to keep us all safe."

"I SAID I DIDN'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS!" Asuka shouted.

"Fine, but you must be getting lonely, sleeping all by yourself without onii–chan next to you." Rei said snidely.

"Shut up." Asuka said angrily. "Just make sure to keep him away from me, got it?"

"Fine." Rei said. "He'll probably be more agreeable to talk to anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"Asuka, the last four days, you've been miserable." Rei said. "You've been angry and short tempered, but you won't talk about anything while onii–chan is all alone."

"He's not alone, he's got that ghost with him." Asuka said sarcastically.

"Mister Kaji isn't a ghost, Asuka." Rei said. "He's very much alive."

"I don't care about that jerk." Asuka grumbled.

"It certainly sounds like you do." Rei said.

"What did I say about leaving this alone?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"Fine, I'll stop bringing it up if you admit you miss onii–chan." Rei said bluntly.

"The bed feels empty without him, ok?" Asuka grumbled. "But I still hate him so much right now."

"Well, that's a step in the right direction…" Rei mumbled as she pulled towards the surface entrance to the Geofront.
–––

Shinji stood awkwardly next to Mari at the far end away from Asuka. He, along with the others were in front of Maya, in their plugsuits, waiting for the test to begin. Maya, having been told Asuka knew of Shinji's continued training, didn't hold up the pretense she had been the past few weeks. However, the constant reminder of Shinji lying to her caused Asuka to visibly seethe while Maya was explaining their updated procedures.

"Ok, so Shinji already knows about all this stuff, but I have to go over it anyway out of safety." Maya explained. "Sync tests aren't as excruciating as they used to be, I really boiled down the times so we're not wasting all your free time like before." Maya smiled. "So, it'll be an hour during the week, twice a week, whenever we can fit it in your schedules, followed by an hour of combat simulations. As for the weekends, that's two hours, every Sunday, no exceptions, with two more hours of combat simulations following the sync test."

"That still seems like too much." Asuka complained.

"It's really not, Asuka." Maya replied. "Before you were clocking in ten to fifteen hours a week with sync tests, and at least ten hours a week with combat training."

"Still, we know what to do, Maya." Asuka said.

"Yes, but we still need to monitor your progress to make sure everyone's fully able to pilot." Maya replied.

"Are you implying that some of us are incapable of piloting?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"No, we just need to make sure your brain isn't going to be adversely effected by syncing with your Evangelions." Maya explained.

"Fair enough…" Asuka muttered.

"Why aren't the tests as long as before?" Rei asked.

"Because we didn't need you in there for that long." Maya said. "All we need for data can be averaged over an hour." Maya sighed. "But for today, we need a new baseline for everyone, and seeing as things should be fair, Shinji, you're included in this too, you're here for four hours, but with no combat simulations. So once the sync test's over and you've been debriefed, you can go home."

"Good." Asuka declared as she stormed off. "I can't stand the company here anyway."

"Alrighty…" Maya said. "I guess we can start when you're ready."

As Shinji walked towards his Test Plug, Rei walked up behind him and gave him a hug.

"I'm glad you're ok, onii–chan." Rei said. "I've missed having you around."

"Thanks Rei." Shinji said. "You could come and say hi if you wanted to though."

"Perhaps tomorrow." Rei said as they got to their Test Plugs.

"That'd be nice." Shinji said as he got in the Test plug again and settled in.
–––

Three hours seemingly went by fast. For Mari, being in the LCL that long was like heaven. Shinji simply relaxed, enjoying the peace and quiet around him. Rei was slightly anxious, not being a big fan of LCL considering she was suspended in it more often than not in a past life. Asuka on the other hand, even with the calming warmth the LCL used to give her, she was still livid at having to be anywhere near Shinji, and angry that she was stuck having anything to do with the Evangelions.

"This fucking sucks…" Asuka muttered angrily. "Stuck in here with no one to talk to… and anyone I want to talk to just wants to talk about baka fucking Shinji and his baka lying face!" Asuka punched the LCL erratically. "Why can't things just go back to fucking normal around here?!"

"Alright, everyone." Maya announced. "Test's over, we're going to drain the LCL now."

"About fucking time!" Asuka snapped as the LCL slowly drained out of her Test Plug, and the hatch above her opened. Asuka clambered up and out, only to see Shinji coming out of his own Test Plug as she emerged from hers.

'Fucking jerk…' Asuka thought as she glared at him, causing him to slink away from her and sulk quietly. 'That's right baka, run away…'

As Mari and Rei came out of their Test Plugs, they stood between Asuka and Shinji as they lined up for a quick debriefing. Shinji however, while separated from Asuka, still had to contend with Misato's stony glare when she arrived to hear the results for herself. Mari glared back at Misato for Shinji, while Shinji just tried not to draw attention to himself.

"So, everyone did pretty well." Maya said. "Considering the amount of time that's gone by, your scores seems normal… you're generally out of practice, with the exception of Shinji."

"Yes, the big hero…" Asuka muttered.

"Just get on with it, Maya." Misato said coldly as she continued to glare at Shinji.

"O… ok…" Maya stammered. "Mari, your score was the lowest at 9.5%, which is not horrible, I'm sure it'll start to pick up as we go along. Rei, you're in a similar boat, at 12.0%, which again, isn't awful considering you've been out of practice longer than either Asuka or Mari. But Mari and Rei, you have some work to do before you even get to pilot again, you're both below the activation threshold." Maya paused. "Asuka on the other hand, nice job… 112% was really impressive! It fluctuated a lot while you were in there, which is concerning, but you were able to hold that sync state for just over an hour."

"Huh…?" Asuka asked. "How could it be that high?"

"I'm not sure, but the numbers aren't wrong." Maya replied. So, with a bit more practice in concentration and focus, you should stabilize your sync rate without a problem.

"How much did it fluctuate?" Misato asked.

"Well… low of 53.7%, with a spike at 129.0% for three seconds…" Maya read off. "Still, that range, she does need to work on concentration."

"Fine, I think I can handle that." Asuka said.

"Finally, Shinji, good job." Maya said proudly. "A steady 150.0%, with no fluctuation outside the standard .001% range. You did a lot better than the last time you were here. Maybe you could share some tips with Asuka…"

"I don't need his help!" Asuka shouted angrily. "My score is over 100 just like his! Besides, baka will probably just end up lying to me again, won't you baka?!"

"Hey, don't talk to him like that." Mari said defensively. "It's not very nice!"

"Screw being nice!" Asuka shouted. "So, Maya, are we done here?"

"Y… yes." Maya stammered. "Uh, I'll see you all on Sunday for your next sync test and your first combat simulation."

Asuka stormed off as soon as Maya finished talking, which got her a puzzled look from Maya. Rei followed right behind her, trying to keep up with Asuka's fast, angry pace.

"Thank you for the briefing, Maya." Misato said. "Send me a copy of the final report when it's done."

"Yes, Colonel…" Maya replied as Misato left as well.

"What the hell was that about?" Maya asked.

"It's complicated…" Mari said. "Nothing that won't be fixed in a few days though. I'll see to that."

"Yeah, but why is Misato mad at Shinji?" Maya asked. "She loves him."

"Same reason, its complicated." Mari replied. "But don't worry puppy, I'll make them see sense, even if I have to beat it into them."

"I hope so…" Shinji said as he sulked away towards the locker room. "I'll wait for you in the car whenever you're ready."

"Wow, I haven't seen him so down in a long time…" Maya commented.

"Well, the fight brought back some memories of the past." Mari replied. "I just hope they get back to the present before the shit hits the fan."

–––

As Rei got to the women's locker room, Asuka was having a fit. As she roughly stripped off her plugsuit, she tripped in the gathered up material around her feet and slammed her head into the lockers. As she stood up, she angrily punched the locker she had made contact with, which made the door open up. Asuka slammed the door shut only for it to keep opening back up every time she slammed it. By the fifth time, she got so frustrated Asuka slammed the locker door so hard two of its three hinges broke.

"Asuka, are you alright?" Rei asked.

"Yeah, wundergirl, I'm doing just great!" Asuka snapped. "Were you able to observe how ficken great everything is?!"

"I do not know what you are talking about…" Rei said quietly as Mari walked in.

"Oh great, here's the other one!" Asuka said angrily.

"Still upset I see…" Mari quipped. "If you're not careful princess you're going to have a stroke."

"Who gives a shit!" Asuka shouted as she kicked her plugsuit off and shoved it roughly into her locker. "It's not like anyone would really care, would they?!"

"Well, I care Asuka." Rei said quietly.

"So do I princess." Mari said. "And Shinji would be really upset if you…"

"STOP SAYING HIS FICKING NAME!" Asuka screamed. "STOP BRINGING UP THAT STUPID LYING SON OF A WHORE!"

"Hey!" Mari and Rei exclaimed in unison.

"What?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"Don't talk about my mom like that." Rei said sternly.

"Yui was anything but a whore!" Mari replied angrily. "Don't bring her into this just cause you're being irrational about Shinji and some huge bug up your ass!"

"I'm not being irrational!" Asuka shouted as she started getting dressed. "I'm fucking pissed he didn't tell me about Kaji, and I'm pissed he didn't tell me about coming here to train!"

"So what?" Mari asked. "You're letting something that he didn't really have a choice about get between you again!"

"He had a choice!" Asuka shouted. "He could have still told me!"

"Didn't you hear Kaji the other night?!" Mari asked incredulously. "If he told you, he could have put us all in danger! Do you really think he'd do that?!"

"That's not the point!" Asuka shouted.

"Yes it is!" Mari shouted. "Do you think Misato gave him a choice about keeping his training a secret from you?! He knew you'd be upset, and Misato knew you'd be upset! His training was a secret because it was forbidden by the U.N.!"

"How the fuck do you know that?!" Asuka shouted.

"Because Shinji needed someone to cover for him that knows how to lie!" Mari shouted back. "And that happened to be me!"

"Why didn't he tell me though?!" Asuka asked.

"Because he was told not to!" Mari shouted. "Are you not understating that?! I'm I not making myself perfectly clear! Shinji couldn't tell you, he wanted to, but HE COULDN'T TELL YOU ANYTHING!"

"That's ficken bullshit!" Asuka screamed.

"No it's not, Asuka! It's not bullshit at all!" Rei shot back. "Onii–chan would never risk our lives, even if it meant lying to us about something! H tries so hard to protect us, almost to a fault! He'd especially never want to see you hurt! You call him baka all the time, but it's you who's baka!"

"You too now?!" Asuka asked.

"Yes, Asuka, me too!" Rei replied. "I'm tired of you being upset at onii–chan, I want him to come home!"

"Well I don't!" Asuka shouted. "Not until the arschloch apologizes!"

"Bullshit." Mari said. "You must be going crazy be now without him sleeping next to you. The last time you guys had a fight, you didn't even last the night without him."

"Asuka, you're being irrational." Rei said bluntly. "You need to let this go."

"I'm not being irrational! Everyone around here seems to think I can't keep a ficken secret! I can keep a ficken secret just fine!" Asuka shouted angrily as she turned to Rei. "Rei, Mari still loves you and she's upset that you won't talk to her. Misato wishes you'd dye your hair a different color, because the blue sometimes freaks her out when she's drunk and hungover!" Then Asuka turned to Mari. "Rei doesn't love you anymore, but she won't explain why… and she always gets so cagey when I bring it up. But she does avoid you on purpose, so you're not crazy. And Shinji thinks it's weird you've kissed him mom and made out with him and his sister, which is really kinda fucked up isn't it? And Misato's jealous of your tits because they're still so perky." Asuka slammed her fist into her locker. "And have I ever told anyone about how when I blow Shinji, he likes it if I stick a finger or two up his ass?! Or how he doesn't mind kissing me after he blows a load in my mouth?! No, because I know how to keep a fucking secret and not embarrass anyone I know!"

"Doesn't that sort of prove otherwise…?" Mari asked.

"No, because I kept my ficken mouth shut until now!" Asuka shouted. "And seeing as no one thinks I can keep a secret, I guess I don't need to keep them anymore!"

"Asuka, you are being irrational." Rei repeated. "You're getting hung up on the details that don't matter."

"No I'm not!" Asuka shouted. "Everyone lied to me because they think I can't keep my mouth shut! Shinji lied to me, my supposedly loving and caring boyfriend! Or did I miss some other subtle bullshit you two geniuses want to point out?!"

"Asuka, you're letting something irrational get between you and Shinji again!" Mari shouted. "Do you remember Kaworu?! Well, do you?!"

"Of course I remember that dead fuck!" Asuka shouted back. "Shinji took his side, and I broke up with his stupid ass!"

"And you were acting irrational there too!" Mari shouted. "We all were! We separated ourselves from Shinji and let that fucking Angel trap Shinji. But unlike the rest of us, you didn't learn a fucking thing! You're getting pissed at Shinji because he lied to you?! Get over it! You lie to him all the time about stupid stuff, and he knows, but do you see him storming off and not talking to anyone? No, he lets it go because it doesn't matter! So what he lied about those two things! He didn't have a choice, even if you think he did, he didn't! Blame Misato and Kaji for having him lie on their behalf, but don't get mad at that sweet boy you love cause you're blowing something out of fucking proportion!"

"I'm not… it's… this is nothing like with Kaworu…" Asuka muttered.

"Keep telling yourself that, Asuka." Rei said. "Because it's exactly like that."

"No it's not!" Asuka replied emphatically. "I'm not overacting!"

"You keep saying that, yet in your rage you destroyed a perfectly good locker." Rei retorted. "Perhaps if you went to talk to the both of them, perhaps you could come to terms with everything…"

"And remove your head from your ass." Mari added.

"I don't want to talk to him, and my head is not up my ass!" Asuka shouted.

"Well, it must be." Mari retorted. "It's the only way you wouldn't understand what we're telling you. Go apologize to Shinji and fix this before it gets too out of hand."

"Why do I have to apologize?!" Asuka asked incredulously. "I'm not the one at fault here! This isn't like with Kaworu, he wasn't ricked! He should be apologizing to me! I've missed Kaji so much, and he knew that I missed him! If he cared as much about me as he claims, then he would have told me the truth to make me feel better!"

"I don't think she gets it…" Rei muttered.

"Well, then she'll just have to get used to sleeping alone if she can't even go talk to him." Mari quipped and then sighed. "Well, I don't have any more time to waste trying to convince you you're being an idiot. Shinji's waiting to drive me home."

Asuka stared angrily at Mari as she strolled to her own locker and began changing, with Rei following suit. Asuka, still enraged, finished getting dressed and left the locker room without another word. Mari, after quickly getting dressed, avoided looking at Rei and instead faced her locker and took a deep breath.

"Thanks for backing me up." Mari said.

"I was defending onii–chan." Rei said bluntly.

"Oh…" Mari muttered as she sniffled a bit. "Rei… is what Asuka said true?" Mari asked. "You… a… avoid me?"

"Yes, it's true." Rei replied.

"Why…?" Mari asked.

"It's easier for me." Rei said. "I… I don't like being around you anymore."

"But…" Mari said as she choked back tears. "I… I love you Rei…"

"I avoid you so we don't have to have this conversation…" Rei muttered. "I'd rather avoid seeing you cry again…"

"What… what do you mean?" Mari asked tearfully.

"I don't like hearing people cry." Rei said bluntly. "That's all." Rei looked at Mari. 'And I'm still not ready to have this conversation with you…' Rei thought.

"Oh… I thought maybe… it's not important…" Mari sniffled. "Look, I… I think Asuka left without you… so Shinji can drive you home… I'll… I'll just walk…" Mari murmured as she shuffled out of the locker room slowly, with Rei giving her a sullen look as she left.

'Onii–chan would be upset if I didn't say something…' Rei thought. "Mari… thank you for letting me ride home with onii–chan…"

"Oh, hey it's… it's not a problem…" Mari muttered as she left. "I could use the walk anyway…"

"This is why I wanted to avoid her…" Rei mumbled to herself. "I didn't want to make her cry again… once was enough…"

–––

As Mari left the locker room, she noticed Shinji wasn't waiting for her, so she moved quickly as to not be seen by him coming out of the men's locker room. As she got to the elevators, she went surface entrance that would give her the shortest walk home from NERV. The entire ride up to the surface, she did her best to not break down. There were people around, and she didn't want them to think she was unstable considering they were entrusting an Evangelion to her again. However, once she emerged on the surface, she ran away from the entrance as fast as she could, stopping when she could barely catch her breath. She slumped down against the closest wall she could find and began to cry.

"Why… won't she… talk to… me?" Mari stammered between sobs. "What did… I do to… upset her…?" Mari buried her face in her hands as she felt raindrops on her shoulder.

"I don't care if she doesn't love me… I'd rather be her friend than not have her at all! But he won't even talk to me!" Mari cried out as a deluge of rain came pouring down. "This sucks! Asuka's mad at me, Rei won't talk to me, and Misato's being as asshole! Why can't we all just get along like we used to?!"

Mari slowly stood up as the rain steadily got worse, creating small rivers in the road as the storm drain struggled to keep up with downpour.

"I don't belong here… I should have died in Second Impact like so many others…" Mari muttered. "Things would be better if I never met Rei… losing someone you love once is bad enough… but twice…?" Mari sobbed. "It's too much for one lifetime…"

As Mari walked through the pouring rain, a flash of thunder illuminated everything around her, and she saw two figures, both were wearing their old junior high school uniforms and looked quite familiar. The shorter one, the girl, had pale blue hair, and the boy had silvery white hair. Both appeared to have crimson eyes, and appeared to be looking directly at Mari, staring blankly at her, almost as if they weren't even there.

"What the fuck…" Mari muttered. "Is that… he's dead… and Rei… what…?"

Mari ran towards the figures, only for clap of thunder to finally show up and distract her. When she looked back, she saw that they were gone.

"That… that isn't possible." Mari muttered. "That's just not possible…"

–––

Shinji was very perplexed when he met Rei by his car. She said Mari had offered her seat to her and that she would walk home. Shinji was confused by this, as he thought Rei had driven with Asuka to NERV, and Rei explained most of what happened in the locker room, leaving out the part where she and Mari talked about their relationship, and about Asuka spilling out many of the secrets she knew. As Shinji was driving, he had to stop to put up the top– up so the car wouldn't flood, and he worried about Mari walking home in such harsh weather. Finally, as Shinji got home, he noticed that neither Asuka's bright red Skyline, nor Misato's blue Alpine were in their usual parking spaces. After getting on the elevator, Shinji left Rei as he got out on the twelfth floor, and she continued up to their new apartment. He got to the door and unlocked it, greeting Kaji in the kitchen as he was cooking.

"Hey kid, how did the sync tests go today?" Kaji asked.

"The tests were fine." Shinji said.

"What wasn't fine?" Kaji asked.

"Well, Asuka and Misato still hate me, and now Asuka' arguing with Mari and Rei because they defended me…"

"Good on them for defending you." Kaji said. "At least they understand."

"But what about Asuka and Misato?" Shinji asked.

"Shinji, I think you're just getting some backlash for covering for me." Kaji said. "They're pissed at me, and they're taking out some of that frustration and anger out on you. They'll talk to you again, you just have to be patient."

"Are you sure about that?" Shinji asked. "Do you remember how stubborn they both are?"

"Well… yeah." Kaji said. "But they're not that stubborn, Shinji. They'll come around soon enough."

"Soon enough to them could be a very long time." Shinji replied sarcastically.

"I'm sensing some hostility myself." Kaji replied. "Are we ok, kid?"

"Yeah, I'm just tired and want things to go back to normal." Shinji said as a flash of thunder made the lights in the apartment flicker.

"Huh… that's different." Kaji said.

"Oh, that's normal." Shinji said. "Whenever we have a strong storm like this, the power stations get struck by lightning."

"Seriously?" Kaji asked. "They know that some lightning rods would fix the problem… right?"

"No idea." Shinji said. "We just sort of deal with it…"

As the sound of the thunder rolled past them, another noise startled the both of them into drawing their guns; the doorbell.

DING DONG

"Who the hell could that be?" Kaji asked.

"Maybe its Mari…" Shinji muttered.

"Why would she be here?" Kaji asked.

"She walked home." Shinji replied.

"Didn't you drive her?" Kaji asked.

"I'll explain everything in a minute." Shinji said. "Let's just figure out who's at the door…"

They both cautiously approached the door, as the person on the other side impatiently rang the doorbell several more times in rapid succession. Shinji opened the door, and to his shock, saw Asuka standing outside.

"I send you away for a few days, and you turn into an uncivilized beast, baka…" Asuka muttered. "What took you so long?"

"We weren't expecting anyone." Shinji replied.

"Bad excuse." Asuka said as she strolled inside.

"So are we talking again?" Shinji asked.

"Not yet." Asuka said. "I have something to say to you first."

"Ok…" Shinji muttered as he closed and locked the door. He turned around to see Asuka raise her hand, but didn't have time to react.

SLAP

Asuka slapped Shinji so hard she knocked him into the wall and his gun clattered to floor, thankfully not going off by accident.

"Asuka!" Kaji shouted. "What the hell?!"

"I'm not ready for you yet!" Asuka shouted at him as she turned on Shinji. "That was for lying to me baka!"

"O… ok…" Shinji muttered as he got back up. "I guess I deserved that…"

"No, you deserve a lot more than that!" Asuka replied angrily. "But a locker already got the brunt of my frustration today, so that's all I've got left! I just can't believe you didn't trust me, Shinji! You tell me everything, and I tell you everything! But you leave out that Kaji's alive when I cry about him being gone sometimes?! What the fuck is wrong with you?!"

"Asuka, I didn't have a choice…" Shinji muttered.

"That's not good enough!" Asuka said angrily. "Tell me the truth, baka! Why didn't you tell me?!"

"Asuka…"

"Fucking hell Shinji, just tell me!" Asuka shouted. "You won't make me any madder than I already am! Just tell me the truth!"

"Asuka, you couldn't handle the truth!" Shinji replied angrily. "I knew if I told you, you'd want to go see him, and I couldn't risk Kaji getting killed because you wanted to see him! Either that or you'd have hit me for being a jerk kidding about something like that!"

"Oh…" Asuka muttered, the fire in her eyes being replaced by a glossy look. "I… maybe I wouldn't have believed you…" Asuka muttered in reply. "But do you really think I'd have hit you for telling me?"

"You just slapped me for not telling you!" Shinji replied.

"I… I'm sorry Shinji…" Asuka said. "I shouldn't hit you, it's not right…" Asuka shook her head. "Those two were right… I was overreacting again… just like with Kaworu… I'm such an idiot… such a fucking idiot…"

"Asuka, you're not an idiot, you were just upset." Shinji said consolingly.

"Yes I am…" Asuka replied. "I shouldn't blame you for what those two made you lie about." Asuka kissed Shinji on the cheek and then turned to face Kaji. "You on the other hand…" Asuka raised her again.

SLAP

"That's for making me believe you were dead!" Asuka shouted. "I love you Kaji, why would you do that to me?! I don't care if you were protecting me, it was selfish to not at least tell me you were alive!"

"Asuka… I'm… I'm sorry…" Kaji said as he recovered from the slap. "I didn't see any other way to deal with it… I had to disappear and dying was a pretty good way to do it."

SLAP

"Don't patronize me with your fucking apologies!" Asuka shouted. "They don't mean shit if you plan on disappearing on us again!"

"Well, I don't plan on disappearing again, Asuka." Kaji said. "I've missed too much and lost even more… I should have known the risk of staying here was worth it in the long run."

"Good." Asuka replied as she wrapped her arms around Kaji. "Cause if you do disappear again, I'll find you and kick your ass."

"So, we're ok?" Kaji asked.

"No." Asuka said as she let go of Kaji. "I'm still mad at you, but I will talk to you seeing as I'm down here."

"So why are you down here?" Shinji asked.

"So that I don't have to sleep alone anymore." Asuka replied sheepishly. "I haven't slept at all since you got kicked out…"

"Neither have I." Shinji replied.

"Good, cause all we're doing is sleeping, baka." Asuka quipped.

"I wasn't expecting anything else, Asuka…" Shinji said. "I'm just glad we're talking again. We never really… well… fight."

"I'm glad we're talking too." Asuka replied. "I didn't really realize how much we actually talk until you weren't there. I was really bored."

"So you didn't miss me?" Shinji asked.

"No, I missed you, but I was upset… and confused." Asuka replied as she sighed deeply. "Can we talk about this later, I just want to go to bed…"

"Sure." Shinji said happily. "I'm in my old room."

"Been a while since we were in there…" Asuka smirked. "That bed's gonna feel awful tiny…"


April 5, 2020 – NERV HQ

It had been over a week since Kaji had reappeared from his grave. Misato, who had been, and was still enraged, that Kaji had been hiding from her for the past three years. She had spent the better part of the last few days living in her office at NERV so she was as far away from Kaji as possible, and to avoid any more run–ins with Mari insisting that she let Shinji back into the apartment.

So, after a long needed break in the cafeteria for a change in surroundings, and some edible food, she came back from lunch to see her office doors ajar. She walked inside cautiously to see a mane of red hair sitting impatiently in front of her desk.

"Asuka?" Misato asked.

"Took you long enough." Asuka said. "You don't come home, you don't answer the phone… it's almost like you're avoiding us."

"I didn't feel like listening to Mari go on and on again." Misato said. "So if that's why you're here, you can leave now."

"That is why I'm here." Asuka said. "And I'm not leaving till you listen."

"What, all of a sudden you forgave them?!" Misato asked as she slammed her office door behind her. "You stormed off before I was even able to finish yelling at them."

"Because I was upset!" Asuka replied angrily. "But I got over it! I understand why Kaji had to hide like that!"

"Oh you do, do you?" Misato asked. "Please… enlighten me."

"I can't explain it to you, Misato." Asuka replied tersely. "You have to figure it out for yourself."

"Why should I have to figure anything out regarding that asshole?" Misato asked.

"Because you love him." Asuka said. "Unless you've been crying over someone you hate, which is just pathetic."

"I'm not pathetic!" Misato shouted back.

"So you do love him." Asuka retorted.

"No… that's not… shut up!" Misato replied.

"Well, you've as confused as I was about this." Asuka said.

"I honestly don't believe that you've come to terms with all this." Misato replied. "You're more stubborn than I am."

"Well I have because my annoying friends reminded me about how acting so stupid and petty got me nowhere the last time something like this happened." Asuka explained.

"And that would be?" Misato asked.

"Kaworu, that little… Angel…" Asuka muttered. "I hated Shinji for taking his side… but I overreacted and made things worse than they needed to be. If I hadn't been such a bitch… maybe Shinji wouldn't have to live with the guilt of killing to fucking bastard."

"So, what does that have to do with me?" Misato asked.

"You can hate Kaji all you want, but at least let Shinji come home." Asuka said. "He was just doing the same thing he did for you. He lied for him to protect us, and he lied for you to protect my feelings."

"Those are two completely different things!" Misato shouted.

"No… they both involve lying to me… so they're pretty much the same." Asuka said matter–of–factly.

"What Shinji did for him was way worse!" Misato said. "I only had him lie so you wouldn't tip off the U.N. as to what I was doing!"

"Which is what exactly…?" Asuka asked. "Was it… illegal?"

"Very much so." Misato said. "I wasn't supposed to be training anyone."

"You're an idiot." Asuka said. "You risked Shinji for that?! Are you fucking stupid? He doesn't really even need to train, he's good enough as it is!"

"Well someone had to in case they woke up again, and look, your mothers are awake and ready to break the fuck out of here! And now I've got that U.N. pain in my ass breathing down my neck questioning every fucking decision I make!" Misato explained exasperatedly. "Now I've got someone who's supposed to be dead in my old apartment, and a kid I can't trust because he lied to me while I suffered!"

"Cause you set such a high example by making him lie for you?!" Asuka shouted back. "You might have adopted us, and you may as well be our mother, but you don't get to force Shinji into something like that again, do you understand me?!"

"You're not the parent here!" Misato shouted.

"So what, someone needs to act like one! You're certainly not acting like one right now, hiding out here just to avoid the man you love!" Asuka retorted. "Get your act together Misato! Life is too short to hold a grudge against someone you've cried over at least once a week for the past three years!"

"I have not cried that much!" Misato rebutted.

"Bullshit!" Asuka replied. "Kaji found the message on your old answering machine! We all listened to it the other night! Why would you keep something like that if you didn't love him!"

"I… that's none of your business!" Misato replied.

"Really?" Asuka asked. "I think it is considering I have to sneak down to our old apartment just to spend time with my boyfriend!"

"Why doesn't he just come upstairs?" Misato asked snidely.

"Because he doesn't want to upset you anymore!" Asuka shouted back. "He's hated lying to us all about this, but Kaji was right, we were better off! And Shinji didn't tell me because I would have wanted to see him! But then Kaji could have been killed if I went to meet him! It might suck, but it was the best option!"

"No it wasn't!" Misato said. "Kaji could have sent me the note to meet up! I would have wanted to meet him!"

"Which is what SEELE would have expected him to do!" Asuka retorted. "Kaji explained this, Shinji was the best choice, he can keep a secret, and he was the least likely person Kaji would contact!"

"So what?!" Misato asked. "They could have expected him to do that instead! Then he really would have been dead!"

"No, because SEELE and the Japanese government kept underestimating him!" Asuka said. "They always assumed they had him!"

"And how do you know all this?" Misato asked. "Or are you just bullshitting me so I won't be mad at Shinji anymore?"

"Kaji explained it to me!" Asuka replied. "If you'd just talk to him, he could tell you all this shit himself, instead of using me a go between!"

"I don't want to talk to him anymore!" Misato shouted. "He's dead to me! I was happier when he was dead! At least I knew I'd never have to see him again! But then that bastard shows up and expects me to love him again, and I refuse to love someone who wouldn't even try to talk to me for three years!"

"You sound kinda upset over someone you don't love…" Asuka said, trying to get Misato to snap. "Sure, you don't live him at all… hell, Kaji even said that you wouldn't love him anymore… he actually expected nothing less from you."

"That motherfucker!" Misato shouted. "He thinks I don't love him anymore, the arrogant fuck! Of course I love him, but I want to smash his face into a wall for lying to me! I'll fucking show that bastard how much I love him!"

"Got ya." Asuka said snidely. "I knew you were lying about still loving Kaji. You were so full of shit."

"Fuck…" Misato muttered. "So, does he really think that we're over, or did you just say that?" Misato asked.

"No, he knew going into hiding and coming back would end things… but he said it was worth it to protect us from getting killed."

"That fucker…" Misato said. "He doesn't get to dump me by default!"

"He didn't dump you, Misato." Asuka said. "He… well he didn't die I guess, but it looked like he did."

"So, he doesn't get to decide when our relationship is over, whether my life is at stake or not!" Misato replied.

"So go talk to him, Misato." Asuka said.

"No." Misato said. "I don't want to give him the satisfaction."

"And you call me stubborn…" Asuka muttered.

"Well, you are." Misato replied.

"Whatever." Asuka retorted. "And if you really don't want to talk to Kaji, that's your business, but at least forgive Shinji. Considering he lied for you, it's the least you can do."

"I said no, Asuka." Misato said. "I don't want to forgive Shinji, he doesn't deserve it."

"Even though he's been training to use an EVA against the orders of the U.N.?" Asuka asked. "Even though he's cooked and cleaned for you all these years, and fought countless battles he never wanted to participate in, he doesn't deserve the least bit of consideration?"

"I… no… no he doesn't." Misato said. "I can't forgive this."

"Come on Misato, if I can forgive Shinji, you certainly can." Asuka said. "He worked around our bullshit. I know you can handle that at least."

"You're a kid, Asuka, you don't know any better." Misato said coldly. "No Shinji will lie to you about everything, thinking you'll just forgive him."

"You really are an asshole." Asuka said. "Shinji's nothing like that, and if you really think that, you deserve to be all alone." Asuka stood up suddenly. "And Rei was right, I shouldn't have come to talk to you at all, it really was a waste of time…" Asuka walked angrily to the door. "You know, Misato, I used to think you were awesome… but now…" Asuka opened the door. "I can't believe I let someone as spiteful as my own shitty father adopt me." Asuka walked out the door with Misato's disbelieving gaze following her. "I'm just glad Kaji's back… at least I'll have someone else to look up to going forward." Asuka slammed the door behind her leaving Misato before she could muster up a retort.

"I… I'm nothing like her father…" Misato muttered. "He beat her and made her feel afraid to go home…" Misato sighed. "Shit…"

–––

Kaji was resting comfortably on the couch. Having gone without a restful sleep since coming back from the dead, Kaji was dead tired. So, with Asuka gone and Shinji quietly relaxing in his old room, Kaji decided to try and get some semblance of rest before Asuka got back. However, as he was trying to take a nap in peace, he heard someone storm into the apartment, sounding none too pleased.

"I cannot believe her!" Asuka grumbled.

"So, it went well did it?" Kaji asked as he sat up.

"What do you think?" Asuka asked sarcastically.

"She disagreed with everything you said, and you pissed her off by saying something mean when she didn't agree with you." Kaji guessed.

"Damn your good." Asuka muttered.

"No, I heard you practicing what you going to say this morning." Kaji said.

"You were asleep!" Asuka said.

"No, I was only pretending so I wouldn't get glared at again." Kaji said.

"Well, you deserve to be glared at, you big dumb idiot!" Asuka said scoldingly. "If you'd just told her about being alive, we wouldn't be in this mess."

"Yeah, we'd all likely be dead…" Kaji muttered.

"I know, but she just isn't getting that." Asuka said.

"I told you she wouldn't understand." Kaji said. "I told you not to bother."

"Well, I'm stubborn, aren't I?" Asuka asked sarcastically.

"Yes, you are, but you believe me now, right?" Kaji asked.

"Well… I still don't fully agree with you having to even tell Shinji you were alive." Asuka said. "But everything else makes sense." Asuka sighed. "At least I tried…"

"Hey, I'm going to tell you the same thing I tell Shinji." Kaji said. "Misato will come around eventually, she just needs to get past the anger she's throwing at Shinji."

"Sure, cause that'll happen sometime soon." Asuka said as she rolled her eyes. "I guess I should tell Shinji he's stuck here."

"I thought that was going to happen anyway." Shinji said as he walked into the room. "I heard you come in…"

"Well, then you know that Misato is an idiot and won't listen to reason." Asuka said. "And she doesn't get that making you lie for her is as bad as Kaji making you lie for him."

"She wouldn't see the problem with that." Kaji said. "She always had a problem with accepting responsibility…"

"I'm the one who has trouble accepting responsibility?" Misato asked as she made Shinji jump.

"How the hell did you get in here?" Asuka asked.

"I have a key, Asuka." Misato said. "Now you and Shinji get upstairs. I need to talk to Kaji alone…"

"What, so you can profess your love to him, or so you can beat him senseless?" Asuka asked sarcastically.

"Asuka, just go." Misato said dismissively. "And Shinji, we'll talk upstairs when I'm done here, but I am sorry that I made you feel unwanted… I shouldn't have gotten so mad at you…"

"Ok, Misato." Shinji replied meekly as Asuka led him to the door.

"And Asuka?" Misato asked.

"What, Misato?" Asuka replied.

"You really hurt me with what you said." Misato said glumly. "I'm nothing like your father…"

"Well, it made you see reason didn't it?" Asuka asked.

"Maybe it did…" Misato replied. "Now get out of here, I need to ta talk to him in private."

"Come on, we don't need to see them fight." Asuka said as they left. "We'll probably hear it upstairs anyway"

"So, Asuka did get through to you." Kaji said. "That's a shock."

"Shut up." Misato said angrily. "Right now, you don't get to talk, you just get to listen. You lost that right when you pretended to be dead for three years!"

"Well, I think I know where this is going…" Kaji muttered.

"Where else would it go, you selfish ass!" Misato shouted. "You fucking lied to me! You left me all alone thinking you were dead!"

"Well, that was point…" Kaji started.

"I said shut up!" Misato shouted. "And I can't believe that you told Shinji of all people! Why him, why did he get to know you were alive! Why did I have to be the one to find out as a fucking surprise when you thought it was necessary to come back from the dead?!"

"I told you this already, Katsuragi." Kaji said. "People were watching you, watching Asuka, watching NERV. They knew if I was faking my death, I'd tell one of you, that I'd meet one of you, but everyone always underestimates Shinji."

"No they don't!" Misato said angrily. "Shinji's strong!"

"They do, Misato! SEELE didn't think that way, and neither did his father." Kaji said. "Gendo was always surprised when Shinji pulled something incredible off, and SEELE never understood how a broken child could fight the way he did. They didn't think I had a relationship with him, and I certainly didn't tell them any differently. You and Asuka though, they knew of our relationship, we didn't exactly hide it, and Asuka, I was her guardian for how many years? Of course I cared for you both, and too many people knew. But no one would guess that I told Shinji… sure it wasn't fair for him to have to carry that burden, but someone had to know in case I needed to come back. And I apparently needed to come back, didn't I? No one was watching him, so I took my chance one day in Tokyo–2 when you all left him alone."

"But why not me?!" Misato shouted. "I don't care if I was in danger, I would have wanted to know damn it!"

"Because I couldn't risk your life!" Kaji shouted back. "How could I risk your life knowing that you'd be the first person they looked to?! It's not that I didn't trust you, I didn't think I could stay away if you knew! It was hard enough knowing you were out there all alone and to stay away from you for so fucking long!"

"You couldn't risk my life?!" Misato shouted back. "I'm not a child! I can protect myself!"

"It's wasn't just protecting you!" Kaji shouted back. "It was making sure those kids had someone to look after them! It was making sure those kids were safe too! What do you think would happen if got hurt?! Do you think the government or the United Nations would leave those kids alone?!"

"No, they'd probably take them into their custody…" Misato began. "Oh… I didn't think of that…"

"Clearly." Kaji replied.

"Hey!" Misato said angrily. "Don't think you know everything, smartass! You still had to play dead for three years!"

"At least I can admit my faults, Misato." Kaji said calmly. "Do you still think having Shinji lie to Asuka did any good?"

"Yes I do!" Misato replied. "We have one trained pilot ready to fight in case an Angel does show up. If I had to do this all over again, I wouldn't change a thing."

"That's where you and I are different, Misato." Kaji said. "If I had to do this over, I'd have exposed SEELE instead of hiding for three years. In the long run… I'd have rather been with you."

Misato looked taken aback by what Kaji said. "You can't be serious." Misato muttered.

"I am serious Misato." Kaji said. "I gave up everything to protect you when I should have stayed here. I'm sorry that I left you… I should have found another way… I should have been more careful."

"Oh… I wasn't… I didn't think…" Misato stammered. "I didn't think you were going to apologize."

"I think I've wasted enough time." Kaji said. "You know my reasons, I just wish things could have been different."

"Well, I won't say that I'm not a little glad to have you back." Misato replied. "But that doesn't mean I forgive for this shit." Misato said sternly. "You think it was easy letting you go after we finally got back together? Then you come back and ruin all the progress I've made? It's total shit!"

"I wasn't looking for or expecting forgiveness, Misato." Kaji said. "Just understanding."

"Well, you're not going to get that." Misato said. "I still need time to think this all through. I can't… I can't just let this go… I have to really think about… us… it's been too long."

"Just as long as you're not mad at Shinji anymore. He doesn't deserve it." Kaji said. "You can be mad at me forever, I'm the one that deserves it."

"You're not wrong." Misato said. "But maybe not forever. Just until I get used to you being back." Misato shook her finger at him. "But don't think that if I forgive you, we're going to get back together."

"I'll just be happy if we can talk to each other like normal adults." Kaji said.

"That I think we can handle." Misato said. "Someday." Misato sighed. "I do have to eventually ask what you've been up to for the past three years besides killing SEELE's elite. But that's for another night."

"Your call." Kaji said. "I'll tell it whenever you're ready."

"Well… uh… goodnight I guess." Misato said. "I uh… hope you'll be ok down here all on your own."

"I'll be fine." Kaji said. "Shinji needs to be with the people he loves, which is way more important than keeping me company." Kaji grabbed Shinji's gun from the kitchen counter. "Just give him this, and I'll feel safer knowing he has it with him."

"Fair enough." Misato said as she left the apartment. "Just don't disappear again, got it?"

"Wouldn't dream of it, Misato." Kaji replied as she left.

–––

As Misato got upstairs, she walked silently into her new apartment, sighing deeply as closed the door. She heard laughing from the living room and crept over to see the four kids happily watching TV together. Misato smiled and walked quietly over to Shinji and wrapped her arms around him, whispering a single phrase in his ear. "I'm sorry."


April 10, 2020 – Tokyo–3 Senior High School, Class 3–A

It had been a week and a half since Kaji had come back from the dead. Things were beginning to get back to normal, but now school was upon them. Two weeks into their final year of high school, the kids were exhausted. They had loads of homework they weren't prepared for, and more tests and quizzes than they were used to. Adding in that they were also training to pilot once again on top of studying hard to get into college, it was about the all they could do to stay awake and listen in class as the teacher drowned on like their old junior high school teacher.

"Oh my god… this is awful…" Mari muttered. "I hate school…"

"Oh, be quiet, four eyes." Asuka said. "You're not the only one suffering here."

"Can you both be quiet?" Hikari asked. "Some of us are trying to listen."

"Yeah, come on you guys, it's bad enough we're doing so much as it is." Rei said. "Don't make this any harder on us."

"How are we making this more difficult?" Mari asked. "I just want to eat lunch…"

"Well, if you were up on time, maybe you'd have had breakfast like a normal person." Asuka said.

"Whatever…" Mari said. "Just make it be lunchtime already."

"I'm with Mari, I'm hungry, and I had breakfast." Toji added.

"How will I ever be able to listen with everyone talking so much?" Hikari asked.

Ding dong ding ding… ding dong ding ding

"Thank you, gods above for hearing my prayers." Mari said happily.

"It appears it's lunch time. Today is certainly going by fast." The teacher said. "We will pick up where we left off after lunch. Class is dismissed."

Hikari rolled her eyes a Mari as she stood up. "Rise… Bow… Sit!" Hikari said in her ever commanding voice as the class followed suit as the teacher left the room.

"Well, time for lunch!" Toji said excitedly.

"Yeah, what's on the menu for today?" Kensuke wondered.

"Last night's leftovers." Hikari said as she passed Kensuke and Toji a bento. "Didn't really have time to make anything different."

"You're so nice, Hikari." Kensuke said. "Thank you."

"Wow, my boyfriend doesn't even say thank you." Hikari joked.

"No, I say I love you." Toji said as he kissed Hikari on the cheek.

"Guys, come on, I'm eating." Kensuke said.

"Should we leave the room so you two can get it on?" Asuka joked.

"Asuka, don't talk like that!" Hikari said admonishingly. "You can't do that on school grounds."

"Sure… cause that rule has stopped so many horny teenagers." Mari joked.

"Why must they always talk about sex at lunch?" Rei asked.

"No idea." Shinji replied nonchalantly. "But its better than listening to them complain about the lecture."

"What about the lecture?" Mari asked.

"Shit." Shinji muttered.

"It was boring as hell." Asuka said. "Didn't learn a thing."

"Well, maybe if you listened instead of complaining, you would learn something." Hikari said.

"Well, I've already done this once, freckles." Mari said. "I'm glad I breezed through it the first time, I never would have made it otherwise."

"Yes, we know." Kensuke said. "But you're here, so you can suffer along with the rest of us."

"It's not really suffering." Rei said. "At least this teacher isn't as boring as our junior high one… always droning on about pre–Second Impact."

"I know, it's not like things were awesome back then…" Mari muttered. "It's probably as shitty now as it was then, there's just less people."

"Mari!" Shinji said admonishingly.

"What?" Mari asked. "It's not a lie. A lot of people died, but Earth is still a shitty place with bad people around every corner… you of all people should know that."

"Still, it's not a nice to say." Shinji replied.

"Well Shinji, think of it this way…" Toji said. "Even though the world is filled with assholes, you still thought there was some hope for us all."

"I know." Shinji said. "It just wish the Evangelions never existed… then we could live a normal life…"

"Come on, you must be a little excited to be training again." Kensuke said.

"No, not really." Shinji said. "It means that an Angel could attack."

"What I'd give to be an EVA pilot…" Kensuke muttered.

"Probably your left nut, or any chance at a girlfriend." Toji joked.

"I doubt he'd give up a girlfriend." Sakura said as she wandered into their room. "Right, Kensuke?"

"R… right." Kensuke stammered.

"Hey sis, what a nice surprise." Toji said.

"Oh, just wanted to thank your loving girlfriend for my lunch." Sakura said.

"Well, why don't you join us?" Toji asked. "Hey Kensuke, move over so she can sit down."

"Yeah, sure." Kensuke said.

"Kensuke, don't let my mean brother boss you around like that." Sakura said. "I can sit on the floor next to you."

"No, you don't have to." Kensuke said. "I'll sit on the floor."

"And they say chivalry is dead." Sakura said kindly.

"You're always so nice to my sister, Kensuke." Toji said. "It's nice to have a friend who I can trust with my sister."

"Oh yeah?" Kensuke asked nervously.

"Yeah, I'm sure he'd take good care for her if you left them alone." Mari joked.

"So seeing as none of us having cleaning duty after school." Hikari said hurriedly to change the subject. "Wanna go do something fun once we're out of here?"

"Like what, study for our entrance exams fun or karaoke fun?" Mari asked.

"We can do both." Hikari said unconvincingly.

"Yeah, Mari will be too busy singing, and you'll be too worried about studying." Toji said. "Doesn't sound like much fun to me."

"Nor me." Rei said.

"You guys are no fun at all…" Mari muttered.

"No, we just want to get into a good college."

"I'm happy not going." Toji said.

"Toji, you're going." Hikari said exasperatedly. "You're more than capable."

"Yeah, but what's the point?" Toji asked. "I really have no idea what I want to do."

"So, a lot of people go to college and have no idea what they want to do." Kensuke said.

"Yeah, Shinji and I have no idea, but we're going." Asuka said.

"Mari, you've been to college, right?" Toji asked. "I… what did you do again?"

"Metaphysical Biology as my doctorate." Mari replied. "Nothing fancy."

"What even is that?" Toji asked. "Is that like magic?"

"I've explained it before jockstrap." Mari said. "Maybe you should pay attention better."

"See, this is why I'd be bad at college." Toji said.

"Stop underestimating yourself." Shinji said. "You just have to get in and you can decide what you want to do later."

"Yeah, but why go if I don't want to?" Toji asked. "I don't want to take someone's spot, especially if they really want it."

"Toji, stop being an idiot." Sakura said. "You want to go to college, you're just freaking out like you did over going to junior high school."

"I did not freak out!" Toji said angrily.

"Sure you didn't, bro." Sakura said. "What I don't make friends? What if no one likes me?" Sakura said in a mocking deep voice. "Any of that sound familiar?"

"I didn't say anything like that!" Toji said loudly.

"Did he really say that?" Hikari asked.

"Yep." Sakura said slyly.

"Oh, that's adorable." Hikari said as she ruffled Toji's hair. "I love it when you're vulnerable…"

"Huh?" Toji asked as the lights suddenly got very bright, with several of them blowing out.

"What the hell was that?" Asuka asked.

"A power surge." Rei said.

"Yeah, but what caused it?" Kensuke asked. "Things like haven't happened in like… three years…"

"No, it's not that." Hikari said worriedly. "Right?"

"Well, maybe there was an issue at the power plant." Toji said.

"Yeah, but… " Mari muttered. "The lights wouldn't blow themselves out like that without some kind of massive explosion somewhere. There are surge protectors to stop things like that… unless they were overloaded for some reason…"

"Yeah, but beyond lightning hitting the power station what has the power to do that?" Shinji asked.

"Evangelions." Kensuke said.

"That or…" Mari began.

"Don't you fucking say it, four eyes." Asuka warned.

"An Angel." Mari finished.

"Well, let's hope it was that lightning then." Asuka muttered angrily.
–––

In the Command Center, alarms were going off indicating something major had happened. The last thing anyone knew, the JSSDF had engaged with something in the vicinity of the Tokyo–2, having scrambled Archangel Squadron to deal with the threat.

"Hyuga, can you confirm if Archangel Squadron has bombed something?!" Misato asked. "We need confirmation N2 Bombs have been dropped!"

"Working on it ma'am!" Hyuga said. "I can't seem to contact Tokyo–2 for confirmation!"

"Try harder!" Misato ordered. "Aoba, get me the Prime Minister immediately!"

"Can't get through ma'am, lines are down." Aoba replied. "There is no response."

"Damn it!" Misato said angrily. "What the hell is going on?! Sumire, what about chatter on JSSDF frequencies?"

"There's no chatter… just static." Sumire replied. "I'm not reading any transponders either."

"Hyuga, Aoba, tell me something!" Misato asked. "What about the power surge?"

"MAGI have traced the source to Tokyo–2." Hyuga said. "Cause is still unknown."

"What's going on Colonel?" Yuki asked as she walked in.

"Oh great, you're still here…" Misato muttered. "What now?"

"Colonel, I just want to know our current situation." Yuki said.

"I don't have anything to tell you." Misato said. "As you can see, I'm quite busy, so please just stand there quietly and observe!"

"Colonel, I just want a situation report…" Yuki began.

"I have literally no information for you, Chief Inspector." Misato said. "We're trying to figure out what's going on."

"Colonel, still no response from the government or the JSSDF." Hyuga said. "But everything we're seeing is that whatever's going on, Tokyo–2 is the epicenter."

"Get a satellite into position." Misato said. "Get me a visual!"

"On it, ma'am." Aoba said. "Thirty seconds."

"Tokyo–2?" Yuki asked. "What about Tokyo–2?"

"We'll find out in a moment." Misato said.

"OBSAT–3 is in position." Aoba replied. "Putting it on main display."

As soon as Aoba said, an image of utter destruction came on screen. Where Tokyo–2, formerly Matsumoto City, stood was nothing but gutted skyscrapers, rubbed, and charred Earth. There was a deep crater just outside the city where the blast must have originated from, spreading some kind of destruction outwards, wiping the city out in the process.

"My god…" Misato mumbled.

"Is that…?" Yuki asked.

"Ma'am, I can confirm, Tokyo–2 has been destroyed." Hyuga said. "I've identified several buildings that withstood the blast, but otherwise… it's a total loss."

"What could have caused this…?" Yuki asked.

"Two things really." Aoba said. "An N2 Bomb, or…"

"An Angel." Hyuga finished.

"What are the odds of either one of those happening?" Yuki asked.

"Well… Archangel Squadron was launched, perhaps it was just a training exercise that went wrong." Sumire said. "They would have notified us if it was an Angel… right?"

"Not necessarily." Hyuga said. "Those assholes have a stick up their ass when it comes to us. Especially after what happened when they tried to kill us all."

"Pan over and see if anything's moving out there." Misato said.

"Zooming out…" Hyuga said. "And nothing… weird."

"Run a full spectral analysis on the area surrounding the ruins of Tokyo–2." Misato said. "I want to know if anything's coming."

"Should I include a wave form analysis?" Hyuga asked.

"Of course." Misato said. "I meant anything." Misato sighed. "Aoba, set Level–3 battle stations, and set the AIS to standby. Just to be safe."

"Understood." Aoba said.

"Please, let it be anything but what I think is going to be coming…" Misato said quietly.

"And what do you expect, Colonel?" Yuki asked.

"In the pit of my stomach, I'm expecting an Angel." Misato said.

"I thought the last of them was destroyed by Mr. Ikari." Yuki said.

"Well… there's always the possibility of another one." Misato said. "The EVAs are awake, and Tokyo–2 is a smoking fucking crater."

"Uh… Colonel…?" Hyuga said nervously.

"Don't tell me." Misato said.

"I've got a result on the wave form analysis." Hyuga said. "And I'm sorry to have to say this again but… a Pattern Blue has been detected and confirmed… it's an Angel… the Eighteenth Angel… and it's heading our way."

"An Eighteenth Angel?!" Yuki shouted. "The files we were given specifically said there were only seventeen! We should be fine!"

"Well, they were clearly wrong, Chief Inspector." Misato said sarcastically. "Where is it exactly? Show me what this thing looks like."

"Well ma'am, there it is." Hyuga said as the display screen enlarged to focus on what looked like a giant tortoise. "I think that's the most normal Angel we've seen."

"Looks can be deceiving." Misato said. "Is this the best resolution you can get?"

"Any closer it'll get pixelated." Hyuga said.

"Well, at least we know what to look out for until we can get a better visual." Misato said.

"Yeah, here we go again…" Aoba replied sullenly. "And I was just hoping the EVAs waking up was just a fluke."

"Well, this is what we're trained for… and we knew it could happen. NO time to dwell on that now." Misato said. "Alright Aoba, set Level–1 battle stations, get everyone to the shelters. A generic message will do for now." Misato ordered. "Hyuga, arm the AIS and prepare for Angelic contact from the north northwest, set them to track the Pattern Blue, and make sure we're using that new ammunition we came up with." Misato paused. "Are the new AIS weapons online?"

"Railguns are all set, but the beam weapons still haven't been hooked up to the power or targeting grids." Aoba replied.

"Good enough." Misato said happily. "Sumire, contact the kids and tell them to get here on the double, just them Code Blue, they should get the hint. Then try and get ahold of the JSSDF Command, we need some information on what they encountered."

"On it ma'am." Sumire said.

Misato opened the comm lines down Maya in the Cage. "Maya, can you hear me?" Misato asked.

"Yes, Colonel." Maya replied. "What's all the commotion about?"

"Oh, just another Angel." Misato replied. "Nothing we can't handle, right?"

"Colonel, this isn't the time for jokes." Maya said. "Please be serious."

"It's confirmed Maya, Pattern Blue." Misato said. "I need you to prep Unit–01 and Unit–02 for launch immediately, and give them those new Pallet Rifles with Anti A.T. Field rounds. I want to test those things out." Misato ordered.

"Right away, ma'am." Maya replied. "I'll need about thirty minutes to prep. We weren't exactly expecting anything like this."

"Well, I don't know how long you have…" Misato said. "Do we have any word on that?"

"MAGI estimate Angel's ETA at four hours or so." Hyuga said. "But that's as long as it doesn't encounter any resistance."

"Which is why we need to get ahold of the JSSDF before they do more retarded shit." Misato said. "So Maya, you have your thirty minutes."

"Thank you, ma'am." Maya said. "Send those two down as soon as they arrive."

"As soon as they're briefed, they're all yours." Misato said.
–––

"Well, it's been twenty minutes… maybe it's not an Angel." Hikari said warily. "I mean, there'd be an alarm by now, right?"

"Well… unless they haven't confirmed it yet." Kensuke said.

"Or there isn't an Angel." Asuka said angrily. "Let's not jump to conclusions until we know for sure, ok?"

"Asuka, even if there is an Angel, we'll be fine." Shinji said.

"No we won't." Asuka said. "We'll be the idiots fighting the stupid thing."

"Yeah, but you'll be in the safest possible place." Mari said. "Inside an EVA."

"In the line of fire." Asuka retorted.

"Enough you two." Rei said. "There aren't any more Angels."

"How do you know?" Toji asked.

"I don't know for sure." Rei said. "I just hope it's true."

Ding dong ding ding… ding dong ding ding

"Great… now class is starting up…" Mari said. "What a shitty lunch…"

"Well at least we didn't get…" Asuka began as Mari's phone rang. "A phone call…"

"Mari, you're supposed to have that off in school!" Hikari said admonishingly.

"Yes, because I follow every rule I would do that." Mari said sarcastically as she answered the phone. "Hello?"

"Mari, this is Sumire." Sumire said. "I need you all to come in immediately."

"Let me guess…" Mari said.

"Don't say it out loud, Mari. But it is an Angel." Sumire said. "The alert hasn't gone out yet, and you don't need to start a panic.."

"Ok, ok, don't get your panties in a twist." Mari said. "How long?"

"Drive like Misato." Sumire said.

"No one can drive like Misato except Misato. But we'll be there." Mari hung up the phone and grimaced. "So, Asuka, I've got some bad news…"

"Fuck off." Asuka said. "Don't you dare tell me."

"Shinji, how fast can the Kuga go?" Mari asked.

"Fast enough I think." Shinji replied. "Why do I need to drive fast?"

"Use your imagination, puppy." Mari said.

"Right." Shinji replied.

"Fucking hell…" Asuka muttered.

"Well, it looks like we can at least leave early." Mari said happily.

"This is not a good reason to have to leave early." Rei said as an announcement came over the schools intercom.

"This is the Tokyo–3 Emergency Broadcast System… A state of emergency has been declared for the Tokai Region. We request at this time for all civilians to evacuate to the closest emergency shelter in a quick, calm, and orderly fashion for their safety. Failure to do so could result in injury from hazardous conditions. We repeat… this is the Tokyo–3 Emergency Broadcast System… a state of emergency has been declared for the Tokai Region…"

"Looks like we're all getting out of here." Toji said.

"So it's really happening again?" Kensuke asked as everyone started to gather their things as calmly as possible.

"Seems like it." Mari said. "The Angels are back."

"Then I guess me and baka have some work to do." Asuka said.

–––

After Shinji drove madly to get them to NERV amidst the masses of people running for the shelters, in a sort of rote memory, the kids rushed to the Command Center. Out of habit, Shinji looked up to where his father used to sit and Fuyutsuki would stand behind, both glowering imposingly over those below, only to find it empty. He looked in front of him to see Aoba, Hyuga and Sumire at their stations, with Misato in her usual spot, standing behind them and switching between pacing wildly or clutching one of their chairs out of frustration as she watched the main holographic display, with the added bonus of seeing her scowl at Yuki. Asuka cleared her throat to get Misato's attention and she breathed a sigh of relief.

"Took you guys long enough to get here." Misato said.

"Misato, it's not Grand Theft Auto, we can't just run over random pedestrians." Mari quipped. "And Shinji isn't as reckless as you are when it comes to driving."

"No one is quite as reckless as her…" Asuka muttered.

"Anyway, no that's you're here you need to know what you're up against." Misato said.

"An Angel, Misato." Asuka said sarcastically. "Is there a surprise or something? Are there two? Can it split in two? Is it hiding in a volcano? Or maybe it spits acid?"

"Does it warp the mind of the person in its light beam?" Shinji asked.

"Does it shoot massive lasers?" Rei asked.

"Is it going to try and dive bomb and kill us all?" Asuka asked.

"Does it have ribbons for arms and an eyelid over its Core?" Rei asked.

"Is it a tentacle?" Mari asked.

"Does it look like a human?" Shinji asked worriedly.

"Did it infect another Evangelion?" Rei asked.

"Or better yet… you've got no idea what we're up against." Asuka finished.

"That one was always my favorite." Mari said as she rolled her eyes.

"It certainly added to the challenge of combat." Rei said.

"It's not that we don't know… we just know what it looks like." Misato said defensively. "But we know it's highly destructive…"

"How destructive?" Shinji asked.

"Tokyo–2 has been destroyed." Misato said. "It's nothing but a burned out shell of what it was this morning."

"How many people?" Asuka asked. "How many people were…"

"Incinerated?" Misato replied. "Well… we're not sure. There was a limited evacuation, but it may not have been enough to save a large amount of people."

"So what did it?" Rei asked.

"Hyuga, pull it up on screen." Misato said.

"On it ma'am." Hyuga said as he collapsed the several dozen open windows and focused on one, which showed a live feed of the Angel moving slowly towards Tokyo–3.

"It's a turtle?" Shinji asked.

"More like a tortoise." Mari replied.

"Still… it doesn't look as threatening as some of the other Angels…" Asuka said.

"The octahedron didn't look all that threatening either." Rei said solemnly.

"Ok, so it wiped out a city." Asuka said. "Please tell me you got a special delivery of Evangelions in the last few days."

"Not due in for another week or so." Misato replied. "It's' just Unit–01 and Unit–02."

"So two Evangelions against an angry tortoise." Asuka repeated. "And how do you intend on us fighting that… thing?"

"Pallet Rifles mainly." Misato said. "Unless you can contort your A.T. Field offensively."

"You mean the guns that only worked on one Angel." Shinji asked. "Those same guns."

"With new ammunition." Misato said proudly. "Maya's designed an Anti A.T. Field round. It's based on what happened when Third Impact started."

"What?" Mari asked. "How does that even work?"

"It emits a frequency similar to what Unit–01 did at Third Impact, which neutralizes the opposing A.T. Field. Only problem is that you have to be careful who you shoot at, cause it will pierce your own A.T. Fields if you stray into each other's line of fire." Misato explained. "Beyond that, once the A.T. Field has been cut through, you can light it up like a Christmas Tree."

"Can bullets even pierce their skin?" Rei asked.

"They should, they have flesh, just like we do, and just like the Evangelions." Misato said. "Enough bullets and anything will die. So just keep it distracted and away from the city."

"I can't believe you're giving them so little to go on." Yuki said incredulously. "How are they supposed to effectively fight this Angel without proper intel?"

"Look, behind a desk, you can always find all the information you need in after action reports, but in the real world, in the field, we have to fight an unknown hostile enemy. My first responsibility is to protect the inhabitants of this city." Misato replied angrily.

"At the pilot's expense?" Yuki asked.

"Lady, I don't know who you are, and I don't really care." Asuka said. "We may not like facing something without any idea what we're walking into, but we know it's an Angel, and we know it needs to die."

"The rest of it we'll make up as we go along." Shinji added.

"How is that the right thing to do?" Yuki asked. "You need a tactical plan!"

"Surround it and lead it away from the city." Asuka said. "I do believe that's what Misato said, right Misato?"

"You got it." Misato replied. "And we do have intel, it's just the JSSDF aren't sharing it with us at the moment." Misato glared at Yuki. "But as soon as we beat it out of them, we'll pass it along."

"Why do they have intel?" Rei asked.

"The JSSDF took it upon themselves to attack the Angel without notifying us first." Misato said. "Which really was a mistake, because whatever they did, either they destroyed Tokyo–2 by mistake, or they pissed off the Angel enough to make it level the city. We just don't know yet."

"Considering they're not telling you, I'd guess they fucked up." Mari quipped.

"The JSSDF is highly trained military organization!" Yuki said. "They don't make mistakes."

"They attacked NERV once and assumed we couldn't defend ourselves." Asuka rebutted. "And boy did they underestimate us…"

"They were following orders from corrupt…" Yuki began.

"That's not an excuse for what they did." Misato said. "We had done nothing but protect this city from the Angels."

"Is this really the time for an argument, Misato?" Shinji asked. "Is there anything else you need to tell us instead?"

"Huh, oh, right." Misato replied. "No, just be careful, and don't do anything reckless. You two have done this enough, I think you can handle whatever it throws at you."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Asuka said.

"Colonel, ETA on the Angel is now at ninety minutes." Hyuga reported.

"Alright kids you better suit up." Misato said. "The Angel's almost on top of us."

"We remember how to get there." Asuka said. "Come on Shinji, let's go stick our necks out one more time…"

"We'll be rooting for you." Rei said kindly.

"Well, just wait, soon enough you two will be out there with them." Misato said.

"Not soon enough." Asuka quipped as she and Shinji headed for the locker rooms.

–––

Shinji and Asuka nervously approached their respective locker rooms. They paused at the doors and smiled to each other before they entered. A short while later, Shinji and Asuka each emerged in their all too familiar plugsuits, and smiled at each other again.

"Déjà vu." Asuka said as they began walking towards the Cage.

"How so?" Shinji asked.

"Well, I'm remembering how jealous I used to be of you as a pilot." Asuka said. "And how much I hated you for your natural talent."

"Asuka I was never the better pilot." Shinji replied.

"Well, I know that now." Asuka retorted. "Still… it's weird to be up against another Angel, isn't it?"

"Well, yeah." Shinji replied. "We're a bit out of practice." Shinji sighed. "Do you really think we can do this?"

"You've been training for three years, what do you think?" Asuka asked sarcastically.

"I don't know Asuka, that's why I was asking you." Shinji said. "You were always so reassuring in situations like this."

"Suck up." Asuka said as she kissed Shinji on the cheek. "I mean, as long as I don't get mauled to death, and you don't accidently restart the apocalypse in some fugue state, we should be perfectly fine…" Asuka said.

"That wasn't very reassuring…" Shinji said.

"Hey, the last time we did this was not our most successful battle." Asuka said. "But we'll just need to be careful and then show this Angel it came to the wrong fucking city." Asuka smiled. "Besides, we'll be out there together, between the two of us, we can handle anything."

"But we still don't know anything about the Angel." Shinji replied.

"So, when has that stopped us in the past?" Asuka asked. "I'm not happy about it, but you were right, we have to protect everyone. Don't be a quitter now."

"I'm not… I'm just nervous." Shinji said. "I'm… I'm not used to the responsibility anymore." Shinji sighed. "And there are so many more people here now… the risks are even greater than before."

"So, we kill the Angel and make sure it regrets its decision to show its ugly shell." Asuka said as they reached the door to the Cage.

"Well this is it." Asuka said as they entered and looked at their Evangelions.

"Yeah…" Shinji replied. "Be careful."

"You too, baka." Asuka said with a smile as she walked toward Unit–02.

–––

Back in the Command Center, things were running as smoothly as they could. With the Angel getting even closer, and everyone a bit out of practice, there was a level of panic in the room.

"Hyuga, how's the evacuation?" Misato asked.

"All the block captains report that everyone has been moved to safety." Hyuga said. "Setting the city to battle configuration now."

As Hyuga initiated the sequence, they heard a rumbling above them as Tokyo–3's buildings sunk gracefully into the ground.

"Well… glad that still works." Misato said. "Aoba, any luck in contacting the JSSDF?"

"Still working on it ma'am." Aoba replied. "Appears they're in a bit of a panic."

"Can't imagine why…" Misato said sarcastically. "Angel's ETA?"

"ETA now stands at thirty–five minutes." Hyuga said. "Drones are being prepped to observe the battle more closely."

"Ok, plenty of time." Misato said calmly.

"That's not a lot of time at all!" Yuki said. "The Evangelions won't be able to intercept the Angel in time!"

"And what's the basis for that conclusion, lady?" Mari asked.

"Field reports…" Yuki replied.

"Wow, do you have your head up your ass, or are you just naturally this naïve?" Mari asked.

"I'm not naïve!" Yuki replied angrily.

"Could have fooled me." Mari quipped.

"Ok, enough Mari, she's not worth your time." Misato said coldly.

"Sure, whatever." Mari said. "She wasn't any fun anyway."

"Maya, is everything ready down there?" Misato asked.

"Yes, Colonel." Maya replied. "The kids are in their Entry Plugs, and we're ready to transfer launch control to the Command Center."

"Will you be joining us?" Misato asked.

"No ma'am." Maya replied. "I want to see what they look like up close when they launch."

"Alright, transfer control when ready to Sumire." Misato said.

"It's done, Colonel." Maya replied. "Good luck."

"Sumire?" Misato asked.

"I have control." Sumire asked. "Prepping for simultaneous activation." Sumire sighed. "Signal Termination Plugs have been removed… Entry Plugs being inserted… Entry Plugs are now locked in place." Sumire paused. "Connecting Entry Plugs to the Evangelions… Unit–01 connected… Unit–02 connected… primary connections have been established."

"Flooding Entry Plugs with LCL now… flooding is compete." Sumire checked her screens. "Booting primary systems now… life support online… internal data recorders are running… wireless communications have been established."

"Keep it going, Sumire." Misato said reassuringly. "You're doing well."

"Connecting umbilical cables… all circuits are open and static… internal batteries are fully charged and on standby… Unit–01's S2 Engine is coming online… Unit–02's S2 Engine is coming online… both S2 Engines are stable… power output is optimal and steady."

"Excellent." Misato said.

"Now establishing secondary connections… electrolyzing LCL now… secondary connections established… A10 nerve connections online and nominal… LCL pressure and charge are within normal operating range." Sumire reported. "Configuring language logic interface in Unit–01 for Japanese… configuring language logic interface in Unit–02 for German… all preliminary contacts have now been established… performance is nominal… opening bi–directional circuits… communication with the Entry Plug is open on a two–way secured channel."

"Good job." Misato said. "Shinji, Asuka, can you hear me?"

"Of course, Misato." Shinji said.

"Yeah, let's get this show on the road." Asuka replied.

"Alright." Misato said. "Sumire, continue please."

"Yes, ma'am." Sumire replied. "Bi–directional circuits are now open and transmitting… transmission strength and modulation is within normal parameters… brain wave pattern and harmonics are normal… Shinji's life signs are normal and showing elevated signs of stress… synchronization ratio is at 150% and steady… Asuka's life signs are optimal and are also showing some signs of stress… her synchronization ratio is 112% and… steady."

"Nice job, Asuka." Misato said proudly.

"Thanks, Misato." Asuka replied.

"Their nerve connections are in sync with each other… nerve connections are established through 1890… 1960… 2340… 2500…2590… clear to 2760… 3110… absolute borderline in 90… 60… 40… 10… absolute borderline passed… nerve connections now connected through 3510 and active… Evangelion Unit–01 and Evangelion Unit–02 are now online."

"Excellent." Misato said calmly. "Begin launch sequence."

"Aren't you rushing things a bit, Colonel?"

"We don't exactly have time to waste, Chief Inspector…" Misato replied sarcastically. "Sumire, please continue with the launch sequence." Misato ordered.

"Understood." Sumire replied. "Beginning launch sequence now… releasing primary lock bolts… primary lock blots released… retracting umbilical bridge… disengaging secondary lock bolts… releasing safety locks 1 through 15… all safety locks have been released, Unit–01 and Unit–02 are free from lockdown and ready for transfer."

"Arming each Evangelion with Pallet Rifles." Hyuga said. "More weapons are prepped for immediate deployment in the area of operation."

"Moving Unit–01 and Unit–02 to launch positions one and two." Sumire said.

As both Unit–01 and Unit–02 began to move towards their launch positions, the Evangelions rocked slightly. As the pads locked in place, the lock bolts sealed around the bases the Evangelions were standing on as the doors above them began opening.

"Launch pad locked in place… disconnecting umbilical cables… S2 Engines now running without external support or control… closest intercept point has been selected… launch path is clear and open… all systems online… verified all systems online… board is green." Maya reported. "Evangelion Unit–01 and Evangelion Unit–02 are cleared for launch at your discretion, Colonel."

"Are you ready kids?" Misato asked.

"No, why don't we hold back till the Angel is on top of us?" Asuka replied sarcastically.

"Yeah, Misato, that's kind of a stupid question." Shinji added.

"You waked into that one, miso." Mari said.

"Fine, you're armed, and we'll have more weapons for you if you need them." Misato said. "Now I'm ordering you to be careful, don't take unnecessary risks. We can't… I mean… I want you both back here safe and in one piece, got it?"

"Yes, mom." Asuka replied.

"We'll do our best." Shinji replied.

"Good…" Misato began.

"Hold off on the launch." Yuki said.

"Why the hell would I do that?" Misato asked.

"You don't have the intel from the JSSDF and I'm not sanctioning the launch." Yuki said.

"Misato, what's the hold up?" Shinji asked.

"Yeah, I want to get this shit over with!" Asuka grumbled.

"Bureaucratic bullshit." Misato said. "Sumire, get ready."

"Colonel, I expressly forbid this action!" Yuki said as commandingly as she could.

"Seriously?" Misato asked. "The city where the U.N. is based is a smoldering crater, and you're giving me orders? This is n emergency situation, and I'm using my judgement and experience to launch these Evangelions."

"If you do that, I will make sure you are stripped from command, Colonel!" Yuki threatened.

"If we can't stop this Angel, there won't be anyone left to strip the command from." Misato said solemnly. "Alright… Sumire."

"Ready ma'am." Sumire said.

"Colonel, I must protest!" Yuki said. "This requires authorization from the Security Council!"

"For all we know, they're dead and gone." Misato said.

"Yeah shut up so they can stop this thing!" Mari said angrily.

"Yes, please let them do their jobs." Rei added.

"Evangelion Unit–01… Evangelion Unit–02… LAUNCH!" Misato ordered.

–––

The pair of Evangelions emerged at the north end of the city. Asuka had forgotten the rush she felt when getting launched towards the surface, and could feel the adrenaline rushing through her body. She looked over and saw Unit–01 to her left, standing with its rifle by its side and looking out into the distance.

"Asuka, I don't see the Angel." Shinji said.

"That's because it's not close enough to see yet." Asuka replied. "Right, Misato?"

"Yeah, it's still a couple miles out." Misato replied. "Go and meet it. You're not restrained by the umbilicals anymore, you're free to roam."

"Well, this is nice." Shinji said. "One less thing to worry about."

"Yeah, cut cables can be a real killer…" Asuka muttered until something dawned on her. "Hey Misato, what about the ammo drops?" Asuka asked.

"VTOLs can drop you fresh Pallet Rifles." Misato said. "So you should be al set in that regard."

"Ok, so where are we headed then?" Asuka asked.

"North northwest." Misato replied. "Should be no more than a few klicks out."

"Thanks." Asuka replied as Unit–01 began to jog away. "Hey, wait for me!"

"This is different." Shinji said unaware that he had left Unit–02 behind. "We never really practiced jogging."

"Well, you're making me run to catch up, baka!" Asuka cried. "Slow down for a second!"

"Sorry." Shinji said as Unit–01 stopped.

As Asuka caught up to Unit–01, she punched it lightly on the shoulder. "That's for making me run, baka." Asuka grumbled.

"I said sorry." Shinji replied.

"Still, you're making me look bad out here." Asuka said. "What if someone's watching?"

"If they are, they'd be pretty stupid." Sumire said.

"Well, Toji and Kensuke did once." Shinji said.

"Yeah, and didn't you have to save their asses?" Asuka asked.

"Sort of proves my point." Sumire quipped.

"Guys, focus." Misato said. "I know it's been a while, but you've done this enough, there's no excuse for goofing off."

"Yes, ma'am." Asuka replied sarcastically. "Come on Shinji, let's move out."

"Right behind you, Asuka." Shinji replied as they both set off at a jogging pace.

"Wow, you're right, this is weird." Asuka said. "I think we've only done walking or running." Asuka smirked. "Or in your case, breaking the sound barrier."

"I think I had a tail wind." Shinji said.

"Don't be so modest." Asuka said. "You really did a good job holding up Sahaquiel all by yourself."

"Someone had to." Shinji joked.

"Well, some of us weren't the closest ones to the thing." Asuka retorted. "You had an unfair advantage."

"Excuses, excuses." Shinji replied.

"Are you two there yet?" Misato asked. "I mean if you're not too busy reminiscing that is."

"Not yet." Asuka said as they came to the top of a hill. "Wait… hold on a second… I think I see it, Misato. Jesus this thing is ugly…"

Down in the valley below them was Iblis. He was a massive tortoise looking creature, with a large pale blue shell, reminiscent of Rei's hair color, which had three large, blunt, spikes sticking out from it. The shell itself looked very think, almost like it was made of steel, and it was at least as tall as an Evangelion, perhaps even taller. On the front of the shell was a design that looked like an eye with a black pupil and yellow iris and the sclera matching the color of the shell. Iblis had only two legs, on either side of his head. Each one had three massive silvery claws, with a fourth claw protruding from the ankle. Then there was the Iblis's head, which was nothing more than a mouth with a tongue that had Iblis's eye attached to it. The exposed flesh of the head and legs was a darker blue than the shell, and looked quite vulnerable compared to the shell. Finally Iblis's tail looked armored, and had the same coloring as the shell. It had armored joints that allowed it to move, and three finger like prongs at the end which were holding quite surprisingly, what looked like its Core. He didn't move very fast, but with how heavy the shell looked, it wasn't much of a surprise.

"What are you… that's the Angel?" Shinji replied. "Wow, it is ugly."

"I know, what mutant cesspool did it crawl out of?" Asuka joked.

"It's certainly freakier looking than any of the others we've seen." Shinji quipped.

"And this one even wiped out a whole city." Misato said sarcastically. "Come on, stop acting like silly teenagers and focus. That's an order!"

"We get it Misato." Asuka said. "Shinji, any ideas?"

"Other than deploying our A.T. Fields, I've got nothing." Shinji said. "I mean… maybe flank it or something?"

"Yeah, one of us distracts it from the front, while the other comes in from behind." Asuka said. "Cause it looks like its Core is on its tail… weird…"

"Yeah, that doesn't see right." Misato said. "Aoba, is the drone in place? I need you to confirm where the Core is."

"We're on site." Aoba replied. "They're right, the Core does look like it's on the tail… it seems… too easy."

"A.T. Field strength is hard to determine at this time, but if I had to guess, it'd be below average." Hyuga said. "It's not registering very much on the sensors."

"Below average A.T. Field versus two Evangelions…" Misato muttered. "This does seem too easy… way too easy…"

"If it looks too easy, than it must be too easy." Shinji said.

"Look, we won't know unless we try, baka." Asuka said.

"Princess, listen to him." Mari said. "Don't be reckless."

"I'm not being reckless, I'm being proactive." Asuka said. "What has all our fighting Angels taught us? Brute strength is the best way to go."

"I know, but do you want to risk an all out attack right off?" Shinji asked.

"I would like to finish this quickly." Asuka said. "I'd rather be doing something… no… anything else besides this."

"Fine, I'll be the bait, you come around and shoot the Core." Shinji said. "Just try not to shoot me."

"Well… I'll do my best." Asuka joked. "It's been a while since I fired a real rifle after all."

"Oh great, friendly fire…" Shinji muttered. "I say we put off deploying our A.T. Fields to full strength till we're on top of it."

"Well yours will be way stronger than- mine." Asuka replied. "The plan works for me."

"Well, it doesn't for me." Misato replied. "Think of a different plan."

"No time." Asuka said as she braced herself against her control yokes. "Shinji, go."

"Right." Shinji replied as Unit–01 charged down the hill towards Iblis. As Unit–01 charged, Asuka snuck around and out of sight of the Angel to flank it, and hopefully get a clear shot at its Core. As Unit–02 got into position, Asuka could see Unit–01 expanding its A.T. Field, causing that familiar red glow to cover the area. Iblis didn't seem to be effected by that at all, and stood its ground as Unit–01 kept it distracted by firing short bursts at its shell and legs. The bullets ricocheted off the shell, going off in all directions, with several hitting Unit–02 by mistake.

"Jesus, Shinji, be more careful. Aim for the fucking flesh, not the armor." Asuka muttered. "That shit hurts."

"Sorry, I wasn't trying to hit you." Shinji said.

"Just get the damn thing to turn so I can shoot it dead." Asuka said.

"I know that Asuka, but it doesn't move fast." Shinji said.

"Well, piss it off!" Asuka said impatiently.

"Alright." Shinji said. "Here goes nothing."

Unit–01 fired the Pallet Rifle right at Iblis's mouth and eye, scoring two hits on his neck, causing the Angel to scream out in agony.

"SSKKKKRRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEE!" Iblis roared as he turned to face Unit–01.

"Nicely done, baka." Asuka said as Iblis moved towards Unit–01, snapping its jaw as blood poured out of his neck. "Now just get it to move a little to your left…"

"I know, Asuka." Shinji said as Unit–02 got ready to strike. "I can see your bright red EVA you know."

"Oh, shut up." Asuka said as she took aim. "A.T. Field to maximum in 3… 2… 1…" The ground around Unit–02 erupted in the same red glow that surrounded Unit–01, catching Iblis in between their powerful A.T. Fields. Asuka held her breath for a moment and squeezed her trigger, letting off a stream of rounds aimed right at Iblis's tail. "Now fucking die you bastard!"

As the bullets got near the Core, they made contact with Iblis's own A.T. Field, which was collapsed to protect only his Core. The bullets, even though they were designed to penetrate A.T. Fields, struggled to cut through, and simply fell to the ground.

"Son of a bitch!" Asuka said. "That should have worked!"

"It should of, but when the bullets hit, the Angel's A.T. Field responded by getting proportionately strong enough to block the shots!" Sumire replied.

"Bullshit!" Asuka shouted as she fired again, emptying her clip towards Iblis's backside, all for the bullets to either bounce off the shell, chipping it slightly, or to fall, useless to the ground after hitting Iblis's A.T. Field. "Why is this shit always so difficult!"

"Because Angels are unpredictable Asuka!" Shinji replied as Unit–01 jumped backwards to avoid being bitten by Iblis.

"So, do we have another plan?" Asuka asked.

"Misato, what about Maya's experimental weapons?" Shinji asked.

"What weapons?" Asuka asked.

"Oh, just some designs she slapped together from some data she got while the Gundams were here." Misato said casually.

"So, are those weapons usable?" Asuka asked.

"Not yet." Misato replied. "The only upgrades she's gotten done are the new thrusters in your shoulder pylons."

"What's so special about that?" Asuka asked.

"They're powered solely by your S2 Engines." Misato replied. "But what Shinji's talking about isn't ready quite yet.."

"What about the Positron Rifle?" Shinji asked. "Can we use that?"

"Hold on…" Misato said. "Yeah, Maya says its been modified to feed off an S2 Engine."

"There's a catch, isn't there…" Asuka muttered.

"We need about ten minutes to get it out to you, so we're going to drop some fresh weapons for you to hold the Angel off with." Misato explained.

"What exactly are you dropping?" Asuka asked.

"Four Pallet Rifles, two Gatling Guns, and two rocket launchers to use at your discretion, which should be arriving any second now." Misato said as Asuka heard the sound of VTOLs approaching. "Try not to get killed, alright?"

"We'll do our best." Asuka said. "Shinji, pass me your rifle and go grab those crates!"

"Be careful, Asuka!" Shinji replied as Unit–01 tossed its rifle over Iblis to Unit–02 and ran off after the passing VTOLs.

"Ok, I hope this works…" Asuka muttered as she took aim again. "Hey ugly, come get me!" Asuka let off a burst of rounds that his Iblis's left leg, causing him to slowly turn around and face Unit–02. "That's right you bastard, here I am."

Asuka slowly guided Iblis towards her, using her ammo sparingly so she didn't run out before Shinji returned. Even though her shooting was to minimal effect, she still aimed at Iblis's fleshy bits to maximize the damage she could do.

"This is annoying as fuck!" Asuka shouted. "Shinji, hurry up already, I'm running low on ammo!" Asuka fired her last burst of ammo at Iblis, and then threw the rifle at his head. "Anytime would be great!"

"I'm right here!" Shinji said as Unit–01 came up from behind Unit–02 with two crates. "Do you want the rocket launchers or the rifles?"

"What about the Gatling Guns?" Asuka asked.

"Why not save those for when I'm setting up the Positron Rifle?" Shinji suggested.

"Shit, that's a good plan." Asuka said. "Rocket launchers, baka."

Unit–01 opened one of the crates and tossed both rocket launches towards Unit–02. "Let's see how much damage we can do to it." Shinji said as Unit–01 picked up a pair of pallet rifles and took aim along with Unit–02.

"Well, don't aim for the shell." Asuka said Unit–01 took position right next to Unit–02. "Aim for the eye, let's blind it."

"Right." Shinji replied as the pair of them opened fire.

Unit–01 fired directly at Iblis's eye, cutting his head and legs to shreds with the heavy stream of armor piercing bullets. Unit–02 on the other hand fired at the shell to see if it could be cracked open, which after several successive missile hits in the same general area, the shell had a deep crater in it, and had begun to crack. Unit–01 dropped its empty Pallet Rifles and picked up the second set, and continued firing on Iblis's exposed flesh. Iblis, rather later than would be expected, retraced his bloodied limbs into his shell, leaving only the armored tail swaying in the wind.

"Shit, I'm out of ammo." Asuka said as she saw blood begin to drip from the cracks in the shell. "And we're so close."

"I'm out of ammo too." Shinji said as Unit–01 reached down and grabbed one of the Gatling guns. "Here, aim for the shell."

"Where are you going?" Asuka asked.

Unit–01 pointed up at the sky, and Asuka saw a VTOL with the Positron Rifle hanging beneath it. "I have to go get that."

"So you can see it?" Misato asked.

"Yes, I can see it." Shinji replied. "How do I detach it?"

"Just release the harness." Misato replied.

"Right." Shinji said as Unit–01 moved to follow the VTOL a safe distance away.

"So, you're all mine again bitch." Asuka said. "Time to shoot you till the white meat shows." Unit–02 opened fire with the Gatling Gun, striking the crater with every shot she fired. After Asuka poured the whole clip into Iblis's shell, it finally fractured and blood sprayed everywhere as Iblis's tail twitched wildly as if he were in extreme pain.

"Holy shit, it worked." Asuka said as she watched blood pool around the Angel. However, what Asuka didn't notice was that the sclera on the shell's eye was changing color. "Hey Shinji, don't worry about that Positron Rifle, I got it to bleed after all!"

"Asuka, we still have to take out its Core before it can heal." Shinji said as Unit–01 took position on the hill above Iblis and Unit–02. "Asuka, you may want to move before I take the shot. I don't want you to get hurt."

"Yeah, yeah." Asuka said. "Let me grab the other Gatling Gun before you get all heroic and go saving the day again."

Unit–02 moved quickly to grab the still loaded Gatling Gun and took up a position on a different hill than Unit–01, overlooking both of them. "Ok baka, do your thing."

"Shinji, you only have the one fuse cap, so make sure you aim carefully." Misato said.

"I got it, Misato." Shinji replied. "This isn't my first time doing this."

"Shinji, set compensation for gravity, rotation, and magnetic field at +0.0009." Hyuga said.

"Got it." Shinji replied as Asuka watched as Unit–01 sat down and leaned back with the Positron Rifle against her chest, and took carful aim. "Manual aiming online… Core is in sight…" Shinji muttered. "Capacitors at 100%… ready to fire…"

"Well, what are you waiting for, baka!" Asuka asked impatiently. "Finish this!"

"Yippie–Ki–Yay, Motherfucker!" Shinji shouted as he pulled the trigger.

The Positron Rifle's barrel erupted with a bright burst of green light, firing its massive, crackling beam right at Iblis's Core. As the beam reached the Core, it looked like a direct hit, but Iblis was still there when the shot dissipated.

"What the fuck?!" Asuka shouted. "That was a direct hit!"

"What happened?!" Misato asked. "Why is the Angel still there?!"

"I did hit it, right?" Shinji asked.

"Yes, but where did all that energy go?" Rei asked. "It… it shouldn't be possible."

Just as they were discussing what happened to the energy, and were distracted by the fact Iblis was still alive, 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.

"What the fuck…" Asuka said as she noticed the bright light from the energy collecting on Iblis's shell. "Uh… Misato…"

"What?" Misato asked as the ball of energy pulsed three times, and Iblis released the energy and everything turned to white.

–––

In the Command Center, all the that they could feel was the entire base shaking, and they were blinded by the video feeds all turning into but bright white, then turned into nothing but static.

"What the fuck was that?!" Misato shouted as the light dissipated. "Someone, give me something!"

"Massive power spike from the Angel!" Sumire replied. "It put out a huge burst of power in all directions!"

"Damage is contained within the valley they were in." Hyuga said. "MAGI estimate blast strength in the 100 megaton range, with most of the energy being shot up and away from anything important."

"What about the Evangelions!" Misato asked.

"What about Asuka and onii–chan?" Rei asked.

"Yeah, are they alive or what?" Mari asked.

"We can't tell." Aoba said. "We have no telemetry from the Evangelions."

"Why not?" Misato asked.

"The blast knocked them out." Aoba replied. "I'm trying to restore them now."

"This is why you needed to hold back until we had more information, Colonel!" Yuki said admonishingly. "Had you waited, this wouldn't have happened!"

"Had I waited, the Angel would have done that inside the city, and even this city can't withstand a 100 megaton blast!" Misato exclaimed.

"You should have waited for the intel from the JSSDF!" Yuki retorted. "Then you could have learned from their mistakes!"

"They're idiots, and they attacked with N2 Bombs, which we know can't do anything with an A.T. Field."

"Well… if the Angel exploded with 100 megatons of power from the Positron Rifle, what would it have done with the force of four N2 Bombs?" Hyuga asked.

"Well, whatever it did, it leveled Tokyo–2." Misato replied.

"And the U.N. with it." Yuki replied.

"Good riddance." Misato retorted. "Their oversight wasn't much help the last time around, I'm shocked that it's still not doing anything now."

"Colonel, we need to focus." Maya said as she entered the Command Center. "Chief Inspector, perhaps you should leave."

"I'm not going anywhere, it is my duty…" Yuki began.

"Then at least be quiet and let the rest of us think in peace." Maya said.

"So, do you have anything?" Misato asked.

"Well… I have a few guesses, but that's it." Maya replied.

"Don't hold back now." Misato implored. "Anything to go on would be useful."

"Well, while we were waiting for the JSSDF to get off their asses, I got a report from someone, a friend, in Atsugi who confirmed that four N2 Bombs were dropped just outside Tokyo–2. The JSSDF figured that the improved bombs would do the trick, and they wouldn't need to involve us at all." Maya explained.

"Well, that worked well, then, didn't it?" Mari quipped.

"Anyway, I did a bit of digging, and some seismometers registered the blast at a 10 on the Richter scale and I was able to pinpoint ground zero." Maya continued.

"Where was ground zero?" Yuki asked.

"Two miles from the city, and from the data I found, I was able to calculate that the blast that hit Tokyo–2 was in the gigaton range." Maya replied. "But there was flat land there, so the blast had nothing natural or otherwise to deflect it, it just ripped through the city unabated, crating… well, you saw…"

"Yeah, we saw…" Yuki muttered.

"How powerful was it exactly…?" Misato asked.

"1.21 gigatons." Maya replied. "Give or take a few hundred megatons."

"Fuck…" Mari muttered. "That's… how do you stop that?"

"Well, it appears that the Angel reflects back directed energy attacks." Maya said. "I don't know if it can convert all kinds of kinetic energy into this attack, but whatever is thrown at it will come back to bite us. The Angel's just a big capacitor."

"This is different." Misato said. "Anything we attack it with puts us all in danger."

"And I doubt those hills could deflect a blast again considering the blast power we just recorded." Maya said.

"Speaking of, do we have visual yet?" Misato asked.

"We lost the drones, I'm launching the backups now." Hyuga replied.

"Good." Misato said. "So… any ideas?"

"Maya, you said something about the hills deflecting the blast?" Mari asked.

"Yeah, the natural curvature forced the blast upwards." Maya replied.

"Could an A.T. Field do that?" Mari asked.

"I guess… I mean if it could stand up to the blast it could… in theory anyway." Maya replied. "Why?"

"Yeah, but can it reflect the blast back onto the Angel?" Mari asked.

"Mari, what are you asking exactly?" Misato asked.

"What if Shinji and Asuka could form their A.T. Fields to contain the blast and hold in the explosive force from the Angel causing the Angel to be vaporized or something." Mari explained. "Use the Angel's power against it as the weapon to kill it."

"How would that work exactly?" Yuki asked.

"We attack with something that makes a big boom, and the Angel takes a minute to charge up and explode, right?" Mari said excitedly. "So when the Angel does its exploding thing, the energy from its blast is bounced right back onto itself."

"But what if that feeds the Angel more power in return?" Rei asked.

"Either way, I think the Angel could only hold so much potential energy before it would explode from the stress." Maya said. "Capacitors have limits. And its A.T. Field isn't that strong… it's the weakest we've encountered thus far. It should collapse under the stress."

"That's an insane plan." Yuki said.

"Well, it's no different than "catch the Angel with your hands," right miso?" Mari joked.

"She's got me there." Misato replied.

"So, is this how you solved the Angel problem the last time?" Yuki asked. "Inane and insane plans that could get people killed?"

"Well, in all honesty… yes." Misato replied.

"And we were more than willing to fight." Rei said quietly.

"Most of the time." Mari added.

"Who would want to fight like this?" Yuki asked. "How you all survived is a miracle!"

"Divine intervention tends to do that." Mari joked.

"This isn't the time for jokes, Mari." Misato said sternly.

"Ease up, miso." Mari said. "We still have to find out if they're alive before we jump start this plan of ours anyway."

"It's a plan, but will it work?" Misato said.

"And will Asuka and onii–chan agree to it?" Rei added.

"Well, in theory, Shinji and Asuka's A.T. Fields are extremely powerful with their sync scores being so high… but they'd be under a great deal of stress… and the EVAs would probably need extensive repairs."

"We can't lose both Evangelions!" Yuki shouted. "They're or only line of defense if this happens again!"

"Why don't you tell the JSSDF that?" Misato said sarcastically. "Personally, I'm fine with the plan, but both Asuka and Shinji have to agree to it. They're the ones sticking their necks out against this Angel."

"Yeah, but are they ok to keep fighting?" Mari asked.

"We should know soon enough." Misato said. "Right people?"

"Ma'am, the new drones will be in position in a moment and I'm trying to reestablish contact now." Hyuga replied.

"Good." Misato said. "As soon as we get them back online, Mari, tell them the plan."

"Why me?" Mari asked.

"You came up with it, you explain it." Misato replied.

"Fine… whatever…" Mari grumbled.

–––

Unit–01 was lying on its stomach after being blown off the hill by Iblis's explosion. Shinji was knocked out for a few minutes from the force of the blast, and as Shinji slowly recovered from the blast and woke back up, he looked around him and saw the Positron Rifle lying several hundred feet away, looking scratched up, but otherwise unharmed. Shinji then though to check out his own body. He didn't feel like he was bleeding, he had certainly been injured enough to recognize the feeling of exsanguination, but he somehow miraculously fine. Shinji slowly eased Unit–01 up into a standing position and saw he was facing away from the blast zone, having been flipped end over end when Iblis exploded. Shinji turned around, expecting to see nothing but a pile of blood and some broken shell, but was met with the worst sight imaginable, a fully healed Iblis standing in a smoldering crater, stomping his clawed feet angrily and swinging his tail wildly.

"How is that even possible…?" Shinji muttered in utter disbelief. "It should be dead… right?" Shinji looked around and saw that Unit–02 was also on its feet and he tapped a few buttons on his control yokes to contact Asuka.

"Asuka, are you ok?" Shinji asked worriedly.

"I'm fine, baka." Asuka replied. "But what the fuck is this thing made of anyway?" Asuka asked. "It exploded and then healed itself? What a fucking cheat!"

"I don't think it exploded, I think it attacked us." Shinji replied.

"But all it did before was hiss and try to bite us!" Asuka replied angrily. "And it's not like you missed it or anything! How did it attack us?!"

"I've got about as good an idea as you do, Asuka." Shinji replied calmly. "But that blast was powerful, wasn't it?"

"Yeah… I can see how it took out an entire city like that." Asuka replied. "We're totally fucked, aren't we?"

"I don't think so." Shinji said. "Well… maybe a little fucked."

"Great, so what do we do?" Asuka asked. "We can't fight it, we don't have much ammo left, and I doubt the Prog Knives will be much good against that shell."

"And if we get too close, the Angel bite and scratch us." Shinji said. "So, I guess we just wait and try to keep it away from the city."

"Yeah, but how far away?" Asuka asked. "If it can attack like that, there isn't much we can do to stop it."

"But why did it wait so long to attack?" Shinji asked.

"You've got me." Asuka replied.

"Shinji, Asuka, do you copy?" Misato said worriedly. "Guys, can you hear me, please respond."

"Misato?" Shinji said.

"Do you know what this thing did?" Asuka asked.

"Yes we do, and you're both lucky to be ok." Misato said. "How do you feel?"

"Tired." Shinji replied.

"Annoyed." Asuka grumbled.

"Well, while we were trying to get a handle on things, we… or I should say, Mari, came up with a plan." Misato said.

"So you know why it attacked like that?" Shinji asked.

"Well, we have an idea, Shinji." Maya replied. "We're not certain of anything yet, but from what we've found out, it's a pretty good guess."

"So, how did it attack us?" Asuka asked impatiently.

"It's A.T. Field reacts to being attacked." Maya explained. "It then stores that energy and sends it back out, tenfold."

"So we can't just attack it." Shinji said.

"Actually, that's exactly what we want you to do." Misato said. "Mari, explain your plan."

"Wait a second." Asuka said. "It can shoot back everything we throw at it and more, and you want us to keep fighting it?!"

"Yes." Misato said. "Mari, explain, now."

"Right, so uh… how are you guys?" Mari asked.

"I'm fine, Mari." Shinji said.

"Just tell us the plan, four eyes." Asuka said impatiently. "I'd like to get out of this plugsuit."

"So the plan is that we're gonna nuke the Angel like the JSSDF did while you trap it inside your A.T. Fields." Mari explained. "And while it shoots the energy back at you, you keep it encapsulated inside your A.T. Fields till its own explosion disintegrates it."

"That's ridiculous." Asuka said. "Not as ridiculous as catching an Angel falling from the sky with your hands, but it's a close second."

"Yeah, Mari, that'll never work." Shinji added. "What if we can't contain it? Then it'll be Tokyo–3 that gets destroyed."

"I ran some numbers guys." Maya said. "Your A.T. Fields are powerful enough to keep the explosion of four more N2 Bombs at bay, and then you should be able to hold back the Angel's explosive power."

"Should?" Asuka asked.

"Well, you know nothing's certain." Maya said. "Especially with Angels."

"So, what do you think guys?" Misato asked. "Can you handle this plan?"

"How are you getting the N2 Bombs out here?" Shinji asked. "Isn't the JSSDF out of commission?"

"We have our own stockpile of warheads." Misato said. "We'll use some VTOLs, they don't have to worry about escaping the blast zone."

"Because we're acting like shield generators?" Asuka asked.

"Basically." Misato replied. "So, what do you say?"

"Well, it's not the dumbest plan ever." Asuka said. "And Maya, you think Mari's crazy ass plan could work?"

"Yes, I do." Maya said.

"Then I'm in I guess." Asuka said.

"So am I." Shinji replied.

"Good." Misato replied.

"So, how long do we wait?" Shinji asked.

"Not too long, the VTOLs should be there any minute." Misato replied. "So you may want to get into position."

"You deployed them before we agreed?" Shinji asked.

"Well, I did listen to Asuka's complaints." Misato said. "I didn't want to drag this out any longer than it needed to be."

"Fine, so what do we do?" Asuka asked.

"Get on either side of the Angel, preferably from the sides so it can't attack you both directly." Maya explained. "Then power your A.T. Fields up to full power and try to contour them together into a wall. Once we drop the N2 Bombs, you'll have until the Angel's about to counter attack to form the dome."

"Wait, can the A.T. Fields hold up to that many explosions?" Shinji asked.

"Yes." Maya replied. "The excess force will be directed up and away from you."

"How long do we have to make this happen?" Asuka asked. "And what happens if we can't do it?"

"You'll have maybe thirty seconds, maybe a bit more." Maya replied.

"And if you fail, Tokyo–3 will be destroyed." Misato added.

"Good, definitely needed to be reminded of that…" Asuka said.

"Well, no pressure, but you're under a time crunch." Misato said. "VTOLs will be with you in two minutes, you need to go trap the Angel, now."

"Right." Shinji replied as Unit–01 began to move into the crater.

"We're doing right here?" Asuka asked.

"Why not, the Angel hasn't moved at all." Shinji said. "It just keeps glaring at us."

"Fine, let's get this over with…" Asuka muttered. "So, baka, any idea how we do this?"

"Well, we just need to focus." Shinji said. "Think of something that motivates you."

"Wait, focusing is it?" Asuka asked. "Seriously?"

"It's worked for me before." Shinji replied.

"Fine, you take the right side, I'll take the left." Asuka said.

"Yeah, let's do this." Shinji said as the pair of Evangelions took their positions.

Iblis watched as Unit–01 took up position on his right side, while Unit–02 took up position on the left. They stood across from each other and slowly stretched out their arms. Unit–01 clenched its fists and began to glow red as its A.T. Field materialized in front of it, its orange octagonal shape curving around Iblis, doing its best to contain the Angel. But nothing happened with Unit–02, it was just standing there.

"Asuka, you have to focus!" Shinji said.

"I don't know how, baka!" Asuka snapped back. "I've never made my A.T. Field appear like this before!"

"You need to focus!" Shinji said. "Think of all the people that are going to die if you don't do this! Focus on that and visualize trapping this thing behind a wall!"

"How am I supposed to focus on that?!" Asuka asked angrily.

"I can't do this without you, Asuka!" Shinji shouted. "And if you don't do this, I'm going to die! Think about that, focus on that! I'm going to die if you don't do something!"

Shinji saw as Unit–02's A.T. Field appeared, flickering at first, and then coming fully into being, with its octagonal form merging with Unit–01's creating a cylinder around Iblis. Iblis snapped at their A.T. Fields, trying to break through, but he was thoroughly trapped inside.

"VTOLs in fifteen seconds." Misato relayed.

As the Evangelions held back Iblis, four VTOLs came into view. They were flying in a line, one after another. Each one had an N2 Bomb hanging from underneath it, and as they got to their drop point, each bomb was released within seconds of each other, and they dropped in a straight line, right towards Iblis. Iblis looked up and saw them coming, reacting by withdrawing into his shell, bracing for the onslaught. As the bombs exploded in unison, the area around both Evangelions was illuminated bright yellow by the blast. The excess energy shot straight into the air, creating a mushroom cloud over the two of them. Shinji however couldn't see anything in front of him, but could feel the pressure of the explosions pushing against his A.T. Field. The light slowly diminished, and he could see Iblis was still there, but was already charging his attack.

"Asuka, we have to make the dome quick!" Shinji shouted as he began to focus. "The Angel's already started to charge!"

"I'm not blind, baka!" Asuka shouted. "And I'm going to do this! Just give me a damn minute!"

"Asuka, you don't have a minute!" Misato cried.

"It's a fucking figure of speech!" Asuka screamed. "I'll make the fucking dome!"

With Asuka's scream the ground around her began to shake, and the sky began to turn red. Shinji reacted similarly, focusing his own rage into creating his half of the dome, the above Unit–01 also turned red, and Shinji's eyes began to glow red as well. With their A.T. Field dome complete, Shinji braced for what would most likely be a struggle as he watched the ball of energy on Iblis's back grow steadily larger until it was pressing against the top of the dome. The electrical discharges from the great white ball of energy impacted the joint A.T. Field, distorting the A.T. Field temporarily. Just as the ball of energy stopped growing, it pulsed three times, and then exploded with a force greater than anyone expected, fracturing the ground and allowing some of the massive amounts of energy to escape. However, with the majority of the energy still trapped inside, the A.T. Field dome was struggling to hold it all in. The Filed was stretched beyond the confines it had been set up at, and had pushed Unit–01 and Unit–02 several dozen feet back, with each of the pilots struggling to keep their A.T. Field active.

"Asuka… I'm having trouble keeping my A.T. Field up!" Shinji cried.

"So am I, baka!" Asuka replied. "But if you can't hold yours, I don't have a hope in hell of holding mine!"

Their A.T. Fields began to fluctuate wildly, with parts of them thinning enough that loads of energy began to bleed through and threatened to shatter the only thing holding the full force of the explosion back from vaporizing them and Tokyo–3. Shinji's chest felt it was being crushed, and he was starting to have trouble breathing from the pressure being exerted on Unit–01 itself.

"How much longer do we have to hold this?!" Shinji shouted.

"I don't think I can do this for much longer!" Asuka screamed.

"You need a couple more minutes!" Misato relayed. "You just have to hold on!"

"I can't!" Asuka screamed. "It's too much!"

"We need help!" Shinji cried out. "I need help."

"Help, wo in the hell is going to…?!" Asuka began before she fell silent. "Help me…" Asuka muttered. "…momma…"

Unit–01 and Unit–02 began to struggle against their jaw restraints, and had little trouble snapping the bolts holding their mouths closed. As if on command, both Evangelions opened their mouths wide, and let out a power roar in unison.

"ROOOOAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!"

Both Evangelion's A.T. Fields suddenly strengthened and shrunk, tightening their hold on Iblis and further compressing the explosion. The shaking from inside the dome intensified, as Iblis began to disintegrate from the power of his own defensive reaction.

"I think its finally working!" Shinji said happily.

"Yeah, the light's disappearing!" Asuka replied joyously.

As the light within their A.T. Field dome dissipated, they couldn't even make out the shape of Iblis, let alone anything else. When the light finally disappeared, and the ground stopped shaking from the intense blast, there was nothing left inside the dome save for a few pieces of shell, and Iblis's burned out Core. The two Evangelions returned to normal, the sky went back to its usual shade of blue, and their A.T. Fields stopped manifesting in front of them.

"Wow… it's over." Asuka said in disbelief.

"I can't believe that worked." Shinji replied.

"So, can we go home now?" Asuka asked.

"Asuka, you can't just leave." Misato said. "You need to be debriefed!"

"Watch me." Asuka said. "Come on baka, let's go home."

"Yeah…" Shinji muttered as he looked at the remains of Iblis warily.

"What?" Asuka asked. "I know that tone, you're worried about something for no reason again!"

"I'm not worried for no reason." Shinji replied as Unit–01 moved towards Iblis and crushed the remnants of Iblis's Core under its foot. "See, no worries at all."

"Shinji, we needed to inspect that!" Maya said disapprovingly.

"You can study the shards." Shinji replied flippantly.

"Shinji, the Angel is dead." Misato said. "That was pointless."

"Well, I just didn't want it to regrow itself like the last things we dealt with…" Shinji muttered. "Remember those ugly things?"

"I do." Asuka replied. "But I'd rather forget them right now."

"Fine, we're sending out recovery teams to the area." Misato replied. "You can head back here when you're ready."

"I'm ready now." Asuka said. "Come on, baka, the quicker we get there, the quicker we can get home."

"Right behind you, Asuka." Shinji said as he glanced at the shards of Iblis's Core and breathed deeply. "Let's go home."

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 – 150.0% (No Change)
Asuka – 112.0% (New)
Rei – 12.0% (New)
Mari – 9.5% (New)

Ok, so to start off with, Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke. Long story short for them, they know almost everything about what happened during the assault on NERV HQ and Third Impact, with some more embarrassing details left out. So, if they seem to know too much, they were told in the intervening three years. Yes, they probably shouldn't all know so much, but Misato doesn't care, she's kinda lax like that.

Now onto the resolution to Kaji's return, it took some doing to find a way for Asuka and Misato to each forgive Shinji for lying, and Kaji for well, hiding himself away. They won't fully forgive Kaji yet mind you, but they at least accept what he did was (in his mind at least) for their safety. Thankfully, Asuka just had to be reminded about how she reacted to Kaworu, and that perhaps she was overblowing everything that happened. As for Misato, she's far more set in hating Kaji because they were in a relationship, which she feels he abandoned. However, Asuka being the one to remind her (after coming around herself) was perfect, because Misato needed to be prodded in such a way to actually admit (much to her own annoyance) that she still loved Kaji, and does in fact want to be with him, even if she's not quite ready for it yet.

Also, in the story, a few of kids reference the Angels by name, rather than number. In the intervening three years, they learned a lot from the red disk Fuyutsuki had given Mari, and also got a lot from Gendo and Ritsuko's personal data files. While the general staff will refer to the Angels by number, the kids and command staff will refer to them by name.

Now to the Angel, Iblis. I chose an Angel that had already been designed for the NERV White Paper, but seeing as we have little evidence as to how the Angel acts, I decided it would be a fun test to see what I would come up with. Now, considering the Iblis looks like a tortoise, I decided that he would not attack directly, but rather react to the attacks coming at him. Thinking about how he would attack brought me to an old Gen I Pokémon move many of us many know (and perhaps hate if you started with Charmander) from Brock's Gym – Bide. Using that concept of absorbing attacks until releasing the stored energy in a devastating explosion led me to have Iblis not only fight the Evangelions, but bring them out reminiscent of Sachiel's attack where JSSDF may as well have been fighting with sticks and rocks. Now, as to Iblis's exact size, as I established in Gundam Invasion, and perhaps previous to that (I honestly can't remember), the Evangelions in the fic are 75 meters tall. So, Iblis's shell is about 90 meters tall to reflect its height difference as being taller than an Evangelion, according to the extra canonical sources for this Angel.

Now, destroying Tokyo–2 was, personally, an interesting choice, but I wanted to show that this Angel (and the rest coming after him) are much more dangerous, and no longer focused solely on Tokyo–3 because Lilith no longer resides in Terminal Dogma. I also wanted to play with the idea of how to kill an Angel without directly attacking it with a weapon, something along the lines of "catch it with your hands, duh" but a bit more advanced to show how far Shinji and Asuka have come as pilots, and to also illustrate that attacking something isn't always for the best.

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