Lonely Hearts
A Ranma/Neon Genesis Evangelion Crossover Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack

***********************************************************************
Disclaimer: Ranma is owned by Rumiko Takaashi. Neon Genesis Evangelion
is owned by Hideako Anno. I am not either of these people, therefore I
make no claim to ownership. However, the text of this fanfic and any
original characters are mine, and should not be used without permission.
Thank you.
***********************************************************************

Prologue: Last Chance to See

Ranma Saotome whistled happily to himself as he strode down the
street. Or, more accurately, along the fence besides the street. No
one even bothered to look up at that sight anymore, so common had it
become over the nearly two years since Ranma had come to Nerima. It was
just as accepted as walking around the large craters caused by martial
arts duels, or giant columns of ki energy springing into being with no
warning.

Very rarely did visitors to Nerima ever return. For some
reason, they found all of these things upsetting. So did the police,
who rarely if ever involved themselves with anything having to do with
the "raving loonies", as they referred to Nerima's martial artists,
native or otherwise. It was so much more conducive to keeping one's
body intact to stroll on down to a donut shop or chase a couple of
shoplifters than to worry about minor things like major property damage,
assault with intent to kill, and the like.

And, in general, the "raving loonies" were a fairly self
policing lot. Any martial artist who was foolish enough to involve non-
combatants, a category that did not include students of Funrikan High or
any members of the Tendo family other than Kasumi, in his fights would
find himself delivered to the hospital with many painful, though not
life threatening, wounds. And, when a martial artist was in this state,
the police would often stir themselves to deliver arrest warrants, or
more often papers ordering deportation back to China. Several visitors
had learned this the hard way.

This lead to the aforementioned tolerance on the part of most
Nerimans. Sure, intellectually they might know that the "raving
loonies" were a serious threat to the stability and safety of their
town, and they might even write long-winded letters to the newspaper
about it. However, it was difficult to really see it as anything but an
amusing sideshow, or a odd form of sports entertainment, with no real
impact on their daily lives. It was just another part of living in
Nerima, like having to sidestep Mrs. Furusawa's old fashioned way of
driving out evil spirits each morning, unless one wished to show up at
work soaking wet.

So, in a way, there were two different Nerimas. There was
ordinary Nerima, where salarymen got up and went to work each morning,
students went to school without dodging clouds of shrapnel from a nearby
duel, and romantic relationships proceeded in a somewhat ordinary
fashion. It was an orderly world, working under the rule of law.

And then, there was the Nerima of the "raving loonies", and also
of Funrikan High students. This Nerima was a world of chaos. More
often than not, school would begin with a duel, rather than groups of
friends calmly walking to classes together. Property damage was a fact
of life, and insurance companies were a fabled myth. This was the world
where one man could have three fiancees, at least, and a half dozen more
suitors of both genders. This one man was Ranma Saotome.

Rarely did these two twain worlds meet. Students at Funrikan
High would come home and speak of how they had barely avoided being
blown to bits by a ki blast that morning to be greeted by choruses of
"Oh my!"'s and "That's nice."'s from their parents. However, sometimes
an event of earth shattering proportions would occur, one that would
force the two worlds to briefly combine in a storm of chaos. One such
event had occurred almost a year ago, at the aborted wedding of Ranma
Saotome and Akane Tendo. Another such was going to occur today.

For you see, stuck uncaringly into Ranma Saotome's pocket this
fine afternoon was a ticking time bomb. And when it went off, it would
likely produce a metaphorical explosion of nuclear proportions. It was
perhaps the most anticipated and feared item to ever exist in Nerima,
forged in the slow fires of utter chaos, tempered in depths of wild
China, and cooled over the past year or so. What was this item that
threatened all the constants of Neriman life? A simple band of gold.
Stuck uncaringly in Ranma Saotome's pocket was an engagement ring,
bought with a loan from Nabiki Tendo, allegedly taken to purchase a
large collection of manga.

Over the past two years, interested Nerimans had been able to
build a twisted map of relationships, suspected or proven, among the
"raving loonies". That map was now invalidated, because it was all
going to change. Every last bit of it. For this day, this thirteenth
of September in the year 2000, the world would change forever. Ranma
Saotome, Heir to the Saotome Anything Goes School of Martial Arts, was
to propose this very day to Akane Tendo, Heir to the Tendo Anything Goes
School of Martial Arts.

Ranma Saotome sighed as he thought about it. Akane...

***********************************************************************

"AKANE!!!!!!" shouted a wet and female Ranma into the dark
churning sea at the same time the next day. Her throat was hoarse from
repeated shouting, and she was showing signs of an oncoming cold as a
result of staying out in the stinging rain for so long. The skies had
been dark when dawn should have come, and showed no signs of lightening
as the hours headed on towards noon.

Ranma slumped to the bottom of the small boat, staring into her
reflection in the raging water below her. The visage that was so
similar and so different from her true face. Tears were sweeping across
her face, making her vision blur. Finally, she moved again, paddling
the makeshift boat back to the small island that had once been a steep
hill.

The date was September the fourteenth. Yesterday, the world had
changed forever. Three billion lives were wiped out, half of mankind
destroyed in an instant. Or at least, that's what the radio had said.
According to the continuing emergency broadcasts, most of the world's
coastal cities were now gone. The American President Clinton had
declared a national state of emergency. Rumor had it he was massing
forces to invade Canada and Mexico, to replace what his nation had lost.
Other nations seemed to be following suit. Mankind seemed to desire to
complete the job Second Impact, as the explosion in Antarctica had
already been dubbed, had started.

Ranma carefully tied the boat up to a wooden post. She then
entered the small, driftwood hut she had built the last night for
shelter. Inside, the rain was somewhat deflected by the roof, though
much water still came inside through the many leaks. The sound of the
seemingly endless storm was unmuffled. Two figures awaited her inside.
One was the stretched out form of Ryouga, unconscious. Ranma's highly
trained vision noticed a water stain on his dirty shirt that had not
been there before.

Standing over Ryouga was a withered old figure, holding a jug of
some sort. The figure greeted Ranma with a racking cough. "Any sign?"
Cologne asked him, before doubling over with another fit of coughing.

Ranma slowly shook her head. "None. Any change with Ryouga?"

"No. It's like his ki is completely burnt out. He'll be lucky
to live out the day, much less recover fully. With proper care that I
can't provide here, I think he'd recover, maybe even be a martial artist
again, but I doubt he'll be throwing any ki blasts for decades. In all
my three hundred years, I've never seen anything like it," Cologne
responded. "What happened to you two?"

Ranma grunted as she sat down by a small fire. "I'd rather not
talk about it."

Cologne's eyes hardened for a moment before softening. "I
understand." Cologne sat down beside the young girl, handing her the
jug she had been holding. "Here. I already gave some to Ryouga, but
there's enough left for you."

Ranma took the jug, noting that it was half filled with water.
"What is it?"

"Water from the Spring of Drowned Man," the Amazon matriarch
replied. Ranma's eyes widened. Cologne continued, "It was to be my
wedding present for you... when you married Akane."

Ranma's eyes widened more. She had not thought the Amazon had
already given up on his marrying Shampoo. "Th... thank you," she said,
her voice choking up with emotion.

Cologne shook her head sadly. "It's nothing. My own small
apology, for the harm I did you." The matriarch paused as she coughed
for a few moments. "Go. Use it. I want to see you a full man, before
I die."

"You can't die, Cologne!" exclaimed Ranma.

Cologne closed her eyes for a moment before responding. "My ki
is strong, boy, but... not that strong."

Ranma stared at the jug for a moment. Akane would have been so
happy... Akane. Eyes brimming with tears, Ranma slowly poured the water
over her head. Her form shifted, becoming broader. Her breasts
vanished, and her hair changed color. Where there had been a girl,
there was now a boy.

All was silent, except for the raging of the storm outside.
"Cologne?" Ranma asked. When there was no reply, Ranma reached out and
shook the matriarch, before realizing that what sat before him was now
nothing but a lifeless shell. Ranma silently stood, and stalked out
into the storm. He didn't really notice that he didn't change form. He
walked forward until he was a safe distance from the hut.

Another of his friends and mentors was gone. He silently
recited the list. Akane, father, Mr. Tendou, Kasumi, Nabiki, Akane,
Ucchan, Shampoo, Konatsu, Mousse, Kunou, Kodachi, Cologne, Happosai,
Hiroshi, Daisuke, Yuka, Sayuri, Ms. Hinako, Akane, Akane, AKANE!!!!
Ranma glowed a dark, sickly green as he went down the list. Finally,
with a primal yell, he let loose his anger and depression. "PERFECT SHI
SHI HOKOUDAN!!!"

The green lance of energy sped up like a challenge into the
heavens. As it towered over the landscape, a horizontal beam joined it,
forming a gigantic cross in the dark sky. The light illuminated the
ruins of Tokyo, casting eerie shadows over the small pieces of high
ground where a remnant of a remnant of Tokyo's population huddled in
fear.

The next day, a boat operated by Gehirin, a research
organization that had been funding the Katsuragi Expedition to
Antarctica, arrived at the small island. According to the official
records later released as part of the United Nations Report on Second
Impact, it was one of many such boats operating in the area and took
aboard two seventeen year old Japanese males in need of immediate
medical treatment. Their names were not included in the report.

************************************************************************
************************************************************************


Chapter 1: Over the Rainbow

Before Second Impact, this area had been well inland. Now it
was home to the bustling seaport of Sasebo. Sasebo was home to a major
UN naval base. At the moment, most of the Pacific Fleet was in port,
preparing for an escort mission. Captain Anderson of the UN aircraft
carrier "Over the Rainbow" watched, his mouth twisted up in disgust, as
Evangelion Production Model Unit 02 was slowly loaded onto one of his
ships. Captain Anderson was in nominal command of the entire operation.

He was disgusted at his orders. The entire UN Pacific fleet was
being used to ferry one of NERV's toys, a young girl that was supposed
to pilot it, and some functionary who was acting temporarily as the
girl's guardian. What a joke. It wasn't like there were any enemy
fleets to protect it from anyway.

Anderson noticed a young man in a NERV uniform walking
confidently towards him. Probably a messenger of some sort. As the man
approached, the captain realized that he walked with the gait of a
fighter. He literally seemed to project an aura of danger, his eyes
subconsciously darting from side to side, on the lookout for threats.
Captain Anderson had studied some martial arts in his long ago youth,
and he knew a martial artist when he saw one.

When the man drew near he spoke. "Are they taking good care of
the baby, Captain?"

Anderson frowned in puzzlement. "The baby?" he asked.

The man gestured with his thumb towards the covered bulk of Eva-
02. "The Evangelion. It was what we called it at Third Branch."

Anderson blinked. What an odd nickname for a weapon. "You
are?"

The man bowed slightly. "I'm Ranma Saotome, ranked as a Captain
in NERV."

Captain Anderson bowed back. "I'm Captain Anderson, in charge
of this operation. Pardon me for not recognizing you earlier, but you
look... and move... more like a soldier than..." Anderson trailed off,
trying to find a way to express his opinion of Saotome's job without
being offensive.

Ranma laughed amiably, flashing a grin. "Don't worry. I get
that a lot. Comes from a misspent youth."

As the two walked towards the "Over the Rainbow", the captain
spoke. "A misspent youth?"

"I got into a lot of fights. Spent most of my time trying to
become the world's greatest martial artist."

"But you got over it?" asked the captain.

"No," replied Ranma. "I succeeded."

Captain Anderson burst out laughing. "You are one arrogant
sunnavabich. I think I like you."

Ranma's face turned slightly cold. "It's not arrogance if it's
true."

Before the captain could reply, a supersonic bullet appeared out
of nowhere and latched itself onto Ranma. Or more accurately, a young
girl appeared out of nowhere and performed what Ranma felt was a
credible imitation of an Amazon Glomp. "Mr. Saotome!" squealed the
girl.

Ranma looked up into the heavens and sighed. "Asuka! How many
times do I have to tell you not to do that. Honestly, you're as bad as
a fiancee!"

Sheepishly, the girl released the young doctor. "Sorry, Mr.
Saotome," she said, not sounding particularly penitent.

As Captain Anderson struggled to keep himself from disgracing is
position by laughing his posterior parts off, Ranma tried to regain some
sense of dignity. "Captain Anderson, may I introduce Asuka Langley
Soryuu, designated pilot of Evangelion Unit 02."

"Pleased to meet you, Pilot Soryuu," replied the captain, as the
three headed up the gangplank and on to the "Over the Rainbow". Maybe
this mission wouldn't be quite so bad, after all. It would be amusing
in any case.

Ranma surreptitiously reached into the inner pocket of his
uniform jacket, feeling the test tube inside. He was going to have to
find a safer way to transport it soon, but he couldn't have taken any of
the necessary equipment with him into the SEELE base. He couldn't let
SEELE get its hands back on his real cargo. Not that NERV was much
better of course, but it would have to serve.

***********************************************************************

Misato Katsuragi forced herself to be objective. It was, after
all, her job to know the people she would have to work with. Or, at
least, that was what she told herself. In her heart of hearts, she knew
she was searching for some reason to not work with him, one the
Commander Ikari would accept.

Spread on the tiny desk she was lucky her cabin had was NERV's
file on Ranma Saotome. There was a surprising paucity of information
for such an important figure. Birthdate: October 12, 1982. Relatives:
Unknown. Rank: Captain. Current Position: Pending Reassignment at
NERV First Branch. Previous Positions: Security Officer, Gehirin (2004-
2010); Head of Security, NERV Second Branch (2010-2012); Special
Assistant to the Commander, NERV Third Branch (2012-2015). Educational
History: Undergraduate Degree in Biology, University of Second Tokyo
(2008).

Misato sighed. That was really all the information in the file,
and she already knew all of that. After all, she had been there for
most of it. Misato laughed bitterly. Those had been wild days... to
say the least. Two years in Qinghai, then six years in Japan. Almost a
decade of her life.

Misato thought back to their first meeting in five years, which
had occurred earlier that day. She had been trying to convince the
Captain of this oversized tugboat to turn over command of Eva 02 to her,
but he had given her some bullcrap excuse about not having authority to
do that until the Eva was in Japan. Then, Ranma showed up.

The air temperature had dropped at least ten degrees when he
entered the room and the two of them locked eyes. Two words was all
that were said. "Bastard," had been hers. His contribution to the
conversation was "Bitch." Two words, and the pain and anger returned as
strong as ever.

Ritsuko would tell her it was all her fault. She had been the
one to choose the opening line, which set the tone for the exchange.
She would say it was time to let bygones be bygones, and that the whole
thing was probably just some sort of misunderstanding.

But then, Ritsuko thought this was a case of the jilted lover.
She thought she was upset because Ranma had run back to Qinghai after
the two had had a "week of nonstop sex". But that wasn't it at all, was
it...

Misato ran her finger along the scar on her left arm. No. That
was not the case. Not by a long shot.

***********************************************************************

Not far away, Ranma groaned. That had not gone well at all, had
it? He had wanted to apologize. He had planned to apologize. But, one
word from her, and all his plans went flying out the window. So much
for self control.

Ranma cursed himself. He had overreacted that day, so long ago.
She hadn't known. She hadn't meant it. He had just overreacted. She
was probably justified in her feelings to him. After all, he had put
her in the hospital. He had to keep those facts in mind. He was going
to have to work with Captain Katsuragi... not Misato, never again
Misato... while he was at First Branch. He had to do his job.

Speaking of jobs, he had some phone calls to make. He removed a
cellular phone from his pocket, and hit the first speed dial number.
"Hello?"

A moment later: "Yes. I have the cargo."

"No, I don't think they suspect."

For a moment, his blood ran cold. "I'm sure Captain Katsuragi
and I will work fine together."

"The Second and Third have made contact. Asuka doesn't seem too
impressed with the Third."

"My opinion? He's everything a pilot shouldn't be... but the
results speak for themselves."

"What? Yes. Of course. The cargo is all important."

"Thank you. A backup is always useful." Ranma hit the
disconnect button.

He paused only a moment before hitting the second speed dial.
"This is Saotome."

"What?!"

"You're sure?"

"Do we have any clues to who did it?"

"None? Is this all our vaunted resources can do?"

"Of course I'll check for leads at First Branch." Ranma
disconnected a second time, and breathed a sigh of relief.

He then carefully dialed another number. "What's up?"

"Uh-huh. Yeah, that figures, don't it?"

"Please tell me those records are secure,"

"Thank God. If the..."

"Yes, I know ya know that!"

"All right. Everything's OK on this end. Nice talking to you."
Ranma hit the disconnect button for the third and final time. He then
purged the phone's memory of the recent conversations. He doubted
anyone would get their hands on the phone, but one lesson he had learned
was that you never, ever let your guard down. At least, not if you
wanted a long life.

His night's work complete, Ranma gathered his toiletries and
started off to the head. He had time to take a shower before going to
bed. Tomorrow should be interesting.

**********************************************************************

In the depths beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean,
something was stirring. Swarms of fish scattered as its massive bulk
displaced hundreds of tons of water. Even the sharks, terrors of the
sea, fled. Giant whales, the only creatures even approaching it in
bulk, did their best to get out of its way.

It was ancient and terrible, utterly inhuman. Its very soul was
so alien as to be almost totally incomprehensible. And, in that soul,
it held something a human might call hatred, though such was a poor
analogy.

It was hatred towards those who had caused its father's long
sleep. It was hatred towards those it could not understand. It was
hatred for Lilith, and all of her demon spawn. It was a hatred of
humanity.

The other driving force behind this alien being was what could
loosely be called desire. A desire for reunion with the being that had
created it. A desire to return home to Adam.

This was Gaghiel, the Sixth Angel. And it could sense the one
to who it must return... far nearer than it might have thought. And
with that, Gaghiel began to move.

***********************************************************************

The figure stared at his phone. "How nice." He then quickly
strode off towards his destination. Or what he hoped was his
destination. The night darkened around him, and he quickly lost track
of his precise location.

An indeterminable amount of time later, he arrived at his
destination. "Good. I'm here." He quickly walked forward to the gate.

"Halt and declare your business!" called out the guard readying
his rifle.

The man flashed his identity card wordlessly.

"You're with NERV?" asked the guard. "What do you need?"

"This is a Code Blue operation- authorization Alpha Pi Zero
Nine," replied the visitor. "I am not required to state my orders."

"Er... yes, sir," stammered the guard.

The visitor swept past the soldier and into the facility.
Moments later, he was alone in the control room. A few typed commands,
and he was done.

"Well. That ought to make tomorrow a bit more interesting, eh,
Saotome?" The visitor then left the complex without further word.

The facility was dedicated to detecting AT field spikes in the
Sea of Japan. Its sensor net was flawless, and even the slightest Blue
pattern would be instantly relayed to NERV First Branch. Or at least,
that was the way it had been.

Five minutes after he left, the visitor turned around, shielding
his eyes against the explosion's light. "Too bad about the people...
just in the wrong place at the wrong time, I guess." He knew that he
would have felt much differently before... but people changed.

***********************************************************************

"Captain Katsuragi." Ranma's voice was cold and steady.

"Captain Saotome," replied Misato, her voice just as ice hard.

The two locked gazes, causing the two children watching to
shrink back. What they had felt in the bridge the day before was
confirmed. A very real force existed between the two NERV officers...
and it was not a pleasant force.

Ranma was the first to break the silence. "Where are the
Children?" The capital letter was evident, leaving no doubt as to who he
referred to.

"Asuka took Shinji to inspect Unit 02." Misato was proud of her
ability to keep her voice level.

"The Third? Well, that's a help," commented Ranma.

Before Misato could question what Ranma meant, the entire ship
shook. Misato quickly grasped the situation. "An explosion!"

Ranma shook his head. "An Angel," he corrected as he raced
towards the bridge. Misato quickly followed. Touji and Kensuke paused
for a moment before joining her.

"All ships, check distances between ships and avoid movement,"
ordered Captain Anderson as he struggled to gain control of the
situation. "Damn it, what's going on?"

"Gaghiel," stated Ranma as he entered the bridge, the others
behind him.

"What did you say?" asked Anderson.

"The Sixth Angel," clarified Ranma. "It's probably after Unit
02," he lied. He knew very well why it was here.

"All ships, fire at will!" ordered the Captain. The ship
shuddered as the water around it rippled from the effects of dozens of
depth charges.

"That's useless!" exclaimed Misato.

"Much as I hate to say it, Katsuragi's right. That's no way to
defeat an AT Field," said Ranma.

"Well, what else do you suggest?" growled Anderson.

"Activate Unit 02," Misato quickly suggested.

Anderson glanced towards Ranma, who nodded. "All right, then.
We'll see how your toy does." The Captain turned to his First Officer.
"Order the Othero to launch the Evangelion."

Moments later, Asuka's voice was heard over the radio
connection. "Unit 02 is ready for battle. The Third is with me."

Nobody noticed as Ranma slipped out of the bridge. "Well, I did
what I could." Ranma frowned as he knew he was lying to himself. There
was much more he could have done. But... that would only cause greater
harm in the long run.

Ranma quickly grabbed the sample case from his room, before
hurrying on to the small plane he had ordered to be kept ready. He had
an appointment to keep.

***********************************************************************

Dr. Ritsuko Akagi slowly glanced around the ruins, her cold eyes
calmly taking in the destruction. The salvage team was hard at work,
trying to determine the cause of the explosion, as well as the extent of
damage.

"Dr. Akagi!" called Aiko Hiruma, the leader of the team. "We
found something!"

Ritsuko hurried over to Aiko, kneeling down besides the two
workers who had made the discovery. That find was the facility's black
box. The black box would contain records of everything that had
occurred in the past 24 hours. Exactly what they needed.

"Well, let's see what's in it," suggested Aiko.

With a nod, Ritsuko commandeered a laptop and hooked it into the
device. After ordering the workers to depart, leaving her and Aiko
alone, she swiftly entered her security codes, and with a beep the
computer let her know she had access. A moment later, she knew what she
needed to know.

"Five minutes before the explosion, someone entered a delayed
self-destruct command into the main computer," Ritsuko stated simply.

"Self destruct? You mean... sabotage! But why a delayed self-
destruct?" exclaimed Aiko.

"Probably so that he would have time to get away," replied
Ritsuko absentmindedly as she continued going through the data.

"Do we know who did it?" asked Aiko.

"Have a look." Ritsuko turned the laptop around, allowing Aiko
to see the screen.

Aiko gasped. The intruder was facing the security camera.
There should have been a clear view of his face. Instead, the screen
displayed nothing but a blur.

With a single click, Ritsuko deleted the entire contents of the
black box. It took two more clicks to purge the laptop's memory of the
data it had accessed. That complete, she rose.

Ritsuko turned to Aiko. "Ms. Hiruma."

"Yes?" asked Aiko.

"All results of this investigation are placed under the purview
of the UN Security of Information Act by my authority. All members of
your team without at least a Delta level security clearance are to be
informed of the consequences of letting any information out."
Ritsuko's voice stayed steady as she alluded to the punishments many
felt were far to harsh. Aiko opened her mouth, planning to question
the necessity for that level of security. Ritsuko silenced her with
a glare. "This is a Code Blue operation, authorization Nine Gamma Six."

Aiko stilled her protest as she heard the correct authorization
number. That was drilled into all NERV employees by heart... if
somebody ordered a Code Blue and gave you your correct personal
authorization number, you were to obey instantly. Doing otherwise would
be hazardous to your career... and your life, if one believed the
rumors.

Ritsuko smiled at Aiko's quick obedience. She had the initiative
to try to protest, but knew when it was best to keep quiet. "Once all
security matters are cleared up, you are reassigned to the Science
Department of First Branch. Report to me at 0800 in three days." Best
to keep the only other person with really sensitive information on the
incident close at hand, where she could keep an eye on her.

Aiko's eyes widened in shock. First Branch was the most
prestigious assignment in NERV, for obvious reasons. And now, out of
the blue, she was being reassigned from this backwater post to there!
She tried to stammer out a "Thank you," but once more she was
interrupted.

"Good day, Ms. Hiruma," stated Dr. Akagi. And with that,
Ritsuko departed.

***********************************************************************

Ranma settled into the back seat of the small airplane. "All
right. Let's get going," he told the pilot.

"Destination, sir?" was the pilot's only reply.

"Tokyo-3... NERV HQ." Ranma carefully secured the sample case.
It wouldn't do to have it break open in flight. That would be...
disastrous to say the least.

"Roger." With that, the pilot lifted the VTOL aircraft off the
carrier deck.

Almost immediately, the radio squawked in alarm. "Aircraft
1178, why are you taking off? Over."

Ranma gestured to the pilot to pass back the headset. "Over the
Rainbow, this is Captain Saotome of NERV. I have commandeered this
aircraft under the NERV Emergency Powers Provision. Do not interfere.
Over."

"Err... roger. Over." Ranma caught the beginnings of a curse
before the radio connection cut off. A grimace on his face, he handed
the headset back to the pilot.

He glanced down at the fleet below him. It galled him to be
running away like this... but that bastard Ikari was right. The cargo
was too important to risk.

Soon, the fleet was over the horizon, and the airplane continued
to speed towards Tokyo-3.

***********************************************************************

Later that day, the battered UN Pacific Fleet pulled into port.
Gaghiel had been defeated, but not without a price. Two thirds of the
fleet had been utterly destroyed. As soon as the final ship came to a
halt, Captain Anderson gleefully signed over control of Unit 02 to
Misato. He would be damned if he was ever going to have anything to do
with NERV ever again...

As Misato lead the four children off the ship, Asuka looked
around. "Where's Mr. Saotome?"

"Aw..." replied Toji, "That coward left durin' the fight. He
ain't no man at all."

"Shut up! Mr. Saotome's not like that!" screamed Asuka.

"That's what happened, Asuka," said Misato. "But you're
right... the bastard's not like that at all..." Misato trailed off.
Ranma was anything but a coward, so he must have had a good reason to
leave... something important. But, what could it be?

***********************************************************************

"This is it," stated Ranma as he laid the sample case on the
Commander's desk.

"Very well," replied Commander Ikari, glancing down at the
hazard signs that covered the case. "Open it."

Ranma lifted the lid, revealing the fetus-like organism within.
"Here." Ranma returned his hands to his side, clenching his fists as he
did so.

Gendo nodded.

"Gaghiel was after this, wasn't he?" asked Ranma, knowing the
answer.

The Commander was silent.

"So, what did you need this for so badly you were willing to go
against the committee for it, hmm?" questioned Ranma.

Ikari made no response.

"The Human Instrumentality Project, right?" Ranma pressed his
line of questioning. He was going to win the first battle of wills.

Gendo sighed. "Yes. This is the First."

"Adam," stated Ranma simply. It was nice to have confirmation
for his feelings. He wouldn't ask why Gendo needed it outside of the
heavily shielded laboratory it had previously resided in. Why he wanted
it where the Angels could sense it. Not this time.

"Your new position is the Head of Security for this facility.
Fuyutsuki will tell you what you need to know," said Gendo after a long
pause.

"That's technically a demotion, you know," replied Ranma. "But
I won't make an issue of it this time."

"You are dismissed, Captain Saotome." The Commander turned his
gaze back to Adam.

Ranma left the room as quickly as he could without seeming to
hurry. As soon as the door closed behind him, he collapsed against the
opposite wall. A moment later, he unclenched his fists. With a sigh of
relief he wiped the sweat from his forehead.

As he did so he noticed that his fingernails had broken the skin
of his palms, and that he now had eight bleeding marks where they had
done so.

Ranma glared at the marks, and a moment later they vanished.



*OMAKE*

"You can't die, Cologne!" exclaimed Ranma.

Cologne closed her eyes for a moment before responding. "My ki
is strong, boy, but... not that strong."

Ranma stared at the jug for a moment. Akane would have been so
happy... Akane. Eyes brimming with tears, Ranma slowly poured the water
over her head. Her form shifted, becoming broader. Her breasts
vanished, and her hair changed color. Where there had been a girl,
there was now a boy.

All was silent, except for the raging of the storm outside.
"Cologne?" Ranma asked. When there was no reply, Ranma reached out and
shook the matriarch, before realizing that what sat before him was now
nothing but a lifeless shell.

************

The spirit sighed as it left its mortal shell, watching its former
pupil, now glowing a sickly green, walk mechanically outside the hut.
It really wished it could talk to him, comfort him, anything... but no.
There was no time for it, and it would only hurt him more in the long
run. Ranma would heal in time, and be all the stronger for it. After
all, Saotome had been its best student.

The spirit continued its journey, zooming to its destination as only a
spirit could. As it was, it was about to be late for its next dramatic
death scene, and Kami knows that Skywalker kid could really use some
parting words of wisdom.