After the Volcano 15
Disclaimer: I do not own Neon Genesis Evangelion or Highwayman. Wish I did, though.
Author's Notes: Sorry I took so long, but work and writer's block kept getting in my way. For this final chapter, I'm including an epilogue. Within which I've included a tribute to 94saturn's story 'A Glass of Wine'. The tribute being the effect of what happens when something is used on something else. Also, be on the lookout for another story involving a certain fugitive 'Highway' was looking for in the first place. It'll be another fusion type. Hope you enjoy!
Fifteen minutes of deliberation later, Misato gives Gendo the news.
"Sir, out of the remaining personnel here in Tokyo-3, those electing to leave are as follows. Shinji, Rei, Asuka, Shigeru, Makoto, Maya, Vice-Commander Fuyutsuki, Kaji and myself. Shinji and Asuka are working on contacting their respective friends to see if they want to leave this dimension as well."
"I expected as much, Major. Very well. The personnel mentioned are free to leave Tokyo-3. What of Doctor Akagi, though?"
"Ritsu said she'd be staying behind as she feels more at home here than anywhere else."
"Then it looks like I'll be having someone to keep me company." Mentally musing, he adds, 'She doesn't need to share in what I have in mind to destroy Adam and Lilith. Along with getting Yui and maybe Kyoko out of the cores. I need to think of something to do in order to get her to leave this dump.'
Two days later, the convoy consisting of 'Stealth', Jetto's rig, Misato's Renault, and a NERV cargo truck are parked at the entry point for the Geofront. Shinji and Asuka had managed to contact Hikari, Touji and Kensuke to see if they'd like to cross dimensions as well.
Much to their surprise, all three declined even though they actually were fascinated by the very concept itself. However, that didn't stop them from wishing their friends the best in wherever they wind up. Along with hoping they'll be able to contact once in a while. If at all possible.
As Gendo watches the load-up finish, he observes Maya turning to Ritsuko and hears her ask, "Are you sure you want to stay, Doctor Akagi?"
"I'm sure, Maya. I'm not as adventurous as you all. Misato especially. Makoto?"
"Yes, Doctor Akagi?"
"Take good care of Maya. Keep her happy as best you can. Consider it a final request from me, please?"
"I'll do what I can, Doctor. But Maya…" Finding his mouth covered by Ritsuko's hand, Makoto's eyes go wide as Ritsuko goes on.
"I'm a 'lab rat', not an explorer, Makoto. While I do admit a certain curiosity about crossing from one dimension to another, my place is here. You and Maya go have some kids." Makoto's eyes go even wider, as do Maya's upon Ritsuko's words.
"No buts, Maya. If you don't go for it, you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but you will regret it. Even if I have to haunt you till the end of time in the other dimension."
Maya then surprises Ritsuko by giving her a tender kiss on her lips. The surprise then turns to desire as Ritsuko returns the kiss. Makoto's eyes bugging out the whole time until Maya slumps backward. A silly grin on her face.
'I've done it. I kissed Ritsuko. My life here is now complete.' Her eyes closing in bliss while giggling, she faintly hears Makoto speaking.
"It's not too late, Doctor. Of course, that would mean me having to use your words against you."
"You would too, wouldn't you?" Makoto's nod and smirk has Ritsuko chortling as well before she sighs sadly. "I'm prepared to regret not taking the opportunity. Maya shouldn't have to regret a thing as she's done nothing to regret at all."
"True, but I'm thinking she's going to miss you. Judging from that lip-lock just now, that is."
"I'm going to miss her too, Makoto."
(Same Time; EVA cages)
Shinji and Asuka are in front of their Evangelions, knowing that what they have to say to the souls within is very difficult for the souls to accept. Asuka gives Shinji a weak smile and begins.
"Shinji and I are leaving this hellhole, Momma. Tokyo-3 may be where we found love in each other, but it's no place for a young family. The place where 'Highway' came from had never been affected by 'Second Impact', so there's a good chance we'll be able to see the world as it should be." Nodding, Shinji takes over for his red-haired beloved.
"Besides, according to Ms Winthrop, the scientists at the other end are intent on closing the portal. Even though they have no way of recording or indicating the way to this world. As for how they found it to begin with, I have no idea at all. But, I'll take good care of Asuka and the babies. Just like she'll take good care of me and the babies."
"You better believe it, buster." Next thing they know, both Evangelions lift their hands up from the cages, freaking Asuka out to no end. "What the hell's going on?" Looking toward Shinji, she sees him being calm. As a total contrast to his usual demeanor. "Shinji?"
"This happened when I first got here, Asuka." As the hands make their way to encircle the two, Shinji goes on. "Except Unit-01 was shielding Rei and I from debris."
"So what's it doing now?"
"No idea. But I think we're about to find out." At that, the powerful hands that dealt death to the Angels encircle the two and gently squeeze them. Unit-02 squeezing Asuka with more gentleness.
"Shinji, our EVAs are hugging us in their own ways."
"So they are." As a large purple thumb caresses Shinji's face, he looks over and sees Asuka getting the same thing from the red EVA. Just as quickly as it happened, it ends and both find themselves choking back tears. "Asuka and I will never forget you. Good-bye." Upon seeing Unit-01's eyes light up, Shinji turns toward Unit-02 and sees it doing the same thing. Sensing Shinji's gaze, Asuka turns toward him and gives him a sad smile as she goes to his side.
"I'm going to miss her, Shinji. I just found out she'd always been with me, only to leave her behind."
"Sorry, Asuka. What can I do to cheer you up?"
"Just hold me and never let me go, silly."
"I won't, Asuka."
Back outside, fifteen minutes later, Gendo catches his opportunity and jabs a sedative-filled syringe into Ritsuko's neck. Before she can ask, she's out like a light, slumping against Shigeru. As the long-haired techie struggles to balance his unexpected load, he glances at Gendo.
"Lieutenant Aoba, this is my final order to you. Take good care of Doctor Akagi as best you can."
"But, what about the work you have in mind, sir? Won't it be better to have a scientist on hand to double check what you have on mind?"
"I have some rudimentary scientific skill. It should be enough to get me through."
"I'm the Commander of NERV, Lieutenant. What can go wrong?" At that point, Shinji and Asuka emerge from the pyramid-shaped building and Gendo turns to greet them. A soft, genuine smile on his face. "I take it you're both ready for departure?"
"We are, Father. Are you sure you don't want to come along with us?"
"I'm sure, son. However, I can feel safe enough to give you some sound advice. Advice I'd learned far too late. A true Father never turns his back on his child. Even if it is to keep the child safe. I wish I can turn back the clock so this had never happened. However…"
"I understand, Father. I'll miss you."
"I'll miss you too, Shinji." Tentatively wrapping his arms around Shinji, he adds, "Yui would've loved to have met them. As I would've." Making sure Shinji's looking at him, he adds, "You may want to forget telling them about the Angel Wars and what role you two and Rei played in."
"No doubt about that. It'd give the kids nightmares. Be spending a fortune on therapy bills and who knows what else." Asuka gives Shinji a light grin before turning back to Gendo and asking, "Can we tell them about Grandpa Gendo and Grandmas Yui and Kyoko, at least?"
"I have no objection to that. Provided, of course, you 'edit' as to why we're not around."
"No sweat. We can 'edit'. No problem at all."
Gendo gives Asuka a wary gaze before chuckling lightly as the two go toward 'Stealth'. Intent on riding with 'Highway' and Annie. Fuyutsuki and Rei elect to ride with Jetto and Tania so they can hear more about the adventures 'Highway' and Jetto had. Kaji gets into Misato's Alpine, knowing her tendency to drive insanely. With Pen-Pen riding in a cooler in the back seat. While the three bridge bunnies and a still-sedated Ritsuko pile into the NERV truck.
Misato's Renault leaps into the lead, Misato yelling, "Last one across dimensions buys the Yebisu!" The Renault soon finds itself being tailed closely by 'Stealth', Jetto's rig and the NERV truck. With all four vehicles jockeying for position. As the four vehicles stir up a dust cloud, Gendo only has one thing to say.
"God's in his Heaven and all is right in the world." Smirking lightly, he adds, "I'm hoping along with the next one." Heading into the pyramid-shaped building, he mutters, "Now that that's out of the way, it's time to destroy Adam. But first…"
Making his way through the EVA cages, he pauses long enough to check his connections before going down into Terminal Dogma. Where the hybrid Rei is awaiting his arrival. Fully nude and awaiting his orders. Which Gendo intends to be issued once Section-2 reports the convoy has left the dimension. As he enters Terminal Dogma, his phone rings.
"This is Section-2 Agent Kosanu, sir. Convoy's left the dimension in a large ripple of light."
"Very good, Kosanu." Giving the hybrid Rei a glance, he nods as he removes his glove, saying, "Instrumentality is no longer part of the equation considering the original scenario was 'fucked'. So, therefore, Rei."
"Yes, Commander?" The hybrid Rei doesn't even blink as Gendo brings out his pistol and hands it to her.
"Shoot my right hand in front of Lilith."
Keeping her expression blank, she fires point-blank into Gendo's hand. Destroying Gendo's hand and the First Angel. As she fires over and over, she can faintly hear shrill screaming. Be it from Gendo, Adam or Lilith is anyone's guess.
Once the gunfire ends, she asks, "Is there anything more, Commander?"
"Yes, Rei." Cradling the stump that was once his hand, Gendo is stoic as possible as he says, "In the corner behind me, you'll find an N-2 mine on a hoist."
"I see it, Commander."
"Wheel it over to Lilith and arm it. Time the detonation for five minutes. It should be enough time for us to get to the lab."
"Yes, Commander." As she does so, she then asks, "Will we have ample protection, Commander?"
"We should. Terminal Dogma's down far enough that the detonation will only feel like a mild earthquake. If my math and calculations are correct."
"If not, Commander?"
"Hey. This is me you're talking to. What can possibly go wrong?" Once the mine is armed, hybrid Rei and Gendo make their way out of Terminal Dogma. Upon entering the lift, Gendo softly muses. "Of course, there's the chance we'll be fried like turkeys if my math and calculations are indeed off."
Little does he realize the hybrid Rei's are going wide in horror before they go back to their blank state. Of course, what she has to say next throws him to no end.
"If we're indeed fried, I'm so going to sue you."
(Five minutes earlier)
"So, just how soon should we be clear of here, Tania?" 'Stealth' had taken the lead from the Renault and 'Highway' couldn't help but feel curious
"All I know is when we see a ripple of light, we'll be in our dimension, 'Highway'. Other than that, I can't really tell you."
"Okay, Tania. I guess we'll… look alive, guys. We got light rippling out here." Next thing the group knows, they're on a desert road. With a black Econoline-150 van waiting for their arrival. "Looks like D.C.'s eager to get 'Stealth' checked out."
Sure enough, an African-American man steps out of the van and lightly grins before counting the vehicles and nodding.
Lifting a radio to his mouth, he says, "Montana here. Party's arrived. Count of four vehicles. Instruct Doctor Flagg to shut off the portal and seal the controls as they are. It's unlikely they'll be activated again, but you never know."
"Copy that." As the group leaves the vehicles, they turn back toward where they'd come from and only see desert behind them. The man notices this and finds himself curious.
"Something wrong?" Next thing he knows, a young Japanese male replies. In excellent English.
"Not really. Just wanted to see if I could see Tokyo-3 one more time before the portal closed."
"I see. I look forward to hearing all about it. I'm D.C. Montana, with the 'Highwayman' unit. You are?"
"Shinji Ikari. This is my wife, Asuka and my sister Rei. To the left of us are former NERV Vice Commander Kozo Fuyutsuki, NERV Major Misato Katsuragi, her penguin Pen-Pen and her boyfriend, former Japanese Intelligence Agent Ryoji Kaji." As they give D.C. a wave, Shinji goes on.
"Standing with 'Highway', Jetto and Tania is Asuka's Aunt Annie Zeppelin. To our right are Maya Ibuki, Makoto Hyuga, Shigeru Aoba and NERV Doctor Ritsuko Akagi." Looking over Ritsuko, he then sees she's out cold, grimaces and adds, "She's currently unconscious right now, however. So she can't talk with you."
"Understandable. It's very nice to meet all of you. In any case, if you'd be so kind as to follow me, I'll take you to the facility for debriefing." The group gives D.C. a nod of agreement, gets into the vehicles they'd arrived in and follows the man's van.
Upon arrival at the base twenty minutes later, Ritsuko regains consciousness and the debriefing begins.
"I understand that all of you, aside from Marshals 'Highway' and Jetto, along with Ms Winthrop, came from an alternate dimension. Correct?" At the group's nod, D.C. goes on. "While I find that interesting to say the least, I still find that hard to swallow. So, in order to get the facts straight and to cut through the BS, you'll be interviewed separately. Unless, of course, you'd like to pick a spokesperson." The group looks intently at each other before picking one. The one picked sighs before going on.
"Mr Montana, I'm Major Misato Katsuragi, formerly of the UN Special Agency NERV in the dimension we just came from. What I'm about to tell you may very well unsettle you to no end."
"I thank you for your candor, Major Katsuragi. It's very much appreciated. You may begin."
"Yes, sir." With that, Misato begins telling D.C. about Second Impact, the Evangelions, the Angel Wars, SEELE and it's conspiracy to genocide the world. Along with 'Highway' being in Tokyo-3 just enough to wreck SEELE's plans and Evangelion Units 01 and 02 fighting the M.P. EVAs. He seems to take it pretty well.
"There's no 'may' about it, Major. I'm very unsettled and disconcerted." Looking toward the three teens, he shakes his head and remarks, "To think the fate of the world rested on the shoulders of young children like these three here. I'm surprised you're not massive 'fender benders' by now."
"I'm thinking that's what SEELE wanted, sir. Asuka's Mother was rendered insane and then murdered. The latter happening according to SEELE's wishes. All to make Asuka hard-hearted."
"While Shinji's Mother was totally absorbed into Shinji's Evangelion. His Father sent Shinji away in order to bury himself into his work. Along with the pretense of protecting Shinji." Shinji and Asuka's statements cause a slight tick to appear on D.C.'s face before he looks over at Misato.
"Are they serious, Major? And do they usually speak like that?"
"They are, Mr Montana. As for speaking like that, they've had some practice during the Wars. You should've heard them in tandem. Now that was something."
"Too right. Speaking of fascinating, Montana, do you know how 'Highway', Tania and I wound up in an alternate dimension by any chance?"
"I do, Jetto." Bringing up his radio again, he says, "Bring Doctor Flagg in please. She can explain it better than I can."
"You got it." Two minutes later, a knock is heard on the door.
"Come on in." When the door opens, a young blond woman wearing a white lab coat walks in. Accompanied by a plainclothes Marshal. "Doctor Justine Flagg, meet Marshals 'Highway', Jetto and Winthrop. Along with our new friends from Tokyo-3."
Doctor Flagg arches an eyebrow and asks, "Did you just say Tokyo-3, Mr Montana? I am only aware of one Tokyo." Misato lets out a smirk and nudges Ritsuko. Sighing, Ritsuko takes the hint.
"Maybe in this dimension. But in the one we just came from, the original Tokyo was destroyed in the Second Impact. So a new one, Tokyo-2, was built."
"I see. So what was Tokyo-3?"
"It was a fortress city, built to withstand Angel attacks."
"Are we talking the biblical Angels or a wholly different kind of Angels?"
"The latter, Doctor Flagg." Shinji's unsure voice has Doctor Flagg somewhat aghast before he goes on. "Rei, Asuka, our associates and I saw horrors beyond your wildest beliefs." His tone tells Doctor Flagg all she needs to know.
"I can tell. You are?"
"I am Shinji Ikari, son of Commander Gendo and Doctor Yui Ikari. The designated 3rd Child of NERV for Evangelion Unit-01." Nudging his head toward Asuka and Rei, he goes on. "The young lady with blue hair is my sister, Rei Ikari, designated the 1st Child of NERV for Evangelion Unit-00 and the redhead is my wife. Asuka Ikari, designated 2nd Child of NERV for Evangelion Unit-02."
"Hate to cut this Q&A session, informative for you, short, but are you the reason why we and our trucks wound up outside our usual operation zones?" Jetto's face is in a snarl, prompting Doctor Flagg to sigh before giving her reply.
"Yes. I am. As is my project into inter-dimensional travel."
"To what end?"
"Scientific curiosity, Miss Ikari. The technology for the project was mainly from my high school science fair project. I promised myself that if I were to do it again, I'd do it in a remote setting." That alone gets Ritsuko's curiosity.
"How was it supposed to work?" Doctor Flagg launches into a highly technical ramble that goes over the heads of everyone but Ritsuko. She then asks, "What happened then, Doctor?"
"At first, I thought I'd failed when no portal was visible. But then I saw a satellite feed of a big rig that looked like it belonged on a sci-fi show and decided it'd be an ideal subject for the test. Leaving the portal on, I watched and then celebrated as the truck vanished. The experiment was a success. Some time later, the truck reappeared. Confirming that a return trip is indeed possible. I then slapped myself for forgetting to turn off the portal."
"So, you used 'Stealth' as a test subject of sorts? Just because it looked like it belonged on a sci-fi show?" The tone in his voice tells Doctor Flagg that 'Highway' is nowhere close to pleased about what had happened. Yet, nonplussed, she goes on.
"Correct. The second time I saw it, it was just outside of Amarillo. So, I turned on the portal and voila! The truck vanished once again. Only I turned off the portal to ensure it'd never come back."
"And when you saw Jetto's rig, you decided to do the same thing to it. Didn't you?" At her nod, Tania asks, "Did it ever occur to you that those rigs looked that way for a reason?"
"Not really." Tania shakes her head in pity before looking over at a seemingly irate 'Highway' and Jetto. With Annie and Fuyutsuki barely able to hold them back. Meanwhile, Doctor Flagg is oblivious to this as she adds, "It was too easy, though. I can make a portal in my sleep. I need a challenge for my intellect." Jetto and 'Highway' stop struggling at those words, pondering them. The others in the group doing the same before grinning widely. "Why am I liking and not liking those grins at the same time?"
"You need a real challenge? I can see it must've been absurdly easy for you to generate a portal. I can also see how it'd be boring for you." Asuka's voice has a hint of temptation within and Doctor Flagg can't help but excitedly take the bait.
"Who do I have to kill?" Shinji picks up from there.
"No killing involved. More like retrieval of two loving souls from their prisons. Prisons that they've been confined in for the past ten years."
"Sure. I've been looking for a challenge. Where at?"
"Tokyo-3. In the other dimension."
"I'm there. Just gotta get the portal powered up again." Peering over toward D.C., she asks, "Would it be alright, Mr Montana?"
"I see no reason to object. I think I'll go along so I can see this Tokyo-3 for myself. Make the arrangements, Doctor."
"You got it."
Later that day, Doctor Flagg, D.C. and Ritsuko go through the reopened portal and arrive in Tokyo-3. As Ritsuko gives D.C. directions, Doctor Flagg can't help but look around in awe until she sees a stomach-turning sight.
"What are those white creatures? And why are they in pieces?"
"Those are the Mass Produced Evangelions that SEELE had sent. Undoubtedly to destroy Tokyo-3 and to take control of Unit-01. As for why, our Evangelions kicked their asses. They give you the creeps, don't they?"
"To no end, Doctor Akagi." When she sees the pyramid-shaped building fifteen minutes later, she then asks, "Is that where we're going?"
"Yep. NERV HQ. Hopefully Commander Ikari has managed to keep himself out of trouble."
"Ikari? As in related to Shinji Ikari?"
"That's right, D.C. Shinji's Father."
"So that's how Shinji got the job. His Father had considerable pull."
"Not even close, Mr Montana. Before he arrived here, Shinji had no idea what Commander Ikari had wanted. He'd expected reconciliation with his estranged Father. Not to start fighting in a war for the survival of humanity." When they arrive there, they see two black-suited men and are initially stopped until Ritsuko vouches for them. She then asks, "Where's Commander Ikari now?"
"He's in the Genesis Lab, Doctor. But, I thought you went with the others."
"I did. Under unconscious duress. Which I intend to speak with Gendo about. Let's go, guys." As the three go in, the first Agent turns and smirks at his associate.
"How much you wanna bet the Commander's about to get his ass chewed up?"
"Not gonna take that bet. I know a sucker bet when I hear one. I mean, her face looked like she's intending to do just that."
"Yeah. That's true. What do you think is going to happen after she chews him out?"
"Hopefully, they'll be able to help the Commander in what he intends to do."
"We can only hope so. He can't do that kind of science for shit."
As they walk along, Ritsuko gives her companions the grand tour. When they reach the bridge level, she tells them about the MAGI supercomputer. While D.C. is impressed, Doctor Flagg finds herself curious.
"Who designed it?"
"My late Mother. Doctor Naoko Akagi. She even programmed the MAGI with her three personality aspects. Scientist, Mother and woman."
"How'd she die?"
"It's been listed as a 'suicide', Mr Montana."
Upon arrival at the lab fifteen minutes later, Ritsuko gasps in horrified shock when she sees a still-nude Rei tending to Gendo's damaged limb.
"I was instructed to destroy Adam in front of Lilith with Commander Ikari's weapon. As a result, his right hand was amputated."
"This is amputation? More like mutilation! What of Lilith?" Gendo lets out a pained smirk as he takes that opening.
"Destroyed. Hopefully. Haven't been in Terminal Dogma since the N-2 detonated. So I don't really know off-hand." Hefting his bandaged limb as they head toward the Cages, he adds, "If you'll pardon the pun." Ritsuko can only roll her eyes as Doctor Flagg goes to work. Gendo notices it, along with D.C. and asks, "Who're they, Akagi?"
"D.C. Montana of the U.S. Marshals 'Highwayman' unit and Doctor Justine Flagg. She was the one responsible for the arrival of our 'guests' and their rigs."
"I see. What is your reason for bringing her here, Doctor? For that matter, what are you doing here? I gave Aoba orders to take care of you."
"She found herself bored with portal work and felt she needed a challenge. I'll get to that other in a bit."
"And what better challenge than extracting a pair of souls from the Evangelions' cores?" At Ritsuko's nod, he adds, "It's probably just as well. I probably would've wound up screwing up." Looking toward the young blond as she works, he remarks, "I just hope it's not too challenging for her."
"As do I. But, for now, let's discuss what you did before my 'departure'. Shall we?"
(Same time; other dimension)
"Seeing as you're intent on living here, we better find you all places to live." Tania looks over toward Misato and Kaji before rhetorically asking, "Are you experienced in watching over teenagers, Major Katsuragi and Mr Kaji? Especially those with painful pasts?"
Her face beaming, Misato replies, "We are."
"Are you willing to keep doing so? Even if it means going the educational route?" Kaji takes that opening with a wide smirk.
"You don't even have to ask, Ms Winthrop. I've always wanted to be a teacher from before Second Impact struck." Makoto's eyes go wide with realization before makes his concern known.
"But, what about their education and marriage? Along with Asuka's pregnancy as her belly becomes even more prominent? There're bound to be questions about it. We can't very well tell those that ask about some laws regarding something that never occurred."
"Asuka and I discussed that last night and we came up with the following reason, Mr Hyuga. An experiment in first-time sex between us resulted in Asuka being pregnant. Being anti-abortion, we decided we'll raise the child or children and wed officially when we come of legal marrying age here."
"It was the best Shinji can come up with. He deserves all the credit." As Shinji tries to explain she contributed to it as well, she squeezes his lips shut and, as his words come out muffled, adds, "He's so modest, it's cute."
Tania can only giggle as she looks over toward Fuyutsuki and asks, "What did you do before that mess anyway, Vice-Commander?"
"I was a Professor at Tokyo University. In fact, I was thinking of going back to it after the Wars were over with."
"So you have some experience then. How would you feel about teaching at Stanford University?"
"I wouldn't be adverse to it. Though my credentials could raise questions seeing as I'm not native to this dimension."
"No need to worry. I've got a friend that works there as Dean. She won't question as long as you avoid topics you're not comfortable with." Turning to the bridge bunnies, she then asks, "How about you guys? What experience do you have?" Maya, Shigeru and Makoto look tentatively at each other before Maya gives their collective reply.
"Aside from working the MAGI and tracking statistics, not very much."
"Wait a minute. NERV was a Defense group, right?" Jetto's question gets a collective nod from them before he goes on. "I have an 'in' of sorts with some 'colleagues' of mine. Unofficial, of course."
Her eyes wide, Tania asks, "You mean…?"
"Too right. I can talk to them about it and see what they say." Tania covers a light grin as the bridge bunnies ask Jetto about what he means.
'Somehow, I think we'll be able to manage getting them settled into their new lives here.'
As 'Highway' chortles at his colleague's misfortune, a thought occurs to him. "Tania, what about that fugitive I've been looking for? Any new information?"
"You know, I've been wondering when you were going to ask that. Because I'm kinda curious myself." Bringing out her phone, Tania presses the programmed number and waits for someone to pick up. When the other end's picked up, she says, "This is Winthrop. I'm calling in regards to case number 55797. Yes, the fugitive case. Have there been any new leads or rumors at least?" Her eyes going wide, she lunges over for a piece of paper and a pen, excitedly writing the information down.
"How long ago? Two weeks? Where? Chicago? He what? We better find him first then or we can just let the 'gorilla' have his fun. Yes, I'm kidding. Winthrop out." Ending the call, she says, "Our man's reportedly in Chicago, under the alias of 'Benjamin Naturania' as of two weeks ago. He had a less than cordial encounter with a gunsmith. A friend of the gunsmith's with the build of a gorilla is going around Chicago, trying to find that guy. If only to pound him into paste."
"So we find him first so he doesn't get pounded into paste. Although I am curious as to what kind of 'less than cordial encounter' it was."
"Apparently, he made scathing remarks about the gunsmith's heritage and it was taken pretty hard. Here's the name." Handing 'Highway' the paper, she adds, "You and Jetto go together. The bridge bunnies, Annie, Misato, Kaji and I will stay behind with Shinji, Asuka and Rei. Get them ready for the next semester of school seeing how late it is in the current term."
"You got it. Come on, Jetto. We've got a fugitive to bring in."
"I don't see why we can't let the 'gorilla' have fun."
"Maybe both can be done. We'll see when we get there and to that point." With that, the 'Highwaymen' leave and head for their next destination.
Doctor Flagg is in recovery after seeing the 'prisons' that she has to spring the souls from. After getting herself back together, she gets to work while Gendo gets himself fitted with a prosthetic hand. Needless to say, Ritsuko had thoroughly chewed him out for knocking her out like that.
On the outside, he's stoic. On the inside, however, he's still lightly shaking.
'Never thought Ritsuko would have her late Mother's temper.' Next thing he knows, he hears frantic shouting. 'Now what?' Turning around, his face lights up in a soft, happy smile. "Yui."
(Five months later)
"Students, we have three new people joining our class and two new teachers." As the voice resounds in the gym, it goes on. "I'd like you all to welcome Asuka Langley Sohryu, Shinji Ikari and Rei Ikari. The teachers are Misato Katsuragi and Ryoji Kaji. If any of you have questions, you can voice them now."
"Asuka, where are you from?"
"I'm from Germany."
"Shinji and Rei?"
"We're from Japan. Shinji's my older twin brother."
"Asuka, will you go out with me?" Asuka's light giggles don't sound encouraging to him. "I'm guessing not."
"You'd be guessing right. Sorry to disappoint all the other boys out there, but I'm already in a relationship." Turning to the side, she reveals her proof. "We're at this point already, so we're getting married when we turn eighteen."
"Who's the one that did it?"
"Shinji." Shinji's blush gets Asuka to grin and blush as she takes his hand, adding, "He's everything to me."
"Any of you going out for sports or activities?"
"Shinji's a good runner, so he's going for track while Rei's a good swimmer so she'll be going for the swim team. As for me, I'm waiting until after I give birth. But, off-hand, I'm going to try the swim team as well. Provided, of course, swim team is year round."
"Ms Katsuragi and Mr Kaji, where are you from?"
"We're from Japan as well. Kaji's from Osaka and I'm from Tokyo."
"What subjects are you teaching?"
"I'm teaching Driver's Ed and Mr Kaji's teaching Government." Misato doesn't see the three cringing at her intent subject matter, but the other students do. Which causes them to wonder one thing.
'What's with them?'
Epilogue (Four years later)
Two pairs of bright blue eyes peer intently at their objective before glinting in mischief. One head turns as if searching for anyone approaching while the other rises up. Mouth widening in glee. Until…
"What do you two think you're doing?" The female voice, while cross, is filled with amusement as it goes on. "Ryoji Johann and Miyuko Ikari, you know the rules. No cookies before dinner. Daddy's making your favorite during the barbecue tonight." Seeing his position, she adds, "Come on down from there, RJ."
"Oh darn." Yet RJ gets down from his perch and stands beside Miyuko, as if awaiting punishment to the extremes.
"Mommy, it's just a little snack." Miyuko's plea is heard, yet chuckled off as a nineteen year old Asuka, clad in a robe with her red and white striped bikini visible through the opening, kneels down to her children before beeping their noses and wrapping her arms around them.
"Oh sure. A little snack an hour before party-time? What would your Daddy say if he was in here right now?"
"Sorry?" RJ's wiseacre reply/question is met with a glare from his Mother before she sighs haplessly.
"I guess it could be worse. If your Grandpa Gendo was here right now, there's no telling what he'd do. Okay. One cookie for both of you. That's it until after the party."
Grinning as she lifts the lid off the cookie jar, she dips her hand into the jar and brings out two homemade chocolate chip cookies. Handing them to her children, she then watches them eat them ravenously before deciding to get herself one and shrugs.
"I think I now know why you like these cookies so much. It's because your Daddy made them, isn't it?" Her question is answered by two crumb-covered smiling faces which cause her to giggle. As she giggles, she wets a paper towel before gently wiping their faces clean. "If only your Grandmothers Yui and Kyoko can see you two now. I have no doubt whatsoever they'd be laughing themselves silly."
"Is that how I got my name, Mommy?"
"Only partly, Miyuko. Grandma Misato also had a hand in it, too."
"How did you and Daddy meet, Mommy?"
"We met on a ship, RJ. I was on my way to Japan from Germany when I first saw your Daddy." Smirking, she adds, "He had Misato and your two 'Stooge Uncles' with him." Smiling softly, Asuka recalls that particular moment. A now-cherished memory for her.
"I'd like you to meet the Second Child. Asuka Langley Sohryu." A massive gust of wind blew her yellow sundress up, revealing her panties to the three boys with Misato. Asuka shrieked and slapped all three of them. Indignant, the biggest boy sprung up.
"What did you do that for?"
"That was the viewing fee. Quite the bargain." The biggest boy then smiled wickedly before giving his retort.
"A little over-priced. But that's alright. Here's your change." Next thing Asuka knew, the boy had pulled down his pants and boxers. Disgusting Asuka to no end. Prompting a second slap for him.
"So, Misato, which one is the famous Third Child?" Thinking it was the boy that just flashed her, she then said, "Ach, nein."
"Not to worry, Asuka." Misato indicated Shinji, adding, "This is him." Asuka scrutinized him carefully, thoughts running rampant.
'He's cute. Not quite as cute as Kaji, of course. But cute nonetheless.' Verbally, she said, "Not much to look at."
Snapping out of it, Asuka says, "Your Grandma Misato had me pegged right on before you were even thought of. I was smitten with your Daddy from the start. I was just denying it."
"At the time, I thought no other man could measure up to your Grandpa Kaji. But, as I spent time with your Daddy, I saw his inner strength, kindness and other aspects essential for a man to have. Of course, we both did have damage to our psyches. So we had to help each other out." Before Miyuko can ask anything more, a turbine engine familiar to Asuka's ears gets her attention. Along with the two children.
"Uncle 'Highway'! Aunt Annie!" Excitedly, the two race for the front door, causing Asuka to giggle lightly before following her two children out of the house. Upon seeing 'Stealth', she grins upon seeing a familiar black sedan. Along with hearing three more names. "Grandma Yui, Grandma Kyoko, Grandpa Gendo!"
Gendo lets out a happy and warm grin as he kneels down to greet his grandchildren. Yui and Kyoko taking either side of him. Asuka goes to 'Highway' and Annie and can't help smiling at the sight of the most feared man in NERV finally showing his warm and caring side. Time and time again.
Kyoko notices Asuka smiling softly and crosses over to her.
"Hi, Mama." Without hesitation, Asuka flings herself into Kyoko's arms. With Kyoko wrapping her arms around her.
"Asuka, you just saw me last week."
"I know, Mama. I'm just catching up as much as possible for all the years we missed."
"So you keep saying for the past four years."
"You say it like it's a bad thing." Kyoko lets out a chuckle while Asuka lets out a stifled sob. "Sorry."
"You're not trying to do a 'Shinji' are you?"
"Don't tell him, please. It'd wreck my reputation."
"I won't. By the way, where is my son-in-law at?"
"Shinji's discovering the joys of tanning. Thinking of which, I better get back with him."
"Helping him get as even a tan as possible, hmm?"
"You got it." Noticing the folder in Kyoko's hands, she asks, "What's in there?"
"Some notes to go over with Doctor Flagg about. Such as how we were retrieved from our prisons to begin with."
"You were able to decipher that mess?"
"Not really. I'm ashamed to admit that these notes are beyond me."
"Well, it doesn't really matter now. You're both out of those cores and back with us."
"Yes. Though I wish I'd been able to return to my original body. I still can't believe Reinhardt and Helga did it in."
"Neither can I, Mama. But at least the Commander had the needed materials to bring you back to life."
"Oh yes. Yui and I had a good long talk with Gendo about what he did. I can't help but wonder how he got a sample of my hair to begin with."
"Somehow, I don't think I want to know. How about you?"
With that, Asuka and Kyoko turn back toward Gendo and Yui, only to see the man is beneath two giggling children. Laughing his head off. Next thing they know, a blue pickup pulls up to beside the black car and it's driver exits.
"Aunt Rei!" Hearing the excited voices of her niece and nephew, Rei braces herself as best she can for the loving tackle that manages to knock her down still. "We missed you, Aunt Rei!"
"Oof! I missed you two as well." Making to get up, Rei soon finds she can't. With a light grin, she says, "RJ, Miyuko, Aunt Rei's gotta get up. Otherwise… Oof!"
Miyuko giggles as she retorts, "Not until you break free today, Aunt Rei!" The sharp grin on Rei's face is slightly unsettling to the little girl.
"Oh really? Is that so?" Knowing where this is going, a still-grinning Gendo has one thing to say.
"Everything is going according to the scenario."
Without warning, Rei launches the infamous 'Ikari Tickle Attack'. One hand each on their bellies. As the two screech in giggles, she takes advantage of the opportunity and gets up. Scooping the two onto her arms, she then starts carrying them toward the house. Only to see a giggling Asuka waiting to take them off her hands.
"Glad you could make it, Wondergirl."
"Sure. Wouldn't want to miss this for the world." Putting the two down, Rei adds, "You two scamper along until dinner's ready. Okay?"
"Okay, Aunt Rei!"
As the two scamper back toward their grandparents, Kyoko following along, Asuka leads Rei to the back area of the house. Where they see Shinji relaxing in the sun.
"Look who's here, Shinji!" At his wife's voice, Shinji turns around, lifts his opaque sunglasses and grins at seeing his sister.
"Hey! How was your trip, Rei?"
"It was fine, Shinji." Noticing his coloring, she then grimaces and adds, "You look like you went toe-to-toe with an N-2 mine."
"I do?" Looking down at himself, he grimaces and adds, "I look like I'm ready to come out of the oven. If not past ready."
"I'd say way past ready, silly baka Shinji." Kneeling to his side, she gives him a tender kiss, adding, "We better get ready for the party. Akagi said she has something for you to light the grill with."
"Another positron rifle?" At her nod, Shinji sighs and says, "I'd just gotten used to having eyebrows again, too. It took six months for them to grow back and another five months recognizing them as mine." Asuka can't help but giggle at his tone.
"Yeah, about that. She said the last one only had one setting. Full power. That's why the last grill blew up and fried your eyebrows off. She figured that putting an adjusting knob on there would help a good bit."
"I sure hope so, Asuka." Snapping his fingers, he adds, "Oh yeah. Jetto's running behind schedule a bit. So he should be here just before ignition. Misato and Kaji should be arriving soon. Touji, Kensuke and Hikari are crossing over as well. With one more in the group." Asuka's interest is peaked by that.
"A girl named Mayumi Yamagishi. Kensuke met her two months after he left Tokyo-3."
"Hopefully she's able to control that otaku hentai's ways."
"I guess we'll find out, Asuka." Next thing Shinji knows, the sound of a Renault Alpine's engine is audible. "Sounds like Misato and Kaji now. Sounds like they're almost at 'Dead Man's Curve'. And rolling through it hard and fast."
"Gotta be Misato driving. Kaji's not that crazy." With that, she goes around to the front of the house. Where she sees Misato's blue Alpine roaring along the roadway. Much to Asuka's surprise, when the Alpine is stopped in front of the house, Kaji steps out of the driver's seat. "KAJI? YOU WERE THE ONE DRIVING LIKE A LUNATIC WITH NO SENSE AT ALL?"
"That's right, Asuka. Misato asked me to drive today."
"Let me guess. She boozed up heavily again."
"Nope." Going to the passenger side, Kaji opens the door and helps a heavily pregnant Misato out. "Misato decided to stop drinking when we found out about our 'passenger'. As it happened when we were both heavily drunk." Asuka can't help but squeal happily.
"Congratulations! You're going to make a wonderful Mom! Next to me, of course." Misato can't help but smile wryly. Only for it to turn to a grimace. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. This little one's got a kick like a mule."
"Make for a great soccer player." Misato can only give Kaji an exasperated yet loving grin. Before she can say anything more, Kaji adds, "Here comes Ritsuko and the others."
"How can you tell, Kaji?" A sudden gust of wind kicks up and four figures seemingly come out of nowhere. Two of them carrying a large item between them. As they become more identifiable, Misato's jaw can't help but drop at seeing her old college friend and Maya's conditions. "How far along are you two?"
Maya grins and replies, "About the same as you, Misato. Which is why Shigeru and Makoto are carrying the positron rifle today. Sempai left nothing to chance about her pregnancy. We're all excited."
An hour later, everyone except Jetto's arrived. Only it changes when his rig pulls up. When he steps out, everyone sees he's not alone.
"Hey 'Highway'! Look who I picked up along the way!"
"Mac!" Smiling widely, 'Highway' strides over to Jetto's passenger and clasps his hand firmly. "It's good to see you again."
"You too, 'Highway'. Sorry I couldn't stick around in New York, but I got tired of playing 'possum' and had to split."
"It's alright. Long as you're alive, it's the main thing." Turning to Jetto, he asks, "Where'd you find him?"
"Found him walking along I-40, just outside Memphis two days back." Smirking at Mac, he adds, "At the side of the road, no less. As opposed to the first time you came across him."
Mac can't help but smile widely until he sees a woman with lovely red hair talking with a young woman with red hair as well. Jetto notices it and smirks.
"Looks like our boy's grown up alright, 'Highway'. Go introduce yourself, Mac."
"Okay, Jetto." Walking toward the two, he catches them chatting gaily until they notice his presence. "Hello. I'm Mac."
"Hello, Mac. I'm Kyoko and this is my daughter, Asuka." Turning to Asuka, she asks, "Could you see if Shinji's about ready, Asuka?"
"Sure, Mama. Cross your fingers though." As Kyoko nods, Asuka bounds away, leaving Mac and Kyoko alone.
"So, Mac, do you have a last name?"
Crestfallen, Mac replies, "No, I don't. I wasn't born with one. How about you?"
"It's Sohryu." Looking over toward Asuka and Shinji, she adds, "Asuka's married to that nice young man there. Shinji Ikari."
"Oh yeah. Jetto told me about him. But, what's that he's trying to heft?"
"That's Ritsuko's latest development in positron rifle technology. Thinking of, Ritsuko?"
"Yes, Kyoko?" Mac turns at the voice and sees a woman with brunette hair, wearing a lab coat and heavily-pregnant.
"Are you sure you got the bugs worked out this time?"
"I'm fairly sure. Lowest setting should achieve ignition of the grill without detonation."
"One way to find out, I guess."
Kyoko, Mac, Ritsuko and the others watch intently as Shinji levels the scaled-down positron rifle at the grill and pulls the trigger. Only for the grill to blow up. The resulting explosion propels Shinji backward onto his back. Rei and Asuka going right to his sides. Ritsuko gingerly walks up to them and scowls at the devastation.
"I believe I told you the lowest setting, Shinji." Shinji looks at the side before gulping and looking up at her.
"Um, it was the lowest setting." Ritsuko's jaw can't help but drop. With Asuka and Rei sighing before launching into fits of snickers. "Looks like it's back to the drawing board for you, Doctor Akagi."
"So it would seem, Shinji. So it would seem." Looking down at him, she then smiles and adds, "At least you kept your eyebrows this time."
"Yo, Shin-man! Want me to bring out the other grill?"
"Along with a more conventional means of ignition?"
"Sure! Thanks guys!" Touji and Kensuke quickly scramble to get their friend's spare grill while Shinji gets up from the ground. Lugging the positron rifle along with him. "What in the world is powering this thing anyway? An N-2 mine?"
"Nope. Are you familiar with cold fusion?"
"Somewhat. Nuclear energy at room temperature basically." His eyes going wide, he asks, "You mean this sucker's nuclear?" At that, Asuka and Rei slightly edge away from him. Sweat-dropping slightly.
"Not even close. The technology powering that is derived from cold fusion research. I won't overload your young mind with technical details." In the background, Mac can only shake his head in bemusement before turning to Kyoko.
"Does that happen often?"
"What? Grills blowing up anytime a positron rifle's used to ignite them?" At Mac's nod, Kyoko shrugs and replies, "Only happened twice. Once last year and just now. Which is why Shinji prefers to use more conventional means to ignite the grills."
"Positron rifles would be ideal for soldiers on the ground facing against enemy tanks. Especially without benefit of a tank for protection." Yui's voice cuts through, causing Mac to turn her way. "Of course, Shinji's not really a soldier-type. So I don't expect him to face off against any tanks any time soon."
"Ah, but sometimes things we don't expect do happen. So don't say anything to jinx it, Yui." Yui can only grin sheepishly as Kyoko rolls her eyes in exasperation before turning back to a slightly amused Mac. "Sorry for my friend, Mac. In some ways, she's like her son."
"It's okay. I'm finding this gathering interesting. A lot better than the gatherings I've been to before. That's for sure." The rest of the night goes by peacefully, with a content Gendo invoking the motto of NERV as it wraps up. Yui snuggled into his side.
"God's in his Heaven and all is right in the world."