Disclaimer: I do not own Evangelion, or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything belonging to Marvel Comics or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.
Chapter 1: Into the Beast
Damn, this sucks! Misato thought as she stood at the window of the massive bunker she was stuck in, a set of binoculars held to her eyes. I swear, if it weren't for the fact that it'd have gotten me fired, I'd have called in sick today!
On the surface, Misato supposed that the assignment given her had looked fairly innocuous. Just go to Old Tokyo for a demonstration of an experimental robot developed by Japan Heavy Chemical Cooperative, one touted to be superior to NERV's Evangelions, and report on whether or not it lived up to the hype. Even the fact that Commander Ikari was fobbing this assignment off on her had come as no surprise; as the head of NERV, Gendo was often occupied with other forms of business, and probably had things of more immediate importance that warranted his time.
Either that, or he just didn't want to be bothered with this crappy demonstration, Misato decided bitterly. And while she didn't care for the Commander or the way he treated people, this was one thing she couldn't blame him for. Because if she had had the option, she'd have gladly passed the responsibility of coming there onto someone else.
The Operations Director had known right from the get-go that this would not be a good day for her. She had gotten up extra early this morning in order to fancy herself up for the public, which entailed wearing a stiff, uncomfortable dress uniform she'd just as soon burn than look at, she'd been forced to endure an hour-long flight to a desolate region of Japan, all to attend a meeting of various corporate and national representatives that wanted nothing more than to put NERV out of business. And while Misato knew that financing NERV and the Evangelions was a heavy burden on both businesses and nations alike, that didn't mean that she enjoyed being made sport of by them, either.
Especially that smug asshole, Misato thought vehemently, thinking back to the question and answer period, in which her friend Ritsuko Akagi had been made to look the fool by the demonstration's speaker. Glancing over at her friend, who was leaning against the wall with an expression of patent disinterest, she found herself wondering how her college friend could remain so calm after all that. And the piece of junk that they're saying is better than the Evas…ha!
"Don't worry, folks. There's no risk at all. Please, make yourselves comfortable and watch through the observation windows," announced the speaker whom which Misato was thinking evil thoughts about. As the other people invited to the demonstration made their way up to the observation windows, the Captain scrutinized the towering mecha being touted as being the perfect weapon against the Angels, and found herself hard-pressed not to laugh.
On the one hand, Misato had to admit that the speaker holding the demonstration had made some good points earlier about the numerous drawbacks to the Evangelions. They were notoriously difficult to control, the mental and emotional pressure they exerted on the pilots was appalling, and their batteries were only good for five minutes of combat power at best, unless their power was supplemented via a power cable. And it was these reasons, combined with her own motives, that made her wish she were able to bear the burden for the designated Children, to wish there was a better way. But even so, there was no doubt in her mind that that way clearly wasn't Jet Alone.
Unlike the giant robots that were so frequently featured in anime, Jet Alone looked positively ridiculous, like a mechanical hunchback. Its arms hung limply like cables with hands attached as an afterthought, the legs looked too small to handle the robot's weight, and the whole thing looked extremely awkward and top heavy. On top of this, it's armor was a joke, it had no weapons whatsoever, had no AT-Field, it was commanded by a remote-controlled AI that could fail with no warning, and had no backup systems. And if something happens to the nuclear reactor they put in the thing… Misato thought darkly as the technicians behind her worked, beginning the test. Boom! The Angels won't have to wipe us out! The radiation will do it for them!
And yet, none of these major detriments seemed to register with the people conducting the demonstration, or the others watching it. They all watched as Jet Alone's control rods appeared from its back, something that made it look even more ridiculous, and its visor lit up. "Forward ahead, slow," the head of the demonstration ordered. "Forward right leg."
Rolling her eyes as she continued to listen to the head give orders and Jet Alone kept moving forward, Misato snickered. "Ooh, goody! They got it to walk!" she chuckled, already spotting even further design defects in the robot. "Now there's something to be proud of!"
While Misato was daydreaming about Unit-01 taking the stupid bucket apart bolt by bolt, her ears pricked at the head of the demonstration asking, "What's wrong?"
"We've got a problem," one of the techs replied. "The temperature in the primary cooling system is skyrocketing!"
"Open the valves," the speaker ordered calmly. "Insert the neutron deceleration fluid."
"No effect! We've got a system lock!" another tech answered as Jet Alone approached the observation bunker.
"Huh?" Misato muttered, setting aside her binoculars as she turned and watched the Jet Alone personnel work. Noticing the tension that was rolling off them like sweat, the Captain smirked and looked over at her friend. "Check it out, Rits! Looks like the competition has already screwed up!"
"Really?" Ritsuko asked in a bored tone, still wearing that same look of disinterest as she watched the techs frantically trying to shut Jet Alone. "Huh. That's strange. I wonder what -?"
"Ohmigod…" came a voice from off to the side. Turning about, the NERV officials saw the other representatives react in fear and horror, several backpedalling from the windows. "It - it's heading right for us!" Reacting on pure instinct, Misato whirled about and looked out the windows. True enough, Jet Alone was stomping towards them, completely mindless of the fact that it was about to stomp through the bunker like Godzilla off for another rampage throughJapan.
Shit! I knew I should have called in sick today! Misato screamed in her mind before she and Ritsuko retreated. Knowing there was no way they could outrace the rampant robot, the two women flung themselves to the side of the room. They were just in time, for a moment later, an immense metal foot shattered the roof, sending chunks of concrete raining down upon the people within. Another loud crushing noise was heard, and was echoed by fearful gasps and panicked cries.
Seconds later, the large foot rose up and out of the room as Jet Alone continued on its way, it's footsteps audible even over all the destruction. Once satisfied that the worst was over, Misato ventured closer to the shattered roof. Waving aside a thick cloud of dust, coughing as some of it found its way into her lungs anyway, she gave a self-satisfied smirk. "Damn! This robot's even more obnoxious than the morons that made it!" she decided, giving a shake of her head. Then she turned about to look at Ritsuko, who was still standing against the wall. "You know something, Rits?" she started, speaking in a hushed, wry manner. "I get the feeling that the competition is in deep shit."
Nodding in a slight manner, Ritsuko looked about at the ruined demonstration. "Sure looks that way."
Several minutes later, Misato's feeling was becoming more and more a reality. Every attempt to shut down Jet Alone had met with failure. And the absolute worst-case scenario, a nuclear meltdown, was looking that much more inevitable.
"This is…impossible," the designated speaker of the Jet Alone demonstration moaned heavily, his face ashen as he tried desperately to deny that this was really happening. "Jet Alone's AI was programmed to handle all possible contingencies and scenarios. This…this simply cannot happen!"
"Impossible, huh?" Misato snorted, clearly too annoyed to take any pleasure in the situation. "Well, guess what! You're about to have an impossible nuclear meltdown on your hands here!"
Wincing at this, the speaker bowed his head somewhat in shame, but still tried to maintain an air of control. "Given our current situation, our only real option is to wait for the system to shut down on it's own."
"What?" Misato squawked indignantly. "And just what are the odds of something like that happening?"
"0.00002%!" one of the technicians confirmed. "It would be an act of god!"
"Acts of people are better than acts of god!" Misato retorted without hesitation. "Now tell me how to stop that thing!"
"We've already tried every possibility," the speaker intoned helplessly.
"Not yet! There's got to be a failsafe, a way to wipe out everything!" Misato declared, clearly aware of the standards and practices regarding nuclear-powered weapons. "Now give me the password!"
Taking a step back at this, the speaker heaved a heavy sigh. "The password to delete all programming is top secret," he intoned, his words heavy and empty of emotion. "I'm sorry, but I don't have the authority to release it."
"Then you better get somebody who does, pal! Right now!" Misato snarled wrathfully. While Ritsuko stood from a safe distance, watching in silence. Almost amused by her friend's anger.
So far, so good, Ritsuko found herself thinking. If anybody's willing to back Jet Alone after this, I swear to God I'll volunteer to be the soul for the next Eva that needs one!
Things couldn't possibly have gone more according to plan. The virus that Ritsuko had designed and that Gendo had arranged to be implanted in Jet Alone had sent it running out of control with its nuclear reactor building up to an imminent meltdown, and was on course for a major city. It would never reach its destination, of course; the doctor had planned too carefully for that. Jet Alone would get maybe three-fourths of the way there before her virus shot it down. Just far enough to make it impossible to cover up or sugarcoat the fact that Japan Heavy Chemical Industrial Cooperative had come within a hairsbreadth of nuking a city and irradiating a large portion ofJapan. Just enough to prevent valuable funds and resources from being diverted from NERV…and completely destroy the company, costing who knew how many people their jobs.
Wincing somewhat at this, and telling herself not for the first time that if she hadn't done it, Gendo would have found someone else who would, Ritsuko distracted herself from this quandary by watching Misato. Her friend knew nothing of the sabotage, of course. She wasn't nearly as deeply immersed in the quagmire that was NERV as Ritsuko was. Which was why she looked ready to explode as she chafed at the load of bureaucratic bullshit she was being forced to endure.
"So now I have to get Mr. Yoshizawa's authorization?" asked the demonstration head as he spoke to yet another corporate executive, trying in vain to track down someone that would allow him to give Misato the code needed to shut down Jet Alone. "Yes, I've gotten consent from Mr. Uitsu. Yes. Of course."
"Grrr…" Misato growled out from between her clenched teeth. "Goddamn bureaucracies…"
Looking more like a timid child than the man that had taken such delight in making a mockery of them earlier that day, the demonstration head set down the telephone. "A written order of clearance is being sent. As soon as it arrives, I'll give you the password."
"It'll be too late by then!" Misato snarled in response. "Once Jet Alone's reactor redlines, there'll be no way to stop it from wipingAtsugiCity!" The speaker apparently had nothing to say to this, which made the purple-haired woman even madder. Growling in distaste, she turned about and started away. "Ugh! We don't have time for this! I'm taking the responsibility for this operation myself. You all can wait right here!"
Realizing that her friend was intent on doing something either insane, stupid, or both, Ritsuko's heart immediately plummeted to her feet before she set said feet into motion. "Misato, what are you doing?" she demanded as she followed the Captain back to the room that had been reserved for them. As soon as the two of them had entered, Misato pulled out her cell phone and began shucking her dress uniform. "Misato?"
"We're out of options, Ritsuko! And if we don't do something right now,AtsugiCityis doomed!" Misato intoned as she stripped down to a pink nightgown before picking up her phone. Hitting the speed dial, she placed the phone so that it was securely placed between her head and her shoulder. "This is Captain Katsuragi speaking! I need you to put me through to Lieutenant Hyuga!"
"Hyuga?" Ritsuko muttered, not liking the sound of this. Her insides twisting about, the doctor's scientific mind began to whirl into activity. She had known Misato for years, having met her in college, and while she had changed somewhat from those days, one thing remained about her. And that was that the direct approach wasn't just the way she preferred to do things, it was the only way she knew how to do them. "Misato…" she began, hoping that she had jumped to conclusions, "please tell me that you're not thinking what I think you're thinking…"
"It's the only way, Ritsuko! We – yes, Hyuga?" Verbally pouncing on the voice on the other end, Misato grinned dangerously. The same kind of grin she always had when she had some insane scheme in the works. "Listen to me very carefully! I need you to get one of the transports readied and have Unit 01 fitted the base F-Type equipment! As soon as that's done, bring Shinji and Unit 01 here right away! And I want the JSSDF put on alert!" Even Ritsuko could heard the cry of astonishment that these orders elicited, as well as a few muffled questions. "Yes, this an emergency! Now get it in gear and get moving!"
Damn. I knew it…! Suppressing the urge to massage her now throbbing temples, Ritsuko watched as Misato closed her cell phone before going over to a door marked with a hazard sign. "This is pointless! I don't know what exactly you've got planned, Misato, but call it off!" Not at all surprised when her friend failed to respond to this, the doctor she grumbled, "You're actually thinking of using Unit 01 to stop Jet Alone from reaching Atsugi City?"
"Do you have any better ideas, Ritsuko?" Misato asked rhetorically.
Grimacing, Ritsuko found herself clamping down on her own mouth. Dammit, Misato! There isn't even any danger! Jet Alone will stop all on its own! she thought feverishly, wishing that she could tell her friend this. But even as she did so, she knew that she couldn't. She mustn't. Misato wasn't a part of the world she lived in, a world that she hoped that her friend never learned of, let alone saw. And it was a world in which NERV wasn't the salvation of humanity. It was a veritable cesspool of secrets that could make even the most hardened person feel sick to her soul, something she knew all too well. And the man whom commanded her from this world demanded nothing short of absolute obedience.
Almost choking on the invisible muzzle that had been built around her mouth over the years, Ritsuko forced something else out of her mouth. "If Shinji engages Jet Alone, he'll probably cause the meltdown that much faster! You know that!"
"I'm not planning on Shinji fight the thing to a standstill," Misato explained as she opened up the closet, revealing a standard issue hazmat suit. "I just need him to buy me some time to override the computer manually."
"Manu-?" Ritsuko gasped, dumbstruck by what her friend was saying. "Misato…you're not planning on actually going inside Jet Alone?" When the Captain didn't respond, the faux-blonde shook her head as she tried to wrap her mind around such blatant disregard for one's own wellbeing. "But the interior must be flooded with radiation!"
"And why do you think I'm putting on this suit, Rits?" Misato grinned impishly as she carefully donned the form-fitting garment. "It's not my idea of a fashion statement!"
"But -!" Ritsuko sputtered, desperate to drive some cold hard logic into her friend's mind. Some sense of self-preservation where it was sorely lacking. "Misato, that's insane! Even with that suit, I can't even begin to calculate the odds of you escaping exposure to radiation! Besides, you don't even have the code to delete Jet Alone's programming! And without that -!"
"I know, Rits. Which is why I'm going to see a certain idiot about coughing it up before Shinji gets here." Sealing up the protective garment, Misato came up to her, and placed her hand on the doctor's shoulder. Flashing the same impish smile she had used in their more innocent, carefree days. "Don't worry. I'm not planning on dying today."
Wishing she could be as carefree, could wear the same smile she had had back in the past, Ritsuko gave voice the deep sadness that was in her heart. "We never do."
Seeing the way her mood dampened her friend's smile, Ritsuko was saddened even more when Misato refused to waver. "Look, I know this is a long shot," she admitted. "But it's the only shot that Atsugi has. And that means I have to go." Without another word, NERV's Operations Director moved past the doctor and exited the room. Leaving the woman who called herself Misato's friend alone with her own thoughts. Her own guilt.
I could have told her. Told her that there was no reason to go, Ritsuko thought, lacking the energy to turn about and go after her friend. Already defeated by Misato's courage, and her own lack of it. But even as she thought this, she knew that there was no way she could tell her. Because if she did, sooner or later, the man who had taken her courage from her one day at time would learn of it. And the day he did, Misato's life would be forfeit.
She had a chance of surviving Jet Alone. A slim one, but still a chance. But against Gendo and the people he represented…there was no chance at all.
"Are you insane?" the Jet Alone speaker demanded as Misato stood before him, clad in a hazmat suit that was rather reminiscent of NERV's plug suits. "You can't possibly be serious!"
"I'm dead serious," Misato returned, smiling despite the way her heart was pounding.
"But Jet Alone's interior must be flooded with radiation!" the speaker declared incredulously.
Ignoring the temptation to ask if she had had this conversation before, Misato kept her smile in place and her focus on what was important. "I know, but if I can do this, thenAtsugiCitywill be saved." She was about to say something else, something that would hopefully sway him into giving her what she needed. But before she could so much as open her mouth, the Captain started at the sound of metal slamming into metal. Looking about, she saw one of the Jet Alone technicians with a fire axe in hand, with the business end of it buried in a control panel.
"I just cut off our command signal," the tech with the axe declared. "This will disengage the safety locks for the access hatch!"
"Right! It's an automatic function, unaffected by Jet Alone's AI," another tech explained. "You should be able to enter the hatch through the backpack unit!"
Nodding to this, Misato beamed her appreciation for the help being offered her. Only to look about in surprise when help was offered from another source. "Hope," came the speaker's voice. Looking about in surprise, Misato saw him with his hands clasped behind his back and facing the opposite wall. "That's the failsafe password."
Blinking a few times, Misato looked at the man that had taken such pleasure in lampooning herself and Ritsuko, had mocked NERV and accused them of making the war with the Angels even worse, and felt any anger she might once have felt with him fade away. Her mouth sliding open, she found herself wanting to say something to him. To tell him that she sympathized for how difficult his situation was, or that she understood how difficult it must've been for him to do what he had done.
Instead, all she was able to say was, "Thank you."
As soon as the transport plane carrying Unit 01 arrived, Misato boarded it. Feeling no hesitation or fear as she ordered it to lift off, to carry them to her confrontation with Jet Alone. I hope it all works out for that poor guy, Misato found herself thinking at one point, recalling the speaker and his sacrifice in breaking from the chain of command. I know his bosses won't be too happy about that.
Making a mental note to find out what his ultimate fate would be after the mission, Misato returned her attention to the present, and focused on the small boy that was seated opposite her. "Our target is Jet Alone," she explained as Shinji looked at her intently, already clad in his plug suit. "There's a danger that it may begin to meltdown in five minutes, therefore we cannot allow it to get any closer to a populated area." The 3rd Child nodded, completely alert and ready, despite being summoned on such short notice. Grateful for this, the Captain turned and looked over her shoulder. "Hyuga?"
"Yes, ma'am?" Makoto responded from his place at the controls.
"As soon as you drop Unit 01, take the transport up to a safe altitude and standby," Misato ordered, determined not to put anyone else's life at risk. Not when she could help it. "And Shinji?"
"Yes?" the quiet boy asked, his storm blue eyes filled with unease.
"Run alongside the target and place me on its back," Misato instructed him, bracing herself for his reaction to her role in this plan. "Once I've gotten on, I want you to try and hold Jet Alone back as best as you can. I'm going to need as much time as you give me."
Before Misato had even completed her sentence, the 3rd Child's face fell in shock. "What?" Shinji gasped, as if unsure he had heard her correctly. "You mean…you're climbing on that thing…to break into it?"
"That's right!" Misato confirmed.
"But -!" Shinji gasped out, his disbelief mounting. "But that's plain crazy!"
"I know," Misato agreed, getting a sense of déjà vu at this, "but I'm afraid that there's just no other way to stop it."
"But - it's too dangerous!" Shinji protested.
Misato smiled as reassuringly as she could. "Don't worry! Unit 01's armor can handle both the explosion and the radiation."
"Not for me, Misato!" Shinji cried out fearfully, placing more emotion in those words than he tended to show in an entire week, perhaps more. "I meant for you!"
I know that, Shinji-kun, Misato thought, heartened by his concern. Though it hadn't been all that long since she had brought Shinji into her home, the fact was that she couldn't imagine life without him now. His presence had filled a hole in her life, and she couldn't help but be touched by the concern he was showing for her. "Well, I have to get it my best shot, you know," she told him, doing her best to put on a brave face for her ward. "My conscience won't allow anything less."
At this, Shinji's expression hardened, filling with both concern and determination. This made Misato smile even more, thinking of just how far he had come in such a short time. And it made her wish that she had the courage to tell him the truth. That it wasn't just for Atsugi City that she was doing this. She was putting her life on the line because she could. Because this wasn't like a mission against the Angels, where all she could do was hand out the marching orders, then wait and watch and see who would have to pay the price for them. This time, it would be her mission, not one that she was forcing on someone else.
As thoughts and emotions that were always an arm's length away from her began to encroach upon her conscience mind, Misato's musing were interrupted by Makoto's voice. "Ma'am? I've sighted the target!"
"Right," Misato responded. Forcing her personal demons away once again, she returned her attention to the 3rd Child. "Let's do this, Shinji."
"Right," Shinji nodded. "Oh, and…Misato?" Frowning somewhat, the Captain watched as the boy forced a tiny, tender smile onto his face. "Please…come back safely."
Pausing, Misato felt a smile gracing her own lips as she bent down before her ward. "I will," she promised him. "Now let's get going. There's a whole lot of people depending on us."
Shinji gave a curt nod to this. "Right." Less than a minute later, he had taken his place within Unit 01's Entry Plug. As he prepared the notorious berserker for its confrontation, Misato climbed into the monstrous bio-mech's right hand.
"Shinji! I'm in position! Bring Unit 01 online!" Misato ordered, her hazmat suit's comlink allowing her to be heard from within both the Eva and the transport.
"Right!" A moment later, the purple titan tensed as it shifted its baleful gaze towards the fragile human woman. The Evangelion stirring somewhat, Misato felt more than saw it gently wrap its fingers about her. Its grip firm, but not painfully so. "You okay, Misato?"
"I'm fine!" Misato reported. "Just keep it like this until we reach the target! Got it?"
"Got it!" Shinji responded.
"Captain!" Makoto's voice sounded within Misato's helmet. "We're approaching the drop position!"
Her heart beating heavily in her chest, adrenaline flooding her entire body, Misato ordered, "Extend docking pylons! Prepare for drop!"
"Understood!" Makoto answered, and then there was a massive shudder felt throughout Unit 01. Massive hydraulics whirred into action, extending the Evangelion away from the transport plane. "All systems go to launch Eva Unit 01!"
"Right! Docking release!" Misato ordered, holding on as tight as she could to the Eva's fingers. This was it; no turning back.
"Roger!" Shinji replied, and with a pneumatic hiss, the docking clamps and umbilical linking the Eva to the plane were severed, leaving it in freefall. As Misato's stomach lurched unpleasantly, the purple berserker fell over the span of several seconds before finally landing. Upon hitting the ground, Unit 01 braced itself as it skidded backwards, and when it had come to a halt, it crouched forward before launching into a run.
Recovering from the harsh landing, the Captain immediately began tracking the situation. Makoto was already taking the transport to a higher altitude, distancing himself from the danger zone. As for Shinji, he was pushing Unit 01 at a good pace, already overtaking Jet Alone. The F-Type enhanced batteries giving him more freedom to pilot the Eva however he wished. And as for Misato, she was focusing on Jet Alone, looking for the access hatch that was located on its backpack unit. The section where the nuclear reactor was located…along with all its deadly radiation.
Mindful of the danger, and not really caring about it, Misato continued to sit and watch as Shinji announced, "We've caught up with it!"
Glancing at the time display in her helmet, Misato fiercely responded, "We've got less than four minutes! Grab that thing!" Without hesitation, Unit 01 closed the final stretch between the two giants, and grabbed onto what looked like a giant handle on its back. The Captain could hear him grunting in exertion as he struggled to restrain the renegade robot, until Jet Alone finally came to a halt, flailing its arms about mindlessly.
Grimacing as the ground beneath Unit 01 crunched mercilessly, realizing that Jet Alone wouldn't remain still for long, Misato shouted, "Shinji! Don't think! Just put me on!" Heeding her command, Unit 01 carefully lifted Misato up to Jet Alone's top and deposited her there with deceiving gentleness.
There! Misato thought as she came down on her hands and knees with a slight thunk. So far, so -! Her thought was sent spiraling into oblivion when Jet Alone listed to the side, sending her tumbling across the smooth metal surface. Desperately trying and failing to find a handhold, the Captain gasped when she rolled and saw nothing but empty air beneath her.
"Misato!" she heard Shinji cry out. A cry that spurred into action even as she tumbled down Jet Alone's side, demanding that she take action. Her conscience mind overwhelmed, Misato caught sight of something protruding from the robot's side. Instinctively reaching for it, she grabbed hold of the ladder rung, her arm protesting at the sudden strain. Ignoring the pain, forcing her hand to maintain its precarious grasp, she swung by her arm into the robot's side, already reaching out for another rung that was coming into view.
Unfortunately, she didn't reach out fast enough. The shock of the fall and the force of gravity fouled Misato up enough so that she couldn't move her arm in time. And instead, she smashed into the rung face-first. Only it wasn't her face that paid the price for the blow.
The sound of cracking plastic filling her helmet, Misato looked about and gave a quick gasp of horror. For even as she recovered from the fall and the impact, a spider-web fracture was spreading out from the point of impact. Oh, no! she cried out in her mind before cursing the idiots who made the shoddy, substandard plexiglass that had been used in her hazmat suit's construction. A suit that was now compromised, that would allow the radiation of the reactor to seep into the still-forming cracks, creeping into her flesh, corrupting, poisoning…
"Misato!" Shinji cried out, his voice cutting through the fearful haze that had shrouded the Captain's mind. Jolted into action, she looked up at Unit 01, and saw the boy at it's helm. At the boy that had risked so much so many times for the safety of the world. And a boy she knew that would be horrified if he knew what had happened. So much so that he could possibly grab her from her perch, and take her as far away from Jet Alone as he could before it exploded.
No. I have to keep going. I have to finish this! Misato knew, thinking of the people imperiled by Jet Alone. I knew the risks when I took command of this operation. If I don't do this, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people could die! That's all that matters! Focusing on this, on a mission that needed to be completed at all costs, she took hold of the ladder rung with both hands, and planted her feet on another.
Upon seeing her ready and willing to continue, Shinji sighed his relief. "Be careful," was all he said, but it was enough for Misato to know that she had his support. Readying herself for lay ahead and hoping that the damage wasn't as bad as she feared, she smiled and rewarded the boy with a 'V' for victory. Making certain not to let him see the damage to her helmet as she quickly climbed back up the side.
Finally reaching the top of Jet Alone, Misato wasted no time, not willing to risk the rogue robot sending her tumbling once more. Coming to perch on top of the access hatch, she twisted the emergency handle and pulled it out. With a mechanical hiss, the hatch slid open, releasing a blast of radiated air that could be felt even through the protective suit. "Ahh! Talk about hot!" Misato recoiled, instinctively shielding her damaged faceplate even as she looked down the blood-red shaft. Into the belly of a beast as dangerous as any Angel. And then she steeled herself, reminded herself once more of what was at stake, and grimaced as she muttered, "I better hurry…while I still have time!"
As Shinji watched as Misato disappeared into Jet Alone's interior, he felt his insides clench with fear and anxiety. This is so wrong, he found himself thinking. She shouldn't have to do this!
Clenching Unit 01's control yokes ever tighter, Shinji found his anxious mind conjuring up every worst-case scenario his imagination could conceive. While it was true that Misato's antics at home were more befit of a girl his junior than of NERV's Operations Director, while he sometimes embarrassed by some of the things she did and even a bit confused, nothing could change the fact that she had given him a home, had actually decided of her own will that she wanted him to be part of her life. And whatever her reasons, that was more than he had known in ten years. And he didn't want to lose that, or her.
Another massive lurch shook Unit 01, shaking Shinji back to the moment. Momentarily startled, the 3rd Child quickly got his bearings and realized that Jet Alone was still flailing about, mindlessly trying to escape and bring death on whatever was luckless enough to be in its path. Growling in frustration, he released the massive handle on the robot's back and darted in front of it. "You bastard!" he cried out as Unit 01 braced itself, digging into the ground as he pushed back at the nuclear death machine. "Stop running already!"
Jet Alone didn't really fight back. It kept trying to run, but it didn't try to take a swing at Unit 01. Its AI wasn't advanced enough for that. But even so, Shinji knew that the situation was far from under control. Even with the F-Type equipment, it wouldn't be long before the Eva's power reserves were depleted. I can't hold out forever! Misato, you have to – huh?
Before he could complete his thought, Shinji was startled by the sound of metal buckling under enormous pressure. Wondering if Unit 01 was exerting too much pressure, he then realized that something worse was happening when steam started spewing out from one of the seams in Jet Alone's armor.
Icy cold claws grasping at his heart, Shinji realized that Jet Alone's reactor was on the verge of meltdown. And Misato was still somewhere inside. "No…" he moaned lowly, his dread mounting with each passing second. "Hurry, Misato! Please!"
"I'm hurrying, Shinji-kun!" Misato returned as she made her way through Jet Alone's interior, following a map given her by the techs at the demonstration. "I'm almost to the control room now!"
Moving as quickly as she dared, she navigated the nuclear reactor, spurred on by more than the various jerks she felt running through Jet Alone as Unit tried to force it into submission. As she drew closer to her goal, she could feeling her skin, as well as a strange burning that was flowing through her. I sure hope it's my imagination! Misato thought grimly, but one way or another, I don't have much time!
After what felt like forever, the Captain finally reached a door. Pausing to double-check her map, she allowed herself a measure of relief. "I found it," Misato said mostly to herself before she punched through the glass that covered the emergency release button, pressing it at the same time. The door instantly slid open, allowing her access to the control room. All around her, large cylindrical rods protruded from the walls; the nuclear control rods that regulated the reactor. But these weren't her goal; that was the computer terminal that sat on the floor before her. Darting up to it, Misato knelt down and went to work. Taking the security card given her by the Jet Alone techs, she slid it through the card reader, and was soon greeted by the sight of lines of computer code. A moment later, these were all replaced by a single word: PASSWORD.
Here goes! Misato thought as she inputted the needed code. The word HOPE appeared on the screen, at which point Misato hit the Enter key.
Aghast at the sight of the negative message, Misato exclaimed, "What the hell is -?" Before she could complete her sentence, the room blurred before her and seemed to spin. Gravity seemed to shift onto its side as a wave of dizziness assailed her.
Dammit! No! Not now! Misato snarled inwardly as an insidious weakness crept through her. It must be the goddamned radiation! Why did this stupid helmet have to go and crack, anyway? Squeezing her eyes shut, she gave a fierce shake of her head before opening them again. Fortunately, the world stayed in place this time, allowing her to try once more. All she got for her trouble was another error message.
"Dammit!" Misato shrilled, her mind fogging over with rage. Barely able to keep her fury from overwhelming her, from taking out her frustrations on the worthless computer, she instead focused her mind on the situation. "This wasn't an accident! Jet Alone was sabotaged!"
Cursing herself for not seeing this malfunction for what it really was sooner, Misato was shaken from her fury when a violent jolt shook Jet Alone to the core. Very nearly thrown to the floor, she caught hold of the computer and remained upright. She didn't have to have a nuclear scientist to realize that the reactor was within a minute of redlining. There was no way she could return to Unit 01 and get to safety before the whole thing blew, and if her hunch was correct, there would be no point in that, anyway.
Which means there's only one chance left! Misato decided, looking at the control rods lining the chamber. "Shinji! I'm going for the long shot!"
"Long shot? Misato, what are you talking about? You have to get out of there!" Shinji cried out despairingly. But his pleases fell on deaf ears as the purple-haired woman rushed over to one of the control rods and pressed her arms and hands against it. Pushing with all of her strength she had in her body, she fought to the rod back into the reactor itself. It barely budged.
"Misato!" Shinji cried out again, his voice as clear through the comlink as if he was beside Misato herself. She ignored it, she ignored everything but the desperate need to succeed in this mission. Quite probably her last. Redoubling her efforts, she cudgeled her body for all the strength she could summon, and was able to force the control rod in a bit faster. But it wasn't enough. It wasn't moving fast enough.
They're counting on me! The people…they're all depending on me! Misato thought bitterly as her mind began to fog up, Shinji's voice, the pain she was in, the fear, all of it fading away. The only thing she was aware of was her body surging with fire, with pain. Overwhelmed by everything, Misato's mind succumbed to the burning rage flooding through her. Shinji desperately crying out her name the last thing she heard as she fell into the darkness…
"Misato!" Shinji cried out in sheerest desperation. Everything, the mission, the people of Atsugi City, everything forgotten in face of the fact that Jet Alone was seconds away from meltdown, and that Misato was still inside of it.
On one level, he knew it was too late. That there was nothing he or anyone could do to stop it. But this didn't change the fact that someone dear to him was going to die, and die horribly. All while he sat helpless to do anything but watch and wait for it to be over. And so, Shinji continued to struggle with Jet Alone, tears welling up in his eyes as he cursed himself for being so utterly weak and helpless.
Then something tore free of Unit 01's comlink. A sound so fierce and terrifying that the feedback screeches that echoed it was nothing in comparison. And it was so overwhelming that Shinji didn't even realize what it was at first; a woman's voice, mangled and twisted into a shriek of purest rage. A voice that he would never have recognized as belonging to Misato.
"Wha-?" Shinji gasped as he looked at Jet Alone. Breaking out in goosebumps and his hair standing on end, he listened as further snarls and growls of rage issued forth from the comlink. And was followed by the sound of metal slamming into metal. "Misato?" he tried again, his heart clenching with fear. His plea wasn't answered verbally; instead, another massive slam was heard over the comlink. And then another. And another.
When the fifth slam had finished echoing throughout Unit 01's Entry Plug, Jet Alone listed in the Eva's hands. Tensing, Shinji readied him for whatever the renegade robot was about to try. But even as he did so, he realized that something was different. Jet Alone wasn't moving as strongly as it had been before, and its visor was flickering somewhat. The startled boy pulled closer as the mammoth impacts continued to be heard, trying to make sense of what was happening. What is this? Is the reactor melting down?
Already preparing for the worst, Shinji continued to watch…only to be amazed when his question was unexpectedly answered. One of the massive control rods protruding from Jet Alone's back was collapsing, sliding back into the reactor. And it was soon followed by another.
Watching in awestruck silence as the robot slowly shut down, the controls rods all back in position, Shinji couldn't even think. Couldn't make sense of what was happening, because it was impossible. It just couldn't be happening, because in his mind, there were no such thing…as miracles.
"Misato…?" Shinji finally allowed himself to croak out. Gulping loudly, he leaned intently at the powerless robot, as if he were trying to see his guardian within. "A-are you alright? M-misato?"
He didn't get an answer right away. But then he heard someone taking a long, deep breath, before rumbling out, "Shinji…"
Never before had Shinji been so happy to hear someone say his name. All his previous fears and dreads falling away from him. "Misato!" Shinji cried out, his face transformed by overwhelming joy and relief. "You're alive! Oh, thank god! I can't believe you did it!" Tears of happiness flowing to mix with the LCL, Shinji sniffled lightly. "Oh, god…It's a miracle! It's a -!"
"Shinji…" Misato spoke again, but this time, the sound of his name sent a chill running through him. Her voice was so weak, almost drugged and on the verge of collapse. "H…help…"
His emotions reversing, Shinji sucked in a horrified gasp. "Misato?" There was no answer this time. No words, no noises. Nothing but a faint thud…like that of a body collapsing to the floor. "Misato! Misato!"
There was no answer this time. There was no answer no matter how many times Shinji cried out her name. And with each successive cry, his terror grew, the image of Misato lying dead within the radioactive furnace that was Jet Alone filling his mind. And it was an image that twisted in his heart, and spread like a virulent cancer through him, leaving him weak with despair. "No…" he moaned, shaking his head slowly in denial. "No…you can't be…!" Choking on this dread possibility, something within the boy spurred to life. The part of him that had been training as a pilot since he had come to Tokyo-3 asserted itself, kicking him in the backside even as his conscious mind tried to escape the horror of the situation. Forcing his hand to reach out to the comlink, and switch over to a different channel. "Lieutenant Hyuga!"
"Shinji?" came the Lieutenant's voice. "Shinji, what is it? Did you stop Jet Alone?"
"Yes, but….!" Shinji began, a wad of bile forming in his throat. Forcing himself to swallow, the trained portion of his mind struggled to keep him speaking coherently. "Misato…she's still inside! I…I think she's hurt! She's…!"
Shinji's voice failed, leaving a deathly silence in its wake. "Understood! I'm coming around now!" Makoto reported, his voice tense with urgency. "I'm contacting the JSSDF now! They should be able to get anEMSteam and a hazmat crew out here in a couple minutes! Just hang in there, okay?"
"O-okay…" Shinji sputtered nervously as he processed the Lieutenant's words. The nagging voice of his own despair telling him that it was already too late. That something had gone horribly wrong in Jet Alone. That Misato was already dead. That he was alone, with no one to turn to or to give him a home. And it was all his fault.
No…she can't be dead. She just can't be…! Shinji wept, his body quaking with grief. Please…please, Misato…please don't be dead…!
When Misato woke, it was with a start. Her eyes flew open, her every sense primed and at full alert. Her mind immediately processing the gentle breeze that caressed her skin, as well as the unfamiliar ceiling that was above her. After blinking once, twice, she then shot up to a sitting position. "What the -?" she got out, looking wildly about. "Where am I?"
"NERV Medical, Misato." Seizing upon this voice, the Captain turned about. Standing beside her bed was Ritsuko and Shinji, both of whom wore expressions of warm admiration. As Misato looked blankly at the two of them, the boy drew closer, gazing at her like he was afraid to look away. "Well, I guess congratulations are in order, Captain Katsuragi. You did it."
"Huh? Did what?" Her brows furrowed, she looked down at herself, at the medical gown she was adorned in, the hospital bed she was lying in. "Why am I…?" Before she could complete her question, the memories came flowing back, causing her eyes to go wide with shock. "Wait! You mean…Jet Alone…I stopped it?"
"You sure did, Misato!" Shinji enthused, smiling a smile that threatened to split his face in half. "You got all the control rods back in place!"
"I…I did?" Misato murmured disbelievingly. Massaging her temple, she wracked her brain, searching for anything to support this statement. "But…the last thing I remember is trying to shove the rods back in. I don't…remember actually..."
"I'm not surprised. Frankly, I'm amazed that you're still alive, considering how badly fractured your helmet was," Ritsuko noted. As this memory returned to Misato as well, the doctor smiled broadly. "Don't worry, Captain; we've already done a complete workup on you. There was no sign of radioactive contamination, either in the suit or in your body. You got a little singed, but it wasn't any worse than a mild sunburn." Giving a wry curl of her lip, she shrugged and decided, "I guess those things are built better than I thought."
At these reassurances, Misato sighed in relief. "So…I really did it…" she murmured, unable to believe it. Then something else occurred to her, and deepened her concerns. "H-how long was I out, anyway?"
"Less than a day. In fact, it is now the morning after the Jet Alone demonstration," Ritsuko informed her. Misato's mouth popped open at this revelation, leaving her to stare goggle-eyed at her friend. "Don't look so surprised. Even with the hazmat suit on, the temperatures inside Jet Alone were enough to cook a person alive. Coupled with overexertion and the stress of the situation, that whole mess just…wore you out."
Misato was about to protest this, but before she could say a word, she found herself considering the doctor's words, and eventually had to concede that Ritsuko had a point. After all, when Shinji came back from battling the Angels, he was always drained from the experience, and would often spend the rest of the day resting if he could. Besides, this is the first time I've been in a situation like this, she reminded herself. And considering what happened to Shinji after the fight with the 3rd Angel…
Frowning somewhat, she then set this issue aside for later, and focused on a more pertinent matter. "So what about Jet Alone?" Misato wondered. "Has anything happened since I…?"
"Oh, yes, you could definitely say that," Ritsuko commented dryly. "Almost immediately after we got you out of there, the government announced all funding and support for the Jet Alone project would cut. Which is about the fastest I've ever seen the government do anything my entire life!" Chuckling somewhat at this, the doctor moved on. "Anyway, the robot itself has already been decommissioned, and has been scheduled to be dismantled. I'm not sure what's to happen after that. My guess is they're going to try and figure out what went wrong before they finally scrap it."
"I see," Misato nodded, exhaling sharply. "Well, so much for the competition then, huh? I bet the Commander is thrilled."
"About as thrilled as he gets," Ritsuko agreed.
Pressing her lips together, Misato studied her friend for a time before lowering her head. I guess I should be happy, she thought somberly. Jet Alone's been stopped, Atsugi's safe, and I'm still breathing. Which is a lot more than I expected. But… With that, the Operations Director of NERV looked down at her hands, which were folded in her lap. Aware that, while she had technically been triumphant, she hadn't actually won out this day. Jet Alone had been sabotaged, that much was certain. What was also certain was that there was absolute no way for her to prove it.
The only evidence that Jet Alone had been sabotaged was Jet Alone itself, and it had already been decommissioned, and was soon to be recycled. And in all likelihood, all traces of the sabotage had probably been erased from the robot's computer. True, there was bound to be an investigation, but she found herself doubting that it would uncover anything. Not if the investigators were of the same quality of government inspector that showed up at NERV every now and again.
Besides, there's only one organization on the planet that could possibly benefit from the Jet Alone project being dropped, Misato thought sourly. And as the guy from the demonstration said, that organization is pretty much above the law…
Even as she was losing herself in her dour thoughts, a gleeful voice penetrated her consciousness. "You're amazing, Misato!" Shinji spoke up, prompting Misato to look up and once again see that all-too rare smile on his face. "You're a real hero!"
What? Misato thought as she looked at the boy before her. You're calling me…a hero? She was tempted to laugh at this, simply because she felt she was about as far from being a hero as was possible. And what about you, Shinji? You've helped save the entire world three times already! What does that make you? But even as she considered saying something to this effect, she continued to look at her ward, and sighed as his smile slowly broke down her bleak mood. Chuckling despite herself, she reached out and glomped Shinji, subjecting him to the biggest bear hug he'd ever had. "Well…I guess I am, at that," she finally admitted before pulling back a bit. "So what say we go out and have a hero's feast, eh, Shinji-kun?" Even Shinji was nodding to this, the purple-haired woman eyed Ritsuko. "That is, if I'm free to go...?"
"I don't see why not. Aside from your indulgences in beer and not enough vegetables, the MAGI say you're perfectly fine," Ritsuko smiled. Then she slipped back into her genius lecturer mode and added, "Just do me a favor and take it easy for a few days. Also, I should warn you that Commander Ikari is going to want a full debriefing later."
"Really?" Not especially surprised by this, Misato flashed an impish grin. "In that case, I better get out of here before he finds out I'm awake! Because the last thing I need right now is to spend the rest of the day in the Commander's office!" Chuckling at her own wit, and delighting in that Ritsuko couldn't help quirking a grin at this, the Captain leapt up from her bed with a spring in her step. "Come on, Shinji-kun!" she smirked, taking the boy's hand in her own. "Let's get my clothes and blow this place! As far as I'm concerned, we already spend too much time here!"
"I'll say," Shinji agreed in a somewhat muted fashion. "Um…Misato?" A questioning noise sounding in her throat, she looked down at the boy at her side, and found that his smile had faded. And it's place was a look of genuine concern. "Uh…please…be more careful, okay?" he asked her nervously, though it was clear that his concern stemmed from something much deeper than his usual timidity with people. "I…when you went in there, I…I didn't think that you'd be coming out again. And…"
As was so often with Shinji, his ability to speak failed him when he most needed it. But he had said enough, even if not with words. And once again, Misato found herself heartened. For while she knew Shinji didn't approve of some of the things she did, something she honestly couldn't blame him for, the fact that he still cared so much for her meant a great deal. More than she could express with her own words.
Bending down to look him in the eyes, Misato smiled gently before again wrapping her arms about him. "Don't worry, Shinji-kun," she told him, doing her best to make her next statement an honest one. "Nothing's going to happen to me. I promise."
Author's Notes: This is my first attempt at an Eva crossover of any kind. Please, read and review! And look up my other stories as well, if you want!
I started this project because I noticed a lot of fanfics with Shinji getting awesome superpowers, but I've never seen any where the same happened with the ladies of Eva. So, I decided that it was only fair that the girls get their share of the limelight. So, if you have any suggestions for future stories, please let me know.
I'm guessing it must be pretty obvious what lies in Misato's future, but I hope you will find it enjoyable! So until then, it's omake time!
When Misato woke, it was with a start. Her eyes flew open, her every sense primed and at full alert. Her mind immediately processing the gentle breeze that caressed her skin, as well as the unfamiliar ceiling that was above her. After blinking once, twice, she then shot up to a sitting position. "What the -?" she got out, looking wildly about. "Where am I?"
"Oh, shit! She's already awake!" came a familiar voice. One Misato didn't recognize right away. "Rits, I thought you said she wouldn't wake up for at least another hour!"
"Huh?" Misato started even as she focused on the voice, and frozen in shock. Standing right next to the bed she was on were Ritsuko and Kaji. And of even more importance, she saw the camera equipment the two of them had set up around her. "Augh! What the hell are you -?"
"Now, Misato, relax!" Ritsuko spoke, holding her hands up defensively. "Really, it's not what it looks like…!"
"Not what it -?" Misato started, only to cut herself off as she got a very bad feeling. Looking down at herself, the purple-haired woman gasped in horror as this feeling was confirmed. "Acck! What the hell am I wearing?"
"Ugh…" Kaji groaned. Unable to think of any innocent fashion to explain away the fact that Misato was presently garbed in red lingerie, complete with fishnet stockings and a heart-shaped lock dangling from her panties. "Okay, I admit it. It is what it looks like."
"Arrggh! What the hell do you two think you're doing?" Misato shrilled, caught between staring at her garments and strangling her friends and co-workers. "Were you actually taking pictures of me just now? In this thing?"
"Look, I'm sorry, Misato, but I really didn't have much choice! You know how bad NERV's budget is! We're at our limits as it is!" Ritsuko told her even as veins popped out of the purple-haired woman's head. "Until the Commander can arrange for additional funding for our operations, he's ordered us to do whatever we can to bring in additional funding!"
"Including getting girly pictures of me? Without my permission?" Misato demanded, becoming more and more outraged. "And I bet that I'm not even getting paid for them, either!"
"Uh, no. 'Fraid not," Kaji admitted, taking a careful step back.
"Misato, I really am sorry about this. Really I am," Ritsuko consoled her. "But if it makes you feel any better, you're not the only one going through this."
"Look, first of all, that does not make me feel better! In fact, I'm even more pissed off now than before!" Misato snarled. "And secondly, who else have you put through this, huh? Tell me!"
"Um…most of the female staff, actually," Ritsuko confessed nervously. "Gendo's also got the nurses here doing pinup shots." Then she frowned somewhat and added, "And don't even get me started on some of the things that he's had Maya and I doing…"
"Eh, I didn't think those shoots were that bad, Rits," Kaji chimed in. "And Maya certainly seemed to enjoy them."
While Ritsuko groaned her disgust at Kaji, Misato growled and clenched her fist. "That does it! Gendo better watch out, because as soon as I get my powers, I'm gonna kick him straight to the moon! Literally!"