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 11: Collision Course
"Ha ha ha!" the Ghost Rider cackled ghoulishly as she sped along the streets, a bony grin splitting her face as she left a burning trail in her wake. "Aw, damn! I should've done that a long time ago!"
That was not a wise thing to do, young Rider, Zarathos grumbled, his voice conveying the image of him shaking his head in disapproval. Using Morbius in such a fashion can only betray us.
Snorting at the demonic killjoy she had been forced to live with, the Ghost Rider returned, Hey, lighten up, Big Z! That scheming little bitch had it coming!
Perhaps, Zarathos responded noncommittally. But there must be more effective methods of dealing with the girl. As well more productive ones.
Rolling her eyes at Zarathos's attempts to kill of her good mood, the Ghost Rider instead looked over her shoulder at the technologically-based demon that now flew a short distance behind her. The hideous, bat-like creature that was subject to her mental commands, and could function as her eyes and ears. And thus had provided her with much amusement when it had sent Aya Kusanagi collapsing to the floor, cowering before it with her arms held up in front of her horrified face.
More productive? the Ghost Rider repeated mockingly, that wonderful image still front and center in her mind. Wondering for a moment what could be more productive than giving that pathetic little scrap of a girl one of the many lessons in life that she was so deserving of.
Of course, Zarathos chided her. While your little prank may have amused you, it did nothing to help us learn anything more about the girl. Even worse, it betrayed the fact that the Ghost Rider has an interest in her.
Betrayed the -? Refusing to let her demonic tenant ruin her good mood, the Ghost Rider shot back, Come on, Big Z! What's the dumb bitch gonna do? Call the police? Chuckling some more, the German demon laughed inwardly at the thought of Aya trying to convince a police officer of what happened when she had nothing to prove it. And then getting a nice, juicy lecture on the penalties of crying wolf. Seriously, I think you're giving Little Miss Kusanagi a bit too much credit here.
And I believe that you are falling prey to a very human weakness; underestimating your opponent, Zarathos sneered. We know nothing about the girl, except that there is something unusual about her. And putting her on her guard…
We know that she's a complete phony! And that's enough for me! the Ghost Rider grumbled in response. And who cares what she thinks about what I did? It's not like she can do anything about it A derisive chuckle was the demon's answer to this, something that soured the horned biker's mood even more. By the way, Zarathos, who ever said that little bimbo was my opponent? She's barely worth the time of day, for Gott's sake!
And now you're falling prey to another weakness. Judging a person by outward appearances, Zarathos oozed mockingly. We've already established that there is something peculiar about the young lady, despite her innocence. And I would prefer that you not indulge your jealousy before we can learn more about –
Wait a minute? Jealousy? the Ghost Rider shrilled in response, so stung by this implication that she momentarily lost control of her mechanical steed. The Ghostcycle swerved violently about, its burning tires squealing wickedly before she was able to regain control. What the hell are you talking about, Zarathos? What could possibly make you think that I would ever be jealous of a soft, weak, pathetic little tramp like that?
Why, nothing. Nothing at all. The Ghost Rider rolled her eyes at this; the demonic chuckling her tenant emitted completely at odds with his words. Something that was driven home when he added, However…it does seem that the boy is somewhat taken with her…
Quickly growing more annoyed, the Ghost Rider shot back, I don't believe this! Why should I care what the baka thinks? His brain is about as non-existent as his spine!
If that's the case, then why do you get so upset whenever you see the two of them together? Zarathos asked, a wicked laugh hanging from every word.
For a moment, the Ghost Rider was sorely tempted to tell the demon to stuff it, to go back to Hell and crawl back under the rock he come from. But even as she growled deep in her throat, her clawed hands tensing about the handlebars, she forced herself to retain control of her temper. She had gotten into similar arguments with Zarathos before, and they always seemed to end with her being the butt of one of the demon's jokes. Look, will you just get over it already? she snarled, her teeth gritted and her eyes narrowed into furious slits, refusing to give him any further ammo to be used against her. Let's just get to the warehouse, grab the gear, and get it over and done with! I'm not in the mood for any more your mouth! Got it?
Certainly, young Rider, Zarathos chuckled, not even trying to hide his enjoyment. After all, I know how sensitive such matters are for a person of your age.
Zip it! the Ghost Rider retorted, wishing not for the first time that she was somehow capable of reaching into herself, pulling Zarathos out, and giving him the beating he so richly deserved. However, she doubted she had ever felt that sensation as strongly as she did then, and not only because he had completely ruined her good mood.
Long before she had ever come in contact with Zarathos, Asuka had set sail to Japan with Unit 02, well aware that she would be working with other Eva pilots, other children her age. And while she had been somewhat unhappy with the idea of sharing the glory with others, she had somewhat soothed by the fact that, not only was she certain that these other pilots didn't have anywhere near the skill that she had, but they would also be people like her. Children who had been groomed for battle, and took pride in the fact that they were Eva pilots. Were superior to the losers that they had to deal with.
Instead, Asuka had been met with Rei, a girl who was more like an animated doll than anything human. And potentially even worse and certainly more irritating…was Shinji Ikari.
Completely without spine. Who apologized immediately for everything, his fault or not. Who didn't offer any protest when told to do something, and caved in with the least amount of pressure. And most irritating of all, had such a natural gift for piloting that he had been a potential threat to Asuka's superiority before she had been reborn as the Ghost Rider.
And now, even though her synch ratio was far above and beyond that of the others, having effortlessly slain two Angels on her own and been well on her way to making herself into a living legend, Asuka was still vexed by the thought of Shinji. A boy who was naturally superior to others, but refused to act it. Someone who could have been a peer of hers, but wasn't, simply because he was too weak and pathetic. Someone who only showed that there was something more to him when up against the wall in battle, or when defending that stupid, useless…
Young Rider, came Zarathos's unearthly voice, immediately snapping his reluctant host from her thoughts. Very nearly telling him to shut his yap, the Ghost Rider then frowned at the urgency in the demon's voice. We are no longer alone.
Huh? Perplexed by this statement, the Ghost Rider quickly looked about the area, already assuming that it was some Section 2 goon that had caught the demon's attention. But she saw no sign of a sinful aura, nothing to indicate either NERV's secret police or a violent criminal. But then she glanced down at one of the rearview mirrors, and frowned that much more.
What in the…? the fiery motorcyclist started, her eyes going a bit wider as she tried to make sense of what she was seeing. The figure was humanoid, that much was obvious. And it also sported some obviously female attributes beneath what looked like a blue leotard. But it was just as obvious that this thing wasn't human.
First of all, her aura shown with the light of innocence. Something that was incredibly rare in Tokyo-3. But even more than that, the strange woman was moving fast. Far faster than any normal human could ever have dreamt of. The next thing the Ghost Rider noticed was that, as with herself, she was on fire. She wasn't completely engulfed in flame, but instead had plumes of it rising up from her bare flesh, as well as her hair. Furthermore, her arms were much larger in proportion to the rest of her body, and were covered in scales of orange rock.
"Wha- who the hell is that?" the Ghost Rider demanded, turning to look directly at her pursuer. Taking in the furious expression she wore before returning her eyes to the road. "Where the hell did she come from?"
I don't know, but whatever she is, Hell had nothing to do with her, Zarathos grumbled. She is a mortal being, young Rider. And more importantly, she of innocent blood.
Innocent. This one word cascaded through the Ghost Rider's mind, resulting in a burst of German profanity rushing out from between her clenched lips. Aw, dammit! I don't believe this! What's this bimbo chasing me for, anyway?
I don't know that, either. But whatever her reasons, she is obviously determined to catch us, Zarathos frowned. A beat passed, and then the demon said, Young Rider, we have to lose her. We have to get to the warehouse before the shipment arrives. We don't have time to waste on unnecessary combat!
Snarling between her teeth, the Ghost Rider instantly chafed at the idea of running away from a potential enemy. But at the same time, she knew Zarathos was right. After losing their primary source of weapons and equipment, they simply couldn't afford to let something like this shipment slip through their fingers. And as much as it grated her to admit it, the woman pursuing them was of innocent blood. The flames of Hell would have little effect on her, eliminating the possibility of a quick and easy victory.
Okay, okay! Fine! I'll ditch the bitch! the Ghost Rider grumbled with incredibly bad grace. Gunning the engine, she sent the Ghostcycle's front wheel into the air, where it folded over onto its side. A burst of flame erupted from the bottom, lifting both biker and her steed into the air as the rear wheel folded onto its side as well, generating additional thrust and sending the fiery motorcyclist higher into the air. As she did so, she looked back at her pursuer, and sneered nastily as she gave the flickering figure a one-fingered salute.
It was all the Ghost Rider could do not to laugh. The fiery woman pursuing her already wore a look of stunned surprise as the demonic motorcyclist rose into the air. But as she caught sight of the raised finger caused her jaw to fall halfway to the ground. Literally.
Oh, good Gott! the Ghost Rider cackled inwardly, looking at the stupefied woman even as she rose up away from the streets. She looks like one of those weirdoes from that dumb pirate show!
While the Ghost Rider was delighting in her pursuer's humiliation even as she left her behind, Zarathos once again took the liberty of spoiling her moment. Remember, we can't fly directly to the warehouse, young Rider, the demon cautioned her. We can't afford a pitched battle that could destroy the equipment we need. We have to take full advantage of the element of surprise.
Growling in her throat, the Ghost Rider retorted, Give it a rest, Zarathos! I know what I'm doing here! Somehow getting the impression of her demonic tenant rolling his eyes at this statement, the horned biker shook her head as she flew past a couple buildings, already searching for a convenient street or back alley that would take her where she wanted to go. Grumbling in disdain at the kind of things she had had to put up with in the wake of losing her 'partner'.
Mana, I swear, if it weren't for the fact that Section 2 blew you to hell, I'd kill you myself! she decided, wondering if there was some way of her pursuing the armor-user into the Netherworld and giving her the beating she so richly deserved.
There you are! Ms. Fantastic gritted inwardly as she finally caught sight of her quarry, her lips splitting into a feral grin. Already pushing herself even faster, closer towards the creature that was now the focus of her wrath.
She had no idea how long it had been since the Ghost Rider's mechanical monstrosity had flown up to terrify her out of her wits. No idea how long she had been following the burning trail she had left behind. The superwoman's mind was still too fogged with anger and frustration that had been building to overload within her. Everything that she had dealt with since her transformation, from the horrors she had seen planned for the world to her recent failures to help Shinji, had been building up within her.
Completely caught up in a rage that now had a convenient outlet, Ms. Fantastic pushed her superhuman form for all the speed it was worth. Her scaled arms pumping rapidly as she sped along the streets, her blades leaving a burning trail of their own as she slowly closed the gap between herself and the Ghost Rider. Images of hatred and violence running through her mind. Pictures of all the horrible things she wanted to do to her tormentor, the pain she wanted to inflict.
Things that would have sickened Maya Ibuki. Things that the woman now known as Ms. Fantastic found incredibly enticing.
Then, with both her anger and anticipation mounting with every centimeter she gained on her tormentor, Ms. Fantastic was momentarily jolted when the Ghost Rider turned about to look at her. In an instant, some of Maya's old fears and hesitations returned, and for two different reasons. The first was the fact that, despite not being a tactical specialist, the high-tech superwoman knew full well the value of surprise.
However, what ran deeper than this was the fact that this was the first real look Ms. Fantastic had gotten at her quarry. She had seen pictures of the Ghost Rider in the tabloids, but she had dismissed them as grotesque exaggerations. And while she had gotten a look at her before, it had been from a distance, and it had been impossible to make out any details. Especially with her clothing obscuring much of her form.
But now, as she looked at blazing motorcyclist through her visor, Ms. Fantastic gasped in shock, for the creature she was looking at could only be described as an abomination. While Ms. Fantastic's flesh could generate fire, the Ghost Rider's entire body was actually composed of flame. It was as if fire had been molded into a roughly human shape and was now conforming to it. What looked like human bones had been warped and grafted to the sides of her forearms and hands. And as for her face…
Oh, my God…! Ms. Fantastic, moaning inwardly as she met the demonic biker's hideous gaze. The Ghost Rider's face was a bony mask with a pair of horns erupting from the side, with twin orbs of blue fire hanging in the empty black eye sockets. Two burning eyes that were narrowed in contempt at her.
Even as Ms. Fantastic wrestled with her sudden fears, she watched as the Ghost Rider seemed to mutter something. She couldn't hear what was being said over the motorcycle's engine, but she did watch as the demonic biker once again looked ahead. Just before she gunned her bike, her front wheel popping into the air as she picked up speed.
This act was that was needed to erase the sudden haze of fear that had clouded Ms. Fantastic's mind. The very thought that she was being dismissed in such a manner quickly fanned the flames of her rage, especially after what had happened. Oh, no you don't! Ms. Fantastic growled inwardly, plumes of flame leaping up as she sped up as well. There's no way in hell I'm gonna -!
Before the furious superwoman could complete this thought, she was brought up short when a massive burst of flame from the Ghost Rider's motorcycle lifted both it and her up into the air. Her mouth falling open, she watched as the biker and her mechanical steed rose up into the air like it was the easiest, most natural thing to do. With the techno-bat monster following as obediently as a puppy, the Ghost Rider flipped Ms. Fantastic the birdy before she flew up over the top of one of the buildings, disappearing from view.
Her jaw plummeting, Ms. Fantastic could only stare blankly at where she had lost sight of the horned monstrosity. What the – did she just – you mean she can -? Thrown by the double shock of losing her antagonist and being insulted by her in the process, her mind was momentarily emptied before it went into a fevered overdrive, churning out questions like why the Ghost Rider hadn't been flying wherever it was she was going before now, or how such a flight mechanism would work in the first place.
However, before she could do more than conjure up such queries, she was given a harsh reminder as to why a person should keep their eyes on the road. Still going at full speed and not watching where she was going, Ms. Fantastic was brought back to reality when she crashed into the side of a building.
Stunned by the impact, noises of confusion and indignation escaping her lips, the shapeshifting superwoman eventually bounced back, the flattened portions of her body returning to their normal configuration, and gave the building she had crashed into an accusatory glare before looking up towards the roof.
As she stood there, a small, wearied part of her mind telling her that now might be a good time to pack it in for the night and go home. After all, the Ghost Rider's cruel prank was just that; a prank. Chasing her down could only lead to trouble, and Ms. Fantastic already had plenty of that to deal with.
But even as this tiny voice was heard, it was prompted overwhelmed by a flare of anger and frustration. The woman who had once gone by the name of Maya Ibuki was tired, frustrated, and at the end of her rope with all the secrets, dangers, and worse of all, her own failure to do anything to stop the madness unfolding before her. The idea of just letting a monster that was known to be a deranged vigilante, a brutal murderer, escape and cause even more pain and misery elsewhere was a painful one.
And not only that, but the Ghost Rider had dismissed her. Ignored her so completely as she had flown away, and had rubbed in the superwoman's failure with an additional insult. The mental image of her flying off, giving Ms. Fantastic the finger as she disappeared, quickly sank into the pit of the scantily clad heroine's stomach, where it began to rot and fester amongst all the other setbacks and failures she had endured as of late.
No… Ms. Fantastic growled deep in her throat, her anger already returning to her. You're not getting away from me that easily! Even as she thought this, she conjured up an invisible platform beneath her feet, and soon was rising up above the rooftops. Completely heedless of the heights that usually made her so wary, the high-tech superwoman scanned the area, searching for any sign of the Ghost Rider.
It only took a few moments for her to find what she was looking for. An infrared trail along one of the streets a couple of block over from where she was, a blazing trail of fire that appeared in her visor like it had been drawn with a flare. And more importantly, while it was already quite distant, she could still detect an even greater source of heat that was creating the trail. Gotcha! Ms. Fantastic grinned, anticipation, fear, and anger mixing together with a host of other emotions as she flew over several buildings, following her trail from a safe distance.
As Ms. Fantastic followed the Ghost Rider's trail, completely distinct even through the buildings, she frowned in determination. Where the heck is that monster going? she found herself wondering. Wherever the Ghost Rider was headed, she wasn't exactly being subtle about it. The trail she left followed more-or-less a straight line through the streets. She had taken a few turns, but overall maintained the exact same course. And while no tactical genius, it was enough to realize that the horned biker was going someplace specific.
But why would she out here, anyway? Getting a bad feeling about this, the high-tech superwoman accessed her internal GPS. With a thought, she overlaid the route taken by the Ghost Rider, over a map of Tokyo-3, trying to anticipate where the demonic vigilante was going. There's not a lot in this direction, Ms. Fantastic realized as she studied the maps, and saw that she was quickly approaching the edge of the city. No operational stores or apartments…the houses out here aren't registered as belonging to anyone…so why would she…?
Then a burst of flame exploded over her head, much like a light bulb blowing apart. Unless…! she began, her mind once again going crazy. One of her duties as Maya Ibuki had been to see that the Evangelions were kept in top condition, everything from repairs after a battle to basic upkeep on a day-to-day basis. And while the Ghost Rider's monstrous motorcycle was no Evangelion, it was obviously a high-tech piece of equipment, as was the hideous techno-demon that had terrified her as Aya.
And that meant that the Ghost Rider had to have someplace where she kept and maintained her weapons and equipment. A safe, secure location where no one could stumble upon them.
So she might be heading back home! Which would explain why she didn't want me following! Ms. Fantastic thought with growing eagerness. Then cold, hard reality kicked in. And if she sees me again, then she'll probably do a lot worse than give me the finger.
A few seconds thought was all that she needed to make her decision. Even if the Ghost Rider wasn't heading towards whatever she called home, she was heading somewhere, and in a big hurry. Which meant that it was someplace important to her. And wherever that place was, Ms. Fantastic wanted to see what would warrant the demonic biker's interest for herself. Something that wouldn't happen if she betrayed her presence in any manner.
With a moment's concentration, Ms. Fantastic faded into invisibility, and forced herself to move as quickly as she could. For no matter what happened, she wouldn't fail again.
She refused to fail again.
There was an unpleasant stench wafting through the air that night as Izuka Hagura paced about impatiently. Anxiously looking about the apparently abandoned warehouses, waiting for a shipment that was already overdue.
Dammit, I hate this stuff! Izuka thought sourly as he looked at his watch for what felt like the millionth time that night. Why can't Ikari ever arrange for these supply runs to be held at a better time? Like when the sun is still out?
Shaking his head and pacing about a little, Izuka frowned unhappily, for he already knew the answer to this question. He had known it when he had been given this assignment by Commander Ikari itself, before the Angels had returned.
It hadn't seemed like such a difficult thing back then. NERV was a top secret organization, with more than its share of secrets to keep from the public at large. And as such, it was constantly receiving technical equipment, unmarked boxes of supplies, and other, more unusual things that Izuka was being paid very nicely not to ask any questions about. All he had to do was meet and greet the people doing the shipping, sign the dotted line when needed, and make sure that all the goods in question was securely stored in warehouses NERV had gone to great length to convince people were condemned and unused. And to be honest, it had been an easy enough job, and those nice, fat bonuses in his pay had seemed to be ample compensation for the occasional sleepless night.
However, after the 3rd Angel had shown its ugly face and reduced a good portion to Tokyo-3 to a slag heap, things had gone into overdrive. It hadn't just been the open, legitimate stream of NERV's supplies that had gone through the roof. The secret shipments that Ikari paid him so well to oversee had shot up as well. And as a result, Izuka was spending increasing nights out in this filthy complex that he had quickly learned to loathe.
This has been the worst month ever! Izuka grumbled inwardly, shaking his head and wishing that he had had the sense to bring a thermos full of coffee with him. Three shipments this week alone, for god's sake! Honestly! What could Ikari want with all this crap, anyway?
Wincing at his unspoken question, and making a mental note to made certain that it remained unspoken, Izuka instead muttered a few choice profanities beneath his breath as he looked towards the barbwire fence that surrounded the complex, and the gate through a truck full of new equipment should have arrived at least an hour ago. And yet, the only thing he had seen or heard that was a couple of rats running around the premises.
Rats. Stinking, filthy rats! Why the hell couldn't Second Impact have wiped them out? Who needs disgusting vermin like them running around? Izuka grumbled inwardly, again looking at his watch and grousing over the time he was wasting there when he could be getting some sleep or maybe dropping by one of his favorite late night hangouts. Or better yet, both.
Thinking not for the first time that this sort of thing would probably be better if the Commander had increased his undeclared pay in proportion to the increase in his undeclared duties, Izuka continued to pace and curse.
Finally, Izuka heard something other than rats running around, spreading filth all over creation. Pausing, he cocked his ears, at first wondering if it was his overtired brain playing tricks on him. As the sound grew louder, he determined that, no, it wasn't his imagination, it really was an engine of some sort. And it was getting closer.
He didn't give his hopes a chance to rise. He had done this before over the years, and had seen all kinds of traffic pass by that had absolutely nothing to do with tardy shipments. But as the sound of the engine grew steadily louder, Izuka allowed himself to admit that it was unlikely that anyone else would be coming to this area. The mass exodus triggered by the Angel War had certainly cut down on horny teenagers looking for someplace where they could make-out in the comfort and privacy of their own cars.
Eventually, the sound was joined by two blaring headlights appearing at the end of the street. And thus Izuka suffered a measure of hope that he would be soon be able to quit this hateful place, and so readied himself to greet what was hopefully his tardy shipment.
Within a few seconds, the truck grew ever closer, until there was no doubt that it was the shipping truck that he had been waiting for. It pulled up to the gate, and then flashed its lights four times in quick succession. Recognizing it as this day's signal, Izuka stuck his hand into his pocket, and drew forth a remote control unit. A single tap of the button, and servo motors worn by years of use groaned in protest as the gate slid open.
As soon as the opening in the fence was wide enough, the truck rumbled inside. Once it was past the fence, the engine silent, Izuka tapped the remote again, closing the gate once more. It wasn't until this was done that he went up to the truck, scowling as its driver opened the door and set foot on solid ground.
"You're late," Izuka told the driver without preamble.
"Hey, don't blame me!" the driver grumbled, sounding about as irritated as Izuka felt. "There was a last-minute change of plans! The boss had me take an alternate route here!"
"What?" Izuka got out, already not liking this. Last minute changes to plans usually meant something had gone wrong, and that always meant trouble in his book. "Why's that?"
"It's all because of that freaky bitch you've got running around here," the driver grumbled in response even Izuka led the way to one of the warehouses.
Stopping in mid-step, Izuka turned towards the driver. "What?" Dread apprehension settling upon him, preventing him from speaking for a time. But eventually, he did speak. And when he did, his words were hushed with fear. "You…you mean…?"
"That's right. The Ghost Rider," the driver stated, shaking his head in dismay. "Happened a couple nights ago. The crazy freak nailed three of our guys."
At this, Izuka's already sour mood plummeted to new depths. "Aw, damn…" he grumbled, shaking his head at this. The Ghost Rider was one of the thorns protruding in NERV's side these days, and quite possibly the most irritating. A vigilante lunatic that had taken what remained of Hakone and basically turned it into her private playground, and the games she played were deadly indeed. Since she had appeared on the scene, she had pretty much purged the city of every criminal that lived within the limits of Tokyo-3, with night being her favorite time to stalk her prey. And that might not have been a problem for NERV, except for the fact that she had taken to preying upon Section 2 whenever she had the opportunity.
"You said it," the driver returned humorlessly. "They were supposed to set things up for tonight, but, uh…" Heaving a tired breath, he shook his head somberly. "Anyway, we found them yesterday, just a few miles away from here. Or at least…what was left of them."
Stopping before he reached the warehouse door, Izuka turned and asked, "So…it's true, then? That the Ghost Rider…?"
"You got it," the driver nodded. "All that was left of those guys was their clothes on top of some piles of ash!" Shaking his head, the driver exhaled sharply before adding, "Damn! You should have heard the boss go on about that one! He'd love to know how she does that!"
"Heh! Not me! I'll be just as glad to never find out! Or meet that crazy bitch in the first place!" Izuka declared. The driver letting out a noise of appreciation, he entered the warehouse itself, where two other guys sat playing cards. They looked up at him as soon as they became aware of his presence. "Okay! Playtime's over! Let's get to work!"
"It's about time!" one of the guys declared as he and his friend tossed the cards, their game already forgotten as they rose and headed towards the door. Like Izuka, while they appreciated the little bonuses that came from jobs such as this, they didn't appreciate having to wait around doing nothing when they'd rather be getting some sleep.
Oh, well. Hopefully, it won't take too long to unload this junk and get the hell out of here! Izuka thought grimly, deciding that he was in definite need of a stiff drink and a good night's sleep. Those pleasant thoughts easing his weariness somewhat, he moved towards the loading door. With a press of a button, it began to rise up, even as the driver made his way back to his truck and started the engine. Once the door was fully open, the truck turned about, positioning itself so it could back inside.
As soon as the truck was inside and the warehouse door securely closed, Izuka went to the back of it, watching as the driver hopped out. His every move showing just how eager he was to get done and check into some hotel or whatever, the driver went up to the back of his truck and unlocked the back of it. Once this was done, Izuka and the others helped him in opening it up, then pulling out the truck's built-in ramp and securing it in place.
"Okay, then!" Izuka declared, looking over the interior of the truck, as well as the massive crates that filled the interior. Knowing full well that he was going to be tired and sore and in need of several stiff drinks before this night was over, he looked towards his colleagues. "C'mon, you guys! This stuff ain't gonna move itself!" The two of them chuckled wearily at this, at which Izuka eyed the driver. "So, you gonna help us unpack or not?"
"Sure, why not?" the driver returned with a shrug. "The sooner I get out of Monster City, the better I'll like it!"
Izuka laughed at this, not that he could honestly blame the driver for feeling this way. Watching as the others brought down the first of many crates, he was about to get to work on his soon-to-be-sore back when he heard something. The low roar of an engine, drawing steadily closer.
"What the…?" Izuka began, shadows of concern darkening his features. But before he could say or even think anything else, he heard a strange, whistling sound. Which was followed shortly by a massive explosion, as well as a shockwave that sent him flying from the truck.
Cries of pain and fear following the echoes of the explosion, Izuka tumbled about on the ground, stunned senseless as his consciousness filled with the agony of both overwhelmed senses and the bumps and bruises he had just picked up. Groaning miserably, he rolled about the floor, just cognizant enough to realize that he had to find out what was going on.
The first thing he saw was the warehouse's main door. It had been blasted apart, with scraps of it decorating the warehouse interior, red hot from whatever it was that had caused the explosion, with only the frame of it remaining in place. The next thing was a prone body lying a few feet distant, but Izuka couldn't tell who it was, or even if he was alive or not. As his head lolled about, he noticed that the truck was still mostly intact. The front end had taken a hit from the exploding door, but the rest of it looked unscathed.
Thank God for small favors, Izuka thought hazily, the realization that the shipment was intact bringing an odd smile to his face. If anything happens to that stuff, I'm a dead man. Ikari'll make sure of that!
Even as a weak, giddy relief washed over Izuka, something else penetrated his consciousness. The sound of footsteps was heard above the roar of the fire, and was steadily approaching. Unable to see who or what it was, he instinctively rolled his head about to look…and very nearly fainted from the shock.
"Good evening, asshole," grinned what could only have been the Ghost Rider. The demonic biker was coming closer, a cruel grin on her boney face as she came to stand over him. "Working late, huh?"
The Ghost Rider. The horror of his situation crashed down upon Izuka's groggy mind with the force of an Eva's foot. The terror that had been splashed upon the covers of countless tabloids, the vigilante that every criminal remaining in Tokyo-3 spoke about with dread, the monster he had been discussing mere minutes ago, and she was standing right next him. About as helpless as could be imagined, his body still recovering and his mind still too overloaded for him to be able to do anything except soil himself.
Aw, damn… Izuka moaned inwardly. Wondering how in blazes this night could possibly get worse.
As soon as Ms. Fantastic reached the end of the Ghost Rider's trail, she had realized that she had a serious problem on her hands.
Still shrouded in invisibility, she had come to find herself floating above a series of warehouses. As soon as Ms. Fantastic came within range, her infrared picked up several distinct thermal signatures coming from within one of the storage facilities. Some of them were small and stationary, another was the still-warm engine of the truck that was just inside. Four of the heat signatures matched human forms and body temperatures, while the fifth was far higher. Too high to be anyone but a creature of living fire.
But why? What could the Ghost Rider possibly want here? Ms. Fantastic wondered, narrowing her eyes as she surveyed the area. For that matter…what are these people doing in a place like this, anyway? Quickly double-checking her files, the high-tech superwoman confirmed that she had read them correctly. According to the MAGI's files, these warehouses were supposed to be abandoned and closed down. There had been no legitimate businesses of any sort operating out of them for at least five months, and they were supposed to be sealed off from public access because of safety reasons.
Which means that, whatever's going on in there, it's probably illegal, Ms. Fantastic decided. And this in turn explained why the Ghost Rider was there. Just searching for potential victims.
Pressing her lips tightly together, the shapeshifting adventuress felt a pit open up in her stomach. Criminals or not, the idea of letting the Ghost Rider kill someone was repugnant in the extreme. Which meant that if Ms. Fantastic was going to stop her, she had to do so before people started dying.
Feeling herself tense up, her body gearing up for battle, Ms. Fantastic frowned to herself. Hold it! I can't just go busting in there! Once again looking at the four infrared signatures, she saw that they hadn't moved since she had arrived. They were alive, but were either unconscious or unable to move for some reason or another. If I go after the Ghost Rider in there and she opens up on me, they'll get caught in the crossfire as well!
Hissing beneath her breath at the prospect of causing another disaster in her desire to do good, Ms. Fantastic looked up, and spotted another problem just overhead. The Ghost Rider's techno-bat was currently circling above the warehouse, apparently keeping watch for anyone who might interfere in the demon's business. And if it came barging in while she was busy fighting, then the green-haired superwoman would be caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
Which means that I have to take them both out quickly, and at the same time. And I have to do it without endangering anyone else, Ms. Fantastic thought. Looking up and down between her two foes, she considered the situation. And finally smiled as she came up with a plan.
"Hmm, it looks like you boys have had a busy night, haven't you?" the Ghost Rider wondered in an amused manner as she strode about the warehouse interior as if she owned the place. Casually surveying the crates of parts and equipment NERV kept there before moving it down to secure facilities within the Geofront. "And judging by all the rest of this stuff here…it hasn't been your first one. Now has it?"
Izuka did nothing. Said nothing. He simply continued to lay prone and watched as the Ghost Rider turned about and looked towards the truck, fully aware that she could kill him without a moment's notice. "Ooh, and what have we here?" she asked in an amused fashion, basically ignoring her helpless victims as she made her way up the ramp, looking about the interior. "I see we've got ourselves even more quality merchandise here." Chuckling wickedly, she turned about and leapt to the ground. "Of course, considering the kind of people handling this stuff, I think it's safe to say that you're not supposed to be playing with any of these toys." Cocking her head to the side, she grinned wickedly at the prone man, as if enjoying a private joke at his expense. "In which case…I'll just have to take them off your hands. All of them."
A strangled moan of horror sounded in Izuka's throat at this. As dazed as he was, there was no doubt in his mind as to who Commander Ikari would hold responsible if anything happened to this shipment, let alone all the rest of the equipment stored there. As well as what NERV's commander would do to him. Terror fueled by desperation rising up in him, he looked imploringly at the beast that had attacked them. "No…you can't…!"
"Of course I can! I can do whatever I want!" the Ghost Rider declared, gesturing at herself even as she looked down her bony nose at him. Feeling the blood drain from his face, Izuka was helpless to do anything but lie there as the horned monster laughed at him, grinning that much more. As if his misery was the icing on her cake. "Aw, don't be that way! Look on the bright side!" she told him, placing her hands on her hips. "At least I'm letting you keep your worthless life!"
Worthless life is right! Izuka moaned in his mind, already picturing the doom that was almost certainly in store for him. Suddenly, winding up as nothing but a pile of ash didn't seem like such a bad idea. Certainly a better fate than admitting failure to Gendo Ikari.
"Now, let's see here…" the Ghost Rider chortled, turning on her heal and heading towards the driver's side door. "I suppose the first thing I should do is get this thing out of the way! And then -!"
If Izuka thought he was past being astonished, what happened next would have proven him wrong instantly. Before the Ghost Rider could complete her boast, she was knocked backwards into the air, sent flying by nothing. It was as if a mass of solid air had slammed right into her, slamming her into one of the storage racks. With a surprised grunt, the hellish beast tumbled to the floor, where she performed a nimble roll before coming to her hands and feet.
"Hey – what the hell?" the Ghost Rider snarled, rising up a bit, but remaining crouched over. Her left hand went to a holster on her hip, while her right hand wrapped around what looked like the hilt of a thick sword on her back. The orbs of blue flame that were eyes darting about her surroundings, searching for whatever it was that had subjected her to such indignity. Snarling beneath her breath, she rose up a bit more, and started advancing forward.
She had only taken a few steps before she was attacked again by the nothingness. This time, the invisible force slammed into her from the side, knocking her to the floor once more. "Arrgh!" the Ghost Rider screeched, once again rolling to regain her feet. But her unseen aggressor didn't give her the chance to get back on her feet. Instead, two invisible hands wrapped about her ankles and yanked her up into the air. "Augh! What the – who -?"
Fear slowly fading in the face of confusion, Izuka continued to watch as the force that had grabbed hold of the Ghost Rider proceeded to spin her about by her feet. Slowly at first, but with quickly increasing speed, the demon's unseen attacker spun her around and around like an invisible centrifuge gone mad. Until at last the Ghost Rider reached maximum velocity, and the invisible entity released its hold on her. At which point, the horned beast was sent flying out the door she had shattered, screeching her outrage as she flailed her arms about helplessly.
I don't believe this, Izuka thought numbly, his doom gone as suddenly as she had appeared. Maybe there's a god after all!
But even as he thought this, basic human survival instinct kicked. Even though the Ghost Rider had been forcibly removed from the premises, there was no guarantee that she would remain that way. And even if she did, there was also the possibility that Izuka had somehow exchanged one doom for an even worse one. Something that hardly seemed unlikely in this world of Angels and demons.
Realizing this, and without any monstrous superwoman in his face to terrify him into paralysis, Izuka began to move. Grunting and groaning as his pained body protested vigorously, he reached into his pocket and dug out his cell phone. Thankful that he had been smart enough to put Section 2 on his speed dial.
"Arrrgggh!" the Ghost Rider howled as she flew out of the warehouse. Her techno-bat's attention drawn by its master's flight, and following her. Screeching in an almost plaintive fashion, as if wondering what the heck was happening to the blazing biker. All the while Ms. Fantastic looked on, a mild grin of satisfaction marking her face as she looked at her handiwork.
It had all been so simple, once she realized what needed to be done. Focusing on the infrared signature that had to be the Ghost Rider, Ms. Fantastic had made sure to keep her distance as she got closer. Just close enough to readily mold her invisible AT-Field about the horned monster. To pull her out of the warehouse and away from any helpless bystanders.
And yet, even as she had been preparing to do so, Ms. Fantastic had been watching as the Ghost Rider paraded herself around. Listened as she boasted as to how she was going to take everything in the warehouse. And when one of the people there had protested, she had responded by saying, "Of course I can! I can do whatever I want!" And the instant she heard these words, the twisted, gloating way they had been spoken, a hushed gasp had escaped her lips, and her face contorted with renewed anger. The demon's words bringing back that moment when Aya Kusanagi had lain helpless beneath her robotic minion.
In that instant, a dark surge of hatred rose up in Ms. Fantastic, a hatred that wanted her to do more than simply pull the Ghost Rider out of the warehouse. It wanted to give her tormentor a taste of her own medicine. It wanted to humiliate the demon, to belittle her and make her feel small and powerless, just as the demon had done to a girl that had committed no crime against her. As she was doing to people right before her eyes.
And so, before she could think better of this, before her own morality could kick in and remind her that two wrongs didn't make a right, Ms. Fantastic heeded this cruel impulse. Furrowing her brow in concentration, she molded her invisible AT-Field into the shape of a hammer, and swung it at the Ghost Rider. Taken completely unawares, the fiery beast was sent flying into one of the storage racks. And even from this distance, she could hear the satisfying crack with which the horned superwoman crashed into the metal.
When the Ghost Rider landed on the ground, recovering instantly and drawing forth her shotgun, Ms. Fantastic had cringed, instantly convinced that she had made another horrible mistake. She could already see demonic motorcyclist whipping out her weapons and firing indiscriminately in every direction, killing everyone but her real target. As this vision ran its course, Ms. Fantastic's conscience began screaming in her ear, wondering what on earth she was thinking. Risking lives all for the same kind of sadistic pleasure that the Ghost Rider had taken in tormenting her.
To her surprise, however, the Ghost Rider didn't open fire. She didn't take her frustrations out on the people in the warehouse. Instead, she looked about wildly, searching for the source of the attack.
The Ghost Rider was angry, confused, frustrated. But more than anything, she was helpless. Unable to find and lash out at her aggressor.
And as Ms. Fantastic watched the horned biker turn about, trying in vain to find her attacker, she didn't wonder why she didn't open fire, she didn't think that she should stick to the plan and get it over with. Instead, the dark hatred within her found new purchase, twisting her lips into a cruel smile, and prompting her to lash out again. Once more shaping her force field into a hammer, she again knocked the Ghost Rider to the floor, and this time, she didn't feel any fear or remorse. This time, she didn't give the burning beast a chance to recover, and instead bound her legs with a force field. Yanking the hellish vigilante into the air by means of a thought, Ms. Fantastic began spinning her about in the air. Listening to her scream in protest. Helpless to do anything to stop it.
It was easy. It was so easy. A mere thought, and her tormentor was now the tormented.
Still, I better not take any chances, Ms. Fantastic thought, her smiling fading somewhat. Painfully aware that the longer she kept this up, the more likely the volatile demon she was making sport of would be sufficiently provoked into doing something dangerous. And then, people would die. And so she returned to her original plan, and with a tug of her AT-Field, sent the Ghost Rider flying out of the warehouse. Her robotic companion swooping down to follow, shrieking its concern.
Looks like the shoe's on the other foot now, you monster! Ms. Fantastic grinned, manipulating the Ghost Rider with the ease of a puppet master. Aiming her at a more distant building, she sent the blazing vigilante into a burst of acceleration which sent her crashing into a wall. Her indignant screech echoing about the streets as she was sent far away from the warehouse.
Which means it's time for me to get in there and take her down! Ms. Fantastic grinned, scales of stone and tongues of flame manifesting as she lowered her shroud of invisibility. Her heart beating hard in her chest as she floated over towards where the Ghost Rider was even now rising to her feet, her techno-bat shrilling dangerously as it hovered about her, like a dog concerned about its master.
"Aw, Gott!" the Ghost Rider growled, shaking her head as if clearing it out. "What the hell is going on here? What hit me, anyway?"
"That would be me," Ms. Fantastic announced as she came down on the ground before her foe. The Ghost Rider's demonic appearance no longer holding any terror for her as shells of orange rock appeared on her arms. Bringing her hands together, she made a show of cracking her craggy knuckles before falling into a fighting stance. Making certain to let the fiery biker know that she was not someone to be trifled with.
Her eyes going wide at the other superwoman's appearance, the flames that made up the Ghost Rider's burned ten times more intensely as she snarled, "You!" Whipping out both her shotguns, she took aim at Ms. Fantastic. "I don't know who you are, bitch! But you just made the last mistake of your useless life!"
"I don't think so," Ms. Fantastic grinned, holding out her hand toward the Ghost Rider. Twisting it so that she was pointing up, she willed her AT-Field into existence, and wrapped it around the demonic motorcyclist's wrists and ankles. And once again, her foe was a puppet as the green-haired woman pulled at her strings.
Without warning, the Ghost Rider's right arm was forced out to her side, her shotgun pointed at empty air. Turning to look at her immobilized limb, the burning vigilante gasped, "Argh! What is this?" Growling furiously, she struggled to free herself from her invisible restraints, but to no avail. And soon, Ms. Fantastic forced her other arm back as well, just before she restrained both her legs.
"It's not so easy this time, is it?" Ms. Fantastic grinned, feeling no guilt in this victory. "Can't just fly off and leave me behind, can you?" Losing herself in the moment, she levitated the Ghost Rider up into the air above her, watching her struggle impotently. Only to be brought back to reality by a horrific shrieking. Whipping about, she saw the techno-bat that had made sport of Aya Kusanagi diving at her, fangs bared and claws at the ready.
Ms. Fantastic simply grinned. Reaching out with her mind, she encased the mechanical monstrosity in a force bubble, stopping it in mid-dive. "And don't think I've forgotten about you!" she smirked, unashamed of her enjoyment as the techno-bat thrashed madly within the field, slamming itself into its makeshift prison over and over again. Grunting, Ms. Fantastic sent the robotic demon up to float alongside its malevolent mistress. The both of them helpless, pinned like butterflies in a display case.
It was over. No bloodshed, no fight, no one got hurt. Just two monsters, completely defeated. And completely at her mercy.
It was intoxicating feeling. A feeling that Ms. Fantastic had felt only on the days she had conquered her first band of thugs, or taken control of Dragon Man. But this time, the triumph was greater. The victory was somehow that much sweeter. It made her body tremble with excitement as she looked at her prisoners. "You two aren't going to get away from me! Not this time!" the shapeshifting adventuress declared, glaring at the Ghost Rider as she looked from herself to the techno-bat and back. "And once I'm done with you, I'm sure the police will…"
A sound was heard. A sound that caused Ms. Fantastic's voice to fall flat in her throat. Her smile fading, her triumph turning to confusion. Because it just didn't make sense.
It didn't make any sense at all that the Ghost Rider was laughing.
It began as a low chuckle. But as Ms. Fantastic looked on, it quickly escalated into an uproarious guffawing that reverberated about the streets. As if a horde of Ghost Riders had descended upon Tokyo-3, just to help the one mock the green-haired superwoman.
Her sense of triumph crumbling, Ms. Fantastic furrowed her brows before mentally shoving her captive into the wall. "And just what do you think is so funny?"
Another round of snickers escaped the Ghost Rider's lips before she looked down at her foe. "You are, you dumb slut!" she told her, grinning ghoulishly. Looking once more towards the invisible bindings that held her, she then returned her attention to the one who had created them. "So, that's your trick, huh? You can manipulate the light of your soul into any shape you want."
More confusion wracked Ms. Fantastic's mind at this. "The light of my -?" Then she grunted before shouting back, "Look, you! I don't know what it is you're talking about, and right now, I really don't care!"
"Yeah, and that's your problem," the Ghost Rider returned superiorly, the flames of her body intensifying. "You don't know much about anything." Chuckling deep in her throat, she looked over at her companion, which had ceased its mindless thrashing. "C'mon, Morbius! What say we…teach her a lesson or two, hmmm?"
Completely baffled by this turnaround, Ms. Fantastic could only stand there and watch in confusion. A sensation that was compounded when the techno-bat called Morbius shrieked horribly before erupting in flames as well. The monster flapped its wings wildly, spreading the fire throughout its invisible prison, until the bubble shimmered with the intense light.
What is she trying to do? Burn through my AT-Field? Ms. Fantastic wondered, unable to make sense of this action. Because of that's her plan, then she's in for a big disappointment! She -!
A blaring alarm within her mind stopped the superwoman in mid-thought, and was followed shortly by analytical readouts appearing on her visor. And when she saw what those readouts indicated, her mind effectively crashed and burned. Wha -? The flames are neutralizing the phased space? Ms. Fantastic read, her eyes bulging at this revelation. But – but that's impossible!
And yet, even as she protested this idea, it was quickly becoming a reality. The invisible bindings that held the Ghost Rider and her robotic pet captive were being canceled out. She could feel her force restraints fading away beneath the flames. And while her technician's mind protested this, told her that the only thing that could nullify an AT-Field was another AT-Field, sited all the simulations and data that confirmed this to be true, she watched helplessly as the horned beast she had sought to capture exploded into a brilliant flash of searing flame. Her visor still set to infrared, she was momentarily blinded by the blast, and instinctively shielded her eyes. Then she was hit by a sickening jolt as her force fields were completely obliterated.
The things Ms. Fantastic heard were the sounds of boots coming down on solid concrete, followed by the Ghost Rider chuckling, "Not so smug now, are you, bitch?"
Some of her anger melting in fear, Ms. Fantastic brought her arms up before her as the Ghost Rider opened fire. Instead of buckshot, however, the Ghost Rider's weapons unleashed bolts of fire. Acting on pure instinct, the shapeshifting superheroine brought her force field into existence between them, intercepting the shots. But she could already tell that it wouldn't be able to withstand the barrage for long.
But how? How is this even possible? she silently demanded, backing away as the Ghost Rider continued her assault. How can fire do this to an AT-Field? What is she? Then another fireball slammed into her barrier, eating through it that much more, and Ms. Fantastic abandoned her line of thought. Watching as the demonic biker fired again, the elastic superwoman coiled her legs beneath her and leapt into the air, flame engulfing her and propelling her skyward.
"Oh, no you don't!" the Ghost Rider snarled. Looking down towards her foe, Ms. Fantastic watched as the burning vigilante dropped one of her shotguns, which easily floated back to its holster, and snatched a chain up from around her shoulder. Twirling the chain like a lasso, the Ghost Rider whipped it at the airborne adventuress.
Jetting upwards even faster, Ms. Fantastic easily avoided the metal links as she aimed her hands at her attacker. A guttural cry escaping her lips as she sent two streams of white-hot flame back down at the Ghost Rider. The twin flame jets slammed down upon the demon, melting the concrete upon which she stood, turning it molten red, causing it to ripple like ocean water.
However, as Ms. Fantastic continued to pour on the flame, she gaped in shock as the Ghost Rider looked up at her, completely unaffected. "Oh, please!" she sneered, flames hotter than the depths of an active volcano pouring off of her like nothing more than a gentle shower. "Like that's gonna work?"
Momentarily taken aback by this, the high-tech heroine then started mentally kicking herself in the backside. Stupid! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Of course that wouldn't hurt her! She's made of fire, for crying out loud! Discontinuing the flame attack, Ms. Fantastic shot up even higher, keeping a close eye on the Ghost Rider as she tried to figure out her next move. Now what do I do? She can burn through my AT-Field, fire is useless on her, and there's no way I can get close enough to -!
She was cut off when a dark blur shot past her, followed a hideous, shooting pain coming from her left thigh. Crying out, Ms. Fantastic looked about, and saw the techno-bat that had terrorized her before soaring away, with fiery blades extended from its wings. Gasping in surprise, she looked down at herself, and saw a long, deep gash in her leg. And while it was visibly healing, the fact that she had been so easily taken unawares shook her badly. Something made worse when Morbius shrieked again, drawing the superwoman's gaze. Unable to help herself, she turned and looked for the robotic bat, fearful of another attack.
Her attention completely devoted to the mechanical nightmare, Ms. Fantastic failed to realize that she had turned her back on another threat. And it was a situation the Ghost Rider was quick to take advantage of. Twirling her chain about once more, she whipped it out at the airborne superwoman. At the end of its arc, five links of the chain flew off the end, exploding with hellfire as they shot up at the green-haired woman and hit her in the small of her back. And even one of innocent blood wasn't completely immune to their effect; the metal links stunned her, causing her vision to swim and weakness to flood through her. Her flames dying out, the superwoman was sent tumbling back to the earth.
Crashing back down to the ground, Ms. Fantastic tumbled onto her side, dazed and confused by the combined assaults. Groaning blearily, she struggled to regain her feet before something else happened. But the Ghost Rider was already advancing on her again, determined not to give her foe even the slightest chance to recover. Taking direct aim, the demonic vigilante sent another fireball at her, this one impacting upon the elastic superwoman's face.
"Arrrggghh!" Ms. Fantastic howled, tumbling about once more as she brought her hands to her eyes. The sudden explosion of hellfire leaving her in agony.
Watching as her enemy rolled helplessly on the ground, the Ghost Rider couldn't help but laugh. "Heh heh!" the demon grinned cruelly, as if she had already won. "You should've given up while you still had a chance, bitch!"
Meanwhile, Ms. Fantastic moaned as she blindly rolled about on the ground, her body moving without the aid of conscious thought. Every instinct for self-preservation she possessed forcing her body to move, telling her that she couldn't afford to lay there while her eyes recovered. That she had to get ready to defend herself before the Ghost Rider attacked again, for her next blow could very well be the last one for her.
Shaking her head, the superwoman brought one of her hands down to the ground, propping herself up as she gingerly lifted her other hand up from her face. Rapidly blinking, Ms. Fantastic gasped as she looked and saw nothing but a muddy blur of shadows laced with stars and comets streaking by.
Very nearly panicking at the realization that she was effectively blind, Ms. Fantastic was almost deafened by two horrible sounds. Her heart pounding desperately in her chest, fear clawing frantically at her mind…and a cold, cruel laugh, accompanied by boots crunching on solid concrete. "Hmm…looks like this turkey is done roasting already," the Ghost Rider chuckled. Instinctively drawn by the sound of her voice, the green-haired superwoman looked towards her foe. All she could see of her was a cloudy patch of deep black with pieces of hazy oranges and reds moving closer to her. "In which case, I'd say it's time to carve her up!"
The Ghost Rider moved. Ms. Fantastic couldn't see well enough to make out what she was doing, but she could see another burst of oranges and reds appear. And more importantly, she could hear the shrill sound of some kind of motor. What the…? she thought, just before she placed the sound. And her mouth and eyes went wide with shock. Is…is that a chainsaw?
Her mind completely overcome with fear, Ms. Fantastic looked up at the Ghost Rider. Just able to make out a pillar of bright, fiery color that she was raising up over her head. And freed of the constraints of conscious thoughts, she acted on pure instinct. Seconds before the vigilante biker could strike, Ms. Fantastic stretched out one arm and whipped it out around the Ghost Rider's leg. Before the demon could so much as cry out in protest, the green-haired superwoman pulled as hard as she could, and sent the Ghost Rider falling to the ground.
Dragging herself back to her feet, aware that her reprieve was temporary at best, Ms. Fantastic charged and fell upon the horned motorcyclist, and stretched out about her. Forming a living tarp, she wrapped herself around every square inch of the Ghost Rider's form. Moving by touch, she felt and wrapped up the demon's legs and bound her arms to her torso. Within seconds, the elastic superwoman had formed a living straitjacket, with her head positioned right next to that of her prisoner.
"Alright…you monster!" Ms. Fantastic hissed as she looked at her prisoner. Her eyes recovered enough and close enough to the Ghost Rider to be able to make out the details of the bony mask that was her face. Certain that there was no way Morbius could attack her without endangering its master as well. "Let's see you try something now!"
Struggling helplessly beneath her cocoon of living flesh, the Ghost Rider glared at her captor. "With pleasure!" she hissed, and then cried out in bloodlust. And Ms. Fantastic's world went from hazy darkness to a brilliant blood-red as a swarm of spiked chains exploded from the Ghost Rider's body, boring through the elastic superwoman's flesh many times over.
Howling in pain, Ms. Fantastic immediately exploded out from her foe, but was unable to escape her completely. In ensnaring the Ghost Rider, the shapeshifting superwoman had wrapped about her several times, so multiple patches of skin covered the same portions of the demonic biker. When the Ghost Rider's chains had burst through Ms. Fantastic's body, those multiple layers had been bored through. As a result, the elastic superwoman was only able to free her upper torso. Everything else was still tangled up by the Ghost Rider's chains.
Gasping at the realization that she was still stuck, Ms. Fantastic looked down at her would-be captive, who looked back in kind, the burning blue orbs that were her eyes narrowed with cruel delight. "Ha! How'd you like that, you damned whore!" she chuckled before turning to look away. "And now…Morbius!"
Following the Ghost Rider's gaze, the elastic superwoman was just in time to see the techno-bat flying straight at her with its fangs bared, and burning blades extending from its wings. Reacting on pure instinct, Ms. Fantastic tried to throw herself out of the monster's way herself out of the monster's path. But with much of her still wrapped about the Ghost Rider, it was impossible for her to get away; with a deafening shriek, Morbius sliced through the elastic heroine's right arm, snapping it like a rubber band.
"Aaarrghh!" Ms. Fantastic howled in fresh agony as what remained of her arm snapped back into place. Leaving her with little more than a stump beneath her shoulder, and sending the rest of her upper body crashing to the ground.
Frozen with pain and fear, her full attention on her own severed limb, Ms. Fantastic was rendered a helpless target as Morbius flew up, banked, and dove at her once more. Its lethal blades cutting off the superwoman's other arm, and sending her toppling to the ground, screaming once more.
"Heh! Good work, Morbius!" the Ghost Rider grinned, retracting the chains that held her enemy prisoner. Freed from her adversary, Ms. Fantastic toppled to the ground. Moaning in pain, she dimly looked over her own abused body, numbly evaluating the damage done to her even as it returned to its normal configuration. Damage that was already fading before her eyes.
As it had done in her fight with Dragon Man, the superwoman's body was healing in the same fantastic manner as the Angels. The piercing wounds caused by the Ghost Rider's chains were already closing up, mending as if they had never existed. However, what caused Ms. Fantastic's eyes to bulge in astonishment were the bloody stumps left attached to her shoulders. Stumps from which new arms were sprouting, untouched by the battle that had taken them away.
Oh…oh, my god…! Ms. Fantastic gaped inwardly as she recovered, the lingering pain fading away. I…I knew that I could heal, but this…!
"I don't believe this!" Jolted back to full awareness by this voice, Ms. Fantastic was broken from her stupor just in time to watch the Ghost Rider's chain wrapping about her body. Links of fiery metal slithered and coiled about her like a snake, and while the demonic flame didn't hurt, the chain had constricted about her legs, binding them together. "Just how many times do I have to kill you before you decide to stay dead?" Gasping in surprise, Ms. Fantastic looked up at her demonic enemy as she pulled the chain taut, tightening it that much more.
Frozen like a deer caught in headlights, Ms. Fantastic could do nothing as the chain hummed with electricity. And then, when the burning metal jolted her with electricity, all she could do was scream.
"Aaaaaaaaahhhh!" Ms. Fantastic cried out, her visor crackling with lightning. Every nerve she possessed screamed with pain even as the electrical energy coursed from them into her muscles, causing them to convulse as one. Her entire body driven into sudden expansion, the superwoman crashed headfirst into a wall as the rest of her body writhed like a snake, her every limb ballooning and flying out in different directions.
As luck would have it, the Ghost Rider happened to be in one of those directions. While the demon's chain kept Ms. Fantastic's legs bound, this didn't stop them from swelling up, ballooning to the size of minivans in less than a second. Within seconds, the bloated limbs slammed into the demonic vigilante, bowling her over and burying her in flesh. And more importantly, it caused her to release her chain, breaking off the surge of electricity.
Once the voltage died away, Ms. Fantastic's body began restoring the damage done once more. No longer under assault, her body spasmed once or twice before it began to shrink back down to human proportions. But even as she opened her eyes, her nervous system slowly recovering, the elastic superwoman gasped as a monster she was already familiar with came at her once more. Shrieking vengeance at her, Morbius dived down upon her head, claws glinting in the dim light.
"No!" Ms. Fantastic cried out, bringing her arms up before her face just before the techno-bat could crash down upon her face. Instead, she cried out in pain as Morbius's claws rammed into her arm, piercing all the way through. Spurts of blood erupting from the wounds, spattering her face, the panicked superwoman instinctively transformed her arms, causing them to expand into orange rock as she waved them about. The transformation coupled with the frantic motion forced Morbius to loosen its grip.
But Ms. Fantastic wasn't conscious of these facts. All she was aware of was her fear, and the overwhelming need to drive Morbius away, to keep it from hurting her again. So when the demonic machine rose up from her now-healing arm, she swatted at it mindlessly, catching it one of its wings. With a shriek like metal being ripped apart, Morbius was sent tumbling away.
Her chest heaving with every breath she took, Ms. Fantastic watched wide-eyed as Morbius flapped its wings, stabilizing its flight. Adrenaline pumping through her every vein, she started to get to her feet, only to be stopped when four spiked chains flew into her chest. Melting through skin and muscle like hot knives through butter, the chains drilled through the superwoman's body and erupted from the other side. By the time she had even realized what had happened, the spikes had embedded themselves in the street just as she fell back on them as well.
Horrified, Ms. Fantastic could only lay there, staring numbly at the chains as her brain was once more inundated in pain. "There! Now hold still for a second!" Looking up at the sound of the inhuman laughter, the pinned superwoman was just in time to watch as the Ghost Rider landed on top of her. The fiery motorcyclist brought her left forearm down on Ms. Fantastic's throat, pinning her head down on the street, while she raised her right hand…with her chainsaw-sword in it.
"Now, let's see…!" the Ghost Rider grinned as her weapon roared horribly. The blazing teeth a blur as they spun before Ms. Fantastic's eyes. "I wonder if you can grow a new head the way you did your arms?" Her fiery eyes sparking with excitement, the horned biker swung her sword.
Without any time to think, Ms. Fantastic brought her craggy arm up to shield herself. The burning metal teeth of the blade bit into scales of orange rock, and ripped right through them. Agony once again searing her mind, the shapeshifting superwoman cried out as bits and pieces of her own flesh were chewed away.
Pain and fear worked their way into the superwoman's free arm, causing it to quake as four stone fingers curled up into a fist, and launched themselves into the Ghost Rider's face. And now it was the demonic vigilante's turn to cry out in pain as she was launched up and away from Ms. Fantastic. As she flew through the air, the chains that had run Ms. Fantastic through were snapped, and quickly burst into plumes of flame before disappearing entirely.
Shaking with the sheer amount of adrenaline that had flooded her system, Ms. Fantastic quickly staggered to her feet. Barely noticing that her wounds were already fading away, she trembled and shook as she looked at her tormentor. "G…guh…" she gasped out, her mind in turmoil as she once again heard the monster that had sent her out into the night. Jumping about, the superwoman once again saw the devilish machine came at her with claws bared.
She didn't even think about. She just reached out with fist of stone, and grabbed hold of Morbius by the nape of its neck. "Geh…grra…" the superwoman heaved, the techno-bat screeching and flailing about furiously. Turning her eyes towards the Ghost Rider, who had just gotten to her feet. Her cruel eyes of flame burning mercilessly into Ms. Fantastic's soul. Causing something to snap.
"Gah…arrr…!" the trembling superwoman began again, tears filling her eyes, bile filling her throat. And her mind on the brink of madness. Until at last words took shape, and she spat them out with the chaotic fury that had been born within her that night.
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" And with this screech of primal fury and madness, Ms. Fantastic flung herself at the Ghost Rider, and sent her free fist flying into the demon's head with all the superhuman strength at her command.
This time, it was the Ghost Rider's turn to cry out in pain. Her jaw seeming to snap loose, the horned monstrosity flew off into the wall of a building. Just before smashing right through it, chunks of brick and clouds of dust erupting from the impact.
Without hesitation, heedless of Morbius's ongoing screeching, Ms. Fantastic leapt after her nemesis, flames of her own rising up from her body. She wasn't thinking of the Ghost Rider's cruel joke anymore, or the danger posed by the vigilante, or even the warehouse that had gotten her interest. The superwoman had been pushed to the breaking point, and beyond rational thought. Acting only on pure instinct, all she knew was that the Ghost Rider had very nearly killed her. And would keep trying to do so…unless Ms. Fantastic stopped her.
Flying through the whole, she found herself inside an abandoned warehouse, where the Ghost Rider was already trying to get back to her feet. Utterly mindless, Ms. Fantastic growled hatefully as her rollerblades carried her over to the demon. Not bothering to stop, she grabbed the monster up in her free hand and accelerated towards the far wall.
"Arrrggghh!" the Ghost Rider snarled as the crazed superwoman held her up in front of her. Using the horned motorcyclist as an impromptu battering ram, she smashed her way through the wall, heedless of the ensuing dust and shrapnel.
As soon as they were outside again, Ms. Fantastic snarled hatefully before she tossed the Ghost Rider a short distance and grabbed her by the leg. Continuing the motion, she swung the fiery vigilante into the ground, the concrete split apart at the point of impact. Pulling the Ghost Rider up again as she sped along, Ms. Fantastic smacked her into a streetlight, very nearly snapping it in two.
Finally, approaching the end of the street, Ms. Fantastic sped up to another building, and once again smashed the demonic motorcyclist into it. But she didn't proceed to bash her way into this building; instead, she held the Ghost Rider against the wall while she raised Morbius in her other hand, it's razor-sharp wing jutting out from her stone fist like a knife. Ready to send its master back to the hell she had come from. With nothing to stop Ms. Fantastic from doing this deed.
Nothing except a shred of sanity that was still with her, even in this maddened state. A shred that had a very definite sense of right and wrong. A shred that was loathe at the idea of taking a life. For any reason.
It was this shred that made Ms. Fantastic hesitate for a moment. Perhaps even less than that. But ultimately, that moment was all the Ghost Rider needed to draw up her legs, and deliver a powerful kick to the superwoman's chest.
Stunned more by the fact of the blow than the force of it, Ms. Fantastic rolled backwards a short distance before she recovered. Grinding to a halt, she growled as the Ghost Rider landed and assumed a battle ready stance, with Morbius hovering right above her shoulder. Clenching her fists, she brought her stony knuckles up, the instinctual part driving her ready to fight.
Neither combatant moved at first. Both of them had learned that the other was more powerful than first assumed, and was not to be underestimated. They stood there and watched each other, gazes locked. Each of them poised, waiting for an opening.
Until the sound of several engines was heard echoing down the streets.
Neither superwoman responded to this sound at first. Neither of them was willing to take her eyes off her opponent, not even for an instant. But they were both aware that several vehicles were heading towards them; the way they shifted their postures reflected that. And while the Ghost Rider herself didn't turn, Morbius spun about and looked in the direction the sounds were coming from. Already searching for whatever was coming their way.
Then several headlights came into view, appearing out of the corner of Ms. Fantastic's eye. Overwhelmed by both emotions and adrenaline, she automatically darted a glance towards the source, and saw several black cars rushing towards their position. The kind of cars employed by Section 2.
What? Ms. Fantastic wondered, her conscious mind stirred back into activity as she watched the cars grind to a stop before them. A horde of men dressed in black erupting from them, weapons drawn. But…wait…is that really Section 2…? But…what would they…what are they doing…?
"Dammit!" Jumping at the Ghost Rider's voice, Ms. Fantastic barely had the time to realize that it was coming from behind her before she felt a clawed hand at her back. "Here, partner! Keep them off my back!"
"Part-nergggghh?" Ms. Fantastic squawked before being shoved forward. Rolling forward on her blades, she waved her stony arms about wildly, flames rising up from her body as she barreled towards the Section 2 agents.
"Open fire!" someone cried out. A moment later, Ms. Fantastic was the focus of a hailstorm of bullets. And while they bounced off her rubbery body harmlessly, this affront was more than enough to reignite her fury.
"Rrrraarrrggh!" Ms. Fantastic roared, instinctively expanding her AT-Field. No longer countered by the Ghost Rider's hellish flame, the invisible barrier slammed into the front line of Section 2 vehicles at full force. Black-suited agents flew back from the assault, but many more continued to fire on the high-tech heroine. Who stomped down towards them with blood in her eyes.
Taking a round of gunfire from the side, Ms. Fantastic turned just enough to see the attacking agents before sending a jet of flame at their car. Watching as they threw themselves to the side before it exploded, she then turned towards another set of agents shooting at her, crouched behind a car right next to her. Sneering hatefully, she took one of her stony fists and smashed it down upon the top of their car. The two agents fell backwards in surprise, and could only watch as the superwoman thrust her free hand into the car, and with a grunt of effort, tore it in half. Oblivious to the car alarm that was now screeching its electronic head off, she took a half in each hand and lifted them up before bringing them down on the ground, sandwiching the agents between them.
And still the agents fired on her. They didn't seem to care that their weapons were completely ineffective; they just kept firing on her.
Grunting in disdain, Ms. Fantastic stood and looked at the agents, rounds of fire continuing to bounce off her rubbery form. I don't have time to waste on these idiots! she growled, looking about for her enemy. What happened to the Ghost Rider? Where'd she go, anyway?
As if in answer to her question, a familiar motorcycle exploded into view. Looking about sharply, both Ms. Fantastic and the Section 2 men watched as the Ghost Rider raced towards them, twin Gatling guns appearing from the sides and spitting fire at them. Already aware of what the hellish flames could do to her, Ms. Fantastic dropped down behind one of the cars, refusing to let herself be incapacitated again. And so, she was untouched while the Section 2 men shrieked in pain.
Struck by the agony in their voices, Ms. Fantastic looked wildly about. Her eyes widening in horror as she watched an agent get shredded by the barrage, his entire body burnt away until nothing but ash remained hanging on the breeze.
What? Ms. Fantastic cried out inwardly, her mouth falling open as another two agents were similarly mowed down. Exploding into clouds of dust, with nothing but their clothes remaining. Dying left and right while she did nothing to stop it.
Looking back towards the murderous monstrosity, Ms. Fantastic watched as she cackled wildly, clearly delighted with the carnage she was causing. The Ghost Rider already speeding past the Section 2 personnel, who were in disarray. Unable to mount an effective pursuit. And if the superwoman had thought she had been furious before, she was beyond furious now.
The horned biker had used her. Made her a target, all so she could get back to her motorcycle and escape causing more terror and death in the process. And with this realization, Ms. Fantastic howled in rage before her body ignited, melting the very ground she was standing on.
"Oh, no you don't! Not this time!" the fiery superwoman vowed as she took to the sky, her eyes on the Ghost Rider once more. Looking up at her, the demonic biker laughed before revving her bike and sending it speeding further into the maze of buildings that surrounded them. Taking a hairpin turn, she continued to accelerate, but didn't take to the air. She simply rode flat-out, taking each turn as they came with absolute precision.
I can't let her get away! I have to end this! NOW! Ms. Fantastic growled inwardly, winding up her right arm before whipping it at her prey. To her feral delight, she was able to grab hold of one of the bike's Gatlings. Seizing upon this opportunity, she retracted her outstretched limb, drawing herself closer to the motorcycle's hellish owner. Cocking a stony fist to deliver the final blow, she flew in towards the Ghost Rider, and fired off a punch that would shatter mountains.
A punch that passed through the Ghost Rider with no resistance whatsoever.
"Aacck!" Ms. Fantastic squawked as she tumbled, fist-first, through her foe. The thing that had looked like the Ghost Rider evaporating into a cloud of fire and brimstone as she fell on top of the motorcycle, with her legs dangling awkwardly over the handlebars.
While her brain was trying vainly to figure out what the heck was going on, the Ghostcycle was moving with an agenda of its own. Picking up speed, it flipped its front wheel up, causing its unwanted passenger to tumble off and to the side. Too startled to retain her grip, Ms. Fantastic rolled shapelessly on the ground as the Ghost Rider's mechanical steed shot up into the air, leaving her behind.
Numbly standing and watching the Ghostcycle disappear into the sky, Ms. Fantastic shifted from one side to the other, her mouth and eyes hanging open as her brain processed what had happened. And when it finally did, it was all she could do not to explode.
The Ghost Rider's motorcycle must've been fitted with some kind of holographic projector, one she had used to create a lifelike simulation of herself before sending it against Section 2 via some kind of remote control system, or perhaps even an AI like the one that allowed Morbius to fight independent of direct control. And while Ms. Fantastic had been off chasing that decoy, the Ghost Rider had been elsewhere.
But why? What is she…oh, shit! Ms. Fantastic swore, bashing herself over the head with a stony fist. The warehouse! The truck she was after! She must have gone back for it!
Feeling like the most incredibly stupid person on the face of the planet, the high-tech superwoman conjured an invisible platform to carry her into the air. Hoping fervently that she wasn't already too late.
Well, that certainly could have gone better, Zarathos grumbled sourly as the Ghost Rider made her way through the streets of Tokyo-3.
No arguments here, Big Z, the Ghost Rider returned with a definite snort. Even the prize that sat in the back of the truck she was driving was small consolation to her now.
After shoving the dumb bitch that had caused her so much trouble down towards Section 2, it had been an easy thing for her to slip away in the resulting battle. And with Morbius's help, she'd been able to get back to the warehouse and take the shipping truck with the weapons and equipment she had set out to pilfer. All the while the Ghostcycle, under Zarathos's control, had kept both Section 2 and costumed bitch too busy to interfere.
But still, the Ghost Rider couldn't help but feel like she was settling for half a loaf. There had been so much in that warehouse; most likely even more equipment and weapons, ripe and ready to be plundered. And because of one damned, interfering whore in rollerblades and a blue bathing suit, the demonic vigilante had been forced to cut and run with the one lousy shipment before she or Section 2 came back and did something to destroy her hard-won prize.
Can't even go back to the damned place later and get the rest, the Ghost Rider grumbled irritably. Section 2 is incompetent, but not that stupid! They're probably moving the rest of the stuff out of there right now!
All too likely, Zarathos growled in agreement. As it is, we are fortunate you hadn't summoned the Ghostcycle to the battle. Otherwise, we wouldn't have been able to decoy her nearly so effectively.
Yeah, whatever, the Ghost Rider grumbled in response, unable to take any pleasure in this small amount of buttering up.
The truth of the matter was that she hadn't summoned the Ghostcycle because she felt it wouldn't be necessary. And it shouldn't have been. While there was no doubt that the strange woman was powerful, the Ghost Rider knew that she was vastly superior to the freakish interloper. There was absolutely no reason that she shouldn't have been able to deal with her without additional reinforcement.
Dammit all! If she hadn't been innocent, I could have knocked her out as easily as those Section 2 goons! I could have -! the Ghost Rider began. Only to sit bolt upright as chain of thought snapped, her eyes going wide with realization.
Young Rider? Zarathos growled, presenting the image of raising an eyebrow at her shock. Young Rider, what is it?
I…oh, Gott! There's no way! the Ghost Rider thought. Shaking her head at the notion that had exploded into her mind, she tried her best to be rid of it. For it was ludicrous. Impossible.
There's no way what? Zarathos demanded with growing impatience. Asuka, what is it?
Aghast at the idea, the Ghost Rider growled deep in her throat. The idea she was contemplating so impossible that she could barely give it credence. Zarathos… she began slowly, having difficulty speaking her mind for what felt like the first time. That bimbo was an innocent, right?
Indeed she was. The light of her soul was proof enough of that, Zarathos returned slowly.
And…there aren't that many people that have souls like that, are there? the Ghost Rider continued, not wanting to even think of this possibility.
No. In a world that demands so much in the name of survival, there never are, Zarathos agreed. Then the demon hissed in realization. And she appeared shortly after our visit to Ms. Kusanagi's apartment. A girl whose own soul shines with innocence. And whose aura is unlike that of a normal human…
Exactly, the Ghost Rider nodded dangerously. Big Z, I think it's high time we found out more about Aya Kusanagi. As in right now!
'So the Ghost Creep was already gone when you got back?' Hitomi wondered.
That's right. And so was that truck they brought in there, Aya responded, staring woefully at her lunch the next day. Barely noticing or caring about the other students as they chatted amongst themselves, enjoying their own repasts and discussing their plans for the day.
'Well, that sure sucks,' Hitomi decided without hesitation. 'And you don't know what was in there?'
Not a clue, Aya admitted sourly. The warehouse was crawling with Section 2 agents. And to top that off, I heard one of the people there call someone on the phone. I didn't catch who it was, but I heard him saying something about needing a new transfer point.
'Uh-oh. And Just when you think NERV can't possibly have more dirty laundry,' Hitomi commented dryly. 'It's not bad enough that they're trying to bring about the end of the world. No, they have to be trafficking stolen goods! For shame!'
Rolling her eyes at this bit of irreverence, Aya decided to move on to more pertinent matters. I don't know if they were stolen, but we have to find out what it was they were shipping, and where they're taking it, she informed her double. And then to herself, she added, Like I don't have enough to worry about as it is…
'What was that?' Hitomi broke in, causing her creator to wince visibly. 'I didn't catch that last bit.'
You weren't supposed to, Aya returned grumpily.
'Oh. So in other words, you were trying to have a private conversation with yourself?' Hitomi gathered, smirking with her voice alone. 'Sorry about that, but what can I say? I just can't help butting in!'
Yeah. I noticed that, Aya grumbled. Lacking the energy to tell her creation to stuff it or threaten her in some manner, the apparent girl sighed loudly. Anyway, I'm going to be going over my sensory records and everything else I recorded last night. Maybe there's something in there about the Ghost Rider, or maybe that shipment. Something I didn't pick up on at the time.
'Wow! You mean you aren't going to make me do all the work for once?' Hitomi gasped in mock astonishment. 'Cool! That means I've got the whole night to myself!' The cyber-clone proceeded to chuckle evilly even as her creator rolled her eyes. 'Maybe I'll go barhopping again…and find me some tough, studly specimen of manliness to help me kiss my virginity goodbye!'
It took several seconds for this comment to register with Aya, and by the time it did, Hitomi had cut the signal between them, leaving the girl alone in her mind. Leaving her capable of doing just one thing; groaning miserably as her face fell. A massive migraine exploding into existence, prompting her to place her hand to her head. That does it. Tomorrow, I'm fitting her with that remote taser, she growled inwardly. And maybe rig a self-destruct device while I'm at it!
Sighing tiredly, Aya looked down at her lunch. Not feeling at all hungry for the first time in what felt like a very long time. Her stomach tied in knots by all the unspent emotions churning about in her mind. With her battle with the Ghost Rider at the heart of them.
Going into that battle, Aya never would have imagined coming into conflict with a creature like that. A being that could so effortlessly counter virtually all of her powers. Something made even worse by the utter ruthlessness displayed by the demonic vigilante. The knowledge that she would have killed her as readily as she killed the Section 2 men scaring her in a way she never would have thought possible.
I never imagined that anyone could…I mean, sure, I've heard about murderers and…then there's SEELE and the Commander, but… Aya thought woefully. Goosebumps still rising up from her flesh as she thought about how readily the Ghost Rider had killed. And all for some equipment she might or might not be able to use to begin with. Then again…how could a monster like that be human, anyway? Or even exist, for that matter? A creature of living fire? Even the Angels make more sense than that!
Tilting her head to the side, and still having no interest in eating, Aya frowned as she further considered her situation. At least I was able to get the arms that that monster…before someone could find them, she thought uncomfortably. Not wanting to even think what would happen if someone had tested them for fingerprints and matched them to hers. I just wish I knew what to do with them! I can't just hide them in a closet! And… Suffering the image of the severed arms somehow regenerating as she herself had, possibly even growing into two more Hitomis, Aya shuddered and instantly switched subjects. And the Ghost Rider…all those weapons of hers…
Frowning even more, Aya considered the situation. While weapons training had been a necessary part of her career, it had been one she had deeply loathed. The idea of carrying a gun of some kind was as repugnant to her as killing was. But on the other hand, the Ghost Rider's weapons and Morbius had given her a definite edge in their battle. And if she encountered that monster again…
I have been working on some new equipment to go with the Dominator Darts, Aya thought, her stomach twisting even more. And…I guess it couldn't hurt to come up with some…defensive mechanisms that could…
The sound of someone clearing their throat intruded upon the girl's consciousness, causing her to sit up a bit straighter and looked for the source of the sound. To her surprise, she found Shinji standing right next to her desk, a bashful look on his face. "Um…Aya…?"
"Shinji…!" Aya began, taken aback by the boy's presence. Her woes forgotten for a moment, she turned to meet his gaze. "Uh…"
"I'm sorry if I disturbed you," Shinji started, raising his hands nervously. "But…"
"No, no! It's okay!" Aya returned sheepishly. "I was just…thinking of stuff. That's all." Looking about, her tired mind struggling to come up with something to say, she brunette smiled and nodded to a nearby desk. "So…you want have a seat?"
"Uh, sure. Okay," Shinji nodded before turning the proffered chair and turning it to face her. Sitting down, he shot Aya a look before lowering his gaze. "Um…"
"Um…" Aya agreed, unsure of what else to say at this point.
"Uh…listen, uh…" Shinji frowned, pausing to scratch the back of his neck. "I…I just wanted to say that I'm…I'm sorry about what happened at dinner that night. I…"
"You don't have to be sorry, Shinji," Aya told him, doing her best to smile reassuringly for him. "I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that things went kinda crazy. What with winning the lottery and everything…"
"Yeah, I guess," Shinji frowned. "But…well, I…it's just that…what Asuka said…" Pressing his lips together, the 3rd Child shook his head miserably before looking up and gazing plaintively at the girl opposite. "Aya, I'm sorry! I never thought that you – that you would ever…!"
Unable to help herself, Aya smiled and brought her hands up in negation. "I know, Shinji. It's okay," she told him. With a low chuckle, she added, "Truth is, the whole school seemed to be going crazy because of what happened! I was beginning to wonder when I'd ever get a chance to talk to you!" Blinking a few times in rapid succession, Shinji lowered his eyes once more as his cheeks burned, a sight that lightened her mood even more. "So…how have you been doing?"
"Well…I'm okay, I guess," Shinji shrugged, as if unsure of his own answer. "And…what about you?"
"Me? I can't complain too much, I guess," Aya lied in what she hoped was a convincing manner. "Look, I…if you don't mind, maybe we could…I don't know. Maybe…stop someplace after school…?" When Shinji responded with a perplexed look, the brunette shrugged and explained, "Well, I was just thinking that…we haven't had much time to see each other lately, so…maybe we could stop someplace for pizza after school. You know…something like that?"
As soon as this was said, Aya was treated to something she never would have expected after everything that had been happening as of late. Shinji sat up even straighter, looked her in the eye…and smiled. "I…I'd like that," he told her. "I'd like that a lot."
Nodding slowly, Aya replied, "Great. Then…we'll meet up after school, then?"
"Sure," Shinji told her. Then he smiled even more deeply, and at the same time, more shyly. "And…Aya…?" Looking up at him, the apparent girl watched as a touch of red appeared on his face. "Uh…thank you. For…everything."
Blinking a few times, Aya then smiled as well. "You're welcome," she said gently. All of her woes momentarily forgotten as she looked into Shinji's grateful face.
Author's Notes: Ugh…I can't believe how horribly unproductive I've been as of late. And this latest chapter…I have to admit that I'm not entirely satisfied with it. I can only hope that you will read and review, and that I can manage to get out of this lousy rut I'm in and up my productivity.
For those of you who've been reading "SOE: Vengeful Devil", and are wondering where Morbius came from, don't worry, you haven't missed anything. Morbius will be debuting in the next chapter of "Vengeful Devil". I just thought I have some fun with him here, as a sort of preview to what's going down in the future.
Midnight6, the Fantastic Four actually has had a run-in with Ghost Rider. When Johnny Storm was on the run from the police, Spider-Man assembled Ghost Rider, Wolverine, and the Hulk to track him down, hoping to convince Johnny to turn himself into the police before his situation got even worse. As for what happened when Torch used his flame on Ghost Rider…it was pretty much the same thing that happened here in this chapter.
Xardion, Ghost Rider did indeed mess with the wrong person. And I get the feeling Ms. Fantastic is going to be that much more difficult to deal with in the future.
animefan29, what can I tell you? Asuka started getting on my nerves within less than a minute of her introduction, something that only got worse with time.
Quathis, Asuka does have the tendency to overlook little details like that. And as for Maya, it may take a while for her to reach her boiling point, but as we saw here, she does have one. And when she finally pops her top, it's not pretty. Expect a rematch in the future. And yeah, Hitomi has been a lot of fun so far.
Mike313, I'm sure Asuka would have been thrilled if it had actually been her winning the money, instead of Misato. And yup, Hitomi is having plenty of fun defying the Fourth Wall.
And speaking of Hitomi…
"Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, Orion," Hitomi beamed as she sat down at his desk. "I know you've been way busy with setting up your new studio and all, but it really is important."
"Ugh, it's no problem, Hitomi," Orion groaned as he sat down, looking about his new office. "But I have to admit, building this place took a lot longer than I expected! I can't believe it's been over a month since I updated any of my stories!"
"Yeah, well, I could have told you it'd take a while!" Hitomi smirked knowingly. "Building a production studio on the Fourth Wall? Even with all the superwomen and the characters from your other stories working together, it's not the sort of thing that you can do overnight!"
"I know, I know. It feels like I've had nothing but trouble since construction began! Misato and Ritsuko are still mad about my plans to make Eva girls into villains, InuYasha and Ghost Rider Asuka started trying to kill each other the moment they set eyes on each other! And then there's the way Ranma grabs the ladies' attention, and Miroku's been feeling them up, and…" Orion moaned, bringing his hand to his head. Letting out a low sigh, he focused on the cyber-clone. "So, anyway, Hitomi, what can I do for you?"
"Well, it's like this," Hitomi began with a definite grin. "I've been talking to Maya, trying to convince her to let me modify my body a bit. You know, so I can get some extra attention from the guys?"
"You know you can't do that, Hitomi," Orion told her. "You're supposed to Maya's stand-in at NERV right now. Which means that you have to -!"
"Look and act exactly like her! I know!" Hitomi grumbled. "But it's boring, Orion! Soooo boring! And I practically have to throw myself at guys when I go barhopping before they pay me any attention!" Frowning somewhat, the cyber-clone gazed imploringly at the fanfic writer. "Please! I just want to have some fun! Is that so much to ask?"
Pressing his lips together, Orion rolled his eyes this way and that as he considered the request. "Well…I suppose I might be able to swing you having some kind of ability to disguise yourself," he finally decided. "You'd still have to be Maya on base, but when you're off-duty, you could…I dunno…put on a different look and go partying. Does that work?"
"Sounds a lot better than the deal I've got right now!" Hitomi grinned enthusiastically.
Nodding, Orion went on, "And now that that's settled…what kind of look were you thinking of?"
"First of all, I want a set of serious gazongas. Really serious!" Hitomi declared, cupping the air before her breasts. "I mean, I'm not sure I'd go Cattleya big, but something along the lines of the melon racks that Tsunade and Rangiku would be just perfect! And then I want some majorlegs! The kind that go all the way up to here!" Indicating the desired height by raising her hand over her head, the cyber-clone grinned as she went on. "And I want some different hairstyles, too!"
His eyes going wide, Orion frowned before saying, "Different…hairstyles?"
"Well, sure! I mean, what's wrong with experimenting a bit?" Hitomi asked, grinning wickedly. "I want to find the perfect look to get the men lining up right at my front door. Of course, that means I'd probably need a whole new wardrobe, but – hey!" Breaking off, she watched as Orion stood from his desk. "Where're you going?"
"To get a drink. And some aspirin," Orion replied as he went to the door, a worn look on his face. "Something tells me this is gonna be a loooong night!"
(Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½, InuYasha, Queen's Blade, Naruto, Bleach, or anything associated with them. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.)