It's An Adventure, Right?...Right?

"Commander Ikari! We've just received a message from Second Branch."

The sudden interruption roused Gendo Ikari out of his thoughts."Yes? What is it?" He stared down the young lieutenant expectantly.

He hadn't intended to sound annoyed, but the lieutenant's voice took on a somewhat nervous tone nonetheless as he read off the message. "Er, the Nevada team has successfully performed a power-up test with Evangelion Unit 04, using the superconducting solenoid engine obtained from the Fourth Angel. Apparently, the test, quote, 'succeeded beyond our wildest expectations'. The report also states that Unit 04 is almost complete and 95% functional."

Gendo blinked twice. "That is...excellent news. Unit 03 is also nearing completion, correct?"

"Yessir." The lieutenant's face betrayed his relief at not being...whatever he had expected to happen to him for interrupting the commander's thoughts. Gendo was always somewhat confused at soldiers who showed such fear of him; as far as he knew, he had done nothing—that they would know about—to justify it. "First Branch is finishing work on the synchro matrix; it should be done within the week. They are also working on an early prototype for an artificial S2."

"Very good. Relay to them that Units 03 and 04 are to be airlifted to Tokyo-3 immediately upon their completion. Also, pass on my recommendation that the MIT team shift priority to the S2 project."

"Yes, Commander." The officer saluted and left the office, trying admirably hard to look like he wasn't hurrying.

Gendo leaned back in his chair and examined the Tree of Life engraved on his office ceiling. An Evangelion with an S2 engine...the fruit of knowledge combined with the fruit of life. The power of God in human hands. It was irrelevant to his ultimate plan, of course—the only Evangelion he cared about was Unit 01, and that would have to wait until the researchers managed to duplicate the S2 effect on their own—but SEELE and the Committee would no doubt be extremely displeased with this turn of events.

It was strange, though. True, the Nevada team had had a far greater chance of blowing themselves up than of actually making the S2 work, but he had been certain that SEELE would not leave such a matter up to chance. An organization as powerful as them certainly would have had the ability to...ensure the Nevada team's failure. SEELE evidently thought likewise, given that the latest version of the Scenario did not take the captured S2 engine into account. But apparently, the Nevada team—and indeed, a large portion of the population of Nevada—had gotten tremendously lucky in that respect.

His curiosity piqued, he decided to ask about that the next time he spoke with the Committee. He didn't expect a straight answer, of course—those old fools at least had the common sense not to trust him any more than he trusted them—but he might be able to find something out.

However, it was all, again, ultimately irrelevant. His plan progressed unopposed. Soon, Yui...soon.

Don't run away, don't run away, don't run away, don't run away...

That was the only thing Shinji could think, as the face of one of his classmates filled his vision. If she was wearing any other expression, he would assume she was trying to do a little bit more than just violate his personal space...but no, the girl—whose name he could not remember at all—had twisted her face into something that was halfway between a death glare and a look of absolute boredom, and she wasn't moving any closer.

Shinji was no stranger to panicking. When you fought gigantic, unearthly beings made of waveform matter and shapeshifting crystals and quantum reverse shadows (the latter of which he had only fought—well, more like been interrogated by—two days ago) that all really, really wanted to kill you for a living, you had every right to panic—or at least that's what he told himself. But the figure in front of him was a perfectly normal (and quite beautiful) brown-haired, brown-eyed girl his age, so why was she making every nerve in his body scream RUN AWAY RIGHT NOW like he was facing the Third Angel for the first time?

Finally, he managed to stutter something out. "Uh...w-what are you doing?"

The girl blinked and moved back a bit. "Focusing positive energy into your mind."


The girl pulled back further and sighed, as if explaining something to a small child. "You looked really down-in-the-dumps. I don't know what happened when you fought that last Angel, but I figured you could use a direct shot of cheerfulness to the brain. So I decided to transfer some to you. So? Did it work? You should be feeling more cheerful now."

What is with this girl? Shinji let out an awkward sort of half-chuckle and took a couple of steps further back. "Uh, yeah! Much more cheerful! Uh, thanks, uh..."

"You don't even remember my name?" Shinji nearly flinched at the tone; it would have gone well with one of Asuka's ANTA BAKAs. "Su-zu-" For a second, Shinji thought she was going to say "Suzuhara"; was this the hospitalized sister Toji had mentioned? But that didn't make any sense... "-mi-ya Ha-ru-hi." Oh. "And that's the last time I'm going to say it, so don't forget it again."

"Uh, okay. Thank you, Suzumiya-san..." But she was already walking away, towards something else that had caught her stood there for a moment, trying to process what had just happened. The strange girl was now examining several different club fliers posted on a nearby door.

"So Suzumiya-san finally talked to someone. How'd you get her to open up?" Shinji almost jumped at the voice coming from right by his ear. He turned to face Hikari Horaki.

"Oh! Hi, Class Rep. I, uh, didn't see you ."

"I could tell. You looked pretty fascinated there. It's funny...I don't even know how many boys have tried to ask her out, but she's just given them the silent treatment. And then she just walks right up to you and starts up."

"She just sort of stared at me for a while before she started talking. Does she do that kind of thing a lot?"

"Not really, no...that's right, you weren't here when the school year started, were you? You missed The Introduction." Seeing Shinji's confused look, Hikari continued. "On the first day of classes, when the teacher asked us all to introduce ourselves, Suzumiya-san said out loud—to the entire class!--that she had no interest in meeting anyone, and that everyone should just leave her alone." She shook her head. "She was just very, very quiet after that. Avoided people when she could, talked as little as possible when she couldn't. Almost like Ayanami-san, actually, but a lot grumpier. I guess even she could only hold out against the charms of the big, tough Eva pilot for so long, though," she said with a knowing smile.

"I don't think—"

"Just remember the rules about public displays of affection, ne?" With that bit of friendly advice—or dead serious warning; it was difficult to tell with Hikari sometimes—she walked off, presumably to the lunchroom.

Dr. Ritsuko Akagi's nerves were beginning to fray just a bit. First there were the usual things—the continuing Angel attacks, the secret behind the Evangelions and the knowledge that NERV really had almost no control over them, the fact that both of the above continued to flagrantly violate every single law of physics she could think of, and the knowledge that her boss (among other...roles) was secretly working for an almost century-old conspiracy whose motives remained completely unknown to her. And then there were the little things. Like Misato going off God-knows-where, leaving her with the job of telling two bratty teenagers they were being effectively drafted.

The school principal was well aware of the situation with Class 2-A, of course. And so it was his office that she sat in as she waited for the Fourth and Fifth Children to show up.

They arrived a couple minutes later, both their faces appearing slightly worried at this sudden call to the principal's office. She would have recognized their faces immediately even if she didn't have the files on hand: Toji Suzuhara and Haruhi Suzumiya. Both had fathers working at NERV, and both of their mothers...well, Ritsuko would never forget those faces. She managed to put on her warmest smile ( i.e., one that approximated the temperature of a Siberian blizzard rather than that of liquid nitrogen) and said "Good afternoon."

Both teenagers politely good afternoon'd back.

"Please, have a seat. You're no doubt wondering who I am and why I'm here to talk to you." They didn't say anything, but their expressions made it clear that that was indeed the case. "Allow me to explain. My name is Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, chief of NERV Technical."

Haruhi's face suddenly lit up, but Toji frowned. "You're from NERV? Did something happen to our parents?"

"No, no, nothing like that. I'm here to tell to put this..." Argh...Misato's so much better than me at talking to kids. Not surprising, really, considering she mostly still is one. "Based on analysis of your respective personal histories and psychological profiles, it has been determined that you two are both qualified to pilot the experimental NERV weapons platform commonly known as the Evangelion." All technically true. "As of midnight tonight, you will be considered official employees of NERV. If the project continues to be successful, you and your peers will be instrumental in the defense of Tokyo-3 from the threat of the monsters known as Angels. Despite your age, you will, of course, receive a full salary, including combat pay and benefits. Your families have both consented to your participation in the project" --well, 'consented' was stretching it a bit-- "and it is our hope that you will, as well."

Both of them were frowning now. Nice job, Ritsuko. You went too far with the explanation and now they know something's up. But then Haruhi's expression shifted into one of dawning comprehension. "So...we're going to be Eva pilots?"

"That's the gist of it." Here it comes...

Rumors that the somewhat unwatered-looking grass in the immediate vicinity of the school spontaneously transformed into lush fields of flowers simultaneously with Haruhi's wordless whoop of joy were dismissed as patently untrue, although some noted that all the gardeners were replaced not long after. Suggestions that seismographs picked up a small-scale earthquake with its epicenter near Tokyo-3 were said to be equally unfounded; it was merely a routine test of the city's underground building retraction system.

That was unexpected. "I'm glad to see you're, er, enthusiastic about this opportunity. I take it you accept, then."

"Oh, hell yes! When do I start?" Haruhi was now standing up with a fist raised in the air, apparently oblivious to the (thankfully almost empty) coffee mug she had knocked over.

"You'll be reporting to the Matsushiro testing center next Monday, one week from today." She turned to face the other teenager, who was wincing a bit—no doubt from his proximity to the...noise. "And you, Suzuhara-san?" She said his name as politely as possible, knowing he was going to be a harder sell—he had firsthand evidence of the responsibilities Eva pilots had to bear.

To her surprise, he smiled. "Can't really refuse after that. Where do I sign?"

Ritsuko suppressed a sigh of relief. "Nowhere, actually. If you say you want in, you're in." Less of a paper trail for our "bosses" at the UN to follow. "Here are some temporary NERV IDs." She handed them each a barcoded sheet of paper from the folder. "You'll get your photo IDs on Monday, but these should get you into any NERV base in the meantime if necessary. Both of you are to report to the address I've written on the back at 9:00 on Monday morning, after which you will be provided transportation to the Matsushiro facility. Any other questions?" She braced herself once again; she couldn't answer the vast majority of the very obvious questions they might have.

Thankfully, they both responded in the negative. Ritsuko guessed that Haruhi was too enthusiastic and Toji too dense for any of those obvious questions to have occurred to them. "All right, then. One last thing—your recruitment into the project is to remain secret until such time as NERV chooses to divulge it to the public. Mentioning it to anybody except your immediate family is grounds for immediate expulsion from the project."

Haruhi looked disappointed. "Not even the other Eva pilots?"

You shouldn't even have known they were Eva pilots. But Shinji couldn't keep his mouth shut, and Asuka only made it even's a miracle nobody's figured out the connection yet. "For now, yes. Back to class with you, and I will see you on Monday."

After they had left, Ritsuko finally dropped the smile, pulled out and lit a cigarette, and wondered—not for the first time—when it was, exactly, that she had abandoned the last of her humanity.

If Haruhi had been unusually happy and outgoing that day, she was positively radiating joy for the rest of the week. Those who had noticed her 'close encounter' with Shinji (and those who they spread the rumors to...meaning the whole school, eventually) gave him more than a few suspicious looks, to which he could only respond with a bemused shrug. Though she indeed talked to him a few more times, her attentions seemed equally divided among pretty much everyone she met (he witnessed her attempting to get a conversation out of Rei for five full minutes before she gave up); if anything, she seemed to be talking to Toji more than anyone else. Not to mention that a good portion of her free time was apparently spent trying out every single club in the school, then quitting immediately thereafter. By Friday she had gone through the anime club, the literature club, softball tryouts, the computer club, and—bizarrely enough—the Tabletop Games club. (Shinji himself had gone to that once on a whim—they all seemed to be interested in some kind of futuristic and expensive-looking wargame involving heavily armored men with chainsaw swords. He had quietly excused himself after a few minutes, never having much interest in that kind of thing.) Come Friday afternoon, Hikari became the first to go beyond mere looks and confront him directly:

"What did you do to Suzumiya?"

"Oh...Class Rep." The way she could come up out of nowhere reminded him a bit of an old gag he remembered from his sensei's rather eclectic video collection. Something about the Spanish something-or-other...he'd remember it later. "I'm not totally sure what you mean..."

"I mean how as soon as you talked to her, she immediately turned into this crazed, hyper-genki..." Hikari gestured towards Haruhi, unable to find a word to sum her up. The crazed hyper-genki something herself was currently examining a music club flier with an evil-looking smile on her face.

"I honestly don't know, Horaki-san. She actually hasn't even talked to me that much since then. There's...uh, nothing between us, if that's what you're asking."

"Oh, I know." She shot a glare at Haruhi, now talking to...Toji. Oh. "I was just wondering if you might have said anything to her that might have caused this."

"Not that I know of," he answered honestly.

"Hm. Well, then." She gave him a very suspicious look. "I suppose it's a mystery." With that, she, marched off, no doubt looking for someone to chew out over a minor rule infraction; Shinji was left feeling vaguely guilty for no discernible reason.

"This is Ecto 6-4, calling Neopath 3-0-0 and 4-0-0. Confirm cumulonimbus clouds in your immediate flight path. Over."

"This is Neopath 4-0-0. Cumulonimbus confirmed. Barometer indicates no hazard. Will maintain course, expect to arrive on schedule. Over."

"This is Neopath 3-0-0. I've got a bad feeling about that cloud; will divert course around it, recommend 4-0-0 does same. Should not delay arrival more than ten minutes. Over."

"This is Neopath 4-0-0; no bad feelings here. Will maintain course. Over.

"This is Ecto 6-4. Roger and out."

Author's Notes: This first chapter might look a little, er, familiar. As will the next couple chapters. As those of you who were following it may have noticed, the old version of this story is gone. Poof. Baleeted. I'm rewriting it from the top for a variety of reasons:

-My goals for the story (especially the ending) changed midway through, and I was unable to reconcile the existing material with the new goals without making some plot sacrifices I wasn't willing to make.

-I gave Haruhi's backstory in a tl;dr, nearly contextless infodump and put many of the scenes from her perspective. Big mistake; the reasons why should be obvious to anyone who's seen Melancholy or read the novels. So this version will be set from pretty much anyone but Haruhi's perspective whenever possible. (Primarily Shinji's, but expect the other Children, Ritsuko, and Misato to get decent chunks as well.)

-I'm taking one reviewer's advice on how to improve the story in general—basically making it more detailed.

-Haruhi as I was writing her wasn't Haruhitastic enough. Not enough genki, not enough blatant disregard for the rules, not enough hey-let's-go-dress-up-in-bunny-suits-and-ROCK-for-the-lulz, and waaaaay too nice and considerate.

One last thing: My apologies for the rather unsubtle little jabs at my two favorite Evangelion crossovers. As compensation, I will now give them free advertisement: Shinji and Warhammer40K and Thousand Shinji. Go read them. Now. They're better than what I write. (I plan to change that eventually. To that end, C2A2: Constructive Criticism Always Appreciated!)

EDIT: I haven't seen Evangelion in a while, so despite doing a lot of research on the (complicated to the point of absurdity) backstory, I occasionally miss very simple things. Like, for example, the fact that SEELE didn't want an S2-equipped Eva out there. Gendo's prediction about their reaction has now been fixed.