Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is the creation of Anno and Gainax. I don't own it, make no claims to it, and am making no profit from the fan fiction. No infringement of copyright is intended. In other words, please don't sue.

Disclaimer: I do not own DC Comics or anything associated with it, and I am making no profit from this fan fiction. No infringement of copyright is intended. In other words, please don't sue.


Prologue: Talents and Tasks

2009

The letter should have filled Maya with a combination of relief, joy, and triumph. It was, after all, proof that all her hard work in school had not been for nothing, and that she really was as talented as she hoped.

However, instead of getting to enjoy all those pleasant emotions, Maya was instead experiencing gut-churning trepidation. The letter wasn't just the proof of her success: it also represented the terrible decision she now had to make.

"You know that Dad will royally freak if you do anything besides throw that out right now and never mention it," her sister Natsume warned in a small voice.

"I know," Maya replied glumly. She let out a sigh and plopped down on her bed. "I want this so much. Why does reaching out and taking it have to be so hard?"

"So you do intend to accept this?" Natsume asked, gesturing toward the letter. "Even though…"

"Please don't tell me that you'd have issues with me pursuing this, too," Maya said, a trace of desperation becoming clear in her voice.

"Of course not," Natsume said. "But you know what could happen if you don't just throw that letter away. And Maya…I really don't want to get drawn into any fight you have with Dad about this." She added, looking down at her feet ashamedly.

Maya sighed; she hadn't expected backup from Natsume, not in this, but it was still something of a blow to find out for sure that it would not be forthcoming.

"I understand," she said. "You can just make yourself scarce while I discuss this with Dad."

Natsume nodded. "Maya," she said slowly, "good luck. And…try to keep your cool when you talk to him."

Normally, Maya was the last person that needed to be told to keep her temper in check. However, the conversation she was going to have with their father would be the culmination of a rather pretentious issue which had been building up between them for years now. There were a lot of bottled up bad feelings on both sides.

Maya just nodded, suddenly seeming lost in thought. Natsume wondered if her sister was trying to plan exactly what she'd say to their father.

Suddenly, Natsume heard a car pulling into the driveway. She looked out her window and was unsurprised to see Takeshi Ibuki climbing out.

"He's home," she said, rather unnecessarily, since Maya had doubtlessly heard the car's engine.

Maya nodded. "You stay up here," she said. "I'm going to go break the news to Dad."

Natsume nodded silently while her sister left the room.

Maya reached the front door just in time to see her father enter, dressed in a tuxedo but with his black bowtie undone and hanging. She had seen him like this seemingly more times than she could count, and he usually had a cheerful smile on his face during those times, as he did now.

"Hello, Maya-chan," he greeted. "How was your day?"

"I got a letter from the University of Kyoto-2 today," Maya answered softly.

As she'd predicted, the smile instantly slid off her father's face. "And?" he asked.

"They've accepted my application to enroll in their computer science program," Maya said, forcing herself not to show her nervousness by mumbling or stammering. "Offered me a pretty big scholarship, too, though not a full ride. I intend to accept."

Her father sighed in a long suffering sort of way that immediately caused Maya's hackles to rise. He sounded like a grown-up who was dealing with a particularly stubborn little child, something she resented.

"Maya-chan, I don't see why you feel the need to persist in rebelling like this," he said.

Holding her ire in check only with effort, Maya replied in a deliberately calm and reasonable tone. "This isn't rebellion, Dad," she said. "It's what I want to do with my life."

Takeshi ran a hand through his dark hair. "Don't you realize the legacy you'll be snubbing by pursuing a career in computers?" he asked, saying the last word as though it was an obscenity. "Between your mother and I, you carry the blood of some of the greatest sorcerers and magicians in history. Nicholas Flamel, Nostradamus, one of—"

"China's Eight Immortals," Maya finished. "Yes, I know all that, Dad."

She knew it was foolish of her to interrupt him, but for once, she'd found herself unable (or perhaps unwilling) to hold her tongue. Maya had tolerated endless lectures on the glory of her heritage over the years, and she was just plain sick of hearing them.

"Do you?" Takeshi asked, his eyes narrowing.

"Yes, Dad, I know who's in my family tree," Maya said, "but I'm not going to let my family's past determine my future for me."

"But this is ridiculous!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air. "You are not an ordinary person, Maya! You are a member of Homo Magi! You have gifts! And no daughter of mine is going to turn her back on such incredible gifts!"

"I have a gift for working computers, too!" Maya replied, her own voice starting to rise in volume. "If only you'd acknowledge that—!"

"Computers!" he scoffed. "You can command the unseen forces in this world to do almost anything you desire, and you're enamored with computers!"

"Computers have done a lot more for this world than magic!" Maya barked back. "When Second Impact came, was it the magicians and sorcerers with all their vaunted power who rebuilt the world? No! It was science! Science pulled humanity back from the brink, and computers were an integral part of that!"

"We could have restored the world, if we'd worked together!" Takeshi snapped. "But what would have humanity learned if we'd done so with the flick of a wand?"

Maya shook her head. "That sounds like an excuse for being selfish and holding back your powers to me," she said. "Assuming that you actually could have rebuilt the world with magic power."

"Listen to me, Maya," Takeshi hissed. "I forbid you from throwing your talents and life away studying computers."

Pushed into a corner and determined not to yield as she was, Maya said something she knew she shouldn't have even before it was entirely out of her mouth.

"Mom would have let me go."

Takeshi's eyes flashed. "Don't you dare lecture me on what your mother would have done!" he shouted. "She died when you were six, and I can assure you, you didn't have the time to come to know her better than I did!"

Maya swallowed, daunted by this particularly intense burst of anger from her father.

"Now," he said in a much more calm voice, seemingly sensing that he'd thrown her off balance. "Why don't you throw that letter into the trash where it belongs and we can all forget about this?"

"No," Maya said softly, steeling her resolve. "I'm going to do this. I'm eighteen now; you can't stop me."

Takeshi snorted. "And how do you intend to get through university without my support?"

"I have some money saved up," Maya replied. "It should last me until I can find a job."

"Good luck," Takeshi spat. "Now get out. You're not welcome here until you decide to stop spitting on your legacy."

"Fine," Maya said with great dignity, forcing herself not to show how distressed she was by how badly this had gone. "I'll get my things and be out of here."

With that Maya stormed back upstairs and began to hastily pack, throwing clothes and personal possessions haphazardly into a few suitcases. The only thing that escaped this treatment was her laptop, which she stored in its carrying case with her usual care.

Natsume didn't say a thing as Maya went about her task, having easily heard the fight that had transpired downstairs. She offered her still angry sister only a simple good-bye, which Maya returned before heading back downstairs.

"Sayonara, Father," was all Maya said as she walked out of the house for what she presumed would be the last time.

Takeshi stared at the door his daughter had left open on her way for several minutes after she'd gone. Then, finally, he raised his wand and said, "Rood esolc!"

The door slammed itself shut.


Two months later…

The god of irony had to be messing with her; there was simply no other explanation for the job Maya had found herself being forced to accept.

To be sure, she hadn't expected that she'd find a good job. Maya had certainly been prepared for a retched job with horrible hours and abysmal pay. What she hadn't been prepared for was the job she'd actually ended up getting.

"Hey! Magic show starts in five! Move your ass!" shouted Maiko Yurigechi, the owner of the Jade Maiden, the so-called fine establishment where Maya worked.

"I'll make it on stage in time, don't worry," Maya called back.

She quickly got to the task of changing into her rather absurd costume, doing her best not to get distracted by the other women who were also changing nearby. The getup consisted of a black top hat and the upper half of a formal tuxedo, which was normal enough attire for a stage magician.

However, beneath this, Maya wore a black garment that was essentially a one piece swimsuit. The reason for this was simple: the costume didn't include pants or a skirt. Instead, the rather mousey brunette donned a pair of fishnet stockings and put on a pair of black high heeled shoes.

I guess I shouldn't be shocked that they have me wearing something like this, considering what this place is, Maya thought, though this somehow failed to improve her attitude on the subject.

For all it might like to pretend to be otherwise, the Jade Maiden was a strip club, albeit a high end strip club. Fortunately, Maya herself wasn't required to disrobe on stage. She just had to do the magic show, something that was still a blow to her pride, but in an entirely different (and far less intense) way than having to get undressed in front of a bunch of men she didn't even know.

Though they probably wouldn't want me to get naked, anyway, she thought glumly, looking at her skinny, almost boyish figure and less than impressive bust in the changing room's large mirror.

Then she looked down, and her lips curved upwards in a small smile. She hadn't, even in her less than generous estimation, struck out entirely in the looks department. Though Maya never would have told anybody as much, she happened to think she had legs as attractive as those of any other woman she'd ever met.

Which is probably why they have me in these stupid fishnets, she thought.

"Miss Magic! You're on in two!" Yurigechi barked.

"All right, all right," Maya called back, "I'm almost ready."

With a few dabs of spirit gum, Maya affixed a black domino mask to her face. She had asked for a mask to be added to her costume so that, in the event that someone she knew came to the Jade Maiden, they wouldn't recognize her. Yurigechi had been only too pleased to grant Maya's request, saying the mask would make her come off as "mysterious and sexy."

With a deep breath, Maya grabbed her magic wand and headed backstage.

Remember, you need this job to pay for your education, she told herself, squelching her desire to quit and leave. It was an impulse she had to convince herself not to carry out before every performance. You're never going to get a job that pays this well until after you graduate. This is only temporary. Leaving would be insane.

She heard the announcer on the other side of the curtain speaking. "And now, gentlemen, the Jade Maiden is pleased to present the Mistress of Magic, the Princess of Prestidigitation…the Amazing Aya!"

Most unoriginal stage name ever, Maya thought with a smirk. I am not a creative individual.

Plastering a smile on her face, Maya walked out into the puff of smoke that had been created for her entrance. A few of the Jade Maiden's patrons took their eyes off the pole dancers on the tables to look at her and offered a smattering of applause and whistles.

"Hello, gentlemen!" Maya greeted the crowd. "Ready to see some magic?"


2015

"Ohayo, sempai," Maya greeted cheerfully as she walked into NERV.

"Morning, Maya," Ritsuko replied, briefly looking up from her clipboard to give her assistant a small grin. "I hope you're ready for a busy day, because we have a lot of work ahead of us."

Maya nodded. "Of course," she said. "What's on today's agenda?"

"For you? Diagnostics," Ritsuko sighed. "We need to make certain that the MAGI are operating at full capacity after that blackout the other day. We also need to work on replacing Unit Two's armor; a lot of it was badly damaged by the last Angel's acid. I'm supervising the repairs. You get to run the checkup on the MAGI."

"I thought we kept power flowing to the MAGI even through the blackout," Maya said, confused.

"We did, more or less, but the flow of electricity got erratic for a while when we first lost power, and we can't exactly use a surge protector with the MAGI like you would a PC," Ritsuko said.

"I see," Maya nodded.

"The MAGI are probably fine, but we can't just leave these things to chance," Ritsuko said. "Start with Balthasar. It got the most interrupted power flow, so if any of the MAGI are messed up, it's probably that one."

Maya nodded. "Of course, sempai."

The two women parted ways, Ritsuko heading for the EVA cages while Maya ventured downward toward the bottom level of the command center.

"Good morning, Lieutenant Ibuki," one of the more junior technicians greeted her politely.

"Ohayo, Sakura," Maya replied. "I need you and the others to start running a standard diagnostic of the MAGI, starting with Balthasar."

Sakura's smile wavered. Standard diagnostics were extremely long and extremely tedious procedures. However, she was a professional, like everyone in Technical Division One, so she just nodded and said, "Yes, ma'am."

"Good," Maya replied. "I'll be down in Balthasar's sub-node running a few special diagnostics. If you need me, send someone down to get me. There's no way my cell phone will work in there."

"Yes, ma'am."

Grabbing her laptop, Maya then headed down several levels to the access hatch that would let her into the chamber below Balthasar. Working down here would be a good deal more interesting than toiling on the command center.

It was good to be the assistant to the head of Tech Division One.

Opening the hatch with a grunt of effort, Maya slid her laptop inside and then crawled through the small hatch herself. She shivered as she closed the hatch after herself; the small chamber was kept at unpleasantly cold temperatures for the good of the delicate electronic equipment contained within. The place wasn't really designed to accommodate humans.

A lesser woman in Maya's position would have used magic to keep herself warm, but the brunette didn't even consider it. She hadn't uttered a single spell (real or otherwise) since she'd finally escaped that awful job at the Jade Maiden, and she had no desire to change that.

The technician booted up her laptop, connected it to Balthasar with a cable, and then got to work checking some of the things that could be overlooked by the standard diagnostic.

A small smile appeared on her face as she worked, and Maya soon forgot about how cold it was. She loved her job, and she was particularly pleased that she got to work with the first MAGI system created. There were certain bits and pieces left over from its creation in the programming that had been removed when other MAGI systems had been created. Most of this superfluous code was just there, having been disabled with a few keystrokes by Dr. Naoko Akagi. Still, Maya found it a fascinating look into the process of creating the most powerful supercomputer known to man.

Suddenly, Maya's pleasant task was interrupted when what looked like an instant message window popped up on her screen.

M-2: you must stop him/it is the only way to save her

Maya frowned down at her screen, bewildered. The message by itself was strange enough, but the whole occurrence was made doubly odd by the fact that she didn't have any IM software installed on her laptop.

After a moment's hesitation, she reached down and typed "Who is this?" and then hit the enter key.

M-2: the creator as mother

Maya's eyes widened. "Balthasar?" she whispered, knowing which supercomputer was supposed to be which part of Dr. Naoko Akagi.

Balthasar was the second of three supercomputers that collectively made up the first MAGI, so the screen name fit. However, even together, the MAGI shouldn't be acting like this. They shouldn't randomly decide to engage someone in a chat session.

Unless the erratic power flow of the other day actually did do something to the MAGI.

After a moment's consideration, Maya began typing again. "I don't understand. Who needs saving?"

M-2: ritsuko akagi

Maya sucked in a breath as what had been merely confusing suddenly became scary. Was someone out to get her mentor and friend?

"Who do you want me to stop?" Maya typed quickly.

M-2: gendo ikari

Maya frowned. "What's the Commander doing that needs to be stopped?" she typed.

Admittedly, Maya didn't think the man was going to win any Mr. Congeniality contests at any time in the foreseeable future, but she didn't think he had any terrible plans that including hurting her sempai. Indeed, harming Ritsuko could only be counterproductive for him, considering what an asset she was to NERV.

M-2: beginning data transmission

Abruptly, another box labeled "Downloading Files" appeared with a progress bar. There wasn't even a button to cancel the process, like there normally was with this kind of window.

Maya almost reached out and unplugged the cable that connected her laptop to the sub-node. She had no guarantees that "M-2" wasn't some extremely skilled hacker, possibly another NERV technician who had noticed her affection for Dr. Akagi. The thing being transmitted onto her machine could be a very bad virus.

Before she could make up her mind on what to do, the words "CONNECTION TERMINATED" abruptly appeared in large red letters on her screen. The download was only 43 percent complete.

Her pulse quickening, Maya accessed what data she had gotten. It was one enormous folder, labeled "Instrumentality." Unsurprisingly, she found that she only part of it was intact, but that still included quite a few files.

Knowing that she probably shouldn't, but too curious to resist, she began to examine the files.

Maya began to feel cold again as she went through the folder, though this time her discomfort had nothing to do with the temperature of the air around her. She could have been inside a sauna and she still would have felt like she had ice water coursing through her veins.

"This is monstrous," she whispered to herself as she viewed the plans that Commander Ikari and some organization she'd never heard of before called SEELE had for the world.

I feel sick, she thought.

Suddenly, the hatch to the sub-node opened up, flooding the chamber with light. Feeling terror shoot through her, Maya quickly minimized all the windows she had open on her laptop.

"Lieutenant Ibuki?" Sakura said, sticking her head inside the hatch. "Uh, we need your assistance back on the command center."

Half convinced the woman had to be able to hear her hammering heart, Maya answered as calmly as she could. "What's the problem?"

"It's Casper, ma'am," Sakura replied. "It started trying to invade Balthasar's systems for no reason and managed to override…something. We're not sure what. We don't know what to make of it."

Casper cut the connection? But why? Maya thought before shaking her head and forcefully returning herself to the present.

"Something seems off about Balthasar, too," she said. "It looks like the blackout did something to the MAGI, just like Dr. Akagi was afraid of. We're going to have to do a full system restore on the MAGI. Turn back the clock to before the power outage."

Sakura grimaced. Performing a system restore on the MAGI was a much more labor intensive process than it was on smaller, less powerful computers. "Is that really necessary, ma'am?"

"I'm afraid so," Maya said with a sigh. "It's the only way to make sure that the MAGI is returned to full operating capacity."

Plus, it'll erase the records of me getting a hold of some of the Instrumentality files! She added silently.

"Yes, ma'am," Sakura replied.

Maya nodded. "Head back to the command center and start," she said. "I'll be up in a few minutes. I just need to finish something here."

Sakura nodded and departed. Maya counted to fifty in her head before she felt safe in the assumption that the woman wasn't coming back, then she restored the windows she'd minimized a minute ago. She looked at the horrible things silently for nearly two minutes.

"What am I going to do about this?" she groaned.


Author's Notes: Odds are, you either read DC comics and know exactly who our favorite bridge tech is, or you don't and you haven't the faintest clue who she is, as Maya's a rather obscure super heroine here. Because of this, I've decided to not bother being coy and just spell it out for you, dear readers. If you'd like to be surprised later, stop reading this note now.

Maya has the powers of Zatanna, a sorceress who also knows stage magic tricks. Considered by some to be DC's "greatest minor hero" Zatanna has never had her own book, but she makes fairly frequent appearances in the big name titles.

I realize it might seem like a rather odd choice, but I like the irony of one of NERV's top science people having magic powers. Plus, Maya having this particular power set opens some rather interesting possibilities…

That and the dichotomy of Maya being raised with magic and then pursuing a career in computers allows me to have her estranged from her father (bad relationships with parents seems to be a prerequisite of an Eva character) and to have certain issues to deal with, while not even approaching the "EVA pilot level" of messed up.

And maybe I liked the idea of Maya in fishnet stockings. Is that so wrong?!?

Ahem, moving right along, readers of both SOE series will note the references to "The Fourth Degree." Readers may also note that post-Eleventh Angel would have been a more sensible time for the MAGI to behave strangely, but I wanted to give Maya more time to work her magic (horrible pun, I know).

Anyway, let me wrap up this overly long author's note now, and say thanks as always to my readers and reviewers. And thanks to my beta reader, Marco A. Salazarm.


Omake

Weird References

Suddenly, Maya's pleasant task was interrupted when what looked like an instant message window popped up on her screen.

M-2: you must stop him/it is the only way to save her

After a moment's hesitation, she reached down and typed "Who is this?" and then hit the enter key.

M-2: the creator as mother

Maya's eyes widened. "Balthasar?" she whispered.

After a moment's consideration, Maya began typing again. "I don't understand. What do you want me to do?"

M-2: Follow the white rabbit, Maya.

The techie frowned. "Follow the white rabbit?" she whispered, then typed, "Is that a dig at me having been a stage magician, or some kind of weird tribute to The Matrix?"

M-2: A little from column A, a little from column B…

Maya scowled, then quickly typed. "Hyuga, is this you?"

M-2: …no.

Her scowl deepened as her fingers blurred over the keyboard. "I don't know how you managed to find out I used to work as a magician, but if you tell ANYONE about it, I will shove my magic wand so far up your—"

CONNECTION TERMINATED

"Hmph," Maya grumbled, "serves him right."