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: New Beginnings

"I hope you don't think I'm absolutely crazy for taking this offer, Mana-chan," Hazumi Kirishima said as she steered her car off the freeway and onto more local roads.

"Don't be silly, Mom," Mana said as she watched the landscape fly by outside the car window, "I don't think you're nuts at all."

"Well, that makes one of us," Hazumi said with a small sigh. "I'm taking us to live in a war zone."

"Mom, you know that you couldn't have turned down that job offer with Yamagishi Enterprises," Mana said. "Besides, I'm actually kind of excited to be living in Tokyo-3."

Hazumi took her eyes off the road just long enough to give her daughter a quick, wry glance. "Because it's the city of the superwomen?"

Mana blushed slightly. It was true that she was a big fan of girls with the fantastic powers that had recently started popping up in Tokyo-3. She followed nearly every scrap of news carefully and even owned some of the merchandise that people were starting to sell.

"It's not just that," she answered truthfully. "For as long as I can remember, you've always worked for the military, and we've always been moving from base to base because of it. I guess I'm just looking forward to maybe having a more normal life."

Hazumi smiled at that, but it was forced. From her perspective, Tokyo-3 was little more than a giant military base, and it was the last place anyone looking for a normal life should go.

Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, she thought to herself. Maybe my fears are overblown, and I'm just being silly.

In any case, she saw no reason to argue the point with her daughter. There was no need to try and crush the girl's sunny disposition, and it wasn't exactly as if she knew something about the city that Mana didn't.

Who knows, maybe we will get to live a normal life in our new home after all, Hazumi thought.

Needless to say, she was quite wrong about this.

Mother and daughter arrived at their new place by mid-afternoon, and Mana didn't even try to hold back the grin that spread over her face as they pulled into the driveway.

"This is so cool," she said.

Hazumi chuckled. "It's just a house, Mana-chan."

"Just a house?" Mana echoed incredulously. "Mom, this is more space than we've ever had before! We can set up a workshop, and we can both have our own bedrooms, and I bet the bathroom even has a tub instead of just a shower. Yamagishi Enterprises must have really wanted you on the payroll bad to have offered to let us live here."

"I'd like to think that's true," Hazumi replied. "Come on, let's have ourselves a look around and then start unpacking."

Mana quickly agreed and mother and daughter went inside their new home to look around. It wasn't a large house, even by Japanese standards, but there was a basement that they quickly agreed would make the perfect workshop, and there were indeed two bedrooms, as well as a bathroom with a tub.

"This is the best place we've ever lived in," Mana said delightedly as they finished exploring the house. "I can't wait to decorate my new room!"

Hazumi smiled, pleased to see her daughter so delighted, and not a little bit proud of herself for finally managing to provide a more than adequate lifestyle for her, even if it was in a place like Tokyo-3.

"One thing at a time, Mana-chan," Hazumi said. "For now, let's just concentrate on getting our things inside and unpacked. Come on."

They returned to the car and began to move their things inside. It wasn't a very long task; the Kirishimas had never been in danger of acquiring an overabundance of material possessions. The way they had often hopped around Japan and then lived in rather cramp quarters had discouraged it, and the last few months had been very rough for them financially, forcing them to part ways with even more of their things.

Of course, just because the job was fairly short didn't necessarily mean it was easy. While they had little difficulty with most of their boxes, a select few were heavy enough that it required both of them to move just one, and even then it was still a struggle. The fact that these all needed to be moved down to the basement didn't make the task any less arduous.

"I still can't believe they just let you take all this stuff," Mana panted as they placed one of the boxes down on the floor.

"Well, it's not like this perpetual side project ever had much of a chance of being profitable," Hazumi said. "Each unit would just cost too much. Nobody else wanted it, so I got to keep it."

"And later on, I'll be thankful for that," Mana groaned as she stretched her sore muscles. "Ugh, why did we bother taking that big hammer?"

Hazumi shrugged. "Come on, just a few more boxes."

"Yatta," Mana said sarcastically.

After another half an hour of moving boxes, they had succeeded in getting all their things into the house, although most of the actual unpacking still awaited them. However, both mother and daughter were more than willing to break for dinner, and so Hazumi ordered out for pizza.

"Our first meal in our new home," Mana noted cheerfully as they dug in.

"Mediocre take-out pizza and soda," Hazumi said with a smirk. "You're getting very sentimental here, Mana-chan."

"I'm just excited," Mana said. "I can't wait to start school."

Hazumi smiled, even as she felt a twinge of guilt shoot through her. Thanks to the way they'd often moved around, Mana had spent very little time in any one school, and oftentimes was tutored by Hazumi herself instead of receiving a normal education. She had no doubt that Mana would not be behind (her daughter, she thought proudly, was nothing short of a prodigy, and Hazumi liked to think that she was decent teacher), but the girl had not exactly enjoyed a normal childhood thus far.

Well, maybe now that can finally change, Hazumi thought.

"Hey," she said, raising her glass, "to new beginnings."

Mana smiled and clinked her glass against her mother's. "To new beginnings," she agreed.

The next morning, Mana got dressed and made her way to school, where, after a quick visit to the office, she was soon greeted by the representative of her new class, who was called to show her around.

"Hello, I'm Hikari Horaki," the pigtailed girl greeted her with a polite bow.

Mana bowed back, then straightened and smiled. "I'm Mana Kirishima, pleased to meet you."

"You, too," Hikari replied. "Let me show you to the classroom. I'll give you a tour of the school later."

Mana nodded and fell in step next to Hikari as they left the office and ventured out into the halls. As they walked, the auburn-haired girl couldn't help but notice how empty the place seemed.

I guess it's no surprise, all things considered, she thought, feeling the cheerful mood that had gripped her ever since coming to this place dampen somewhat.

"So," Hikari said, "why did you come to Tokyo-3, if you don't mind my asking? Do your parents work for NERV?"

"No, at least not directly," Mana replied. "My mother's a scientist who was hired by the research division of a company that's based here. But I'm pretty sure the company's here because it makes stuff for NERV."

Hikari nodded in understanding. She had been pretty sure that the new girl wasn't an EVA pilot; Asuka probably would have told her if a new one was coming. However, the class rep hadn't been able to figure out any other reason for Mana to come to the city.

Hikari also noticed that Mana hadn't mentioned her father, but she didn't ask about that. Students with only one parent were the rule rather than the exception in Class 2-A, and Hikari had no wish to risk putting her foot in her mouth. The rest of the short walk to the classroom was spent in amicable silence.

"The Sensei should be arriving soon," Hikari said as they arrived at their destination. "I'll introduce you to some people during lunch, but for now, why don't you just take the seat next to Ikari there?"

"Sure," Mana replied, heading to the desk the class rep had indicated.

The boy named Ikari didn't acknowledge her as she sat down in the desk next to his; he was listening to an old SDAT player and was apparently dead to the world. She considered saying something to him, or perhaps tapping him on the shoulder, but the Sensei chose that particular moment to walk in.

"Stand! Bow! Sit!" Hikari barked suddenly, and Mana reflexively obeyed, along with the rest of the class.

Wow, I wouldn't have expected that from her a minute ago, Mana thought.

"Good morning, class," the aged teacher greeted his students. "Today we have a new student with us. Kirishima-san, why don't you come up here and introduce yourself?"

Having never spent a full year in one school yet, Mana was an old hand at this ritual. She got up and quickly wrote her name on the chalkboard with her admittedly somewhat messy kanji, then turned to the group of faces.

"Hi, everyone, my name's Mana Kirishima," she said. "I've bounced around a lot in the past, but it looks like I just might stay in this city for a while, so I'm looking forward to meeting everybody."

Her piece said, Mana then went and sat back down at her seat, and the Sensei started the day's lesson.

"Many years ago, before the Second Impact shook the very foundation of human society, the world was a very different place," the old man said.

Mana tried to pay attention, not wanting to get herself marked a slacker or something on her very first day, but she soon found herself zoning out despite herself as the man droned on and on about recent history.

She soon realized that the rest of the class was far from attentive. Hikari was rapidly typing, apparently taking notes in defiance of the sleep-inducing effect of the lecture. It was an… impressive show of dedication to academics, Mana decided, but the class rep was the only one who was so determined. Several other students appeared to be dozing, and one large boy who was clad in a tracksuit rather than the school uniform had laid his head on his desk and was actually snoring, albeit softly.

Guess you don't really have to pay attention to this, Mana thought, and then looked up at the clock. Exactly seven minutes had elapsed since the start of school.

And she had been so excited to go to a normal school like a normal kid. Silly her.

Bored, Mana booted up her school laptop, and then started a word processor program. Once it was up and running, she increased the font size from the default, typed in a brief message, and then gestured at the boy Hikari had said was named Ikari until she looked over at her and her screen.

(Does he do this often?) She had written.

Ikari opened up the same program she was using on his own computer and wrote back to her. (Every day.)

(Ouch.) She responded, grimacing.

(You get used to it.) Ikari replied.

Mana wasn't at all sure that she would, but she decided not to argue the point. (So, what's your name? I'm Mana, but I guess you know that.) She gave him a small smile as she showed him this message, but he didn't appear to notice.

(I'm Shinji Ikari.) He replied.

(So, do your parents work for NERV?) Mana asked. Hikari had given her the impression that almost everyone's parents did.

The question seemed to jar Shinji, who hesitated for a long moment before answering.


(So have you lived here very long?) She asked.


(You're not a very chatty person, are you?) Mana commented.

(I'm sorry.) Shinji replied.

(There's no need to apologize.) Mana typed. (I'm just bored, and I was hoping to "talk" a little.)

(About what?) Shinji replied.

(Well, how long have you lived here?) Mana asked.

(A few months.)

(So what do you know about the city?)

Shinji gave a small shrug and began to type.

The teacher's seemingly endless droning was finally brought to a halt by the bell signaling the start of the lunch period, and several of the students quickly fled from the room, heading outside to eat lunch. Mana quietly thanked Shinji for keeping her occupied and then headed outside, planning to take the class rep up on her offer of doing a few introductions.

"Hi, Hikari," Mana greeted the pig-tailed girl out in the schoolyard.

"Mana, I was just looking for you," Hikari said. "Let me show you around."

The class rep took the new girl on a brief tour of the school, introducing her to a few people as they went. Eventually, they ended up at one of the tables outside, where they sat down to eat along with a redheaded girl.

"Hi, Asuka," Hikari greeted her. "This is Mana Kirishima. She's the new student."

"Hello," the redhead said to Mana. "I'm Asuka Langley Soryu. I'm a pilot of one of the Evangelions."

Mana's eyes widened slightly. "Wow, really?"

Asuka nodded. "Yup. Unit Two, the red one, is mine."

"That's the first production-model EVA, isn't it?" Mana asked.

"You got it. Arguably, it's the first real Evangelion," Asuka said, visibly preening.

"How do you know so much about the Evangelions, Mana?" Hikari asked, confused.

She hadn't known that Unit Two was the first production-model Evangelion, and she was Asuka's best friend.

"Oh, well, my mother was part of the team that designed the Jet Alone robot," Mana explained, "so naturally, she knew a bit about the competition."

"The Jet Alone?" Asuka echoed, surprised.

"Yeah, I know that whole thing was a disaster," Mana groaned. "It wouldn't have been if they had made my mother head of the project, but they didn't, and the company she worked for just sort of started to collapse afterwards. They laid her off, and eventually we ended up here."

"So what do you think about living in Tokyo-3?" Hikari asked, deciding it was probably better to get the subject of the conversation away from giant war machines.

Mana smiled. "I think it's really cool, actually," she answered. "Part of me thinks I'm insane not to feel scared at the idea of living here, but I'm excited to live in the city of the superwomen."

"Big fan of them, are you?" Asuka asked, with an expression on her face that Hikari couldn't quite interpret.

"Oh, yeah," Mana replied cheerfully.

"Which one's your favorite?" the German asked.

"Power Girl," Mana answered without hesitation.

Asuka smiled with approval. "Good choice," she said. "You know what? I like you, Kirishima. You have a good head on your shoulders."

Hikari blinked, wondering at the new girl who had, apparently by sheer dumb luck, managed to say all the right things to get on Asuka's good side. Though Mana had no idea of it, having a conversation with Asuka about NERV related issues or the city's superwomen was like navigating a minefield; it wasn't exactly difficult to set the Second Child off, but Mana had avoided it entirely without even trying.

"You know," Hikari spoke up, "I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship."

The end of the school day came a few hours later, and Mana headed home, feeling quite pleased with the experience overall.

"I'm home!" she called as she walked into her new house.

The auburn-haired girl was not surprised when she got no response from anywhere in the house. That day had been her mother's first one at her new job, after all.

Once certain that she was alone in the house, Mana sat down at the kitchen table and began to work on her homework. It was extremely simple by her standards, though rather dull, and she was soon finished with it. The moment that was out of the way, Mana went to the task of unpacking her things and arranging her room the way she wanted it. She did this until early evening, and then got to the job of making dinner.

Mana, like her mother, was a fairly proficient cook, but one who was used to rather…unorthodox methods. She was more comfortable cooking on a Bunsen burner than she was on a stove, but she still managed to produce a basic meal, despite the relatively wide array of appliances at her disposal.

"I'm home!" Hazumi said just as Mana was putting the food on the table. "Oh, that smells good."

"How was work?" Mana asked.

"Not bad, though the setup there is very different from what I'm used to," Hazumi replied. "How was your first day at school?"

"Pretty good," Mana replied. "The Sensei's lectures are nothing short of painful, but I made a couple of friends today. Did you know that the EVA pilots go to my school?"

Hazumi blinked in surprise. Having worked for the company that tried to build a rival unit to the Evangelions, she had learned the open secret that NERV's anti-Angel system required teenage pilots to function. However, it had somehow never quite occurred to her that these pilots would go to school like normal children, or that her daughter might run into them.

"No, I didn't know that," Hazumi said. "Did you meet them?"

"I made friends with one of them," Mana replied, nodding. "A girl named Asuka. She actually has an engineering degree from a German university, but NERV makes her go to school anyway. I didn't expect I'd meet anyone at school that I could talk about advanced mechanical stuff with."

"That is a surprise," Hazumi said. "You didn't tell her about our little project, did you? It's not a good idea to let people know we have something like that just sitting in our basement."

"Of course I didn't tell her," Mana replied. "I know that we can't go advertising our project, Mom."

"Good," Hazumi said. "Anyway, I'm glad that you enjoyed your first day at school, Mana-chan."

The two of them continued to chat as they ate dinner and then cleaned up. Once this was done, they headed down to the basement where they began the task of setting up their workshop and unpacking the various pieces of their project.

"You know, sometimes I feel like a guy working on a car with his dad down here," Mana commented as the two of them struggled with the various heavy pieces.

"This is much more interesting than rebuilding some old hot rod," Hazumi scoffed.

"Well, yeah, I have to give you that," Mana said, palming some sweat off her forehead. Then she looked at the scattered pieces of machinery that now littered their basement. "You know, this is practically done, except for the final assembly, of course. What are we going to do when it's finished?"

"Find another project," Hazumi answered.

Mana rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean, Mom," she said. "What are we going to do with our project when it's done?"

Hazumi put a hand to her chin as she mused over the question. It wasn't something she had ever really given too much thought; working on the project had always been an end unto itself for her, since it allowed her to spend time with her daughter.

"I guess we could try and find a buyer, somehow, like the company found someone to buy the prototype infiltration suit," Hazumi said, "but let's not dwell on that. Come on, help me adjust this stabilizer here."

The next morning when Mana got to the school, she found a crowd of people just outside the grounds, wearing weird robes and holding picket signs. Cautiously approaching the group to get a better look, Mana saw that they all wore a symbol that looked like a yellow flame with lines of light radiating out from it.

Still taking care to keep her distance, Mana craned her neck to read some of the signs that the strange picketers carried.

"Dispel those who defer the Final Judgment!" read one.

"Cast out the Heretics!" demanded another.

"Accept Oblivion!" blared a third.

Mana stared at the group from across the street, not quite daring to approach them. "What in the world is going on here?" she muttered to herself.

"Hey, Mana," she heard someone say to her suddenly, causing her to jump.

She turned to see Asuka and Shinji standing behind her, not looking very disturbed by the bizarre gathering that was taking place right in front of their school.

"Hello, Asuka. Hi, Shinji," she greeted them. "Say, do you know what in the world is going on here?"

"The Light of the Divine is having one of their stupid protests by the school again," Asuka said, as though that explained everything.

"Light of the Divine?" Mana echoed dumbly.

"They're a cult, in case you couldn't guess as much from the goofy clothes," Asuka said. "There are a lot of cults in the city, mostly because some dummkoff in NERV decided it would be a good idea to name the giant monsters we're fighting 'Angels.' They come in all colors of crazy, but this one thinks that the Angels are God's divine judgment and that we should just accept that and let them win."

"Oh," Mana said as the pieces began to fall into place. "So they come and protest at the school because you guys go here?"

"Yeah," Asuka said. "They can't get close to headquarters, and they've never tried this where we live before, maybe because they don't where that is, so they picket the school."

"They know where we live," Shinji put in. "They did this at the apartment once before you got here, Asuka. Misato got really mad, and, well, I don't know what she did, but they never came back."

Asuka nodded absently, her attention still on Mana. "Anyway, don't let them scare you," she said. "Section Two, that's the NERV bodyguard force, does a good job of keeping them from ever doing more than standing around and looking like idiots. It's pretty much the only thing Section Two is actually good at."

The redhead gestured, and Mana saw that a group of large men in black suits and sunglasses were standing by the main entrance to the school, keeping the cultists in check.

"Come on, you can go in with us if they freak you out," Asuka offered. "Section Two always makes doubly sure that they don't do anything to us."

"Thanks," Mana said, nodding.

True to Asuka's words, the vanguard of black suits became especially attentive to their task when the two EVA pilots approached. The cultists shouted and cursed at the Second and Third Children, but none of them dared to cross the line that Section Two had formed.

I guess that Asuka was right, Mana thought. These weirdoes seem like they're all bark and no bite.

Still, as she looked at the group of white-robed people, she couldn't prevent a little thread of fear from shooting through her heart.

The school day eventually started just as it had the previous day, with everyone paying no mind to the cultists who remained just outside of the boundaries of the school. Apparently, the Light of the Divine showed up frequently enough for everyone to view them as just a routine annoyance. Mana, however, couldn't get over the knowledge that they were out there.

(So, what do you think about those guys outside?) Mana asked Shinji after getting his attention again.

The Third Child considered for a moment before replying. (They're kind of creepy.)

('Creepy' is putting it mildly!) Mana said. (I'm surprised that you can be so calm, knowing that a group of people who believe you're committing some horrible sin is outside.)

(It's not the first time they've done this.) Shinji replied. (They never really do much, anyway.)

(So they're harmless?) Mana asked, not quite daring to believe that a group of zealots like the Light of the Divine clearly were could be harmless.

(They always have been in the past.) Shinji answered.

Somehow, this answer didn't fill Mana with confidence.

Yet despite all of the new girl's anxiety, the Light of the Divine eventually lost interest in standing outside the school and waving their signs when nobody was really paying them any attention. The robed protestors walked off in ones and twos, until only a pathetically small number of them remained. And when this group of die-hards realized that their numbers had become pathetically small, they left the area with as much dignity as they could muster.

Apparently, everyone was right to view the Light of the Divine as nothing more than an annoyance. Mana felt herself relax as she watched the cultists disperse through the windows of the school building, and by lunch, she had all but forgotten about them. When Asuka invited her to come along on a trip to the mall with Hikari after school, Mana quickly said yes.

Hazumi Kirishima stretched as she got out of her car and headed toward her new home, not much looking forward to continuing the job of getting the place in order. It was amazing to her how small the house had seemed until the task of turning it into a home had stretched out before her.

She shook her head, knowing that she really couldn't complain. For a while there, she'd been afraid that she and her daughter would be living out of her car soon. Her new job had been nothing short of a lifesaver.

Unlocking her door, Hazumi walked inside and called, "I'm home!"

No answer came, and Hazumi remembered that Mana had called her and said she'd be spending some time at the mall after school with her new friends.

It's good to see that she's fitting in so quickly, Hazumi decided as she headed to the kitchen to start on dinner, trying to decide what to cook. Tuna, maybe?

Opening the refrigerator, she began to root around inside to see what ingredients were available to her. However, she wasn't at it for very long before the doorbell rang, pulling her away from her task.

"I'm coming!" she called as she headed back to the door. "I'm coming!"

Opening the door, Hazumi found herself confronted with five large men, all of whom were wearing flowing white robes that had symbols which looked like a yellow flame with lines of light radiating out from it on the chests.

"Dr. Kirishima?" the one in front asked.

The leader of this bizarre group was a big man with chiseled features that made him look like he'd been carved out of granite rather than born like normal humans.

"Yes," Hazumi said. "Who are you?"

"I am a servant of the Light," the man answered. "And you… you are a vile and arrogant woman who builds machines that are meant to defeat the judgment of the Divine."

"I don't do that anymore," Hazumi said, trying not to let her mounting fear of these men show. "I stopped working on anti-Angel weapon systems when I was laid off by Hokkaido Heavy Industries. Good day, gentlemen."

She tried to close the door in their faces, but the leader reached out and grabbed hold of it. He was far too strong for Hazumi to even think about try to overpower him.

"Once a sinner, always a sinner," the man hissed.

Suddenly, the misgivings that she'd had about coming to the city of Tokyo-3 didn't seem silly at all.

"Whew," Mana breathed as she got off the train, carrying a shopping bag with her purchases in it along with her.

She had had a lot of fun with Asuka and Hikari, but the three of them had effectively lapped the huge mall two or three times, and her feet were killing her by this point. Plus, they hadn't had any guys along to carry the bags.

Still, she'd picked up some really cute outfits, along with some posters for her new room. So despite her weariness, Mana was in a good mood.

Just hope Mom doesn't mind that I was out for so long, she thought as she approached her new home.

However, as she got closer, she noticed that the door to her home had been carelessly left open, and the minor worries about her mother's reaction quickly dissolved. Mana jogged up to the porch, forgetting all about how much her feet hurt and just hoping that there was some mundane explanation for her front door being left open to flap in the wind.

Unfortunately, the closer she got, the worse the situation appeared. Not only had the door been left open, but the potted plant and small table that sat just behind the door had both been knocked over, as if in a struggle. Her mother's purse, which Hazumi was already making a habit of leaving on said table, had also been knocked to the floor, and its contents were scattered everywhere.

"Oh, God," Mana breathed as what had transpired became inescapably clearer and clearer.

For a moment, the girl just stood there, feeling helpless, sick, and even a little incredulous. This sort of thing was only supposed to happen to other people, important and powerful people, wealthy people. Mere weeks ago, she and her mother had been wondering how they'd make ends meet. This sort of thing wasn't supposed to happen to them!

Then, she spotted a square of white cloth that was sitting on the floor just inside the house. Something had been written on it in black marker.

Mana bent down and snatched it up, quickly reading the short, chilling message on it.

"Death to those who forge the weapons of Cain."

All of a sudden, the whole world took on a very surreal quality for Mana. Part of her very much expected to wake up at any moment now. Her mother couldn't have been kidnapped or possibly even killed for something she didn't even do anymore. It was absurd.

But Mana didn't wake up, so with her suddenly numb fingers, she turned over the square of cloth, finding a symbol that looked like a flame with lines of light radiating out from it on the back.

Feeling almost dizzy, she put down her shopping bag, walked into the kitchen, and called the police.

"Tokyo-3 Police Department," an officer answered.

Somehow, hearing another human voice caused the precarious state of nearly preternatural calm that had gripped her to abruptly shatter. "You have to help me!" Mana shouted into the phone, sounding a bit crazed even to her own ears. "My mother's been kidnapped! The Light of the Divine has taken her!"

Some time later, the police arrived and immediately began to photograph the front porch and small entrance hall of the Kirishima residence. Mana watched this dully until one of the officers walked up to her, identified himself as Akira Ogata, and then asked her what had happened.

"The Light of the Divine has kidnapped my mother," Mana answered simply, wondering why they were wasting time with all this when it was obvious who the culprits were.

"That's quite an accusation," Ogata said calmly. "Why are you so certain that this religious sect is responsible?"

Warning alarms immediately went off in Mana's head at the cop's use of the phrase "religious sect" to describe the Light of the Divine. Everyone else she'd met simply referred to the group as a cult, which was what they obviously were. Either the officer felt the need to be politically correct about everyone, or the group had his sympathies.

Still, the man couldn't possibly deny her evidence, could he?

"I found this," Mana said, handing the piece of the cloth with the cult's emblem to the man, "just inside the house."

Ogata took the cloth and inspected it closely. "You really shouldn't have touched this," he said. "You probably contaminated the evidence beyond use."

"What do you mean?" Mana asked, her ire rising despite herself. "It has their symbol on it! They did it, and they want everyone to know they did it! Can't you go to wherever it is they meet and get my mother?"

The officer glared down at her. "Look, kid, assuming that the Light of the Divine did do this, they probably wouldn't have taken your mother to their little headquarters. And even if they did, we can't just go barging in there with so little evidence."

"'So little evidence'?" Mana echoed incredulously. "They left their calling card at the scene of the crime!"

"The Light of the Divine have a lot of enemies in this city, people who don't agree with their message," Ogata said sternly. "This wouldn't be the first time someone decided to frame them for a crime. Looking at them would probably be just a waste of time."

"So because there's evidence here that they did it, you've concluded that they didn't do it?" Mana snapped. "You're not going to investigate them at all? Are you insane?"

The officer glared down at her. "Your mother doesn't work for a company that tries to make weapons to use against the Angels any longer, correct?"

"Well, yeah," Mana admitted, wilting slightly, "but—"

"Then what's the logic in them striking at her now?" Ogata asked.

"What's the logic in wanting the end of the world to come?" Mana countered. "They left their symbol at the scene of the crime! It's obvious that you need to investigate them!"

"Look, don't tell me how to do my job, okay?" Ogata growled. "It's not as simple as you might think."

Mana balled her hands into fists and very nearly screamed at the man that he was being a complete moron. However, she checked herself at the last moment. Somehow, it seemed like the crazy cult had this guy in their pocket, and for all she knew, the entire T3PD could be in there along with him. Obviously, the Light of the Divine was far more powerful than their rather pathetic protest that morning had led her to believe. To argue further with Ogata would be about as effective as trying to knock down a brick wall by beating her head against it.

"Fine," Mana growled.

Ogata asked her a few more questions, and Mana answered, but her mind, her brilliant prodigy's mind, was elsewhere, trying to figure out what she could do now that it had become clear that the police would be of no help.

Her options were distressingly few. She didn't even know where her mother was, because Ogata had made one point to her that was quite true. The Light of the Divine had probably taken her mother someplace other than their own public headquarters, and that could be just about anywhere.

If she couldn't even find her mother, how could she possibly orchestrate a rescue?

Eventually, the police packed up and left, having stayed for about an hour. Mana was no expert on the subject, but this seemed like a very short period of time for the police to investigate the scene of a kidnapping. However, the police's cursory job of searching for clues had kept them out of the basement, something for which Mana was grudgingly grateful.

"All right, we're done here," Ogata said. "I can offer you police protection tonight, if you'd like."

"No, thank you," Mana said coldly.

If this experience was anything to go by, such "protection" would likely gift wrap her for the cultists, if they wanted her.

Ogata shrugged. "It's your call," he said. "Where the hell is your father, by the way?"

"Dead," Mana answered bluntly.

When Mana told people this, the usual response was embarrassment at having brought it up, or sympathy. Ogata looked annoyed.

"If you've got no guardian, I'm supposed to turn you over to Child Services," Ogata said.

"That won't be necessary," Mana said as forcefully as she could, doing her best to hide her fear.

She'd never have a prayer at saving her mother if this corrupt excuse for a cop decided to toss her into the system and force her to spend the next several hours at some government building, waiting for a foster family to take her in or something.

Ogata hesitated, and Mana thought she saw a brief flicker of humanity in his eyes. He sighed. "Look, I guess I can let you spend the night in your own home, but I can't just turn a blind eye to a minor living alone forever," he said. "I'll call Child Services on Monday. It'll give you a little while. Just promise not to get yourself into trouble by then, okay?"

Mana nodded.

"Good," Ogata said, then turned to the other officers. "Okay, boys, let's head out!"

The police quickly left the scene, leaving Mana all alone. Running her hands through her short hair, the girl walked back into the house. The police had at least had the decency to right the plant and the little table that had been knocked over in the struggle between her mother and the cultists. Her mother's purse had been set on the table, along with all the stuff that had been knocked out of it.

Mana stood there, looking at it for a long, long moment, wondering if her mother would ever put her purse there herself again. She didn't think the cultists had much motive to keep her mother alive for very long, but then again, Mana didn't know why they hadn't just killed her on the spot, so perhaps there was still some time, and reason to hope.

After some unknown amount of time spent staring at her mother's things, Mana suddenly noticed that something was missing. Hazumi's cell phone wasn't among the objects that had been knocked from her purse. Frowning, Mana checked within the purse itself, then she searched the floor. However, the phone was nowhere to be found.

Maybe Mom had it in her pocket, Mana thought. Maybe Mom still has it in her pocket.

With most cellular phones, that wouldn't really have helped Mana. However, Hazumi had modified the cheap old phone she'd purchased for herself, adding in a GPS chip to give it the capabilities of a much more expensive and cutting-edge device.

Mana, no slouch with technology herself, could trace that GPS chip, assuming that the phone was turned on.

Nearly tripping over her own feet in her haste, Mana rushed to her mother's computer, which was another advanced device that had been upgraded from a low-quality one. They had considered selling it when times had gotten rough. Now, Mana was incredibly glad that they'd held onto the thing.

Tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for it to boot up, Mana felt as though she might explode from the sheer nervous anticipation coursing through her. If this didn't work, she didn't think she'd be able to come up with a Plan B.

Finally, the machine was ready for action. Mana's fingers blurred across the keyboard as she ran the relevant programs.

"Please, let that damn phone be on and still with my mother," Mana muttered. "Please."

As though in answer to her pleas, the screen suddenly displayed a map with a flashing red arrow pointing to a specific location. Mana let out a loud whoop, then quickly leaned in to see exactly where the phone (and hopefully her mother) was. The arrow indicated a warehouse in the city's industrial sector.

"Okay, I know where she is," Mana said, quickly standing up. "Now…"

She trailed off, suddenly realizing that there was no 'step two' to this plan. Just because she knew where her mother was, it didn't mean that Mana knew how to rescue her.

There has to be a way, Mana thought, rubbing her forehead as though that might coax her brain into releasing an idea.

While at her previous job of designing military hardware, Hazumi Kirishima had become friends with a number of soldiers. Mana had little doubt that a mere handful of them would be able to take down a small army of cultists, and that many of them would be willing to help.

However, they were scattered all over Japan. It would take days to gather them in Tokyo-3, at least, and Mana seriously doubted that her mother had days.

She supposed that she could call back the police, but she had a sneaking suspicion that they'd claim red tape was holding them back and then warn the cultists that they needed to move and smash Hazumi's phone. Mana didn't want to take that risk.

Of course, Mana supposed that there was a third option. But no, that was insane, crazy. She couldn't possibly do that. She just wasn't the type.

"But what other choice do I have?" she wondered aloud, her voice sounding strangely hollow to her own ears.

This is crazy, she decided, as she headed down to the basement.

Author's Notes: Those of you who aren't big DC fans are probably confused as heck by the title of this fic, given that the Kryptonian spot is already taken, while those of you who are will probably get it. It'll become clear next chapter when the Kirishima's mysterious project is unveiled. Until then, I've finally managed to be mysterious with one of these.

By the way, in case anyone's wondering, the Light of the Divine are my own creation and not really based off of anything from comics. I just realized that I'd probably have need for some minor villains who aren't affiliated with NERV and actually thought them up before I ever even started Mana's story.

Anyway, thanks as always to my readers and reviewers, and thanks to my beta reader as well. Now for some fun.


Shinji is not suave

"Hey, Shinji," Mana greeted the Third Child one morning.

"Hello, Mana," Shinji replied politely.

"Hey, I have a question for you," Mana said. "Did you know that the school has a chat room client that practically everybody uses while Sensei rambles on about the world before Second Impact?"

"Uh, yeah," Shinji admitted.

"Then why didn't you tell me so you could use that, instead of writing messages to each other in really large text on our laptop screens?" Mana asked.


"Is it because you feared that if I knew that, I'd start chatting with Asuka and Hikari and ignore you?" Mana asked eagerly. "Were you jealously protecting your time with the beautiful newcomer to the school?"

Cherry blossoms suddenly surrounded the girl, and the world around her turned a curious shade of pink. The air around her grew sparkly.

"Uh, actually, it's because I'm really not good with that sort of thing," Shinji said. "The last time I used the chat I accidentally told everyone I was an EVA pilot."

The cherry blossoms abruptly shriveled up and died, the sparkles around Mana vanished, and the world went from pink to a rather gloomy shade of gray.

"Oh," Mana said. "I see."

With that she walked off, her shoulders slumped, leaving a rather regretful Shinji behind.

Kensuke picked this moment to walk up to the Third Child, and offer the kind of comfort that only a true friend can.

"Man, Ikari, you suck with women," he said.

"Shut up, Kensuke," Shinji grumbled.

The thing in the basement is…

Of course, Mana supposed that there was a third option. But no, that was insane, crazy. She couldn't possibly do that. She just wasn't the type.

"But what other choice do I have?" she wondered aloud, her voice sounding strangely hollow to her own ears.

This is crazy, she decided, as she headed to her room to change before going to the basement.

Once in her room, Mana shed her school uniform, replacing it was a black and red bikini top, short black shorts, and a scarf. Then she headed down to the basement to start up the spiral generator.

"All right, Lagann!" Mana said. "It's time to kick some ass!"

The giant robot exploded out of the basement, destroying most of the house in the process as it leapt into the air.

"Somehow," Mana said to herself, "I think this is just what this world needs!"

We don't need no stinkin' super powers

She trailed off, suddenly realizing that there was no 'step two' to this plan. Just because she knew where her mother was, it didn't mean that Mana knew how to rescue her.

There has to be a way, Mana thought, rubbing her forehead as though that might coax her brain into releasing an idea.

While at her previous job of designing military hardware, Hazumi Kirishima had become friends with a number of soldiers. Mana had little doubt that a mere handful of them would be able to take down a small army of cultists, and that many of them would be willing to help.

However, they were scattered all over Japan. It would probably take days to gather them in Tokyo-3, at least, and Mana seriously doubted that her mother had days.

Maybe I should check to see if anyone's close, Mana thought. I shouldn't throw this idea away so quickly.

Mana was pleasantly surprised by what she discovered.

"Come on, come on, where are you guys?" Mana wondered aloud some time later as she paced nervously back and forth through her house.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Mana quickly ran to open it, relieved at who she saw. "Thanks so much for coming guys," she said. "I knew that you'd be able to help me, and when I heard you were in Tokyo-2, I had to ask for help."

"Hey, when we heard that your mother was in danger, we had to come," said Sergeant Franklin Rock. "Hazumi was always good to me whenever we crossed paths."

"Indeed," agreed Slade Wilson, also known as Deathstroke, his face hidden behind his black and brown helmet. "Unlike several others, your mother was always fair with me while I was in the UN military."

"I always like it when I can use violence to perform my good deed for the decade," said Floyd Lawton, who was more commonly known as Deadshot. "So I figured I'd do this job for the nice lady pro bono."

"And I—" began a man with an eye patch.

"Wait a minute," Mana interrupted him. "Nick Fury?!"

"Yes, that's me," he said.

"Uh, you're in entirely the wrong universe," Mana pointed out.

"Oh, am I? Damn, I am so tired of those confusing mother &!# signs on the mother &!# inter-dimensional freeway!" he roared as he stalked off.

"So, I'm guessing that was the Ultimate version of Fury, then?" Mana asked.

"What tipped you off?" Slade asked. "The rant, or the fact that he looks like Sam Jackson?"

"Never mind that now," Mana said sheepishly. "We have to save my mother and make those crazy cultists pay!"

Sergeant Rock took the safety off his machine gun. "Just tell us where, Mana."

Meanwhile, in a warehouse on the other side of the city, a group of men in white robes all simultaneously wet themselves.