Hi. It's Weebee again with a bit of a confession to make. When I originally wrote this, I thought of it as a spamfic. As such, I sort of ended the previous chapter on a cliffhanger that, while really good for the one-off nature it was meant for, shoots continuation in the foot. As such, this chapter doesn't really feel like Chapter 1, more a continuation of the prologue to get it from where it left off to someplace where an actual momentum building Chapter 1 can start.
I'm sorry about that, and hope you don't mind and enjoy anyhow.
And now, on with the show!
Prologue 2: Woops...
Three people stood in front of a re-enforced glass pane, looking into the steel walled room where a teenaged boy lay on a bed, several dozen wires and tubes sticking out of his arms. "You're sure the sedative's working?" An older woman with a few grey streaks in her dark hair asked.
A black haired man in a medical coat nodded. "He's trying to burn it off, metabolisms a lot faster than the average human, but he can't do it fast enough."
The woman nodded. "I still don't like this," She complained, glaring irritably at the redhead next to her.
Asuka matched Misato's glare. "I know that," she responded, "But if he means the re-emergence of the Angels, it would be a good idea to study one that'll have a hard time destroying the city." She then shrugged. "Besides, I'm not sure if he even knows what he is."
The commander of NERV reluctantly nodded in agreement. It didn't surprise her in the least that, somehow, Gendo Ikari had managed to manipulate an Angel, and if it weren't for her security concerns about the thing's containment, she would have gone to 'talk' to the old bastard before now. "Keep it under for the time being," she finally decided after a few minutes of thinking. "We're only waking it up with Rei and a full squad of guards present."
"Yes ma'am." The doctor said, and the two women turned, starting down the hall.
"So, um, how's Shinji taking it?" The redhead asked, as they passed through a security door into the rest of the complex.
"How do you think?" The look on the dark haired woman's face was incredulous. "He was demanding immediate retrieval five seconds after the security team confirmed Ikari's identity."
Asuka nodded, realizing that if she'd heard that Gendo had returned and then promptly kidnapped Shinji, she'd probably start chewing through the armor shell just to get to him and wring his neck. "You warned security, right?" She asked, hopefully. Misato smirked as the elevator the two were riding reached its destination floor, the doors opening to a stream of curses and a grunt of discomfort. The former second child sighed. "So, when do I get my turn?"
"Sorry," Misato pitched her voice to carry into the holding cell the two were approaching. "But we've got to find out where the hell he got a new angel before I let you loose on him." The cursing abruptly stopped, and as the two women entered the room, they saw a tall, slim man standing against one wall, attempting to look innocent. Leaning against the bunk across the room was Gendo Ikari, looking startlingly similar to the man who had run from NERV over a decade and a half ago. Misato even irritably noted that he didn't have a sliver of grey in his hair.
The former commander of NERV hauled himself up onto the bench, obviously favoring one side and with one eye steadily darkening. "Though it's startling to see that the third has finally grown a spine, it's good that you're here, Katsuragi." He said, in his usual even tone, though the effect wasn't nearly as off-putting as it had been from behind his desk and shiny amber glasses.
The tall man leaning against the wall scowled, though he settled slightly when Asuka approached. "So, Shinji, couldn't wait to start questioning him, huh?" She asked, casually.
Abruptly, his menacing facade fell, and a rather sheepish looking Shinji Ikari shifted on his feet. Asuka just put an arm around his own as Misato stood before Gendo, her hands clasped behind her back. "A United Nations force will be here to pick you up in about three hours," She started, conversationally. "Before they get here, I'd like you to answer some questions."
The dark haired man on the bench raised an eyebrow. "And I would willingly do this because..." He trailed off.
Misato wanted to slug the elder Ikari, a sentiment that most of NERV shared to the extent that Shinji probably hadn't had to dismiss the guards before he did so, but she held back. "It all has to do with what I tell them," she continued. "Either you used a formerly unknown weapon to break into NERV and kidnap one of our officers, later getting into a gunfight with security, or you came here fleeing a SEELE strike team and asking for our help."
"Misato, you can't be..." Shinji objected, moving forward, only to be stopped short by a glare.
"He came with an Angel, Shinji." She responded. "We need to know if there are any others out there, and if letting this slime ball off gets us the information, then so be it."
Gendo chuckled. "So, you've actually grown up. That would explain why NERV wasn't a smoldering ruin three weeks after I left." He then seemed to think for a moment, looking briefly at Shinji, then Asuka. "As for the boy, you don't have to worry about him, he's not an Angel."
"So it can project AT fields because it wishes really hard, then." Misato said, dubiously.
"I believe you already have something within this facility that can do that, which you do not call an Angel," Shinji twitched, and Gendo just barely held back a smile. Despite the several blows he'd taken during the younger man's 'stress relief,' he'd listened carefully. "What does the second call it, my little doll? You obviously haven't decided to dispose of it, since it attacked Ranma and I outside of the city."
"You heartless..." Shinji started, lunging towards his father before anyone could think to stop him. Gendo responded with startling speed, driving a toe into the top of his son's foot, and then slamming both hands into his chest as hard as he could. The old self-defense technique worked like a charm, sending the younger man slamming into Misato, both of them falling to the floor. Asuka tried to get in his way, but an elbow to the nose sent her staggering against the wall. By the time any of them had recovered, the former commander of NERV had run out of sight into the labyrinthine depths of the facility.
"Wake up!" This imperative command was called at the same time as a strike to the side of the face, and a stinging sensation from all along both arms. "Ranma, wake up!" This time, he was being shaken. Whoever wanted him to get up was pretty excited about it, and sounded a lot like his father, but the fog that enveloped his brain refused to let him connect those facts.
"Lemme sleep," he complained, rolling over and bringing the unusually soft blanket up over his head. The blanket was abruptly pulled away, and he was shaken again. "Wake up!" This time, the call actually sounded somewhat desperate, and he could hear the sound of something being pounded on in the background. He managed to half crack open his eyes, though the bright white light forced them shut again, at just about the same time that the loud banging noise changed to the sound of rending metal.
"That's it," He could definitely recognize the voice as his father's now, and the fog was slowly lifting from his thoughts, however that didn't matter a few seconds later, as he heard a set of rapidly muttered numbers and started screaming.
Shinji flinched as he ran a finger along a cleanly cut, six inch wide piece of metal that had once been one of the Geofront's security doors. The hall he was standing at the end of had once had fourteen of them, each now missing a substantial portion of their mass. The guards that had been stationed at the other end of the hall were also missing a substantial portion of their mass, but he made sure to keep his eyes from turning to them, for fear that his lunch would return for a second round if he did. "How did he do this?" he finally asked, turning to Asuka, who was standing next to him.
"He managed to get into the biological holding area and somehow awoke the Angel," she explained. "We've confirmed, despite what he said it's definitely an Angel. Central Dogma had it putting out as much power as the third."
The third child nodded. "all right, then let's launch Unit 01 and track it down," he decided, clenching one fist.
"Can't," she responded, handing him a report as they started for Central Dogma. "The signal just suddenly dipped below the threshold of detectability when they broke through the top armor layer."
"My father's very good at hiding," Shinji mumbled, his former angry energy fading away. "And I gave him the perfect excuse to do it."
Asuka concidered trying to comfort Shinji, to tell him that it wasn't his fault, but she'd never been very good at hollow comfort, especially since it had actually been his fault that Gendo Ikari had escaped, even if he'd been provoked. "We'll catch him," she finally said, smirking. "He won't get away again."
Shinji sighed. He'd apparently noticed what had not been said. "I'm going to head home. Call me if Unit 01's needed."
The former second child nodded, frowning at the EVA pilot's receding back as he turned off the route to Central Dogma.
Ranma coughed, sending a spray of water forward and away from her mouth as she awoke, cold, wet and uncomfortable on a stone ramp in front of a torn up set of steel industrial doors. It took her several seconds to get the water out of her lungs and stop her head from spinning, but she eventually managed it, taking in her surroundings.
"Aw crap, the ol' man's gunna kill me," she muttered, recalling the lecture he'd given the last time she'd let her fear of cats overcome her. Then, she noticed that, instead of her white training gi, she was wearing some sort of thin white gown that was doing nothing about the still pouring down rain, and there were several patches of tape and tiny cuts all over her arms. She tried to remember what had happened recently, and why she was in a hospital gown, but everything seemed to be a blank past the incident with the red haired woman. She still hadn't figured out what was up with that, and why the old man went crazy, so she really wasn't equipped to deal with this.
Her head shot up as she heard the sound of a vehicle engine approaching, and natural instincts combined with modesty caused her to scuttle into a depression in the concrete wall at the edge of the ramp she'd been laying on. A moment later, a jeep came to a stop nearby, and four people dressed in tan military uniforms climbed out. "No sign of 'em out here," one reported into a headset mic.
"I'm glad of that, you see that door?" another responded, shuddering. "Those poor bastards inside didn't stand a chance."
"All right, cut the chatter and scout around, we've got to find these two," the first snapped, and Ranma risked leaning out for a second to see that he was holding a mean looking assault weapon and looked rather jittery. She knew one thing now. Whatever had happened after she'd been knocked out hadn't been good, and it probably wouldn't be good for her health if she let herself be caught. Shimmying up the crevice as quietly as she could, she pulled herself onto the ground above, bolting into a nearby alley before one of the soldiers who was still sitting in the jeep could spot her.
She had to find her father - wherever he was - and get some answers.
Gendo Ikari was not a man prone to cursing. Then, he wasn't a man prone to mad cackling or desperate chases through cramped corridors, either, and that hadn't seemed to matter lately. Noting that, he cursed softly as he huddled in a forest clearing outside of Tokyo-3, nursing several aches and bruises, and back to square one where NERV was concerned, after eighteen years of planning.
Granted, he'd done a great deal of damage on his way out, but none of it was permanent, and a snag in one of his own plans guaranteed that he wouldn't do any more. For starters, the boy was almost certainly dead. He hadn't counted on the effects of the curse he'd used to manipulate him negating the berserker rage of the Neko-Ken, but they had, and he didn't have the strength to carry a truly unconscious Ranma, even in his smaller cursed form, while still running fast enough to escape. Now the boy was vulnerable, and after the damage he'd done, they were sure to destroy him rather than take the risk.
About the only new asset he had was a set of the MAGI's new security codes, gathered through one of Ritsuko's old direct input administration accounts, but he couldn't do much with that without them noticing and just locking him out. At the moment, he had no idea what to do, but freezing to death definitely wasn't an option, and NERV security would likely be combing the forest within hours. Grunting, he hauled himself to his feet, and started away from the fortress city.
Ranma scowled, spotting three more of the uniformed troops sorting through her and her father's possessions as she reached their camp site. Fortunately, fearing something like this, she had approached through the trees, but she'd really been hoping that she would find her old man and a kettle full of hot water. Her eyes narrowed in anger when she saw them pawing through her pack, throwing a red chinese silk shirt that she'd saved up enough to buy only recently into the mud. It was an incredibly stupid thing to get angry over considering the situation but she was cold, and though she wouldn't admit it, a little scared.
Leaping out of the tree, she fell on the back of one of the NERV security officers, rendering him unconscious with a blow to the back of the head before diving for the next. He raised his gun, firing several shots which bounced off of a rippling orange field before he too hit the ground. By the time the one who had been sorting through her pack had gotten to his feet and turned around, all he saw was a fist crashing into his jaw and sending him back several feet.
As he flew, a slip of paper flittered out of a loosely fastened pocket on his shirt, and Ranma caught it. It was a shoot on sight order, a set of pictures at the top. One was of her, in male form, and the other was of her father, though he wore a dark jacket and set of glasses she hadn't seen before. "Well, crap." She muttered, thinking that though they'd been chased out of a few villages before none had put hits out on them.
Quickly, she grabbed both her and her parent's packs and leapt back into the trees.
"Still nothing?" Asuka asked, as she walked up next to Misato, standing on the upper bridge in Central Dogma.
The dark haired woman shook her head. "One flicker of AT field in the forest about an hour ago," she replied. "Vanished as soon as it came, and when the investigation team reached it all they found were unconscious security forces."
"What'd they have to say when they woke up?" The redhead asked, curious.
"They kept muttering about a red eyed ghost," the Katsuragi woman snorted. "I'm guessing it was the Angel, but it's strange... it didn't do anything to them."
The german nodded. "I can take over for you if you want to get home," she offered. She knew that the older woman now had a family, and didn't usually pull these kinds of hours anymore.
"You'll inform me if either of them shows up?" Misato demanded, sternly.
"First place I'll call," Asuka reassured, watching as a look of relief spread across the purple haired woman's face and she turned to leave the room. She, herself, sighed and slumped down in the now vacant commander's chair, letting her eyes range around the consoles and screens below her.
In years past, in a situation like this, there would have been people at every post, frantically shooting status reports back and forth as the status screens cycled from MAGI feeds, to camera readouts, to ready checks on the EVAs. Now, there were only three technicians sitting at the main control stations, as if the place were settling down for the night.
She shrugged. Who knew, with this new Angel sighting maybe NERV would start getting restaffed.
Ranma nodded to herself as she jimmied the door open easily, wincing at the creaking sound it made as it swung. The run down apartment building she now stood in had been selected specifically because, while very old and dilapidated, it showed evidence of recent maintenance, and there was even a working security camera at the street level door. The next day, if she were lucky, she may even be able to coax some water up out of the utility room.
It was true, she didn't know how long she was staying around the city, but she didn't really intend to leave until she'd found her father and gotten some answers to what the heck was going on, not necessarily in that order. She smiled as she dug some dry clothes out of her pack. Who knew, she may even find that artifact the old man muttered about, the one that cured curses. Of course, all of that would have to wait, at least until the local authorities stopped sending out guard details with pictures of her face and orders to kill.
She slipped her red shirt over her head, tugging it on and grimacing at a small blotch of mud that was still on it, before a sound disturbed her. Her head shot up, as she heard what she could have sworn was another rusty, steel door opening, but when no further noises were evident after about five minutes, she shook her head and continued preparing her temporary home.
Okay, that's it for now. Please R&R