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 this 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: The Accident

All in all, the entry plug was a pretty peaceful place during a sync test. It was dim, and though one could easily hear the muffled humming of machinery from within it, it could still accurately be described as quiet. It smelled like blood, but she was so used to the odor that she'd actually come to like it. So, all in all, the plug could be a very tranquil place.

It bored the hell out of Mari Illustrious Makinami.

"Are we finished yet?" she asked, switching on her radio.

"Almost, Mari," the voice of one of the technicians answered in a placating tone. "Just keep concentrating for ten more minutes."

"Any chance of running a few combat sims after we're done with this?" Mari asked hopefully.

"Nice try, Missy," responded an amused voice Mari knew very well, "but I have to get you to school as soon as this test is over. Now get back to it."

"Yes, ma'am," Mari replied, holding back a sigh.

"Looks like our girl's as antsy as ever," Vice Commander Vreeland observed wryly as he and several other members of the local NERV branch observed the sync test from the control room.

"With all due respect, sir, if you were regularly thrown into a big metal box and told to think at it for two hours, wouldn't you get bored?"

The portly old officer turned and smirked at the slender woman who stood behind him. She looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties, and if not for the somewhat impish smile she wore, she would have looked the very portrait of professionalism in her NERV uniform and with her blond hair up in a tight bun.

"Point taken, Lieutenant Quinn," he replied. "Why do we make her take these tests so frequently, anyway? Her ratio hasn't fluctuated more than two points up or down from her usual score for years now."

"The constant sync tests are necessary to maintain this level, sir," replied Dr. Hutchison, the base's head scientist.

Most people thought that the thin, perpetually lab coat wearing man looked worried all the time, and he certainly wasn't proving them wrong that day as he stared down at the read outs, chewing on his bottom lip.

"What is it now, Hutch?" Vreeland asked finally.

"Nothing new, sir," Hutchinson replied, not even bothering to look up from his console. "The way Makinami syncs has always been odd."

"We've been over this before, Hutch," Vreeland said with a patience Quinn knew she didn't possess.

Hutchinson had always been nervous about the quirks of Mari's links to her EVA, practically from the first time they'd ever put her into the plug. The riddle of it was like an old bone the scientist chewed on constantly whenever he didn't have any pressing duties to worry about, and nobody could ever quite say whether he did it out of concern for Mari, academic curiosity, or some sense of self-preservation.

"I know, sir," Hutchinson replied, "but it's so strange the way she syncs so much more…deeply than any of the other pilots, and yet doesn't have a higher ratio to show for it."

"I've told you how Mari explained it," Quinn spoke up. "After that strange experiment years ago where we crammed her and Soryu into the same plug, Mari told me that the Second Child just controls the EVA, while she embraces its nature."

Dr. Hutchinson didn't look at all comforted by that reminder, but given the reports they'd heard of some of the other Evangelions displaying fits of berserker rage in the past, it was hard to fault him.

"I still think she could be inviting mental contamination by doing it that way," Hutchinson said. "In fact, it's probably already started. You've all seen the recordings of Mari's combat sims."

Everyone in the room went a little pale at the reminder. Vreeland was still meaning to ask the base's computer people why they'd felt the need to program such realistic looking virtual blood and organs for the simulated Angel.

"That's just the way Mari is," Quinn replied, reluctantly allowing herself to be drawn into this old argument. "She enjoys her job, and I wouldn't have her any other way, especially since it makes me feel a lot less guilty about what we're making her do."

"But she's undergoing physical changes because of her constant connection to EVA, unlike all the other pilots," Hutchinson argued.

"So her sense of smell has gotten sharper. It hardly means that she's on the verge of sprouting tentacles and a second head," Quinn argued, the volume of her voice rising.

"Enough, you two," Vreeland spoke up. "Neither of you is going to change the status quo. Hutch, Commander Wells says you're still welcome to keep trying to find a way to tweak Unit Five so its connection with Mari is more normal. Until then, we proceed as usual, and please, no more of this argument."

"Yes, sir," the scientist and the lieutenant replied, just as a small chime went off.

"Mari, you're done," Quinn said, pushing a button to switch on one of the microphones in the control room. "Get changed and I'll take you to school."

A few minutes later, Lieutenant Quinn met Mari outside the women's locker room. The EVA pilot had changed out of her plug suit and was now wearing a plaid skirt, white button up shirt, and a blue tie. It was the uniform of the private school Mari went to.

NERV owned that private school. It made it a hell of a lot easier to staff the place with their bodyguards.

"Hey, Jessie," Mari greeted her guardian. "How'd I do?"

"About the same as always," Jessie Quinn replied. "Ready to go?"

"I was born ready," Mari replied cheerfully. "Let's blow this popsicle stand!"

Grinning, the two ladies quickly made their way out of the base. The hot Kansas sun began to beat down on them the moment they were outside, but they both ignored it, used to the heat. In minutes, they'd reached Jessie's sensible but rather unsexy compact car.

"Hutchinson was going off again," Jessie mentioned as she drove past a checkpoint and off the base proper.

"Again?" Mari winced.

"Yeah, but the Vice Commander told him to drop it," Jessie replied. "I don't think you'll have to worry about him trying to ambush you for a lecture again."

Not that Mari let the man lecture her about how to do a job only a handful of people—teenagers all, and she among them—truly understood, but Jessie could understand that Hutchinson could still be a nuisance at times. The frequent experiments the scientist made Mari endure in the name of normalizing her link with EVA were bad enough without him trying to preach to her about the potential dangers of her way of piloting.

"Good," Mari replied, pressing the button to lower her window and allowing a blast of wind into the car.

Jessie turned onto the main road that linked the NERV base to the nearest major city, which she and Mari called home. Both of them knew they had a drive of fifty miles over flat, mostly empty land ahead of them. Indeed, the only structure of any note between the base and the city was Iron Heights prison, and that wasn't exactly pleasing to the eye. Also, as the road really only served the people who went to the base, there weren't even many other cars to look at.

Mari had often complained of boredom during these drives when she was younger, but she'd learned what the dull trips were good for. "May I?" she asked.

Jessie smirked. "Of course."

With a grin, Mari turned on the radio, set it to an all rock and roll station, then cranked the volume up as high as it would go, sending the music blaring out over the empty land.

They didn't turn down the radio until they were approaching civilization, which for some reason seemed to come almost all at once where they were. The transition from total emptiness to bustling city was abrupt; with the exception of West Key, there really wasn't a lot in the way of suburbs in the area.

"Welcome to Keystone City!" a familiar sign blared, just as they entered the urban center and encountered traffic.

Fortunately, Jessie had grown up in Keystone, and she was as familiar with the roads as anyone. Deftly navigating around the jams, she pulled up to the Johnson Memorial Private School for Bright Youths just in time for Mari to make second period.

"See you later, Jessie," Mari waved as she rushed into the intimidating stone structure where she went to school.

The bespectacled girl raced up to the building's second floor, soon finding the classroom she was supposed to be in. Mari walked inside, and her nose was immediately confronted by a myriad smells. It was a science classroom, and Mari felt fairly certain that someone had been dissecting something in there fairly recently.

"Miss Makinami, glad you could join us, late as usual or not," the science teacher commented as she walked in.

"Sorry I'm late, Mr. Peterson," Mari said, not sounding apologetic at all. "Here's my note."

The middle aged man didn't even bother to look at it. This was routine, and NERV did own the school, after all. "Just take your seat," he said.

Nodding, Mari quickly sat down next to Denise Myles. The girl was an unremarkable looking brunette who usually smelled faintly of chamomile, one of the smartest people the EVA pilot knew, and the only person at Johnson's that Mari called a friend.

The whole school reeked of old money, and most of the students were no exception; the vast bulk of them weren't Keystone denizens, but from West Key, where the executives who owned all the factories in the city lived. Mari, who'd been an orphan since before she could remember and then "adopted" by the military when she'd been selected to pilot EVA, had always gotten along better with Keystone's blue collars than West Key's blue bloods. And truth be told, she was just fine with that.

Denise, however, wasn't rich; she'd gotten into the school on brains alone, winning some sort of scholarship. She and Mari had hit it off from day one.

"What's up?" Denise whispered as Mari sat down.

"Nothing exciting," Mari replied in kind. "Just the usual boring test. Still better than history class, though."

"I like history," Denise said mildly. "It's my favorite subject after science."

"And some people say I'm strange," Mari smirked. "Seriously, though, sometimes I wonder if NERV will ever ship me out. The Angels have already started coming."

"Mm," Denise made a little thoughtful noise. "Not that I'm eager to get rid of you or anything, but why are you still here instead of in Japan already?"

"Politics, red tape, you know, the bane of my existence," Mari replied, shaking her head. "I'll miss the whole war if I stay here much longer."

The conversation was interrupted as the teacher loudly cleared his throat. "Do you two have something to share with the rest of the class?"

"No, Mr. Peterson," the two girls said in unison.

"Very well, then," the teacher said. "Let's continue."

Later that day, Mari and Denise were visiting a convenience store, something that had become an old after school ritual for the two of them. The two girls each bought a soda, then began to trek toward a nearby bus stop.

"So you'll help me study for next week's history test, right?" Mari asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," Denise agreed. "I never did really get why you struggle so much in that subject, though. You're fine at math and science, you speak Japanese more fluently than the guy who's supposed to be teaching us, and you're even okay in lit class."

Mari shrugged. "History bores me. I never really saw the point of wasting the present worrying about the past."

"Those who do not study the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them," Denise quoted.

"Like we don't do that anyway," Mari replied.

"Are you that cynical, or do you just want to hang onto your justification for never paying attention in history class?" Denise asked.

Mari just shrugged in response and took a drink of her soda.

Denise sighed slightly. "Well, considering that Traci would probably still be harassing me if you hadn't stepped in and gone all crazy ninja soldier girl on her, I guess it's only fair," she said. "We'll meet at my place the night before the test, okay?"

A few days later found Mari back at the NERV base, getting ready to take yet another sync test. She wasn't too happy about it, considering that she wasn't supposed to have to endure another very dull two hours until next week. Unfortunately, Hutchinson had once again come up with something that he believed would regulate her link with EVA, and the scientist was not to be denied.

"So, what's he trying this time?" Mari asked as she and Jessie walked to the cage together. "Modified helmet? Different wavelengths? Voodoo?"

Jessie smirked at the last one. "I think his latest idea involves mixing some chemicals in with the LCL."

Mari wrinkled her nose at the thought but consoled herself with the knowledge that this attempt would doubtlessly fail as all the others before it had.

Sensing her ward's displeasure, Jessie smiled and said, "Since we're doing this test after school instead of before it, I think I can convince them to let you get in a combat sim or two after the sync test."

"Sweet," Mari said with a grin as they arrived at the entry plug. "Well, guess I'll see you in a few hours, Jessie."

"Right, see ya," Jessie replied as she began to head toward the control room.

Mari wasted no time climbing into the entry plug. Once inside, she began to quickly attach the various cables she found within to her plug suit. Unit Five, a "provisional" EVA, had a lot more in the way of purely mechanical parts than the other Evangelions did, and thus required a different control scheme. Once she was finished with the cables, she donned the bulky helmet that also went with Unit Five and lay back in her command chair to wait until the people in the control room were all ready.

While she was waiting, Mari began to sing to relieve her boredom while she still could. "One step at a time, there's no need to rush, it's like learning to fly, or falling in love…"

Suddenly, her radio crackled to life. "You know we can all hear it you when you do that, right?" Jessie's voice came into her plug.

"Yeah. So?" Mari asked nonchalantly.

"Never mind," Jessie replied. "We're about to start the test. Entry plug should be filling up right about now."

Sure enough, LCL rapidly began to pour into the plug a moment later, quickly rising above her head. With practiced ease, Mari inhaled the liquid…then almost gagged at the acerbic, noxious smell and flavor it had thanks to Hutchinson's chemical cocktail.

On the off chance that this works, I'm making them add some cherry flavoring or something, Mari decided immediately.

"Feel anything different, Pilot Makinami?" Hutchinson asked.

"Other than the urge to throw up? Nope," Mari replied. "Can we get on with this test?"

"Of course," Hutchinson replied. "Initiating connections."

Several lights within the entry plug came on, illuminating it with a dull orange glow that Mari didn't really see. Her helmet's visor swirled with a kaleidoscope of colors, then settled on the rather uninteresting view of the cage that Unit Five was currently situated within.

As all this went on, the pilot started to feel the familiar tug on her mind as she and Evangelion's bestial intelligence began to move in concert. She could feel it breathing in time with her, and her body tingled slightly as the mental link fully established itself.

"Feels the same as ever," she reported, relieved that this attempt of Hutchinson's looked like it was on its way to join all the others in the scrap heap.

"Well, we'll continue the test," Hutchinson, refusing to give up so easily, "see if there's any effect after two hours."

Nodding, Mari resigned herself to 120 minutes of boredom in the smelly LCL. Her eyelids began to droop after about ten of those minutes, and she was just about to close her eyes entirely when the alarms started blaring.

"What's going on?!" she demanded as her visor's usual readouts were replaced by a large 'WARNING!' message and the plug filled with red light.

"Something's gone wrong with the electrical systems!" Jessie's voice came in, and Mari could hear a lot of frantic sounding people shouting the background. "Mari, get out of there!"

"Right!" she replied.

Wasting no time, reached out and grabbed hold of a large lever that sat to the side of her command chair. With a grunt of effort, she pulled it upwards.

There was a loud hissing sound from just beneath the plug, and a great jolt went through the metal container. However, it didn't move at all.

The words "EJECTION SYSTEM MALFUNCTION" were displayed before Mari's eyes in big, block letters.

"Damn! Who designed this thing?" Mari demanded of no one in particular.

Inside the control room, everyone who wasn't currently occupied with frantically trying to keep the malfunction from turning into a major disaster turned, as one, to stare at Dr. Hutchinson.

"Don't look at me!" the scientist sputtered. "I didn't design the ejection system!"

"Never mind that!" barked the Vice Commander. "What the hell caused this, anyway?"

"Looks like there was some damage done recently to the surge protectors and breakers inside EVA that regulate the power flow from the umbilical cable," one of the technicians reported.

"If there's a power surge now, the plug will be electrified," added another tech.

"Doctor, weren't the components you modified during your last experiment near the EVA's power regulation systems?" Jessie asked, giving Hutchinson a glare that promised great suffering if Mari was hurt.

The scientist just tugged nervously on his collar in response, suddenly finding it much too warm inside the control room.

"Disconnect the power cable!" Vreeland commanded.

"No!" Hutchinson yelled. "There's always a surge right when the EVA switches from external to internal power!"

"Then what do you suggest we do?" Jessie demanded. "It'll take several minutes to deactivate the EVA. By then..."

"Drain the LCL," Hutchinson replied. "The plug suit is non-conductive, so unless Mari starts licking the walls or something, she should be fine."

"Do it," Vreeland ordered one of the technicians.

"Draining LCL," the tech replied. "But sir, I can't execute an emergency discharge with the plug still inside the EVA."

"That should be fine," Hutchinson said. "Even at the normal rate, draining the plug doesn't take long. We only need our luck to hold out for a few more—"

He was cut off as a piercing scream of agony suddenly erupted out of the control room's speakers. Everyone looked up at the screen that displayed the inside of the plug, and just before the energy surge fried the camera, they were able to witness Mari writhing about crazily as electricity was pumped into her body through the LCL in the still mostly full plug. Then the image became filled with static and winked out entirely.

"…seconds," Hutchinson finished in a soft, horrified tone.

"Oh, my head," Mari groaned several hours later, pressing an ice pack to the side of her skull as she and Jessie walked through the base's parking lot.

Once NERV had finally managed to shut down Unit Five, they had frantically extracted Mari's entry plug and gotten her out, finding her unconscious but alive. The girl had then been taken down to the infirmary and put through every test the doctors could throw at her. Amazingly enough, the EVA pilot had proved to be entirely unharmed by the ordeal.

So long as you don't count this headache, she thought, willing the jackhammers inside her head to stop pounding away, to utterly no effect. She hadn't felt this bad since the time she and Denise had managed to obtain quite a bit of beer and had decided to see just what all the fuss about alcohol was about.

The doctors had wanted to keep her at the infirmary overnight for observation, but Mari had just wanted to go home, where everything didn't smell of disinfectants, and Jessie had agreed.

"Considering what happened, you should just be grateful that you're not dead," her guardian pointed out.

"If I was dead, at least I wouldn't be feeling this," Mari replied, screwing her eyes shut as they arrived at Jessie's car.

Muttering something under her breath, Jessie unlocked the vehicle, then placed the bouquet of flowers she'd been carrying into the back seat. Dr. Hutchinson had somehow gotten them while Mari was being put through the battery of tests in the infirmary, hoping to stave off the lieutenant's rage.

Fat chance of that, Jessie thought as she and Mari climbed into the car. As soon as she wasn't worrying about her ailing charge, Hutchinson was going to get an earful.

"Want some music?" Jessie asked as they pulled away from the base.

"God, no," Mari replied immediately, leaning back into her chair and closing her eyes.

By the time they were approaching Keystone, the pounding in Mari's head had diminished significantly, and she was feeling more like her usual self. It had also started to rain in a slow but steady downpour that promised to go on for hours and leave the whole city sodden.

"Feeling better?" Jessie asked.

"Much," Mari replied. "I still want to hit the sack as soon we get back home, though."

"Can't say I blame you," Jessie replied, taking a turn.

The pilot's stomach suddenly let out a loud growl.

"Well, maybe I'll get something to eat before I go to bed," she added.

"How can you be hungry after almost being electrocuted?" Jessie asked.

Mari never did get the chance to answer that question, because all hell broke out immediately after her guardian posed the question.

They were coming to an intersection, and their light had just turned green. The cars in front of them began to move forward. The driver of one of the cars that now had a red light pressed down on the brake…but his car didn't stop moving. Instead, it kept moving forward, hydroplaning across a deep puddle that had formed in the rainstorm.

Horns blared. Feet slammed down on brake pedals. People screamed.

And all of it was for naught. A car crashed into the vehicle that had involuntarily run the right light, causing metal to crumple and glass to shatter. The cars behind it began to crash into them, unable to stop in time on the wet streets. Mari had just enough time to look at Jessie—just enough time to see her guardian gritting her teeth and standing on the break—before they, too, became part of the mass traffic accident.

Jessie's sensible, unsexy little car was sent hurtling through the air. She and Mari both screamed, and to the EVA pilot, time seemed to slow down as the accident unfolded, the seconds stretching into brief, excruciating infinities. Mari instinctively closed her eyes and raised her arms to shield her head, just as the front of Jessie's car was about to slam into another vehicle.

Then…nothing happened.

Slowly, fearful of what she might see, she lowered her arms and opened her eyes. Her jaw dropped as she saw the scene before her.

Time had stopped.

None of the cars, which had been crashing into one another a second ago, were moving at all. That included Jessie's car, which hung suspended in midair. Next to her, Jessie was as still as a statue. The world had fallen totally silent. Even the rain drops hung suspended in the air.

"What the hell?" Mari breathed.

Author's Notes: Mari Illustrious Makinami has joined the brawl!

…sorry, couldn't resist making the reference.

Anyway, I was hesitant about starting Mari's story for a while now, mostly because I was having trouble finding out what this character was like. Having found out more about Rebuild 2.0, however, I finally got around to it. I've actually got just about the whole fic planned out, and I'm very much looking forward to writing it.

Hopefully, I've thrown in enough clues that fans of the appropriate comic will know exactly whose powers Mari has, while it won't be glaringly obvious to others.

Anyway, thanks as always to my readers and reviewers, and thanks to my beta reader as well.


Jessie IS Genre Savvy

"That should be fine," Hutchinson said. "Even at the normal rate, draining the plug doesn't take long. We only need our luck to hold out for a few more—"

He was cut off as a piercing scream of agony suddenly erupted out of the control room's speakers. Everyone looked up at the screen that displayed the inside of the plug, and just before the energy surge fried the camera, they were able to witness Mari writhing about crazily as electricity was pumped into her body through the LCL in the still mostly full plug. Then the image became filled with static and winked out entirely.

"…seconds," Hutchinson finished in a soft, horrified tone.

"Hurry it up! Move it with that power saw!" the cage leader screamed as a technician advanced toward Unit Five with a very large power tool.

Switching it on, he began to cut a large hole into Mari's plug, creating a way to get her out. Once he was done, another man dove into the LCL and pulled out the unconscious EVA pilot.

"She's breathing!" he announced. "She's alive!"

"Well of course she's alive!" Jessie said. "She's the main character. She's not going to bite it in the prologue!"

Almost as one, everybody present turned to stare strangely at the lieutenant, who quickly began to sweat under the gaze of all those eyes.

"Uh, I mean, thank goodness she's all right!" Jessie exclaimed.