"Sure, it technically started months earlier, but I always felt that the Angel War really took off when we met on that aircraft carrier." – Dr. Ikari, Recollections of the Angel War

The purple-armored giant roared in triumph, ignoring the hole in its head as it worked the broken rib deeper into its opponent's body, seeking the Angel's core. Desperately, the Angel grappled with its slayer, attempting to bring the Evangelion with it into death….

The red-haired girl stopped the recording, chewing on her pen before jotting down more notes on the pad of paper in front of her. / Able to keep a high synch even after the head injury - Need to ask him how he damps down the pain. Wonder why he dropped the knife for the bone? Doesn't seem to have close combat training, could offer that in exchange for tips on synching. /

She started the recordings again, grateful that her guardian had managed to get these copies. They had made the interminable voyage to Japan bearable, and she desperately needed to review them. Kaji-san had told her that the Third Child had not only managed to get a synchronization score of 43% on his first try, but kill no less than *three* Angels. All without the help of the years of training she had received, and she *had* to know how he had done it.

"Have to be the best, and it looks like Third can help with that. Suppose that's something to look forward to, aside from killing Angels. Obviously they've got better support staff there if he can synch so high despite never seeing an Eva before. I should be able to improve my score much faster than back home." Her musings were interrupted by a knock on her cabin door.

"Hey there kiddo," came the voice of Ryoji Kaji. "The chopper is going to be on the deck any minute now, you going to grace us with your presence?"

"Hai Kaji-san, I'm coming!" Asuka Langley Soryu, Second Child and designated Pilot of Evangelion Unit 02 took a second to straighten her outfit before opening the door. 'An Eva pilot must always look her best, after all.' Straightening her suit jacket and smoothing out her skirt, the teenager opened the door to greet the always-smirking face of her guardian.

"I still say you look like you're going to a job interview," he said as the two of them headed to the flight deck. "After all, you're still only fourteen."

"I'll be fifteen soon enough, Kaji!" Her cheeks flushed with anger. "I've already got a degree, and I'm a trained combat pilot. I should be treated like an adult!" 'Especially by you, Kaji-san. What do I need to do for you to stop treating me like a child?'

"You really shouldn't be in such a hurry to grow up, young lady. You're missing out on the joys of childhood."

Asuka rolled her eyes at the only man good enough for her. "Oh sure, you mean all the gossiping at the lunch tables about which girl is the biggest slut in school, or that so-an-so is going steady because a boy gave her a jacket? Those kinds of joys?"

Ryoji never dropped his trademark grin as he replied. "Oh, I'm sure there's more to a teenager's life than just that, Asuka." Glancing at the helicopter just now touching down, he continued. "And speaking of teenagers, here comes the Third Child. Are you ready to meet him?"

Asuka stopped and turned to her guardian. "Of course I am. He's a Japanese native, hasn't gone to a university and has only been involved in the Evangelion program for the last few months. I've studied the combat footage so we can discuss tactics, and since he probably doesn't speak German, I've been practicing my Japanese all during the trip. I'm ready!" In the distance, she could hear a young boy screaming about a hat.

Ryoji chuckled, "and what's his name, my fiery young ward?" She blinked, nonplussed as she realized that for all of her preparations, she'd overlooked that simple detail.

"Schiest!" She fidgeted for a second before entreating the older man. "Could you please tell me his name, Kaji-san?"

"Well, you've been a well-behaved young lady on the trip, so I suppose so. His name is Shinji Ikari. Now if you're ready, there's someone else on that helicopter I'd like to get reacquainted with."

The unshaven man merrily walked towards the helicopter and the people disembarking from it while Asuka stood there, attempting to process this new information.

'Shinji Ikari. The Commander's name is Gendo Ikari, too much of a coincidence to

assume they're not related. So he's the boss's son. Well that explains how he got picked, except it doesn't make sense. They would have to have known that he had potential when he was younger, just like me. Why didn't they give him the training then? Why was that Angel the first time he'd ever synched with an Eva?'

So absorbed was she in her thoughts, she failed to notice the baseball cap go fluttering by her feet. Nor did she hear the thudding footsteps of the young boy chasing it until he crashed into her in a tangled mess of arms and legs, falling to the deck. The first thing she noticed when her head cleared was that the tracksuit-wearing boy's hands were touching places she had reserved for Kaji-san.

With a roar of "PERVERT", her knee came swiftly up to connect with the boy's groin, and he fell to the side, groaning. Getting to her feet, she saw two other boys in school uniforms. One of them was wearing glasses and a gleeful expression on his face as he pointed a video camera at her. The other…hunh. He actually had his head turned away and Asuka could see signs of a blush on his cheek.

Gritting her teeth she lunged at the camera geek, slapping him hard across the face and grabbing for the camera. She'd just gotten it away from the boy when Ryoji and an all too familiar face arrived at the scene.

"Just what is going on here, Asuka?" Misato's voice was just as she'd remembered it, of course. Asuka sourly noted that the years hadn't seemed to have dulled the older woman's natural beauty either.

"T-Touji ran into her while chasing his hat and his hands, err, uh…" the blushing boy's voice trailed off.

'What, the little baka can't even talk about it? It's not like *he* was the huge pervert.' Filling the silence Asuka growled out. "That pervert groped me! I just did what any well-mannered young woman would do."

"And what about the camera?" Misato sighed in exasperation as Asuka glared angrily at the young man wearing glasses.

"THAT little pervert was filming the entire thing! I'm just erasing the footage and then the dweeb can have his toy back." Fitting deeds to words the upset girl fiddled with the device for a second before tossing it back to its owner, eliciting a cry of panic as he almost fumbled the catch.

Seeking to redirect the conversation, Misato gently pushed the blushing boy forwards a few steps. "Anyway, Asuka I'd like to introduce you to the Third Child, Shinji Ikari. You two are going to be working together."

Asuka looking him over before extending her hand in greeting. "Well, at least you're not a pervert. Here's to a successful career of helping me destroy the Angels and saving humanity."

The boy 'Shinji' took her hand almost timidly and shook it, the barest hint of a smile on his face. "Thank you. I'm sure it will be an honor to fight by your side."

'Huh, seems awfully meek for the son of the Commander and the kid who's taken down three Angels. I figured I'd have to beat him in the simulators to teach him who's boss. You're a puzzle, Shinji Ikari, and unfortunately for you, I don't leave puzzles alone.'

Asuka stalked into the mess hall, seething. It had been all she could do to bide her tongue while that old fool mocked her Evangelion as a 'child's plaything'. Oh, Misato had scored some points back with her airhead-toned reminder that NERV had complete authority in the event of an Angel, but even still. The young German's mood had not been helped by the cramped elevator ride either. She was convinced that one of the two perverts accompanying Ikari took advantage of the enclosed space to try to feel her up, and as soon as she could figure out which one of them did it there would be hell to pay.

Not that lunch was turning out to be much better. Her dear Kaji-san was most definitely flirting with Misato, and only the fact that the other woman was clearly unreceptive was keeping Asuka's tongue still. Well, that and the fact that while the two perverts seemed to be enjoying this, the Third Child was looking mortified.

"So Shinji, I hear you're living with Katsuragi-san, is that right?" Asuka silently noted both Ryouji's change of target and his question. This was another part of the puzzle that was the Third Child. Why would he be living with Misato if his father was the commander?

"Err…yes. Miss Misato was kind enough to let me stay with her." Still with the humble tones, when most boys his age, or even college-age boys would be gloating over it.

"So tell me," continued Kaji with his trademark smirk, "does she still toss and turn in bed?"

Asuka's eyes nearly bulged out of their sockets as she heard that question. What the Hell kind of thing was that to ask in public? Especially given the difference in Misato's and Shinji's ages! She couldn't believe her beloved Kaji-san would embarrass her like this! A quick glance showed that while the perverts (of course) were lapping up the idea, and Misato was horrified, Shinji was acting like nothing was wrong.

The boy's confused response of "Well, I don't hear anything from her room at night" was overridden by Misato's shrill demand to know why Kaji would dare ask that question.

Shinji's statement mentally floored Asuka. 'He actually took that question at face value. Doesn't he know what Kaji-san was implying?'

Asuka saw her chance while the two so-called adults were squabbling. "Come with me, Third. We need to talk." Grabbing the boy's hand and ignoring his stammered protests, she took him on a motor launch over to the transport ship carrying her Eva.

"So," she began, once the two of them were in the launch and safely away from embarrassing guardians and perverted schoolboys. "Your first time inside an Eva was right before the third Angel, eh?"

"W-well, actually it was right as the Angel arrived. Rei was too injured to Pilot, so father had a *use* for me." His reply was bitter, unlike what she'd seen of him so far.

'Ok, that's a partial answer. He obviously doesn't get along with his dad.' "Well," she sniffed, "you did the best you could without proper training, I suppose – nothing like my years of training of course. Why in the world did you use the rib bone instead of your progressive knife?"

"You-you've been training for years too? Why were both of you given all the training and

I just got thrown into this?"

A bit of anger there, the boy actually could feel something besides embarrassment then. "Hey, for a total rookie you didn't screw up too badly. Anyone who can take down three Angels like that is someone I can trust to back me up in combat." That's it; build him up while also reminding him that you're the top Pilot. That's the way to do it.

The two of them reached the transport ship and clambered up the ladder to the deck, delaying Shinji's response. "Thank you, Soryu-san. It's good to know that Rei will have someone with training instead of just me to fight beside."

Asuka stopped on the deck in front of the stairway leading to her Eva as she processed his remark. 'Mein Gott, I don't believe this! He's the one who's killed three Angels, while Rei – the First – the only thing she's done is provide him with a shield against the positron beam of the Fifth Angel. Where the Hell is this boy's pride?'

"Really Third, show some spine. I've seen the footage and the First hasn't done anything to impress me." Asuka tossed her hair and began to descend the stairs as she continued. "I mean sure, you tripped and fell, then let the Angel smack you around the first time, and the second time you failed to get anything done with the cannons, but at least with that last Angel you did everything right."

As she was about to begin expounding on the idiocy of the support staff for deploying him into the firing range of the Angel's beam attack and the First's sole purpose as an ablative shield, a large explosion derailed her train of thought.

Rushing to the railing, the young German was treated to the sight of a warship breaking in two as a large creature slammed into and through it without slowing. Beside her, Shinji's worried voice confirmed what she already knew it had to be. "A-angel. There's an Angel attacking the fleet!"

'Schiest, this is bad. Unit 02 isn't set up for underwater combat, and I've got nothing in the way of support here. None of my training was remotely like this, I'll have to improvise everything!' A glance at the boy standing next to her caused a smirk to appear on her face.

'Of course, I have the master of improvisation here with me, what could go wrong?'

The aforementioned 'master of improvisation' continued to speak: "We'd better call Misato and find out what we need to do!"

'What kind of statement is that? Doesn't he have any initiative whatsoever? No, wait. Stupid girl he doesn't know if your Eva is ready for combat. Don't blame the untrained civilian for not acting like a proper soldier.'

"I'll tell you what we're going to do. We're going to beat that Angel. C'mon, we need to get suited up." Grabbing Shinji's wrist, Asuka dragged the confused boy to the storage bin near her Eva, pulling out a pair of red plugsuits. "Here, stand over there and put this on while I get changed. And no peeking got it?" The blushing boy stood at the other side of the bin and looked forlornly at the suit.

"But this is a girl's suit. A-are you sure?"

Asuka glared at him. "Yes, I'm sure! With two people in the Eva we're going to need to maximize neural connectivity, and that means plugsuits for both of us! Now stop whining and get changed!"

With a defeated nod, Shinji turned around and began to get changed. As Asuka changed into her suit, she kept an eye on the boy to make sure he didn't succumb to the inherent nature of his sex and sneak a peek at her nubile young form. As a totally unplanned side effect, she was able to observe Shinji disrobe.

Totally unplanned.

Honest.

Really.

'Looks like he actually does exercise some, and are those exit wounds on his back? Oh, from the energy whips, right. Still, how does he keep his synch so high through the pain? And is that...oh wow.' Blushing, Asuka activated her suit, creating the needed seal as the fabric tightened around her. "Right, c'mon Third, we have an Angel to kill!" 'And he never turned his head even a little. I wouldn't have expected even Kaji-san to be so chivalrous. You continue to surprise me, Shinji Ikari.'

Climbing into the Entry plug, Asuka motioned for Shinji to hold onto the seat behind her. "Ok, you handle communications and if you see anything I need to know about, speak up." Seating herself in the control chair, the Second Child began the start-up procedure while the sounds of another exploding ship penetrated the hull. "Set base language to Japanese." 'No time to ask if he's fluent in German.' "Flood plug with LCL. Ionize LCL. Initialize nerve connections. Trigger bi-directional links. Synchro start."

The dull metal panels of the plug flared to life, showing the two children the canvas tarp covering the massive war machine. Mentally bracing herself for the added strain of a second mind in the link, Asuka was pleasantly surprised to instead feel an even stronger connection to her Eva. 'Must be because he's also a Pilot. Well, that should make things easier.'

"Err Asuka, we only have one minute of power here." Shinji's worried voice focused her.

"Right, then we'll have to get to the flagship and connect to the power supply there. Contact them on the radio and" her instructions were rudely interrupted by that overbearing admiral and Misato arguing over the channel as once again the adults proved to be more immature than the children they were supposed to be supervising.

"Err Misato, can you get the power hookup ready? We've got under a minute on the battery and Asuka says we'll be right there." Hearing Shinji's mostly-level voice, Misato wrestled the mike away from the admiral.

"Shinji, you're in there too?" Asuka rolled her eyes at the clueless questioning as she brought Unit 02 to its feet, the tarp draped over the Evangelion like a cloak. "Don't worry Shinji, you two just concentrate on getting over here. The power will be waiting."

Shinji closed the connection as he looked at the screens. "Uh-oh. That Angel's coming closer and we only have Type-B equipment. There's no way we can fight in the water."

'Been doing your homework, eh? Good to know, Third' "Well then we'll just have to stay dry. Ever play hopscotch?" Bending the crimson titan to her will, Asuka leapt from ship to ship, ignoring the destruction of the transport behind her as she raced to the carrier and the precious power cable.

Landing on the carrier's flight deck and grabbing on as the ship listed from the impact, Asuka ignored the warplanes falling into the ocean, dismissing them as obsolete pieces of junk. Her mind was more focused on making sure the all-important power cable and generator didn't get lost. As the warship stabilized itself, she stood and grabbed the connecter. "Switching to external power, see anything?"

Shinji pointed to the left. "There, port-side, nine o'clock. It's coming for us!"

Confirming his spotting skill, Asuka faced the oncoming Angel. "Deploying prog knife. It's no rib bone, but I think it should do the trick eh?" A gentle smirk graced her face as Shinji blinked in surprise.

"Err, yeah. We need to find the core, I don't see it on the upper body, do you?"

"Nope, but that's ok. We'll just slice it open when it tries to ram." Asuka regretted those confident words a few seconds later when the Sixth Angel leapt onto the carrier, slamming the prog knife out of Unit 02's hands and pinning the Eva against the bridge tower. "Mein Gott, this thing is huge!"

The two colossal entities struggled on the deck of carrier, the few souls still on the bridge watched in awe as humanity's greatest weapon battled one of its greatest foes. Then, calamity struck as Unit 02's left foot skidded backwards onto one of the aircraft elevators. Unable to bear the weight the elevator collapsed, throwing Asuka off balance and both the Evangelion and the Angel plunged into the water.

'Not good! Not good! This is very not good!' Asuka tried to keep herself calm as the Angel dragged her Eva deeper underwater and eventually through one of the many flooded cities that were a result of Second Impact. And of course, Misato proved ever-so-helpful, reminding the two of them that Type-B equipment wasn't designed to work underwater. "It's not like we planned it this way" snarled the redhead upon hearing that piece of so-called advice.

At last the power cable spooled out to maximum length, jerking the Evangelion free of the Angel as the great monster continued to swim through the water. The two teens exchanged a quick glance before Asuka devoted her efforts to forcing the Eva to respond while Shinji went back to scanning for their foe.

"Uh-oh, here it comes!" He cried, pointing directly ahead.

Asuka silently gasped as their enemy opened a huge gaping maw. "That's a lot of teeth!"

Behind her, she could hear Shinji's voice, now seemingly so out of place with its' calm tone. "There. There's the core, inside the mouth."

"Fat lot of good that does us now, Third!" Her exclamation was cut short with a gasp of pain from both children as the great jaws slammed shut around Unit 02's waist. Turning her head to glare at her co-pilot, Asuka continued. "Any more brilliant tactical analysis or can you be bothered to help me get us out of here?"

Frowning in thought, the Third Child looked around. "Asuka, let me control the right arm."

"What the hell do you mean?" 'What good is one arm going to do, especially when the knife is God knows where?'

"Just trust me and concentrate on our AT field. Don't think about the arm" came the measured reply, so unlike the shy stuttering boy she had known up till now.

"Fine then, just don't screw us up any worse than we already are." Warily, Asuka focused all her concentration on maintaining the AT field, forcing herself not to react when she felt the Eva's arm moving without her direction. She felt it draw up, and then sharply swing backward, slamming an elbow into the teeth clamping down on Unit 02.

'Ah! He's going to get us free by shattering a few teeth, and he needs me to maintain our field strength so we don't get damaged. That's very smart, Mr. Ikari. Yes, you'll do well as my wingman.'

After several more hammer blows, a tooth shattered into fragments. Grabbing one of the larger ones with Unit 02's right hand, Shinji looked at Asuka. "Well, it's no prog knife, but I think it should do the trick eh? Would you like to do the honors? I'll take over the AT Field if you do."

Stunned, the young girl could only nod as she concentrated on the Evangelion's arms while Shinji took over projecting the field that sheltered them both.

'Mein Gott, I was more correct than I knew when I said he was a master of improvisation. He's got a point though, this is probably our best chance at taking out the core. How does he come up with this stuff?' Shaking her head to clear it, Asuka grabbed hold of the improvised weapon with both hands and began to stab it into the Angel's core. Her efforts were rewarded by an unearthly shriek as the Angel began to shake its mouth violently, apparently not realizing that unless it opened its jaws, Unit 02 would remain where it was.

Dimly Asuka could hear Misato's voice rattling off something about a plan and Shinji straining to respond. 'Hunh, so it's easier for you to control an Eva than it is for you to generate an AT field? That's weird, but useful to know.' The young German remained fixated on the red core of her enemy, striking it again and again, seeing cracks develop in it until Shinji spoke to her.

"Once you destroy the core, you're going to need to focus on the AT field with me, okay Asuka?"

She blinked for a moment in surprise before recalling. 'That's right, two of the other Angels exploded once their cores had been destroyed. Only makes sense that this one would follow suit and we're at point-blank range.' "You got it, Third. Ready?"

Seeing the boy nod, she slammed the fragment of tooth into the Angel's core one last time, shattering both the core and the weapon. Wasting no time, Asuka focused on generating the AT field, hoping that the blast wouldn't shred the umbilical cable and trap the two of them at the bottom of the ocean.

On board the mangled carrier, Misato watched in horror as the ocean erupted with a massive geyser of water. "Please let them have made it" her unfinished prayer was answered in a spectacular fashion as Unit 02 hurtled out of the sky to land on the carrier, crumpling the flight deck and threatening to capsize the huge vessel. As the ship returned to an even keel, the crimson Evangelion slumped over, the remains of its umbilical cable hanging limply from the power socket.

It was a boring thirty minutes trapped inside the entry plug waiting for the technicians to manually retrieve it from Unit 02's socket. Inside the fluid-filled cylinder, Asuka noted that the Third Child seemed unwilling to initiate conversations, but wasn't standoffish when she broached a topic. Still, the time spent was not wasted.

According to the Third, the First Child was 'socially inept' and coming from him that must really be saying something. Sadly, it also seemed that those two perverts were his only friends at school. That was something she'd have to correct. Those stooges weren't worthy of such lofty company as an Evangelion pilot. It also seemed Misato had picked up another stray somewhere along the way: a warm-water penguin that, if the Third could be believed, liked to drink beer and watch television. Then again, with Misato the beer drinking was perfectly believable. Finally it seemed that the only things the Third did aside from practice at NERV was cooking, playing the cello, and hanging out with those two idiots. Gott, the boy had no experience in actually living. Her work was clearly cut out for her. She'd have to find him some friends worthy of being near him and teach him how to enjoy life. Still, if anyone could do it, she could.

'At least when I'm not with Kaji-san, that is', she mentally smirked. As they were finally able to disembark from her Eva, she noticed the two stooges pointing behind her and laughing. Turning, she saw Shinji blushing and trying to hide himself.

'Why? Oh, of course, he's still wearing my spare suit and his old clothes are at the bottom of the ocean. Still, I should teach those idiots a lesson. Ah, that should work.'

"Don't worry about it, Third. They're just jealous that you're going home to Captain Katsuragi and they aren't." Her smile and effort to make her voice loud enough for the duo to hear had the desired effect. Shinji's blush faded somewhat and he stood straighter, while the other two boys had assumed hangdog expressions. Sometimes, it was all too easy.

And speaking of Misato, there she was with some blond woman. They were discussing the battle by the look of it, and no sign of Kaji-san. She wanted to talk to him about her amazing victory over the Angel. Well, Misato should know where he was, even if she hated asking the older woman anything involving her beloved Kaji.

"Hi Misato! So, suitably impressed with my combat debut?" Both older women smiled at Asuka.

"Actually, yes I was. Dr. Akagi here," Misato indicated the blonde, "was telling me that both you and Shinji achieved new levels of synchronization during the fight."

Asuka was sidetracked by this revelation. "Wow, really?" 'Actual live combat must help boost the synch ratio! That's how the Third was able to get so high so quickly!'

"Yes, actually the spike occurred right as the Angel self-destructed. According to Misato's report, that's when the two of you were both concentrating on the AT field, correct?"

Asuka wasn't sure she liked the clinical tone used by the doctor, but decided to not be affronted by it. "Yeah, that's right, I'd read that two of the previous three Angels had self destructed once their cores had been destroyed and joined the Third in focusing on the AT field to protect us." Thinking back, she remembered a feeling of warmth and strength as she'd put all her effort into the field. A side effect of two souls in the link, maybe?

The young girl shook that off and returned to her original focus. "Misato, where's Kaji-san? I wanted to see what he thought about my incredible victory, and to find out where we're staying."

"That rat fink fled on a fighter jet after the two of you went into the water" Misato ground out. Continuing on, she said "as for where you're staying, temporary quarters in the Geofront until we can find a more permanent place for you."

Asuka was stunned. Kaji, her beloved Kaji had run away? He'd actually had doubts about her inevitable victory? Sure it had been messier than she'd planned but the end result couldn't have been in doubt, could it? And he hadn't already arranged for her to be living with him? Couldn't that fool see they were meant to be together? Oooooh, he was going to have to do so much to make it up with her!

"One more thing, Asuka. I know you've already graduated from college, but you're going to attend school with the other two Pilots for socialization purposes." Dr. Akagi's voice was droll, her expression clearly implying to Asuka that the older woman felt she belonged with children. Well, fine then. Her own plans for building the Third into a reliable wingman would require a certain amount of interaction, especially at his school.

"That's ok. I can use the time to improve my kanji. I can't expect people here to be able to read German or English, after all." A shot right back at the arrogant doctor. Yes, all in all Asuka would have to say this was a nice start to her stay in Tokyo-3.