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.
Chapter One: The Month from Hell
Everywhere and Nowhere
It was extremely rare for the Lords of Order and the Lords of Chaos to come together to speak, which wasn't really surprising. Both groups were composed of ancient and powerful beings made of mystical energy, and they had been warring since the dawn of time to decide the fate of the world. They didn't often have much to talk about, not with each other.
Yet the Second Impact could bring even Order and Chaos together. The two groups had gathered to discuss the disaster and its consequences—specifically those that affected them—yet no one was saying much so far.
"I think it's time we all admitted the truth."
The silence was finally broken by Nabu the Wise, a Lord of Order. He had taken on the form of an old but still powerfully built human man with flowing white hair and a bearded face. It was one of Nabu's favorite forms, but he looked exceedingly tired that day, his face more heavily lined than usual.
"The Ninth Age of Magic has ended; what happened in Antarctica brought it to a close…"
"What of it? We have existed since the First Age. We will continue to exist in the Tenth," replied Nabu's eternal nemesis, the Lord of Chaos known as Mordru.
"You can deny it all you like, Mordru, but that does not change the truth," Nabu replied testily, his anger seemingly costing him energy he could ill-afford to expend. "We do not belong in the Tenth Age of Magic, and we are dying."
Cries and shouts came from both Order and Chaos. Everyone there knew that Nabu was right, that their once immortal lives were nearly over, but that didn't mean they had accepted it yet.
"Everything that has a beginning has an end," Nabu spoke to the assembled, god-like beings as though he was addressing a group of small, rather dim children. "Even us. Our end is now. We can either meet it with dignity, or we can go into oblivion crying like infants."
Silence reigned in the nether realm where the Lords of Order and Lords of Chaos had convened. They had all gotten very used to the idea of never-ending life in their millennia of existence.
"So that's it, then?" Mordru sneered. "You're just going to sit here and wait for the end? The Great Nabu will allow himself to die quietly and leave his mortal champion unaided?"
"The helm I forged for Fate will carry an echo of me for all time. In that way, I shall remain immortal," Nabu said sagely.
"Well, that's fine for you, but what about those of us who don't have some magic artifact clanking around the mortal realm?" Mordru scowled.
"You, all of you," Nabu swept his gaze out over the assembled lords, "have had centuries to leave some lasting imprint—some legacy—in the world. It's not my fault if you didn't."
The god-like beings shifted uncomfortably. Most of them had been so busy waging an unending war against each other – almost always on planes that most mortals couldn't even perceive – that no one would even notice they were gone. It was an unpleasant realization, but there was nothing to be done for it now. They began to accept that their end was near.
Well, most of them did.
One of the other Lords of Order stood. She was currently in the form of a green skinned woman with darker, moss colored hair. Stars seemed to twinkle within her flesh, as though entire galaxies were contained with her being.
"Kismet…" Nabu said.
"No, I won't just sit here and die," she said stubbornly.
"You don't have an alternative," Nabu said. "None of us do."
"That's not true," Kismet replied fiercely. "I will go to the mortal realm, and I will bind myself to a living being there. I will continue to exist, in a way."
The assembled beings traded glances. What Kismet described was possible, but it would come at great cost. Though her essence would have some influence upon her host, Kismet would largely be a passive observer, a prisoner in someone else's body. It was not a price that most of her colleagues would be willing to pay for only a few more years of existence.
"…none of us can stop you if you mean to do this," Nabu said.
Kismet nodded, and with a flash of light, she vanished. A ringing silence filled the meeting place in the wake of her departure.
But not for long.
"She's right! We shouldn't just accept our demise like this!"
Everyone turned as one of the Lords of Chaos rose. He was less human in appearance than most of the others there, having the head of a bird of prey and tawny wings where a man would have arms.
Mordru scowled at him. "If you want to go, Kestrel, then be gone."
The Lord of Chaos nodded and then vanished without another world.
It had been a long time since she had been to the mortal plane, Kismet realized as she flew invisibly through the sky over Germany. She had forgotten just how numerous humans were. Lords of Order and Lords of Chaos very rarely reproduced, so there were only a few dozen of them. Even after the cataclysm of Second Impact, humanity still numbered in the billions.
But which to choose? Kismet wondered.
She knew she didn't have much time to make her selection; being on the mortal plane was rapidly draining what little remained of her strength.
Regardless of the time constraints she was facing, Kismet was unwilling to bind her very being to just anyone. To sacrifice her identity merely so her soul could exist for a few more years was unacceptable. She needed to join with someone important, someone who would have an influence upon countless others.
Someone who would likely become immortalized in the memories of others.
Nabu was always better at seeing the mortals who had an important fate than I did...and yet…
Remaining invisible, she began to descend, heading toward the ground. She soon arrived at a large compound surrounded by high walls and barbed wire, protecting it from the chaos that had engulfed the world of humans.
What is this place? Kismet wondered as she slipped inside, as silent as a ghost.
It appeared to be some kind of research facility, though the Lord of Order didn't have the time to figure out exactly what sort of research they were conducting. There was little sand left in the hourglass now, and she went searching intently for the one she sought.
Fortune was with the Lord of Order, as she soon spotted the mortal she wanted. The woman in question was a very attractive strawberry blonde in a white lab coat, her belly swollen with child. More importantly, however, destiny swirled around her. It was invisible to the other mortals she surrounded herself with, but Kismet could see it as plain as day. Whoever this woman was, she would play a key role in events of enormous importance to the entire world.
Her decision made and her time expended, Kismet moved to bind her essence to the soul of the woman before her. No fanfare accompanied the action; there were no thunderous sounds or flashes of light. One moment Kismet was her own, unique being; the next, she was a fundamental part of the woman she had selected.
That woman wavered on her feet as the Lord of Order joined with her, though she was not aware of what had happened to her. All she knew was that she suddenly felt very strange.
Her co-worker, a rotund older man, quickly reached out to help steady her. "Are you all right, Kyoko?" he asked. "The baby's not coming already, is it?" he added, visibly alarmed.
Kyoko chuckled. "No, no," she said. "I just felt a little strange there for a moment. It's nothing."
"Well, if you're sure you're fine…"
Meanwhile, Kestrel was busy seeking out his own host. However, the Lord of Chaos wasn't bothering with the unwashed masses of humanity for his own search. No, he had no desire to join with any of the short-lived flesh bags.
He would attain immortality in a much simpler manner than Kismet: he would join with something that was immortal.
Which was why he had come to the Moon, rather than venturing to Earth. It was here, on the dark side of the celestial orb that humans couldn't see down on their world, that he found his new host.
There it is, he thought as the chrysalis came into view.
Kestrel quickly drew toward it, then gently lay a hand onto the outer shell, making contact with the mind of the unborn life that slumbered within. It was still alive, it was viable, and in time, it would be master of creation. Even before it had been born, it was quite sure of that.
Kestrel smiled and vanished, his being joining with the still dormant Angel.
Four years later…
"Are you sure this a good idea, Dr. Soryu? After what happened to Dr. Ikari in Japan…?"
"Relax, Hans, it'll be fine," Kyoko told the technician. "We've added in a lot of safety measures ever since Yui Ikari's tragic accident. The odds of something similar happening are minute."
"Still, shouldn't we get someone else to try this?" Hans vainly tried to convince her.
Kyoko quirked one slim eyebrow. "Who else, Hans?" she asked. "Who should we get to try this? Whose life is expendable?"
The stocky blond scientist tech scratched the back of his neck nervously. "That's not what I meant, Doctor," he said. "But…"
"I know, Hans," Kyoko said gently, "but someone's got to perform the Contact Experiment if we ever want to get the Evangelions to work, and it looks like I'm the only person who's actually willing to do it. It's just that simple."
Hans sighed in defeat. "I'll be in the control room with the others," he said, heading off and leaving Kyoko alone.
The strawberry blonde sighed and looked up at the silent red titan that was Evangelion Unit Two. It was an ugly thing, she decided, but weapons of war weren't supposed to look pretty.
There's no reason to be scared. It's fine. I'm fine, she told herself, before shaking her head. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? I'm freaking terrified!
What had happened to poor Yui made the prospect of taking part in a Contact Experiment frightening, no matter how many times she told herself about the new safeties. It was just the nature of the human mind to fear such things.
Suck it up, girl, Kyoko told herself sternly, finally getting her feet moving toward the entry plug.
Many of the people who knew the truth about Second Impact were foolish enough to believe that Adam's children would never awaken, and that there was thus no need for Evangelion. These short-sighted individuals' argument had gained momentum after Yui Ikari's untimely demise, and now the fate of Project-E was in danger.
Needless to say, the very fate of the world was entwined with Project-E, the only viable method of protecting the future. If Project-E itself was to have a future, then NERV needed to be able to show tangible progress, and soon.
But there won't be any progress if nobody has the guts to perform the Contact Experiment, Kyoko thought. So pull it together and do this. For Asuka's sake.
A few years ago, she might not have managed to summon the courage to do this, but becoming a mother had altered her perceptions on some things. Safeguarding the future seemed a lot more important these days.
She gave the tech crew a thumbs up before carefully climbing into the entry plug.
Ten years later…
"The Angel is advancing too quickly for you to engage it in the city," Misato's voice crackled over Unit Two's radio. "Therefore, we're going to deploy you within the Geofront. As soon as the Angel penetrates the armor layers, attack."
"Got it," Asuka said, even though she had barely heard the Ops Director's words.
The Second Child's heart was pounding in her chest. Her blood was singing in her veins. Every cell of her body felt alive with a heady mixture of fear and expectation.
Ever since news of the First Battle of Tokyo-3 had reached the Second Branch in Germany, the redhead had felt trapped within the shadow of the Third Child. She hadn't been the least bit impressed when she'd met him, but the newbie had kept stealing the spotlight from her, despite her years of training and preparation.
Now, though, Shinji was gone, resigned from NERV. With Unit Zero also out of commission and the Fourteenth Angel approaching, it was the perfect opportunity for her to shine.
This is it, she thought to herself. This is finally my chance. Let's go, Asuka.
A fireball bloomed into existence within the roof of the Geofront, and the Angel of Might began to descend into the citadel of humanity. It was an ugly, blocky creature with a skull-like face. The core in its torso shone with the reflected sunlight that filled the Geofront, a perfect target.
Unit Two raised the two pallet rifles it was holding and depressed the triggers, sending a hail of enormous shells flying toward the Angel. The rounds weren't obstructed by an AT field; the Evangelion was close enough to the Angel to neutralize the barrier, but even so, the weapons didn't seem to be having any effect.
Asuka swore in German as her rifles clicked empty, then grabbed another pair. "Next!" she shouted, just before she pulled the triggers.
Again, the weapons did nothing. The shells crashed into the Angel, exploding in great bursts of fire and smoke, but the beast itself remained unfazed. It slowly approached her, seemingly as inexorable as death.
The second pair of rifles clicked empty.
"Next!" she shouted, discarding the rifles and upgrading to a pair of rocket launchers.
She expended the ordnance inside her new weapons in approximately seven seconds, with still no effect to the Angel.
"Why isn't this working?" she demanded of no one in particular, feeling frustration welling up inside of her now. "I'm neutralizing its AT field, aren't I?"
Finally, in an act of desperation, the Second Child grabbed hold of a progressive spear and hurled it at the Angel. The tip of the weapon struck the ruby sphere in the Angel's core dead center, and for an instant, Asuka felt jubilation and relief course through her.
Then the spear bounced off the Angel, leaving nothing more than a deep scratch in the core. The beast didn't seem the least bit fazed by the apparently superficial wound.
However, it did seem pretty damn pissed off.
The twin bulges at either side of the Angel unfurled, becoming long, thin appendages. Asuka didn't know what her enemy planned to do with them, but she was certain it was going to be nasty. Having depleted her weapons cache, she drew Unit Two's progressive knife and got into a defensive stance.
For a second, the Geofront was quiet. After the great noise from all the explosions, the silence seemed to ring within the massive cavern.
Then the Angel's 'arms' lashed out, their movement as quick as lightning. Asuka slashed with her knife, but she was just a second too slow, the blade missing her enemy's flesh. The Angel's arms wrapped around those of Unit Two, lifting the crimson titan off its feet.
"No!" Asuka yelled, struggling mightily against her foe's hold.
Unfortunately, even Unit Two's formidable strength wasn't enough to escape the Fourteenth Angel's grip. The war machine was drawn toward the Angel until only a few yards separated the two; there was less than a hand's breadth between the two giants.
"No…" Asuka whispered, having a good idea what was to come next.
The Angel ignored her plea, and the empty sockets in its skull-like face flashed. An enormous blast of white energy exploded outwards, striking Unit Two at point blank range. Asuka screamed as the force of the attack sent her Unit Two flying away from the Angel, the Evangelion's arms tearing out of their sockets.
Unit Two bounced across the floor of the Geofront, like a rock skipping across the surface of a lake, spraying blood from its wounds as it went. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to Asuka, it came to a stop, landing on its back.
Gott damn it, she thought, her face twisted into a grimace of pain.
"Asuka? Asuka?" Misato's voice came over her radio.
"I'm here," she somehow managed to croak out.
"Asuka, retreat!" Misato ordered. "Get back here, now!"
Those words caused the Second Child to forget all about her pain. No, she would not retreat. She had trained her entire damn life for this moment, and she was not going to let it get flushed down the toilet because this Angel happened to be a little stronger than all the previous ones!
Ignoring the Ops Director, Asuka commanded Unit Two to kick out with both of its legs at once, using the momentum to propel the scarlet titan back to its feet without the aid of its arms.
"Damn you!" she shrieked at the Angel, throwing Unit Two into a sprint, "I'll kill you!"
The Angel lashed out with out of its arms again, and this time the appendage headed for her neck. Lost in the grip of pure rage, Asuka ignored the great and immediate threat to her own life.
Then the plug went dark around her, and she realized that her nerve connections to the EVA had been cut. The next instant, she heard a wet sucking sound from above herself, and she knew that the Angel had decapitated her Unit Two. The headless, armless giant wavered on its feet for a moment before falling to the ground, Asuka getting jostled around unpleasantly as it went.
With her Evangelion now thoroughly off-line, Asuka could no longer witness the actions of the Angel, but that was a blessing by this point…for if she had been able to watch it, she would have seen it pick up her progressive spear with one of its thin arms.
The Angel brought the spear crashing down upon Unit Two's torso. The Evangelion's armor was partially melted from the energy attack it had endured earlier, and the progressive weapon made it through easily, striking the core of the war machine.
And though no one, least of all Asuka, realized it at the time, the ruby sphere within Unit Two's body cracked.
All Asuka was aware of was that a bone jarring impact had gone through her Evangelion, and that her plug was on the verge of collapsing around her. It was too much for her abused body to take, and she at last blacked out.
NERV would soon deploy the damaged Unit Zero in an act of desperation. When that failed, Shinji would return to pilot Unit One once more and finally defeat the Angel, at the cost of being absorbed by the very weapon he piloted.
However, for Asuka, the battle was over.
The first day…
The mood inside Technical Division One's sizable portion of Central Dogma was somber, to say the least. The disaster with Unit Three and the Thirteenth Angel, followed so closely by the Fourteenth Angel's devastating attack had left everyone who worked for NERV in a grave mood, but it was worse for the lab coat brigade.
With two of the Evangelions half destroyed, and Shinji trapped inside the remaining one, NERV had no meaningful defenses against the Angels. It was Technical Division One's responsibility to rectify that situation as soon as possible, and they knew full well just how difficult that was going to be.
Maya was already starting to feel the strain. Of course, that was probably because she had been working hard for over twenty-four hours, like everyone else in Tech Div One.
I know it's crucial to get as many of the repairs to Units Zero and Two complete before necrosis sets in, but this is getting ridiculous, Maya yawned as she rode the elevator down to the recently repaired Pribnow Box. I'm dead on my feet.
The elevator released a loud ding! as it reached Maya's destination, jolting her out of the stupor she'd fallen into. The doors slid open, revealing the Pribnow Box control room.
Ritsuko looked up as her assistant entered. "Ah, Maya, good…" she trailed off as she noticed that the brunette was carrying a paper cup in each hand. "Please say one of those is for me."
"Of course, sempai," Maya said, at once handing over one of the coffees she was holding.
"Please say the other one is for me," Aoba practically begged from his place at one of the terminals.
"Nope," Maya said with a small smirk. "I would've brought you one, Shigeru, but I do only have two hands, you know."
"Right," the long haired man said gloomily, rubbing at his eyes.
Maya took a sip from her cup, then grimaced. "Believe me, you're not missing much," she said. "This is the swill from the commissary, after all."
"Bleh, and it seems like they're in top form over there," Ritsuko agreed, also making a face as she set her coffee cup down. "Anyway, Maya, I'm glad you're here. We need your help monitoring Unit Two's core."
The brunette glanced at the big window that showed the inside of the Pribnow Box, which was currently filled with a solution made from LCL and a nutrient mixture. The crimson Evangelion was inside it, and though it was still in bad shape, it was at least all in one piece again.
"What are we doing with the core, ma'am?" Maya asked, frowning slightly as she looked at the cracked ruby sphere in the Evangelion's torso.
She had known for a long time that Evangelions had cores just like Angels. Most NERV personnel weren't aware of that, but as the personal assistant to the Project-E chairperson, Maya had learned more of the organization's secrets than the average technician. She had never given the issue much thought before, but she had to admit that actually seeing the core of an Evangelion was rather disturbing somehow.
"We're going to attempt to repair it," Ritsuko answered. "If we can't, then the whole Evangelion's a loss, regardless of whether or not we can fix all the other damage."
"How do we fix a core?" Maya asked. As a general rule, NERV spent their time trying to figure out how to destroy those things, not how to repair them.
"Electricity, and lots of it. And before you ask, my mother discovered this fact during the GEHIRN days, but she never figured out why," Ritsuko said.
Maya nodded, suppressing a grimace. Too much of their understanding of EVA was like that; knowing what worked but not understanding the underlying science that explained it. It was a dangerous way to carry on, but they had little choice in the matter.
"How much electricity will this take?" Maya asked as she went to her station.
"Around 1.21 gigawatts, if my mother's notes are correct," Ritsuko answered. "We're going to be diverting most of the output from the base's reactor into the Box for this."
Maya raised her eyebrows. That was a hell of a lot of power.
"Monitoring systems on-line," Aoba announced. "So long as the equipment holds out, we should get data on the process in real time."
"Good," Ritsuko said. "Maya, you monitor the core. Notify me the second it's fully repaired, and if you see any unusual patterns, let me know. Aoba, you keep an eye on the power levels."
Ritsuko grabbed hold of a large switch. "Commencing operation in 3…2…1." She flipped the switch with a grunt of effort.
The effect was immediate. The lights inside the Pribnow Box control room—and the rest of the base—dimmed and began to flicker. There were no visible bolts of electricity within the plug itself, but Unit Two began to spasm slightly. If not for all the armor and restraints, it probably would have been flailing about wildly.
"No change in the core detected," Maya said.
"Aoba, how much juice are we using?" Ritsuko demanded.
"Approximately one gigawatt."
"Increase it to 1.1," the bottle blonde ordered.
"Yes, ma'am," Aoba said, punching in the appropriate commands.
The lights began to flicker more violently. Maya thought she heard a faint, electric hum coming from the direction of the Box.
"Still no effect," the brunette reported after checking her readouts.
"Increase to 1.2 gigawatts."
"Roger," Aoba said.
The overhead lights got even worse, until the moments when they weren't in darkness became the exception rather than the rule. The hum and crackle of energy increased in volume until Maya felt certain it wasn't her imagination.
"Core remains inert," Maya reported.
"Damn," Ritsuko cursed. "All right, increase the power to 1.25 gigawatts."
This time, the lighting didn't deteriorate further, though that was hardly possible without plunging them into total darkness. The humming grew louder, and Maya thought she could feel the floor shaking beneath her feet. She was suddenly all too aware that the base's generator wasn't far below them.
Fortunately, it seemed like this was finally enough juice to do the job. "The core appears to be healing," Maya reported after checking her readouts again.
"Good," Ritsuko said. "Now, with any luck, it'll be fully restored without—"
Her words were cut off by a deep, muffled bang from beneath their feet. The sounds of rumbling machinery and the hum of electricity quickly died. The lights went out at last, leaving the three of them in complete darkness.
"…incident," Ritsuko finished lamely.
They waited for a few seconds in silence.
"Why haven't the backup generators kicked in yet?" Ritsuko asked eventually.
Maya chuckled nervously. "Ah, they were damaged when the Angel barged into the base…"
"Wonderful," Ritsuko groaned. "Well, I guess getting the main reactor online again is our new project. Aoba, would you be so kind as to get this door open for us?"
"Yes, Dr. Akagi," the long haired man agreed reluctantly.
Fumbling around in the dark, Aoba was eventually able to locate a toolbox that had been left behind when the base's construction crews had rebuilt the Pribnow Box and its control room. He struck gold almost at once, finding a heavy crowbar, which he used to pry open the door.
"Ladies first," he said without enthusiasm, knowing that he'd have to similarly open every door between the Pribnow Box and the generator room.
Giving her subordinate a brief word of thanks, Ritsuko left the room, followed by Maya. Sighing softly, Aoba fell in line behind the two ladies, and the three of them left the control room behind.
However, if they had stayed, they would have been treated to quite a show.
Inside the Pribnow Box, bathed in darkness and unseen by all, the crack in Unit Two's core continued to shrink, like a rapidly healing wound. However, it would take several minutes for the breach to heal completely.
Normally, this wouldn't have been an issue. However, the massive amount of electricity the core had just been subjected to had reacted strangely to the supernatural energies of the soul housed within, changing it into something even more unique. More importantly, the fused essence of Kyoko and Kismet had the ability to make a break for it, where an ordinary soul would have remained trapped inside the damaged core.
Milky red light emerged from the crack in the sphere, quickly taking on the shape of a woman. However, no one would have mistaken her for an ordinary female. She was clearly not a being of flesh and blood; she looked more like a phantom than anything else.
Yet the glowing woman inside the Pribnow Box was alive. Alive, but dying. With Kyoko's physical body long since lost, she was now a being of pure energy, and that energy was rapidly dispersing now that it was outside of the Evangelion's core.
The badly confused and disoriented consciousness inside the energy being wasn't aware of any of this, though. Indeed, she interpreted the feeling of her form coming apart in a very basic sort of way.
Feeling as though needles of ice were piercing her being, the luminous woman picked a direction and began to move, slicing through the liquid she was immersed in with perfect ease. Her mind was completely consumed with the need to find some relief from her misery, making the questions of who and where she was seem distant and unimportant.
She reached the wall of the Pribnow Box…then went straight through it like a wraith, never slowing down in her search for some way to get warm.
"Okay, it's official. I hate my job."
This gripe was spoken into the darkness by a NERV Technician named Sasaki. He didn't know how Dr. Akagi had managed to knock out the power again (he had always secretly believed that NERV's resident mad scientist was responsible for the city wide blackout of several months ago and just refused to admit it), and truth be told, he didn't really care.
What he did care about was that he'd been ordered by his superior to head down to one of the base's storerooms and get batteries for the backup equipment and flashlights. After the endless hours he'd already worked, this was a chore he just didn't need.
"Why are all the doors here electronic only?" he wondered aloud as he used a metal bar to pry yet another one open. "You'd think they'd have learned their lesson after last time…"
With a mighty effort, Sasaki was able to get the door open just enough for him to slip through. He was about to continue on when he saw a faint light coming from down the hallway. Normally, such a thing wouldn't have been the least bit odd; others inside the base were certain to be moving around with flashlights.
However, the light was red.
What the hell? He wondered, frowning.
Sasaki knew he should probably just continue on his not so merry way and leave well enough alone, especially with the way the strange sight had suddenly set his heart hammering. However, his curiosity overcame his better judgment; he needed to find out where that crimson glow was coming from, if only to confirm that it wasn't anything…bad. He slowly approached the source of the red light, carefully peeking around a corner.
His breath caught in his throat at the sight of the crimson, woman-shaped thing his gaze fell upon.
A panicked Sasaki could only come to one conclusion about what he was seeing.
"Ghost!" he shrieked, and went running back the way he came as fast as his feet would carry him.
Startled, the energy woman turned to look at his retreating form. She hadn't even realized he was there until she'd heard his shout. She wondered what had frightened him so badly.
However, she had more pressing things to worry about; she still hadn't found any way to banish the terrible coldness that seemed to be eating her alive. Shrugging off her curiosity about the man, she continued her search, entering another of the many rooms inside NERV headquarters.
Finally, she hit pay dirt. The room she had entered looked like a laboratory of some sort (she didn't know how she was able to recognize a lab for what it was, only that she could), but that wasn't what concerned her. What caught her eye was the suit in the center of the room.
It was mostly red, with white on the legs and arms, as well as a white "S" in the middle of the chest. Whatever material the thing was composed of, it was stiff enough that the empty suit was able to stand on its own. Boots and gloves were part of the garment, which would cover everything on a person except the head.
Clothes, the woman thought.
She knew what clothes were, and she knew that people wore them partially to keep warm. She gratefully entered the suit, her ethereal form sliding into it with ease.
The electronics within the suit sensed that someone had put the garment on a moment later, and the machinery hidden inside the material came to life with a low hum, generating a containment field that held the energies which composed her form in place.
The woman inside the high tech suit didn't know this, or why her new clothing was suddenly making noise. What she did know was that she suddenly felt a lot better than she had a moment ago.
Warm, she thought, thank goodness.
Unseen by everyone, her now stabilized form began to change, losing its ghostly appearance and taking on the look of real flesh. Her eyes, which had been as crimson as the rest of her a moment ago, became a gentle green. Her hair, however, turned to a normally impossible shade of fire engine red.
She flexed her hands. Her mind seemed to be calming down now that she no longer felt like she was freezing to death, allowing her to think more clearly than before.
Where am I? She wondered. Who am I?
She racked her memory for the answers, knowing somehow that they should be there. However, the knowledge eluded her, seemingly just out of her reach.
She was still trying to figure out a course of action when she heard voices from outside the lab.
"I'm telling you, I saw it!" spoke a voice that she thought belonged to the frightened man she'd seen earlier.
"A ghost right?" a voice she didn't recognize asked in a mocking tone.
"Well, maybe not a ghost," the first man replied, sounding embarrassed. "But I saw something strange!"
"It's probably nothing, but if we're really unlucky, it's an Angel. Either way, we need to check it out," spoke a third voice, which sounded tired.
A moment later, the door to the lab opened, revealing a pair of men wearing red berets, as well as the man who had run away from her screaming earlier. The men with the berets each held a submachine gun, and they pointed the weapons at her immediately.
"Well, I'll be damned," one of them commented. "You really did see something, Sasaki."
"Well, of course I did, you—"
"Shut up, you two," the other armed man hissed, then spoke to the woman. "Identity yourself immediately."
The crimson-haired woman merely blinked at the three men, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights. How could she identify herself when she didn't know who she was?
"You hear me!" the man demanded after a few moments of silence. "Identify yourself, or we'll shoot!"
The woman panicked and fled. Operating on pure instinct, she flew toward one of the walls, her feet rising off the ground with the greatest of ease. The security guards fired, but they were too slow to hit her, and the attack just propelled her to greater speed. The woman reached the wall and flew straight through it without slowing down, vanishing from the room entirely and emerging in the next one.
Nor did she stop there. Instead, the woman changed direction, heading upward. She flew through floor after floor of the NERV pyramid, badly startling more than a few personnel as she went, until she at last emerged into the Geofront. From there, she continued heading upwards, going through the massive hole that the Fourteenth Angel had blown into the Geofront floor. Then, she quickly disappeared into the sprawl of Tokyo-3.
Back inside the lab, the two guards and one tech just stood there silently for several seconds.
"What the hell was she?" one of the guards finally spoke. "And what was she wearing?"
"Well," Sasaki said, "I don't know what she was, but she made off with the prototype for the S-type hazmat suit."
"What's that?" the other guard asked.
"It's, well, it's a hazmat suit," Sasaki said with a shrug. "It uses new technology to generate an electromagnetic containment field which isolates the person inside. It's supposed to let people work in hazardous environments without being encumbered by the bulky old suits."
"Why would she make off with that?"
"Well, I guess that is the question, now isn't it?" Sasaki replied.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it!" Asuka seethed, grabbing hold of one of her books and tearing several of the pages out. "Why? Why did that idiot have to save me again?"
The Second Child then moved to the CD player sitting on her desk, hurling it to the floor and then shattering it beneath her foot. The redhead was caught in the grip of a firestorm of rage, months' worth of anger and frustration suddenly finding explosive release.
Unfortunately, the only thing she had to vent that anger on was her own possessions, since the baka wasn't kind enough to be present at the moment.
"Why?" She yelled. "Why did he have to save me? Why was he able to defeat the Angel?"
Misato was gone, at the base. She was alone in the apartment, completely, profoundly alone; she had the whole building to herself. It allowed her to throw her temper tantrum without anyone complaining about the noise, but being so isolated disturbed her.
Which was another thing that angered her. She should be stronger than that! She shouldn't need anybody!
"Why wasn't I able to destroy the Angel?" she demanded of no one in particular. "What's the pathetic idiot got that I haven't got?"
He rage seemed to expend itself at last. Panting, Asuka dropped to her knees in the center of her room, looking around at all the carnage she'd unleashed. Well, that was fine, she decided. She had too much stuff, anyway. Besides, her material possessions were hardly her chief concern at the moment, anyway.
"Damn it, Shinji," she whispered. "Are you dead? Is…is everyone going to hate me for needing you to save me? For making it necessary for you to get yourself killed?"
All the pain, all the frustration, all the fear, and all the guilt and self loathing that she was feeling suddenly seemed to hit her all at once right then. Asuka felt her eyes suddenly grow moist, but she screwed them tightly shut, refusing to let herself cry.
Only helpless children cry, she thought.
That would really be it if she started bawling like a baby, she thought. She could kiss the last shred of her pride good-bye then, and if she didn't have her pride, the thing she had worked so hard for her whole life to deserve, then what reason did she have to keep going?
"Damn it," she whispered.
The second day…
The view from the roof of Yamagata Tower had once been a breathtaking sight. The skyscraper was one of the tallest buildings in the city, and the observation deck located at its pinnacle had allowed spectators a panoramic view of Tokyo-3.
That day, however, though the observation deck remained, the view wasn't nearly as good as it had once been. Rather than a glittering, modern metropolis, the rising sun revealed a blasted wreckage to the eyes of the woman who stood there.
"What is this place?" she wondered.
Of course, no one answered her. Though Yamagata Tower still stood, it had taken severe damage in the most recent battle and had been declared condemned. The whole skyscraper was empty, save for her.
Almost as empty as my mind, she thought with a sigh, still unable to recall who she was or how she'd ended up in this horrible place.
She didn't know what her next step should be. Indeed, she didn't know much of anything. She wanted to find out about herself, but she didn't know who to ask. The experience of being shot at wasn't making her eager to just start finding people and asking them if they knew who she was.
I should leave here, she thought as she continued to gaze out at the blasted cityscape. I should leave and find someplace friendlier. Someplace that's…less like here.
The logic seemed sound to her, but somehow she just couldn't bring herself to do it. She felt somehow tethered to this place, though she didn't know why.
Also, it wasn't as though she had any pressing need to get away. She had yet to feel hunger or fatigue, even though it had been many hours since she'd woken up. Apparently, whatever she was didn't need to eat like normal people did.
I…used to be a normal person, I think, she mused with a frown, again cursing her amnesia. So how did I become what I am now? For that matter, what am I now?
Not quite human any longer, that was for certain. She could fly without wings, as well as go through solid walls like they weren't even there.
She was pondering what other abilities she might have when it hit her. Even though there was no reason for it, she suddenly felt a wave of intense fear wash over her. She placed her hands over her suddenly hammering heart.
What in the world…?
Somehow, the electric woman knew that these weren't her emotions she was feeling; another person's acute terror was ripping through her. She didn't know how she knew this, only that she did.
She also knew where the source of the fear was. Without a second thought, she took off and was soon soaring through the sky above the city, heading toward it.
Uh-oh, she thought, she spotted the reason for the terror she was currently feeling.
There wasn't one person in trouble, as she had thought, but dozens. A passenger train was speeding along the tracks, as it probably did everyday. That day, however, there was a break in the rails, which had probably been caused by the last Angel. The electric woman had no idea how no one had managed to notice that until now, but it didn't matter. The train operator had obviously hit the brakes, but the train was decelerating much too slowly. There were only seconds left before a catastrophic crash.
What do I do? She wondered frantically. She had expected to find a person being threatened by a mugger, a petty criminal that she could easily frighten off.
Not a catastrophic accident in the making.
She bit her lower lip. There has to be something I can do, she thought, narrowing her eyes and frantically searching for some way to avert the disaster.
And that was when it happened.
All of a sudden, her sight was beyond that of a human's; she could see electricity, and not just the juice that flowed through the rails, powering the train. The power of the Earth's electromagnetic field, flowing all around her, was now as visible as the color red to the amnesiac woman.
It should've been utterly overwhelming to take in, but somehow it wasn't. Somehow it was like she had always been able to see all this, like it was perfectly natural to her. Not only that, but along with her new sight, the fiery woman just knew she'd gained the ability to manipulate the forces she could see. It was…instinctive; she reached a hand out, bending electromagnetism to her will.
Tongues of scarlet energy crackled around the bottom of the out-of-control train, and the huge vehicle rose up over the tracks, its wheels suddenly spinning pointlessly in the air as its forward motion was halted. The red and white clad woman saw several passengers being thrown forward by the force of inertia, and she winced.
Well, that's a whole lot better than if the train had crashed, she thought sheepishly.
A few moments later, the wheels of the train ceased spinning, and the crimson-haired woman gently set the train down on the tracks. The doors quickly opened and people soon began to stumble out onto the street.
"Maybe one of them knows who I am," she whispered to herself. "Maybe one of them can help me."
The prospect hearted her, and she was about to fly down toward the train. The moment before she could move however, one more person emerged, walking on shaky legs, and her eyes widened when she saw him.
He was one of the same men she had encountered right after obtaining her new clothes!
She hesitated, suddenly not sure what to do…and the man spotted her, his head snapping in her direction. Their gazes locked…and she saw anger flare in his eyes.
The electric woman reacted to that anger instantly. Before she even realized what she was doing, she had turned and begun to fly away from the scene at top speed.
The fifth day…
"Okay, this is definitely a new low for me," Misato said as she took a long pull on her can of Boa beer.
It certainly wasn't that she'd never pounded back brews until she was drunk; she did that all the time. Nor was it that she'd never gotten drunk alone before; while she frequently indulged in social drinking, it was still common for her to throw back several cold ones by herself.
In the past, however, she'd never sat down with the goal of getting completely hammered in mind.
She'd knock back a few shots to help herself sleep. She'd treat herself to several beers to celebrate the end of the work day. She'd decide that Pen-Pen had challenged her to a drinking contest. She'd get thirsty while watching TV and go to her personal stash of booze.
She didn't come home and blatantly say to herself "I need to drink until I can't think anymore."
Maybe she was just dropping all the pretenses, at long last, but it still disturbed her. Yet she couldn't make herself stop.
Shinji, she thought. God, if that kid doesn't come back…
She took another long drink, trying to drown out the rest of that thought. It didn't work; she wasn't drunk enough yet. She really needed to switch to hard liquor. The beer might taste good, but it just didn't have the necessary kick.
A hundred different thoughts swirled around inside her head, none of them pleasant. Was this all her fault? Had she persuaded Shinji to pilot when he otherwise would have left NERV? Should she have made sure he got onto the train herself, the first time he'd tried to leave the city?
She tried to take another drink from her can, only to find it empty. Suddenly angry, she threw the thing away with all her might. It hit one of the cabinets and then bounced around the kitchen for a few seconds before coming to a stop on the floor.
This place is turning back into a pig sty, she noted as she went to get herself another beer.
She cracked the next can open, but she abruptly wasn't willing to drink without pretense any longer. Walking to the living room with wobbly steps, Misato turned on the TV, which was currently showing the evening news.
"…citizens of Tokyo-3 continue to trickle back into the city, following the mandatory evacuation that was declared after the most recent attack. However, civilians might not be the only thing inhabiting the city these days. Multiple individuals have claimed to have seen a mysterious woman in red flying through the air in and around Tokyo-3, and one of them even managed to get a picture of her."
The screen shifted to a blurry photo that had probably been taken with a cell phone camera. It showed a vaguely person-shaped red blob in front of a blurry gray background that could've been any major city in the world.
"There have been multiple rumors that this individual rescued a train leaving the Geofront from crashing, but both NERV and the city council have denied these claims," the anchorwoman said. "So, what do you think? Is Tokyo-3 home to its very own Strange Visitor, or this mystery woman merely a new urban legend? Let us know at w-w-w-dot—"
Misato switched off the TV.
"Great," she grumbled, "as though the Angels aren't bad enough, now this city has space aliens."
She heard a rustling from down the hall and knew it was Asuka doing…something.
Asuka, Misato thought with a sigh. That girl had been absolutely miserable since the last battle. The purple haired woman knew she should try to comfort her charge, but she had no idea how.
What am I supposed to say to her? She wondered. "Gee, sorry you got shown up by Shinji again. But look on the bright side! At least you're not trapped inside Evangelion like he is!"
No, clearly that wouldn't do, but she had no idea what would.
I'm a horrible guardian, Misato thought.
She continued to sit on the couch for several more moments, before abruptly rising to her feet. She staggered back toward the kitchen, more morose than ever.
"Okay," she murmured, "time for the hard stuff."
The seventh day…
Unit Two looked like crap. There was simply no other way to describe it.
The armor was still missing or mangled in several places, and the head and arms had only recently been reattached, the flesh around them still puffy and red. All in all, it looked like someone had reassembled her Evangelion with little more than spit, duct tape, and wishful thinking.
It looks as banged up as my pride, Asuka decided with a scowl as she surveyed the damaged war machine.
She and the rest of NERV had been saved by Shinji. The boy who'd quit. The boy who'd run away. The boy who, despite all that, was still better than her.
"Gott damn it," she breathed, clenching her fists so tightly that her knuckles turned white beneath the gloves of her scarlet plug suit.
She turned to see Ibuki approaching her. The woman looked absolutely exhausted, but her harried appearance did little to invoke sympathy from the angry redhead.
Probably working around the clock trying to figure out how to rescue the idiot, she thought.
"What is it?" she asked.
Maya rubbed her bleary eyes. "We're ready for you in the test chamber."
"Are you even sure that there's any point to this?" Asuka complained, even as she followed the tech. "Unit Two doesn't exactly look like it's ready for action."
"We've made sure to repair it thoroughly enough for a synch test," Maya replied. "We want to run these tests to determine which Evangelion we should put priority on repairing first."
"What? You mean you're actually considering repairing that kludge before my Unit Two?" Asuka demanded.
"It's the Commander's decision," Maya replied tiredly.
Which of course, Asuka knew, was the technician's way of saying that there was no point arguing the matter with her. Still grumbling to herself, the Second Child completed her trek to the test chamber. It felt strange getting into the big metal tube without Shinji and Rei around.
A few moments after she was sealed inside the metal tube, the instruments within it began to come to life. A window labeled "FROM COMMAND" popped up on her HUD, showing the face of Lieutenant Ibuki.
"I'll be the one running this test," the tech answered Asuka's unspoken question. "Dr. Akagi is busy elsewhere."
Trying to save the baka, probably, Asuka thought.
"Let's just get this over with," the redhead grumbled.
"Right," Maya agreed. "Establishing wireless link between EVA Unit Two and test plug…neural links opening…there, test is a go."
Asuka frowned, looking around at the interior of the plug. She didn't feel that familiar tug on her mind…
"You did something wrong," she said. "I don't feel synched."
Maya glanced from Asuka to a control panel that the Second Child couldn't see, then back again. The techie's expression was one of bewilderment.
"Uh, that's because your synch ratio is three percent," Maya said.
"…WHAT? No! That's impossible!" Asuka snapped, even as she felt a little worm of fear crawling into her heart. "You must've messed up the wireless link! Or Unit Two's still too banged up for this!"
"I'm running a diagnostic now…" Maya said.
For the next two minutes, Asuka didn't breathe. If the LCL hadn't been oxygenating her blood directly, she would've passed out.
Then the tech shook her head. "I'm sorry, Asuka, but all the hardware and software checks out," she said. "You're below the absolute borderline. You can't make Unit Two move."
The tenth day…
Most people, Fuyutski knew, were afraid of Gendo Ikari's office, which wasn't really a surprise. Gendo had chosen the décor with intimidation in mind, in an effort to help him control anyone who entered his sanctum.
However, after years of exposure to the Commander's "lair", Fuyutski no longer found himself frightened of the place. The dim lighting was rather soothing, and the Tree of Life etched into the floor was just so many silly lines and whirls.
At least, that's what he told himself. It helped him get through the day.
"What do you make of it, Fuyutski?" Gendo asked, holding forward a small sheaf of papers.
The old professor took them, even though he really didn't need to. He'd already read the reports.
"Her ratio's below the absolute borderline," Fuyutski said. "She can't pilot Unit Two."
Gendo just gave him a look. Clearly, the Commander wanted more than just what had been plainly stated in Dr. Akagi's report on the matter.
Fuyutski resisted the urge to smirk. The Commander always looked so composed, but the old professor knew he could get under the younger man's skin at times.
"The Second Child's synchronization ratio was already decreasing before the Fourteenth Angel appeared," he said. "It's not surprising that her defeat at its hands would lead to a further drop. Still, for her ratio to go from where it was into the single digits…that's a very large drop. Too large."
"So what do you believe is the reason behind this?" Gendo asked.
"I think it's the EVA, and judging from the fact that you asked the old metaphysical biologist about this rather than Dr. Akagi, you feel the same way," Fuyutski said.
"The core of Unit Two was cracked," Gendo said. "Has the soul been lost?"
"No, at least some of it remains," Fuyutski said. "The Second Child's synchronization level would be zero otherwise. It's more likely that only part of it was lost."
Gendo frowned. "Is that possible?"
"With the other Evangelions, I'd say no," Fuyutski answered. "However, the way that Unit Two's core was formed was always…rather unique. Remember, Dr. Soryu's soul was split when she performed her contact experiment. The part of it that recognized Asuka as her daughter went into the Evangelion, while the rest remained with her until she died."
"Go on," Gendo said.
"Upon her death, the part of her soul that remained with her physical body was transferred to the Evangelion," Fuyutski continued. "It's possible that that part—the larger part—was never quite as firmly tethered to EVA as the part that recognized Asuka as her daughter. So when the core was damaged, it was lost, while the smaller portion remained."
Gendo frowned, deep in thought. "The entity that stole the prototype hazmat suit…could that have been some manifestation of Kyoko Soryu's soul?"
Fuyutski shook his head. "No. I realize the timing is convenient, but there's never been a shred of evidence that a human soul can continue to exist outside of some kind of physical vessel. Or at least, there's no evidence that a human soul can exist here without a body."
Gendo all but snorted derisively at the last remark. He had never believed in heaven. So far as he was concerned, if a person wanted to live in paradise, he had to forge it himself.
"So now we have an Evangelion and an Evangelion pilot that are both all but useless," he said. As if NERV didn't have enough problems on its plate.
The fifteenth day…
Not far away, the woman that the local media had dubbed Strange Visitor looked down at the city from the top of another building.
She had spent the past few days tentatively exploring Tokyo-3, yet despite her caution, she'd been seen many more times since the train incident. Still, she was no closer to figuring out who or what she was than she'd been two weeks ago, and she was starting to get frustrated.
I should leave here, she thought. Find some place where it's safer for me and start speaking to people. Maybe I'll find someone who can help me.
Yet she couldn't. The mere idea of leaving the area filled her with a mysterious yet undeniable sense of dread, as if departing meant leaving a piece of herself behind. For better or for worse, she was tied to this area somehow.
Strange Visitor was about to start wondering why that was for approximately the hundredth time when she felt it: a horrible feeling of sadness and loneliness suddenly filled her chest.
"What in the world…?" she gasped out.
She had experienced this kind of thing several more times since her first day in Tokyo-3. Mercifully, someone nearby had to be experiencing some very powerful emotions to trigger her empathic sense, she had learned.
She had ignored all the emotional flares she'd felt after the first, since responding to that had almost gotten her into a second confrontation with one of the men who'd shot at her. However, she'd never felt anything like this; the anguish in her chest was so powerful that it was a physical pain.
I have to find whoever's feeling this, she decided. Help them…
She leaped off the building she stood upon and went flying through the air, doing her best to follow her strange sixth sense to the source of the sorrow she was experiencing.
Fortunately, it didn't take long for her to find the person she sought. A girl was falling through the air next to a building, her long copper colored hair whipping about wildly in the wind.
She wasn't screaming as she went tumbling down toward the sidewalk below, nor was she flailing about. An observer could have been pardoned for thinking she was already dead.
Strange Visitor knew better, however. She pushed her mysterious powers to the limit, flying toward the falling girl as if her own life depended upon reaching her in time.
"Come on," Strange Visitor breathed. "Come on…"
"Well, I guess this is it, then," Asuka whispered to herself as she looked down at the ground from the roof of the thirty-five story building.
It should've been harder to make this decision, the redhead mused as she lingered on the precipice. It really should have, but ever since she had proven incapable of activating Unit Two any longer, it had seemed so simple.
I can't pilot EVA anymore, she thought. I'm useless.
By itself, that would've still been awful, but the Second Child was starting to truly realize just how little else she had to live for.
No one really cared about her.
She had lost Kaji to Misato a long time ago, her efforts at being the kind of real woman he would've wanted having proved futile. She'd barely even seen the long haired man ever since he'd resumed his relationship with his old flame.
Misato herself didn't give a damn about her. The woman had just been getting drunk off her ass ever since the last battle. She would cry herself to sleep with Shinji's name on her lips, while ignoring the redhead. It was abundantly clear which of her charges she cared about.
Shinji…Shinji liked Ayanami, not her. And why not? All she had ever done was abuse him in her quest to prove she was superior to him, a quest she had ultimately failed at. She had almost gotten the idiot killed when they'd fought the Twelfth Angel. He had every reason to hate her.
Beyond that…beyond that there was nothing. People had admired and respected her because she piloted an Evangelion, but those days were over now. She had nothing.
Tears formed in her eyes, and for the first time in years, Asuka let them fall. She might as well complete her utter failure in everything before she went.
The Second Child stood there for a long time, tears silently running down her cheeks, before she decided to finally do what she'd come here to do.
"Good-bye," she whispered to everyone and no one, stepping over the edge of the building.
The sound of the wind seemed to fill her ears almost immediately as she started to fall, and Asuka felt a great wave of mixed emotions sweep over her. Part of the redhead was relieved that it would all be over, that she wouldn't have to struggle so hard to be the best, only to endure the humiliation when she failed in spite of her best efforts. Yet a surge of great dismay also rose up in her chest; she could barely believe that this was the end. She had certainly expected to live a lot longer than fourteen years.
What's done is done, she thought, looking downwards.
Asuka had planned to face the end with eyes wide open, but she found that she just couldn't do that once she caught sight of the ground rushing up to meet her. She squeezed her eyes shut; thus, she never saw the woman who was flying toward her, the lady's entire lower half having taken on the appearance of a crimson lightning bolt.
"Ooph!" Asuka exclaimed, the wind getting knocked from her lungs as she came to an abrupt but not fatal stop.
Her eyes popped open, and the first thing she saw was the kind yet eerily familiar face of Strange Visitor looking down at her. The extraordinary woman had caught her in midair and was holding her in her arms like a small child.
"Please, Miss," the woman said gently. "Giving up isn't the answer."
Asuka just blinked at the electric woman for several seconds. She hadn't exactly been keeping tabs on local news lately, so she hadn't heard of Strange Visitor at all. Under ordinary circumstances, she might have wanted to know just who—or what—this woman was, but these were hardly ordinary circumstances.
"Why did you do that?" she asked softly.
"I didn't want you to die," Strange Visitor replied simply.
"But I did!" Asuka exclaimed, and she realized that she was suddenly on the verge of crying again.
This time, however, she ruthlessly suppressed the urge, as she had so many times before. Broken though she might be, she still wasn't going to let herself cry when someone was watching her.
"That's very sad," Strange Visitor commented.
"That's very sad?" Asuka echoed incredulously. "That's very sad? That's all you can say? Gott damn you, bitch, I don't think I can work up the nerve to do that again, but I can't…I can't…" her throat felt thick all of a sudden, and she had to stop, lest she start bawling again after all.
Strange Visitor didn't reply. Instead, she silently flew toward a tall but abandoned building, landing on the roof. Without putting the girl down, she headed to a small metal door that led inside, using her electromagnetic abilities to open it.
The top floor of the building turned out to be some sort of observation lounge, with windows all around providing a panoramic view of the city. It was as derelict as the rest of the structure, of course, but the furniture was still there, albeit covered in plastic.
Strange Visitor gently plopped Asuka down into a leather chair. "Why don't you tell me why you were so miserable that you decided to walk off the side of a tall building?" she asked.
"Why should I?" Asuka asked petulantly.
"Because I won't let you leave here, otherwise," Strange Visitor replied sweetly.
Asuka just glared silently at the electric woman by way of response, and Strange Visitor sighed.
"Why don't I tell you some things about myself, first?" she suggested. "Unfortunately, there's not much to tell, or more accurately, there's not much I remember; I believe the term is…amnesia, yes?"
Asuka still said nothing, but Strange Visitor thought she saw a glint of curiosity in her blue eyes.
"I don't even know what my name is. The people here seem to have dubbed me 'Strange Visitor', which I suppose is as good a name as any," she said. "The first thing I remember is waking up and being cold, extremely cold. I eventually found some clothing, but immediately afterwards, some men showed up and started shooting at me…"
She told the girl her whole story, from her escape to her confused exploration of the city, all the way up to the present. It didn't take very long, considering how short her tale was, but Asuka became interested in it despite herself.
"It sounds like NERV," she said once Strange Visitor had finished. "The place where you woke up sounds like NERV, but why would they create something like you? Are you supposed to be some anti-Angel weapon or something?"
Strange Visitor shook her head. "I couldn't tell you," she said. "What's an Angel?"
"…never mind," Asuka said.
"All right," Strange Visitor agreed, a sly smile forming on her face. "So, now that I've told you about myself, it's your turn."
Asuka sighed gustily. She didn't want to have a heart to heart with this mysterious woman who had plucked her out of the sky, she just wanted all the humiliation and misery and feelings of worthlessness to go away once and for all.
However, she was too damn tired to put up a fight.
"My name is Asuka Langley Soryu," she said. "I am—I was—the pilot of Evangelion Unit Two…"
Reluctant though she had been to start talking, she found the words pouring out of her once she had begun. She didn't tell Strange Visitor about the grisly discovery she had made when she'd gone to visit her mother in the hospital at the tender age of four—that bit of her personal history was one she didn't share easily—but there was little else she omitted. Asuka told Strange Visitor about how her mother had died when she was very young, and how that event had taught her that you could never really depend on anyone besides yourself. She told her about how elated she had been when she'd been selected to pilot Evangelion, and how she had worked to be the best, not just at EVA, but at everything. She told her how all her work, all the sacrifices she had made in her life, had proved useless next to Shinji Ikari, a timid and weak boy who somehow still managed to make a mockery of everything that she was. Asuka told Strange Visitor how she hadn't even been able to win the affection of that timid and weak boy, and how no one had ever loved her.
"Do you see now?" Asuka asked when she was finished, fighting off tears for what felt like the umpteenth time that day. "Do you see why I just wanted to die? Why you should've just let me fall?"
Strange Visitor paused for a moment, selecting her next words carefully. "I see why you're so miserable, but I think you still have a great deal to live for," she said. "With or without this Evangelion thing, you're still a beautiful and brilliant young woman. You've got a lot to offer the world, and I'm sure a lot of people could love you, if you let them."
Asuka laughed bitterly. "You sound like an after school special or something."
"Maybe so," Strange Visitor said, "but it's true."
The redhead sighed and got up from her chair, pacing around the room. "Maybe," she conceded reluctantly, "but without EVA I just feel…useless."
"If you need…a mission, then perhaps you can help me," Strange Visitor said.
Asuka turned to look at her rescuer. "What do you need my help for?" she asked, frowning.
"I don't know who I am, Asuka. I don't know what I am, and I have no idea why I feel compelled to stay in this city," Strange Visitor said, spreading her arms out in a helpless gesture. "But you seem to have some idea, or at least know where to start looking for answers. Please, I need someone to help me figure this out so I can move on, and you're the only person who's even actually had a conversation with me."
Asuka hesitated for a long moment, considering. Two hours ago, she would've said that she didn't owe the electric woman a damn thing. Now, however…
Now she was starting to feel rather disgusted at herself for trying to take the easy way out. Also, as much as she would hate to admit it, she did feel a bit better after having let most of her problems come spilling out. Asuka wasn't certain she really believed what Strange Visitor had said about her having a lot to offer the world, regardless of whether EVA was involved or not, but it was nice to hear someone say so.
"I'll see what I can dig up," Asuka said, "but I can't promise you anything."
"Thank you," Strange Visitor said. "I'll hang around this building. If you find anything out, come back here and I'll show up."
"Got it," Asuka said, and headed for the door.
"Oh, and Asuka?" Strange Visitor said.
"Yes?" she asked, stopping and turning around.
"You can also come to see me if you ever just want someone to talk to," Strange Visitor added gently. "Any time, day or night. I don't sleep."
"Thanks," Asuka said.
It took Asuka another hour to make her way down the abandoned building and back through the city to the apartment she currently called home. She tromped up the stairs and opened the front door, quietly entering.
"Where the hell have you been?" Misato barked at her the moment she entered the apartment.
"What?" Asuka managed to get out, blinking at her guardian in stunned surprise. The Second Child hadn't expected to find Misato waiting for her when she got back. Frankly, she'd expected Misato to either be at NERV or passed out drunk at the kitchen table. Yet here she was, looking quite sober.
"You gave Section Two the slip over three hours ago!" Misato screeched. "I've had them and half the city's police force looking everywhere for you! Now where were you all that time?"
Asuka's first impulse was to snap that it was none of Misato's business and then storm off to her room. However…
I'm sure a lot of people could love you, if you let them, Strange Visitor's voice echoed in her mind.
She still felt too weary of everything to want to fight, anyway.
"I just needed some time alone, really alone I mean, to think," she said, looking away. "To clear my head."
Misato glared at her for a few seconds, then her gaze softened, and her shoulders relaxed. She sighed. "You scared the shit out of me there, Asuka," she said bluntly. "I was afraid that you were going to…that you were going to do something awful."
"I'm sorry," Asuka said, and to her surprise, she discovered that she truly was.
She had never thought of Misato as someone she had to worry about hurting before. It wasn't that she believed her guardian was emotionless or anything, but she'd never thought Misato felt that close to her. From Asuka's point of view, they were friends, maybe, at the best of the times. The rest of the time, their relationship was strictly professional.
I guess Misato doesn't really see it that way, though, she thought, feeling a fresh spike of shame at what she'd tried to do earlier that day.
Misato sighed. "It's all right," she said. "I guess I don't have much right to be upset when you don't feel the need to tell me about these sort of things. I've been completely ignoring you ever since the last battle, haven't I?"
"Yeah, kinda," Asuka said, not knowing how to sugarcoat it.
"I'm sorry," Misato said, averting her gaze from the redhead.
"…it's okay," Asuka said, feeling more awkward by the second.
Misato didn't say anything further, and after a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, Asuka made her way to her room.
The Twenty-Second Day…
"This is amazing," Asuka breathed.
Strange Visitor smiled. "I thought you might like it," she said. "You're not too cold, are you?"
"No, not at all," the Second Child answered.
This was actually a complete lie; Asuka was freezing. It was impossible not to be, considering that they were far above even the tallest building in Tokyo-3. The redhead wasn't about to complain, though; the view alone was worth turning blue for.
"It looks like they've really done a lot of work repairing the city," the electric woman commented. "They've completely patched the hole that led to that cave under the city."
"Yeah, they tend to fix this place really quickly," Asuka agreed, adjusting her grip.
When Strange Visitor had proposed the idea of taking her young friend for a flight, the Second Child had been eager to go, but she'd refused to be carried around bridal style again. As a result, she was currently on Strange Visitor's back, her arms around the older woman's neck.
It wasn't exactly the most secure position, but Asuka had complete faith that, if she was to lose her grip and fall, her friend would catch her before she could go splat.
"It's nice up here, isn't it?" Strange Visitor asked. "To me, it always feels as though I've escaped all my worries when I fly, as if I leave them on the ground."
Asuka just made a noncommittal noise in response. Being so far above everything was indeed liberating, but she had no doubt that all her troubles would still be waiting back on terra firma when she went back down.
"Oh, by the way, I've been keeping my ear to the ground about you," Asuka said, wanting to change the subject. "It definitely seems like NERV headquarters was the place where you woke up. Everybody is talking about this 'red ghost' that they think haunts the base. Half the staff is saying they saw it. You."
"Interesting. Do you think you can find out anything else about me?"
"I sure plan to try," Asuka replied.
It's not like I have much else to do these days, she silently added.
The electric woman smiled gratefully. "Thank you, Asuka. I appreciate your efforts."
"But that's not why we're up here," Strange Visitor said.
Asuka, who was fighting to keep her teeth from chattering by this point, reluctantly decided that it was indeed time to get to the point of this excursion. "Right, you said you wanted to show me something. What was it?"
"This," Strange Visitor answered, spreading her arms wide, almost as though to embrace the entire city of Tokyo-3 and all the world beyond.
Asuka chuckled. "I've been looking at that since we got up here."
"Yes, but there's a certain way I want you to see it."
The redhead frowned. "How's that?"
"We've got the whole world spread out beneath us down there, Asuka," Strange Visitor said. "There are probably millions in just the part that we can see from where we are, never mind the billions more that live on this planet. Out of all the people who have called this world home, how many do you think have achieved greatness? How many have been widely remembered long after they're gone?"
"I don't know. A few hundred? A thousand?"
"A thousand, out of uncountable billions who have lived and died on this planet," Strange Visitor said solemnly. "And you want to become one of them. I can respect that."
"I know you do," Asuka whispered.
Most people had scoffed at the Second Child's desires to achieve greatness, though few had had the nerve to do so right to her face. They thought she was just some stupid kid with delusions of grandeur.
Strange Visitor, however, had never thought that. Even though the scarlet-haired woman had seen her at her absolute lowest, she had always respected Asuka's ambitions.
The electric woman stared off into space, her eyes distant. "I think I might've had that same thirst once."
Asuka blinked. "Is your memory coming back?"
"What?" Strange Visitor shook her head, as if to clear it. "No, it was just…just an intuition."
"In any event," the scarlet-haired woman said, resuming her earlier speech, "every single person who's ever become great—every war hero, every peace activist, every innovator, every scientist, every leader, every revolutionary—did it without an Evangelion. I see no reason why you can't do it without one, too."
"But I've devoted practically my entire life to EVA," the Second Child protested.
"Asuka, you're only fourteen years old," Strange Visitor replied gently. "There's plenty of time for you to start over. I realize that it will be difficult, but if it was that easy to be great, then everyone would do it."
Asuka didn't respond to that. The idea of choosing some new grand endeavor and starting anew was daunting, to put it mildly, especially since she had no idea what to redirect her energies toward.
Yet, at the same time, the notion appealed to her. She had never thought much about life after EVA at all. Now thinking that she might pursue some fresh challenge, that it might even be okay that she hadn't excelled at EVA piloting like she'd always expected to…
It made Asuka feel just a little bit hopeful for the first time in what felt like an eternity.
"Can we go back now?" she asked. "I'm starting to get really cold."
Asuka was feeling more than cold, she realized as Strange Visitor began to fly them back to the building the electric woman more or less called home. There was a strange sensation inside her torso. She would've been hard pressed to put it into words, but if she'd had to, she would've described it by saying that it felt like something was building up inside of her.
Like carbonation building beneath a cork, the redhead mused.
This wasn't the first time she'd experienced this; there had been a few instances in the past, all of which had occurred when she was around Strange Visitor. Part of her worried that the electric woman might be radioactive or something, but she was willing to take that risk. Frankly, she needed her new friend right now.
Also, she knew that what she was experiencing wasn't a symptom of radiation poisoning.
"Are you all right? You're so quiet," Strange Visitor remarked.
They arrived at the roof of the abandoned building a few minutes later. Asuka and Strange Visitor headed for the door into the structure, but the electric woman let out a gasp before she walked ten steps.
The Second Child whirled around to see her friend clutching her chest. "Are you all right?"
Strange Visitor nodded. "I'm fine. It's just one of my…stranger abilities. Sometimes when someone nearby is feeling a particularly strong emotion, I feel it, too. It's how I found you."
"What do you do when it happens?" Asuka asked.
"Usually, I ignore it."
"What? Why?" the Second Child blurted out. "I mean, if you'd ignored me, I'd be dead!"
"Your emotions were…extremely strong. I might not have sought you out, otherwise," Strange Visitor confessed, her head bowed. "I responded the first time, and it did not go very well."
The electric woman quickly explained about the train she'd prevented from violently derailing, and how she had been spotted by one of the same men who'd shot at her.
"If I'd stayed, I probably would've been rewarded by getting shot at again," Strange Visitor said.
"But that was just bad luck!" Asuka exclaimed. "You can't just ignore it when you know people can use your help! Especially considering you don't have a whole lot else to do besides help them…" she added in a softer, more sympathetic tone.
Strange Visitor looked doubtful. "I'm not sure…"
"Hey, getting saved by you…meeting you…it was the best thing that happened to me in a long time," Asuka said quietly. "I just don't see how it's right for you to hold back from helping other people. And who knows? Maybe the universe will actually work the way it should for once, and if you do good, good will come back to you."
Strange Visitor looked out into the distance. "You may be right…"
Asuka grinned. "Give 'em hell, girl."
The electric woman shook her head ruefully, but a smile had appeared on her face. Without another word, she took to the air and was soon flying to the aid of the person she'd sensed.
The Twenty-Seventh Day…
"Status of the repairs?" Ritsuko asked with preamble as she strode into the NERV command center.
It certainly wasn't a complex question, and it should have been more than obvious what repairs the bottle blond scientist was referring to. Despite this, however, Makoto, Ibuki, and Aoba just blinked stupidly at her for several seconds, clearly not comprehending.
Which was actually understandable, considering the utterly brutal hours they (along with the rest of NERV's small army of technicians and engineers) had been working for nearly a month now. The three of them had reached the point where they could mainline caffeine without effect.
"The repairs?" Ritsuko asked again, growing impatient at the blank expressions she was getting.
How can she still be so alert? Aoba wondered tiredly, still not quite comprehending the question. If anything, she's been working harder than the rest of us.
The Project-E chairperson was about to start yelling when it finally clicked inside Makoto's mind.
"Oh! The repairs!" he exclaimed. "Yes, um, the repairs to Units Zero and Two are finished. Both EVA's are fully battle ready."
"Don't know why we bothered to fix Unit Two," Aoba grumbled quietly. "We have no pilot for it."
Ritsuko ignored the remark. "And Unit One?"
"Unit One can't be completely repaired until all the equipment involved in the extraction operation is removed," Makoto said. "We've done all the work on it that we can for the moment."
Ritsuko nodded. "Very good. All right, people, go home and get a good night's rest."
The trio of technicians couldn't have looked more ecstatic if she'd informed them that they'd each just won a billion yen.
Of course, the scientist then had to go and dump a bucket of cold water on their excitement.
"With the repairs all but finished, we can direct all our energies toward getting Shinji out of Unit One," she said. "The next few days are going to be very busy, so enjoy the reprieve."
The three technicians instantly wilted. "Yes, Dr. Akagi," they chorused dutifully.
The Thirty-First Day…
"So, yeah, that thing you're wearing is definitely the proto-type hazmat suit that NERV was working on," Asuka said.
"Is that why they've been after me?" Strange Visitor asked. "Because I'm wearing stolen property?"
Asuka shook her head, plopping down in one of the still plastic covered leather chairs in the room. "No," she said. "I mean, that's their excuse, but I doubt they'd still be after you if that was all there was to it. I don't know what their real reason is, but my guess is that they want to stick you inside a giant test tube and figure out what makes you tick."
"I can understand that desire, but I have no wish to be their test subject," Strange Visitor commented, looking down at her hand as she clenched and unclenched it. "Unfortunately, it seems that NERV doesn't know any more about me than I do."
"They know more, but they're being very secretive about it," Asuka commented, looking through the windows at the city beyond. "I had to look through the MAGI database using Dr. Akagi's profile to learn as much as I did. The rest of the information they have on you is actually classified beyond her level."
"Couldn't you have gotten into trouble for doing that?" Strange Visitor asked, in a tone that was half scolding and half concerned.
Asuka smirked bitterly. "What are they going to do?" she asked. "Fire me from NERV? Unless I manage to sync with Unit Two again, it's just a matter of time until that happens anyway. I almost wish they'd just do it and get it over with already."
"It seems like both of us are unable to move forward right now," Strange Visitor commented. "Have you thought about what you'll do after EVA and NERV?" she asked quietly.
"A little," Asuka said quietly. "Part of me still can't believe that there's actually going to be a post-Evangelion part of my life. I always thought it would last forever somehow."
Strange Visitor smiled slightly. Asuka had come to the abandoned building several times in the past few weeks to speak with her, and with the help of the electric woman, the broken girl was starting to pull herself together again. She still had a long way to go, but she was no longer in a state of suicidal depression.
"Do you think you'll be able to find out anything else about me from NERV?" Strange Visitor asked, changing the subject.
Asuka shook her head. "No," she said, sounding even more disappointed than the scarlet-haired woman felt. "Using Dr. Akagi's profile was easy; she leaves herself logged in all over the place. The Commanders are much more careful."
"I see," Strange Visitor said.
"Look, maybe I could still—"
"No," Strange Visitor cut her off. "I don't want you to take any foolish risks for my sake, Asuka. You have to look out for yourself."
"But that's all I've been doing my whole life!" Asuka protested. "You've helped me so much, I just want to figure this out for you."
"That's very kind of you, Asuka, but you can't put yourself in danger for me," Strange Visitor said, placing a hand on the girl's shoulder. "I'll find the answers I need eventually."
Asuka opened her mouth to argue the point further, but her wristwatch chose that moment to start beeping incessantly. She scowled and turned the alarm off.
"I have to go," she announced.
"Is something wrong?" Strange Visitor asked, knowing that, aside from school, Asuka's schedule had been quite clear lately.
"…they're supposed to try and get Shinji out of Unit One today," she said quietly.
"You're worried about him, aren't you?" Strange Visitor asked. "You care for him."
Asuka would've bristled at this question had anyone else asked it. She didn't know why she didn't when Strange Visitor did. Maybe it was because the electric woman had seen her at her weakest and most vulnerable and still saw value in her. Maybe it was just because Strange Visitor didn't have anyone to tell these secrets to.
"Yes," Asuka said. "See you later."
The Thirty-Second Day…
Shinji Ikari groaned softly as he began to wake up, his eyes slowly opening and taking in the sight of the ceiling over him.
Ceiling may not be familiar, but I'd know the lighting here anywhere, Shinji mused silently, observing the pale blue glow that always suffused the NERV Medical Ward. I wonder if someone thinks it's calming to the patients or something.
"Well, good morning, Sunshine."
The sound of that voice jolted Shinji into a state of full awareness faster than even the Angel alarm could have. He abruptly sat upright in bed and saw Asuka sitting in a nearby chair, a small book in her lap.
"Asuka?" he asked, feeling confused and disoriented.
Moments ago, he'd been wondering if the vivid images and sounds he remembered from his time inside the Evangelion had been mere dreams or something more.
Now he was wondering if he wasn't still dreaming.
"Were you expecting your father, perhaps?" she asked, just the tiny hint of a wicked grin on her face as she turned the page of her book.
"God, no," Shinji groaned.
Though I'm kind of surprised Misato's not here, he thought.
"Our illustrious guardian ran off to spend the night with Kaji," Asuka said disgustedly, as though she'd read his mind. "I couldn't believe it after the way she cried like a baby when they finally got you out of EVA, but there you are."
"Misato cried?" Shinji asked, blinking.
"Yup," Asuka replied simply.
Silence reigned for a few seconds after that, with the redhead continuing to placidly read her book. Shinji suddenly felt very awkward; he knew there was no way Asuka could've appreciated the way he'd burst into the battle at the last second and slain the Angel, even if it had been Unit One acting at the end.
"Asuka…" he spoke up, wanting to tell her that he'd never wanted to make her look bad or humiliate her.
"Yes?" she asked.
The words just wouldn't come, which, for once, was probably for the better. "Thanks," he said instead, "for…waiting at my bedside."
Something that looked like a cross between a smirk and a genuine smile appeared on her face. "You're welcome, baka."
Shinji laid his head back down on his pillow, Asuka returned her attention to her book, and a comfortable silence filled the room.
Neither of them would have ever guessed that, hundreds of thousands of kilometers away, the chrysalis containing the next Angel had already begun to stir.
Author's Notes: First off, spot the Back to the Future reference.
Secondly, let me say sorry to all my dear readers; I know it's been a while since I posted anything. Getting this thing written took me a while, and it took much longer than usual to edit it into something I was satisfied with (extra special thanks to my beta reader Ultra Sonic 007 on that front).
Anyway, this one is another two shot, like Yui's SOE2 fic, because it just got to be too damn long for one chapter. I went obscure on Kyoko, as I'm sure you're aware. I really wouldn't be surprised if most of you had never even heard of Strange Visitor, in fact; even in the comics, she's not a well known character (it also doesn't help that they killed her off, the jerks).
I had wanted to go for the hat trick by having all three mothers become heroes who were part of the Justice Society, but none of the remaining members seemed to fit. So instead, I started looking at characters who were close allies to Superman, to the point that they wore the S-shield. Aside from Steel, this group mostly consists of Kryptonians and pseudo-Kryptonians. I wanted something different, and Strange Visitor fit the bill nicely.
Anyone actually familiar with the character of Strange Visitor will note that I altered her look. The comics version of the character wore one of the black and white containment suits from Clark's "electric" phase and had blue hair, but I preferred the "Superman Red" color scheme for Kyoko.
I also took some liberties with the character of Kestrel; in the comics, he's empowered by a Lord of Chaos (similar to Hawk of the superhero duo Hawk and Dove), but he's not a Lord of Chaos himself. There really aren't a lot of Lords of Chaos actually named within the comics, and since Arael is the Angel of Birds, it seemed appropriate.
Well, I'm rambling, so let me stop here and say thanks as usual to my readers and reviewers, and to my beta readers as well.
Now for a little fun.
Purely for Posterity
She was still trying to figure out a course of action when she heard voices from outside the lab.
"I'm telling you, I saw it!" spoke a voice that she thought belonged to the frightened man she'd seen earlier.
"A ghost right?" a voice she didn't recognize asked in a mocking tone.
"Well, maybe not a ghost," the first man replied, sounding embarrassed. "But I saw something strange!"
"It's probably nothing, but if we're really unlucky, it's an Angel. Either way, we need to check it out," spoke a third voice, which sounded tired.
A moment later, the door to the lab opened, revealing a pair of men wearing red berets, as well as the man who had run away from her screaming earlier. The men with the berets each held a submachine gun, and they pointed the weapons at her immediately.
Sasaki, on the other hand, immediately whipped out a small cell phone and started to snap pictures with it. The electric woman didn't quite understand what he was doing, but she realized the other two men were threatening her. She fled, flying through the walls, and three men were left alone.
"Why did you instantly start taking pictures?" one of the security guards asked with a frown.
"So I'd have proof that she's real and that I'm not crazy," Sasaki replied, examining the picture on his cell phone's small screen.
Hmm, she looks different from before, he thought. She's still pretty surreal, though, and she's actually pretty hot this way. Heh, maybe I'll keep a copy of this picture for myself!
The two guards started at him, and a very pregnant pause followed. Sasaki felt dread building up inside of him.
"I said that out loud, didn't I?" he asked.
"Yes." Both guards replied in stereo.