The following work of fiction incorporates elements from Neon Genesis Evangelion and Marvel Comics. The list of creators whose works I'll be drawing on is too extensive to list here; I'll add it at the end of the story. I claim no ownership over any of this and will remove it at the request of the copyright owners.

Greetings, human of Earth. I am Uatu, the Watcher.

Below us is a world you know, a broken world of broken people, the world of the Evangelions. It is a world without hope, where great power is exercised without great responsibility. We know the outcome of the story, where young Shinji Ikari's path inevitably leads. We know how this tormented world came to be this way.

We gaze on an Earth in torment, wounded. Her seas are as blood, and her lands have been swept clean. In the whole of this world there is a single inhabitant, a lone boy driven to madness by the horror of his experiences. In time, another will emerge from the crimson sea, a girl as wounded as he, as broken as she is beautiful. Their story is done. There is nothing here for us to watch.

We turn now to the world next door, where a tiny piece of another universe has fallen, and carried with it incredible changes. The world we remember needed heroes but found only flawed, ordinary men and women, boys and girls, fighting against impossible odds to recover a thin sliver of hope, the tiniest glimmer of possibility, on a desolate beach.

Yet, we wonder. Could things have been different?

What if?

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Valkyrie


Outside Roswell, New Mexico

Thunder rippled across the night sky the night before Mac and Jesse found the thing. He was used to storms this time of year, and didn't think much of it, until he heard the sound. It started out as a low whine that gathered itself up into a kind of rumble. Mac sat up in the twilight and looked out the windows, terrified he'd see a funnel cloud bearing down on their little ranch house, but there was nothing. The sound grew louder and louder until he put his hands up to his ears, and then finally broke in a rippling boom that rolled through the house, shaking streamers of dust from the rafters. Plates clattered to the floor in the kitchen.

His wife sat up beside him. "What was that?"

"I dunno," he said. "Something came down out in the pasture. I'll take the truck and check it out in the morning."

That night, he slept fitfully. He woke in the darkness, dreams on the edge of his mind, distant shapes, giants in the mist. He felt a curious tugging, the way he had when he was in a younger man, in the days before the war, like something had changed, something momentous was building up. When dawn came he was no longer able to force his eyes shut, and so gathered up the boy, Jesse, and his beat up old farm truck and in the piercing morning sun, headed to pasture.

There was no sign of the storm from the night before. The ground was dry, even. The only mark of its passing was the great crater in the pasture, a rent in the sea of brown grass, as if God had reached down with a finger and marked his territory. Leading up to the crater was a streak of debris, pieces of metal and strips of cloth that clung to the brush. He pulled to a stop short of the debris field, and killed the motor. The big truck burbled into silence and the boy joined him, stooping down to pick something up from the ground.

It was a helmet, or maybe the nose cone from some kind of rocket. There were funny letters written all around the edge- odd, angular figures, some of them a little familiar, most not. At some point, something had been attached to it- the roots of something like horns maybe, broken off the front. Mac took the object and turned it over in his hands, surprised at its lightness; it felt like foil, almost. He took a hold of the edges and tried to bend it, but it wouldn't budge. Gently, he set it down.

"Wait here," he told the boy.

Squinting as he looked up, Jesse nodded.

He made his way carefully down towards the crater, watching out not to step on anything. The rift in the earth was twenty feet wide, maybe three times that length, and deepened to about ten, maybe fifteen feet in the far end, where something rested. Carefully, he scrabbled down the long slope, his old boots sliding in the fresh earth. There, he found the object. It was about two thirds as long as his arm, most of that a long handle wrapped in leather that looped at the bottom to make a kind of lanyard. At the opposite end was a block of stone about a foot across, and maybe half again as tall. When he touched it, it felt cool and supremely smooth, like metal, and a sensation like a low-level static charge swept up his arm.

He tried picking it up. It didn't move. At all. He put his other hand on it, planted his foot, and pulled. He succeeded only in falling on his ass. He glanced over his shoulder, glad that Jesse didn't see him making a fool of himself. He got up and crouched over the object, and brushed off the top part of the 'stone'. He traced his fingers along an inscription in the material, so finely etched that it was barely visible. He rested his hand on the grip and the inscription darkened, clearer now.

He furrowed his brows as he read.

He stood bolt upright, turned, and ran up the slope, his legs burning as he neared the top. He came to a halt, panting, and rested his hands on his knees.

"Pa? What happened?"

"We've got to call the Sheriff, and the army base. There's somethin' down there."

"What is it?"

"I ain't sure, but it don't belong here."

Six Months Later

When he learned of the miraculous discovery of the completed apocrypha of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Lorenz Kihl had anticipated leading their translation and interpretation under the auspices of the Order of Souls. He had not anticipated being rudely interrupted by some foolishness in America, nor spending thirty six cramped and restless hours transferring from cramped aeroplane to cramped aeroplane, a thoroughly uncomfortable staff car and finally some unworthy contraption known as a "Jeep" that presently bumbled and bumped its way across some god forsaken patch of scrub and debris that dared name itself a pasture.

Dressed in a thin summer suit and open shirt, he nevertheless began to forgive the Americans their utter lack of style; this heat was simply interminable. He clutched his walking stick to his chest with one hand and held onto the frame of the infernal apparatus for dear life until it finally stopped at the edge of a long perimeter of sawhorses manned by bored looking GIs in hilariously out of place drab green uniforms.

The strapping young infantryman that had driven him unloaded his valise and set it in the damnable dust outside the perimeter. Keel picked it up and curtly nodded to the boy, who saluted. These ridiculous creatures apparently reverted to a predetermined gesture whenever they became confused. It was nearly endearing. He ignored the little twerp and headed for the barricade. Another interchangeable green-and-dust soldier stopped him and he foisted over a sheaf of papers without speaking. The bureaucratic gibberish apparently in order, they were returned to him and the sawhorse nearest him moved aside that he might pass through.

He found a bustling compound dominated by a central, massive canvas tent that flapped in the wind, pulsing out a staccato beat. He held his hat to his head and nearly dropped his stick until one of the useless Army creatures took his valise. A tall, thin American with a moustache and a decidedly unmilitary bearing appeared beside him, extending a hand in the absurd local custom of pressing flesh. Keel took it with what he hoped was concealed disdain, and offered the most minimal shake he could.

"Doctor Keel?"

"Ja," Keel said, deciding to play up the German scientist stereotype.

"You're one of the first to arrive," the man said. "Forgive me. Howard Stark, of Stark Enterprises."

"The arms manufacturer," Keel said, maintaining the illusion that he was some sort of pacifist. He put a measured amount of disdain into the words.

Stark didn't seem to concern himself with Keel's opinion. He was a spare man of indeterminate years, who bore a curious resemblance to Walt Disney, of all people. He smiled amiably. "We're very pleased to have you here, Herr Professor."

Keel smiled thinly. An interesting game. "I fail to see what a theologian offers to your research."

Stark gestured at the tent. "Know what's in there?"

Keel looked at the expanse of billowing canvas. "The newspapers call it a 'flying disk', I believe."

Stark laughed. "Something like that. Why don't you come along, and I'll show you."

Unamused, Keel kept an eye on the buffoon carrying his luggage, who carried it into one of the nearby tents. Stark held open a flap for Keel, exposing the interior of the main structure. As he stepped inside, he noticed that it was mercifully cool in the shade. The ground had been leveled and stripped of vegetation. At the far end of the tent was a small object lodged in the ground. The earth around it had been excavated away, leaving it on a platform of dirt about three feet in height.

"We found a variety of artifacts," Stark said as they walked. "All of unknown origin, inconsistent with any sort of device. Several were inscribed with runes."

"You mean, some form of alien writing?"

"No, I mean runes."

Keel slowed his pace. "What? Did someone dump a museum in the desert?"

Stark shook his head. "If they did, they lost one hell of a main exhibit. Here it is."

"It's a hammer," Keel said incredulously. "You people disrupted my vital research for this?"

"It's more than a hammer. We can't move it."

"I don't understand."

Stark thrust his hands into his pockets and shrugged. "We tried manpower, a truck, even construction equipment. It snapped a chain with links the size of my head, and it didn't budge. We're getting ready to see if we can move it by digging out from underneath of it, but we want the rest of the team to have a look at it first."


"By the way," said Stark. "I'm recruiting you. We're putting a team together to analyze the find."

Keel walked around the object, running his fingers over the surface. "There is an inscription."

"Touch the handle."

Keel moved around and set a hand on the long, leather-wrapped handle. When he did, lines darkened on the side of the object, becoming clearer. His eyes widened.

"Can you translate it?"

"Translate it? It's in German. Modern German, Mister Stark. Is this a joke?"

"Funny," said Stark. "When I see it, I see English. The rancher who found it can't say quite what he sees, just what it says. He can't read."

Keel looked at him, incredulous. "Ridiculous."

"Watch," said Stark. As Keel released his grip, Stark took hold of it, and the lines shifted, gradually reforming into English.

"If you would, doctor," said Stark. "I want to confirm it still says the same thing."

Keel put his hand back, and watched the words shift back into German.

"Whosoever lifts this hammer," he read, "if he be worthy, shall possess the power of Thor."

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Valkyrie

Chapter 1: Along Came a Spider

Present Day

Tokyo-3, Japan

Hikari Horaki was a tad upset. There was a transfer arriving, and on top of that, she had to deal with the oncoming chaos of a field trip to the main science center at Nerv headquarters. It wasn't in the Geofront proper, you see, rather, it was what everyone in the company town derided as a cheap show for the tourists- nevertheless, it was a real opportunity to see science in action, and an escape from the droning teacher's endless lectures about Second Impact that were only vaguely related to the supposed topic of their instruction.

The new boy was slight, a little short, and painfully shy. He barely spoke to her when he entered the classroom, folder tucked under one arm. Her class had its share of problem children, that was for sure. There was the Ayanami girl, with her bizarre bluish hair, chalk white skin and red eyes, who was by far the strangest. There was also Toji Suzahara, who somehow got away with wearing a track suit every day, and his friend Aida, who filmed everything for no readily apparent reason.

When Toji walked into the room she momentarily forgot about the transfer. Toji, of course, walked right past her without paying her any mind at all, and it took the frightened new boy tapping her on the shoulder to get her attention back on him. She exchanged pleasantries with him, noted that he looked a little sad, and escorted him to his seat, warning him to stow as many of his effects as he could, since they were about to leave. After the Stand-Bow-Sit routine, Hikari started gathering up her flock to proceed to the exhibition. She and the other class reps, along with a few of the more spry teachers, would be leading them.

She felt sorry for the old teacher as she walked out of the room, the last in line. He looked a little lost, as if he was about to start lecturing the desks about the Impact Wars. She checked off each name on her clipboard, sighing a bit as she slowly marked next to Suzahara.

The trip into town was uneventful. She was never sure why the high school had been built outside the city, but at least they didn't have to walk. A car on the elevated line had been reserved for them, and she sat down at one end, relieved for the first time in a while that she didn't have to worry about being groped. She didn't really worry about it anyway- her sisters joked that there was nothing to grope. She sort of hated being Class Rep, sometimes. No one really talked to her unless it was to complain about something, and she had a hard time starting a conversation if it wasn't something official.

At length, they arrived. The science center had a banner welcoming the students of Tokyo-3 Junior High. It was a large and thoroughly modern building, dominated by a central glass dome. The lobby was set up to highlight some of the ecosystems lost in Second Impact. There was a large aquarium filled with rare species of tropical fish rescued from the poisoning of the seas, a terrarium set up to mimic the lost Sahara desert, and one that was curiously empty, covered over in white cloth. Under the dropcloth she could see bits of leaf peeking through, pressed up against the glass, some kind of jungle scene.

She checked off her classmates and fell into the back of the line. An extremely bored looking woman with obviously dyed blonde hair appeared, clad in a labcoat and a rather scandalously cut, at least to Hikari, black dress. She felt a subtle wave of resentment as the girls pricked up at her appearance, matched by a sudden intent interest in the sciences on the part of her male classmates. She sighed a little; Toji was staring most openly. The only one not staring at the blonde was the new boy, Ikari. He shifted and looked away from her when she looked at him.

"I am Ritsuko Akagi, PhD, MD, and several other letters," the woman said, boredom ringing in her voice. "I have the very great pleasure of…" she sucked in a breath, "Giving you fine young boys and girls a tour of Nerv's Science Center. This way, please."

She turned and had absolutely no trouble bringing the boys along with her as she walked through the set of double doors at the front of the lobby. The main room of the facility was dominated by a series of open air labs cordoned off from the floor by velvet rope. Scientists were busily moving about in each one, probably simulating experiments. Hikari was under no illusion that any of this was real, but it was interesting. The first group was working on some sort of experiment involving taking pipettes of material from small containers and mixing them with blood.

"Genetic engineering," Akagi started to drone, still sounding bored. "at the forefront of genetic science, Nerv is exploring avenues of research that will blah blah blah…"

She didn't actually say blah blah blah, of course, but she may as well have for all the interest Hikari had in what she was saying. She scanned the room. Aida was intently filming her, working the focus and zoom on his camera, no doubt trying to find a good angle to capture her cleavage. Toji looked bored, leaning against one of the support columns that held up the great glass dome over their heads. She felt a shiver run up her leg when she looked at him.

Then she realized something was actually running up her leg.

She looked down at let out a strangled gasp. A spider, a good inch across, was sitting on her bare knee. It was big and ugly, and had a black body with yellow stripes. It lifted its front pair of shiny, plasticky-looking legs and waved them at her in arachnidly annoyance, and she involuntarily stiffened.

It sank its fangs into her.

She yelped and jumped, and felt the eyes of everyone in the room on her. She looked around in terror. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "There was a spider, it-"

"Do you mind?" Akagi interrupted her. "As I was saying, human evolution is…"

She looked down. The loathesome little thing was gone, and in its place was a rising, angry looking welt on her knee. She took a step and it hurt a little, but not too bad. She adjusted the skirt of her jumper to cover it as best she could and followed the rest of the class as she moved on.

"M-miss Horaki?" the transfer said, appearing beside her. "Are you okay?"

"I guess," she sighed. Toji hadn't even noticed her distress. Typical. She looked at the new kid.

He was kneeling down in front of her.

"What are you… doing…"

He held a hand over the welt on her knee and furrowed his brows in concentration. The welt sank a little, the redness fading, until he drew his hand away and stood up. He looked around, panic evident on his face.

"I shouldn't have done that," he said. "I'm sorry."

She took another step. Her knee felt fine. There was still a bite mark, but it wasn't so bad now. She did feel a strange heat working its way up and down her leg from the point of the bite, but it was a mild discomfort compared to the stinging she'd felt before.

"How did you do that?"

"I can't talk about it," he said quickly, and sank back into the crowd.

The rest of the trip was fairly pleasant, if thankfully unremarkable. There were half a dozen stations, all of which consisted of men in lab coats who may not even have been actual scientists standing around doing sciency things while Doctor Akagi blathered on about something vague that didn't explain very much at all of what Nerv actually does. Hikari didn't mind, since it beat listening to the Lecture Without End.

She giggled. Lecture Without End. That was pretty funny. She'd have to remember that.

The trip back was uneventful, too. The Ikari boy avoided her, and when she looked for him, Ayanami took a sudden interest in her, watching with those red eyes of her. Hikari shied away and hid in the back of the train car, watching the world go by as they headed back to the school. She looked around and decided she'd had enough. She was going to ask Toji to eat lunch with her tomorrow, and that was that.

The return to the school was orderly. She may not have especially enjoyed her job, but she was very, very good at it. She waited patiently for the ending bell and then rushed to Toji as he was leaving with Aida, who continued to film. She stood in the doorway with her clipboard over her chest, moving from side to side as he tried to duck out.

"Cool trip, huh?" she said, doing her best to keep her voice steady. "Beats the Lecture Without End, right?"

He stared at her blankly. "Can I go home, now?"

She shrank a little and sighed, then stepped out of his way. "Bye," she said softly. He didn't reply.

She noticed the transfer walking with Ayanami and sighed. She decided she'd had enough of the train and headed home on foot, walking by the side of the road, swinging her school bag idly around her as she walked. She almost didn't see the car, except, well, something was wrong.

There was a sudden, intense tingling, coupled with a strange sensation, like something wisping across the hairs on the back of her neck. She dropped the bag and jumped before she even heard the sound of the car, a big black sedan that rolled under her as she thrust her body skyward. The rooftops around here slid to a stop and paused for a moment before she fell back down. She landed, and abruptly fell right on her rear end.

She sat on the road for a minute, blinking. Did the actually happen?

He let out a little yelp when she realized her bag had been run over. Books, papers, and the bent up remains of her clipboard littered the street. She did the best she could to gather them up, pulling them to her chest in a rough pile, and hurried home. She bounded up the three short steps to the little house she shared with her father and sisters, and stepped inside. Thankfully, it was Kodama, her older sister, who was tasked with cooking dinner tonight.

"I'm home," she said sullenly as she kicked off her shoes.

"Welcome home!" Kodama called back. "I've got dinner in the oven. Dad's going to be late."

"Whatever," Hikari said back, probably not loud enough to be heard, and then louder, "I'm taking a nap. I had a long day."

"Fine," he sister called back.

She darted into her small bedroom and closed the door. She dumped the pile of junk into the corner and without changing, flopped onto her unmade futon and let out a long breath. She looked down at her leg. The welt had shrunken down, and was now a mere yellowy discoloration, like an old bruise, with two white livid marks in the center where the nasty little creature had bit her. She let out a long breath, fluffed her pillow under her head, and let herself drift off to sleep. She had to do what she could to salvage her homework, and it would take time. If she freshened up now, she could stay up later to finish it.

Sleep took her surprisingly quickly. The next thing she knew, she smelled instant food and heard her sister calling her name. Her palms itched like crazy, and she noticed a slight redness at the base of either hand when she sat up. Confused, she scratched at her right hand a little. She flexed her arms and realized she felt a little sore, and blinked in confusion. She stood up and snapped on her light. It was later than she thought. Her arms were a little bigger than she remembered, a hint of veins running between almost-clearly defined muscles. She stared at herself and then stood in front of her small mirror and flexed her arms, surprised to find a slight but larger than she expected bulge on each of her upper arms. Swallowing hard, she shrugged out of her jumper and unbuttoned the bottom of her dress shirt.

It was like discovering a lost city of gold. The holy grail. The white whale. The lost ark. The fate of Atlantis. She stared at herself, her jaw falling open in utter shock.

"I have abs," she whispered.

Redding, California

"Miss Mari."

Mari rolled over and thrust her pillow over her head. "Not now, Jarvis!"

Jarvis warbled a synthesized sigh and extended a metallic feeler to poke her shoulder. "I am afraid I must insist you wake up, Miss Mari."

She sighed and rolled onto her back. The auto-darkening windows suddenly went active, flooding her bedroom with rich, overly bright California sunlight. Jarvis hovered over her apologetically. The floating white pod with the big blue eye that hung in the air over her bed wasn't actually Jarvis, of course. The massive mainframe was actually under the lowest level of the house, but "he" interacted with her, her father and their guests through the house itself and a small number of pods like this one, all smooth, white, and slick looking. Dad said they were designed for him by some guy out in Cupterino.

She was already awake, but felt like playing the game anyway. "It's summer. I don't want to get up," she yawned, arching her back against the bed to stretch.

"And yet you must," said Jarvis. "You father wishes to see you. He says it is important."

She blinked at the harsh morning light and covered her eyes over with her hands. "It's always important. Did he get in a fight with Dummy again?"

"No," Jarvis said drolly. "Something about a suit of armor for a certain someone, I believe."

She sat bolt upright and stared into Jarvis' single eye. "Are you serious?"

She pushed the hovering orb away and hurriedly rolled out of bed, wincing at the cold floor under her bare feet. She tugged on a pair of jeans that lay discarded on the floor from the night before, threw on an oversized t-shirt, slipped on her glasses, and then rushed down the winding central staircase to the ground floor of the house. The structure was sweeping and modern, all curves with no angles, mostly whites and Earth tones. It had been that way as long as she could remember- her mother had designed every aspect of the house' layout, and Dad had never changed it.

The entrance to the workshop wasn't hidden. It looked like a simple utility closet, and opened onto a set of concrete stairs. She bounded down to the bottom, where a partition that looked like glass but wasn't separated her from the space where her father spent most of his waking hours. She had only to touch her hand to the glass, and an illusory holographic control panel flashed into life around it, outlining her palm print as it scanned her in. With a hiss, the door, a perfectly cut piece of not-glass that blended into the panel when it was closed, popped inwards. She pushed it the rest of the way and went in.

The shop floor smelled of oil, rubber, and what her father called "the magic blue smoke" that erupted whenever something he built caught on fire. It was vast, as big as the house itself, which essentially rested on concrete pillars spread out through the lab at regular intervals. She didn't spend much time down here. When she was younger, it was too dangerous, and Dad spent long hours either working on the suits or out on missions.

The room was dominated by the design center, where he sat in the middle of a half dozen huge screens, some of them made out of a curious, transparent material. The monitors were a terrible redundance- he could slip on a pair of gloves any time he wished, and the entire room would become a massive holographic display tied to the mainframe and Jarvis; in a way, Jarvis wasn't in the house, he was the house. There were only two places in the lab that were truly clean- the eight alcoves on the far wall where the Mark I-VII and Rescue suits stood, illuminated by LEDs, progressing from the crude, hand-build escape suit to the most advanced ones, the sleek Seven and Rescue suits.

The other clean place was where he kept Mom's stuff.

Anthony Stark, jr was a man of middle years and unassuming height but profound presence, a sort of wry-half smirk his default expression. He sometimes got creative with his facial hair, but today favored a simple goatee. His coal black hair was thinning a little and his tan was clearly artificial; he didn't get out in the sun much, these days. He looked up from his work through a pair of absurd goggles that were no doubt part of some gadget he was working on, and smiled at her. With a soft grunt he took the brakes off his wheelchair and rolled around to greet her. She frowned a little every time she saw him in it. He could still walk in one of the suits, of course, but it was painful and uncomfortable, and he wore it less and less, now. The Mark VIII was actually fairly outdated.

"Mornin', gorgeous. I ever tell you how much you look like your mom?"

"All the time," she rolled her eyes. "Jarvis said something about a suit?"

He sighed. "Jarvis!"

"Yes, sir," the house boomed.

"I didn't tell you to say anything about that, did I?"

"You did not instruct me not to, sir. I believe your exact words were to wake Miss Mari and conduct her here 'by any means necessary'."

He sighed and rolled back around to his station. "That's what I get for designing an AI with a sense of humor. Come here."

As she walked around to join him at his computers, the lights in the lab dimmed, and the sharpness of the screens increased. A series of schematics appeared on the screen- it amazed her how complex the suits were, how many thousands of parts made up one arm, for example. He flicked through the layers and layers of schematics until they shifted and combined into a single form- a wireframe mockup of a powered suit of armored, fitted to her.

"It's an update of the design I used for your mother's suit," he said, gesturing to the screen. "I made a few modifications, upgrades, things I would have put into the Mark VIII if I'd ever gotten around to it. Folds up into a crate, like the Mark IV."

She stopped him before he started going into all the technical details.

"Can it fly?"

He rolled his eyes at her. "No, it makes toast. Of course it can fly."

"Really?" she clapped her hands in excitement.

"I hope you're ready for this," he deadpanned. "I'm still mad about the Aston Martin."

"You have, like, five Aston Martins," she said as she crossed her arms in defiance.

"I liked that one. I should have sent you to a boarding school or something. It's what I get for raising the spoiled child of a billionaire. You should have had a deprived childhood, like mine, walking to school in the snow. Uphill. Both ways."

She smirked. "You're the son of a billionaire."

"Millionaire. We didn't break into the billions until I started working on the energy crisis and world hunger."

She huffed. "A hundred-millionaire is like a billionaire."

"Look," he said, "are you going to clown around all day, or try on the undersuit? It has to fit or the armor won't work."

"Ugh," she said, "Fine. I hope it has enough room in the chest."

"Gah!" he said, "Stop pointing that out!"

She laughed and headed over to pick up the black, rubbery undersuit she'd have to wear to operate a suit of armor, grabbed it, and headed upstairs to change.

"Jarvis," Tony said, "Finish the fabrication on the Mark I Iron Maiden."

"Maiden, sir?"


Doomstadt, Latveria

Asuka drew in a deep breath and waited. Her staff creaked under her grasp, held out in both hands in a carefully practiced stance. In a few moments, the robots would come for her. She let out a deep breath and tensed, waiting for the inevitable attack. She winced a moment later when a cold, latex fist slapped her upside the head, making her stumble. So, they were invisible today. She whirled the staff around her head, grinned at the satisfying jar of impact, and danced a few steps to her left, her practice uniform swaying. She sucked in a fresh breath and closed her eyes.

They were invisible, but not inaudible. Advanced, yes, but the practice droids made soft sounds, their rubbery feet padding across the mats almost drowned out by the whirring of their mechanical joints. She thought there were four, which was one more than usual. He was testing her.

She waited for the first one to draw near and flicked the staff out in a probing strike, heard the machine dance out of the way and then turned herself, moving the long metal pole in a wide arc around her head. It struck one of the droids in a joint and she felt the satisfying creak of metal bending. Louder now, the invisible droid stumbled to the side and gave itself away, and she finished it with a quick stroke to the head target, disabling it. Keeping her eyes closed, she turned her back to it and spun her staff again, hitting nothing.

He really was testing her today. A much less gentle tap to the side of the head made her stumble and she almost tripped over the body of the fallen machine before she regained her balance and lanced out with a blow that took nothing but air. She clenched her teeth and listened, forcing herself to identify the machines and their movements. The next one went down with a foot sweep and a downward stroke that blew out its chest target, followed by the third, which lifted bodily from the ground when she rammed the end of the pole under its chin.

That left only the fourth one. She circled it and it circled her, its position clear now, as the only source of sound in the room. She opened her eyes to make sure she wouldn't trip over one of the disabled and thus visible practice targets, focused on the source of the sound, and unleashed a flurry of blows.

She hit nothing.

Without warning, a rubberized mechanical foot planted itself her the small of her back and sent her sprawling. She yelped in surprise and dropped her staff, and when she rolled to it, an invisible foot planted on her wrist. Struggling, she grabbed at the ankle of the machine, but it was too heavy, and she had no leverage. She felt it reach down and close invisible manipulators around her throat.

The droid flew back fifteen feet and exploded into a shower of sparks and a puddle of metal and melted rubber that hissed on the mats, surrounded by flames. A small, tracked unit rolled into the gymnasium and sprayed it, then trundled over to her and shot her with a puff of compressed carbon dioxide that made her gasp and cough, waving it away from her face. She looked down at the burnt, carbonized remains of the sleeve of her practice uniform and peeled a layer of charcloth away from her skin, where it left sooty smudges on her alabaster flesh.

The door opened and he walked in. She immediately jumped to her feet and then dropped into a kneeling supplication, her eyes on the floor. Victor von Doom in his armor was almost eight feet tall, and the ground shook where he walked, each clanking mechanical step more of a stomp. His armor appeared primitive, but concealed high technology, the equal or better of the American, Stark. Only his eyes were visible with a frowning steel mask under a dark green hood. He regarded her for a moment and she felt the weight of his massive gaze on the back of her head.


Shakily, she stood up. "My Lord, I-"

"Silence. You used your gift in anger again, child. That is what children do."

"I know, my lord. I apologize."

"Do not apologize. Rule yourself."

"Yes, my lord."

She dared to look up and face him. His armored visage towered over her, but she was not afraid of him, not exactly. So many of the toadying government ministers in the palace would have soiled themselves at a critical word from Von Doom, but not Asuka. She understood his harshness as a kindness, as necessary to prepare her for the inevitable war that only they knew was coming. She clenched her fists and faced him. His metal mask remained a frowning blank, but his eyes shifted ever so slightly, a sort of recognition dawning in them.

"See to it that you are properly attired for affairs of state. We will hold court this afternoon."

She inclined her head. "Yes, my lord."

She knelt as he turned and left the room, as was the custom. When he was gone, she rose, discarded her burnt uniform and showered, taking special care to remove the grimy soot from the lines and creases in her hand. When she was finished, she retired to her chambers in her robe, where her attendants would braid her hair and help her dress in her formal gown, a flowing and overly elaborate contraption derived from royal Latverian traditional garb, green slashed with red across the bodice and sleeves. Von Doom had given her the honor of allowing her personal device, a red flame on a yellow field, under his own on the body of her dress.

In the Great Hall, Doom sat affecting boredom on a hugeoutsized throne built to accept the mass and weight of the armor. He leaned his head casually on his left fist and had thrown his right leg over his left. She took her customer place, standing two steps behind and to his left, whereas the various ministers sat to his right, studying the floor until they were called on to speak. One of her lord's many valets appeared at the opposite end of the hall in coat and tails, bowed, and announced their guest.

"My Lord, I present Nick Fury, director of SHIELD."

Doom waved a hand and Asuka straightened herself, rising to her full height. She was tall for a girl and for her age, just turned fifteen, and as beautiful as her long lost mother, whose fiery red hair had been tinged with gold by her father's contribution. She tried to make her eyes match those of von Doom, hard, cold, and calculating.

Fury strode into the room with a calculated nonchalance that galled her, and neither bowed nor properly supplicated himself. He was a tall American, head shaven, with a goatee and an apparent fondness for leather and black. The straps of a shoulder rig were plainly visible under the open placket of his coat, and the security droids lining the hall watched him carefully, as if such a toy would be any threat to von Doom. She stiffened at the thought of anyone doing him harm and imagined him screaming as there was nothing left of him but a pile of white ash. The thought amused her.

"Vic," Fury smirked. The left side of his face twisted, pulled by a dozen scars that ran under and around an eyepatch.

Her lord did not move. "Fury," he boomed. "You are the ninth to bear that name, I think."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Fury smirked.

"We should abandon the absurd fiction that the same man has been director of Shield for sixty years. I don't recall you being Black, for example. Are you issued an eyepatch after accepting the position, or is it a requirement for application? Binocular vision, need not apply?"

Fury smiled thinly. "I'm here to talk to you about Nerv."

Doom sat up. "I am listening, Fury. Don't waste my time."

"They're building something under that fortress city of theirs. It could be a threat."

"I see Shield lives up to its reputation. It 'could be'."

Fury frowned. "This is serious, Victor."

"If there is a threat to my European Union," Doom gestured grandly with one hand to the map painted on the wall over his head, "I will deal with it."

"All the same," Fury said, his frown stretching into a scowl. "There may be something to this that neither one of us can handle alone."

"We will see," said Doom. "If there will be nothing further, get off my continent."

The rest of the day of court was boring, as inevitably was. Court ministers referring complaints about this or that crackdown, progress on the food shortages, complaints about the construction projects, agriculture reports. Doom dealt with them all and dismissed his ministers, gesturing for her to stay when the room had been cleared. He even dismissed the droids.

"This organization, Nerv," he said to her, "does present a threat to us."

"I presume you have a plan to deal with it already in place, my lord."

Despite the inflexible visage of his mask, he seemed quite pleased. "You are a central part of it."

"I am?" she said, excitement bubbling in her voice. She fought the urge to wince at the unwarranted display of emotion. He had taught her better than that.

"Indeed. They are building weapons."

"Am I to do battle with them?"

"No. You are to… relieve them of one."

Ritsuko Akagi was beginning to really hate kids. Thankfully, the insipid little brats were gone and the tour was over. She was thoroughly annoyed that Gendo had tasked her with babysitting at their inane tourist attraction, and this displeasure showed on her face when she strode into his office. Huge and calculatedly imposing, the room was a cavernous black room with a low ceiling, devoid of furniture except for an immaculately polished black desk. She smirked a little at the thought of whoever polishing it after the pen in the pocket of her labcoat had scuffed the finish a few months ago.

Like a spider in the center of his web, Gendo Ikari sat hunched over the desk, studying some report. He looked up at her through a pair of old glasses that didn't quite fit, forcing him to push them up his nose. He was a tall, narrow sort of man whose uniform made him look like an undertaker. He sat back and steepled his gloved hands in front of his face in what she knew to be an infantile gesture designed to create distance between himself and whoever spoke to him. She sighed, but had long given up on trying to teach him some social graces. She was a bit short on them herself.

She tossed the dossier down on his desk. "They're sending another one. The Marduk Institute has identified the Third. It's von Doom's heir."

"We will deal with her," Gendo said, half talking into his hands. Ritsuko hated when he did that.

"Carefully, I hope," she added. "We can't risk von Doom's anger."

"He is aware of the risks. Our technology is volatile. If she proves useful, we will take excellent care of her. If she proves less than tractable, it will be simple to wash our hands of an 'accident'. How is the First faring?"

"The newly decanted clone is blending in. Shinji didn't seem to notice. We've been lucky, so far. We need to find a way to control them."

He winced at the mention of his son. He sat up and tugged at his gloves a bit. It was, so far as she knew, the one thing that could get any sort of reaction out of him. He quickly resumed his mask of composure, tinged as it was by a thin ghost of a smirk. "Has he proven to be acceptable for the program?"
"Yes, he has the gene. I'll be worried if it expresses itself."

"We have the facilities for that, should the need arise."

"Are you sure about that? It's getting crowded down there as it is."

"Essex has the facility well in hand," Gendo said as he slipped back into his pose. "He has our utmost confidence."

She took that as the signal to leave. The signal to stay would have been if they had been tearing each other's clothes off. She turned without salutation and walked out, relaxing a bit as she left the office. She had an odd sensation in there of late, as if they weren't alone. It made her shudder a little, involuntarily, as she took the elevator down to the Evangelion cages.

It always amazed her how the people working in the vast spaces could appear so normal, could ignore the bizarreness of what they were seeing. The Evas were fundamentally wrong, somehow. Part of it was their proportions. Sixty feet tall and humanoid, their limbs were too long and thin, their heads a little too big. The armor that enhanced and contained them, and disguised them as robots to the world above and the people working on them, added to the effect.

Each was different. The production model was the sleekest, with four "eyes" to see better, sloping armor designed to repel projectiles, as if that were necessary, and an overall less hunched shape. The test type was more sinister, a huge and unnecessarily purple thing with a massive horn on its beetle-like head. The prototype, now trapped in Bakelite and absent from the cages, was the most unnerving of all, with its pure white armored body and staring, unblinking monocular eye. She passed through the cages on the way to her lab, stopping to gaze up at the machines, kept up to their chests in the regenerative link control liquid.

Maya Ibuki, her assistant, squeaked as she walked into the room. The girl was slight, boyish, and too damn young, making Ritsuko feel like an old woman every time she entered her presence. She desperately needed a cigarette, but there were other matters to attend to.

"Help me with this," she said tiredly.

Maya locked the door, and then walked to Ritsuko side. She helped her shrug off her labcoat. Maya gasped.

"You're bleeding."

"It's nothing," Ritsuko said. "Get it off me."

Maya undid the straps that held the harness to Ritsuko's body, pressing her wings against her bare back, hidden under her customary labcoat. With a sigh she unfolded them, a pair of snowy white wings that when stretched reached nearly double her height. She sighed and straightened herself and Maya blushed for no real reason, other than being Maya, probably. The girl was right, the straps had cut into her shoulders and she was bleeding a little. She drew her wings up and winced; the joints hurt from the compression.

"I don't know why you're so ashamed of these," Maya said as she applied the stinging disinfectant to the wounds. "They're kind of pretty."

"Because I don't want Essex to have an excuse to add me to his freak show, that's why," Ritsuko sighed. She took a seat in an office chair, pulling the back up to her chest to let her wings breathe. They twitched a little as Maya finished applying the bandages. The girl tentatively stroked one of them, and Ritsuko gasped.

"Don't do that," she snapped.

"I'm sorry!" Maya jumped back.

"It feels strange. Just don't do it."

Maya hurriedly changed the subject, dropping into a seat at her terminal. "I heard we're getting a new kid. Is it true?"

"Yes," Ritsuko said idly as she logged in to her computer. "Asuka Soryu von Doom."

Maya stared at her, open mouthed. "Did you say von Doom?"

"Yes," said Ritsuko, "as if we don't have enough problems as it is."

"Yeah. How did the science thing go? Did the kids have fun?"

Ritsuko huffed, and then flushed as she realized her anger made her wings beat a little. "I don't know. I hate kids."

"Aww," said Maya, happily typing away at her terminal. "I bet the boys were all drooling over you."

"Please," said Ritsuko, glancing over her shoulder. "It was annoying, more than anything. I don't see why we need to put on a public face, considering the importance of our work. The UN is going to fund us, either way."

"Yeah," said Maya. "It's like there's some secret cabal making sure we get our way."

Ritsuko eyed her. "Don't joke about things like that."

"Sorry," Maya said sheepishly.

The one thing Misato needed right now was a cold beer, and there was none, and that was a terrible tragedy. She stared at her bereft refrigerator and sighed deeply. She closed the door with a little too much force and surveyed her situation. Her pet penguin was, well, a penguin, and therefore could not complete a beer run; the same was true of her roommate, who sat listlessly at the kitchen table, working on some homework problem or other. She sighed, realized she was going to have to go get it herself, and hesitated. She didn't feel like going out at all, really.

The kid worried her. He'd been here three months, and all he ever did was go to school, hang around with that Rei girl, and sit around the apartment. Sometimes he went out for a run, he said, but that was it. She had to admit, if she had his screwed up life, she'd be a little weird too. Well, as weird. The kid was raised by a pair of uncles for most of his life, and then brought here to be tested, probed, and trained as an Eva pilot. He didn't with his own father, and his only friend, if she could be called that, was his cousin who was here for the same reason. They weren't so much friends as Shinji followed her like a lost puppy, as if he needed someone to tell him what to do. It was a little sad.

"Hey," she said, resting a hand on his shoulder. He winced a little. "Want to go out with me for a while? I need to make a beer run, get some air."

"Okay," he said, putting down his pen. "If you say so."

"I don't say so," she said, a little more strenuously than she meant to. "If you want to. I'm worried about you."

"Why?" he said, blinking at her in genuine surprise.

She shrugged. His eyes wandered a little lower than her face and he blushed profusely, then fidgeted as he tried to look anywhere else. She suppressed a smile. At least he was a little normal. "I don't like to see a kid being so quiet, is all. You should spend more time with people your own age."

"Rei says I shouldn't," said Shinji.

"Well," said Misato. "Rei isn't here. Let's go have some fun."

"Okay," he sighed.

She looked down at her skimpy top and cut off shorts. "Let me go change."

She bounced out of the room, happy to get some kind of a reaction out of him for once. Behind her, he sat at the table, head propped on one hand. He focused his gaze on the pile of beer cans overflowing from the garbage can of their little kitchen and raised his other hand. He flexed his fingers a little, and the can popped and contorted into a ball. Misato didn't notice a thin smirk form on his lips.

Author's Notes

A beer can probably isn't ferromagnetic. Let's pretend it has a little iron in it. In the future, anything that involves "(blank) isn't ferromagnetic" will be answered with "let's pretend it has a little iron in it".

Unlike my last Eva/Superhero fic, this has been planned as a "fusion" from the beginning, rather than one element being forced into the Eva world with later expansion. Expect loads and loads of characters; just because someone didn't appear here doesn't mean they're not in the story. Like Fuyutsuki. He's cool. He'll be in it. Maybe he's Wolverine. On second thought, that's probably a bad idea.

The prologue won't be the only flashback, I've decided I'll (likely) do frequent jumps back to the forties, sixties, and leading up to impact, to avoid tedious info dumps. The Marvel material I'm incorporating will lift from the recent movies as well as the comic storylines I like and the What If/non-canon miniseries Earth X.

One more thing: I did do research, but I can't find any readily available information about Mac Brazel other than the names of his family members and the fact that he was the guy that reported the Roswell crash. Other than the name and location, his characterization is a complete invention and I don't mean to insult him by implying he didn't know how to read; this was necessary for story purposes.