Steel Cougar

By Lord Raa

Disclaim-me-do: The most devastating tennis shot in the galaxy is the return of the Jedi.

Chapter 3

Ritsuko looked over the data that had been captured during the day's testing. Varying the temperature and pressure of the LCL had made some difference in the synchronisation rates of Misato and Shinji. Although Shinji's sync ratios were better than Misato's, Misato was able to maintain her performance over a wider range of temperatures and pressures.

Not that the testing seemed to show any reason for Misato's ability to synchronise with Unit-01.

The faux-blonde leaned back in her chair and let out a tired sigh. "Why did this have to happen? Would it have been too much to ask for something to go to plan for once?"

She rubbed the bridge of her nose for a good minute before turning her attention to her coffee cup. 'New plan: put this on the back burner for now and focus on Unit-00 for a bit. But first things first, time for some fresh coffee.'

Makoto Hyuga was taking a much needed break. He and Shigeru Aoba had been working on the repairs for Unit-01.

He looked up to see Dr. Ritsuko Akagi approaching.

"Good afternoon, Dr. Akagi," he smiled politely.

"Good afternoon Lt. Hyuga," the bottle blonde replied. She let out a yawn. "Oh, sorry, I've been working on flat out for the past couple of days."

"Is it anything I can help you with?"

Ritsuko paused as she considered the potential repercussions of revealing the truth about her latest findings. "Err, no, not at the moment, Lt. Hyuga. I appreciate the offer, but at the moment, it's little more than theory and simulations."

It was then that Shigeru Aoba entered the break room. He was a little breathless from rushing around, but was able to ask his question, "Hyuga, did you hear the news?"

"What news would this be?" the bespectacled man asked.

"It's about Captain Katsuragi!"

"What about her?"

"Someone said that she was in a plugsuit!" the long haired man declared.

Hyuga was taken aback. Captain Misato Katsuragi was considered the most beautiful woman in Tokyo-3. Her body made the men drool and most of the women envious when she was in uniform. Factor in the form fitting nature of the Evangelion plugsuit and it was almost enough to cause unbidden, but most pleasant, mental images and stirrings.

"C-captain Katsuragi in a plugsuit? W-what colour was it?"

"It doesn't matter," Ritsuko said, hoping to nip this adolescent behaviour in the bud. "The tests are completed now and Captain Katsuragi is back in uniform."

"W-what?" the two men asked in unison.

"I've said too much already," the scientist said with a tone of finality. "When the time is right, you'll be told more and not before. Now, if you'll permit me to get some coffee, I can finish up my reports for the Commander and he can decide what to do with the data I've collected."

In her office, Ritsuko called up the Commander.

"¬What is it, Doctor Akagi?¬" Gendo Ikari asked, his tone was even, but hinted that he was being interrupted.

The bottle blonde paused for a moment before continuing. "Some of the support staff have been asking about why Captain Katsuragi was in a plugsuit. I've tried to stop things from getting out of hand, but I want to know how you want to continue with this."

The Commander remained silent for a moment. "¬There will be questions and I want to be able to answer them. We need more data before we can properly brief the UN. Get Unit-00 ready for synchronisation testing with Captain Katsuragi. That is your new priority.¬"

"Yes, sir," Ritsuko answered before the Commander ended the call from his end. "As polite as ever, I see."

Shaking her head, the scientist saved the document that she was working on before phoning Aoba and Hyuga.

Five minutes later, the two men knocked on her door.

"Come in."

"You wanted to see us, Dr. Akagi?" Hyuga asked.

"Yes. I have spoken with Commander Ikari and he's given me a new priority: Unit-00. It needs to be made ready for synchronisation testing as soon as possible," the faux-blonde explained. "There is a reason for this, and it can be summed up in four words: we need more data."

"Does this have anything to do with Captain Katsuragi?" Aoba asked with more than a hint of hope in his voice.

"What I'm about to tell you is not to be repeated outside of official briefings, is that clear?"

"Yes, ma'am," the two men replied in unison.

"Good," Ritsuko nodded. "During a recent training session, it was discovered that Captain Katsuragi was able to synchronise with Unit-01. The ratio was 29 percent. Because there was a chance that this was an instrumentation error, everything was replaced and the tests repeated. The result was a sync ratio of approximately 29 percent.

"Earlier, there was further synchronisation testing. Pilot Ikari was used as a baseline for this test. Captain Katsuragi was wearing a plugsuit for this testing."

Ritsuko reached over and took a sip of her coffee before continuing. "Now, since we have confirmed that Captain Katsuragi's synchronisation with Unit-01 was neither a fluke nor instrumentation error, we need to see if she can sync with Unit-00."

The two men nodded in understanding.

The scientist saw that she needed to dangle a carrot rather than just wield a stick. "Of course, the sooner that Unit-00 is ready for this testing, the sooner we can start. And it goes without saying that I will need someone to monitor this important test.

"You have your orders. You are dismissed."

"Yes, ma'am," the two men saluted before rushing off to attend to their duties.

Ritsuko shook her head and turned her attention back to the results of the day's testing.

Elsewhere at NERV, Shinji and Misato were discussing their experiences in the entry plugs.

"So, Shinji-kun, how did today's testing compare with an actual mission?" the Captain asked, looking at her ward intently.

"Well, it wasn't as rough. I mean, it didn't feel like I was going to lose an arm or have my skull cracked open," the young Ikari answered. "Sometimes, when the Evangelion is hit and thrown about, it can make you feel a bit dizzy, like when they increased the pressure of the LCL."

"I'm not that hot on physics, but I think increasing the pressure is the only way we can simulate impacts short of hitting the entry plugs with big hammers."

Shinji smirked at the image of technicians hitting the entry plug with large hammers.

Misato noticed the expression on Shinji's face and added, "Entry plug no baka."

That was enough to cause the young man to laugh out loud, drawing the attention of Maya Ibuki.

The young lieutenant approached the pilots.

"Is everything alright?"

"Everything's fine, Ibuki-san," Shinji answered. He seemed to become a little more withdrawn at Maya's presence.

Misato picked up on the change in body language in her roommate. "Can we help you with anything, Maya?"

"Oh no, nothing's wrong, Captain Katsuragi, it's just that I don't think I've ever heard Ikari-kun laugh before," the short-haired woman answered.

The Captain shrugged. "I guess that's just because you only see Shinji here at NERV. At home, he's a lot more fun."

"I should get back to work," Maya smiled before bowing politely and leaving them alone.

When they were alone, Misato turned to Shinji. "In all seriousness, Shinji, is everything alright? I saw you tense up when Maya came up to us."

"I'm just not used to people coming up to me and talking to me," the teenager answered.

"So what makes me different?"

"I don't know," Shinji shrugged nervously.

The purple-haired woman leaned in to whisper into his ear. "Maybe it's because you don't want to give up the chance to see me in a towel when I get out of the bath?"

"It's not that," the young pilot insister, his cheeks turning bright red.

"Or maybe it's the wrestling?"


"And there's our answer," Misato smiled knowingly. "Anyway, it's time for us to go back to work, Shinji. We'll go see Ritsuko in her office and see what she has to say about our sync scores."

Ritsuko had completed her preliminary analysis of the day's test data when Misato knocked on her office door.

"Come in."

"Good afternoon, Ritsuko," Misato beamed, bringing Shinji inside with her. "So, what do you have to say about our sync scores?"

"Must do better if you hope to come back from a mission unharmed," the bottle blonde answered coolly, not looking up from her computer screen. After a moment, she turned her attention to her visitors. "That said, you've had the best results we've seen for someone who wasn't a pilot candidate."

"Is that it? I was forced to dress like I was going to some kind of fetish club and that's all you have to say?" Misato growled.

"You seemed to enjoy teasing Shinji when you were dressed in the plugsuit," Ritsuko countered.

"Well, that's different," the purple-haired woman insisted, suddenly feeling a little self-conscious.

"In what way?" the scientist asked, genuinely intrigued as to the differences that Misato saw between the situations.

"…" Shinji blushed brightly at the topic of conversation.

"Well… I… Look, it's just different," Misato said, glaring at her friend.

Ritsuko nodded. "Shinji, please could you bring us all some coffee?"

"Yes, Dr. Akagi," the pilot nodded before leaving the room.

"He's not here, so in what way is it different for you to wear the plugsuit in front of Shinji?"

"Shinji's different, ok? It's not like he's just a roommate or someone who cooks and cleans for me," Misato said somewhat evasively.

Ritsuko nodded, but then the follow up words of, "I kinda like him…" sank in. "What?"

"I… I kinda like Shinji. Something's changed since I went in the entry plug. I swear, a week ago, it was different – he was just Shinji then."

The sense of outrage at Misato's admission was quickly superseded by the mystery of what could cause such a change in Misato.

Yes, Misato was flirty and enjoyed saying provocative things in order to amuse herself and had been that way ever since Ritsuko had first met her, but this, confession for lack of a better term, was different.

"Have you felt any different since you first went into the entry plug?"

"Aside from having to wear things that don't fit right, I don't really feel any different."

"Be honest with me, Misato," Ritsuko said solemnly. "I need to know if the there's going to be a complication."

"Alright, but if you tell anyone about this, I will kill you, OK?" Misato warned.

"Unless it becomes a problem that means you or Shinji can't pilot, as far as I'm concerned I didn't hear a thing."

The Captain locked the door before taking a deep breath. "I've been feeling a bit more… how can I put this?"

"Misato, one, I'm a scientist – it's my job to understand complicated things and how and why they happen. Two, we're friends and we used to be roommates. Short of you suddenly sprouting new body parts, I'm not going to be that shocked by what you tell me."

"You know how teenage boys are always thinking about sex? Well, it's kinda like that. It's not like I'm about to jump on the next man I see, but it's been a while."

"That was not quite what I was expecting. This could be hormonal, your first blood sample didn't show anything out of the ordinary," Ritsuko reasoned.

"What if it is hormonal?" Misato asked. "Am I going to need to take the pill or something? And why didn't it happen after the first time I got in the entry plug?"

"We'll take another sample and analyse it. Top priority," the faux-blonde decided. "As for why now; well, you've had more contact with LCL, so it's possible that it's a build up that's causing the reaction."

The door handle moved.

"Hello? It's Shinji, I've got your coffee, but the door's locked."

"Hang on, Shinji," Ritsuko called out. "We'll take our coffee to go. We need to take a blood sample from Misato."

"Oh, ok." Shinji stepped away from the door and waited for the two women to come out of the office.

"Is everything alright?" he asked when they emerged.

"Yes, we just need to check a few things," Ritsuko answered. "We wouldn't want to miss anything that could cause a problem in the future."

Ritsuko had just handed over Misato's latest blood sample to the lab technician when her mobile phone rang.

"Akagi speaking."

"¬Dr. Akagi, it's Hyuga here. We've got Unit-00 ready for the synchronisation testing.¬"

"Convenient how you managed to complete all the work so soon," Ritsuko commented.

"¬Well, it seems that people really like the idea of surviving Angel attacks, Dr. Akagi.¬"

"Alright, I suppose that we can fit in another test today if we're quick. Oh, and Hyuga, do remember that this testing is classified. If I see hordes of people standing around trying to get a look at the test, I will have you disciplined."

"¬O-of course, Dr. Akagi,¬" the Lieutenant said, suddenly feeling rather nervous about things.

The bottle blonde hung up and turned to face Misato. "Good news and bad; the good is that Unit-00 is ready for testing, the bad is that this testing if a high priority."

"So I need to get back into a plugsuit," Misato sighed. "Still, I suppose we can get Shinji to attempt to synchronise with Unit-00 while we're at it."

"What? Me?" Shinji asked, unsure of why he was being dragged into things. "Why?"

"More data," Ritsuko smiled. "Don't worry, Shinji, we won't be doing any more extensive testing today; just a basic synchronisation initialisation."


Makoto Hyuga and Shigeru Aoba were standing around, trying not to look like they were burning off nervous energy.

"I can't believe we're going to see Katsuragi-san in a plugsuit!"

"I know! This is going to be so awesome!"

Maya Ibuki looked at her co-workers and shook her head in disgust. 'Pigs,' she thought disapprovingly.

"Right then," Ritsuko Akagi said as she walked into the control room. "Hyuga, lock the doors, Aoba, prepare to start logging everything. Ibuki, signal Shinji to let him know we're about to begin."

"But…"Aoba trailed off under the stern look from the bottle blonde. "Preparing the logger now."

"Ikari-kun, we're ready for you to begin."

"¬Ok,¬" the teenager answered. Moments later, the hatch closed and the entry plug started to fill with LCL.

15 minutes later, Shinji climbed out of the entry plug feeling a bit disappointed in his synchronisation score. 31.43 percent was considerably lower than what he achieved the first time he climbed into Unit-01.

However, it was, as Dr. Akagi pointed out, still higher than anything Misato had achieved in Unit-01.

He turned around to see Misato standing there, a white labcoat covering her black and red plugsuit.

"Are you ready, Misato-san?"

"Too bad if I'm not," the purple-haired woman winked playfully. She slipped out of the labcoat and handed it to Shinji. "Be right back."

The teenager stood dumbstruck as he watched his roommate's vinyl-clad body sway as she climbed the steps into the entry plug. As she bent over, Shinji failed to notice that he was biting his bottom lip.

Misato looked over at her ward. "Try not to hurt yourself, Shin-chan."

On a normal test, the support staff would have laughed at the way Misato was teasing Shinji.

Of course, on a normal day, Misato wouldn't be climbing into an entry plug.

The three lieutenants were all glued to their screens, with the two men silently vowing to never forget the day they saw Misato Katsuragi bending over in plugsuit.

Ritsuko saw that numerous stills from the video were being taken for later analysis. She could certainly understand why, but knew that she had to put her foot down to stop this.

"Remember how I said that this test is classified? Well, if one frame of that video shows up outside of this room without my approval, there will be reprisals. Pay will be docked, formal reprimands placed in work records, and I'll tell Misato that it was you.

"I dread to think what sort of thing she will do to you when she gets her hands on you."

"Katsuragi-sama can do as she pleases with me…" Hyuga said with a faraway look in his eyes.

"Thank you Mistress Katsuragi, may I have another?" Aoba murmured.

"¬Ready when you guys are,¬" Misato said into the comm. link.

"Just warning these guys about what'll happen if they leak any details about this test," Ritsuko said.

"¬They better not,¬" Misato glared into the camera. "¬Or I'll kick their asses so hard, they'll need to have their stomachs pumped to get my shoes removed.¬"

"So worth it if she's wearing that plugsuit…"Aoba whispered under his breath.

"Begin synchronisation procedures," the bottle blonde instructed, hoping to put a stop to any further nonsense.

Ten minutes later, an exhausted Misato emerged from the entry plug. She scanned the immediate area for Shinji.

'To see if he was there with a drink for her, like he had been earlier,' the Captain told herself firmly. 'It's nothing to do with the fact that I might want him to wash my back…'

The sexy woman froze. "Yeah, definitely need to talk with Ritsuko about that…"

Shinji approached her with the lab coat and a bottle of water. "Dr. Akagi said that I should give this to you."

"Water?" Misato pouted playfully. She took the bottle and took a long drink, sating her thirst. "Thanks, Shinji. So, what now?"

"Normally, it's I shower after the sync tests," Shinji answered.

The Captain finished drinking her bottle of water. "Not quite what I had in mind, Shinji. I mean, yeah, I managed to sync with Unit-00, but what does Ritsuko want to do next?"

Doctor Akagi quickly walked up to the two pilots.

"Well, Ritsuko, what now?"

"The MAGI will be analysing the data from today for some time, but the first impression is that we have two pilots and two Evangelions we can use. As to what level, well, we'll have see," Ritsuko explained. "In the mean time, I think we should get something to eat soon."

"Ok, what would you like to eat, Dr. Akagi?" Shinji asked, mentally preparing options for dinner based upon what was in Misato's cupboards.

"Anything that isn't Misato's curry noodles."

"Hey, how come you get to eat Shinji's cooking?" Misato demanded. "Bit cheeky to just invite yourself round to someone's house, isn't it?"

The bottle blonde had the grace to look a little contrite at her friend's comment. "There are other factors at work, Misato. Remember that thing we talked about earlier?"

"Oh… that," the Captain laughed nervously. "Ok, you can come round."

To be continued.

Or something.

Pre-read by Chi Vayne and previewed on various intertubes.

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