Superwomen of Eva: Emerald Fury @orionpax09
Monster Hunt

Disclaimer: I do not own Evangelion or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

Disclaimer: I do not own anything belonging to Marvel Comics or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

Superwomen of Eva: Emerald Fury

Chapter 5: Monster Hunt

"So everything is progressing according to schedule?" Gendo asked as he sat back in his office, looking over various files and data.

"That's right, Commander," came the voice of the harbormaster over the phone. "All the ships in the fleet are up to specs and ready to go. The diving team is fully briefed and ready for just about anything, and the submersibles have been checked and double-checked."

Furrowing his brow, Gendo asked, "And what about the crane and cable? It doesn't do us any good to be able to find our objective if we're unable to retrieve it."

"Not to worry, sir. The cable has a higher grade of tensile strength and elasticity than an Evangelion's power cable. It'll hold, no problem." There was a pause as the harbormaster somehow conveyed the shaking of his head before saying, "I gotta tell you, sir, I really don't understand why you want to inspect the fleet yourself. This is kinda short notice, you know."

"I'm aware of that," Gendo muttered, more than a little annoyed by the harbormaster's flippant manner. "But given the importance of this mission, I've decided to take a personal hand in its preparation." As the Commander opened his mouth to speak again, a soft ringing caught his ears. Frowning as he looked about, he saw Fuyutsuki pulling his cell phone from his coat and open it. "As you know, the success of the Human Instrumentality Project is dependent on our retrieval of this artifact. I don't need to tell you how the Committee would feel if we were to fail for any reason."

"Heh! You don't have to tell me! I've already had the chairman breathing down my neck about it!" Chuckling beneath his breath, the harbormaster made a thoughtful sound before saying, "Well, if you wanna come on down yourself, Commander, then it's no skin off my nose. But mark my words; you won't find so much as a speck of dust that isn't shipshape and ready to set out to the pole whenever you're ready."

"I had better not. For your sake," Gendo muttered before setting down the receiver, his already-furrowed brows becoming increasingly pronounced as he wondered who on earth had been foolish enough to place someone so blatantly flippant in a position of such crucial importance.

Pausing to remind himself that the harbormaster must truly know his duties, or he would never have survived Keel's scrutiny, and that his fate would ultimately be no different from the rest of the sinful sum of humanity, Gendo sat back and focused on his own plans for a moment. This whole situation feels barely under control, the Commander thought with an air of distaste. A great deal had happened that he currently could do nothing about, and though his efforts at damage control were coming along, the fact that he was basically being forced to make things up as he went along was extremely grating, especially after all the work he had done to secure the power and control he presently held. Still...things seem to be coming along. As long as there are no further surprises, the scenario's progression will go unhindered.

A moment after Gendo had finished this thought, Fuyutsuki closed his phone and turned towards his former student. "Ikari…we have a problem."

Gendo was no believer in jinxes. He had always told himself that a man made his own destiny with his own hands. But even he couldn't discount the timing of Fuyutsuki's statement. "What is it, sensei?"

"I just heard from the Section 2 detail I assigned to watch the Major," Fuyutsuki muttered, a worn look on his face. The same one that appeared when the old professor was confronted with a duty that he considered especially onerous, one that had appeared with decreasing frequency since he had first become Gendo's second-in-command. "It seems that your suspicions regarding her have been confirmed."

Sitting upright, Gendo felt himself coming to full alertness and readiness. "What has happened? Has the Major done something of interest?"

"You could say that," Fuyutsuki nodded somberly. "According to the agent in charge of the detail, a giant, green woman just broke out of her apartment." The old man lowered his eyes somewhat before adding, "They also noted that, while this creature is much larger than a human, that it was still recognizable as being the Major."

Narrowing his eyes at his old professor, Gendo frowned as he digested that bit of information. "So…it's true. She and this creature are one and the same." As Fuyutsuki nodded, the Commander frowned even more deeply, taking no pleasure in being right. If anything, this confirmation made matters even more complicated. "What about the 2nd and 3rd Child? What is their status?"

"They're checking on the 2nd now," Fuyutsuki muttered, his voice coming harder and more disapproving. "However, the agent in charge says that the 3rd Child left the apartment shortly after the creature appeared." He paused just long enough for his next words to have an even deeper impact. "Judging from the direction he was moving in, he was intent on following her."

A low gust of breath was Gendo's only reaction to this. Though he wasn't particularly surprised by this action on the boy's part, not after his previous displays of concern for the Major, the fact remained that an Evangelion pilot was placing himself in unnecessary danger. Even worse, a pilot that was a crucial part of his scenario, and one that couldn't be replaced. "Alert Section 2. I want the 3rd Child located and brought here as quickly as possible," the Commander muttered as he stood from his seat. "And prepare a special detail for combat. We have to…"

Gendo was cut off by the sound of his telephone ringing. The Commander turned and glared at it for a moment as he considered whether or not he should answer. On the one hand, it was clear that there was a situation developing that he needed to take control of. But on the other, the fact that the call was coming in on his private line quickly limited the number of potential callers, a list of people that wouldn't be calling unless it was something urgent.

Grating at this delay, Gendo looked at the phone like he would rather shoot it before picking up the receiver. "Yes?"

"Commander!" came the voice of Dr. Akagi. "Sir! We have a serious problem, sir! It's about Misato!"

Furrowing his brow, Gendo paused before answering, "I take it that you've found proof regarding her connection to the creature?"

"Uh…yes, sir," Ritsuko got out, her voice sounding more forced than the Commander had heard it in some time. "Maya and I…we've confirmed the existence of a mutagenic factor in Misato's cell structure." There was a pause before the doctor added, "You…were right about her, sir. She is the creature."

"What have you learned about her condition?" Gendo demanded, his focus entirely on the doctor and whatever information she had. Information that could well be vital in dealing with this situation.

"The MAGI are still processing the test results now, sir," Ritsuko explained hurriedly. "As for what we've found so far…it'll be easier for me to show you."

Not doubting this, Gendo replied, "Very well. I'm on my way. Send Lieutenant Ibuki away. Use whatever excuse you want, but she had better be gone by the time I arrive." Nott giving Ritsuko to say anything, the Commander placed the receiver done and looked towards Fuyutsuki. "Dr. Akagi has learned something about the Major's condition. Come with me. And contact Captain Chiron."

"Chiron?" Fuyutsuki repeated as Gendo started for the door. "Ikari, are you sure it's wise to involve him?"

"He's the head of Section 2, sensei. He's also the best man we have for this situation," Gendo muttered, knowing full well what his former teacher was implying. "Have him meet us in Akagi's lab immediately." With that, the Commander exited his office, fully aware of Fuyutsuki as he followed close behind. His thoughts already focused on his next move. For while he disliked improvisation, that didn't mean he wasn't capable of it when the need arose.

As Ritsuko heard the line to the Commander disconnect, she sighed heavily, feeling as if something her gripping at her insides the same way she gripped her cell phone as she closed it. It was a sensation that she was long acquainted with, one that she had learned to suppress and shove out of her way, reminding herself time and again that there was nothing she could do. Unfortunately, as accomplished as she was at this, she knew that there was no reasoning with emotions. And that included guilt.

There's nothing you could have done, Ritsuko told herself once again as she put her phone away. Not allowing her emotions to get the better of her, she turned towards Maya, who was looking dismally at her own cell phone. "I take it that the news isn't good?"

Shaking her head sorrowfully, Maya let her arms flop down helplessly to her sides, looking as if she were barely remaining on her own feet. "Asuka…I tried to warn her, but…" Heaving a deep breath, the young looked at Ritsuko with eyes of despair. "She said…the Major…"

Closing her eyes as she brought her hand to her forehead, Ritsuko opened them again to look up at the holographic displays. Focusing on the one with the green blood cells radiating their dangerous light. "Then…we were too late," she moaned, her words flat and devoid of emotion. "Did Asuka tell you…what happened?"

"Yes." Maya then went into a rough account of the German had reported to her, including how Misato had injured herself, the transformation she had undergone, and how she attacked Asuka before fleeing her apartment. When the narrative was complete and Ritsuko was considering what she had just been told, the young woman's features sagged with despair. "Sempai…you know what this means, don't you?" she asked, her voice rife with disbelief even as she spoke. "Th-that thing on the news…the monster that attacked the subway…it was the Major! It was her, and -!"

"I know that, Maya!" Ritsuko shrilled. Without even realizing what she was doing, she whirled about to drill the techie with her glare, her throat raw with the sheer emotion that had just erupted from it. "I -!" Before she could give voice to another wave of pain and guilt and horror, the rational portion of Ritsuko's mind recovered, and saw the look of terror worn by Maya, the way she had recoiled, and was now trembling like a leaf in a thunderstorm. "I…" the doctor fumbled out, suddenly drained, despite the anguish that remained in her. "I'm sorry, Maya. I…I shouldn't have…"

"Sempai…" Maya whimpered, tears welling up as she pressed her eyes and mouth shut. "I…I'm the one who should be sorry. I…"

Holding up her shaking hands, determined to keep her emotions at a safe distance, Ritsuko heaved a deep breath and muttered, "No. It…I understand. I -!" Exhaling sharply, the doctor shook her head. She couldn't do this. She couldn't allow herself to be waylaid by her feelings, no matter what they were. She had to keep her head clear. She had to think like a scientist. "Look, Maya, I…the Commander's coming here for a report on Misato's condition. I want you to go to the bridge, and run a simulation based on the MAGI's analysis of the mutated blood." When the brunette didn't respond, Ritsuko turned towards her and saw a complete lack of comprehension in her face. "We need to know exactly what we're dealing with here. Run a comparison between Misato's blood cells in their original configuration and their current state, and use that data to create a virtual replication of the transformation process in the rest of her tissues."

"Uh…oh. Eh…okay," Maya sputtered out, barely keeping up with what was happening. But then she recovered somewhat and asked, "But…why go to the bridge? Why not -?"

"Because the Commander is going to call in the rest of the main bridge crew. And I want you to use this data to create a simulation of…what Misato's become." If anything, Maya looked even more stupefied, not that Ritsuko could blame her. "Whatever has happened to her, it's clearly impaired her judgment. The fact that she's already caused as much damage as she has proves that, never mind her attacking Asuka! Which means that right now, she's as much a danger to this city as an Angel!"

Her eyes widening in dawning comprehension, Maya gasped before saying, "Wait…you're not saying that -?!"

"No. It's not going to come to that," Ritsuko lied with practiced ease. "But we still have to know exactly what we're dealing with here." When Maya showed no sign of being reassured, let alone clearing out before Gendo arrived, the doctor moved up to her and did her best to look poised and in control. "Look, Misato changed back last time. It took time, but she did change back. It might just be a case of waiting until she does. But even if that's true, we have to be ready for the worst. Because if what this…thing she's become did the last time is any indicator, then we can't afford to take any chances. And that means we have to know exactly what she's capable of doing in this state." Pausing for a moment, she then placed her hand on Maya's shoulder and did her best to say just the right thing. "I know this is hard, but we can't just think about Misato. Thousands of people, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, are at risk. And we have to protect them, too."

Lowering her face, Maya frowned tightly before finally nodding. "You're…you're, sempai. I'm sorry. I…wasn't thinking."

"You don't have anything to apologize for," Ritsuko told her as earnestly as she knew how. "Now get to the bridge. We've got a lot of work to do, and we have to work fast."

Nodding sharply, Maya darted around the doctor, only to pause halfway to the door. "Don't worry, sempai," she spoke, smiling a smile of deep sympathy. "I'll do my best to help the Major."

"I know you will," the doctor beamed, prompting Maya to smile even more broadly before she departed. Leaving Ritsuko alone, with no one to see her stagger backward and slump against the wall. Where she looked up at the ceiling, as if looking for some divine hand to smite her out of existence.

Hundreds of thousands of people. And we have to protect them, Ritsuko repeated in her mind, sounding out her own words to herself. It sounded good, she had to admit. It sounded noble, brave, the perfect sentiment for a high-ranking member of NERV to give voice to. But it was all hollow, without heart or feeling. Even to her own ears.

While Ritsuko was shaking her head at herself, reality intruded and forced her to focus on the business at hand. "Dr. Akagi," Gendo spoke crisply as he entered her office, Fuyutsuki just a few steps behind him.

"Commanders," Ritsuko replied, bowing her head to them both before focusing on Gendo. "Sir, there's something you should know. When Maya and I got the results of this test, we tried to contact Major Katsuragi, to let her know that we'd learned something about her condition. But by the time we got through…"

Gendo held up his hand to Ritsuko, stopping her before she could utter another word. "I know. She's transformed again." The doctor's mouth popped open in surprise, and she was about to ask how the Commander had found this out when he answered her unspoken question. "I recently received a report from Section 2, stating that a large, green woman resembling Major Katsuragi recently broke out of her apartment."

A moment passed as Ritsuko studied the Commander. Then she frowned and gave herself a mental kick in the rear, reminding herself that Ikari had ordered a Section 2 detail to monitor Misato. That he would have been aware of her situation the instant she had transformed again. "I see, sir," the doctor muttered, not quite able to keep the bitterness out of her voice. "I…apologize, sir. We…we tried to contact you and Major Katsuragi as soon as possible, but…"

"Apologies are of no use to me, Dr. Akagi," Gendo broke in, his voice colder than ice as he positioned himself to better view the holographic displays. "Now, tell me exactly what we're dealing with."

Pressing her lips together, Ritsuko then nodded and assumed the role of a scientist that she wore so well. "Very well, sir," she spoke as evenly as she could. She then began to explain the preliminary results of their examinations, citing the levels of gamma radiation present in the cells, as well a before-and-after comparison of the cells that showed very clearly how much larger they were than a normal human's, as well as the vastly higher energy potential and the telltale signs of Angelic DNA that could now be seen.

"The reason we never found anything before was because the mutation was dormant until adrenaline was introduced to the blood sample," Ritsuko eventually concluded, unable to conceal the irritation she felt at that failure. "Under normal conditions, the blood cells are identical in appearance and function to normal cells. However, when the mutation is activated…"

As Ritsuko gestured at the facts and figures shown by the MAGI, Fuyutsuki gave her an intense look. "But how is this even possible, Doctor? The levels of radiation indicated in this sample would be instantly lethal by human standards. How did the Major survive such an exposure?"

"There's just one possibility that I can think of," Ritsuko stated, frowning as she spoke. "When Misato was exposed to Second Impact, it's possible that she was mutated by Adam's power, allowing her cells to process enormous amounts of energy. That would explain the presence of Angelic DNA in her system, especially given the extreme similarity between their genetic coding and those of humans." Pausing momentarily to let her superiors process this, the doctor then looked up at the display. "Now, from what I can tell, the mutated cell structure's base metabolism has adapted to be able to successfully regulate the radiation, which appears to be highly diffused and consists of several different frequencies. To put it simply, the energy has been modulated into a form which is much more compatible with organic life, and is easily processed by her physiology."

"An intriguing theory, Doctor," Gendo nodded, frowning slightly. "But this doesn't explain why she hasn't transformed prior to now. If this metamorphosis is triggered by anger, by adrenaline, then…"

"It must've been Adam, sir," Ritsuko explained. "It's possible that the mutation was dormant until Misato came into close proximity with Adam when she shook your hand." Exhaling sharply, Ritsuko recalled the account given to her that day. "That would explain the fainting spell. If coming into contact with Adam's is what stimulated her mutation, then the disruption to her cellular physiology would have been substantial."

Again, Gendo nodded, and Ritsuko could almost see the wheels turning behind his eyes. "So what we have here is a one-in-a-million freak of biological alchemy," he mused. Then, focusing his attention on the doctor, he asked, "That leaves us with just one question, doctor; how do we stop this creature?"

"Actually, sir, we might not have to." An incredulous expression exploded onto Gendo's face, at which Ritsuko gestured at her data. "We already know that Misato changed back sometime after her initial transformation. And given the fact that this change is triggered by adrenaline, then it makes sense that when her adrenaline levels subside…"

"She'll change back again," Fuyutsuki nodded.

"Right," Ritsuko confirmed. "Which means all we have to do is leave her alone long enough to calm down, and…"

"And watch this creature savage Tokyo-3 while we do nothing to stop it?" Gendo frowned, his features sharpening with his displeasure. "That's not a viable option, Akagi."

"Until we have a better idea of what Misato is capable of in this state, I can't offer any better options," Ritsuko admitted with a hint of shame. "Especially given her mental state. Remember, she's already attacked Asuka. Therefore, it's likely that she will attack anything and anyone that she perceives as a potential threat." It was obvious that Gendo still wasn't pleased with this idea, so the doctor tried a different approach. "I've already sent Maya to the bridge to run simulations using this data, to get a better idea of what we're dealing with. She might have something soon. And we can still use the Angel Detection System to track Misato until she reverts."

Making a thoughtful noise in his throat, Gendo frowned intensely before glowering at the Sub-Commander. "Do we have a means of subduing the Major without killing her? In the event that she doesn't simply…change back on her own."

"Yes. NERV Medical has a supply of tranquilizer guns and sleeping gas, just in case the pilots experience mental contamination," Fuyutsuki confirmed.

"Make them available to Section 2. I want Katsuragi captured alive, at all costs," Gendo demanded. Then the Commander frowned in afterthought. "Wait. Where is Chiron? He was supposed to meet us here."

Chiron?! Ritsuko thought incredulously. Before she could actually say anything, the door to her office opened, and the Section 2 head himself marched in.

"Captain Chiron reporting, sir," announced the tall, dark-haired male as he snapped off a salute to his Commander.

"You're late," Gendo muttered disdainfully.

"Uh, yes, sir," Chiron frowned immediately, shifting his eyes about for a moment. "My apologies, sir, but I had to deal with a minor crisis. Several of my men seem to have been spending too much time reading the tabloids." Gendo continued to study the agent, his face as of stone as the Captain cocked his head and added, "I've been getting reports from people claiming to have seen that creature from the papers. And get this, sir. One of them even said that it's a woman! Honestly, a woman…!" Doing her best not to groan in dismay, Ritsuko continued to stand there and watch as Chiron gave a quick chuckle to that. "Anyway, what is it you wanted to see me about, sir?"

"I need a special team prepped and ready for combat, Chiron. Select your best people, have them fitted with body armor, and mobilize a flight of helicopters to patrol the city," Gendo told him easily. "And put all field units on full alert. Have them patrol the city."

"Understood, sir," Chiron nodded, standing up a bit straighter. "And what is that they're looking for?"

"They have two targets. The first of them is the 3rd Child. He's gone rogue and is loose in the city. I want him brought back here immediately." Gendo explained. "But your primary target…"

Frowning somewhat as Gendo trailed off, Chiron hesitated a few moments before asking, "Uh…yes, sir? What about it?"

"It's a woman. A large, green woman. The same one that your men have been reporting to you about," Gendo told him in a matter-of-fact manner. An instant afterward, Ritsuko was treated to the rare sight of absolute shock exploding across the insufferable Section 2 head's face. Commander Ikari allowed him to wallow in that baffled state for several seconds, seeming to wait for the precise moment when Chiron recovered enough to begin to ask to repeat this order, at which point he added, "Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki will give you the details, and assist in making full preparations. Dr. Akagi and I are going to the bridge, and will give you further orders from there." Glancing in Ritsuko's direction, he paused just long enough to give her a look before starting towards the door.

"Uh…but…uh…" Chiron sputtered out. He probably made further noises of confusion, but Ritsuko had already passed through the door and couldn't hear them. Not that she cared to do so.

Tokyo-3 was a weird place. Everybody knew it. It was frequently invaded by horrendous monsters and was the site of actual giant robot battles. Buildings popped in and out of the ground, and it was constantly under repair as the crews tried to bring the fortress city back to fighting specs after the previous battle. However, there were certain things that the people who lived and worked there considered to be totally impossible, even by the standards of what was likely the craziest place on the entire planet to live.

"Excuse me, sir? I'm supposed to be looking for a what?!" a man by the name of Higo Hayame spat into his cell phone. As a member of Section 2, he was overworked, underpaid, on call twenty-four hours a day, and trained to follow orders.

That training, however, didn't make it any easier to swallow these particular orders.

"A woman," came the voice of his immediate supervisor, which put him somewhere above your standard field agent and below Captain Chiron and the NERV higher-ups. "She's approximately eight feet tall, heavily muscled with bright green skin. She's running around naked, and is considered to be extremely dangerous."

Sighing, Higo took a moment to wonder what exactly his superiors were smoking these days before proceeding towards his car. Like just about everyone else in Tokyo-3, he'd heard the stories about the savage monster that had run rampant throughout the city, smashing anything that it had happened to come upon. But like many of them, he'd been certain that those stories had been exaggerated, at least to a degree.

Besides, a giant green woman?! That sounds like something out of a bad science-fiction movie! he thought. Rolling his eyes in disbelief, Higo fed his money into a vending machine, pushed a button, and gratefully retrieved the canned soda that it spat out. "My apologies, sir, but…"

"Those are your orders," his superior insisted. He didn't say 'I don't care how ridiculous it sounds, that's what they're paying you to do'. It was in his tone of voice.

"Yes, sir," Higo replied, letting the hand with the cell phone flop down to his side. Giving a weary sigh as he headed over to the curb where he had parked his car, he paused to look up into heavens, as if searching for a sign that he was being punished.

What he saw was exactly what he'd been ordered to look for.

Before Higo's astonished eyes, a hugely muscled woman fell from the sky to land on top of his car, crushing the roof of it instantly. As the car's alarm went off in response to this assault, the woman's green eyes flared brightly with hatred as she looked down at the ruined vehicle. Higo was then given a perfect view of the green-skinned she-beast's splendid body as she snarled, reared up and brought her fists down on the car hood. She smashed it again and again, her breasts seeming to dance as she pummeled the car, her fists tearing through metal as if it were paper. Plumes of smoke appeared as she ripped apart the hood and shattered the engine until at last the alarm wheezed fitfully one last time before falling silent.

The hardened Section 2 agent knew that he probably should draw his gun, order the massive Amazon to surrender. Do something other than allow NERV property to be pounded into tinfoil. But as Higo stood there, soda in one hand and cell phone in the other, he found that all he could do was stare at the massive beast as she jumped off of the car. Then she bent down and grabbed the ruined vehicle, lifting it without any apparent effort. Growling savagely, she then spun about on her heel once, twice, and with a hateful bellow, the muscle-bound woman then sent the car hurtling into the air.

Stunned speechless, Higo watched as the shattered wreck tumbled through the air until it smashed into the 30th floor of a nearby skyscraper. As glass and audibly tumbled into space from the point of impact, the green woman crouched down and roared after it, as if daring the car to be stupid enough to come back and make more noise at her. Then, seemingly satisfied that the ruined lump of metal had learned its lesson, the she-beast turned about and looked at Higo.

"Agent Hayate! Report! What is going on over there?!" his supervisor demanded as the woman stomped closer, examining Higo as if she was wondering if she should smash him as well. As for the Section 2 agent, all he could do was stare at her amazing breasts, and try not to look dangerous.

Finally, the woman snorted before moving away. His eyes now glued to her posterior, Higo watched as she picked up speed before leaping into the sky. When she finally disappeared from sight, his eyes rolled back before the Section 2 agent fell flat on his back.

"Report! Agent Hayate!" his supervisor demanded. "What's all the noise on your end?! What the hell just happened?!

"Found her…" Higo managed to squeak out before fainting with a nosebleed.

"Ugh…" Makoto groaned as he traversed the now-familiar labyrinth of corridors, halls, escalators, and elevators that led the way to the heart of NERV. Wishing that he had had time for more than just one of this little bottles of instant energy before he had had to leave for work. "Sometimes, I wonder why in blazes I put up with this crap."

"Try starting with a steady paycheck," replied Shigeru Aoba, one of Makoto's fellow bridge techs.

Groaning even more deeply at this, Makoto slouched forward, not giving a damn about the fact that his uniform looked like a mess and that he was even worse. He had just been heading to bed after yet another long day's work, exhausted and looking forward to a full night's sleep when the phone had started ringing off the hook with word that he was being called in. "Did they tell you what this is all about?"

"Eh, all they told me is that there's some big emergency," Shigeru replied dismissively.

"That's all I got, too." Shaking his head, Makoto let out a big yawn before continuing. "So…what kind of Eldritch Abomination of an Angel are we going to have to deal with this time?"

"Huh?" Shigeru got out, furrowing his brow at his companion. "What makes you think it's an Angel?"

Holding up his hands as if the answer should be self-explanatory, Makoto answered, "Well, what else could it be?" When Shigeru failed to say anything to this, the bespectacled otaku shrugged. "I just hope we manage to kill this one on the first try."

"Yeah, right. And what are the chances of that happening?" Shigeru muttered with a roll of his eyes.

"Well, a guy can hope, can't he?" Makoto remarked. Shigeru didn't bother to comment on this as they appeared on the bridge. Despite the lateness of the day, the place that was the hub of NERV's efforts to defeat the Angels seemed to be going full blast. Techs were running around this way and that in a state of controlled chaos, with a holographic display of the city in place. People were speaking in a low, hushed voice that meant business, and Maya was already at her station, working feverishly. And at the center of it all, Dr. Akagi and Commander Ikari stood conversing.

"Whoa," Shigeru muttered, his eyes widening as the two of them started towards their stations. "Looks like you called it, Makoto. Even the brass is here." Makoto didn't say anything to this, mainly because he would have been just as happy to have been wrong.

As the two of them moved towards their stations, the two techies could make out one particular conversation. "So she didn't attack him?" Ritsuko asked, sounding scared and hopeful at the same time. "She didn't hurt him at all?!"

"Apparently not. He was unconscious, but there wasn't a mark on him," Gendo responded, his entire face seeming as of stone. "However, she completely destroyed his car. Section 2 found what was left of it on the 30th floor of a nearby building."

Huh? Since when do they refer to Angels as 'she'? Makoto wondered, raising an eyebrow at this. The geeky tech considering the matter for a moment, but ultimately dismissed his question, certain that he would find out what was going on soon enough.

As Makoto took his position, Shigeru sat back and eyed the third member of their trio. "Hey, Maya! I see you beat us here," he smiled watching as she worked frantically. "So, uh…any idea what this is -?"

"Please, not now!" Maya hissed, giving the two of them a good look at her face. Makoto was stunned to see that her eyes were bloodshot, her face was seamed and lined with exhaustion, and her hair and uniform were an even bigger mess than either of the male techies. As the two of them recoiled from her manner and appearance, the female tech looked over her shoulder at their superiors. "Commander, doctor? The data is ready, and the MAGI have finished generating a simulation of the Major."

Makoto was given a fraction of a second to process this, another fraction for his eyes to bulge in response to his brain crashing. As he looked at his fellow tech and saw a look that matched his condition on Shigeru's face, Ritsuko responded, "Thank you, Maya. Commander?"

"Attention, everyone," Gendo spoke, his authority crashing down upon the heads of everyone there. "As you already know, you were called here in response to an emergency situation. However, until now, you have probably acted under the assumption that it was another Angel attacking." Shigeru and Makoto glanced at each other, shaken by this latest surprise, and they weren't the only ones. Across the bridge, people were looking at each other and the Commander, sounds of confusion echoing through the air. "However, the situation is more complicated than that. Because the enemy we're dealing with is – or was - human. In fact, it was one of our own."

One of our own?! Makoto repeated as he slowly caught up with the situation. Then his eyes bugged as he flashed back to something Maya had said. Wait…does that mean – no way!

Even as Makoto was telling himself that his barely-formed idea was simply not possible, the Commander confirmed it. "Major Katsuragi has been afflicted with an Angelic mutation. One that has caused her to transform into a mindless beast, one potentially as destructive as the Angels themselves, and is responsible for the rampage that took place several days ago."

"What?!" Makoto heard someone yelp. "You mean that…the Major is that hulking thing?!"

"That is correct," Gendo intoned, turning a deathly glare upon the person responsible for interrupting him. As Makoto briefly pictured that unfortunate idiot turning to stone and crashing to the floor, shattering into a million pieces, the Commander then looked at Ritsuko. "Doctor?"

"Yes, sir," Ritsuko nodded before stepping forward. "Now, I'm sure all of you have heard many accounts of what happened that day, as well as of the creature that…Major Katsuragi has become. But it's important that you all understand exactly what it is we're dealing with." Glancing at Maya, the doctor went on to say, "To that end, Lieutenant Ibuki has prepared a simulation of Major Katsuragi's current form, based on a sample of her mutated cellular structure. This should give you a rough estimate of this creature's capabilities. Maya?"

"Right." Not bothering to look at her superiors, Maya focused entirely at her station. A moment later, the display of Tokyo-3 vanished and was replaced by an analytical display. A beat passed, and a 3-D representation of Misato appeared on it.

"Now this is Major Katsuragi as she appeared normally," Ritsuko explained. "And this is a simulation of what her mutated form might look like, based on the MAGI's analysis." A moment later, a massive green woman seemingly made of solid muscle appeared on the screen, drawing gasps of surprise and astonishment. Noises that grew even more pronounced as the MAGI displayed their estimates of her potential strength, speed, and stamina.

"No…way…" Makoto stammered, his eyes expanding at the sight of the massive woman.

"You've gotta be kidding!" Shigeru protested, his voice low with astonishment. "Those numbers can't be right! It's just not possible!"

"I assure you, these calculations are as accurate as we can make at this time," Ritsuko answered grimly. "Making matters even worse is that this creature has already attacked one of the Children. Pilot Sohryu is mostly unhurt, but judging by her account, Major Katsuragi's mind has also been affected by her metamorphosis. We can't be sure to the extent her mind has been impaired, but the fact remains that she is presently running loose in the city, and is completely out of control. And we have to find some way of neutralizing her before she attacks someone else."

"But – wait a minute!" Makoto got out. "Dr. Akagi, how is this possible?! An Angelic mutation?! When did this -?!"

"If you'll be patient, Lieutenant Hyuga, I will explain," Ritsuko countered impatiently. With that, she gave the cliffs notes version of what she and Maya had discovered, including Misato's exposure to Adam during Second Impact to the impact of Jet Alone and the radiation. She also showed them the data regarding her recent findings and had Maya call up a recording of Misato's blood reacting to the presence of adrenaline. "Given our present information, it's safe to assume that Major Katsuragi will revert back to her human form once she's metabolized the adrenaline in her system. But until she does so, she is to be considered extremely dangerous, and likely to attack anything she comes across."

"And that is why you are all here," Gendo announced. "Dr. Akagi has determined that the Major's mutant form gives off a distinct pattern, one that the MAGI can detect. So we not only need to locate this creature, but also keep track of her location." Giving this a moment to sink in, the Commander turned about to study his people before continuing. "For this operation, we will be coordinating with Section 2.

If she approaches a populated section of the city, we will alert Section 2 so that they can drive her away from it. But if we find her pattern and it disappears, this will mean that the Major has changed back to her human form. In that case, we will route Section 2 to her general position, so that they can capture her before she causes any further damage. Is that understood?"

A chorus of 'yes, sirs' was heard, afterwards Ritsuko announced, "Very good. I'm sending each of you the exact pattern that Misato's mutant form generates. It's tricky to find unless you know exactly what you're looking for. Maya, would you…?"

As Ritsuko interacted with her understudy, Makoto sighed and sank back into his chair. "I still can't believe this…" he moaned dismally as he brought his hand to his temple. "I can't believe that we actually have to help hunt down Major Katsuragi, of all people…!"

"Hey, I know what you're saying, but you heard what they said! The Major…she's not a human being anymore!" Shigeru replied helplessly, staring at the massive numbers that signified her potential power. "She's that thing they were talking about on TV. That…hulking monster or whatever it is they called it."

"A hulking monster…" Makoto repeated numbly as he looked up at the simulated creature displayed before them. "A hulk…" Then NERV's resident otaku grinned stupidly as he examined the exquisite curves of the simulated monster. A creature that looked like she had popped out of the anime and manga that he loved so much. "A totally sexy She-Hulk!"

As Captain Iwao Chiron watched his troops arm themselves for battle, taking the tranquilizer guns and rounds that Fuyutsuki had dug up for them, he couldn't help but have mixed feelings about his current mission.

What he felt first and foremost was the anticipation of being able to go into action personally. His position at NERV, while good money, also meant long hours and excessive amounts of paperwork. And even worse, it gave him little opportunity to go out into the field personally, to see actual combat for himself. And it had been a long time since he had the pleasure of slitting someone's throat or battering them into surrender, and giving them a few extra kicks just for the fun of it.

The second thing he felt was annoyance, because this job wasn't going to allow him the deeper pleasures of his chosen profession. There wasn't going to be any blood and guts, no taking captives and interrogating them. There was the chance of battle, but his primary mission was to tranq their quarry and bring her back to base, safe and unharmed so the Commander could do whatever he wanted with her.

But even as he felt these things, the third and foremost sensation he was experiencing kept a grin on his face as he supervised his troops, as he mobilized the additional teams and helicopter units for pursuit and potential battle. And the sensation was the sheer pleasure he felt in the knowledge that he was finally going to take Misato Katsuragi down and put her in her place.

I never thought I would ever get this lucky! Chiron thought, recalling the briefing given to him by Fuyutsuki regarding their target. A briefing that had left him initially stunned, but ultimately had him salivating in delight. NERV's resident slut has gone nuts, and the Commander needs me to take her down!

Chuckling as he held up his tranq rifle, making sure that it was fully armed and ready for action, Chiron paused to imagine the look of horror that Misato would have when he put a dart between her implants. How or why Commander Ikari had been foolish enough to let a self-absorbed, drunken whore like her advance in the ranks when there were plenty of men who were infinitely more capable of handling an important position like hers was beyond him. Any fool could have known that making her Operations Director could only end in disaster. Though he had to admit that even he could never have imagined that inevitable disaster being quite as spectacular as this.

Oh, well. So much the better, I say! Chiron finally decided before turning towards his troops and getting down to business. "Alright, people. You've all been briefed on our target and objectives. Echo Units will be tasked with monitoring the target's movements, and herding it away from populated areas should the need arise. As for the rest of us, we'll be searching the city for the creature with assistance from the bridge. If the creature should revert back, we'll be routed to her position, at which point we will take her down. If we find her on our own, then we take her down the moment we find her." Cocking his weapon, the Section 2 man smiled grimly before adding, "However, if for some reason tranquilizers should prove to be…ineffective…I've already arranged for superior ordinances to be placed in your vehicles."

As the agents under his command chuckled, clearly hopeful that they would have the opportunity to make use of such weaponry, Chiron paced the lineup of agents. "We need to be ready to move the instant we get confirmation of the target's position. Commander Ikari wants her down and back here without incident. Is that understood?" At the sound of the many 'yes, sirs', the Section 2 head grinned. "Very well. Oh, and there's…just one more thing." Fixing his men with a steely glare, Chiron cradled his weapon in his arms and took a meaningful step closer to them. "If she changes back, then I'll be the one taking the shot. Anybody tries to take that from me, then he's dead. Is that understood?"

Chiron's answer was silence, the kind of silence that was heard when in the wake of pure fear. But that was fine by him, because when people feared you, they did whatever it was you wanted. "Alright, then. Let's bag this slut already." With this decree, his men went into motion, heading for their vehicles as the Captain again pictured that moment in his mind. "Your ass is mine, bitch."

"Kaji!" Asuka squealed in delight. Without hesitation, she darted over to the unshaven man's side and wrapped her arms about his own. "What are you doing here?!"

"I came to see you, actually," Kaji responded good-naturedly. "Ritsy called me, told me about what happened at the apartment, so I decided to drop by here on the way to the bridge." Cocking his head to the side, he pressed his hand against her cheek, gently shifting her head so as to look at it from a different angle. "Well, you don't look any worse for the wear. I have to admit, when I heard that you'd been taken to NERV Medical, I was expecting a lot worse."

Asuka instantly rolled her eyes to this, despite the fact that she wasn't surprised by this. Finding out that someone you cared for was in the hospital didn't give a person warm and fuzzy thoughts, as she had learned the hard way. "I'm fine, Kaji-kun." Then she frowned somewhat and asked, "So…did Akagi tell you…what happened?"

"She did," Kaji confirmed, his smile fading instantly. "But...I'm having a hard time believing it. That Katsuragi…is she really…?"

"She is. Believe me, she is!" Asuka returned in a voice that was somewhere between an irritated growl and confused wail. "She almost killed me, Kaji-kun! If you could have only seen that ugly thing she's become…!"

"So I gather," Kaji nodded. Freeing his arm from Asuka's grip, he then wrapped about her shoulders. "Look, why don't we sit down for a little while," he began gently, directing her towards the bed she'd been lounging on, "and you tell me what happened?"

"Okay," Asuka responded, not having any better ideas. Besides, if it meant getting to spend time with Kaji, then it was okay by her. So without hesitation, the German allowed herself to be ushered to the bed, and as soon as the two of them were seated, she relayed to Kaji everything that had happened that evening. She relayed to him how Misato had gone crashing to the ground all because of PenPen, and transformed into a hideous, muscle-bound freak. How the monstrous woman had beaten her and very nearly ripped her arm off before deciding to go rampage someplace else, with Shinji following her like the idiot he was. "Anyway, Section 2 showed up a few minutes later - too late to do any good, of course! – and then they insisted on bringing me here!" she concluded, gesturing at the room they were in. "I told them that I didn't need to go to a hospital, but you know how those morons are!"

"Yeah," Kaji sighed, well aware of the German's point. Your standard Section 2 agent was a capable fighter who knew how to shoot, but with few exceptions, that was about all the rocks in their heads were capable of. "But...are you sure you're okay? Sounds like you took quite a beating, and…"

"Hey, you don't have to worry about me!" Despite the fact that Asuka was pleased by the level of concern being shown her, the last thing she wanted was to appear weak to her crush. "I'll be just fine, Kaji-kun." Then she grabbed hold of his arm again and pulled herself tightly against him. "Especially now that you're here!"

A gentle smile curled Kaji's lips. "Hey, it's okay, Asuka," he told here. Then he looked up at the surrounding room and asked, "Say, uh…has anyone been down here? You know, to ask you about what happened to you?"

"Huh?" Asuka frowned, a bit surprised by this question. "Why, no." When Kaji raised an eyebrow at this, the German sighed and added, "The only people I've seen so far were a doctor and a couple of nurses. Why?"

As quickly as he could, Kaji relayed to Asuka NERV's efforts to track down Misato. "Now, Section 2 has been sent out to bring her in, but I don't think they're going to be enough, and..."

"NERV's Keystone Kops?! Against that thing?!" Asuka spat out, incredulous at the idea. "You better believe they won't be enough! That green thing will eat them alive and spit out the bones!"

"Uh…" Kaji frowned somewhat. "Uh, right. So…what I'm saying is that…if we're going to have any chance of helping Katsuragi out here, then we need to know as much about what she's…she's become. And we're going to need your help with that, Asuka. We need you to help us…help her."

Asuka's initial impulse was to ask if Kaji had well and truly lost his mind. Why would he want to help a savage monstrosity that had so easily brutalized her, had caused so much destruction? But then she remembered that he hadn't seen the monster that had attacked her. That in his mind, this creature was still Misato, and while she didn't understand what he saw in her, she did know that he did feel something for the purple-haired woman. And the idea of someone he cared for becoming a mindless horror was something that he could not possibly understand.

"Well…okay," Asuka finally muttered with mixed feelings. "So…what do you want to know?"

"What happened back at the apartment, Asuka?" Kaji asked in a harder voice than she was accustomed to hearing from him. "After Katsuragi transformed. I need you to tell me exactly what happened afterwards."

Rolling her head to the side, Asuka gave a helpless shrug before saying, "Well, it's like I said. It smashed me against the wall before grabbing me by the arm. And then the Third, he…he tried to talk it into letting me go, and…"

"And did she?" Looking up at this interruption, Asuka saw Kaji looking intensely at her. "Did she put you down when he asked her?"

"Well…yeah," Asuka finally admitted. "Anyway, she and Shinji…they just stood there, staring at each other before she took off." Kaji averted his eyes at this, leaving the German puzzled. "Why? Is that important?"

His eyes narrowed and sparking intensely, Kaji nodded. "It could be," he spoke before getting to his feet. "C'mon, Asuka. We have to get to the bridge."

"The bridge?!" Asuka repeated incredulously as Kaji helped her to her feet. "But why?"

"Because you just might have given us the answer!" Kaji told her even as he urged forward.

"Commander! Dr. Akagi!" Makoto called out, drawing both their attention. "I think I've got something here!"

"What is it?" Ritsuko asked. "Have you detected Misato's pattern?"

"I – I think so!" Makoto reported, his voice shaking with excitement as he worked. "It's kinda tricky like you said, but…I think I've got it!" The geeky tech continued to work at his station before looking up at the holographic display with a map of Tokyo-3. "I'm bringing it up…now!"

A beat passed, and a large, orange blob appeared before the doctor, along with a readout on the various forms of energy that the MAGI were detecting. "That's it!" Ritsuko exclaimed as she turned towards Gendo. "It's a perfect match for the data recorded during the previous attack, sir. It has to be Misato."

"Agreed," Gendo intoned, his features tightening as he studied the map. "Can you lock in on her exact position?"

"Uh…I don't think so, sir," Makoto replied, a heavy frown in his words. "This pattern is pretty crazy. All I can tell you is that the Major is in there somewhere, and that's about it."

"That's not good enough, Lieutenant," Gendo responded, shooting an icy glare at the otaku that very nearly froze him in place. "We need a precise lock on this creature's location."

"Right, sir!" Clearly knowing better than to try and argue with the Commander, Makoto swiveled about to look at one of his fellow techs. "Maya, could you gimme a hand here?"

As Maya agreed and moved in to assist, Gendo turned towards the remaining member of that trio. "What about you, Lieutenant Aoba? Has there been any unusual activity on the emergency bands?"

"Negative, sir. There's nothing happening on the police band, and the fire department isn't doing anything, either," Shigeru reported. "Whatever the Major or creature or whatever-she-is is doing, she's being really quiet about it."

As she processed this bit of information, Ritsuko found herself frowning. "Something isn't right here, sir," the doctor spoke, saying this as much to herself as she was to the Commander. "This isn't the same as the last time she transformed. This isn't another rampage."

"Apparently not," Gendo muttered, clearly not pleased by this. Not that this was surprising; it had been his idea that perhaps they could better track Misato by monitoring police and emergency communications, locking in on the places she attacked as she made her way through the city. "But why not? What's different this time?"

Ritsuko didn't say anything to this, mainly because she didn't have an answer herself. Computers and technology she understood, she was familiar with human and Angelic physiology, and had a fair understanding of the processes that fueled the power of the Angels, but human thinking and emotions tended to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma. "I can't say, sir. We don't even know what provoked her last transformation, or what's going on in her mind right now. And without knowing that…"

Trailing off, Ritsuko returned her attention to the map display. Even as she watched, the orange blob moved, covering several square blocks as it stretched into another section of the city. As she tried to make sense of this movement, or, at least, think of some way of better pinpointing the creature's location, a door slid open behind her. "Commander Ikari, Ritsuko," came Kaji's voice. Turning about, the doctor watched as he approached, with Asuka walking alongside him.

"Kaji, what are you doing here?!" Ritsuko demanded crossly, not in the mood to deal with anything more than that what she already had on her plate. "And Asuka? You should be resting! You -!"

"Uh, Rits? Can we save the lectures for later?" Frowning sharply, Kaji looked about the bridge. Then he paused, his eyes widening as he said, "Oh, damn…what is…is that…?"

Furrowing her brows, Ritsuko turned to follow his gaze and found herself looking at the display showing both Misato and the simulation of her transformed state. "That's the MAGI's best guess as to what Misato looks like right now."

"Good guess," Asuka muttered gruffly. "It's almost as ugly as the real thing." Shaking her head, the German looked pleadingly at her crush. "Kaji, I still don't get it! What are we doing -?"

"Just give me a second here, Asuka, okay?" Not giving the German a chance to protest, Kaji asked, "Listen, have you been able to find Katsuragi yet?"

"Not yet." Frowning intently, Ritsuko recounted their efforts so far. "Anyway, it's like I told you; the MAGI can detect her mutant form's pattern, but it spans several square blocks. And Section 2 hasn't had any luck spotting here." The faux-blonde then shook her head and asked, "Kaji, what's this all about? What are you doing -?"

"I have an idea, Ritsuko. I think I know a way for us to find Katsuragi," Kaji informed her.

"Really?" Turning about, Ritsuko saw Gendo focus the icy-cold light reflecting off his glasses towards the others. "And what makes you think that?"

"Because I still think that there might be some of Katsuragi still inside that thing." Not wasting a moment, Kaji turned towards the German, placing his hand on her shoulder. "Asuka, tell them what you told me. About what happened after she changed."

Though it was clear that she didn't understand where Kaji was going with this, Asuka gave a slight shrug before speaking. She explained the exact circumstances behind Misato's transformation, as well as how she attacked the German, only to release her at Shinji's heeding. "And that's when she took off," Asuka concluded, shrugging again. "Kaji-kun, what's this have to do with anything, anyway?"

"That's what I want to know, Ryoji," Gendo frowned dangerously.

"My point is this; that this thing that we're dealing with is still Katsuragi. Her mind may be screwed up by what happened to her, but she's still Katsuragi." Turning back towards Ritsuko, he looked at her intently before saying, "Now you said that she hasn't attacked anyone so far. That she hasn't destroyed any buildings or any of that, and that no one has seen her since she ran into that one agent, right?" The doctor nodded, to which Kaji returned his attention to the Commander. "Then that might mean that she's not trying to attack anyone or anything. It could be she's trying to hide."

"Hide?" Gendo repeated. "From what?"

"Think about it. Katsuragi ran off after letting Asuka go. And even assuming that whatever's happened has messed up her mind, it's still her in there. And if there's anything I know about Katsuragi, it's that the last thing she wants to do is hurt the children." Pausing to take a breath, Kaji looked between the two of them, as if organizing his own thoughts. "Now, maybe when she hurt Asuka, it was an accident. Maybe she just doesn't know her own strength. And when she saw how much she had scared Shinji and Asuka -!"

"Hey! I was not scared!" Asuka broke in irritably.

"– she did the only thing she could think of doing. She ran away so that she wouldn't frighten them or possibly hurt them again," Kaji concluded. "This isn't a destructive monster we're dealing with here. We're dealing with a woman who's caught up in a nightmare, and is possibly scared and ashamed and who knows what else."

His features tightening in concentration, Gendo considered this for a time. "If that were true, why the attack on that agent?"

"Maybe it wasn't an attack, Commander," Ritsuko spoke as something occurred to her. "This creature is moving about by jumping from one spot to another. Now, given the distance of her leaps, it's very easy to assume that she can't see exactly where she'll land except after she jumps. In that case, it could be that she landed on his car purely by accident."

"Then why did she go on to completely destroy his car?" Gendo asked.

"Because she's out of her mind?" Asuka suggested snippily.

"I can't tell you that, sir," Ritsuko admitted. "But still, what Kaji's saying makes sense. And it would explain why Section 2 hasn't been able to find her. Because she doing everything she can to not be found."

Gendo paused to study Ritsuko, and the doctor could practically see the wheels turning behind his eyes. "Even if that's the case, I still don't see how this helps us find her. Let alone capture her."

"That's easy, Commander. It's like I said; this thing is still Katsuragi. And that means we have to stop thinking of her as some out-of-control monster and start thinking of her like a person." Smiling like a mad genius, Kaji looked up at the map. "Now Asuka said that Shinji ran out there to try and find her. Has Section 2 seen him anyplace?"

"No. There's been no sign of the 3rd Child," Gendo reported, an undercurrent of irritation to his words. "But what does he have to do with this?"

"Because Katsuragi cares about him. I know that. And the fact that she listened to him when he told her to let Asuka go says that she still recognizes him, listens to him," Kaji explained, his energy and enthusiasm growing. "Now, right now that kid is running around the city, trying to find her. And I say we help him do just that."

"What?!" Asuka squawked incredulously. The three of them and several of the bridge crew turned as two tufts of the German's red hair curled up to form perfect devil horns. "Are you out of your minds?! That thing will rip the Third to pieces! And then it'll eat the pieces!"

While Ritsuko was wincing at this implication and the image it conjured up, Gendo raised an eyebrow at Kaji. "The 2nd Child has a point, Ryoji. What you're suggesting is extremely dangerous. If the 3rd Child encounters this creature, she could very easily kill him. Even if she doesn't intend to. Remember, we still don't know what provoked her initial rampage, and if she should start rampaging again, the results could be disastrous."

"On the contrary, now that we know who we're dealing with, I think it's pretty obvious what caused her to go crazy that first night," Kaji smiled suggestively. "Another bad dream."

Picking up on his tone, Ritsuko winced, suffering an overwhelming desire to boot herself to the moon. "Of course, that makes sense. She was asleep when we left her alone in the subway car," she muttered, nodding in thought. "If she had another nightmare, then that could easily have resulted in enough adrenaline being pumped into her system to trigger the transformation."

"Exactly. And it's like you said, Ritsy; Katsuragi mad and drunk is like throwing gas on an open fire," Kaji stated.

Frowning heavily, Ritsuko quickly considered the situation. What Kaji was saying made a great deal of sense. Too much sense for her to simply discount what he was saying offhand. But at the same time, there was no arguing against the fact that trying to direct Shinji to Misato's location while she was in that state would be a serious gamble on their parts. And if they lost, then they would lose the use of Unit 01, something they simply couldn't afford. Caught between the proverbial rock and hard place, the doctor looked up sharply when the Commander asked, "Dr. Akagi, your opinion?"

A choked sound escaped her throat as she spared a moment to wonder why he was bothering to ask her opinion. But as Ritsuko found herself fixed by the soulless light in the Commander's glasses, she sighed and considered the situation. "It is…possible, sir. We haven't managed to find Misato ourselves, and even if she transforms back right now, without a precise lock on her position, that leaves us with a large area to search for her in. Especially if Kaji was right and this thing has holed up someplace where she couldn't be easily spotted. And if she reverts back to herself, then there's no telling how she'll react to finding herself alone and unclothed again."

"In which case, it would be likely that she would quickly transform again. Possibly leaving us worse off than we are now," Gendo muttered.

"Exactly. And then there's the danger of someone finding her before Section 2 can," Ritsuko admitted as she considered the matter further. "Asuka, tell me, does Shinji have a cell phone?"

"Huh?" Asuka started, raising an eyebrow at this. "Well, of course the baka has one! He got it after that big blackout!"

Ritsuko nodded as Asuka eliminated a major problem in this plan. If they couldn't contact Shinji to lead him where they needed him to go, then any further discussion of that plan would have been meaningless. "Alright, then. I'll call Shinji, advise him of what we want him to do. Tell him the general area where Misato's in," she decided, hoping that she wasn't making a grave mistake. "I'll also tell him to keep his line open. That way, if something unexpected should happen…"

"Then we can send Section 2 directly to his location," Gendo nodded. "Very well, Dr. Akagi. You may proceed."

After running about Tokyo-3 for who knew how long, Shinji was running of steam and ideas very quickly. His lungs were on fire and his legs felt as if they were made of rubber, and were getting rubberier by the moment. And with both lungs and legs on the verge of collapse, no matter how much he continued to push them, Shinji found himself staggering, pulled off-balance by the duffel bag he was carrying. Unable to help himself, he fell against the side of a nearby building. As soon as he felt the cool, metal wall against his body, his body shuddered and his legs failed entirely. Leaving him unable to do anything but slide down to the ground, tears of exhaustion and misery rolling down his face.

When Misato had disappeared into the night, Shinji had been forced to guess where she might have gone. So far, he had tried Ritsuko's home, Kaji's place, and several restaurants he knew she liked to hang out at on occasion. He hadn't bothered with NERV, for the simple reason that if she went there, then there would be plenty of people better equipped to handle this mess than he was.

Without any idea of where else he could go, Shinji had kept running, looking in every direction he could for the green creature that had once been his guardian. He had forced himself to keep moving, no matter what, because if kept his mind busy. It kept him from thinking that there simply might not be enough left of the Misato he had known for him to predict where she might go. That there might be a repeat of the rampage that had left several parts of Tokyo-3 in shambles. And it kept him from thinking about what NERV might be forced to do to stop the creature.

Even as Shinji lay there, trying to regain the strength he needed to keep going, keep running and searching, his mind conjured up horrific images to taunt him and send him into despair. Images of JSSDF jets and helicopters swooping in, bombarding Misato with missiles and weapons of mass destruction. Images of the Evas rising up to snatch Misato up in their implacable grips before crushing her. Images that were made that much horrible by the fact that every time he saw her die in his mind, it wasn't as the green creature she had become, but rather as the playful woman that had given him a home.

As Shinji lay there, vainly trying to force his mind to stop belching up these nightmarish visions and to come up with a plan, something else to do, he was very nearly sent jumping out of his skin by a loud ringing. His eyes wide with shock, he looked wildly about for the source of the noise, only to gasp in relief and humiliation when he realized it was cell phone ringing. Looking down towards his phone in wearied exasperation, he gave serious consideration to ignoring it until whoever was calling him gave up and left him alone. But as the ringing continued, he sighed in defeat, and with his hands shaking with exhaustion, he drew the phone from his pocket and answered. "H-hello?"

"Shinji?" came Ritsuko's voice. "Shinji, where are you?"

"Akagi-san!" Shinji cried out, taking a firmer hold of the cell phone like it was a lifeline. Never before so grateful to hear the voice of a mature adult, someone who could tell him what to do. "Listen, I…Misato…you see -!"

"We already know," Ritsuko answered, the sadness in her voice plain as day. "Asuka told us what happened. I…I'm sorry, Shinji."

She knows. She already knows, Shinji thought wearily. Then he sighed, his exhausted mind recalling how he had told Asuka to do just that, something very nearly fainting relief. Because now he had someone to help him, to tell him what he should do. "I…I've been looking for her…I've looked everywhere for her…I…"

"Shinji, please. You have to calm down," Ritsuko spoke soothingly. Nodding shakily, the 3rd Child sat back and listened to the doctor. "Now, listen to me very carefully. The MAGI have identified an energy pattern that we've determined is being generated by Misato. We've been tracking her for some time now, but because of the nature of the energy emissions, we can't lock in on her exact location."

"You're…you're tracking her?!" Shinji got out, delirious with joy. Joy that turned to horror as his earlier visions returned to him. "Please, Akagi-san, tell Father that he can't hurt her! This isn't her fault! It -!"

"I know that, Shinji, and we don't want to hurt Misato. Please, believe me when I say that the only thing I want to do right now is to help her." Nodding nervously, Shinji focused even more tightly on the doctor's voice, like it was his only lifeline to sanity remaining. "But before we can help her, we have to find her and get her back to NERV. And we have to do that before someone gets hurt."

"I…I understand. I…" Shinji began…only for his voice to falter when he realized that he didn't understand at all. That the madness of the past few hours was so far beyond his comprehension that it was like a sick joke. "Akagi-san…what's going on?!" he wailed, fresh tears spilling down his cheeks as a dam broke in the back of his mind. He was tired and drained and he had been keeping everything bottled up inside of him since he had seen a monster tear its way free of his guardian's body. "How…why is this happening…? Why…?"

The voice that was his current refuge didn't answer right away. And when it did, it was heavier than before. "It's a mutation, Shinji," Ritsuko intoned, her voice seemingly empty of emotion. "I don't know the exact details, but as near as we can tell…it was exposure to radiation from Jet Alone's nuclear reactor that caused this. And…"

Jet Alone?! Shinji thought blankly even as Ritsuko continued. He was about to ask her how it was possible for that to cause problems after so much time when his mind spewed out another horror, this one culled from his own memories. In an instant, he was back inside of Unit 01, safe and secure and protected from Jet Alone and the nuclear disaster it represented. Watching once again as he deposited Misato on its back, helping her risk everything to save a city filled with people she had never met. Watching as the robot sent her tumbling down the side, Misato barely saving herself by grabbing a ladder rung, cracking the helmet of her protective suit in the process. All the while Shinji did nothing but watch.

Oh, no…I…I did this! Shinji wailed, his heart breaking apart as he relived what happened that day. The elation at Misato's success in averting disaster, followed by the horror he had felt when he thought she had died in the nuclear monstrosity. The misery he had suffered through waiting for a rescue team to arrive, and the shock at seeing the crack in her helmet, the crack that had apparently killed her. The shame and self-loathing he had lived through all the way back to NERV, cursing himself for his hand in his guardian's death, only to have these things obliterated when he found out that not only Misato was alive, but had escaped Jet Alone completely unscathed.

In that instant, all the horror, the misery, the shock, and the self-loathing returned tenfold and came crashing down upon Shinji. This is all my fault! I did this to her! he screamed in his own mind, He had taken one of the few people who cared he existed, who had been there for him since the day he had first come to this city, a stranger whose own father wanted nothing to do with him, and effectively destroyed her. And with this realization, all his earlier visions of Misato's demise came back to him. But this time, every time he watched as Misato was mercilessly slaughtered for what she had become, she would look in Shinji's direction. Asking him with her eyes why he had done this to her.

As Shinji collapsed into his own grief, wanting nothing more than to die so as to spare others the burden of his worthless existence, a voice pierced the gloom. "Shinji? Shinji, are you still there?! Please, answer me!"

His mouth popping open and giving way to a croak of despair, Shinji looked blankly at the cell phone still in his hand. "I…" he began, taking hold of the phone like it was the only hope he had left to him. "Akagi-san…you have to help her. You…"

"We will, Shinji, I promise you. But I need your help first." Shinji very nearly laughed at this, for the idea of him being of any help to anyone was utterly ludicrous to him. But before he could summon enough strength to say so, the doctor explained exactly what was going on, and how Misato had gone into hiding. "As I told you, if we're going to have any chance of helping her, we have to find her first. Now, according to our data, if we could get Misato to calm down, her mutation will become dormant again."

"Dormant?" Shinji blankly repeated as if he had never heard this word before. But then his eyes lit up as he gripped the phone more tightly. "You mean – she'll change back?!"

"That's right. Now, you have to understand that that won't cure her. The mutation will only be dormant as long as there's no adrenaline in her system," Ritsuko told him, speaking slowly and clearly enough for the overwhelmed boy to be able to keep up. "But at least she'll be in control of herself so we can get her to NERV safely. Do you understand?"

"Uh, yes. I – I do," Shinji nodded nervously.

"Alright, fine. Now listen carefully." Ritsuko then began explaining to Shinji the discussion she had recently had with Kaji and Asuka, and their theories regarding Misato's behavior. "We think the reason Section 2 hasn't been able to find her is because Misato is intentionally avoiding them. That she's upset about what she did, and doesn't know how to deal with it."

Shinji paused and considered this possibility, and soon found himself nodding in agreement. "I think you're right," he murmured, thinking back to just before the creature Misato had become fled the apartment. "She…she couldn't talk, but when Asuka ran away from her, she…she looked like she was about to cry, and…"

"Really?" Ritsuko cut in, pouncing on Shinji's words. "Alright, then. This is what I want you to do. I want you to go to the intersection of Main and Kurokawa. That's roughly at the center of the pattern the MAGI are tracking, so it's safe to assume that Misato must be somewhere within at least a few blocks of there. Once there, I need for you to look for her. Call out her name, do anything you can that might get her attention. Hopefully, that'll get her to at least come out where you can spot her."

"Uh…okay," Shinji responded uncertainly. "And…then what?"

"Stay close to her. Talk to her if you can. Maybe you'll be able to help her calm down, but whatever you do, keep her in sight," Ritsuko instructed him. "Now, I'm going to stay on the line, so keep your cell phone on and open. That way, I'll be able to hear whatever happens, and the MAGI will be able to track your exact position."

"Oh, right…" Shinji nodded nervously as the more cautious aspect of his mind told him that this was a bad idea. That he would basically be dangling himself like bait for this creature, and if it did to him what it did to those buildings that first night…

But it won't She won't! Shinji gritted, forcing himself to stay focused. To not think of this as a creature but as a person. Before his own negativity could say anything to that, he frowned and thought back to Jet Alone, where he had failed to save the woman who had beside him through many horrors, always believing in him. Besides, it's because of me that she's trapped in this nightmare, he growled at himself, drawing himself up, standing tall as all his exhaustion was forgotten. I have to do this! I have to find Misato! Somehow…I have to find her!

The creature that had been buried within the mind of Misato Katsuragi was presently crouching on the roof of a small building, hidden in shadow as she looked down at another building. The creature had no real context for the world around it, having bounded about aimlessly for some time, plagued by images both strange and familiar. Images of two tiny, pink creatures that it had encountered shortly after waking up again. Creatures that looked somewhat like herself, but were smaller, weaker, and shaped differently from her.

As she sat there, a hand placed against her head, she found herself confronted by her own jumbled memories. Memories in which the pink thing with red hair had screamed and made loud noises as she shoved another pink thing at her. The creature had been angered by this action, as well as the red-haired thing's noise, so she had swatted her around. And then…

Misato, no! Don't do it! a voice cried out in her mind. A voice belonging to the second pink thing, the one that had been thrown against her. In that moment, she could see it looking at her plaintively, its blue eyes looking right into her own. Misato? W-what's happened to you…?

Growling deep in her throat, the creature shook its head, trying to rid itself of these confusing images. How did she know these pink things? What were they to her? She didn't know, except that she knew she knew them. That they were important to her somehow. And yet…

The creature thumped itself on the head, trying to rid itself of these painful thoughts. Thoughts that had chased her throughout the night as she had leaped about aimlessly.

And these had not been the only things that had hounded her; loud, flying things that beamed bright lights this way and that had buzzed overhead, their oppressive noise hurting her ears. Every time the creature saw one of the flying metal things, she had wanted to leap up and smash it, to rid herself of the bright, burning light and hateful noise. But she wanted even more to be left alone, and a part of her, a part of the person that was Misato, knew that to destroy one flying thing would have brought many more hunting for her. So instead, the creature had sought out someplace where she could rest and be left alone.

The creature had bounded about without direction for quite some time until she sighted a smallish structure amongst the much taller ones. Something about it caught her attention, something familiar. Something that sparked memories in the now-sleeping mind of Misato. Images, impressions, echoes of her life flashed through the creature's mind. As the creature examined the quiet building, she felt something that could almost have been curiosity. She somehow knew this place, somehow associated it with…peace. Relaxation. It felt…comfortable here. And yet…

The creature found herself frowning. Something was wrong with the building. The glass that garnished it should have lights in it. She didn't know how she knew this. All that mattered was that she knew. Something wasn't right. Still, the creature had no reason to leave. And more importantly, there was a space between two other nearby buildings. A space that was filled with nothing but darkness, was a perfect place to hide and avoid the lights and noises of the flying things. So she had ventured into the shadows and sat down where she could continue to look at the small building. Wisps and tidbits of another life flitting through her primitive mind.

As she continued to watch, the creature heard something approaching. A strange, low roaring, and when she looked in the direction, she saw lights as well. Drawing back into the comfort of shadow, she watched as one of the strange metal things she had encountered earlier came closer, rolling on black, round objects.

The creature frowned even more. She somehow knew of these things from Misato, and more importantly, she knew they made noise. She had heard it herself. Horrible noise that hurt her ears. Clenching her fists, the creature watched the metal thing draw closer.

If it made noise that hurt her ears, she would smash it.

Then, as the thing drew to a stop in front of the nearby building, she got a better look at it. It was mostly white and larger than the other metal things she had encountered so far. Of even greater importance to her were the words and symbols emblazoned on the metal thing's side. The creature couldn't read, and didn't recognize the symbols. But they stirred recognition in Misato's sleeping mind; the creature then knew that there was something inside the metal thing. Something that Misato associated with peace. Rest. Release from pain, escape from nightmares.

The creature looked even more intently at the metal thing. She wanted what was inside it. She didn't know what it was; all she knew was that she wanted it.

As she watched, a smaller being exited the metal thing. Another of the pink things she had seen that night. A human, she found herself thinking though the word had little meaning to her.

The human knocked on the building, and soon a small section folded aside. Another human emerged from it, one with fur on its face. "Yebisu Delivery Service!" the first human announced brightly.

Yebisu, the creature thought. A word that she somehow associated with release. Her interest increased.

"Well, it's about time!" the second human growled as he fully emerged from the building. "What took you so long, anyway?!"

"Oh, sorry, sir!" the first human responded. "I had some engine troubles. Took me forever to get a tow truck, and then I had to wait to get to a service station, and -!"

"Aw, forget it!" the second human responded. "Business was pretty bad tonight, anyway. Had to close down early." Then he narrowed his eyes as he examined the truck. "Your, uh, engine troubles better not have ruined my shipment!"

The first human reacted with mock horror. "No, sir! Our trucks are fitted with independent refrigeration units! Guaranteeing quality beer, cold and ready to drink, sir!"

Beer. Cold. Ready to drink… The creature was all but salivating with desire. She still wasn't sure what was in the metal thing, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that she wanted it. Stepping out of the shadows, she slowly approached the metal thing, staying out of sight of the humans. Almost tentatively, she touched the thing's side, but it made no noise. No awful noise to make her head hurt.

Encouraged by this, the creature went to the back of the thing, ignoring the noises the humans made. She instinctively opened the rear door and was rewarded with the sight of many smaller objects, all bearing the symbols she had seen on the side of the metal thing. Her desire was now uncontrollable.

Yes. She definitely wanted it. All of it.

Shinji wasn't sure how long his second wind, or perhaps his third wind had lasted, but it had gotten him where he had needed to go. As he staggered wearily up to a street corner, he looked up and saw that he had reached the intersection of Main and Kurokawa.

Doubling over, he caught hold of his own knees as he sucked in breath after ragged breath, barely able to hold up his head and look about the surrounding area. He was in an older part of Tokyo-3, on the border between the modern parts of the city and the older portions that were the remnant of when this had been the city of Hakone. Everywhere he looked, he saw dingy buildings and looming shadows. Any one of which would be the perfect hiding place for the creature Misato had become.

Pausing to regain his breath, Shinji considered what to do next. Ritsuko had told him to call out for Misato, to do something to attract her attention. But his lungs were still strained, and such an effort remained beyond his capability for the time being. So as strength slowly flowed back into his wearied body, he forced himself to stand up…and immediately frowned.

A short distance away from where he stood, there was a bar that bore the name First Impact, a name that he recognized. Misato…didn't she once say that she went there sometimes? Shinji thought, his own thoughts sounding as wearied as he felt. Cocking his head to the side, he considered the bar for a time.

He knew that the creature he was dealing with was still Misato at heart. And as Shinji studied the bar, he thought back to how he had been guessing as to the various places she might have gone, and a bar like this certainly qualified. He thought about advising Ritsuko of this but then decided against it. She was probably busy with work at NERV, and he didn't want to waste her time if he was wrong. So instead, he started towards the bar, searching every shadow he passed for a sign of his transformed guardian.

As he approached the bar, something struck him as wrong. First of all, the bar appeared to be closed. Shinji had never gone to a bar, but he knew enough about those places to know that they didn't close until after midnight. It was barely after nine. However, even stranger was that there were two people besides the building. One of them was lying flat on the ground, utterly prone. The other, who looked like a bartender, sat on the ground next to him, his arms wrapped around his legs. He just kept muttering to himself, shaking his head slowly.

Even more concerned, Shinji rushed up to the two men and got a better look at them. The first man had fainted, and his mouth hanging open and a rivulet of blood was coming out of his nose. The bartender was muttering, "This isn't right. Shit this weird isn't supposed to happen. Not even here…"

"Uh, sir?" Shinji asked, looking the bartender in the eye. "What happened?"

The bartender shifted his gaze to Shinji, looking as if he wasn't sure the boy was real. "You wouldn't believe it," he muttered, clearly in shock. "I wouldn't believe it! Nobody would believe it!"

"Sir?" Shinji tried again, looking down at the fainted man. His uniform had the word 'Yebisu' on it. He was immediately hopeful. "Was there…a woman here? A…big woman?"

The bartender nodded absently. "Really big. A real beauty. Strange, green skin…but beautiful," he muttered, still seeing her in his mind. "And strong. Wonderful muscles. Just…picked up the delivery truck and made off with it. Just like that…"

Yup, it was Misato! Shinji thought, almost relieved. Not only was he on the right trail, but now he had proof that the Misato he knew was still inside that monstrous, green body. At the very least, her taste for beer had survived the transformation. Barely keeping the urge to smile in check, he focused on the bartender and eagerly asked, "Uh…which way did she go?"

After a moment's hesitation, the bartender jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "That way. Just…jumped right over us. Like it was nothing…"

"Thanks, sir!" Shinji cried out, not hesitating as he ran in the direction indicated.

"This isn't right. Shit this weird isn't supposed to happen," he heard the bartender muttering. "Not even in Tokyo-3…"

"She hijacked a beer truck?!" Ritsuko spat out incredulously.

"That's what he said, Akagi-san!" Shinji returned over her cell phone. "So I think she must be someplace nearby! She couldn't have gone far while carrying something like that!"

"Right, makes sense," Ritsuko concurred. While she still wasn't sure as to the exact limits of the creature's strength, something like a shipping truck would be an awkward burden to carry any real distance. "Okay, then. We'll continue to monitor your location, so keep the line open. And as soon as you find her or the truck, let me know. I'll send your position to Section 2."

"Okay," Shinji responded. "I'll…I'll let you know as soon as I find something."

"Okay. Good luck, Shinji," Ritsuko responded before lowering her cell phone. Then she turned and looked at Gendo, Kaji, and Asuka, prepared to give them a status report. To let them know that they were closing on Misato.

Instead, all Ritsuko said was, "She hijacked a beer truck!"

"So you said," Gendo muttered.

"Yeah, we heard," Kaji grinned, scratching the back of his head.

"That figures," Asuka muttered as she rolled her eyes.

As Shinji continued along the direction indicated by the bartender, he found himself confronted with a dark alley that looked as if it had never known a moment of light. Frowning somewhat, he pulled open his duffel bag and brought out a flashlight. Switching it on, he grimaced at the sight of garbage littered all over the place, dumpsters overflowing with trash. And in the deepest corners, where his light wouldn't reach, were other, even more unpleasant things waiting just out sight.

Heaving a weary sigh and once again telling himself that he must not run away, Shinji proceeded into the narrow space between two buildings. He was certain that the creature had to be close; she couldn't have been at the First Impact bar that long ago, judging by the bartender and the other man. And more importantly, the Misato he knew wouldn't wait very long before settling down and enjoying her pilfered beer.

As Shinji moved forward, swinging the beam this way and that, he heard a loud clanging from somewhere nearby. Tense from all the quiet and anxiety that filled him, he jumped straight up. His heartbeat skyrocketing momentarily, the boy then took a few seconds to settle down. Then, after looking about, he started running in the general direction of the sound.

A short run soon brought him to a crushed piece of metal that sat in the middle of an alley. Bending down to get a closer look, Shinji winced at the strong scent of beer. He instantly knew what the object had to be; a keg of beer, with the top peeled off before it had been crushed like a beer can. As Shinji examined the ruined keg, he looked about, and soon spotted another in a similar state. Certain that he was close, he held up his cell phone. "Akagi-san…I think I've found her."

"You think you found her?" Ritsuko responded hesitantly.

"I found some empty beer kegs! They've been torn apart, and -!" Shinji was cut off when a huge noise cracked the air. Before he knew what was happening, he found himself jumping at the sound of thunder…shaped into a massive, unladylike belch. This was soon followed by a loud, satisfied growl, the sound of metal crunching, and then clanging. Quickly looking up, Shinji barely got out of the way of another emptied keg as it bounced down to the ground. Eyeing the keg, Shinji returned his attention to the direction it had come from.

"Akagi-san…she's right above me!" Shinji whispered carefully. "She's on top of the building next to me!"

"Alright! Good work, Shinji! Now, stay right there! I'm relaying your location to Section 2! As soon as we have confirmation that Misato's changed back, we'll send them in!" Ritsuko instructed him. "In the meantime, you better close up the phone. We can't afford to do anything that might set her off now."

"Right," Shinji nodded before closing up his phone and sliding it back into his pocket. Only to freeze up an instant later when he heard another growl. One that sounded almost…inquisitive. Slowly looking up, Shinji watched as a shape appeared over the edge of the building's roof. He couldn't make out its exact shape, but even in the darkness, he could still see the green eyes glowing at him.

"Misato…" he murmured, watching as the creature that had once been Misato growled lowly, warmly, in a manner that showed she was now a bit tipsy. Shifting about on the roof, the creature stood and easily jumped down to the alley below. Shinji almost panicked before she landed in a crouch before him, caught in his flashlight beam.

Oh, wow… Shinji moaned as he surveyed the massive creature standing before him, which seemed even bigger than she had in the apartment. Every single part of her body seemed to be made of nothing less than coiled muscle that would be the envy of any bodybuilder who ever lived. Trying not to lose it as his eyes moved past two immense breasts that were heaving up and down with each breath she took, he focused on her face. Her cheeks a slightly darker shade of green than the rest of her, Misato looked down at Shinji and was watching him intently.

Doing his best to focus on her head and not be sidetracked by the sensational body she now wore, Shinji gulped, forced himself to focus, and smiled nervously. "M-Misato?" he sputtered out, looking for any sign of recognition…and for any indicator that she might become violent. "Misato, it's me…Shinji! Remember?"

Misato said nothing. Did nothing. She only stood there, examining the boy, her head shifting to one side, then the next.

"Misato?" Shinji tried again, his smile faltering. "Don't you…?" Gulping to clear the bile that had formed in his throat, Shinji stepped closer to his guardian. "Don't you…recognize me?" A low growl emerged from Misato's throat, but she still said nothing. As Shinji kept looking at her, he felt his strength abandon him, hope evaporating, leaving him to fall to his knees. "Oh, no…" he moaned, tears emerging to streak down his face. "Don't you know who I am anymore…?"

Looking pleadingly at the monster that had taken Misato's place, Shinji could only stare helplessly as she frowned slightly. Then, with a gentleness he would not have imagined of such a beast, she slowly moved closer, bending down to pick him up. In shock at the strength he felt in her hands, Shinji knew that Misato could crush him with but the slightest of efforts…and yet, he felt only gentle compassion in her grip as she lifted him up before seating him on top of a nearby dumpster.

For an untold length of time, Shinji looked into the green eyes of the beast-woman, eyes that examined him while her right hand moved to caress his face, wiping away his tears. As he continued to cry, the creature growled again. A growl that slowly shaped itself into a word.


The boy gasped as his pulse quickened. His name came out clumsily like it had been spoken by a child saying its first word. Misato didn't even seem to realize that she had spoken, and yet…!

"Yes!" he urged desperately. "That's me! That's my name! Shinji! Shinji Ikari!"

"Shinji…" Misato growled again as if agreeing. Then, continuing to caress his face, she smiled. "Shinji-kun…"

Delight spread uncontrollably through Shinji. The creature couldn't have been mimicking him. Those words had come from Misato, the real Misato. "That's right! I'm Shinji!" he cried, more tears flowing at his relief. "And your name is Misato!" The creature frowned slightly at this, as if the new name confused her. Sucking in his disappointment, Shinji continued to try. "Shinji," he said, pointing to himself. Then he pointed to her. "Misato."

"Mi…sa…to…" she growled, her brows furrowed. It was as if the sound of her own name was unpleasant to her. But then, she returned her full focus to the boy in front of her. "Shinji. Shinji-kun…" she rumbled, her gentle hand continuing to rub his cheek. Delirious with relief, Shinji continued to sit there, smiling helplessly as the creature caressed him.

As he rejoiced within his heart, Misato's eyes lost their focus. She blinked several times, her gaze lowering, a look of disorientation appearing on her face. Then, the lines of her body seemed to soften, and wavered, causing Shinji to gasp in shock. No. No, Shinji moaned inwardly as Misato grew more confused. What's happening to you now?! His despair then turned to astonishment, as the hand she held to his face shifted…and seemed to shrink.

Shinji didn't dare to hope. He only watched with the intensity of a hawk as Misato's body shifted and flowed. At first, he thought it was only a hopeful delusion, but then he gasped in delight as Misato visibly became smaller, her muscles less substantial, her skin lightening, changing from green to her normal skin tone.

Oh, God…Akagi-san was right. She…she's changing back! he exulted, sliding off the dumpster as the purple-haired woman staggered slightly before falling to her knees. He landed on the ground just in time to allow her head to fall to his shoulder. With a smile that threatened to split his face in half, Shinji watched as Misato, his Misato raised her head to look at him in confusion, her eyes the only part of her that had yet to revert.

Then, with a slow shake of her head, Misato blinked the last of the green from her eyes and locked gazes with the boy. "Shinji?" she started, her voice straight and clear, devoid of confusion and growling. "What the -? Where are we?! What's going…?" Then, pulling back to look at herself, Misato frowned in perplexity. "What the hell?! Why am I nak-?!"

"Misato!" Shinji shrieked in delight, unable to control himself as he tackle-hugged Misato. The purple-haired woman let out a gasp of surprise as she fell to her back as he hugged her fiercely, crying and babbling in delight as he pressed his face against her own.

"Uh…Shinji?!" Misato broke in, letting out sounds of bewilderment. "I…what's happening? How did we get here?" At these words, he pulled back just enough to look her in the eye. "Aw, damn! Not again! What the hell's going on here?!"

"Misato?" Shinji replied as he looked her. "You mean…you don't remember…what happened?"

Frowning in confusion, Misato struggled. "I remember crashing down on the floor and all that, but…" Looking about, she frowned and asked, "Aw, damn, what's going on with me?! How'd I end up here, anyway?! And…" Pausing, she brought up one of her forearms and gave an experimental sniff, only to recoil in disgust. "Dammit, what happened?! Did I go swimming in beer?! What's happening -?!"

Realizing that Misato was getting increasingly upset and well aware of what would happen if she continued to do so, Shinji hugged her fiercely. Misato gasped in surprise as he pulled himself as tightly to her as she could. Afraid to let go, lest she be replaced once again. "Don't leave me, Misato," he pleaded, fresh tears streaking down his face. "Please, don't go away…"

"Shinji…" Misato murmured in surprise before she returned the embrace. "I'm sorry, Shinji-kun. I…I didn't mean…" Pressing her cheek against his own, she sighed wearily. "How the hell do you put up with me, anyway?" Shinji's only response was to hold her even more tightly. He didn't care that Misato was naked. He didn't care about anything but making sure that she never disappeared again.

Author's Notes: All's well that ends well, right? Wrong. Things are only to get hairier as the story continues. In the meantime, please, read and review. And check out some of my other stories while you're at it!


For an untold length of time, Shinji looked into the green eyes of the beast-woman, eyes that examined him while her right hand moved to caress his face, wiping away his tears. As he continued to cry, the creature growled again. A growl that slowly shaped itself into a word.


The boy gasped as his pulse quickened. His name came out clumsily like it had been spoken by a child saying its first word. Misato didn't even seem to realize that she had spoken, and yet…!

"Yes!" he urged desperately. "That's me! That's my name! Shinji! Shinji Ikari!"

"Shinji…" Misato growled again as if agreeing. Then, continuing to caress his face, she smiled. "Shinji-kun…"

Delight spread uncontrollably through Shinji. The creature couldn't have been mimicking him. Those words had come from Misato, the real Misato. "That's right! I'm Shinji!" he cried, more tears flowing at his relief. "And your name is Misato!" The creature frowned slightly at this, as if the new name confused her. Sucking in his disappointment, Shinji continued to try. "Shinji," he said, pointing to himself. Then he pointed to her. "Misato."

"Mi…sa…to…" she growled, her brows furrowed. It was as if the sound of her own name was unpleasant to her. But then, she returned her full focus to the boy in front of her. "Shinji. Shinji-kun…" she rumbled, her gentle hand continuing to rub his cheek. Then she grinned in the impish fashion he knew so well and picked him up again. "Shinji-kun party!"

"Huh?!" Shinji squawked in surprise, which was the only thing he was able to do before the creature jumped. Stunned by the acceleration, he watched as the green Amazon landed effortlessly on the roof of a building, where a large truck lay on its back, a large hole torn in its side. Dozens of kegs and six-packs of beer lay scattered on the roof. Getting a very bad feeling, he hung helplessly in her arms as the creature grabbed a can off one of the six-packs. "Uh, Misato…what are you -?"

"Shinji-kun party!" the creature grinned enthusiastically as she tore the can open and shoved it in the boy's face. His mouth open in mid-protest, Shinji inadvertently gulped down half the can's contents before he even realized what had happened.

"Gagh!" Shinji cried out. He felt as if he had just gulped down a mouthful of molten lava. "Misato, what -?!"

Again, the 3rd Child found his mouth filled with beer, and as he did so, the burning sensation in his throat was changing, dying down into a warm, cozy feeling that was spreading throughout his body. By the time he'd recovered enough to even think of swallowing down his fresh mouthful of booze, he was wobbling giddily. "Uh…you know…that's not so bad…"

"Party!" the creature grinned, a sentiment Shinji found himself agreeing to.

"I…don't…believe…this…" Ritsuko muttered, her voice low with horror as she took in the tableau before her. "Misato, what do you think you're doing?!"

In response to the doctor's voice, Misato sat up woozily, her head rolling about as she tried to focus. "Oh…hey, Rits!" she grinned. "What (hic!) bringsh you here…?"

"You do!" Ritsuko retorted, looking about in horror at the scene before her. "What – how in blazes did this happen?!"

"Hee hee hee…we had…a little party…" Shinji giggled, the heavy blush marking his cheeks making it clear that Misato wasn't the only one that was drunk. "Then Section 2 came, and…they wanted to (hic!) party, too…"

"So I see!" Ritsuko exclaimed as she scanned the roof. Everywhere she looked, men in black suits lay passed out, surrounded by cans and kegs of beer. "Dammit! They were supposed to bring you two to NERV, not join in on the chaos!" Massaging the headache she was presently developing, the doctor muttered, "I swear, Section 2 gets more useless every single day!"

"Aw, lighten up, Ritsh! Why can't you be more like Shinji-kun here?" Misato grinned cheerfully as she turned about to the boy next to her. "Now here's a guy who (hic!) knowsh how to have fun!"

"So I noticed!" Ritsuko grumbled sourly. "Honestly, what is wrong with you, Shinji?! I thought you had more sense than that!"

"Aw, don't get mad, Akag-(hic!)-san…" Shinji slurred in response. "It's actually kinda nishe…once you get used to it…"

"Exactly!" Misato grinned wickedly. Then she looked at Shinji, her eyes twinkling in a fashion Ritsuko knew all too well. "Hey, Shinji-kun…wanna have shum real fun…?"

"Uh…yeah…!" Shinji replied. "Sho…whaddaya wanna do (hic!) Misha-chan..?"

"Well…the first thing I wanna do," Misato purred as she rolled and crouched over the boy, "ish get these pantsh of yoursh off!"

"Aw, damn…" Ritsuko muttered as Misato yanked Shinji's clothes off. Turning away from the continuing nightmare she was stuck in, she quickly grabbed up a can of beer and opened it. "I better get myself drunk as quick as possible. Because this is one night I sure as hell don't want to remember!"

(Author's Notes: Let it be known that I most certainly do not approve nor endorse underage drinking. However, given the circumstances, I thought this would make for an entertaining omake!)

Anonymous reviews have been disabled. Login to review. 1. Into the Beast 9291 0 0 2. Night Terrors 10364 0 0 3. Savage Awakening 15912 0 0 4. A Secret Revealed 15053 0 0 5. Monster Hunt 17311 0 0 6. Don't Make Her Angry 17050 0 0 7. Clash of Heroes 14853 0 0 8. The Day After 15939 0 0 9. Trials and Transitions 17847 0 0 10. The Beauty that is the Beast 17805 0 0 11. She Hulk SMASH! 17777 0 0 12. Things Get Complicated 15887 0 0 13. The Dawn of Battle 20883 0 0 14. Warzone 18704 0 0 15. Maya's Malady 19538 0 0 16. Survival 19465 0 0 17. War Within 21019 0 0 18. No Cure 22589 0 0 19. Evolution and Revolution 23516 0 0 20. Hidden Desires, Secret Fears 22380 0 0 21. Final Flight 22036 0 0 22. Ghosts From The Past 19767 0 0 23. Fighting For Their Freedom 20832 0 0 24. A Cure For What Ails 16997 0 0 25. Fallout 17518 0 0