Chapter Three

“A Rei to Remember”

           

            The alleyway was dark and dry, except for the blood being spilt on the pavement.  Ranma held his chest in an attempt to keep the large wound from getting larger.  He hissed in pain as he struggled to get up.  He had lost his shirt long ago. It had been sacrificed to save the rest of his hide.  He was lucky to have turned the last fatal blow into a flesh wound.  Granted it was a flesh wound that would make him bleed to death, but he held on to consciousness by sheer force of will.

 

            He flipped his pigtail out of his face with a turn of his head and scowled at his opponent.  The dark haired man laughed at his fallen foe.  The man raised his blade over his head.  “At last.  I will have my victory over you, Saotome.  Now nothing will stand in my way!”

 

            Ranma grunted as he lifted his hand with the palm facing his opponent.  “You had to have learned by now that I never give up.”  He started gathering his chi into his hand.  The sphere of life energy grew as he concentrated.  “And. I. NEVER.  LOSE!”

 

            The man laughed again and brought the sword around to a stance with the blade lowered in front of him.  “Don’t strain yourself.  You’ll only bleed faster.  Why don’t you just accept death?  There is no way for you to get past my magical blade.  This blade gives me the ultimate power!  Not even you with your foul ways can defeat me!  As you have probably already guessed…”

 

            Ranma gritted his teeth as he continued to build energy.  “Can’t hold back anymore.”  He thought.  “I can’t just disable him any more.  He’ll kill me the next time.  Who knows how many innocents will be caught in his wake?”

 

The pigtailed martial artist continued to gather his energy.  “You will fail, like you always have!”  The ball built until it was as large as he was.

 

            “You have no hope!  No matter how much energy you build up, you will not get past my sword!”

 

            “Then hold that pose, sucker.  MOUKO TAKABISHA!”

 

            The ball of chi rocketed toward the swordsman.  He raised his sword and stopped the blast in its path.  Windows reverberated with the shockwaves generated by the battle of wills.  Sparks flew from the blade as the ball inched forward.  The ball and blade went back and forth as the struggle continued.

 

            Ranma’s arm became red as more blood escaped his chest.  He pushed himself further.  Sweat rolled down his face as his blood vessels began to become more pronounced.  He growled as he put everything he had into the blast.

 

            The sword began to glow red as chi ball grew larger.  The swordsman began to slide backwards from the effort.  His confidence was finally was starting to shake when he saw his blade begin to melt.  “It…can’t…be!”

 

            “HA!”  Ranma put his last effort into blast.

 

            The sword exploded as its magic was released.  Alley was bathed in light as the ball of chi exploded, blasting the swordsman through the back wall.  The light and smoke cleared to reveal the charred body of the swordsman lying in the rubble of the far building.

 

            Ranma fell to his knees in the pool of his own blood.  “So this is how it ends.  In the end Kuno finally got his victory over the foul sorcerer.”  He fell limply to pavement.

 

            A newcomer to the battle dropped from the rooftop.  The shadowy figure rushed to Ranma’s side.  “Ranma!”

 

            He rolled his head and gave the late arrival a weak smile.  “Goodbye.  I’m sorry I couldn’t give you what you wanted.”  He closed his eyes.

 

            The figure stepped out of the shadows to reveal a woman with long brown hair wearing a spandex jumpsuit.  She knelt at his side.  “Hang on, old friend.  You’re going to make it.  Help is on the way.”

 

 

 

Ranma absently ran his hand through his loose hair as he, Shinji and Misato walked through the newly, and hastily erected research center.  A series of larges tent and pre-fab buildings were all arranged to enclose the fallen figure of the fallen angel.  Crews were working around the clock to analyze and dispose of the corpse.

 

            They toured through until they came to the heart of the complex, the dead angel.  Ranma was casually looked this way and that with a nonchalant look on his face.  Shinji was looking around with wide-eyed wonder.

 

            Misato walked up to the side of the beast.  “So this is what the enemy looks like up close.”

 

            “I’ve already seen it, thanks.”  Ranma crossed his arms and looked away.

 

            “This is wonderful!”  They all looked up at one of the catwalks where Dr. Akagi was looking over the corpse.  “It’s almost entirely intact!  Only thing damaged is the core!  We can run all the tests we need!”  She walked over and let herself down the lift platform.

 

            Ranma rolled his eyes at the mention of tests.  “Great.  Why are we touring this place again?”

 

            Misato smiled and walked toward the main research area.  “We’re taking a look at the only angel corpse in town.  It’s a very exclusive place!” She winked playfully at him.

 

            “Shouldn’t we be training or something more useful?”  He crossed his arms and scowled at the captain.

 

            “You’re no fun.”  Misato pouted as Ritsuko joined them.

 

            The Dr. looked over her notes.  “With this data we should be able to find weaknesses in the angels.  Even someone like yourself should be able to see the value in enemy intelligence.”  She walked over and started inputting information into the computer.

 

            “You got a point there.  I’d just rather do something else and wait for you braniacs to deliver the end product instead of watching you work.”  He yawned and stretched.

 

            Ritsuko sat down and began inputting all he data she collected.  “I’m sure Shinji is finding this interesting.  Aren’t you Shinji?”

 

            “Huh?”  Shinji stopped in mid-movement with a fist poised in the air.  “Did you say something?”

 

            “What are you doing?”  The doctor asked.

 

            The boy scratched the back of his head.  “I was working on the new kata that Ranma taught me this morning, sorry.”

 

            “Oh my GOD!”  Misato snapped her head around to Ranma.

 

            “What?” Ranma asked as he took a glare that would kill a normal man.

 

            “HE’S TURNING INTO YOU!!!”

 

            The martial artist had a genuinely confused look on his face.  “Why don’t you tell me why that’s a bad thing?”

 

            “Maybe she’s just afraid she won’t be able to keep her hands off of him either…” Ritsuko threw over her shoulder as she continued to run the data into the computers.

 

            Misato stood with her hands to her side, gritting her teeth. 

 

Shinji saw the oncoming explosion of anger and sought to get as far away as possible.  “I’m going to grab some drinks for everyone, bye.”  He turned and walked out as casually as he could, nearly running into the doorjamb on his way out.

 

Ranma saw the oncoming tantrum and noticed something.  “Hey, you know with a little training you could get that aura visible.  My ex-fiancé used to do that when she was REALLY mad…and…oh shit, you don’t own a mallet, do you?”

 

            The blue-black haired girl stopped in mid-eruption.  “No, why?”

 

            “Nothing, just asking.”

 

            “And what’s this about ex-fiancé?  You never told me anything about that.”

 

            “It’s a long story.  EXTREMELY long story.”  He quickly turned to Ritsuko.  “So, what have you learned?”

 

            The blonde looked over the readouts.  “Take a look for yourself.”  She turned the monitor around so he and Misato could see.

 

            Misato looked at the readings carefully.  “Amazing!”

 

            Ranma looked at it and couldn’t make heads or tails of it.  “It can play video games with a spiral playing board?”

 

            “No, you idiot!  This means that the angels are almost an exact match to humans!  This is something totally outside our experience!”

 

            Ritsuko nodded her head in agreement.  “The angel’s DNA is a 99.89% match to a human being.  This is unprecedented.”

 

            At that moment Shinji thought it would be safe to come back in.  He hadn’t made five steps before he tripped over a rock under the thin floor of the pre-fab structure, sending the drinks flying forward.  The drinks splattered over the only water magnet in the room, transforming him into a woman in full view of Ritsuko.

 

            Her eyes went wide.  “Speaking of unprecedented and outside our experience…”

 

            Onna-Ranma rolled her eyes.  “Go ahead and faint.  I’m used to it by now.”  “Well, it was only a matter of time…” He thought.

 

            The doctor was on top of the red head in a flash, checking every square inch of her body.  “How did you do that?  You changed your genetic structure almost completely!”

 

            “It’s a curse.”  Onna-Ranma said in an idle voice.

 

            “Did you really change sexes completely?”

 

            Onna-Ranma pulled her shirt open.  “What do you think?”

 

            Ritsuko saw the breasts, that were quite obviously real, but she also saw the long scar that ran from the base of the redhead’s neck all the way to the lower abs.  The old wound was almost two inches wide.  “Oh my.  How did that happen?”

 

            “It’s a long story too.”

 

Misato shook her head as the doctor continued to try and grill and examine Ranma.  She turned her head and noticed Shinji looking out the door of the computer room.  “What are you looking at, Shinji?”

 

He snapped around and stood straight up.  “Nothing.”

 

The captain rolled her eyes.  “Shinji, don’t you realize when you say, ‘nothing’ in that tone of voice, it just screams, ‘something’!  What were you looking at?”

 

“At my father’s hands.  They have scars on them, and I was wondering where they came from.”

 

            Ritsuko finally let Onna-Ranma close her uniform shirt again.  “That happened during the Unit Zero activation test.  The unit went berserk and the entry plug was ejected in the test area.  Commander Ikari pulled the hatch open with his hands even though it was scorching hot.  He was very concerned for Rei.”

 

“My father did that?”  Shinji asked, not believing the story.

 

“He was concerned about someone?”  Onna-Ranma asked, not believing the characters.

 

 

 

The next day Shinji was in his EVA while they ran another sync test.  He looked over where Unit Zero had been placed in the gantry beside him.  It had been taken out of stasis and was being prepped for the activation test tomorrow.  He saw the blue haired, red-eyed Rei running checks on her Evangelion’s equipment.  She was wearing a white skintight plug suit.  Luckily this one covered more than the one she was wearing the first time he met her.  Brief thoughts of the conversations at school came to his mind.  He should know her more, but she’s always been a mystery as long as he’s been there.  Of course there was also the fact that she had only recently been taken out of the bandages that she had been covered with from the first activation test.

 

He watched her for a while and then his father came up and started talking to her.  He looked closely and his EVA’s viewfinder automatically zoomed in on the pair.  Both of them were talking animatedly and were both smiling.  In the short time he had been around his father and Rei, he had never seen either of them this emotional, for lack of a better term.  He wondered what they were talking about.

 

            On the other side of the staging area, Ranma watched the conversation with other thoughts on his mind.  “Why didn’t I see it before?”  He asked himself.  “She looks just like her.  Surely Shinji would have known if he had a twin sister.  Why is Mr. Heartless Bastard so lively?  There’s more here than meet the eye.  I’m going to be watching you, Gendou.  I’m going to find out what’s going on, and I have a feeling I’m not going to like it.”  The martial artist faded into the shadows.

 

 

 

            That night Misato invited Ritsuko over for dinner.  She’d show Ranma that she could cook well enough to impress a guest!  She cooked up some of her best instant dishes, and large amount of curry.

 

            Ranma slapped his hands over his eyes and shook his head.  “Can’t you cook ANYTHING?!”

 

            Misato glared at him, and then she chugged a beer.  “I’ll have you know I cooked all of dinner.”

 

            “You call this cooking?”

 

            “Yes!”

 

            Shinji held the pot of curry and leaned over toward Misato.  “Do you want some curry on your rice, Misato?”

 

            Misato tore herself away from her argument long enough to address Shinji.  “Nope.”  She moved a plate to reveal a cup of ramen noodles.  “Put it in here!”  Shinji complied, and then she started stirring the mixture vigorously.  “The trick is to put less water in and stir it up to make a yummy sludge!  This is home cooking!”

 

            The others all took a bite of their food.  They all cringed and spat out the bite.  Ritsuko took a heavy pull on the beer in front of her.  “Misato definitely cooked!  She’s the only person I know who could make instant soup bad.”

 

            Pen-Pen saw the reactions that the humans had to their food and looked at his bowl of the same soup.  Against his better judgment, he took a bite…and promptly keeled over, unconscious.

 

            “Geez, she even poisons her pets.”  Ranma mumbled.

 

            Ritsuko turned to Ranma and Shinji.  “You two should find another place to live.  You shouldn’t let one bad roommate ruin you.”

 

            “Oh, I’ve had worse…trust me.”  Ranma went back to trying to make his food edible.  It’s amazing what a ton of ketchup can do.

 

            Shinji just smiled.  “Don’t worry.  I’ll be fine.”

 

            The doctor shook her head.  “Just invite me over when it’s Shinji’s turn to cook.  I can’t imagine Ranma’s cooking being much better.”  Said martial artist raised an eyebrow.

 

            Misato, who was thoroughly plowed now, rolled on her back laughing.  “Oh he’s a GREAT cook!  He’ll make someone a good wife someday!  Ha! Ha!  Ha!”

 

            Ritsuko was slightly embarrassed by her drunken friend.  “What is that all about?”

 

            “Ranma’s actually a good cook.  His stuff tastes like a gourmet restaurant.”  Shinji said as he took his turn with the ketchup bottle.

 

            “Really.”  Ritsuko took the bottle after Shinji was done with it.  “Definitely invite me then.”  She started.  “I almost forgot!”  She dug into her purse and pulled out an ID card.  “Rei’s ID card expired.  Shinji, can you take this to her?”  She held the card out to him.

 

            Shinji took the card and stared at it.  “She looks so lonely, even in her pictures.”  He thought.

 

            Misato grabbed another beer.  “Awww…You’re staring at Rei’s picture, aren’t you?”  Shinji blushed.  “Oops!  I think I embarrassed him.  I’m sooorrry.”   She slurred with very little sincerity in her voice.

 

            Ritsuko and Ranma both just shook their heads.  He turned to the blonde.  “So are you looking for a couple roommates?”

 

            “How do you feel about cats?”  She asked.

 

            A shiver shot through Ranma’s body.  “Never mind.”  He answered quickly.

 

            Shinji looked up.  “It’s just that she looks so sad.”

 

            Ranma mumbled something under his breath.  “What was that?”  Ritsuko asked.

 

            “Nothing.”

 

            Misato kicked back and swirled her beer can around.  “Oh, don’t take it personally.  I just love teasing you, Shinji.  You go so ballistic.”

 

            “Just like Misato.”  Ranma and Ritsuko said at the same time.

 

            The drunk woman glared at Ranma.  “You’ll get yours…”

 

            Ritsuko chuckled.  “I’m sure he will…”  The glare turned to her.  She decided she had had enough for one night.  She collected her stuff.  “Well, I’ll be going now.   I’ll see you three bright and early tomorrow.  Bye!”  The others said their goodbyes and she walked out.  After shutting the door behind her, she thought, “What did Ranma mean, by it’s probably his fault?”

 

            Inside Shinji yawned and stretched.  “I guess I’d better get to bed.  I got training and school tomorrow.”

 

            Ranma smiled.  “I see you bright and even earlier in the morning.  Goodnight.”

 

            “Goodnight.”  Shinji turned and went to his room.

 

            The martial artist turned to his drunken roommate.  “Okay, now what am I going to do with you?”

 

            Misato got a huge smile on her face.  “I thought they’d never leave!”

 

            “Wha…?”  Was all Ranma got out before a very drunk and horny Misato mauled him.

 

 

 

            The next morning after training, Shinji made his way to Rei’s apartment.  The neighborhood looked like a demilitarize zone.  He thought it should be condemned.  “How can a girl live in a place like this?”  He thought.  He walked up to the buzzer and tried to reach her, but there was no answer.  He decided to let himself into the building and up to her apartment.  “To think, I probably would have ended up in a place like this if I wasn’t living with Misato and Ranma.  Of course I wouldn’t have this either.”  He flexed his bicep and there was a definite bulge there.  He was actually building up muscle.

 

            He came to Rei’s door, and knocked.  Still there was no answer.  “She has to be here,” he thought.  He tried calling for her, but there again was no reply.  He let himself in and took off his shoes.

 

            He looked around and found a very Spartan layout.  No furniture to speak of, just a simple twin bed in the corner, and a single chest of drawers that had various medications and a beaker of water on top.  He noticed another object on the chest.  It was a pair of glasses.  He picked them up and examined them.  “These can’t be hers.”  He put them on to see how blind the person was they belonged to.

 

            He heard a sound over his shoulder.  He turned to see Rei standing there wearing only a towel around her shoulders.  Now before he started training with Ranma, he would have been reduced to a blabbering idiot at this point, but thanks to the fact that cold water always sought Ranma out, and that he always took his shirt off to wring it out, Shinji was more used to a naked woman.  Of course he still had a slight nosebleed.  “Uh, Rei.  I knocked and didn’t get an answer, so I, uh, let myself in.”

 

            Rei’s brows furrowed as she walked toward Shinji.

 

            While being more accustomed to a bare woman, Shinji still cracked under a naked woman walking toward him.  He stumbled back as she reached up for the glasses he still had on.  He fell back and his book bag snagged on a drawer that was pulled out from the chest of drawers.  He tried to catch his footing, but he over corrected and fell forward.  Rei managed to pull the glasses off his face before he came crashing down on her.

 

            After the dust had settled, Rei looked at Shinji with an unemotional mask.  “Will you get off?”

 

            Now, again, if Shinji had been anything like the author of this fic, he would have said, “I’m trying to, just move your leg a little bit to the left…”, and would have been promptly beaten to a pulp, but fortunately he’s not.  He just looked down and realized that he had his hand on her breast.  He stood up straight as a board and turned his head away.  “I…I’m Sorry…I came in…the card!”  He continued to babble.

 

            While he was babbling, Rei put the glasses away in a case and got dressed.  By the time Shinji had recovered enough to talk straight, she was already out the door.  He quickly ran after her.

 

            He tried to apologize again and talk to her the whole way to NERV headquarters.  Rei ignored him the whole way, and, once she reached the security gate, she tried to swipe her card.  The machine quickly rejected her.

 

            Shinji came up and swiped her new card through the reader, opening the door.  “It’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.  Your security card expired.  I’ve been trying to give it to you.”

 

            She swung her hand out and grabbed the card and walked in, ignoring him the whole way.  Shinji followed her in.

 

            Ranma walked up about the same time that the two went into the building.  He smirked at the pair.  “Kinda reminds me of me at his age.  Of course I didn’t really have girl problems for a couple more years yet, but I’m sure he can take it.  Hmm, it might be amusing to eavesdrop.  After all, maybe I could give him some pointers.”  He chuckled as he faded from sight.

 

            Rei was a couple steps in front of Shinji on the escalator down to central dogma.  Shinji was wracking his brain on conversation starters.  “Uh, don’t you have an activation test today?”  No answer.  “Aren’t you afraid?”  Still no response.  “I heard you got hurt pretty bad the first time.”

 

            She stopped and turned to him.  “Aren’t you Ikari’s son?  Don’t you trust his work?”

 

            “Of course not!”  Shinji almost yelled.  “I don’t trust him at all!”

 

            “Second that emotion.”  Ranma thought from his hidden position.  Rei hauled back and slapped Shinji across the face.  “Didn’t see that one coming.  She’s pretty devoted to Gendou, and it looks like I’m going to need to give Shinji some pointers on not leaving himself open.”  Ranma watched the two make their way to central dogma as he chewed on the food for thought he had.  “Why is she so devoted to that slime?  Something tells me that I’m definitely not going to like the answer.”

 

 

 

            Everyone was watching as Rei and Unit Zero began their activation test.  The technicians gave play-by-play status reports as the others looked on.  In the minds of some of them was the first try at activation where the EVA had gone berserk and tried to kill Gendou and the pilot.  Ranma really couldn’t blame the robot for trying to kill Gendou.  Hell, he’d contemplated doing it a few times.  If it weren’t for the promise he had made a long time ago, he probably would have.

 

            He crossed his arms as he watched the display of the blue haired girl in the entry plug.  She looked so much like her it hurt, but he still looked on.  Whatever Gendou had done to this little girl, he would pay for, that was certain.

 

            A small tingling in the back of senses told him that this EVA was bringing its ‘AT Field’ up.  He silently wondered how a lifeless robot could generate chi, or a facsimile thereof.  He also felt that Unit One’s was familiar somehow, but muffled?  He shook his as he considered that.  “Why would they limit the power of a weapon?”  He thought.

 

            Maya announced that they had passed the zero barrier.  “Unit Zero Activated.”

 

            Ranma’s senses suddenly went on full alert.  “Just in time too.”

 

            Misato turned to him.  “What do you mean?”

 

            “Another angel is approaching!”  He turned to his younger roommate.  “Shinji, you need to get to your EVA.”

 

            Shinji nodded and took off toward the entry plug.  Misato turned to face Ranma.  “HEY!  I’M the one who decides when the pilots should suit up!  How do you know an angel is coming?”

 

            “Angel approaching from Tokyo-3 harbor.”  Hyuga Makoto reported from his seat.

 

            “Abort test. “  Gendou stood and had a slight glare at Ranma.  “Shinji will fight it.”

 

            Misato had an open glare for the martial artist.  “You’re not going to use unit zero?”

 

“She’s not ready to fight, yet.”  The commander replied.  “The test is incomplete.  There is still a margin of feedback error.  We cannot risk a second EVA.”

 

Misato growled.  “All right.  Battle stations!  We’ve got company.”  She turned to glare at Ranma again.  “And you’ve got some explaining to do after this is all over mister.”

 

“I’ve learned a little bit about the dispensing of knowledge.”  He gave her his cocky grin.  “It’ll cost you.”

 

“Fine!  Let’s get to ops and launch the EVA!”

 

 

 

Above the street of Tokyo-3, a threat of geometric proportions loomed.  The angel took the form of symmetrical octahedron.  The only thing that kept it from being a perfect geometric figure was the wide band of black that split the two four sided pyramids apart.

 

The Evangelion Unit-One was positioned on the catapult.  Ranma opened the communications line to the cockpit. “Remember Shinji…”

 

“I know, keep moving and don’t stand still.”  The boy rolled his eyes at his sensei.

 

Ranma smiled.  “And try not to get yourself killed.”

 

“Roger.”

 

Misato got a light smile on her face as she heard the conversation between the two.  She was happy that Shinji had such a great friend and teacher.  Too bad it had to be the bull-headed bane of her existence.  She straightened up and looked forward at the monitors.  “EVA LAUNCH!”

 

            The robot shot through the tubes like the first day Shinji had arrived.  He steeled himself as he reached the surface.  The lights and sirens announced the coming of an EVA.  The street parted as the receiving gantry lines shot up to catch the rocketing robot.  Unit-One reached the top of the gantry and the force of the sudden stop shot the unit’s head up.

 

            Alarms began to go off in the operations room.  “High energy reaction detected in the angel.”  Maya reported.

 

“What did you say?”  Misato asked redundantly.

 

“Energy amassing upon itself.”

 

“No!”

 

Ranma stabbed the button on the communication array.  “SHINJI MOVE!!!”

 

Before Shinji could react, the black band around the angel lit up bright blue and fired a lance of energy into the EVA unit.  The blast continued to hammer on the robot.  The room was filled with Shinji’s screams.

 

“Get him out of there!  It’s boiling him!”  Ranma shouted.

 

“No, Shinji! Retrieve him, hurry!”  Misato shouted.

 

            The bottom seemed to fall out from under the EVA as it started descending through the launch tube.  Misato and Ranma took off out of the control room and rushed down to the cage.

 

Ritsuko and the others continued to monitor the situation in the entry plug.  Maya started feeding her status reports.  “Brainwaves erratic.  He’s going into cardiac arrest!”

 

“Give him a heart massage!”  Dr. Akagi shouted.

 

Inside the entry plug, Shinji’s plug suit began to contract on him in an attempt to restart his heart.

 

The EVA came to rest in the cage as the restraints came around and locked it into place.  Misato and Ranma arrived just as the back of the EVA’s neck opened to eject the entry plug.  “EMERGENCY LCL DISCHARGE!”  Misato shouted to audio pickups around the room.

 

The vents at the bottom of the entry plug opened up and expelled the LCL fluid still trapped inside at high pressures.  Ranma leapt from the catwalk in front of the robot to the platform beside the entry plug.  He made a slashing motion at the plug door, and the door fell off.  He carefully removed Shinji from the entry plug and laid him out on the platform.  He started administering CPR on the boy.

 

Misato rushed up the ladders and catwalks as fast as she could.  She came up beside Ranma with a frantic look on her face.  “Is he okay?!”

 

Ranma sat back and took a deep breath.  “He’ll live.  Get the medics down here.”

 

Later that evening Ranma and Misato were watching Shinji as he slept in the hospital bed.  He would make a full recovery, thanks to Ranma.  The blue-black haired captain looked worried as she watched the boy lie motionless on the bed.  Ranma stood back and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed.  He alternately looked between Shinji and Misato.  He wondered which one he should be more worried for, the sleeping boy, or the about-to-have-a-nervous-breakdown woman. 

 

They had both already learned that the angel had taken up a position directly above them, and had started drilling through the twenty-two layers of armor that separated central dogma from the surface.

 

Ranma tried to think of something to bring Misato out of her anxiety.  “Chi,” He said simply.

 

Misato turned and looked at him with a questioning glance.  “What?”

 

“Chi.  That’s how I knew that the angel was coming.  What you guys call an Absolute Terror Field is actually Chi, or life energy.”

 

She tilted her head.  “What kind of life energy?”

 

“All kinds.”  He gestured about the room.  “You, me, the Earth, we all give off an energy.  The simplest term for it is Chi.  You asked me what I did to the first angel, remember?”

 

She nodded her head.  “When you glowed like a nightlight?”

 

He nodded his head.  “If you train in martial arts enough, you can learn to use the life energy to do things like that.”  He held out his hand and formed a ball of Chi.  “This is what you guys keep calling an AT field.”

 

“Wow,” was all she could say as she bent down and gazed at the light with wide-eyed wonder.

 

He collapsed the ball with a clenched fist.  “Although the only thing I haven’t figured out how a robot can generate Chi, much less as much as they do.”

 

Misato sighed and stood back up.  “Well, they are an artificial life form.  Maybe the scientists figured out how to make something generate a life energy.”

 

Ranma thought for a second before replying.  “I don’t think so.  Something else is going on here.  It’s itching in the back of my mind, but I can’t scratch it.”

 

“Maybe you need a flea dip.”  She smiled teasingly.

 

He rolled his eyes.  “Aren’t you supposed to be doing something now?  Like trying to figure out how to get that THING off our heads.”

 

She nodded her head.  “We should be ready to begin the tests.”  She turned and started to leave the room.  She stopped when she saw Ranma wasn’t following.  “You coming, or not?”

 

“I don’t know…”

 

“Don’t worry, Rei will be down here.  She volunteered to watch over him for some reason.”

 

Ranma shrugged and followed the captain out, taking one more look at the boy and wishing him well.

 

They reached the control room where Makoto, one of the technicians from ops, was replaying the footage from the range tests that NERV had been conducting.  The first test had a one to one scale Evangelion balloon being toted by a ship in the harbor.  The Angel promptly shot it down.  The second test was on a railed mortar cannon.  The huge cannon fired its shell that bounced off the angel’s AT Field and was deflected out of the city.  The invader promptly returned fire.  Makoto began to rattle off his findings.  “The angel attacks when something is in range.  It’s too dangerous for close range combat.  Conventional weapons do more damage to us from the deflection than to it.”

 

Misato nodded her head.  “It’s offensively and defensively perfect.”

 

Ranma leaned back against one of the walls.  “Nothing is perfect.  It’s got to have a weakness somewhere.”

 

The technician indicated another screen where it was running a computer simulation of the angel’s drilling efforts.  “It looks like it will punch through all twenty-two layers of armor in about twelve hours.  It looks like it’s taking the fight to NERV headquarters.”

 

“Sassy Bastard!” Misato put her hands on her hips.  “It’s almost as annoying as Ranma.”

 

“What?!”  Ranma shouted from his spot against the wall.  “What do you know you moron?”

 

“More than you dipstick.”  She returned.

 

Makoto shook head, stood up, and walked toward the door.  “I’m going to grab some coffee and leave you two to your lover’s quarrel.”

 

“WE’RE NOT LOVERS!”  They both shouted at once.

 

Ranma thought for a second.  “Actually, technically we are.”

 

“But we’d have to LOVE each other to be LOVERS!”  Misato pointed out.

 

The technician shook his head once more and left the room.

 

“Well, miss know-it-all, why don’t you tell me how you plan on beating this angel?”  Ranma snarled.

 

“How about you come up with a plan O-great-martial-artist?”  She put her hands on her hips and got in his face.

 

“Hey!  I’m not even really a NERV officer.  I’m just a trainer!  You’re the idiot in charge!”

 

“You’re just mad that you can’t do a damn thing!  You’re totally useless!”  She closed the gap between their faces to about three inches.

 

“I am NOT useless!  I’m doing all I can to make Shinji the best pilot he can be!”  Ranma leaned forward another inch.

 

The gap between them disappeared as their lips met.  Ranma quickly broke away and stepped back.  “That enough!  Now you’re starting to take shots at me at work!”

 

“ME taking shots at YOU?!?!  What the HELL are you…”   She stopped in mid yell and thought for a second.  She snapped her fingers.  “That’s it!”  She grabbed his face and planted a quick kiss, then turned and ran out of the room.  Ranma shrugged and took off after her.

 

 

 

Inside the office Misato was laying out her plans to Gendou and his right hand man, Fuyutsuki.  Ranma was leaning by the door glaring at Gendou with his arms crossed.  Misato finished up and Fuyutsuki gave her a disbelieving glance.  “You really believe a sniper shot is the answer?”

 

She nodded her head.  “I’ve run it by the magi, and this plan has the highest probability of success.  It’s too dangerous to take on hand-to-hand.  We just barely retrieved Unit One before serious damage was done.”  Ranma harrumphed from his spot on the wall.  Misato rolled her eyes and continued.  “We’ll set up a positron rifle outside of the angels projected range and punch through its AT Field and hopefully the angel itself.”

 

Fuyutsuki still had an incredulous look on his face.  “And do YOU think this will work?”

 

Misato stood straighter and steadied her voice.  “I believe that with Unit One and Unit Zero, we can pull this off.”

 

The gray haired man started to open his mouth again, but was cut off by an uplifted hand from Gendou.  “Make it so.  Do what ever you have to.  Stop the angel at any cost.  It cannot be allowed into central dogma.”

 

“Yes, sir!”  Misato smiled as she saluted.  Ranma just shook his head and continued to glare at Gendou.

 

            Gendou nodded from behind his bridged fingers.  “Very well, Captain Katsuragi, you’re dismissed.”  Misato went toward the door.  The martial artist kicked off the wall and turned to follow her.  “Ranma, please remain a moment.”

 

            Ranma stopped and waited for Misato to close the door before turning back to face Gendou.  “What do you want to talk to me about?”

 

            Ikari leaned back in his chair.  “Have you thought of any other ideas of stopping the angel?”

 

            “As much as I hate to admit it.”  Ranma shook his head.  “No, I haven’t.  Misato’s idea seems the best chance we have.”

 

            Gendou’s eyebrows rose.  “You mean the Great Saotome Ranma can’t improvise a great plan to save of us all.”

 

            Ranma glared at the older man.  “You’re really getting off on the fact that I can’t do anything to these angels.”

 

            “I just enjoy the fact that you’ve finally gone up against something that you couldn’t beat with your fists.”  Gendou had smug smile on his face as he bridged his hands again.

 

            The martial artist turned and took a deep breath.  “Gloat all you want, but know this, I’ve made more of a difference than you ever have or ever will.  Especially in the life of your son.”  He left and slammed the door behind himself.

 

 

 

            Later, Misato and Ritsuko hashed out the details of the plan.  They’d decided to ‘borrow’ the SSDF’s new prototype self-propelled positron rifle for their sniper shot, since theirs had no where near the capacity to pierce the angel’s AT Field at the range they were at.  They also acquired a piece of a scrapped space shuttle to use as a shield in case of retaliation.  Misato also relayed order that they would route all the electricity in Japan to the rifle for the shot.  Ranma asked her how she would get along without her soaps for the time.  She tried to punch him, but the bastard kept just out of reach.

 

            Preparations were made to take the shot from Mt Futago.  Thousands of transformers and technicians were brought in to make the whole thing possible.  It was all a logistical miracle, all commanded by Misato.

 

            All in all, everyone was prepared for the operation dubbed, ‘Yoshima”.  Everyone that is, except for one crucial part, the pilot of Evangelion Unit One.

 

            Shinji awoke to the ceiling of the medical ward of NERV headquarters.  This was the second time he had woken up to this ceiling.  The first time Ranma was there.  This time there was no one.  Just as he was about to mope the door opened and Rei walked in, wheeling a cart with a well-balanced dinner on it.

 

            Rei reached under the cart and tossed him a new plug suit.  “Here is a new one.  I’m here to brief you on operation Yoshima.”  She pulled out a book and recited the timetable for the operation and the shot.

 

            Shinji sat up and thought while she was reading.

 

            Rei finished reading and looked up at him.  “Don’t show up looking like that, pilot Ikari.”

 

            Shinji’s eyes lit up as he realized he was quite naked under the sheet.  “GAH!”  He quickly pulled the sheet around his mid-section.  After calming down he looked out the window the geo-front.  “So I have to do it again.”  It was a statement not a question.

 

“You can stay in bed.  I will pilot unit one.”  Rei offered.  “Dr. Akagi and Captain Katsuragi are waiting in cage.”  She turned to leave.  “Goodbye”

 

“No, I’ll do it!”  Shinji surprised himself with the outburst.  He settled himself and unwrapped his shrink-wrapped plug suit.  “It’s my duty.  Just give me a minute to change.”

 

If Rei could have had a surprised look on her face, she would have.  “You may also want to eat and regain your strength.”

 

Shinji nodded.  Rei walked out of the room and he dressed and inhaled his food.  Ranma’s method of speed training may be bad table manners, but it sure came in handy when you’re in a hurry.  Of course he was nowhere near Ranma’s speed.

 

A couple hours later, Evangelion Unit One and Zero emerged from the mountains outside of Tokyo-3.  Several of Shinji and Rei’s classmates were there to cheer them on.  The two EVA’s were carted to the staging grounds where the positron rifle and the rest of the NERV staff awaited them.  The two pilots joined their robots on the hill and were debriefed by Ritsuko.  “Shinji, you will be firing the positron rifle since you have the higher sync ratio.  Rei will shield you with the piece of the space shuttle in the event of a counter attack.”

 

“Are you sure it’s safe to use?”  Ranma had walked up and stood behind Shinji.

 

Dr. Akagi rolled her eyes at the martial artist.  Misato may put up with him, but she wouldn’t.  “It’s perfectly safe!  Shinji just have to make sure he changes out the fuse and lets the gun cool between firings.”  She turned to address the male pilot again.  “Don’t forget the compensate for the curvature of the Earth and gravity when you make your shot.  The positron beam is still bound by the magnetic and gravitational fields of the Earth.”

 

“So it’s just like a howitzer shot?”  Ranma asked.

 

“It’s similar.  How do you know about a howitzer shot?  You haven’t served in the military.”

 

“I’ve trained a lot of them and they showed me their toys.”  He smiled his cocky grin.  “You never know when any combat skills could come in handy, so I soaked up as much as I could.”

 

“Well, just let computers handle this.  It will do the targeting.  All Shinji has to do is pull the trigger.”

 

Shinji looked over at the rifle that was set up on a gigantic bi-pod.  “I’ve never done this before.”

 

“Just read the manual” The doctor assured him.

 

“What if I miss and the angel shoots back?”

 

“Destroy the angel with the first shot and you won’t have a problem.”

 

Rei stepped forward.  “I’m just supposed to protect unit one.”

 

Ritsuko turned to the blue-haired girl.  “Correct.  Now go get ready.”

 

As they were leaving, Ranma put his hand on Shinji’s shoulder.  “Shinji.”

 

The boy turned to him.  “Yes?”

 

“Just a tip:  Aim about five degrees higher than the computer tells you.  That’s what all the heavy gunnery teams have told me when they fired their cannons.  At this range it should still be in the range finder.  Worse case scenario you take its top off.”

 

Shinji nodded.  “I’ll remember that.  Thanks.”  He turned and followed Rei to the dressing room.  Ranma turned and joined Misato and the others in their temporary headquarters.

 

At the dressing tent, the two kids changed into their plugsuits with a curtain hanging between them.  Shinji watched Rei’s shape change while he sat down fully suited up.  “Maybe this will be our last day alive.”  He remarked.

 

“You won’t die.  I’ll be protecting you.”  Rei finished dressing and left the tent.

 

Shinji thought about what she had said for a second and then charged out after her.  He finally caught up with her on the Evangelion’s gantry, sitting on the catwalk beside her EVA.  Shinji walked over and sat on the gantry beside his.  He tried to think of something to say.  “Why do you pilot?”

 

“I’m bonded to it.”  She answered simply, but did not say anymore.

 

Shinji looked confused.  “To my father?”

 

”To all people.  Besides I have nothing else.”

 

“What do you mean you have nothing else?”

 

She stood up and walked toward her EVA’s entry plug.  “It’s time.  Goodbye Shinji.”

 

Shinji nodded his head and followed her lead and boarded his Evangelion.

 

Inside the temporary HQ, an alarm sounded nine-o-clock.  Misato turned to the technicians.  “Commencing operation!”

 

Gendou nodded his head.  “Good luck, Captain.  We’re entrusting you with all the power in Japan.”

 

Misato nodded as the reports started coming in.

 

“Coolant systems operational.”

 

“First stage transformers on line.”

 

“Second stage transformers on line.”

 

“Third stage transformers on line.”

 

Ritsuko turned on the communications line to Unit One.  “Load the fuse.”

 

Outside at the bipod, Shinji sent the mental signal to his EVA that made it pull the slide back on the positron rifle, chambering the fuse like a bullet in a bolt-action rifle.

 

“Forth stage generators on line.”

 

 “High energy output in target!”  Maya reported.

 

“Not now!” Ritsuko turned in surprise.

 

“Fire now!” Misato yelled into the communications array.

 

Outside, the positron rifle boomed as the blast poured out of it.  At the very same instant, the ring around the angel glowed and fired its own blast.  If Shinji had aimed exactly where the computer had lined up, the two beams would have hit each other dead on, and the magnetic field between each beam would have warped each of the beams around each other, sending them both into the ground right there.  But he had aimed five degrees higher, so his beam went over the angel’s, pulling both of the shots downward, but generally in the same direction.  The angel’s blast struck the base of Mt. Futago, causing it to quake all the way to the top, and Shinji’s blast struck the ground where the angel was drilling, destroying the angel’s drill bit.

 

The temporary HQ was tossed around as the mountain shook to the core.  Misato, who was the only person standing beside Ranma, lost her footing and fell to the floor.  One of the auxiliary radio racks tilted and started to fall over on her.  Her eyes went wide as all she could do was watch the heavy equipment fall on her.  In a blur of gray, she was scooped up and carried out of harm’s way.  The rack crashed on the floor, and Misato looked up at her savior.  Ranma looked at her with a masked concern.  “Are you okay?”

 

            Misato nodded and got up.  “Yes, thank you.”  She was still a little dazed, more from Ranma rescuing her than from almost being smashed.  She looked around the room.  “Is everything okay?  Did we miss?”

 

            Dr. Akagi looked over the displays.  “The target is still alive, and it’s moving right toward us!  Shinji severed the drilling arm and now it’s headed toward our position!”

 

            “Hurry the second shot!”  Misato commanded.

 

            “We need ten minutes for the power levels to rise again.”

 

            Ranma grimly nodded his head.  “I’ll buy you the time.”

 

            Everyone turned to look at him, but he was gone without a trace.  Misato involuntarily yawned.  Ritsuko looked at her.  “What was that yawn about?”

 

            The captain shrugged.  “Dunno.  I suddenly felt like it was morning already.”

 

            Outside the angel was rapidly approaching their position.  It was mad, REAL mad.  Its mission was a failure, but it would fulfill its secondary objective.  It felt two powers on the hill and it was going to destroy them.  Suddenly it sensed another power directly below.  The angel fired a blast into the ground below him.  The power was small, so the blast should have destroyed it.  Satisfied that it had finished the insect off, it began to move again.  Suddenly the power flared again.  Confused, the angel fired again.  Again it disappeared, and reappeared!

 

            This pattern off disappearances and reappearances repeated itself with a shot each time.

 

            In the temporary headquarters, the others could only stare slack-jawed as the angel seemed to be firing at the ground around itself randomly.  “What the hell?”  was the general consensus.

 

            One of the displays in front of Aoba came to life.  “Positron charge at seventy-five percent.”

 

            Ritsuko brought her attention back to business.  “Replace the fuse.”

 

            Once more Shinji pulled the slide back and the spent fuse ejected out of the rifle like an empty bullet shell, and the new fuse slammed home.  The power readouts went to eighty percent and the rifle powered up.

 

            The angel felt the power grow once more on the mountain.  It realized too late that it had let itself be distracted by this insect.  It fired another blast at the power on the mountain.

 

            “Another high energy reading!”  Maya reported again.  “A shot is headed this way!”

 

            “No!”  Ritsuko yelled.

 

            The world seemed to slow down as the blast came toward Shinji.  At the last instant, Rei jumped in front of the beam, holding the piece of the space shuttle between him and the blast.  “Ayanami!”  He yelled.

 

            The power reading was only to ninety percent, but Shinji decided to risk taking the shot.  He found the target, compensated for the distance, and fired.  His blast struck the angel and blew threw its AT Field and body.  The lifeless body fell to the Earth.

 

            Shinji quickly turned his attention to EVA Zero.  The robot’s armor was all melted and shriveled up.  He reached up with his Evangelion’s hand and ripped the cover off the entry plug.  The entry plug popped up instantly and the LCL fluid drained from it..  He carefully pulled the entry plug out and placed it on the ground.  He bailed out and leapt to the ground.  Frantically now, he grabbed the handles for the hatch and nearly burned his hands trying to get the hatch open.

 

            The hatch came open and Shinji stuck his head inside.  “Rei!  Are you all right?”  She looked up at him and nodded.  “Don’t say you have nothing else.  Don’t say goodbye it’s just too sad.” He saw that she was all right and he started crying tears of joy.  Ranma would give him hell about it later, but he didn’t care.

 

            Rei looked at the tears with a slightly confused look.  “Why are you crying?  I’m sorry, but I don’t know what I should do or feel at a time like this.”

 

“Why don’t you try smiling?”

 

Rei tried, and Shinji thought it was the most beautiful thing in the world.  “One more thing…”

 

Rei looked at him.  “Yes.”

 

“Next time, let me protect you.”

 

Back at the temporary HQ everyone was packing up after a job well done.  Well everyone except for Misato who was outside trying to find a sign of Ranma.  She had a concerned look on her face as she searched the horizon for him.

 

            Ritsuko came out of the ad-hoc base and walked up beside her.  “You’re not worried about him, are you?”

 

            The captain became apprehensive.  “No!  Not at all!  I, uh, just need him to pay his half of the rent.”

 

            The blonde doctor smiled a sly grin.  “And to cook.  And to keep your bed warm.”

 

            “Shut up, Ritsuko!”  She turned her face away from the doctor, trying to hide the furious blush.

 

            About that time a tall redhead wearing a scorched NERV uniform trudged up.  The two other women turned to look at her, and she grinned sheepishly.  “Yo.”  She greeted them simply with a wave.

 

            Misato tackled Onna-Ranma to the ground.  She held the redhead close.  “Never do that again you stupid bastard!  You about gave me a heart attack when you pulled that reckless stunt!  What would Shinji have thought if you had bought it out there?!”

 

            Onna-Ranma shook her head and stood back up, Misato still holding on to her.  “Not like you care if I died or not.”

 

            Misato’s grip tightened.  “Never.”  She lied.

 

            “I didn’t know you swung that way, Misato.”  Ritsuko ribbed the black-haired girl.

 

            The pair quickly let each other go and put about ten feet between themselves.

 

 

 

            Later, back at the apartment, Ranma had congratulated Shinji on a job well done, and then sent him to bed to get plenty of rest for tomorrow’s training.  He turned to Misato who was slowly nursing her first beer.  He turned and considered her.  Her plan had worked, despite all his skepticism.  He had to admire the fact the she did indeed have a brain in that otherwise vacuous mind.  He decided it was time to go to bed.  “Hey, you dumb broad!  Why don’t you just chug that beer like the alcoholic you are?”

 

            “What?”

 

            “Don’t you know that stuff goes straight to your hips?”

 

            “WHAT?!”

 

            “Lord knows they don’t need the help.”

 

            Misato steamed and charged at him.

 

            Things went to their usual end, this time it was to Ranma’s plan.