Part 2: Close, but no cigar

Beautiful. That was the thought of one Misato Katsuragi, Ops Director for NERV as she watched Eva Units 1 and 2 leap into the air and land on the twin angel in perfect synch. Those two really pulled it off. The Evas rode the angels like skateboards up the side of the near-by hill, their armored boots cracking the cores and sealing the fate of the invaders as their energy meters hit zero and the music stopped. Misato checked her watch. 62 seconds on the dot. Perfect. She smiled as the techs reported that the Evas were intact and both pilots were alive and well. "Good job everyone." She said, preparing to tell the crews to retrieve the two active units and for Eva Unit 0 to stand down. Before she could speak, the alarm klaxon went off again.

"Report." Came a single command from above Misato's head. She knew that voice and hated it. But, he was her boss. She turned to her commander and spoke.

"MAGI detected an unknown energy signature that just appeared inside Tokyo 3. The pattern is unlogged and completely new, but the energy dispersion waveform is nearly identical to an Angel's blue code. MAGI refuse to agree if it is an angel, but they record it as a possible angel." Misato was listening to Maya and Ritsuko interpret the data on Maya's screen, simultaneously relaying that to the Commander of NERV, and therefore the most powerful man on the planet, her boss, Gendo Ikari. Prick. Thought one part of Misato's mind. She didn't care for the way he treated others, and he was worse to his own son. At the thought of his son, she glanced to one of the smaller screens and looked at Shinji's and Asuka's life signs, transmitted from their plug suits to the command center. She was relived to see that they were both fine. Heart rate and blood pressure were above average, but then considering that they were in a heated argument just now, that was normal. Her attention snapped back to Gendo as he spoke.

"Doctor Akagi, do you have a visual on this possible angel yet?" Beside him, the second most powerful man on earth stood silently. Fuyutsuki rarely spoke, a fact that common gossip said was proof that he wasn't a real person, but Gendo's familiar.

"Yes sir." Answered Misato's old friend and college roomie, the bleach-blonde Ritsuko Akagi, PhD in Biomechanics and several other hard-to-say fields. "Cameras on line now. The target is in downtown Tokyo 3, district 7, grid bravo. Right next to arms building AAM601. Should we detonate it?"

"Not yet. Let's see what it is first." Commanded Misato. Anti Angel Mine buildings were essentially giant piles of high explosive wrapped in the concrete façade of a normal building and used to force angels away from certain points. While not even the N2 mines could penetrate the AT field of an Angel, the mines could toss one into the air or knock it off it's feet if it were close enough. Misato glanced at the large holo-screen to see what she was up against. What she saw made no sense. At the base of the building were four people and an old tank. The people were slumped over unconscious and the tank seemed to be inoperative. But how had they gotten there and why was there the odd energy phenomena at that same location.

"Permission to detonate AAM601?" came Hyuga's tense question.

"Denied. Send Section 2 personnel to investigate, launch Rei in Unit 0 and have her stand by in block 7, grid Charlie. Send her a palette rifle and that experimental progressive axe just in case. And step up the recovery of Units 1 and 2. We may need them." Decided Misato. "Rei, did you hear that?" she asked the smaller screen in the corner of the holo-display that showed the blue-haired, red-eyed First Child in the plug of Unit 0.

"Understood. Launching now." Was her flat, unemotional reply. Her blue biomech monster shot up the catapult and emerged from an exit route four blocks away from her assigned position. She moved the Eva toward her station, keeping most of her attention on the site where the Section 2 men were closing in on the unknown persons. But she still spared a swift glance at the smoking crater where her two fellow pilots currently argued on over an open comm. Channel, oblivious to the new threat. Why does Ikari react so strongly to Sohryu? And why does Sohryu always attack Ikari? Is it because she views him as a threat? Rei's musing was cut short when a small window popped up and Misato's face appeared there.

"Rei, the target appears to be humans and an old tank, so I don't think that you will need the rifle. Take the axe and if the tank tries to attack you or any of the NERV personnel, destroy it. Section 2 is standing by to collect the people now, but they would appreciate it if you would grab the tank first. Just be alert for any hostile action on the part of the tank. Your AT field can handle it if it's just a tank, but it might be more. Be careful when you pick it up. Cage 5 is ready for it. Got it?"

"Hai." Answered the pilot. Taking the axe, she stepped carefully around the buildings and bent down, carefully took hold of the tank and started back toward the retrieval point. Just as she was about to step onto the platform that would take her into the depths of NERV, her Eva's external sensors picked up a sound. Rei frowned very slightly. Was that a cat's meow I just heard?

The Section 2 agents watched the blue Eva take the tank and then began to close in to take the humans into custody when the four humans stirred and began to move. The radio in the agents' ears crackled and then command ordered them to wait and observe the situation. Apparently Commander Ikari wanted to see what would happen when they woke up. The agents melted into the vacant shops and streets and observed the four.

The first one up was a man in white leather. He sat up, stretched and looked around. For about two minutes, nothing happened. The agents all flinched as the man suddenly yelled. "Shit, yeah!!! Tokyo at last! It's curry time for this champion!!!" The man easily flipped to his feet and began a mad little dance. His yell had awakened the others, who sat up and began to look around.

"Shut the fuck up, you asshole!" Commanded the young girl in the school uniform. "You're making us look like retards." She paused, then continued. "Still, it's good to be back in Japan." Her tone indicated that she was happy. But the agents were quite startled when she reached down beside her and pulled up a Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifle and lovingly hugged it. "And I still have my best friends." The man in the white leather kept on doing his little dance, ignoring the teenager. Another of the people sat up and faced the teenage schoolgirl.

"If I didn't know you so well, Rit-chan, I'd have thought you were talking about Junpei and I."

"Well, you two as well, I suppose." Answered the girl with a laugh. The agents found the woman with short black hair to be very attractive and she seemed much more sophisticated than the other two. Still, her clothes were much stranger than the other's. The woman stood and looked around. A frown appeared on her face.

"Rit-chan, am I missing something here?" The girl stopped caressing her rifle and looked at the older woman, standing as she did so.

"Now that you mention it, where are all the people?" The two looked around some more, becoming more and more unhappy as they did so. "Oh my God!" screamed the school girl, "where is Mike?!"

"It gets worse, Rit-chan." Observed the dark haired woman. "Look over there." Ritsuko did as she was asked and gasped.

"Celsia? What the hell is this shit? She shouldn't be here, should she?"

"Celsia?" asked the man, stopping his dance and jogging to the two women, who were standing over the fourth person. "Whoa, it is Celsia! And in her hottie elven form." He laughed. The schoolgirl smacked him in the gut with the butt of her rifle. The man ignored her. "Though I gotta say, seeing her in dog form was kinda funny."

"I'm not sure she would agree. But I believe we have larger concerns, Junpei." Said the dark haired one.

"Oh, like what miss Airi?"

"Read that sign over there, Junpei." She suggested. The man turned to look at the indicated sign. It was in front of a small restaurant. The man frowned, his lips moving as he read.

"No, it's OK miss Airi, the curry is listed under the side dishes."

The schoolgirl picked herself up from where she had fallen and kicked the man in the side of the head, knocking him off his feet. "You god-damned mother fucking idiot! She wasn't talking about your fucking rice curry!!"

"What's your problem, Ritsuko? It that time of the month again already or what?" asked the man, rubbing the shoe print on the side of his head. Airi had stepped over to Ritsuko and was currently holding her back as she obviously intended to beat on him some more.

"I was referring to the name of the restaurant, Junpei." Replied Airi, her attention on calming down Ritsuko. The girl calmed down fairly quickly all things considered. Airi cautiously let her go, ready to grab her again if she flipped out and went for Junpei again. The man stood and read the sign again.

"It just says `Tokyo 3 Fine Cuisine'. So what?"

"How many Tokyos were there when we left Japan?" asked Airi, knowing Junpei wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed.

"One of course, miss Airi. You should know that; it was there that I saw you for the first time in that movie that won you an Oscar! When I first saw your beautiful face on the screen, I knew then that we were meant to be together forever…" The girl interrupted his self-absorbed monologue.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever. But here's something else odd, Airi. Tokyo didn't have these hills around it and these buildings don't look right. Also, where are all those tacky neon signs and tangled power lines? Did they disappear with all the people? And I don't see nearly enough cars here for the Tokyo I remember."

"Indeed. And why is it summer here? Tokyo was never this hot." Added Airi, sweat forming on her brow.

"I got an idea." Replied Ritsuko. "I see a newspaper stand there. It seems logical that we can learn more there."

"Good idea. But what should we do about Celsia?" Asked Junpei, nudging the elf with the toe of his boot. The elf stirred and awoke. After a moment of looking around, she saw her friends and said the first thing that popped into her little blonde head.

"Again?!"

The four were walking toward the coin-operated newspaper stand where they hoped to find answers. Celsia seemed unwilling to wait for answers though, madly rambling on about elf Royalty and High Priestesses being made to suffer such situations. Ritsuko and Junpei were taking turns shooting back with comments on her casting skills. When they arrived at the newspaper stand, things did not get better.

"'NERV Destroys Latest Angel'? `New Study on Second Impact Crater Yields Meteorite Fragment'? World Population to Reach 1 Billion by Next Year'? What the hell?" demanded Airi.

"I think I'm going to be sick." Came Ritsuko's faint voice. Airi glanced at her and saw that she was very nearly ready to pass out. Airi grabbed her arm to steady her and asked.

"What is it, Rit-chan? What's wrong?" Ritsuko pointed to the date on the paper.

"Holy shit." Murmured Airi. "2015?"

"This makes no sense." Whispered Ritsuko to herself. "We got snatched 16 years ago? No. It must be a time paradox. Perhaps the theory of the relative relationship between singularities and chronological errors is true after all. Or maybe this is a result of the interaction of magic and science. Perhaps when the theoretical energy known as magic interacts with the mathematically based science, it causes a rift or distortion similar to a…" Ritsuko rambled on under her breath, as Airi thought hard. Junpei finally broke the introspection.

"Anyone got a 500 yen piece?" he asked. The others stared at him blankly.

"I wanna get a paper and check out the sports pages. The Tigers were doing really good when I left, so I thought I'd see if they took the series." His companions sweat dropped.

"Don't you think there's more important issues here than sports?" asked Ritsuko, her tone dripping acidic venom.

"Hey, I'm not stupid, you know." Replied Junpei.

"That's a matter of opinion." Muttered Celsia. Junpei ignored her.

"I already know that there's curry here. It was on the menu, remember?" It took Airi and Celsia both to keep Ritsuko from shooting him on the spot. Deprived of her vengeance against him, she settled for blasting the newspaper machine with a couple of shots from her USP, tearing the shattered door off and grabbing several newspapers, which she quickly folded into a thick, heavy fan.

"Hey, brain donor." She snarled, slinging her G36 and taking a two-handed grip on her fan. "I've got your sports page right here." The smack could be heard for blocks.

"So it's agreed, then?" asked Airi of the now smiling Ritsuko who stood over Junpei's prone form, from which rose a small tendril of smoke. "We are not in our Tokyo?"

"I hate to say so, but it appears so, Airi. And we seem to be missing some years too." Both women turned to face Celsia, staring at her.

"Don't look at me, you two! I cast the damned thing right this time!"

"The facts do not bear that out. And you were screaming incoherently at the end. It seems that you messed up part of the incantation and this is the result."

"What do you know about magic, Ritsuko?" demanded Celsia.

"Not a damned thing. I just know that this is not what was supposed to happen. Therefore, given the circumstances, I see no other explanation than that you fucked up again." Replied the school girl.

"So what do you want from me?" retorted Celsia, knowing she had no ground to stand on with regards to that issue.

"That's easy. We want answers." Interjected Airi.

"I don't have any. Maybe if I can find my book, I can figure this out."

"Hey guys, did you invite anyone over for dinner?" asked Junpei, who had recovered from Ritsuko's attack.

"No, why? We haven't seen a single person since we got here." Replied Airi.

"Then these aren't friends of your, right?" he motioned with his thumb to the dozen or so black-suit wearing goons closing in on them. He stood to his full height and got into his fighting stance. "I've been wanting to burn off some of this rage. Looks like these fuckers are my punching bags." He sneered. The men slowed and a couple pulled guns out from under their jackets.

Before the Section 2 goons could clear their weapons, Ritsuko had dropped to crouch, her right knee on the pavement, and had her G36 to her shoulder, the sights locked on the lead man. "I got the front guy, Airi. Junpei can handle the ones on the right. Can you and Celsia keep the assholes on the left busy until I cap these guys?" she asked her companion. Months of elf hunting had placed Airi in more-or-less charge of tactics, so it was instinct that had Ritsuko asking her approval. Airi was slow to answer. Ritsuko risked a glance at her and saw that she was watching something near the top of the building. Sniper? Helicopter? Wondered Ritsuko, scanning the sky and doing her best to keep the front sight locked on the chest of the lead goon. Instead of that, she saw first a shadow, then a foot the size of a bus. Her eyes traveled up. And up. And up until she saw the face of the beast.

"We're gonna need Mike for this." She said out loud.