My Very First Angel! [11a]

 

“Tokyo-3. This is Tokyo-3. This train will make a five minute stop. All passengers for Tokyo-3 please remember to take your personal belongings with you as you depart the train. Thank you.”

The express train slid to a graceful halt at the deserted platform. After a brief pause, the hiss of hydraulics sounded as just one door opened, and shortly thereafter, a girl in white tunic stepped out onto the platform. Over one shoulder she carried a large duffel, and in her free hand, she had a piece of paper, which she consulted.

“Take the metro five stops,” she read.

She looked around. This was not the busy terminus she had expected when she had set out to Japan's newest Tokyo. Looking up and down the platform showed no signs of life, save for the inevitable pigeons; and there only seemed to be a couple more platforms, rather than a dozen or more. In all, it was no bigger than the provincial station where she had said goodbye to her grandparents, just a couple of hours before.

There were, at least, some signs pointing to the Metro. Shrugging, she headed for the stairs to cross over to the indicated platform.

“That's strange,” she remarked to herself, when the gates down to the platform refused to take her ticket. “How about these ones?” But no luck at those, either. “How about these stairs?”

And eventually, by exhausting all possibilities, taking only those gates that would let her past, she found herself out on the street in front of the station, and all the gates closed against her.

“Hello?” she called.

No answer.

She walked along the pavement to the ticket hall, but found it locked, dark and as deserted as the rest of the station.

“Oh well, I guess I'll just have to walk, instead,” she decided.

There was a map of the city at the bus-stop outside the station. That should at least be able to give her an idea of how to get to the district she was after. She looked at the map, with all the public transport routes shown, and then at the city spread out on the plain below her, trying to match up the landmarks.

One such was quite obvious, where cranes were massed about some half-constructed edifice like a shard of crystal. She frowned. There was nothing on the map to match it.

“Oh well, maybe it's an old map and they haven't put an unfinished building on it.”

She studied the map a while longer, jotting down names onto her piece of paper, until she was sure she had a good idea where to go, by following the course of the metro line as a guide.

“Suzuhara Misaki-san?” The first other voice she had heard since the recorded announcement on the train.

“Eeeks!” the sudden interruption startled her, and she looked wildly around to see who had spoken.

A man in a white lab-coat stepped out from behind the far end of the bus shelter, and adjusted his glasses. He had a funny sort of a smile that she felt reassuring, so she beamed back at him.

“Yes. How did you know my name?”

“I used to work with your mother, Suzuhara Shuuko-sensei, a long while ago, while you were very small. I'm… well, call me Icchan.

“You'll be wanting a lift, I expect. We're parked over here.” He pointed down the road to where an old white car was parked. A girl of about her own age, in a sailor fuku, was standing by the car. She had simply gorgeous long blond hair, Misaki thought.

The girl's presence reassured her, and, shouldering her bag, she made her way to the car.

“Elda-chan,” Icchan called ahead to the girl, “Please open the door for Misaki-chan.”

“Yes, Oto-san.”


While the metro line followed the general drift of the contours around from the central districts of Tokyo-3 to the suburb where Misaki's aunt Shouko lived, the road Icchan took wound up into the underdeveloped hills, a shorter and more direct route. As the car wound up one hillside, with a spectacular view of the city below, Misaki noticed something large moving across the farther fringes of the down-town area.

“Icchan-san — What's that?” she asked, pointing at the tangle of spidery legs.

He looked around, to see where she was pointing, and brought the car to an abrupt halt. He seemed almost pleased.

“Your very first day in Tokyo-3 and you already have a chance to see Angelic combat. That must be the Ninth Angel.”

“An Angel? But I thought Angels were meant to be bright and pretty.”

“No, they are great and terrible. And this city is here to defend Humanity from them.” He paused. “We might as well wait here and watch.”

They got out of the car, and stood watching, Icchan leaning on the roof, Elda and Misaki both leaning on the bonnet. The spidery thing slowly shambled into the central mass of towers, and stopped.

“We should see the Evangelions soon.”

Time dragged on into minutes. Misaki looked on in surprise as Icchan appeared to get more and more frantic, leaning further over the car, standing on tip-toes. He looked like he was trying to haul himself over the top of the car.

And then a fountain of sparks erupted from where the legs converged, continuing for maybe ten seconds. A shudder ran through the Angel's sprawling legs, and it slumped. Icchan curled back with his arms wrapped over his head, while Misaki continued to watch his antics with surprise.

After a few moments, he uncurled and looked up.

“Well,” he said, “That was rather less spectacular than some of the others.”

“Oh.” She pondered a while. “What were the others like?”

“You remember the big power cut a few weeks ago? That was to power our defense against that Angel.” And he pointed to the crystal shard she had seen from the station.

What a strange place this was, she thought. It was certainly going to be a more exciting place to live than her grandparents' little village.


It seemed strange to her that just a few minutes later she was standing on the doorstep of her aunt's house, where she was going to be staying, in a normal seeming leafy suburban street, as if attacks by strange monsters were just an everyday thing, rather like the weather.

She lifted her hand to press the bell, then stopped. Manners, she thought.

“Thank you…” she turned to offer gratitude for the transport, but Icchan-san had vanished, car, daughter and all.

Well, no doubt he had something important to be doing. But it would be nice to see him again — and maybe try to make friends with his daughter, Elda. Now, that wasn't a normal sort of a name — maybe Mrs. Icchan was a gaijin from the Nordic countries, which would explain her daughter's appearance and her name.

A strange, sad girl too, she thought. Elda had been quiet for most of the drive, even during the Angel attack, but after they had resumed their journey, she had asked Misaki out of the blue whether she had “someone special” in a haunted tone of voice. A strange question. She had her grandparents, and the rest of her family whom she didn't see very much of, a mother who had gone away when she was a little girl, after her father had died, and the aunt she was going to live with. But, no, that wasn't what Elda had meant. Boys?, she asked — there had been a couple of them she'd been sweet on, but nothing like the tragic love that Elda seemed to be asking of. If anything, telling her this seemed to have made Elda even more melancholy and withdrawn.

The sound of the door opening brought her out of her reverie.

“Misaki-chan!” her aunt exclaimed, giving her a crushing hug, “You must have had an awful long walk! When the power went out and the Angel came, I was so worried. You must be exhausted. Come in and I'll run you a hot bath.”


Scene: Misaki and Shouko shopping, Misaki trying on her new green school skirt.

“It's not as smart as my tunic,” she says.

“Your new school is more modern and progressive than the old one, and so they're a little more informal. But it has a good reputation, which is why I arranged for you to go there.”

Later, sitting in the lounge, wrapped in one of Shouko-san's dressing gowns — not Oba-san, she had insisted (“I'm your mother's youngest sister, I'm not old enough for that. Call me big sister, if you have to.”) — and sipping a cup of tea, she felt that she was indeed now at home. And what a strange home it would be!

Scene: Shouko arriving in the kitchen at breakfast time, still in her dressing gown, eyes wide at the great feast that Misaki had already prepared, having gotten up even earlier.

“You'll make a hardworking executive a good wife one day,” Shouko remarks, amazed at the results of Misaki's early morning activity. She stops and considers a while. “I've got a vacancy for someone like that.”

“But Onee-san, you know that we can't get married!” Misaki chided her, colouring slightly.

At least, it turned out, she would have a little time to find her feet. Along with the tea, Shouko had shown her the letter that had arrived that morning. after some sort of bureaucratic mix-up, her class assignment wasn't ready, so she didn't have to go to school for another week!

Scene: One of the pilot testing labs at NERV. Icchan — Dr. Mihara Ichiro — sitting in front of a display showing two pictures and associated data. The pictures are of Suzuhara Touji and Suzuhara Misaki.

He snorted with annoyance. Commander Ikari's instructions about inducting a new pilot had been unhelpfully ambiguous. Touji's file was complete, all entries up to date. His honourary niece's records were full of blanks where data were not yet available. Which had the Commander meant when considering the new back-up Eva pilot? He pondered a while. Misaki, he knew through her mother, who had been his research supervisor back in Tokyo-2. And that meant that there were things he knew about her that didn't figure on this official record, for all that they were public data; things that might well be significant.

He tapped briefly at a keyboard. Touji's picture vanished, to be replaced by that of the Second Child. The text accompanying it streamed past the picture of Asuka as she scowled at the camera.

Yes, there it was. Asuka's recorded remarks, transcribed from her very first synchronization test.

“It was a bit like Spirit Warriors — only it wasn't my dæmon.”

Another window, another enquiry. Spirit Warriors ratings, 2013. There it was. Asuka Langley, rated number 12 in the EU, well outside the world top fifty. Alongside that, Suzuhara Misaki, winner of the Japanese national tournament, and seeded world number 11. He sighed.

Little Misaki-chan — he had hardly recognised the young woman at the station from the little girl he had dandled on his knee ten or so years earlier. It had been fortunate that Shuuko had e-mailed to let him know that she would be arriving, given the excitement that had been going on that day. He hadn't expected to see her again so soon, and not like this.

He hoped Shuuko would forgive him for what he was about to do.

“Ogata-kun!” he called his assistant, “Take this file to Captain Katsuragi. Tell her that a new Eva pilot has been identified.”

The next few days passed in a blur that seemed much longer in retrospect — shopping for her new school clothes — skirt, blouse and bow, not the tunic like her last school — learning the stops on the metro line, finding where the emergency shelters were. And one fine evening, watching the towers of Tokyo-3 unfolding from where they had withdrawn as part of a readiness exercise, stretching their shadows far out across the plain as the sun descended to the horizon.


“Hello. Are you lost?” A dark haired girl of about seven, wearing the same sort of school outfit, had asked that question as Misaki stood trying to decide which of two possible shops Shouko had meant when she'd written “Turn left at the florist's” as part of her directions from the metro stop to the school. The little girl stood on tip-toes and peered at the note. “Oh,” she said, “You're going to the big school. You must be new here.”

“Well, yes” Misaki admitted, “I'm Suzuhara Misaki. Pleased to meet you.”

“Hello, I'm…”

“Hatoko!!” a boy of about Misaki's age came hurrying up, “Don't go running off like that!”

“Well, you just have to learn to keep up.”

Misaki waited for the tiff to die down, for the girl to resume introductions.

“I'm Kobayashi Hatoko, and I'm in the junior school. This loser is my brother Koutarou. He should be able to give you directions to school.

“Koutarou-chan, Misaki-san is starting at the big school today.”

“So is this your first day at middle school?”

“Oh, no! I may only be little,” Misaki acknowledged, “but I am fourteen.”

“That means you'll be in the same year as me.” Koutarou brightened as he started to lead the way to school. Misaki thought he looked nice, now that he wasn't being bossed about by his little sister. “Which class?”

“Class 2-A.”

“Oh,” his face fell, “That's the other class. You'll be in with Soryu-san and all the other rocket-jocks. Though we should still see each other around, though.”

“Who are the rocket-jocks?” she asked.

The boy scratched his head.

“Well, there's a lot to explain if you're new here in LA.”

“?”

“Los Angeles — city of the Angels — that's what we call this place, now that they're coming here to attack us. You'll be in the same class as the kids who pilot the giant robots to fight them. That's if they show up to school.”

They had reached the school gates now, and Koutarou was pointing out the layout, when Misaki decided that she had to speak.

“I saw one of the Angels when I first arrived here, last week.”

“You did? That's…”

“Koutarou-chan!” His speech was interrupted as a blonde girl sprinted up behind them, and caught him in a choke-hold.

The girl looked at her.

“I'm sorry,” she said, “You must be new here. Hi! I'm Kizaki Tamayo. Pleased to meet you. And please, just call me Tamayo.”

Misaki introduced herself, then felt compelled to ask — “Um, Tamayo, is Kobayashi-san all right? He's going a funny colour.”

“Koutarou-chan is good enough for him. He doesn't even rate -kun. Oh, and I haven't killed him yet in the ten years I've been practicing on him.

“So, are you in our class?”

She explained again what she had said to Koutarou.

“Well, good luck in that class,” Tamayo sympathised. “There are a few things you'll need to know. First, I wouldn't let on to Aida-kun that you saw an Angel unless you're really desperate for a boyfriend. You'll know the guy when you see him. And probably keep quiet about it around the pilots if they ever show up. That's Soryu-san — the red headed round-eyed she-devil; Ayanami-san — the weird one with the blue hair. Just ignore her — she'll ignore you anyway. And Ikari-kun — he's mostly harmless, spends most of the time hanging out with Aida-kun and Suzuhara-kun.”

She paused.

“So we know who we're talking about, do you mind if we call you Misakichi?”

“Sure,” Misaki smiled. She did seem to have fallen on her feet here. “I've never been given a nickname before. My last school it was all surname-san or surname-senpai.”

Tamayo looked up at the other girls filing into school.

“Yo! Horaki-san!” she called, “One of yours!” And she waved, letting go, as she did, of Koutarou, who whispered hoarsely “If you don't like your nickname tell her now, before anyone else hears.”

A girl with freckles and pigtails approached.

“No,” Misaki decided, “I like it.”

“This is Misaki Suzuhara-san, a new transfer student who'll be in your class. Misaikichi, Horaki Hikari-san will be your class rep.”

The morning started in a whirl of introductions, and at break-time, she was quite giddy from trying to remember all the names and faces. As soon as the teacher had gone, the other girls were crowded around her desk, asking about where she had lived, what her last school had been like, about her aunt, and all sorts of other gossip. She was busily trying to keep up with all the questions when she noticed someone pushing their way through the press, a glimpse of long, red, hair, as the girl forced her way to the desk.

Misaki stood to make a polite greeting to this new schoolfriend, looking up at the tall red-head. She was the prettiest girl she had seen in the whole school, and looking quite serene, not the ogre that everyone else had prompted her to expect.

“Hello. You must be the famous Soryu-san everyone's been telling me about. Please call me Misakichi. I do hope we can be friends.”

“But of course!” The girl smiled, and combed one hand through those long red locks — and must have found a tangle, as she winced slightly. “So you're now the newest member of the class,” she concluded.

“Yes.” And she summarised why she was there, just as Hikari called the class to attention for the next lesson.

She was deeply absorbed in the history lesson, all the horrid things that had happened just before she was born, and all the heroism that had been shown while she had been far too little to realise what was going on, when there came a knocking at the door, and a middle-aged woman had stepped in.

“Would the new transfer student please report to the Principal's office.” she asked

“Eeeks!” That meant her. She couldn't think of anything bad that this might be. Probably something to do with the confusion over her paperwork. She stood, bowed to the teacher, and trotted out, following the woman who had called her. Reaching the Principal's office, the woman knocked, and announced her, then ushered her in by herself.

The principal was an old man with grey hair, but he wasn't alone in the office. He was standing, and seated at the desk was a woman about the same age as her aunt, wearing a red jacket, with what looked like military rank badges.

“Suzuhara-san, this is Captain Katsuragi. She has something very important to ask of you…” He seemed about to launch into a typically headmasterly exhortation, when Captain Katsuragi cut him off.

“May we discuss these matters in private, please, Oji-san.”

“Of course, Captain.” There was a little tension in the necessary formalities — the principal clearly was not entirely happy at being outranked by this younger woman — as he left the room.

“Suzuhara-san, I'm going to be brief as possible. Which will be shorter than he would have been, but there is a lot of ground to cover, so please bear with me.

“I gather you were just having a history lesson. Not everything you were being told is true. I'm going to tell you a secret that you must keep.”

Misaki nodded, apprehensively.

“I know you have seen an Angel. I saw one too, when I was your age, the First Angel, stalking the ice in the Antarctic, when there was still ice there. That was what really caused the Second Impact, not an asteroid impact as you have been taught. And that is why we must fight the Angels, to prevent a Third.

“Only a very few people are able to pilot the Evangelions, the only weapons we can use against the Angels. And you are one of those Chosen few.”

“Me?” But she was just an ordinary schoolgirl.

“Yes, you. Will you help us, Misaki-san? Will you help us save the world?”

A grown-up asking her for help, looking beseechingly at her.

“Why, yes. Yes, of course I'll help.”

The woman relaxed slightly, smiled wryly.

“Well, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is that you get to miss school for the rest of the day. The bad news is that you'll have to keep on with your school-work and be a pilot. as well, so your time really won't be your own.”


“Wow!” Misaki pressed her face against the passenger window for a better view of the panorama that had suddenly opened up outside. “Is this where all the buildings go, Misato-san? I didn't know all this was here!”

The view of the geofront spread out below where the train was carrying Misato's car came as such a surprise that it pushed away the nervousness she had felt during the drive from school — a nervousness that had as much to do with Misato's style of driving as it did with the fact that she had been whisked out of school to become — become what? An Eva pilot — but really, what did that mean?

“You'll be in with Soryu-san and all the other rocket-jocks.” She remembered Koutarou's words. He hadn't sounded particularly impressed, as if they were people who simply performed some necessary but distasteful function. And the few seconds that she had been talking with Soryu-san didn't seem to bear out the reputation that had preceeded her.

It did look like it would involve hard work — she already carried a bulging folder of official documentation to study, before she had even arrived here — wherever “here” was, this vast cavern under the heart of Tokyo-3. And Misato had told her that she would spend the rest of the day doing tests. She wasn't looking forward to that.

But for the moment, there was all this wonder to see, this park under the city to which the train was carrying her.


Every pilot was different, Misato thought. The girl she was conducting today was only the second that she had seen from the beginning, from before the moment they knew what they were being called upon to do.

This one, fortunately, seemed to be a little more amenable than the others. And at least this time, unlike the previous, they weren't in the middle of a situation.

A nice kid, all in all, quiet enough on the drive, appropriately impressed by the hidden world below and…

“Damn!” she thought. Too busy starting to worry about what quirks this one would inevitably display once thrown into combat, she had missed their exit from the moving way — again. At least Misaki didn't seem to have noticed.

“Icchan-san!”

Misaki had stopped her looking about in wonder, and was waving at the tall white-coated figure approaching on the other way. He waved back, and then Misato watched in a familiar despairing fascination as he vaulted over the handrail, completely disregarding the chasm between the ways, and landed on the track ahead of them.

“I've been expecting you, Captain Katsuragi. Please come with me. You, too, Misaki-chan.” and he set off at a pace they had to work to keep up with, through areas that Misato doubted she'd ever been before, until they emerged in familiar territory. Another anonymous door opened, and they were in the holding cage for Eva-02, though from a direction Misato had never taken.

“It will take a few seconds,” she thought, “and then we'll see how things are going to be.”

She watched Misaki, waited for her reactions.

The girl looked all around, then suddenly fixed her gaze on the Eva.

“Eeeks!” she squealed. “It's so big!” and then walked to the edge of the catwalk, and knelt to peer down into the depths of the tank, where the whole form of the Eva could be seen indistinctly through the maintenance bath. She looked back up at the impassive face.

Misato held her breath. The reaction would come now. Involuntarily, she cast her glance up, past the Eva. This time no-one was watching, interfering with events by their very presence.

“What is her name?” Misato snapped her attention back from recollection of Shinji's introduction to Eva-01. The girl had turned to face Dr Mihara. All she could tell was the tone of voice — cautious, a slight catch in it, as if trying not to cry.

And this was Ichiro's cue.

“That is Evangelion Unit-02, the latest model of the series. A bio-mechanical artificial humanoid form. It… well, I could explain the details of how it works, but I don't think the jargon would mean anything to you.

“What it comes down to, is that an Eva is the only thing that can successfully resist an angel, and it is almost alive. The pilot controls the Eva like it were their own body. Harmonizing with something like that is a rare talent indeed.”

He was pirouetting on the spot now, one arm raised to point to the heavens.

“And you,” he ceased to spin, swung to point accusingly at Misaki, his finger almost touching her nose, a triumphant grin on his face, “are one of those rare few!”

Misaki gulped. “Are you sure, Icchan-san?”

“Well, I don't have the complete data, but I am certain you won't let us down, Misaki-chan. Finding out is what we shall be doing today. Come!”

and they crossed the cage to the lab section that Misato had been aiming for in the first place.

There, Misaki was handed over to one of the women doctors from the hospital for her baseline physical, and Misato could finally ask the question that had been lurking at the back of her mind.

“So, Ichiro-kun, what's with the Icchan-san bit? How did the girl know you?”

“I worked with her mother, Mi-chan. I knew her as a baby. I just wish…” a look of unaccustomed seriousness passed his face, “But never mind. I'm sure she will do us all proud. She is her mother's daughter, after all.”


A while after lunch, she returned to the labs to monitor progress. Misaki, she could see, was busy with some of the psych tests. And Mihara Ichiro?

She found him reclining in his chair in front of a large screen on which was displayed a slowly rotating, disturbingly realistic, digital mannequin of the new pilot. He was sufficiently engrossed, Misato judged, that he had not noticed her arrival. She crept up closer to him.

“Hentai, Ichiro-kun,” she stage-whispered at him.

He started, and flailed around for a moment. before regaining his composure. “Why, Mi-chan, I was applying pure thoughts to a practical design problem! Misaki's plug-suit — if she doesn't have a designated Eva, none of the pre-configured colour-coded designs will be applicable. If I were to use one, you know how the Commander would be.”

“Why not just mix and match from the girls' existing designs?”

“That is an excellent idea, which is why I had already thought of it.

“Now, which of these should we prefer?” and he began overlaying a series of red and white designs on the mannequin.


© Steve Gilham 2004
© Mr. Tines 2004

#include <std::copyright> — most of the characters and situations in the fic belong to GAINAX/Project Eva, and almost all the rest to the ladies of Clamp. It's just this form of words that is mine.


[11b] Misaki's Nervous Afternoon

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