Holodeck

Asuka held the bat'leth firmly in both her hands, its blade pointed downwards. She peered further into the caverns. Ahead of her she could hear the echoes of creatures scurrying around and the muffled voices of the bandits that made this place their own. The caverns were dim, illuminated mostly by torches set in ancient looking sconces are irregular intervals along the cave walls. At the far end there was an eerie red glow given off by the river of lava that flowed through the area.

She stopped for a moment to wipe sweat from her forehead before moving forward in a crouched stance, being careful to make as little noise as was possible. She stuck as closely to the walls as possible, doing her best to avoid the patches of light given off by the torches. A sulphurous smell hung through the air; she felt as though hell itself awaited her the further she went in.

She approached the entrance to another cavern; it was a larger cavern with little rock formations scattered throughout. Asuka stopped and crouched behind a large rock, she listened keenly for any immediate signs of life, if there ever was a place for an ambush, this would surely be it. At first, all she could hear were those distant echoes but then just as she was about to move forward, she heard the footsteps.

Asuka paused, tightening her grip on her weapon. Those footsteps were not that of a humanoid, this was something else. She peered out from her location and located the source of the noise. It was a creature, dark green, insectoid, standing about five and a half feet. It moved on six pointed legs, the carapace was split into segments, the head a rounded fleshy bulk. Its eyes were black circles, resembling that of an Earthen fly. Its 'arms', if they could be called that, resembled that of a praying mantis.

She knew these creatures; they were both fast and extremely deadly. They had been tamed by the bandits occupying the deeper parts of the cave and so were used as defensive measures. To get past it Asuka knew she had to be careful and bide her time until the perfect moment to strike. The main problem would be getting caught by the arms, they were razor sharp.

Asuka inhaled, trying to quell the little bits of nervousness that had suddenly risen within her. She thought about the damage the creature could do, in normal circumstances a strike from one of those limbs could easily cut through a human body. These weren't normal circumstances though; this was a holodeck simulation. She was safe.

'Safe like Shinji was?'

She tried to ignore the question. What had happened with Shinji was an unfortunate accident, a glitch tied to that program. Asuka had ran this simulation many times. Nothing was going to go wrong.

'You said that about his simulation.'

Her anger rose at her mind trying to force the issue. It was a different holodeck and a different program. She had triple checked the status before running it. Now was not the time to question it, now was the time for her to blow off steam.

Asuka watched the creature scuttle over to the other side of the cave and prepared herself. It looked like there were thirty or so metres between her and the creature. Now was her best chance, she could close the distance quickly, catch the creature off guard and finish it without any issue. She watched for just a moment longer and saw the creature had come to a complete stop, it was facing away from her. Now was her moment.

The weapon clutched in both hands she stood and started dashing forwards and crossing the distance between her and the creature as quickly as she could. She kept her eyes focused on the back of the back of the beast. She passed the bat'leth to her right hand, drawing it backwards and reading it to swing at the creature. About half way across the cavern she saw it begin to turn around, the creature had heard her but that didn't matter, she had the upper hand.

Asuka swung the bat'leth towards the creature's mid-section hoping for a quick and easy kill. Unfortunately, it was not to be, the creature lifted an arm to defend itself, steel smashed against the sharpened edge of the limb. A sound echoed throughout the cave and now the fight was on. Her plan A had failed, not totally unexpected and not the end of the world. Asuka had pounced first and still had the advantage.

She hopped backwards, raised the bat'leth up to defend herself as the other limb of the creature came crashing down. She dug her heels in and twisted the bat'leth to block another swipe. She let out growl as she pushed forwards with the bat'leth and took another step back to create some space between herself and the monster.

This time she passed the bat'leth to her left hand and aimed another swipe, this time towards one of the creature's legs. It blocked her, she passed the weapon to her right and aimed another swipe and was again blocked. An arm came down to her right side, she spun out of its way and tried to counter only to be blocked once more.

The creature quickly darted towards her, both limbs swinging down towards her. Asuka quickly grabbed the bat'leth in both hands and blocked. The limbs smashed against the steel, Asuka dug her heels in again feeling the creature attempting to force its way through her defence. She gritted her teeth as she pushed back against the creature.

It was surprisingly strong, more so than she expected but she just had to maintain this. Eventually she'd get through its defences.

Suddenly the left limb stopped forcing its way down, it raised itself and smashed into the bat'leth with frightening speed. Asuka stood firm as painful vibrations shot through her arm. The creature repeated this motion again and again. Each one was blocked but each one causing a ripple of pain throughout Asuka's arm.

'I can't keep this up. I need to finish this!'

The limb came down again and this time Asuka spun to the left, the limb came down fully hitting the ground. She screamed out as she felt a burning on her shoulder. Glancing quickly at it she saw a rip in her clothing and a cut where the limb of the creature had just managed to catch her.

There was no time for her to dwell on the pain, she passed the bat'leth to her right hand and swung at the creature just as it too was recovering from hitting the floor. This was the opening she needed, now she had it on the back foot, or in this creature's case, feet.

She swung the blade horizontally, directly at the creature's midsection. The sharpened edges of the bat'leth clashed with the softer parts of the beast's carapace. A green liquid began to seep out of where the weapon had made its mark. Asuka kept going, hacking away at it a second and third time, doing her best to sever the top half of the creature from the bottom half. She let out a feral scream of rage as her fourth strike finished the job, the creature let out a howl of pain as the top half flailed and then fell helplessly to the ground, its green blood pooling around it and adding to the existing sulphurous smell in the caves.

Panting heavily Asuka knew there was no time for her to relax, she had to press on and get to her destination. Complacency meant only danger here. She took hold of the bat'leth once more and got ready to move past the dead monster into the next open space when she was cut off by an alert telling her someone was trying to get into the holodeck.

'Goddamnit, my holodeck time can't be up already!'

"Enter" She shouted with some annoyance in her voice, she turned around glaring at the space on the cave wall that had faded away, revealing the door to the ship's corridor. Her glare and annoyance quickly faded when she saw it was not a regular officer, but Captain Katsuragi stepping through. Almost immediately she snapped to attention.

"Captain!"

"At ease ensign." Misato smiled, "I'm sorry to interrupt your holodeck time like this but I thought we should talk."

NERV

Fuyutsuki looked through the glass window which sat above the vast NERV hangar. From here he could see the two Evangelion class ships, a space had been made for the third Evangelion class ship which was on its way from the Klingon empire. As would often happen, he fixed his gaze on Evangelion 01.

A chill went down his spine as he looked the ship over, to most here it was just a powerful ship that would defend them against a serious threat. Many didn't know the history of its creation and nor would they. Many wouldn't know why it was created and what it was truly capable of and nor would they. They didn't know the dark work that went into ensuring that the ship was operational nor did they know just why Shinji Ikari was the ideal pilot for it.

'Yui…'

"You are thinking about her, aren't you professor?"

Fuyutsuki had been so lost in his thoughts he had not heard the door open nor sensed the presence of Gendo Ikari who had taken up a position next to him. Fuyutsuki nodded gravely, "It is hard not to, when I see that ship, I think about what happened on that day. The loss of such a student and what we have done with her work… it is hard to take."

"What we have done is necessary, unless of course you prefer the alternative." Gendo reminded him coldly.

"I am aware of that Ikari." His gaze shifted from 01 to 00, "Yet it brings me no comfort, each one of these damn ships… is tinged with tragedy."

"The past is the past, if it helps then think of what happened as a necessary sacrifice to get to where we are now." Gendo replied, "Dwelling on it serves no purpose. We know our path, and it would be best we do not allow sentiment to get in the way of it."

"Of course." Fuyutsuki shook his head, "So what did the committee say, I trust they wanted to talk about the accident involving your son."

"Amongst other things." Gendo nodded, "They want us to commence with Operation Eden."

"They are actually going with Eden… I suppose it is better than sitting around and waiting to be attacked." Fuyutsuki mused, "Still, it is a risk. We will be leading a large fleet; it would be easy to overwhelm."

"They are confident that the three Evangelion class ships should be more than capable of defending us. Worst case scenario we do of course have other options, but I find myself agreeing with the committee, the three Evangelion units should suffice."

"If you insist." Fuyutsuki nodded, "Have you heard from the Tokyo?"

"I have." Gendo answered, "They inform me the pilot is healthy and is capable of being deployed should we need him."

'The pilot? That is your son Ikari!'

"Do they know what happened yet?"

"They are investigating it at present but I doubt they will find anything, nor do I think such a thing will happen again. I feel this was a little display of power from the committee, they want to demonstrate their reach and show us that they are willing to take action should we not comply."

"Bit of a risk isn't it, eliminating a pilot?"

"There are always backup pilots." Gendo answered, "Worst case we can have Rei take control of Unit 01, she should be more than capable."

Holodeck

Misato stepped through the door into the holodeck and took a quick look around the scene. It was not entirely what she had expected. She was certainly expecting some sort of combat simulation but more of a ship to ship variety, not a darkened cave filled with whatever that creature happened to be lying on the floor.

She cast her gaze at the creature's body, cut cleanly in half during the fight and then took a look at her ensign. Asuka certainly looked nothing like a typical Starfleet officer right now. She was sweating, out of breath by whatever fight had taken place. Her clothing was tattered, torn in various places and there was a mark on her arm where the creature must have gotten her. Asuka looked more like a warrior than an ensign.

"I have to say, I'm surprised Soryu. An expert pilot and seemingly skilled with a bat'leth. Where did you learn?"

Asuka smirked, "Holodeck programs at the academy. I found the regular self-defence classes a bit boring so wanted to try something different."

"Well… Klingon self-defence is certainly different." Misato stepped closer towards Asuka, trying her best to ignore the putrid stench coming off of creature. What do you say we… speak somewhere a bit more appropriate?"

"Sure." Asuka nodded, "Computer load program Soryu-Germany 003."

As soon as Asuka finished speaking the command the environment around them started to change. The cave walls faded away and were replaced with the walls of a small café overlooking a quiet European street. The rocks that had littered the cavern floor were replaced by booths and tables and chairs, the heat of the cave was replaced by a cool breeze from ceiling fans and air conditioning units. Finally, much to Misato's delight the pungent smell was replaced by that of freshly baked goods and newly brewed coffee.

It wasn't long before the two of them found an empty table and sat themselves down. Asuka's clothes had changed to something more befitting the time, yet her bat'leth remained.

"That… wasn't a holodeck prop?"

Asuka laughed and shook her head, "No, it's mine. I got it from a Klingon I met back on Earth."

"I… don't think I'll ask for any further details." Misato shook her head, "Look, I'll try to not take up too much of your time with this. First of all, I just wanted to ask how you were feeling after what happened."

"I'm fine." Asuka answered bluntly, "Will be even better when the idiot that did that is found!"

"You and me both." Misato replied, "Are you sure you are okay though… after what happened I…"

"I'm fine." Asuka cut her off, "Don't worry about me. I got checked out by the doctor and no injuries."

"You know I'm not talking about injuries Asuka." Misato answered wondering how far she should press Asuka on the matter. The redhead was already averting her eyes, staring intensely into the contents of her cup. There was an awkward silence between the two of them, the only sounds were that of ambient chatter and clinking cups as drinks were being made.

This was a conversation Misato didn't really want to have but she knew the subject would have to be approached eventually. Picking Asuka to be on her crew came with certain responsibilities. It was true that Asuka was an amazing pilot, a model officer and had a huge amount of potential but it was also true that Asuka had a history.

"Ensign…"

"You know… don't you? All about my past I mean." Asuka muttered, "Of course you know… They always know…"

There was anger in her voice. Misato wasn't surprised, she was no stranger to this sort of thing herself, the only difference was that Misato couldn't remember what had happened to her. Asuka however, could remember everything.

"Yes… I know."

"So, what… You're going to ask me to see the ships councillor?" Asuka asked, "Or… you're going to tell me I'm not cut out for this, because of how I reacted to seeing that ship? That's what they tried to tell me at my school and at the academy. 'With your history you might want to pursue something else, the Borg are out there.' Like I didn't already know that! Like I'm not aware that those bastards are out there!"

Misato said nothing, thinking it best to sit and listen for the moment.

"I proved them, wrong didn't I? Not only was I cut out for their academy but I excelled in everything I did and I'm going to do the same here too."

"I don't doubt your ability Asuka." Misato finally said, "If I had doubts about your ability then I wouldn't have selected you for this crew. I knew all about your history when I picked you, I know what happened to you and what they did. No one should ever have had to go through… or see what you did."

"So, I've been told, but I did go through it and as you can see, I'm fine. It's in the past, what happened the other day was a blip, I was distracted by everything else going wrong so I let my guard down. It won't happen again."

"If you insist." Misato nodded, "Let's move on then, we've started the investigation into what happened. It's early but there are definite traces of that someone other than you altered that program. Whoever it was, is still a mystery for the moment but I have the security team looking over it. They will probably be in contact with you soon to ask a few questions but whilst we're here… do you remember anything?"

"Nothing. I went into the holodeck at around 1800 hours, I worked on the program and tested it until around 2100 hours, when I left there was no one around."

"We didn't run that program until 1500 hours the next day, that means whoever it was had almost a full day. That may as well be an eternity." Misato sighed.

"How is he by the way?" Asuka suddenly asked, "The pilot… Shinji?"

Misato smiled, "He's… doing okay. His injuries have been dealt with. he's resting in his quarters. He's a bit shaken by what happened but he'll recover."

"Good." Asuka nodded, "When can I expect him to report for more training then?"

'More training' Misato thought to herself. This was a subject for another time, Shinji was undoubtedly still feeling the effects of what had happened yesterday but there were other concerns Misato had beyond Shinji. She didn't want to mention it to Asuka yet but she had seen the programs Asuka was putting Shinji through.

To say she wasn't best pleased would be an understatement. She had given Asuka specific instructions to teach and train Shinji to pilot. To take him from the very basics to near graduation level but what she had seen would never achieve that. What she had seen would be tough for any graduate, never mind a beginner.

Still, now was not the time to bring up such things. Asuka was recovering from what had happened herself, to barrage her questions about this seemed unfair. Still, there were a few things Misato wanted answered that maybe she could pry out of Asuka now.

"I'm not sure. I would expect it to be soon but I don't want to rush things." Misato answered cautiously, "Tell me ensign, we haven't really spoke about his training since I put you in charge of it, in your honest opinion how would you say things are going?"

'Terrible, he is an absolute liability' Is what Asuka wanted to say about Shinji but she knew such a thing wouldn't fly in front of the captain. They had all, including the captain, picked Shinji as a favourite.

"Being honest, I think they're going okay." Asuka nodded back at Misato. It wasn't a complete lie. Shinji had been able to at least pilot the ship in the simulations, just not carry out the tasks given to him.

"So, he hasn't faced any difficulty with the simulations you've set up for him?" Misato asked.

"Only what you would expect from someone of his ability." Asuka lied. She couldn't very well tell the captain that Shinji hadn't passed a single one of them.

She looked across and could see Misato was frowning. Asuka felt a chill run down her spine, did the captain know about the failures? Had Shinji told her about the simulations? Had the captain seen them herself?

"I hope you know Asuka… and I'm expecting good things from you." Misato spoke, carefully and deliberately, "Putting his training in the hands of an ensign, a cadet is a big risk on my part but I did it because I know how good you are and how good you can be. I've read your reports from the academy, I've read and heard what people think of you."

"They're just words…" Asuka muttered.

"Then prove that to me." Misato replied as she sipped the rest of her coffee and rose from her seat, "You know what you have to do."

"I do." Asuka nodded as the captain called for the exit and left the holodeck leaving her sat alone clutching her half empty mug. She was alone again with her thoughts, only this time they were accompanied by a new unfamiliar feeling.

'Guilt.'

Captains Quarters

Misato felt a dull pain in her shoulders as she approached the door to her quarters, in just a few moments, after twelve gruelling hours she could finally rest. She could get into her quarters, take off this damn uniform, have a long bath and sleep. Until tomorrow of course where she would likely have to do it all again.

Her tiredness was, in a way, her own fault. She had made the mistake once more of getting too involved and not delegating. She had heard, but not believed, that this would be a problem when she first accepted her captaincy. As a first officer she was used to relaying orders but also carrying them out, striking a firm balance between the two, it was the carrying out the work she was finding difficult letting go of.

There was a reason for it, the investigation into the sabotage on the holodeck was not something she wanted to sit idly by and wait for reports on. She wanted to be involved, she wanted to be part of that investigation, to explore the nooks and crannies of the ship, review the footage and interview the suspects. Yet, as her first officer keenly reminded her, that was not her place.

Not that it was going to stop her.

She tapped the button next to the door and began to step through into her quarters, yawning loudly. It took her a moment to realize things weren't quite how she had left them when she had woken up and also the presence of the other woman in the room. She took a moment to look around and survey the scene. Ahead of her in the little seating area, placed neatly on the table were two plates of food, a traditional Japanese Katsu curry if her nose was not mistaken.

Either side of the table were two lit candles, and in the middle was an ice bucket, a bottle of wine protruding out of it. Stood behind the table was a smiling Ritsuko, wearing a dark blue full-length dress. Misatos jaw dropped as she caught sight of her lover and the scene on display, but a smile soon came to her lips.

Ritsuko could see the look of surprise on her lover's eyes as she entered the room. It was the effect she had been hoping for. She knew that the display might have seemed a little bit cheesy, a little bit cliché but that was fine. Why did people always have to try and reinvent the wheel when it came to romance? Sometimes the old methods are the best methods.

Misato stepped through, letting the door close behind her. She took another look at it all before starting to feel slightly embarrassed. There was Ritsuko in front of her, looking absolutely beautiful and who had gone to all this effort for her and here she was, stood in a shabby and sweaty Starfleet uniform after twelve hours of work. Ritsuko was like gold-pressed latinum, Misato was like unprocessed ore.

"Ritsuko?"

"Welcome home." Ritsuko gave her a little smirk as Misato wandered into the room, still stunned.

"What… is all of this?"

"It's for us." Ritsuko answered, "I thought that after everything that's happened to us the last few weeks, we deserved a night to ourselves. A date… like we used to go on back at the academy."

"A date…" Misato felt blush coming to her cheeks.

"I… I'm still in my uniform though! You should have told me! I'd have…"

"Wouldn't have been much of a surprised if I'd have warned you about it." Ritsuko replied, "Besides… I don't intend on keeping you in that uniform all night."

"Rits…" Misato stepped forward, her blush deepening. She was lost for words, an effect Ritsuko tended to have on her, even back in their academy days. Neither of them said anything as Misato stepped into Ritsukos embrace, taking a moment to look into her partners eyes before kissing her firmly on the lips.

In that instant everything else faded away. She was no longer Captain Misato Katsuragi of the starship Tokyo. This was not Doctor Ritsuko Akagi of the Federation or Section 31. They were just Misato and Ritsuko, two women who loved and needed one another.

Misato finally broke the kiss before looking once again at the plates of food, "Did you make all of this?"

"If by make, you mean, did I use your replicator, then… yes. I did." Ritsuko admitted with a smirk as she took her seat, "I like to think it's the thought that counts."

"Either way… thank you." Misato also sat herself down, "This food, the curry it reminds me of…"

"Our first date?" Ritsuko completed the sentence for her.

"Yes. You remember it, it was so long ago?"

"I remember, you wanted to make a big impression on me. We had been roommates for some time and you had just asked me out."

"You turned me down at first, said you didn't want romance interfering with your studies." Misato grinned, "What made you change your mind?"

"Honestly? My mother… I told her another student had asked me out and I turned her down, she said it was the right thing to do, focusing on my studies was what was important. Romance was secondary, hell even tertiary to her." Ritsuko answered, "So I thought, I'm not going to be like that. It was… my own quiet act of rebellion."

"So, you did it to spite her…"

"In a way but also… I did it because I liked you." Ritsuko nodded, "You were… a breath of fresh air in my life. You were so unlike anyone I had knew up until that point. You were… wild and adventurous, the opposite of me. All I knew was academia, nothing really about life but you were the antithesis of that."

"Rits…"

"I was never very good with people." Ritsuko added, "I didn't have… friends going up. I can blame my mother for steering me on that path but it was myself too, I bought into that and maintained that attitude. In truth I was shy and scared of people but you… you changed that. At first, I thought I was going to hate being your roommate, you were loud and obnoxious, you didn't seem to care much about study and yet you were a great cadet."

Misato grinned, "Well… I had a lot of help."

Ritsuko nodded, "You did but over time I didn't hate you I… I learned to love you and… I've never stopped."

"Rits…" Misato felt the blush returning to her cheeks, "You know that… I never stopped loving you either. When I ended things… in our final year I was just… scared. We were going to be posted to our first assignments, things were going to be…"

"Tough for us? Frustrating? Impossible?" Ritsuko answered, "I know… I understood at the time."

"I didn't want to deal with my first assignment and the prospect of being away from you. I didn't want to even try… I ran away, just like my father did."

"I don't blame you." Ritsuko moved to calm Misato, "In a way when you ended it, I was relieved. I was frightened too."

"I'm so lucky I found you again."

"So am I." Ritsuko answered.

'Except luck had nothing to do with it.' She thought to herself. Misato wasn't here by luck, she was here by design, a design put in place years ago by people such as their parents. Them being in a relationship was just an unexpected and ultimately meaningless outcome.

"Our first date…" Misato chuckled, "You can remember it?"

"Of course, you being you wanted to make a statement so instead of taking me to somewhere nice and local you decided to secure us a shuttle and take me to Hakone. You wanted to take me to your favourite place growing up. Except you being you forget about one small thing!"

"I don't know what you mean, it was a lovely time!"

"That one small thing being the time difference between San Francisco and Japan."

"We all make mistakes." She shrugged, "Besides we had a great day in Hakone, didn't we?"

Ritsuko sighed, "Yes, we did… even if we did both get chewed out by our instructors for skipping an entire days' worth of classes!"

"Totally worth it!"

"Yes, it was." Ritsuko continued to smile as she leaned forward and picked the bottle of wine out of the bucket. She quickly opened it and nodded at Misato, "Wine?"

"You really did think of everything!"

"I know beer is usually your drink of choice, but that didn't really seem appropriate for a romantic dinner by candlelight."

"Beer goes with anything."

"If you say so." Ritsuko poured an amount of the wine into Misato's glass, "Chateau Picard… 2087 apparently."

"Picard huh… So that's what he's doing now, making wine." Misato frowned, "Starfleet legend turned winemaker, what a career change. It's a shame about what happened to him, the situation with the Romulans and the synthetics. Damn shame."

"I'm not sure his story is completely done yet." Ritsuko sipped her wine, "People like him… they never truly go away."

"So is his wine supposed to be any good?"

"Good enough for NERV to stock." Ritsuko replied.

"Commander Ikari a fan of his wines?"

"More Fuyutsuki, I don't think the commander cares for wine. He seems to eat and drink only because people need to. His work… NERV and the Evas come first."

"So, it seems." Misato frowned.

Ritsuko shifted uncomfortably in her seat hoping that Misato wouldn't steer the conversation any further in this direction. Thinking about the Eva, about NERV and especially Gendo Ikari was not how she wanted to spend this night and yet, she should have expected it. Misato could be single minded and once latched on to something, that was it.

It was that fact that frightened her because there were still so many things Misato didn't know. So many things Misato hadn't been told and she couldn't tell her. She knew that when Misato did find out then this relationship was over for a second and final time. She knew that Misato would hate her when she found out the truth. It was only a few months… maybe even weeks ago.

'Unless I tell her now… unless I confess what the hell is going on but I can't… If I do and she acts then he... I lose him.'

"Sorry… I shouldn't be talking about work related things." Misato tried to steer the conversation away from that subject, "You've gone to a big effort for us and I'm ruining it by talking about work."

Ritsuko shook her head, "It's fine… After what happened to you yesterday, I don't blame you. Is Shinji okay?"

"He's fine, he'll recover physically but I'm worried about the toll it's taking on him mentally." Misato admitted, "It's the same for Asuka, I spoke to her earlier and she said she was okay after what happened but… I'm not so sure I believe her. Yet, if she won't reach out for help then I can't force her, can I?"

"Stubborn… headstrong, she reminds me of someone." Ritsuko grinned.

"I knew you were going to say that."

"Am I wrong?"

"As always… no." Misato let out a sigh, "She could be an amazing officer one day. She's intelligent, strong willed, has what it takes to rise through the ranks."

"But?"

"But… her stubbornness, her ego and fact that by all accounts she is just plain unpleasant to be around is working against her. I had hoped that by putting her in charge of Shinji's training it might soften her a little bit but… I fear I'm wrong."

"How so?"

"I haven't brought it up with her yet but… when we were investigating the holodeck, I went through the training programs she had ran for him. They were impossible for most cadets never mind him so I decided to speak to his friends." Misato continued, "They told me that Shinji had brought up her attitude towards him. Belittling and berating him… not really the attitude we want."

"I see."

"Being honest, I think Soryu see's this as an opportunity for her to gain promotion and look good. She isn't thinking about him or the crew, it's all about her." Misato nodded, "That's not my only concern, carrying that trauma the way she does… her attitude about it… I can't force her to get help. I can send her to the ships councillor but she has to want that."

Ritsuko merely nodded and once again the guilt was creeping back in regarding her situation. Asuka was to be the pilot of the next Evangelion class vessel, a fact Misato did not know and wasn't to know until closer to the time and yet Ritsuko was here hiding it from her.

'When 02 arrives, things are only going to get harder… Operation Eden… it'll bring them nothing but more pain and all I can do is sit by and let it happen.'

Ritsuko was about to answer when suddenly Misato's combadge sounded an alert. Misato let out a sigh and tapped the badge, "Katsuragi here."

'Captain, we've had a communication from NERV. Dr. Akagi's presence is being requested immediately.'

Misato shot Ritsuko a look, Ritsuko merely shook her head, "I'm off duty, can it not wait?"

'Afraid not doctor, NERV command said its urgent.'

Ritsuko sighed, "So much for the romantic meal. I'm… sorry about this."

"Don't be." Misato smiled, "We know the risks when we wear the uniform, or in your case… the dress."

"I'll try to be as quick as I can."

"Good." Misato nodded as Ritsuko got up and made her way towards the door, "And Doctor Akagi."

"Yes."

"When you return… I expect you to be wearing that dress."

"Of course, Captain." Ritsuko flashed her a grin as she left the room. The door closed behind her and Misato let out a sigh as she looked at the two empty plates and half full glasses of wine in front of her.

"Well… at least I have the wine." She said to herself as she picked up the glass.

"Care for a little company?"

It took a moment for Misato to register the voice but her eyes widened in fear and surprise when she heard it. She set the glass down on the table, got up out of her seat and pulled out her phaser, turning towards the door and the source of the noise.

At first, she could see no one, but then there was a brilliant flash of light and then stood where previously there was nothing was a man with a devilish smirk on his face. Misato held the phaser firmly as she cast her gaze of him. He looked human, around forty or so years up, short black hair and he was wearing a Starfleet uniform, the pips indicating that he, like her was a captain.

Her finger hovered over the trigger of the phaser as she readied her question, but already knowing and slightly fearful of what the answer was. She knew who and what this man was, it was a moment captains had been warned about and yet she asked anyway, "Who the hell are you?"