-*-

               John Biles & Rod M. Present
          A Neon Genesis Evangelion Elseworlds


                 Children of an Elder God

                         Part 10

                     Parting the Veils


                           -*-

        It was a shadowy chamber, its actual size hidden in
darkness.  The only illumination was a dull red glow coming
from twelve holograms floating in place around a long table.
Each hologram was a sigil, a fiery circle tangled in occult
lines, no two being alike.

        At the head of the table, an elderly yet imposing
figure sat.  Clothed in sea-green robes, hair simply combed
straight back, eyes hidden entirely by a cyclopean visor, he
took a moment to look upon the holograms as a king would his
subjects.


        After being satisfied with what he saw, he turned
his head up slightly to speak.  "Ladies, gentlemen."

        //"Six are past and six await,"// said a voice from
one of the holograms.  The voice was male, and the sigil was
a lidless eye with a burning flame in the center.  //"The
Eidoleons have surpassed our expectations."//

        //"However,"// said another, //"We sense treachery
from within.  Lorenz, can we really trust Ikari?"// This one
was female, and old; her sigil was an inverted ankh.

        "Of course not," said the old man.  "Then again, you
can't trust anyone these days.  However, he is doing his job
well enough."

        //"Well enough?"// asked a sarcastic, accusing
voice.  This member of SEELE was male and young.  His sign
resembled a kanji, though it was actually a character of the
language Aklo, which meant 'Scorpion'.  //"The Children were
nearly lost to us by He Who Is Not To Be Named!  That is a
serious lapse in security!"//

        Lorenz nodded.  "I know, and I've sent a man to look
into it."

                           -*-

        "I am Abdul Kanephren," said the odd little man,
"Inspector for SEELE." He had dark bronze skin and bright
green eyes.  His suit was old and slightly out of date;  it
would have been fashionable when Gendo was first learning to
drive.  The bowtie, which had golden fish on a bronze
background first drew the eye in, then drove it away.  It
was hard to place his age, but he looked to be at least as
old as Gendo.  Perhaps he had simply never replaced his
first suit.

        He stood at the center of Gendo's office, staring
severely at Gendo and Fuyutsuki.  Gendo was, as he always
seemed to be, poised at his desk, elbows resting on the
table, face veiled by his intertwined hands.  It seemed to
annoy Kanephren.

        "I see," said Gendo.  "What can we do for you?"

        "My superiors are displeased.  The incident with the
King in Yellow displayed a severe lapse in security."  His
voice would have been deep if it hadn't tended to rise into
a high-pitched whine.  Gendo had to resist the urge to grind
his teeth in response.  The man could have told Gendo that
he had just won a million dollars and Gendo still wouldn't
have wanted to listen to him.

        "Every single book in that library was approved by
our censors.  Unfortunately, the teacher was subverted by
one of his students with whom he was having an illicit love
affair.  He's now being held, along with the King in Yellow
himself.  The student has vanished."  Gendo frowned
slightly.

        "Posters were put up all over town advertising the
play.  Did you perhaps suffer temporary blindness and
deafness?"

        Gendo's frown deepened slightly.  "I was in
Antarctica, directing the excavation.  With what we have
found there, it will be much easier to carry out the Plan."

        "While nothing can excuse this incompetent
performance with regard to the King in Yellow,..."  Abdul
began.

        "Should I perhaps email a copy of the Plan to
everyone in NERV?  Open all the sealed files and reveal
every secret to the entire populace?  I was instructed to
make sure that no one would be aware the play even existed.
May I ask how SEELE's spies here ALSO failed to notice
anything?"  His stare was intent.

        Abdul smiled faintly.  "Another mystery I must
address.  I wish to see the King, the teacher, and to talk
to the Pilots."

        "I will make the arrangements."

        Abdul rose.  "Very good.  Perhaps you may convince
me yet to give your masters a good report.  Contact me when
all is ready."  He departed.

        Surely they are not stupid enough to think I can't
tell who that is, Gendo thought.  He never did have any
talent at chosing false identities for himself.  He picked
up his phone and began to make some calls.

                           -*-

        //"No comment?"// The reporter sounded irritated.

        "No comment," Maya repeated over the phone.  She
wished she had no memory to go with the no comment.  She
tried to remember the woman's name, but she'd said no
comment to enough reporters that they had all blurred
together in her mind by now.  "Investigation continues.
Have a nice day.  Keep your laser handy."  She hung up and
sagged back in her desk.  Did I really say something about
lasers? she asked herself.

        She sat and picked pointlessly at the bandage on her
arm; she couldn't even remember how she had been hurt.  She
didn't think Aoba had done it, although she felt nervous
around him now; what he had tried to do hadn't been his
fault, but it had been an extension of what he wanted to do
anyway.  She never had quite figured out how to deal with
men, and this whole disaster had just made matters worse.

        The phone rang again and she sighed.  She picked up
the phone.  "No comment."

        //"On what?"// Commander Ikari asked.

        "..."

                           -*-

        "I can't drop the story!"  Megumi said.  "We had a
riot and the EVA Pilots nearly died!"  She leaned forward on
her boss' desk.  "NERV completely fumbled this.  The public
needs to know!"

        "The public doesn't need to panic.  And there's no
proof Angels had anything to do with the riot.  Probably
some juvenile prank involving drugs, anyway."

        Megumi frowned.  If only I could remember more of
what happened, she thought.  She remembered shouting about
the truth, and making out with some guy, though what he
looked like...

        The riot hadn't even made Tokyo-3's local news; it
was almost as if it had never happened.  Almost.  NERV was
stonewalling, but whispers were circulating around the
journalistic underground; every one she knew in the business
had tried to get information from NERV, but NERV was being
silent.  "NERV wouldn't be this quiet if they didn't know
something."

        "Do you actually know anything about what happened
besides 'There was a riot and orgy at the school play'?"

        "NERV arrested the teacher who organized it, and
confiscated all copies of the script."

        "Anything else?"

        "I'm hoping to talk to some people who were there."

        "Do you remember what happened?"

        She laughed nervously.  "Not very well."

        "Forget it.  Go work on that corruption case with
Judge Anzaka.  If we can nail him, we'll be doing Japan a
major service."

        "You've already got three reporters on that case!"

        "The better to nail his corrupt ass to the wall,"
her boss said, then gagged when he accidentally bit through
his usual cigar and swallowed half of it.  "Bleah!"

        Bleah exactly, Megumi thought.  Maybe I can corner
one of the pilots at school.

                           -*-

        //"How long must we wait for this report?"// The
sigil was a floating red cadeceucus; the voice was
middle-aged, male, and sombre.

        "A few days at most.  The agent I have sent is quite
reliable."  Keele smiled a tiny smile.  "He has a great
interest in the success of our Plan.  Neptune, Tethys, where
is your report on the aftermath of the defeat of
Ghatanathoa?"

        Those two sigils hung near each other in the air.
One was a blue trident, the other a spiral of irregular
lines, somewhat like a whirlpool.  Neptune spoke with a
warbling voice that reverberated strangely.  //"We have
collected what could be salvaged of His remains."//

        The woman's voice was deep and throaty.  //"All of
His power was gone.  It was utterly harmless to gaze upon
what was left of Him.  Still, I fear what devouring his
power may do to the Eidoleon which fed upon him."//

        "They all did to some extent," Keele said.  "Which
likely diluted the effects."

        //"While the Eidoleons will need their Gifts to
achieve our ends, perhaps it is better that such a Gift be
lost forever; it is too dangerous to one's friends."//

        "The Medusa had no friends," Keele said.  "Which is
why He has fallen."

        //"The King in Yellow had friends and servants.
They did not save him.  What guarantee do we have that the
Eidoleons will not turn on us?"// The old woman's voice came
from a floating image of a great cauldron.

        "They do not know we exist.  And they will not,
until they are ready to join us."  Keele smiled.  "They are
but children."

        //"They are Children,"// the old woman said, her
emphasis subtly different.  //"In the fullness of their
power, they could crush us."//

        "It will not come to that."  Keele's voice was
confident.  "Even the Children cannot escape what is to be.
The Stars are Right.  However they struggle to escape, they
will be pulled back to their destiny."

                           -*-

        Asuka bowed to Kensuke's father, Aida Hideo.  He was
short and thin, with red rimmed glasses, dressed in a
slightly battered suit.  "It is a pleasure to meet you," he
said.  "My son left something for you."  He sighed.  "They
won't tell me anything about him, just that he went mad
and...The not knowing is worse than the knowing."

        "We'll find a way to make him okay again," she said
firmly.  "I don't know how, but there has to be some way to
help him."

        The man nodded; he looked weary, with dark smudges
under his eyes.  He took her back to Kensuke's room, which
was a mess, with books everywhere.  The walls were covered
with military and anime posters; a large poster of the three
EVAs caught her atention.  A half finished battleship model
sat on a table in the corner, surrounded by parts and glue;
a faint sheen of dust sat on it.  The computer was
surrounded by empty soda cans and crumpled junk food
wrappers.

        Hideo walked over to a clipboard by the computer and
handed it to her.  "This is it."  He sighed.  "Let me
know...if you hear anything."

        "I will."

        She waited until she had said her goodbyes and
departed to start reading.  The first page was simply a
coldmail account name and password, along with several
message numbers.  She resolved to check these later.

        What came next was labelled, 'Working Theory'.

        ['Nor is it to be thought that man is either the
oldest or the last of earth's masters, or that the common
bulk of life and substance walks alone.'

        Angels predate humanity.  They came to Earth and
seeded it with life.  There was some sort of war among them,
and many of them were cast into eons of slumber.  'That is
not dead which can eternal lie, and with strange aeons even
death may die'.  They are now waking up.

        Theory:  NERV found a sleeper and studied him, but
he woke up and caused Second Impact, which knocked him back
out.  NERV is using technology he had lying around, so to
speak.

        Theory:  The Angels plan to resume their war.  This
is why they don't cooperate...they don't like each other,
either.

        The thing singing in my dreams is one of
them...waking them up?  Why don't they all wake up at once?
Connection to the dog-like tribes of Polaris?

        Each Angel has a cult, like the one destroyed at
Innsmouth.  Founded by the Angels?  Spontaneous human
tendency to worship power?  Them reaching out as they sleep
and influencing humans?  Latter seems likely.  Do they like
their cults, or would they freely destroy them?]

        "Destroy them," Asuka muttered, remembering the
vision she had had when fighting Rahab...Ghatanathoa.

        She began to skim the notes, planning to read them
more thoroughly later.  They gradually became more and more
incoherent, a maze of strange runes, ramblings, and nonsense
words.  [Ia Ia Salbogoroth pwnee ilyariato shngr la!]
Whatever that meant.

        One final item caught her eye in the first skimming,
however.

        [Four Lords or Five?  Asuka must be Fire.  Shinji
is...Earth?  Plant?  Air?  Rei could be Water or Air.  Who
is the Fourth Child?  Someone I know?  Probably male, for
balance...but then, their goal is not that of balance.

        Story repeats itself?  Xoth's defenders betrayed
them for power.  As did those of Yhtill.  Can fire be fought
with fire?  Let he who hunts monsters beware.  I can feel
the abyss gazing into me.  Will they save or damn us all?]

        Asuka wished she knew the answer to that herself.

                           -*-

        //"The Stars did not save any of the rest of the
Great Old Ones,"// Cauldron said.  //"The Wind Walker has
fallen.  He may have been older than the planet we live on,
and certainly older than our species.  Three fourteen year
olds killed him.  If they decide we have to die, we cannot
stop them."//

        "Children armed with Eidoleons.  Without them, they
would be no threat.  And we control their access to the
Eidoleons."

        //"Do we?"//

                           -*-

        Kaji stood in the EVA berth observation room.  They
stood silently, unable to move in theory, as they were not
plugged in and no pilot rode in them.  While they had
internal batteries, they were not capable of independent
action even while the batteries were charged.  In theory.


        The window glass had been replaced from an incident
in which one of them had gone berserk; Unit00 he believed.
It was cleaner and shinier than the rest of the room.  They
were just human enough in appearance to make him feel doubt
that they could be as completely passive as the scientists
claimed.  And they were just inhuman enough to make him fear
what might happen if the scientists were wrong.

        There was too much he didn't know about them; too
much that no one knew about them.  He wanted to know.  NERV
was a maze of feints hidden behind masks wrapped in enigmas.
Somewhere, there had to be a thread to follow through the
maze.

        "Inspector Kaji," a voice spoke from behind him.

        Kaji spun and blinked.  It was that Abdul fellow.
Nehru.  Something like that.  He'd seen him around at a few
NERV facilities; like Kaji, he was an Inspector.  "Inspector
Nehru."

        "Kanephren."

        "Sorry.  What can I do for you?"  He leaned against
the glass.

        "What is your opinion on the King in Yellow
disaster?"

        "That when necessary information is too heavily
restricted, it leads to disaster."

        "You're Throne clearance, correct?"

        "Dominion, normally.  I've been cleared up to Throne
for specific investigations at times.  The information that
would have been needed to forsee this disaster was ranked
Seraphim, which meant only three people were actually
cleared for it.  And since none of them were present, we had
a disaster."  Kaji frowned.  "That's my recommendation.  Too
much information has been classed too high for no good
reason."

        "Are you sure you don't just think that because
there's secrets you wish you knew?"  Abdul's voice had just
a hint of insinuation.

        "Don't you wish YOU had more clearance?  Would make
this investigation easier, I'm sure."

        "What do you know about Sector 13?"

        "It's Seraphim Clearance, so I can't get in."

        Abdul smiled.  "But you've tried."

        "Something in there interests Ikari, but hardly
anyone else ever goes there.  I'd suggest asking him about
it."

        The man made a note on his pad.  "Any other areas of
the base you think might contain...things that shouldn't be
there?"

        "Not that I'm aware of, but this place is so huge,
you could hide a small army in it."

        Abdul walked over to the glass and stared at the
EVAs.  "No security system?"

        "Given that you can't operate them without a full
staff backing you up and there's no way to steal them...but
there is a lot of security.  Simply sophisticated enough to
elude detection."  He frowned slightly.  "But you should
know that."

        "I often know the answers to questions before I ask
them.  The purpose is sometimes simply to see how people
answer them, rather than to learn the answer."

        
                           -*-

        The meeting was beginning to degenerate into
multiple shouting matches, as five arguments broke out at
once.  Keele raised a hand.  "ENOUGH!  Is there any here who
would choose to abandon the Plan at this time?"

        All was silent.

        "We cannot back out now.  We ride the tiger, and we
must ride it until our enemies are trampled into the dust.
Rhan-Tegoth has fallen, never to return."

        //"You call that an accomplishment?"// Scorpion
sneered.

        "I suppose you planned to hunt him with an elephant
gun yourself?"

        Silence.

                           -*-


        Studying the remains they had collected from the
defeated Angels hadn't told them very much, except for one
thing.  While the remains all looked the same, grey,
flaking, and slowly crumbling to powder, chemically, none of
the Angels had much to do with each other.  Amaliel (while
Ritsuko knew his true name now, he remained Amaliel in the
reports)  seemed to have been methane-based, or possibly
generated methane; his remains were laced with it, along
with traces of the noble gases, sometimes bound impossibly
into compounds, and various heavy metals.  What little
remained of the dead Cherubim was full of silicon, lead,
gold, and a variety of rapidly decaying radioactive
materials, which would likely completely vanish very soon.
The gold itself was decaying into lead, which was completely
impossible for a variety of reasons.

        Ritsuko shook her head, and turned to one of the lab
technicians, a woman named Ryoko.  Ryoko was in her early
thirties, with short brown hair and thick glasses.  "Is
there anything left of the sample from the first Angel?"

        Ryoko frowned.  "Come and look."

        They went over to one of the remote operation
waldoes.  The sample itself, all that remained of the first
Angel, was inside a lead box, itself inside a small room
where everything could be manipulated using the remote
hands.  The sample box, however, as Ryoko showed to Ritsuko,
not contained only a web and a tiny red and black spider.

        "It turned into that?"

        "We hadn't checked it in a few weeks.  I suppose it
will starve."

        Ritsuko wished she believed that.

        "What are we looking at, ladies?"

        Ritsuko nearly jumped out of her flesh, spinning
around.  It was only Inspector Kanephren.  He was a good
twenty minutes late, but didn't seem to care.  "I was
wondering if you would come."

        "I had a fascinating discussion with one of the
bridge crew, Mr.  Shigeru."  Mr. Kanephren paused to adjust
his bow tie.  It was blue with little gold sphinxes on it.
Ritsuko found it tacky.

        Ritsuko pointed to a chair and went over to one of
the tables and sat down herself.  "Fire away."

        "A direct woman.  I like that.  What were you
working on the night of the riot at the school?"

        "The Cherubim had been reviving, and we wanted to
know why."

        "The Cherubim.  Ahh, yes.  I'd like to see it."

        "Follow me.  Ryoko, can you continue this analysis
for me?"  She pointed to the half-finished work.

        "Sure."

        They walked through the hallways, and Ritsuko
explained in detail the various ways in which they had
studied the Cherubim.  They reached the observation room
just as she said, "It is mostly comatose, though it still
looks fairly healthy, so it likely won't do anything but
sleep."

        She peered down at it through the window, as did
Kanephren.  The Cherubim visibly started, stood, and sniffed
the air, looking around.  "Rather lively sleeping."

        "This is almost certainly a bad sign," Ritsuko said,
getting out her cellular.  "It likely means the security on
the other prisoner has slipped."

        "The King in Yellow?"

        "Yes."  She frowned, and dialed security.  The
creature was now staring straight at them.  Through the
speaker, she could hear it give a strangled cry.

        What followed seemed, to Ritsuko, to happen in slow
motion.  The Cherubim launched itself into the air, charging
at the window.  In the instant it took to cross the room,
she could see some of the skin on its wings had flaked off,
revealing bright multi-colored scales.  It gave an angry
screech and smashed head first into the window.  Kanephren
stood and looked quietly at it, not reacting at all as it
struck repeatedly at the window, struggling to stay aloft in
the room.

        By the time her phone connected to security, the
creature suddenly stiffened and plummeted.  Kanephren shook
his head.  "I wonder what it was thinking."

        //"Security Post 4."//

        "Can you check on the King?"

        There was a pause, and while they waited, Ritsuko
said, "It gave up on that a long time ago.  As far as we
could tell."

        "Sometimes, hope is renewed unexpectedly before it
is crushed again."

        //"He's still frozen solid.  No change."//

        "I shall have to see him next.  So this creature was
the clue you needed to figure out what was going on?"

        "Yes."

        "Along with information obtained using secret codes
your mother installed in MAGI."

        "..."

        "You could be executed for that, you know.
Breaching Seraphim clearance is a major offence."

        "We'd all be dead if I hadn't, and you know it."
She said, frowning intensely at the man.  How did he know
about Mother's codes?

        "Commander Ikari has chosen to ignore this since all
was well that ended well, but I cannot afford to be so
blase.  Especially since I have the following information."
He pulled several sheets of access times, dates, and
locations.  "You've been doing some interesting reading.  I
can't quite see the connection between all of these."

        Ritsuko began to sweat.  "What do you want from me?"

        "Sector 13, to start with."

        "I can't take you there!  Commander Ikari has
expressly..."

        "Forbidden anyone to look at all these files.  But
you have anyway.  You will take me.  Now."

        "If he's in there, we'll both die."

        "He will not be."

        "Then what?"

        "I'm sure I'll think of more favors you can do me,
Doctor Akagi."  He smiled amusedly and turned to go.  "Lead
on."

                           -*-

        "The chasm between the World of Dreams and the World
of Waking has been bridged by the great Weaver, whose power
we have stolen.  Even now our servants cross it freely,
guarding it for our sole use."  Keele's voice was confident,
and he sought to instil it into all those who had been
frightened by Cauldron's loose words.  Her children wander
lost, and die one by one.  Both worlds will be open for us
to rule."

                           -*-


       //"Ready, Shinji?"//

        He nodded to the small image of Misato on his HUD.
"I'm ready."


        The darkness around him came to life, revealing a
surprisingly realistic Tokyo-3.

        //"How's it look?"// asked Misato.

        "Like the real thing.  It's... it's great."

        //"You've got me and Dr. Akagi to thank for that,"//
said Maya proudly.

        The EvaSim, as Maya called it, was designed to be an
alternate training method for the pilots to use, and its
development was pushed up further after the Evangelions ran
wild.  Approval for their usage became extremely difficult
to obtain unless there was an angel attack.

        The simulator was, in Shinji's opinion, a little too
real.  It also required LCL.

        //"Okay, Shinji, I'm bringing up the angel now."//

        In the distance, he could see a distortion in the
air.  A moment later, the first 'Angel' that he fought,
Matriel, appeared.

        A voice in his head whispered insistantly,
'Atlach-Nacha'.

        //"You okay, Shinji?"//

        "Yeah, just a little shaky," he replied.

        //"Okay.  Just relax,"// said Misato.  //"There's a
weapons cache in the buliding to your right.  Give it a
try."//

        He looked to his right, and a building emerged from
the ground containing various weapons.  After a moment of
thought, he chose a very long, powerful looking rifle.  It
looked like something Kensuke would've liked.

        //"Okay, that piece should be augmented with some
targeting software in the Eva.  It'll come on-line once you
turn on the gun."//

        Shinji gripped the gun in both of the Eva's arms,
depressing a button on the handle as he did so.  Two seconds
later, a line appeared, projected on his field of vision,
starting at the barrel of the gun and stretching off into
infinity.

        "Okay, I see it," he said.  Taking aim with the
rifle, he pulled the trigger.  A tremendous blast came from
it, jolting Shinji with surprising force.

        "Whoa!"

        //"Felt the kick of the gun?"// asked Maya.

        "It surprised me."

        //"It has to be realistic,"// said Misato.

        In the distance, Matriel was knocked to its side by
the shot, crashing into a building.  Shinji approached
carefully, then jumped back as it suddenly sprang in the
air, landing where he was a moment ago.

        //"Good reflexes,"// said Misato.

        Shinji opened fire again, lighting up the sky with a
rain of gunfire.  Most shots missed, but enough found their
mark to put Matriel ('Atlach-Nacha' his mind whispered) down
for good.

        //"Good, very good."//

        "Misato?"

        //"Yeah?"//

        "Why didn't you let me use one of these things the
first time?"

        //"Take a look at how many buildings you shot up."//

        He looked, and realized that he'd managed to destroy
more of Tokyo-3 than Matriel did.

        "Oh... I see."

        //"Keep on practicing, kiddo.  Okay, Maya, shut'em
down."//

        The view of Tokyo-3 disappeared, and Shinji felt the
entry plug rise up.  A moment later he was back in open air,
and puking out LCL.

        "Jeez, that stuff still makes you sick?" asked
Misato.

        He glared at her a moment, then coughed up some more
LCL into a bucket.  They'd learned to keep one handy
whenever Shinji and LCL was involved.

        After a few more minutes of retching and spitting,
he showered, dressed, and was driven back to school by
Misato.  As they rode, he looked out at the city.  It always
reminded him of that first battle.

        "Misato?"

        "Hm?"

        "Does the name Atlach-Nacha mean anything to you?"

        "Um... dunno.  Sounds Mexican.  Why?"

        "Nothing, nevermind."



                           -*-

        //"Why has DAGON not been activated?"// Scorpion
demanded.  "We would have no need for unreliable human
children then."

        "Because DAGON has yet to produce a workable
substitute," Keele replied.  "A pilot who goes mad when
first synchronizing with EVA and eats ten technicians is
little use to us."

        //"And why have more resources not been put into
it?"//

        "What more resources?  Our cash resources are
stretched thin as it is.  And we knew all along that it was
possible that DAGON might never repeat our first success.
Especially since we've lost everyone truly responsible for
that."

        //"And what of her?"// Ankh asked.

        "She is well."

                           -*-


       In the inner depths of NERV headquarters, a single
figure walked in absolute darkness, with no light to guide
her steps.

        Rei walked through gantries and stairways silently,
her glowing red eyes the only hint of her presence in the
dark.  Every few minutes, her progress would be halted by a
formidable looking steel doorway.  At these intervals, she
would stop to run her hand by fingerprint ID system or a
retinal scan.  At the final doorway, she merely drew a sigil
upon the doorway with her finger.

        She was alone here, one of a few with clearance to
be in this section of the base.

        Her expression seemed troubled, as if she was
pondering a great dilema.  Whatever it was, she gave no hint
of it, instead remaining silent.  At last she came upon a
large glass wall, stretching from one side of the room to
another.  Whatever laid beyond that wall was hidden in
further darkness, though the sloshing and flowing of liquid
could be heard.

        She slowly walked towards the glass, then laid a
hand upon it.  A moment later, she laid her forehead to rest
against the wall as well.

        The waters behind the glass stirred, churning slowly
to life.  Far within those depths, a pair of red eyes glowed
in the dark and peered at Rei.

        And another.

        And another.

        And another.

        The previously dark waters came to life with
countless red eyes, shining brilliantly like stars in the
night sky, all peering curiously at their lone visitor.


        From the obsidian depths of the other side of the
glass, a pale hand reached out to the glass, mirroring hers.

        Rei closed her eyes and sighed.

                           -*-

        Ankh spoke again now.  //"And what was Ikari doing
in Antarctica?  There is nothing more to be found there."//
A new voice spoke, young and female with a bit of a lisp.
Her sigil looked somewhat like a bio-hazard sign, but
organically curved instead of straight lines and arcs. //"He
went at my suggestion.  And he has brought us something
valuable."//

        //"Namely?"//

        "Not all of the Old Ones died when their
civilization crumbled.  If that Miskatonic expedition could
find ones who had survived, I was sure we could.  And we
have.  With his help, voluntary or not, we can finally
unlock the last secrets we need to ensure the success of the
Prophecy.  His will be done."

                           -*-

        Shinji blinked as he walked in the door.  He'd gone
shopping for various supplies; Asuka had left a shopping
list they'd found when they got home.  Misato had stayed
behind to work on some reports, in theory. In practice, he
was sure she was being lazy.  The air was full of wonderful
smells which made his stomach rumble.  Asuka must be cooking
something good, he thought.

        Much to his shock, it was Misato, who was wearing an
apron over her t-shirt and shorts, in the throes of
sprinkling spices into a pot.  She paused and looked down at
the cookbook, shook her head, and added more of some herb
Shinji couldn't recognize, but which smelled nice.  "Hi,
Shinji," she said.  "I hope you like goulash."

        "What's goulash?"

        "I'm not sure, but it smells good.  I just felt the
urge to cook.  Since this only happens about once in a blue
moon, I never know what anything I'm making is until I'm
done."

        "..."

        She began to stir the pot.  "This is turned on,
right...yes."

        Shinji began putting away the groceries.  "Can I ask
you a question?"

        "Sure."  She turned back to the book.  "Do you have
any idea what oregano is?"

        "It's a state in the United States, I think."

        "..."

        "Must be an herb too, I guess,"  Shinji said,
shrugging.  "Anyway, what I wanted to ask was...why are you
in NERV?  You just don't seem like the soldier type."

        "I was in Antarctica when Second Impact happened,"
she said, digging through the spice rack, which thanks to
Asuka, was no longer only home to salt and pepper.  "Ahh!
Oregano!"  She sprinkled some into the pot.

        "And you got out alive?"  I never realized she was
so tough, Shinji thought.

        "I've forgotten a lot of it, but I'll never forget
the moment of Second Impact."

                           -*-

        Misato screamed.  "Daddy!  What's going on?"  She
could feel the air throbbing.  Waves of heat were coming
from the mountains, and the ice was visibly melting.  She
stood on the docks, trying to gaze off towards where she
knew the scientists had been working.  The fur parka she
wore was uncomfortably hot for once; sweat ran in rivers
down her face.

        "Do you have the lucky necklace I gave you?"  Her
father was sweating as well; Dr. Katsuragi was balding, and
the dome of his forehead looked like a waterfall.  His voice
was urgent, and she could see the panic in his eyes.

        "Uh huh.  Has there been an accident, Daddy?"

        "A massive one.  I never should have brought you,
but I..."  He sighed.  "I should have let you stay with your
aunt like you wanted.  Get in the boat, Misato-chan."

        She got in, though the motorboat wouldn't go very
far, it would get her out to the expedition's ship, which
was anchored a ways out from the shore.  "What about you,
Daddy?"

        "I'm going to try to stop it, but I think it's too
late.  At least I'll die like a man," he muttered.  "Go,
Misato-chan.  Tell them...the Doomsday clock has reached
midnight, and now it's beginning to chime."  He turned back
to face his doom.

        "I don't understand!"

        "I pray you never have to," he said quietly, then
began to stride away from the dock.

        She started up the boat, praying she was going the
right direction; she soon spotted the larger boat off in the
distance, which was a relief.  It grew larger as she
approached, and she looked back nervously towards the land,
praying her father would be okay.

        The entire mountain range exploded, as far as she
could tell, erupting into the sky, becoming a black cloud
held up by endless streams of lightning erupting into the
sky.  For a moment, all was silent, and then the shockwave
hit.  The waters moved away from the shore in a great wave,
upon which her tiny boat rode the crest.  Fire rumbled forth
across the icy wastes of Antarctica, and the land vanished
in steam and fire and lightning.

        The dark cloud blotted out the sun, and the wave
upon which she was borne blotted out the ship from which she
hoped for rescue.  The last thing she remembered were
screams of terror from the boat, neverending thunders from
the land, and an unholy song that echoed behind the thunder
in the sky.

                           -*-

        "They found me floating in the boat, which somehow
made it without capsizing.  I had nearly frozen to death,
and I should have died of dehydration and maybe even
starvation.  They never figured out why I survived.  For a
year, I was catatonic.  Then one day, I just woke up in my
bed.  I was the only survivor."  Misato's voice was flat,
but Shinji could hear she was holding back emotion.

        "You were really lucky."

        "I sometimes wish I'd died with Father.  I was so
excited he finally took me along on one of his
archaeological trips.  Except then I wasn't allowed to go
near the site.  So I was bored as hell...the last time I saw
Father before the last day of his life, we had a big
screaming match, and I told him I wished he was dead."  She
winced.  "Be careful what you wish for, Shinji."

        Shinji felt he ought to do something, but wasn't
sure what.  "He must be proud of you now."

        "I hope so," she said quietly.  "I've done my best
to avenge him.  I just wish I could get in an EVA and fight
with you, instead of sending you all off in my place.  But I
can't.  So I have to be the one who stays home and worries,
while you three, who ought to be able to be normal children,
risk your lives."

        "We'd have died by now without your advice," Shinji
said.  "Especially me."

        "Don't be down on yourself, Shinji.  I wasted my
college years doing that."  She stared at the goulash.  "I
wonder how I'm supposed to know it's done."

        "Taste it?"

        "Thanks for volunteering."

        It was actually quite good, though Shinji feared
disaster.  However, it was also quite hot.  "AAAA!!!!!!"

        "That bad?"

        "WATER!!!!!"

        Soon, he soothed his mouth.  "I just...sometimes I
wonder if I just got this because my father is in charge."

        "You really think your father would do that?"

        "Well, no, but..."

        "With all his flaws, your father would never commit
nepotism.  He's a bastard, but he does make a good commander
for NERV."

        "I guess so."

        "Do you think he's done something badly?  Besides
lacking any ability to be nice?"  She stared at the goulash.
"Where's Asuka?"

        "She should be home soon.  She ran off to visit
Kensuke's father or something."

        They both sighed, and that killed the conversation,
as they both drifted off into their own thoughts.

                           -*-

        "So, what are your conclusions?"  Gendo asked Abdul.
The two of them and Fuyuutsuki were in one of the small
conference rooms.

        "You won't be needing the gun in your coat," Abdul
said calmly.  "Not that you'd use it if you have any sense
at all.  I have satisfied myself that there won't be a
repeat of the disaster.  In the end, it all worked out as it
needed to."

        "Was your conversation with our new acquisition
satisfactory?"  Fuyuutsuki asked.

        "Quite fascinating, though not easy to communicate
with.  Perhaps later...But that is a story for another day.
You'll be getting a copy of my report when I complete it."
He rose.  "I have much to do, and miles to go before I
sleep.  You will be keeping your jobs for now.  And soon,
all things will come to their appointed end."

        He swept out of the room, and as soon as the door
closed, Fuyuutsuki said, "He didn't even try to drive us
mad.  He must be slipping in his old age."

        "We are doing what he wants.  Of course he didn't do
anything to us.  If he knew our true objectives, there would
be very little left of us."

        "I'm surprised he didn't tatoo his name on his
forehead,"  Fuyuutsuki said.

        "No need.  Only a tiny handful of people could
actually understand the hints he gave.  Now, why he is
playing errand boy to SEELE...that intrigues me.  It's a
remarkably menial task.  Now, if he had used it as an excuse
to sabotage something critical..."  Gendo frowned.  "We're
going to have to check everything."

        Fuyuutsuki nodded.  "This makes a good excuse for a
top to bottom cleaning and inspection anyway."

        Gendo nodded.  "I will inspect Sectors 13 and 52
myself.  Start laying out the orders for the inspection of
the other sectors."

        "What about those hacked files?"

        "I shall have to have a little talk with Dr. Akagi
in addition to the official reprimand I gave her.  For that
matter, I need to look into some of these files.  I'm sure
most of these are related to her medical research, but a
fair number of these would be of no relevance to her quest.
We shall see."  He rose.  "We must be extra careful now.  We
grow closer to victory, but there is still time for them to
thwart us."

        "I think he knows what we intend to do, but doesn't
care,"  Fuyuutsuki said quietly.

        "We can't count on that.  We can count on him
blackmailing Akagi, however.  I shall have to think of
something to do about that."

        "Him?  Stooping to petty blackmail?"
        
        "If the King in Yellow can exploit a junior high
teacher with a thing for young girls..."

        "I suppose so.  It just seems too low."

        "He does what he must, and so shall we."

        
                           -*-

        "The Stars move in their courses, and the heavens
sing the music of the spheres.  The time has come for the
hidden to be made clear, for the mountains to fall and the
valleys to rise.  Let the book of truth be opened, and the
thirteen verses sung."  And with those words, the chant
began.

        Thirteen voices, each hidden behind a mask from the
others, opened themselves and their secrets to the one they
served.  From every continent they came, from every race of
man and other races besides.  Male and female they were
numbered, Regnants they had become.  For time beyond
measure, SEELE had existed to bring about what would come to
pass.  It had worn a thousand masks in ten thousand lands,
but in all that time, it had one purpose, to bring about the
Prophecy.

        Their time had come.  The Stars were Right.

                           -*-

                     - end part 10 -

                           -*-