Where do you get love?
 Down below or from somewhere above?
 Got a scary feeling I know
 where you get love

                - Matthew Sweet
                 "Where You Get Love"



                          -*-


        The time was not yet, but was indeed close.

        In darkness that no mortal eye would be able to
pierce, they gathered.  Before grand stone steps and a
massive set of cyclopean doors they bowed.

        His time was near, and with His return, they would
reign once more.

        As was their ritual, for thousands of years, they
began the chant.

        "Ia R'lyeh!"

        They could feel it in their blood.

        "Cthulhu fhtagn!"

        The time was soon.

        "Ia! Ia!"

        The stars were right.

        "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl
fhtagn!"

                          -*-

        Ritsuko awoke with a start, cold sweat rolling off
of her body.  Her heart was pounding heavily, almost
painfully, and her hands were trembling uncontrollably.

        "Just a dream," she whispered to herself.  She sat
upright, holding a pillow tightly to her chest as she did,
staring blankly forward.

        Smaller, gentler arms enfolded themselves around the
woman.  A sleepy voice whispered in her ear, "Sempai...
what's wrong?"

        Ritsuko's gaze turned towards the window, across the
Geofront lake, as if mesmerized by the endless waves.

        "Sempai?" asked Maya again.

        "Cthulhu fhtagn," Ritsuko muttered.  "What..."

        "Sempai?"

        "It... it's nothing," said Ritsuko, settling back
into bed.  "Just bad dreams."


                          -*-

        Elsewhere in Tokyo-3, red eyes looked up to the
night sky, as if searching the stars for a sign.

	"Ia R'lyeh.  Cthulhu fhtagn," Rei whispered.

        She frowned.

                          -*-

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


                 Children of an Elder God

                        Part 18

                        Violator

                          -*-

	In a subterranean room with metal walls, two bodies
lay spent on a bed.  One was completely naked unless you
counted her earrings, the other wore only a pair of gloves
and a single sock.  She kissed his naked toes, and played
idly with the sock she had removed from that foot.  "This
little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home,"
she began.

	He listened in amusement, wondering if she was
finally going to actually get it right.

	"And this little piggy had roast beef...no, that's
not it."  Her childish face creased in frustration, and then
she tugged at her ear. "Ow."

	"Tugging your pierced ear by the earring is
generally a bad idea, you know," he said softly.  "You can
just tug my toe."

	"I'm thirsty," she said.

	"I'll get you something," he replied, getting out of
bed and heading over to the nearby minifridge, from which he
extracted iced tea for himself and a Pepsi for her.  Just as
he returned with the two bottles, his cellular phone went
off.  She groaned.

	"Yes, what is it?" he asked.  "This had better be
important."
	
	"The Secretary-General's assistant is in your
office, so yes, I'd say it qualifies."  The voice on the
other end of the line was calm, with just a hint of
supressed irritation.

	"He isn't supposed to be here until tomorrow!"

	"Apparently there was some confusion in arranging
this appointment.  But he's here now, regardless of when he
was supposed to show up."

	The gloved man sighed.  "I'm on my way."  He hung up
the phone. "Sorry, Yui-chan, but work calls me away again."

	She pouted.  "You never stay with me after we make
love any more."

	"I'm very busy these days trying to prevent humanity
being destroyed," he said, his voice rising in volume and
hardening.  "Fuyutsuki wouldn't call me if it wasn't
important."  He began dressing with his back to her.

	She folded her arms and tried to look angry, but
succeeded only in looking petulant.  "And why do I have to
stay locked away in this room?"

	"If our enemies knew you existed, they'd try to
kidnap or kill you," he said, picking up his shirt and
putting it on.  "It's a war, and they're ruthless."

	"I'm just sick of being by myself without you,"  
she said, her petulance fading to desperation.  She came up
behind him and wrapped her arms around him.  "I need you."

	"I need you too," he said.  Now dressed, he turned
and kissed her forehead.  "Goodbye for now, Yui."

	"Goodbye, Gendo," she said, sighing as he stepped
out the door and locked it behind him.

	She was alone again, her usual state, and she hated
it.  Sometimes she felt like she was going to go mad from
the loneliness.  Gendo hadn't been to see her in two weeks.  
Food came by automated delivery; she'd tried crawling into
it once, but she couldn't fit.  Her soaps soothed her
disquietude when they were on, but right now, there was
nothing worth watching.

	He must be cheating on me, she thought.  He couldn't
possibly bear to stay away.  Probably he's remarried or
something and just keeps me down here.  She could feel her
frequent depression settling on herself as she ran her
fingers through her short blue hair; she felt like just
pulling it out, shaving herself bald just for a new
experience, but she had nothing to shave with.

	She went over to her bed, and pulled out the book
she'd tucked under it weeks ago and almost forgotten about.  
Only one other person besides her husband had ever come to
visit her here in all the ..weeks...months?  She wasn't sure
how long she'd been here, or what her life had been like
before she'd come to live in the suite of metal rooms that
had been her home for far too long.  Indeed, she could only
remember scraps of memory at all from before she'd come to
dwell here.

	A while back, a strange Arabic man had come to visit
her; she didn't know how he had gotten in, or why he had
come, but he had listened to her pour out her problems to
him with a sympathetic ear, and he had given her something.  
A book, he claimed, of spells, including ones to make people
love you more.  She'd scoffed at the thought of love magic;
she didn't believe in it, really.  But now she was feeling
desperate enough to give it a try; it couldn't hurt, and if
nothing else, it would give her something to do for the rest
of the night.

	She looked at the weather beaten leather cover with
faded gold colored print upon it.  'Ye Magicks of the
Olden...' The rest of the letters had rubbed off completely.  
Turning the pages, she began to read.

                          -*- 

	The lounge singer had taken a break, and now a
recording of a lounge version of the Imperial March from
Star Wars was playing over the stereo system.  Misato,
Ritsuko, Maya, Makoto, and Kaji ignored it and continued
their conversation.

	"I'm afraid I really don't know much beyond what we
all know from working at NERV," Misato said, sighing.  
"Cult activities are at an all time high the last few years,
many of these cults seem to have connections to the Angels
and were around before Second Impact, and thus, I have to
guess the Angels have been on Earth for a long time.  Most
of the cults don't have any sort of special abilities, but
some of them seem to be able to call up lesser monsters that
look related to what they worship.  And there's a bunch of
old books written by crazy cultists that hint the Angels
once ruled the Earth.  But you'd expect lunatic worshippers
of monsters to claim that."  She turned to Ritsuko.  "I
mean, we haven't ever found any giant monster fossils or
anything, right?  Besides dinosaurs?"

	"They seem to each be unique," Ritsuko said.  
"There seem to be some common properties, but that's
probably a sort of parallel evolution, rather than
indicating a common genetic origin.  If the various rantings
have any truth to them, these things have been around for
thousands, maybe millions of years.  And since they dissolve
away when killed, they couldn't leave any fossils.  I can
say from my studies that they are not related to any other
life form on Earth.  No DNA of the kind we have, very
different chemical composition, no amino acids or enzymes
similar to those of Earth species...I could go on forever
about the differences.  And each of them is fairly different
from each other.  I can say with authority that they are not
native to Earth, and that while some common force might have
created them, if they evolved naturally, they likely did so
on different worlds.  How they got here, I have no idea.  
I've toyed a bit with the theory that the ones here on Earth
were either dumped here by someone who wanted to watch them
fight, or that they may have suffered the..."  She paused.  
"This sounds really silly."

	"Well, tell us anyway, Sempai," Maya said.

	"Well, part of the question is whether they evolved
naturally and simply represent species present elsewhere in
the universe, or whether someone created them using advanced
science, then put them on Earth for some reason.  I just had
a sort of strange dream one night where the Angels were on
Earth because they were someone's abandoned pets they had to
get rid of because they moved somewhere they couldn't have
pets."  She shook her head.  "I told you it was silly."

	"Well, they do seem to be hostile to each other, or
at least they haven't ever tried to cooperate with one
another," Makoto said.  "I'd thought some about the
possibility that they're war machines designed by some
advanced civilization, who is testing them out on us.  So,
the purpose of the attacks isn't to conquer the Earth, just
to see how well each individual model works.  Given that we
can already build something like the Evangelion units, I'm
sure aliens capable of getting to Earth could build
creatures like the Angels.  So maybe this is just a test."

	"But what about the cults?  These creatures have
been here too long for this to be any sort of test of their
capabilities.  Why send them to Earth and then let them
slumber for thousands of years before you test them?"

	"Maybe the aliens were waiting until we could put up
a fight?" Makoto asked.

	"Surely they wouldn't want to wait thousands of
years to test their models," Misato replied.

	"Maybe they were just dumped on Earth because it
made a handy junkyard," Maya said.  "After all, we can kill
them and we don't even have the technology to get to other
planets.  Maybe they were outdated, so the aliens just
dumped them here.  Then the Second Impact actually woke them
up, and they're following pre-programmed 'conquer, crush,
destroy' imperatives."

	"That's another issue...what exactly WAS Second
Impact?" Makoto asked.

	"I've always wondered why the people who set it off
needed my father the archaeologist," Misato said.

	"Because they were exploring a city belonging to a
pre-human civilization," Ritsuko said suddenly.  "Humans
were not the first sentient life on Earth.  In the nineteen
thirties, an archaeological team from Miskatonic University
discovered a ruined city in the heart of Antarctica which
was once inhabited by a species of aliens whose name is
lost.  The author of the document I read called them 'the
Old Ones'.  The Old Ones brought an Angel-like being to
Earth with them.  Or possibly created it; we just know it
was imprisoned in one of their cities, used as a power
source.  Second Impact happened when they tried to
reactivate the...the device he was hooked into.  It
exploded, causing Second Impact.  Either at the time or
later, they successfully extracted the creature and brought
it here, placing it in a containment area in Sector 13.  It
is used to make LCL."

	Faces around the table generally went pale, except
for Misato's.

	"Oh," said Misato.

	And then the words sank in.

	"It's WHAT?!"

	"It undergoes processing by means I'm not fully
conversant with, which my mother and her research team
developed."

	"How safe is this?" Misato asked.  "I mean, c'mon,
they're inhaling Angel Goo."

	Ritsuko nodded.  "For lack of a better term," she
said dryly.  "Although it's still mostly a mystery to us,
everything we've seen so far seems to indicate it's safe."

	Misato shook her head.  "Don't think I'll want the
kids to know this.  Shinji and Touji are having a bad enough
time already."

	"Ignorance is bliss.  It wouldn't help anyway," said
Ritsuko.  "In addition to the LCL, the EVA units were also
developed using genetic material from the Angel and from
humans.  Assuming my mother's secret files are accurate, the
Angel was named 'Adam', and the Old Ones used it as a source
of genetic material to create servitor life forms.  My
experiments give me reason to believe that there is a
genetic relationship between Adam and most life forms on
Earth, although from the records I've been able to pry into,
life originated on Earth before the Old Ones arrived.  
However, I can definitely say that humanity has a strong
relationship to Sector 13's main resident."

	"So the Evas are really Angels," said Makoto.  
"Artificial Angels anyway.  Fighting fire with fire."

	"Exactly."

	Shortly after Lyn, the lounge singer, finally
returned, launching into 'Fly me to the Moon', Maya said
hesitantly, "Are you saying we're all the result of a
genetic experiment?"

	Ritsuko shook her head.  "Not exactly.  From the
experiments in the records, it would seem that if not
restrained, Adam continually produces new life forms.  Most
get eaten by Adam himself, but ones which escape can breed
with virtually anything, producing offspring that combine
their traits.  Such offspring possess superior survival
capabilities and become better able to adapt to
environmental changes and evolve faster.  The result is that
such crossbred creatures win out in the evolutionary
struggle, and thus many species possess Adam as a very, very
distant ancestor."

	She stopped and stared at her coffee mug, then
finished it off and called the waitress for another, before
she continued.  "Under the right circumstances, that
heritage may be stronger in certain individuals.  The Second
Impact created such a circumstance.  In addition to the
energies unleashed and the environmental catastrophes,
perhaps a third of Adam's body mass was turned into a fine
dust and hurled into the atmosphere, where it has been
settling down ever since.  For various reasons, some
individuals were exposed to more of it than others.  The
usual result of such exposure for the already born was
merely to alter the genetic material they would pass on to
their children.  In many cases, this caused people to become
infertile due to the mutations. Some people died due to the
exposure. For the children successfully born since Second
Impact, however, the result was the potential to evolve into
the next stage of humanity.  This was, however, not realized
at first by NERV during my mother's administration."

	"So, the Children can control the EVAs because
humans, especially those born since Second Impact, have an
affinity to the Angel who was used to make the EVAs," Misato
summed up.

	"And the LCL, which comes from Adam helps as well.  
Even so, most people can't handle it.  They go mad or mutate
or both when exposed to LCL and to the alien perceptions of
the EVA units.  Or they're too weak willed to be able to
make it do anything.  The Children are very special in their
ability to control the EVAs.  Shinji's mother was unable to
survive her attempt to synchronize with Unit00."  Ritsuko
shook her head.

	"There is a continuing project called DAGON.  My
mother initiated it," Ritsuko said.  "Its purpose was to
produce pilots capable of controlling an Evangelion.  It has
had only one success in hundreds of attempts.  Almost all of
the test subjects died, went mad, or became hideous beasts
when first exposed to LCL."

	"Rei," Makoto said with a tone of fascinated horror.

	"Exactly.  Rei was the first subject and the only
one still sane and alive, I think.  However, mother's notes
hint at one of the test subjects coming out too completely
human, and thus being useless for the experiment.  I do not
know her fate.  We have a large number of...well, of 'Rei's
in various stages of development in the Dagon lab.  
However, I suspect we may never successfully duplicate Rei
within the amount of time we have to work with."

	Misato stared at Ritsuko in shock.  I should have
guessed, she thought.  But I never thought something like
that was possible.  Is she even human?  She thought about
how Rei's recent strange behavior.  Maybe she's going to go
mad too, she thought.  Should I try to warn Shinji away from
her?  Does Rei know she's an experiment?  Maybe that's why
she was so cold at first...she knew.  Or maybe she just
found out, and that's why she went cold again.  But she does
seem to care about Shinji.

	Maya looked sad.  Poor things, born just to die in
tests, she thought.  That's awful.  She tried to not
embarrass herself by crying for the clones.

	Kaji frowned.  It shouldn't take so long to
duplicate an experiment...unless Ritsuko's mother knew
something she didn't tell anyone.  Either Ritsuko is hiding
something, or...  He shook his head.  Rei a genetic
experiment.  Who else could be the result of an experiment,
he wondered.  Did Ikari have his own son experimented on to
make sure he could pilot?

	Makoto frowned at all of this.  "Is this really
ethical?"

	"Do we have a choice?  When the project was started,
they weren't even sure if anyone who wasn't the result of a
genetic experiment could possibly pilot an EVA.  But they
knew the clock was running out."  Ritsuko's coffee finally
arrived.

	"How?" Kaji asked.  "How did they know there would
be more?"

	"I don't know.  A lot of things aren't recorded
where I can find them.  Only Commander Ikari and Commander
Fuyutsuki know for sure that I know of.  And perhaps some
members of the Security Council know--NERV was created at
the Security Council's command, after all."

	"So what's going to happen to the Children?" Makoto
asked.  "Are they going to...stop being human?"

	"It depends on one's definition of human," Ritsuko
said.  "Unfortunately, I lack anything to compare this to.  
They should remain capable of interbreeding with normal
humans, and thus biologically belong to the same species as
us.  However, their growing powers may lead to alienation
from the human race.  It's still too early to tell if
they'll lead humanity to a new age or do the stereotypical
science fiction thing of going mad and trying to destroy
humanity because they believe it 'inferior'."

	"I don't think humanity is ready for powers like
those," Makoto said.

	"Humanity isn't ready for the technology it has now,
but the genie can't be put back in the bottle.  We need the
EVANGELIONS to stop the Angels, but the potential for abuse
of them and the technologies we've developed to make them is
vast.  They have the powers, they need them to save
humanity, and once the crisis is over, they'll still have
them.  And I wouldn't be surprised if more people begin
developing abilities like theirs in the generation to come."  
Ritsuko paused to drink some more coffee.  "And that's about
all I have to usefully contribute right now."

	"I'll go next," Kaji said.  "I have reason to
believe one or more of the cults that worship the Angels has
infiltrated NERV."

	Several eyes widened, while Misato simply nodded.  
"We've had to root out several infiltrators," she said.

	"The theft of the EVA units from the American
facility was aided by cultists on the inside," Kaji said.  
"I also have reason to believe one of my fellow inspectors
is a cultist."

	"Kanephren," Ritsuko said.

	"Exactly.  I've managed to collect photos of him
with eight different cult leaders.  This includes cults who
hate each other.  He's up to some sort of game."

	"He forced me to show him some of the DAGON
facilities," Ritsuko said.  "And he went to Sector 13."

	"So what's in Sector 13 anyway?" Misato asked.

	"Everything whose access is restricted to only Ikari
and Fuyutsuki," Ritsuko said.  "I know Adam himself is in
there; we only access his storage tank by a pumping system
designed before I joined NERV.  Beyond that, I don't know."

	"Then we should find out," Kaji said.  "I think
Ikari and Fuyutsuki are covering something up."

	Maya frowned.  "Do you think one of them might be
connected to one of these cults?"

	"It's entirely possible.  They know more than
they're telling, and at times it seems like they have a
timetable of what Angel will attack next and where," Kaji
said.

	Misato nodded.  "I'm not sure how we could get into
Sector 13."

	"I can try to use some of Mother's security
backdoors I've been saving for an emergency," Ritsuko said.

	"Good.  Now, here's my idea for a plan on how to go
about this..." Kaji began.

                          -*- 

	'I was a teenage Deep One', the website proclaimed
in thirty six point New Times Roman.

	Asuka sighed and went back to the search index.  So
far, she'd found so many bogus web sites with the key words
she had been using that she could hardly believe it.  How
could so many people know about these things, and yet not
really know what they're talking about?  It doesn't make any
sense, she thought.  All these rock bands named things like
'Black Goat of the Woods' or 'Blind Apes of Truth' and
people claiming to have been abducted by Deep Ones in space
ships and online Necronomicons that are just translations of
old Sumerian texts with an extra helping of made up junk...

	She sighed.  This could take the rest of my life to
check all these dumb sites.

	Her computer played a tiny snippet from Beethoven's
'Ode to Joy', which meant she'd just gotten new email.  She
switched windows and opened the letter, which was from Anna.

From:  anna@Goethe.GNERV.ge Subject:  Weird Stuff

	Just a quick guten Tag and a site you might want to
check out, given the research you're doing.  We had a bad
food poisoning incident here, and I've got to go to our
clinic pretty quick, as I'm starting to feel sick to my
stomach myself.  But I thought I'd send you this before I
forgot.

	
http://armitage.miskatonic.edu/~cwhatley/weird.h tml

	Good luck!

	Your friend, Anna
	http://Goethe.GNERV.ge/~anna/


	Asuka clicked on the site, which swiftly loaded.  
'Grandpa's Weird Notes', it proclaimed.

	A quick read though the intro page revealed that the
page owner, a student at Miskatonic university, had
apparently recently inherited a collection of bizarre
notebooks of occult lore; he had copied some of the most
interesting or amusing passages to form this collection of
web pages.  What caught Asuka's attention and convinced her
to keep looking was the long quotation which followed, just
before the index of subpages:

"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. The Old Ones were, the Old Ones
are, and the Old Ones shall be. Not in the spaces we know,
but between them, they walk serene and primal, undimensioned
and to us unseen. Yog-Sothoth knows the gate.  Yog-Sothoth
is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the
gate.  Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He
knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where
They shall break through again. He knows where They have
trod Earth's fields, and where They still tread them, and
why no one can behold Them as they tread...As a foulness,
shall ye know Them. Their hand is at your throats, yet ye
see Them not; and their habitation is even one with your
guarded threshold. Yog-Sothoth is the key to the gate,
whereby the spheres meet. Man rules now where They ruled
once; They shall soon rule where man rules now. After summer
is winter, after winter summer.  They wait patient and
potent, for here shall they reign again."

--Grandpa's Notes claim this is translated directly from
Olaus Wormius' Latin translation of the Necronomicon,
whatever that is.

	She didn't know how she knew, but she could feel
deep down in her bones that this was a real quotation from
that tome, though she had had yet to actually find a copy of
the real thing.  I'm finally on to something, she thought.

	She took a look at the subheadings.  'A spell for
bringing about the resurrection of the body', 'meditations
on ghouls', 'collecting moonsilver', 'the Scimitar of
Barzai', 'Gorgo and Mormo', 'how to turn gold into lead' and
finally, 'Commentary on the elder prophecy of the rise of
the new gods of Earth, as shown in various textes'.  She
decided to check that one out first.


"Lo, the trumpet sounds.  The weaver's webs are rent, the
stars have fallen, the great beast is slain, the drinker of
blood's many tongues lap no more, and even the great lord of
dreams has been cast down.  The new generation of gods has
risen and cast down the old ones.  Let us rejoice."
--Translated from the Ponape Scriptures

Grandpa's Crazy Notes:
	The trumpet call is, of course, the trumpet call
from Revelations. The weaver is Atlach-Nacha, the stars
could be a reference to all the Old ones being from the
stars, or perhaps some specific one...Cthugha?  Too many
Great Old ones count as drinkers of blood, but the great
lord of dreams is almost certainly either Cthulhu, who
haunted Father's dreams when I was little, or possibly one
of the major Elder Gods.  If it was the lord of nightmares,
I would have to guess Nylarathotep was dead.  Perhaps one of
his 1001 faces?

	Theory:  Each of N's 1001 forms is the form of one
of the intelligent species he deals with.  Possibly his
human form, the Black Man, would cause madness in aliens,
who would find his forms that horrify us to be quite normal.  
Connection to 1001 Arabian Nights?  Al Hazred was Arabic,
perhaps 1001 Nights is an esoteric primer for Nylarathotep
worshippers...must find copy and study..

	This could be useful, Asuka thought, although
probably half the commentary is deranged ramblings.  But
worth checking out.

                          -*- 

"'Lo, the trumpet sounds.  The weaver's webs are rent, the
stars have fallen, the great beast is slain, no more to lap
up blood with many tongues, and even the great dreaming lord
of the deep has been cast down.  The new generation of gods
has risen and cast down the old ones.  Let us rejoice', said
the Herald of the Outer Gods to his idiot masters at the
heart of creation, as they danced to the endless tuneless
flautings of toad- like servitors.  And the Outer Gods
danced, for their will had been done.  All had come to pass
according to their will.  Those who might have turned aside
their purpose had been turned to serve it instead.  And so
their servant smiled contemptuously at them as they danced
and laughed at their joy, for he knew that all things
crumble, even them.  But then he cast aside his mask of
reason for a time, and joined the dance, to rest himself
until it was time for further labors."

	And that's the end of this version of the prophecy,
Fuyutsuki thought, putting down his pen and putting the
Ponape Scriptures to one side.  It was one of the few
versions which went beyond the fall of the great dreaming
lord on the Day of Return, and certainly the most gloomy of
those.  Which in his book, gave it more of a ring of truth.  
Most versions of the prophecy ended with the Great Old One
worshipped by the cult that wrote the prophecy triumphing
over his enemies.  Already, many of those passages had been
proven false, for only three, or perhaps four (the meaning
of the references to 'the battle with the truth' remained
unclear) battles remained to be fought, and many of the
prophesied victors had fallen.

	Of course, it was equally possible that this ending
was just the 'Nylarathotep wins inevitably' version of the
triumphal endings.  Perhaps all these seers had seen the
truth, but then viewed that truth through the light of their
own biases...too many parts of it hung together and matched
what had come to pass for it to all be just their
prejudices.

	Can we really defy the will of the Outer Gods, he
asked himself. Their power dwarfs that of the Great Old Ones
we have to struggle with here on Earth.  But then, we don't
really know their will for sure.  Or even if they have
anything meaningful to describe a 'will', given the way so
many texts call them 'idiot gods'.  Can such beings even
notice humanity to have an opinion about us?  Do they notice
the Great Old Ones?  Is it even meaningful to call them
'beings'?

	If our theories are right, then the Outer Gods will
not intervene, because they don't care what happens.  And
yet, Nylarathotep, their herald, does seem to care...about
bringing things down.  Why?  Why did he visit us?  Why did
he tell Seele nothing about our true plans?  Did he not
figure them out?  Surely he must have known...or do I give
him too much credit?  Fuyutsuki's thoughts went round and
round.

	I need to take a short break, he thought, then left
to quest for coffee.

                          -*- 

	"You ain't gonna make me lie down on a couch, are
ya?" Touji asked the man who had been introduced to him as
Counselor Taiki.

	Taiki, a short, heavyset man with a thick black
goatee in a suit, laughed.  "Not unless you want to."  He
pointed to a nice padded green chair which matched the one
he sat in.  "You can just sit there."

	Touji plopped down in it, then spent a little time
wiggling about to get comfortable.  "So why the hell am I
here, anyway?"

	"Commander Fuyutsuki thought you might want to talk
to someone about your recent experiences in Peru.  I
understand things didn't go quite as well as was hoped."  
His voice was carefully bland, his expression friendly.

	"I don't want to think about it," Touji said.  "It
went to hell in a handbasket, but I've done enough thinking
about it to kill most people already."

	Taiki nodded.  "How have things been going with your
fellow pilots?"

	"Well, Shinji's okay to work with.  Langely's a
bossy loudmouth, but I gotta admit she can fight pretty
well.  And Rei is..."  He frowned.  "Don't want to talk
about Rei."

	"Why not?" Taiki asked.

	"Can't talk about Rei," Touji said, fiddling with
the lever to adjust the seat back.  "Commander Ikari said
so."

	Taiki nodded.

	"Ain't you gonna write anything down?"

	"People tend to become uncomfortable when I record
everything they say."  He tapped his forehead.  "I have a
very good memory."

	"So how long do I have to stay here?"

	"Probably longer than you'll want to."

	Touji laughed.  "Right."

	"I understand you've had some problems with Asuka
Langely."

	"She's a pushy, stuck up..."  Touji tensed, paused,
then relaxed.  "She's got a big head.  I mean, she's good at
what she does, so she has to rub it in your face.  You've
met people like that, right?"

	"Far too many," Taiki replied.  "So, you feel she
brags too much about what she's good at?"

	He nodded.  "I ain't saying she ain't good at stuff.  
She's just...she just gets on my nerves.  When we went
to...Umm, I ain't sure if I can talk about that."

	"About what?"

	"Nothing.  Anyway, I usually have a lot more trouble
with her when she's not in her EVA.  I guess we all know
that if we fight each other, we'll get our ass kicked.  
Although that whole mess when we fought the fire Angel..."  
He clenched his fist.  "I couldn't just let Shinji fucking
burn to death."  He suddenly realized what he'd said.  
"Uh..."

	"I don't mind," Taiki said.  "Go on."

	"Asuka didn't do shit!  She woulda just let him
burn.  That was just cold.  I mean, geez, even Rei went to
save his ass.  His dad didn't want us to do nothing about it
either!  Bastard."

	Taiki nodded.  "Can you tell me the whole story?  
I'm afraid I only have a vague idea of what happened."

	"Okay, it all started when we got sent to Lima..."


                          -*-

        //"Outta the frying pan, into the nasty black
sludge,"// grumbled Touji.  //"Yeah, another go'round in the
LCL is exactly what I need after havin' a quack pick my
brains."//

        //"Quit complaining,"// sniped Asuka. //"Besides,
there wasn't-"//

        //"-that much brains to pick through anyway, yeah
yeah yeah,"// finished Touji.  //"Hey boss, what's to do
today?"//

        The four EVA units stood inside seperate underground
exercise chambers beneath the Geofront, freshly repaired
from their disastrous mission to Peru.

        Watching them all from the command center was
Misato, as well as the bridge crew.  Only Fuyutsuki and
Gendo weren't present. //"Alright guys, we're gonna exercise
using those powers you gained killing those Angels.  Touji,
you'll have the lightest job, since you've only got one to
work with.  The rest of you, you've done this before, but
this time we'll try a little multitasking."//

        Four massive screens appeared in the command center,
one for each EVA.  //"Rei, you'll be coached by Ritsuko
today.  Asuka, you've got Makoto. Shinji, you'll be working
with Maya.  Touji, you're with me."//

        //"Woohoo!"//

        //"I'm telling Hikari!"//

        //"H-hey!"//

        Misato smirked and shook her head.  //"Cut the
chatter, let's get to work."//

	The training went smoothly at first. Shinji, as
usual, showed remarkable talent despite his nature.  
Touji, at first, set his EVA on fire a few times, but
fortunately it was only on the outside, where the EVAs
were tough enough.  Rei took to the task silently and
efficiently, even more impressive than Shinji in her
ability.  Asuka, not to be outdone, was taking to practice
with a gung-ho zeal.

        And then it happened.

        Red lights flashed everywhere, sending nearly
everyone into a panic.  Makoto called for medical teams
while other sections of the bridge crew began the remote
shutdown procedure for Asuka's EVA.


        "Bring up dummy plug camera for Unit02 NOW!" yelled
Misato.  A new screen appeared, taking center position.  
The bridge crew stared in shock.

        "Oh my God," whispered Misato.

        Asuka's screams of pain were nearly deafening.  She
was out of her chair, floating in LCL, with something
massive protruding from her left shoulder blade.

        "What the hell is that?"

        "I... I told her to try growing wings," said Makoto.  
"And then... then..."

        She could see it.  Ragged and unformed, mostly
skeletal with sheets of muscle hanging down slopily, Asuka
had grown a wing out of her back.

        Unit02 powered down, sagging to the floor as it did.  
As it came crashing down, Unit00 lumbered into the room. The
EVA seemed to linger at the entrance a moment, peering at
the downed Unit02.

        //"Rei, what are you doing?"// asked Ritsuko.  
//"Rei, step away from Unit02.  Pilot, respond!  This is an
order!"//

        It was known among the bridge crew that Rei had
several incidents with Asuka, and now it seemed their worst
fears were coming true.

	//"Rei, step away from Unit02!"//

        Unit00 towered over its fallen sister, looking down
at its plug as it rose from Unit02's back.  It hunched down,
pulled it from Unit02, then ejected its own plug.

        //"Rei, what the hell are you doing?!"// yelled
Misato.  //"Unit01, Unit03, get in here now!"//

        Unit00's plug opened, and Rei slipped inside Asuka's
plug, opening it with ease.

	//"Rei!  Answer me!  Rei!"// Misato turned to
Makoto.  "Get Commander Ikari on the line!"

        Inside the plug, Rei walked to Asuka, who was now a
crumpled heap on the floor.  Asuka's wing twitched weakly,
and it seemed as if she was going into shock.  Rei reached
down and lifted her head, forcing Asuka to look into her
crimson eyes.

        "H-hurts..."

        The entire command room seemed to hold their
breaths.  Maya prayed Rei wouldn't do... something bad.

        Rei leaned forward, her eyes still locked with
Asuka's, and whispered something the microphones couldn't
pick up.  Asuka seemed unresponsive at first, but Rei
continued to speak.

        "What's she doing?" Misato asked.

        Ritsuko shook her head.  "I don't know."

        Suddenly, Asuka shrieked again, but this time her
ill-formed wing suddenly was drawn into her back, and
disappeared.  The only thing left of its passing being blood
stains on the walls and a ragged hole in the back of Asuka's
plugsuit.

        A medical team arrived soon after, carrying the
still stunned Asuka out of the room.  Rei left silently a
moment later, stopping only when Misato shouted out to her
one more time.

        //"Rei!  What happened in there?"//

        The pilot paused in mid-climb, as if thinking about
her answer.

        "She lost focus."

                          -*-

	Shinji shoved his way into the room past the nurse,
surprising himself as well as her.  He headed straight over
to where they had Asuka lying on a bed, still in her plug
suit but with various wires attached all over her body,
connected to a bank of instruments which Ritsuko and Maya
were monitoring, along with a technician he'd never met
before.

	Touji paused and said, "Sorry, but get out of the
way," to the nurse at the door before he shoved in as well;
Rei had slipped past already.

	"We're not going to sacrifice her," Ritsuko said.  
"But this will be easier if you don't all hang over us."

	"There ain't nothing else for us to do," Touji said.

	Ritsuko sighed.  "Then hurry up and reassure
yourself she isn't dead.  Then please go away so we can
work."

	Maya put a hand on her shoulder and gave a slightly
disapproving look.

	"I said please," she said to Maya.

	Touji laughed, while Rei stared at the instruments,
and Shinji went over to Asuka, who was lying on her stomach,
head turned to the wall. "You okay?" he asked.

	"Guess so," she said.

	He put a hand on her shoulder, then took it off.  
"Sorry, I guess it probably still hurts."

	"Like hell," she mumbled, then turned her head to
face him.  She reached out with her right arm and took his
hand.  "You okay?"

	"I'm fine," he said.

	Touji stared at the instruments and pretended he had
some idea what they did for a few seconds, then stopped
faking.  "So what do all these things do?"

	"I'm using the sensors in the plug suit to monitor
her condition," Ritsuko said.  "Which would, of course, be
much faster if not interrupted."

	"Yeah, yeah, I get the idea," he said, frowning and
turning to stare at Asuka and Shinji as they talked quietly.  
If he ain't sweet on her, I'll eat the hat I don't have, he
thought.

	"I just can't figure out why it happened this time,"
Asuka said. "I've made my EVA grow wings before."  Her voice
was tense with frustration.

	"Rei said you lost your focus or something?" Shinji
asked.

	Her eyes suddenly widened.  "The dream..."

	"Eh?"

	"I dreamed last night about..."  She stared over at
the machine, looking away from Shinji.  "It sounds stupid
when I say it."

	"What does?" he asked.

	"I...I had a dream about flying.  With my own wings.  
It was like...being an angel."  A goddess, she thought.  I
dreamed about being a goddess, flying over the land and
defending it with a flaming sword.  It made her feel a
little guilty, given she didn't even believe in goddesses.
Well, the Dreamlands had them, but they weren't really
gods...there was only one God and...  She squelched the
whole line of thought.

	"And you thought about it during the test?" he
asked.

	She nodded dumbly.  "Just for a moment.  And then my
back..."  She winced and closed her eyes and gripped his
hand tightly.  Her shoulder spasmed, and everyone went
tense, but then she settled down again, after giving a small
cry of pain.  "If Rei hadn't helped me, I...I don't know."

	Shinji felt a hand on his shoulder, and Rei was
there, a hand on him, and a hand on Asuka.  Her touch felt
cool, even through his plugsuit. She looked at both of them,
her face blank in a way that suddenly seemed quite fake to
Shinji.  Her eyes skidded away from his, and he wondered for
a moment what would happen if he stared into them.

	And then he felt Asuka relax, and Rei let go of both
of them, and quietly walked over to Touji, grabbed him by
the hand, which caused him to jump, then dragged him out.

	"Someone has the right..."  Ritsuko began to mutter,
until Maya put a hand over her mouth.

	"I don't mean to be rude," Maya said, "But we really
do need to finish these tests."

	"But..." Shinji began.

	"It's fine," Asuka said faintly.  "Sooner they
finish, the sooner we can go home.  We can talk later,
okay?"

	"Okay," he said, letting go of her hand.

	"Thanks for coming," she said, smiling at him as
best she could, then closed her eyes.

	Shinji backed up to the door, then darted out.

	"It's nice to see they care about you," Maya said.

	"So you think that dream caused your problem?"
Ritsuko asked.

	"I think remembering it must have been what
distracted me," Asuka said quietly.  "Akagi-san, is
this...going to happen again?"

	"We don't know yet," Ritsuko said.  "I'm pretty sure
it only was able to happen because you were in the LCL,
connected to your EVA and all its..."  She fumbled for a
good term.  "It's power.  But once we finish these tests,
we'll know better, I hope."

	"Okay," Asuka said, then returned to fretting.

                          -*-

	"So what are your conclusions, Akagi-san?"  
Fuyutsuki asked Ritsuko.

	"The constant exposure to LCL has heightened the
speed of their development," Ritsuko replied.  She shifted
uncomfortably; Gendo had the only comfortable chair in the
office, though that wasn't the only reason for her
discomfort.  "If it wasn't the only way to enable them to
control the ships, I'd recommend immediately ceasing any
contact with it."

	"Is there any danger of spontaneous mutation or
uncontrollable shapeshifting?  I know that's how a fair
number of our DAGON subjects died," Gendo said, frowning.

	"Outside their EVAS, I believe there's little to no
danger.  But we know so little about how LCL actually works,
that I can't recommend more than the absolute minimum
exposure necessary to enable them to continue their
training.  If the need wasn't so great, I'd argue that we
should stop their exposure entirely.  As it stands, we will
likely have more incidents like this, and it will get worse
the more Angels they defeat.  I give Rei, Asuka, and Shinji
six months at best, assuming Angels continue to appear at
the current rate, before they lose control of their forms
completely.  However, it is possible that they may learn
sufficient control to extend this time.  Rei seems to
intuitively understand the use and restraint of their powers
better than the others."

	Fuyutsuki nodded.  "So there is hope."

	Ritsuko smiled for a few seconds.  "There is always
hope."

	Gendo raised an eyebrow.  "I take it your sideline
research has been going well?"

	"No thanks to you," she said, her voice turning less
pleasant again.

	"Do you think it could perhaps be applied to help
stabilize the Children?"  Fuyutsuki cut in as the two glared
at each other.

	Ritsuko glanced over at him, then said, "It is
possible.  However, if successful, it would also likely
arrest the growth of their abilities."

	"But would it hamper the ability of the EVAs to
absorb those abilities?" Gendo asked.

	"Not unless we also treated the EVAs," Ritsuko said.

	"Good.  We don't need the Children to mutate; we
need their EVAs to grow stronger to meet the challenges to
come.  Write me a report on the materials you will need, and
I'll arrange for you to get them," Gendo said.  "It's urgent
we don't lose them; we will likely not be able to find and
train suitable replacements in time."

	"Good luck on your research," Fuyutsuki said.  
"You'd best get to it."

	She nodded and rose from her chair.  "I will,"  she
said, then left.

	Once the door closed, Gendo said, "Did you plan
that?"

	"No, I improvised," he replied.  "But we cannot
afford to lose her."

	"I would have done more for her if I could, but
there simply is no known cure for her condition,"  Gendo
replied, then stared at the papers on her desk.  "Of course,
if all goes as it seems it will, it will all end for good or
ill before Akagi finds her cure or theirs.  If any exists
which can stand before the powers we face.  Only three more
doors have yet to be opened before the final gate."

	"Or perhaps four.  Certain texts do seem to hint
that Adam may break loose at some point," Fuyutsuki pointed
out.

	"We have taken all the precautions we can to prevent
that," Gendo replied.  "We shall have to see how things
develop."  He rose.  "For the moment, there is little we can
do but continue their training and therapy and wait for
Akagi-san to succeed or fail."  Pushing his glasses up, he
said, "I will be in Sector 13 if you need me."

	"You do that a lot these days," Fuyutsuki said with
a hint of rebuke.

	"She gets lonely," he replied.  "I can't blame her,
but I can afford no risks with her."

	"The vengeance of heaven..." Fuyutsuki began.

	Gendo laughed.  "Heaven is either impotent or
hostile, and in either case, we are surely damned.  I'm
surprised you even think of such things."

	"Old habits die hard, and old men fret,"  Fuyutsuki
said wearily.  "Some nights I dream that when we come to the
Day of Return, we'll discover that we were doing the work of
the Audient Void all along, that our very striving is the
writing on the wall of the Blind Ape of Truth.  He has never
lost before, that we know of."

	"In the end, everyone loses some time.  And I intend
to make this time his time.  If even Suzuhara could turn his
masters against him, I will not fear him."

	Fuyutsuki pursed his lips.  "Are we sure that's what
happened, then?"

	"The mark is upon him now."  Gendo traced a sigil in
the air.  "Yog-Sothoth has branded him, the price of calling
upon him."

	"We have long known our enemies are divided against
each other," Fuyutsuki said, "But never have I heard of
Nylarathotep's masters being called upon to get rid of him."

	"We know little of the previous times this has
happened," Gendo said.

	"With good reason.  Those worlds are either
wastelands or nightmares because they failed these trials,"
Fuyutsuki cut in.

	Gendo frowned at him.  "We will not fail.  The power
will be ours, SEELE will be destroyed, and the Earth will be
free of their ilk."

	"If we can trust the ramblings of deranged madmen,
as you've called them all in the past,"  Fuyutsuki said.  
"If..."  He shook his head.  "No point in talking myself
into a depression.  I'm going to go talk to Fuu and Makoto."

	Gendo nodded.  "Let me know what you find out."  He
left the office with Fuyutsuki trailing after him, then
turned and locked it.

	They went their separate ways, and Fuyutsuki tried
to convince himself it would all work out all right.

	
                          -*- 

	Yui cursed at the book.  All the spells except a few
curses required things she didn't have.  "What good is this?  
What's a shantak anyway?"

	"Shantak?" Gendo asked from the door.  "What are you
reading?"

	"Nothing," she said, trying to hide it behind her.

	He strode over and took the book from her.  His eyes
widened as he read through the first page.  "Who gave this
to you?  This is VERY dangerous."

	"I...sent for it by mail-order."

	His eyes narrowed.  "Yui, don't play games with me."

	"I have the right to read whatever I want!"

	"Not this you don't."

	Her eyes narrowed.  "Let me guess, you just come
here for the sex!"

	"This isn't about sex!  This book is..."

	"Damn you!  I'm sick of being a prisoner here!  You
don't care about me at all!"  She pounded with her fists on
his chest, having little effect.

	"I DO care about you, or I'd let you read this!"  
He glowered at her and tried to make eye contact.

	He failed.  Instead, she backed up and pointed at
him.  Her normally pale skin had paled more, her blue hair
seemed to turn to ice as she spoke.  "Unfaithful lover, I
curse thee with the curse of a thousand boils!  May the
hounds of the moon hunt you from dusk to dawn with
the...dammit, I can't remember the rest!"

	He frowned at her, advancing on her.  "Yui..."

	"Something about Gorgo and Mormo and the hunger of
the Dark Goat of the Woods and..."  She frowned, trying to
get the strange words to form, enjoying that mentioning
these names made him look more and more worried.  "May you
be castrated by Y'golonac!  I call upon him to avenge the
ills which...blast it, can't remember that one either."

	Gendo hurled the book he was holding to the floor
like it was a snake.  "Where did you hear that name?"

	She blinked.  "It's in the book."

	Gendo fumbled for his cigarette lighter.  "Never,
ever say that name!  Don't ever say it to another living
soul!"

	"Y'golonac," she said, sticking her tongue out at
him.

	He slapped her.  "I'm serious!  He'll hear you!  
Never, ever invoke such beings casually!"

	She narrowed her eyes.  "Fuck you.  Y'golonac!  
Y'golonac!"  The words of the book finally popped into her
mind.  "Y'golonac, who fulfills all desires, I call upon you
to..."

	Gendo grabbed her tongue, then grabbed her right
wrist.  She bit him, drawing blood, and he lost his grip.

	Her eyes were wild and crazed, and Gendo realized it
was almost too late.  Her eyes shone a bright red and the
lines on her palms began to glow.  His brain quickly ran
through his options, then concluded that it was time to run
for it.

	Unfortunately, she was now too fast for him,
grabbing him even as he started to turn.  Her hair was
starting to fall out, and her flesh to squirm in unnatural
ways.  Light glinted off her fangs.  "You came for sex,
_dear_," she said with a deepening voice.  "Let me show you
what I can do for my beloved Gendo."

	He tried to lock gazes with her in a last desperate
ploy, only to find himself plunging into an abyss he could
not fathom.  With great effort, he pulled himself out of it,
only to find himself watching a mouth form in Yui's palm.  
For the first time in years, Gendo began to scream.

                          -*- 

	The door opened, and Ritsuko gave a sigh of relief.  
"The passcode worked."

	"Well, there could be a silent alarm," Kaji said,
drawing his gun.  Ritsuko did likewise.  He strode into the
metal corridor beyond.  Ritsuko followed a few feet behind.  
"So we'd best hurry."

	About forty feet down the hallway, they saw a door
to the left, and beyond it, five feet more of hallway ending
at another security door. The door on the left had a small
wooden duck on it hanging from a peg.  It said, 'Yui's
Room'.

	They both stared at it, then turned and stared at
each other.  "That was his wife, right?" Kaji finally
whispered.

	"Yes," she replied.  "But she's dead.  She was
assimilated into Unit00 during a test.  Maybe it was her old
room, and he can't bear to change it?"

	"I guess we start there, then," he said, checking
his clip.  "We can't afford to leave any witnesses behind."

	Ritsuko felt her stomach knot at the thought of
killing someone.  We have no choice, she told herself.  
Maybe.  "If there is someone, she'll know more of what's
going on here than we do."

	He nodded.  "True.  I'll open this door, keep the
other one covered."

	She nodded, and pointed her gun at it, wishing she'd
done more time on the firearms range and wishing she'd been
able to get Misato to do this instead of her.

	He kicked the door open, gun leveled through it, and
then she saw his eyes widen.  "What the hell?"

	A deep voice whose gender was hard to identify spoke
through the doorway.  "Why look, Gendo, we have guests.  I
think they want to join us.  Say hello to the nice people,
Gendo."

	She moved to look through the door and saw one of
the most horrible sights she'd ever seen in her life.  
Gendo was sprawled on the floor in a pool of his own blood,
his glasses tossed aside, his clothing mostly ripped off.  
If he wasn't already dead, he was certainly working on
dying.  What loomed over him was somewhat like Rei...as
conceived by the love child of Salvador Dali and H. R Giger.  
The hair was the most easily recognized part, but her head
was shrunken, and visibly getting smaller, while her torso
was swollen, bulked out like a lifter on steroids, and while
she had definitely female breasts, what was left of her
clothing hinted at male genitalia below the waist.  Her
hands were puffy and red, and mouths had opened in the
palms.

	Ritsuko had never wet herself since she was in
diapers, but her body chose to break that streak.  She was
too terrified to notice.  She fired at it, but the shot went
wild.

	Kaji fired ten times, blowing off the creature's
head and filling its torso with lead.  The mouth- hands
simply laughed, and then it charged them as he switched
clips.  The body became visibly more masculine, an
exaggerated parody of the male form, as it trampled Gendo
and drove its right palm into Kaji's face, moving with
inhuman speed.  Its left hand grabbed at Ritsuko, but caught
only one side of her labcoat, which ripped loose from the
rest of it, leaving the creature with only the right pocket,
but no Ritsuko.

	Kaji managed to shout, "Run," and then blood ran
down his face.  She saw him firing more shots into the thing
as she ran, but it didn't die; the bullets flattened
themselves against its chest, then fell spent to the ground.  
"Tell Misato..." he began, but then his voice was cut off;
Ritsuko never did learn why for sure, as she was now running
without looking back.

                          -*- 
	
	The Children sat around the debriefing room, looking
glum.  Asuka was in one corner with Counselor Taiki, talking
to him quietly.  Rei lurked nearby, watching them without
speaking.  Touji and Shinji sat near a computer monitor,
watching the screen saver to avoid having to talk.  Touji
finally broke the silence, saying, "Ya know, I've seen her do
wings before.  But it was in the dream world.  Guess it don't
work so good here."

	"I wish I knew why we can't go home," Shinji said.  
"Everyone else seems to have left."

	Fuyutsuki entered.  "Has anyone seen Akagi-san?"  
he asked.

	"No," Touji said.

	Shinji and Rei both shook their heads.  Asuka didn't
even notice the question.

	The lights dimmed, then went out completely.

	"Shit," Touji said.  "Three miles down and the power
goes out."

	"MAGI," Fuyutsuki said, "What is the problem?"

	The MAGI were silent.

	Shinji said, "Does that mean MAGI's been knocked
out?"

	"The auxiliaries should come up, and MAGI has a
separate power supply," Fuyutsuki said.  "However, until the
auxiliaries come on line, we can only contact MAGI from the
bridges, so we'd best head for one.  You'd best come with us
too, Counselor."

	Taiki nodded and got up, then after some fumbling in
the dark, they formed a chain and began heading through the
pitch black tunnels, the only sound the echoing of their
footsteps.  Much to Touji's surprise, Fuyutsuki didn't seem
to have any trouble finding his way in the dark.

	"You part bat or something?" he asked.

	"Yes, I use echolocation to navigate," Fuyutsuki
replied with an amused tone.

	"That's a joke, right?" Touji asked after a few
seconds.

	"Yes," Fuyutsuki replied, laughing.

	"Ya never know for sure around here."

                          -*- 

	"MAGI, restore power now!" Misato ordered, pounding
pointlessly on a panel.

	"NO COMMANDS BEING ACCEPTED FROM THOSE BELOW
SERAPHIM CLEARANCE," MAGI repeated for the fiftieth time.

	The bridge was dimly lit by back-up power, and the
controls and monitors seemed to be running...they just
didn't do anything when you tried to use them.

	"Sempai isn't answering her cellular," Maya said,
giving up on her effort to call her.
	
	"Perhaps this is some sort of test Commander Ikari
is conducting," Fuu speculated.  "Only he and Commander
Fuyutsuki have Seraphim clearance, right?"

	"It has to be one of them," Misato said.  "IF it's a
test.  But I'm inclined to think someone has subverted
MAGI."

	"Commander Ikari isn't answering his phone,"  
Makoto said.

	"Call Fuyutsuki."

	After three rings, Fuyutsuki answered.  
//"Hello?"//

	"Is this a test?" Makoto asked.

	"Gimme," Misato said, taking the phone.  "Do you
know what the hell's going on?"

	//"I assumed it was simply a power failure,"// he
replied.
	
	"MAGI won't take orders from anyone below your
clearance, and Ikari isn't taking calls."

	Fuyutsuki cursed, surprising her, then said, //"I'm
on my way with the Children.  Call Security and have them
mobilize all their men.  I fear someone has hacked into
MAGI, and they'd have to be inside to do that.  Is Akagi-san
there?"//

	"No," Misato said.  "She isn't answering her phone."

	//"It is possible that she has betrayed us."// His
voice was grim.  //"If so, it may prove difficult to
impossible to regain control of MAGI.  Only she fully
understands its secrets...if anyone living does."//

	"Ritsuko would never betray us!" Misato spat into
the phone.

	Maya's head jerked around.  "What about sempai?"

	//"It is possible she has simply snapped.  For that
matter, it's possible that MAGI has gone mad in some
fashion.  I'm afraid computers are not my specialty.  Or
worst of all, that the next Angel has taken control of it.  
Once I arrive with the Children, I will see if it will
accept my commands."//

	"Yes sir," she said.  "Any idea how close you are?"

	//"Fifteen minutes, I think,"// he said.  //"It
would be faster if we could see."//

	"Give me a call if you have any problems."

	//"I will.  Over and out."//

	She put away the phone.

	Maya said, "He thinks Akagi-sama betrayed us?"

	"No one else has the knowledge to override the
safeguards.  Unless you or one of the other computer techs
is hiding something," Misato said, sitting down.

	Maya looked thoughtfully at the controls.  "I could
try opening the access panel and doing an override from
inside."

	"Wait until Fuyutsuki gets here," Misato said.  
"And just plan it.  Hopefully, he can restore control."

	She nodded and got out her palm pilot and started
making plans.

                          -*- 

	"Is this safe?" Shinji asked nervously as they
walked up an escalator in the dark.  His right arm was ahead
of him, holding Rei's hand, while his left arm trailed back
to hold Asuka's hand.

	"Well, it's this or we could try climbing the
walls," Fuyutsuki said.  "Since the elevators won't run."

	"It's just a staircase," Touji said.  "When it ain't
running.  Unless Ayanami and Langley decide to throw you
over the edge, ain't nothing gonna happen to you.  Feel
sorry for me; I gotta hold Langley's hand."

	Asuka made no reply, while Counselor Taiki said,
"That's not a nice thing to say."

	"You ain't the one who..." he began, then decided to
shut up.

	"This is not a time for dissension am... aaaaaaaaaaa 
aaaaaaaaaa!!!!!"  Touji felt Counselor Taiki be wrenched 
loose from his grasp, then heard the man fall, thanks to 
the screaming.

	He lashed out instinctively with a back kick and hit
something solid, then heard it stumble.  "Aw shit!  Hey! I
could use some help here!" he shouted.

	"Rei, subdue it," Fuyutsuki said.  "Whatever it is.  
Everyone else, hurry up the stairs!"

	Shinji looked surprised.  "Rei? But-"

	Before he could finish, Rei blazed past them, a blur
of white in the darkness the only hint of her passing.

	Touji yelped in shock, scrambling away as Rei
approached, then they all looked down into the darkness.  
>>From a distance they could hear the sounds of a struggle,
metal bending and flesh pounding upon flesh.

	Shocked, Shinji asked, "Can... can Rei..."

	"Better than any of the rest of us," Fuyutsuki said.

	"That's an understatement," Touji muttered.

	"Taiki-san, are you alive down there?" Shinji
shouted.

	There was no answer, only snarls and the sound of
flesh striking flesh below them.  Then it stopped, and Rei
rejoined them, seeming to appear from nowhere. Asuka and
Shinji stared at Rei in shock.  Touji wasn't surprised, and
Fuyutsuki seemed to be expecting it.

	"The attacker?" Fuyutsuki asked.

	"He fled," she replied.  "Pursue?"

	"No," he said.  "So it was a human?"

	"No," she said.  "He smelled like one of us."

	"But we're human," Asuka said weakly.

	"Like a Child, but not," Rei said.  "No head."

	Fuyutsuki frowned deeply, having a sinking feeling
he knew what was going on.

	Far below them, they heard Counselor Taiki scream,
and they began to run.

                          -*- 

	Ritsuko felt her way along a wall, wishing she could
remember the tunnel network better in the dark.  Normally,
she never got lost, but she was discovering how dependent
she'd been on sight.  Plus, she'd rarely come down this
deep.  She stuck a hand in her left pocket again; she didn't
need the formula right now, but it was subtly reassuring to
know it was there.  Although it would have been better if
the monster had taken that instead of her cellular phone,
under the circumstances.  No more keeping the phone in the
labcoat, she vowed.  Too easily stolen by monsters.

	She laughed a little at that, then sighed and kept
going, trying to remember where the staircase was, and
cursing the darkness.  Are there phones on this level?, she
asked herself.  And if so, where?

	There was a footstep, and she froze.  It could be
friendly, or it could be the creature, she thought.  Should
I stay quiet or speak?

	The silence lingered, haunting her as she tried to
make up her mind.  Either she'd imagined it, or the thing
was being stealthy.  And then she remembered...

	I have a penlight, she thought.  She'd been too
panicked to think of it before.  But should I use it?  The
creature might not know I'm here.
	
	There was another, single step, somewhat closer.  
She felt herself start to sweat, and her own breathing
sounded louder than a jet engine.  Damnation, she thought.  
I hate this.

	She hefted her gun, even though she feared it
wouldn't work.  She'd loaded a fresh clip earlier, and tried
to do some thinking on why bullets hadn't hurt its torso,
but the head had been vulnerable.  It must have possessed
one of the Rei clones, she thought.  But what was a Rei
clone doing with...

	Her stomach turned as she realized what Gendo must
have been doing with the clone.  But how did he get one
without us noticing she was missing?, Ritsuko asked herself.  
And how did it get possessed?  Was it really Y'golonac, or
had the Rei clone simply destabilized?  The latter seemed
more likely, except that none of the usual stressors could
have been present.  Unless sex causes them to
destabilize...we've never tried that, Ritsuko thought.

	On the other hand, the power outage seemed to
indicate either cosmic bad luck at work, or the hand of an
Angel.  Although the one short reference she'd read to
Y'golonac hadn't indicated he had any sort of power over
electricity.

	Wait... Y'golonac shapechanges, she thought.  He
could take on Gendo's voice and order MAGI to shut down the
power.  And MAGI is partly organic... perhaps he could
possess it.  It wouldn't be hard for it to trick MAGI
into...reading its name.  It could even possess, she thought
with horror, even me.

	And then firm hands grabbed her right hand in the
darkness, shoving it against the wall, holding the gun
pointed harmlessly upwards.  A glowing outline formed in the
darkness, light limning a headless monstrosity, its body
both muscular and flabby, the creature from whom she had
fled before.  It roared in triumph.

	Desperately, she reached into her left pocket with
her left hand, extracting the syringe within and flicking
off the safety cap on it.  While it wasted time ripping her
shirt open and ripping off her skirt with its free right
hand, she fumblingly filled the syringe with the greenish
fluid.  What it would do, she had no idea, but if nothing
else, she hoped it would distract the thing long enough for
her to wrench loose and run.

	As it reached to tear off her bra, she jabbed the
syringe into where its head should have been, and injected
the fluid.  It howled and lost its grip on her, staggering
back.  A feminine head, definitely a Rei-like head, began to
grow where the fluid had been injected, and the creature
began to take on a more feminine form.  It began to stagger
about, bouncing into the walls.

	Ritsuko took this opportunity to run.  If it is
Y'golonac, she thought, it won't take long for him to
overcome that.  And if it isn't, I'm hardly up for hand to
hand combat with a Rei clone.  At least now I know the
formula may have some use for the Children...

                          -*- 

	Touji pounded on the door.  "Open, dammit!"

	Fuyutsuki sighed.  "I should have thought of this.  
No power and electrical doors means we can't get into the
bridge."

	Rei began running her fingers along the edge of the
door in the darkness.

	"Are there any service hatches or something?"  
Shinji asked.

	They faintly heard Maya through the door.  "Yes, but
you'd need tools to get them open," she said.  "You can get
inside Magi through the air ducts, then from..."

	Rei wrenched the door open, and the dim auxiliary
lighting from the bridge spilled out into the hallway.  
Again, Shinji and Asuka stared at her.

	"Or you could do that," said Maya.

	Fuyutsuki stepped inside.  "MAGI, restore power.  
This is Commander Fuyutsuki, Seraphim Clearance."

	"Commander Fuyutsuki has been demoted to Guardian
Angel Clearance."  MAGI calmly replied.

	Everyone turned and stared in shock, and Fuyutsuki
sighed.  "Please identify all personnel who possess Seraphim
Clearance."

	"Guardian Angels are not cleared for that
information."

	Misato said, "This is Commander Katsuragi Misato,
Dominion Clearance.  Please identify all holders of Seraphim
Clearance."

	"Currently, only Commander Ikari holds Seraphim
Clearance."

	"Where is he?"

	"That information is restricted."

	"Maya, open MAGI's access panel and try to override
it from inside.  I'll assist you."  He pulled out a piece of
chalk from an inside jacket pocket.  "Children, draw an
Elder Sign on the door.  And no one go outside."

	"Do you have any idea what's going on?" Misato
demanded.

	"Only in the vaguest of terms, but I'm inclined to
suspect someone's overwhelmed Commander Ikari and forced him
to cooperate.  We probably have one or more cultist
traitors.  Also, there's at least one Angelic Servitor loose
in NERV.  Rei fought it.  Describe it, Rei."

	"Like a Child without a head," Rei said, while
Shinji began drawing the Elder Sign on the door, after
borrowing the one Misato was wearing to use as a model.  
"Very strong, male, fast."

	"A headless man?  Like in the story?" Makoto asked.

	"Story?" Rei asked.

	"Like a Child?" Misato asked.  "You think it could
pilot an EVA, you mean?"

	"It takes from what it slays," Rei replied.

	"I see," Fuyutsuki said.  "Now I understand what's
happened."

	"What?" Misato asked.  "What's going on?"

	"DAGON," Maya said.  "One of the...test subjects
must have escaped, right?  And managed to waylay Commander
Ikari?  But how would it know who he is?"

	"Likely some traitor assisted it.  Or..."  He
frowned.  "Is there some way to bypass MAGI and access
Polaris?"

	"We could call NERV-Germany and have them access
it," Fuu said.  "But why do we need Polaris?"

	"To make sure we don't have an Angel inside the
base," he said.

	She paled, then nodded and got on her phone.

                          -*- 

	"Dave?  What are you doing, Dave?" the MAGI kept
repeating in unison.  It was starting to drive everyone on
the bridge nuts, especially Maya, who was now inside MAGI,
trying to decipher all the notes which Ritsuko's mother had
left behind pinned to just about every surface.  They were a
godsend, except for being rather cryptically written in bad
handwriting.

	Fuyutsuki punched three keys and MAGI shut up.  
"Well, at least we know the security system to detect manual
tampering worked."

	Outside, in the bridge, everyone paced about
nervously.  Misato's phone rang.  "Hello?" she asked.

	//"M...Misato?  Is that you?"// Kaji croaked out.

	"Kaji!  Where are you?  Did the...whatever we're
facing attack you?"

	//"Ritsuko got away, but it nailed me.  I think it
thought I was dead,"// he said.  //"Did Ritsuko...cough... 
get to you yet?"//

	"Hold on, Kaji!  I'll take a security squad down and
get you."  Fortunately for Misato, she'd been able to
assemble a fair sized security force which had picked its
way through the darkened halls to the bridge.  Several dozen
more guards were scattered lost through the base, unable to
find their way anywhere in the dark.  "We don't know where
Ritsuko is; she isn't answering her phone."

	"It's Kaji?" Asuka asked.  "Is he okay?"

	"He's alive," Misato said to her.  "And okay enough
to call us."  Into the phone, she asked, "Where are you?"

	//"Dammit...umm..."// There were fumbling sounds.  
//"Just outside Sector Thirteen.  I think.  It's damn dark
and I'm not sure which way I went.  Bring lots of guns.  
Last I saw of it, it was still bleeding from where I shot
it, so I guess they work."//

	"I'm on my way."  She hung up, then turned to Makoto.  
"You're in charge of defending the bridge.  If MAGI comes 
up, call me, then get the Children to their EVAs.  We have 
to make sure the Angel, if there is one, can't get to
them.  Until then, all of you stay here."

	Fuyutsuki crawled out of the MAGI.  "You're not
going anyway, Katsuragi."

	"I have to go save Kaji!"

	"I smell a trap.  While I think it would be wise to
recover him, we can't afford to risk losing you."

	They glared back and forth at each other.  "Do you
think he's the traitor?" she hissed.

	"I think a man with a gun to his head will say just
about anything," Fuyutsuki replied.  "And we will need you
as soon as MAGI comes on line."

	"If it does."

	"If it doesn't, we may likely be doomed.  The air
conditioning isn't running.  Notice how it's starting to get
musty in here?  And if he wasn't your lover, would you be
running off yourself like this?"

	Misato clenched her hands into fists, then sagged.  
"Have it your way.  Makoto, you're leading the rescue
squad."  She took off her Elder Sign medallion and strung it
around his neck.  "This may help, I hope."

	He saluted.  "I'll do my best."

	"You'd better," she said.  "I can't afford to lose
both of you."

	He nodded, then turned and picked out a squad from
the milling about security men, then they headed out after
arming themselves from the bridge armory.

                          -*- 

	"What the fuck are we up against, anyway, sir?"  
one of the ten security men asked.

	"A headless monster," Makoto said, trying to avoid
accidentally pointing his rifle at anyone as they moved
along.  "You see anything yet, Dexter?"

	Dexter, who was on point, said, "No sir.  Can we
shoot it?"

	"Inspector Kaji thought it would work, but I guess
we'll find out," Makoto said.

	They turned a corner, and then Dexter announced,
"Sector 13 entrance is just up ahead, and there's a man
crumpled on the floor about thirty feet from it."

	Soon, they could all see Kaji, curled up in a bloody
ball.  Dexter approached him.  "Inspector Kaji?"

	Kaji didn't do anything but lie there.  Dexter
knelt to inspect him.  "He's pretty dead," Dexter said.

	Then a headless humanoid, naked unless you counted
body hair, erupted out of the sector 13 entrance.  It moved
inhumanly fast; by the time everyone brought rifles to bear,
Dexter's head was flying towards Suboshi, with the creature
close behind.

	The next four minutes was a haze of rifle fire,
screams, blood, and brief, bloody images of conflict lit
only by flashlights and muzzle flares.  Bullets bounced
harmlessly off the creature, or flattened themselves against
its flesh.  Knives left only scratches.

	When the smoke cleared, only the creature and Makoto
remained.  It moved towards him, then fell back.  When he
saw it reach for a gun, he ran for his life, crying for
shame.

	Bullets flew around him, but its aim was lousy,
possibly because it had no eyes.

	He wasn't sure how long he ran, or why it didn't
follow, although the cries of sexual passion that erupted
behind him once the shooting stopped made him come up with
theories he would rather not have been able to surmise.  
His running finally ceased when he was about halfway back to
the bridge and heard movement ahead of him.  "Hello?" he
asked.

	"Makoto?" a woman's voice asked.

	He managed to train his flashlight on her.  
"Akagi-san," he said, seeing it was her.  "You're alive."

	"You're covered with blood," she said, coming over
to him.

	"Everyone died but me when we tried to rescue Kaji,"
he said, shuddering and leaning on the wall.  "I think it
raped their corpses," he spat out.  "Or maybe it just gets
off on killing.  They all died.  All ten of them.  
Fuyutsuki was right to not let Mi...Katsuragi-san go."

	Ritsuko sighed.  "Do you have your cellular?"

	"Yes," he said.

	"Good.  We'd best let them know we're alive.  Do you
know how to get to the bridge from here?  I've lost my
bearings."

	"This way, I think," he said weakly.  "Follow me
while I call."

                          -*- 

	"MAGI, Code Angelic Choir Symphony #5," Ritsuko said
inside MAGI.

	"Divine Clearance Acknowledged," MAGI said.

	"Restore all power, link to POLARIS and track the
Angelic intruder.  Restore Commander Fuyutsuki to Seraphim
clearance.  Identify who gave the orders to demote him and
shut off the power."

	"Commander Ikari Gendo did," MAGI reported.

	"Father gave the orders?" Shinji asked in shock.

	"I guess he finally snapped," Touji said.  "Bastard
always did look crazy to me."

	"MAGI, strip Commander Ikari of his security
clearance entirely."

	"Done."

	"Surely Commander Ikari wouldn't have betrayed us,"
Fuu said.

	"No, not by choice," Fuyutsuki said.

	"The last I saw of Commander Ikari, he was half-
naked and probably dead," Ritsuko said through the access
hatch.  "We found the monster raping and mangling him."

	Maya winced, as did everyone else.

	Shinji said, "Father is dead?"  He sounded utterly
shocked.

	"Probably, but I didn't have a chance to confirm
it," Ritsuko said.

	"What about Kaji?" Asuka asked.

	"He's probably dead as well, unfortunately," Ritsuko ]
said.  "Almost certainly."

	Asuka felt her heart sink through her shoes and stared
in horror.  "He can't be dead!"

	"I'm afraid he is," she said.  "We will have to mourn him
later," Ritsuko said.  "We have a duty to do."

	"I will do my duty, but..."  Asuka concentrated, trying 
to focus.  She knew she couldn't afford to come apart, but...
Kaji was dead.  Dead.  She'd pretty much given up on him, but 
that didn't mean she didn't still care.  And now...

	She shook her head, trying to pull herself together.  She 
felt Shinji gently put a hand on her shoulder, and smiled 
a little at that, especially after he quickly removed it and 
looked nervous.  "I will do my duty," she said softly.

	"We all must," Ritsuko said.  

	"POLARIS is indicating the Angel's on level six,"
Makoto said weakly from his control panel, which had now
come to life.  He was still covered with blood.  "Heading
for the EVA bay."

	Touji blinked.  "That ain't good, right?"

	"Shit," Misato said.  "Children, you're going to
have to run with me."

	"I will take them," Fuyutsuki said.

	"Can you run?" she asked.

	"I am more expendable than you at the moment,"  he
said flatly.  "They will need you here to command them.  
And I am capable of certain counter-measures, should it
become necessary."

	Her eyes narrowed.  "Counter-measures?"

	"We don't have time to argue.  Children, follow me."

	He departed with the Children trailing silently
after him.

	"He knows something," Misato said.

	"MAGI, using your databases, identify the Angel,"
Ritsuko said from inside MAGI.

	"No code name has been designated," MAGI reported.

	"The true name."

	"Its true name renders those who know it vulnerable
to possession according to three data sources," MAGI said.

	"Okay, make up a code name," Ritsuko said,
irritatedly.

	"It is known as the Defiler in one text, and in two
as the Violator."

	Maya winced.  "That sounds nasty, Sempai."

	"It IS nasty," she said.  "And if it can control an
EVA with its current body..."  She shuddered.  "It looked
like it was in a DAGON subject, which means it probably
can."

	Misato closed her eyes, and began to pray, forcing
herself to not think about Kaji being dead, because she knew
the second she let herself really think about that, she
would just come completely unglued.  I don't know who I'm
praying to, she thought, but whoever you are, please let
them get to the EVAs before the Violator does, please!

                          -*- 

	It was just the five of them, the four children and
the old man.  Rei lead the expedition while Fuyutsuki
brought up the rear.  They tried not to be too tense, though
the looming darkness and haunting shadows cast by the dim
emergency lights didn't help their anxiety any.

	It seemed odd, most of the children silently
thought, that they were going out there without armed
escort.  Fuyutsuki said he had ways of fending off the
Violator, but they had to wonder exactly what a skinny old
man could do that several divisions of armed soldiers could
not.

	They were too polite, though, not to bluntly state
that.

	Most of them were, anyway.

	"Hey, gramps, why're we travelin' without the
soldiers backin' us up?  No offense, man, but just you bein'
between us and some freaky creature in the dark don't
comfort me much."

	Shinji mentally sighed.  Asuka shot a brief glare at
him.  Rei raised an eyebrow.

	Fuyutsuki chuckled.  "I'm not very comfortable being
between you and some hideous monster in the dark either,
son, but we do what we must."

	This did not comfort Touji any.

	The EVA pits were some levels down from them, so
once again they found themselves climbing down darkened
stairwells.  For a moment they heard a skittering in the
dark, and they imagined clawed feet upon metal floors.

	Fuyutsuki shouted an odd, almost inhuman syllable.  
The children all winced upon hearing it, Rei moreso than the
others, Touji the least.  Something in the distance growled,
then shuffled away.

	"Move faster, children," Fuyutsuki said nervously.  
"Must move faster."

	Their footsteps upon the iron stairways seemed too
loud by far, but circumstances weren't allowing
stealthiness.  The walk to the EVA bay floor was tense, but
uneventful, one more thing that made them worry.  It was
easy so far, entirely too easy.  This made for a terrible
cliche, but it still held true.

	The doorway to the stairwell opened into a cavernous
tunnel, dull steel lining the curved ceiling and walls and
the massive reservoir of LCL was visible underfoot through
the metal grating walkway.  Fuyutsuki wrinkled his nose at
the stench of it, as did Touji, though Shinji only looked
mildly irritated while Rei and Asuka not at all.

	"Guess that shit kills yer sense'a smell or
something," Touji muttered.

	"How close are we?" asked Asuka as they walked down
the long corridor.

	Fuyutsuki looked around, frowning.  "A few minutes
more, I should think."

	Asuka asked, "Um, when we get to the EVAs... then
what?"

	Touji snorted.  "Ain't that obvious?  We kick that
thing's ass!"

	"In case you haven't noticed, _idiot_, the EVAs
don't fit through most tunnels here, and from what we've
been told, this thing we're facing is running around in the
tunnels where _we_ can't go."

	Fuyutsuki nodded.  "True, but we're not going there
necessarily to take it on.  If what Dr. Akagi assumes is
correct, we need you to move the EVAs to the surface before
it reaches the-"

	And then the grating beneath his feet burst open,
and a long, pale pair of arms lunged upwards and grabbed
Fuyutsuki's legs, pulling him through the rough grating and
into the murky LCL depths below.

	Touji reacted first.

	"Oh fuck!"

                          -*-

	He awoke to the foul stench of LCL and its cold,
wet, slimy touch flowing about him up to his neck.  His
hands and feet were bound to the wall by some unknown
substance, organic in its feel, and the same odd substance
covered his mouth.

	Fuyutsuki tried not to think about its taste.

	From his surroundings, he assumed it was a tunnel
within the massive hydraulics system that moved the LCL
about the base, probably not too far from where he'd been
ambushed.  Across from him, barely illuminated from the
little light that filtered down, he saw a headless set of
shoulders.

	Not the worst situation he'd ever been in, but still
fairly bad.

	The creature raised its arms, and he could barely
make out a little mouth on each palm, both turned towards
him.

	''little man little man'' whispered one mouth.

	''feeling afraid feeling weak'' whispered the other.

	He felt a rush of fear hit him, and he tried
fruitlessly to pull free from his bonds.  Both of the mouths
chittered a high pitched sort of giggling, and the creature
moved forward.  As it did so, he could see a head forming
between those shoulders, and its overall shape slimming
down, becoming more feminine.

	One pale hand caressed his left cheek, and he felt a
slimy trail as the mouth on its palm reached out with a
tongue.

	The Violator leaned forward, and Fuyutsuki stared
into eyes he'd longed to see again, lips he wished he'd
touched long ago...

	Yui.

	''everything you wanted'' one mouth whispered
seductively.

	''everything you dreamed'' whispered another.

	Yui leaned forward, her lips gently brushing on his
ear, her hot breath tickling over him.

	He knew this wasn't real, but the Violator's power
was strong and he was bound helpless.  His mind was already
slipping into the illusion, fighting back bitter years of
regret.

	''We'll talk later, dear Fuyutsuki,'' Yui's
melodious voice said to him.  ''I did Gendo too fast, and
lost some information, but with you... we'll take it
slooow...''

	She nibbled on his hear.  Weakly, he tried to pull
away.

	''But first,'' she said with a giggle, '' I have to
take care of the Children.''

                          -*-

	"Oh fuck!"

	Asuka slugged Touji's shoulder.  "Will you STOP
saying that!"

	"The old guy just got sucked down Goo River, we
ain't got weapons, and we don't know which way our Evas
are!" Touji yelled back.

	The Children ran down the corridor, lead silently by
Rei.  She seemed to be the only one among them that knew the
base, and it didn't hurt that she'd demonstrated some
serious fighting ability either.

	"Are we there yet?" asked Shinji.

	She shook her head silently.

	They reached the end of the corridor, arriving at an
intersection with solid ground instead of grating.  It was
something far more comforting to them, seemingly less
vulnerable.

	They took a left turn there, through a fairly narrow
steel passage which ended in a bulkhead.  They struggled for
a moment, all four of them pulling at the wheel that opened
the door.  On the other side was a familiar sight: the lower
elevator chamber that they normally would have gone through
if the power was on. A little further down, beyond a sliding
metal gate door, were the Evas and the gantries that
surrounded them.

	As they entered the room, Touji eyed the air vents
warily.

	"Did you see something there?" asked Shinji.

	"Naw," he replied.  "But y'know how it always goes
in them horror movies... the nasty sonovabitch always pops
outta the air vents."

	Shinji eyed the air vents nervously.  "Oh... right."

	Rei suddenly tensed, looking around them.  "It's
here," she said quietly.

	From somewhere nearby came the roar of twisting
metal, close enough to set the ground beneath them
vibrating.

	"Oooooh fuck," muttered Touji.

	"Guys!" yelled Asuka.  "We need to get this gate
open NOW!"

	Rei responded first, putting both hands to the
center and pulling outwards.  Before anyone else could join,
however, something huge landed with a heavy thud on the
other side.  Rei barely took a step back before it lunged
through the gate with its massive arms, grabbing Rei by the
shoulders, pulling her through.

	The other Children cried out her name, even as she
was lifted high and slammed head-first into the ground
repeatedly before she could even act.  There was a sickening
crunch, and Rei went limp in its hands.

	The Children stared in shock, Shinji especially so,
staring at the limp body of their comrade even as the
hulking, headless monstrosity turned towards them.

	"REI! screamed Shinji.

	The Violator turned on him next, tossing Rei aside
like a rag doll.  With a backhanded swipe it struck Shinji,
slamming him into a steel wall.

	"Shinji!" yelled Asuka.  "NO!"

	She felt something within rise, power surging
through her blood, and then by instinct she let it free.

	The Violator suddenly found itself encased in a
thick layer of ice.  It roared defiantly and smashed its way
out.  Asuka was struck hard by a flying chunk of ice, giving
the Violator a momentary reprieve, only to be struck by
bolts of flame as Touji sent them flying from his hands.

	"EAT HOT SHIT, ASSHOLE!" He yelled bravely.  Touji
hadn't a clue how he was doing it, the power just seemed to
come from _somewhere_ within, and he wasn't about to look a
gift horse in the mouth.

	It was a valiant try, but not enough to stop the
Violator from punching him into the next room and into sweet
oblivion.

	The Violator growled angrily, then turned to Eva00,
but was stopped when it suddenly found itself seized by
tentacles.

	Gritting her teeth, sweat rolling down her face,
Asuka willed herself to control the massive tentacles that
had exploded from her back.  Vague memories of ancient times
and blood-tinted ceremonies swirled in her head, but she
pushed them aside and focused on the here and now.  With
another push of will, she set her tentacles to drain its
power, and gasped at the sudden and intense feelings flowing
to her, agony and ecstasy, pain and pleasure, it was hard to
tell where one ended and the other began.

	The Violator, though weakened, still managed to spin
about hard, yanking Asuka into the air, tentacles flailing,
and falling into the depths of the LCL.

	And then it stopped suddenly, shocked at the sudden
impact of a fist that slammed through its center from
behind.  It slumped forward, falling to its knees, its still
beating heart held in Rei's hand.

	A moment later, she crushed it.

	Rei looked down at the creature known as Y'Golnac as
it shriveled away, and her eyes widened at its final
transformation.

	She looked at a face not unlike her own, and eyes
that were indeed her eyes, but with a sadness that she'd
never known.

	What was left of Yui turned to her side, black ooze
bleeding out from her gaping wound.  She coughed, and that
too yielded black sludge.

	Feeling some compulsion she couldn't explain, Rei
reached out to her, cupping the side of Yui's face in her
hand.

	Tears began to fall from Yui's eyes, and those too
were tainted black.

	Rei stared at her, blankly, and asked, "Why?"

	"I just... didn't want to be... a... alo..."

	A moment later, Yui's form deteriorated into an
unrecognizable black husk.

	Rei stared in silence.

	And then its power was released in a surge, filling
the room, sending the children into epileptic seizures as a
millennia of memories and another taste of eldrich power
surged through them.

	And then it was gone.


                          -*-

	"Shinji..."

	A distant memory, in black and white.

	"Shinji..."

	A gentle touch, a mother's touch.

	"Shinji... wake up..."

	"Nnng..."

	As always, a shadowy form, but the details were
always beyond him.

	"Shinji, can you stand?"

	"M... mom?"

	"No."

	His eyes snapped open suddenly, and he found himself
staring directly into familiar crimson eyes.

	"Rei!"

	The nearly albino girl blinked in confusion as she
found herself embraced by a sobbing Shinji.

	"Why?" she asked.

	"Wha... what?" asked Shinji, letting go and wiping
away the tears.

	"Why do you cry?"

	Shinji tried not to laugh, even though the tears
were still falling. It was such a Rei-ish question.

	"Because I'm glad you're okay," he finally said.  
"I thought... I thought you'd died."

	"A-hem."

	Both of them looked up at Asuka, who, for some
reason that escaped Shinji, had massive holes in the back of
her plugsuit.  "If, er, you guys are done, we still gotta
find Commander Fuyutsuki."

	Rei nodded.  "I can find him."

	"Somehow, First Child," remarked Asuka dryly, "I
knew you would."

	For some reason, Shinji felt... good.  He wasn't
sure why, but he just felt... satisfied.  That wasn't quite
the word either, but he was feeling a lot better than he
should have been, considering the dent in the metal wall was
made with his head.

	He shrugged it off as One Of Those Things. It made
life simpler that way.

	At that moment, Touji stumbled into the room.  
"Jeez... I got one hell of a headache, guys, but I gotta
tell ya, I kinda feel good."

	The other Children stared at him.

	"Um, Touji?" asked Shinji.

	Touji fanned himself.  "Is it hot in here or is it
just me?"

	"Touji, why's your hand on fire?"

	"It what? WHOA!"

	A moment later, with no flaming appendages, the
Children went forth and found their commander, and returned
to the bridge in triumph, but secretly wondered how much of
their humanity they were losing.

	Except Shinji, who missed everything.

	And Rei, who already knew the answers.

                          -*-

	The bridge crew was almost ready to go when
Fuyutsuki returned from directing cleanup crews.  "Twenty
dead so far," he said.  "Inspector Kaji is definitely dead.  
I'm sorry, Katsuragi-san.  I know he was important to you."

	She nodded dumbly, and collapsed into her chair.  
Makoto hovered near her, wanting to offer comfort, but not
knowing how best to do so.  Finally, he put a hand on her
shoulder, and she reached up and clasped it with a desperate
grip.

	"What about Ikari?" Ritsuko asked.  "Did you find
him in that room?  What was living there?"

	"We haven't found him yet," Fuyutsuki said.  "But I
do know how the Angel entered the base."

	"Haven't found him?  Unless it ate him or hid the
body, I'm pretty sure he was too hurt to move,"  Ritsuko
said.

	Fuyutsuki held up a small book.  "Someone gave this
to the DAGON subject which was living there.  It contained
the Defiler's name, which somehow opened her to possession
by it, similar to what happened with Baraquiel controlling
the Aida boy."

	"How could reading a being's name do that?" Fuu
asked.

	"It's part of the traditional lore about the
Defiler," he said.  "But it's dead now.  The Children slew
it."  It had better be dead, he thought.

	"Without their EVAs," Ritsuko said.  "I'm not sure
if that's good or bad."

	"Both, perhaps," Fuyutsuki said.  "Major
Katsuragi...never mind, I'll organize the search for
Commander Ikari myself."

                          -*-

	Makoto and Misato stared at the body lying on the
table.  Misato was shaking on the verge of tears, while
Makoto was simply somber.  "Don't hold it in," he said.  
"Do you want me to leave you alone with him for a little
bit?"  It cut at his gut to see her like this.

	"No, don't go," she said faintly.  "If you left me
alone, I might decide to join him, wherever he is."

	For a long time, they simply stood in silence,
staring at the body.  Finally, Misato bent down and kissed
his mangled cheek.  His blood had dried already, but a few
flecks stayed on her lips when she rose.  "I loved you," she
said.  "I didn't let myself love anyone after Father died.  
Father wouldn't let me love him when he was alive, but after
he died, I didn't think I'd ever care about anyone."

	Makoto glanced over at her, and tried to decide if
he should go.  This isn't my business, he thought.

	"I tried to keep you away.  I needed you
desperately, but I didn't want to need anyone.  Because it
could only lead to pain.  Damn you, why did you have to die?  
WHY?" Her voice was rising, and she pounded his chest with a
fist.  "Why?  I finally let myself really love you, and you
had to get yourself killed!  I never should have let you go
with Ritsuko instead of me!  You wouldn't be dead if I'd
gone.  You wouldn't have died!  DAMN YOU!"

	Makoto grabbed her and pulled her away from his body
before she could pummel it any more.  "He's dead.  He can't
answer you."

	"Say something, dammit!  SAY SOMETHING!"  Then she
looked up at the ceiling.  "You bastard!  Why?  Why do you
keep taking away everyone I care about!  WHY?"

	Makoto did the only thing he could think of; he
slapped her.

	She suddenly wiggled out of his grip and flipped him
into the wall.  What followed was the most thorough beating
he'd ever gotten; he'd rarely watched Misato do unarmed
combat, so it caught him completely by surprise.  A few
seconds later, he was down on the ground with her about to
stomp on his throat.  And then she stopped, and she stared
at him, and then a look of horror washed over her face.

	"Makoto!  I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, you don't deserve
that, oh shit, what the hell was I doing???"

	"Kicking my ass," he mumbled, somewhat dazed.

	She helped him up, then said, "Hit me."

	"What?"

	She spread her arms out.  "I just beat the shit out
of you for no good reason.  Hit me."

	"I can't hit you.  I could be court-martialed,"  he
said weakly.

	"I just beat the crap out of you for no reason
except that I needed to hit something," she said grimly.  
"I deserve to be beat up.  I beat you up when you risked
your life trying to save Kaji while I sat on my ass and
didn't do shit."

	"They needed you to coordinate the EVAs.  You're
valuable.  I'm not so valuable."

	"The Children killed him without me.  I could have
been dead myself, and they'd have done just fine.  They
don't need me anymore, and I couldn't even save Kaji.  I let
him die."  She stared morosely at the floor.  "Please, at
least let me make it up to you."

	"Katsuragi-san, I would never hit you."

	She punched his arm.  "Don't be so formal.  I'm not
being the commander right now, so don't treat me like that."

	"Misato, if you really want to make it up to me, you
could take me somewhere nice to eat some time or something."

	She nodded, and then started to cry again.  "I know
a place where...  I know a good restaurant."  She calmed
herself a little and looked over at Kaji.  "His father hates
me.  He's not going to take it well when I tell him about
Kaji's death."

	"Do you want me to write the letter for you?"

	"No, this is my job," she said faintly.  "I'll do it
when I...I don't want to go home."

	"You can't stay here," he said.

	"I don't want to be alone."  Her voice had a
pleading tone to it, and for a moment, he was tempted to
press his luck.  But his conscience rose up and he
restrained himself.

	"You won't be.  You have Shinji and Asuka living
with you.  And they both care about you.  Maybe you should
get Asuka to sleep in your room with you.  I know
she...cared about Kaji too."

	Misato nodded.  "They're going to need me to be
strong for them."  Her voice made it clear she wasn't going
to be much use in that department.

	"And Shinji may have lost his father," Makoto said,
as it suddenly sank in.

	"Oh shit, I didn't even think about that," she said.  
"I'd half forgotten they're related.  It's like Shinji's my
own..."  She trailed off, staring at Kaji.  "I never thought
I could like...having kids."

	"He's going to need you," Makoto said.  "The
Commander probably isn't really dead; I'm sure we'd have
found his body by now.  But Shinji will be worried that he
is."

	She nodded, calming.  He wondered if she really felt
better or if she was acting for his benefit.  I wish I could
do more for her, he thought.

	"Misato, you did the best you could," she said.

	"Maybe if we'd all gone with him..."

	"Maybe we'd all be dead.  But Ritsuko lived."

	Misato brightened a little.  "He probably died
saving her life."

	"That's what she said to me," Makoto replied.  "He
didn't just die for nothing."

	"I have to talk to her later," she said, "And find
out what they learned.  Fuyutsuki's hiding something.  He
knows more than he told us.  And I'm going to find a way to
get it out of him."  Her fists clenched.  "One way or
another."

                          -*-

	Gendo, you fool, Fuyutsuki thought as he sat in his
office and paged through several tomes.  I told you keeping
her was a mistake.

	Still, we never could have anticipated that
Y'golonac would get to her, he thought.  Possessing me or
Gendo...we had to risk that.  But it possessing someone so
sheltered?  Only if you read or heard his name could he
possess you, and even then not for long unless you were
willing.

	He looked again at the book he'd found in her room.  
She was exposed by this, he thought.  Perhaps Ubbo-Sathla's
blood ran stronger in her than we ever realized.  She
certainly made an ideal body for Y'golonac...already a
shapechanger and half-inhuman.

	I had half-hoped you would remain imprisoned behind
that wall forever, he thought, looking at a woodcut printing
of Y'golonac's flabby, mouthed hands fruitlessly prying at a
brick wall, as if he was the victim in that Poe story.  The
prophecies weren't clear on whether you would appear, and
thankfully, your cults tended to be so degenerate, there was
little danger they could help you.

	What bothered him most, however, was that the
Children had slain Y'golonac directly.  Their growth in
power unnerved him, but more, he was worried about the
effects which this could have on them.  They would have
absorbed his power directly, and given how much of a
perverted freak Y'golonac was, this would likely accelerate
the process of their...in this case, he could only call it
devolution.  It was not for nothing that he was called the
Defiler or the Violator.

	We may have to try the Peace of Nargai on all the
Children, he thought, regardless of the consequences, much
as I would rather not.  For now, I'll just set some men to 
keep an eye on them and activate the monitoring devices in
their apartments.  We need to make sure they don't snap.

	And then I have to decide what to do about Gendo,
Fuyutsuki thought.  And how to explain it.

                          -*- 

	"Blood pressure is okay, heart beat is normal," Maya
reported.

	Ritsuko wrote it down, then looked up at Touji, who
was gagging. "Problem?"

	He pulled the thermometer out of his mouth.  "Ain't
there some way to take my temperature without me having to
choke on some huge ass thing like this?"

	"Well, we could use the rectal thermometer," Ritsuko
said.

	Asuka began to laugh, and Shinji winced.

	"Shaddap, Langeley!" Touji barked.  "It ain't
funny!"

	"You must have a hard time at the dentist," Maya
said.  "If you have trouble just keeping that in your
mouth."

	"I gag easy, okay?" he said, feeling mildly
humiliated.  He waved the thermometer about.  "I just don't
like these..."  And then it was gone.  He started.  "What
the hell?"

	Ritsuko sighed.  "I give up.  You're all in good
health, as far as I can tell with all this antiquated junk.  
Until the base is properly up and running again, I can't run
the tests I really need to.  Just go home, and I'll call you
in tomorrow."

	"But my back..." Asuka said faintly, partly because
she didn't really want to think about it.

	"Is back to normal," Ritsuko said.  "So far as all
this old equipment can tell.  I took an X-ray and your bone
structure is completely normal at the moment.  I'm also
trying to figure out where you got the extra body mass to
make tentacles...or wings for that matter.  But right now, I
think you all need some rest.  I can keep sticking
thermometers in you and checking your blood pressure until
we all die of old age, but I don't think I'll learn anything
new until we're back to normal here."

	"Just try not to think about tentacles and wings,"
Maya suggested.

	Oh, yes, there's useful advice, Asuka thought
irritatedly.

	"I guess we should go change, then," Shinji said.

	"Into our clothing," Touji added.

	"Uh, yeah," Shinji replied.

	"Look, are we gonna turn into rampaging mutant
freaks or not?" Touji demanded.  "That's what we need to
know."

	"Not if I can help it," Ritsuko replied.  "I have
been working on something which might help, but it's not
ready for testing yet.  I will let you know when it's ready.  
Now, go home and get some rest.  Do homework, go to the sock
hop or whatever."

	"The what?" Touji asked.

	"Nothing, never mind, go home, go home, go home.  
Just watch TV and think about other things."

	Shinji nodded and got up.  "Let's go home, Asuka."

	Rei frowned and idly scratched her palms.

	Misato swept in, looking gloomy.  "Can I borrow Asuka and Shinji?"

	"They're free to go," Ritsuko said.  

	"We're ready to go home," Asuka said.

	"I have more work to do before I can go," Misato said.  "But I need 
to talk to you two in private."

	"We're, uh, not in trouble, are we?" Shinji asked faintly.

	"Can I go home?" Touji asked.

	"Go home, Touji.  You too, Rei," she said to Rei.

	They both headed out.  Touji paused at the door and said, "See ya 
later, Shinji."

	"See you," he replied.

	Misato led them off to her office, by which time Shinji was feeling 
pretty nervous.  She sat down hard in her chair and gestured for them to 
sit.  She turned first to Shinji.  "Your father is missing.  We think he 
is probably dead, but we're not sure, because there was no corpse where 
he was last seen.  It's possible that the Defiler ate him completely, 
but Fuyutsuki says that's unlikely.  Unlike the rest of us, he seems 
sure your father lived, somehow."

	Shinji felt his stomach curdle.  "He...I never thought he could 
die.  I mean...I don't know what I mean."

	Asuka put a hand on his shoulder.  "He's too much of a mean bastard 
to die.  I'm sure he's alive, Shinji."

	"He just...I mean..."

	"Well, there is room to hope," Misato said.  "We should know within 
the next few days, and probably by tomorrow."  She turned to Asuka.  
"Kaji is definitely dead.  Do you want me to take you to...to say 
goodbye to him?"

	Asuka nodded somberly.  "Yes, I do."

	"I'll come too," Shinji said.

	Misato got up and came over and hugged each of them with one arm.  
"We have to be strong."

	Asuka nodded, taking comfort from the hug.  "We will."

	"I'll try," Shinji said.

	"Let's go and say goodbye.  And then you two had better go home."

	"Are you going to be okay?" Asuka asked.  "I mean, I know you and 
Kaji were, umm...close."

	"We were lovers," she said.  "I loved him, and I don't know what 
I'll do without him."  The good cheer she'd forced on herself cracked, 
and now she looked gloomy.  "But I've done my screaming and crying, and 
now...now we have to go on.  Because the war isn't over yet."

	"Will it ever be over?" Shinji asked in frustration.  "How are we 
ever going to beat these things once and for all?"

	"I don't know," Misato said.  "But you beat this one without even 
needing your EVAs.  Soon, you'll probably be strong enough to just snap 
your fingers and kill them."

	Asuka wasn't so sure if that was a good thing.

                          -*- 

	Asuka fanned herself with her homework.  "Dammit,
this apartment needs better air conditioning," she said.
She resolutely did her best to not think about everything
that had happened today.  

	Shinji watched sweat drip onto his math homework.  
"Well, NERV was so frigid when we were leaving, it probably
just made this...okay, it's hot."

	Asuka nodded somberly, then grabbed the bottom of her 
shirt and shook it, trying to get it to stop clinging to her 
due to her sweat.  Then she had to scratch her stomach which 
was itching again.  This reminded her palms to itch, so she 
had to scratch those.  By this time, her shirt had glued 
itself to her again.  "There's a fan somewhere, right?" she
asked, becoming irritated.

	"The closet, I think," Shinji said, erasing half of
what he had just done and starting over.  He couldn't concen-
trate, between the heat, the itching, and worrying about his 
father.  

	While she was gone, he quickly scratched his
stomach; Shinji didn't like scratching when people were
watching.

	Asuka soon returned, and set up the fan, which
promptly blew her and Shinji's homework all over the room.  
"DAMMMIT!!!!"  She picked up a pencil and snapped it.  
"This is really starting to piss me off!"  

	He began scampering about, trying to collect his
papers while she tried to move the fan somewhere it would
give them cool air without laying waste to their work.  
"This itching is driving me crazy," she said, as she paused
to scratch her stomach again.  "And the heat, and..."

	"Me too," Shinji said, scratching his palms
furtively.  He put his papers back up on the table.  "I
can't focus.  I think I did the same problem three times."

	Asuka paced back and forth in front of the fan,
soaking up the cooler air.  "I know what you mean."  
Kaji kept surfacing in her mind; she'd thought she was
over him, but now she couldn't stop thinking about him,
except when her body decided to annoy her.  

	"It wasn't that hot coming over here," Shinji said.

	"Yeah."  She frowned.  "I think I'm gonna take a
walk."  Maybe I can clear my mind, she thought.

	"And I'm going to take a shower," he said.  "Or a
bath or something."

	"Hmm, that's a good idea," she said.  "We could take
a bath."  

	"We?" Shinji asked weakly.

	Asuka suddenly realized she'd been contemplating
exactly that for a few seconds, and blushed.  "No, no, I
mean, you take a bath, and I'll take a walk, and then...you
can take a walk, and I'll take a bath.  Not, like,
together."  She bolted out the door.

	"Wait..." Shinji said, but she was gone.  He shook
his head.  For a moment, he'd been enjoying the idea, but
now he tried to get it out of his mind.  "Bath time."

	Pen-Pen waddled after him as he headed for the
bathroom.

	"I'm not taking a bath with you either, Pen-Pen," he
said.

	"Wark," Pen-Pen slumped and waddled off to go to his
room in the refrigerator.

	For a moment, Shinji wished he could go stay in the
fridge himself.  He shook the thought off, then headed for
the bathroom, trying to shove aside a variety of bizarre
mental images which kept trying to surface in his brain.

                          -*- 

	Rei sat alone in her room, sitting upright on her
bed, staring at the wall across from her.

	She scratched her palms.

	In the dimness of her room, the slight glow of her
red eyes could be seen.  At the moment, they were narrow
red eyes, expressing irritation on Rei's face.  Her
breathing was strangely loud, sometimes almost gasping.

	She stood up, walked towards the door, then
stopped herself.

	She turned back to her bed, stopped, then settled
for pacing the room restlessly.

	At last, she stopped and faced the mirror in the
room.  

	"Security Measure A."

	Metal shutters slammed down over the windows, and
the bulkhead that acted as her front door whirred as extra
mechanisms emerged to seal the door in place.  

	She paced the room again, scratching her palms.
	
                          -*- 

	Touji wandered downtown aimlessly, a blank
expression on his face.  He walked in circles around the
buildings, with no particular place to go, having no
particular desire to be anywhere... not after what
happened with Hikari.

	The right side of Touji's face was still stinging,
a reminder of how hard Hikari could slap.  Reviewing the
events in his mind, he really wasn't sure how things got
so out of control.  He just went to visit her, just felt a
need to see her, and swung by her apartment.

	He went there to... to talk with her...

	And it kinda got hazy after that point.

	They talked, he remembered that, but at some point
the talking stopped and the kissing started.

	And then...

	And then what?

	The next thing he knew, he was on top of her, on
her bed, feeling the sting of her slap on his face.

	"What the hell was I doing?" he muttered.

	Touji stopped at a sidewalk bench and slumped into
it, staring around restlessly.  Every now and then he
scratched his palms.

	And what the hell was with this damn palm itch
anyway?  Plus, he had the feeling someone was following
him.  

	He looked around and saw two men in dark suits 
watching him from a distance.  Damn NERV security, he 
thought.  I wanna be alone right now.

	He scowled, rose, and turned around the corner.

	And the day didn't get any better.

	"Aw crap, _you_."

	Asuka matched his scowl.  "Eat shit and di.. i...e?"

	Their gazes locked, and suddenly time seemed to
stop.  His heart pounded heavily, blood rushing to his
ears.  He looked at her and she looked at him and things
raced through his head, things he wanted to do with her,
do to her, make her scream with pain and pleasure, oh,
the things he wanted to-

	Holy shit, a part of him raged, this is ASUKA
you're looking at.  And she's lookin' at you the same
way.

	"AAAGH!" both of them yelled, at the same time, 
taking a large step away from each other.  A half-second 
later, they ran away from each other as fast as they 
possibly could.  Two pairs of black clad men ran after each
unnoticed by either of them.

                          -*- 
	Misato blinked at the two guards standing duty in front
of her apartment.  "What's going on?"

	"Orders from Commander Fuyutsuki to keep an eye on the 
Children's movements, Captain."

	Made sense given their condition, she thought.  "Are 
they both home?"

	"Two of us are following Langely, Captain."

	"And Shinji's here?"

	"Yes, sir."

	"Carry on," she said, and went inside.

	She didn't like the idea of having to have people
follow them around, but given what they'd just fought, it
was probably not a good idea to leave them alone.

	Misato walked in through the door.  "I'm home!" she
shouted.  No one answered, but she heard running water.  Shinji
must be taking a bath, she thought.  

	She went and got herself a Fresca, sitting down in
front of the fan.  Feels nice, she thought.  If a little
chilly.  It's not that hot in here, is it, to need this?

	After she finished half her Fresca, Pen-Pen came and
lightly whacked her leg to get her attention.  "Wark!"

	"Is something wrong?" she asked.

	Pen-Pen led her to the bathroom door.  "Wark!!!"

	There was a faint moaning coming through the door.  
It sounded like Shinji.

	"That's you, isn't it, Shinji?"

	"Yes, it's me," he said, sounding a little pained or
out of breath.

	"Are you okay?" she asked.  "You don't sound so
good."

	"I'm.  Just.  Fine!" he squeaked.

	Something funny is going on, she thought.

	"Wark!!!!  Wark!!!"

	"You sure you're okay?  Asuka isn't in there with
you, is she?" she teased, knowing Asuka couldn't be in 
there.

	"No!  I'm all alone!" he shouted frantically.  "And
I'm not doing anything!  And DON'T COME IN!"

	She stepped back from the door at that.  "Shinji,
are you..."  

	"No!"

	Yes, he must be, she thought.  Well, he's a teenage
boy.  Nothing to be worried about, she thought.  Although,
given what they just fought...

	She frowned at the thought.  Then again, what harm
can he do with what he's doing?  "Just clean up when you're
done," she said. "I'll be in the kitchen making
dinner."

	The moaning started again instead of a reply.

	Then she went back to her Fresca to brood.  Her mood
had lightened when she got home, anticipating her...her
children would be there and hoping they would cheer her up.  
She'd been able to use her work to put off thinking too much
about what had happened with Kaji, but now it all came
crashing in on her, and gloom settled over her.

	Part of her wanted to get drunk and forget, but she
fought it off. The other half was trying to talk itself into
seducing Makoto, to enable her to forget.  Or some other guy
who could take her mind off matters. The tiny sane part in
the middle simply sat and brooded and guzzled Fresca.

	About a half-hour later, she got up and started
making dinner.  I can't believe Shinji is STILL in the
bathroom, she thought.  I guess what happened to him has
given him a really...let's not think about that.  And 
where's Asuka run off to, anyway?

                          -*- 

	Maya stared at Rei's door, a sinking feeling
settling in.

	She had begun to make it a habit to look in on
Rei once in a while, since she lived so close to
her.  Often Rei would be just fine, reading books or just
watching television in that eerily blank way of hers.

	Today she wasn't home.

	In fact, it seemed like she violently escaped
from it.  The doorway bulkhead had been torn through,
_clawed_ through, from the inside.  There were two
unconscious men in black suits in front of the place;
one of them had a very visible footprint on his forehead.
She tried to shake them awake, but they stayed knocked
out.

	"R-Rei?" she called out timidly.

	From within the dimly lit apartment there was no
reply.  She carefully stepped inside, noting all the
scratches and dents there were on the steel-enforced
walls.

	What on earth happened here?

	After a moment more of looking, she pulled out
her phone.  "Hello?  This is Ibuki.  I think we've got a
situation."

                          -*- 

	It was sunset now, and most of the population of
Tokyo-3 had gone home, leaving the downtown sectors even
more desolated than usual.  Even the trains were mostly
empty, though there was one cabin on one train with two
bored looking men in black watching one very agitated 
passenger mulling her situation.  She also occasionally 
scratched her palms.

	The situation, thought Asuka, really sucked.

	The horror of what had just happened earlier was
finally sinking in.

	She'd actually lusted for... for...

	TOUJI.

	"Someone shoot me."

	The two men watching her didn't take her up on the 
offer.  She tried to ignore them.

	This was no good.

	She scratched her palms briefly.

	First of all, she hated him.  Second of all, he
was Hikari's boyfriend.  Third, she really hated him,
enough so to count it twice.  No way on earth would she,
could she, should she ever even THINK about getting naked
with Touji, grinding against him all hot and sweaty,
biting on his-

	WHOA.

	She took a moment to headbutt a nearby pole.

	It went CLANG.  Very loudly.

	A mental test was in order.

	She thought about Kaji, and some interesting
visions of him in a thong came to mind.  That wasn't
unusual, though, since she had those thoughts since the day
they all went to the beach.  Hard to use that as a
measuring standard.  Then the knowledge that he was dead
hit her again, causing her to drop that line of thought
entirely.  

	For a while, it put her off thinking about the whole
Touji incident, but eventually her curiousity and worries 
about how she could have possibly ever lusted after Touji 
under any circumstances kicked in, causing her to resume 
her thought experiments.

	She thought of a few male classmates at random, and 
it started feeling a little warm in the train.  She idly 
scratched her palms.  She thought of Shinji and wild rough 
sex in chains and making him scream until-

	Hold it, wait, whoa.

	She took a deep breath and tried to shake off the
blush that had taken over her face.

	Okay, she thought to herself, I think we see a
pattern.  Now, what would be the cause...

	The Angel they defeated, they called it the
Violator.  Odd, that, since they usually assigned angelic
code names to them.  That in itself was also odd, but
another mystery for another time.  For now, she was worrying
about exactly what kind of Angel the Violator was.  As
they'd proven in defeating it, the Children, not just the
EVAs, absorbed the power of the Angels they defeated.  In
defeating the Violator, the Children obviously gained its
abilities and traits, more directly than they'd gained any
other power before, and Asuka was getting a nasty
suspicion why it was codenamed Violator.

	This was no good.  How long was she going to stay
like this?  Would it get worse?

	She shuddered at the thought.

	Headquarters had to be notified.

	But then, they'd lock her and the others away.

	But still...

	She looked out the window, across the city.  The
train was passing by the newer developments now, by Ibuki
and Ayanami's apartments.

	Hm.

	She thought briefly of Ayanami.

	A moment later she headbutted another pole.  The two
men watching her glanced at each other nervously.

	That was the last straw, she was going to call
headquarters.  Before she could reach for her phone,
however, she suddenly _sensed_ something nearby, getting
closer.  Her heartbeat began to quicken, just like when
she ran into Touji, but this wasn't Touji because she
_sensed_ it wasn't Touji.  

	It was...

	Oh no.

	She pulled away from the window as a blur in
white and blue crashed through it.  Asuka felt a solid
impact knock the wind out of her, then the feel of cold
hard steel as the back of her head hit the subway train
wall.  Her vision faded to black as she rolled over,
seeing a pair of glowing red eyes staring down at hers.
She heard the two men shout, and then they went silent, 
and everything was silent and dark.

                          -*- 

	Anna stared out the window again, watching the ocean
roll by far below.  At the same time, she continued her
cellphone conversation with Frau Himmelfarb.  "No, I'm
fine," she said.  "Just tired.  I want to sleep, but it's
broad daylight out here."

	"You should try to sleep anyway."

	"I can't sleep when there's this much light," she
replied.  "You know how insomniac I am."

	"Unfortunately.  But you won't do them any good if
you show up exhausted."

	"I suppose.  I'll try to sleep."

	"Well, I'd best not keep you up.  Goodnight, Anna."

	"Goodnight."  She hung up, then spent a while trying
to nap. Unfortunately, the sun cunningly maneuvered itself
to shine right in her face.

	After a while, she decided to try calling Asuka
again. Unfortunately, Asuka didn't answer this time, either.

	WHAT is she up to? Anna asked herself.  She hasn't
answered her phone every time I've tried to call her on this
trip.

                          -*- 

	The sound of her cellphone ringing roused Asuka
from unconsciousness.  The lingering remains of a headache
echoed in her head and she definitely felt a lot hotter
than she should.

	She tried to rise to answer the phone, but found
herself bound to the floor, spread-eagle, ankles and wrists
encased by... something.  Parts of it felt almost smooth as
silk, while others felt damp and sticky.  A few hard pulls
at her bonds convinced her that they were more solid than
they seemed to be, plenty solid enough to keep her pinned
down.

	A quick look at her surroundings made her even more
worried about her situation.  It was apparently an
abandoned apartment, long abandoned by the looks of it.  
The roof was gone, the only illumination available coming
from the stars and moon above.  The walls were stained and
crumbling, and the floor littered with debris.

	She saw her backpack strewn on the floor, its
contents spilled out sloppily.  The cellphone was still
there, and ringing yet again.

	A dark and slim shadow dropped in from the sky,
crushing the phone instantly.  Two glowing red eyes glanced
in her direction briefly, then turned away.

	Asuka's heart beat faster and she felt the blood
pounding in her ears, but she fought it.  And by the way
Rei was hunched over, facing away, she knew Rei was
fighting it too.

	"Rei," she said softly, but firmly.  "Rei, can you
hear me?"

	Rei turned her head, slightly.  The slight hint of
a glowing red was visible from her eyes.

	"Rei, you have to get away from here.  You're not
feeling well... we're all not feeling well... it's because
we killed that thing-"

	"I know," Rei replied, her voice a ragged whisper.

	"So please, go!  Call NERV, let them know what's
happening!"

	"I... I can't."

	"Rei!"

	The First Child shuddered, turning towards Asuka.

	"It is hard," she whispered hoarsely, "to fight
this."

	''so very hard,'' whispered a tiny voice.

	''very very hard,'' whispered another.

	Slowly, Rei crawled towards Asuka.

	"Rei!  C'mon, snap out of it!  Rei!"

	Asuka struggled at her bonds again, to no
avail.  Slowly, Rei crawled over her, their faces inches
apart.  Asuka turned her face away as Rei lowered hers,
feeling Rei's hot breath on her ear.

	"Rei!  Stop it!  Stop!"

	"I... I can't," she whispered.  

	And suddenly Asuka felt something twist and turn on
her palms.  She curled a finger to touch her palm, then
felt horror wash over her as she felt teeth, lips, and a
tongue.

	Rei's right hand took hold of Asuka's face
violently, and in her palm a tiny mouth nibbled and licked
at Asuka's cheek.

	"Blood calls to blood, yours sings to mine."

	"NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!"

                          -*- 

	"Asuka?  Asuka, can you hear me?"

	Groggily, she opened her eyes.  "Wha... ah... Dr.
Akagi?"

	Ritsuko nodded.  "How are you feeling, Asuka?"

	"Tired," she mumbled.  "Sore.  Wha... what
happened?"

	Ritsuko's expression clouded over.  "We'll... we'll
talk about that later.  Just focus on getting better,
okay?"

	Asuka nodded slowly, then settled into bed as
Ritsuko left the room.

	Something was wrong.

	This wasn't her room.

	This wasn't even the infirmary.

	Padded walls surrounded her, and a small window of
very thick plexiglass was at the wall opposite of her.  Far
above, behind a plexiglass half-globe, a camera watched
her.

	What was happening?  Why was she here?

	She tried to stand up, but found herself incredibly
sore.... sore in all the wrong places.

	A flicker of a memory danced before her mind's eye.

	"No..."

	She raised a hand to her face and stared at her
palm.  Nothing there.  But up and down her arm were little
bite marks...

	"No no no no..."

	And then the memories came, and all Asuka could do
was curl into a ball and cry.

                          -*-

	Misato's heart ached as she watched the monitor
bank.  The Children didn't deserve this, not after all
they'd gone through, especially not Asuka.

	And Rei... what were they going to do with Rei?  
She was even more subdued than usual when they found
her, and she hadn't said a word since.  Even now, in her
own cell, she merely stared back at the camera.

	But what she did to Asuka...

	Misato prayed that it was just the power surge from
the Violator, and that it'd never happen again.  Even so,
the damage had been done.

	Innocence lost.

                          -*-

	Meanwhile, in Gendo's office, a meeting between the
Commander and his Sub-Commander was taking place, though
the topic and the atmosphere was quite different than past
meetings.  Fuyutsuki was standing before Gendo's desk,
glaring down at his superior with unmasked anger.

	Gendo wilted under Fuyutsuki's gaze.  "I didn't know
she had been..."

	"All of our plans nearly came to naught because you
couldn't keep your pants shut.  No, you just HAD to use the
poor girl as your sex toy!"

	"She wasn't just a..." Gendo began.

	"Did you REALLY think she was Yui?" he asked.

	"Well, she..."

	"And if she had been, would she have been content to
live in a room like that?"

	"I..."

	"Bullshit," Fuyutsuki said angrily.  "We nearly both
died because you decided to keep a 'doll' for yourself."

	Gendo frowned and tried to tilt the conversation in
another direction.  "There's another Angel coming."

	"There's always another Angel coming.  Planning to
sleep with this one too?"

	"I DID NOT KNOW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!" Gendo
shouted.

	"You should have known better."

	"We're not all ascetics like you.  I can only deny
my flesh so far."

	"I should have left you as I found you."  Fuyutsuki 
glared at Gendo, wondering if that would have been best.

	"You couldn't afford to.  We have to stand together
or hang separately," Gendo observed.  "Yes, I made a big
mistake.  I admit it. Can we move on to dealing with the
business at hand?"  He paused. "And...thank you for making
sure I didn't stay that way."

	"You're welcome," Fuyutsuki said.  "We don't just
have an Angel to worry about, however."

	"What do you mean?"

	"There's been... an incident with the Children."

	"Delightful."  Gendo didn't miss Fuyutsuki's glare
as it rose up a notch. "Because of the Violator?"

	"Exactly."

	"Have them brought in and isolated."

	"Taken care of," said Fuyutsuki.

	Gendo nodded.  "Good, good.  The Fifth Child is
arriving soon, I think it would be best to keep her away
from them until we're sure they're stable." He frowned
intensely.  "This is a further complication we do not
need."

	"The Burrower Beneath seems to have a good sense of
timing, anyway," Fuyutsuki said.

	"Unfortunately."
	

                          -*-
                   - end part 18 -
                          -*-