-*-

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


	                Children of an Elder God

	                       Part 20

	                  Daughters of Adam

	                         -*-

	Asuka sat nervously on the examining table, her legs
a constant blur of motion.  The rush of interrupted sex,
followed by the rush of battle had taken her away from her
depression for a while, but she'd done too much sitting and
waiting and submitting to examination, and now it was all
rushing back in.  She wished they'd let Shinji stay with
her, but Ritsuko had chased everyone else out.  She needed
him, like a drowning person clinging to a rope.  Please
don't say I have to go back to that goddamned room, she
thought.  I want to go HOME.

	She could see her friends peering in through the
little window in the door to the room, and it made her feel
a little better, but she wanted out of the ruined corridors
of NERV.  I want to play my computer games, and read my
books, and not have people watching me to see if I'm going
to snap, she thought.

	Ritusko went over some data, made some checkmarks on
the clipboard she carefully held where no one could see what
was on it, then said, "Well, as far as I can tell, you're
ready to go home."

	"I was ready to go home a long, LONG time ago,"
Asuka said.  She paused and frowned.  "So what are you going
to do to stop Rei possessing people?  That little bitch
could be off raping someone right this minute!" She could
feel herself getting agitated and wanting to burn something,
and she struggled to try to calm down.  She knew that
burning something would probably just make Ritsuko send her
back to the room in NERV, and she didn't want to ever see
that room again.

	Ritsuko sighed.  "We don't know yet, Asuka.  
We're still trying to figure out HOW it even could happen."

	"You've got to DO something about it!  Because she
won't stop with just one person!  She's probably going to go
after MY Shinji next!"

	"We are taking measures, Asuka.  I suggest you go
home and rest now."

	"So I can go?"

	"Whenever you like," Ritsuko said.

	Asuka ran out the door without looking back.

	I should go check on how Maya's tests on Horaki are
going, Ritsuko thought.  As she was about to leave, however,
Gendo and Fuyutsuki arrived.

	"Letting her go?" Gendo asked, frowning.

	"Do you think we can hold her, especially in NERV's
devastated state?" Ritsuko asked.  "We can't hold her or Rei
or Shinji against their will if they really think to use
their powers.  We must live with what we have wrought."

	Gendo and Fuyutsuki glanced at each other, then
Fuyutuski said, "So you recommend releasing Rei?"

	"I don't know what I recommend," she said, sighing.  
"I don't think it's safe to turn Rei loose, but we can't
really hold her, and as we've seen, we accomplish nothing by
doing so.  At the moment though, we have nowhere to send her
to live if she doesn't stay here."

	"That's not very helpful," Gendo said.

	"She appears to be fairly peaceful, and seems to
have regained control of herself," Ritsuko said.  "But she
could be bluffing.  But then, Rei could just control any of
us and force us to release her."

	That led to a moment of awful silence.

	"And that's all I have to offer.  I need to go check
on the Horaki girl."

	Gendo nodded sombrely.  "Go."

	She went.

	"For the moment, we will continue to hold her,"
Gendo said. "Especially since Adam seems to be stirring."

	Fuyutsuki frowned, sitting down in a chair.  "So you
did confirm the MAGI readings?"

	Gendo nodded.  "MAGI recorded some very strange
readings during the battle against Zuriel.  I suspect his
proximity roused Adam from his slumbers."

	"Then we must find a way to send him back to sleep."

	"That would mean calling in SEELE," Gendo said.  
"Though we will likely need their assistance anyway, in
order to transport him.  I fear we will need to shift
operations; we cannot conduct our final battles from a pile
of rubble."

	"They are already very unhappy with us for the lack
of progress in the DAGON project," Fuyutsuki said.

	"Well, perhaps we may get another pilot out of all
this," Gendo said.  "Depending on how much of what drove
Unit00 was Horaki, and how much was Rei."

	"Perhaps."


	                         -*-

	They'd known the damage from the battle was bad, but
it still didn't prepare them for this.

	 Shinji stared quietly, his mouth slightly agape.

	 Anna fretted nervously, a hand cupped over her
mouth.

	 Tears threatened to flow from Asuka's eyes.  "My...
my stuff... I never got to unpack everything... my photos...
my music... the things from Mama and Papa..."

	 Misato just stood there quietly, all the color gone
from her face as she stared at the massive pile of rubble
that used to be her apartment complex.

	 "Ah, Misato?" asked Shinji nervously.  "Misato, are
you okay?"

	 "I... don't mind me, Shinji, I just think I'm in
shock," replied Misato, surprisingly calm.  "Gimmie a minute
and I'm sure I'll start screaming."

	 "Oh... um... okay."

	 Theirs wasn't the only mountain of rubble.  All
around them, businesses, homes and other apartments were all
laid to waste.  Other people were mirroring their own drama,
standing outside what was once Home.

	 Asuka lowered herself to the floor, then covered her
face with her hands, sobbing.  Shinji moved to comfort her,
but Anna was already there, kneeling next to her old friend,
saying soothing words in German while holding Asuka in her
arms.

	 He looked to Misato, who finally started moving as
she took slow but steady steps into the rubble.  His eyes
widened as he realized, with the rubble probably far from
stable and likely to collapse again, this wasn't the best of
ideas.

	 "Misato!  Wait!"

	 She ignored him, her walk becoming a run as she
dashed into the wreckage, scrambling over concrete peaks and
valleys, skinning her arms and legs as she did so.  Shinji
ventured into the ruins after her, but ventured only so far
for fear of upsetting the rubble even more than Misato was.

	 "My apartment," she said in a distant voice, looking
around with calculating eyes.  "It would've been...
wouldn've been... there."  Like a somewhat bloodied
billygoat, she hopped across the apartment's remains until
she reached a certain spot, then began digging away with her
bare hands.

	 "Misato?"

	 "Not now, Shinji," replied Misato, still eerily
calm.

	 He looked to Anna and Asuka for help, but they were
still dealing with their own problems.

	 Misato dug away at the plaster, glass and concrete
mess, uncovering a refrigerator door.  She flung the door
open and a very dazed Pen-Pen poked his head out.

	 -Waark?-

	 Misato embraced the penguin tightly, laughing a
desperate sort of laugh.  "Pen-Pen!  I knew you'd be okay,
boy!"

	 -Wark-

	 "Let's have a beer to celebrate, huh?"

	 -Wark!-

	 She opened the other door, revealing a scrambled
mess of leftover apocalypse.  She stared inside and frowned.

	 "Oh.  Oh yeah.  We don't do the beer thing anymore.  
Oh well, let's toast with that.

	 There did seem to be a few soda cans that were
intact.  She grabbed one, raised it in a toast, then opened
it.

	 Soda exploded from it in a frothy mess, drenching
Misato and Pen-Pen instantly.  She blinked for a moment,
then giggled, the giggling turning into laughing, the
laughing turning hysterical, until finally she broke down
and cried, clutching Pen-Pen in her arms.

	Life had been rough for them lately.  This wasn't
helping.  She figured she picked a really lousy time to quit
beer.

	                         -*-

	 Touji paced about in the hallway nervously,
occasionally humming, sometimes stopping to just cross his
arms and tap his foot.  Waiting was something he was never
good at.  He was like this for several minutes, though it
felt more like several hours.

	 At last the door opened and Maya called out, "You
can come in now, Suzuhara."

	 "How is she?" he asked, rushing into the room.  "Is
everythin' okay?  She ain't gonna start goin' pale and
getting creepy, is she?!"

	 A gentle but firm hand grabbed him from behind and
pulled him to sit down on one of the chairs in the lab.  
"Shut up for a minute and let her talk, goofball," chided
Hikari, taking a seat next to Touji.

	 "Aheh.... sorry, babe."

	 He smiled nervously and scratched the back of his
head.  She gave a slight smile in return, then held his
hand.

	 Maya smiled.  Young love was always cute to see.  
She gave a brief 'ahem' to get their attention.  "Miss
Horaki seems to be in perfectly normal condition.  No
lingering effects from-"

	 She was interrupted as someone knocked at the
doorway.  Ritsuko poked her head in, asking, "Hey, you
finished those test results yet?"

	 "I'm telling them now, sempai," replied Maya.

	 "Oh, good. Just in time."  She entered the room,
standing behind Maya and peering over her shoulder at the
paperwork she was reading from.

	 "Anyway," continued Maya.  "The test results show
Ms. Horaki is just fine, no lingering effects from being...
for lack of a better word, possessed, by Rei."

	 Touji and Hikari breathed a sigh of relief.

	 "BUT it should be noted," continued Maya, "We've
never encountered any phenomena like this before, so we
really must insist on you checking in at least once a week,
especially if you start feeling strange."

	 Touji and Hikari nodded firmly.  And synchronized,
no less.

	 Maya leaned back on her chair, putting her arms
behind her head, while Ritsuko picked up the data on Maya's
desk and flipped through it.

	 "We're still not sure how it happened at all," said
Maya.  "From all the scans, there wasn't any trace of Rei
posessing you at all."

	 "I think I can guess the how," said Ritsuko.  
"According to the MAGI, knowing the true name of the
Violator makes one vulnerable to possession."

	 Maya and Hikari paled slightly, realizing what this
meant for NERV and possibly the entire world.

	 Touji didn't get it.

	 "Um, what?"

	 "If you've ever said the name 'Rei Ayanami', heard
it, or read it, you can be possessed by her."

	Touji blinked.  "Oh.  Ooooh."  He paused.  "Oh,
shit, how many people know her name?"

	 "Everyone in NERV," said Ritsuko.

	 "A lot of our classmates," said Hikari.

	 "A lot of people around the world, thanks to the
press we've been getting," said Maya weakly.

	 Ritsuko nodded.  "For all our sakes, we'd better
hope Rei never turns on us."

	 A grim silence followed.

	 "Wait," said Maya.  "If she was able to do that,
though, doesn't that prove the existence of souls?"

	 Ritsuko raised an eyebrow. "How do you figure that?"

	 "Well, you know all those stories of lost souls
possessing people... this is kind of like that, isn't it?"

	 "Ah, but you neglect the possibility of mere psychic
control."

	 "But why did Hikari look like Rei when she was
possessed, then?"

	 "Psychic self-image template," said Ritsuko
dismissively.

	 "But..."

	 The two seemed to have forgotten Touji and Hikari,
who felt their brains go numb as Ritsuko and Maya debated
the matter of souls and began making the argument
tremendously academic with quotes and references from
obscure sources.  They didn't want to be rude and interrupt,
but still...

	 Touji raised his hand very meekly.  "Ah... excuse
me?"

	 Maya and Ritsuko looked at him.  "Yes?" they both
asked at the same time.

	 "Um... can we go now?  I mean, you're done with her,
right?  I mean, it ain't like she's a pilot an'needs any
more testing, y'know..."

	 Maya and Ritsuko looked at each other.

	"Pilot?" asked Ritsuko.  "You thinking what I'm
thinking?"

	"Yep."

	"Miss Horaki, there's a few more tests we'd like to
try," said Ritsuko.  "This will only take an hour or two
more."

	Hikari smiled nervously.  "Aheheh, sure, no
problem."

	Unseen to them all, she mashed her foot on top of
Touji's toes.

	                         -*-

	In the end, they decided to test her after all.

	Normally, this would involve a brisk walk down the
hall for several minutes, followed by a left, then a right
turn, upon which you would find the Synch Testing room.

	This was not so today.

	Instead, Dr. Akagi, Maya, Hikari and Touji navigated
through semi-collapsed alternate corridors, since the
primary ones were ruined to the point of being unusable or
entirely blocked off.  What was once familiar environs was
now strangely alien.

	"Hey, um, how long ya think before everything's
fixed up around here?" asked Touji.

	"Fixed?" asked Ritsuko in turn.  "Well, we're not
sure anything will be fixed at all, really."

	"Um, say what?"

	"The damage to the base is so severe that our
security will be badly compromised during the repairs.  And
the repairs may take so long that NERV won't be willing to
tolerate it."

	"What sempai's saying is that we just might move to
another base," added Maya.

	"Hey, yeah?  Where's the other base?  Tokyo-2?  
Hong Kong?"

	"Germany," replied Ritsuko.

	There was a small moment of silence as they
carefully made their way through a semi-collapsed curving
corridor.

	"NO WAY!" yelled Touji.  "We're gonna be shipped to
Asuka-land?!?!"

	Hikari gave him a swift elbow.  Silence followed yet
again.

	Eventually, they made their way to the testing
chamber, which seemed to be one of the few places that was
relatively intact.  The control room suffered mainly
superficial damage, as some lighting was knocked out, as
well as some of the glass barrier between the observation
room and the pool of LCL which held three plugs.  Touji
stood outside as they loaned Hikari one of the plugsuits
normally reserved for Asuka.

	"This fits on Asuka?" she asked.  "It seems kind
of... large."

	Ritsuko smiled knowingly.  "Press the button on your
wrist."

	"Which button?"

	"That one."

	"This one?"

	-fwsh-

	Hikari seemed dazed for a moment, then looked down
at the now perfect-fit plugsuit.  "..... Wow.  That felt
neat."

	"Shinji and Touji said the same thing," said Maya.  
"Now, if you'll just step over here...."

	Ritsuko let Touji in as Maya guided Hikari over the
steel walkways to the test plugs and briefed her on the LCL
and how to handle it the first time.  Despite Maya's
assurances, Hikari found herself echoing Touji's sentiments.  
The fluid did smell rancid, in a somewhat alien and
unspeakable way.  She wasn't looking forward to tasting it,
but as the plug sealed and the LCL levels rose, she knew
there was no escaping that.

	Touji looked over the observation cameras as Maya
and Ritsuko looked over the endless statistics monitors.

	"Wow," he said.  "She looks like she's gonna vomit.  
Kinda like the first time I got a mouthfulla that crap.  
How's she doin', doc?"

	"Too early to say," replied Ritsuko.  "Hikari?  Can
you hear me?"

	//"Y-yes, I can hear you."//

	"Good.  How are you feeling?"

	//"Touji was right.  This is disgusting."//

	Ritsuko shook her head while Maya supressed a laugh.

	Touji said, "Hang in there, babe, it stops tastin'
like roadkill after a few minutes."

	//"Um... riiiight."//

	Ritsuko looked over several gauges one more time,
then flipped several switches and turned her attention to
Hikari once more.  "I want you to just close your eyes and
relax, okay?  Just try to empty your mind for a moment."

	//"I bet Touji got this part easy."//

	"Damn right I- HEY!"

	Hikari smiled weakly.  Maya snickered.  Ritsuko
grinned a little as well.  "As amusing as it would be to
needle your boyfriend here, the sooner we get this done the
sooner you get to wash your mouth out."

	//"Okay.  I'm on it."//

	She closed her eyes and relaxed, and as she did,
numerous charts and graphs began to ebb and flow, elicting
mild surprise from Ritsuko and Maya.  Touji hadn't a clue
what was going on, but stayed silent and waited anyway.  
For a brief moment, he stepped outside,then returned with a
can of soy bean milk from the wrecked dispenser around the
corner.

	A minute passed, then two, then three, and then
finally Ritsuko told Hikari, "Okay, good job.  You can stop
now.  The hatch will be opening in a moment."

	The hatch opened.  Hikari unsteadily emerged, at
first looking perfectly fine.

	"There's a bucket on the walkway if you need it,"
offered Maya helpfully."

	Hikari nodded, then started spitting into the bucket
frantically, vomiting once or twice.  Touji strolled on over
and held out the can.  "Here, you'll need this."

	Hikari looked at the can, snatched it away
frantically and guzzled down the contents in a heartbeat.

	"Oh, that was disgusting," said Hikari.  "And you
have to pilot in it all the time?"

	"Ugly job, but somebody's gotta do it.  Hey, doc,
how'd she do?"

	Ritsuko replied, "Surprisingly well.  Thirty percent
synch, well above the safety line for attempting to synch
with a real Eva."

	"Does this mean... I'll be drafted for pilot duty?"
asked Hikari.

	"Not necessarily, no," said Maya.  "But in the event
of an emergency, you'll probably be considered as a
replacement candidate."

	"Go on home, you two," said Ritsuko.  "It's been a
long couple of days for everyone and I think we're all due
for some rest."


	                         -*-

	They sat side by side, riding in silence, listening
to the clacking of the train as it made its way around the
city, staring out at the ruins of the city as it was slowly
swallowed by nightfall.

	Just a few days ago, the skyline of Tokyo-3 would've
been seen, along with the sea of lights that dotted the
streets of the city and the suburbs.  Now, only small
clusters of lights remained, and the stars above seemed
brighter than before.

	"Hey, Touji?"

	"Hnn?"

	"Would you think it's a good thing or a bad thing if
I became a pilot?"

	Touji blinked, then gazed blankly out to the city.

	"Touji?"

	"Um.... I dunno, really."

	"Why not?"

	"Well... if they let you in as a pilot, we'll see a
lot more of each other, an'that I'd like."

	She smiled and squeezed his hand.

	"But... but when you're a pilot, it ain't exactly
the safest job in the world.  I'd worry about you, y'know."

	"Yeah, I know."

	She leaned against him and closed her eyes, enjoying
the silence and missing Touji's blush entirely as the train
went onward.  Eventually, they reached their destination,
then walked a few blocks into the shelter where her family
was staying.

	"I'll see ya tomorrow?" asked Touji.

	Hikari nodded.  "Thanks for walking me here.  
G'nite, Touji." She kissed him on the cheek, then went
through the shelter doorway, while Touji just stood there
for a while, then whistled and began to walk back to the
train station.

	He paused as the shelter's doorways burst open
again, and gaped as Hikari ran out from there screaming, her
cat chasing her out with a feral yowl and hiss.

	"What the-?"

	"Toonces, what's wrong with you?!" asked Hikari,
staring at her cat in disbelief.  The cat, in turn, hissed
at her again and showed her claws.

	Touji walked back to the scene, looking at Hikari
and the cat curiously.  "Hey, babe, looks like the cat don't
like yooOLYSHITITSCOMINGATMEOOOOOOWWWW!"

	"Touji!"

	"GETITOFF!  GETITOFF!  OWWW!"  Touji waved his leg
around frantically as the feline ball of fur clamped down
with teeth and claws.  He looked around franticaly, then
tried to beat the cat against a tree.

	"Touji!  Don't hurt Toonces!"

	"WHATABOUTMEAAAGHDAMMIT?!"

	"H-hold on!"  She got a hold of Toonces' tail and
pulled as best as she could.  "Toonces, let go!  Toonces!"

	"STUPIDFRIGGINCATIMGONNAKILLYOU!"

	                         -*-


	Misato dropped her luggage in the corner.  "Okay,
this room is for me and Shinji.  The other room is for Asuka
and Anna.  That way I won't have to listen to wild sex
coming through the walls all night long."

	Shinji blushed, as did Anna.  Asuka said, "But...me
and Shinji..." She frowned, then brightened a little.  
"Okay, Anna, let's go.  We haven't had a good chance to talk
in a long time without spying bastards watching us with
hidden cameras."

	Anna nodded.  "See you all in the morning!"  She
went through the door to the next room over with Asuka.

	Once the door closed, Shinji said nervously,
"I...uh...thought you'd want a room to yourself."

	Misato sat down on the bed, letting her mask of
forced cheerfulness dissolve as she flopped back onto the
bed.  "I already had to kick people out to get this room.  
I couldn't make myself take a room to myself and a room just
for you, and there's only two beds in each of these."  She
sat back up.  "Or do you want to go share a room with Asuka?
I could have Anna as a roommate, but I thought Asuka would
want a chance to be alone with her friend for a while."

	Shinji sat down on his bed, looking very nervous.  
"Well, we...uh...we..."

	Misato's eyes widened.  "Did you two really..."

	"We didn't finish," Shinji said weakly.

	"Did, you, umm...no, I suppose you wouldn't have had
any."

	"Any what?" Shinji asked.

	"Protection."

	"Oh, I think we can take care of ourselves pretty
well," he said, sighing.  "Maybe too well."

	Misato stared blankly, then said, "You mean...um..."  
Thinking about the fact that Shinji had enough raw power to
crush her like an eggshell if he felt the urge disturbed her
greatly.  "No, I mean, as in not getting Asuka pregnant."

	Shinji's eyes widened.

	"Didn't think about that?"

	"I wasn't exactly thinking," he said nervously.  
"It was like...I mean, I won't pretend I haven't thought
about stuff like that, but I didn't think I could ever be so
bold.  But when she kissed me, I just..." He shuddered.  
"It was like...It was like fighting, but not fighting."  He
scratched his head.  "That was pretty stupid sounding."

	"Passion," she said.  "I know all about it."  She
shook her head. "I've done some dumb things for it."

	"I've never been very passionate," Shinji said.  "I
just...I mean, what I felt when she touched me..."  He shook
his head.  "The only other place I'd felt like that was in
battle.  When we fight the Angels, it's like...It's like I'm
alive in a way I'm not most of the time."  He turned and
stared out the window.  "It scares me sometimes."

	"Well, I think Ritsuko would say it's all
adrenaline, but I know the feeling," Misato said.  "Maybe
not as much as you, as I've only been in a fight to the
death a few times personally, but..."

	He turned back around, his eyes widening slightly.  
"You've killed people?"

	"I didn't become Tactical Commander by jiggling my
chest.  If your Father didn't have you, I'd think he was a
eunuch or something," Misato said.

	Shinji waved his hands.  "I didn't mean that. I
just...you don't seem like someone's who has...well...  
killed people."

	"I've had to order a lot more deaths than I've done
personally," she replied.  "I shot up the chain of command
like a rocket."  She frowned a bit.  "Which I sometimes
wonder why I was chosen instead of someone much older than
me with more military experience to command the EVAs.  Not
that anyone had any real experience at all commanding EVAs,
but..."  She shook her head.  "I'm a soldier, and sometimes
soldiers have to kill.  I've shot twenty men, and half of
them are dead because of it.  Most of the rest died by other
people's hands."

	"And how many...have you had to order?"

	"I haven't kept count," Misato said.  "It would be
too depressing, and I'd probably screw up the count anyway.  
I just hope you'll be able to stick to just killing
monsters, Shinji."

	"Me too," he said.  "There's been enough death."

	"Yeah."


	                         -*-

	Some things just don't go the way they're supposed
to, Akane thought.  She stood on the balcony of Makoto's
apartment, gazing out on the wreckage of a mighty work of
mankind.  It was far more depressing than she'd expected it
to be.  The darkness of the night with power still out in
some areas shrouded much of the city in shadow, and the
stars looked down, uncaring as to the city's plight.  Some
of them might already be dead, with only their light living
on, anyway.

	I wasn't supposed to get stuck here.  Not yet.  He
isn't ready. I'm not ready.  But then, no one told me there
was going to be an earthquake either.  She pursed her lips.  
I can't stay, but I can't leave unless I want to walk.  I
should have listened when my editor told me to buy a car.  
Assuming the roads aren't destroyed.

	The sliding glass door opened, and Makoto said,
"Akane?"

	She turned around, turning on her smile.  "Hey,
honey.  Just stargazing."

	"I thought you'd be gone by now," he said.  "Or I
would have come home faster."

	"I don't think I'm going anywhere for a while," she
said.  "Unless I grow wings, anyway.  Or you smuggle me out
of the city on NERV transport, since the airport's a wreck,
the buses have stopped and the train lines are a tangle of
metal."  She slinked over to him.  "And I was thinking maybe
a longer visit could be fun."

	"Well, I'm going to be pretty busy the next few
days, but I'd love to have you stay."  He surprised himself
by pulling her into his arms.  "I wasn't looking forward to
sleeping alone tonight, not after everything that happened."

	"Did someone die?" she asked softly.

	"We almost all died," he said.  "And now it turns
out Rei can possess people."

	Akane shivered.  "Anyone?  Or is this one of those
things where she hears her name being said and comes?"

	"We don't know yet," he said, sighing.  "I shouldn't
talk about it."

	"I won't pry," she said.  Much.

	"I need to talk to someone about it, and I trust
you," he said.

	She frowned where he couldn't see it, as her head
laid on his shoulder.  You trust too much and too easily,
she thought.  It may be the death of you some day.  But I
hope not.  "Let's go inside, then.  Best not to let your
neighbors hear, right?"

	"Right," he said.  "So how's your book coming
along?"

	She let her smile turn itself back on, more
naturally this time. "Hmm, have you ever had sex on top of a
speeding bus?"

	He blushed.  "What?"

	"Well, you see..."

	And then they went inside.

	                         -*-

	The two reporters stood at the heart of downtown, or
at least as close to it as possible.  A large section of
downtown had actually collapsed, falling down on the
Geo-Front below.  Things didn't look much better down below,
the devastation brought to NERV's base evident even from
high above.

	 Megumi looked over the desolation, shaking her head.  
"I never thought it'd come to this, not again."

	 Her cameraman nodded.  "S'not as bad as Second
Impact was, but... yeah."

	 She finished off the last of her cigarette, tossed
it away, then sighed.  "C'mon, let's get some perspective."

	                        -*-

	 //"It... it happened so fast.  One minute it was
just another lazy weekday, the next..."//

	 //"Get that fucking camera outta my face!"//

	 //"Our house... it had survived for over two hundred
years now... through good times and bad... but now...."//

	 //"...I'm the only one left... my husband... my
children... they..."//

	 //"Well... what now?  I mean, really, what are we
supposed to do now?  The neighbors are leaving, the
businesses are leaving, and I heard that even NERV is
leaving.  I guess it's over for Tokyo-3."//

	 Megumi paused the footage right there.

	 The scene was near the heart of downtown, by one of
the hundreds of apartment complexes.  They'd been
interviewing a middle aged woman, her face and clothes
stained with dirt, the anxiety in the woman's eyes tangible
even through the television screen.  In the background were
several of her neighbors, digging through the rubble,
carrying things away.  Just the right angle to get a glimpse
into the gaping hole into the GeoFront too.

	 Perfect shot.  They'd lead into tonight's news with
this.  And after tonight... she felt much like the elderly
lady... nothing was certain.

	                        -*-

	Gendo frowned deeply.  "It seems as if we may be
left with no choice.  Especially if we have to shift bases."

	"We will," Fuyutsuki said.  "We were only able to
imprison her because she let us out of fear of what she had
done.  We must either call on SEELE's resources or else it
will be impossible to keep a hold on her unless Rei chooses
to be held."

	And then his skin paled, and his eyes changed color,
and his hair took on a blue sheen.  And Rei said, "I do not
choose to be held."

	"You raped Langley," Gendo said flatly.  "That is,
among other things, a crime."

	"Release me," she said, but now her voice wavered.

	"If I was to release you, Langley would simply try
to kill you.  I cannot afford to let you kill each other
when our world hangs in the balance.  I will not release
you," he said levelly.

	For long minutes, they stared at each other.  The
air crackled with power.  And then Rei turned away, and
Fuyutsuki was himself again.

	There was another silence, and then Gendo slumped.  
"Too close," he said.

	Fuyutsuki shivered.  "I couldn't do anything."

	"I know the feeling," Gendo said quietly.  "We dance
at the edge of the Abyss."

	"Perhaps we should simply tell the Children
everything.  I increasingly fear our original plan will not
work.  They are growing too fast, too powerfully."

	"They grow up so fast," Gendo said, sighing.  "They
could not handle the truth, and they will not accept untruth
much longer.  But it is too late for us to back out."

	"I know.  I know."


	                         -*-

	Anna sat, brushing her hair, while Asuka did the
same.  "You're awfully quiet," she said, finally.

	"I just..."  Her brush caught in a snarl, and she
frowned.  "I've been so emotional lately, I'm just driving
myself nuts.  First I was depressed, then pissed, then way
too happy, then depressed again, and I guess, now I'm just
kind of..."  Her hair refused to cooperate.  "Starting to
get mad at my stupid hair."

	Anna came over, took the brush and a comb, and
cleared the snarl out of Asuka's hair, then started to brush
it for her.  "Better?"

	Asuka smiled faintly.  "Yes.  God, I've missed you
so much."

	"I'm not God," Anna said faintly as she continued to
brush Asuka's hair, counting the strokes.  "But I've missed
you too.  I wish I'd come earlier."

	Asuka felt her body begin to relax.  She and Anna
always did this during their sleepovers together, ever since
they were little.  "Sometimes, I wish I'd stayed in
Germany."

	"Are you not liking it here?" Anna asked, combing
out another tangle.  "Have you been inviting crows to live
in your hair again?"

	"I haven't had a proper brushing in days," Asuka
said softly.  "Not since they locked me up as if it was my
fault I got...that what Rei did to me happened."  She felt a
surge of rage, just thinking about the cold-hearted, blue
haired bitch.  "And now the little bitch has her claws in
Hikari too."

	"How did she...how did she do that?" Anna asked,
sounding scared.  The brush shook in her hands.

	"I don't know," Asuka said.  "She's turning into a
monster even..." Asuka shuddered.  "Even faster than the
rest of us."

	"I don't understand," Anna said, calming herself
enough to start brushing again.

	"We absorb bits of the Angels as we kill them,
gaining their powers."  Asuka held out a hand and a ball of
flame danced in it.  "Look at this.  This isn't something a
human can do."  Her voice became very quiet and tinged with
fear.  "I'm not the Asuka you used to know.  You ought to
run very far from me and never come back.  I might..."  She
shuddered.  "I might hurt you, and if I did that, I'd want
to die."

	"I know you'd never hurt me," Anna said soothingly,
moving round to brush more of Asuka's hair, gently working
out another snarl with fingers and comb.  "And you're still
the Asuka who is my best friend."

	Asuka began to cry.  "I don't want to be a monster."

	Anna put down the brush and hugged Asuka from
behind.  "You're not a monster.  You're strong and brave and
smart, and I wish I could be half as much of any of those as
you."

	Asuka leaned against her for a while, crying.  
Finally, she pulled herself together.  "Let me do your hair
when you're done with mine."

	"Okay," Anna said.  "Feel better?"

	"A little."

	Anna finished off Asuka's hair, then asked, "So is
Shinji your boyfriend now?"  She moved around and sat down
so Asuka could brush her hair.

	Fumblingly beginning to brush Anna's hair, Asuka
blushed.  "Well, we, umm...we...sort of...I was kind of
insane, and I may have sort of pushed him too far, but..."  
She thought about what had happened, and began to fret.  
Does he really like me?  Or was he just being a man, and
taking it where he can get it?  Did I push him too much?  
Would I have been able to stop if he said no?  She shuddered
in fear at the thought she might do something like Rei had
done.  She didn't want to believe it possible, but now it
nagged at her.

	"Insane?"

	"You saw what I was like," Asuka said.  "I nearly
burned you to death."  She pulled the brush away from Anna's
head, half-afraid it would suddenly burst into flames.

	"But you didn't."

	"I'm scared, Anna," Asuka said.  "Of what I might
do."

	"And I'm scared I'll screw up because I hardly know
what I'm doing," Anna replied.  "I didn't accomplish much
against Zuriel at all."

	"If Suzuhara can pilot an EVA, so can you."  She
began brushing Anna's hair again.

	"I don't want to be a burden on all of you," Anna
said.

	"You're not a burden," Asuka said firmly.  "With
just a little more experience, you'll be out there stomping
Angels with the best of us."

	"I hope so," Anna said.

	"All done," Asuka said, putting the brush down.

	"That was quick," Anna said.

	"Your hair is always so soft and it never snarls,"
Asuka said.  "I wish I had hair like that."

	"I wish I had your figure."

	"I wish I could throw Commander Ikari into the
ocean," Asuka said, flopping back across the bed.

	"You probably could," Anna said, getting up and
stretching, before sprawling out next to Asuka.  "But it
wouldn't be a very good idea."

	"I know," she said a little petulantly.  "But I want
to."

	"Feeling better?" Anna asked.

	"A lot," Asuka said.  She rolled over to face Anna.  
"Promise me you won't ever leave me."

	"I promise," Anna said.  "Although if you and Shinji
are making out, I'm not gonna stay and watch, those times."

	Asuka nodded, then yawned.  "I need to sleep."

	"Then sleep," Anna said.  "I'll turn out the
lights."  She got up and went and turned out the lights;
Asuka was zonked out by the time she returned.  I wish I
could sleep that easily, she thought, lying down next to
Asuka.

	She woke up somewhat later, with Asuka's arms
wrapped around her.  Asuka was holding her tightly, her face
wrenched unhappily.  "No, Rei, stop, please, no..."

	Anna shook her awake.  "Asuka, you're having a
nightmare."

	Asuka's eyes snapped open, she looked forlorn and
terrified, but the terror swiftly faded.  "Anna, I..."  She
shuddered.  "That was awful."

	"It's okay," Anna said.

	"Ack, and I'm all over you!"  Asuka let go and
scooted back over.

	"Are you going to be okay?" Anna asked.

	"I'll be fine," Asuka said.  "Sorry about that."

	"That's okay," Anna said.  "I used to do that to you
all the time when I had nightmares."

	Asuka nodded.  "Good night, Anna."

	"Good night, Asuka."  And they both drifted off to
sleep.

-*-

	 Misato was usually a heavy sleeper, but were nights,
when life proved too stressful, when everything seemed to be
going wrong, there were those nights when she would wake up
at the slightest thing.

	 This night she was stirred by the sound of footsteps
padding over cheap carpet, and a shadow being cast over her
bed.  One hand slowly moved for the gun under her pillow, as
she slowly opened her eyes.

	 She relaxed when she saw it was Shinji, staring out
of the window, his back to her.

	 "Nnn... Shinji?  Wha's wrong?"

	 "I was just... looking at the city," he replied.  
After a moment of hesitation, he asked, "Do you think it's
fair?"

	 Her sleep-addled mind tried to process this.  It was
going to be one of _those_ conversations, she decided, so
she did her best to wake up for it, sitting up in her bed.

	 "Fair?  What's fair?" she asked.

	 "We've got a place to stay tonight, just by the
mandate of NERV, while out there... the people we were
supposed to protect are homeless."

	 Misato sighed.  "I do see your point, it does seem
unfair.  But, you have to understand we're under more danger
than they are right now.  There's people out there that want
the Angels to succeed, people that want us dead.  Your
mission is to still save the world from the Angels, and
sleeping out on the street is no way to go about it."

	 "I see."

	 Another pause.

	 Misato studied his features in the moonlight, what
features she could see anyway.  So different from when he
first came to her, an awkward, shy kid that was new at
everything.  The way he brooded these days reminded her of
his father, a thought that frightened her a bit.

	 "Misato?"

	 "Yeah?"

	 "Will Rei ever be free?"

	 Tough question.  She frowned.

	 "I don't know, Shinji, I really don't."

	 "It's not fair."

	 "A lot of things in life aren't."

	 Another uneasy moment of silence.

	 He looked up to the moon.  "I guess it's a part of
growing up."

	 "What is?"

	 "Disappointment."

	 Hm.  The kid's slipping into teenage angst.  Gotta
think of something...

	 "You know, given what Rei was able to do with
Hikari, you have to wonder if we can really stop her from
being free."

	 "I... I guess you're right."

	 She frowned.  Somehow that didn't come out as
positive as she was thinking of.  Right.  Next topic.

	 "Hey, Shinji, what's got you up this late anyway?"

	 "Just a bad dream."

	 "Wanna talk about it?" she asked gently.

	 He paused again.  "No, I'll be okay."

	 She yawned and settled into her bed again, feeling
still a bit worried about Shinji, but knew that there was
nothing else to be done, at least not tonight.  "Well, if
you ever need to talk to me, I'll always be here."

	 In the dim moonlight, she thought she saw Shinji
smile.  Just a bit.

	                         -*-

	 It felt like she was floating in an endless sea, the
waters thicker than usual, warmer too.  Absolute darkness
surrounded her, and only the sounds of the sloshing liquids
filled her ears.

	 Oddly enough, she wasn't drowning.

	 The liquid was moving through her lungs naturally.
It was an alien sensation, but she tried not to think about
it.  The alternative was to panic and drown.

	 - wake up -

	 What was that?  She looked around, but still
everything was dark.  She opened her mouth to call out, but
just swallowed a mouthful of liquid instead.

	 - wake up -

	 She looked around again, searching for that.... it
wasn't quite a voice, but it was hard to describe, like a
nagging inner sense telling her what to do.

	 - wake up -

	 And then the waters around her began to stir.

	 One by one in the darkness they appeared, small
points of red light, above her, below her, behind her, ahead
of her, slowly increasing in number until she found herself
in a sea of red lights.

	 - rise -

	 And she realized they weren't just lights.

	 They were eyes.

	 Endless eyes.

	 Rei's eyes.

	 She screamed.

	                           - * -

	 She sat upright suddenly, her pulse racing and
breath ragged, staring wildly around the room.

	No, no dark void, no endless red eyes, just the
slumbering forms of other families now homeless after the
Angel attack, all in quiet slumber.

	The echo of something not quite a voice resonated in
her head, but she ignored it, and was soon sleeping a
blessedly normal sleep.

	                         -*-

	Shinji lay on his bed drowsing and listening to
music.  School was shut down, so there was nothing else much
to do.  It was kind of nice to take a little time to himself
to relax.  Anna and Asuka were off in the other room
talking, and Misato had left for work.

	Then Makoto marched in with Anna and Asuka. They
both looked irritated.  He announced, "Misato's asked me to
take over teaching you while the schools are closed, so you
don't fall behind."

	Hikari and Touji now came in behind him.

	"Behind?" Shinji asked.  "But no one else can go
either."

	"Behind the national standard," Makoto said.  
"Everyone get comfortable.  We'll start with..."  He fumbled
in his briefcase.  "Math."

	Touji groaned.  "Can we do PE first?"

	"That'll be dessert," Makoto said.

	Anna giggled, and Hikari laughed.

	"Not my idea of dessert," Shinji grumbled.

	"What class would you like for dessert?" Makoto
asked.

	"Music," Shinji said.

	"German," Asuka and Anna said in unison, then Anna
laughed and Asuka smiled faintly.

	"Home ec," Hikari said.

	"Umm...I think we'll have to, well...skip home ec,"
Makoto said. "Okay, we'll save those for dessert and start
with math."

	"We don't have any math books," Anna said.

	"Hmm.  English then."

	"Or English books," Shinji pointed out.

	"What books do you have?"

	"I got a good fishing manual at home," Touji offered
helpfully.

	"I have music books," Asuka said.

	Makoto frowned.  "Alright, tomorrow, I'll go get
copies of all the books.  So, I'll just have to work from my
lecture notes, but no readings."

	"I didn't bring any paper," Touji said.

	Makoto gave him some.

	Damn, had to try, Touji thought.

	                         -*-

	*ping*

	Touji put fresh flowers into the vase by his
sister's bed.  "We may have to move ya soon, sis.  Misato's
making noises like we may have to move operations to another
city, the damage is so bad.  And I ain't gonna let you get
left behind here.  If'n I can help it."

	Hikari sat down in one of the chairs and just let
her mind wander while Touji talked to his sister.  She had
nothing to say, but she wanted to show her support for him
and her sympathy.

	*ping*

	"I'm just glad the hospital didn't collapse on ya,"
he said.  "And that they didn't try and kick you out or
something."  He glanced over at the extra beds in the room.
"Though I can see ya got new roommates out of it."

	*ping*

	Touji's sister mumbled something.

	*ping*

	"Hey, Hikari, didja hear that?  I think she said
summthin'.  Hey, sis, can you say it again?"

	Hikari zoned back in. "I didn't hear anything.

	*ping*

	"Father..." his sister mumbled.

	"Sis!  You awake?" Touji asked excitedly.  "Want me
to call dad?"

	"Coming..." she mumbled.

	*ping*

	"I'll call Pop," Touji said, pulling out the
cellular they'd given him as a pilot.  "Dammit, what's
that...oh yeah."

	"Run...," she mumbled.

	*ping*

	"Pop, ya gotta get over here!  Sis is actually
talking!"

	"I think she's just talking in her sleep," Hikari
said.  "Her eyes are closed."

	"She said you were coming or something.  I guess
she'd like to see ya."

	*ping*

	"Soon...coming..."

	"We'll be waiting for ya, Pop."

	*ping*


	                         -*-

	Shinji sat down on the floor by the wall, propped
his notebook up on his legs, and started working on math.

	Asuka, who was doing her history reading, put it
aside, and crawled over to the far end of the bed.  "You
don't have to sit on the floor," she said.

	"Well, Anna's on the other bed, and all your stuff
is on the chair," Shinji replied.  "I'm fine here."

	"Well, okay," Asuka said.  "But you could..."  She
hesitated. "Come and sit with me."

	Shinji blushed a bit and glanced over at Anna, who
didn't seem to have noticed the conversation.  The reason
for this was that she was over at the radio on the table
under the window, by the TV.  "There's nothing but static,"
she complained.

	"There _was_ music on the channel we had it on,"
Asuka pointed out.

	"I didn't like it," Anna said.

	"Well, I did," Asuka said.  "And a lot better than
static.  Given the earthquake, I doubt any other stations
are up."

	Anna sighed.  "Okay," she said, and turned back to
her bed and her math homework, leaving static hissing from
the radio.

	"Don't just leave it on static!" Asuka said,
irritated.

	Anna went back to the radio and kept fiddling.  
Finally, a station came in and music began to play.

	o/~ We've got stars directing our fates
	o/~ And we're praying it's not too late
	o/~ Millennium

	o/~ Some say that we are players
	o/~ Some say that we are pawns
	o/~ But we've been making money
	o/~ Since the day that we were born

	"Much better," Anna said.

	"Ugh, no oldies," Asuka replied.

	"Oh, I like it," Shinji said.

	"Well, it's about all there is," Anna said.

	Asuka sighed.  "It'll have to do, I guess."

	o/~ Got to slow down
	o/~ Because we're low down
	o/~ We've got stars, directing our fate
	o/~ And we're praying it's not too late
	o/~ Because we know we're falling from grace
	o/~ Millennium

	                         -*-

	Gendo read from the Ponape Scriptures.  "And lo, the
Worm burrows no more, bores no more holes in the flesh of
the world, haunts dreams no more.  Then will rouse the
sleeping mother, the slumbering father, whose flesh is the
birth and death of all things.  Her children will rally to
him, and they will go forth to inaugurate a new age."  He
put down the translation.  "Sounds like Adam to me."

	"Ahh, but De Vermis Mysteris states that 'A great
city will perish when the Burrower Beneath comes forth to do
battle with the new generation of gods.  Then shall all
mortals know sorrow.  And the High Gods will send their
herald to pass judgment upon the young gods, who would usurp
the powers of their elders.  He will lead them into the cave
of truth, stripping their illusions, and freeing them to
live as the gods, killing, feasting, slaking their lusts,
without the chains which bind humans.  And the new age will
dawn."  He put that book aside.  "This would seem to
indicate we'll be dealing with the Soul of the Outer Gods
next.  No mention of Adam at all."

	Gendo frowned.  "The Book of Eibon hints that Adam
and Gabriel may be the same being, you know."

	"Well, 'Gabriel' does have a thousand and one forms.  
But..."  He laughed.  "So we're calling him Gabriel?"

	"Should it be necessary," Gendo said.  "Gabriel
acted as God's herald.  And I believe that the Herald of the
Outer Gods sees himself as bringing truth into the world."

	"Given one of his aspects calls itself 'The Blind
Ape of Truth', yes."  Fuyutsuki shook his head.  "It remains
debatable, I think."

	Gendo nodded.  "And, of course, the new reports
raise the question of how having six Children fits into the
prophecies."

	"It doesn't.  At all," Fuyutsuki replied.  "But
then, we are rather counting on these prophets having been
wrong about how it all ends."

	"This is true."

	                         -*-

	He was escorted by a dozen NERV security officers,
armed to the teeth with exotic weaponry, into a part of NERV
he'd never ventured into before.  He could see, traced
lightly into the steel plates that made the walls and doors,
a strange sort of pattern etched in, and looking at it for
too long made him feel queasy.

	At last they stopped at a massive set of vault
doors, with crossbars and safety seals keeping it shut.

	"Is this... is she here?"

	One of the guards nodded silently.

	With a low rumbling sound, the doorway opened to
reveal another doorway, this one of regular size, steel like
all the others, and with even more strange symbols traced
upon them.

	"The commander has allowed you to communicate
through the door, no further.  You have two minutes.  This
is for your own safety.  Understand?"

	Shinji nodded and approached the door, peering into
its small window.  On the other side he saw more steel
walls, though the etchings on them seemed to pulse with an
unseen power.  Huddled at the room's center was Rei, head on
her knees, arms crossed before her, eyes closed.

	What were they doing to her?  What was happening
here?  So many questions, so many that nobody was willing to
answer.  And now he was here, with the source of so many
mysteries, and he was at a loss for words.

	"Hello, Shinji," she said softly.

	"R-Rei?"

	She stirred slightly to acknowledge his presence,
but otherwise remained still and silent.

	"Rei... I... are you okay?  Is there something wrong
with you?"

	Silence.

	"Hikari has all the homework you missed from school,
once you get out... so... so you don't have to worry about
that."

	Still, silence.

	"I... can you tell me why you're here like this?  
Nobody will answer me, not father, or Misato, or anybody."

	Again, silence.

	"Rei... I miss you."

	She raised her head slightly, but still said
nothing.

	He slammed a fist at the door in frustration,
screaming, "Dammit, say something, Rei!"

	She turned her head slightly, and for the first time
he could see her face, even though she wasn't looking
directly at him.  That melancholy look, the one that seemed
hauntingly beautiful on her, was the expression on her face.  
Her lips parted slightly, and the words she said were barely
audible, but loud enough for him to hear.

	"I miss you."

	"Rei..."

	A black gloved hand took hold of his shoulder,
tugging him away from the door.  "Time's up, pilot."

	"But-"

	"Commander's orders, pilot.  Time's over."

	"I... I'll see you later, Rei."  He lingered for a
moment at the door's window, but she did not respond any
further.  With a sigh he turned away, and the doorways
sealed themselves behind him.

	                         -*-

	Ritsuko stared at the huge tank.  The Reis were all
swimming about more energetically than usual.  In fact, many
of them looked scared, or excited, or confused, showing more
emotion than the norm as well.  The life sign readings
showed slightly higher levels of adrenaline than was normal
for them, which bothered her.

	Are they scared of something?  But what?  Not each
other.  She looked down at herself for a moment, but she
couldn't imagine her labcoat was somehow more terrifying
today than yesterday.  "This makes no sense."

	Maya nodded.  "Readings indicate they've been
getting slowly more worked up since midnight or so."

	One of the Reis began to try to claw at the glass,
with no effect.

	"I hope this material holds up to its technical
specifications," Ritsuko said.  "We may need to drug them."

	"We already are," Maya said.

	Ritsuko's eyes widened.  "What?"

	"The safeguards kicked in around five AM and
administered various sedatives."

	Ritsuko ran over and examined the log.  "Call up
security cameras."

	They spent some time scanning over hours of security
footage, but no one came in, nothing happened, the Reis
simply started to become agitated around midnight.

	"Well, that gives us one tiny clue to start with,"
Ritsuko said.

	Several more Reis began to pound on the glass.

	"And we'd best sedate them some more."

	"I fear they may be adapting to overcome it," Maya
said.  "If I understand these readings."

	Ritsuko frowned.  "Delightful.  Report this to
Commander Ikari while I scan our data and search for a
plan."  She then gave orders to the rest of the DAGON staff,
and went to work.


	                         -*-

	come to me.

	Rei blinked, slowly.

	come to me.

	Again she heard the voice, whispering in her head.  
It wasn't quite human, that voice, and yet eerily familiar.  
She felt strangely comfortable, listening to that voice, and
that made her worry even more.

	come to me.

	She rose from the floor, pacing about the room, her
fingers hovering a centimeter above the tracery that ran
along the walls.  Had anyone been there to observe
carefully, they would have noticed her feet were hovering a
centimeter above the floor as well.

	come to me.

	She knew that voice, knew that she had to respond to
it, but she was still sealed in.  Her red eyes looked over
the seals etched upon the metal.

	This would take some work.

	                         -*-

	come to me.

	Asuka looked around frowning.  It sounded like her
father, except she hadn't actually heard a voice.  Just like
a memory of one.  She tried to ignore it and focus on
Makoto.

	"Now, the spanish administration of the New World
was..." Makoto droned on.

	my children, i need you.

	Shinji frowned.  Why am I daydreaming about father?  
He'd never say that.

	"The crucial moment came with Napoleon's invasion of
Spain."

	come to me.

	Touji pinched his leg, trying to stay awake, but
Makoto seemed to have a knack for making history extra
boring.  I'm so bored, I'm imagining things, he thought.

	"With the defeat of the Spanish monarchy, their
authority over their colonies was hampered."

	my children, I need you.

	Hikari frowned.  Did I hear something?

	Come to me.

	Anna blinked, and looked around the room.

	My Children, I Need You.

	Father needs me, Asuka thought.  But Father...father
died...  She tried to concentrate, but his voice was
calling, calling to her.  He needed her desperately.

	"Asuka, is something wrong?" Makoto asked.

	COME TO ME.

	Father, I'm coming! Shinji thought.  He leaped to
his feet. "Father needs me!"  He sprinted out the door.

	Touji blinked.  "Say what?"  He could sort of
imagine his father was calling him as well, but he'd assumed
he was daydreaming from abject boredom.

	"I'm coming, Daddy!"  Asuka shouted, and streaked
after Shinji.

	Anna said, "Asuka, wait, you..."

	"Isn't Asuka's father dead?" Hikari asked.

	"I thought so," Makoto said, getting out his celluar
phone.  "I have a bad feeling about this."


	                         -*-

	Alarms began to ring as the EVA Units began to move
without being plugged in.  Technicians ran about in a
frenzy, checking meters and sending reports.

	They weren't moving much, but just a little movement
was more than was theoretically possible.  The head tech on
duty immediately sent an alert to High Commander Gendo, then
waited for further instructions.

	As he waited, Unit00 began to throw itself at the
walls of its holding chamber.  Wham.  Wham.  Wham.

	He began to sweat.  The walls were holding, but
they'd never been designed to hold off a really sustained
assault, though they could handle a short frenzy.  He hoped
it would be short.

	Wham.  Wham.  Wham.  Now Unit01 joined in.

	Dammit, I'm not getting paid enough.

	Wham.  Wham.  Wham.  Unit02 began to pound on its
cell.

	"Evacuate everyone," he ordered.  "Nothing we can
do, and no point standing around and waiting to die."

	His cellular rang.  He answered it.  "Chief
Technician Takashi," he said.

	"Do not evacuate everyone," Ikari replied.

	"But sir..."

	"We may need the EVAs," Ikari replied.  "Hold your
position and keep me posted."

	Wham.  Wham.  Wham.  Unit03 joined in.

	"We're fucked, sir."

	"Not as much as you will be if you abandon your
post."

	"But what the hell do you expect us to DO?" he
demanded.

	"Wait for further orders.  Get me an estimate on how
soon the EVAs will break loose, if at all.  Figure out
where, if anywhere, they seem to be trying to go.  Now, get
to it."

	"Yes, sir," he said wearily, and started trying to
decide how best to carry out his orders.

	                         -*-

	Maya stared down from the, horrified, at the massive
tank of clones as their activity reached a fevered pitch.  
Most were pounding against the glass, some were morphing
into things worse than monsters, beyond description, and yet
others seemed to be multiplying by splitting in half and
forming whole new clones from each part.

	Behind her, Ritsuko was on the phone and looking
very stressed.  "Dammit, Gendo, we've got a situation here.  
We've got the tank full of enough sedatives to put China to
sleep and they're still going wild!"

	And then they heard the first crack.

	The various NERV technicians stopped in their
tracks, Maya gaped and Ritsuko turned around slowly, even as
the jagged break made its way across the tank.

	"S-sempai?"

	"Gendo, we're compromised.  I'm evacuating the block
and initiating containment protocols."  She slammed down the
phones and shouted to the people below, "EVERYONE EVACUATE!
NOW!"

	And then the glass broke open.

	Large shards of glass came crashing down with the
torrent of LCL from the tank, some slicing and decapitating
clones and NERV techs alike, others smashing onto the wall,
shattering into sprays of glass.  The lucky few techs that
were at the edge of the room managed to scramble out the
doors, but were soon chased down by more renegade clones.

	Three clones, mutated into hideous humanoid locust
creatures, sprang up towards towards the observation
platform, just as Maya and Ritsuko began their retreat
towards the exit.  Two of them sprang again, landing between
them and their escape route.  The third one crept forward,
clacking her jaws.

	"S-sempai?"  Maya retreated to Ritsuko's side
quickly.

	"Stay close to me, Maya."  Ritsuko reached for
Maya's hand and held it tightly.  "And get ready to run."

	And then the clones sprang at them.

	Ritsuko dodged sidewards, pulling Maya with her,
drawing a pistol from her labcoat and opening fire.  One of
the clones landed in a heap of black ichor, still twitching.  
The other two turned on them, growling in a strangely
insectoid way, maddened red eyes glaring at them.

	But now they weren't blocking the door.

	"Run!" shouted Ritsuko, pushing Maya towards the
door, following after her.  The clones sprang at Ritsuko,
who opened fire again.  One more clone fell to the ground,
but the other pounced on Ritsuko, her jaws shifting shape
into a gaping maw.  Ritsuko struggled to push it off, but it
lunged forward with its head and bit down on her left
shoulder.  Ritsuko cried out in pain, her gun knocked away
and sliding across the platform.  Maya hesitated at the
doorway, seeing Ritsuko's plight.

	"Sempai!"

	The monstrosity tugged its head back, trying to rip
away at Ritsuko's shoulder.  In turn, Ritsuko struggled to
her feet and slammed the creature's head against a control
panel.  Again and again, she felt flesh and bone impact
against steel and glass, but the monstrosity fought back,
shoving away from the panel and driving Ritsuko to the floor
again.

	And then a shot rang out.

	The clone's bite lost its grip, and it slumped
lifelessly against her as black ichor flowed from its head.  
Maya lowered the gun, arms trembling, and helped push the
monster off of Ritsuko.

	"Sempai!  Are you okay?"

	Ritsuko stood up, her shoulder bleeding profusely.  
"Yeah, I'm fine.  Let's just get out of here."

	                         -*-

	Gendo hustled down the hallway towards the bridge
with Fuyutuski trying to keep up.  "Faster," he commanded.

	Fuyutsuki panted.  "I can only go so fast at my
age."

	"Not good enough," Gendo replied.  "We have
to...damnation."

	His outburst was prompted by the fact that he was
now passing through an intersection, and had just spotted a
trio of naked, feral Reis further down the side corridor.

	"Run, now," he commanded, then took off at a sprint.

	Fuyutsuki had never been a great runner, and old age
didn't help. He started running, but running for him wasn't
a lot better than fast walking for most people, and it
swiftly became apparent that the trio of hooting, frothing
naked blue haired teenagers were going to catch up with him.

	However, Gendo had not just been running.  He'd also
drawn his pistol, and now he stopped and spun about, firing
wildly.  Most of the bullets missed, as Gendo had not become
Commander of NERV by his pistol skills.  However, one of
them shattered the hip of an on-coming Rei, and the second
one immediately leaped on the injured one and began to eat
her.

	He could hear people coming as the third one grabbed
Fuyutsuki, forcing him to the ground.  Fuyutsuki tried to
kick her off him, and failed miserably.  Fortunately for
Fuyutsuki, she wasted precious time causing her face to
mutate into one big mouth, during which time Gendo reloaded
and blew her head off.

	This left only the second Rei, who was now
simultaneously eating the first Rei and fusing together with
her.  Gendo fired off more rounds into her, but the bullets
simply splashed through her as if she was silly putty, the
wounds almost immediately reclosing.

	She was, however, still busy assimilating the first
Rei, which gave Gendo and Fuyutsuki time to start running
again.  They could see the NERV security squad coming, and
Gendo shouted, "Bullets won't stop this one."

	Ever since their encounter with the Thrones,
however, NERV security squads had started packing
flamethrowers.  While the hail of bullets did little to the
Rei once she started to rush them, twin jets of flaming
napalm finished her off.

	Gendo and Fuyutsuki collapsed against the wall,
breathing heavily. Sargent Kasuga asked, "Are you okay,
Commander?  And what the hell was that?  It looked like the
First Child."

	"A relative of sorts," Gendo said.  "If you see more
of them, kill them if you can.  Some will die from bullets,
others may require more extreme measures.  And report all
sightings as soon as you can."  He regained his composure.  
"Good job, soldiers," he said.  "Now escort us to the
Bridge."

	"Yes, sir," Kasuga said.  He turned to his men.  
"You heard the commander, let's move out!"

	                         -*-

	Rei hovered at the very center of her prison, hair
whipping about in an unseen breeze, white electricity
dancing about her skin.  Around her, the sigils etched in
her prison walls flared a brilliant scarlet color, pulsing
slowly but constantly.

	come to me.

	Her eyes opened wide, and the air rippled with power
radiating from her.  The walls of her prison shuddered
against the pressure, but held.

	come to me.

	Her eyes flared red for a moment, the seals etched
within them spinning wildly, trembling as if on the edge of
shattering, and yet another wave of power slammed against
her prison.  Sparks ran along the sigils, and the door
jarred slightly open.

	come to me.

	She screamed an inhuman shriek, and the air rippled
again, this time in a focused stream slamming into the door,
which finally shattered.  As it did, the sigils in her eyes
flared brightly, causing her to recoil with pain and clutch
at her eyes.

	come to me.

	Still clutching her eyes, she staggered to the
doorway.  Beyond it was a thick, vault-like door, but
compared to the room, it provided little challenge for her.  
Within seconds, she tore through it.  Security guards opened
fire, but their bullets bounced away harmlessly.  She
mentally reached out and stunned them.

	Nothing to stop her now.

	come to me.

	"I am coming."

	                         -*-

	Asuka and Shinji flew down in through the ruins of
NERV HQ, then landed inside the base, their wings retracting
without them even fully realizing they'd flown.  The call
was all, and they had to answer it.

	In the distance, alarms sounded and people screamed,
but they didn't notice.  The walls echoed with the sound of
distant feet and death.

	They rounded a corner and passed the mangled corpses
of several technicians.  Asuka jumped over a severed head,
paying it no more mind than she would have a rock.  Shinji
stumbled on one body as it slid in a pool of its own blood
when he leaped onto it and tried to launch himself off it.  
Nor did the crunching noises coming from the nearby lab
concern them.

	Daddy needed them.  These miserable spawn of
Daddy's, his distant bastard descendants were as nothing.

	The ground shook, and a wall collapsed.  
Irrelevant.

	Pipes burst ahead of them, but the hot steam was
merely an annoyance.

	A flash of light and a jet of flame from a doorway
ahead of them, followed by hideous screaming merely induced
them to turn down a side hallway.

	They descended a stalled escalator, then Asuka
blasted them a way open through a collapsed intersection.  
But beyond that stood something they didn't expect.  It was
Rei, naked and covered with blood, standing over the remains
of a NERV technician.  She held one of his hands, which she
was gnawing on.

	This was enough to shake Shinji out of his obsession
and into a state of just staring in abject shock.

	Asuka changed obsessions as well.  Her rage ignited,
and she unleashed flame upon Rei instinctively.  Rei leaped
to one side, and only her legs burned away.

	Shinji shouted, "No, Asuka, don't..."

	Rei lay on the ground whimpering; her cauterized
wounds did not bleed, but she was clearly in pain.  Asuka
felt joy at the sight.

	Another gout of flame fried Rei to ash.

	Shinji grabbed Asuka.  "You just murdered Rei!"  
Then he thought about what she had been doing.  Surely, Rei
would never kill and eat someone, he thought.  But he and
Asuka had been out of their minds...Asuka still was.

	She spun and screamed.  "The bitch raped me!  She
deserved to...shit."

	Shinji blinked.  "Huh?"

	Asuka fired off flame past him; he turned just in
time to see another Rei fry to ash.  But she wasn't the only
Rei; there were dozens of them.  "She's spawned!  The
hellbitch has spawned!"  She charged right at them as the
ground shook again.

	"Asuka, wait!"  Shinji started after her.

	And then the place shook harder, the floor and walls
gave way, and they all tumbled down through the collapsing
floor into the darkness.

	                         -*-

	Technician Miki asked over her cellular phone, "What
do we do? The doors are buckling and the tank is shaking and
bulging, and bits of the ceiling are starting to collapse."  
Her body was trembling, and she nearly dropped the phone
again.

	One of the doors began to tear open with a hideous
screeching noise.

	"Activate Option Zero," Gendo ordered.  "And
evacuate.  It will hopefully kill enough of the creatures to
give us more time."

	"Yes, sir," she said.  "How do I activate Option
Zero?"  And what IS Option Zero, she wondered.

	"Right, you're not cleared for that.  Just evacuate,
we'll run it from here."

	"Yes, sir."  She hung up.  "Everyone, out the
emergency..."

	The emergency doors burst open, and two dozen
howling, blood soaked naked blue haired women burst through.  
Some of them were still mostly human, while others had
sprouted tentacles and extra fangs and dripped black ichor.

	The technicians began to scream, but instead of
killing them, the Reis rushed over to the tank and began to
pound on it and any electronic equipment in the area.  Not
being ones to look gift horses in the mouth, the technicians
fled out the emergency exit as the tank began to crack and
the main doors ripped open the rest of the way, collapsing
onto the ground, admitting more Reis.

	                         -*-

	Ritsuko and Maya stumbled onto the bridge.  Maya
slumped into a chair.  Ritsuko announced, "All of the Dagon
subjects have escaped, and many of them are beginning to
mutate."

	The ground shook, and she grabbed hold of a chair to
steady herself.  "We have been unable to determine what
happened, other than that it began around midnight.  
Efforts to sedate them finally failed around 10:30 AM."

	"ADAM has escaped his confinement tank," MAGI
announced. "Secondary confinement barriers have been
activated, but due to damage to base, will only function for
two thirds the expected amount of time. Tertiary confinement
systems on levels 24 and 20 are completely dysfunctional."

	Ritsuko frowned.  "Where are the Children?"

	"They're coming," Misato said.  "Makoto is driving
them over.  But Shinji and Asuka took off ahead and no one
knows where they are."

	"Why is Adam waking up NOW?" Maya asked.  "Maybe we
could put him back to sleep if we knew why."

	"The stars are right," Fuyutsuki said.

	"I would not have pegged you for an astrologer,"
Ritsuko said sharply.

	"There are certain cosmic cycles," Fuyutsuki
replied.  "When the time comes, the stars become a sign that
beings such as these will awaken, for those with eyes to
see.  As more of them awaken, the energies they use rouse
still more of those around them.  We had hoped Adam would
not awaken, for we were not even sure if he was still alive,
or if we were just using his slowly decomposing corpse."

	"Not sure if he was alive?" Maya asked.

	"Most of these beings rapidly decompose under
earthly conditions, but we could not be sure that applied to
all of them," Fuyutsuki said. "And it was hard for us to
believe he could simply go quiescent again after Second
Impact."

	"What happened, exactly, at the Second Impact?" Maya
asked, not really expecting an answer.

	"It started when we discovered the City of the Elder
Things," Fuyutsuki began.

	"This is not the time..." Gendo began.

	"Yes, it is," Fuyutsuki said.  "Perhaps they will
see something we did not which may help us to stop him.  
And it is too late to try keeping the secret any longer."  
Gendo fell silent, but looked displeased.

	Fuyutsuki turned back to the others.  "The first
expedition set out in 1997 and discovered the site.  During
the Antarctic winters, we had to evacuate, but we returned
the next two years..."

	                         -*-

Antarctica, February 1999

	Fuyutsuki sat with the other scholars and
scientists, listening to Dr. Nkambe make his report.  "We
believe we've determined the purpose of the device, assuming
Dr. Watson's key to the dot script of the former inhabitants
of this city is correct.  It's an organic power source.  
It's currently hibernating, producing only a trickle of
power which makes the Star Beacon and a few other devices,
such as its own life support mechanisms, function.  We
believe that once we figure out how to rouse it to full
wakefulness, we can power the entire city and the many
devices which are currently not working for lack of power."

	"What, this thing's been sleeping for over 700,000
years?" Dr. Smith asked.  The city had been abandoned
roughly 700,000 years earlier according to testing of the
most recent organic remains to be found.  They all found
this hard to believe, though not as hard to believe as the
dead alien life forms they'd found in the city as well.

	The city seemed to have been built by barrel-shaped
beings with ridged flesh, who somehow flew in defiance of
aerodynamics with gossamer wings capable of folding up
inside slits in their bodies.  At each end of their
barrel-like bodies was a bulb from which projected five arms
like a starfish, which the scholars assumed they used to
grip tools, basing this assumption on what could be made out
in the many wallcarvings that decorated the city; the Elder
Things had loved wall carvings, engravings, mosaics, and
other pictoral arts.

	DNA analysis had, in fact, indicated these beings
didn't have DNA, and it seemed very likely that they were
not of terrestial origin.  Their art depicted many different
forms of life which weren't part of the fossil record
either--strange amorphous creatures like living slime, but
the size of a horse or bigger, cone shaped beings
(apparently tool-using sentients), flying congeries of
bubbles, octopus-headed humanoids (which Dr. Katsuragi had
identified as similar to the gods worshipped by several now
extinct Polynesian cults), winged crustaceans, winged
serpents, snake-like black oily creatures, and fish-men.  
While it was possible that some of these beings were in fact
fictional, fruit of the imagination of the Elder Things,
they found themselves unable to dismiss the possibility that
some of these creatures might have also been real.

	"Yes," Dr. Nkambe said.

	"But what has it been eating?" Dr. Smith asked.

	"A sort of organic sludge being pumped to it from
vast underground storage tanks.  It doesn't seem to eat much
while it's asleep," Dr. Nkambe said.  "The tanks are still
mostly full, assuming we understand the instrumentation."

	Dr. Watanabe now cut in.  "The creature appears to
have been developed by the Elder Things from genetic
material obtained on Earth.  It possesses DNA, and as far as
we can tell, any Earth omnivore could eat the same food as
it does."

	"How soon can we have it ready to power up?"  
Fuyutsuki asked.

	"Currently, we estimate that since we'll have to
evac the site during the Antarctic winter in a few months,
we're looking at a date of September."

	                         -*-

	Back in the present, Fuyutsuki said, "You can guess
what happened in September."

	"So the Second Impact was the result of awakening
Adam?  Did you ever figure out exactly what he is?"  Misato
asked.

	"The Elder Things came to Earth around a billion
years ago.  They created Adam, fusing genetic material from
the very primitive life forms of Earth and material brought
with them to produce him.  He was both a power source and a
way by which they created servitor life forms, some of which
escaped or went renegade, breeding with various other Earth
creatures and producing the potentials which even now awaken
within the Children," Fuyutsuki said.

	Gendo added, "When the expedition tried to 'power
him up', the resulting explosion flung perhaps half of his
bodymass into the atmosphere, from which he rained down on
much of the earth, having strange effects on those most
exposed to him and helping in ways we don't really
understand, to bring about the awakening of the Children.  
Other side effects seem to have brought about the awakening
of the Angels as well."

	"So how do we kill him?" Misato asked.

	Gendo sighed.  "The Children can stop him.  If they
get here before everyone dies.  I believe we have no choice
but to turn Rei loose."

	"I agree," Fuyutsuki said.

	Security chose this moment to call in and report Rei
was already loose.

	                         -*-

	Asuka regained consciousness amidst the darker
recesses of NERV, the wreckage of earthquake damage all
around her.  She stood up, feeling minor aches and pains
from her landing, but nothing severe.

	"Shinji?  Shinji, where are you?"

	She couldn't see very well in the dark, with only
the dim red NERV emergency lights illuminating the mangled
corridors.  Somewhere ahead in the dark corridor, she heard
the skittering of footsteps.

	It felt oddly cold for a moment, and she felt a
chill run down her spine.  Could it be...?

	"Rei!" she bellowed angrily.

	Far in the darkness, two red eyes flickered.

	Asuka clenched her fists and fire came to life
around them.  She tried not to tremble as she heard the
steady foosteps coming in from the darkness, saw those
inhuman red eyes, approaching from the shadows.

	"Face me, bitch!"

	She came into the light at last, eerily calm,
entirely naked, the air around her rippling with power.  
There was no doubt in Asuka's mind, this wasn't just some
Rei-clone, this was Her.

	To Asuka's surprise, Rei spoke.

	"I do not wish to fight you."

	"Shut up!"

	Twin columns of flame blazed towards Rei, who calmly
raised a hand in response.  The flames sputtered out meters
before they reached her.

	"Stand aside."

	"Die!"  Asuka charged, her own fist rippling with
the telltale distortion of an AT field.  It slammed into the
barrier around Rei, their two AT fields rippling and flaring
against each other.

	"We should not fight."

	"Yeah?!  You shouldn't have RAPED ME!"

	Asuka's fist flared with AT-Field energy and
suddenly shattered Rei's field.  Asuka felt her fist impact
upon Rei's jaw, and grinned savagely as Rei was knocked off
her feet and onto the floor.

	"Get up!  I'm not done with you!"

	Dazed, Rei felt her jaw, and her hand came away with
black ichor, bleeding from her lip.  She stared at her
bloodied hand for a moment, and then her eyes flared a
blinding red.

	Asuka had a fraction of a second's warning as she
saw the telltale distortion of air surge from Rei, then
suddenly found herself slammed back, struck harder than
she'd ever felt before.  The impact on the wall left an
Asuka-shaped impression, which she slid down from
bonelessly.  Despite the overwhelming pain, a part of her
was happy.  She'd finally gotten Rei mad.

	She felt the invisible touch of an AT-Field lift her
to her feet, and saw Rei staggering towards her, clutching
her left eye for some reason.

	God, give me the strength, Asuka prayed silently,
give me the strength for one more shot.

	And then Rei was there.  Face to face.  Inches away.  
Eerily emotionless and still silent.  Asuka couldn't help
but notice that the faint sigils they'd all seen in Rei's
eyes were noticably smaller.

	Quietly, Rei said, "I did not wish to rape you.  
The hunger of the violator overwhelmed me, as it nearly
overwhelmed you."

	"W-what are you talking about?!  How do you know-"

	"We are one."

	Asuka's blue eyes locked on to Rei's red eyes, and
then she realized how deeply Rei had violated her: not just
her body, but her soul.

	"D-damn you... damn you to hell..."

	COME TO ME.

	Both of the girls seemed distracted at that moment,
hearing the disembodied voice.  Only now, Asuka realized, it
didn't sound that much like her father... no... it sounded... 
not quite human.

	Rei raised a hand towards Asuka.

	"H-Hey!  What are you-"

	Spiderwebs sprang from Rei's palm, wrapping Asuka in
a cocoon.  She felt the push of Rei's AT-Field, then found
herself stuck to the wall.

	"Rei!"

	With another gesture of her hand, Rei encased the
cocoon in a boulder of ice.  She stayed there for a moment,
staring at Asuka's prison, then continued on her way.

	                         -*-

	The air conditioning had broken down, and everyone
on the bridge was starting to feel hot.  As they waited for
Rei to reach the EVA bay, they could see the EVAs frenziedly
assaulting their holding tanks on the monitors, along with
many other scenes of destruction around the base.

	Fuu began tinkering with the air conditioning vent.  
"The dratted thing's closed itself."

	Misato watched the images and issued periodic orders
over her cellular to various security groups, while she
paced.  "I'm going to call Makoto," she announced.

	No one really responded, lost in the imagery of
death or trying to ignore it.

	Maya pointedly ignored the images, trying to focus
on doing something, anything useful.  Right now, she was
trying to analyze how much more damage the building could
take before it collapsed.  The program she was running began
spitting garbage onto her screen.  "What the..."

	MAGI began singing the entire employee roster of
NERV off key, in alphabetical order.  More alarms sounded.  
MAGI also reported, "ADAM has penetrated Balthazar."

	"It's time to evacuate," Gendo said.  "To the..."

	Shinji ran in the doors.  "Asuka's out of control,
and I can't find her!"

	And then the air conditioning vents burst open and
huge amounts of jelly-like black goo began to erupt out of
them.  Fuu got hit by a great gout and gave a piercing cry
as mouths opened all over it and began to devour her.

	Shinji pointed at the vents and shouted.  Great
gouts of webbing erupted from his hands, covering them and
slowing the advance of the goo, which began to press against
the webs.  "Run, everyone, run!" he shouted.

	They ran.

	                         -*-

	Another maniac leaped off a building onto Makoto's
car as he tried to drive to the base.  Crashed vehicles and
crazed idiots were everywhere. He was having a hard time
driving himself, as he could hear some mad siren call; the
fact that he was effectively answering it by driving to the
base was all that was keeping him sane himself, he feared.

	Touji and Hikari sat stiffly in the back seat, both
clinging to each other and trying to ignore the call.  Anna
sat up front with him, playing with the radio, which he
found incredibly annoying.

	"Will you STOP THAT?" he snapped at her.

	She wilted back into her seat.  "Sorry," she said
weakly.

	"There's only one station.  Just push in the CD if
you want music."

	She nodded and did so.  After a few seconds of
'Welcome to the Jungle', Makoto cursed and punched the eject
button, then turned the radio off.  "No music," he said.

	"Ain't ya got no music but that oldies shit?" Touji
asked. "Uh...that oldies STUFF."

	"No!  I have nothing but oldies shit and you're
going to LIKE IT!" Makoto said, punching the music back in
again, feeling the urge to strike out at someone in the only
way he could.

	As they passed a gang-banging in process, the sound
of Guns and Roses wailed on, out the open windows of the
car, to entertain the rioting masses.

	                         -*-

	Asuka waited until Rei was gone, then reached inside
herself.  Flames erupted in all directions, burning away the
webbing and melting the ice.  They formed into wings of
flame, and she took off.

	At first, she followed Rei's trail, but as she
moved, she could hear the sounds of battle all around.  As
her emotions cooled, she realized that battling Adam would
have to come first.  She could kill Rei later.

	So she turned and headed for the EVA bays.  This
took long minutes.  Several Reis challenged her; she
casually vaporized them.  Annoying little beasts.

	Asuka flew into the EVA bays, past terrified
technicians; the lights had gone out, but her wings of flame
shed light enough for all to see.  The EVAs ceased to pound
on the walls and turned to stare at her. She turned to the
technicians.  "Release them."

	"Commander Ikari said to..." one of the technicians
began.

	The fingers of one of her hands became flaming
feeding tendrils and caressed his face without burning it.  
"Free them," she demanded, her eyes glowing.

	Terrified, the technicians removed what few
restraints remained, and opened all available doors.  The
EVAs began to climb out of their holding pits.

	Asuka flew over to Unit02, and donned it like a
garment.  She shouted for joy, and went forth to do battle.

	                         -*-

At last she reached her goal, after escaping from the depths
of Sector 13, after dealing with the maddened Second Child,
at last she was here.

	'Here' was the command center of NERV, now knee-deep
in primordial black sludge.  Three conspicuous mounds of
sludge were gathered around the MAGI, making occasional
crunching sounds.  Wading in the filth were the hordes of
Rei clones, happily frolicking along, even though many of
them had taken indescribable and hideous forms.

	As she entered, silence seemed to fall upon the
room.  All of the clones turned and stared at her.  The LCL
even seemed to slow its movement.

	And then Rei spoke.

	"Sisters... father... I am here."

	WELCOME.

	The clones smiled and laughed and ran to her, some
dancing around her, others embracing her, and the LCL
resumed its constant movement around the room.

	In the arms of her sister, wading in the body of her
father, she felt something that was fleeting and rare for
Rei.  She felt like she Belonged.

	And as she closed her eyes and the tears began to
fall, the final seals burned within her eyes shattered away.

	And now she was free.

	And now she was loved.

	And now she belonged.

	"My sisters..."

	A mass of flaming tentacles emerged from Rei's back,
and in a heartbeat they reached out, impaling her sisters.  
One after another, they burst into flames, screaming in
agony as they died.

	"... forgive me."

	Her wistful look melted away into one of grief, as
tears ran down her eyes and she gritted her teeth, her
sisters' death screams lingering in the air.  This was not
what she wanted.  This was What Must Be Done.

	STOP, her father's voice roared in her head.

	The LCL seethed around Rei angrily, but she pushed
it away easily as an AT-Field surrounded her. A giant blue
hand shattered the roof of the command center, and the
menacing figure of Unit00 peered inside.  Rei took one last
look at her father, then disappeared.

	She materialized within Unit00's plug, gripping the
controls, and breathing heavily.

	Adam surged up all around her, his mind pounding at
hers, not with words, or even things which could be
understood as words, but with raw emotions of rage and
betrayal.  She was not sure if he had ever been speaking, or
if she had merely interpreted the sensations as words,
earlier.

	Her Eva vanished in a sea of LCL which sprouted
mouths and fangs and claws and teeth and a million infant
lifeforms with which to devour her.  Ice froze them and fire
shattered them.  A shimmering AT-field expanded at her
command, driving her father back.

	But he still surrounded her, relentlessly throwing
himself at her, his own AT-field sparking against hers.  
The ungrateful daughter would be devoured and a better one
made.

	For long minutes, they struggled, Rei silent and
Adam gibbering in a mad cacophany for a million mouths and
other orifices.  Her will was strong and focused, his power
was vast and seemingly endless.

	Order strove against Chaos for what could have been
minutes or hours.  Slowly, Chaos began to win, for Adam's 
might was greater than that of any lone descendent of his.
It was his blood which ran in their veins. Slowly, inexorably,
he began to press in on her AT-field, which slowly shrank.

Rei contemplated her options, then thought of a way out.  
She smote the floor, blowing it apart, and let gravity fight her
battle for her.  Adam struggled to not drain down through
the hole, but she made Unit00 grow wings, then shot upwards,
forcing her way clear of him as he battled against gravity
and against the crumbling floor.

	Then she transformed her AT-Field from a bubble into
a shield, and then a scoop, pushing Adam downwards into the
chambers below the command center, confining him, and
calling forth her power.  Parts of him began to solidify and
turn to stone as her dread gaze focused upon him.

	And then he gave a great shout of rage, his mouths
gibbering in unison, and slammed her EVA back away from
himself.  She was unable to resist this, giving him the 
chance to rise out of the pit, and rush at her again,
seeking to envelop and devour her.

	She gave ground, letting him drive her through the
base, hoping the rest of her pack would soon arrive.  In
case they did not, she fell back towards the place she would
need for her contingency plan.  If that did not work, she
did not know what she would do.

	It was strange to fight alone.  The pack leader was
better at strategy than she was.  Sometimes she regretted
that their leader was not a Child like herself; she would
have been magnificent.  But her wits made her supremely
suited to lead, and so Rei submitted to her.

	As she fell back, she continued to fry, to freeze,
to electrocute and petrify and windblast her father, but he
kept coming.  He was relentless, and huge, and powerful, and
did not even know the concept of fear.  He was more than a 
match for a lone Child, even one as strong as Rei.  

	Nor did he know what a human made power plant looked
like.  So when Unit00 lured him into it, he happily flowed
over it, charging after her.  Happily until vast quantities
of electricity began to flow through him. This couldn't kill
him.  But it did cause him to begin to spawn new life at a
far higher rate than usual.  Life forms which Unit00 began
to slaughter in mass quantities.

	He tried to charge off the plant, but by a supreme
effort of will, Unit00 held him back.  Unfortunately, the
plant quickly was destroyed by being full of Adam, ending
the process, but he had taken a fair amount of damage by
then.

	And worse, it had slowed him enough that the other
Children now caught up with them.  The voice of Misato
flowed across the ether.  //"Surround him and crush him,"//
Misato said.  Her voice was weak because the generator- 
powered communications system needed some work.

	The five Children moved at her command, forming a
pentagon around Adam.  Their AT-fields merged into one,
gradually pushing Adam inwards and crushing him.  He threw
himself at them, usually pushing one of them back, for no
single Child was a match for him.  But this only made it
easier for the others to close in and singe and crush him
from other directions.

	His rage battered at their minds, clawing for a
foothold, singing to the battle rage that ever lurked within
them.  But all that did was to rouse them to greater
efforts, for he was their foe, the subject of their wrath.

	And the time for feeding was near.  The hunger was
upon them.  Anna whimpered, scared by the emotions roused
within her.  Touji was too focused to notice anything other
than that he was pissed at the damn blobby bastard.  Shinji
and Asuka had been doing this for so long that the thought
of devouring their foe alive seemed perfectly natural to
them, at least once they'd worked themselves up in battle.  
Rei had other things on her mind.

	As he was compacted, Adam began to produce energy,
an ever brightening glow which poured like a waterfall at
the barriers around him.  But that power only flowed into
and strengthened the children, like an appetizer before the
main course.

	It was too much for Anna, who panicked, then caused
her EVA to stumble.  She lost her footing, and Adam took his
chance to try to escape through the cracks.  But he was too
weak now, and the other EVAs fell upon him and began to
literally devour him.  Even Anna now recovered and pressed
her assault.

	But this left them vulnerable to his mind, and now
he made his last final gambit, to try to overwhelm them with
the strength of his ancient mind, to devour them as he had
devoured so many of his children.

	And as his mind rushed upon them, they saw through
his eyes.

	                         -*-


	He gazed upon his worshippers, who fed and housed
him.  In return, he gave them power and let them take bits
of his flesh to make creatures.  Through those creatures'
eyes, he could watch the world and see all things while he
rested securely and comfortably in his metal womb, content.

	There were higher planes to explore, and distant
realms to study, and experiments to perform upon the
brief-lived inhabitants of this world.  He observed
civilizations, not people.  Still, the Elder Things had been
long lived enough for him to notice them, especially since
they were the ones who worshipped and sustained them.  He
watched them build their cities and create shapeshifting
servants from his flesh, the Shoggoths.  They warred with
other races from the stars who discovered the Earth, the
Xothians, led by Cthulhu, the cone-shaped Yithians, the
Fungi from Yuggoth, and many others.

	He watched in amusement as the shoggoths rose up
against the increasingly decadent Elder Things, and was
equally amused when they were put down.  The decline of the
Elder Things and the shifting of the Earth's climate was of
little concern to him so long as they kept him fed, for now
his blood was spread through the many creatures of Earth,
and all the world was his to watch.

	He'd barely even noticed humanity; he'd been sinking
into deeper slumber the last few million years, exploring
distant realms and dimensions unfathomable by humans.  But
now he was awake, and he hungered.  Half his body was gone,
and he needed to feed in order to grow strong once more.  
Fortunately, humans suited his needs quite well and seemed
quite plentiful.  He and his children would go forth and
feed upon the teeming masses and grow strong.

	But they had turned on him, betrayed him, and now
they would have to perish.  He would devour them all and
produce new children, children who would do what they were
told.

	                         -*-

	"Bastard thinks like grandpa," Touji muttered.

	Shinji nearly lost his concentration at that,
beginning to laugh.

	And it was the sound of human laughter which would
be the last thing Adam heard, as his strength guttered out,
and his too weak psychic assault failed to overcome the
Children.

	Across the city, on the other hand, the mad and the
crazed heard his final cry, and for a few seconds, they
began to all rush towards NERV HQ to try to rescue their
father, screaming in rage at the Children who had betrayed
him.  The sane huddled in closets and basements and behind
locked doors, and whimpered as they fought off the call.

	But almost as soon as it came, the call ceased.  
The weakest minded continued to rampage, their minds gone.  
Many others found themselves bleeding and naked far from
home.  A few dropped dead as the power which had sustained
them with a rush of adrenaline now ceased.  And others found
themselves trapped among rubble and flames.

	And then the EVAs devoured Adam like small children
eating pudding.  His strength flowed into them and into the
Children.  And they howled with delight.

	The joy of feasting on fallen foes was cut short
when the ground rumbled.  All around them, NERV was
collapsing as the Geo-Front, bruised and battered, finally
began to give way completely.

	As a chunk of the ceiling knocked Unit03 into the
ground, Touji cursed.  //"Damnation, that hurt!"//

	//"Not as much as being pinned under the entire
Geo-Front will.  Head up to the 'ground' level of the
Geo-Front.  We're going to need you to help us get out of
here,"// Misato said.  //"You should be able to use the
powers you absorbed from the last angel to tunnel upwards
through any obstacles.  And shield your heads with
AT-fields."//

	They followed the orders, making their way upwards
through the collapsing headquarters, scrambling over
collapsing rubble.  //"Okay, you're doing great,"// Misato
said.  //"Now..."// And then the comline went dead.

	//"Katsuragi-san?//" Shinji asked, his voice showing
worry.  //"Are you there?"//

	//"Fucking ceiling's coming down.  All the psycho
Reis must have knocked out the roof supports or
something,"// Touji speculated.

	//"I could hardly believe the place hadn't collapsed
yet,"// Anna said.

	//"Misato?  MISATO!!!"// Asuka shouted.  //"Faster!  
We have to go faster."// Flames erupted from Unit02, searing
away more of the fallen metal in their way.  //"We're
coming!  Don't die!  Don't die!!!!"//

As they emerged from the main NERV building, one of the
retractable skyscrapers plummeted, plunging into the lake.  
A wave of water erupted, knocking down already damaged
buildings.

	The Children could see the command staff scampering
like insects from a knocked over hive, desperately dodging
rubble as the ceiling above gave way and mighty buildings
began to fall.

	Unit02 began frying falling rubble to bits over
where the hapless humans were.  Unit00 managed to grab
Fuyutsuki and Ritsuko.Unit04 managed to scoop up several
technicians who'd made it to the 'surface'.  Unit03 plucked
up several more and Maya, holding them close to his chest
and generating an AT-field to shield them.

	Touji asked Maya, "Where's Katsuragi-san?"  His
mech-amplified voice boomed across the geodome.

	"She's...she's..."  Maya looked around.  "She must
still be in the building we'd turned into a headquarters!"  
She pointed.

	Shinji turned his Eva and ran over to the building,
seeing part of another building had collapsed onto it.  His
Eva's fingers yanked and tossed that building and ripped the
roof open.  Misato and Makoto were trapped inside, as the
exits had been blocked by rubble.  He quickly lifted them
out, asking, "Where is Father?"

	"I don't know," Misato said.  "I saw him get out,
but I haven't seen him since."

	Asuka spotted him; he'd run off another direction
from the others, and was now dodging rubble.  She could see
a large chunk falling right towards him, and for a moment,
she was tempted to just let it squash him.  But her
conscience got the better off her, and she blasted away the
rubble, then came to his assistance.  "You owe me," she
announced.

	Gendo did not deny it.


	                         -*-

	Misato sat on the hood of a half-crushed car with
Makoto and watched the Children clamber out of their EVAs,
while Gendo, Fuyutsuki, Maya, and Ritsuko perched on other
rubble nearby.  "One more victory like this, and there won't
be anything left but a crater," Misato said softly.

	"Do they even need us anymore, sempai?" Maya asked
softly.

	Gendo frowned at that, but said nothing.

	Ritsuko said, "Less and less, but we still have
something to offer."  She didn't sound entirely pleased with
the state of affairs.

	Fuyutsuki said, "Every child grows up eventually.  
But yes, Commander Katsuragi, this was pretty messy.  I hope
we don't level NERV-Germany as well."

	And then the conversation was cut short as the
Children picked their way across the field of rubble and
corpses, growing less triumphant looking with every step.  
Shinji asked quietly, "How many dead?"

	"We don't have a good estimate yet," Maya said.  
"Too many.  Too many dead."

	                         -*-

	Hikari stepped out of the car, looking around at the
remains of the city uneasily.  In the car, Makoto asked,
"You sure this is the place?"

	 "I'm sure," she replied.  "Thank you for the ride."

	 "No problem."

	 Makoto drove away, leaving Hikari standing before
the public shelter, a squat, one floor building whose rooms
were mostly underground.  Dozens of people milled about
outside, looking worn and tired, and some were crying,
though that was nothing new.

	 One of them she recognized, her ex-neighbor Mrs.
Tanaka, approached her.

	 "Hikari-chan!  Where've you been?  We were all so
worried about you."

	 "I was in the GeoFront, Tanaka-san.  It's... kind of
complicated."

	 The GeoFront, being NERV property, generally meant
military secrets and other things you shouldn't ask about,
so Mrs. Takana was wise enough to let it go.  "I see," she
said, sounding worried.  "Well, it's good to see you're
okay, but..."

	 Hikari saw the uneasy look on Mrs. Tanaka's face.  
"Is there... something wrong?"

	 Mrs. Tanaka nodded.  "It's... is about your parents,
Hikari-chan.  They... they..."

	 Cold dread began to spread through Hikari's nerves.  
"They... got hurt in an accident or something, maybe?"

	 "It... it's worse, Hikari-chan," she said, holding
Hikari's hand gently.  The girl stared at her blankly for
the longest time.

	 "I want to see my parents," Hikari quietly said.  
She pulled her hand away from Mrs. Tanaka and began walking
towards the shelter.

	 "Hikari-chan, wait!"

	 Hikari broke into a run, entering the shelter,
pushing past the crowds in the hallway frantically, shouting
for her mother and father.  As she passed some rooms, she
noticed the blood staining the walls and some people slumped
to the floor, stained with blood.

	 And then she came to the room her parents had stayed
in.

	 Her father's hand still clutched the bloody knife,
even though he was clearly dead.  Gaping wounds were
everywhere on him, on his chest, on his arms, and a
particularly brutal slash across his stomach.  Slumped
against the wall, he was staring off at something unseen,
rigor mortis locking in his crazed and maddened expression.

	 Across from him was her mother... agony clearly the
last thing she'd felt, as it showed in the horror on her
face and every cut upon it.

	 Hikari stared.

	 Mrs. Tanaka caught up to Hikari, huffing and puffing
and catching her breath.  And she knew it was too late.

	 "Hikari-chan..."

	 "What... what happened?" asked Hikari numbly.

	 "We aren't really sure, Hikari-chan," Mrs. Tanaka
replied.  "We... we don't know why, but your father... your
father, and a lot of other people here, started to go mad.  
Your father, he hurt a lot of people, and your mother tried
to snap him out of it but...."  Mrs. Tanaka couldn't help
it, couldn't hold back the tears as she remembered.  
"And... and after... after that... your father started
cutting himself..."

	 This wasn't happening.

	 "I'm so sorry, Hikari-chan."

	This was a dream.

	 A strange dream.

	 "Do... do you have any family you can call,
Hikari-chan?"

	 A nightmare.

	 This wasn't real.

	 "Hikari-chan?"

	 "NOOOOOO!"

	 And she ran.


	                         -*-

	 Makoto was about to give up and leave when Misato
opened the door. Shinji, Asuka, and Anna were sprawled about
the room, listening to the radio and looking bleak.  Misato
didn't look too good herself.  "Did Horaki get home okay?"

	 He nodded.  "Yeah, the shelter they were at seemed
to be fine.  She should be okay."

	 Misato gave a great sigh of relief.  "Good.  Some of
the hotel staff went mad, we heard.  The night manager got
raped, and..."  She shuddered and let him in.  "You want a
coke or something?"

	 "Yes, please," he said, then looked around at the
Children, who were just silently staring at the walls.  I
need to do something for them, he thought.  Cheer them up
somehow.

	 While Misato went to her microfridge she'd hooked up
in one corner, he sat down on the bed next to Shinji.  
"Hey, I could bring my oldies in if you guys want to hear
some good music," he said, hoping to rouse them to something
beyond bleakness.

	 They were so silent, he briefly wondered if they'd
gone autistic.

	 "Hey, Shinji, good job getting us out of the rubble.  
And you too, Asuka."

	 Asuka nodded weakly.  Shinji mumbled, "You're
welcome."

	 Misato brought him his coke, then sprawled out on
the bed.  "We won, but it doesn't feel like we won."

	 Anna nodded.  "And what we saw..."  She shuddered.
"Does that happen every time?"

	 "Not so much," Asuka said quietly.  "You sure
Hikari's okay?" she asked Makoto.

	 "Oh, she's fine," Makoto replied.  "Tense, but I
can't blame her for that."

	                         -*-

	 They'd nicknamed it Hotel NERV.

	 It was a modest, six floor hotel with a swimming
pool, arcade, and restaurant.  It was now taken over by the
'VIPs' amongst NERV, mainly key scientists, ranked
officials, and of course, the pilots.

	 It wasn't a bad hotel, but it wasn't home.

	 Home, right now, was nothing but a wreckage.

	 He didn't think himself the sentimental type, but
Touji found himself lamenting not just the loss of a place
to live, but the memories that came with it.

	 Touji was currently sitting on a lounger chair by
the pool, staring out at wreckage, a lot like his own
wreckage.  It was wreckage that he was fond of.  How did
that saying go?  You don't know what you've got till it's
gone?

	 Shit.

	 He couldn't even save his home town.

	 It hurt, that, nearly as bad as the Peru Disaster,
but at least the casualties weren't so bad here.  And this
time, there were no mistakes on their end.  The damn Angels
just ambushed 'em.  Dirty, that.

	 NERV was leaving now, he knew that, and that meant
Tokyo-3 wasn't likely to rise after this, at least not to
what it used to be.  A small city at best.

	 The wreck and the apparent move to Germany were just
two of the things on his mind.  His sister was another
matter, as she'd gotten well enough to take out of the
hospital, though she seemed to be in a haze most of the
time.  There was also a matter of Rei... Reis...

	 It was kind of hard to miss the dead Reis scattered
all over NERV.  Shinji seemed numb to it and Asuka just
thought Rei had spontaneously cloned or something.  The
whole thing smelled of 'Top Secret' and he wasn't about try
and butt heads with Gendo again.  He wondered if the Rei he
knew was the same one they'd all just met in school, or if
she'd been replaced a dozen times over.

	 Creepy shit, that.

	 Best not to think about it.

	 Yeah.

	 He wondered how Hikari was doing.

	 Touji had to admit, it'd be neat having her join the
team as pilot number six, though he wondered if NERV had any
more giant robots to spare.

	 And then his NERV-issue cellphone rang.

	 "Yo?"

	 "T-Touji?"

	 "Hikari?"  By the sound of her voice, he knew
something was wrong.  "Hey, you okay?"

	 "N-no, i'm not.  Can I s-see you?"

	 "'Course you can!  Where are ya now?"

	 "O-outside your hotel, p-phone booth."

	 Touji ran out to the front of the hotel gates,
briefly yelling, "PILOT BUSINESS!" to the security guards as
he dashed by.  He looked around frantically, then spotted
the phone booth, and Hikari.

	 She looked like a wreck.

	 "Hikari, baby, what-"

	 She cut him off as she ran to him, grabbing him
tight and crying into his shoulder.  He tried to ask what
was wrong, but all she could do was cry.  So he just held
her for a while and made mostly useless soothing noises and
waited for her to calm down.

	Finally, he asked again.  "What's wrong?"

	"Daddy...he..."  She began to sob again.

	Touji thought about all the crazy shit that had been
going down in the city as they'd been driving to the base.  
I get it, he thought.  "Did some lunatic stab him or
something?"

	That sent her more over the edge.

	He waited again, and finally, she said softly, "He
started killing people, and, and...he killed Mom too.  And
then he killed himself."

	Not knowing what to say, Touji just stood and held
her a while longer, then finally said weakly, "I'm sorry,
baby."

	"Tell me it's a dream.  I just want to wake up," she
sobbed.

	"I wish it was," he said.  "I wish it was."

	"Damn Angels.  I hate them.  I HATE THEM!"  Hikari
screamed, her sorrow igniting into a burst of rage.  Her
grip on him tightened.  "They killed my parents!  THEY HAVE
TO DIE!!!!"  And then the burst of rage passed, and she
began sobbing again.

	"Touji, where are you?  Time to go to bed!" his
father bellowed in the distance.

	"Baby, do you want me to get Dad to drive you back
to your shelter?" he asked.

	"Don't want to be alone," she replied.

	"I'm out here, Pops!" Touji bellowed.  "Come over
here!"

	His father, grumbling, soon arrived.  "Touji, the
gates close for a...Horaki-san?" he asked in surprise,
seeing her.  "What's wrong?"

	Hikari tried to explain, but she kept crying, so
Touji told his father the story.  "We can't just send her
back by herself," he said.

	"Well, she can stay with us until the morning. We'll
take the floor, let her take the bed."

	Touji didn't want the floor.  "I'll sleep in one of
the chairs, then."

	"Whatever works for you.  Come on, Horaki-san."  
Poor girl, he thought.  I fear she's not the only one to
lose parents today.

	                         -*-

	The Children had gone to bed.  In the distance,
there was a red glow from the part of Tokyo-3 which people
had set on fire, obscuring the sky, but over most of the
city, the stars shone down from the perfectly clear night
sky.  It would have been beautiful if the stench of corpses
couldn't be smelt, and the wail of sirens not been heard.

	Misato stared up at the stars, finishing off her
soda as she did so.  "I want to get hammered off my ass,"
she said, crushing the can.

	"Don't." Makoto replied.

	"I couldn't if I wanted to.  Don't have any beer,
and there's no way to get any," she replied.  "Damn stars
are taunting me."

	"They can't taunt anyone," he said softly.  "They
just exist, regardless of what we do."

	"No, they're taunting me.  I can tell.  They want us
to lose," Misato said despairingly.  "We're all going to go
mad and die like half the people in the city did."

	"You didn't go mad," he said.

	"That's the weird thing," she said, fingering her
pendant.  "I mean, none of us snapped in the bridge.  I'd
think it was this, but most of us weren't wearing one.  But
the people out in the city...they rioted like they were
possessed."

	"I think the base was insulated somehow, or perhaps
Commander Ikari had some concealed device which helped.  I
almost snapped myself while trying to drive the Children to
the base."  He shuddered.  "That could have been
catastrophic."

	"But you didn't," she said softly, taking his hand
and squeezing it.  "You saved us by getting them to the base
in time."

	"Rei did most of the work," he replied.  "She scares
me."

	"And me too," Misato said.  "It makes me wonder if
they'll need us any more."

	"I know," he replied, and for a while, they just
looked at each other.

	Then he said, "Shinji and Asuka need you.  Maybe not
for battle, but they really care about you."

	"I really care about them too," she said.  "I don't
think I'll ever have kids, but if I did..."  She smiled for
a moment.  "When Kaji was alive, I had this dream..."  She
shook her head, deflating.  "I miss him so much," she said
softly.

	He nodded.  "He was a good man."

	She stepped closer to him.  "I just feel so lonely
without him."

	Makoto wasn't sure how to reply.  He simply nodded.

	She stepped in very close now, putting her arms up
around his shoulders and neck.  "I don't want to be alone
tonight."  And then she pulled his head down and kissed him.

	For a few minutes, his instincts simply took control
of him, and he began to kiss her back ferociously.  He'd
wanted this for so long, he didn't even have to think about
it.

	When she finally broke off the kiss, he said weakly,
"NERV rules forbid..."

	"Fuck the rules," Misato said.  "I order you to take
me somewhere private and not stop until I feel better."

	"I'll take you to..."  And then he remembered Akane
was at his apartment.  This forced his brain to sit down and
assess the situation. "Oh, shit, Akane is still waiting for
me!"

	Her eyes widened.  "Akane...dammit!  I forgot you
were seeing someone."  She began to curse.  "Dammit, why
couldn't I have thought of this BEFORE you hooked up with
someone!  DAMN YOU, UNIVERSE!"  She shook her fist at the
sky.

	With my luck, I'll go home and Akane will be gone,
Makoto thought. "I'm not sure exactly how to describe our
relationship, and I sometimes think she'd tell me to go do
this with you, and if I wasn't...I mean...I sound like an
idiot."

	"Maybe the universe is just trying to keep us from
doing something stupid," Misato rationalized.  "Maybe I'll
change my mind in the morning. But right now, I just..."  
She sighed.  "I shouldn't just use you to make me feel
better."

	"You wouldn't be," he said.  "If I wasn't...I would.  
In a second. I...I care about you, Misato."

	"Fuu got eaten, and all I want to do is fuck,"
Misato said weakly. "I shouldn't be commanding NERV
Tactical.  I should be in an asylum."

	"So that's how she died," Makoto said weakly.  He
knew she'd been killed, but not how.  "And you're the best
person who could command NERV Tactical.  You wouldn't be
doing this, if you had work to do."

	"I'm a fucking drunkard bimbo," Misato said,
starting to cry.  She clung to Makoto, burying her face in
his chest.  "They don't even need me any more."

	"They need you," he said.  "I need you.  NERV needs
you.  You have to be strong, Misato, so we can be."

	"I'm not strong," she whispered.

	He could feel his body telling him to take her
clothes off and make love to her like she wanted, while his
mind warned him they'd both regret it in the morning.  He
knew he couldn't hold her like this much longer without his
body winning the debate.  "Yes, you are.  You're the
strongest of all of us.  But now, you need to sleep."

	"Can't sleep," she whispered.

	He picked her up, and began to carry her.  "You have
to."

	"Sleep with me."

	"I shouldn't," he said.  "Not yet."

	He could feel her relaxing as she leaned against
him.  "Should."

	"Ask me again in the morning, if you still think so,
and maybe I'll give you a different answer," he replied.

	"Can't fuck in the morning," she mumbled.  Her
exhaustion had finally caught up with her, and she yawned.  
"Have to go to work."

	He managed to get the motel room door open, and
carry her in to lay her down on her bed.  He kissed her
forehead.  "Goodnight."

	"Night," she whispered, then passed out completely.

	He stood a few minutes staring at her, and wondering
if he would regret this.  And then he turned and left,
closing the door behind him.


	                         -*-

	Gendo sat on his motel bed.  "I feel like a college
student again, staying in such a cheap, tacky place."

	"Well, unless you wanted to sleep in a pile of
rubble, this is it," Fuyutsuki said from the other bed.  
"And at my age, I need the comfort."

	"Only two to go," Gendo said.

	"Well, if the Children can defeat the Herald of the
Outer Gods, then the Sleeping King of Dreams will be no
problem," Fuyutsuki said.  "In fact, I keep wondering why he
comes before the much weaker Dream King."

	"Don't let SEELE hear you say that," Gendo said,
smiling.

	"It's just so...anticlimatic."

	"I don't think the Outer Gods function by the laws
of drama," Gendo said, laughing.  He became more sober.  "I
suspect he plans to try to corrupt the Children before the
final battle.  So that they will do to humanity what we plan
to do to the remaining Great Old Ones."

	"I fear that as well.  But I do not see how they can
defeat him."

	"If Suzuhara could get rid of him once, he can do it
again," Gendo said.  "Perhaps he interprets his duties
differently than the Outer Gods do.  I can't imagine them
even noticing humanity to deliberately corrupt it."

	"Then why does he notice?  Is he doing their will in
this? Or his own?"

	"And is there a difference?  Well, we could
speculate all day long," Gendo said.

	"The closer we get to the end, the more I think we
were insane to believe we could ride this whirlwind,"
Fuyutsuki said.  "We don't even know where Rei is."

	"I am here," Rei said from the doorway.

	They both stared at her as she strode into the room,
still clad in her plugsuit.

	"We must go to Germany.  And then the truth will be
revealed."

	"Do you know who is coming next?" Fuyutsuki asked.

	"He is the Black Pharoah, the Priest in the Pallid
Mask, the Whisperer in Darkness, the Bloated Woman, the
Skinless One, the Bloody Tongue, and a thousand names
beside," Rei said calmly.  "We will slay him as we slew
Ubbo-Sathla, our father."

	Fuyutsuki stared into her eyes.  "How can you be so
sure?"

	"All that lives may perish.  He will fall.  Now,
this is what you must do..."


	                        -*-
	                  - end part 20 -
	                        -*-