-*-

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


                       Children of an Elder God

                              Part 21

                           The Fifth Reich

                                -*-

	Asuka woke to the hum of the Scimitar's engines.  They were well 
on their way to Germany, but they wouldn't get there until the 
morning.  Unfortunately, she couldn't sleep; she felt restless.

	For a while, she tried to read in her room, but she was too 
restless for that, either.  Finally, she decided to go wake up Shinji 
and make him share her insomnia.  

	She walked down the hallway, and his door swung open at her first 
knock.  Peeking inside, she saw him asleep on his back, headphones 
still on his head.  Laughing very gently, she stepped inside, only to 
hear him mumble, "Yes, Rei, I liked the lunch you brought me."
	
	Her good mood punctured like a balloon, and now she scowled at 
him.  How can he dream of a little...a little freaky monster rapist 
like that?  Doesn't he care what she did to me?  How she...

	Remembered terror came over her, and she closed her eyes, rocking 
back and forth on her feet, until she managed to drive away the fear.  
She stepped back, and shut the door, deciding she'd bother Shinji 
later.  Starting back to her room, she was surprised to see Misato 
coming down the hall, wrapped in a blue bathrobe.  "Couldn't sleep?" 
Asuka asked.

	Misato blinked in surprise, then nodded.  "Yeah."

	"Want to, umm...come play cards or something for a while?" Asuka 
asked.  She didn't want to be alone.

	Misato frowned, started to say something, fell silent, then 
nodded.  "Sure."

	Asuka wondered if Misato had actually been on her way to see 
someone in particular.  Hikari thought Misato was getting sweet on 
Makoto; Asuka thought if that was the case, she'd be all over him 
already.  

	As they went into her room, Misato asked softly, "So what did 
Shinji have to say?"

	Asuka dug through one of her suitcases for cards.  "He was too 
busy dreaming about that little bitch Rei to talk."

	Misato winced and plopped down on Asuka's bed.  "I can see why 
that would bug you."

	"Why can't he see what a horrible monster she is?" Asuka 
demanded.

	Misato decided that the middle of the night was not a good time 
to try to explain Ritsuko's belief that Rei had been overwhelmed by 
the urges and hormones unleashed by their absorption of the Violator's 
power.  "It's hard to believe bad things about someone you like," she 
said.  "What game are we playing?"

	Asuka yawned a little as she got out the deck.  "Nothing too 
hard."

	"Okay," Misato said.  "Lemme shuffle."

	Asuka passed her the cards.  "Baka Shinji," she muttered.

	Misato began clumsily shuffling the cards.  "So, what exactly is 
going on with you and Shinji, hmm?"

	Asuka blushed a little.  "We...uh...we sort of...well, we did 
kiss, but we didn't...go further, and he is sort of cute when he's not 
being a doormat, and he...umm...dammit, he still likes Rei!"  She 
slammed her fist down on the bed.  "What does he see in that creepy 
little monster?"

	"Are you sure he likes her like that?" Misato asked.  "And what 
game?"

	"Ummm...Old Maid," Asuka said.  Misato frowned.  "That wasn't a 
crack at you.  It's a game."

	"I know, I know, I just..."  She sighed.  "Sometimes I feel like 
I'm getting old."

	"Twenty-eight isn't that old."

	"I know, I know.  I just..."  She fell silent and dealt out the 
cards, then examined her hand.  "So, you don't know exactly how things 
are with you and Shinji."

	Asuka sighed.  "That's about it."  She scratched her head.  
"Which one of us goes first?"

	"Not sure.  Actually, I think we need more than 2 people, don't 
we?"

	Asuka sighed and put down the cards.  "I think so."  She yawned.  
"Okay, maybe I am ready for bed again."

	Misato got up.  "Alright.  Anyway, you ought to talk to Shinji 
and find out where you two stand."

	"But..."  She stared at the cards.  "What if he..."

	"There's always other men.  It's hard to believe at your age, but 
you will survive."  Misato went to the door.  "And if you wait for 
Shinji to approach you..."

	"I'll be an old maid," Asuka said.  "Good night."

	"Good night, Asuka."

	Misato then headed off where she'd originally been going.  The 
impulse that had first driven her out of bed had faded, however, and 
she began slowing down with every step, scared of being rejected 
again, and wondering why she was even doing this.  She turned to go 
back, and the loneliness that had driven her out of bed in the first 
place sent her starting off down the hallway to Makoto's room again.

	She reached the door, then stood silently for a minute, mustering 
her courage.  Then she knocked gently.  There was no answer.  She 
knocked several times.  Still no answer.  She tried the doorknob, but 
it was locked.  She tried knocking one more time, but still no answer 
came.  Finally, her courage failed her, and she headed back towards 
her room.  

	As she did so, she noticed Rei's door hanging open. She poked her 
head in and saw Rei was gone, her bed unslept in.  She frowned with 
worry for a moment, then decided to not be paranoid.  She was too 
tired to be paranoid.  If we can't trust her to be out of her bedroom 
at night, we shouldn't be having her here at all, Misato thought.  

	She prayed her trust would not be proven misguided.

	Far below, in the hold, her trust was indeed being proven 
correct.  Rei lay curled up among a spray of manga she'd dug out of 
someone's bags, fast asleep, having completed her research for the 
night.

                                -*-

	The next morning, at breakfast, the pilots were eating together.  
Touji asked Anna, "So what's this base like, anyway?"

	Anna looked up from her crossword puzzle she'd been working on.  
She put the book of puzzles aside.  "It's a lot like the one in Japan, 
except that...well, okay, it's not much like it.  It's a big above 
ground complex, surrounded by a fence and the Black Forest.  The Rhine 
flows by one side of it.  There's a town about two miles away you can 
drive to for shopping and stuff.  Most of the staff lives there, 
although Asuka and I both lived on base."

	"What's the town's name?" Hikari asked.  "Will anyone speak 
Japanese?"

	"Shwartzburg," Anna replied.  "And no, probably almost no one 
will.  I hope you've been studying English or German.  Although Frau 
Himmelfarb knows Japanese, and a few others at the base do."

	"Do they have a school on the base?" Shinji asked.

	"Yes, but since only Asuka and I speak German, I suppose that 
Makoto-san will be continuing to teach us. Or maybe Dr. Himmelfarb if 
she has time."  Anna asked Asuka, "Or maybe Hans?"

	"Hans' Japanese isn't very good, although I guess he may have 
improved," Asuka replied.  "I did better than he did in learning it."

	"Who taught you, anyway?" Shinji asked.

	"I learned it while I was working on my university degree.  Which 
hopefully everyone here will REMEMBER, so I don't have to sit around 
and take classes I've already had like I did in Japan," Asuka said.

	"Do they have a basketball court?" Touji asked.

	"Yes, and a soccer field too," Anna replied.  "Are you any good 
at basketball?"

	Touji grinned.  "Am I good?  Tell her, Shinji."

	"He's good."

	Anna said to Hikari, "Once we get settled in, I'll take you 
shopping in Shwartzburg.  There's some very nice shops."

	"Thanks," Hikari said.  "You'll come, won't you, Asuka?"

	"Sure," Asuka said.

	"Shopping. Bleah," Touji said.

	"Your loss," Anna said to Touji.  "I'll guess you'll miss the 
municipal basketball courts, and the restaurants, and the movie 
theatre, and..."

	"Hmm, maybe a short trip wouldn't be too bad, eh, Shinji?"

	"Well, I'd like to see the town," he said.  "And since neither of 
us speaks German..."

	"Perfect," Anna said, smiling.  "It'll be a lot of fun."

                                -*-

 	The view of the ocean was always a scary thing, or so Ritsuko 
always believed. She also believed in confronting her fears, which was 
why she gazed out at the ocean from one of the outdoor gantries of the 
Scimitar's side.

 	She heard the ocean waves calling her, tempting her to dive in 
and accept her heritage. It was a frightening sight.

 	"Sempai?"

 	Maya emerged from a nearby hatch, the wind blowing her short 
brown hair about randomly around her waifish face. It was a comforting 
sight.

 	"Hello, Maya. Here to take in the scenery too?"

 	She nodded. "I was wondering where you were, too. I thought you 
didn't like the ocean, though."

 	"I don't."

 	"Then... why?"

 	"It's a good thing to sometimes face your fears and try not to 
feel intimidated." She gave Maya a small smile.

 	"Oh. I see." She stood next to Ritsuko and leaned on the railing. 
"The sea is kind of like life, if you think about it."

 	"Ever-changing, right?"

 	Maya nodded. "Kind of like all the changes we're going through 
now, really. I mean, NERV is going to be in Germany. That just seems 
so strange to me."

 	Ritsuko leaned against the wall, crossing her arms. "We never 
thought the Geofront would fall, confident in the strength of our 
weapons and our will. Didn't quite work out."

 	"I'm going to miss Tokyo-3."

 	"Me too, Maya."

  	Maya fretted. "It'll feel really strange knowing you aren't head 
of the research division anymore."

 	Ritsuko looked thoughtful for a moment before replying.  "Well... 
to be fair, Frau Himmelfarb does have years more experience than me. 
I've met the woman before, she seemed to be nice enough and certainly 
more than competent."

 	"Oh, well that's good."

 	"On the other hand, I'm used to being in charge and a part of me 
can't help but feel this is a punishment of some sort for our failure 
in Tokyo-3."

 	Maya looked at Ritsuko, unsure of what to say, while Ritsuko just 
gave another small smile. "Of course," continued Ritsuko, "This could 
just be me being paranoid."

 	"I'm sure it is, sempai. I mean, what happened to Tokyo-3 wasn't 
your fault."

 	Ritsuko did not reply.

 	The younger girl closed her eyes and listened to the ocean waves 
for a moment, while the elder lit up a cigarette.

 	"Sempai?"

 	"Hmm?"

 	"The pilots, the children, what's happening to them?"

 	"Evolution, Maya, evolution."

 	"I... it doesn't seem right."

 	Ritsuko took a long drag from her cigarette, then blew slowly 
into the wind. "Bit by bit, they're becoming something more than 
human, they're becoming gods. The trick, however, is to make sure they 
don't lose their humanity."

	"How do we do that?" Maya asked.

	"We have to treat them as much as if they're normal as possible.  
We can't let ourselves become afraid of them, for they will sense 
that.  Power corrupts, but we have to help them fight the corruption.  
I don't know how, but we have to find a way."

	Maya nodded.  "We'll find a way."

	"I hope so.  For if they turn on us, we cannot hope to stand 
against them."

                                -*-

	It was not Gendo's day.  "The Council has concluded that your 
handling of the recent Angel attacks has not been satisfactory," the 
Bermudan delegate said.  

	Your entire nation is not very satisfactory either, Gendo thought 
petulantly.

	"We are hereby suspending you while a full investigation is 
conducted.  You will provide all necessary assistance to the 
investigatory committee.  Commander Fuyutsuki will assume the overall 
direction of NERV while this investigation continues.  Do you 
understand?"

	Gendo repressed the urge to pretend he'd forgotten English and 
said, "I regret that this is necessary."

	"Not as much as we do.  We've let NERV run loose without proper 
supervision for far too long."

	Gendo resolved to facilitate the investigation as much as he 
could.  The sooner they were gone, the better.  There were things 
which needed doing which could not be done with a bunch of moronic 
bureaucrats underfoot.  "I welcome the chance to clear my name.  What 
exactly am I being accused of?"

	"To be blunt, NERV cannot afford to take another beating like the 
last few.  We don't have infinite money.  The public is outraged."

	"And I'm the sacrificial victim?"

	"If it turns out to be your fault."

	Gendo began making plans to ensure it would not turn out that 
way.

                                -*-

	Makoto leaned on the rail of the observation deck, staring off 
across the ocean.  They'd reach Germany in a few hours, but right now, 
except for a cargo ship passing under them, there was little sign 
humanity or land or anything but open sea existed.  A strong breeze 
blew, making it a very pleasant morning.  

	He got out the letter again and read it.  Akane had told him that 
she hoped to be able to come to Germany soon.  But that he shouldn't 
pass up another shot at Misato like he had at the hotel if he got one.  
He wondered again how Akane's mind worked.  When she was present, she 
certainly didn't seem to want him looking at anyone else.  But then 
she'd keep urging him to go after Misato when she wasn't there.  

	But he couldn't bring himself to do that.  He'd never exactly 
been a playboy, and while he'd had a few girlfriends in the past, he'd 
never had one like Akane.  His mind told him taking her advice would 
be a bad idea, but if Misato wanted him and she didn't mind...

	He was startled out of his reverie, dropping the letter, which 
fluttered off towards the ocean below, when Misato put a hand on his 
shoulder.  "Beautiful morning," she said, smiling.

	"I'm surprised you're up," he replied.

	She stuck out her tongue at him.  "What, I can't get up early if 
I want to?"

	He laughed.  "Just surprised."

	"Actually, I got up early because I'm in charge while Commander 
Ikari and Commander Fuyutsuki are gone.  And while I doubt anything is 
going to happen...well, you never can tell."

	He nodded.  "That's true."

	She leaned against the railing.  "It's such a beautiful day; it's 
hard to believe we're in the middle of a war."

	"I know, I know."  He moved over to give her room, but she slid 
over close to him.  "You had breakfast yet?"

	"Not yet," she said.  "I was hoping I could see Europe; I've 
never been there."

	"A little jumpy?" he asked.

	She nodded.  "My German is feeble, and I know most of the people 
at the base won't speak Japanese.  And I can struggle through English, 
but...I just have this bad feeling some crucial order will go astray 
because no one will understand it."

	He patted her shoulder.  "Oh, we'll be fine.  The Children all 
know Japanese.  I'm surprised how well Asuka and Anna can speak it, in 
fact."

	She leaned against him.  "We've been lucky that way."  Slowly, 
her left arm moved around to wrap around his back.

	He stiffened, trying to decide what to do.  While he debated with 
himself, his right arm moved around her back without any direct 
orders.  She smiled, and said, "I tried coming to your room last 
night."

	His eyes widened.  "Well, I must have slept through it.  I sleep 
pretty soundly."

	"I know I shouldn't do this," she said.  "You have Akane, and 
technically, you're my subordinate, but I just...I need someone."  She 
was afraid to look into his eyes.

	"Yes, we shouldn't," he said.  "But I know how lonely it can get. 
And..."  He wondered if Akane really meant what she said, or if she 
had been teasing him.  With her, you could never be sure. "You're very 
pretty," he said.  That was pathetic sounding, he thought.  I have to 
decide, take the chance or...

	"Hi!" Maya said.

	They both started and turned around.  Ritsuko and Maya had come 
up onto the observation deck; they were holding hands, and Ritsuko was 
smiling a soft, gentle smile that surprised Misato greatly.  She'd 
never seen Ritsuko smile quite like that.  

	"Oh, are we interrupting you two?" Maya asked, as it sank into 
her brain that the two of them had been cuddled up to each other 
somewhat.

	"No, no, come on over," Misato said, her nerve failing her.  
"Enjoy the morning with us."

	They came over to the railing, and the four of them stared off 
across the water in silence for a little while, then Ritsuko said, 
"I'm surprised you're up, Misato."

	She fumed.  "It's not like I NEVER get up early."

	"I roomed with you for years, and I can't think of once I didn't 
have to kick you out of bed in the morning to go to class," Ritsuko 
said, laughing.  "I even had to use that frog once."

	Misato shuddered.  "If you EVER do that again..."

	"I quiver in terror before your vengeance," Ritsuko said, 
obviously not quivering at all.  

	"How are you today, Makoto?" Maya asked.

	"I'm fine," he replied.  "Hoping I can get by with my limited 
English, since hardly anyone in Germany will speak Japanese."

	"Oh, you'll be fine," Maya said.  "German's easy to learn."

	"Or at least the Germans are usually pretty patient with 
foreigners," Ritsuko says.  "I've been to a few conferences in 
Germany."

	"And I worry a little about those neo-Nazi lunatics," Makoto 
said.

	Misato laughed.  "What are they going to do, bleed on us?  We're 
safe from any nutcases like that."

	"True," he said.  

	A thought struck Misato.  "I'm going to Germany, and I can't have 
any BEER!  AAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!"

	As they watched Misato rant, Maya was very grateful no news 
cameras were watching.
 
                                -*-

	Shinji was practicing his violin when there was a knock on the 
door. He said, "Come in."

	Asuka hovered in the doorway, looking around the room before 
coming in all the way.  Then she said, "Are you busy?"

	"Hmm?  No, not really," he said, putting his violin aside.  
	
	She sat down on the bed, facing him as he sat in a chair next to 
the small table he had put his sheet music and violin on.  "Shinji..."  
She stared at his sheet music. "What were you playing?"

	"A Bach partita," Shinji replied.  "So what are you up to?"

	"I..uh...ahaha..."  Asuka tried to pull herself together.  "Wanna 
kiss?" she finally blurted out.

	Shinji turned red.  "I..uh...okay."

	For just a moment, as she got up to go over to him, memories of 
her encounter with Rei came to mind, and she felt a surge of absolute 
terror.  She choked them off.  I'm not a monster like Rei, she 
thought.  I like guys, and I don't force myself on people.  And this 
will be NOTHING like that.

	Before she could change her mind, she surged forward, sitting 
down in his lap and kissing him fervently.  At first, he just sort of 
sat there in shock, but soon, he brought his arms up and embraced her.  
See, this is what I like, she told herself.  A nice boy, not a 
freakish monster like Rei.  

	After a while, she broke off the kisses and just leaned against 
him.  "You're nice and warm," she said.

	"I...umm...I try," he said nervously.

	She laughed.  "Do you like me, Shinji?" she asked softly.

	"Umm, when you say like...do you mean like or like?"

	"What do you mean?"

	He said, "I like you very much, Asuka."  Very, very slowly, he 
brought his head around and gave her a swift peck on the lips, then 
his head retreated like a turtle into its shell.  "Maybe I...I..."

	Sighing softly, she said, "That's good enough for now.  I thought 
I loved Kaji, but now, I don't know if I even really ever knew him.  
Part of me wants..."  Part of her wanted things that made the rest of 
her cry out in horror and try to pretend she couldn't imagine them.  
Part of her wanted things that didn't horrify her, but were just close 
enough to the first part to scare her about what might happen to her 
if she tried them.  And part of her just wanted to be held.  It won 
for now.  

	"I don't think we're old enough," Shinji said, though part of him 
hoped she'd ignore his protests.

	She nodded.  "I don't want to rush things.  Well, I do, but..."  
She kissed his cheek.  "Plus, with my luck of late, Hikari or Anna 
would walk in on us."

	"Or Rei," Shinji said.

	Asuka darkened.  "Shinji, she raped me.  How can you still...not 
hate her?"

	"You know what it was like," he said softly.  "I had to lock 
myself in the bathroom and..."  He couldn't quite bring himself to say 
it.  "Do things to keep any kind of control of myself."  He felt dirty 
just thinking about it.  "We took the power of..."  His face scrunched 
up.  "Something horrible.  Couldn't you feel it?"

	"Not at all," she lied.  She didn't want to admit how she'd been 
feeling, to imagine that if things had been a little different, she 
might have done something just as awful.  

	He frowned.  "Asuka, you're lying."

	"I'm not lying!" she protested vehemently.  

	Things would likely have turned into a major fight at that point, 
if Rei hadn't come in the door and kneeled down in front of them.  
"I'm sorry," she said.

	Shinji mumbled, "Were you waiting there the whole time?"

	Asuka glared at her.  "Sorry?  SORRY?  Sorry doesn't cut it for 
what you did to me!!!!"

	"I know," Rei said.  She pulled out a small manga book and 
consulted it.  "Now you can never be married," she quoted.

	"..."  Shinji stared at Rei, wondering if Rei was trying to be 
funny or something.  He didn't think this was a good time for humor.

	For a moment, Asuka was sufficiently confused to not say 
anything, but then she got up out of Shinji's lap.  "Married?  What 
does marriage have to do with this?  You...you raped me, you little 
monster!"

	Rei knocked her head on the ground three times, then moved back 
into a kneeling position.  She consulted the manga again.  "I do not 
deserve to live," she said.  She tilted her head back, staring up at 
the ceiling.  "I submit myself to your..."  She turned and consulted 
the book another time, then resumed her position with head tilted 
back.  "judgement."

	Asuka just stared at her.  "You what?"

	"I could not control myself, and I hurt you.  I never wanted to 
hurt you," Rei said, after consulting the manga again and a little 
page flipping.  "I deserve punishment.  Punish me."

	"I'll show you punishment!" Asuka shouted, and began whaling away 
on Rei, who simply knelt there without flinching or showing any sign 
of pain as Asuka kicked her and beat her with her fists.

	At first, Shinji just stood there, too scared of Asuka's rage to 
try to do anything, but after a while of watching Rei just sit there 
and take it, he couldn't stand it any more.  "Asuka, stop," he said.

	"Filthylittlebeastgoingtoshowyouhowyoumademefeel!" Asuka was 
shrieking as she unloaded on Rei.  Tiny flames were beginning to form 
along her arms and legs and feet and fists.  Rei's clothing began to 
show scorch marks.  

	"Asuka, that's enough," Shinji said a little more firmly.

	There was the sound of running feet in the hallway now, but Asuka 
kept on striking Rei, who now fell down onto her hands and knees.  "I 
hate you, I hate you, I hate you!" Asuka was screaming.  

	What finally moved Shinji to intervene was when Rei finally began 
to cry.  It was mostly the sort of heaving that often goes along with 
crying, but a tiny rivulet of water began to flow from Rei's right 
eye.  Shinji had had enough.  "Asuka, STOP."  He grabbed her fists, 
wincing as his skin got burnt before his own power put out the flames 
there.  

	He stared into her eyes, and repeated himself even as she 
continued to kick Rei.  "Asuka, that's ENOUGH."

	Asuka froze up for a moment, then looked down at Rei, who was 
trying to stop crying.  For a moment, she felt a pang of guilt.  Rei 
hadn't fought back at all.  Maybe she really was sorry.  Maybe she had 
lost control.  Like I just did, Asuka thought.  She hadn't wanted to 
stop until Rei was dead.  

	Then she shoved the thought away.  She couldn't really be sorry, 
Asuka thought.  People who do things like what she did don't ever feel 
sorrow.  She's just a little monster.  She is.  

	As Asuka's anger ebbed, she began to cry.  Shinji wrapped his 
arms around her and tried to comfort her (and tried to make sure she 
couldn't start attacking Rei again).

	Rei looked up at Shinji, and he looked down at her sorrowfully, 
trying to think of something to say.

	Then Misato burst in the door.  "What is going..."  She looked at 
the three of them.

	Rei said, "I deserve to be punished."

	Shinji said, "You couldn't help yourself."

	"I hurt Asuka," Rei said softly.  "I was bad."

	"You ought to DIE!" Asuka shrieked, then began crying some more.

	Misato sighed, and helped Rei up.  "Come with me," she said.  She 
turned to Shinji and Asuka.  "I'll talk to you two later."  Then she 
dragged Rei off.

	Asuka said, "Why is everyone on her side?" 

	"I don't want to have sides," Shinji said. "She couldn't help 
herself.  She wanted to make amends, and you tried to kill her."

	"I hate her," Asuka said fiercely.  "As long as she's alive, she 
might try to do that to me again!"

	He sighed, and stroked her hair clumsily.  "It could have been 
any of us, Asuka."

	"Never!  I could never do something like that!"  Her fists 
clenched.  "I'm not a monster!"

	"If she's a monster, then we all are.  We're all becoming more 
like her every time we fight," Shinji replied.

	She leaned against him.  "We are not.  We're human!  Human!"  

	Shinji thought about the burns she'd given him, which had already 
healed, and wasn't so sure.

                                -*-

	"Rei, it would be best if you avoided Asuka for a while longer," 
Misato said as she ushered Rei into her room.  "We know you couldn't 
help yourself, but...well, you can understand why she finds that hard 
to believe, don't you?" Misato asked almost pleadingly.

	"I hurt her," Rei said, sitting down in a chair.  "I must 
apologize."

	Misato sat down on her bed.  "It's good that you want to.  But 
she's not ready for an apology."

	"When?" Rei asked.

	"When will she be ready, you mean?" Misato asked.

	"Yes."

	"I don't know," Misato said.  "It could be weeks or months.  Just 
try not to get in her face if you can help it."  She flopped back onto 
her bed, then reminded herself she was trying to project something 
vaguely resembling authority and sat back up.  "Shinji will know when 
she's ready."

	"I thought it would work," Rei said sadly.

	"Apologizing, you mean?" Misato asked.

	"Like in the books," Rei said.

	The fact that Rei was holding some manga finally sank into 
Misato's head.  I didn't think she read silly romance comics, Misato 
thought.  "Comics aren't always the best guide to life," Misato said.

	"What is?" Rei asked.

	Set myself up for that, Misato thought.  "Well, people sometimes 
talk to priests or psychologists when they have a problem.  Or a good 
friend."

	Rei nodded.  

	"So, if I have a problem, I can talk about it with Ritsuko or 
Makoto."

	"Is he your mate now?" Rei asked.

	Misato blinked.  "Mate...you mean, you're asking if Makoto is my 
boyfriend?"

	"Yes."

	"..."

	They stared at each other silently for a few minutes, then Misato 
said, "No, he's not my boyfriend."

	"You look at him..."  Rei fumbled for words.  "As you did with 
Kaji."

	Misato flinched, and mumbled, "He has a girlfriend.  I shouldn't 
butt in."  She stared at the floor.

	"I understand," Rei said, staring down at the book she held.  

	Misato looked over at her.  "Yeah, I guess you might."

	Rei rose.  "Anything else?"

	Misato shook her head.  "No.  Just...good luck, Rei."

	"Thank you."  And then Rei left, leaving Misato alone in her 
room.

	Misato now took the chance to flop back on her bed.  Please don't 
let this all blow up, she said to something silently, not sure what 
she was talking to, whether she was praying to God or gods or just 
talking to herself.  This could turn so awful.  Please don't let it.  
Please let this be a new beginning for all of us.
	
                                -*-

	Shinji was rather surprised when Fuyutsuki called everyone to the 
Bridge.  He'd thought Fuyutsuki and his father were going to meet them 
in Germany.  He shuffled into the bridge with Asuka as Fuyutsuki was 
saying, "Where is Shi...ahh, there you are.  Alright, everyone is 
here."

	Fuyutsuki paused, looking a little embarrassed.  "By order of the 
Security Council, I am now Acting Head of NERV.  Commander Ikari has 
been suspended while an investigation of the events and battles that 
took place at NERV-Japan is conducted.  An investigatory committee 
will be showing up within the next few days, so please cooperate with 
them.  We'll be arriving at NERV-Germany by this evening.  Living 
arrangements have been made; I will be giving everyone their new 
duties once I've had a chance to further consult with the staff there.  
That is all."

	Shinji looked around and realized his father wasn't there.  
"Where is Fa...Commander Ikari?"

	Fuyutsuki says, "I believe he's in his office, Shinji."

	Asuka muttered, "It's about time that bastard gets what he 
deserves."

	Shinji turned and left.  It wasn't like his father to run off and 
hide.  There was more to this than met the eye, he was sure of it.

                                -*-

	Shinji knocked on the door he thought was his father's office on 
the helicarrier.  His suspicion was confirmed when Gendo said, "Come 
in."

	He came in nervously, seeing his father seated behind the small 
desk on the other side of the cramped little office. Books were piled 
everywhere, with Latin and Greek titles.  He cleared some off the 
chair for guests and sat down.  "I heard you were suspended, Father."

	"And?" Gendo asked.  His face was blank, his voice a little 
colder than usual.

	"I'm sorry.  It wasn't your fault.  We all did our best, but the 
Angels were just so destructive..."  He sighed.  "But they'll figure 
that out, won't they?"

	For a minute or so, Gendo just sat there quietly, then said, "I 
think they've already decided what they're going to find out.  They 
want a scapegoat."

	"But that's not fair!  We won!  We beat the Angels.  I can't 
think of how we could have done things any better!"  There was some 
heat in Shinji's voice.  "I mean...was there anything we could have 
done better?"

	"Not without knowledge we didn't have," Gendo replied.  "Not the 
Angel fighting, anyway."  The chill had faded from his voice.  "I'm 
surprised you care."

	"You're my father," Shinji said.  "And what they're doing to you 
isn't fair."

	Gendo reached up and took off his glasses and began to polish 
them.  "Thank you, Shinji.  You've been a very good pilot and done 
very well."

	Shinji blushed a little.  He rarely got praise from his father.  
"Thank you."

	"I understand you had to restrain Asuka from trying to kill Rei."

	"She wouldn't have really killed her."  Shinji hoped.  "But she 
just...she can't understand Rei couldn't help herself."  He paused.  
"Right?"

	"I believe so," Gendo replied.  "Rei isn't acting like someone 
who did something like that deliberately.  But at the same time, we 
have to wonder if she might lose control again."

	"She won't." Shinji said. "That was an unusual situation."

	"I wish I could afford your optimism," Gendo said.  "But we need 
her, and I do not believe any of us except you, the Children, could 
restrain her now.  She's too powerful."

	"Father, sometimes I feel like...it's like...all this power, and 
I get these thoughts, and..." Shinji cringed to think about some of 
them.  "I'm scared, Father."

	"So am I," Gendo replied.  "We need you, Shinji.  You've got to 
hold on to your humanity.  They can't take it from you, but if you're 
not careful, you can end up giving it away by inches."  He put his 
glasses down on the table.  Shinji could see his eyes looked much 
softer without them.  "It won't be much longer, Shinji.  There's only 
a few of them left."

	"Father, do you know what the Angels are?"

	"They are alien, not native to our Earth, beings whose precise 
origins are irrelevant.  They possess vast power, and do not think 
like we do.  But the cosmic powers which they tap ebb and flow over 
time, so they fell into slumber when those cycles turned against them, 
and they were stranded here. Now they are awakening, and if they are 
not destroyed, they will crush us the way we crush annoying ants.  
Some foolish men have called them gods, but they are simply very 
powerful mortals.  They can bleed.  And they can die.  And humanity 
will never be free until they do.  One of them is, in part, humanity's 
ancestor, and thus we can learn to use those powers.  But the price is 
heavy."

	Shinji thought about all he'd seen.  "Yes, it is, Father."

	"Sometimes I wish I'd never learned of all this.  But then, I 
would never have met Yui, and you would not exist.  I know I have not 
been a very good father, but I have had other, higher duties.  You 
understand, don't you?"

	"No," Shinji said.  "And yes.  I know about duties, but..."

	Gendo sighed.  "Well, now I will have more...more free time.  
Perhaps we can do something together once we get to Germany."

	"I'd like that," Shinji said softly.  He looked around.  "What 
are all these books?"

	"Over the millennia, many people have studied the Angels as they 
slept, and many fools have worshipped them.  While most of their 
deranged rantings are either wrong or irrelevant, there is much to be 
gleaned from them by careful study."

	Shinji picked up a book and flipped through it, wincing at the 
etchings within.  "Ugh."

	"Exactly."  He paused.  "So, um, how are you and Asuka doing?"

	"We...umm...I'm not sure what the word is.  But we like kissing."

	Gendo smiled.  "It is very nice.  Please, try and help her 
control herself."

	"I will," Shinji said.

	"Take her somewhere nice once we get to Germany.  There's many 
nice restaurants there in the town we'll be near."

	"Okay," Shinji said.  "Is German food any good?"

	"It's very different from ours, but some of it is good.  But you 
can't get any decent beer."

	They made small talk for a while, and eventually, Shinji left.

	Gendo stared after him, smiling a little.  Good luck, son, he 
thought.  Your mother would be proud of you if she could see you now.

                                -*-

	Hikari sat in her room, trying to read a book, but she couldn't 
focus.  The words sat on the pages and taunted her and her brain 
wandered.  She had a room to herself; it was a cramped little thing, 
but really not much smaller than her room back home.

	Home.  

	The thought of home brought back to her everything she'd lost.  
She tossed the book aside and curled up on the bed trying not to cry.  
Her parents were dead.  Eight out of the thirty kids in her class were 
dead.  She didn't know how many, but a lot of her friends' parents had 
died as well.  

	Her resistance failed, and the tears began to flow.  Her mind 
filled with memories of happy times with her family, times which would 
never come again with them.  They were gone, killed as just an 
accidental byproduct of the invasion of Tokyo-3 in the madness of 
Adam's escape.  

	Then she remembered what Touji had said when she asked him if he 
hoped she could be a pilot. 'Well... if they let you in as a pilot, 
we'll see a lot more of each other, an'that I'd like.  But... but when 
you're a pilot, it ain't exactly the safest job in the world.  I'd 
worry about you, y'know.'  She'd been perfectly safe, while her 
father...

	Part of her wished she'd been there, been able to try to do 
something.  But the rest of her was glad she hadn't, because if she'd 
actually seen her father going berserk...she didn't want to remember 
him like that.  He was a kind and gentle man, not a killer.  

	The tears came faster now, and she didn't hear the knock at the 
door, or the door sliding open.  

	"Hikari?  You okay?" Touji asked, then saw her.  "Guess not," he 
said, coming over and sitting down by her.

	She tried to sit up and leaned over on him, just crying 
incoherently.  He made soothing noises and tried to figure out what to 
say.

	Finally, she managed to choke out, "How did you know..."

	"I had this bad feeling, and then I got so distracted by it, that 
Shinji was whipping my ass at Tokyo-3 Street Battle, and THAT I knew 
was a sign something had to be majorly wrong," Touji said.

	Hikari would have laughed if she could through the tears.  
Instead, she just kind of choked up, then said, "Maybe...I mean...I 
guess, I've heard, that when people...you know...they can feel things 
about each other."

	Touji froze up for just a second.  "Yeah, that's gotta be it," he 
said.  "Can't think of nothing else it could be."  Some kind of thing 
from the Angels, he suspected, though he didn't say anything.  She 
didn't need to hear that right now.  "I bet Shinji and Asuka have the 
same thing."

	He could feel her start to relax.  "You think so?"

	"Hey, I can't see what Shinji sees in the Kraut, but he's pretty 
damn taken with her," Touji said.  "So I'm sure they probably can."

	She tried to wipe her eyes.  "I miss my family so much," she said 
softly.

	"What a shitty ass way to go," Touji said, shaking his head.  "I 
got damn lucky nothing happened to Dad or Sis."

	"Well, nothing worse than had already happened to your sister," 
Hikari said, sighing.  

	"Hmm." Touji said.

	"Hmm?" Hikari asked.

	"I'm suddenly wondering whether with all these funky powers, me 
or Shinji might be able to do something to help her get better 
quicker," Touji said.  "I mean, our Evas heal like crazy and stuff, so 
if there's some way to, like, project it into someone else."

	Hikari felt a surge of nervousness.  "It seems dangerous to 
experiment with that, though."

	Touji sighed.  "I know.  I just feel like there ought to be 
something I can do besides scaring animals with it and killing 
monsters."

	"Poor Toonces," Hikari said, sighing.  "I hope he'll be okay with 
the Takahashis."

	"I'm sure they'll take good care of him," Touji said.  And it 
means I don't have to put up with him.  "You wanna take a walk or 
something?"

	"Yes," she said, getting up.  "Let's take a walk."

                                -*-

	"So what exactly DID happen in that final battle?" Commander 
Weiss asked.  "The reports we've had weren't very clear on that."

	Fuyutsuki leaned against the balcony and sighed, looking out on 
the Black Forest.  "A long captive Angel escaped.  The battle against 
it finished the base off."

	Weiss nodded.  "Did you get any useful data before it escaped?"

	"Yes. However, we'd been using it to manufacture LCL, so we may 
have problems now."

	"..."

	"Technically, this is restricted data still, but I believe you 
should know."

	"I knew it had been developed from things found in Antarctica, 
but I didn't think...was it the creature's blood?"

	"It involves compounds difficult for us to synthesize with our 
current knowledge," Fuyutsuki replied.  "Dr. Akagi will be working on 
making that breakthrough while she is here."

	"Ahh, yes, your bringing over of the senior staff does pose some 
command problems," Weiss replied.

	"Well, that's one thing for us to sort out.  Major Katsuragi is 
the head of overall NERV tactical, so Lessard would be reporting to 
her.  It's a little trickier with Dr. Himmelfarb and Dr. Akagi and 
some of our other staff."

	Weiss straightened up.  "Well, let's go look at our rosters and 
work everything out."

	Fuyutsuki nodded.  "A good idea." 

                                -*-

	"So, the cafeteria is over here," Anna said, pointing to the big 
round building surrounded by flagpoles.  

	Touji blinked.  "What are all the flagpoles for?"

	"All the countries who are represented on the staff get their 
flag put up here," Anna replied.

	"Around the cafeteria?" Hikari asked.

	"Well, they also have flags along the entrance drive, but..."  
Anna shrugged.  "I didn't build the base."

	Asuka said, "Now, the gymnasium and combat practice rooms are in 
this building over here."  She started walking towards a great grey 
cube of a building, very ugly and sombre looking.

	"Big sister!" a young, ash blond boy shouted in German, rocketing 
out of the door of another building near the cafeteria.  "You're 
back!"  He was carrying a black cat who clearly wasn't enjoying being 
carried at full tilt.

	Asuka sighed.  "Hello, Oscar," she said in German.

	Anna smiled at him.  "Hello, Oscar," she said in German.

	Oscar put his cat down and hugged Anna.  "Did all of Japan really 
blow up and sink into the sea?"  His cat plopped down on the ground 
and stared up at her companions.

	"No, just the part I was visiting," she replied.

	"This is Anna's freaky little cat-loving brother," Asuka 
explained to the other pilots in Japanese.  "He's a complete mental 
case, so try not to kill him even though you'll want to."

	"Asuka!" Oscar shouted.  "You came back to me!"  Charge.  Glomp.  
Crash.  Asuka went down under the impact of the charging thirteen year 
old.  "When are we getting married?"

	Shinji stared in surprise.  Touji began to laugh his head off.  
Hikari giggled a little.  Anna just shook her head, smiling, and 
started trying to peel Oscar off Asuka, who looked like she wanted to 
die.  "Now, Pieter, you're embarrassing Asuka in front of her 
friends."

	Hikari went over and picked up the cat, petting him.  "What a 
cute cat," she said.  The cat purred, enjoying the attention.

	"Nice boyfriend you got there," Touji said, laughing more.

	"HE IS NOT MY BOYFRIEND!  I'D MARRY AN ANGEL FIRST!" Asuka 
shouted in Japanese.

	Anna finally got Oscar up and restrained somewhat. "Didn't Mama 
tell you we were coming?"

	"I thought she made it up to make me feel better," he said.  
"I've been really lonely with you and Asuka gone."

	"Well, we're back, at least for a while," Anna said.

	Touji said, "Damn, I wish I knew enough German to egg the kid 
on."

	Shinji said, "Probably a good thing you don't."

	Oscar asked, "Are they the other pilots?"

	Anna nodded.  "That's Touji, who thinks he's cool.  And that's 
Shinji, who is Asuka's boyfriend, and that's Hikari, who is Touji's 
girlfriend."

	"Boyfriend?" Oscar asked.  "I'm her boyfriend!"  He glared over 
at Shinji.  Shinji wondered what he was so mad about.  

	Asuka laughed very loudly, pointing at Touji.

	"What, what?" Touji asked. "Anna, why is she laughing?"

	Anna giggled a little.  "Nothing."

	"Do you speak English?" Oscar asked the pilots in English.

	"My English is bad," Touji said.

	"A little," Hikari replied.

	"Better than German," Shinji said.

	"Is it fun piloting giant robots?" Oscar asked.

	"What does 'piloting' mean?" Hikari asked.

	"It probably means something like 'using' or 'driving', I think," 
Shinji said in Japanese.  Then in English, he said, "It's fun, but 
scary."

	"Will I get to be a pilot when I'm your age?"

	"I hope not," Asuka muttered in German.  "You'd take your damn 
cat with you."

	"Hey, don't be mean to my kitty!" Oscar said. "Even if you are my 
future wife, I won't forgive you!"

	Anna giggled.  "Such a cute couple."

	"I'm going to kill you later," Asuka said, and turned to Shinji.  
"C'mon, I have to show you the gymnasium!"  She grabbed his hand and 
started to drag him off.

	Oscar ran after them.  "Where are we going, Asuka?"  The cat lept 
out of Hikari's hands and ran after them as well.

	Anna said, "Come on, I'll show you around some more of the base 
while my brother gets this out of his system."

	Touji said, "Is he going to be doing this to her every day?"

	"Probably," Anna said, sighing.

	"Cool," Touji said.  "I can use the laughs."

	Hikari sighed.  "Don't wish ill on people, Touji."

	"C'mon, don't tell me you didn't laugh."

	Hikari giggled a little.  "The look on her face..."

	Anna laughed too.  "I know. My brother has just had the biggest 
crush on her forever.  He wanted to go to Japan with her."

	"I'm surprised he hasn't been trying to learn Japanese, then," 
Hikari said.

	"Oh, he has, but he's only been trying for less than a year, and 
he's been speaking English since he was five.  Mother raised both of 
us to be bilingual.  And when they determined I might be a pilot, I 
started studying Japanese so that I'd be ready if I was called to 
NERV-Japan."

	"You and Asuka both speak Japanese very well," Hikari said.

	"Thank you," Anna said.  "My whole family has a knack for 
languages.  Which I guess is part of why I like crossword puzzles."

	"So, where to next?" Hikari asked.

	"Hmm, let's go see where the Eva units get parked..."
	
                                -*-

	Ingrid Lessard was a tall, muscular woman, close to a foot taller 
than Misato, with short blonde hair and brown eyes.  Head of NERV-
Germany security, she looked capable of defending the base all by 
herself against all comers.  Misato thought she almost looked able to 
just beat down any incoming Angels with her bare hands.  "The biggest 
problem is likely to be the Black Goat cultists.  They meet a little 
further south in the woods.  We keep finding their sacrifice sites, 
but we haven't caught them yet."

	Ingrid and Misato were meeting in one of the briefing rooms, with 
a staff translator, Michael Grussenwald, on hand, as while they both 
spoke a little English, neither spoke enough to successfully carry on 
the conversation they needed to have.

	"Do they have any paranormal support?" Misato asked.

	"Walking Trees, possibly some class four paranormals," Ingrid 
replied.  

	"Once we get the monitoring equipment properly installed here, 
we'll have to see if we can pick them up with Polaris during its next 
sweep over Germany," Misato said.  "I understand there's a bit of a 
neo-nazi problem around here."

	"Ever since Second Impact, the freaks have been coming out of the 
woodwork," Ingrid said.  "And the presence of so many international 
personnel has led them to try to stage a few protests, throw rotten 
fruit, and generally be a pain.  But they don't have the resources to 
cause any serious problem.  But if they're stupid enough to try, we'll 
mow them down."

	"The perimeter defenses are pretty impressive."

	"Well, given that many of these 'Angels' have their own cults, it 
seemed wise to be careful, just in case any of these cults somehow got 
hold of enough armaments to try storming the base.  Now, if they had 
actual air power, we'd be in trouble, but it's generally impossible 
for terrorists to get hold of that kind of fire power.  And we 
wouldn't last long against the Federal Army, but if the Republic turns 
on us, we could never hold this base anyway."

	Misato blinked.  "I'm surprised you've even thought of the 
possibility."

	"I love my country, and I very strongly doubt that Germany will 
try anything, but thinking such things is, unfortunately, part of my 
job.  Right wing freaks feed on the sort of problems the whole world's 
had since Second Impact, and..."  She sighed.  "But I could ramble 
about politics all day.  Will we be importing any of your security 
personnel from NERV-Japan?"

	Misato said, "One squad which came with us on the Scimitar.  The 
standing security forces here are as good as the ones we had in Japan, 
and better suited for operations here, since very few of our 
operatives in Japan spoke German.  I gave all the survivors leave 
time, except for the ones who came to guard the Scimitar."

	Ingrid laughed a little.  "The idea of modern forces cruising 
around in a giant blimp just seems silly to me.  No offense meant."

	"I do sometimes wonder what Commander Ikari was thinking, but 
it's worked well for us so far."

	"Maybe whoever built it was the lowest bidder."

	Misato blinked, then laughed loudly.  "Could be."

	Ingrid got up.  "Let me show you around, and I'll give you all 
the paperwork you'll need once we finish our tour."

	Misato made a face.  "Sure you can't keep it for yourself?"

	"Yes."

	"Damn!" Misato said in English, then grinned a little.  "That's 
the right word, right?"

	Ingrid laughed, and they set out.

                                -*-

	Anna looked over her shoulder.  She couldn't see it, but she knew 
it was there.  I should have stayed home, she thought.  But the light 
had drawn her, drawn her out of her bed, and across the ruined city.  
She couldn't remember why it was ruined.  Perhaps it was the creature.

	Now it was after her, and she couldn't remember the way back.  
Clad in pajamas and slippers, she couldn't even understand how she'd 
gotten so far, following the shimmering light in the high tower, 
before.  Clouds covered the sky, and the night was so dark she could 
hardly see at all.  

	Something moved behind her, and she turned to look, while still 
running, and slammed into a light pole.  Picking herself up off the 
ground, she saw a shadow move across the street behind her, but 
looking up to see what cast it, there was nothing, nothing at all.  Or 
maybe something so dark that it couldn't be seen against the clouds.  

	So she turned down a side street, and tried to read the signs to 
figure out how to get home, but they were all written in runes made 
from long wedges, carved into the blue, faintly glimmering metal of 
the signs, and she wished she'd studied that language, whatever it 
was, in school.  Struggling to remember how to get back to home, to 
safety, she turned at another intersection, fleeing down a street 
lined with cars.  

	Something glimmered on a rooftop, a reddish gleam, three red 
pinpoints near each other.  But when she turned to look, it was gone.  
A shadow, long and winged, moved across the street ahead of her, so 
she turned and ducked down an alleyway, listening desperately, but 
only her own breathing and the gentlest of breezes could be heard.  A 
shutter on a window nearby creaked gently in spurts.

	She climbed a nearby fire escape ladder; despite the risk, she 
needed an elevated view to see which way home was.  But when she 
reached the roof, there was only the ruined, abandoned, devastated 
city spreading out around her to the horizon, an infinite wasteland of 
steel and brick and glass.  

	And then there were wingbeats above her, and the horrible three-
lobed red eye of her pursuer shone in the sky, and Anna ran for the 
edge of the roof.  It circled, and cut her off from the fire escape, 
forcing her back to the edge, coming ever closer with each circling.

	There was nothing to do, nothing to do but jump.  So she leapt 
and to her amazement, wings sprouted from her back, and she flew, fast 
and hard, crossing dozens of blocks in minutes, leaving her foe far 
behind her.  Yet, she could not see the way home anywhere, nor the 
chapel from which the horrid beast had sprung when she foolishly 
followed the call of the shining gem she had glimpsed from her bedroom 
window.

	Emerging onto another street, she ducked under an awning, and 
studied the rooftops across the street.  There was nothing up there 
but a series of squat boxes that could have been anything, as long as 
that anything was grey.  Looking up the street, to her surprise and 
relief, she could see the streetlights were on, so risking the open 
space, she took off as fast as she could, for she felt in her heart 
that her foe, her hunter, could not bear the light.

	Finally, she reached the amber glow of the street lamps, and 
slumped against a great glass pain of a shut down butcher shop.  For a 
few minutes, she slid down the wall to sit, wedged between wall and 
sidewalk, breathing hard.  

	Time passed, and her nerves and her breathing calmed, so she 
stood up, and turned to try to get a look at herself in the window.  
But her reflection was a winged beast with a three-lobed eye that 
glowed red, a great maw with yellowed fangs, and a long tail that 
ended with a stinger, the very creature from which she fled.

	Anna screamed, and the glass shattered, and the lights went out, 
and then she heard the sound of wing beats closing in.  She crumpled, 
until strong arms grasped her, and the world shook to pieces, and then 
she was in her bedroom, with Asuka standing over her.

	"It was just a nightmare," Asuka said.

	Anna shivered.  "I was...it was...oh God, it was awful!"

	Asuka sat down next to her, hugging her tightly.  "I know.  I 
know," she said.

	"The only way to escape it, was to become it..."  She shuddered.  
"And home was gone, and I was all alone and..."

	"I'm here, and I won't abandon you," Asuka replied.  "It was just 
a bad dream.  There's been a lot of those lately."

	Anna gradually relaxed.  "Now I'm afraid to go back to sleep."

	"Didn't Frau Himmelfarb teach you about controlling your dreams?"

	"I've never been very good at it," Anna replied.

	"Well, you'd better work on it," Asuka said.  "But I'll stay with 
you tonight and see what I can do."

	"Thank you," Anna replied.

	"You always stayed with me when I had my nightmares when I was 
little," Asuka replied.  "I'll go get some stuff and bring it in so I 
can sleep on your floor."

	Anna frowned.  "I wouldn't want to make you..."

	"It's no trouble," Asuka said.  "Be back in a little while."

	I wish I could be as strong as you, Anna thought.  And that I 
wasn't so scared by all of this.  But I'll do my best for you. 

                                -*-

 	In the darkness of her room, Hikari stared at the
ceiling.

 	It wasn't her ceiling, but some alien ceiling, manufactured in 
Germany. Her ceiling was under a pile of rubble now. It probably was 
the rubble.

 	It wasn't like this was her first night away from the place she'd 
thought of as home, but it hadn't really sunk in to her yet that this 
ceiling was supposed to be her ceiling now.

 	It still hadn't settled on her, Germany being her home now. That 
sounded so very.... strange.

 	She idly wondered if Bratwurst was as good as Asuka claimed it 
was.

 	She had begun to wonder exactly what Bratwurst was when she felt 
a chilling disturbance in the air, the sense of another presence.

 	Two red eyes flickered brightly in the darkness, staring at her. 
Hikari trembled and tried to back away from those eyes, until she 
heard the voice.

 	"Hikari."

 	The voice made her nearly jump, but then she realized who it was.

 	"R-Rei?"

 	"Yes."

 	"W-What are you doing here?"

 	"I need help."

 	Hikari paused, surprised that Rei had said such a thing, though 
still very much scared of the girl. Slowly, she reached for the 
bedside lamp and turned it on. The illumination found Rei sitting on 
Hikari's desk chair across the room, her expression unreadable as 
always.

 	"Help.... with what?" asked Hikari.

 	"How do you apologize for raping someone?"

 	Hikari stared at Rei. She really wasn't quite sure how to answer 
that one. "Um... well..."

 	"Do you know?" asked Rei.

 	"I.... ah..." She really didn't, though Hikari tried to think of 
some sort of answer. Within the short time she had to reply, however, 
she could think of no answers. "I'm sorry, no, I don't," she finally 
admitted.

 	Rei seemed to frown slightly. She looked out from Hikari's 
window, seemingly lost in thought.

 	"I forgot to say earlier," said Hikari, "But thanks. For saving 
me when Tokyo-3 fell."

 	Rei paused. "I do not hear that often," she said quietly.

 	"Hear what?"

 	"Thank you."

 	"Oh."

 	Rei stood up, looking around the room. "I will leave now. Good 
night." She walked over to Hikari's bedside before Hikari could ask 
why, then turned off the bedside lamp.

 	"Um.... Rei?"

 	Hikari turned on the lamp again, but Rei seemed to be gone.

 	"How does she do that?" Hikari muttered. She shook her head, then 
turned out the lights and crawled back under her covers.

 	And then she suddenly scrabled out of bed and turned on the 
lights again, staring at her bed. For some odd reason Touji was there 
now, wearing nothing but boxer shorts, snoring loudly.

 	Acting on instinct, she grabbed a pillow and started beating him 
to death with it.

 	"Zzzwha-huh-eeeh? Ow! Ow! Ow!"

 	"Touji you pervert! How dare you!"

 	"Hikari? Ow! Ow! Ow! Dammit, sto- OW!"

 	"Using your powers to get in bed with me! How dare you!"

 	Touji sat upright. "What the heck??? Why am I in your place?!"

 	There was a knock at Hikari's dormitory door. A loud booming deep 
voice shouted, "Frau Hikari, are you okay?! What is happening in 
there?"

 	Touji's eyes widened. "Is that-"

 	Hikari nodded quickly. "Frau Himmelfarb's my neighbor."

 	"Shit!"

 	Acting upon male instinct, he charged to the window and opened 
it.

 	"Touji, wai-"

 	And he leaped out. Before she could warn him that they were on 
the third floor.

 	"OOW!"

                                -*-
 
	The next morning, Hikari decided to talk to Anna about Rei's 
visit.  She knew Anna had known Asuka for a long time, and she hoped 
Anna might have some insight on what to do about Rei and Asuka.  She 
also decided she wanted to talk to Commander Misato and find out what 
exactly had happened that night.  She'd heard Asuka's side of it, but 
it was hard for her to imagine Rei actually doing something like that, 
creepy as she could be sometimes.

	"Hey, Anna, are you busy?" she asked.

	"Well, we have class in a little bit, but no, I'm not busy," Anna 
said.  "Come on in."

	Hikari looked around, half expecting someone to appear from 
nowhere, but they were alone.  She came in and closed the door.  "Do 
you know...I mean, I'm trying to find out what exactly happened with 
Asuka and Rei."

	"I don't know," Anna said.  "I got the vague idea that there was 
some sort of problem with one of the Angels you beat, and it sort of 
overwhelmed Rei, but..."  She frowned.  "She's so strange, maybe she 
just decided to do it one day."

	"I feel like they're hiding things from us," Hikari said.

	"Oh, I'm sure they are," Anna said, sitting on her bed and 
brushing her hair.  "There's some very terrible things out there.  
We'd probably break if we knew about all of them."  She shivered 
slightly, and Hikari wondered what she had seen.  "I think Asuka has 
every right to be angry, but it does seem like Rei didn't mean to do 
it.  But I don't know.  It's just so...This is all just so weird."

	Hikari nodded.  "Yes."

	Anna got up.  "We'd better go to class."

	"Such as it is."

	"Well, Fraulein Helga tries her best."

	"That's true," Hikari said.  "Let's go."  
	
                                -*-

	Science class was going better than history had.  Part of this 
was that they were starting to get the hang of dealing with Asuka 
translating for their teacher, Fraulein Helga, one of the junior 
members of the research branch.  The other was that Fraulein Helga 
knew far more about science and was far more enthusiastic about it 
than she was about history.  

	Fraulein Helga was a tall skinny blonde, with long hair tied back 
in a braid, and silver-rimmed glasses.  Touji thought she wasn't half 
bad looking, if a little on the nerdy side.  He'd noticed that Asuka 
always seemed to say whatever Helga said with half the words, and he 
wondered if this meant Asuka was just making stuff up or if German was 
really that much more wordy.

	At the moment, she was lecturing about the human digestive 
system.  "So, humans can't eat grass because we lack the proper 
enzymes to break it down.  Indeed, if humans do eventually travel to 
other worlds, we will probably have to bring our own animals and 
plants with us, in order to be able to eat, as the ecosystems of other 
worlds would probably not contain life built on the same principles as 
the creatures and plants we eat here," Asuka translated.

	Hikari raised her hand.  Fraulein Helga pointed to her.  "Yes, 
Fraulein Hikari?" Asuka translated.

	"If that's the case, how can the Angels survive on Earth, since 
they couldn't eat food native to here due to their alien origins?" 
Hikari asked.

	Fraulein Helga smiled.  "That's a very good question," Asuka 
translated.  "The Angels may possess adaptive capabilities unseen in 
Earth life forms."  As she translated, Asuka glared balefully at Rei.    
"They also seem to be able to tap into energy flows we don't 
understand fully to sustain themselves; we have yet to observe any of 
the major ones feeding in a way we comprehend."  

	Rei very carefully stared at her notes she was taking instead of 
looking at Asuka, but every so often, she would look over wistfully at 
Shinji, who would try to look reassuring.  

	"That would sort of discourage wars of conquest by alien races, 
since they couldn't actually eat the food of worlds they took over, 
right?" Anna asked.

	Helga nodded again.  Asuka translated, "Yes. They also might find 
the atmosphere inhospitable.  We and the animals we live with are 
dependent on a particular mixture of gases in the atmosphere.  But 
there's little reason why other worlds would necessary have the 
precise mix we need.  On the other hand, the Angels often seem 
unaffected by such things."  Asuka glanced over at Rei again, who 
focused her gaze on Fraulein Helga instead.

	"I just have to wonder if there's any friendly aliens out there," 
Hikari said.

	"We met some.  Well, dream aliens.  Sort of."  Touji paused.  
"Long confusing story."

	"The Kingdom of Joy," Asuka said softly.  "I expect there's some 
friendly ones too, but probably most aliens have no way to get off 
their homeworld."

	Fraulein Helga began scribbling numbers on the board.  "Some 
scientists like to throw lots of numbers around to estimate how many 
intelligent alien life forms might exist, but the problem is that we 
don't know how likely it is for life to arise independently.  
Especially now that we know much of Earth's life seems to have been 
the result of tampering by the aliens found in Antarctica," Asuka 
translated.

	Shinji asked, "You know about that, Fraulein Helga?  I got the 
impression it was a large secret."

	"It's more widely known in the research wing," Asuka replied for 
her translator.  "Because some of them have worked on some of the 
aliens who seemed to have brought Adam to Earth."

	"I wonder if we could eat alien food now," Touji speculated.  
"Given we've gained all these powers and shit from the Angels."

	"Yes," Rei said.

	Everyone turned and looked at her.

	She glanced over at Asuka, and hesitated, then said, "We take 
from what we slay.  We become a..."  She paused and tried to find the 
word.

	"An alloy?" Hikari asked.

	"Yes.  Part human, part Angel."

	"A freak," Asuka mumbled dourly, and glared more at Rei.

	"We're not freaks," Shinji said.  "Just different."  There was a 
note of desperation in his voice.  "We're still human."

	"I just...I hope we stay human," Asuka said.  "But I fear we 
won't."

	"It's the only way to stop the Angels," Anna said nervously.  "We 
have to take the risk."

	"I know, dammit," Asuka said.  "But it doesn't mean I like it."

	"Do not be afraid," Rei said softly.  "Our pack leader is very 
cunning.  We will not lose."

	"I'm not scared!" Asuka snapped at Rei.

	Fraulein Helga rapped her pointer on the chalkboard.  "If we can 
get back to the lesson..."

	Asuka turned and said apologetically to her in German, "I'm 
sorry, we got...I'm sorry."

	"I know this must be boring for you, Asuka, but please be 
patient."

	"I will," Asuka said.  "Again, I'm sorry.  I'm just...this whole 
business of Angel fighting is starting to bother me."

	"I understand," Fraulein Helga said.  "But we move on."

	Asuka nodded.  "Let's get going, then."

                                -*-

	Misato felt very tense.  She was having to relay her commands 
through a translator, and she kept worrying that he would get 
something wrong.  I should have studied English harder, she thought.  
And German, too.  Father wouldn't be having these problems.  

	//"Team 3 reporting in.  There's corpses everywhere,"// Team 3's 
leader reported in German.  The shaky camera image showed two dozen 
bodies scattered across the clearing.

	The staff translator put this into Japanese for Misato.

	"Team 2, what are you seeing?" Ingrid asked in German.

	"Team 1, anyone around the vehicles?" Misato asked in Japanese.

	//"There's a very, very charred corpse over here, and some 
charred trees.  I'd think maybe a flamethrower was used,"// the Team 2 
leader reported.  The camera zoomed in on the burnt body.  //"If it 
hadn't been raining the last few days, the whole forest would probably 
have gone up."//

	//"The vehicles are shot to hell.  And someone stole the 
batteries and the radios.  It's a clumsy, but effective job of 
disabling them."//  Seven vehicles, from trucks to vans to compacts 
were parked by the road, shot to pieces with shattered glass and metal 
everywhere.  

	"Looks like someone got to them before we did," Ingrid said.

	"But who?  Do you think maybe the German army did it?" Misato 
asked.

	"I don't think they'd have left such a big mess lying around.  
And our commandoes wouldn't be so sloppy.  I hope, anyway."

	"Then who?" Misato asked.

	"I don't know.  Too much high powered weaponry to be fellow 
cultists, I'd think, but I can't think of anyone else who could handle 
paranormal-reinforced cultists."

	"Any signs of who killed them?" Misato asked.

	//"There's some places with blood but no corpses.  I think they 
evaced their own dead,"// Team leader 2 said.

	The search turned up lots of bullets, and evidence of the use of 
grenades, but no insignia or corpses from the attackers.  

	"Well, if they're attacking the cultists, they're probably on our 
side," Makoto said.

	"I hope so, but it's my job to be paranoid," Ingrid replied.

	"Time to start trying to trace arms sales," Misato said.  
"Ingrid, mop this up; I'm going to make some calls."

	"Yes, sir."

                                -*-

	"It's time for shopping!" Asuka said.

	"And other things too," Anna said more quietly.

	"Come on, Touji," Hikari said, grabbing Touji by the shoulder.

	"Hey, we're watching soccer.  This is an important match!"  He 
tried to avoid being dragged away from the TV.

	"You can't even understand what they're saying," Hikari replied.

	"I'll go get Rei," Shinji said.

	Anna winced slightly.

	Asuka said, "No Rei.  I do NOT want to deal with her."

	Shinji sighed.  "Okay, okay."

	"C'mon, Shinji, are you gonna just knuckle under to this?" Touji 
asked Shinji.

	"Yes," Shinji said.

	"Damnation.  You can't just give in to every demand people make 
on you!"

	"Well, he isn't giving in to your demand," Asuka said, sticking 
out her tongue at Touji.

	"Well, if you really would rather watch TV than spend time with 
me," Hikari said, stormclouds gathering.

	Anna said, "There is a very nice basketball court in town."

	"Okay, lemme get my basketball, and I'll be ready to go," Touji 
said.  He headed off with Hikari trailing after him.

	"You don't mind, do you Shinji?"  Asuka asked.

	"Actually, I think watching sports is about as boring as 
shopping, so they're the same to me," Shinji replied.

	"Now remember, if Oscar finds us, we're on our way to get blood 
tests," Asuka said.  "He hates needles."

	"If Oscar asks, I won't know what he's saying," Shinji replied.

	"That works too."  She took Shinji's hand and smiled.  "I promise 
we'll have fun."

	"I'd suggest we see a movie, but Touji and I wouldn't understand 
any of it."

	"We could translate for you," Asuka said.

	"Oh yes, I'm sure the other patrons would love hearing teenagers 
chattering in Japanese over the movie," Anna replied.

	Asuka frowned.  "But it's such a nice theatre."

	"Well, we'll see.  Maybe we can talk Frau Himmelfarb into 
arranging some movies to be shown on the base again, like last 
summer."

	"Some movies worth watching," Asuka replied.

	Touji returned with his basketball, dribbling as he walked.  
"Let's go."

	"Okay, I'll call Mama and let her know we're ready to go, so she 
can drive us into town," Anna said.

	"This is going to be a lot of fun!" Asuka announced 
enthusiastically.
	
                                -*-

	After several hours, and one nice meal, Touji was about to snap.  
He was hauling around a big pile of stuff that Hikari had bought, and 
all the stores had been full of utter, total garbage, in his opinion.  
Except for the hat he'd picked up, which he thought looked pretty 
good.  He'd browbeat Shinji into buying one too.

	They rounded a corner and came to a park.  There was a very nice 
set of hoops, and a fair number of kids their age busy playing.  Touji 
grinned.  "Oh yeah, time to show them how this game is played."

	Hikari sat down on a bench with Asuka.  "Our turn to be bored."

	"Your turn," Asuka said. "I'm gonna go kick Touji's ass."

	"I'll stay here with you," Anna said to Hikari.

	"I..."  Shinji began.

	"Come on, Shinji, we've got to kick some German butt!"  He 
dragged Shinji along.

	Pretty soon, despite the language problems, Touji was having a 
good time.  Some of them, to his surprise, were better than him, 
though most weren't.  Some black haired kid stole the ball from him, 
and passed it to Asuka.  She leaped right over him, and stuffed the 
ball into the hoop, then bounced off the backboard and landed somewhat 
clumsily.

	Shinji ran over to her, but she got up and brushed herself off. 
"I'm fine," she said to him in Japanese.

	"How'd you do that?" one of the kids asked in amazement.

	"I'm the pilot of EVA-02.  And I'm just good," Asuka said, 
grinning.

	The kids suddenly took another look at the new folk and eyes 
widened.  "The EVA pilots!  It's them!"

	They were mobbed by the kids, who all wanted autographs, babbling 
excitedly in German.

	Hikari frowned.  "No one's mobbing us."

	"We're new," Anna said.  "And they'd probably just trample 
everything we bought."

	More kids began to pour into the park, and some of them came over 
to Anna and Hikari as well.  "Autograph!" one of them demanded.

	Hikari laughed and signed the outthrust notepad, as did Anna.  
"Okay, that's better."

	More and more people began to stream in, some of them older now.

	At the far fringe of the park, someone quietly clicked off a set 
of pictures, then set off to make a report.

                                -*-

	Later that night, Anna and Asuka were wandering around the base 
together.  Shinji was off practicing Violin, Hikari had gone to bed 
early, and Touji was off practicing free throws.  As they passed the 
cafeteria, Asuka asked, "Do you still have the flag?"

	Anna laughed.  "Of the Grand Duchy of Fenwick?  I still can't 
believe you talked me into sewing that up."

	"I wanted to see how long it would take anyone to notice if we 
ran it up one of the flagpoles," Asuka said, laughing.  "A month.  
They didn't even NOTICE."

	"After a while, no one pays attention to the flags.  You could 
probably steal the German flag and no one would notice."

	Asuka's eyes lit up.  "Oooh."

	"No, no, no."  Anna said, hands on her hips.  "I've had enough 
spankings for a lifetime."

	"Aww."

	They walked along in silence for a while, then Anna asked, "So is 
Shinji formally your boyfriend now?"

	"Well, umm...sort of...I mean, we haven't exactly used the words, 
but basically yes."

	"He's very sweet," Anna said.  

	"He's not at all the sort of guy I thought I'd end up with, but 
it just...it feels so natural, you know.  And chasing after guys like 
Kaji got me nowhere."  She sighed, feeling depression come crashing 
down on her as she thought about how he died.  "I didn't even get to 
really mourn for him before..."  Her fists clenched.  "The little 
bitch did what she did."

	Anna put a hand on her shoulder.  "He seemed very nice."

	"Oh, Kaji was very cool, but he was also very much not 
interested, and I was just too stupid to see until it was too late."  
She kicked a rock and it flew off into a wall.  "Stupid Commander 
Ikari survived that thing, why did it have to kill Kaji?"

	Anna watched nervously as little flames began to form around 
Asuka's fists.  "You're on fire again," she said softly.

	Asuka sighed.  "I hate this.  Having to control every little 
emotion for fear I'm going to suddenly be the human torch."

	Anna suddenly wondered what Asuka without any self-control would 
be like.  "Is that going to happen to me too?"

	"Something like it," Asuka said.  She could feel herself getting 
more depressed by the second.  "Little bits of the monsters will stick 
to you.  You'll remember things you never did, hear things in strange 
alien tongues in your dreams, remember places you've never been to.  
And then you'll start gaining powers.  That make you a freak."  Her 
voice was bleak.  "If those kids had really understood what we are, 
they'd have torn us apart.  They should have."

	Rocking back and forth on her feet a little nervously, Anna said, 
"You're not a freak or a monster.  You're my best friend, and even... 
even if you grow another head or something, I will always care about 
you."

	Asuka stepped over and hugged Anna, beginning to cry.  "You 
should run far, far away from me, before I turn into something awful 
like Rei."

	"I know you'd never hurt me, Asuka," she says.  "And you're not 
going to become a monster."

	They stood there in silence for a while, just holding each other 
as Asuka sobbed.  Finally, Asuka said, "Oh, Anna, I've missed you so 
much, the whole time I was gone from here.  Hikari's a good friend, 
one of the best I've ever had, but you just...you know me."

	"And you know me," Anna said softly.  "Better than anyone else.  
Friends forever, right?"

	Asuka laughed softly.  "I remember when we decided we wanted to 
be blood sisters, and then we both panicked at the sight of our own 
blood and ran around screaming until Frau Himmelfarb found us."  She 
sighed again.  "I wish I could still scream at the sight of blood.  
I've seen too much of it."

	Anna thought for a moment, then began to dig in her purse.  "I 
have a pocket knife, I think.  We could swear right now."

	Asuka rubbed the tears out of her eyes. "You want to?"

	Anna nodded.  "Yes, I do."

	"Thank you," Asuka said, then started crying again.

	Anna found the pocket knife.  "We both cut our palms a little and 
then rub them together, right?"

	"Something like that," Asuka said.

	Opening up the main blade, Anna stared at it nervously, then 
said, "I'll go first."  Very carefully, she cut her hand, just a 
little.  Blood slowly oozed from the wound.

	Taking the knife with trembling hands, Asuka paused, closed her 
eyes, and focused herself.  Then she cut her palm. It didn't hurt as 
much as she thought it would.  The blood began to ooze out.  Then it 
began to ooze together into a small red sphere.

	She and Anna both stared in shock as the blood formed into an egg 
shape.  The egg hatched, and a tiny little bird of flame erupted out 
of it, then circled Asuka's head and flew off.

	They both watched it go in a mixture of wonder and horror, then 
looked down at Asuka's palm, where the blood was now flowing slowly 
like normal blood.  Gulping, Anna took Asuka's hand with hers, and 
said, "Now we...umm, I don't remember the oath any more."

	An oath came to Asuka's mind, and she spoke it. "Blood to blood, 
flesh to flesh, we mingle our blood which is life, that our lives may 
be one, and we may be of one flesh and one blood, united as new kin."  

	Anna repeated after Asuka, not understanding a single syllable of 
it, but assuming it was latin or something, though the gutteral nature 
of the tongue didn't really sound much like latin.  She could feel her 
hand tingling, and a warmth spreading up her arm.  "That was neat.  
What language was that?"

	Asuka paused, and stared at Anna's face, then at the ground.  "I 
don't know.  Another memory that isn't mine."

	"Well, it seemed kind of cool to me," Anna said reassuringly.  
She got out some tissues from her purse and bandaids.  "We'd better 
clean our..."  She stumbled a bit.  She felt warm and woozy.

	"Anna!"  Asuka stepped forward and caught her as she wobbled.  
"What's wrong?"

	"Feel kind of...weird..." Anna said.  "Just need to clean 
my...hand.."  She dabbed fumblingly at her hand, wiping away the 
blood, then tried to apply a bandaid, as Asuka kept her from falling 
down.  "My head hurts."

	Asuka suddenly wondered if the knife was infected or something.  
But she felt fine.  She helped Anna sit down, then said, "Maybe I'd 
better get Akagi-san."

	"Don't need a doctor.  I just..."  She looked rather pale to 
Asuka.  "Well, my shoulderblades are kind of itching."

	"Fuck," Asuka said.  "Whatever you do, don't think about 
sprouting wings!"

	"Uhh..."  

	No, damnation, telling her that just makes it more likely she 
WILL think about it, Asuka thought.  She took another look.  Anna's 
hair was starting to look sort of green.  Asuka rubbed her eyes.  "Is 
it just me, or does your hair..."

	"My hair..."  Anna took a lock of hair in her hands.  "Oh, it 
looks sort of green."  She blinked.  "Oooh, hazy vision."

	"Triple dammit!  I'll go find Akagi-san.  Stay right here, okay?"

	"Why don't we just teleport there?  We are the Children of the 
Key and the Gate..."  Anna began to ramble.

	 "I'd teleport to her if I knew how, but I don't!  I just..."  
She picked up Anna.  "I'd better not leave you alone."

	"Ooh, I can see the angles!"

	Asuka ran as fast as she could, not really thinking about where 
she was going, except the vague expectation of finding Akagi.

                                -*-

	By the time Asuka and Ritsuko got Anna to the lab, Anna had 
lapsed into slumber.  Ritsuko started getting the equipment she would 
need back out.  "What exactly did you two do?"

	Asuka said softly, "We tried to swear a blood oath.  In Aklo."

	"You mingled blood and spoke an oath in a pre-human tongue?"  
Ritsuko frowned at Asuka.  

	"Umm...yes."  Asuka felt like an idiot, which she hated.

	"Sit over there and be very quiet while I work," Ritsuko said.

	"Yes, ma'am," Asuka said, then sat down to stew in her own guilt 
for a while.

	Once Ritsuko was done, she said, "Well, you haven't done anything 
fatal, thankfully.  I think the effects have stabilized, and since 
she's a pilot, she survived it."

	"..."

	"As it is, she'll probably have a little higher synchro rating, 
green hair, and an even paler complexion, but nothing worse."

	Asuka gave a great sigh of relief.

	"If she was normal, she'd probably be dying right now, but she 
seems to have gained enough...whatever exactly you absorb from the 
Angels to survive this."

	Very, very faintly, Asuka asked, "I could have killed her?"

	"Possibly.  Things were starting to not look good when you first 
brought her in here, but she began to rally by then."  Ritsuko said, 
"But there's no way you could have known this would happen.  And I 
never thought of the possibility that you'd try something like this." 

	"Is she...so she..."

	"She's going to be fine, but I was about to have to call in more 
help if things had kept up.  I believe you've absorbed enough...power, 
for lack of a better word, that now your blood has power in and of 
itself."  She got a syringe.  "I'd like to take a blood sample from 
you."

	"Okay."

	Ritsuko took the sample, then examined it under the microscope.  
The remainder of the blood began forming into different creatures in 
the test tube it sat in, then dissolved back into blood.  Asuka 
watched them, fascinated in a horrible sort of way, like watching a 
twelve car pileup in progress.

	"I'd say this is a side-effect of your absorption of Adam's 
power.  Your EVA absorbed most of the power, but you have enough that 
now your blood tries to create new life forms once set free."

	"..."

	"Fortunately, Anna was able to resist and assimilate your blood 
after a little mutation."  Ritsuko came over to Asuka.  "Whatever 
possessed you two to do this, anyway?"

	"She wanted...She wanted to show me she'd always be my friend.  
Even if I...oh God, I could have turned HER into some kind of 
monster."  Asuka began to cry, crumpling in on herself.  "We might 
have had to...to kill her."

	Ritsuko stood and watched her uncomfortably, not sure what to do.  
Finally, very slowly and hesitantly, she went over and embraced Asuka, 
patting her on the back, feeling rather strange as she did so.  "But 
you didn't."

	"We're all going to become monsters," Asuka said, staring at her 
hands.  There wasn't even any redness where she'd cut herself earlier, 
not a scratch or a mark.

	"Not if I can help it," Ritsuko said.  "But crying about it won't 
help."

	"You'd cry too if you were going to become some horrible, twisted 
thing!"

	"I did my crying for that long ago," Ritsuko said softly.  "You 
see, my mother was a monster."

	Asuka stiffened. "What?"

	"I've only ever told one other person, but..."  She sighed, let 
go of Asuka, and got a chair, which she pulled over to Asuka.  "You 
see..."  She sighed.  "This is going to sound silly at first, but bear 
with me."

	Confused, Asuka nodded.

	"My mother was the result of breeding between a race of...well, 
you could call them merpeople, and humans.  These merpeople serve a 
being they call 'Cthulhu', who is imprisoned under the sea.  Some 
cults of idiots on the land have, in the past, made pacts with these 
merfolk, called 'Deep Ones' by some.  My grandfather on mother's side 
was one of those.  When humans and Deep Ones breed, the result is a 
hybrid, who is human at first, but eventually changes into a Deep One, 
and goes to live with them."  Ritsuko felt her hands clenching into 
fists, and made herself open them up.

	"My grandfather and grandmother were killed by some sort of 
cultist hunters, but they found my mother, the baby, and didn't 
realize she wasn't human.  So they put her in an orphanage.  She 
eventually grew up to be a brilliant scientist, but over time, her 
heritage began to assert itself.  I was about your age when she 
came..."  Ritsuko clenched her hands again.  "To embrace the coming 
changes.  She reveled in it.  And she wanted me to revel in it too.  I 
could hardly understand what was happening to her, but I hated it.  
With all my heart and soul.  And when she told me I would do the same 
as her one day, I decided I would never, ever be like my mother."

	Asuka stared in shock.  "How did she keep anyone in NERV from 
finding out?"

	"Oh, they found out. But she was too valuable to them to get rid 
of, until the changes couldn't be hidden any longer.  And then she 
left.  She tried to take me with her, but I got away.  And I 
determined I would find some way...to keep from turning into something 
like her."  She made herself unclench her hands again; this time, her 
nails had almost drawn her own blood.  "I studied biochemistry, and 
when Commander Ikari offered me a job at NERV, I jumped at the chance.  
He knew...about my problem, and told me he would see what could be 
done to help."

	"Did you...find a cure?" Asuka asked.

	"I found a way to stabilize my condition for a time.  But I spent 
all my time terrified that anyone would find out.  That they would 
think I was a freak, a monster. That they would want to take me off 
and experiment on me.  And I couldn't find a cure.  I still haven't, 
just some ways to stave off the effects, and reverse them somewhat.  
I'm beginning to fear that I'll never be entirely free of it.  The 
sea...I hate the sea because it calls to the monster inside me, trying 
to make it be born."

	"You're not a monster," Asuka said firmly.  "You're a good 
person."

	"I wish I could believe in good.  Maya does.  She's so...  She's 
like a child.  I want hope, and I don't know where to find it.  So I 
go on living, because I won't surrender.  Ever.  If my condition 
becomes irreversible, I'll kill myself before I become a monster."  
She took a deep breath.  "But I used to think...that because of what I 
was, I couldn't be a real person.  I couldn't have friends.  That 
everyone would hate me if they knew the truth about what I am."

	"I don't hate you," Asuka said.  "You've helped us out a lot, and 
you're Misato's best friend, and Maya's best friend too.  And you've 
helped save humanity from being destroyed.  You ought to be proud of 
yourself."

	"And you should too," Ritsuko replied.  "I don't know what will 
happen to you, but you're not a monster yet, and you won't become one 
if I can do anything to stop it.  I know what it's like to feel 
strange urges, but you can fight them.  I know you're very strong-
willed, Asuka, and you can do this."

	"Does Misato know about..." Asuka began.

	"No.  Telling her about my relationship with Maya was as much as 
she could handle."

	"Your...oh."  Asuka blushed.

	"Hadn't noticed?"

	"Well, I, uh..ahahaha."  Asuka laughed nervously.  "Right.  I'm 
sorry, I shouldn't laugh."

	"Anyway, the important thing, is to never give up.  Don't 
surrender to the darkness.  If it devours us, at least we can spit in 
its eye as we die."

	"And go to be with God afterwards," Asuka said.  She hoped God 
would still want her.  I should go pray, she thought.

	"I don't believe in God.  No benevolent creator could sit back 
and let things get this screwed up without doing something about it," 
Ritsuko said.  "I wish I could believe my soul will survive, but I 
don't see any evidence for it existing.  There's just this life, and 
if there's going to be any justice, we'll have to make it happen 
ourselves."  She shook her head.  "But I think we both have better 
things to do than to debate theology."

	"Is Anna going to wake up soon?" Asuka asked.

	Ritsuko frowned a litle, got up, and shook Anna gently.  Anna 
opened her eyes.  "Akagi-san?  Where am I?"

	"You're in my lab.  Do you feel good enough to sit up?"

	Anna sat up.  "Hi, Asuka."

	"Hi," Asuka said, then ran over to her.  "Are you okay? I'm 
really, really sorry!"

	"I'm fine," Anna said.  "A little hungry."

	Asuka gave a great sigh of relief.  "I didn't realize this would 
happen."

	"What would happen?"

	Ritsuko explained everything to Anna, who replied, "I wish we'd 
known that."

	Sighing, Ritsuko said, "I didn't think about the possibility, as 
I'm not used to people deciding to swear blood oaths, which I thought 
went out with the Dark Ages.  You two go get some food.  I'm going to 
run a few more tests on my blood samples."

	"Okay," Anna said.  "Let's go eat."

	They left, leaving Ritsuko to begin working on a last few tests, 
and to try to decide whether the other Children would try something 
like this. 

                                -*-

	Looking at his room, Shinji felt a bit of deja vu. It seemed like 
only yesterday that he'd moved in with Misato back at Tokyo-3. Now 
here he was, once again, unpacking boxes in Misato's apartment. Only 
now he had a really nice view of the forest from his room, and the 
doors weren't sliding ones.

 	It didn't entirely feel like home, but knowing he was still 
sharing living quarters with Misato and Asuka was a comfort. Familiar 
faces, just a new setting.

 	He took a deep breath, then began working on sorting out the 
boxes, unpacking his life once again. Quite a few items were dusty, 
given they were sitting in rubble when recovered, and he found himself 
cleaning off items as much as he was unpacking them. Unfortunately, 
after some time the air in the room got fairly dusty.

 	He opened the window and leaned out, taking in the germanic air.  
Even that reminded him of how different things were now. Gone were the 
sounds of city life, the slight taint of car fumes mixed with steel, 
concrete, the ocean breeze and its humidity. In the air now was a 
heavier air, scented of forest and clay, the wind over the Rhine 
giving the air its damp tinge.

 	He heard the sound of soles shifting in concrete and looked more 
directly below his window, met by the gaze of two very familiar red 
eyes. He'd become accustomed to her mysterious appearances by now, 
though a small part of him still felt uneasy about it.

 	"Um, hi," said he.

 	She merely looked at him for a moment. He wondered if she was, in 
fact, going to just stare at him oddly all day when she finally asked, 
"Can we talk?"

"Okay. Come on up."

 	He turned to leave and meet her at the front door, but as he did 
she was already in his room, sitting on the floor in the corner. Her 
legs were folded up to her chest, arms wrapped around them, her chin 
resting on her knees and looking melancholy. He stepped back a moment, 
surprised, then berated himself. Knowing what she was, he should not 
be surprised at these things.

 	Had Shinji ever read Springtime Cherry Blossoms manga volume 14, 
page 43, panel two, he'd have recognized her pose.

 	She blinked in a very feminine and melancholy way, her gaze aimed 
at nowhere in particular. "I do not know how."

 	"How?" he asked. "How to..."

 	"Apologize. To Langley."

 	Shinji's eyes widened. He took a deep breath and sat down on his 
bed. "Oh. Well... to be honest, I don't really know."

 	Rei's slight frown increased a small notch.

 	"Well, I mean, it's, um, kind of unusual," continued Shinji 
awkwardly. "This situation, I mean."

 	Rei merely nodded.

 	Scratching his head, Shinji said, "Well, for now, I think it'd be 
better just to avoid her for a while. She needs some time."

 	Again, she nodded, then seemed to pause to think on what to do 
next. Much to Shinji's confusion, she pulled out from her jacket 
pocket a manga book and flipped through it.

 	"What's that?" he asked.

 	"Springtime Cherry Blossoms."

 	His eyes widened slightly. "They made a manga out of it too?"

 	She nodded. "It is very insightful." Rei then closed the book, 
tucked it away, and stood up. "I am feeling a little tired," she 
announced. "May I stay here a little while?"

 	Shinji hesitated for a moment, then nodded. "Asuka is out 
catching up with her friends, so she'll be out for most of the day. 
But if she comes back, try to avoid her."

 	Rei came over to Shinji and sat besides him on the bed. For a 
moment he blushed, realizing they were alone in the apartment and now 
both on his bed. She seemed to hesitate, sitting next to him, looking 
into his eyes, as he looked into hers. He could feel himself blushing 
already, and noticed she was as well.

 	And then she flopped down onto the bed and seemed to fall asleep 
immediately.

 	Deciding now was a time to step out and watch TV before he did 
something stupid and perverted, Shinji left. He wasn't quite sure 
exactly what he could watch, but was hopeful there was something out 
there. He needed to start learning German anyway.

                                -*-

 	Makoto stumbled down the hallway, the large box in his arms 
nearly obscuring his view. "Maya?"

 	"To the left," said she, a few steps ahead of him and carrying 
two large bags in her arms. "Thanks for helping me move my stuff, I 
really appreciate it."

 	"Hey, it's no problem," he replied. "Besides, you'd do the same 
for me if I asked, right?"

 	He heard no reply.

 	"Riiiight?"

 	"Hold on, I'm still thinking."

 	"Hey!"

 	She laughed. "Just joking, just joking. Of course I would! Okay, 
here we go, hold on." They entered the apartment and Makoto quickly 
put the box down.

 	"Here's fine, right?"

 	"Mm-hm."

 	They both looked around.

 	"Not bad," said Maya.

 	"A little bigger than the apartment I had in Japan anyway," 
replied Makoto.

 	Maya nodded. "Same here. I would've had sempai to help me 
instead, but she had meetings she couldn't avoid," she said, frowning 
at that last part. "C'mon, let's get the rest."

 	"So, um, how are things going, anyway?" he asked, as they walked 
back through the corridors to the car with her belongings, hoping he 
didn't sound too awkward.

 	She blushed slightly and shrugged. "Going well enough. How about 
you?"

 	He sighed. "Kinda complicated, actually."

 	She elbowed him. "You womanizer, you."

 	"I-it's not like I WANT to have a harem of girls, you know!" he 
said meekly. "It's just.... I don't know... I didn't expect to ever 
get anywhere with Misato, and then Akane comes into my life, and just 
when that seems to be going great, Misato starts showing some interest 
and... aaargh." He sighed. "I don't know, what would you do?"

 	"Me?"

 	"Yeah, you. What if you were seeing someone already, but then Dr. 
Akagi started showing strong interest in you?"

 	Maya hmmed a moment. "Tough question. It'd depend on the person I 
was seeing, of course. And what situation sempai was coming from."

 	"What do you mean by that?" he asked.

 	"Well, let's look at our primary example, Misato. Her previous 
boyfriend was just recently killed and she's feeling all sorts of 
things because of that. She's hurt, lonely, confused." She frowned 
again. "I hate to say it, but you're probably her rebound guy."

 	He sighed and hung his head. "I don't wanna be rebound guy."

 	"You shouldn't be. If this was a normal situation, it'd be a 
little harder to say what you should do. But right now, Misato's still 
hurting, and she needs friendly support more than anything else. 
Meanwhile, Akane's been good to you all the way."

 	"Except that she keeps on telling me to go for Misato," said 
Makoto. "That's kinda strange, don't you think?"

 	"She might be afraid of commmitment," countered Maya. "Also, 
think about this. You said she's following you here to Germany, 
right?"

 	He nodded.

 	"Think about it, she's moving across the world to be with you. 
She could've just moved to another part of Japan, or maybe one of the 
closer countries, but instead she's coming here, to be with you. That 
shows a serious amount of like, I think. Probably love, even."

 	It was Makoto's turn to blush now. "You really think so?"

 	"I won't say it's a 100% lock, but it's pretty close. Stick with 
Akane, and try to be a friend for Misato. Oh, and get that box on the 
left next."

                                -*-

 	Eyes closed, sprawled on Shinji's bed, Rei felt that something 
wasn't quite going right here.

 	The way it went in the mangas, the girl goes to sleep and the 
boy, tempted by the sight of her, tries to kiss her as she lays there.

 	Instead, she could still hear Shinji watching TV outside.

 	She decided to wait a little longer.

 	Yes, that was a good idea.

                                -*-

	The scream woke up Asuka, yanking her right out of the Dreamlands 
and into the waking world in an instant.  She sprang up off the futon 
she was on, hoping Anna hadn't woken anyone else but her up; she was 
sleeping in Anna's room again.

	Anna was staring blankly at the ceiling, her mouth wide open in 
fear.  For just a moment, her forehead and eyes seemed to be glowing 
red, but then it faded.  Anna's eyes focused and she said softly, "Did 
I wake you up?"

	"Yeah.  More nightmares?"

	"More nightmares," Anna said, her voice sounding remarkably calm 
to Asuka.  "I'm sorry I woke you up."

	"We really ought to see Doctor Himmelfarb about this."

	"No, I'll be fine," Anna replied.  "It's just dreams."

	"There's some strange things in dreams," Asuka said.  "Are you 
sure you're alright?"

	"I'm fine," Anna said.  

	She's not fine, Asuka thought.  "Alright.  Let's go to sleep, 
then."

	"Goodnight, Asuka," Anna said.

	"Goodnight, Anna."

	She could hear Anna quickly move into the deep breathing of 
sleep, but Asuka lay awake a while fretting, before sleep finally took 
her.
 
                                -*-

	The vans pulled up to the front gate.  "You sure this is going to 
work?" one of the drivers said to the man next to him.

	Thunder rumbled distantly; clouds covered the sky, making the 
night very dark except for the lights which lit the long road through 
the forest up to the front gates of NERV-Germany.  

	"We'd already be dead if our inside men hadn't succeeded," the 
man replied.

	"Or maybe they want to lure us in and kill us."

	"Don't be paranoid."

	The gates slid open, and the vehicles began to drive in.  

	"See, I told you," the passenger said.

	"I still don't trust this."

	"We must take risks, or there can be no Fifth Reich.  Boldness, 
that is the key!  Don't be a coward."

	"I'm not a coward!  I just..."

	A man shouted from the back, "You're just scared."

	The driver clenched his hands on the steering wheel.  "Yes, I am!  
Only stupid people aren't scared when going into something like this."

	"Now, now, just everyone relax.  Save your hate for the damnable 
foreigners who have tainted our country," the front-seat passenger 
said.  "Just a few more minutes, and this facility will be OURS."

                                -*-

	Misato woke to the sound of someone fumbling with keys outside 
her door.  Her paranoia kicked in, and she grabbed her pistol off the 
nightstand and rolled off her bed into the space between it and the 
rear wall.  

	The door opened very slowly; she lay on the floor, watching it 
open through the space under her bed.  She saw three sets of feet in 
the doorway.  The men spoke to each other in German; she listened and 
tried to guess what they meant.  Whoever they were, they weren't in 
uniform, but part of her mind was worrying that she might be about to 
blow away some misinformed visitor or something.

	She managed to recognize the name, and then her brain registered 
that they had somehow gotten keys to her room.  Which meant they 
either were NERV personnel out of uniform or someone in the base was 
giving out keys to her room.  She could hear more men in the hallway, 
roaming about.  She peeked around one end of the bed, hoping to get a 
good look at them.

	Two of the men were blond, short, skinny, and clean-shaven, while 
the third was a huge, muscular man with dark hair and a thick beard.  
All three were armed with rifles.  The two blond men wore jeans and t-
shirts denoting something in German which Misato couldn't understand, 
though the soccer ball logos let her guess they were sport fans.  
Third one, on the other hand, wore what looked to her like a world war 
two era military uniform, complete with a swastika armband.

	Dammit, she thought.  I can probably take two of them, but with 
not much space to run, the third one might nail me, and then I still 
have to deal with the ones in the hallways.   

	Listening, she could hear one of them approaching the bed.  
Alright.  If I nail him, then I can probably nail the other two, she 
thought.  They don't look very professional.  That still leaves the 
ones in the hallway, but I'll have to improvise.  Though if I'm lucky, 
he won't look closely, and they'll assume I went for a walk or 
something.  Shit, the Children!  They must be here to kill them or 
kidnap them or something.  Dammit!

	One of the blond men said something in German as he approached 
the bed.  She wondered idly what he was demanding.  He poked the 
sheets with his rifle, then leaned forward enough to see her.  She 
popped up and put a bullet through his brain, sending him tumbling.  
Then, as she dived back down, she fired off five more shots.  Three 
connected, sending the second blonde tumbling to the ground with two 
chest wounds which would soon prove fatal, and knocking the black 
haired man against the wall, clutching his arm.

	Her mind finally cleared enough from her grogginess to hit the 
panic button on her cellular phone.  She hit her speed dial for 
Fuyutsuki's phone.  Then a hail of bullets raked the wall above her as 
more men poured in and opened up.  

	Fuyutsuki picked up.  "Commander, what's going on?" he mumbled.

	"We've got intruders!"

	A man said something in German at her, his voice somehow coming 
from under her bed.  

	She looked and saw he had belly-crawled into the room while his 
friends fired over the bed to keep her pinned down, and now he was 
aiming at her under the bed with his rifle.  Fuck, fuck, fuck, she 
thought.  "And they just got me," she concluded, then dropped her 
pistol.

                                -*-

	Asuka awoke to the sound of gunfire.  What the hell is going on?, 
she asked herself.  "Anna, wake up," she whispered, rising and shaking 
Anna.

	Anna rubbed her eyes.  "What?"

	"Some monster must have broken in," Asuka said.  "You stay here 
and call Misato.  I'll see what's going on."

	Anna nodded and fumbled around trying to find her cellular phone 
as Asuka stuck her head in the hall.

	There were a bunch of men, most of them in dark, but casual 
clothing, the rest in what looked like old German military uniforms, 
many of them clustered around Commander Misato's room.  The rest were 
moving down the hallway towards the Children's rooms.  She could see 
some of them had swastika armbands.  One of them leveled a rifle at 
Asuka.  "Surrender now, or I'll shoot!" he said.

	Flames erupted around her, obscuring her from sight.  But the man 
could hear her voice booming down the hallway.  "You're the one who is 
going to surrender, you ignorant worm!  It's idiots like you who give 
our country a bad name!"  She pointed her arm down the hallway at 
them.  "Drop your guns, or I'll kill you all."  They were filth, 
hardly any better than the monsters NERV fought.  Part of her wanted 
to burn them no matter what they did, to watch the flesh melt from 
their bones and listen to them scream as they died.  But she held that 
instinct back.  They were men, if scum, and perhaps they could be made 
to repent.  They deserved a chance.

	The man gulped and backed up nervously.  Then a group of men 
hauled Misato out of her room with a gun to her head.  One of them 
said, "Surrender, or we'll kill her."

	Asuka cursed.  Dammit, I can't kill them fast enough to stop them 
shooting her.  But I can't just...shit.  In Japanese, she asked, 
"Commander Misato, what should I do?"

	"We can't let them have you," Misato replied.  "I don't want to 
die, but NERV and the world..."  She shuddered.  "Need you more than 
they need me."

	By now, Touji was sticking his head out into the hallway as well. 
"What the hell is going on?" he demanded.  "Shit," he said as he saw 
the men.

	Asuka hesitated.  She couldn't let them kill Misato.  Misato had 
always treated her well, and she liked Misato too much to let her die.  
If it had been Rei, well, then, no guilt if they shot Rei, but not 
Misato.  How the hell did these guys get in, anyway?  I have to stop 
them, she thought.

 	But if she tried to fight...dammit, she thought.  I hate this.  
Well, I can always kill them later, she thought.  They must want us 
alive, or they would have just mowed me down as soon as they came out.  
"Alright," she said.  "We surrender," she said in German.  For now, 
she thought.  But sooner or later, she would get a shot at freeing 
Misato, and then they would pay.

                                -*-

	"Are the security squads ready?" Fuyutsuki asked Ingrid.

	"Ready to go," she replied, then frowned.  "But if we strike, I 
doubt we'll be able to get Commander Katsuragi out alive."

	Gendo started to say something, then fell silent.  Being 
suspended, he was there simply to observe.

	Fuyutsuki replied, "Keep them ready.  I would prefer not to lose 
her unless it is absolutely necessary."

	Weiss asked, "Any luck getting our computers back under control?"

	"Working on it," Ritsuko replied.  "If we'd had time to repair 
and install the MAGI, this would never have happened."

	"But we didn't," Fuyutsuki said.  "Do they have enough control to 
try to launch the EVA units?"

	"I don't think so," Otto, one of the computer technicians, 
replied.  "They've shut down all the automated security systems and 
greatly hampered our monitoring capacities, but the EVA control 
programs were designed to be operated from the bridges, not from other 
sites which lack all the related equipment."

	"Our security forces secured the auxiliary bridge," Ingrid said.  
"So, unless they use their hostages as leverage, which I assume we 
won't let them, then we can prevent a launch."

	Fuyutsuki frowned.  "We cannot afford to lose the Children."

	"The Children could crush these idiots," Gendo finally said.  
"But they won't do anything as long as Katsuragi is in danger."

	"Perhaps we could rig the auxiliary bridge to be floodable with 
tear gas and knockout gasses, then let them have it," Maya suggested.

	"They have gas masks.  NERV issue gas masks, thanks to whoever 
the hell let them in," Ingrid replied.  "I'm going to have to root 
through our ranks after this is over."

	"Some heads will definitely be rolling," Fuyutsuki replied.  He 
hoped his own would not be one of them.  The Security Council was not 
going to be happy.

                                -*-

	Misato sat tensely, tied to a chair, and tried to figure out what 
exactly the Neo-Nazis were hoping to accomplish.  They'd gotten into 
the security facility and locked the Children into holding cells.  She 
was now being watched by a group of the Neo-Nazis in the front room of 
the prison wing, who seemed to be waiting for some sort of orders.
	
	If they're not here to kill us all, maybe they are out to steal 
the EVA units?, Misato speculated.  But what would they do with them?  
Or are they hoping to somehow pilot them themselves?  Maybe they want 
to use hostages to force the Children to pilot for them.  That made 
sense, though it was a stupid plan, as she knew Fuyutsuki and Gendo 
would kill any hostages if they had to, in order to prevent the 
Children being blackmailed to use the EVA units for neo-nazis.  On the 
other hand, if Fuyutsuki and Gendo did that, the Children might well 
turn on them as well.  This is going to be ugly, Misato thought. 

	She frowned.  If they were good enough to get in here, even with 
a traitor's help, then how could they have been crazy enough to think 
they could get away with this?  Unless, perhaps, this was a test by 
some other group to see how good their security was, using the neo-
nazis as pawns.  It seemed clear now that this group had likely been 
involved in smashing the cult they'd found that had been attacked.  
Perhaps the neo-nazi aspect was just a front for a cult itself.  Or 
their leader might be a very clever tactician who lacked long term 
vision.

	No way to find out now, she thought.  I wonder if they've secured 
one of the bridges?  They may well be trying to use us as leverage to 
get control of one.  She glanced around at the six guards they'd left 
to watch her.  No way to overpower them all, she thought.  Especially 
not with one of them still holding a gun to my head.

	I can't even try to sow doubts in their mind because they don't 
understand Japanese, she thought.  She hated feeling helpless.

	She sat there for what seemed like hours, until a thought came to 
her.  Rei could possess people who had spoken her name.  Maybe I can 
get her attention by saying it over and over, and let her possess me.  
Then she can use her powers to take these idiots out.  The thought of 
being possessed made Misato shudder, but it was at least, something 
which offered a way out of this.  

	She began to mumble Rei's name over and over.  For several 
minutes, nothing happened.  Finally, the guard with the gun to her 
head said something she couldn't understand, but which she guessed 
from his tone of voice meant something to the effect of 'stop saying 
Rei over and over and over'.  

	A few seconds later, he turned and shot another of the men in the 
head.  As the victim tumbled to the ground, the other guards jumped in 
shock and then he began shooting at them, not displaying a lot of 
skill.  At this short range, he didn't need much skill.  Neither did 
they, and pretty soon, he was bleeding from multiple bullet wounds, 
and so were three of the four men shooting at him.  The last man 
turned angrily to Misato, shouting at her in German and waving his gun 
about.  

	He didn't see the blue haired blur which now zoomed out of one of 
the corners of the room behind him, but he did feel it as hands caught 
his wrists and shattered them, then pulled away his gun and knocked 
him to the ground.  Ice formed over his mouth, preventing him 
screaming.  

	Some of the wounded men tried to sit up and shoot at her, but she 
darted quickly from body to body, slaying one with claws across the 
throat, driving a foot through the chest wounds of another, until they 
all stopped moving.  The one who had not been shot lay very still and 
tried to feign death.

	Then Rei took several of the guns and handed them to Misato.  She 
looked down at the still living one.  "Do you want him?" Rei asked.

	"He might be a useful prisoner once we get Asuka so we can 
understand him.  Let's get everyone out of their cells."

	Rei nodded, then headed off to liberate the others.  

                                -*-
	
	Fuyutsuki picked up his phone.  "This is Commander Fuyutsuki," he 
said.

	"This is Commander Katsuragi," Misato said.  "Rei rescued me and 
we have liberated the other Children.  Do you want us to make for the 
bridge?  Do we have any idea what these people are after, exactly?"

	"I believe they were hoping to use hostages to compel the 
Children to pilot for them to create the Fifth Reich.  I would dismiss 
them as complete lunatics, except that they clearly had inside help."  
Fuyutsuki frowned.  Perhaps this was part of some elaborate game of 
SEELE's, he thought.  Or perhaps the Crawling Chaos had arranged this 
as part of some elaborate game.  Someone may be trying to discredit me 
as Gendo was discredited, so that they can get themselves or their own 
puppet in charge of NERV.  

	"I know. Ingrid and I will have to call in Internal Security to 
help us find and purge the traitors," Misato said.  "Should we make 
for the bridge?"

	"Yes," he said.  "If you encounter any opposition, take them 
alive if you can, as we need answers, but don't hesitate to kill if 
you cannot."

	"Understood," she replied.  "We should be there in ten to fifteen 
minutes if we meet no opposition."

	"We'll be expecting you," he replied.

                                -*-

	Touji watched Misato, Asuka, Rei, and Shinji cut loose on an 
unfortunate group of neo-nazis who had tried to stop them on their way 
to the bridge.  Misato, along with Anna, Hikari, and Touji, had taken 
cover around a corner, but she was leaning around it, firing away at 
the men, hitting with deadly accuracy.  

 	Asuka was laughing as she threw bolts of flame at the men 
shooting at her.  Bullets fired at her bounced off the shield of fire 
she'd called up in front of herself.  Where they struck, the rippling 
effect he'd come to associate with an AT-field flared up.  

 	Rei darted from man to man.  Some she froze, others she sliced 
open with fingers turned into claws.  She moved too quickly to be 
shot.  

 	Touji barely recognized Shinji as he strode through the fight.  
With one hand, he struck men down with flames, his other arm had 
turned into some sort of inky black snake which he shoved up men's 
noses and down their throats, sometimes ripping off their faces, and 
other times simply asphyxiating them.  Bullets fired at him bounced 
off him or passed through him harmlessly.  It was one of the most 
terrifying things Touji had ever seen.  When he dared to stick his 
head out and look.

	I ought to be out there kicking butt, he thought.  Except it was 
human butts getting kicked, and the gore made him sick and he hadn't 
hit the point they had where their powers came to them so easily.  The 
butchering didn't seem to bother them at all, and it scared him to 
think of his buddy Shinji, wimpy little Shinji, killing people, even 
evil fuckers like these neo-nazis, so easily.  What's happening to 
us?, he asked the universe.  I don't want to kill people, he thought.

	Anna was taking potshots with a gun taken off one of the guys Rei 
had killed earlier, but she wasn't very accurate.  Hikari stayed back, 
trying to pull Touji back away from the corner.  "You'll get yourself 
killed," she whispered.  "Let them handle it."

	"I can't just do nothin'," he said, though he knew he couldn't do 
much, and for once, was glad for it.  "Damn, Kensuke'd be making 
Return to Castle Wolfenstein jokes right now."

	"It isn't funny," Hikari said softly, sounding both scared and 
worried.

	"Yeah, it ain't.  I'd have to slap him one," Touji said.

	Rei pulled off a man's face, and Touji winced.  Do not piss Rei 
off, he reminded himself.  

	"Get back," Misato said.  "You're just exposing yourself to fire, 
Touji.  Anna, I appreciate your desire to help, but you should 
probably take cover as well."

	Touji got back.  "I'm only gettin' back, 'cause you told me to," 
he said firmly.  "I ain't scared or nothing."

	"You should be," Misato said as she put a bullet through a man's 
shoulder, disabling his arm.  "Damn, that was supposed to nail him in 
the jaw."

	The last of the men fell as Asuka melted his gun onto his hand, 
arm, and chest, then mocked him as he fell.  

	Silence settled onto the hallway.  Misato stepped out.  "Very 
good job," she said.  "We'd better move on."  She looked at the 
bodies.  "How many of these people did they manage to round up for 
this, anyway?"

	Hikari tried not to gag at the stench of the hallway and the 
copious amounts of blood, or to slip in the puddles.  She held on 
tightly to Touji's arm.  He strode along, trying to act casual.  Anna 
knelt down and stripped one of the dead men of his ammo box and took 
the clip from his rifle to reload hers.  Hikari winced at the sight of 
that.  "Are you okay?" she asked Asuka.

	"Miserable worms, they can't even put up a good fight," Asuka 
said.

	Hikari stared at her, and then Asuka shuddered, and the fire in 
her eyes went out.  

	Asuka looked around herself, then turned slightly green.  "Ugh, 
I'm going to be sick," she announced, and stumbled past the bodies, 
then knealt and threw up.

	Shinji was looking pretty green himself as he looked around at 
the dead men.  "Did we...do that?" he asked in shock.

	Rei nodded.  "Yes."

	Misato sighed.  "I'm sorry this had to happen.  No one your age 
should have to kill another human being."

	Asuka tried to say something, but was too busy finishing 
vomiting.

	"Have you ever had to kill people before?" Hikari asked 
nervously.

	"Yes," Misato said.  "But I was out of college and into NERV 
before that ever happened.  Not fourteen and fifteen."  She looked 
around sadly.  "Well, it would have been good to take more prisoners, 
but...well, sometimes it is kill or be killed."  She felt cold and 
miserable, having to say this to a bunch of barely teenagers.  "And I 
don't want to die if I don't have to."

	Asuka forced herself up as Shinji came over to her.  She clutched 
his hand like a lifeline and said, "I feel like shit.  God, we killed 
all these people..."  She began to cry.

	"We may have to kill more," Misato said.  "Although from all the 
gunfire I hear in the distance, it sounds like NERV security is likely 
going to mop up all the rest."

	One such security man stuck his head around the corner.  He said 
something in German.  Asuka was too busy crying to translate, so Anna 
did for him.  "Commander, he says the corridor is secured the rest of 
the way."

	"Good.  Tell him to have his men escort us back to the Bridge."

	Anna did so, and they were soon on their way with Shinji half-
carrying Asuka and the rest of them walking along very quietly and 
sombrely.

                                -*-

	"It's all over," Fuyutsuki said to Misato and the Children.  "We 
should hopefully get some answers from these idiots by the morning.  
No one leaves the base until we find out who betrayed us."

	Misato nodded.  "Once I get enough sleep to think straight, 
Commander Lessard and I will begin the investigation.  Though I'm 
going to call Internal Security before I go back to sleep."

	Asuka mumbled, "I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep."

	"I will debrief you all in the morning," Fuyutsuki said.  "As I 
am exhausted and I am sure you are too.  All of you, go get as much 
sleep as you need.  I will cancel your lessons tomorrow, as I expect 
none of you would be able to focus."

	The Children would have cheered if they had any cheer.  Instead, 
Touji simply said, "Thanks."

	Fuyutsuki yawned.  "Makoto, I'm afraid you get to stay up with me 
and help run the final search, just to make sure we've flushed them 
all out.

	He sighed, but nodded. "Yes, sir."

	"Are you sure you don't want me to..." Misato began.

	"Go sleep," Fuyutsuki said.  "You will need your wits about you 
tomorrow when you begin your investigation."

	She nodded.  "Yes, sir."

	"Now, go to bed, all of you."

                                -*-

	Hikari walked down the hallway very slowly and nervously, jumping 
at every noise.  Touji said, "Don't worry, Hikari.  It's all over 
now."

	She wrinkled her nose.  "I can still smell the blood.  All that 
killing."  She shuddered.

	"The bastards got what they deserved," Touji said.  They did, he 
told himself.

	Asuka mumbled, "Not like that."

	"They were weak, they got what they deserved," Shinji heard Anna 
say.  

	He looked back at her.  "Being weak doesn't mean they deserved to 
die."

	She blinked.  "I'm sorry, what?"

	I'm so tired I'm imagining things, he thought.  "Sorry, nothing."  
He tried to shove away the guilt he was feeling over it, and being 
glad it was all a bloody blur in his mind.

	They reached their rooms and split up.  He noticed Touji and 
Hikari both went into Touji's room, while Anna and Asuka went to 
Anna's room together.  Shinji turned to enter his own, and noticed Rei 
was standing expectantly by him.

	"I need to be alone," he said softly.  He didn't really want to 
be alone, but Asuka had gone with Anna, and he was afraid of what 
Asuka would say if she found out about this.

	She looked disappointed, but nodded and turned away and started 
off down the hallway.

	He sighed and went into his own room, then pulled the covers over 
himself and stared at the ceiling until finally, exhaustion knocked 
him back out.

                                -*-

	Misato tried to sleep, but it wouldn't come.  Her nerves were 
still jangling from the rush of battle, and the faces of the dead were 
floating around at the corners of her mind.  She hated killing people.  
She'd done it before, and would do it again, but she didn't like it, 
and it was still rare enough she wasn't used to it.  And nothing in 
her past experience had quite prepared her for the way the Children 
had chewed through the neo-nazis as if they had just been hapless 
clothing dummies instead of men.

	She heard her door open and looked and saw Rei.  "Can't sleep 
either?" she asked Rei.

	"Hikari is not well," Rei said.

	Misato sat up groggily.  "She's sick?  Have you called Ritsuko?"

	"The battle," Rei said.  "She is disturbed."

	"Oh, you mean she got shook up by the fighting."

	Rei nodded.

	"I can't blame her.  I'll talk to her about it tomorrow.  When I 
can think straight," Misato said.  She rubbed her forehead.

	"Are you well?" Rei asked.

	"Yes, I am," Misato said.  "Just tired, and wishing I knew how 
these bastards got in."

	"You fought well," Rei said.  "You would make a good Child."

	"Thank you," Misato said.  "You all fought very well."  
Disturbingly well, she thought.  All those deaths...  She shuddered.  
"Children your age shouldn't have to see or do that."

	"We are the Children.  It is our nature," Rei said.  "We hunt and 
kill."

	"There is more to you than just that," Misato said.

	Rei nodded.  "That is just the easy part."

	Misato wasn't sure if that was reassuring or not.  She yawned.  
"We'd best go to sleep."

	Rei turned and left quietly.

	Misato flopped down on her bed and prayed for sleep to come.	

                                -*-

	"Well, we found the traitors," Ingrid said.  "Though it may only 
be some of them.  The security tapes made it pretty clear who let them 
in.  Unfortunately, two of them got shot by NERV security during the 
firefights, and it looks like Commander Misato probably killed the 
third one during that fight the Children got in."

	"Probably?" Fuyutsuki asked.  He, Ingrid, Misato, and Weiss were 
all together in one of the briefing rooms later the next day.

	"The ballistics reports makes it clear that the third one got 
shot with the kind of rifles they were using, and I was armed with 
one.  There's some chance that Anna, who also tried shooting with 
their guns may have scored the kill, but her shooting was pretty 
wild," Misato said.

	Weiss nodded.  "Though there may be others who didn't expose 
themselves."

	"We will run more security checks on everyone and try to keep an 
eye out for anything suspicious," Ingrid said.  "But these three all 
had clean records.  This leaves me wondering if this is all part of 
some spy game or something, as it's hard for me to believe any of 
these three are neo-nazis.  We screened our security forces very 
thoroughly to avoid anyone with possible conflicts of loyalty."

	She passed over copies of the three men's folders to Fuyutsuki 
and Weiss, who quickly scanned them.

	"Well, we will have to triple-check everyone," Fuyutsuki said.

	"We'll continue our investigation," Misato said.

	"Good, good," Fuyutsuki said, rising.  "I think we've covered 
everything we can for now, then."

	He dismissed them, then headed back to his office.  Gendo was 
waiting there.  "It's a pity the prophesies typically don't include 
this sort of thing," Gendo said.

	"The Stars may command the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods, but 
except for those touched by their power, they can't control the 
actions of men," Fuyutsuki replied.  "They sing our foes awake, but it 
is up to us to choose how we react to them.  I fear this is some sort 
of probe from SEELE to test our strength; they may be suspecting what 
we are planning.  Or possibly some intelligence agency is behind this.  
I agree with Commander Lessard that the men who betrayed us are 
unlikely to have been neo-nazis.  Which means that something else is 
up."

	"The fact that we have six Children when the prophesies indicate 
five bothers me," Gendo said.

	"Yes," Fuyutsuki said.  "Either one will die or one will betray 
us."

	"Perhaps Rei will snap and have to be killed," Gendo speculated.

	"A dangerous possibility.  The same may apply to Langley," 
Fuyutsuki says.  "They may well have a fight to the death before all 
is done."

	Gendo nodded.  "We will have to prevent that if we can."

	"IF we can."

	"They have grown stronger without their EVAs than we ever 
anticipated.  This is going to be very dangerous," Gendo said.

	"I know.  But all we can do is to keep dancing as fast as we can, 
and hope that it is enough and that our plan is still viable.  And if 
it is not, we will have to find another way."

	"If there is one."

	"If we fail, at least we will have done what we could to prevent 
our world becoming like so many others.  We have no choice but to 
continue steering into the storm and making of it what we can."

	"We will triumph or perish," Gendo said, then got up.  "I 
probably should go and continue working on staving off my own 
destruction now."

	"I will protect you as best I am able, but there is only so much 
I can do," Fuyutsuki said. 

	"I know," Gendo said.  "Just do the best you can, old friend."

	"I will," Fuyutuski said.  "Good luck."

	"Thank you."

	Gendo exited, leaving Fuyutsuki to his thoughts.  

                                -*-

	Asuka soared through the night on wings of flame.  She wasn't 
supposed to leave the base, but she needed to be alone for a while to 
think, so she flew on down to the shores of the Rhine as the sky 
gradually lightened.  Dawn was coming.  The shadows drew in a little 
closer as she dispelled her wings.

	The rock she always liked to sit on was there; it wasn't much of 
a view, as there was nothing but tangled forest on the other side of 
the river.  There had been the remains of a town there once, when she 
was little, but NERV had bought up the mostly abandoned land, and let 
the forest grow over the remains, part of creating an uninhabited 
security zone around the base, possible only because so many people 
had died after Second Impact.

	There were names carved in the rock; she wondered again who Hans 
and Olga had been, or whether the Baum children had ever come back.  
She traced them with her hand, as she always did, then sat down on the 
rock, picking up the small rocks which littered the narrow strip of 
'beach', and began skipping them across the water.

	The night was cold, but she couldn't feel it.  She couldn't feel 
anything; she felt numb.  The faces of the dead floated before her, 
burned into her mind by the flames with which she had killed them.  
Slaying them had felt wonderful, even though they were so weak she 
didn't get any meaningful benefit from them.  I've killed people, she 
thought.  Other human beings.  And I liked it.

	She began to cry, her emotions finally breaking out.  Her 
teardrops fell to the ground, and became tiny little people, the 
people she remembered killing.  They fled her presence.

	My own tears are scared of me, she thought, crying harder.  What 
am I becoming?  What kind of horror am I?  I'm a murderer.  I ought to 
die, Asuka thought.

	The stars above seemed cold and hard, pinpricks of light in an 
uncaring dark sky.  The only sounds was the lapping of the Rhine 
against its banks and the sound of her own sobbing.

	And then there was a beating of wings, and she spun warily to 
stare up at the sky.  For a moment, she thought it was an angel, but 
then she saw it was only Shinji, settling down to the earth beside 
her.  He stepped forward and silently embraced her, and she began to 
sob onto his shoulder.

	"Shinji, Shinji, Shinji," Asuka mumbled.  "What's happening to 
us?  How could we do that?  It was horrible."

	"I know," he said softly.  "I know."  He held her with one arm, 
while his other hand came up and began to stroke her hair.  "I can see 
them, Asuka.  I can see their faces."

	"Me too," she said through her tears.

	For a while, they held each other, while Asuka cried.  Shinji 
began to cry as well now, and the night echoed with their sorrow.

	Finally, their tears stopped, and they sat down on the rock 
together, watching the Rhine flow by, holding hands and listening to 
the sounds of the night.  After a long silence, Asuka asked, "How did 
you know I was here?"

	For a moment, Shinji was silent, and then he reached down and 
gently tapped the ground.  A tiny spider ran out of the grass and 
crawled up onto his hand, which he raised up close to Asuka's face.  
"He told me," Shinji said softly.  "He knew I would want to know."

	"You can..." Asuka began to ask.

	"Yes," Shinji said softly.  "Snakes too."  He tapped the ground 
again, and a little grass snake slithered out of the grass, and 
crawled up his arm.  It crawled up his arm, then over to where he held 
Asuka's hand.  Asuka stared at it as it crawled over to her arm, and 
tied itself round her wrist like a bracelet.  She reached down with 
her other hand and stroked it gently.  

	"It's kind of scary, sometimes," Shinji said.  "But also kind of 
neat."  He concentrated for several minutes, and then several spiders 
crawled out of the grass and up the nearby tree.  They began to spin a 
web, faster and faster.  It glistened in the moonlight, slowly taking 
shape.  Asuka could make out the heart first, and then his name 
spelled out in clumsy kanji, while her name appeared in equally clumsy 
roman letters.  

	"That's very sweet," Asuka said, smiling a little.

	"Thank you," Shinji replied, blushing just a bit.

	"Except it's 'Langley' not 'Langely', Shinji-kun," Asuka said, 
pointing.

	Shinji sighed.  "I'm sorry."

	"It's the thought that counts," Asuka said, then leaned over and 
kissed him on the cheek.  "Thank you for coming out here, Shinji.  I 
feel better now."

	"Me too.  I...we did what we had to do," Shinji said.  "I feel 
terrible about it, but we really didn't have a choice.  They 
had...they had to be stopped, right?"

	"Right," Asuka said.  "We didn't have a choice.  Really.  They 
invaded our base and wanted to use us to fight for their madness 
instead of against the Angels.  And they had...they had Katsuragi-
san."

	Shinji's hands clenched into fists for a moment.  "I don't know 
what I would have done if they'd hurt her."

	"Or killed her," Asuka said.  "I would have destroyed them."  Her 
voice was fierce, then it flagged.  "Well, destroyed them more."  She 
sighed.  "We probably ought to go back to bed."

	Shinji nodded.  They stood, and formed wings, and rose into the 
sky as the sun began to peek through the trees on the eastern shore of 
the Rhine.  Soon, there was nothing left to show they had been there 
but a heart-shaped web glimmering in the sunlight, and a few burnt 
plants, and a faint trail of smoke that blew off across the Rhine.



	                        -*-
	                  - end part 21 -
	                        -*-