-*-

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


                 Children of an Elder God

                         Part 22

               "Slouching Towards Bethlehem"

                            -*-

	"Put that box over there," Akane said to Makoto.

	He nodded and hauled the box over to stack it on top
of another box.  He was helping Akane move into her new
apartment;  it was a pretty nice two bedroom apartment,
better than the place she'd lived in back in Japan.  
"That's everything, right?"

	"No, we've still got to haul the computer in and set
it up,"  she said.

	"Oh, right."  They headed down to her car together.

	On the way down, she said, "Thanks for helping me
out. I know everything must be busy for you, what with that
crazy neo- nazi attack."

	"It's keeping us hopping," he said as he held the
front door open for her.

	She slipped through quickly, then held it for him.  
"So what's up with these 'Children of the Stars'?"

	"With what?" he asked.

	She headed over to her car, fumbling with her keys.  
"They were proselytizing as I came into town."

	"Some religious group?" he asked.

	She unlocked the passenger door and hauled out a
large box, which she handed to him, then pulled a second
crate out of the footwell.  "Yeah.  They think the Children
are gods come to save humanity or something.  Or possibly
they're crazed pedophiles."

	He sighed.  "We do not need crazed cultists trying
to get into NERV."

	She took the lead as they headed upstairs.  
"Reminds me of the Joan Jett cult."

	"That's a joke, right?" he asked.

	"No."

	"Damn."

	They headed into her apartment and into the second
bedroom, which Akane was turning into her study.  The desk
was already in place.  "Okay, slave, go to work," she said,
teasingly, sitting down on the bed which was shoved against
one wall.

	He began unpacking and assembling the computer.  
"If you can find out anything about them, I'd appreciate
it," he said.

	"I'll keep my ears and eyes open," she said, then
sprawled out on the bed, stretching.

	He tried not to stare too much and told himself he
needed to talk to her about Misato.  He still wasn't sure
what she really thought about him and Misato, whether she
was teasing or serious the times she had told him to seize
any chance he could get.  "Thanks."

	"You're welcome."

	She hummed a tune he didn't know as he finished
hooking up the computer.  "Alright, come make sure it all
works," he said.

	She quickly opened up her email files, then played
around with the browser a little, followed by a quick game
of minesweeper.  Rising from her chair, she said, "It all
works.  Thanks, Makoto."

	"Do you want help unpacking?" he asked.  "I don't
have to go back and do any work today."

	She ran a finger up and down his back along his
spine.  "I think I want to unpack you and have a little
fun."  She smiled her impish smile at him.

	We need to talk about Misato, he told himself.  
Before I go doing anything more with her.  "And unpack you
too?" his mouth asked without his conscious volition.

	She brought his hands up to the top button of her
blouse.  "You've got to take the wrapping off your thank-you
present," she said, purring.

	His fingers began to unbutton her blouse.  He leaned
down and kissed her as he did so.  We can talk about Misato
later, he decided.  I'll be more relaxed after this.

	The bed proved to be quite nicely springy, but the
topic of Misato did not come up.


                            -*-

	The Children jostled each other as they waited in
the auditorium with a huge number of NERV staff members,
many of whom they'd never seen before.  Fuyutsuki sat on the
stage with Misato, Commander Weiss, Ingrid, and Dr.
Himmelfarb.  Eleven men and women sat in a row on one side
of the stage, watching all of the staff members impassively.

	"Hello, everyone," Fuyutsuki said.  "This is the UN
Inspection Team.  They are here to examine our procedures
and performance.  Please cooperate with them.  They'll be
wanting to interview some of you, and they may be dropping
by your workspace at any time, so be ready."

	He went on to introduce them all to the staff
members;  Shinji tried to remember the names, but it was too
many at once for him.  Asuka muttered, "Someone's head is
going to roll."

	"They're after Commander Ikari, I suspect," Hikari
said.

	Anna nodded.  Shinji felt his stomach sink at that.  
There has to be something I can do to help Father, he
thought.  But what?

                            -*-

	"So what do you think about the GGR project?" Ingrid
asked Misato.

	"The what?" Misato asked, looking up from the
personnel folder she was pouring through.  She and Ingrid
were having a conference to discuss whether there might be
any surviving traitors in NERV-Germany's ranks, and if so,
how to root them out.

	"Oh, I suppose you haven't heard that nickname.  I
think the official name is something like the Barbarossa
Project.  There's an EU consortium trying to build inorganic
EVA units," Ingrid said.

	"Unless they've found another way to generate an
AT-field, they can build giant robots until the cows come
home," Misato said.  "As conventional weaponry doesn't do
the job, and sticking the conventional weaponry on a giant
robot won't somehow make it work better."

	Ingrid nodded.  "That was my opinion too."

	Misato looked down at the files.  "I have a strong
feeling that we're not getting anywhere."

	Ingrid sighed and put down her folder.  "No, we
aren't.  All the people we caught committing treason on tape
got shot by NERV security after they hooked up with their
neo-Nazi allies.  I have a feeling there's probably some
infiltrator in our ranks who used the ones who got shot as
proxies, as I can't believe these neo- Nazis pulled this
without further help.  For that matter, even after we
checked all the email and phone logs, I couldn't find any
evidence of how they communicated with their agents inside
the base, and the leaders of the neo-Nazis all died in the
fighting."

	"I have a theory, though I don't know of a good way
to prove it."

	"Go on."

	"Coded email spam.  It would be pretty easy to set
up some sort of code where pleas for helping Nigerians
engage in bank fraud means 'Friday' and 'Make.Money.Fast'
means 'We're breaking in' and various other kinds contain
different times or whatever."

	"..."

	"As the mailboxes of all three of the traitors had a
lot of spam in them."

	Ingrid sighed.  "Time to have the MAGI analyze the
patterns, then."

	Misato nodded.  "I don't know if I'm right, but I
suspect that, combined with calling people while off-base,
was likely the way in which it was done."

	"It's something to work from, at least," Ingrid
said.
	  
	"Exactly.  If nothing else, it may be a good excuse
to shut down some annoying spammers."

	"Can't argue with that."

                            -*-


	Asuka sat down at her computer.  Not having to
actually take classes she'd already gone through at about
age nine meant she now had time to try to resume her
interrupted research.  She stared again at one of the
passages from Kensuke's notes.


[In latter days, men shall wield the powers of the gods, but
lack their wisdom.  They shall walk the halls of the dead,
where the Great Cauldron of Life waits for the one who shall
master it.  Yet, they shall lack the ancient lore, and find
only destruction instead of life, raising a great funeral
pyre.  That light shall call to he who sings the stars into
place, who will set to his work.]

	Finding Adam down in Antarctica, she thought.  But
they did something wrong and it unleashed the signal which
started waking up all of the Angels and unleashing them on
us.

[And the day shall come when the endless weaver shall
complete his creation and cross the abyss which shielded the
world from him and once more gaze upon the sun.  And he
shall sound the call, awakening his ancient enemy friends to
come forth.  The heights will sink and the deeps will rise;
the veils will be parted and what is known will be occulted;
the dead shall walk and the living shall die. ]

	The endless weaver is Matriel, Atlach-Nacha, she
thought.  The ice cap has partly melted and the deep waters
risen and the heights been lowered.  And the Angels have
come forth.

[Blood calls to blood.  Power calls to power.  Fivefold they
rise from the great chasm, stalking across the land in the
visage of men.  Dreams made flesh, or flesh made Dream they
are, come to renew the ancient cycle.  As before, so it
happens now.  In the end, they too shall yield to despair as
did those who came before.  In the end, they shall become
what they fight.  And the Voice of Endless Chaos will laugh
with them at the shattered ashes of their faded dreams.]

	Fivefold...there's a lot of references in his notes
to Angels of the Elements.  Except that he seemed to think
we were the Angels of the Elements.  But there's six of us.  
There aren't six elements.

	She checked the notes again.


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

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

	Asuka shuddered; she too had felt the abyss, the
temptation of all the power.  But she hadn't fallen in yet,
unlike Kensuke.  She stared at the screen, thinking of him,
and how it had ended for him.  I don't want to end up like
that, she thought.  There had to have been something we
could have done.  But she didn't know what.

 	Finally, she cleared her mind, returning to her
work.  She tried to think how elemental references could
work, but she wasn't sure; they all had a mix of powers from
the Angels.  Sure, she preferred fire, but she could call on
ice as well, or the paralyzing gaze of
Rahab...Medusa...Ghatanothoa.

	She thought about the Kingdom of Joy; it had been
betrayed by a man who had become a god by doing so, Hastur,
He Who Is Not To Be Named, the King in Yellow.  Part of her
mind could remember Xoth and its betrayal by its defenders.  
The power they took on was a corrupting power.  It was hard,
sometimes, to restrain it, and grew harder as she grew in
strength.  Yet, nothing else could stop the Angels.

	Perhaps this happened in time, on every world, some
crisis which required its inhabitants to tap into these
powers, powers which they could not contain.  And so the
saviors they created for themselves came to rule over them
or who destroyed them in wars among themselves.  She could
feel fragments of memory of the rivalry of Atlach-Nacha and
Shelob and how he had fled to another world when the war
turned against him.  The Eight Crystal Towers of Xoth
shattered.  The death of Alars.  The slow degeneration of
the Old Ones as she watched from her womb/tomb/prison.  In
the end, they had not even known why the climate turned
against them, only that they had to flee in search of
warmth, for they had abandoned their sciences to save their
sanity, and in the end, lost both in superstition and chaos.

	The Angels...once they had been beings, mortals,
like humanity.  Empowered with dangerous arts to save their
races, they had been corrupted by power and risen up to rule
over those who made them, or destroyed their creators in
their own games of power or corrupted them into things
barely recognizable, like the Byakhee.  They shared a common
power, but they fought because few shared a common origin
and it was natural for beings of vast power to have vast
egos.  And some, she thought, were close to mindless.

	And behind them all, the Outer Gods, serene, potent,
all- sufficient, insane, uncaring, destructive, creative,
all and nothing at once.  And their Voice, their Herald, the
Crawling Chaos, Nylarathotep, who comes down from the Outer
Void to mock.  A being of a thousand and one forms, most
bringing madness in their wake.  But he could also pass as a
man, or in some forms, from what Kensuke and she had
discovered, could apparently possess people as well, like
the unfortunate Robert Blake, who had died from the touch of
the Haunter in the Dark.

	For a moment, she felt a paranoid fear that
Nylarathotep had replaced Gendo after Adam's breakout.  
He'd been down with Kaji, who died, yet had turned up
apparently largely unharmed.  Maybe Nylarathotep had taken
his place.  But if that was the case, he wasn't doing much
to sabotage things.  Unless, maybe, he had tired of his old
toys and wanted to raise up new ones.  The King of Joy might
have fallen into the darkness by outside conquest, but Xoth
had fallen into the dark through victory.  And he did try to
get us to serve him, she thought.

	What was his game?  What did the Outer Gods want,
Asuka asked herself.  But she didn't have an answer.

	Time for more web searches, she thought.  Let's see
if that one guy finished his upload of the Ponape
Scriptures...

	

                            -*-

	"Lamp of Alhazred...Shub-Niggurath...Gordon
Walmsley...Falcon Point...Cthugha...Innsmouth...Book of
Eibon.  Not again."  Fuyutsuki sighed.  "Didn't we just get
a translation of that taken down last month?"

	"Yes," Gendo said.  "And some site dedicated to how
'information wants to be free' put it back up."

	"I am glad you thought to monitor Internet use,"
Fuyutsuki said.  "I would not have thought of it."

	"With MAGI, it's easy to track where people are
going and the contents of any forms they submit to sites,"
Gendo said.  "And essential for security purposes."  He
paused.  "Who is Walmsley, anyway?"

	"He translated the G'harne Fragments."

	"Oh, right.  Well, we're going to have to see about
what we can do to prevent Langley probing further into these
matters.  She is neither qualified to assess which sites are
fake and which are real, nor can we afford to have her
risking her sanity any further than it already is," Gendo
said.  "Just imagine if she decided to experiment with the
rites in the Book of Eibon."  He shuddered.  "It's dangerous
enough if you know what you're doing.  Perhaps we should cut
off her access entirely."

	"That would only convince her we're covering things
up.  Better to take two approaches.  First, introduce a
virus into her system to hunt and kill anything she's
downloaded and not backed up yet.  Secondly, since we know
many of the keywords she is likely to search, we can build a
website which has everything she wants to know...all
properly sanitized."

	Gendo nodded.  "A good idea.  We'll need experts for
the former, but I now have...time for working on the latter
myself."  He frowned at the thought of his demotion.  "It
may well serve as a good way to hamper other fools probing
into things they can't handle as well."

	"I will see what MAGI has in its virus armory which
might be suitable and make appropriate arrangements if
nothing proves worthy."

	"Good, good, let's get to it."
	

                            -*-
	
	For a moment, on waking, Asuka thought she must have
somehow blanked out part of her day, as she was immersed in
liquid, and until she opened her eyes, she thought maybe she
had been sleeping in LCL for some reason.  But it was just
water, and she was in her pajamas, not her plug suit.  This
was no more comprehensible than waking up in LCL would have
been.

	She was now lying on a large septagonal block of
jade, underwater.  The block was one of eleven scattered
about a large plaza, surrounded by buildings made of various
green and black and blue stones, cut in odd shapes which
somehow held together without mortar.  Some of the buildings
leaned and others blended together in strange ways.

	It must be a dream, she thought, and got up and
started down one of the seven streets leading away from the
plaza.  The street was paved with hunks of jade and green
marble, fitted together into a pattern which she couldn't
quite grasp.  It was empty, except for fish, which clumped
together in nervous schools.

	Streets spiraled and curved back on themselves in
ways which quickly left Asuka utterly lost and unsure which
way she was going.  She didn't like this place at all.


                         -*-

	Shinji walked down the street of the strange
underwater city, wondering why he was here and if he was
dreaming or if his life was just being slightly stranger
than usual.  He tried reaching out with his mind for any
form of life he could communicate with, but as he had
feared, there were neither snakes nor spiders anywhere
nearby.

	Despite that, he had the feeling of being watched,
though the streets were empty.  "Is anyone out there?" he
shouted again.

	No one answered, but the feeling of being watched
persisted.


                         -*-

	 
	Rei swam through the streets of the city, trying to
follow the voice.  At least she thought it was a voice.  It
reminded her of Adam and her sisters; it called to her deep
down.

	But she couldn't find it, though she kept looking.  
It seemed to come from all directions; was the city itself
calling her?  She didn't know.

	She paused, as she smelled someone she knew.  But
what was he doing here?  She decided to follow his trail and
find out.

                            -*-

	Anna walked along, glancing at times at the
buildings which rose up around her.  They were crumbling,
slowly but surely; given enough time underwater, even this
mighty city would be erased.  Seaweed clung to exterior
surfaces and once polished basalt was pitted and cracked.  
Fish swam where once armies had marched.

	All things came to an end in time.  If this city
stayed down here, it would eventually perish.  This was not
Anna's problem.  She simply kept going, following the
bending, twisting streets towards where they sought to lead
her.


                            -*-

	Touji walked along, holding a large chunk of green
stone in his hands, a crude club.  He had a bad feeling
about this place.  For a moment, he wondered what the hell
kind of rock he'd found, but it seemed pretty solid, so that
was all that mattered right now.

	He heard footsteps, so he slumped back into a
doorway and waited to see what would come round the corner.  
It was just Hikari in a wetsuit.  After taking a few seconds
to appreciate how she looked in it, he stepped out and said,
"Yo, Hikari, any idea what the f...the h...what is going
on?"

	"We're dreaming," she said.

	"How come you got a wetsuit and I didn't?" Touji
asked.

	"I decided to find one, so I did, then I changed
into it,"  Hikari said.

	"Damn, we can do that?" Touji asked.

	"It's a dream, right?" Hikari asked.  "Can't you do
that in dreams?"

	"Oooh."  Touji concentrated, then went to a pile of
rubble and extracted a machine gun.  "Now we're cooking."

	"Not underwater, you aren't."

	"Damn."

	"I hear something," Hikari said.

	Touji cocked his head and listened.  "Shit, lots of
people."

	He grabbed Hikari and pulled her back into the
indented doorway with him.  Then the creatures came into
view, some two dozen scaly humanoids who looked vaguely like
a crossbreeding of men, fish, and toads.  They were armed
with spears and three of them had harpoon guns.

	Shit, I could have snagged me a harpoon gun or a
trident, Touji thought.

	Hikari pressed close to Touji, who tried to squeeze
himself into the smallest possible amount of space as they
hid in the doorway.  I shoulda opened the door, Touji
thought.  And hid inside.

	And then the creatures saw him.  They shouted at him
in some alien tongue, then charged with the spears.  
"Hikari, get the door open!" he shouted and stepped up with
his stone bat.

	Wish I'd fought some monsters with a decent power
that works underwater, he thought.  Fire wouldn't do much
good and the Violator and Adam hadn't given him anything
useful he could see.  He tried to fight them, but while his
blows clearly hurt them, they were better fighters.

	He began to bleed into the water, and to his
surprise, the little drops of blood formed into tiny fish
and swam off.  It was simultaneously cool and annoying to
know he had gotten a power from Adam.  An utterly useless
power.

	Hikari struggled, trying to get the door open, but
it was stuck or locked or barred or something, resisting her
every effort.

	This is a shitty way to die, Touji thought.  This
had better be a dream.  He managed to bash the nose in of
one of the fish- men, but another one simply stepped forward
and he took a jab to his right leg, losing more blood.

	And then there was a blur.  Claws raked and water
froze and Rei broke through the mob.  She grabbed Touji and
Hikari, kicked off the door, and bulldozed through the ranks
of the fishmen, swimming at high speed.  The fishmen took
off after them.

	"Damn, thanks, Rei," Touji said.  "This is a dream,
right?  Please tell me I ain't got amnesia or something."

	"You dream," Rei said.

	"Good," he said.

	Hikari said, "We've got to stop and bandage Touji,
before he bleeds more."  She frowned as she looked at his
wounds.

	"Can't stop," Rei said.

	"But...Touji's hurt!"

	Rei simply glanced back at the pursuing horde, which
was matching Rei's pace.  Hikari looked and sighed.  "But
he'll die!"

	"Touji," Rei said.

	"Huh?"

	"Touji, take us home."

	"How the hell am I supposed to do that?" Touji
asked.

	"Your power."

	"My pow...oh, the teleporting thing?"

	Rei nodded.

	"I don't know how to control it."

	"Be it," Rei said.

	"Can you be more vague?" Touji said, irritated.

	"No."

	"Just try concentrating on us getting to safety,"
Hikari said.

	Safety, he thought.  He closed his eyes and thought.  
Take us somewhere safe.  Somewhere SAFE.

	He felt the world whirl around him, and then he was
lying on something soft.  He opened his eyes and found he
was lying in a bed with Hikari by his side and Rei under
both of them, an arm around each of them.

	Hikari opened her eyes.  "Touji, you're in my bed
AGAIN!"

	"Would you rather we all get killed?" he asked,
irritated.  "Besides, this is MY bed!"

	"This is not..." Hikari began, then looked around
and saw all the basketball and soccer posters and the big
great white shark poster and the junior baseball trophy.  
"..."

	"Hah!  So this time I get to beat you up for
crawling into MY bed!" Touji said, seizing a pillow and
beginning to pummel her.

	Rei sat up just in time to take a pillow to the
face.  She blinked in surprise, then grabbed the other
pillow before Hikari could.  They were all wrestling around
and pummeling each other with pillows when the door opened.

	Misato stuck her head in.  "Is this an orgy or
what?" she asked.

	"We are NOT having an orgy!" Hikari declared.

	"It's a pillow fight," Touji said.

	"You're having a pillow-fight with two half-naked
women at 3 AM?" Misato asked dubiously.

	"Yes," Touji said.

	"Uh huh."

	"It is true," Rei said.

	"We couldn't sleep, so we came over to talk," Hikari
said desperately.

	"Whatever.  Have all the orgies you want.  Just keep
them QUIET.  I'm trying to sleep," Misato said.

	"We are not having an orgy!" Hikari protested.

	"All I ask is that it be quiet," Misato said.  
"That's all."  She left.

	"Touji, everyone is going to think we had an orgy!"
Hikari said angrily.

	"Excuse me, this is MY bed.  You're the one who got
into it!"

	"You teleported me into your bed!" Hikari protested.

	Rei nodded.

	"I was trying to save our lives!  I was bleeding,
you know!"  he checked his body; thankfully, he was not
bleeding now.

	Rei looked at the two of them, then looked at her
pillow.  Tentatively, she whacked Touji with it.

	Hikari whacked him with hers.

	Soon, the pillow fight was in full swing again.

                            -*-

	Maya woke up, hearing Ritsuko moaning in her sleep.  
She shook Ritsuko gently, until Ritsuko's eyes popped open.  
Ritsuko was breathing hard.  "Are you okay?" Maya asked her.

	"No.  The sea was trying to take me," Ritsuko said
softly.

	"I won't let it have you," Maya said, embracing her.

	Ritsuko stared off through the window. "It's still
calling me now, even this far away from it."

	"We'll find a way to beat it," Maya said.

	"There is another possibility as to what is
happening,"  Ritsuko said.  "But it's worse than if it's
just my curse."

	"Worse?" Maya asked, worried.

	"I dreamed of a sunken city made of strangely angled
stones, an ancient ruins where only fish live now, and the
Deep Ones, of whom I told you before."

	Maya nodded.

	"They urged me to join them, for their master was
waking."

	"Master?"

	"One of the Angels dwells sleeping, imprisoned
beneath the sea.  He nearly escaped in the mid
nineteen-twenties, but the time was not yet ripe, and his
home sank as quickly as it rose.  But as it rose, the most
sensitive minds on the planet were barraged by nightmares as
his mind touched theirs.  Minds like those of the Children.  
Many of them went mad."

	"We should check on them," Maya said, standing up.  
"Just in case."

	Ritsuko said, "In the morning.  They're not going to
go mad after just one dream."

	"Maybe," Maya said.  "But I just...don't want to
take any chances."

	Ritsuko sighed and got out of bed.  "Alright, let's
go."


                            -*-

	"It was kind of more boring than scary," Shinji
said, yawning.  "Just a kind of feeling of being lost and
being watched."

	"But it was a city of volcanic rocks with oddly
angled buildings?" Ritsuko asked.

	"Yes," Shinji said.  "Why are you asking me about
this in the middle of the night, anyway?"

	"I think this may be a sign that an Angel with
powers over dreams is coming," Ritsuko said.

	"Ugh."  He yawned.  "Can I sleep now?"

	"Sleep tight," Ritsuko said.

                         -*-

	"This is connected to Innsmouth, right?" Asuka asked
Ritsuko.

	"Indirectly," she said.  "I take it you know
something of the Deep Ones?"

	"A bit," Asuka said.  "Trying to learn more."

	"It is dangerous to delve into such lore, but good
to know one's enemy," Ritsuko said, sighing.  "I fear
that..."

	There was a high pitched squeal from another room.  
Maya said, "What the...what was that?"

	Asuka sprung to her feet.  "That was Hikari."

	"We'd best go check on her next, then," Maya said.

	Asuka followed them to Hikari's room.  The door was
locked and she didn't answer when they banged on the door.  
Ritsuko said, "We may need to get a master key or
something."

	Then the door to Touji's room opened and Hikari came
out.  Asuka stared in shock.  "You...and Touji...in the
middle of the night...????"

	"We were just having a pillow fight," Hikari said
weakly.

	"If you feel you must lie to us, please choose
something more believable than that you are having a pillow
fight with Touji at 3 AM while half-naked," Ritsuko said.

	"I am not half...my pants!"  Hikari was wearing a
pajama top long enough to go down just past her butt, but no
pants.  "TOUJI!  YOU PERVERT!  WHAT DID YOU DO WITH MY
PANTS!"

	"Hey, you didn't have any pants when you showed up
in MY BED, " Touji shouted through the door.  "Rei, you
didn't take Hikari's pants, did you?"

	"No."

	There was a moment of awful, terrible silence.

	Maya tried to speak, but couldn't figure out how
vocal cords worked.

	Ritsuko rubbed her forehead.  "I must still be
dreaming,"  she said weakly.

	Asuka's jaw dropped audibly.  "Hikari, were you
half- naked with Rei and Touji in his bed?"

	"We were having a pillow fight," Hikari said
stubbornly.

	"This is NOT real," Asuka said.  "This can't be
real.  You wouldn't really have sex with Rei and Touji at
the same time."

	"We were NOT having sex!"

	"Damn, you are a PERVERT, thinkin' stuff like that,"
Touji said, now sticking his head out the door.

	"You're probably wearing Hikari's pants," Asuka
mumbled.

	"I am NOT wearing her pants!"

	"I am going to bed," Ritsuko said.  "And in the
morning, this is all going to be a dream."  She took Maya by
the arm and began to leave.

	"I'll just be going to bed now too," Hikari said,
then realized she was locked out of her room and the key was
inside it.  "Drat."

	Touji, shirtless, now came out in the hallway.  
"Here, I can teleport you into your room."

	"I think I've had enough teleporting for one night,"
Hikari mumbled.

	"You're half-naked too!" Asuka announced.

	Rei now came out into the hallway; she was fully
dressed.  In Touji's clothing, which didn't fit.  "I'll open
it," she said.

	"I'm dreaming, right?" Asuka said.

	"Yes.  Go to bed," Hikari said desperately.

	"Right."  Asuka turned around and went to bed.

	"We tell everyone this was just a dream," Hikari
said to Touji.

	"Hey, you were in my bed this time.  That's all I've
got to say," Touji said.

	"Because you..."  Hikari sighed.  "I don't care.  I
just want to go to bed."

	The door opened; Hikari blinked, wondering how Rei
had gotten inside her room.  But she decided sleep was
better than answers.

                         -*-

	"I had the weirdest dream last night," Asuka said to
Hikari the next morning at breakfast.

	"Sunken city?" Hikari asked.

	"Yeah, and then..."

	"Dreams can be pretty weird," Hikari said.

	"Wait, you dreamed about the sunken city too?"

	"Yes," Hikari said.  "Must be because we're both of
the Children."

	"Yeah.  So...You and Touji and Rei didn't really
have an orgy last night, did you?"

	Hikari shook her head.  "You must have dreamed
that."

	"Right," Asuka said with relief.  "Did you have that
dream, Shinji?"

	"I didn't dream about anyone in anyone's beds, just
the sunken city," Shinji said.

	"Going to have to do some more research on that, I
think,"  Asuka said.  "I think it's a real place."

	"I hope we don't have to fight a city," Shinji
replied.

	Several men came in, found Rei at her table nearby,
and took her with them.

	"Huh, I guess the UN inspectors want her," Shinji
said.

	"They can have her," Asuka said.

	"I suppose they'll talk to all of us," Hikari said.

	"I suppose so," Asuka said.  "I intend to give them
a piece of my mind."

                         -*-

	"Have you enjoyed being one of the EVA Pilots?"  
Inspector Margaret Mallory asked.  She was a short, thin old
woman from Britain.

	"Yes," Rei said.

	"What is your opinion of NERV's performance so far?"  
Margaret asked.

	"The hunt goes well."

	Margaret glanced at the two other inspectors with
her, Chang Hsu from China and Henry N'kambe from Kenya.

	Henry said, "So you think of this as a hunt?"

	"Yes."

	"Why?"

	Rei looked at him in the manner of someone asked why
they think the color blue is blue.  "It is a hunt."

	"But why do you think of it as a hunt?  Are you
imagining yourself as some sort of Amazon warrior woman?"

	"What is an Amazon?" Rei asked.

	"It would take longer than it's worth to explain,"
Henry said.  "So you enjoy hunting?"

	"Yes."

	"What do you think about the destruction of the base
in Japan?"

	"It was a good fight."

	Henry blinked.  "Why?"

	"We won.  We gained Adam's power."

	"So the destruction of the base and all the deaths
don't bother you?"

	"I killed no innocents," Rei said.

	"What do you think of Commander Ikari?"

	"He is powerful."

	"Do you think he has been a good commander?"

	"Yes."

	"Despite the disaster in Peru, the destruction of
NERV- Japan, the escape of Adam and all the other
catastrophes?"

	"We won each battle," Rei said.  "This is war.  
People die."

	Henry frowned.  "So you don't care who dies as long
as you win?"

	Rei struggled to find the right words, and finally
said, "No war can be won flawlessly.  We saved far more than
who died."  She paused. "We did the best we could."

	Hsu seemed satisfied with that response; Henry
frowned more.  "And Commander Fuyutsuki?"

	"He did his best."

	Henry glanced over at Margaret, who shook her head.  
He then said, "Well, we'll get back to you soon, I expect,
once we've talked to the others."

	"Alright," Rei said, and left.

	"She's a strange one," Henry said.

	"The profile was more accurate than I thought," Hsu
said.  "A strange one, indeed."


                         -*-

	Asuka sat down at her computer.  "Okay, let's see
what my search found..."

	Her screen sprung to life with a keytouch.  A
screensaver popped up, showing a little dancing green man
with a squid-like head.  "You have been hacked by Campus
Crusade for Cthulhu.  DANCE FOR ME!"  It then began dancing.

	"Shit," Asuka said, trying to get the screensaver to
disengage.  Finally, she had to reboot, praying the damage
wasn't too bad.

	She ended up having to reinstall her operating
system, and found that most of her data files were utterly
trashed or gone.

	"Dammit, I should have backed up more recently," she
muttered to herself, extracting her most recent back up of
her hard drive, from weeks ago.  "This is what I get for
being lazy."  She sighed.  "Here we go again."

                         -*-


	Asuka eventually tired of rebuilding her machine and
headed off to find some company.  Most of the rest of the
Children turned out to be in one of the lounges, doing
homework, except for Rei.  Asuka came over to Shinji and
hugged him.  "Hey there."

	"Hi," he said, smiling and turning to hug her back.  
"Having fun while we suffer?"

	"My computer died thanks to a virus, so not much fun
for me."

	"I wish a virus would eat my homework," Touji
muttered.  "All this work is making me nuts."

	Hikari says, "Well, we could go down to the town for
a while, but neither of us speaks any German, so it might be
hard to get around."

	"We can make it a double date," Asuka said.  "As I
could use getting away from stuff.  That good with you,
Shinji?"
	
	"Fine with me," he said.  "But then we'd be leaving
Anna all by herself."

	Anna said, "Oh, don't mind me.  I have to catch up
on some stuff anyway."

	Feeling guilty, Asuka said, "You sure?"

	"I'll be fine," Anna said smiling.  "Go down to the
city and have some fun."

	"Thanks," Asuka said.

	"You're welcome."

                         -*-


	Misato stamped the file closed.  "And that's enough
of that," she said.  Getting up, she tried to decide what to
do tonight.  Everything on TV is in German, everything in
the video library is in German, all the books in the base
library are in German...  She frowned.  There has to be
something I can do with minimal German, she thought.

	Hmm, maybe Makoto's free, she thought.  I know he
brought some movies and stuff with him.  We can go grab some
food, then watch some movies or something.  Anything.

	She went over to Makoto's cubicle.  "Hey, you busy
tonight?"

	"I'm sorry, I have a date with Akane."

	She sighed.  "I guess I'll be playing solitaire by
myself again."

	He looked at her with a tempted look which made her
feel a little better, then he said, "Why don't you see if
Dr. Akagi is busy?"

	"Oh, great idea," Misato said, perking up.  "I
haven't cleaned her out in poker in quite a while."

	She found Ritsuko in her lab, closing up for the
night.  "Hey, Ritsuko, you want to do something tonight?"

	"Maya and I are going into town to see The Three
Brothers."  She paused.  "Would you like to come with us?"

	"Movie?" Misato asked.

	"Yes, it's a German film Dr. Himmelfarb
recommended."

	"In German?"

	"Yes."

	Misato sighed.  "No thanks, I wouldn't understand
anything."

	"Makoto's busy?" Ritsuko asked.

	Misato said a little sharply, "He has a date."

	"Ahh.  Well, you're welcome to come with us."

	"I wouldn't want to intrude on your date," Misato
said.  "Maybe Ingrid is free."

	"She often goes to the Shooting Gallery in the
evenings,"  Ritsuko said.

	"I'll look for her there."

	She found Ingrid in the process of sniping at paper
cutouts.  "Good evening, Misato," Ingrid said.

	"Hey there," Misato said.  "I'm bored out of my
skull."

	"Want to have a little shooting contest?" Ingrid
suggested.

	"Alright," Misato said.

	They both got ready, then opened fire.  Dozens of
rounds of ammo later, Ingrid came over to examine Misato's
shooting.  "Well, that's one paper man who will never have
sex again," she said.  "You pissed at some guy?"

	Misato frowned.  "I have no right to be."

	"But you are anyway."

	"Yes."  She sighed.  "Stupid, I know."

	"Wanna talk about it?" Ingrid asked.

	"The irritating thing is that when he was
interested, I wasn't, and now I am, and he has a girlfriend.  
Sexy little pale- haired girl named Akane.  She's a
novelist.  Probably writes smut novels from the way she
carries on," Misato said bitterly.

	"What, like all those ones lying around your room?"
Ingrid asked.

	Misato winced.  "She's one of those annoying women
who hypnotizes men with her breasts."

	"Well, I'd never degrade myself by trying to
outflouncy someone," Ingrid said.  "But if you really like
him, and that's the kind of woman he wants..."

	"Dammit, why couldn't I realize I liked him before
this?"  Misato demanded.  "He only went after her because he
couldn't have me."

	"Well, just one thing to remember," Ingrid said.

	"What?"

	"A man you can steal from another woman probably
isn't worth stealing."

	Misato sighed.  "But he's cute and nice and a good
guy."

	"So why didn't you date him before?"

	"I thought he would be boring."

	"And you had someone who wasn't?" Ingrid asked.

	"Well, I've told you about Kaji, right?"

	"A little," Ingrid said.  "And I've met him myself
briefly.  I heard about his death too."

	Misato sighed.  "Maybe I'm just being petty.  I
just...Maybe this means I'm growing up or something."

	"Ready to marry a man like Dad?" Ingrid teased.

	"He's a lot more responsible than Dad was," Misato
said.  "We really shouldn't date anyway because he's my
subordinate, but dammit, he's hot and I'm lonely and aaargh.  
I can tell he wants me, but he's too responsible to just
dump Akane."

	"Well, I know some nice guys I can try and hook you
up with.  Get your mind off him."

	"I'm game," Misato said.

	"Cool.  I'll think about it, ask around, and get
back to you.  Want to go for another round of shooting?"

	"Sure thing."

                         -*-

 	And as the four Children hit the town, three of them
realized there was a slight problem, which was a
considerable lack of knowledge of the German language.  
This they realized too late as they stared up at the movie
theater marquee and the long list of movies, the meaning of
which they had no idea.

	"Um," volunteered Touji first, after they all spent
a long moment staring at the titles.  "Well.  Er.  13
Freitag, Sieben, Alptraum Auf Ulmestrasse, Gebrochen Pffeil,
Kampf ins Bronx, I just dunno.  Everything sounds violent in
German, man.  You guys got any ideas?"

 	Hikari shook her head.

	Shinji shrugged.

	"How about Fruhling Kirschblumen?" suggested Asuka.

	Hikari and Shinji looked at her blankly.  Touji
looked at her suspiciously.

	"What's that supposed to be?" he asked.

	"New film, good reviews, trust me," she said
confidently.

 	He was silent for a moment, thinking it over.  This
was German cinema, he mused.  He didn't know anything about
German cinema tradition, but the German people were, he
thought, a pretty rough bunch.  Surely their films would be
all mean.  Low risk of chick films, yeah.

	Touji shrugged.  "Sure, okay, let's go."

	- * -

	"I so HATE you," grumbled Touji as they walked out
of the theater.

	"Whaaaat?" protested Asuka, in the tone of the
Unjustly Persecuted.  "It was a GREAT movie!  Isn't that
right, Hikari?"

	"Yup!"

	"It was a German remake of SPRINGTIME CHERRY
BLOSSOMS, dammit!!!  Shinji, say something, man!"

	Crickets chirped.

	Touji glared at Shinji.

	Asuka glared at Shinji.

	"It was... um... not what I expected," he finally
said weakly.

	"HA!" yelled Touji triumphantly.

	"But I did kinda like it," added Shinji meekly.

	"HA!" countered Asuka.

	Shinji noticed something as they were walking to the
exit doors, then frowned.  "H-hey, guys, I think we have a
problem."

	"You bet we do," said Touji.  "Asuka is NEVER
picking our movies again!"

	Asuka rolled her eyes.  "Hikari, remind me why you
like this moron?"

	"Um, guys?"  Shinji pointed at the exit.

	There was an awful lot of people there waiting
there.

	Touji said, "Okay, so there's a lot of people in
line to see Springtime German Flowers crap."

	"But they're staring at us," said Shinji.

	Asuka frowned.  "I've got a bad feeling about this."

	One of them shyly opened the door and asked
something to Asuka in German, who in turn merely nodded.  
He in turn said something to the crowd amassed at the door.

	"Hey, what'd he ask?" asked Touji.

	"He wanted to know if we were the NERV pilots."

	"Oh."

	A great cry was shouted from the crowd that nearly
made the children jump, and much to their confusion the
crowd as a whole began to bow down to them and chant
something German.

	Touji asked, "Hey, what're they doing?"

	"Worshiping us."  Asuka frowned.

	She paused a moment, then began lecturing them in
German.  "We are not gods!  There is only one God in
heaven!"

	"God has sent you from heaven to save us!" one of
the people in the crowd cried out.

	"Angels!  Angels of mercy!" another shouted.

	"No, we're just humans like you!"

	"We are but mere mortals!" an old man called out.  
"That's why we give you honor and glory, holy ones!"

	"Give us a blessing!"

	Touji said, "What are they saying?"

	"Even stupider things than you," Asuka said to him
in Japanese.  She turned back to the crowd.  "I am not
divine!  I'm just a teenage girl!  I have a boyfriend!  I'm
on a date!  Don't worship us!"

	"The gods wish us to go on a date!" one of the
people in the crowd shouted.

	Asuka began to tug on her hair.  Shinji put a hand
on her shoulder.  "Shinji, tell them!" she said, forgetting
she was speaking German.

 	He stared at her blankly.

	She sighed.  "Shinji, kiss me," she said in
Japanese.

	He blushed.  "Say what?"

	"Oh man, don't make me watch this," Touji said,
turning away.

	"Maybe that will convince them we're not gods,"
Asuka said.

	"They may decide it means to have an orgy," Hikari
pointed out.

	"We can't even get out of here," Touji said.  
"Although seeing you two kiss might make them all go blind."

	To his surprise, Shinji slugged him in the shoulder
and said, a little sharply, "Touji, don't say that."

	Asuka blinked, and then smiled.  He was standing up
for her.  Not that she needed it, but it was sweet of him.

	"I'm sorry, man.  I just can't imagine kissing
the..."

	Shinji turned to Asuka, stepped up to her, and
kissed her firmly.  She stiffened for a moment, then leaned
into it, while holding one hand behind her back to give
Touji the finger.

	"Hah!  I can kiss better than you two can!"  He
turned and kissed Hikari, who froze up, knowing a huge mob
was watching her.

	Then the mob began to cheer.  And then people in the
mob started kissing each other.

	"Alright, let's get out of here," Asuka said.  
"Before we make things any worse."  She began taking her
shirt off.

	Shinji stared in abject shock.

	"I'll destroy my shirt anyway if I sprout wings out
of it,"  Asuka said, though she was blushing a little.  
"Better take yours off too.  You're going to have to carry
Touji."

	"This is startin' to sound like a bad porno," Touji
muttered.

	Shinji blushed and tried not to stare at Asuka too
much.  He took his shirt off and sprouted wings, as did
Asuka.  The crowd cheered.

	"Tell me there's not a news camera," Touji said.

	Shinji picked Touji up.  "There's not a news
camera."

	"Good, 'cause you just know some freak would be
speculatin' freaky things about us," Touji said as he was
lifted.  "Man, you just don't look this strong."

	Asuka rose into the air with Hikari.  "Let's go."

	They took off, the crowds cheering wildly.


                         -*-

	Die Aufladung had just gotten out, and Akane and
Makoto were taking a leisurely stroll towards a cafe she
recommended, when they heard shouting nearby and saw the
Children flying across the sky; Asuka had wings of flame
while Shinji had black bat wings.

	"I wish I could fly," Akane said.

	Makoto squinted.  "Is it just me, or are they both
topless?"

	"She's still got a bra on, I think," Akane said.  
"I wonder if they're going to have aerial sex."

	"..."

	Akane laughed.  "Just teasing, honey,
although...ooh, that would just be very sexy.  Sounds like
they've impressed their worshippers, though."

	"I can't understand why anyone would worship them."

	"They have apparently magical powers and can do five
impossible things before breakfast," Akane said.  "They may
not be God, but they're gods for most intents and purposes."

	"They're just children," he said.

	"Children," she said, emphasizing the proper nouness
of it all.  "I wouldn't worship them, but I can see why some
people would.  They have magical powers to save the world.  
People worship saviours, so long as they aren't failed by
them."

	"And then the worm turns."

	"Exactly."  She stared at the Children, fading in
the distance and frowned, her usual good cheer gone.  "No
one can win every fight."

	"Let's go eat," he said.  I can try and talk to her
about Misato there, he thought.  I will.  Really.

	She turned to him, and took his arm.  "You're too
good to me."

	"You're too good to me," he replied.

	She shook her head.  "Then let's be too good to each
other together."

	And they headed off to the Cafe.


                         -*-

 
 	The scene flickered before her, reflected in her red
eyes as she watched with an expression that betrayed no
emotion.  Her in his arms, he in hers, a kiss that Rei had
never known but had always wanted, and a burst of wings to
take flight into the night.

	As she stared at the television replaying the news,
Rei's lips ever so slightly edged downward.  The others in
the cafeteria at large felt a moment of mild discomfort and
the growing need to be elsewhere.

	Rei's eyes flickered away from the screen and to her
side as she heard the clatter of a tray and silverware being
put down next to her.

	"Wow, they sure were bold to do that in public,"
said Anna.

	Rei's eyes moved back to the TV, where a reporter
was now interviewing members of the crowd.  That managed to
hold her gaze briefly, before she resumed picking away at
her dinner.

	"How do you feel about seeing that?" asked Anna.

	Rei remained silent, her face carefully composed and
calm.  Beside her, Anna began eating her own meal
pleasantly.

	"Hn.  Good bratwurst today." added Anna after a
pause in eating.

	Rei resumed eating her own dinner.

	"I was hoping for Rouladen mit Rotkohl und
Salzkartoffeln, but I guess not today.  Though I'll probably
just go out later and buy it take-out."

	Rei continued eating.

	"Sometimes when you want something, it's best to go
ahead and get it, or else it will drive you crazy later.  
Know what I mean?"

	Rei turned slightly and gave Anna a slight sidewards
glance.  Anna smiled back innocently.  Rei turned her
attention back towards her dinner and ate in silence.  Anna
happily hummed the theme from Fruhling Kirschblumen next to
her as she finished her meal.

	The cafeteria was notably emptier by the time they
were done.

                         -*-


	"It's not so much that the English lost the Hundred
Years' War, as that they ate too much rich French food,
bloated up, got too fat to fit in their armor, and then the
French killed them while they waddled helplessly," Misato
said.  It had been something like that, anyway.  She
thought.  Well, world history had been years ago, and she'd
been thinking about Kaji and whether Ritsuko was going to
notice they'd eaten up all the leftover pizza and get mad
that day.  Or something similar.

	Rei nodded solemnly, scribbling in her notebook.  
Anna gave Misato a dubious look.  "How do the Burgundians
figure into it, then?"

	"Well, you see Burgundy, the drink, comes from
Burgundy, the region of France.  But the English preferred
cheap English beer, so they put heavy tariffs on the
Burgundian Burgandy, and the Burgundians got mad and changed
side to the French, who loved good Burgundian Burgandy."  
Misato wasn't so sure about that, but she told herself that
anyone who asked HER for help on history pretty much
deserved what they got.

	"Uh huh."

	Asuka, Shinji, Touji, and Hikari now walked into the
rec room where Anna and Rei were doing homework.  "We're
back,"  Asuka said.  "We ran into some crazy cultists."

	Misato frowned.  "Angel cultists?"

	"No, they seemed to think we were gods," Touji said.  
"Assuming Asuka didn't make that all up so she could take
her shirt off."

	Misato looked at Asuka, who was wearing her shirt.  
"She seems to be wearing a shirt."  She sounded rather
dubious.

	"She put it back on before we could all go blind,"
Touji said.

	"That would have been if we had to see YOU like
that,"  Asuka said to Touji.

	"Will you two stop bickering?" Shinji said sharply.  
"You both look just fine with your shirts off, and no one
went blind.  And I think you were staring at my girlfriend's
chest when you thought no one was looking."

	"WHAT?" Hikari said.

	"Hey, I saw how you..." Touji began.

	"You can fight later," Misato said.  "So this cult
thought you all were gods?"  She had a pretty good idea who
this group likely was, but she had hoped they wouldn't start
causing trouble yet.

	"Yeah," Asuka said.  "They were all German, I think,
or at least most of them."

	Misato frowned.  "I think I'm going to have to look
into that.  No one got hurt, did they?"

	Rei tensed up ever so slightly.

	"No, no," Shinji said.  "No one got hurt."

	"Good."  She sounded relieved.

	Rei looked Shinji up and down for a moment, then
relaxed.

	"I expect an unarmed rabble wouldn't be much of a
threat to us," Anna said.

	"More danger of us hurting them than vice versa,
really,"  Asuka said.

	"I hope they don't cause us any more trouble,"
Shinji said.

	"So do I," Misato said.  "But it isn't wise to rely
too much on hopes.  I fear they will be more trouble, before
we finally get rid of them.  But I guess we'll see."

	"I guess so," Shinji said.

	"Well, since you're back, you can finish your
homework with Rei and Anna," Misato said.

	"You can tell us what is true and what Katsuragi is
making up," Anna said to Asuka.

	"You can take over, Asuka," Misato said.  "I should
go work on things anyway."  And report this incident to the
Commander as well, she thought.

	"Alright," Asuka said.  "See you later."

                         -*-

 	Dreams are useful things.

 	With enough control, one can set up a dream like an
experiment, set the parameters, let things run, and see how
it all turns out.

	Basic elements are needed to meet the requirements
of this shoujo manga moment.

	A sunny day.  A clean city street.  Lots of trees.

	And there is Rei, wearing a blue dress, swaying
beautifully with the breeze.  A certain inner glow shining
about her, with eyes that sparkled of love and youth.

 	And there is Shinji, delicately beautiful with hair
flowing with the wind.  There were also sparkles in his
eyes, youthful-type sparkles, definitely associated with
love.

	Scenery.  Lovers.  All things in place.  
Disembodied red eyes observed it all carefully.

	Cue sunset.

	Cue the jet flying high above.

	And... start.

	"Rei," he said softly, the air going all pink and
sparkly around him.

	"Shinji," she said breathlessly, enveloped in that
same pink sparkly aura.

	Movement in slow motion.  The two running towards
each other with open arms.  See the two birds flying high
above them?  What a clear sky, too.

	Third element cued into the mix.  Asuka, tragic blue
sparkles about her, eyes wide and about to cry.  "Shinji!"
she cries out.

	The birds flapped about in confusion.  Clouds crept
into the sky.  The imagery around Shinji changes to a
monochrome blue.

	"A-Asuka," he says weakly, his head turning from Rei
to Asuka.

	The blue sparkles are infectious, swallowing up
Rei's space.  "Shinji?" she asks, fear and doubt replacing
the loving tone in her voice.

	This was a typically pivotal moment, yes.  Two
disembodied red eyes watched all with great interest.

	Rei looked at Shinji expectantly.

	Asuka looked at Shinji expectantly.

	Shinji hesitated.  Fatal mistake.

	The girls ran away in tears.  Of course, in opposite
directions.  Stormclouds slam in with violent winds.  
Everything sets into a monochrome grey.

	Decision time.

	Shinji reached out to Rei, then to Asuka.  Which
one?  Which way would his heart lead him?

	The rain suddenly turned into a torrential downpour
of epic proportions, streets flooding in the blink of an eye
and transforming into rivers, sweeping him away with the
currents.  Fish-like men emerged from the waters and stood
upon the rooftops, waving their spears and chanting in an
inhuman tongue to something that had yet to emerge from the
waters.

	The red eyes blinked.  This wasn't expected.

	Rei woke up.

	She looked out the window and frowned slightly.  An
overcast sky greeted her.  She spent a moment staring at it,
then began to get ready for the day.



                         -*-

	Shinji looked nervously at Inspector Svetlana
Borodinova and wondered what she was going to ask him.  She
seemed to be in charge, while Inspector Pham Trang sat in
the corner and quietly took notes.  There was a third
inspector, Guillame Garcia, but he'd left for the bathroom
and Inspector Svetlana didn't seem inclined to wait for him.

	They had to use a translator, a withered, bitter
looking old man who had clearly done a lot of rough work in
his life.  As he spoke, Shinji wondered if everything the
translator said sounded sarcastic or if he'd done something
to annoy the man.

	"I understand your father sent you off to your
relatives after your mother died."

	"Yes, his work at NERV kept him very busy," Shinji
said.

	"You don't seem to have been very happy there,"
Svetlana said.

	"I understand why Father did it," Shinji said.

	Svetlana said something to Pham which he couldn't
understand.  Pham nodded, then Svetlana continued, "We have
heard he favors you over the other pilots."

	"I don't think Father favors anyone," Shinji said.  
"I got sent into battle in Peru when I was badly injured,
and I live just the same as anyone else."

	"I understand you live with Commander Katsuragi?"

	Shinji nodded.  "Yes."

	"How much of a drunkard is she, really?"

	He frowned.  "She's not a drunkard."  He knew he was
only half telling the truth.  She had drunk too much most of
the time he had known her, but he could tell the Inspectors
were out for blood, and he wasn't going to give them any.  
"She's been a good guardian and a good commander."

	"Is she really sleeping with one of her
subordinates?"

	"No!" Shinji said sharply.  "She hasn't been seeing
anyone since Kaji died, and he wasn't her subordinate."

	"Ahh, yes, the fellow who died saving Gendo from the
Angel known as the 'Violator', right?"

	"Yes."  Shinji paused.  "He was a good man."

	"His record seems to be clean, though I have heard
he was rather a playboy.  But no matter.  I understand there
has been tension between the pilots since the battle with
the Violator."

	Shinji frowned.  "No one ever gets along perfectly."

	"To be precise, there is bad blood between Pilot
Langley and pilot Ayanami, correct?"

	"They don't get along," Shinji admitted.

	"Why?"

	Shinji squirmed, not wanting to think about it.  
"I'm not sure exactly what happened, but after we killed the
Violator, we suffered some...side-effects."  He shuddered at
the memory.  "Rei lost control."

	"She raped Langley?" Svetlana asked.

	"I don't know what exactly happened," Shinji said.  
"But you can't understand what it was like.  I had to lock
myself in the bathroom and...and..."  He blushed.  "Can we
please talk about something else?"

	"So, who would you blame for the destruction of the
Geodome?"

	"The Angels," Shinji said.

	Guillame Garcia, a tall, skinny man with bronzed
skin and an especially expensive suit, now returned from the
bathroom.  He sat down by Svetlana.  "Ahh, got to the death
of the Geofront?" he asked.

	She nodded to him, then asked Shinji, "Yes, but lots
of other Angels have shown up without destroying it."

	"We did the best we could," Shinji said. "I suppose
it would have been better to store Adam somewhere else, but
at the same time, him being right there meant we could stop
him before more harm was done."

	Pham finally spoke.  "I understand you're dating
Pilot Langley."

	Shinji nodded.  "Yes."

	"Would you say she's stable?"

	"She's a little impulsive, sometimes," Shinji said,
carefully weighing his words.  "But she's as sane as I am.  
If that's what you're asking."

	"She does not get along well with Commander Ikari."

	"Yes," Shinji said.

	"Why?"

	"Because she doesn't like people keeping secrets and
NERV has a lot of them.  And Father can be somewhat rude
sometimes."

	"I understand she's tried to kill him a few times."

	"People say things they don't mean when they get
mad,"  Shinji said.  "And if Asuka really wanted him dead,
he couldn't stop her."

	"Hmm."

	"They do," Shinji said, trying to reassure himself
of that.

	"My turn," Guillame said, pulling out a sheaf of
reports.  "We're going to go over all the missions."

	Shinji stared at the stack.  This was going to take
a while.

                         -*-
 

	"They call themselves the 'The Church of Disciples'.  
They don't have a very clearly set out theology, but they
believe you are all gods who need to be worshipped.  
There's no clear leadership, as they seem to be a loose
coalition of various groups with different beliefs who all
came to the conclusion you are all divine in some manner,
from some fringe Christian groups who think you are angels
to neo-pagans who see you as reborn gods to people who think
you are boddhisatvas.  We expect the movement will
eventually fragment due to these divisions, but for now,
they seem united enough to have spread quite a bit in Europe
and the most European-influenced nations."  Fuyutsuki shook
his head in mild disbelief.

	"The US, Canada, Australia, etc?" Asuka asked.

	Fuyutsuki, Misato, and the Children sat around one
of the briefing tables at the base, each with a stack of
papers in front of them.  Shinji wondered if they needed
such a long report when Fuyutsuki was in the process of
telling them everything anyway.

	Fuyutsuki continued by saying, "Your presence here
in Germany has attracted many group members to migrate here;  
they're starting to overrun the local towns.  I don't want
to cut off your ability to go to town, but I must ask you to
avoid any contact with these loons, as we aren't sure what
they may do."

	"How large is this movement?" Anna asked.

	"There's no good measure, but it seems there may be
close to a million members worldwide.  Which is a drop in
the human bucket, but since some twenty to thirty thousand
of those seem to have descended on the local towns, their
presence for us is quite significant."

	Misato frowned.  "If they tried something crazy,
like breaking into the base to come and bask in the glow of
the Children...we couldn't possibly stop that many people."

	"Really?" Touji asked nervously.

	"The Geo-front could have done it, but NERV-Germany,
while well defended, was not designed to fend off thousands
of people.  It's strong enough to generally stop terrorists
and criminals, but..."

	"Well, ones who aren't let in by traitors," Hikari
said.  "Were they caught?"

	"All the traitors died in the fighting," Misato
said.  "I suppose if we deployed the EVAs, we could probably
drive them all off if they did attack for some reason, but
there's lots of places in this base an EVA can't really go."

	"Ideally, it won't come down to that," Fuyutsuki
said.  "They don't seem hugely violent.  But at the same
time, I fear they're going to make life difficult."  He
paused.  "Which reminds me, I'd like you to go visit the
Barbarossa Project, as I'm curious as to whether their work
is viable at all, and I am not inclined to trust their
publicity reports."

	"Alright, I can do that," Misato said.  "I expect
they're going to fail."

	"So do I, but it is best to keep abreast of events
and avoid surprises."

	She nodded.  "I'll see about making an appointment,
then."

                         -*-

	"What a bunch of loons," Asuka said, flopping down
on her bed.  "Thinking we're divine and all."

	"Well, maybe they're right," Anna said.  "We do have
powers beyond mortal ken.  I mean, look at the things you've
done.  You can fly, you throw fire from your hands, you can
protect yourself with a force field, you can shapeshift,
your blood has inherent power..."

	"That could make me a superhero, not a god," Asuka
said.  "Or a mutant freak.  But not a god.  I don't live in
heaven, I can't save souls, I didn't create the universe.  
I don't feel very divine."

	"You helped save the souls of the Kingdom of Joy,"
Anna pointed out.  "The Elder Gods seemed to treat you like
their own children."

	"There is only one God, and I'm not Him," Asuka
said.  "I'm just a mortal who has been turned into a freak
by stupid powers I don't want.  Damn, I can hardly believe I
wanted to be a pilot so much, once upon a time."  She
sighed.

	"How's your computer doing?" Anna asked.  "Did you
get it all fixed?"

	"As much as I can.  Stupid virus."  Asuka sat up and
went over to her computer, kicking it out of idle mode.  "I
need some better anti-virus software."

	"Here, I know a good place to get some," Anna said.  
"And I found some places for you that you might want to
check out."

	"Thanks, Anna," Asuka said, yielding up control of
the machine to Anna for the moment.

	"Anything for a friend."


                         -*-

	Megumi adjusted her suit-dress slightly as she
waited, trying not to stare too much at the various
cultists.  I've never been to a church in a strip-mall
before, she thought.  The place's design made her suspect it
had once been a small gym before being converted.  In fact,
the conversion was still in progress as two dozen members of
the group were busy painting, scrubbing, and generally
redecorating the place.

	They all looked very normal to her, adults in their
twenties and thirties, male and female, dressed in clothing
they could afford to get dirty.  The one thing which stood
out was the six pointed stars they wore (which looked rather
like reworked Stars of David with a tongue of flame in the
middle).

	A man in a suit came out of the back office and the
secretary announced, "Mr. Schmitt will see you now."

	Mr. Schmitt turned out to be a well-dressed man in
his forties.  He could easily have been some
middle-management executive, and he looked far more sane
than Megumi expected.  He looked a little overworked and his
desk was piled with papers, but he could have been any of a
hundred men she'd interviewed over the years.  He looked up
at her and tried to smile; it was the smile of a man who was
making himself smile even though he'd rather go lie down for
a while.  "Megumi Kanzaki, I presume?" he asked.

	"Yes," she replied in German.  "I hope my German
won't be too hard to understand."

	"I'm impressed you know our language at all, being
from Japan," he said.  "And a little surprised to see a
Japanese reporter here in Germany."

	"We take an interest in the whole world," Megumi
said.  "And I'm in charge of covering the Children and
NERV."

	He nodded.  "Please sit down.  Would you like some
tea?"

	"Yes, please."

	Arnold had some tea delivered, then sat down and
luxuriated in it for a minute.  Then he said, "So what would
you like to know?"

	"Well, I was not familiar with the existence of your
group, so I suppose I'll start with, 'why do you worship the
Children?'"

	"Because they are divine.  Their coming was foretold
by many ancient texts, and they possess divine powers.  
They are the children of the old gods, come to save us in
our darkest hour,"  Arnold said.  His tone seemed remarkably
matter of fact to Megumi.  "The time will come when they
must cast off the mortal shackles which hold them back, so
that they may come into their full glory."

	"Mortal shackles?" Megumi asked.  "As in, ascending
into heaven?"

	"As in ceasing to be bound in service to mortals.  
It is our duty to serve them," Arnold said.  "But, instead,
NERV keeps them as servants instead of giving them honor and
praise as they should."

	"So, are you planning to do something about that?"

	"We are not violent people," Arnold said.  "And in
the end, it is up to the Children to cast off their chains.  
As we are sure they will, once they come to understand."

	"Right," Megumi said.  "So, why have so many of you
been moving here?"

	"To be near the Children, of course.  Most of us
can't afford such a move, but those of us who can have been
flocking to this area," Arnold said.  "Which generates vast
paperwork for me, as you can see."  He spread his hands
across the desk.

	"So you're in charge of all these people?"

	"I am in charge of directing the expansion of our
churches and trying to help all these folk find jobs and
places to live.  I don't have much of a staff, and the work
is piling up faster than I can handle.  I'm hoping to hire
more staff, but it's hard to find good assistants, and money
is, of course, an issue," he said.

	"So, you're like a bishop?" Megumi asked.

	"As good a comparison as any.  Though it seems the
administrative side of things is overwhelming my ability to
have much time for spiritual matters."  He sighed.  "But
someone must do the work."

	"So, what does it mean to say that the Children are
divine?  What consequence does this have for a believer?"  
Megumi asked.

	"A very good question," he replied, passing her a
pamphlet.  "This will explain things in more detail, but to
put it in brief, we believe that humanity should serve the
divine.  The Children have come to usher in a new age of
man, in which the old ways must be put away and new paths
forged.  Once the Angels are defeated, they will usher in a
new golden age.  For now, we must aid them with our prayers
and give them the homage they deserve."

	She put the pamphlet in her purse.  "Alright.  I
think that covers everything I need to start with."

	"Feel free to contact me if you need to follow up,"
he said.

	She nodded.  "I will."


                         -*-


	"I think we need to plant an agent," Misato said.

	Weiss nodded in agreement.  "Yes, we need someone on
the inside, so we can tell if it's a significant threat."

	Fuyutsuki had called the senior staff together in
one of the conference rooms to discuss the question of the
Disciples.  He said, "Does anyone have a suggestion as to
who to send?"

	"Well, how about Makoto?  He's level-headed and can
plausibly pose as someone who has been around the Children
and come to see their divinity from the 'inside'.," Misato
suggested.

	"We need someone who speaks German fairly fluently,"  
Ritsuko said.  "Enough to pick up on things a non-native
speaker might not get."

	"I have just the man.  Pieter Bremenhofen.  He's a
good man, very stable, and able to be discreet.  And he's a
native German speaker," Ingrid said.

	"Alright, if you trust him to do something like
this, I'll accept your judgement," Fuyutsuki said.  "Get him
on it as soon as you can."

	Ingrid nodded.  "I will do so."

                         -*-

 	"What about this rumor we've heard about Commander
Ikari being in the middle of a tryst during the Violator's
attack?"  Inspector Andrew Walker asked.  He was Australia's
representative on the committee of Inspectors.

 	"I'd think the man was a enunch.  I'm not sure what
he was doing down there, but I'm inclined to think no one
would have sex with him, even if he wanted it.  Unless they
were really desperate,"  Misato replied.

	Another of the inspectors, Faisal Shahid, who was
from Syria, interjected, "That bad?"

	"Yes," Misato said.

	"Damn."  He sounded somewhat sorry for Gendo.

	Walker sighed and rolled his eyes.  "Moving on.  Am
I correct in understanding that the Violator successfully
impersonated Ikari and used his passcodes to override the
MAGI during his assault?"

	"Yes," Misato said.  "It could change shape and had
captured him."

	"So he gave up the passcodes to it?" Walker asked.

	This is going to look bad, Misato thought.  "That
remains unclear."

	"I see," he said.

	"Certain backdoors seem to have been left in MAGI by
its designers which the Violator may have exploited," Misato
continued.  "Which had to be used to regain control of it,
in fact."

	"It was designed with security flaws?" the third
member of the Inspector triad, Fatima Ummayad, from the
Sudan, asked.

	"It would appear so," Misato said.

	"Interesting.  Tell us more about these built-in
holes..."

                         -*-

	"So what do you think of these people?" Fuyutsuki
asked Gendo as they met in Gendo's office.

	"The inspectors annoy me tremendously, but I'm
trying to be patient," Gendo said.  Gendo shifted about a
little uncomfortably; he wasn't used to his new chair in his
office.  Or having the smaller office.

	"I meant the cult."

	"Oh, the Children-Worshippers?" Gendo asked.

	"Yes."

	Gendo paused to push up his glasses.  "If they could
be manipulated, they could be very useful, but we have
neither the time nor the resources to try to take them over.  
Unless they turn out to be a front for someone.  But I think
this is likely a spontaneous movement.  It's only natural,
and well, better they turn towards the Children than towards
the Angels."

	"True.  Still, best to monitor them."

	Gendo nodded.  "I'm somewhat more worried about
this."  He pointed to a passage on the screen of his
computer.

	Fuyutsuki came over and read it.  " 'And Lo, From
All the Lands of Man They Come, Come With Presents and
Pleadings, To Worship At the Altar of the Children, To Beg
Their Aid, To Give Them Praise, To Hope Beyond Hope. ' "

	" 'And Lo, The Demon Sultan Hears The Praise, And He
Too Sends an Envoy, To Bear His Greeting, To The New Gods,
And Claim His Tithe.' "  Gendo concluded.  "This is from
Chapter fourteen."

	"The Cult of the Demon Sultan, down in Turkey?"

	"Exactly.  One of that cult's main purposes was to
watch for this time referred to in this prophecy and to be
ready to greet the 'Envoy' when it came.  The cult has had
to start over many times, either dying at the hands of
various creatures from beyond the Earth they tried to summon
or simply attrition due to the failure of the Envoy to
arrive.  But I think the time for which they have long
waited has finally come, and I expect his cult will rise
again."

	"Then we'd best increase our monitoring of the
skies.  Do you think we're likely to get one of his Court or
is he likely to spit forth one of his Spawn?" Fuyutsuki
asked, returning to his seat.

	"Probably his Spawn."  Gendo said.

	"Alright, I'll make sure Polaris is watching for
it."

	"It may well be trackable by normal telescopes,
depending on how it travels," Gendo said.  "So we'll need to
track astronomical data."

	"A little harder, but it can be done.  I hope."

	"I'll call Taiki."

	"Tai...oh, Yokojima?"

	"Yes," Gendo said.  "He's going to be disappointed
you forgot him."

	"I haven't thought about him in years.  Is he in
astronomy now?"

	"He runs an observatory in Hokkaido now," Gendo
said.  "And is one of the officers of a large amateur
astronomical society."

	"Excellent.  Get him on it."

	"I will."  Fuyutsuki paused.  "How's the fake
website coming along?"

	"A lot of it is done, but I'm trying to decide
whether to include this fake Necronomicon or not," Gendo
said, calling up the page for Fuyutsuki to take a look at.

	"That seems a good idea," Fuyutsuki said.  "Or is it
not fake enough?"

	"Actually, I'm worrying slightly whether or not the
copyright holders will spot it and harrass us."

	"If they do, the people we most want to fool with
this will take that as a sign of authenticity and use it to
justify believing it's real."

	"Hmm, good point," Gendo said.  "It should be ready
in a day or two, then."

	"Excellent," Fuyutsuki said.  "I'll talk to you
later."

	"Good bye."


                         -*-

	Shinji stared at the food.  "What is this?" Shinji
asked.

	"Sauerkraut.  It's very good," Asuka said.

	He sniffed it.

	Asuka frowned.  "Shinji, it's perfectly good food."

	"Sorry, sorry," he said, and tried a bite.  "Hey,
this is good."

	Asuka smiled.  "See?"

	"You were right, German food is pretty good," Shinji
said.

	They were having a picnic lunch under a small clump
of trees in one corner of the base, a sort of pseudo-date,
since they couldn't leave the base with the strange cult
running around all the local towns.  Asuka had insisted on
making the food, which Shinji hadn't objected to, although
he'd not expected a plate of German cuisine.  Though
thinking about it, he knew he should have.

	"German food will make you strong," Asuka said.

	Shinji laughed.  "If you say so."

	Asuka stood and flowed quickly through one of her
martial arts katas.  "Like this!"

	"So if I eat German food, I'll become a ninja?"
Shinji asked.

	"Exactly!"  She paused.  "You know what I mean."

	"Yes, I do," he said.

	She sat down next to him and they ate quietly for a
while.  Asuka now leaned back against the tree, putting an
arm around his shoulders.  He smiled and leaned a little
closer as he worked on his food.  "Thank you, Asuka."

	She turned and kissed his cheek a little nervously.  
"You're welcome, Shinji."

	"Run," a nearby cat said.  It was Oscar's pet cat.

	Shinji said, "Run?  Is something wrong?"

	Asuka's eyes widened.  "Oh great, if the cat's here,
then..."

	"Asuka!  Come and eat with me!"  Oscar said,
grabbing her arm.

	"I am not going to eat with you!"  Asuka said.

	Oscar darted forward and grabbed her lunch.  "Yes,
you will!"  Then he took off running.

	"Bring back my lunch!"  Asuka chased Oscar off out
of sight.

	Shinji laughed, and tried to decide if it was his
duty to help chase, then decided Asuka could handle Oscar.  
He turned back to his food.

	"Shinji."

	He started, turning and seeing Rei, holding a
Japanese style lunchbox.  She held it out to him.  "For me?"
he asked.

	She nodded and sat down next to him.  He carefully
opened it, curious as to what Rei might have made for him.  
It turned out to be a partitioned box.  The longest box held
what looked like cabbage leaves with long strips of white
meat on top of them, all of it covered with a dark, nasty
smelling sauce.  There was an odd lumpy tan pudding in one
of the smaller compartments and mixed carrot slices and peas
in the other one, also covered with a slightly lumpy sauce.  
Shinji sniffed the pudding; it smelled like apples.

	"What is this?" Shinji asked.

	"Cinnamon applesauce," Rei said.

	"Applesauce?"

	"Mixed with spices."

	"Okay," he said, and started eating.  It was
reasonably good, although the sauce on the meat tasted a
little funny.  "This is pork, right?" he asked.

	"Long pork."

	He paused.  "It's what?"

	"I asked the cooks for some."

	"The cooks..."  What am I thinking?, he asked
himself.  "So it's ordinary pork?"

	"From the long part of the pig," Rei said, obviously
repeating something she'd just been told.  "Is it good?"

	"Yes, it is," he said.  It looked nasty, but it
tasted okay.

	She smiled.  "Anna helped."

	"Helped you make it?"

	Rei nodded.

	"That was nice of her."  Except for playing jokes
about long pork on her, Shinji thought.

	"Yes."  Rei leaned back against the tree.

	"Thank you."

	"You're welcome," Rei replied.

	Shinji finished off the food.  "How are you doing?"
he asked.

	"Fine," she said.

"Umm, did you and Touji and Hikari...I mean, I heard,
umm..."  Shinji gave up; he couldn't quite ask.

"Dreams, then pillow fight," Rei said.  "It was fun."  She
then cocked her head, frowned, then said, "Must go."  She
took the leftovers and quickly departed.

	I hope she's going to be okay, Shinji thought.


                         -*-

	"What do you think of Commander Ikari?" Margaret
Mallory asked Ritsuko.

	"He's very secretive.  While he's a good commander,
he's also rather brusque and very lacking in people skills,
though I am not well qualified to say that, I suppose,"
Ritsuko replied.

	"Good administrative skills, then?"

	"Yes.  Overall, NERV has remained successful under
his administration.  It would be nice, however, if he wasn't
an asshole."

	Inspector Chang Hsu laughed.  "Would you like to see
him replaced, then?"

	"I can't think of anyone else really suited for the
job,"  Ritsuko said.  "But I wouldn't cry any tears if he
remained demoted a while."

	Inspector Henry N'Kambe nodded.  "Do you think most
of the research section would like to see him replaced?"

	"Most of us probably don't care one way or another.  
As an administrative unit, he's treated us well.  As people,
on the other hand, we've not been so lucky."

	"What about his combat decisions?"

	"He tends to leave the tactical direction to Major
Katsuragi, unless he has some special knowledge to add,"
Ritsuko said.  "In general, though, he has done a good job
on those occassions when he has asserted his command
prerogatives in combat.  I'm more worried about his tendency
to hoard critical information until it's almost too late.  
Which leads to problems like the King in Yellow."

	Mallory consulted some notes.  "Ahh, yes, that.  
Tell us more about that incident."

	"Well, it started with a school play..."

                            -*-

	"So you've been having nightmares?" Ritsuko asked
Shinji later, once she was done talking to the inspectors.

	He nodded, shifting uncomfortably in her office's
spare chair.  "Yes, about a sunken city made of basalt and
all the streets twist about and the buildings lean."

	"With fish swimming about you?  And possibly
fish-men?"

	"Yes," he said.  "Do you know...why this is
happening?"

	"I have a bad feeling.  You see, I've had the
nightmares too, and I think a lot of the Children have as
well."

	"I know Asuka has," Shinji said.

	"You are dreaming of the sunken city of R'yleh,
where sleeps one of the Angels.  He nearly escaped in 1926,
and as the island rose, people around the world had
nightmares about it."

	"Escaped?" Shinji asked.

	"He sleeps, dreaming, within the ruins of his city.  
So far as we can tell, he and his followers came to Earth
hundreds of millions of years ago.  They warred with other
creatures, but eventually, for reasons which have been lost,
their homeland sank beneath the waves and their leader,
Cthulhu, remained trapped."

	"For hundreds of millions of years?"

	"The most potent of the Angels do not seem to age.  
If we can take various legends seriously," her tone made it
clear she wasn't sure if she should, "they seem to go
through long periods of hibernation.  The Angels have all
been hibernating for millions of years, it seems, and now
they are awakening."

	"Why now?" Shinji asked.  "Because of what happened
in Antarctica?"

	"It would seem so.  Sort of like an alarm going off.  
But for creatures which can sleep so long, it can take a
long time to rouse."

	Shinji frowned.  "It seems strange that they all
waited about fourteen years and then woke up after that."

	"The only other thing I could think of is that
someone is going around awakening them," Ritsuko said.  
"But that raises the question of why they are letting them
come one at a time."

	"Well, Asuka had an idea, though I'm not sure I want
to believe it."  Shinji shifted back and forth on his feet
nervously.

	"Go on."

	"Well, she thinks whoever is unleashing them wants
us to win.  That by winning, we build up NERV's authority
and power, by being the one thing which can stop them.  I
think that's a little too paranoid, though.  I mean, just
look at what's happening to Father from just one error.  
Surely if someone was trying to do that, they wouldn't let
us have the big failures we've had."

	Ritsuko nodded.  "I can't quite see that.  And
there's too much evidence the Angels predate this war by a
huge amount."

	Shinji nodded, looking relieved.  "I thought that
too.  I'm thinking there must be something which happened
recently which is setting it off.  Or else maybe some kind
of...I don't know...natural cycle is coming around, and the
Second Impact just happened by chance close to this."

	"Well, right now, we don't have enough evidence.  
However, I can prescribe you and the rest of the Children
some drugs which should help.  I will see about mixing more
up and having them ready for you tomorrow."

	"Alright."  He got up.  "Thank you."

	"You're welcome."

	Shinji left, and Ritsuko sighed.  There were
certainly games afoot beyond what Shinji knew.  She just
wished she knew for sure what they were.


                         -*-

	Pieter wasn't sure what to expect.  Getting into the
meeting had been easy; the group seemed very trusting.  
Which probably meant that nothing important was going to be
said.  But he had to start somewhere.

	The group had split up into smaller groups, and then
everyone started talking about their dreams of all things.  
A tall, balding man was rambling on right now about how he'd
dreamed about the Children setting the stars in the sky.  
Glancing about, he could tell they'd heard this story
before.

	"And then I woke up," he concluded.

	"Fascinating," the man who Pieter guessed was what
seemed to pass for a priest in this group (called 'guides')
said.  The guide, whose name seemed to be Henry, continued,
"How about you, Hans?" he asked Pieter.  "What visions have
you had of late?"

	Pieter panicked for a moment, then said, "I dreamed
of the battle of the Children in Lima, how they defeated the
Dark Sun and slew it, that it might bother humanity no
more."

	"Ahh, that was a glorious day," Henry said.  "Would
you like to tell us more?"

	Pieter thought about it.  "I could see the souls of
the fallen rising up into heaven, the songs they sung in
praise as they rose upwards.  Even the crackling of the fire
was a hymn to their glory."  He paused.  "I'm not good with
words."

	"That's very good," Guide Henry said.  "We must
remember that all those who perish in these battles will go
to be in Heaven; we should not be too sorrowful, for they
have gone to heavenly bliss.  And it is from Heaven that
they send us messages.  I have had one such, of late."

	Everyone became more attentive.

	"A messenger is coming.  Soon, none will be able to
deny the glory of the Children.  From the heavens he comes
to show the whole world their glory.  We must be prepared
for his arrival."

	Hmm, perhaps I've hit gold after all, Pieter
thought.  "How shall we know him?"

	"He flew, shining with light, descending from the
heavens, a great firey wake in behind him.  All will see him
and understand," Guide Henry said, his face lit up with joy.

	Pieter asked, "How soon shall we see him?"

	"Soon.  Very soon."

                         -*-

 	The air had a distinctly shiny air about it, though
not the literal shine of fireworks or sparks floating
lazily.  It was the kind of shine that made everything
appear a shade too bright and a little too blurry.

	Rei walked the streets alone, already knowing where
she was.  This was familiar territory, researched
frequently, and recently.  Perhaps it would go better this
time.  She looked about, making sure all things were in
place.  A scarlet sunset cast its dying rays of light over
the city, as the first stars of night began to shine above.  
A jet flew in the skies high above her, leaving a cloudy
trail.  Lovers walked about in pairs.  There were also
trees, sakura trees, dropping their petals down like snow.  
Even better than last time, yes.

 	Asuka walked the streets alone, knowing she'd been
to this place before, though not quite remembering it.  It
is difficult, after all, to remember dreams unless you focus
upon it before it slips away.

 	Hikari looked around with curiosity, feeling an ache
in her heart as she recognized where she was.  This was
Tokyo-3, before the fall, as if nothing bad had happened at
all.

 	She turned a corner and saw Touji standing there.  
The air around her shimmered a shade of pink, roses framing
her blushing face as she stared at him with starry eyes.

 	Touji turned and met her gaze, the air around him
turning shiny as well.  He opened his mouth, which seemed to
happen in slow motion, and spoke:

 	"Shit, we're dreaming we're in Springtime Cherry
Blossoms.  I think that's definitely a sign we've been
watching it too much."

 	Roses, aura, shining eyes, all gone.

 	Hikari laughed.  "Maybe we are, I guess.  Hey, is
that Rei?"

 	Touji turned and looked.  It was, in fact, Rei,
across the street, walking down the sidewalk at a modest
pace.  "Yeah, it is.  Though something's weird."

 	"You think so too?"

 	As she walked towards them, on the other side of the
road, she finally noticed their preisence.  A gust of wind
blew which nearly blew off her sunhat, and she held it and
her dress down looking flustered.  Then she smiled and waved
at the two.

 	"I think I've got it," said Touji.

 	"Hm?"

 	"She's... normal.  Happy, even."

 	Hikari looked at Rei again as she walked down the
street.  Her walk was relaxed, easygoing, and had a
naturalness to it which Rei was usually lacking in.  The
expression on her face had been normal too, instead of the
strange mask of emotionlessness she normally wore.

 	"You're right," said Hikari.  "She is.  Uh oh."

 	"Uh oh?"

 	"Asuka." She pointed further down the street.  
Touji looked just in time , where Asuka, looking somewhat
troubled, was about to turn the corner that Rei was
approaching.

 	"She's still pissed at Rei?" asked Touji.

 	"Yes."

 	And then they ran into each other.  Asuka's foggy
uncertainty sharpened into an angry resolve, while Rei's
happiness quickly crumbled into surprise and fear.

 	"Like watchin'a car wreck," Muttered Touji.

 	Hikari grabbed his hand and started dashing for the
overpass walkway.  "C'mon!"

 	As they dashed through the overpass walkway, they
could already hear Asuka yelling over the buzz of traffic
noise. But as the two finally ran down the stairway they saw
Shinji had somehow arrived and was already trying to calm
Asuka down.

 	Off on the horizon, the last rays of sunlight faded,
giving up the sky to the darkness of night and infinite
stars.

 	Shinji stood between Asuka and Rei, holding Asuka's
wrists.  "Stop it Asuka!"

 	"Why?! Why do you take HER side?!" shrieked Asuka.  
"I'm the victim here, not her!  Why does everyone take HER
side!"

 	"I'm not taking anybody's side!"

 	"Hey!" shouted Touji, finally arriving with Hikari.  
"Guys, c'mon, calm down!  We can't fight with each other
like this!"

 	"Why the hell not?!" challenged Asuka.

 	"Because we're a team!" he shouted back.  "We gotta
stick together or we're gonna die out there!  All for one
and one for all, and stuff like that!"

 	"We can't trust that monster!" shouted Asuka,
pointing at Rei.

 	Touji looked her in the eye.  "She saved Hikari's
life.  That's good enough for me."

 	There was a moment of awkward silence.

 	Asuka glared at Touji, who glared back.  Finally,
Asuka averted her gaze and sighed.  "Whatever," she mumbled.

 	And then Rei spoke, in the emotionless tone they
were used to hearing.  "Something is here."  Her eyes swept
over the surroundings steadily and her posture shifted to an
attack position.

 	"Something?" asked Shinji.  "What something?"

 	"Something bad.  You should wake up now."

 	In the darkness of a nearby alleyway a red light
shone brightly for a moment, fading into a crimson tri-lobed
eye.  There was a hint of a shape within the shadows,
somewhat like a manta- ray, though far larger than any they
had seen.

 	"You should wake up now," repeated Rei.  She turned
and looked at them, and as their gaze met hers, they
suddenly felt the world around them blur and bend.  The last
thing Shinji saw before waking up was Rei charging into the
alleyway.

 		-*-

 	Shinji rushed over to Rei's room the moment he woke
up.  Hearing his rapid footsteps out the door, Asuka
frowned.

 	She shook her head, then made her way down to the
commisary on the 1st floor.  She was in the mood for some
hot cocoa to soothe her nerves.

 	Much to her surprise, she was not the first one
there.  Anna sat at a table, sipping her own hot cocoa,
looking mildly dazed.  She looked up as Asuka entered.  
"Can't sleep?" she asked.

 	Asuka nodded.

 	"Wanna talk about it?" asked Anna.

 	"Nothing to talk about," mumbled Asuka, hitting the
buttons on the vending machines.  "How about you?"

 	Anna laughed an embarrased laugh.  "You know how I
move a lot in my sleep.  I kinda fell off the bed and bumped
my head on the desk."

 	Asuka blinked, then looked at Anna's forehead, where
a bruise marked the left side.  "Are you okay?" she asked.
"Maybe we should get Dr. Akagi to look at you."

 	"I'm fine, really," assured Anna.  "It's just a
bruise."

 	Asuka looked at Anna doubtfully for a moment.  "If
you start feeling worse, promise me you'll go see the
doctor, okay?"

 	Anna smiled.  "I promise."


                         -*-

	"C'mon, Makoto, you can dance closer to me.  I won't
bite,"  Akane said, smiling her usual confident smile at
him.

	"I might punch you in the nose accidentally or
something,"  he said, lurching about.

	They were in Brown Castle, a dance club; Akane had
insisted on going out to it.  Makoto had been nervous about
running into members of the Children Cult.

	She began to undulate up close to him.  "Follow me,"
she said.

	He quickly caught on, and soon they were both moving
in unison, bodies very close but not quite touching.  After
a little while, his nerves relaxed and he began to enjoy
himself.

	"There, that's better," she said, now beginning to
move her arms up and down his sides, not quite touching
them.  He did the same without being prompted and she
grinned.  "There's hope for you yet."

	"This is kind of fun," he said.

	"I told you it would be."

	"That's him!" someone said.

	He turned and saw a woman wearing the star symbol of
the cult.  She was pointing at him.

	"That's the one!" she said.  Several other people
turned and saw him.

	"We're in trouble," he said.

	She cracked her knuckles.  "We can take them."

	He looked at the increasing number of people looking
their way.  "I don't like brawls."

	"Aww.  Well, we can get the bouncer."

	They headed to find the bouncer, only to spot he was
wearing one of the stars as well.  Makoto frowned.  "Let's
just get out of here and go eat, okay?"

	She sighed.  "Alright, let's go eat."

	They ended up in a quiet little cafe, where they had
a fairly pleasant meal.  However, when they came out, there
were dozens of the star-wearing cultists, from old men to
young children.  Makoto did his best to avoid eye contact.

	Akane, on the other hand, glared back at them.

	One of them said, "There he is!  With some cheap
whore!"

	Makoto's eyes widened and he shouted, "She is NOT a
whore!"

	"Get him!"  The mob charged.

	Makoto took Akane by the hand and dragged her after
him as he took off running down the street.

	"This way!" she said, now taking the lead as she
dodged thrown rocks.

	"We need to get to the police."

	"I don't know where to find the police," Akane said.  
"But I do know where we can get some help."

	They turned several corners, then ran into a pub
where a bunch of men were watching a soccer game.  Akane
said, "Help!  These people are trying to kill us!  Please
help us."  She fluttered her eyelashes and radiated
helplessness.

	Even as some of the mob started to come in the door,
the men rose up, and one of them said, "Don't worry,
fraulein.  We'll deal with these morons."

	"They're probably Munich fans," Makoto contributed.

	The soccer fans charged the onrushing cultists and a
massive brawl erupted.  A fair number of the cultists ran as
soon as they realized they were confronting soccer fans.  
The rest fought on.  Akane grabbed a chair and pitched in,
and Makoto seized one and moved to cover her.

	She bashed down a middle-aged man with the chair,
then followed up with a kick to his groin, while Makoto
battered aside a onrushing punk who had a bike chain.  The
punk now went for a knife, but Makoto's chair gave him more
reach.  He kept swinging it fiercely, driving the man back,
until one of the soccer fans brought a bottle down on the
back of the punk's head.

	He turned and saw Akane bashing a man's head into a
table, and another of the cultists charging her from behind
with a chairleg.  Makoto shouted, "Akane, look out!" then
hurled his chair at the man, who got nailed in the side and
fell down.  Akane threw her foe off to one side and ran back
to Makoto.

	Police sirens began to blare in the distance.  
Akane kissed him on the cheek.  "My hero," she said,
wrapping her arms around him.

	He kissed her back.  "Now you know why I was worried
about going out tonight."

	"You can't let the world push you around," Akane
said.  "You have to seize it by the throat and make it obey
you."

	"I'm not very good at that," Makoto said.

	"I know.  So I'll just have to seize it for you."  
She kissed him again.  "So, have you jumped Misato yet?"

	He looked embarrassed.  "No."

	"Tsk, tsk.  Gotta seize the chance while you can."

	"Do you really want me to jump Misato?"

	"I want you to GO for what you want," she said.  
"Don't let life tell you what to do.  Tell LIFE what to do.  
Though you being so shy is kind of cute."

	"Well, once we talk to the cops, I think I'll take
you home and have my way with you, then," he said, trying to
sound confident.

	She grinned.  "Oooh, I like that idea.  Will it
involve ice cream?"

	"We'll have to buy some on the way home."

	"That's fine.  My treat."  She purred a little.  
"This is going to be fun."


                         -*-

	"Is this really our job?" Misato asked.  "I mean,
really this is a job for the German police, right?"

	Fuyutsuki, Ingrid, Weiss, and Misato were meeting in
conference room five, seated around a shiny black table,
drinking coffee and discussing what to do about the problems
with the cultists.

	"They asked us to do something," Fuyutsuki said.  
"I've been in contact with the state government, and they
don't know how to handle it."

	Weiss frowned.  "But if we get involved...I mean,
this is very much not in our jurisdiction."

	"We need to do something," Fuyutsuki said.  "Not
necessarily anything which would involve arresting people,
but we have to do something, because these people are only
here because we are here.  A propaganda campaign,
encouraging preachers to engage in theological debate, a
television show...I don't know.  Something."

	"Hmm, perhaps some kind of television show, have the
children announce they're not divine," Ingrid suggested.

	"That might be a good idea.  Any other suggestions?"  
Fuyutsuki asked.

	"I'm going to have to think about this some," Misato
said.  "This really isn't my area of expertise.  Perhaps
Maya can think of something; she's our PR expert.  Sort of."

	"Alright.  Well, let's all think about it and meet
again tomorrow," Fuyutsuki said.  "And I will talk to Maya.  
Now, on to other business..."


                         -*-

	"Yo, sis, we came to see you," Touji said.

	She mumbled something.  She mumbled a lot, Touji had
noticed.

	"Everyone's all settled in now," Hikari said,
placing fresh flowers in the vase by the girl's bed.

	"We tried a double date, but it was even more of a
disaster than I would have expected," Touji said.  "I'm just
glad you're in the hospital on the base, or we probably
couldn't visit you."

	"Angles...fish..." Touji's sister mumbled.

	"Damn, that reminds me of that stupid nightmare,"
Touji said.

	"I thought we agreed that never happened," Hikari
said.

	"Right, right," Touji said.  He sat and stared at
his sister for a while.  "Dad's doing okay," he said.  
"He's been working hard, but he's decided he hates German
food.  Which I have kinda mixed emotions.  Some of it is
good, but it reminds me of Asuka."

	"Touji!"

	Touji laughed a little.  "You can see we still don't
agree on that."

	And then Touji's sister's back arched and her eyes
opened and she began to screech.  "IA!  IA!  Cthulhu fhtagn!  
Ph'nglui mglw'nahf Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhatagn.  
Ng'ngri rty'wnhal gshtn y'aghn!"

	"Nurse!  She's having some kind of episode!" Touji
yelled.

	The nurse quickly came and sedated her.  "This has
been happening more frequently of late," she said.

	"Any idea why?" Touji asked.

	"It may mean she's starting to wake up," the nurse
said.  "Otherwise...no idea."

	He nodded, hoping this was a good sign.

                         -*-

	"This could be it," Gendo said, pointing at some
lines on the printout.  "

	"I don't think so," Fuyutsuki said.  "If I
understand what this is saying, it's moving to parallel the
Earth's movement.  I think it's Ghroth."

	"Hmm, I suppose the prophecy could refer to Ghroth."

	"Ghroth isn't really an envoy, though," Fuyutsuki
said.  "There is some chance the prophecy is just another
indication of Nylathotep."

	"Hmm, that's true.  Best we take no chances,
though."  Gendo looked at the documents.  "If this is
Ghroth, then the Spawn isn't showing up."

	"As we might expect.  Polaris was designed to
monitor the Earth, not the entire Solar System,
unfortunately," Fuyutsuki said.  "But we should get some
advanced warning."

	"The Children should be able to handle it, but only
if we are quick enough, before it can start to burrow or
grow."

	"Let us hope for enough advanced warning."

	"Indeed."


                         -*-

	Half the leaders of SEELE were present in the flesh,
half attended only by hologram.  One of those present at the
murky meeting table was known as Scorpion, due to his choice
of a sigil.  "I fear they have betrayed us," he said.

	A floating, inverted ankh spoke with a woman's
voice.  //"You trust too little.  One by one, the Great
One's rivals fall.  They still follow the plan." //

	//"Perhaps," // a lidless eye with a tongue of flame
in the center, replied.  The voice was male and older.
//"Best we take precautions." //

	"We have taken precautions,"  the old man to his
right said.  His hair was grey, but his skin still kept the
even dark tones of youth, or so he told himself. "My work on
DAGON has been largely successful.  We will have Eidoleons
under our direct control when the time comes."

	//"But will they be able to match the strength of
the Children?" // the Inverted Ankh asked.

	"Quantity tends to beat quality.  They will
suffice," the old man said proudly.

	Another old man now spoke, his eyes hidden by a red
visor.  "We must watch and wait.  Should Ikari be removed,
it may not matter if they are loyal or not.  But for now, I
suggest we wait and see how they handle the Spawn of the
Demon Sultan when it lands near their base."  Lorentz
paused, then said, "Though we will have to take precautions
in case they cannot handle it."

	"And be ready to take it for ourselves if they
cannot handle it,"  Scorpion insisted.

	"Yes," Lorentz said.  "It could be very useful, and
this world will be of no use to the Great One if Azathoth's
spawn devours it."

	A floating red cadaceucus now spoke.  //"Then is it
worth the risk of not informing them?"//

	"That is why we will prepare to step in if they
fail.  We will see if they realize what is coming and if
they come to us or try to solve it without us," Lorentz
said.  "Let the Eidoleons be prepared.  The Envoy comes, and
we must be ready."


                         -*-

 	Gendo finished drawing the circle on the floor as
Fuyutsuki lit the candles.  "Are you sure this will work?"
he asked.

 	"Having never had the misfortune to be in the same
solar system as a Seed of Azathoth, no I am not," Fuyutsuki
said, consulting Al-Azif again.  "However, De Vermis
Mysteris also contains this formula and an account of its
use against the Black Meteor of 1438.  We will have to renew
this protection weekly, but I think it is worth the time we
will have to spend."

	Gendo nodded fervently.  "True.  It is unlikely to
make things worse, and if that thing got into the base..."

	"We cannot afford to lose another base," Fuyutsuki
said.  "And the bloodshed would be terrible."

	"We are so close."  Gendo reached out to the
invisible prize, caught himself, and put his hands down.

	Fuyutsuki smiled slightly.  "I know.  Alright, light
the red candle..."

                         -*-

	"Here, try this one," Anna said, pointing to one of
the links on the search page.

	"Alright," Asuka said.  She clicked on it and waited
for it to load.

THE HALLOWEEN 2006 DISASTER

By Richard Krause

I was long reluctant to talk about this, for fear of my old
employers.  However, my sense of responsibility has overcome
my fears, as I think people deserve to know the truth, given
the conclusions which can be drawn from this.

In the fall of 2006, I was a researcher for Gehirn, the
organization set up to 'study the effects of the Second
Impact on the environment'.  Or so people believed.  While I
can't prove it, there is some reason to believe that Gehirn
or its masters may well have been responsible for the Second
Impact.  However, that is a subject for the webpage I am
still working on.

The German wing of Gehirn was based in Munich in 2006,
having taken over an old industrial park which had been
abandoned due to the damage to the German economy caused by
the Second Impact.  I was involved in studying some of the
first samples of what is now known as LCL.  They were rather
secretive about where the stuff came from, but I didn't
care, as I was too excited about the discoveries we were
making to want to risk losing my job.

There were two highly secure zones in the complex.  One of
them was Area Five, where LCL came from, along with various
other strange substances.  The other was Area Nine.  I had
the impression some sort of genetic experiments were going
on in there, but no one really knew for sure.  We liked to
sit around at night and make bets on what was really going
on in there.

I only knew Kyoko Soryuu Zeppelin in a rather peripheral
sort of way.  She worked in Area Nine, and like most of the
people there, tended to largely only associate with other
folk working in that area.  At the time I assumed it was a
matter of security and finding it hard to socialize with
people you couldn't talk about work with, but now I am not
so sure of that.  She struck me as a strong-willed but
somewhat high strung woman, unlike her much more laid back
husband, Pieter Langley, who was a test pilot for some
company up near Berlin.  They had a daughter, Asuka, who is
now one of the Children who pilot the Evangelion Units.  I
have reason to suspect she is the result of genetic
experiments, as you shall see.

Her husband periodically came to visit her, along with their
daughter.  It was during one such visit that the great
disaster happened.

What follows is my reconstruction of events, based, I must
confess, on my talking to people and observation of some of
the locations, rather than any documentary proof.  I will be
the first to admit there may be some errors.

It was Edgar Heinz who was the first to notice that most of
the women in Area Nine were all getting pregnant at once.  
This happened around late September.  Out of twenty women,
fifteen of them were visibly pregnant.  Two of them quit and
got abortions and I never saw them again.  The other
thirteen stuck it out.  Until October 31, 2006.

Pieter Langley showed up with his child for a visit with his
wife that day and the guards on Area Nine wouldn't let him
bring his daughter in.  I happened to be passing and offered
to take his daughter to our daycare facility.  I took Asuka
(who was pretty angry and kept pounding on me) down to the
daycare center, at which point she promptly threw up.  On
me.  The daycare workers had me take her to the infirmary,
at which point I left to go clean up.  This much I can
attest to for certain.  Beyond this, we enter the realm of
what I believe happened based on what I heard from people,
but I cannot be certain.

Pieter went to see his wife, who he found was feeling sick.  
The baby inside her seemed quite agitated as well.  Several
of the other women felt sick as well.  Pieter went to have
an argument with the head of the lab, Dr. Krupp, to try to
get his wife out of work early.  While they argued, the baby
inside one of the other women, Dr.  Margaret Eidel, ate its
way out of its mother, killing her, then attacked another
staff member, Dr. Lawrence Dupois.  Yes, I know this sounds
like a cheap horror movie, but it is the truth.

	Asuka paused in her reading and stared.  She glanced
over at Anna, who was just shaking her head.  She took a
deep breath and tried to still her nerves, which were
starting to jangle.  "He's got to be making this up," she
said.

	"I have a feeling this may have something to do with
why Rei is so strange," Anna said.

	"..."

	"It would make a lot of sense if she's the result of
genetic experiments," Anna said.

	"Hmm, true," Asuka said, then turned back to her
reading.

This seemed to be the signal for the babies inside all the
pregnant women to burst out.  Or, well, most of them.  
Eight out of the other twelve now died as their babies ate
their way out and rampaged.  Two more of the pregnant women
were savaged by rampaging infant monsters and the children
within them devoured.  Equipment was damaged and various
poisonous gases were unleashed into the atmosphere inside
the lab.  As far as I can tell, the gasses killed off most
of the survivors, including the two pregnant women who
remained.

Gehirn security was called in.  The rest of us speculated
wildly until we saw the gases escaping from a damaged
window, and we concluded some horrible lab accident had
taken place.  That was the public story.  Eight people, all
poisoned, survived the disaster.  Three recovered, two died
within hours, and the other three, I talked to before they
died over the next few days.  They still wouldn't explain
everything which had been going on, but I was able to
reconstruct what had happened from what they did say.

The head of the research facility, Dr. Long, called me in,
having found out about my investigation.  He more or less
hinted that I would keep my nose out of things if I wanted
to keep my job, and possibly if I wanted to live.  My need
for employment and my cowardice outweighed my principles,
and so I remained silent.

Dr. Krupp, who somehow survived, was fired summarily, the
blame pinned on him, and a few weeks later he threw himself
into traffic and died.  The lab disaster brought such bad
publicity that the facility was soon closed down, but I was
transferred to do research elsewhere.  Five years ago, I was
hit by a car and ended up with a disabled pension from NERV
and retired to quiet obscurity.

I might never have told this story, except for my fear that
the recent events with the Angels are connected to what
happened that day.  I am still not sure of what exactly was
being done in Area Nine, but I fear it was part of an effort
at mass production of Evangelion Pilots, that somehow they
knew what was coming.  I have seen both Commander Ikari and
Commander Fuyutsuki of NERV (though, of course, neither held
that rank at the time) go in and out of Area Nine in its
heyday, and one of the Children is connected to two of those
who died there.  Perhaps I am just growing paranoid in my
isolation, but I think that something is going on that is
being covered up.

	"This...this can't really be true, can it?" Asuka
asked.  "I mean...You couldn't cover up something like this,
could you?"

	"The Free Press is often not very free, ever since
the chaos after Second Impact," Anna said.  "We're only now
really starting to open up again.  So if you have a
plausible explanation for something most people wouldn't
want to believe anyway because it sounds like a cheap horror
movie, then yes, I think you could, especially if you offer
up a scapegoat for it."

	"I...I should...I ought to talk to this man," Asuka
said.

	"There is an email address.  And you might want to
talk to Dr. Himmelfarb.  She might know the truth.  If she's
willing to tell it."

	Asuka shuddered.  "I have to know the truth."

	Anna nodded.  "You have the right to know."

                         -*-

	"My understanding is that Area Nine was doing the
genetic research which enabled the development of the
Evangelion Units,"  Dr. Himmelfarb said.  "Which involved
large amounts of working with genetically engineered mice
and rats as well as with samples from Adam.  The lab
disaster itself was the result of Dr. Krupp's sloppiness in
storage of various chemicals and failure to inspect various
storage containers.  The result of this was the flooding of
the air conditioning with hallucinogenic gases, followed by
poisoning and spreading of fires.  My understanding was that
your mother, pregnant, succumbed to the poisons because she
overstressed herself trying to help another pregnant woman
get out, while your father went back in to help people and
died as a result of that."

	"Why was the lab storing hallucinogenic gases?"
Asuka asked in disbelief.

	"They weren't originally hallucinogenic, until
containers leaked and mixed together."

	Asuka said, "Did you ever know Dr. Krause?"

	"We worked together for a while until his accident.  
He was a quiet, nervous man, but a good scientist and hard
worker.  I did know he was the one who took you to the
infirmary that day."

	"Where is he now?"

	"I don't know, although I got the vague impression
he was from somewhere in Saxony.  Leipzig, maybe."

	"I guess I'm going to have to confront Commander
Ikari about this."

	Dr. Himmelfarb sighed.  "If it is true, he isn't
going to tell you the truth."

	"I'll MAKE him tell me," Asuka said.

                         -*-

	"Babies eating their way out of their mothers,"
Gendo said.

	"I want to know the truth!"  Asuka banged her fist
on the table.

	"There was a lab accident due to Dr. Krupp turning
out to be far more stupid than anyone had ever imagined.  
Your parents died trying to save people.  Who told you this
story about rampaging monster babies?"  Gendo's voice was
somewhat mocking.

	"I found it on a website by someone who worked
there.  Dr.  Himmelfarb confirmed he was there."

	Gendo turned his monitor around and passed his
keyboard to Asuka.  "Please show me this website."

	Asuka got out her notepad, on which she'd written
down the url and punched it in.  She got a 404 instead.  
"Dammit, I think I wrote it down wrong."

	"Take your time," Gendo said, rising.  "I'm going to
get a cup of coffee.  Would you like some?"

	"No, thank you," she said and kept typing.

	He came back with fresh coffee and several donuts,
one of which he began to eat.  He leaned back in his chair.  
"How is it going?"

	"Dammit, I can't find the website," she said.  "I'm
going to have to get the copy I saved at home and
double-check the address."

	"Alright," Gendo said.  "I am stuck here until
five."

	"I'll be back sooner than that."


                         -*-

	The web search couldn't find the page.  Her
bookmarked url gave her a 404 error.  The saved version had
vanished off her hard drive.  She hadn't printed it out yet,
so she didn't have a hard copy.  She did still have the
man's email address in her address book, though.

	Asuka cursed loudly.  "Dammit!"

	Shinji stuck his head in the door.  "What's wrong?"

	"Shinji, you believe me, don't you?" she asked
softly.

	"Uh, believe you about what?" he asked, coming over
to her.

	"About what happened."

	"Umm, happened to what?"

	"Oh wait, I hadn't told you."

	"Yes," he said, a little impatiently.

	She got up and hugged him silently.  "I found this
website, you see..."  She explained the whole story, leaning
against him.  "But now I can't find the site, and almost all
my evidence is gone."

	"Well, you know, given the man got all his
information from people dying of poison after inhaling
hallucinogens, it's possible that they imagined the whole
baby thing," Shinji said softly.  "If some kind of genetic
experiment creature got loose which they'd made out of
Adam's...stuff, they might have all somehow gotten the idea
it ate its way out of someone."

	"Shinji, it...it...you don't think I imagined the
whole thing, do you?"

	"No, of course not, but I don't think I'd trust some
disgruntled ex-employee telling a story that sounds like a
cheap horror movie either," Shinji said.  "And even he
admitted he hadn't actually SEEN any of what he claimed
happened."

	"You saw what my blood did to Anna.  Now imagine if
some babies were injected with it or something?  Or even
engineered to be part-Adam...Shinji, that could be where Rei
came from."

	He frowned.  "Hmm, I suppose that would make sense.  
But you don't have any evidence."

	"I have his email address.  Once he writes me back,
I can find out more."

	"Good luck."

	"Kiss me," she said softly.

	Shinji leaned in and kissed her.  She pressed hard
against him while they kissed, then leaned back and said,
"Can you just...sit with me a while?"

	"Sure," Shinji said, going over to sit down on her
bed with her, an arm around her shoulders.  "I...I wouldn't
mind if you ever want to do that again."

	"Do what again?"

	"Make me a German lunch."

	She smiled.  "You could just ask."

	"Ask...oh, right, ask.  Yes."

	"You don't have to be nervous.  I won't bite," Asuka
said, then kissed his cheek.  "I'll make you a nice lunch
tomorrow, then.  What would you like?"

	"Surprise me," he said.  "I don't know much about
German cooking."

	"Alright," she said.  "I have some good ideas.  
Hmm, you all done with your homework?"

	"Ack!  I came over to ask you for help with
something, but no, I have a big mountain of it to finish,"
Shinji said.

	She got up.  "Okay, then, let's defeat your
homework, and then we can do something fun."

	"Sounds good to me," he said.


                         -*-

	"You want us to do what?" Hikari asked.

	"We've decided to see if we can lessen cult
recruiting by having each of you record some public service
announcements to the effect that you are not gods," Maya
said.

	"Maybe we should just make a big public appearance
to do it," Hikari said.

	"We may try that, but we're worried about rioting,
whereas radio and TV ads rarely cause rioting."

	"People often don't believe them either," Hikari
said.

	Maya sighed.  "I know, but it can't hurt, I hope."

	"Sure," Hikari said.  "Let's go."

	"Follow me."

                         -*-

 	Touji faked left, stutter-stepped right, then pulled
back for a fadeaway jumper.

 	Clang.  Clang.  Swish.

 	He smirked.  "Ha.  Still got the touch.  That's the
power of the captain of the basketball team!"

 	Shinji picked up the ball and tossed it to him.  
"Too bad there isn't a basketball team to play for anymore."

 	Touji caught the ball and shot a quick jumper.  
"That's a problem, yeah."

 	Clang.  Thud.  Swish.

 	Shinji tossed the ball to him again.  "How's your
sister?  Doing any better?"

 	"Backboard!" Touji shouted, shooting again.

 	Thud.  Swish.

 	"Sis is... well, she's still in a coma, but now she
mumbles a lot.  Weird stuff.  Aiya Aiya Callyou!  Or
something."

 	"Uh."

 	"It's better than her just being quiet," said Touji.  
"I think."

 	"Yeah."

 	Touji shot more baskets in silence for a while, then
asked, "Any strange dreams lately?"

 	Shinji shook his head.  "No.  You?"

 	"Nope."

 	"Oh."

 	"Let's hope it stays that way, eh?"

	"Yeah," Shinji said.  "Has Maya gotten you to do one
of those ads yet?"

	"Tomorrow," Touji said.  "You think I should dress
up?"

	"She had me wear my plug suit for the TV one."

	"Any idea when these will air?  I'd like to see
myself."  He dribbled the ball around Shinji in a circle,
then took a shot and made it, grinning.

	"You'd have to ask Maya," Shinji said.

	"Right.  I reckon I'll do that."  He made another
shot which missed.  "Later."

                         -*-

	"Did you ever hear back from that guy?" Hikari asked
Asuka.

	"No.  We tracked down his address, but he's in
Leipzig.  And he's not answering the phone."

	"Maybe you should take a train there and check,"
Hikari said.

	"It's about six hours by train there.  We could wait
for Sunday and make a day trip of it," Anna said.

	"Alright, sounds good," Asuka said.  "If it all
turns out to be fake or something, we can just make it a
girls' day out."

	"I'll see about finding some nice places to visit
while we're there," Anna said.

	"Should be fun," Hikari said.


                         -*-

	Touji stared at himself on the screen.  "Ugh. I look
like a total dweeb."

	"The camera never lies," Asuka said, grinning.

	The viewing room was packed full of staffers and
Children, as they watched the various short spots Maya had
filmed.

	"The camera keeps wobbling," Anna said.

	"It's a dynamic viewpoint," Maya said.

	"Dynamically wobbling," Misato muttered.  "Can we
turn the sound up?"

	"You'd hear it better if everyone didn't talk over
it," Maya said a little crossly.

	That got the silence she wanted.


                         -*-

	"So bored..." Touji mumbled as he sat on a bench
with Shinji.

	Shinji, listening to music on his headphones, did
not reply.

	"I wanna do something."

	"Do what?" Shinji asked.  "We can't even go into
town with the lunatics on the loose and no one to
translate."

	"We could play basketball," Touji said hopefully.

	"You already beat me enough today," Shinji said.  
"I wish Asuka was here."

	"I wish Hikari was here," Touji said.

	For a time, silence.

	"We're pathetic," Touji said.  "Our girlfriends are
gone, and we're just sitting here on this bench."  He
groaned and looked up at the sky.

	"We could go watch TV."

	"Wouldn't understand it."  Touji paused.  "You think
they'd let us try the shooting gallery?"

	"We're too young in Germany, too."

	He sighed again.  "Gotta be SOMETHING we can do."

	"Maybe we..."  Shinji paused.

	"Something wrong?"

	"I don't know," Shinji said.  "I have a bad
feeling."

	"As in 'incoming attack' bad?"

	"No, just a feeling."

	Touji sighed.  "Damn.  Hmm, we could go play some
computer games, I guess."

	"Alright," Shinji said, getting up.  "Should be
fun."

	"Funner than the bench, anyway."

                         -*-
	
	Far away, Asuka, Anna, and Hikari had found the
apartment building of Dr. Krause, a stolid old brownstone,
and gone inside to talk to the landlord.

	"He's dead," the landlord said to Asuka.  "Has been
for days now.  Someone tried to rob his apartment and ended
up shooting him dead."  He was a short, balding man, about
as wide as he was tall.

	"..."

	"They stole his TV, his computer, the silverware and
a lot of his books.  Very thorough."  The landlord shook his
head.  "A pity.  Dr. Krause was a quiet man, never bothered
anyone.  The funeral was very nice."

	"When did he die?"

	"The twenty-second."

	A week before I found his webpage, she thought.  I
guess the ISP wasn't lying when they said his account was
shut down for not paying his bill, but...  She could still
smell a rat.

	Going to have to force the truth out of Gendo, she
decided.  If he had this man killed, he's going to PAY.

  

                         -*-

	"I want to know the TRUTH!" Asuka shouted at Gendo.

	Sitting behind his desk, he simply folded his hands
and fixed his stare on her.  If it was supposed to
intimidate her, it didn't work.  "Some things are sensitive
information, which is not simply given out to anyone who
asks for it."

	"It's about my parents!  I have the right to know
what really happened to them!  You were there!  You know
what happened!"  She pointed at him accusingly.

	"I expect that if I was there, I would be dead,"
Gendo said.  "Your parents died bravely trying to save
others.  That is all that matters."

	"Because you did some kind of genetic
experimentation on my sibling and on all those other babies!  
And covered it up!"  A soft red glow was forming around her
hand now.

	"This matter is closed," Gendo said.  He pushed his
glasses up and started to turn away from her.

	Asuka's hand burned brightly with flames now, only
inches away from Gendo's chest.  "WRONG.  You are going to
tell me or I am going to beat it out of you!"

	For a moment, she saw a look of fear, and then his
emotional mask slammed back down.  She could almost smell it
now, through the front he put up.  "Do you think Shinji
would be very appreciative if you burned me to death?"

	She winced.  "I want to know the truth!"

	"Your willingness to kill me over this shows how
little ready you are for any real truths," Gendo said.  His
voice was cold and stern; it was hard to tell what he was
really feeling.  She could get a hint of contempt from it
which only made her more angry.

	"I'll show..."

	Then she felt a pulse of power behind her and turned
to see what it was.  Bubbles dispersed as Touji and Shinji
stood among them.  Shinji said, "Asuka, what are you doing?"  
He looked very worried.  Touji was watching her burning
hand.

	"I want to know what happened to my parents!  
They've been lying to me!" Asuka shouted.

	Touji half-stepped towards Asuka, then stopped
nervously.  Shinji walked over to her and thrust his hand
into her flame and took her hand, staring into her eyes.  
He said softly, "Please don't threaten my father, Asuka."

	She held his hand tensely.  "I want to know the
truth.  And he and Fuyutsuki are the only people who know!"

	"Father, Asuka has the right to know what happened
to her parents," Shinji said to Gendo.  "Please tell her."  
His voice was half-pleading, half-demanding, as he looked
his father in the face;  he looked worn.

	They stared at each other for a few seconds, then
Gendo said, "Alright.  This is what happened.  The early
experiments with the development of the Evangelion units
revealed that most people went mad or mutated horribly after
trying to control our test model.  Others died."  He paused,
taking a sip of coffee, then brooded for a minute.  
Finally, he said, "Like Yui, my wife, Shinji's mother.  
However, we were able to establish that Rei could link
safely with an EVA unit, and we isolated what we thought
were the genetic factors which would enable other people to
control them.  Through careful work, we created fetuses with
those characteristics and implanted them in volunteers."

	"My mother volunteered for something like that?"
Asuka asked in horror.

	"Your mother understood the danger our world faced.  
It seemed a necessary risk.  What followed...was a disaster.  
Our knowledge was imperfect.  We did not fully appreciate
the qualities of Adam's genetic material.  The result was
that one of the children did, in fact, eat her way out.  In
the resulting chaos, things were broken and spilled, a fire
broke out, and the lab went up in anarchy and death."  
Gendo paused to sip his coffee.

	Continuing, he said, "We don't know all the details,
as most of those involved died, and most of the survivors
were too busy panicking to pay attention.  Your mother died
when her child ate its way out as well, apparently trying to
escape the disaster.  Your father helped some of the few
survivors out, then went back in after his wife and died as
a result of too much exposure to the poisonous gases.  Dr.
Krupp, the lab head, killed himself a few days later from
shame."

	"How could you do something like that?  That's
horrible, going around altering the genetics of babies!  
How could you do that to my parents?" Asuka shouted, flames
now erupting all over her body.  Shinji continued to grip
her hand.

	"Because the future of humanity was on the line.  
Until it was discovered that YOU could be a pilot, we had no
potential pilots but Rei, and Rei...our efforts to duplicate
Rei were a total disaster.  And if we had no pilots,
humanity would be doomed when the Angels came."

	"So Rei IS a genetic experiment."  Asuka struggled
to calm herself.

	"Yes.  This why all those clones rampaged during
Adam's escape.  Unfortunately, they were all flawed.  Only
Rei can survive exposure to LCL and remain human and sane,
and we don't know why.  Even now."  Gendo's voice was firm,
but his hands shook slightly.

	Asuka's self-control broke down again, though she
was trying to control herself, for Shinji's sake if not for
Gendo's.  "Why didn't you ever TELL ME?"

	"It could only bring you pain," Gendo said.  "And it
was true.  The few survivors said they tried to help people
and there was a laboratory accident.  You were a small child
and having to tell you your parents were dead was bad
enough."

	Asuka began to cry.  "I'm not a child any more."

	"An adult would not, I hope, threaten to kill me
because of my refusal to reveal classified information,"
Gendo said.  "Your power is vast, but your maturity still
has a long way to go."

	"Father, that was cruel," Shinji said sharply.  
"Can't you see you've hurt her?"

	"I tried to avoid having to tell her," Gendo said,
turning to Shinji.  "But she insisted on the whole story and
so did you."  His tone of voice made it clear he felt no
guilt at her reaction.

	"Mama, papa..."  Asuka broke down completely.

	"Shinji, Touji, please take her home," Gendo said
tightly.  For a moment, Shinji could see his eyes through
the glasses, tracking her flames.

	"Yes, sir," Touji said softly.  He seemed relieved
to go.

	"We will," Shinji said, turning to Asuka and leading
her out with an arm around her.

	They departed.  Gendo sat in silence, watching them
go.  Once their footsteps faded, he got up and shut the
door, then came back over to his chair and took a long
draught of coffee.  Then he began to shake and spilled the
rest of it on his desk.

	And then the tears came.

	
                         -*-


	Shinji sat on Asuka's bed, his arms around her,
holding her.  She'd finished crying earlier, and now she was
just quiet, listening to the soft music he'd put on her
stereo.  Anna and Hikari sat in chairs nearby, and Touji
lurked near the door with the look of someone who felt he
ought to do something, but didn't know what.

	Hikari asked softly, "You want to play cards or
something, Asuka?  Or would you rather we give you some
privacy?"

	"Don't leave me alone," she said softly.

	"I'll go get some cards," Touji said.

	He left, and quickly after, Rei entered hesitantly,
a book in her hands.  "May I?" she asked.

	Asuka started to say no, to yell at her and tell her
to go away forever.  And then she remembered what she had
learned, that Rei was just an experiment, something which
had been made to be a pilot.  She'd been a puppet all her
life.

	Everything Asuka was struggling with inside herself,
the changes moving her away from humanity, Rei had struggled
with that her entire life.  She glanced at the book; it was
another manga.  'One Summer Day', another love triangle
story.  There had to be some better way for Rei to get a
grip on how to deal with people than that.

	She could feel Rei's pain; she could smell the
regrets.  Asuka thought about how she'd nearly tried to fry
Gendo to a crisp a little earlier.  Control was so hard, and
it was so easy to give in to the beasts howling in her mind,
the pieces of souls she had stolen, devoured, assimilated.  
They wanted her to be like them, a killer, a monster.

	Looking over at Shinji, she wondered if he felt like
she did, if these voices gibbered at him.  He seemed so kind
and gentle, like they could never do that to him.  He smiled
back at her, and his smile made her feel more human.  It
gave her strength for what she needed to do.

	She reached inside her mind, to a place she didn't
want to go, ever.  Where the fragments of the Violator
lived, and she beat them down with the anger she'd been
directing at Rei, and probed into them, trying to find the
answers she'd been afraid to look for.

	To her regret, it didn't know.  It could only see
what happened to those directly under its sway, not what
happened to those merely influenced.  She kicked its mind,
and came back to herself, back to her sorrow.

	Rei looked just like she felt, Asuka realized.  So
sad and lonely.  She didn't want to forgive Rei; the memory
of what had happened was still strong.  But she had lost her
certainty that Rei had done what she did out of the freedom
of her own will.  Rei had been overcome, as others were, and
hadn't been able to help herself.  She could tell that now,
intellectually, though her gut feelings still screamed in
outrage and pain.

	So she forced her instincts down, and tried to keep
the reins in the hands of her rational mind.  "Yes, come
in," Asuka said softly.  "So you were an experiment."

	Rei blinked and came over to kneel in front of
Asuka.  "My birth, yes."

	"Are we all just puppets?  Just someone's
experiment?"  Asuka asked bitterly.  "Damned to turn into
monsters because no one knew what they were doing?"

	"We are the Children," Rei said.  "That is destiny.  
But what we do, that is us."

	Touji came back with the cards, then looked
nervously at Rei and Asuka.

	"I feel like a puppet, a doll, just dancing on
strings and doing what I'm told like a mannequin," Asuka
said angrily.  "What else haven't they told us?"

	"Many things, I think," Anna said.

	"Yeah, there's a lot of secrets here," Touji said.

	"It doesn't always help much to know the truth,"
Shinji said.  "It hurts, sometimes."

	Asuka began to shake, though not to cry.  She said,
"I don't want to be a monster."

	"You're not a monster," Hikari said firmly.  
"You're my friend, and a good human being.  We may have
special powers, but that just gives us more
responsibilities.  It doesn't make us monsters."

	"We are more gods than monsters," Anna said.  
"Don't fear your powers.  Embrace them and use them wisely.  
It is why we were born, to have these abilities.  This is
why we exist."

	"I just want to know what's going on," Asuka said,
sighing as her rage began to fade.  She leaned against
Shinji.  "Shinji...you don't regret being my boyfriend, do
you?"

	Shinji blushed slightly.  "Of course not," he said.  
"You're a very good girlfriend."

	Rei stared at the floor.

	Asuka tried to make herself smile and failed.  She
could still feel her thoughts spinning, but she didn't want
to burden everyone too much with them.  I hate feeling like
this, she thought.  "Let's all play cards."

	Rei got up.

	Asuka said, "You too, Rei.  I don't like you.  I
don't know if I'll ever like you.  But...but Shinji likes
you.  And I trust Shinji.  I want to hate you, but I
just...You probably can't help how you are, and..."  She
shuddered, and held back the urge to cry more.  "I need
people here, right now.  Even you and Touji."

	"Hey!" Touji said.  "I ain't stayin' if I ain't
wanted."

	"Don't go," Asuka said, staring at him sadly.  
"Please."

	"Uh, okay," he said, then sat down awkwardly with
the cards.  "What are we gonna play?"

	"Poker," Asuka said.

	"I'll get my change cup," Anna said.

 	The game couldn't take away Asuka's pain, but it
did, at least, dull the edges a little.

                         -*-

 	Gendo paced back and forth.  "We are going to have
to take stronger measures to try to weaken the cult.  The
ads are not working."

	"Perhaps if we give them more time..." Fuyutsuki
began as he sat at the briefing table, sipping his coffee.

	"We don't have time," Gendo said.  "If the timeline
for the rising of the Sea King is the same as last time, we
have only weeks at best, and probably less, until he rises.  
Since we can't strike at them without proof that would
satisfy the inspectors, we have to up the level of our
publicity campaign."

	Fuyutsuki sighed.  "But the more public the
announcement, the higher the security risk."

	"They will deny anything they can't see with their
own eyes," Gendo said.  "It has to be here, and it has to be
in public.  I don't like it, but time grows short.  We can't
afford to risk them being used against us, or them deciding
to storm the base to try to 'liberate' the Children.  Or
having more of our staff attacked whenever they go to town.  
They actually ambushed one of our supply trucks yesterday.  
I want them removed before the 'Envoy' comes for them."  He
sat down.  "Do you think..."

	"The inspectors?  I don't think they like us, but
they do not seem too hideously biased.  And can you blame
them?"

	Gendo shook his head, sipping his own coffee.  "No.  
I fear I would not like me either."  He stared at his
gloves.  "We are so close.  So close to the end of it all.  
Tell me we're going to make it."

	"We're going to make it," Fuyutsuki said.

	"Good."

	"Unless Nylarathotep corrupts the Children and they
feast on our hearts," Fuyutsuki continued.

	Gendo winced.  "I'm supposed to be the one who looks
on the dark side."

	"My hope is great, but so is my fear," Fuyutsuki
said, staring into his glass.

	"Just keep telling yourself, only two more to go."

	"Possibly plus the Envoy."

	"THREE more to go."

	Fuyutsuki rose.  "Time to make the announcements."

	"Good luck."

	"I never count on luck."

	"Nor I, but I cannot help hoping for it.  Even I am
superstitous in my own way."

	Fuyutsuki shook his head.  "So are we all."

                         -*-


	Maya paced back and forth as everyone got into
position and the cameras finished setting themselves up.  
It had to be publically viewable, so that the cultists would
have no excuses to claim the broadcast had been faked by
NERV.  The advertising campaign was having little effect
because the cultists had convinced themselves it was all
staged and done with CGI.  Those present at this conference
would see the Children deny their divinity with their own
eyes.

	This raised massive security issues, however.  
They'd set up in the town square, and the area right around
the cameras and platform were guarded by NERV security and
the local police, but both groups were a thin blue line
between the great mob of onlookers and the stage.  She had a
bad feeling this could lead to rioting.  But Fuyutsuki had
decided a very public statement was best.  Anything more
secure would be more easily deniable.

	She had agreed at first, but now she wasn't so sure.

	Ritsuko put a hand on her shoulder.  "Calm down,"
she said.

	Maya tried to and failed.  "They're going to riot."

	"That's what I'm afraid of," Misato said.  "If we
have to shoot these people, it's just going to be hideously
ugly.  I can't imagine why Fuyutsuki is insisting on doing
this in this way.  If we wanted a public announcement, we
should have gone to Berlin or something, where there's more
secure locations.  Or just broadcast from the base."

	"The cultists are here and need to see it.  They
wouldn't believe the ads, thought they were faked," Ritsuko
said, shaking her head.  "But this, they can't deny.  I
suspect he may be hoping the cultists will be willing to
take an order to stand down from the Children if they can't
be convinced to stop worshipping them,"  Ritsuko said.  
"And we do have a way out kept open."

	"I don't like this," Misato said.  "Ingrid thinks
we'll be okay, but I just...Too much can go wrong."

	"Let us hope for the best, and plan for the worst."  
Ritsuko checked her notes nervously, waiting.

	"We're ready," one of the cameramen said to Maya.

	She nodded and came to the front, stepping up to the
podium.  "Hello, everyone," she said.  "I'm Maya Ibuki of
NERV.  We are aware our organization is often rather
secretive.  A lot of that is necessitated by security
reasons; if we tell the world things, our enemies hear them
too.  But sometimes we can be more close- mouthed than is
really necessary, so we're staging this show to give you all
more of an idea of how things have been going and what NERV
does to work for the security of the world.  We're also
going to be dealing with a question which has aroused a lot
of interest, why it is that these Children are the only ones
who can pilot Evangelion units.  We hope you enjoy our show,
and pardon our lack of grace, we're scientists and soldiers,
not entertainers."

	She did her best to smile.  "First up is our own
tactical section commander, Major Misato Katsuragi, who will
be explaining our past campaigns."

	Misato stepped up and began to give a series of
reports on the past missions, with Maya translating.  
Nervous at first, she soon forgot all the cameras pointing
at her and became comfortable in her report.

	High above them, the sky began to be streaked by
falling meteors, first a few streaks, and then many.  Some
of those listening gazed up and watched the rocks fall from
the heavens, though it was hard to see them through the
lights of the town.

	Ritsuko was next, with Dr. Himmelfarb assisting and
translating for her.  She laid out how one of the Angels had
been captured in Antarctica and studied, used as the
blueprint for creating weapons with which to fight the
Angels, and how the Second Impact had thrown various
substances into the atmosphere of Angelic manufacture, which
had produced the many mutations noteworthy in children
concieved within a year or so of Second Impact.  In the case
of some children, there was a mutation which allowed one to
synchronize with and control the Evangelion units.

	She repeated NERV's current operating theory: the
Angels were alien war machines, abandoned on Earth for
unknown reasons, and now coming awake due to the shifts in
the Earth's magnetic field since Second Impact, or possibly
due to signals released by malfunctioning Angelic machines
shortly before Second Impact.

	Gendo looked up at the sky and frowned.  "Do you
think...?" he asked Fuyutsuki.

	"I have a bad feeling this may be it," Fuyutsuki
replied.

	Ritsuko then turned things over to the Children to
speak.  She had intended for Asuka to be the spokeswoman,
but Asuka was so depressed lately that they expected she
would do more harm than good.  Since Anna was the only other
one who could speak German, they'd asked her to speak on
behalf of the Children.  She'd been eager to accept.

	"Greetings, peoples of Earth," Anna said, reading
from her speech.  "We are the Children, chosen by destiny to
rescue mankind from the threat of the Angels.  We will lead
humanity into the light of a new age, out of this age of
darkness which has come since the fall of the old world in
the Second Impact.  The old gods have failed, we are the new
gods who will lead humanity in a new age."

	Asuka hardly noticed what Anna was saying, too lost
in a funk to pay much attention to it.  The rest of the
Children, blissfully unaware of what Anna was actually
saying, sat quietly and tried to look responsible.

	Misato listened and tried to piece together what
Anna was saying, but couldn't manage it.  Ritsuko winced, as
did Maya.  Fuyutsuki frantically signalled the cameramen to
cut the cameras.  They tried, but Fuyutsuki could still see
the broadcast continuing on his monitor.  He signalled
again.

	The cameraman came over to him, saying, "The cameras
won't turn off, sir."

	"We have to stop her," Fuyutsuki said urgently.

	"The mob will riot," Misato said, half-watching
Anna.  "What's she doing?"

	"NERV is a corrupt organization, which has killed
the following people," Anna said, beginning to read from a
list.

	Asuka failed to notice; she was half-zoning out,
lost in her own thoughts.  The other Children listened to
the list of names and wondered what she was doing.

	"She's condemning NERV.  We're going to have to
chance the riot," Fuyutsuki said.

	And then Weiss' cellphone rang.

                         -*-


	Otto Hausen banged away at his keyboard, trying to
get his weekly report done so he could go home and relax.  
It had been a quiet week, in which Polaris had found nary a
hint of Angels, but he still had to give a daily breakdown
of the scanning and write an extensive report which would
take 20 pages to say 'Nothing Happened.' His work was
interrupted, however, by his computer speaking to him.  
"WARNING, ANGEL SIGNAL DETECTED."

	He quickly saved his report and switched windows,
calling up the Polaris Activity Monitor.  Polaris had just
picked up an Angel signal entering the Earth's atmosphere
from the general direction of the galactic core.

	He fumbled for his cellphone.  Time to call
Commander Weiss, he thought.

                         -*-
 

	Weiss took the call and quickly talked to Otto.

	One of the stars high above was growing brighter as
Ritsuko stepped up to another microphone.  "There are no
gods.  The powers of the Children are entirely explainable
by scientific means and reproducible by science.  Would real
gods need an extensive support structure to provide them
with weaponry and LCL?  Would their divine powers only
awaken after the use of scientifically developed equipment
to battle other scientifically explainable alien beings?"

	Anna turned and glared daggers at Ritsuko.  Shinji
asked Asuka, "What's going on?"

	Asuka started and tried to make sense of the things
she'd heard, but which she hadn't really been paying
attention to.  Her eyes widened a little as it all sank in.  
"Anna is claiming we're gods," she said.  "Which we aren't."  
She stared at the ground.  "Monsters maybe, but not gods."

	Hikari strode up and grabbed another microphone.  
"We are not gods!" she said in Japanese.  "If we were, we
wouldn't need translators and Touji would get better
grades."

	"HEY!" Touji said.

	"I keep telling him to study, but he won't study
hard enough," Hikari said.  "Anna here may think she's a
goddess, but I guess she's forgotten all the times she's had
nightmares and run crying to Asuka."

	Hikari looked meaningfully at Asuka for
confirmation.  Asuka said, "Anna, what are you doing?  Why
are you doing this?"  She had a very bad feeling she knew
why, but she didn't want to believe it could be true.  Not
again.  Not to Anna.

	"What else could you call these powers we weild but
the power of gods?"  Anna asked.  "Didn't the Elder Gods
tell Asuka and Touji that their blood flowed in our veins?"
she asked them.

	"Uhh...yeah, they might have said something about
that,"  Touji said, trying to remember.

	The brightly glowing star became a streak, heading
off east of town.

	The crowd stirred restlessly.  Gendo glanced over at
the UN Inspectors, who looked rather nervous, for which he
couldn't blame them.  If I had known that Anna was going to
turn on us, Gendo thought, I wouldn't have done this.  But
now all we can do is try to salvage it.

	"Angel, incoming, going to land 3 kilometers east of
town,"  Weiss said to Fuyutsuki.

	Gendo winced.

	"Children, we have an Angelic attack!  We're going
to bring your EVA units.  Get ready!" Fuyutsuki shouted.

	The crowd began to chant "Blessed be the Children!"

	"We do not need your machines any more!" Anna
announced.  "We are gods made flesh!"  She rose into the
air, sprouting a winged aura.  "Come, let us destroy our foe
that we might feast on its power!"

	And then she flew in the direction the meteor was
going.

	The Children stared at her in shock as she took to
the sky.

	Touji mumbled, "What's she talking about now?"

	"Anna, come back!" Asuka shouted, taking to the sky
and flying after her.

	"Stop, stop!" Misato shouted.  "It's too dangerous!"

	Rei now sprouted black wings and flew after Anna and
Asuka.

	"How are we..." Touji began.

	Shinji took each of them with one arm and grew great
white wings and flew into the air.

	"Well, shit," Touji said.

	"Shinji, come back here!"  Misato shouted.

	"I can't let them go alone!" he said.

	"At least turn on your cellphone so you can let us
know what's going on!" Misato shouted.

	Shinji said, "Hikari, call Misato's phone."

	She nodded and did so as Shinji streaked east.
	

                         -*-

	As the support staff began trying to load the EVA
units onto their transports, the units stirred to life,
sending support staff running in every direction.

	They smashed their way out of the hanger, then began
to run cross-country towards the Rhine.

                         -*-
	
	The glowing meteor impacted before the Children
could catch up with it.  As they approached, they saw it
smash into a cannery and a machine parts plant, reducing
both to crushed and twisted metal.  Surrounded by a fused
and warped parabola of hotly glowing metal, the meteor's icy
exterior broke open, releasing a large glowing yellow mass
about the size of a small car which oozed up the side of its
own crater.  As it moved, it began to devour the metal and
rock around it, growing in size.

	"Great, it's the damn Blob," Touji said.  "Anyone
got a giant freezer handy?"

	Rei spread her arms and the skies clouded over.  
Shinji and Asuka saw this and concentrated as well.  Soon, a
massive snowstorm was erupting down on the creature.  It
seemed more annoyed than hurt.

	"This isn't the Blob!" Anna shouted.  "It's a Seed
of Azathoth, not a B-movie monster!"

	"What the fuck is that?" Touji asked.

	"In the center of the universe dwells the Daemon
Sultan, Azathoth," Anna said.  "Surrounded by his court,
which soothes his insane rages, he rules over all of
creation.  At times, he spawns, spitting forth a portion of
himself which travels through space until it strikes a
world, which it then devours to become a junior version of
its father."

	"Shit," Touji said.

	"We have to confine it with our AT-fields," Shinji
said.  "As we did to Adam."

	"Do you really think we can do it without our EVAs?"  
Hikari asked nervously.

	"We have to try," Shinji said.

	Hikari relayed the information to Misato, who
replied, //"The EVAs have burst loose and are coming your
way.  See if you can hold it with the AT-fields, but don't
risk getting yourself killed before they get there."//

	"Damn, I wish I could sprout wings too," Touji said.  
"So we could all spread out around it."

	"You can!" Anna shouted.  "We absorbed Adam's power,
and now our forms are as fluid as his."

	"Really?" Touji asked.  He tried telling his body to
grow wings.  His shirt ripped as huge red wings now erupted
out of his shoulderblades.  "Well, damn."

	"What, completely fluid?" Hikari asked as she grew
wings.

	"We are gods!  Our flesh obeys our commands!" Anna
shouted as she moved into position.

	The Children fanned out, forming a hexagon around
the growing Seed, which continued to lash about wildly,
devouring everything its fluidly shifting tentacles lashed
about.  They extended their arms and formed six AT-fields.  
Four of them shone brightly, two glowed dimmer.  They
extended outwards until they touched each other, and then
they began to close in on the Seed.

	It began to lash out against their fields, but the
fields held, slowly pressing it in on itself, compacting it.  
But the more it was compressed the stronger the pressure
grew.

	They could feel the howling of its mind as it
pressed against their AT-fields.  Touji began to sweat,
afraid it was going to break through where he was; he could
feel his AT-field bending.  Rei pressed in silently, with
perhaps just a hint of triumph in her eyes.  Anna grinned
like a cat playing with a mouse, while Shinji looked openly
scared but advanced none the less.  Asuka looked very grim.
Touji glanced over at Hikari, and saw she looked pretty
nervous.

	This is too easy, Touji thought.  Even if it's not
going so well for me.  He felt himself slide back a step and
tried to dig his feet into the ground.  I wish our EVAs
would get here.

	//"How's it going?"// Misato asked Hikari.

	"I think we're winning.  We got here fast enough, I
guess."  Hikari tried to calm her nerves, but she was very
scared of all the things which could go wrong here.

	//"Commander Fuyutsuki wants you to contain it until
the EVAs arrive.  He's hoping we can take it alive."//

	"Can we really contain this thing?" Hikari asked.

	//"He believes so, if you can make sure it doesn't
grow any larger."//

	The fields had become a sphere, pressing in on the
Seed from all sides.  Its sickly yellow glow cast the
features of the Children in a ghoulish light.  It was
screaming in impotent, ignorant rage, the howl of a caged
animal, a mind full of power but unintelligent.

	Hikari shouted to the others, "They want us to
contain it until the EVA units arrive so it can be taken
into captivity!"

	"Gendo and Fuyutsuki want to steal its power for
themselves!  Do you really think NERV can contain this thing
any better than they did Adam?" Anna shouted.  "They knew
what this is, but didn't bother to tell us!  They're hoping
we'll remain dependent on them!"

	The Children weren't sure, looking back and forth
nervously at each other.  They could feel it growing weaker
under their assault, but it continued to fight back
desperately.  And then it stopped fighting, compacting
itself ever smaller.

	"What the..." Touji said.

	"It's getting ready for an all-out assault!"  Anna
shouted.  "We have to hit it first!"

	Several things happened at once.

	The Children slammed down their AT-Fields on it,
trying to crush it before it could release itself to strike.

	It uncoiled itself and threw all its power at
Hikari, who it had identified as the weakest link.

	The result was that it was crushed like toothpaste
in a tube, with Hikari as the cap.  The vast bulk of it was
crushed to death between the five other AT-fields, but it
blew many small holes in Hikari's AT-field, and a large
amount of its mass was ripped into a fine mist and flung up
into the atmosphere over the town and countryside.

	The rest of it, trapped, died screaming as the
Children feasted on its power.  It was not a very pleasing
taste to their palates, like drinking battery acid.  
Hikari, in fact, became sufficiently queasy to throw up once
she was done.  But at the same time, the rush of power
brought them all a fierce ecstasy, a physical pleasure in
sucking the life out of the struggling, damned infant
creature.  It screamed and writhed, trying to break free,
but they were merciless, crushing it and devouring its soul
inch by inch.

	And then it perished completely, and the sweet
ecstasy faded, leaving only the bitter aftertaste.

	Touji came over to Hikari, fighting the urge to
throw up himself.  "You okay?" he asked.

	"I'm fine," she said, coughing and shaking.  "I feel
so...like I have a fever."

	"Azathoth's power, even that of one of his children,
is not easy to contain," Anna said.

	"How did you know what this thing was?" Shinji
asked.  He now flew over to Asuka, who was staring at the
ground.

	"Asuka and I have been doing research, and I
recognized it from that," Anna said.  "And from Adam's
memories."

	"You okay?" Shinji asked Asuka.

	"I wish I'd never become one of the Children," Asuka
said softly, then turned to embrace Shinji as they hovered
in the air.  "I liked it...I liked tasting his death...I'm
horrible."  She shuddered, feeling even more depressed, if
it was possible.  She clung to Shinji like a lifeline.

	"It was going to devour the entire planet," Shinji
said.  "We didn't have a choice."  His voice was shaking as
he tried to convince himself of that.

	//"It's dead?"// Misato asked over the cellphone.  
//"Hikari, are you okay?"//

	"I'm fine, just a little sickly," Hikari said to
Misato.  Her stomach gurgled and she prayed she would not
throw up.

	Touji suddenly realized Hikari was now blonde.  He
scratched his head and tried to figure out if this had just
now happened a second ago or if he'd just been not thinking
clearly.

	"We had to kill it before it could escape, but some
of its remains seem to have been kicked up into the air,"
Hikari continued.

	//"The EVA units are almost here.  I suspect you'll
need them to contain the fallout,"// Misato said.  
//"Please report back."//

	"Katsuragi-san says it is time for us to come back,"
Hikari relayed to the others.

	Anna said, "Yes, it is time for the TRUTH to come
out."
	 

                         -*-

	The crowd began to cheer as the Children flew down
and landed on the platform.  Anna's voice boomed across the
field.  "Our foe is defeated!  Rejoice, for we have brought
you salvation once more!"

	The crowd cheered louder, while Gendo frowned.  
"What is this malarky about you being gods, Anna?  We're not
here to get humanity to worship us."

	"We ARE gods," Anna said.  "In every meaningful
sense.  We can create life and take it away."  She extended
one of her fingernails and cut her palm.  A tiny trickle of
blood flowed and formed into a half-dozen butterflies which
rose up into the sky.  "The elements are ours to command.  
We can battle invading gods and win.  Our powers are ours by
right of birth and blood.  We will defeat the invaders and
lead humanity into a new golden age!"

	We're monsters, Asuka thought.  More likely to
destroy humanity like all the others did, than to save it.  
She leaned against Shinji, feeling very lonely.

	"Humanity doesn't NEED gods," Gendo barked back.  
"And your powers are hardly divine.  With our inventions and
our minds, we don't need spiritual protectors.  Your powers
are our creation, the fruit of science, not magic."

	"Hah!  Big words from a man who has probed into dark
magics in the search for power!" Anna said.  "From one who
has pondered the words of Al Azif and used the ancient
magical powers of the Outer Gods in combination with science
to create the Evangelion units themselves.  FROM A MEMBER OF
SEELE!"

	"SEELE?  What is SEELE?" Misato asked.  She tried to
think of what to do.  The cameras couldn't be shut off, and
efforts to move them had been futile as well.  The mob would
riot completely, and trying to shoot Anna would just anger
the Children and the mob while probably failing to even hurt
her, let alone silence her.  And she didn't like the idea of
just shooting a child, either.

	"You are making things up," Gendo said.

	High above, the sky twinkled with thousands of stars
which were normally not present.

	"What is SEELE?" Shinji asked.  He wondered how much
of this was true, and how much not.  He glanced over at
Asuka, but she was staring at the ground again.

	"For millions of years, there have been those who
worshipped the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones," Anna
said.  "Every so often, the cults reinvent themselves as
times change.  Old fronts become unreliable or unstable, and
beliefs move on.  Thus it was that the Order of Starry
Wisdom, also known as the Order of Dagon, reconstituted
itself after World War II as SEELE.  Led by the Wanderer, a
man now known as Lorentz Keele, though he has held many
names and spawned many legends, it has long awaited the Day
of Return."

	"They wait, wait for the day when their master, one
of the Great Old Ones, mighty Cthulhu himself, rises from
his burial beneath the sea, for on that day, his mind will
touch the dreams of mankind, and bend them all to serve him.  
They believe that on that day, they will be rewarded for
their loyal service.  But there has always been a problem,
you see..."

	As Anna ranted, Ritsuko called Misato, Ingrid,
Weiss, and Makoto together.  "We have to do something about
the fallout,"  she said.  "Everyone non-essential needs to
be evacuated, and we need to break up the mob somehow so
they will go to shelter.  But I fear they'll either ignore
us or panic."

	Misato glanced at the crowd.  "How are they
following the conversation when everyone is speaking
Japanese up on the stage now?"

	Ingrid blinked.  "What?  Anna is speaking German.  
Commander Ikari is speaking in Japanese."

	"..."

	"But we're hearing her in Japanese," Ritsuko said.

	They all turned and stared at her as the new stars
in the sky drew a little closer.

	"'Great' Cthulhu has many rivals.  His power over
mortals is vast, but he cannot command his enemies' dreams.  
What boots it if he corrupts humanity, then perishes at the
hands of his enemies?" Anna said.

	Asuka listened somberly, trying to get a grip on
herself.  The fight had given her a bit of an adrenalin
rush, but she felt so depressed that it was hard to make
herself care, though deep down, she knew something had to be
wrong.  It didn't make things easier that Anna was
confirming a lot of things she'd suspected all along.  I
have to do something, she told herself.  She tried to
convince herself there was something to be done.

	"And that's where NERV comes in.  The heads of NERV
have been high ranking members of SEELE.  It has been a
little dancing puppet designed to remove all of Cthulhu's
rivals so he could have the Earth all to himself.  With the
cult controlling the only things which could stop him, the
Children, he would be unstoppable."

	"We are not traitors to humanity!" Gendo shouted
angrily.  "You're the one who is betraying humanity by
trying to set yourself up as a god over it!"

	The crowd booed and hissed at him, clearly inclined
to take the word of the Children over him.

	The UN Inspectors took notes and watched carefully,
clearly torn between not trusting Gendo and finding it hard
to believe any secret cult could have been controlling NERV
like that.

	"And moreover, YOU are under the control of one of
the Angels!" Gendo announced.  "The Metatron is upon you!  
Children, you must capture her or kill her before her EVA
unit arrives and she can do even more damage!"

	The Children turned and stared at Anna in shock.  
Asuka winced as her fears were confirmed.  I have to do
something she told herself.  She started to speak, but was
drowned out.

	"Lies!" Anna shouted back.  "You and Fuyutsuki want
to get rid of me because I know the truth!  I am not an
Angel, I am a GOD!"  She turned to the Children.  "You all
know how much of a liar he is!  How he's used and abused us
all!  He sealed and bound Rei.  He blackmailed Touji, using
his sister as a pawn.  He hid the truth from Asuka.  He
threw Shinji away once Shinji's mother died.  He was off
having his way with a clone of Rei when Kaji died!  And now
he wants to kill me for telling the truth!"

	Rei studied Anna intently.  Shinji fretted, trying
to figure out what was the truth.  He didn't want to hurt
Anna, but he couldn't imagine his father really was part of
a cult which was trying to give the world over to the
Angels, either.

	Hikari whispered to Touji, "What do you think?"

	"I dunno.  If Anna knew all this stuff why didn't
she say nothing before?  On the other hand, Ikari would lie
to us without hesitating...dammit."  He frowned.

	Asuka tried to speak, but she couldn't make her lips
move.  She feared that Anna was gone, feared that this was
like Kensuke all over again.  That there would be nothing
she could do.  She froze, a deer in the headlights.

	Misato worked on evacuating the NERV personnel as
much as she could and prayed the environmental suits could
be delivered from the base in time.  Maya and Makoto tried
to work out a plan for evacuation over the phone with the
mayor of the town, but feared there wouldn't be time.  And
Ingrid got the security forces ready for the ugly fight she
feared was coming.  Weiss hustled the UN Inspectors to a van
and got them moving.

	Ritsuko stepped forward.  "We can argue about who is
more evil later!  There's about to be a rain of fallout on
this town, and we've got to get these people to safety!"

	"Fallout?  Our victory was complete!  The ashes of
the Seed have no power!"

	"Polaris says they still have Angel energy in them,
and I'm not willing to take risks with people's lives!"
Ritsuko said.  "If you actually care about these people at
all, you'll tell them to get inside, out of the fallout!"

	"Big words from the degenerate spawn of human and
Deep Ones!  Like your mother, you will inevitably become a
servant of Cthulhu!  Your own inner corruption prevents you
from acknowledging our glory!"  Anna pronounced.

	"BEAST!" the mob shouted.

	"What the hell is a Deep One?" Touji asked.

	Asuka winced, and muttered, "Poor Dr. Akagi."  She
was doomed too.  But she hadn't just laid down and died.  
Asuka began focusing her will, trying to master her own
emotions.  I have to DO something, she told herself.

	Shinji frowned, then said, "You don't think that's
right, do you?  Dr. Akagi has always been very kind to us."

	Ritsuko paled and had a panic attack.  She tried to
pull herself together.  "Whatever my ancestry, I have no
intention of serving monsters from outer space!  We can..."

	"It was your mother who devised the experiment which
impregnated dozens of women across the world with the
hideous spawn of the Angels in an attempt to breed pilots in
bulk!  The same experiment that killed Asuka's parents!"
Anna shouted, pointing at Ritsuko.

	Ritsuko winced.  "I am not responsible for my
mother's actions!"

	Asuka stared in horror.  Shinji winced, and held
Asuka's hand a little tighter.

	"Let the light of truth reveal your true form!"  
And then she gestured at Ritsuko and a blinding white light
shone from her hands over Ritsuko, who screamed in agony.  
Her skin began to flake and turn grey.  Where it flaked
away, greenish tints took its place.  She fumbled
desperately for her purse, but it burned away in the light.

	That was enough to finally push Asuka into action.  
Maybe she was doomed, Anna was doomed, but she wouldn't let
others be pulled down with them.  This wouldn't have
happened if I'd done something earlier, Asuka told herself.  
Her anger enabled her to push past the paralyzing depression
and self-pity.  "Anna, NO!"  Asuka said.  "Don't do that to
her!  She's a good woman!  I can't believe she's serving the
Angels!"  She began to lumber forward.

	"Anna, what are you DOING?" Misato shouted.  "I
order you to stop!"

	"I am a GOD!  I will not submit to mortals telling
me what to do!"  Anna shouted back.  The light continued to
play across Ritsuko, accelerating her change as she screamed
in agony.

	Touji looked at what was happening and made his
decision.  He didn't like Gendo or Fuyutsuki much, but
Ritsuko had always been decent to him and he couldn't
believe she was really some kind of monster spy.  "Anna,
stop it!" he said, stepping forwards.  Hikari followed his
lead.

	"Anna, please stop," Asuka pleaded.  "She's not a
monster.  She's not.  Don't turn her into one."  Not like
us.

	"I am only revealing the truth!  I have not lied!  
Just look at her!  Isn't she disgusting?"

	Ritsuko's hair was falling out, and her body
convulsed.  Her skin was turning dark green and shiny, scaly
in places, her forehead bulging.

	Fuyutsuki made a pass in the air and mumbled some
words, but nothing seemed to happen.  Anna laughed at him.  
Gendo stood tensely, close to going for his pistol.

	Misato had her hand on hers, stalling in the hopes
the Children would do something, as she feared she could
not.

	Touji now moved forward, placing a wall of flames
between the light and Ritsuko, who stopped changing, caught
halfway through the metamorphosis.  "Anna, STOP IT!"

	"So, you reject the truth in favor of your happy,
naive lies?"  Anna asked him.

	"I think you're either lying or Ikari's right and
you are possessed.  You're acting completely crazy!" Touji
said.

	Shinji stepped up.  "Please, Anna, you've got to
stop."

	"I have seen the truth.  I will show it to you!"

	Light escaped from her every pore, washing over
everyone.  There was only light and then the visions came.


                         -*-

	Anna and Asuka stood on a high place, gazing down on
the world.  Wherever they looked, they could see all that
transpired.  "Gaze on the world of mortals, my friend," Anna
said.  "They scurry about as if their lives meant something,
but they will perish like dust, cease to be.  Only we, the
gods, will survive the ages, unaging, immortal.  Only we can
protect them against the gods who would destroy this, the
world of our birth.  But we must rule them, guide them.  
They are too short-lived and stupid to be fit to give us
orders."

	Asuka shivered.  "There is only one God, in Heaven
above."

	"There is no heaven!  There is no 'God almighty,
maker of heaven and earth'!  That's just a lie people make
up to protect themselves against the night when they're
afraid.  This..."  She spread her arms wide.  "...is all
there is, all that matters.  There is no immortal soul, just
a body and the mind it creates.  And even if there was some
God somewhere, he hasn't lifted a finger to help humanity,
so why should we care?  He does nothing while the Angels
destroy us."

	"He loves us," Asuka said weakly.  "And gave us
freedom and the way to salvation."

	"The freedom to die horribly?  The freedom to end up
the slaves of monsters?  What's better, that humanity follow
us, who were once human, or that it be enslaved by alien
beasts?" Anna demanded.  "There is no God waiting to save
us.  He did nothing to save your parents when they were used
and killed.  Either we will save ourselves, or we'll all
perish and humanity will be the slaves of aliens.  NERV is
nothing but a puppet for Cthulhu.  If we don't smash it, it
will smash us, and then nothing will be able to stop him."

	Asuka began to cry.  "Mama, Papa, I'm sorry, I'm
sorry..."

	Anna's face softened.  "NERV did that to them.  
You're not going to let them get away with that, are you?"

	Asuka hesitated and tried to pull her thoughts
together.

                         -*-

	Rei watched herself walk down the street, arm in arm
with Shinji and Asuka.  Hikari and Touji and Anna walked
along with them, all of them smiling happily.  They were on
their way to the movies, surrounded by people throwing
flowers at their feet and clearing obstacles out of their
way.

	"Wouldn't it be nice to be loved?" Anna asked Rei.  
"People love their gods.  All we have to do is get rid of
the people who are holding us back, and that could be us."

	Rei stared at her other self, who was smiling
gently.  Her own face was fraught with longing.

	"NERV tried to take you away from Shinji, to make
you stop loving him.  They let the Violator escape, so that
you would be overwhelmed and would drive away Shinji and
Asuka from you.  They sealed you away and bound you.  They
want to keep you as their hunting dog," Anna said.  "Do you
want to be a puppet forever?"

	Rei stared at the six Children, and began to sweat.


                         -*-

	As Shinji and Anna watched, Gendo threw several
stone tablets into the ocean.  Then he sat down on a rock
and waited.  Soon, strange froggish humanoids came up out of
the water.  Gendo pointed to several men and women who lay
bound nearby.  Some of the froggish humanoids came out of
the water and took the captives, feeding them a strange
blue-green moss.  The others sat down near Gendo.

	"You have made the offerings, and we have come, in
accordance with the ancient pacts," one of the froggish
humanoids said.  "What is the will of SEELE, Simon Magus?"
	
	Shinji frowned.  This couldn't be true.  His father
would never serve some cult of an Angel.

	"The Day of Return approaches.  The armies must be
made ready for the time when the Great One ascends to the
surface and comes to reclaim the land.  Let the Children of
the Great One be made ready to destroy the naval bases of
the great powers, and let the hosts await the dreams of our
Master.  But specifically, we need you to scout out sunken
Mu.  Soon, we will strike at the Medusa."

	The froggish humanoid frowned.  "You know how
dangerous that is."

	"Yes, but we need some idea of what to expect."

	"We will go, but there must be bloodprice for any
who perish."

	"It will be paid," Gendo said firmly.  "SEELE has
great resources."

	"This can't be real," Shinji said.  "Father would
never join some Angel cult!"

	"It's quite true.  He's also been fucking clones of
Rei down in the basement of NERV all these years.  That's
what he was doing when he 'died'."

	Gendo's sexual practices began to play out before
Shinji's eyes.  Shinji turned away.

	"Papa wouldn't do that."

	"Sure he would.  He probably tried to seal Rei's
emotions because he was jealous she liked you better than
him."

	"He hasn't been sleeping with Rei!" Shinji insisted
desperately.

	"She does what she's told to do," Anna said.  "He's
been quite busy sating his lusts since your mother died."

	It can't be, Shinji thought.  It can't.

                         -*-

	"She hasn't recovered because she makes a useful
oracle, so they've kept her that way," Anna said as she and
Touji floated near his sister's bed in the hospital.

	"She ain't no oracle," he said.

	"Just think about the things she's said.  And ask
yourself why she isn't getting any better.  And you know
Gendo has lied to you."

	Touji frowned.  "I know he's done some crazy shit,
but I can't see him really working for the monsters."

	"Do you really think NERV, who can build giant
robots that defy the laws of physics and genetically
engineer people to pilot them, can't fix her damage?" Anna
asked.

	Touji stared, and wondered if she might be right.


                         -*-


	"He died.  And Fuyutsuki brought him back to life,"
Anna said to Hikari as she watched Fuyutsuki boiling down
Gendo's corpse into a strange pile of crystals.

	"But...that's not possible," Hikari said.

	"All things are possible," Anna said.  "If only you
know how."

	Fuyutsuki now chanted over the salts, which
shimmered and flowed and reformed themselves into a naked
Gendo.

	"No, it's not possible!" Hikari said, her fists
clenching and unclenching.  "Only the gods can do that!"

	"They used the power of the dark god they follow.  
But we too are gods.  If we embrace our power, we too will
have power over life and death.  You could bring your family
back," Anna said kindly.

 	Hikari felt a wave of emotional pain rise up inside
her.  "The dead don't come back.  They don't."

	"Just ask yourself why they didn't do that for your
parents.  Surely they deserved to live."

	"Mama, Papa..."  Hikari began to cry.  As she cried,
Gendo now got up and got dressed and Fuyutsuki began telling
him about how he had been killed by the Violator and how he
needed to stop having sex with clones.
	
	Hikari stared and tried to decide what to do.


                         -*-

	"Serve me," Anna said to Maya.  "Serve me and I will
cleanse her of her impurities, make her fully human, and the
two of you can be together forever."

	Maya shuddered.  Maybe she could do it.  Nothing
else seemed to be working.

	"I will need priestesses, and you are both quite
intelligent.  Serve me, and promise to convince her to serve
me, and I will break the curse on her.  I have Adam's power
within me.  I could perfect you both, make you beautiful and
immortal, that your love might last forever without flaw or
shadow.  You would not need to conceal your love, for none
would be able to deny her worthiness of it, or yours of
hers.  I can give you all of that.  If you will serve me."

	Ritsuko would never serve Anna, Maya knew.  She'd
rather die than bend her knee like that.  But if it would
save Ritsuko...  Maya clenched her fists and tried to
decide.

                         -*-

	Misato made her way through the blinding light to
where she remembered Gendo and Fuyutsuki being.  Her
instincts were right.  "She's possessed by an Angel?" she
asked them.

	"Yes," Gendo said.  "Or perhaps she has always been
the Metatron and we never realized it.  He has at least one
human form, and possibly more."

	"But wouldn't Polaris detect him?"

	"The Metatron is a being whose power is much greater
than that of most of the foes we have faced," Fuyutsuki
said.  "He is the voice of God, so to speak."

	"..."

	"Not the Judeo-Christian God, but he speaks, in
theory, the will of the most potent beings in the universe,
who stand to the Angels as they stand to us," Fuyutsuki
said.

	"In theory?" Misato asked.

	"They are mindless, for they incarnate the primal,
mechanistic forces.  If they have intellects, they are
beyond our comprehension.  But while they may accidentally
squash us like insects while doing other things, he seems
far more actively malevolent, taking an active interest in
humanity's corruption.  That is why I wonder if he really
speaks their will," Fuyutsuki said.  "But that is neither
here nor there.  If we do not act quickly, his lies may well
ensnare almost all of us."

	"Hers," Gendo said.

	"Let's not argue semantics.  You're going to have to
shoot her, Misato," Fuyutsuki said.

	"I can't see her to shoot her," Misato said.  "And
if she's really that powerful, is my gun going to do much?"

	Fuyutsuki frowned.  "Possibly not."

                         -*-

	Rei stared at the vision of herself, then turned and
gazed upon Anna.  She opened her eyes and gazed deep within
Anna; she had to know if Gendo's accusation was true.

	She gazed into Anna's eyes, the mirror of Anna's
soul.  And for a moment, before the shields improved
themselves, she saw a tri-lobed burning eye gazing back.  
And she understood.  The Audient Void had taken Anna.  The
Crawling Chaos dwelt inside her.  It sought to bend the
Children to its service, to chain them and use them as
hunting dogs.  And through them, humanity would be bent to
its service as well.  As had many races before them.

	Rei remembered Xoth, how it had been laid waste as
the Children turned upon each other in the quest for power.  
She remembered the fall of the Kingdom of Joy, how the Man
in the Pallid Mask had turned its defenders against each
other.  The collapse of Borea rose up in her memory, of how
it became an ice planet when its Defenders had been
corrupted by the silver tongue of the Cuckoo, the Blind Ape
of Truth, the Weigher of Worlds.

 	For a moment, Rei's memories howled and battered at
the walls of her mind, the mind fragments within her tried
to take control.  But they were divided against each other,
and so she mastered them swiftly.  "I know you," she said.

	"Nylarathotep.  The Voice of Despair.  The Crawling
Chaos.  The Audient Void.  The Haunter in the Dark.  I know
you in your forms.  I remember what you have done to a
thousand worlds."

	"And it's apparently taught you how to talk," Anna
said.

	"No more lies," Rei said.  Her voice raised in
intensity, piercing through the illusions woven around them,
to where all could hear her.  "Anna has been taken by
Nylarathotep.  REMEMBER!"

	And the memories rose up within the Children, of the
worlds which had listened to Nylarathotep's silver tongue
and been destroyed.  Of how the very monsters they had
battled had once been the people and defenders of worlds
which had fallen to the temptation of the power of the Outer
Gods.

	And the light of the visions burned away, and then
Shinji said, "Not again.  NOT AGAIN!  We won't let you have
Anna and we won't let you have our world!"

	And then the Children charged, except for Asuka, who
could not bring herself to strike at Anna.  Touji called
forth fire and Shinji called down ice and wind and Rei
charged at Anna to batter her down.  Hikari, realizing her
own lack of offensive powers, ran over to Ritsuko, who had
now crumpled into a ball on the ground, and tried to figure
out some way to use what power she had to help her.

	Anna blocked Shinji's ice with fire and Touji's fire
with ice, but Rei then came down on her, knocking her down
and beginning to batter at her relentlessly.

	The mob now went berserk and rushed the line of
security, which began firing into the crowd with fire hoses
and rubber bullets.  The sheer weight of the mob began to
press them back.  Misato and Ingrid tried to coordinate the
defense, but there was only so much that could be done.

	And now, in the distance, the EVA Units could be
seen coming, trampling flat everything in their path.

	Gendo came over to Hikari and Ritsuko.  "Get her
into one of the vans.  We've got to get everyone out of
here; it's not safe."

	Maya nodded and with Makoto and Hikari's help,
picked up Ritsuko, then began to haul her towards a van.

	And then, with a great cry, Anna flung Rei off
herself.  She charged at Shinji, blocking his attacks and
knocking him down.  Then, moving at blinding speed, she
headed straight for Gendo.

	Gendo pulled his gun and opened fire, chanting
something.  But whatever it was, it was not powerful enough
to stop her.  She dodged every bullet as the other Children
gave chase.

 	Asuka finally came to life and started after her.  
"Anna, NO!" she shouted.

	And then Anna drove a flaming fist into Gendo's
face.  His face crumpled like a plastic toy, smashing his
glasses to bits, and her fist kept going, into his brain,
reducing it to fried meat in an instant.  Gendo toppled to
the ground, dead.

	Shinji stared in shock, feeling his emotions rise up
over him like a wave, leaving him paralyzed, unable to do
anything but stare and cry.  Touji's jaw dropped.  Hikari
shuddered and looked away.  Rei faltered a moment, then
resumed her charge.

	Anna turned, her gaze sweeping to regard Fuyutsuki,
who was now scrambling for the van Ritsuko was being taken
to.  Misato saw this and spun on one foot, running to
interpose herself.  Anna began to move, not quite as fast as
before, grinning.

	Asuka saw Anna coming for Misato.  She could feel
her heart cracking.  She couldn't bear to fight Anna and she
couldn't bear to let Misato get hurt.  Crying flaming tears,
she ran as fast as she could and tackled Anna, even as
Misato's bullets splashed off Anna like they were made of
clay.  "Anna, stop it!  Stop it!"

	Fire and ice, light and darkness, wind and water
erupted all around them as they tumbled along on the ground,
struggling desperately.  "Don't you understand?  You can't
kill me!  I am immortal!  I will be reborn!  You should join
me!" Anna shouted.  "Because I am the truth made flesh!  I
am the Render of Veils, who tears away the illusions which
people use to hide from the truth of the universe!  And in
the end, the truth will out!  You must draw upon my very
power and that of my masters in order to fight me at all!  
And the more you use it, the more you will become like me!  
I cannot lose!"

	Words of defiance aside, she was definitely losing
the wrestling match.  Especially now that the other Children
caught up to her.  Shinji was berserk now, screaming in rage
at her, bashing her head into the ground again and again as
he grappled with her.  However, she turned into a puddle of
inky blackness and slipped out of their grasp, then tried to
grow wings and take to the air, trying to make a break for
her EVA Unit, waiting nearby.

	She rose, up into the sky, and then Asuka looked up
at her and stared, opening herself to one of the powers she
feared to use, the gaze of the medusa, the stare of
Ghatanathoa.  She transfixed Anna, who locked up, then fell,
hitting the stage badly.  Her neck snapped.  And Anna died.

	It took a few seconds for Asuka to realize this, and
then she fell down, crying, overwhelmed by sorrow.  "No, no,
NO!!!!!" she screamed.

	And then Anna's body began to twist and bubble and
contort.

	Fuyutsuki shouted, "Get into your EVA units!  He's
about to assume one of his giant combat forms!  HURRY!"

	Asuka remained on the stage, crying, even as the mob
howled in berserk frenzy and began to break through the line
of security.  The rest of the children flew up to their EVA
units, and joined with them.

	By this time, a huge bat-like creature with a
tri-lobed eye was erupting out of Anna's remains, growing
ever larger as it rose into the air.

	And all around them, the glowing motes fell onto the
security men and the mob, and every person touched began to
twist and contort into new shapes.  Soon, utter panic and
anarchy and violent death erupted in all directions.

	Misato tried to get the van moving, but the Haunter
in the Dark swooped down and flipped the van over, then
knocked down the buildings between which the only way out
ran.  It turned and flew towards Unit00, which charged at
it, growing wings of its own.

	Touji stared, then said, //"Shit!  Asuka and I had
to fight this bastard!  He pulled the 'burst out of a human
body' trick there too!"//

	//"How did you beat him?"// Hikari asked as she
closed in on the creature.

	//"I had to call on his bosses to come kick his ass
for being a sore loser,"// Touji said.

	//"Well, maybe you should try that again,"// Hikari
said as she tried to grab one of the Haunter's wings and got
buffeted aside.

	//"HEY, OUTER GODS!  COME TAKE YOUR PUNK ASS BITCH
HOME!"//
	
	The Haunter and Unit00 continued to wrestle, with
Unit01 now joining in.  Shinji fought like a man possessed;
they could hear him snarling over the radio.

	//"Well, that didn't work,"// Touji grumbled.

	//"Fuyutsuki says to focus as much light on it as
possible,"// Misato told them.

	Touji concentrated on making Unit03 produce the
brightest light he could imagine.  The Haunter began to
flicker in and out as the light shone on it, and then Shinji
joined in.  Hikari brought Unit04 around and began
redirecting the stage lights which were still working onto
the creature.

	It gave a great shriek, rising ever higher in pitch,
as its body began to burst into flames.  Its skin turned
grey, then crumbled into flourescing ashes which then faded
away as if they had never been.  Soon, there was nothing
left of it but the echoes of its agony on the wind.

	//"Damn stupid form for it to choose to take,"//
Touji said.

	//"Well, it is night, and it might not have had a
choice,"// Shinji said.

	//"It had little choice,"// Fuyutsuki now said over
Misato's cellphone.  //"I believe that must have been the
form it used to take her in the first place.  I pray it will
not return."//

	The Children looked around at the town, which was
rioting in chaos.  Many townsfolk had become warped in
various ways, a few into rampaging beasts, many just
hideously deformed.

	Most of the security forces had suffered the same
fate, and the NERV leadership was working out of their
tipped over van as best they could because it was relatively
safe from fallout and rioters.

	//"What a mess,"// Touji said unhappily.

	//"There has to be something we can do with the
powers we got from Adam to help them, right?"// Hikari
asked.  //"I wanted to do something for Dr. Akagi, but I
couldn't quite figure out how."//

	//"Communion,"// Rei said.

	//"Uh, what?"// Touji asked.

	//"What, we need to get priests?"// Misato asked.

	//"Our blood transforms,"// Rei said.  //"It can
heal."//

	//"Uh, I ain't exactly got enough blood to share
with this many people,"// Touji said warily.

	//"Our EVAs as well.  We can make it heal,"// Rei
said.

	//"What does Commander Fuyutsuki think about
that?"// Shinji asked.

	//"It's worth a try,"// Fuyutsuki said, having now
borrowed Maya's cellphone.  //"Though I'm not exactly sure
how to properly..."// He paused.  //"How to get them to
drink it."//

	It was at this moment that Shinji's adrenalin slowed
down enough for the fact of his father's death to sink in
again.  "FATHER!" he screamed at the heavens, then pounded a
nearby building with Unit01, crushing it.  Then he began to
cry.  Rei brought Unit00 over and hesitantly put one of its
hands on the shoulder of Unit01.  Unit01 sank to its knees,
and Shinji let the tears come.

	//"Let's try and restore order,"// Fuyutsuki said.  
//"Then we can try and experiment with blood."//

	Touji looked around the town and sighed.  
//"Right."//

 

                         -*-


	Touji looked at the IV.  "You sure you want me to
try doing this, Dr. Ibuki?" he asked Maya.

	"I'll ask Rei if you can't manage it," Maya said.  
"But the unusual nature of her genetic heritage makes me
worried about her trying to do this."

	Touji glanced over at two beds in the ward where
Shinji and Asuka lay crumpled in balls, passed beyond tears
into the near- sleep of exhaustion.  Rei hovered over them,
moving back and forth between their beds.  Hikari sat next
to Touji.  "Yeah, I guess so.  Well, I dunno if I know what
I'm doing or if this is even possible, but I'll see what I
can do."

	"I will risk it," Ritsuko croaked.  "I see little
other hope for me."

	"Let's do it."

	Maya carefully extracted the blood from Touji, then
slowly fed it to Ritsuko via IV.  Ritsuko's skin began to
gleam, and the dullness of it faded, though it remained
somewhat green.  She moaned and grimaced as her body
reconfigured itself again.  Touji watched nervously, praying
he hadn't botched things up.

	When it finished, she was recognizable, but not
entirely human.  She looked like a rather pretty merwoman,
with blue- green skin and webbed fingers and toes.  Her hair
was still gone, although there was signs of it starting to
grow back a deep green.  Her face was recognizable, but
somewhat different, a little longer and more angular.  "You
look pretty," Maya said, trying to be confident and
positive.  She kissed Ritsuko's cheek.

	Ritsuko stared at her hands.  "I feel different.  I
can feel the Rhine, but it's not so...compulsive.  
Except...I feel very strange.  Like I'm not breathing, but I
am breathing."

	Maya checked Ritsuko's throat.  "You have gills."

	"What, I have lungs but they just let me talk?"
Ritsuko asked.

	"Shit, I fucked up," Touji said.  "Dammit, I'm
sorry, Dr.  Akagi."

	"I am no longer in writhing agony, and I no longer
feel myself changing."  Ritsuko stared at her hands and
frowned.  "This is better than nothing."

	"I think we'll need to hook you up to a machine to
oxygenate your blood while we work on figuring out if you
now need to live underwater," Maya said, resignedly.

	Hikari began to giggle.

	Ritsuko frowned at her.  "What's so funny?"

	"I just have this image of you wearing a deep sea
diving suit, but the bubble is full of water."

	"I am definitely beginning to suffer oxygen
deprivation,"  Ritsuko said.  "I know these symptoms."

	"Right, we'll get you hooked up."  Maya said.  Then
to Hikari and Touji, she said, "You guys had better get some
sleep."  She sighed.  "Can you three get them home?  They
are both okay physically, so they don't really need to stay
here."

	Touji nodded.  "No problem.  Hikari, can you manage
Asuka or is her German butt too heavy for you?"

	"I will help," Rei said.

	"We can get Asuka together, I think," Hikari said.

	"Okay, I'll take Shinji.  Let's go."

                         -*-

	Shinji woke up being carried.  "Is it over?" he
mumbled.

	"Yeah," Touji said.  "Hikari is putting Asuka to
bed, and Rei and I were about to go dump you in your room."

	"Put me down," Shinji said.

	Touji set him down.  "Sorry about your dad, man.  I
never liked him much, but that's a horrible way to go."

	Shinji wanted to cry some more, but he was too
drained to do so.  "Is Asuka okay?"

	"Sort of," Touji said.  "She's not, like hurt, but
she's kinda cried herself to sleep."

	"She had to kill her friend," Rei said softly.

	Shinji sighed.  "I remember that.  Is Misato okay?"

	"She's fine," Touji said.  "I think.  I guess we
could go check on her."

	"Let's do that," Shinji said.

	They found Misato in her office with Makoto, hard at
work.  Misato looked up at the three of them, then rose and
came over to Shinji and hugged him silently.  He hugged her
back, and began to shake as his body tried to cry.  "I'm
sorry, Shinji," she said softly.  "I know how much it
hurts."

	"We were finally starting to...to get along with
each other.  And now this happens."  Shinji shivered.  "All
those things that Anna said.  They have to be lies.  
They're not true, are they?"

	"Shinji, can you imagine Commander Ikari ever bowing
down before some monster from space to worship it?" Misato
asked.

	"No," Shinji said.  "I remember Father told me that
people who follow a god are the sort of people who want to
be saved instead of saving themselves.  He called them
sheep.  I don't think Father worshipped anything but
himself."  He remembered his father's other words as well.  
' When the gods war on each other, a clever mortal can slip
in and take advantage.' His father would never really serve
a cult like that, but might he try to exploit it for his own
benefit?  Shinji could see him doing that.

	"I think he forgot that sometimes, we can't save
ourselves,"  Misato said sadly.  "But I agree, I can't
believe Commander Ikari actually served one of the Angels.  
On the other hand, this SEELE, it may well exist.  Many of
the Angels do have cults."

	"Well, we just have to find their boss and kill him
too,"  Touji said.  "The more of these things we beat, the
stronger we get for killing the next one."  His voice
wavered a little.

	Makoto said, "I dunno.  I can think of some things
which a cult influencing NERV's formation would explain,
like how quickly the first Evangelion Unit could be made,
and how quickly some of the alien technology was figured
out."

	"I would think a cult wouldn't want to let all that
into the hands of a UN organization," Misato said.  "For
fear of losing control of it."

	"Yes, but a cult doesn't have the resources to do
something like this.  Just think about NERV's budget.  And
that's with only a handful of bases and a handful of
Evangelion units," Makoto said.  "If they could keep the top
leadership in their hands..."

	"Hard to guarantee, I'd think," Misato said.  She
turned back to Shinji.  "Shinji, Rei, Touji, please, don't
talk to anyone outside NERV about what happened tonight.  
This has been a really big catastrophe, and we still don't
know how we're going to manage to make the world trust us
again after having one of our pilots claim to be divine and
go berserk on live television.  No leaving the base for now,
and try to be discreet."

	"I want to know what's going on, how much of what
she said was true and how much was lies," Touji said.  Rei
nodded in agreement.

	"I wish I knew," Misato said.  "I wish I knew."

	"Oh, Dr. Akagi's a mermaid now," Touji said.

	"..."

	"The, uh, heal people with our blood thing had kind
of mixed results.  It made her a lot less fucked up looking,
but now she can't breathe air any more.  Or something like
that.  And she's a merwoman, basically.  Green."

	"That'll be a sight to see," Makoto muttered.

	"Pretty," Rei said.

	"She's a mermaid?" Shinji asked, boggling.

	"Uh, yeah.  I hope it ain't me screwing something
up,"  Touji said.  "I hope we can do something to help all
those poor people who got screwed up."

	"I'll have to go see her before bed," Misato said.  
"Which, speaking of, you three should go get some sleep."

	Shinji nodded.  "I just wanted to make sure you were
okay."

	"I'm just fine," Misato said.  She kissed Shinji's
forehead.  "Goodnight, Shinji."

	"Goodnight," he said, giving her a final hug, then
letting go and leaving with Touji and Rei.

	"Poor kid," Makoto said.

	"It's going to be hard on him," Misato said.  "But
he's gotten a lot stronger.  He'll pull through."

	"Things have just been going downhill ever since
Peru,"  Makoto said.

	"Yeah.  But they'll turn around," Misato said.  
"They have to."

                         -*-

 	Shinji staggered into his room and fell face first
into the bed.  His mind was still reeling, too many things
to deal with and not enough time.

 	The words Anna said, they swam through his thoughts
like fish in dark waters, surfacing briefly and randomly to
eat away at his certainty and cause ripples of fear and
doubt.

 	The sound of rustling clothes and feel of weight
shifting on the bed caught his attention.  He turned over to
see Rei seated next to him, looking down at him with
concern.

 	He said, "I'll be okay, Rei."

 	"You will?" she asked.

 	There was a moment of silence as Shinji stared
blankly at the ceiling.  He closed his eyes and pulled a
pillow over his eyes.

 	"No, I won't," he replied, his voice trembling
briefly.  "Dad's dead.  He was killed by Anna.  We had to
kill her.  She thought we should've been gods or something,
but I don't want to be a god.  I don't want any of this.  I
just want things to be normal."

 	Rei listened silently.

 	"I miss dad.  He wasn't a great father, but I
thought he was starting to change.  He was trying.  If he
hadn't..."

 	He lapsed into silence again.

 	"Rei?"

 	"Yes?"

 	"Anna showed me things.  Things about dad.  Him
making deals with these things from the ocean.  Sacrificing
people.  Him doing... things... with clones of you."

 	Rei did not reply, and just continued to watch over
Shinji with a taint of sadness in her expression.

 	"Rei, was any of it true?"

 	She did not reply.

 	"Do you know?"

 	There was another moment of awkward silence, broken
by Rei finally as she answered, "Anna wished to bend us to
her will.  To enslave us."

 	"Oh."

 	The uneasiness still would not leave him, but the
stress of the day finally took its toll and dragged him
towards unconsciousness.  As he fell to sleep, a distant
memory of long ago tugged at the edges of his mind, of his
mother embracing him as they slept, and he thought he felt
her arms around him, even now.



                         -*-


	Touji lurked around Asuka's door, waiting for Hikari
to come out and hoping she hadn't already left.  He could
hear someone moving around, but that didn't mean it had to
be her.

	Fortunately for his nerves, it was her.  She stepped
out, shutting the door, then stepped over and leaned on him.  
"She feels horrible, Touji."

	"I'd feel like shit too, if I had to kill you or
Shinji or hell, even Asuka," Touji said, letting her lean on
him as he leaned on the wall.  "What a total fucked up
mess."

	"Language," she mumbled, then laughed
half-hysterically.  "Here I am worrying about language when
Anna is dead.  She's dead."

	"I know, I know," he said, putting his arms around
her.  "You should go to bed, get some sleep."

	"I don't want to be alone," she said softly.  "I
mean...I just don't want to be by myself," she continued
when Touji's eyes bulged slightly.

	"Alright, let's go sit down."

	They went to her room and sat down on the bed,
staring at her Moonlight Cherry Blossoms poster on the wall
in silence, neither knowing what to say, arms around each
other.  Finally, Touji said, "Now I feel kinda bad 'cause I
spent that whole movie hoping werewolves would eat them."

	"You haven't got a romantic bone in your body," she
said.

	"Yeah, I know," he said.  "I just know that if
something happens to you, I'm gonna go crazier than Rei."

	She shuddered.  "Don't get yourself killed, avenging
my death."

	"It's a man thing.  Insane revenge is what we're
good at," he said.  "And turning people into mermaids."

	Hikari said, "You did the best you could.  Better
that than whatever she was turning into."

	Touji shuddered.  "Man, there's gonna be a lot of
people fucked up in that town, I think."

	"I know," she said, sighing.  "I keep thinking,
there had to be something I could have done."

	He kicked the wall.  "I know.  I keep turning over
what happened to Kensuke, and now her, and I just don't know
what the fuck I could have done differently."

	"Language," she murmured on autopilot, then said,
"What a fucking mess."

	He started, and looked at her, and she looked
embarrassed.  "I know, I know, I'm a hypocrite.  I'm just
so..."  She kicked the wall herself now.  "I'm pissed and
I'm scared and I'm tired and I just...I want to break
something."

	"Me too," he said.  "I wanna kick Ikari's ass for
being a prick, and kick whatever the hell that was in Anna
in the face, and I want to stomp the rest of these damn
Angels, so we can be done."  He sighed, then it turned into
a yawn.  "I wanna have a normal life again."

	She sighed.  "Me too."

	"Y'wanna go see my sis tomorrow morning?"

	"Sure," she mumbled, leaning against him a little
more.  "You think...maybe we can help her?"

	"I dunno," he said, sighing.  "I ain't got enough
control to risk experimenting with her, but dammit...what
use are powers if I can't help her?"

	"I know," she said, yawning and sighing all at once.  
"I couldn't help my folks either."

	"Shit," he mumbled.  "Didn't mean to make you think
about that."

	"I'm too tired to cry," she said, feeling depressed
instead.  "I miss them so much, Touji."

	"Them dying like that was just a big crock of...it
sucked," he said, stroking her hair clumsily.  "I woulda
done something if I could have."

	"I know," she said, sighing.  "It just...Just don't
die.  Promise me you won't die."

	"I won't die," he said.

	"Liar," she mumbled.

	They sat in silence for a while, until both of them
drifted off into sleep, slumping over onto the bed together.  
There would be trouble in the morning, but for now, they had
a little peace.


                         -*-

	"The Children are out of control, Ikari is dead,
Fuyutsuki is unable to keep his hands on the reins of
events, the public has lost confidence in NERV, and the
bloodbath in Shwartzburg has the German government very
unhappy.  For good reason," Inspector Halten said to the
assembled UN Security Council.

	Its nine members listened sombrely; they had watched
the tapes of that disaster.

	"We may well have raised up a threat to humanity
beyond our ability to control," Inspector Halten said.  "We
recommend the removal of the top ranking staff of NERV and
their replacement with individuals who can be trusted to
keep NERV in line.  We recommend action to deal with the
Children as well, but honestly, we don't know what can be
done with regard to them.  But something must be done."

	"Something will be done," the representative from
Bermuda said.  "And soon."

                         -*-

	He had never expected to outlive Gendo.  He knew
more of the lore, but Gendo was stronger willed, better able
to use it.  And in a physical fight as well, if it came to
that, Gendo was stronger than him.  But now he'd seen Gendo
die twice.  And this time, there was no returning.  The
entire body needed to be reasonably intact, or you returned
as a twisted monstrosity.  And even if Gendo had been
intact, Fuyutsuki suspected Nylarathotep would ensure it
went wrong.  He was petty like that.

	He was the real threat, not the Outer Gods.  They
were blind and uncaring.  They might destroy humanity or
save it or both.  Without even noticing.  They simply were,
and you couldn't blame them for their actions any more than
you could blame gravity for making people fall.

	It was their servants and fools who glimpsed them
and were overly impressed who were the real menace.  Humans
wanted to serve something larger than themselves, wanted
something big and powerful to watch over them, to bless
them.  And so they turned to the Outer Gods, to the Great
Old Ones, and worshipped beings who barely even noticed
them, if at all, and certainly didn't care.

	But their would-be servants cared.  They invented a
thousand schemes to bring about the rule of their masters,
as if their efforts meant anything in the cosmic scheme of
things.  Said rule would come or not come without their
efforts, for such cults were largely impotent to really
accomplish anything.  They lacked sufficient power.

	Until the EVA units.  Every world invented something
like them, when the time came for its old masters to
reawaken, when a species faced beings of power vastly
greater than its own. Few things had chilled Fuyutsuki more
than the day it truly sank in that this had happened before,
over and over, and that if any world had survived this
crisis without sinking into corruption, it had avoided
anyone noticing it.  The litany of fallen worlds was long
enough for a funeral dirge.  And the gods who emerged from
these crises went on to provoke such crises on other world,
an ever growing plague spreading across creation.

	It had to be stopped.  He and Gendo refused to see
humanity go the way of the Byakhee, of the C'thal, who
became the Fire Vampires, of the Deep Ones.  He wished there
had been some other way than the path they had to walk.  
But only the cults had the knowledge they needed, had the
influence they would have to use in order to craft the
needed weapons.  They had to fight fire with fire, and
inevitably, they had burned themselves.

	And now Gendo was dead.  One of the Children had
already fallen into corruption. If she had ever truly been
anything but a mask of Nylarathotep, a face of the Blind Ape
of Truth.  And the others...Asuka was unstable, Rei was
worse, Shinji was weak, Touji was a macho young fool.  
Hikari seemed to have some sense, but was the weakest of the
lot.  And this disaster would only make them all worse.

	Was the plan even viable?  SEELE might become
impatient and decide to use this to put one of their own in
place.  Certainly they would strike once the Plan began.  
Did he have the strength to do what was necessary alone?  
Could the Children hold together long enough to win?  They
had already beaten most of the prophecies.  Whether the
future was set in stone enough to predict, clearly most of
the prophets had not understood it well enough.

	Gendo was dead. Yui was dead.  No one else had known
and understood.  The Children were too young, and so were
the rest of his subordinates.  The young were so full of
energy, but they lacked wisdom.  Life was wasted on the
young.

	He sighed.  I'm being a maudlin old man, he thought.  
This is their world, their age, and I'm just a relic.  They
didn't understand what was going on, but they fought for
mankind, anyway.  They wanted to do the right thing, and
they'd already given up so much...could he ask them to give
up more?

	He had to.  There was no other way out now, not now
that the EVAs existed.  He had helped to precipitate the
crisis, in order to ensure it could be shaped, guided,
controlled.  Only knowing it was inevitable, that in the
end, something like this would come to pass, no matter what
he did, had enabled him to find the strength...or was it
callousness...to do it.  If it worked, humanity would be
free, at least for a time.

	Though Nylarathotep would still be free.  He frowned
at that.  He'd always been the flaw in the plan, the thing
he and Gendo had never found a good way to deal with, once
and for all.  Perhaps with enough beatings, he would learn
to stay away.  But probably not.

	He sighed.  Gendo, I need you.  I need your
strength.  I'm an advisor, not a leader.  I find the
problems, you find the solutions, and I rein you in when you
go too far.  It wasn't supposed to be like this.  But
everything was turning to ill, faster and faster.

	And in his mind, he could hear the Haunter in the
Dark, and it was laughing at all his hopes.  But he was not
ready to give up, not yet.  He might be doomed, humanity
might be doomed.  But he would go down fighting.  He would
beat the odds or perish in the attempt.

	For he could not bear to let all the deaths have
been in vain.

                            -*-
                      - end part 22 -
                            -*-