-*- John Biles & Rod M. Present A Neon Genesis Evangelion Elseworlds Children of an Elder God Part 4 "Asuka Strikes" -*-
-*- Wheels groaned and wood creaked as a dozen workers heaved and pushed to move a massive display from the museum and into a fairly large wooden crate. Their work echoed through the mostly empty museum, combining with the many dark shadows to give them all a case of high nerves. "You mean someone actually bought this thing?" one of them asked, thumbing at the hideous wax figure in the crate. "Paid a hundred million freakin' dollars for the ugly son of a bitch," said another. "Can ya believe it?" "They can sell it for a warm coke and a bag-o-chips for all I care, as long as they get rid of it," added another. "Damn thing's always given me the creeps." The work crew took a brief lunch break, then took hammers to the crate as they nailed it shut. With every hammer strike, the workers winced, as if fearing they'd wake the monstrosity up. At last, after several nerve-wracking minutes of hammering, the job was done. The men all walked away eagerly, glad to be away from that... thing. Even if it was only a wax figure, it was disturbing beyond words. As the doors of the massive museum creaked shut, they weren't sure, but they thought they heard a groan. -*- Gendo sat at his desk, carefully examining a map of the Pacific Basin on the monitor of his MAGI terminal. The map showed few physical features except land and water, although it did have a weather overlay, and several cities were marked. A dozen locations in the northern Pacific were circled despite the fact that none of the locations had a single inch of land as far as could be seen at this scale. Four blizzards in eastern Siberia, Alaska, and northern Canada were also circled. A swarm of dots very close together was making its way north along the coast of Mexico, and a blinking dot was flashing somewhere near the US-Canadian border in the vicinity of Montana. Fuyutsuki walked in. "I still think this is a mistake." Gendo didn't have to ask what; they'd gone round this mulberry bush several times in the last day. "It is done. There is simply no point in waiting for him to wake up when we can bring him here, instead of having to haul our EVAs all the way to Canada and then pray he decides to settle down near a handy power supply. And for once, Keele agreed with me completely. And they arranged for additional funding so we won't be having any shortages." Fuyutsuki sat down at the chair in front of Gendo's desk. "We're still cleaning up the mess from the first one. We're going to have to send them to Canada soon, anyway. I received an intelligence report from V-5. Three travelers who went missing in Alaska a week ago were found frozen in a snowbank in northern Quebec yesterday. Which means that..." Gendo shook his head. "Until we're sure that the mobile power supplies can function under Arctic conditions, we can't deal with him. The American base should finish the tests in a few days. Unlike our soon to be guest, he will likely give them a real fight. Also, I want a chance to see how well the Second Child performs before sending all three of them on that mission." "And how do you propose to do that? We haven't located any of the others, and if we wait too long to deal with the Wind-Walker, some of the others will likely rouse themselves as well." "I doubt this one will sleep through us killing him, after we finish studying him. And if he does, we can stage a wargame, I suppose. They will need to increase their fighting skills, regardless." Gendo shrugged. "Now come take a look at this and tell me if any of these locations have a significance I've missed." -*-
"Hey Kaji, what'cha looking at?" Asuka popped up behind Kaji suddenly, wrapping her arms around his neck in a rather amorous (though Kaji would say 'octopus-like') way. She peered at the photograph and was shocked to see Kaji, a younger Kaji, grinning and with his arms around two other girls. "Who are _those_ two?" she asked. Kaji grinned. "Jealous?" Asuka pouted, a cute sort of puppy-dog-eyes sort of pout, and leaned her head on his shoulder. "Of course! I'm jealous of any woman that gets close to my Kaji!" Kaji laughed and ruffled her hair. "I forget who I talk to, my lady. These two ladies are old friends of mine. The drunk one's Misato. The sober one is Ritsuko." Misato... the name rang a bell somewhere in Asuka's memory, but her current snuggling with Kaji put all other thoughts on the back burner. "And while they both desperately longed for you, you kept yourself chaste and told those two women you were awaiting the day you met your true love?" asked Asuka. Kaji laughed. "Actually, I dated the drunk one." Had he been able to see it, Kaji would've seen Asuka's face slip into a worried and anxious frown. "Y-you did?" she asked. "Well, yeah, we did for a while. But, as with all things in youth, it ended. She and I had different career ideas, I guess, so we went our different ways." "Oh. I see." Asuka's hold of his neck loosened slightly and she sighed. "Do you... still... you know." "Love her?" Asuka cringed. Kaji shrugged. "It ended kinda badly, so I guess I oughta hate her." Asuka brightened immediately. "But," continued Kaji, "I'd like to think that we're still friends. Sort of. Kind of." "She didn't appreciate you like I appreciate you," said Asuka, trying to sound seductive. Coming from a 14-year-old, however, it didn't quite work its magic on Kaji. "You say the sweetest things, Asuka," Kaji said casually. Asuka blushed furiously and tightened her embrace just a little bit. "The other girl, Ritsuko, was our friend. Well, she was Misato's friend first, but we got along okay too. Real ambitious, but kind of shy too." Asuka eyed the image of Ritsuko suspiciously. "You don't have a thing for Ritsuko, do you?" Kaji sighed. "No, Asuka, I do not have a 'thing' for Ritsuko." "Good," she purred, making herself comfortable on Kaji's shoulder. "And in case you're wondering why I'm looking at this relic of my glory years... these two ladies will be joining us in a few days." "What?!" "We're picking up some hazardous cargo for NERV. They'll be flying in to make sure everything goes well." "You mean they're with NERV?!" "Oh, I didn't mention that?" asked Kaji, sounding suspiciously not like he was surprised. "Ritsuko is the head technician for NERV, and Misato will be your commanding officer." Asuka's eyes widened. "Wait. She's _that_ Misato? Captain Misato Katsuragi?" Kaji grinned a humorous little grin. "Yep. Small world, isn't it?" "Yeah, small world," replied Asuka, though not at all in an enthusiastic way. This, thought Asuka, was not good. -*- The aroma of fresh food grilling filled the kitchen of the Katsuragi apartment, a sure sign that Miss Katsuragi herself was not cooking. It was, in fact, Shinji's turn to cook, which meant no undescribably bad flavors were to haunt him on this day. He ate alone at the table, something that seemed to be a regular thing now. Misato always woke up late, and as a result always had a mad-dash scramble to work. Despite the regularity of those events, he still couldn't help but feel annoyed by it. With the last of breakfast done, he took a seat at the table, took a sip of water, unfolded the morning paper, then nearly spat his drink out. On the lower half of the front page was a picture of him and Ayanami together. The caption underneath the picture read:
YOUNG HEROES IN LOVE? Ayanami Rei (left) and Ikari Shinji (right), the two pilots of the EVA robots, are rumored to be dating. More in section A10. "Ah-hah! I knew you liked her!" "Yaaah!" Shinji nearly fell over, shocked by Misato's sudden appearance. As he wobbled in his chair, she easily grabbed the paper from him and flipped over to page A10. "My my, Shinji-kun, I didn't know but I guess I should've expected," teased Misato. "W-we're not like that! R-really!" "Riiiight, Shinji-kun." Misato patted him rather condescendingly on the head, then went into her blazing fast breakfast routine. Grab beer. Guzzle beer. Shovel rice. Impale fish. Devour fish. Skewer seaweed. Shovel seaweed. Get another beer. Guzzle. "Aaaaah." Done. "Great breakfast as usual, Shinji-kun. Thanks." She hesitated at the door, then turned around. "Oh, forgot to mention. I'm gonna be out of town for a couple of days. Can you take care of yourself?" I always have before, thought Shinji bitterly. "Yeah, I'll be fine." "Ah, good. I'm gonna be escorting the Second Child over from the Pacific." "The Pacific?" asked Shinji, puzzled. "Yeah, she and Eva Unit 02 are being brought over via fleet. We oughta be back in about a week, maybe less. If you need to reach me, my number's on my desk. And if you need anything, just ask Maya. Okay?" "Um, yeah." "Be good now. Seeya!" Misato took Shinji by surprise and gave him a quick, motherly kiss on the forehead, and then she was gone. Shinji blinked at the now shut door, still not sure what to make of the situation. The kiss was unexpectedly nice of Misato... but... He was apparently home alone. Was this a bad thing? Well... no. But it didn't seem incredibly good either. He realized he was actually missing her already... sort of. Finally, he shrugged off the entire line of thought and headed for school. Shinji hoped no other great surprises would be there waiting for him. -*- "Shinji you SLY DOG!" roared Touji. "I knew there was _something_ going on," added Kensuke. "Huh? What are you talking about?" asked Shinji. "THIS!" yelled Kensuke triumphantly, pulling out the morning paper. Shinji immediately went pale. "I-it's not like that!" protested Shinji. This stirring appeal utterly failed to persuade his classmates otherwise, and they continued cheerfully egging him on. "So tell me, buddy," asked Touji. "Exactly how far didja... y'know... melt the ice queen, if ya know what I mean?" "Huh? Wha-" "First base?" asked Kensuke. "N-no!" "Second?" added Touji. "But we-" "Third?" asked Kensuke. "Wait a-" "HOME RUN?!" they both yelled cheerfully. "NO WAY!" "Stop it." All three boys froze in place, nearly turning as pale as the girl who spoke the words. As if the voice wasn't chilly enough, the stare she was giving them was absolutely Arctic. Had they looked up, they would have seen a passing fly suddenly explode into black dust in mid-air. "A-Ayanami!" stuttered Shinji. "Um, hi!" "W-we were just going," stuttered Kensuke. "Yeah, um, seeya in class!" added Touji quickly, then the pair beat a hasty retreat into the building. Meanwhile, Rei saw the newspaper drifting to the ground and picked it up. "That's me," she said simply, looking at the front page story. "Y-yes." "That's you," she added a moment later. "Um, yeah." As Rei flipped to A10, Shinji quickly regained his color and zoomed to a reddish blush. "Er... about that story..." She merely blinked and looked at him with a plain, emotionless gaze. "I mean... er..." Shinji managed to stumble. "I hope you aren't bothered by that... um... I mean... well..." She finished reading the article, folding the paper neatly back into place, and tossed it aside. "I'm not bothered." And with those few words, she walked to class, leaving an extremely confused Shinji Ikari in her wake. -*- Asuka awoke feeling... it was hard to say exactly what, but the closest equivalent would be the words "mild discomfort". Even those words, however, weren't quite accurate. Peering out from her porthole, Asuka saw that the ship was, at last, docked once more. That was good. She might be able to pick up a few nifty souvenirs. She strode merrily out of her cabin and out to the upper deck, where she ran into Kaji. "Heya, Kaji!" she chirped merrily, taking a hold of his arm. "G'morning, kid." "Where're we docked at?" "Nuevo Los Angeles. We're supposed to pick up some old relic for NERV, safeguard it and such." "Do you know what it is?" "Old statue, or something like that. It's supposed to have a clue about the nature of the Angels, or something like that." "Think we'll be docked long enough for me to get some souvenirs?" "Hm.... probably." "Yay!" She walked eagerly to the docks, pulling Kaji along as well. "Hey, wait a minute!" he said. "Why am I being dragged into this?" "Are you gonna let me wander out there all by myself?" asked Asuka with a pout. "I need you to protect me!" Kaji laughed. "Okay, okay, but we're gonna keep this short. Got it?" "Okaaaay!" The day was looking better already, but Asuka still couldn't shake that feeling of... something akin to mild discomfort. -*- Four hours later, Asuka returned to her cabin triumphantly with several shopping bags of souvenirs. She wanted to model the t-shirts for Kaji, but he insisted that he _really_ was needed somewhere else at the moment. Fooey. That little disappointment didn't damper Asuka's spirits too much. She still had the digital camera, and hoped to send some pictures back home to Frau Himmelfarb. She immediately began unloading her purchases: postcards, statuettes, odd trinkets, t-shirts.... With a concerned frown, she held up her baseball t-shirt. "Nuevo Los Angeles Angels" was printed in large letters along the back. Kaji had told him that, all things considered, the shirt might be in bad taste. Naaah. The shirt was too cute. If only as sleepwear, she'd use it. Definitely a keeper. A chill suddenly ran through her spine. That earlier feeling... that unidentifiable disturbing feeling... came back stronger than before. Cautiously, she stepped out to the upper decks and looked around. The sun had set minutes ago, leaving the city and the sea to be swallowed in darkness. All seemed quiet, except for several bright lights surrounding one of the other ships from the fleet docked next to hers. A massive crate was slowly being lifted unto the ship's cargo hold. She stared at the men, scurrying to put it in place, just a moment longer, then went back to her cabin. Hopefully, a few romance novels would shake this bad feeling. -*- After three and a half romance novels, two of which had details which would've made Kaji blush, Asuka still wasn't feeling quite right. She'd go to Kaji, but then she wondered what she'd say. There didn't seem to be words to properly summarize what was bothering her. Perhaps taking a walk would calm her nerves? That didn't seem too bad, no. A moonlit walk along a ship, that did seem romantic... she'd look positively beautiful, she was sure, if she happened to cross Kaji's path. Asuka grinned. Why yes, a moonlit walk was a great idea. -*- A moonlit walk was a bad idea. Not only was Kaji not there, but the seas were a little turbulent and the winds were chilly. She stood at the stern of the Frederick The Great, idly watching the waves ripple away into the endless dark waters. Something underwater caught her eye. A few meters away, she saw a faint glow, something spherical and green. As it moved by, she could see it was a pair of glowing, green, spherical things. They stopped for a moment, then turned towards Asuka. And then the lights flickered. No... it wasn't a flicker, thought Asuka. It was a blink. Those were eyes. Frozen in fear and fascination, she gazed right back at those eyes. And suddenly dozens of glowing eyes emerged from the deep, all staring at her. She wanted to scream, to scramble away, but found herself unexplicably frozen to the spot. She could, however, talk. "Gott in Himmel," she whispered. Almost as one, the eyes turned away from her and moved to the other ship, the one carrying the cargo that had been picked up in Nuevo Los Angeles. They circled it once, then sank to the endless depths. Asuka got very little sleep that night. -*- The next morning was an improvement for Asuka, at the start. The seas were calm, the skies were clear, and she'd managed to find Kaji lounging leisurely on the starboard bow and humming a song to himself. "Guten morgen!" she yelled, cheerfully glomping onto him from behind. "Ah, Asuka, good morning." "It is now," she purred, moving to his side, taking hold of his arm. "You look a little tired, kid. Something wrong?" Asuka opened her mouth, then hesitated. "You're gonna think I'm crazy." Kaji raised an eyebrow. "Try me." "Well... I was wandering around the deck last night, and I thought I saw something in the water?" "What sort of something?" "Um, well... eyes. These green, glowing eyes. Lots of them. I didn't see what they were attached to, but they were there, really!" "Calm down, Asuka. I believe you." Kaji put an arm around the girl, soothing her far more than he would ever know. "Now, when did you see this?" "Around midnight, I think," she said. "They swam around the fleet. I think they circled the boat that has the thing we picked up in Nuevo Los Angeles." "Hm. Figures." "What? What figures?" she asked. "Nothing for you to worry about," he replied. "Aww." She was willing to let it slide, though, since his arm was still around her. "So, what'cha doing out here?" "Oh, just waiting for our guests." "Our guests?" Suddenly, from the other side of the ship, the sound of a jet's engine roared, descending from above. Kaji frowned. "Well. Aren't I embarrassed." "Hm?" "I was looking the wrong way. C'mon, Asuka, let's go." The two walked to the landing pad, where a VTOL transport jet had just finished descending. Descending from the small side stairway was a blond woman, about Kaji's age, with short blond hair and a figure that Asuka envied slightly. Wait a minute. Asuka tugged at Kaji's arm. "Hey, is that... what's her name..." "Dr. Ritsuko Akagi, head technician and researcher for NERV." Kaji lifted the arm around Asuka and used it to wave at Ritsuko. "Hey! Over here!" Oh no, thought Asuka. If Akagi was here, that would mean _she_ was here. Ritsuko smiled, though Asuka wondered if that was a warm smile or a sly one. She reached back into the plane and dragged another person out by the arm. "And that would be Misato," hissed Asuka. "Hey! Rits-chan! Misato-chan!" Asuka's left eye twitched. Rits-CHAN? Misato-CHAN? Misato stomped down the ramp, seething with every step. Kaji merrily strolled up to greet them, with a not-so-merry Asuka in tow. "Rits-chan, Misato-chan! Good to see you again!" said Kaji cheerfully. Misato grumbled something they couldn't hear. Ritsuko frowned and quickly elbowed her colleague. "What are _you_ doing here?" she finally said to him. "Me? I'm the NERV Special Inspector." "Ah, just my luck," grumbled Misato. "It's been a while, Kaji-san," said Ritsuko pleasantly. Asuka definitely didn't like the smile on that woman. "Ah, Ritsuko, as beautiful as ever," said Kaji smoothly. He took her hand in his and kissed it. Both Misato's and Asuka's left eyes twitched, and their mouths curled up in slight snarls. Ritsuko laughed and pulled her hand away. "Enough of that, flatterer." Sue looked down at Asuka, light smile still in place. "My, Asuka, how you've grown." Asuka blinked, clearly thrown off track. "Have we met?" she asked. "No, but we've been receiving pictures of you as you've grown up. I know it sounds silly, but I feel like I know you already." Asuka's opinion of Ritsuko became a bit less negative. Almost positive, actually. Kaji noted Misato's scowl. He knew he shouldn't say it, but he had a reputation to uphold. "And I see you're as cheerful as ever, Misato." "Just tell me where my room is," grumbled Misato. She grabbed her bags and stalked off to the decks below. -*- For once, Shinji had exactly what he wanted. He was alone with no one to bother him or make demands, no one to add to the pile of pain he had accumulated over the years. No one to force him to do anything. Many people like ice cream. Many people like lots of ice cream. Nobody likes having it pumped into their mouth twenty four hours a day until they get so sick they want to die. Shinji could feel himself starting to go out of his mind. He couldn't understand why; he'd always enjoyed, and usually prefered solitude before. The first day had been wonderful; no distractions, he could actually play his music on the stereo without Misato getting bored of it, no beer belching, no one suddenly demanding to play frisbee when he was trying to practice the cello. By the evening of the third day, he was starting to wish for the sound of a beer can opening, loud music blaring on the stereo, something, anything...he was approaching the point of ultimate boredom. It scared him; he had been able to go weeks with minimal human interaction at one time. But now...well, he'd reached the point of playing chess with Pen-pen. He never would have thought of challenging a penguin to a chess game, except that while he had been practicing his cello, he had seen Pen-pen playing around with a chess set that he hadn't even realized Misato had. While Shinji had never been a chess buff, he did enjoy the game. So he was now on a three game losing streak as they started game four. He twitched quietly as his inevitable doom approached; Pen-Pen's white pieces were 'swarming across the border' and his carefully constructed defense was collapsing. When his queen died, it was simply too much for him. Shinji wasn't made for fighting to the death. "Alright, I resign." He got up, sighed, and decided to go for a walk. -*- A nice long walk through the park was relaxing; he was actually looking forward to school tomorrow, simply to have something to do. After a while, he started to get tired and sat down on a park bench. A few seconds later, a guy he vaguely recognized from Nerv...Makoto something or another...came jogging up the winding path. "Hi, Shinji!" "Hi," Shinji said back. Makoto came over and sat down. "Don't know what to do with Misato gone?" "Yeah." Shinji blinked. "How'd you guess?" "I suppose Misato should be glad you're not the type to have a wild party while she's gone like most kids your age would," Makoto said, leaning back against the bench and breathing heavily. "Then again, knowing her, she'd probably be happy to throw a wild party if you asked her." Shinji smiled. "Every night is a wild party if only for one person with Misato, I think." "Is she..." Makoto started to ask something then stopped. Usually this is a cue they want you to probe further. Shinji wasn't too good at taking cues, however. "Yeah, she likes to party. How she became the tactical commander of NERV...she doesn't even seem like the kind of person who would want the job, let alone be able to do it." "There's more to Misato than you can see at one glance, Shinji," Makoto said quietly. "You know what she's like when it's time to be serious." "I know...I just...Which one is the real Misato?" "Both, I guess. One is for play time, and one is for work. A lot of people are like that." He got up. "Speaking of playtime, I have a card game to go to." "Card game?" "Weekly card game with the bridge techs. Misato comes sometimes, but she usually gets skunked pretty hard. You wanna come? You look bored to me." "I'm not bored," Shinji lied. "But I'll come watch. I'm not very good at cards." Much later, Shinji went home about three thousand yen richer. -*- Maya frowned. Before her was a 3D image of Rei's body, cycling through images of her nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems, as well as close-up representations of the sections of her brain. With Dr. Akagi gone, the duty of checking up on the children had fallen on her. And on this day, much to her surprise, Rei Ayanami had come to her with a complaint. "No, Rei, I just don't see anything wrong." Rei seemed puzzled by this answer. "Nothing?" "Not a thing," replied Maya. She really wished Dr. Akagi were here, since the doctor knew Rei more than anyone else with the possible exception of Commander Ikari. And Maya was not eager to intrude on Commander Ikari's time. Maya looked at the scans one more time, wondering if she was missing something. "Tell me again why you feel something is wrong?" Rei seemed at a loss for words, staring thoughtfully at the floor. Finally, she spoke. "I had... a moment." She frowned and looked away, to one of the walls. "I was at Commander Katsuragi's apartment. I did not know why." "Are you saying you had a memory lapse?" "I do not know." "Hrm. Tell me... what happened while you were at Commander Katsuragi's?" Rei gave her a questioning look. "What did you do, I mean," added Maya. "I helped Ikari-kun with his math homework." "Ikari-kun? You mean Shinji Ikari?" Rei nodded. "And then...?" "I helped Ikari-kun with his history homework." Maya blinked. "Uh huh. And then?" "I helped Ikari-kun with his chemistry." Maya suppressed a giggle. "And then?" "I had a snack with Ikari-kun." Maya laughed, a light, warm laugh. She didn't think it was possible. Not with Rei. But if it was true, well, that would be great. She always felt saddened at Rei's perpetual loneliness, despite the fact that Rei made Maya feel somewhat nervous. After years of working with her, however, Maya had become accustomed to the girl. And now, it seemed someone else might have to get used to Rei being close too. "Rei," said May, with that somewhat motherly smile on her lips. "There's nothing wrong with you." Rei looked at her doubtfully, but let her continue. "I think, Rei, that you've got a crush on young Mr. Ikari." Rei looked at Maya, more puzzled than before. "A crush?" she asked. Maya nodded happily. "You just might be in love." Rei frowned, slightly. "Is this... a good thing?" Maya laughed again, taking a hold of Rei's hand. "Rei, it's a wonderful thing." Rei looked doubtfully at Maya. "I don't like it." "I know these feelings are new to you, but don't worry, they're just natural." "Not to me." -*- *riiiiiing*riiiiing* Shinji blinked, his morning ritual of breakfast and newspaper broken by the unexpected phone call. Who, he wondered, would want to call here, especially this early in the morning? *riii- "Um, hello?" A familiar voice came through the phone line. "Heya, Shinji! Miss me?" "Ah! Misato-san!" "Everything okay over there?" Shinji nodded. "Good. Listen, can you do me a favor?" "Favor?" "Me and the Second Child will be arriving in Tokyo-2's JSD naval port. The details should be arriving in my fax machine now. Could you bring Rei and meet us there?" "I guess," he replied. "Why do you need us there?" "Just wanna give the Second Child a good welcome, y'know?" "Oh. Okay." "So you can make it?" "I'll be there." "Okay then, seey- oh, one more thing." "Hm?" "If you wanna bring any of your friends along, feel free. The more the merrier, ne?" -*- Shinji had no intention of inviting anyone else to go meet the Second Child. Who would he invite? He didn't have any close friends, anyway, so... "Daydreaming about Ayanami again?" asked Kensuke. "Hey!" "Just kidding! Just kidding!" Kensuke laughed, arms up in mock surrender. "Hey Shinji, what'cha doing after school today? They've got Gekiganger X down at the movie theatre today." "Can't go," said Shinji. "I've gotta go meet my guardian and the new pilot today." Kensuke's eyes immediately widened. "The what?" "New pilot." "Where? Who is he? CAN I GO WITH YOU!?" "Er... I guess you can come..." "YEAH!" Kensuke sprang up with glee, then yelled, "HEY! TOUJI! GET OVER HERE! WE'RE PICKING UP THE THIRD PI-" A cold hand immediately came down on his mouth, and Kensuke found himself eye to eye with Rei Ayanami. "Shh," was all she said. He'd never been more scared in his life. -*- "Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!" Kensuke said, zooming his video camera everywhere wildly. "ThankyouShinji theMAN!" "It's okay, really," replied Shinji nervously. Touji smirked. "Tolja he was a big military nut." Rei just stared at the boy. They stood at the pier, watching workers fasten anchors to the many warships that were docking. The one they were supposed to be looking for was the "Frederick The Great", a German battleship. "Does anyone see it?" asked Shinji. Touji shook his head. Rei kept on looking. Kensuke was still springing around from ship to ship like a child on Christmas morning in the middle of all the gifts. Their search was interrupted with a jolt, as an explosion rocked one of the cargo ships, sending flames and smoke into the air. Suddenly, the sirens came to life, shouting, "RED ALERT! RED ALERT!" Kensuke pumped his fist in that macho sort of way that only men could do. "Woohoo! Battle sequence!" -*- "I told you so," Fuyutsuki said. It would have been petulant if he hadn't been so much older than Gendo. Well, more petulant. "The primitive natives who worshiped him may have been crazy enough to live near him, but that didn't mean we needed to bring him to live with us. This will be difficult to cover up." "This will provide us a good chance to see the Second Child in action," Gendo said as they both strode towards the Bridge. "And luckily, both of the other Children are there as well. We'll simply kill him sooner than was planned." "That may not be wise," Fuyutsuki said. "The Revelations of Hali, the fifth volume of the Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, and the Eltdown Shards all contain versions of the Great Prophecy which assert that his survival is crucial to the Great Return. In fact, all but the Eltdown Shards go so far as to say that if he is destroyed, the ancient masters of the Earth may never return. Now, many of the other sources of the Prophecy, such as the Revelations of Glaaki or the R'lyeh text make no reference to such a requirement, but..." Gendo blinked. "You never mentioned this before." "I had forgotten them, but I was doing research in preparation for our guest's arrival when I discovered this. There are so many variants of the prophecy and some of them contradict each other. And of course, many use veiled language, and..." He was cut off. "I am well aware of the difficulties of interpreting prophecies. Very well. I'll order him to be captured." "Which will likely be easier said than done." "Make up your mind." They passed through a door and entered the bridge. -*- When the sirens began wailing, Asuka didn't panic. She didn't look around in terror, fearing for her life. She grinned like the devil. "SHOWTIME!" In the blink of an eye, she was in her red plugsuit and sprinting across the docks to the cargo ship that held her EVA-02. An angel was attacking! Perfect timing! Asuka Soryuu Langley was going to make her perfect debut! She breezed past crewmen and guards, jumping into her entry plug with glee. The plug sank in, sealing Asuka in darkness. A moment later, LCL fluid smothered her. She focused her concentration on her surroundings, and slowly began synchronizing with her Eva. "Erst Erfuellung, Anfang der Bewegung, Anfang des Nervenanschlusses, Also loese sie es von links kleidung, Synchro start!" Her world briefly became a dazzling rainbow of colors, then snapped into focus. She and Eva-02 were one. "EVA-02, come in immediately. This is Commander Ikari Gendo of NERV command." "This is Unit-02." "There is an angel in your vicinity of unknown power levels." "No problem. That thing will be dead faster than you can say Okinaw-" "You will not kill it." "-wa... WHAT?!" "You are to capture the target, designated 'Amaliel,' and bring it back to NERV headquarters." "Are you people mad?!" "You will follow orders." "Scheiss egal. Fine. Orders received." -*- Majestically, Eva-02 emerged from the tanker, rising and towering above everything. "OHYEAAAAAAAH!" roared Kensuke. "WOOHOO!" "Lemme guess," said Touji dryly. "The new pilot?" Shinji shrugged. "Er, I guess." "The pilot's got a cool color," observed Touji. "Red. Sporty. How'd you get stuck with purple?" "I, um, don't know." -*- "Eva-02, this is Commander Katsuragi." "This is Eva-02. What's up?" "I'll be tac-com for this mission, so listen carefully. Got it?" "Right." "Amaliel is to your north, last seen on the cargo ship Zephyr. Approach with caution." "Can you send me description of my target?" "Sorry, Eva-02, we have no information." "Great. Send me in blind, thank you." Eva-02 stalked across the piers cautiously, wondering if her enemy was lurking underneath the waters like a massive crocodile. Suddenly, Asuka felt a stinging sensation on her lower left toe, like an ant bite. Reflexively, she ground her foot into the ground, scraping something off in the process. "Ow!" The Eva leaned down, looking for whatever it was that had just stung its foot. "Come on out, you bastard..." Something emerged from the rubble. Something dark. With claws. And tentacles. -*- "...an almost globular torso, with six long sinuous limbs terminating in crab-like claws. From the upper end a subsidiary globe bulged forward bubble-like; its triangle of three staring, fishy eyes, its foot-long and evidently flexible proboscis, and a distended lateral system analogous to gills, suggested that it was a head." - From the journal of Stephen Jones -*- Asuka stared at it. "It's a.... a koosh ball." "What was that?" asked Misato. "THIS is what I've been hunting after?!" asked Asuka, sounding mortally offended. She was expecting, no, HOPING for an epic struggle, a test of her skills that would reaffirm her ability as the best Eva pilot in all of NERV. The creature growled at her, waving its claws and many tentacles menacingly. For Asuka, it only seemed to enhance the koosh-ball-esque nature of the creature. Unit-02 bent down, thwapping the beast with a backhand slap, sending it tumbling backwards head over heels. "Feh, this is lame." "Hey, don't get cocky," warned Misato. "How can I not get cocky against this... this... this slimy little koosh ball?" She thwapped it again, sending the monster crashing into a warehouse wall. "Asuka, stop playing around and capture it." "Capture it? You wouldn't happen to have a big net handy, would you?"
"Um... no." "Then how am I supposed to capture it? I'm not HOLDING that slimy thing! I wonder if it squeaks when you squeeze it." Eva-02 reached out with a palm, then suddenly flattened Amaliel into the pavement. It did, actually, seem to squeak. "HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHA!" Like a balloon filling with air, Amaliel rose again, and this time seemed to be extremely agitated. It growled and snarled at the Eva, but due to the disparity in size, Asuka heard it all as pitiful squeaks and barks. "Oh, this is pathetic." She reached down to squish it again. And then a most surprising thing happened. It ripped the Eva's hand off. "AAAAAAAAAAGH!" "Asuka! Asuka! Are you okay?!" yelled Misato frantically. "ICH WILL DIESEN KLEINEN SCHEISSKOPF TOTEN!!!" Amaliel seemed smugly satisfied with itself, its tentacles piercing the severed hand in a feeding frenzy. Meanwhile, Asuka looked for something large and heavy. -*- "OHYEAAAH! BATTLE FOOTAGE!" yelled Kensuke. The giant red Eva, in a surprisingly swift movement, heaved an empty tugboat out of the water and repeatedly smashed Amaliel with it. "You call this a battle?" asked Touji. Unit-02 grabbed a fistfull of tentacles, then ripped them savagely off of Amaliel's body. A horrific shriek of pain ensued. "Looks more like a savage beating to me," observed Touji. "So, Shinji, how d'ya like the new pilot so far?" The children paused a moment to watch Asuka perform three elbow drops in a row, flattening Amaliel and burying him in a concrete crater. Shinji shrugged. "Well... um.. violent." Rei merely watched in silence. -*- Gendo frowned at the viewscreens. The Second Child's fighting skills were reassuring. Her failure to obey orders was not. "Second child, you are to capture the Angel, not slay it. We want to study it." The reply was the sight of yet another claw flying into the air and arcing down into the water, then sinking out of sight. "Are the First and Third Child ready to go out to intercept the Second Child and cease her rampage?" asked Gendo. Another claw landed on the roof of one of the buildings by the dock. "At this rate, she'll have it ready to be sold at a supermarket by the time they even get into their plug suits," Maya said. "We can study the corpse." "Five hundred yen says there won't be one in twenty minutes," Makoto observed. "Maybe only ten minutes." Gendo looked over at Fuyutsuki, who said, "I'm impressed she's still functional after her EVA's hand was ripped off." "She'll be lucky to still be functional when I finish with her," Gendo said. -*- Flashing lights and sirens filled the air as the NERV crews scrambled to to gather the chunks, bits, and pieces of Amaliel. Looming over them all was the hunched form of Eva-02, like a lion hunched over its kill. The children had gatherered near it, waiting for the second child to emerge from within. "Wonder why she's not out yet," said Kensuke. "Maybe she's talking with NERV headquarters?" guessed Touji. Shinji shrugged. A large panel in the back of the Eva hissed, then opened, and the entry plug came sliding out. The door to the entry plug popped open, and from within emerged a figure covered from head to toe in some sort of black sludge. "Hat jemand ein Handtuch?" The three boys stared at the apparition. Rei shook her head. As the black sludge peeled off of the figure's body, the boys couldn't help but notice that figure was very much female and very much healthy. The girl tried again, this time in Japanese. "Does anyone have a towel?" Kensuke searched his pockets. "Nope, sorry." "Nuh-uh," said Touji. Shinji fished around in his pockets. "Um... I've got a handkerchief." Through the black sludge, a pearly white smile became visible. "Heh, no, that's too small. Nevermind, the water looks clean enough for the job." She slid down from the side of the Eva, leaving a trail of black goo, walked gracefully a short distance to the water's edge by the pier, leaving black goo footprints, then dove into the bay waters. "What the hell was that black goo?" asked Touji. "LCL," said Shinji with a large measure of disgust. "It's some liquid they have to fill the Eva with before we can pilot it." "Eeeew." Kensuke winced. "You have my sympathies, Shinji." A moment later, a red hand emerged from the water, gripping the pier's edge. It was joined by another red hand, and then they served to pull up a shapely young redhead in a skintight suit of sorts. "Aah, nothing like a swim after battle," she sighed. The three boys stared at her in awe. She wasn't what they were expecting, though definitely far more attractive. After shaking her arms dry and wringing her hair, she realized they were still looking at her. "Oh. Forgot to introduce myself. Asuka Soryuu Langley, Eva pilot for NERV. Nice to meet you!" "Ah, nice to meet ya," fumbled Touji. "You're the new pilot?" asked Kensuke. "That's cool! Don'cha think, Shinji?" "Huh? Oh, um, yeah." "Shinji?" asked Asuka. "Shinji Ikari?" "Um, yeah, that's me," said Shinji. "Third Child, whatever that means. Piloting Eva-01." She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment. "Not quite what I expected, but that's okay. I wasn't what you guys expected either, huh?" A cold breeze seemed to ripple through the four, even though no wind had actually blown. Kensuke and Touji shuddered. Asuka furrowed her brow. Shinji turned around and saw Rei. "Oh, Asuka," said Shinji. "This is Rei Ayanami, First Child." Asuka waved. "Hey, nice to meet you." Rei merely nodded. "Ah, good to see all three of you here," said a new voice. It sounded slightly sarcastic. "Misato-san!" greeted Shinji. As if one stunning girl wasn't enough for the lads, a second one appeared before them. "Heya, Shinji. Missed me?" Misato ruffled Shinji's hair in passing, then looked sternly at Asuka. "Asuka, weren't you listening? You were supposed to _capture_ Amaliel! CAPTURE!" "Okay, so I lost my temper!" "And ano-" It seemed to be a stream for introductions at this point, when another figure stepped in, this one a rogue of a man with a ponytail and a smug expression. "Now now, Misato-chan, this was her first time out. You can't blame her for being a bit battle-crazy." Misato's fury index rose a full meter as she turned to face Kaji. "YOU butt out of this." "C'mon," said Kaji soothingly. "Let's iron this all out back at headquarters, okay?" "Get your arm off, sleezebag." "Can I put the other one on, then?"
"You just don't know when to stop, do you?" Asuka looked at the two, grinding her teeth as she saw Kaji flirting shamelessly with Misato. And then she had an idea. Asuka quickly stepped up to Shinji's side, taking his arm in hers, and strolled along with Kaji and Misato. "So, Shinji, I've heard that you've already fought some Angels. Tell me all about it?" Shinji Ikari was not a people person. He lacked severely in people skills. This went doubly so for girls that showed signs that they liked him. With Asuka's arm entwined with his and her warm tone of voice, his mind turned to mush. "Um, well, you see..." Asuka took a moment to check if Kaji was noticing. He wasn't. This only encouraged her to try harder. Left behind in the aftermath, Touji and Kensuke just stood there gaping. "For such a dweeb, that Ikari's got chicks all around him, huh?" asked Touji. Kensuke nodded, still videotaping. Suddenly, his camera died. They heard a growl. It wasn't just your ordinary growl, from a dog or a wolf. This was a deep growl, the sort of growl that suggested monstrous origins, dark and shadowy nights, and the promise of endless hours of pain. It was accompanied by a blast of cold running down their spines. The two turned around, slowly. Rei was staring at Asuka, intensely, her face twisted in anger. Her fists were clenched, shaking slightly. It was hard to tell in the sunlight, but they thought they saw her blood red eyes glow brightly for a moment. "Ohshit," whispered Touji. "She's mad." -*- Deep beneath the more commonly traveled areas of NERV HQ lay the restricted zones, the security areas where the most classified materials were kept. One such area was studded with large stone, metal, and ceramic containers, several of which were now full of slowly dissolving body parts from the now defunct Second Angel. Gendo and Fuyutsuki stood on an elevated walkway which ringed the room at an elevation of twenty feet, looking down on the open container which held the remains of the Angel's head. "The American base reports that the field test of the remote generator packs are a success. And the transport planes were a success as well. We'll need to do a field run, but we should be able to deploy them from planes and then they'll have a half hour instead of five minutes to operate with being plugged in. Until they get rid of the final bugs in the S2 engines, it will have to do." Fuyutsuki looked down at the head. "Hard to believe that even primitives worshiped this ludicrous thing." "Certainly I would never make such a mistake," Gendo said. "Which explains why his cult became extinct. What I want to know is why he woke up when he did. I don't believe in coincidences." "The stars were right. Perhaps it could be some side effect of the Three Children assembling themselves. Although I would think the Fourth would be needed as well for such a thing." Gendo continued staring down at it. "Maybe this wasn't the real one." "What?" "Surely the real one couldn't have been so pathetic." "Perhaps it's identification as a power of the first rank was a mistake by some ancient scribe, but you should remember the battle would have been QUITE different if it had been a matter of conventional technology versus our fallen friend." "I suppose you're right," Gendo said. "If the Second Child goes on another rampage when they face their next target, they will likely lose." "Perhaps. You have to admit she was impressive." "This isn't a Greek epic. They're not supposed to fight heroic single combats against the enemy. Their last few opponents will wield enough power that if they don't work as a team, they will die. And if they die too early, all our efforts will have been for naught. We must find the Fourth Child. We will need them all for the Great Rite. I have not worked this hard to let a petulant child wreck everything." "If the Revelations of Hali are right about our deceased friend, it will all be for naught, anyway. Would it not be ironic if this was how it all ended?" "I'm not interested in irony. I am interested in achieving the plan we have been working towards for years now. And what possible need could the Great Old Ones have for this pitiful creature, anyway?" He looked down at the mangled bits of flesh. "I need to relax. I will be in sector 13. Make sure I am not disturbed." "I will make sure." Fuyutsuki watched Gendo go, waiting until he departed to shudder. There were places Gendo would go that he would not, although he could understand the temptation Gendo faced. He had his own ways of coping with the stress, but it was Gendo who most frequently had to place his head in the lion's mouth. And if SEELE ever found out their true objectives, the lion's mouth would most likely bite down on Gendo first. The potential reward, however, was worth it if all went well. He was not so optimistic as Gendo that all would go well. He turned and departed. It was time to once again walk the tightrope over the abyss that sought to claim them all. - end part 4 -