Asuka jumped in another puddle, splashing Shinji
again.  "Got you!" 

	"HEY!"  It was silly of him to be bothered; the rain
was already pouring down in sheets and he was drenched, but
it annoyed him anyway. 

	Even worse than Asuka acting like this was a
blessing from God was the way Rei was simply walking along
as if it wasn't there, unconcerned by the storm.  While
Shinji kept shivering and feeling cold, she wasn't bothered
at all. 

	"Lighten up, Shinji.  Rei likes the rain.  Why don't
you?" 

	"It's cold and wet and miserable," he said.  "And it
never rains like this.  Not around here.  It's weird
weather." 

	"Well, unless it turns out the thunder is being made
by Thor, I'm gonna enjoy it,"  Asuka said. 

	"By who?"  Shinji asked. 

	"Norse god of thunder and lightning,"  Rei said
without looking at him. 

	Asuka spun about, somehow easily keeping up with
Shinji and Rei.  "C'mon, Shinji.  You know you like the
rain.  You're just faking." 

	"I do NOT!"  Something's funny about this weather,
Shinji thought.  And it wasn't funny haha.  It was funny uh
oh. 

                           ~*~


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


                 Children of an Elder God

                          Part 6

                The Great White North


                           ~*~


                           ~*~

	Colonel Christopher Robin hunched over the modified
radar screen, wondering again exactly what the thing was
tracking.  The NERV staff and their strange equipment made
the US Army officer nervous, but he had been ordered to
cooperate with them.  The base was now 'NERV--ALASKA' for
the duration. 

	The pudgy blond tech next to him wore a lab coat
over his sweater and slacks.  His name was Philip Oscar
Harris, and he spent more time guzzling candy and soda than
doing work, as far as Christopher Robin could tell.  He was
eating honey graham crackers as he watched the screen. 
"Hmm. The thing's heading this way.  We'd best alert
Tokyo-3." 

	"It is?"  Christopher Robin stared at the screen. 
"How the hell can you tell?"  There were odd squiggles on
the screen by the blinking dot, but they didn't mean
anything to him. 

	"Japanese equipment; didn't have time to configure
it to English.  Those are Kanji.  Hey, ROO!" 

	Roger David Walker, another tech, frowned.  "My name
is not ROO.  It's Roger."  He headed for the phone anyway. 

	"Better than being called Burrito,"  Phillip said. 

	"Call me THAT again, and I'll tie you to the front
gate," Roger said, then got on the line. 

                           ~*~

	Misato ran onto the command bridge.  "What's the
latest from Alaska?" 

	"The observation grid is down.  We've lost the
signal,"  one of the techs said. 

	"Bloody hell," she growled.  "Is POLARIS ready for
launching?" 

	"Yes,"  Ritsuko said.  "Although we wanted to do a
few more tests if we had time." 

	"We need it,"  Misato said.  "We can't fight the
Angel if we can't find it.  And someone open a line to the
US and Canadian governments.  We need a bomber strike.  That
should force the thing to heal while we get forces to
Canada." 

	Everyone scrambled to do her bidding. 

                           ~*~

	"Okay, boys and girls," the teacher, a middle aged
man who was starting to go bald and grey at the same time,
said.  "Can anyone tell me what sidreal motion is?" 

	Asuka looked around and snorted when no one else
answered.  "It's the movement of the Earth's axis.  Every
26,000 years, roughly, the earth's axis of rotation changes
in a full cycle.  True North is not a fixed direction,
effectively." 

	"Very good, Asuka," he said. 

	"So compasses would point in a different direction
halfway through that?"  Kensuke asked. 

	"No, magnetic north changes on a different cycle,"
the teacher said.  "But TRUE north would change." 

	"But how would you notice?" 

	"Observe the pole star, Polaris.  It seems to stay
in place because the axis currently points towards it.  But
if you slept for say...13,000 years, it would no longer seem
to stay fixed in the sky." 

	Touji yawned.  "I wish I'd slept for 13,000 years." 

	The intercom cut in, interrupting the discussion. 
"IKARI, LANGELY, AYUKAWA, REPORT TO NERV IMMEDIATELY." 

	There was silence for a moment, then Hikari said,
"Ayukawa?" 

	"Maybe there's a new pilot,"  Asuka said as she
stood up. 

	"CORRECTION.  HIKARI, LANGELY, AYANAMI, REPORT TO
NERV IMMEDIATELY." 

	Hikari blinked.  "Me?" 

	Asuka shook her head.  "Someone can't read." 

	"DAMMIT, THIS IS ILLEGIBLE.  STUPID SECRETA...OOPS,
THIS IS STILL ON.  ALL EVA PILOTS, REPORT TO NERV
IMMEDIATELY." 

	"Let's go kick some ass!"  Asuka shouted, running
out the door.  Shinji and Rei followed with somewhat greater
calm. 

                           ~*~

	Baybrook Air Force Base had never been attacked.  In
fact, it had never even been in the slightest danger of
being attacked, except perhaps if World War III had actually
broken out.  It had been built to deal with the contingency
of the Russians sending planes over the North Pole to bomb
the pine trees of the Northwest Territories into submission. 
That most certainly couldn't be allowed. 

	It was usually understaffed, but its use for the
strike against...whatever exactly had been attacked...meant
it had more people than usual.  The normal staff was
pleased; they felt useful for once.  This was generally the
place where people got dumped who annoyed someone. 

	The weather was bad for flying; a massive storm
front had rumbled in and was dumping vast quantities of
snow.  They were used to it; this happened all the time
here.  This was a bad time for it; they needed to keep
planes in the air.  The flight sent WITH N2 mines to
destroy...something...hadn't come back.  Radio contact had
gone dead.  It might have just been the EMP from dropping
the mines, but that hadn't happened in past tests of N2
bombs.

	Plus, there were entire trees flying around over the
base; the winds were horrendous, and they had to keep
snowplowing debris off the runways.  It was the worst storm
they'd ever seen. 

	Then it got worse.  They caught the small falling
metal cylinder on the radar for a moment, but they couldn't
recognize it.  When the N2 mine went off inside the base,
they all had about one second to say, 'Shit' before they
died.  It did get rid of all the annoying debris, though. 

                           ~*~

	"You're going to have to ride in the entry plugs all
the way to Canada,"  Misato said, pointing to a map of North
America.  "We won't have the facilities to load you properly
there.  Luckily, the special transport planes FINALLY
arrived yesterday, and we can keep your batteries charged all
the way there and drop you from the planes."  If the weather
doesn't cause them to crash, stranding or killing you all,
she thought.  Let's not think about that. 

	Shinji was revulsed at the entire idea of spending
hours in the entry plug.  "How long are we gonna be stuck in
there?" 

	"Far too long, but it's the best we can do,"  Misato
said.  "Once you reach Canada, we'll know exactly where we
need to drop you.  Possibly, you may be going here," she
pointed to a point in Alaska.  "But our target may have moved." 

	"So he's causing this weather?"  Asuka asked. 

	"We believe so,"  Misato said.  "We've dubbed him
Salgiel, the Angel of Snow.  We've launched a satellite that
should be able to track him, which will greatly simplify this. 
In fact, it should get a lock on him before you even get to
Canada." 

	"Can the planes fly in this weather safely?"  Asuka
asked. 

	"Of course they can,"  Misato lied.  "We would never
send you up in them if we weren't sure it would be safe." 
If we weren't so desperate we'd try flinging you from a
catapult if we had to... 

                           ~*~

	"What are we supposed to DO for...how long is it
gonna be?"  Shinji asked. 

	"Over twelve hours.  I suggest you sleep," Ritsuko
said. 

	"But I'm not tired!" 

	"Would you like me to sedate you?"  Ritsuko asked. 

	Shinji was about to say yes when he noticed Rei and
Asuka were both watching him.  "No.  I'll figure out
something."  They both subtly relaxed, and Asuka nodded
slightly. 

	"We can talk on our radios and plan how to hand this
Angel his head on a plate,"  Asuka said. 

	For half a day?  Hmm.  "Wait...how are we going to
eat?"

	"The LCL will sustain you.  You won't need to eat. 
In fact, your stomach won't even get empty."  Ritsuko said
soothingly.  "It's actually quite nutritious." 

	Shinji narrowed his eyes; he was dubious.  Even if
it was nuitritious, it was incredibly foul, disgusting, and
vile.  He would rather have spent the entire time in a
puddle of vomit.  "What, you put vitamins in it? 
It's...It's disgusting!" 

	"It's like the system of blood vessels which keep
babies alive in the womb for nine months without eating," 
Ritsuko said.  "EVAs have LCL for blood, you see.  Anyway,
we need to get you going." 

	"We should buy some bullion and see if we can turn
it into broth next time,"  Asuka said, as she prepared to
enter her plug.  Shinji stared at her as if she was insane. 
"That was a joke, you know!" 

	He blinked, then laughed, glancing over at Rei, who
seemed to have not even noticed and was busy entering her
plug.  Maybe she lost her sense of humor in an accident. 

                           ~*~

	In theory, the Karpov Military Base did not exist. 
The Russian government denied its existence, and it was
cunningly concealed so that it could not easily be spied by
satellites or flying planes.  The monitoring equipment
looked like part of the landscape, a frozen Siberian
wasteland.  Its computers used underground lines, as did its
phones. 

	It was, and had always primarily been an
intelligence site, keeping an eye open for planes or
missiles coming over the North Pole, ready to send the
signal for a retaliatory strike.  It had not been designed
to repel a ground assault; that was not its role. 

	Indeed, it wasn't even really designed to notice a
ground assault, especially not when a howling snowstorm
descended upon it.  They simply turned up the heat and
waited for it to pass. 

	When the N2 bomb went off at ground level next to
the base, they got all the heat they could ever want, and
theoretical non-existance turned into real non-existance. 

                           ~*~

	An ordinary man would have been cowed by standing
before the UN Security Council, especially when they all
were shouting and pounding on the table with things and
pointing fingers.  Gendo was no ordinary man. 

	He did not wait to be announced.  "Gentlemen,
everything is under control.  We have launched POLARIS, and
our forces are on their way to Canada.  Salgiel WILL be
stopped." 

	Compared to the other chewing out he was expecting
to receive soon, this was nothing. 

                           ~*~

	"Is one of the Angels really going around nuking
military bases?"  one of the pressmen shouted. 

	Maya grimaced as a sea of panicked reporters milled
about below the podium she was standing at and tried to
shove microphones in her face.  This press conference was
turning into a disaster; for once, the press couldn't be
guided, in large part due to fear. 

	I'm not trained for this, she thought.  "Everyone
calm down.  NERV has everything under control."  Obviously
they hadn't read the script, or perhaps were too scared to
really follow it, but she would soothe them and get things
back in order. 

	"Is it true that Commander Ikari is actually Elvis'
love child?"  someone shouted. 

	Almost everything under control, she thought. 

                           ~*~

	"Knock Knock,"  Asuka said.  She seemed to know a
nearly infinite number of these.  Shinji would have killed
her if he could reach her.  And while he could have cut off
the radio, even torture was better than boredom. 

	"Who's there?" he asked, semi-mechanically. 

	"Boo Boo." 

	"Boo boo who?" 

	"You don't need to cry," she said.  He blinked,
then she sighed.  "Okay, no more knock knock jokes.  How
about..."  She thought a moment.  "First person to make Rei
laugh gets off chores for a week." 

	Shinji suddenly realized Rei hadn't laughed at any
of them, although she had blinked confusedly twice and
yawned through most of a third.  "Okay.  Hmm.  Gimme a
minute to think of a good joke...and how do we decide who
goes first?" 

	"You can go first.  I need time to think of a good
joke myself." 

                           ~*~

	Magi reported.  "POLARIS ACTIVATION SUCCESSFUL." 
Pause.  "TARGET SPOTTED CROSSING HUDSON BAY.  CURRENT COURSE
NOW BEING PLOTTED ON WORLD MAP." 

	A world map apeared on one viewscreen. It showed a
curving line that headed down into Ontario, then right
through Toronto and into the United States. 

	Fuyutsuuki shook his head.  "I was afraid of that. 
Someone radio Captain Katsuragi.  And ask Magi if the planes
will make it in time." 

	Brief calculations followed.  "AFFIRMATIVE.  AT HIS
CURRENT SPEED, SALGIEL CAN BE INTERCEPTED AT THE SOUTHERN
END OF THE BAY." 

	"Excellent.  Alert Katsuragi of this as well." 

                           ~*~

	"... and so the judge said, 'What stick?'" said
Asuka.

	Rei blinked.

        Shinji blinked.

	"Stick?  Get it?" said Asuka, lauging weakly. 
"Aheh... ah... guess not.  Okay, Shinji, your turn again." 

	"Er..."  Shinji figited, scratched his head, and
generally stalled for time.

	"C'mon, you've gotta know something less lame than
'when is a door not a door'," nagged Asuka.

	"Well, Misato and Touji told me a few," said Shinji
reluctantly. 

	Asuka shrugged.  "Let's hear it."

	"You're sure?" asked Shinji.

	"Go!"

	"Um... okay.  Ahem.  Beauty is in the eye of the
beer-holder."  He smiled nervously.

	Rei blinked.

	Asuka sighed.  "Okay, clearly Misato humor.  That
was so bad I'm gonna have to insist that you try again."

	"Er... why are hangovers better than women?"

	"OKAAAY, we'll stop right there," said Asuka.
"Remind me to kick Touji when we get back."

                           ~*~

	Operating out of a strip mall in Toronto was NOT the
ideal environment to run the operation against Salgiel, but
the location had been lying empty and had multiple phone
lines in place from its incarnation as an internet service
provider and computer store.  It would have to do.  Most of
the fancy stuff would simply be piped in from MAGI in
Tokyo-3 anyway.  By the time Misato had arrived, everything
was in place, including a large viewscreen with an
interactive map.

	Salgiel was a flashing blue dot heading towards the
bottom of Hudson's bay, while three close placed red dots
moved to intercept him.  They would make it in time;
projections showed they would cross his line of march a good
fifteen minutes before he reached the point where they would
intersect it.  Time enough to set an ambush, even.  Assuming
the stormfront advancing ahead of him didn't botch things
up; trying to drop three EVAs in a snowstorm would be too
much fun for the pilots, most likely.  But there was nothing
to be done. 

                           ~*~

	"Did you hear about the accident at the army base?"
asked Asuka.  "A jeep ran over a box of popcorn and killed
two kernels."

	Rei didn't even blink.

	Shinji groaned.

	"It wasn't THAT bad," insisted Asuka.  "Okay, maybe
it was.  Your turn again, Shinji.  And please, no jokes
about women or beer."

	"Um... what do you get when you mix an elephant and
a fish?"

	Rei blinked.  "What?" she asked.

	"Swimming trunks."

	"Swimming trunks?" asked Rei, looking  slightly
puzzled.

	"Well, you see, an elephant has trunks, and-"

	Asuka cut in.  "Shinji, if you have to explain, it
isn't funny."

	"Please stop," said Rei quietly.

	"Sorry," apologized Shinji.

	"We're not teasing you or anything," Asuka told her.
"We just... y'know... wanna see you laughing or something."

	"Laughing?" asked Rei.

	"Laughing, smiling, just happy, I guess," said
Shinji.

	"I see."  Rei thought about this for a brief moment.
"Why did you apologize?"

	"You were offended, I mean, er, right?" asked Shinji
awkwardly.

	"No."

	"Then why'd you tell us to stop?" asked Asuka.

	"We're about to dro-"

	//ENTERING DROP ZONE IN TEN SECONDS//

	"-p"

	Asuka pumped her fist.  "Woohoo!  Showtime!  Seeya
down below!"  And with that, her screen disappeared.

	"Well, good luck," said Shinji.  His screen
flickered out as well, leaving Rei alone with her thoughts.

	"Smile..."

                           ~*~

	Parachuting the EVAs to the ground proved to not be
the best of ideas, but there was no way to land the planes
in the middle of a forest, and they had to stop Salgiel
before it reached the most populated region of Canada. 

	Asuka did the best job.  Unit02 leveled a large
swathe through the forest, but it was on its feet and ready
to rumble within seconds.  Shinji crashed into a bunch of
trees, cutting a larger swathe and ending up having to dig
himself out of a pile of new lumber.  Rei had it worst; 
Unit00's parachute malfunctioned and it ended up in a
ravine.  The three quickly rendezvoused, having been
scattered in the process, but EVAs move quickly, though more
forest was levelled in the process.

	Shinji, in fact, was surprised by how quickly he was
able to move through the howling wind and snow as if it
wasn't even there.  The others seemed to be having more
trouble with it than he was, though again, he couldn't think
of why.  He had never been one to look a gift horse in the
mouth, though. 

	"So what's the plan?" he asked. 

	"Fairly simple,"  Misato said.  "Rei, you're the
bait.  Pretty much, make sure he sees you.  Shinji, Asuka,
you both have to move out of visual range of Rei so that he
won't see you, Shinji to the left, Asuka to the right.  Once
Rei spots him, she'll alert you, and the two of you will
flank him.  Asuka, you charge at him more directly.  Shinji,
you will circle a bit to get behind him.  Once you have him
surrounded, Shinji and Rei will keep him from escaping,
while Asuka focuses on attack." 

	They all nodded, and began moving into position. 

                           ~*~

	Unit00 stood stock still, quickly being covered by
snow; still, no one who knew what an EVA was could mistake
it for anything else.  It was too big and too humanoid to
pass for anything but itself. 

	The wind grew stronger, and Unit00's sensors began
to detect an approaching AT-field.  The snow blew off Unit00
in an instant when it responded by forming one around
itself.  The first that could be seen of the Angel of Snow
was its eyes, which glowed redly.  Behind them was a shadow
of a humanoid figure, fuzzy along the edges.  It could
easily have been another EVA, but Rei knew better, since she
could see the position of the other pilots on a tiny map in
one corner of her vision. 

	There was silence except for the wind as they stared
at one another.  She should signal the others.  But his
vision compelled her, staring into her.  Somehow, he could
see through Unit00's eyes to her as she saw through its eyes
to him.  He was carrying something in each hand, a cylinder
of some kind, gripped as if he planned to use it the way
some thugs might grip a roll of quarters before a fight. 

	They stared, and then he softened.  The glow of his
eyes dimmed slightly, and she no longer felt the full force
of his gaze.  Though his long-limbed figure could be seen
but dimly through the howling snow, the whiteness that
sought to consume the universe, it was clear that he had
relaxed.  He started to circle around Unit00 to the left. 

	Volition returned to her.  "Target acquired," she
said, then prepared to move to block his advanced. 

	Asuka was faster than expected; Unit02 emerged out
of the wall of white faster than Rei had expected,
progressive knife held high.  The Angel didn't even look,
simply pointing with a closed fist.  The ground erupted in a
pillar of white snow, a huge flurry that reversed the course
of the blizzard and fell up, rising around Unit02.  In two
seconds, it was flung up and out of sight. 

	A quick check revealed that Unit02 still existed; it
was simply being carried upwards by an impossibly powerful
updraft.  The pillar of air was sucking in all the air
around it, and Unit00 staggered towards it, unable to resist
the winds despite Rei's best efforts. 

	"Shinji, attack now!"  Misato ordered. 

	He did so, emerging out of the snow with the wind at
his back.  His progressive knife bit deep into the Angel's
right shoulder, and the updraft suddenly ceased.  Pivoting
on one foot, Salgiel drove his fist into Unit01's chest,
breaking the skin and spraying reddish black gunk onto the
dark furred arm of the Angel.  At least, it seemed dark, but
there was so little light it was hard to tell. 

	When the arm came out, Unit01 toppled backwards and
fell into a sitting position, instinctively clutching its
gut.  Rei could hear Shinji screaming over the comlink.  She
cut off his channel reluctantly;  hopefully, he would not
say anything important. 

	Narrowing her eyes and doing a quick calculation,
she hurled her unit at him, bodyblocking him.  He staggered
back just as far as she had hoped.  A second later, Unit02
fell on him, knocking him into the ground.  Asuka gave a
shout of triumph over the comlink and pulled out her
progressive knife. 

	Rei clicked the comline to Shinji back on.  "Get
up." 

	He did so, looking angry rather than frightened now,
then tried to draw the progressive knife which was still
stuck in Salgiel's back.  He prepared to charge the Angel. 

                           ~*~

	The comline from Tokyo-3 to Toronto clicked on
again.  Maya said, "Bad news.  Salgiel just stuck an N2 mine
inside Unit01's chest." 

	Misato stared at her.  "WHAT?" 

	"He's got another one too, if POLARIS is reading
things correctly,"  Ritsuko said.  "We're trying to get the
remote detonation codes from the Canadians." 

	"Crap." 

                           ~*~

	Misato appeared again on the com channels. 
"Everyone, there's an N2 mine in Shinji's chest." 

        "I have a WHAT?!" yelled Shinji.  He clawed
uselessly at his own chest.  Unfortunately, Unit01's fingers
were too big;  he really needed some super economy size
tweezers.

        "Shinji!  Calm down!" ordered Misato.  "Rei, keep
the Angel busy. Asuka, cut it out of his chest, then you and
Shinji will have to contain the blast if it goes off with
your AT-fields.  Hopefully, since it hasn't gone off
already, it won't go off, but he might have some way to
detonate it." 

	Asuka, who had been thrown off Salgiel seconds
before, tried to get Unit02 to stand up, then discovered to
her horror that its right leg was broken.  She cursed and
knocked down a tree, turning it into an impromptu crutch,
while Shinji continued to fail to extract the bomb. 

	Unit00 grappled with the Angel, but she was sorely
outmatched alone.  He soon had 00 pressed to the ground,
with him kneeling on its back, slamming its head into the
ground repeatedly. 

	Shinji couldn't watch it anymore, and charged right
past Unit02, who had almost reached him, leaping onto
Salgiel from behind and knocking him off of 00.  They
tumbled together through a stand of trees, disappearing from
the sight of the others, although it was easy to follow the
wake of destruction. 

	Unit02 hobbled after him, while Unit00 sprinted
after them once Rei managed to peel her unit out of the hole
in the ground its head had made.  Without the element of
surprise, 01 wasn't doing much better than 00 had, although
at least its head wasn't being pounded into the ground. 
Just as the Angel got Unit01 into a firm lock, much to
everyone's surprise, it suddenly slipped upward out of the
grip, popping up into the air like a greased watermelon. 
Its landing was undignifed, but it did get away. 

	"Nice move, Shinji,"  Asuka said. 

	"Uh...thanks.  Can someone get this..."  He gulped. 
"...bomb out of my chest now?" 

	Unit00 moved to cover them while 02 knelt and cut it
out, which wasn't easy with one of its legs broken. 
Covering them was easy, though;  Salgiel turned and ran
south into the all-encompassing grey-white fog of snow. 
"What the hell do I do with this thing now?" 

	Misato passed on a just received message.  "It's
active.  You've got ten seconds.  Put it on the ground and
all three of you activate your AT-fields!" 

	"Can we really contain it?"  Shinji asked,
concentrating on bringing up the strange shimmering glow in
front of his EVA's outstretched hands. 

	The trio formed a triangle around the small metal
cylinder, which looked as much like a keg of beer as it did
a bomb.  Three fields that looked like miniature aurora
borealises shimmered in front of outstretched hands, then
expanded, forming a triangle of everchanging, dancing light
of all colors and none. 

	"Turn off your eyes or you'll burn them out," 
Ritsuko said when Misato patched her in.  A second before
the bomb went off, they all plunged into darkness.  They
would not know if they succeeded until it was over. 

	And then the bomb went off. 
	
                           ~*~

	Safely esconsed in Toronto, Misato watched the
visual feed from POLARIS and a weather satellite, showing a
huge pillar of light erupting up through the clouds, burning
them away in one spot for just a second before they closed
in again.  Radio contact with the Children revealed nothing;
they might be alive or dead, though probably alive; the
blast wouldn't have gone so high if they hadn't succeeded. 

	"We've got good news and bad,"  Ritsuko said.  "We
can remote detonate the other bomb.  But now, he's headed
into the more populated zones of Ontario and he's speeding
up.  We've only got twenty or thirty minutes before he
reaches Toronto.  Maybe five before he hits a fair sized
town." 

	More good news and bad came in.  Three small images
appeared on the communications screen:  Rei, Asuka, and
Shinji.  "We did it,"  Asuka said.  "But now Shinji's got a
nasty gash in his chest, and I've got a broken leg." 

	Misato checked the timers and frowned.  They were
down to thirty seconds of power from the backpacks when they
should have had another five minutes at least.  The amount
of power it took to contain the blast must have drained them
faster.  While the Units had some power left, they'd never
catch Salgiel while Unit02's leg was broken.  "Rig up a
splint for the leg if you can.  I'll get back to you in just
a minute." 

	It was time for some hard thinking. 

                           ~*~

	"Well, that didn't go so well,"  Shinji said as he
and Rei tried to figure out some way to tie some tree trunks
in place to act as a sort of cast for the broken leg on 02. 
One EVA was down, their powerpacks were heavily drained, and
an Angel was running loose with at least one N2 mine. 

	"Hah!  We'd have waxed his miserable ass if he
hadn't cheated, then run away,"  Asuka said.  "Next time, we
gotta all hit him at once instead of acting like the bad
guys in a kung fu movie,"  Asuka said sagely.  "If you'd
told me you were gonna jump him, I coulda helped you,
Shinji." 

	"You weren't jumping anywhere with a broken leg," 
Shinji said.  "But I couldn't let him pound Rei into the
ground like that."  His voice had a hint of anger.  "She
could have died." 

	"I was in no danger,"  Rei said, ripping huge
amounts of ivy off of some trees and trying to use that as a
cord for the impromptu splint. 

	"Bullshit,"  Asuka said.  "He was pounding your head
into the ground!" 

	"He could have exerted much more force, but chose
not to,"  Rei said.  "We attacked him first." 

	"He's on his way to FUCKING BLOW UP TORONTO!"  Asuka
shouted.  "You sound like you're on his side!" 

	"I will kill him,"  Rei said, her voice dropping a
few degrees.  "I merely say what I saw." 

	Shinji frowned.  "So you think he didn't want to
fight us?  But he's on his way to destroy a human city."  He
had borrowed 00's progressive knife and was carving a tree
into a proper crutch; his progressive knife was still stuck
into the Angel. 

	"He looks more human than an EVA does,"  Rei said,
finishing the job of tying the splint, though it was
anyone's guess if it would hold. 

	Shinji's eyes widened.  "You mean...he didn't
recognize we had anything to do with humanity?" 

	"Rei's right.  EVAs don't look much like our usual
machines,"  Asuka said. "And the AT-field...he must have
thought we were some more of the alien biotechnological war
machines like him.  So he ignored us until we attacked." 
She stood up with her 'crutch'.  "So how the hell are we
gonna catch him to kill him?" 

                           ~*~



	"SHITGODDAMMOTHERFUCKINGBLOODYHELLASSHOLESHITEATING
COCKSUCKING...AAAAAAAAAA!!!!!"  Misato screamed and pulled 
her hair, then turned the com channel back on.  "I feel much 
better now.  Detonate the bomb immediately." 

	Fuyutsuuki nodded, and gave the order to Magi.  Magi
sent the controls up to POLARIS, which beamed them down to
the location of The Angel, cycling through the possible
codes in two seconds.  Its baleful, unblinking gaze soon did
its work. 

                           ~*~

	On the map, there was a flash of light, and then the
dot demarking the Angel began to cut northwest, moving away
from Toronto.  "Goddamit!  He's not even immobile!"  Misato
cursed. 

	"But he isn't going to destroy Toronto either," 
Fuyuutuski pointed out.  "MAGI estimates he will reach the
area where he was first spotted in about twelve to fifteen
hours, which should give us time to pick up the EVAs as the
snow retreats, fit them with new backpacks and move them to
intercept him again." 

	"Let's hope you're right,"  Misato said.  "YOU get
to tell the Canadian government why we blew up one of their
cities." 

	He sighed.  "Better North Bay than Toronto." 

	Misato turned away from him, her voice bitter. 
"Better no town at all." 

                           ~*~

	The EVAs had been reequipped with fresh backpacks
and they'd rigged up a crude cast for the leg of Asuka's
EVA.  Now, the EVA were in the holds of three planes on
their way to northern Canada.  The three of them, Misato,
and Fuyuutsuki were having a conference call.  "I think we
shouldn't send in Asuka with a crippled EVA." 

	"I am NOT crippled!"  Asuka shouted.  "They need
me!" 

	"She has to go,"  Fuyuutsuki said.  "It will likely
take all three of them to defeat him." 

	Misato grumbled.  Nothing was going right, and she
had jet lag from hell that was making it hard to think. 
"Dammit.  Right.  All three of you, then.  Try to not get
your other leg broken too, Asuka." 

	"Hey, I couldn't help it!  I can't fight the wind!" 

	"Too bad we can't fly,"  Shinji said. 

	"Given how Rei landed last time, it would certainly
help,"  Asuka said. 

	Rei said nothing. 

                           ~*~

	There's nothing like a good hearty run through the
woods against hundred mile an hour winds through thick pine
forest during a howling blizzard to get the blood pumping. 
While Asuka did her best to keep up, she was steadily
falling behind, barely even able to see them.  The Angel had
dropped out of sight somehow, though the feed from POLARIS
indicated he hadn't somehow teleported away. 

	They soon learned the reason why; the ground dipped
very sharply downward ahead of them into a deep valley with
a frozen stream running through it.  The snow was lighter
here for no clear reason, so they could see further.  What
they saw were eight bombers scattered through the valley,
mangled but mostly intact, half-buried in snow.  The Angel
was kneeling by one of them, peeling it open. 

	"What the hell?"  Shinji said.  "He looks like he's
decided to have a snack or something." 

	Asuka reached the top of the ridge.  "He just pulled
open the BOMB BAY!  He's getting more freaking N2 mines!" 

                           ~*~

	Upon being informed of this, Fuyuutsuki tried to
decide on the best course of action.  His choices were
stripped from him in an instant when Gendo said, "Remote
detonate them all." 

	No one had seen Gendo return, and several people
started, whacking buttons and knobs that shouldn't have been
whacked.  No real damage was done that couldn't be fixed,
however. 

	"All of them?  What about the EVAs?" 

	"Give them twenty seconds to run, then go flat and
cover themselves with their AT-fields." 

	"They'll have to use up a lot of their power..." 

	"If he detonates a few of those while they fight
him, they will likely die.  Do it." 

                           ~*~

	"Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck," was Asuka's steady mantra as
they ran for their lives. 

	Rei ran silently. 

	Shinji looked back, saw Asuka losing ground, and
stopped, then lifted Asuka when Asuka reached him.  It
wasn't easy, and it slowed him down, but he was still faster
than the injured EVA. 

        "What are you doing?!" yelled Asuka. 

        "Running!" Shinji shouted back. 

	"Hit the dirt NOW!"  Misato shouted. 

	They went down.  AT-Fields went up.  Then all of
reality turned from white and gray into blazing red and
yellow as a pillar of unearthly fire purged all mundane 
earthly life from the world around them. 

                           ~*~

	MAGI analyzed more data and spat it out.  Ritsuko
frowned.  "He isn't dead, but he seems to have been
scattered by the blast.  At the current rate of his energy
starting to flow back together, we estimate...10 hours.  The
storm should die down as Salgiel has to pull himself
together, so hopefully we can get power packs to the pilots
in time." 

	Misato nodded.  "Pilots, power down to where you're
only running life support and get some sleep.  Keep one
person on watch while the other's rest, so we can easily get
ahold of you." 

	"Right.  Rei, you go first,"  Asuka said.  "Shinji,
you're second, and I'll take the third watch.  Maybe my EVA
will heal a little by then." 

	"Sounds good to me,"  Shinji said. 

	"I will wake you in three hours, Shinji,"  Rei said. 

                           ~*~

	When Rei woke Shinji, it seemed like it had been
only three seconds, but his EVA's internal clock spoke
otherwise:  4: 30 PM MST, May 15, 2015 AD.  His body clock
couldn't decide if he should be awake, asleep, or dead.  "I
hope you sleep better than I did, Rei." 

	"I will try."  The image of her on the viewscreen
clicked out, and he stared at it.  Had she made a joke?  Or
was she serious?  Or maybe she meant something else. 

	He shook his head and stared around the devastated
landscape.  He could barely see anything at all, although
the snow, which was black with dust, was falling more gently
now.  A gentle wind blew towards the vast crater to the
north of them, sending tiny flurries of snow blowing along
the ground.  The forest was flat as a pancake around them,
most of the trees reduced to a fine black ash. 

	He looked up at the sky, and to his surprise, he
could see a tiny hole in the clouds.  A few stars twinkled
through the hole, and he smiled.  It was good to see the
stars.  One of them was very bright, and he realized in a
few seconds that it was Polaris.  Several more stars arced
away from it, part of the Big Dipper.  Or was it the Little
Dipper? 

	He stared at the star.  It would still be there,
shining down its light on the Earth whether he won or lost. 
In fact, it might have blown up already, but they wouldn't
know for hundreds of years, maybe thousands.  Perhaps
someone orbited it and looked up at the sky and saw the Sun
at his North Pole and wondered when his battle would end. 

	Shinji felt his eyelids drooping, but he fought to
keep them open.  The light of Polaris helped; he feared he
would fall asleep if he looked away.  Maybe someone's
looking at our star and wondering if anyone lives here, he
thought.  Then again, maybe that was where the Angels came
from?  Who could tell?  Any star might be where the masters
of the Angels dwelt, building more monsters to unleash in
their desire to conquer the Earth. 

	The stars didn't feel quite so friendly anymore, but
he couldn't look away.  He tried, but he couldn't quite turn
his head.  They had caught him, held him somehow, singing to
one another with a song he couldn't quite hear, only feel
the vibrations in his bones.  Something was out there,
singing, coming closer, singing the stars into place for the
coming of the...the...It was calling the Angels forth. 
Whatever it was.  And now the song had caught him, or
perhaps the star.  Perhaps it was the star that was singing,
or maybe it had merely lured him into the trap. 

	When his eyes slammed down, he thought for a moment
that he had escaped, but he could still hear the song, the
celestial song of impending doom.  Then sleep took him. 

                           ~*~

	He checked his clock when he woke up, aghast at
falling asleep on watch.  9: 30 PM MST, May 15, 27915 AD. 
He blinked, rubbed his eyes, and looked again.  The time was
the same.  Looking around, he couldn't see 00 or 02
anywhere, and his radio only picked up static.  The forest
had grown back around him, though the trees were laden with
snow, and the ground was coated with ice.  It looked sickly,
some of the trees twisted into disturbingly suggestive
shapes, all of them with streaks of gray where no gray
should be.  Pinkish-green fungus grew on some of the trees,
and one of them...kept moving when he wasn't looking at it. 

	It was night, and the sky was only partly shrouded
with clouds.  The stars all seemed to be in the right
places...no, some of them had moved while others had not,
obeying no logic obvious to him.  One of them, however, had
not moved at all:  Polaris, the pole star. 

	Maybe I'm dreaming, he thought as he looked around. 
There was a reddish glow to the north, towards the crater. 
It was the glow of fire, he realized, and decided to go take
a look.  There might be people, and if it was a forest fire,
he could easily outrun it.  He checked his power supply: 
the infinity sign was showing.  That hardly seemed possible,
but it beat waiting here to die. 

	He reached the lip of the crater soon enough.  There
was a strangely shaped ridge in the middle of the crater
floor, roughly an oval with four smaller ridges running off
from it at various angles, two ridges running northwest and
north east from its northern end, one running east from the
south end, and one running southwest.  A frost laden shaft,
carven with runes he could not read from this distance, rose
from a point in the middle of the northern end of it, and
just south of the shaft, there was an altar of crudely cut
stone, accompanied by perhaps a dozen oddly shaped trees;
they looked like banyan trees which had decided to take a
winter vacation from Africa. 

	There were people around the altar, and fires. 
Dozens of people, maybe hundreds, milled about, dressed in
loose furs and dark cloaks.  He zoomed in with his vision to
take a closer look, and saw a woman who appeared to be the
high priestess.  She was a thuggish blonde with a protruding
forehead and bulging eyes, hunched over slightly, wrapped in
warm furs likely taken from some unfortunate moose, with
huge furry clawed gloves that looked like hollowed out bear
hands.  Her skin had a bit of a greenish tint to it, and she
stared unblinkingly at the victim on the altar. 

	Soon, Shinji could see the victim.  A red haired
female teenager was bound on the altar in an a strange pose. 
She lay face down with her arms spread to form a Y shape,
each running northward at a forty five degree angle from the
direction her head pointed.  Her left leg was arranged
similarly, pointing southwest from her torso, but her right
leg stuck straight east, which had to be painful, even if
she was very limber.  Her entire body was wrapped tightly in
a red cloth with black runes and lines drawn upon it. 

	A man stood near the high priestess holding a spear;
he was dressed in black furs and wore a mask of cleverly
carved wood that depicted some sort of snarling bestial face
with eyes dyed red, possibly through the use of berries. 
Everyone but the priestess kept their distance from him as
he capered about and howled pointlessly. 

	The spear caught Shinji's eye; it seemed far too
sophisticated for these barbarians, a smooth shaft of metal
which seamlessly expanded into a very sharply edged head. 
Runes carved into it sometimes flickered briefly with a
reddish light, and a single eye inscribed on the spearhead
had a glowing pupil. 

	A blue-haired female acolyte handed something to the
high priestess.  It was a long wooden cylinder carved to
resemble the pillar that rose at an angle from the ridge,
although it was not covered with dirt and grime and snow and
ice, unlike the pillar.  There was Latin script lettering on
it, and Shinji suddenly realized what it was supposed to
resemble.  It was a wooden small scale duplicate of an entry
plug. 

	The world had seemed almost frozen in time, but now,
everything began to move.  There were several prisoners
nearby, clad just like their captors, but being held in
place by large, strong, ugly men with an odd sigil tatooed
on their cheeks; it looked sort of like a 'bio-hazard' sign,
but more organic, as if the lines were horns taken from some
animal and turned into tattooes. 

	It was the prisoners who caught his eye.  Most of
them were passive and sullen:  a sandy-haired teenage boy
who was squinting constantly, a taller, somewhat handsome
black haired teen boy, a half-naked brown haired teenaged
girl.  A tall woman with long flowing black hair was howling
and trying to break loose; she wore a strange sigil made
from fishbones on a copper chain around her neck, somewhat
like a star with an eye in the middle.  He had seen it
before, seen her before, seen...Misato.  Some of the others
bore some resemblance to people he knew, but she...the only
difference was that the real Misato probably wouldn't have
worn sewn together furs and her necklace wasn't made out of
fishbones in real life. 

	What the hell had happened?  Was this something the
Angel had somehow set up?  Just a deranged dream?  A vision
of the future?  It couldn't be...Even if he had somehow
travelled through time, how the hell would Misato gotten
26,000 years into the future?  It couldn't be.  Just a
dream; I must have fallen asleep on watch, he thought.  It
had to be a dream. 

	The high priestess held the 'entry plug' high over
the girl bound on the altar, then lead the masses in some
kind of shout.  Shinji watched, dumbfounded by the sheer
bizarreness of the dream.  As the woman moved around to hold
the 'plug' over the girl on the altar, the acolyte parted
the cloth, revealing the victim's buttocks. 

	Horror gripped Shinji, as he realized what came
next.  While no one had ever given him 'the talk', he wasn't
completely clueless.  If he could have remembered he was
commanding something capable of killing them all without
even really noticing it, he would have done something, but
all he could think about was the horror to come.  Time
slowed down again as the priestess raised the shaft high. 
The closer it came to the girl, the slower everything moved. 

	It was a simple thing which snapped Shinji out of
his funk.  The mask-clad man's mask began to slide down his
face, and he pushed it back into place with a gesture that
was clearly instinctive.  It was a gesture Shinji had seen
before. 

	He began to move, not quite knowing why, but knowing
he had to do something, anything.  Everyone turned and
stared at him, and the high priestess froze in place, slowly
turning to look as well.  Unit01 lumbered down the steep
slope, picking up speed, howling a great shout that echoed
across the crater. 

	The Misato-like woman suddenly broke loose from her
captor, grabbed the spear of a second one and thrust it
through his throat, then took his belt knife as he fell and
drove it through the eye of the man who had been holding
her.  A riot broke out by the altar now, and the red haired
victim began to stir. 

	He ran, faster and faster, not thinking about
questions like how he was going to actually stop when he got
to the altar or what exactly he was going to do when he got
there.  Instinct drove him on; he had to stop what was
happening. 

	Then two things happened at once.  The trees began
to move, lashing out with their branches at prisoners who
sought to escape, bark cracking open to form parodies of a
human face.  One of the prisoners was half-swallowed by a
tree, which then bit him in half. 

	The second was worse, at least for Shinji.  The
beast-masked man turned to face him and lifted the spear. 
He leaned back, and threw it, stepping forward as he did so. 
The spear flew; it shouldn't have been able to do anything
to Unit01.  Except that it grew as it flew, doubling in size
every second, then it struck Unit01 through the heart with
the force of a battleship main gun. 

	Unit01 toppled and unbelievable agony ripped through
Shinji, who clutched his chest, unable to stand the pain. 
His head throbbed as if bombs were going off inside it, and
his chest felt a spreading fire.  For at least a minute, he
saw nothing, his eyes clenched shut, his body writhing
mindlessly inside the LCL. 

	When his eyes opened, Unit01 was pinned to the
ground, its limbs splayed about helplessly.  He could just
barely raise its head, and see the altar was now stained
with blood, mangled corpses surrounding it, piled on each
other in a parody of copulation.  'Misato' was on the altar
now, bound face up unlike the first victim, her body
streaked with paint, or more likely, blood, her necklace a
shattered pile of bone fragments by the base of the altar. 
Her body was covered in a grotesque parody of decency, with
everything covered except for her face, breasts, and nether
regions. 
	
	The priestess was more hunched over now, and seemed
to be limping;  the blue-haired acolyte and the beast-masked
man were holding her up.  She seemed hesitant, or perhaps
was simply shivering from the cold; it was snowing gently
despite the cloudless, moonless sky.  Only the stars and the
fires lit this gathering. 

	Shinji struggled feebly, trying to get his EVA to
move its arms so he could pull out the spear, but they
wouldn't move; he was powerless.  Tears ran down his face,
swiftly mixing with the LCL and dissolving away. 
"No...no..." 

	"Wake up."  Rei said. 

	Shinji started, looking over and seeing her sitting
next to him, wearing her plug suit and looking faintly
irritated.  "Rei...what are you doing here?" 

	"Waking you up," was her reply.  She turned and
stared at the sacrifice in process.  "It is not real." 

	"I don't know how!" 

	"Open your eyes." 

	He looked over at the altar.  The mob was chanting
now, waving their arms and swaying as if they all shared one
mind.  The trees swayed as well, and a wind was starting to
blow.  Above them, shimmering lights were forming, great
waves of polychromatic energy washing back and forth like
the aurora borealis.  "They've got Misato...she's going to
die!" 

	"Misato is in Toronto."  Rei's voice became a little
harsher.  "Open your eyes." 

	Unit01's left arm suddenly moved in a convulsive
jerk, grasping the spear.  Then paralysis settled in again,
but Shinji could feel it building power to pull the spear
out.  "Just...a...little...longer." 

	"If you stay, you will die.  Or lose your mind. 
Open your eyes." 

	The arm jerked and the spear pulled halfway out. 
Slowly, the arm began to pull it the rest of the way out. 
The lights were building, coalescing into a vast amorphous
shape made of light and darkness over the crater, hundreds
of feet across. 

	"I've almost got it out..." he spat out.  "I can
still..." 

        Rei's face darkened further, urgency creeping into
her voice.  "Even with an EVA, you will not succeed.  You
will die.  Wake up." 

	"Even if it's a dream...I can't let her die."  Not
like the others died.  "How...if it was a dream, why would I
dream this?  I don't WANT this to be real!" 

	"Sometimes people are made to dream the dream of
others."  She stared at him intensely.  "This is a trap. 
Wake up." 

	"A trap?  By who?" 

	The light was darkening and becoming flesh, and fur,
and scales, forming tentacles and limbs and lips and eyes
and teeth and legs, and mouths and breasts, a great cloud of
flesh hovering over the crater, blocking out the light of
the stars, lit only by the reddish glow of the fires below. 

	Rei moved so that Shinji could not see it.  "Do not
look up," she hissed.  Her own back was to the viewscreen
now.  "Her blessing would destroy you."  She moved closer to
him now, reaching out with a hand.  "Wake up." 

	"What...what is that?" 

	"Beyond human power to touch or comprehend." Her
hands brushed his eyes.  "Wake up." 

	He felt a jolt through his body, almost as bad as
when the spear had struck him, but pleasant rather than
agonizing.  When it passed, the pain that racked him had
gone.  Everything else had gone as well.  Asuka was on the
viewscreen, screaming at him, and Misato, also now on the
screen, didn't look too pleased.  Rei was gone, although a
few seconds later, a tiny window showing her head and
shoulders appeared.  "Shinji, WAKE UUUUUPPPP!!!"  Asuka
shouted. 

	Shinji blinked.  "It..."  He made Unit01 look
around.  Everything was back to normal.  The timer read 9:
30 PM MST, May 15, 2015 AD.  He'd slept a good five hours. 
"I'm sorry," he mumbled. 

	"The new backpacks will be dropped in a few
minutes,"  Misato said.  "Then it will be time for the hunt
to start again." 

	He looked over at Rei, who looked back at him.  "Did
you..." 

	Asuka said, "It's about time.  I'm starting to
wrinkle." 

	Misato laughed.  "The least of your worries, I
think." 

                           ~*~

	The new packs came soon enough, and they quickly
connected themselves in, then started to lope along towards
the destination being fed them by Misato courtesy of
POLARIS.  It wasn't far, although detouring around the
crater slowed them down a bit.  Shinji didn't look in the
crater; he was afraid of what he would see. 

	They found Salgiel easily; the forest was fairly
well levelled for quite a distance from the crater and he
hadn't gone very far.  The bad side of this was that it gave
him a few seconds to prepare.  As they closed in with 02 in
the middle, 00 on the left and 01 on the right, he hefted
one of the flattened trees and quickly broke off the base,
making a crude giant spear. 

	"Good idea,"  Misato said.  "Grab some trees." 

	00 and 01 paused to do so, but it took just a little
too long.  Salgiel's free arm stabbed at 00, and suddenly it
was airborne, hurled aloft by winds that could not be seen. 
Then he charged 01.  Shinji blocked desperately with a tree,
but his crumbled to ash on the first impact; the blast had
done more to the trees than just level them.  The ground was
a mixture of jumbled limbs and ice, hard to stand on, and
when the Angel's tree came around again to strike him, 01
toppled and collapsed. 

	Doing her best to hobble along, 02 had a tree club
in its left hand and a tree cane in the right.  She charged,
but the Angel simply crushed the base of the tree it held to
a crude spearpoint, then hurled the tree. 

	Shinji watched in horror, remembering his dream. 
The tree struck Unit02 where the spear had struck his unit
in his dream, and Unit02 toppled backwards.  As he started
to stand, Salgiel moved with blinding speed to leap onto
Unit02's chest, pushing the tree through its chest and into
the ground.  A tree shouldn't have been able to pierce EVA's
chest, or hold it in place, but his sensors showed the tree
was empowered with an AT-field. 

	No wonder it held together, Shinji thought.  A
moment later, Misato shouted, "Charge it with your
progressive knife, Shinji!  While it's busy." 

	He charged forward, wondering when Rei would land;
she must have been thrown high into the air, he thought. 
Asuka had fallen much faster than this.  As he charged,
Salgiel put its foot on Unit02's head like a triumphant
hunter, crushing its 'nose'.  It took the tree cane she had
been using and prepared to ram that down through 02's left
eye. 

	Several things happened at once.  Asuka gave a great
shout over the comlines.  02's mouth suddenly sprouted
dozens of tendrils and more erupted from its cheeks, brow,
and throat, burrowing into the Angel's foot and holding it
fast.  The tiny tubes began to throb and grew darker,
sucking fluids from Salgiel's body.  A shadow grew under
02's skin as the fluid began to spread through its flesh. 
And from above, 00 came into sight.  It was not falling, but
flying.  Great blue bat-like wings had erupted from its
back, Cherubim wings, and its mandibles convulsively snapped
open and shut as it dove down at the Salgiel's head. 

	Inside Unit02, Asuka watched, unable to do anything
as the LCL seethed and boiled around her.  For a moment, she
thought she saw tendrils forming from her own flesh, then
they dissolved away; she could feel her heart accelerating,
could almost feel the blood flowing through her veins. 
Lights flickered through the LCL, and the viewscreen took on
a faint red sheen.  She began to curse with every obscenity
she knew, but it was of no avail. 

	01 held its progressive knife high, a shimmering
polychromatic AT-field forming around it, and charged to
join the assault. 

                           ~*~

	Misato stared over her visual link.  Wings?  Since
when have the EVAs sprouted wings?  Although it certainly was
useful, but there was no way in hell something so big could
fly.  And what was 02 doing to the Angel's foot?  "What
the..." 

	Over the link from Tokyo-3, Ritsuko said,
"Adaptation.  You did notice the mandibles after they fought
the first Angel, didn't you?" 

	"Well, yes, but..."  She watched Shinji drive his
knife into the Salgiel's back, causing it to arch its back
just in time for Rei to settle down on top of it.  00's
mandibles pierced its skull, an AT-field shimmering around
them, and she stabbed her progressive knife into its throat. 
"Well, looks like we won this one." 

	"I hope you're right." 

                           ~*~

	Salgiel's body shimmered, beginning to shift colors
across the darker end of the specrum, shaking and twitching
as it howled.  Winds were picking up and snow erupted in a
torrent from the sky, battering at the three EVAs, but their
grips did not falter.  It tried to discorporate, to let go
of its body, but it was trapped by their AT-fields, which
had flowed together into a prison built of constantly
changing light.  It could not escape, and inch by inch, they
were devouring it. 

	Shinji could hear Asuka shouting, though he
understood none of it, and as the LCL around him began to
pulse, he started to understand why.  He felt hungry, or
maybe his EVA was hungry; it wanted to feed, to feed on the
light.  He felt the urge to rip out the Angel's heart, to
dig his teeth into its flesh.  His own hunger echoed his
EVA's building frenzy, for he had not eaten in over a day,
and the LCL could keep him alive, but not really satisfy his
stomach. 

	Salgiel's body lost its color and turned gray, then
great, dry flakes began to fall off it.  It dropped the tree
cane, and the tree it had shoved through 02 crumbled to dust
in a second as the AT-field that sustained it failed.  The
snowstorm around them built to a frenzy that would have
levelled a city in seconds, but the snow melted to water,
and water to steam, and steam broke apart into hydrogen and
oxygen the instant it struck the surging fields of light
that surrounded the four huge humanoid figures. 

	His head suddenly collapsed, caving in on itself,
and 00 greedily devoured it, sweeping gobbets of pinkish
flesh fading to gray into its gullet past the mandibles
which now tore into its shoulders.  And with that, the other
EVAs began to devour the great beast as well. 

	Shinji said, "I can't stop it!  What the...What do I
do?"  01 drove its fist through the things's ribs and ripped
out the creature's heart, which was still limmed with a
dwindling nimbus that shone across the spectrum, then ate
the heart in a single gulp, shoving its head in where the
hand had gone to devour more flesh.  The LCL around him
surged with every bite, and to his horror, he found himself
biting at the LCL, though he quickly stopped himself, the
urge to feed continued.  It took a lot to make Shinji curse. 
This was enough.  "SSSSHHIIIITTTT!!!!  I CAN'T STOP!!!" 

	"Gott in HIMMEL!"  Asuka shouted as her EVA began to
devour the Angel of Snow's legs, its head tendrils sucking
up every droplet of fluid they could find.  "PAREN!  PAREN! 
SCHEISSE!!!"  The LCL boiled around her, now a deep red in
color, as if she floated in a sea of blood.  It tasted
better, or perhaps she simply was liking the taste.  She
didn't like liking it. 

	The storm ceased in an instant, the winds vanishing
and the snow stopping as Salgiel's body went totally limp,
being ripped apart by the three out of control EVAs.  02 got
up onto its knees and tore into the beast's flesh, its own
leg injury now apparently forgotten, while 00 chewed its way
down the body, and 01 split the middle.  Two Children
continued to scream over the comlines. 

	"WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?"  Misato shouted at Ritsuko,
who winced slightly. 

	"No need for obscenity.  This will require study." 

	The blue of 00's flesh faded to a snow-white color
as it continued its meal.  01 sprouted fangs and claws as it
continued its disgusting feast of grey, crumbling flesh.  02
seemed unchanged if you didn't count the fact that its leg
was clearly not broken anymore. 

	Misato winced and turned away.  "This requires
Pepto-Bismol.  Once the angel is dead, get those kids out
of there!"

                           ~*~

	Shinji wiped his brow.  Something had to be wrong
with the airconditioning at the Geofront.  He had been
sweating ever since he came back to Japan, but the
temperature normally never changed down inside NERV's base. 
"Can someone turn up the air conditioning?" 

	Asuka, who was standing next to him in another one
of the monitor tubes nodded.  All three pilots were naked
and being tested again.  She could feel a tiny bead of sweat
making its way down her forehead.  "Does it usually get this
hot in Japan in May?" 

	"Hmm,"  Ritsuko said, checking a monitor.  "Is the
heat bothering you, Rei?" 

	"I am sweating," she replied. 

	Maya frowned.  "That's strange.  No one else is, and
your body temperatures all read normal." 

	"Well, something is WRONG!"  Shinji shouted in a fit
of pique, then blinked at himself.  Why'd I shout? 
"Uh...sorry about that." 

	"Yeah, like Shinji said,"  Asuka pitched in. 
"Whatever your machines say, we all feel hot." 

	"It's 20 degrees centigrade.  You should feel fine," 
Maya said.  "We'd better do a blood test." 

	As Maya walked away, Asuka looked around warily then
said quietly to Shinji, "Hey, what do you think you were
doing back there?"

	Shinji merely gave her a confused look.  "What'd I
do?"

	"You picked up my Eva and ran, that's what you did,"
said Asuka irritably.  "I would've been just fine, you
know."

	"But you were falling behind!  I couldn't just-"

	"Yeah, well, you don't have to be the knight in
shining armor all the time, y'know."

	"Sorry."

	"Me'n Rei might be girls, but we're tough enough to
take care of ourselves."  Her expression softened, just a
little.  "But... thanks anyway."

	Rei sat silently in the corner, looking down at the
cold, tiled corner.  If anyone else was in the room, they
would've felt a drop in temperature.

                           ~*~

	Blood tests revealed nothing, and the feeling of
discomfort at the heat gradually faded.  Eventually,
everyone went home and had dinner.  Shinji picked at his
dinner of teriyaki chicken, reluctant to eat...memories of
his frenzying EVA tearing into the Angel kept coming back to
him. 

	Misato looked over, sauce all over her lips.  "You
don't like it?" 

	"I keep thinking about..."  He blushed.  "The
Angel." 

	Asuka's eyes suddenly widened in the middle of
drinking her coke through a straw.  She spat the straw out
of her mouth, then hurled it into the garbage can.  "Don't
remind me!" 

	"It wasn't your fault, Shinji,"  Misato said. 
"There's a lot we don't fully understand about the EVAs, but
they're the only way we can stop the Angels."  She sounded
uncertain as she continued, subconsciously taking a hold of
her star-eye necklace.  "And we saved Toronto." 

	"But...what if I lose control of my EVA again?" 

	"What if the Earth suddenly spins into the Sun?" 
Misato replied.  "Even berserk, none of you attacked each
other, so I don't think there's any danger any of you will
hurt each other.  Just do your best, Shinji.  And if you
don't eat your dinner, you'll starve." 

	He nodded, and started eating, feeling a little
better.  Asuka returned to drinking her coke without the
straw, looking a bit subdued.  Misato, on the other hand,
ate like her food was going to escape if she didn't devour
it immediately.  Some of it did escape, off her plate and
into Asuka's hair when her chopsticks slipped.  And then
things got really messy. 

                           ~*~

	Gendo and Fuyuutsuki sat in a small room with many
TV monitors on the walls, each showing a different channel. 
Most of them were news, reporting outbreaks of cannibalism
in towns which had been snowed in by the great storm, or
showing time lapse photography of the storm, or revealing
that the glaciers had advanced a good fifty miles during
what the announcers were calling, 'The Blizzard of the
Century'.  A thousand eggheads shouted at each other over
what had caused it, with explanations ranging from the wrath
of God to El Nino to aliens to holes in the ozone layer. 

	Gendo's gaze lingered briefly on a talk show where
one of the guests was shouting and trying to beat the host
to death with a rune-carved walking cane.  "I have seen it! 
The Storm is only the beginning.  After winter, summer, and
after summer comes winter!  The stars have turned and now
humanity will be purged from Earth!  The Lord of the Air
sends forth his hand to smite the Earth!  And it's all your
fault!  But now I understand!  YOU ARE THE CRAWLING CHAOS! 
If I kill you, humanity will be saved!" 

	Gendo laughed.  "If he WAS the Crawling Chaos,
bashing his head in would simply cause more trouble than it
would be worth.  And I suspect he wouldn't be running a talk
show, anyway." 

	"Well, we did suspect Springer briefly, but..." 
Fuyuutuski laughed.  "Hmm. I wonder if the fellow has
studied D'erlette's Elemental theory." 

	"Possibly.  If so, he's working from bad
information.  D'erlette misinterpreted the references to the
Lords of the Elements in the texts he studied,"  Gendo said,
idly scratching his ear and watching the maniac swat away
the security guards. 

	"It did seem rather strange to list someone
imprisoned underwater as a water elemental,"  Fuyuutsuki
said.  "Or the Haunter in the Dark as an earth elemental
when so many of its forms fly or swim." 

	"Part of the problem is that he used the wrong
elemental theory,"  Gendo said.  "Four elements instead of
five.  It's quite clear from the Ponape Scriptures that it
should be five." 

	"But which five?" 

	Gendo blinked.  "Air, Water, Fire, Metal, and Plants
or Wood, of course." 

	"The Pnakotic Manuscripts use the four Western
Elements and Spirit as their five." 

	Gendo frowned.  "Why didn't you mention this
before?" 

	"I did.  We've had this argument before, you know. 
Still, the real question is whether we understood the
references better than him as to WHAT the Lords of the
Elements are.  If he is right, then we're running down the
road to perdition." 

	"I think we've seen enough proof to know we're
right.  The only question is which set of elements and
whether or not they will all survive as they must." 

	Fuyuutsuki laughed and settled back in his chair. 
"Prophecies always come true.  They will survive.  The only
question is whether it will be fulfilled in the way we hope,
or the way we fear." 

	"And whether we survive to see the day we have long
awaited."  That was his deepest fear; he was not part of the
prophecy, there was no guarantee of his survival.  Yet, if
he died before the crucial moment, all his labors would have
been for naught.  "We must find the Fourth Child." 

	"We will,"  Fuyuutsuki said, rising from his chair. 
"That much we know is fated." 

	"We hope." 

	"Hope is often all we have in this world." 

	"And as often, a delusion." 

	Fuyuutsuki paused in the doorway.  "'Vanity of
vanities, all is vanity.  There is nothing good under the
sun.' If you think this is all vain striving, why are you
still trying?" 

	"The secret is to realize that the strivings of the
great powers are, in the end, just as futile as the
strivings of humanity.  The universe will as cheerfully
grind them under and reduce them to dust as it would watch
humanity be destroyed.  Even if humanity triumphs, we will
one day be destroyed.  But so will they.  And the universe
that would watch us die without caring won't shed a tear
when they die.  As we've already proved." 

	"If they realize what we're up to and actually take
us seriously..." 

	"If someone is stung by a bee and dies, do you
assume the bees are plotting in their hive against you?  So
it is with them.  They will not really pay attention until
it is too late.  Especially since they often squabble among
themselves, which may well be why humanity has survived this
long at all.  They will think that one of the others is
using us as a tool, if they notice us at all."  He smiled
faintly. 

	"Half-truths make the deadliest lies,"  Fuyuutsuki
said. 

	"Exactly." 


                            -*-
                      - end part 6 -
                            -*-