Part 11: Slumming it

The teens had stopped by the apartment long enough to drop off the fourteen bags they had bought and to hit the bathroom. Hikari had called her sister Kodama to tell her that she would be late getting home and to please feed Nozumi for her. Kodama agreed and Hikari had ended the call, trusting to her older sister to look after her younger sister. Shinji put the single bag he had bought in his room, and set the multiple bags he knew were Asuka and Ritsuko in her room, leaving the three bags that Rei had bought and the two bags that Hikari had on the floor of the living room. Hikari and Asuka had decided that she could leave her bags there while they did the initial site eval and Ritsuko began her and Shinji's firearms instruction. Rei had agreed to leave her bags there as well, to be gathered before she returned to her apartment for the night. Shinji took the time to do the dishes as the girls rotated through the bathroom. Rei dried the dishes as he washed them, the two of them finishing the few dishes in the sink by the time that Hikari stepped out of the bathroom.

It was perhaps a 20-minute train ride to the location that Asuka had mentioned. When the stop for the nearest street corner had come, they were nearly the only ones still on the train, and the only ones to get off. The damage from Shinji's battle had been mostly repaired, but the shops and homes and stands had been left vacant, their owners long since moved. That is not to say that there were no signs of life; no, there were signs of life, all right. The minor accumulation of grafetti and the occasional damaged or destroyed window or door said that this area, though repaired, had become another `bad part' of Tokyo 3. Rei lived in one similar to this, but hers was more derelict than run down. Asuka ignored the minor signs of life from the windows of the apartments on the upper floors of the buildings, and the occasional sounds of people moving near them. She was a Pilot, after all, and therefore too good to be bothered with these pathetic little losers.

Rei was unfazed by the area, as she was unfazed by most things. Shinji kept his eyes open, as did Ritsuko. Hikari kept walking closer and closer to Asuka and Shinji as they got deeper and deeper into the area. Soon, she saw trees and shrubs along one side of the street, and repaired buildings on the other. Back among the trees, she thought she saw a few people moving. She stepped a little closer to Asuka, which brought her arm into contact with the redheaded pilot's side. Asuka glanced at her and announced. "Here we are. This and the next block are the kill grounds." Ritsuko stood beside Shinji, her hand resting flat on the front of her hip, her eyes scanning the area around them.

"Are these thugs here all the time?" she asked, her eyes on the buildings.

"Thugs? You mean those losers back there?" asked Asuka, tossing her head in the direction they came from. "I didn't see them when I was in my Eva, but I suppose that they would have taken cover when the angel alarm went off. I guess we should plan on them being here next weekend. Worried?"

"Not unless there are more than about a platoon of them." Returned Ritsuko absently. "Most of these buildings are three stories tall, and the alleys are pretty wide as alleys go." Her tone was thoughtful. "We need to get up to the roof to check things out. Suggestions?"

"Easy." Scoffed Asuka, marching up to a storefront and rattling the door. It was locked, a little surprisingly, but Asuka just stepped back a little and hit the door with a hard front kick, landing it just beside the lock plate. Not surprisingly, the door crashed open. "Let's find the roof access." She said, entering the store. Hikari gasped at her.

"Asuka!" she cried. "What if someone's here?!"

"What of it? If they're here, they are here illegally, so they won't complain about the damage." Dismissed Asuka, her eyes scanning the rooms in the slowly fading light. "That looks promising." She said, heading for a door at the back of a short hall. She was followed by Hikari, then Rei, then Ritsuko and Shinji. Shinji glanced at Ritsuko, and saw that she was walking backward, her eyes on the broken door.

"Something wrong, Rit-chan?" he asked her.

"Switch off with me. I'll walk rear guard." She said softly, pausing as he slid by her. She had her eyes fixed on the door, and beyond. Shinji glanced back there as well and thought he saw some movement, but wasn't sure. Ritsuko's hand pressed into his chest, gently pressing him toward the door that Asuka had just lead the rest through. "Go on. I'll be along shortly. Keep an eye out for the others." She said, sparing him a brief smile.

"Um, well if you're sure you wouldn't like me to stay here with you…" he began.

"You're sweet, Shinji, but don't worry; I'm a big girl and can handle myself. Besides, I won't be more than a few steps behind you guys. I'm just going to shut the door." She gave him a much more powerful smile, which melted his resistance like wax in a furnace. It also made his little Shinji stir. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, he nodded, returned her smile, and headed for the door Asuka had indicated. He glanced back once before he started up to the second floor, and saw Ritsuko pushing the door closed at the front of the shop. He headed up the stairs.

"What kept you, Shinji?" asked Rei's soft voice from where she stood beside the door that opened onto the second floor. "And where is Rit-chan?"

"She said she had to close the door, and that she'd be just behind me." Answered Shinji, seeing Rei's eyes on his. Rei gave him a small smile.

"Pilot Sohryu has located the stairs to the next floor, and she and Hikari have headed for the third floor to find the roof access. Do you wish to proceed or wait here for Rit-chan?" asked the Pilot of Unit 0. Shinji considered the question. Most of the movement he had thought he had seen had been on the top floors, but Ritsuko had seemed to be concerned about the ground level access, so there must be a threat there. Asuka was a good fighter, but Hikari wasn't. Ritsuko was alone, and while he thought she must be fairly good at fighting, he was pretty sure she was unarmed. He felt that both groups needed him, but which one needed him more? Rei's voice interrupted his thoughts. "Shinji?" she asked softly.

"Yes, Rei-chan?" he answered, glancing over to see her leaning in toward him.

"Would you let me kiss you?" she asked serious, her face pausing only a finger width away from his.

"Of course, Rei. I'll always let you kiss me." He added, feeling her lips press to his. Rei maintained the kiss for several moments, then gently broke it and leaned back.

"Thank you, Shinji. I find that and our other recent activities most enjoyable." She said softly. Shinji gave her a goofy smile.

"Me too." He replied, not exactly the model of intellectual prowess just then. Rei cocked her head to the side slightly.

"There you are, Rit-chan. Is all well down there?" asked the blue haired girl as the other girl cleared the door.

"It is now." Smiled the older redhead. "Let's catch up with the others."

They found Asuka and Hikari standing by the door to the stairway that lead to the apartments below. Ritsuko began to scan the area around her with a critical eye. During the course of the visual inspection, she walked the perimeter all around the roof, looking at the other roofs, the ground below them, the lines of sight from the park next to them as well as the angles from the windows below them. Some thought was obviously given to the distance from roof to roof as well. It was perhaps fifteen minutes later when she moved back to where the group was waiting. By now the sun was only a few minutes from touching the horizon. "Well?" asked Asuka, her tone confident. "Is this good or what?"

"Not bad, but it has some definite concerns. Especially since urban warfare is mostly a game of numbers. Those with the most soldiers tend to win these scenarios."

"Not when you're on the defensive and have time to set up traps and limit accessibility." Countered Asuka. "Urban warfare is costly to any invader because the occupying forces can ambush them from nearly any direction and there are countless places to conceal fighters or bombs. I was taught that when assaulting an urban target with infantry to expect eighty percent casualties."

"Did you forget that the causalities for the defenders is usually one hundred percent?" returned Ritsuko. "And your plan calls for you and Rei and Shinji to be on the offensive, while I and Hikari are guarding the flag. In case it's slipped your mind, that means that you lose the advantage of defense when you go proactive."

"So what's your point, Ritsuko?!" snapped Asuka.

She seems to have a problem with people pointing out flaws in her plans. Observed Ritsuko to herself. "My point is…" she was interrupted by a bang and the sound of glass shattering at the front of the store. Ritsuko's hand dove under her HK tee shirt and pulled her USP from her waistband as she sprinted for the roofline at the front of the building. Reaching it, she dropped carefully to her knees and brought the gun to the ready as she peered over the edge. Below her, she saw two figures on the ground, both working their way to their feet. The front sight of her USP came to rest over their chests as her finger tightened on the trigger and the hammer began to move back. The two people on the ground managed to get to their feet and looked up to see the partial outline of Ritsuko's head and shoulder over the edge of the roof, her gun pointed right at them. Both took to their heels like a pack of starving hellhounds were on their tails. Ritsuko eased off the trigger, but her aim followed them as they made for the trees. Once they were completely gone, Ritsuko stood from her kneeling crouch, verified the gun was de-cocked, then tucked it back into her waistband and settled the shirt back over it. Turning to the other teens, she saw them staring at her.

"Rit-chan, were you packing that all day?" asked Hikari.

"No, I picked it up before we headed over here. I figured I might need it." Replied the other teen.

"I thought you said you were out of ammo." Muttered Asuka. "Don't tell me you're caring an empty gun around."

"I sort of found some ammo." Replied Ritsuko evasively.

"I see. The Captain uses a USP as well, so I believe that you found the spare magazine for her weapon and either took her bullets or switched magazines." Replied Rei. She stepped closer to Ritsuko, holding out her hand. "May I handle your pistol, Rit-chan?" she asked.

"Sure." Replied Ritsuko, lifting her shirt and drawing the gun again. She handed it to Rei grip first. "Careful, it's chambered."

"I had surmised as much." Rei confirmed. She took the gun in a comfortable grip and inspected it closely. "Night sighted HK USP Variant 3 in 9X19 caliber." Identified Rei. She ejected the magazine, glanced at it, then reinserted it with a crisp snap of her wrist to seat it firmly. "Fifteen round magazine with two rounds missing. This is the same as Captain Katsuragi carries, except that her gun is a Variant 1. I see that you used your own magazine, as the ones the Captain has are marked for use by NERV. This is an excellent choice of weapons, Rit-chan." Rei commended, handing the gun back to Ritsuko.

"So what did you do with the two rounds that are missing?" asked Shinji.

"She used one round in some sort of booby trap downstairs and the other is in the chamber of her pistol." Replied Rei.

"Wondergirl the military nut. You should date that little prick Aida." Groused Asuka.

"How do you know the size of Aida's penis?" asked Rei in her normal emotionless tone. Asuka sputtered as Hikari giggled.

"How dare you! I don't know and I don't WANT to know!" she yelled, her hands balling into fists. "For your information, it's JUST AN EXPRESSION!"

"I see." Replied Rei, her tone still serious. "However, Pilot Sohryu, I have no interest in Aida, and Suzahara would certainly object to his seeing another in any event." Her red eyes were locked into Asuka's blue eyes. Hikari saw the sun sink lower and the shadows get longer.

"Guys? Can we get out of here now?" she asked, her nervous tone indicating that she at least considered the presence of the thugs to be a hazard.

"Sure. We still need to get you and Shinji started on marksmanship." Agreed Ritsuko, heading down the stairs into the apartments and the store on the ground level. The trip back to the train stop was fairly uneventful.

Kensuke and Touji finally stopped running and stood bent over, panting and sweating a river. It was several moments before they could speak. "Do you…think we…lost them?" panted the one in glasses.

"Yeah, I think we got away…thought they'd have got us…before we could get going." Replied the somewhat better conditioned boy. They were silent except for their panting for a bit longer before they spoke again.

"Is she crazy or something? We're the least of her concerns if she seriously wants to have the fight there!"

"The girls might not make it to the match before they get assaulted." Agreed Touji. "Has she gone nuts or what?"

"What do you mean, `gone nuts'? She's BEEN nuts since she got here." Challenged Kensuke. Having caught their breath to a large degree, the two boys headed for home, leaving the run down area and it's hostile denizens behind. "Hey!" exclaimed Kensuke brightly as a thought occurred to him. "Why don't we see if we can get them to forfeit the match before we have to fight them?"

"And how do you plan to do that, Kensuke. She's too proud to back down, you know."

"Yeah. But she said she saw this place from her Eva. Why not ask her if she's seen the place from ground level? I bet she'll at least think about forfeiting the match when she sees those gang members there."

"You might be right. Seeing them from an Eva is different from seeing them in your face."

"So, you want to try that on her tomorrow?" pressed Kensuke.

"It's worth a shot." Agreed Touji. The worst that can happen is that she doesn't care. He conceded to himself.

On the train ride back to the apartment, Shinji's phone rang. He pulled it out, saw the name on the screen and answered the phone. "Misato?"

"Hi, Shinji-kun!" called out the cheerful Captain. "Where are you guys right now?"

"We're on the way home right now. Why?"

"Well, I'm at home, but I'm fixing to head to NERV. Airi and I have to meet with Ritsu about some matters, and Vice Commander Fuyutsuki wants to have a word with you and Asuka. So you may as well come on down to the office."

"What does he want with Asuka and me?" asked a puzzled but concerned Shinji. I barely know the man.

"No idea, Shin. But look at it this way: at least it isn't your father who wants to talk to you two." Shinji grunted in reply. Just then, he felt Ritsuko tap his shoulder and motion for his phone.

"Misato, Rit-chan wants to talk to you. Here she is." He said handing the phone to Ritsuko.

"Captain Katsuragi?" began Ritsuko.

"Call me Misato, Rit-chan. You aren't in NERV; at least not yet." Ritsuko brushed that comment off.

"Would it be possible for you to arrange for some time at a target range for myself, Shinji and Hikari? I think we'll need a two hundred yard rifle range and access to some pistols, rifles and if possible some submachine guns and ammo for weapons. The sooner the better. Also, I have some questions for you in regards to this coming weekend."

"Sure. Is tonight good for you?"

"Tonight? Sure. I can at least get them started on the basics, and hopefully they'll be proficient by the challenge date."

"Them? Hikari is still with you guys?"

"Yeah. Can she get into NERV with us?" asked Ritsuko of the older woman.

"I'll arrange it. You sound a little worried, Rit-chan, is everything ok with you guys?"

"We're good, but things are a little more complicated than I like them to be. Is Airi handy?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Right here beside me. Hold one." There was a pause. Then she heard Airi's voice.

"What's up, Rit-chan?" asked the actress.

"I think I might need your help with something, Airi. Do you mind missing a little sleep one night soon?"

"Of course I'll help, Rit-chan. Tell me when and what, and I'll be there. Are you ok, Rit-chan?" the concern in her voice at the end touched the teen's heart. It wasn't the first time that Airi had proven that she really did care about her younger friend.

"Don't worry; I'm always good, Airi. You know that." Ritsuko chirped back, her tone light and happy.

"Well, if there isn't anything else, I'll see you at NERV in a bit." Replied the Actress, reassured by the happy tone of voice of her young colleague. "Hand the phone back to Shinji, Rit-chan. Misato wants to have a word with him."

"Sure. See you there." Said Ritsuko, handing the phone back to Shinji. "Misato wants you again." She said, only realizing after the fact that she had just done an unintentional pun. Shinji missed it, putting the phone to his ear.

"Yes, Misato?" he asked.

"So, its Rit-CHAN now, is it?" came Misato's teasing voice. "You've got good tastes, Shin-chan. Still, I suppose I can share you with her. Do you want me on even days or odd days?"

"Mi…Misato!" he sputtered. "It's not like that!" His face grew redder and redder.

"Don't be so shy, stud!" continued Misato, her tone jubilant. "When you're hung, you're hung! And I can't say that I'm surprised that Rit-chan wants a piece of my Shinji. But I have to know: when are you and Asuka going to do it? And don't forget Rei, big boy; she needs some of your loving too." Shinji was actually redder than Asuka's Eva now, especially with the current line of Misato's teasing. Giving up, he just managed to get out

"Bye, Misato." Before ending the call.

"I gather that Misato was hitting on you again." Stated Asuka, sighing. "I swear, she's a bigger pervert than you are sometimes!"

"Does Captain Katsuragi have plans for you tonight, Shinji?" asked Rei innocently.

"She has plans for him every night, Wondergirl." Replied Asuka, tone angry.

"If you were to ask, I am sure that she would allow you to spend some nights with Shinji." Stated Rei. The others gasped.

"Rei!" hissed Hikari. "What are you saying?"

"Captain Katsuragi would not begrudge Shinji spending some nights with Pilot Sohryu as opposed to her. She is not a jealous person." Stated Rei.

"Please tell me you aren't saying what I think you're saying." Moaned Hikari. Oddly enough, Asuka hadn't exploded yet, even though her face was as red as her Eva.

"Can we not talk about this right now?" begged Shinji.

"Very well. We will speak of this at another time." Agreed Rei. The group fell silent as they waited for their new stop to arrive. The car was sparsely occupied, with only about a dozen other people in it. A few minutes before they got to their stop, Ritsuko stiffened slightly as she felt one's hand on her ass, moving toward her thighs. She glanced at Shinji, but he was in front of her, so she doubted that it was him. Rei and Hikari were sitting in the seats in front of which she and Shinji stood, and Asuka was in front of Shinji. She shifted her eyes to Hikari's and saw that the girl was staring at her feet intently. Behind her head, she saw a reflection of a man in his late twenties, dressed in a cheap suit, standing behind her, his arm casually extended and his hand slipping under her skirt. Hikari must have seen him, but didn't say anything as she was obviously too embarrassed to confront the man.

She seems to be aggressive and in charge, until something like this happens. Well, fortunately for her, I'm not so damned demure. And no one feels my ass without my permission! Thought Ritsuko, feeling the man touch her bare thigh in a possessive manner, his hand sliding toward her panties. Ritsuko shifted her stance so she could tap her shoe against Hikari's, getting the girl's attention. When the class rep looked up at her, she arched an eyebrow and gave a little head toss toward the man feeling her ass. Hikari blushed and started to look away again, but Ritsuko tapped her foot again, winking at the girl when she looked back. Ritsuko casually slid her hand behind her, touching the man's arm, but giving no sign that she objected to his actions. She heard him give an excited, breathy sound as her hand slowly slipped up to touch his, which was still stoking her panty-clad ass cheeks. Once she had her fingers intertwined with his, she took a deep breath, and smiled.

Shinji and Asuka flinched with surprise along with Hikari when the man's agony-filled scream sounded on the train. Ritsuko had selected two fingers, wrapped her own around them and then twisted them hard backward and to the side, snapping them like twigs as she stepped around and behind him, her fist still closed over his broken fingers, using them to slam him into the steel walls once, twice, three times, his broken fingers binding his arm behind him as the elf hunter levered his locked arm around, controlling him like a puppet. After the third impact with the steel wall, she kicked his knee out from under him, but didn't release his fingers or lower her arm, which caused him some excruciating pain as his elbow and wrist were sprained and possibly dislocated. Ritsuko's shoe pressed into his chest below his chin, forcing his eyes up to meet her eyes. "Listen up, you fucking jerkwad!" she snapped at him, her tone mean and aggressive. "If you ever so much as breath on another girl on any train, you will pray for this moment, as the next girl will probably not be so forgiving as me. Are you listening to me, asshole?" she snarled. "Do you fucking understand what the hell I'm telling you, assboy? Groping women on trains is stupid, immature and even more useless than pretending that your hand is a girl. But that isn't the reason I broke your fingers. No, I broke your fingers because groping my ass PISSES ME OFF!" She accented her words with increased pressure on both his chest and broken fingers. "Do you understand me, limp dick? Are you clear on the concept now, pus-nuts? Yes? Good. Now crawl your skanky ass out of here before I change my mind and kill you, fudge-packing ass-licker." With that, Ritsuko dropped his arm and shoved with her foot, sending the man sliding down the floor. She stared at him as he fearfully scampered away as best he could with his injuries. The elf hunter then swept the car with her eyes, meeting each and everyone's gaze. A few of the women in the car gave her silent head bows of thanks. She smiled at them. Turning to Hikari, who's mouth hung open, she gave her friend a small, satisfied smile. "That took care of that."

"Sorry I didn't warn you, Ritsuko." Murmured Hikari, her eyes downcast.

"No problem. And why are you back to calling me Ritsuko? Rit-chan is fine!" reassured Ritsuko, her smile warm and friendly; completely at odds with her violent acts a moment before. She considered her friend's body language and came to a realization. "You've been groped before, haven't you?" she asked quietly. Hikari's cheeks colored as she looked at the floor. "So, what happened? He groped you and you said something but nothing happened?"

"No. I told him to stop, but he just laughed and pushed my skirt all the way up. No one reacted to what he was doing, unless it was to chuckle at his hand on my ass. I wanted to move away, but there were too many people on the train. I had to get off three stop early because he started to pull my panties off." She said quietly.

"When was this?!" snapped Asuka, enraged.

"It was the week before Shinji got here. I figured that if no one had done anything then, then there was no point in warning you, Rit-chan. I'm so sorry."

"Hey, it was nothing! I'm going to teach you how to do what I just did, and next time, break their fingers if some shit-head gropes you." Stated Ritsuko firmly.

"To hell with that." Came Shinji's low, hard voice. For a moment, Rei's eyes rested on him because he had sounded a lot like Commander Ikari. "Kill the fucker." He snarled.

"That might be a little harsh." Began Hikari, disliking the violence implicit in his words.

"Like hell it is! Fucking little hentai losers deserve to die! Groping women on trains! What fucking losers! They ought to be slow roasted over a bed of coals for pulling that shit!" snarled Asuka.

"I am in agreement with both you and Shinji on this matter." Came Rei's quiet voice. "Although I confess that I usually just break their bones, much like Rit-chan just did."

"Men grope you, Rei?" asked Hikari, shocked. Rei always seemed too cold and creepy to imagine that strangers would grope her.

"Of course they grope her! She's a girl, isn't she?!" snapped Asuka.

"Which bones do you favor breaking, Rei?" asked Ritsuko in the same tone as women usually use to discuss what fingernail polish color to use.

"I find that breaking their instep keeps them from running away long enough to snap their knee; or at least, it does when they are behind me. When they are in front of me, I find that hitting them in the kidney with my fist makes them put their arm behind them, which is then easily dislocated at the shoulder or broken by a sharp upward shove. Failing that, I have been experimenting lately with hitting them in the back of the skull with my palm."

"That is a good one, but be careful not to hit them too hard or it will snap their neck." Admonished Ritsuko.

"Fuck that, Rei. Hit them as hard as you can if they touch you." Ordered Shinji, and Asuka nodded emphatically.

"Blood thirsty, Shinji?" asked Rit-chan, smiling at him.

"No one should touch you all that way." He said, his tone absolutely certain. "It isn't right." Hikari wasn't the only one who felt a tingle run down her spine at Shinji's words and the tone he spoke them in. Asuka and Ritsuko felt identical tingles in their spines. Asuka's settled into a faint warmth in her lower belly, while Hikari felt herself getting warm between her legs. Ritsuko just felt happy at knowing that Shinji at least treated a girl with respect and love. And it is true that he is a good-looking young man. I wonder just how big his dick is? She shook her head to dislodge that thought. It didn't last long, as the question came back up. I want to see for myself. Now, how can that be arranged?

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and the group walked into NERV with little discussion. At the entrance to the main headquarters and Eva facility, a guard handed Hikari a badge similar to the ones that the Pilots and Ritsuko had, except that her badge had two red chevrons on the face, and the word TEMPORARY stamped over the face of it in shadowed text. Still, the picture on it was a current one from school, a fact that Shinji noted as being odd, but he dismissed it as just another case of NERV being NERV. The guard started to instruct her on the conditions, but Asuka, true to form, interrupted him rudely, telling him that she would tell her the rules and that they were supposed to report to Vice Commander Fuyutsuki office immediately. The guard waved them off, knowing the danger of annoying the familiar of the Devil of NERV.

"So, what do I need to do with this thing?" asked Hikari as she studied the badge. She noticed that it had a clip for attaching it to her, and the back had a code strip, presumably for opening doors and such.

"Simple. It must be attached to either your waist or collar, in plain view, at all times. The card is used to open doors and activate machines within your clearance level, so if the card doesn't open the door or work the machine, you shouldn't be there." Replied Asuka.

"And be sure to keep it in plain view. Section 2 is…fervent in its desire to imprison or kill people." Muttered Shinji. He remembered what had happened to Touji and Kensuke, and that was when they had entered in his Eva and had been authorized to be there by the Operations Director herself. Hikari took his warning to heart and clipped the badge just below her throat, with the picture face out. Glancing at the others, she noticed that they hadn't put their badges on.

"Aren't you going to wear your badges?" she asked the group at large.

"Pilots aren't required to do so, as we are all well known; some better than others." Sniffed Asuka. "And Rit-chan has a regular badge, not a visitor badge."

"Oh." Replied Hikari, feeling a little out of place. She saw some movement in her peripheral vision and saw Ritsuko clip her badge to the collar of her tee shirt. The older redhead gave her a small smile. "So, where's Miss Katsuragi at?" asked Hikari, thankful for Rit-chan's thoughtfulness.

"Probably at the command bridge. Baka and I have to report to the office of the Old Man, and Rit-chan needs to talk to Misato and Airi, so we'll be splitting up for a bit." Said Asuka. "I suppose we should go by the bridge first and get Rit-chan to where ever Misato and Airi are before we head up to the headsman's block." Mused the young Eva pilot.

"Um, what are we going to do about Hikari? She probably won't be allowed on the bridge with the visitor pass, and besides, I doubt that whatever Misato wants to talk with Rit-chan about will be general info." Offered Shinji hesitantly.

"True." Allowed Asuka. "Still, it should be ok if she's with us. We're the Pilots after all, and without us, NERV would be helpless. Guess she'll have to come with us." Just then, the PA rang out, calling for Pilots Ikari and Sohryu to report to the office of Vice Commander Fuyutsuki immediately. "Shiest!" snarled Asuka.

"I will take Rit-chan to the bridge and when the issue is resolved with each of our appointments, I will bring her with me to wherever you two end up. Is that satisfactory, Shinji?" asked Rei softly.

"It'd be great, Rei. Thank you." Answered Shinji thankfully. "If we get done first, we'll come find you two, ok?"

"Agreed. This way, Rit-chan." Instructed Rei, heading down a different corridor. Hikari followed Asuka and Shinji.

"Hmm. I don't think that that corridor leads to the bridge." Said Asuka suspiciously. "What about you, Baka?"

"All I know is that Rei could run blindfolded through this place even without any electricity and still get where ever she wanted to go without bumping into anything. She told me once that NERV was all she had."

"Sounds like our Wondergirl, all right." Sniped Asuka. "Whereas our brave Captain gets lost on her way to the bathroom."

"Misato's not that bad, and you know it, Asuka." Defended Shinji. "She can get where she needs to be when she needs to be there, anyway."

"I suppose that is the result of skill, but I personally think that she just hides cases of beer in all the key areas, because she can always find beer." Asuka smiled, and Shinji gave a chuckle.

"You might be right. She never seems to run out of the stuff, even here at HQ." The trio entered an elevator, and Asuka swiped her card, pressing a button after a beep sounded and the control panel lit up.

"You mean you need to swipe your card for everything here?" asked a surprised Hikari.

"Well, a lot of the doors and conveyances need to be carded, but this elevator goes to the commander's offices, so it is a special case. Only a handful of people can access this thing." Replied Asuka, smug at being one of the few whose card could access the lift. "Of course, Pilots don't usually come up here." She noted. Shinji was frowning a little as the lift neared the top.

"Not like any of us would choose to come here of our own free will." He muttered. Hikari kept silent, as did Asuka, who was frowning a little at his remark.

"At least we're not here to see the Commander." Pointed out the fiery pilot. Shinji gave a sound that might be interpreted as agreement, but said nothing else. The doors opened and the three stepped out into a hallway, with a single door at the end of it. Asuka and Shinji walked toward the door, opposite of which was a short, aluminum bench. It didn't look too comfortable.

"Do they share an office?" asked Hikari, not seeing another door.

"Hardly. Fa…Commander Ikari would not deign to share space with so lowly a thing as mere mortals." Answered Shinji, his tone dark and disgusted. "His office is on the floor above and it is the only thing on that floor." He loves to lord his position over us pawns and tools, I guess. Thought the boy morosely.

"Thank god I have never had to go there; sounds like you've been there before, Shinji." Said Asuka.

"Yeah, you could say that." He replied tersely. They stopped at the door, and Shinji and Asuka looked at each other, took a deep breath and let it out slowly, all in perfect synch. "Ready, Asuka?" asked Shinji.

"Let's do this, Third." She replied cockily. "Hikari, sit there while we're being tortured. Hopefully we'll be out quick. If not, Wondergirl will find you." Hikari parked her rear where they indicated without comment. The door gave a chime, and the two Pilots entered the office, Hikari getting a quick peek at rich carpeting, soft, indirect light and some bookcases full of books. The door closed behind them with a mechanical click that sounded a lot like a lock closing.

It looked a lot like a professor's office at the University. Thought Hikari. Still, Asuka and Shinji looked like they'd rather be fighting an Angel than be in there, so it can't be that benign. She sat there for several minutes, her mind idly considering many things, from what her Kodama was feeding her younger sister to rather or not the interview went well for her older sister, to some of the outfits she and the others had purchased to the size of Shinji's penis, to how she could arrange to see that particular piece of meat. She jerked in surprise at that last thought. God, Hikari! She mentally yelled at herself. Stop it with the hentai thoughts about his dick! Besides, you know you love Touji! And if Shinji is that big, then Touji should be about that big as well! Oh, Asuka told me that he had dropped his drawers and given her a free look on that ship she had been on when she and Shinji had killed that fish angel. I wonder if she was telling the truth when she said that it was about as big as a fried shrimp. Shinji's is far larger, I know that for a fact. I wonder if he's circumcised? Once more, Hikari shook herself. Damn it, Hikari! Stop that, you pervert! With great effort, she pushed her mind to the topic of her upcoming training with Ritsuko and Shinji at the range. She seems so comfortable with guns, and Asuka has been trained, so I should be able to handle a gun. At least Shinji will be a novice as well as me. I feel better when he's near me, and it's nice to know that he won't make fun of my lack of experience or my small bust. Heh. He seemed to like my breasts just fine in the store. And I did promise to thank him for his thoughtfulness and concern about my honor. Kodama always says that guys only want one thing for thanks, so maybe I should… Hikari slapped herself this time, trying to force herself to stop thinking of ways to jump his bones. Her cheeks were scarlet, but not from the slap. And her groin was very, very warm and tingly from her musings about Shinji.

The elevator ride down was silent, as both Shinji and Asuka were obviously in deep thought. The two had come out of the office without a word, collected a still red-cheeked Hikari and started down to the bridge in silence. She saw the signs of deep thought on Asuka and Shinji's face, as well as concern. When the elevator stopped at the main deck, the two stepped off in silence, still perfectly synched to each other's movements. "Guys?" hazarded Hikari tentatively.

"Huh? Oh, what did you say, Hikari?" asked Asuka, seeming to realize that Hikari was there for the first time.

"Everything go ok with the Vice Commander?" she asked, unsure of what to say.

"Yeah, I guess. Why ask?" responded Asuka.

"You two seem to be deep in thought, and that usually means trouble." Observed the class rep.

"It's nothing, really, just…we can't talk about it." Added Shinji, his tone impassive.

"That's par for the course, around here. Or so it seems to me." Came a voice from in front of them. The three teens looked up to see Airi standing in the hall in front of them, a map in her hand. Misato and Ritsuko were nowhere to be seen, as was Rei.

"Hi, Airi. What are you doing here?" asked Shinji.

"You could consider this to be an errand for Mi-chan, but I suspect that she is just running me around to see if I get lost or not. Her sense of humor is odd at times."

"That's not news to us, Airi." Replied Asuka. "Where are you supposed to be headed?"

"I'm supposed to give this disc to Vice Commander Fuyutsuki, then see someone named Onimu in some location called Cage 2 to pick up some sort of report for Mi-chan and return to the bridge to meet Mi-chan for something called a LTCA test. Mean anything to you two?" she smiled.

"And Misato actually gave you a map of this joint before tossing you to the wolves?" asked a skeptical Asuka.

"Well, no, in point of fact. I…convinced a Section 2 G2 to loan me this partial map." Airi's smile clearly told the two girls that she had used her charms to get the guard to part with the map. Unknown to both of the girls, they both thought how unfortunate it was that Shinji was forced to share a gender with those apes. "Can you help me out, please?"

"I got you covered, Airi." Said Asuka, stepping next to the actress and looking the map over. "First, you need to go up that elevator down here to the first stop and swipe your card at the door. That's the Vice Commander's office. Then, go back down the elevator three stops below this level, turn here, and go down the corridor until you see this hallway that leads off to the side here. That's the personnel entrance to the Cages. You'll want the fifth door on the right, then go until you see my beautiful Eva Unit 2's head. Ask one of the geeks there for this Onimu person, then reverse the process, getting off on this level to return to the bridge. Got it?" asked Asuka, finally done pointing out the route on the map.

"Seems simple enough, except that I don't know what your Eva looks like, unless it is the blue one with one eye?" she guessed.

"Hardly. That one is Unit 0, Wondergirl's prototype unit. Eva Unit 1 is purple, with two eyes and a horn sticking out of its forehead. Baka runs the Test type Eva, and I pilot the final production model, the first one off the line, and a much more suitable unit for a superior pilot like myself!" finished Asuka proudly.

"It's red and has four eyes." Translated Shinji, a small sweat drop on the back of his head. Asuka growled and turned on him, her eyes on fire.

"Did you just call my Eva `four eyes', Baka boy?!"

"Um…no?" asked Shinji. Asuka growled and let loose some machinegun Kraut, curses by the sound of them. After a moment, she switched back to Japanese.

"…and if you say that again, I'll tear your nuts off, Baka Shinji-chan!" Hikari blinked, and Airi's head tilted a little in surprise. Shinji had been slowly leaning away from her angry tirade, but froze at her last two words. Asuka was fuming, then suddenly went still, her face loosing some color.

"Did you just say…" began Shinji, his tone confused, only to be cut off by Asuka.

"NO! You're hearing things! Come on you two, Rit-chan needs to teach you how to shoot. Let's get moving!" having said that, she grabbed their arms and dragged them away down the corridor as swiftly as she could. Airi watched them, a soft smile on her face.