Part 12: Throwing Copper

"OK, listen up, you two." Began Rit-chan, her tone commanding, yet warm. "What you have in front of you are two of the three legs of a self-defense tripod. The pistol is just like Misato's HKs and mine. The rifle is a little different from my G36, but the employment and principals of it are the same. We're going to start you out with these two, and add precision rifle and submachine gun if we have time. I'd like to get you two up to speed on combat shotguns as well, but we have to train you on these first as they will be most useful for this weekend." She paused, making eye contact with both Shinji and Hikari before continuing.

"We'll start with the pistol. Since you have both finished reading the manual, consider this your first pop quiz. Pick up the gun and inspect it." She ordered, watching them closely. The two were sitting at a small table in a room just outside of a NERV shooting range. It was located out in the sparsely used areas away from NERV HQ, but still in the Geofront. There was the table and chairs in the first room, a room off to the side that had some narrow benches in it and cans of cleaning and maintenance supplies for the guns, as well as boxes and boxes of ammo. Misato had been generous in arranging supplies. There was another door in the wall in front of the table the two sat at, and it also had large, thick Plexiglas viewing panes in it, which overlooked the sixteen lanes of fire. Each lane had a track-mounted target holder that went out to the 50 yard line, but the range went all the way back to the 300 yard line. Misato had told her where the controls were for the retracting rear wall, which was a special type of plastic/rubber compound that soaked up the bullets, which gave the shooters access to the rifle range. Ritsuko liked this setup, as it would make teaching the two novices easier. Noting that both of the trainees had managed to finish checking the weapons over, she had them release the slides and de-cock the guns. "Very good. Now, let's cover a little safety here." She said, turning to the wheeled whiteboard and beginning to write. "I'm just going to be covering the five most basic things, but I need you to pay attention to them; if you don't you might hurt or kill yourself or one of us. Got it?" she asked. They both nodded. "Rule one: always use your brain before using a gun." The two listened intently to her for the next fifteen minutes.

"Now that you have that down, let's get to the fun stuff." Said Rit-chan, smiling as she stood and motioned for them grab their weapons and magazines and ammo and follow her. They were setting up on the centermost lanes when they heard someone else enter the range area. Looking over revealed Rei, Asuka, Misato and Airi. The three from NERV carried pistols, tactical rifles, precision rifles and submachine guns. Airi carried a gun, but smiled as Ritsuko motioned to a firing lane, shaking her head. She was just carrying the shotgun, not using it. Asuka took the lane closest to Hikari and Rei selected the lane next to Shinji, with Misato taking the lane past Rei. They set out their guns and gear and watched as Shinji and Hikari leaned how to properly load the magazines for the rifles and pistols. When Ritsuko was satisfied, she had them load the pistols and take aim at the targets that were fifteen yards away. Each of them took a two handed grip and set their legs, leveling the sights like she had shown them in the classroom, and waited, their trigger fingers resting on the trigger guard. Ritsuko carefully checked their stances over, adjusting as necessary. Finally satisfied, she donned her earmuffs and nodded to the others. "Prepare to open fire." She called happily. "I want you two to start out with single, slow shots to find your range. I'll be checking you form and control, and I promise that you'll be hitting the target within 25 rounds. Ready?" Two nods. "Commence firing!" she yelled. Shinji and Hikari carefully sighted and squeezed the triggers. The HKs spoke at almost the same time, and both hit the paper targets, but were not necessarily hitting the outlines, although Shinji clipped the elbow of the outline. Ritsuko stepped behind him and watched as he sighed and squeezed again, the second round hitting an inch from the first. Seeing the problem, Ritsuko pressed herself to his back, her arms closing around his as she adjusted his stance, her feet locking in next to his, her hands over his, guiding him physically through the steps. His next shot hit a bullet width away from the X. Ritsuko smiled and patted his shoulder, stepping back and watching him fire a few more rounds, all of which landed in the 10 ring, except for one that hit the line between the 10 ring and the 9 ring. She saw he was getting comfortable with it, and stepped over to watch Hikari. Hikari was all over the paper, and Ritsuko immediately knew why. She tapped Hikari's shoulder to get her attention. When the brown-haired girl looked back at her, she smiled and yelled. "Just relax and take it easy. You're flinching in anticipation of the recoil and muzzle blast. Here, I'll show you." Having said that, she hugged herself to Hikari as she had done with Shinji, using her body to correct Hikari's physical errors. With Rit-chan steadying her hands and her reassuring warmth at her back, Hikari was hitting the 10 ring by the second magazine. Ritsuko stepped back and watched them both. They were doing well, so she decided that she needed some relaxation. Misato seemed to be reading her mind, as she waved and held out a tactical rifle. Ritsuko smiled and took the offered long gun, slapping a magazine into place and pulling back the charging handle. She brought the gun to her shoulder and sighted in on a target 100 yards down range. Carefully she squeezed the trigger while maintaining her sight picture, the round tipping off crisply. Misato looked though a spotting scope and held up two fingers, then pointed left, followed by one finger, then a finger pointed down. Two inches wide, one inch low? Wondered Ritsuko. She made a minor adjustment to her sight picture, then tipped off another round. Misato held up a clenched fist, followed by one finger and a thumbs up. On target horizontal, one inch high? Sights must be off. Concluded the teen, re-checking the setting on the rifle. She put the rifle back to her shoulder and got her sight picture, then eased off another round. Misato, watching through the scope, held up a clenched fist, followed by the sign for `a ok'. Got it. Thought the teen, making an adjustment to her sights. The rifle went back to her shoulder and she began to trip off rounds rapidly.

Rei watched Rit-chan firing at the target a hundred yards away, her shots so quick that it sounded like fire from the old hand-cranked Gatling guns she had seen documentary movies of. In no time at all, Inoue had emptied the first magazine, dumped the empty with a press of her finger and was slapping another into the magazine well. Hitting the bolt release without moving the gun from her firing position, she resumed rapid shots at the target down range. When the second magazine emptied and the bolt locked open, Ritsuko lowered the gun from her shoulder, a huge, warm smile on her face. Rit-chan is truly good at this, and she enjoys this activity. Noted Rei. She watched as Rit-chan checked out her shots through the spotting scope, her smile getting a little bigger. Misato gave her a congratulatory slap on the shoulder. Straightening up from her inspection of the target, she stepped back to check on Shinji and Hikari's progress.

Shinji was slowly but steadily putting group after group into the ten ring. She saw his lips moving, and was curious as to what he was saying to himself while he was shooting. Hikari was shooting a little faster than Shinji, her face a mask of concentration, with the tip of her tongue sticking out from the corner of her mouth. Her groups were slightly shakier than Shinji's, but for a beginner, she was doing excellent. Ritsuko watched them both fire, change magazines, fire, load their magazines, and resume firing. After they cleared the first 150 rounds, she slapped their shoulders, yelling, "Cease Fire! Cease Fire!" The two lowered their guns, tripping the decocker lever as they did. After the shooting stopped and they had taken off their ear muffs, she continued. "Very good, both of you! You're doing great. Any problems?" she asked, looking from one to the other. Two head shakes. "Ok, the next part is simply practice. We're going to hike down to set up some distance targets, and then we're going to shoot until you two have each fired a minimum of 1,000 rounds. And we will be switching up things a little as we go." Said Ritsuko. "But for now, I want to see my handiwork. Coming, guys?" she asked the others, heading for the target she had been shooting at earlier. Misato grabbed some targets and a roll of tape and followed her, the rest behind her.

Ritsuko's hundred yard shots had been brutal. Twenty-seven of the rounds had been in the X ring and there was a jagged single hole in the head of the target that had to account for the other thirty round mag she had fired, as there were no other holes except for the three where she was sighting in.

"Damn, Rit-chan, where did you get this kind of skill?" asked Misato.

"I tried shooting once and found I had a talent for it." Shrugged Ritsuko. "I guess I love guns. Weird girl, I suppose."

"Your grouping indicates that you are having to manually push your aim higher than your muscle memory automatically sets. Is it the difference in sight radius or elevation that causes this?" asked Rei, her eyes on the target.

"It's a little of both. I'm used to my G36, and this is a flattop AR receiver based weapon, so I'm used to a higher plane of sight, and the sight radius is longer than on my HK. How did you know that I was having to do that each shot?"

"Notice that the groups are slightly elliptical, and the edges are vertically coherent instead of random. It is only logical that you are having to adjust yourself for each shot." Stated Rei. Asuka was muttering again.

"Well, I see your showing off again, Wondergirl." She said, her tone caustic. "But can you shoot as good as you say you can?"

"Is that a challenge, Pilot Sohryu?" asked Rei.

"You bet your pale ass it is!" snapped Asuka. "Name your distance and weapons, doll!"

"Service pistols at fifteen to fifty yards, tactical rifle at 100 to 200 yards, Precision rifle at 300 yards, X ring hits only, rapid fire. Ten rounds sight-in fire, winner takes all. Agreed?" said Rei, her tone flat and even.

"You're on, Wondergirl!" growled Asuka, holding out her hand. Rei stared at her for a moment, then shook. Asuka smiled as she released Rei's hand. "Did I tell you that I held the title for the German National Shooting Society's Unlimited class for three years?" she asked sweetly.

"No. Does it matter?" countered Rei. Asuka's face began to go red.

"You will regret that, Wondergirl." She snarled. The two started to set up targets.

"Are you going to let them do this, Mi-chan?" asked Airi, concerned for the two who so clearly hated each other.

"Not much I can do, and besides, I think it might be better in the long run to let them work this out now. Neither is stupid enough to compromise the other when the Angels are getting stronger and stronger." Airi let it go at that when Rei approached them after putting her target up at the 300-yard line. Shinji stepped over to her, and she stopped to speak with him softly. Shinji seemed to be speaking passionately to her, and she gave him her full attention, but seemed to be unswayed by whatever he was saying. Eventually, she pressed a finger to his lips and whispered into his ear. Shinji's shoulders dropped a little, and he sighed. Misato knew that body language meant that he had surrendered the fight.

"OK, Rei, because you put it like that, I'll do it." He said. Rei then shocked Misato to the core by giving him a small, but genuine smile. Turning away from the boy, the smile faded into nothing as she walked back to the firing line.

"That's different." Said Misato aloud. "Something is up with her."

The group gathered around the two young women and their selected weapons. They had both just finished the sight checks and warm up fire, and were currently arranging their magazines and guns in their preferred order. Misato took charge and reviewed the rules with them both before they began. "These are the rules, you two. Order of fire is pistol, to tactical rifle, to precision rifle. Two magazines per gun, target order near to far. Only X ring hits count, the one with the highest score wins. All shots are to be fired rapid fire, which I have arbitrarily ruled to be a round each second, which gives you a minute forty to expend all rounds. Shots must be divided equally between the three targets in each gun's designated ranges. Fire will commence when you hear Hikari fire her pistol and there are no restrictions on stances. The total time will be one minute, forty seconds, and any rounds not expended when the time hits zero will be counted against the shooter at the rate of one unfired round negating a X ring hit. Understood?"

"Yes, ma'am." Acknowledged Rei.

"No problem." Came the response from Asuka.

"The named stakes are winner takes all, but as that is too vague a term, it will be considered to be equal to the winner having the loser do one thing that she asks. Got it?"

"Yes."

"Of course, we're not stupid." Growled Asuka.

"Finally, Rit-chan and myself will be observers to monitor each shooter. If you have a preference, speak now." Finished Misato. Both of the girls were silent, then Asuka shrugged and answered.

"Surprise us." Rei nodded agreement. Misato and Ritsuko glanced at each other, then Misato stepped over to Asuka, and Rit-chan stepped to Rei.

"Well, let's get this thing cooking, girls." Smiled Misato, donning her ear protection and checking that each of the others did so as well. Looking to her right, she nodded to Hikari, who racked a round into her pistol and put the front sight on a target down an unused lane. Watching her watch, Misato waited for the second hand to come to the noon position. At five seconds before, she raised a finger to Hikari, whose finger went from the trigger guard to the trigger, her eyes on Misato's finger. As the second hand hit the 12 mark, Misato dropped her finger and Hikari's USP blasted a round downrange. Before the shiny spent casing could hit the floor, both pilot's pistols erupted in fire.

My god, she's fast. Thought Ritsuko as the group walked downrange to recover the targets for scoring. Before she could consciously register the sound of Hikari's signaling shot, Rei had begun firing from a stable two-handed grip, her shots coming so fast that she had six casings in the air at the same time, and even as she triggered the fourteenth round, her support hand was already bringing the spare magazine up from her waist line, her motions so fast that Rit-chan saw only a blur. The spent magazine hadn't even reached her hips before the pale girl had slammed the new magazine home and was firing again, her grip unchanged. When the pistol's slide locked back, there were still three casings in the air, and Rei simply dropped the expended pistol, her hand snatching the tactical rifle, her support arm snaking through the sling and locking onto the fore grip as the butt of the long gun settled into the pocket of her shoulder. As the last of the slack in the sling went tight, Rei's first round was already on the way to the target. Rit-chan was envious of her perfect form: tight, steady and even. Magazine change was so smooth that her rate of fire was unaffected by it. Like the pistol before it, the rifle was discarded as soon as the last round of the second magazine was downrange, hitting the floor with a faint clatter. Dropping to a prone position, Rei tucked in behind the precision rifle like most people drop into their favorite easy chair. There was a slight pause as Rei sucked in a breath, steadied her sight picture, then she opened fire.

Not bad at all, Asuka. Thought Misato. I can see why you held that title for three years. The Operations Director was very proud of her room mate just then, as the girl had calmly and coolly blasted her way through a challenge set that most experienced shooters would have a hard time with. Both girls had expended all their rounds in the allotted time, though Misato thought that Rei had finished about eight seconds before Asuka had. Of course, that would mean a superhuman pace for the pilot of Unit 0. And since this was more about accuracy than speed, Misato thought that Rei wouldn't risk it all on the bet that speed could make up for accuracy. The last of the targets were collected and they retired to the table in the main room to tally the targets. Misato counted Asuka's hits, and Ritsuko's counted Rei's, and then the two reviewed each other's count to make sure that it was totally fair and without bias. Neither girl had shot a perfect score, but both Rit-chan and Misato were shocked by how many had hit the X ring at the perfect center of the targets. Each girl had fired 100 rounds in just over a minute and a half, and both had reached into the upper 70-percentile range. And neither girl had a single hit outside of the 9 ring.

"Well?!" demanded Asuka, who had finally run out of patience and was almost ready to shove past the two to see the final counts.

"Who has won, Rit-chan? Captain?" asked Rei calmly.

"Naturally, I did, Wondergirl." Growled Asuka, stepping up to see the targets as the two scorers stepped aside. Spying her stack, she saw a number in red marker on the top right corner of the stack. "Yes! 77 X ring hits, Wondergirl!" crowed the hot-tempered girl. Rei was silent as she looked at her stack. "Nothing to say, First?" taunted Asuka as she looked over to the other girl's stack. "Are you too embarrassed to admit defeat, doll?" her tone was condescending and insulting. "So how many did you…" her words died in her throat as she saw the count written on the top right corner of Rei's stack. "No." she whispered. "It can't be." But the number didn't change, no matter how hard she willed it to. Seeing the red 79 told her one thing, and one thing only; it wasn't something she could understand, though. "I…lost." Her voice was so soft that it couldn't be rightfully called a whisper. But I can't lose! I'm Asuka Langley Sorry! No one beats me! But, I lost. And even worse, I lost to that doll! I…don't understand. Was the thought that ran through her head in an endless loop.

It was much later that night as the group of teens made their way back to the apartment. True to her word, Rit-chan had made Shinji and Hikari shoot 20 boxes of rounds before she called it a night. And also true to her word, she had pulled a pack of playing cards out of her pocket along about 400 rounds or so and told them that they were now shooting the cards. She taped the cards to different locations on the targets and had the two blaze away at them, making them shoot faster and faster, but also making them hit only the card. About 800 rounds in, their fingers were tired, but both Shinji and Hikari were getting into the practice, teasing each other and taunting the other when they didn't shoot perfect strings. Hikari's killer instinct had made her more aggressive than Shinji, but the male pilot's lack of ego had allowed him better concentration. Rei, Asuka, Misato, Rit-chan and Airi had cheered them both on, their impartial support shown both in praise and in jeers, depending on the case.

After the twentieth box had been emptied, Rit-chan had taken them to the third room and had them strip and clean their guns, which was accomplished faster than they had thought, as Rit-chan showed them all several time-saving tips she had discovered for cleaning the HK pistols and the tactical rifles and precision rifles. The shotgun hadn't seen any use that day, but Ritsuko had promised to give it a real workout soon. After everything was finished up and it was all secured, Rit-chan had taken Misato aside and talked her into allowing the pilots to take their guns home with them, and requesting that she be supplied with some ammo for her USP, preferably some hot-loaded hollow point rounds. It had taken some talking, but Misato finally agreed when Rei asked her if she wished for her to call the commander for authority to authorize an action already under her area of responsibility. Misato had given in, but made each of the pilots swear to her to be extra careful.

"Misato is nervous because we have some pistols, but she isn't worried that we pilot massive engines of destruction capable of leveling a city on a whim. Go figure." Complained Asuka. Her USP rested in a new leather low profile holster at her right hip, as did Shinji's and Rei's. Each of the pilots had two backup 15 round mags in carriers on the opposite hip. Rit-chan had found a comfortable SOB holster and a shoulder holster she liked and liberated them for her personal use. Hikari had been surprised to feel a jealous tinge when she had been forced to return her own USP while her friends had gotten to keep theirs. Still, she was an active part of the conversation about their shooting, and was eagerly looking forward to shooting again.

"Well, I guess that since the Eva can't be hidden like a pistol, she has more to worry about with our handguns than with our Evas." Offered Shinji.

"Baka! I know that, it's just the principal involved!" she huffed. "They treat us like kids only when it suits them to. None of them bat an eye about ordering us to fight angels and ordering us around like soldiers, but once we win, they start treating us like kids again with the school crap and bedtimes and all that shiest!"

"So, you wish to be treated as an adult in spite of your age, Sohryu?" asked Rei.

"Look, Wondergirl, if we're old enough to die fighting in a war with Angels, then I think we're old enough to decide for ourselves when we go to bed and what we wear and who we do what with. Am I right?" demanded Asuka.

"And yet, it is the intent of Captain Katsuragi to maintain as normal a life as can be had for you and Shinji to offset the duties of piloting Eva and fighting. Is it wrong for her to wish for you two to be as normal as possible for your age?" pressed Rei, her eyes on Asuka.

"I never wanted to be `normal', Wondergirl." Came Asuka's bitter reply. "I want to be the best. And only the best."

"I see." Replied Rei, her tone thoughtful.

At the apartment shared by most of the group, Hikari and Rei retrieved their bags, and prepared to leave for the night. "Well, I'll see you tomorrow in school, guys!" said Hikari in a cheerful tone. As she turned for the door, Asuka asked her if she wanted to crash there for the night. "I'd like to, but I need to be home to fix some food for my sisters tomorrow morning. Besides, I think this apartment is already exceeding occupancy limits." She smiled.

"Then I'll walk you home, since I'm packing and all." Said Asuka, slipping on her shoes and moving to the door, ignoring Hikari's protests that she would be fine. "And if some bastard touches you on the train, I'll blow his head off." She promised. Hikari sighed and knew that Asuka had made up her mind.

"I will see you in school tomorrow as well, Rit-chan, Shinji." Bid Rei, her bags in hand.

"Tell you what, Rei. I'll walk you home. I'm a night owl by nature and I have some extra energy."

"It is not necessary for you to inconvience yourself for me, Rit-chan. I will be safe. And I too am armed." Pointed out Rei.

"Please, Rei. I would feel better if I knew you were safe." Said Shinji. And I hate the thought of someone groping you.

"Oh, gag me." Came Asuka's voice, her tone disdainful. "Let's get out of here before I hurl, Hikari." The door closed and Rit-chan and Rei exchanged a look.

"If it will make you feel better, I will remain here tonight, or, if that is a problem, you and Rit-chan can accompany me home." Said Rei.

"Well?" asked Rit-chan, looking at Shinji. "Up for a walk?" she asked, a smile on her lips. Shinji simply stepped into his shoes as Ritsuko did the same. All three left the apartment together.

"She lives there by herself?" wondered Rit-chan as she and Shinji made their way back to the nearest rail station to catch a train back to the station nearest to the apartment they called home. "And I noticed that her door doesn't even have a lock." Rit-chan paused, looking at Shinji speculatively.

"What?" asked Shinji, feeling her eyes on him.

"Tell me, Shin-chan, does Rei love you?" Shinji felt his cheeks heat up.

"Wh…why ask?" he managed.

"Well, the kiss she gave you was not some little peck for being a gentleman and seeing her home. It was the kind of kiss that speaks of a deep bond. So, are you two an item?" pressed Ritsuko. Expecting to see surprise or joy or panic, she was puzzled as his expression turned to one of contemplation.

"It would depend on how you define `item'." He responded. "Rit-chan, do you know much about my first several weeks here?" he asked, looking at her.

"Well, there were a few stories. Why? Does it have to do with you and Rei?" asked the older girl. Shinji nodded.

"Yes. But I don't know how to make it make sense to you. For now, let's just say that the nature of the bond between Rei-chan and I is still…undefined. Ever since I first saw her in front of Unit 1, there was something…special about her. And when I saw Asuka for the first time, it felt like there was something different about her as well, but it felt subtly dissimilar to what I feel with Rei. And when we were synched in Unit 2 against the sixth angel, for a second there, I felt…joined to her, and Rei as well. I can't make it any clearer to you because unless you synch with Eva, then with another pilot, there is no way to describe the experience. Does that make any sense to you?" asked Shinji, obviously struggling to find a way to make the situation clearer for her. Rit-chan smiled at him.

"More than you think, Shinji. Until you strip an elf, you can't really talk to anyone about it, either."

"True." Allowed Shinji, a smile on his face. "I guess you do understand the problem with trying to explain to others what is happening to you in these types of situations." He and Ritsuko shared a laugh as they neared the station. As they waited for the train to arrive, Rit-chan changed the subject slightly.

"Tell me, Shinji. Do you feel this `connection' with anyone other than your fellow pilots?"

"Yes. There are several in our class who `feel' different from the rest, but there are only five who `feel' like Rei and Asuka, and they aren't pilots, but three of them are in NERV with us." He answered. Ritsuko considered this for a moment.

"Bet I know who two of them are." She said. Shinji looked at her, considering how she might know.

"I doubt it." He said softly.

"Well, since this has been a day for massive and reckless bets, I bet you a kiss I know who two of the five are." Ritsuko gave him a confident smile. "Well, are you up for it?" she asked, her tone kind.

"Why not?" he decided. How can I lose? If she wins, she kisses me. If I win, I kiss her. I like this. Abruptly, he saw Rei's face in his mind. But isn't that cheating on her? He wondered. He never got to decide as Ritsuko made her play.

"I'm betting that one of the ones you feel that `connection' with is Misato, and the other is Hikari Horaki, the class rep. So, am I right?" The surprise on his face was answer enough.

"How did you…" began Shinji.

"Simple. I watched you and how you acted around everyone you encountered. With Misato, you acted the most comfortable. She was the safest bet, by the way, given the warmth you and she seem to share for each other. Must be hell for her to send you out to fight to the death each time one of these Angels appear. Hikari was a calculated gamble, but I saw that you didn't shut her out like you did the rest of your classmates who aren't co-workers or associated with NERV. When I saw you looking at her in some of the outfits we bought today, I felt that there was already some sort of affinity between you. If you're interested to know, the signs of a three-way bond between you and Rei and Asuka are very easy to see once you know what to look for."

"I…see." Managed Shinji, something obviously on his mind. "It does make sense, I guess. Shared experiences of pain and terror tend to bond people who go through them together to each other very closely." He muttered more to himself than to her.

"Well, since I won the bet, I'll just collect my reward." Said Rit-chan, putting her hands on his cheeks and guiding his head to hers, their lips pressing together gently. The kiss lasted about twenty seconds, then Rit-chan leaned back and smiled. "You haven't kissed a girl until recently, have you?"

"It…shows?" asked Shinji, his face turning red. Rit-chan laughed, giving his shoulder a squeeze.

"Yeah; you're not very experienced yet. Still, the only way to get better is to practice." Shinji felt comfortable enough with her to give her back some of her teasing.

"Are you volunteering, Rit-chan?" he asked, figuring that she would quit teasing him at best, or get angry like Asuka did at worst. She did neither.

"Maybe I am, Shinji." She said seriously, her tone calm and very sure of herself.

"You mean, you're…experienced?" he asked, shocked.

"Let's not get too carried away. Yes, I am more experienced than you at kissing. Yes, I believe I am more experienced than you with certain aspects of relationships, like petting and…well, never mind. However, I am NOT `experienced' at all when it comes to intercourse. Does that answer your question?" she replied. "And now for something completely different, as they say. Tell me who the other three are."

"Other three?" asked Shinji, his mind completely pre-occupied with other thoughts.

"The other three who you have that `feel' for." Clarified Ritsuko.

"Well, I don't think you really want to know." He hedged.

"Come on, I told you my third largest secret, so you can share this small one with me." Ritsuko was having none of it.

"One is Touji, but don't go thinking that I like him like I like the girls; I mean Rei-chan and Asuka." He clarified. "And the other two are…" he looked at her, his face a little red.

"Are who?" Ritsuko pressed.

"You and Airi." He muttered.

"So, with my posting to Tokyo 3 final, I felt that it was only fair to decline to compete for the fourth year's shoot off." Finished Asuka as the two girls were nearing her house. "I mean, with me being the champ for three years strait, but having to leave for here the next week, it just wasn't right to take the trophy for a fourth year. Besides, I had to pack up my stuff."

"Wow. I'm surprised that you didn't stay just to win again." Commented Hikari. "You seem to want to be the best so badly that I had thought that you would compete for sure."

Asuka gave her friend a dangerous kind of smile. "Well, I was bored with the club anyway, and with my graduation from college the day before the shoot off began, and having to pack and all, I felt it wasn't worth the effort. Besides," the redheaded German girl leaned over to whisper in Hikari's ear. "I was going to get to hunt bigger game here with my Eva Unit 2. Something far more worthy of my skills and talents than mere target shooting." The two girls stopped in front of Hikari's door.

"Well, thanks for walking me home, Asuka." She said, extracting her key and preparing to open the door.

"It's no problem, Hikari." Said Asuka dismissively. "What are friends for, if not for this?"

"I thought a friend was for telling you if you really looked good in an outfit before going public in it?" smiled Hikari.

"Well, ok, that too." Conceded Asuka, also smiling. They had each done exactly that for each other on a few occasions. "Speaking of that, what were you thinking when you bought that teddy?" asked Asuka, remembering the blush on her friend's face when she selected it. "And please don't tell me you were thinking of Larry when you tried it on."

"Larry?" asked Hikari blankly.

Asuka sighed. "The three stooges names are: Larry, Curley and Moe. Moe is the leader, Larry is the idiot and Curley is the brain donor. Larry is Touji, Curley is Kensuke, and Moe is Shinji. Got it?"

Hikari smiled back. "So you decided that Shinji is the leader of the Stooges? You do like him."

"I do not!" cried Asuka indignantly. "It's just a simple matter of his being the best of the worst, nothing more. And stop trying to change the subject. Were you planning to model that teddy for Larry?" Hikari's blush went past her cheeks and down below her collar.

"M…maybe." She choked out.

"God in heaven! What is your mental damage, girl!" exclaimed Asuka, her tone exasperated. "He's a barely-civilized ape! His shoe size is twice what his IQ is! You have got to set your sights higher than the lowest form of sub-human life, Hi-chan!"

"You mean I should go for someone like Shinji?" asked Hikari, her mind flashing her a vision of him in the spandex shorts. Asuka paused, her mind telling her this was a trap of some sort. Caution managed to win out in her deliberations on how she should respond.

"Well, I guess since Kaji is taken." She allowed. "And at least he won't tear your clothes off and have you on the doorstep. Or spend all his time talking about how good he is at sports. And he's good at housework."

"Not to mention that he is cute, gentle and hung." Added Hikari before she could stop herself. Her small `eep!' didn't go unnoticed.

"Did you just say that Shinji is `hung', Hikari?" she asked, her tone betraying her disbelief.

"No! Of course not!" denied Hikari.

"You did too." Stated Asuka. "And how would you know?" Hikari decided that a tactical retreat would be in her best interest.

"Well, he was wearing spandex bike shorts, Asuka." She retorted. "Well, I have to get up early tomorrow, so I'll see you at school, Asuka. Good night." She said, unlocking her door and all but leaping though it. Asuka had a thoughtful expression on her face, and simply gave her friend a grunt of acknowledgement. Just before she shut her door, Hikari gave in to her curiosity and called Asuka's name. "Hey, Asuka." She said, keeping her voice low. "You've seen Shinji's…thing before, right?" Asuka's blush went to her belly as she remembered that morning and how good a view she had gotten.

"Yeah, I…have." She managed, her voice only a little unsteady.

"And you said that Touji flashed you on that ship." Hikari asked, her tone one of confirmation.

"Don't remind me." Muttered Asuka, frowning as she unwillingly remembered when Touji had sunned her on the deck of the super carrier Over The Rainbow.

"Well, who is bigger?" asked Hikari, her face hot enough that Asuka could feel it.

"Shinji is much bigger than…how would I know?! I didn't look at the stooge's little limp thing!" cried Asuka, automatically denying the incident.

"Yeah, sure." Replied Hikari, her thoughts distracting her from Asuka's attempt at disinterest. "Well, pleasant dreams." She said, closing the door. Asuka gave an annoyed snort, turning and walking back toward her train stop. She hadn't gone far when the memories of what she had done with Shinji returned to her. She felt herself begin to heat up, especially between her legs. Well, I don't think that I'll have problems with that one, Hikari. And from the heat coming from your face, I don't think that you will either. Thought the pilot. Of course, it's not like I care how big his dick is or anything; Kaji is still the man for me. Rei can have the Baka boy. I'd like to see her face when she sees how big his dick is! I bet she'll show some expression then! Hmm. Rei does seem to have a thing for Shinji, and she might be planning on becoming his girlfriend. Well, I think I'll just have to do something about that! My pride won't be happy until I have erased my defeat at the hands of that doll! And what better way than taking Shinji away from her? Asuka's smile became more predatorial as she began to plan. And I should get a little practice in before I make my play for Kaji, since he's used to more…experienced women. Shinji should be a good learning tool, and I don't have to worry about making any mistakes with him, since he's just a study aid and little coward anyway. And it's not like I have to worry about him making a scene when I dump him for Kaji; he's too whipped for that to happen. I wonder if I should let him take my virginity or not? Is being skilled more attractive to Kaji than being a virgin? I'll have to think about that for a bit, but for now, it's time to plan revenge on Wondergirl! I think I'd better start by… Asuka's thoughts turned to her plans and before she knew it, she was at the door to her apartment and her plans were firm enough to put into play the next day.