Part 24: Drop It

The next two days passed relatively normally, with school and work and all. Shinji and his two fellow pilots found that with Commander Ikari gone, there were fewer tests to go to, but the tests they did go to were more irritating. Akagi had come up with some real winners of late. Of course, Misato had been actively blocking her friend's attempts to carry out some of her more bizarre test ideas. Though temporarily blocked by the Operations Director, the faux-blonde doctor just filed the ideas away for later.

As the third school day ended, Hikari announced that she and Shinji were on clean-up duty and Asuka and Touji were on bulletin duty. Asuka immediately threw a fit, as did Touji. Hikari was not surprised at the reaction, and had a plan for that as well. Since Kensuke and Aki were on planning assistance detail, she suggested that the two trade partners. Asuka had immediately stated that she and Aki would be doing the bulletin detail, while `the stooge' could help his freak with the planning assistance details. Rei quietly stated that she would stay to assist in the cleaning. Hikari frowned a bit at that. Hadn't thought of that possibility. She thought to herself. Politely, she declined Rei's offer, saying that it was her and Shinji's turn, so they would take their turn like everyone else. Rei studied the inchou's eyes for a moment, then simply nodded, touching Shinji's shoulder as she moved toward the door. She knows. I just know she knows I'm doing this deliberately. Hikari thought, feeling her stomach sink a bit.

As the rest of the students made their exit for the day, Hikari smiled at Shinji. "Well, let's get started, shall we?" she asked. Shinji smiled back and the two began the cleaning process. For the first time in a long time, Hikari deliberately dragged the process out and delayed as much as she could without being blatantly obvious about it. The sun was getting low as the pair came the last couple of tasks. Rising from where she had been wringing out the cloth used to scrub the blackboard, Hikari glanced to where Shinji was finishing up the trash in preparation to take it to the incinerator. Feeling herself tingle with anticipation, she excused herself to the bathroom, Shinji just nodding and telling her he would take the trash down to the incinerator. Once in the hallway, Hikari turned in the opposite direction of the bathrooms and jogged through the school, checking the teacher's lounge, club rooms, nurse's station, bathrooms and shoe lockers to make sure that everyone else was gone. With the exception of a few guys playing a game of pick-up basketball on the sports field, the school was empty. Final check. Hikari thought to herself, ducking into the girl's bathroom and pulling her cell phone from her pocket.

-

"How long?" asked Commander Ikari of the project manager.

"Well, we have it secured in the lift cradle, but the mass of the object is giving us some problems, sir." Replied the man. "With the amount of ice floating around here, and the ever-changing sea conditions, it might be necessary to employ explosives to create some clearing so…"

"The challenges of the project are immaterial; only the time is of any importance." Interrupted Gendo, looking out the bridge window over the blood-red Antarctic Sea. Haven't been here since before Impact. Mused the puppeteer. I wonder, were you surprised when the Angel awoke, Kaeda? Although you may not have realized it, your super solenoid theory was correct, and your experiment on the Angel was destined to be the beginning of the next Age of Mankind. Your sacrifice to save your daughter is rather ironic, in view of how useful she has been in my scenario. If she had died with you, I doubt that I would have been able to utilize the Third so swiftly. A cold smile touched Gendo's lips. But don't worry, Katsuragi. She'll be back with you before you know it.

"…so, my best estimate is a week to ten days." Finished the manager. Gendo nodded once before exiting the bridge. From behind the table that the manager had been using for his desk, Kouzo Fuyutsuki frowned, having caught a glimpse of his boss's unusual slip in smiling.

He's getting off on the fact that he managed to fool everyone in the Katsuragi party, leaving them to die while he escaped with the research data. Even Yui didn't know he was planning to be the sole survivor of that expedition. Why do I keep following his lead? the old man wondered, having seen the bones pile up in his tenure as Vice Commander at NERV. Inevitably, his thoughts turned to Yui Ikari, his student, whom he had had a very severe crush on. Ultimately, he came to one conclusion: for the chance to regain Yui, I've made a pact with the devil.

-

Hikari walked out of the school with Shinji, the two on their way to meet Asuka at a small ice cream shop. Smiling outwardly, she was less happy on the inside. I swear to god, Asuka, I could just choke you to death!!! Thought the inchou. It was all going perfectly until you had to go and decide that we needed to meet you and Aki at this damn shop. She sighed, mourning her lost opportunity and wrecked plans. Taking a deep breath, she put on a determined face. Well! You can't stop me, Asuka! I'll come up with a better plan and try again!

"Um, are you all right, Hi-chan?" asked Shinji of his friend.

"Wha…?" she blinked, forgetting that he was there for a moment, so wrapped up in her plans was she. "Oh! Sorry, what did you say?" she chuckled weakly.

"I asked if you had fun on the trip. When you didn't answer, I wasn't sure you were listening to me." He said, giving her a small smile.

"Sorry. My mind was busy for a moment. Yeah, I had a blast." She said, smiling back. A thought occurred to her. "Hey, Shinji-kun." She whispered, leaning over so she could whisper in his ear. "Ask Rit-chan to show you her souvenir video of the trip sometime." Her tone was uncomfortably close to Misato's tone when she was buzzed and feeling…affectionate toward him.

"Rit-chan has some video? Isn't that Kensuke's normal job?" replied Shinji, feeling a bit odd at the tone of her voice.

"Oh, he has some too, which he is no doubt editing for sale as we speak. But Rit-chan got some…special footage when she hijacked his camera. Trust me, it's unforgettable." Giggled Hikari.

"Ok, I'll ask her tonight." Said the boy, his curiosity up. "I wonder if Rei-chan would like to see it?" he wondered.

"It would be interesting to see her reaction to the video, I'm sure." Smiled Hikari. Shinji decided right then that Rei-chan needed to see this video. I'll ask her when I see her again. He thought. For the rest of the relatively short trip to the ice cream shop, the two chatted of inconsequential things. Shinji got his chance to ask Rei when he and Hikari arrived to see the quiet First Child sitting next to Rit-chan and across from the loud Second Child who was next to Aki. When asked if she wanted to see a video of the trip to Okinawa, Rei had simply nodded. Asuka had been immediately insulted that Shinji hadn't asked her, but he avoided her explosive temper by replying that since she lived with him, there wasn't much point to asking her to come see a video at the place she lived, since she would presumably already be there. With no room to argue his logic, she settled for giving a disdainful sniff, calling him Baka and ordering a triple serving of German Chocolate Death with mini marshmallow sprinkles over it all. The others ordered as well, the group planning to go see Rit-chan's mysterious video footage once they were done.

-

Kensuke was indeed editing his footage from the trip. Try as he might, he couldn't find the footage of the girls in their bikinis when they were swimming in the lagoon on the full-day scuba trip. He also couldn't find the footage of Tomo, Reika, Keiko and Shiori naked and doing their thing, which he could have sworn he had on the third disc, along with the footage of Inoue's party and the crazy things he saw there. Still, he had six full discs to work with, about 36 hours worth of raw footage, and he really wanted to complete the beach jog video for next week's sales. Teaser clips had already gotten him over a dozen pre-sale videos, and at a substantial price increase.

On the primary screen of his small networked collective of five computers, he was watching the video footage flow in 1/12th speed, watching the frame rates as it did so, the music score a wave-table readout below it, as the digital editing software showed him the size of the file necessary to get it all like he wanted it. I've got to keep it under 800 gigs for the SDVD coding, or I'll have to cut out frames or drop the quality down to less than maximum, and as an artist, I can not accept that! He thought, pursing his lips as he watched the trio of jogging girls move past his position in slow motion, the frame rates dropping below 170 for the first time as the images got more complex as they crossed the rising sun's red-gold spillway off the ocean. A glance at the file size bar showed it over his estimated curve already. Damn. Guess I'll have to crop it a bit around the edges, after all. He sighed to himself.

The four-eyed freak jumped as the door to his room was knocked open. "Hey, why so jumpy, Kensuke?" asked Touji, seeing the geeky boy half-fallen from his chair. "You're not hacking into NERV again are you?" he asked suspiciously, eyeing the screen.

"Does that look like NERV to you, Touji?" asked Kensuke irritably. "Why the hell don't you knock?!"

"I did." Shrugged the taller boy. "You didn't answer, but I could hear you typing, so I came in. What's this?" he asked, pointing to the complex display on the main screen. Kensuke forgot his irritation at the question.

Smiling broadly, he re-situated himself in his chair before answering. "This, my jock friend, is money in the bank." He said, his tone vaguely superior.

"Funny. Looks like Inoue, Horaki and Wakirihara to me." Sniffed Touji disdainfully. Still, the hormone ball's eyes stayed firmly glued to the slow-motion heaving of the girl's breasts. "This was that first morning, right? When we went jogging with them, right?" he asked, beginning to drool a bit at the sight of the girls.

"Yes. Why ask?" wondered Kensuke, his mind busy with trying to figure out how to cram 906 gigs of video onto an 800 gig disc.

"So, dumb ass, where am I? I was there too, you know, just behind the inchou." Said the dark-haired boy. "Why aren't I in the shot? Did you edit me out?"

"No, not necessary." Dismissed Aida. "You are about…here." He said, pointing about a foot to the left of the monitor. "And if that's your idea of `right behind' someone, no wonder you keep losing to Shinji in the distance events."

"This from the guy who can't even make it to the end of the 100 meter dash without collapsing." Grunted Touji. "Fucking nerd." He needled.

"Jocks like you can't understand someone of my intelligence, so why should I bother trying to explain it to you, Touji." Kensuke replied loftily. "Let's not forget who has been getting you past each grade since kindergarten."

"I'll remember that next time a group of boys is giving you a swirlie or a pulling your pants down in front of the girls." Said Touji sardonically. "Your brains aren't much help there, are they?" he pointed out. Touji had been doing the rough-housing for the pair since the third grade, when he got bigger and taller than most of the kids in their grade, which made him an instant bully-slayer.

"Ah, why mess with a proven system." Said Kensuke philosophically after a moment spent remembering the things the stronger kids had done to him before Touji had started to watch his back. "You handle the physical stuff, and I'll handle the mental stuff."

"Thought you'd see it my way." Smirked Touji. "So, how is this money in the bank?" he asked, seeing the video stop, as the computer began to re-format it to Kensuke's new parameters.

"I've already pre-sold fifteen copies of the Beach Babes at Okinawa Special at 2500 yen a copy. I figure that once the other kids hear about the footage, I can get another two or three dozen moved by the weekend." Said Kensuke, eyeing the progress bar on the re-edit.

"Aren't the girls going to be gouging you for eighty percent of that?" asked Touji.

Kensuke chuckled evilly. "No, actually they aren't." he said smugly.

"Red Devil'll break your kneecaps if you try to cut her out of the action, you know that, right?" reminded the jock.

"Not true, my athletic partner." Gloated Aida. "You see, on the trip back from Okinawa, I had an epiphany."

"So that's why you jumped up and ran to the bathroom." Said Touji sagely. "Did you shit your pants or what?"

"No, Touji, you're thinking of another word. I had a sudden insightful breakthrough." Sighed Kensuke.

"And that was?" asked Touji, seeing the video start again, this time at normal speed and sound. Kensuke watched intently for a moment before muting the sound.

"I have to pay for `modeling fees', right?" asked the geek.

"Yeah, or they'll break our kneecaps." Agreed Touji, almost able to feel Red Devil's hateful glare.

"Correct." Agreed Kensuke calmly. "Of course, you only pay the model in the shoot, right?"

"Guess so. What's your point?" asked the other teen.

"How many of the top five do you see in the video?" asked Kensuke.

"Umm. Just Inoue and Horaki. So?" answered Touji.

"So, I only have to shell out forty percent protection money for this video, as only two of the four girls in our contract are in it." Smiled Kensuke.

"Hey! You're right! And Red's got no room to complain, since she wasn't even there!" exclaimed Touji excitedly. "You the man, Kensuke!" he said, slapping the smaller boy's back hard enough to unseat him and leave a bruise. Kensuke moaned and climbed back into his seat. As he tapped the keys that would run the video for the two of them as it would appear in final production, Touji had once more thought for his friend. "So, how many of these do you have to sell to re-coup the loss from your little lapse about the secrete pictures?"

Kensuke Aida went pale at that reminder.

-

Rit-chan sat back from her current project, that being wiring the disc reader she had bought to the TV in the Zoo. She had managed to get the gear working within five minutes, since she had had the foresight to buy nearly every type of patch cable she could lay her hands on. Now, the small disc player was ready to play her `souvenir' movie for the group. Standing, she took the remote for the TV and the player and moved back to the couch, where the center position was waiting for her. Asuka had taken one wing, with Hikari on the other side, leaving the center for their audio-video specialist to sit. On the floor sat Shinji and Rei, who, after Rit-chan settled in, lay back side-by-side against her legs and the legs of the two other girls. Asuka frowned at how close Rei managed to get to Shinji.

"Everyone ready?" asked the elf hunter, taking the drink Hikari passed her. Asuka reached over and grabbed a bowl of popcorn from where it had rested on the floor next to her end of the couch. Rei's hand surreptitiously closed over Shinji's hand.

"Let it rip, Rit-chan." Smiled Hikari.

"Firing now." Chirped Rit-chan, hitting the play button on the remote. After a moment of black and some odd flashes of readouts, the picture came up. Kensuke's voice came out of the speakers on the TV, narrating the action.

"Swank hotel." Noted Asuka, taking a handful of popcorn and munching away.

"It gets better." Chortled Hikari as the camera entered an elevator.

"Ugh! I thought you said better!" cried Asuka as Touji came into the view briefly.

"Trust me." Smiled Hikari, as she and Aki spent a moment in the camera's eye. The by-chatter rattled on in the background. Rit-chan reached over and grabbed a handful of popcorn as the doors to the elevator opened and the camera traveled down to a single door at the other end of a hallway.

"Looks like a special room." Noted Shinji. "Who stayed here?" he asked.

"Wait and see." Suggested Rit-chan, leaning forward to offer him some of the popcorn in her hand. Shinji smiled at her and fed from her hand. Hikari felt an unexpected pang of jealously when she saw him eating from Rit-chan's hand. Rei had no reaction whatsoever.

"This is where you stayed?!" exploded Asuka.

"Well, me and Aki kind of got Shanghaied by her." Admitted Hikari, grinning at her friend.

"Must have been terrible." Grumbled Asuka, watching Kensuke video the whole penthouse. "How ever did you survive?" she muttered sarcastically.

-

"We're back!" came Misato's voice from the doorway, where she and Airi were entering, some bags in their hands.

"In here, guys!" came Rit-chan's happy voice. "You're gonna love this part!" she added. Misato set her bags down in the kitchen as Airi did the same, the two women following the sounds of a party out into the living room. The teens were comfortably situated in front of the TV, which seemed to have sprouted some more wires since she last saw it, watching some video footage. On the screen, Aki, Hikari and Rit-chan were dancing in a club of some sort, mingling with the other dancers as the camera person remained more or less on the sidelines.

"What's…?" began Misato.

"Okinawa trip. Rit-chan liberated some of Aida's footage. Quiet now." Said Asuka intently, eyes on the screen. In her lap, an empty popcorn bowl rested, forgotten. Misato glanced at Airi, who just shrugged before sinking down next to Rei's side. Misato smiled as she got to sit by her Shinji.

"And here comes the poor sod." Giggled Rit-chan as a boy approached Hikari on the dance floor.

"You make it sound like I planned it all out." Muttered Hikari, blushing a bit.

"You didn't?" challenged Rit-chan, arching a brow at her friend.

"Umm. No comment." Said the Inchou.

"Uh huh." Was the reply. On the screen, the two danced closer and closer.

"It looks like he's going to…" began Shinji, frowning as the boy's hand moved to Hikari's thinly-covered breasts. Smiling, the boy began to caress her breasts. Hikari's reaction was very swift. Shinji winced in sympathetic pain as Hikari's knee hit the boy's nuts, almost accidentally. Behind the shorter inchou, Aki was seen laughing her head off.

"Bulls eye!" exclaimed Rit-chan maniacally.

"Rit-chan." Sighed Hikari, shaking her head, cheeks colored a bit with a blush.

"Oh, it gets better." Chortled Rit-chan as Asuka convulsed with laughter. Beside him, Shinji could feel Misato's warmth and feel her giggles. On his other side, Rei's hand remained firmly in his grasp, her thumb slowly stroking the back of his hand. Glancing at her, he noticed that she was smiling ever so faintly.

-

Elsewhere, Tomo was laying on her bed in her room, phone to her ear. "So? You make a choice yet?" she asked the person on the other end of the line. The girl was supposed to be asleep, but with her father and step-mother both at work and no siblings, there was no one around to enforce that order. Still, she didn't feel like being out and about just then, so she had gotten undressed and dropped onto her bed, phone in hand.

"Yeah. I'm going to ask about the paternity tests. I was out with Kano-san last night, and sort of felt out the situation with him. He seems to be open to the idea of a kid, though that might have been because he had just come inside me. Usually I ask him to wear a condom, but…well, it doesn't matter right now, considering the situation." Said Shiori.

"What about Akuma in 4-A?" asked Tomo.

"He…I already know his answer." Sighed Shiori. "He's fine with trading me grades for sex, but he'd cut me off if he knew I was pregnant."

"I see." Said Tomo simply. "So, you're going to…?"

"If I can get Kano-san to go along with the paternity test, then I'll have my answer without Akuma even knowing." Said Shiori.

"I can't imagine that conversation." Mused Tomo, considering her friend's situation. "How can you get him to take the test without telling him you're sleeping with another guy?"

"Well, that's what I want to ask the doctor about. If a sperm sample will give me what I need, well, that's no problem." Giggled Shiori. Tomo smiled as well at the implied method for gaining the sample. "Um, Tomo-chan?" asked Shiori, her tone turning serious.

"Yeah?"

"Have you heard anything new on Keiko?" asked the other girl. Tomo considered how to answer that.

"Not…exactly." Said Tomo hesitantly. "She's been…hanging out with other people a lot more than before." Was her diplomatic reply.

"So, she's still putting out for Kodo and Shodo, huh?" surmised Tomo's friend. Tomo sighed.

"Yeah. Matter of fact, she's there right now. We were supposed to go shopping this afternoon, but she called me just after afternoon period and told me she had to cancel. I saw her heading out during economics, along with Kodo. I tried to call her about an hour ago, but her cell is turned off." Confided Tomo.

"Um, I don't know if you've heard or not, but, well, there is a rumor going around at school…" began Shiori.

"About who?" asked Tomo.

"About Keiko." Said the other girl, clearly reluctant to be the one to tell Keiko's closest friend what was being said.

"What about her?" asked the girl of her fellow nympho.

"I haven't heard her say this myself, so I don't know if it's true or not, but several girls and some boys have said they heard her talking about meeting some people who would help her `get the devil back'." Reported Shiori. "It's kind of obvious that she's talking about a certain German girl, you know?"

Tomo felt a sinking sensation in her stomach. "D…do you think she's serious? Have you asked her about it?" asked Tomo, Rit-chan's words coming back to her. If she's a threat to the Pilots, then NERV will…will what? She wondered.

"I don't know, Tomo-chan. I haven't asked her, since she's been so…tense, lately." Said Shiori obliquely. "I…think she might be." Silence was her reply. "Tomo? You there?" asked Shiori.

"Can you…hold on a sec? I need to…make a call real quick." Said Tomo, feeling sick.

"I guess." Said Shiori, sensing her friend's unease. Tomo parked the line Shiori was on and punched in another number, praying that he was home. After a few rings, he picked up.

"Touji speaking."

-

"Will you look at that water?" said Asuka softly, in awe of the crystal-clear lagoon where Rit-chan, Aki and Hikari were swimming during the lunch break on the all-day diving trip. "I'd kill to dive there!" she said wistfully.

"It is awesome." Agreed Rit-chan. "You ever dove in the Pacific before?" she asked.

"No. I learned while in college, so I dove mostly in lakes in Germany, and I've been diving twice in the north Atlantic and once in the Med when I was on a two-day lecture tour for a class credit." Replied Asuka. "I've dreamed about diving in the Caribbean and South Pacific, especially the archipelagos near Palau."

"You'd love it. Diving off the coast of Honduras, you can see the bottom eighty feet down as if it were only knee-deep, and if you don't mind some cold water and unpredictable currents, the diving at Truk and Fiji is beyond beautiful." Offered Rit-chan.

"You've been diving there?!" asked Asuka, her tone excited. Rit-chan nodded.

"Yeah. I was with my parents in the Caribbean, and had decided to learn to scuba. My two open-water checkout dives were near the Bahamas, and I managed to get a two-day, one night trip to the coast of Honduras for myself and my parents the next week. My freshman year in high school, I took a gym and science extra credit class at the local University as part of my honors program. I talked myself aboard the advanced Marine Biology class's week-long island diving trip." Smiled Rit-chan, found memories in her head. "We had a ninety-four foot catamaran dive boat chartered for us, with charging stations, a decompression chamber, staterooms; well, everything. We dove four dives a day, two daylight, and two night. Since I was a last-minute add-on, I was free to roam around and help out wherever I could, since the students were all assigned research assignments. Since I wasn't checked out on night diving or decompression diving, I had to buck the test on ship. Luckily, the master instructor for the course as well as the senior deck hand and one of the graduate students were certified dive masters, and they signed off on my completion of the course."

"Damn. You have been busy." Said Asuka, a bit awed by her friend's tale.

"Yeah. Since we were at Truk, I bucked the basic and intermediate wreck diving certification courses as well. I left with an advanced open water license, and returned with instructor status and nearly forty more dives under my belt." Rit-chan laughed. "When I got back, I was tanned like a copper coin and tired as hell. Still, I loved it."

"So it would seem." Agreed Rei softly. On the screen, the picture tilted crazily for a moment before dissolving into static. When it came back up, Misato blinked and Hikari gasped. "Aida seems to be making porn films now." Noted Rei calmly. On the screen, Shiori and Reiko were getting each other naked, making out as they did so.

"Maybe we should fast forward for a bit." Murmured Rit-chan, touching the control for the disc player.

-

Kodo and Keiko were sitting quietly at his kitchen table, waiting for their friends to arrive. Since leaving school earlier that day, the two had paid a visit to a small church on the outskirts of town, visited a bar, stolen some stuff from a couple of stores and had sex on the train to his house. Now, they were sated for a bit, and were waiting for the promised visit of their newly-made friends. Keiko broke the silence. "Isn't it a bit odd for a priest to be acting this way?" she asked Kodo.

He shrugged, reaching for another beer. "Beats me; I'm not Catholic." He said before knocking back a swig. "Still, if it means we get our hands on those pilots, then who cares?" he added.

Keiko's lips compressed into a hard line. "True." She hissed. The very mention of those people made her blood boil. Oh, you'll get yours, Sohryu! And your little friends, too! She vowed. Kodo interrupted her vengeful thoughts.

"Hey, you seen Tomo recently?" he asked her.

"Yeah. But we're not that close any more." Said Keiko, frowning a bit. Hazy memories of the night in Okinawa surfaced briefly. Irritated, she pushed them away, concentrating on her hatred for those she considered responsible for her current problems. Angrily, she grabbed a fresh beer and popped the top, taking a long pull from it.

"Pity. She has a good head for coming up with ways to pay people back." Mused Kodo. Just then, there was a knock on the door. Rising, the two answered the door, finding a group of four people on the doorstep.

"Good evening, my son." Said the man at the door, bowing his head. "I trust we are not coming at an inopportune time?" Kodo tossed his head, indicating that the group should enter. As the man led his three friends inside, his white collar briefly flashed.

-

Kensuke Aida ran naked around the pool, a length of burning tissue paper clenched in his asscheeks as he did so. Rit-chan was leaning over Shinji's shoulder, breathless from laughing, while Hikari was sprawled over Rei, having managed to laugh herself off the couch. Airi was smiling, her eyes wickedly amused, while Asuka and Misato were tumbled over each other and Shinji, who was shaking his head. Rei considered her lover carefully, neither amused or bothered by the events on the screen. He is smiling. She noted, feeling herself smile in response to his smile. If Aida acting in this manner amuses him, perhaps I should find a way to make Aida act this way more often. Turning her attention back to the screen, she watched as the boy made the final lap, the paper burning his ass as he did. Reiko and Shiori dutifully paid up. So, that is his weakness. Noted Rei, her eyes calculating. It should not be overly difficult to make him act in this manner at school. I will need to watch for an opportunity. Rei continued to watch. He lacks Shinji-kun's control, and his is far smaller than my…lover. Mentally, she paused at that thought. Yes. He is my lover. She confirmed.

"Rit-chan, you are truly disturbing at times, you know?" said Airi to her teammate. Rit-chan had managed to get marginal control over herself.

"So they say." She giggled breathlessly. On screen, Kensuke crumpled to the cement, Shiori and Reiko cleaning each other off. Her voice came from off-screen, followed shortly by a marker arching over to the two girls, who immediately began to decorate his recumbent form. That set off Rit-chan again.

"Truly disturbing." Murmured Airi. Glad she's on my side!

-

Well, we have found a somewhat useful Judas in these two young blasphemers. Thought the priest to himself. Mentally, he reviewed the data he and his three Paladins had gathered over the last three hours. Although they are not able to bring us into the heart of the minions of Satan, they can show us the weaknesses within the spawns of hell's defenses. If we can determine a way to predict the movements of the fallen souls, then we can determine when they will be vulnerable to our Holy Mother's divine wrath. He smiled. These two lost souls will be most informative. We will need to carefully nurture their dark natures, though. I believe that we will need to maintain close contact with them until they are no longer useful. Then, we can sanctify them and sent them before God and the Church for Judgment. Having decided his next move, he turned his attention to Keiko, who was bombed on beer and some special chemicals that the Paladins had slipped into her and Kodo's drinks as the night went on. Currently, she was kneeling between his legs, her head enthusiastically bobbing up and down on his aroused member. Behind her naked form, one of his Paladins was busily pumping into her.

From the other side of the room came soft moans and grunts as his other two Paladins kept Kodo distracted. It had been a hunch that prompted him to bring two of his female Paladins with him tonight, and it was paying off handsomely. Currently, Kodo was mindlessly humping one of the women, while the other was making out with him and tickling his sack. Enjoy it while you may, sinners, for the righteous judgment of the Church will befall you sooner than you think! The priest thought to himself. That thought was all he needed to blow his load down Keiko's throat. The girl hummed and greedily licked his member, searching for more of his seed. He felt himself beginning to stir as her tongue slid around his sensitive tip. Nothing wrong with enjoying one's work. He thought, pushing her back from his reviving cock and standing. Motioning his Paladin away from her, he brought her to her feet, pushing her face-to-face with the other man, who immediately pushed his member back into her. Coming up behind her, the man of the cloth grabbed her ass, prying the cheeks apart. The sight of her rear entrance coaxed his dick back to full life. Lining himself up with her second hole, he paused for a moment before shoving his member into her in one hard shove. Keiko cried out in pain, but soon was back to panting as he began to slowly thrust into her as the other man did the same in her pussy. Before long, the two had a steady rhythm going. Just like my previous life, before my redemption. Thought the priest as he worked toward orgasm.

-

"I knew it! They're both queer!" exalted Asuka as the liberated film neared its end. On the screen, Touji and Kensuke wrestled naked in and around the pool. Hikari was blushing a bit, Asuka was giggling vindictively, and Misato was doubled over in Shinji's lap, laughing uncontrollably. Rei was silent, her hand still locked in Shinji's. Airi had no verbal comment, but that didn't mean she wasn't thinking cruel thoughts about the two. Rit-chan was smiling comfortably. "Shinji, you better watch yourself in the shower with those two." Said Asuka, glancing over at her lover, a small frown forming on her face when she realized that Misato was all but curled up in his lap. "They might want give you some affection, if you know what I mean!"

"I don't think they're that way, Asuka." Sighed Shinji. God damn you two! Can't you keep out of trouble for even a single week?! Still, the situation brought a smile to his face all the same. The smile was not lost on his first lover, a certain Rei Ayanami. The Ice Goddess made some additional plans as she gently squeezed her lover's hand. Within a few more minutes, the disc was done.

"I can't believe I had to miss that trip!" said Asuka irritably as she rose and headed for the bathroom. "Damn Angels didn't even get to Tokyo 3 the whole time, too!" she sounded furious that the enemies hadn't come to be annihilated by her. "Misato!" she declared imperiously.

"Wh…what?" gasped Misato, beginning to regain control of herself at last, tears on her cheeks from laughing so hard.

"You owe us a trip to Okinawa when the last Angel is destroyed!" pronounced the German pilot. Misato sobered a bit at that thought.

"Sure. I'll take all three of you there when we win this war." Promised the Major. Provided that you three are still alive by then.

"Don't think that I'll let you conveniently `forget' that promise, either!" said the red-head, closing the bathroom door behind her. Misato managed to get off Shinji's lap and stood a bit shakily before stretching a bit.

"Well, that was the best movie I've seen in a long time." She said as she finished stretching. "But, I have some reports to write, so I'm off to my room for the night. See you in the morning!" she said cheerfully as she stepped over to the fridge and grabbed herself a couple of beers. Hikari rose as well, glancing at the clock. While not too late, it was a school day tomorrow, so she felt she better be getting back to her house.

"Much as I hate to, I better be going, guys. See you in class tomorrow." Said the brown-haired inchou as she started for the door.

"Hikari!" came Asuka's voice. "Wait up! I'll walk you home!" called the girl, emerging from the bathroom. Hikari nodded, and Asuka ducked into her room, emerging a few minutes later in jeans and a tee shirt, her USP tucked into her still-new pancake holster at her right side.

"Asuka-chan, take an over shirt." Suggested Rit-chan. "Guns are illegal in Japan, remember?"

"Not for us." Came the confidant reply.

"I wasn't worried about you, Asuka." Came the reply. "I was thinking of the peace of mind of the other citizens of this city. No need to panic anyone."

"And you do not wish to warn our enemies that you are armed, Asuka." Came Rei's soft voice. Asuka tossed her hair.

"Fine." She said simply, ducking back into her room and emerging an instant later with a light button-down denim shirt. "Happy now?" she asked her roomie.

"Yeah." Smiled Rit-chan.

"Asuka, do you have your spare magazines?" asked Shinji.

"Yes, mommy." Came the droll reply. "I've got them."

"Ok. Just asking." Said Shinji mildly.

"Come on, Hi-chan." Huffed the girl, slipping on her shoes. "Let's motor before this bunch decides to get us a babysitter." The two girls were out the door.

"You know, they only do that because they care, Asuka." Said Hikari as they rode down in the elevator. Asuka simply gave a short hum of a reply. "I'm glad you're coming along, but you know you didn't have to, right?" she asked.

"Yeah, yeah. Felt like a walk." Dismissed Asuka. As the two girls exited the building, Asuka took a moment to stare into each car they passed.

"What are you doing, Asuka?" asked Hikari, puzzled by her friend's actions.

"Just making sure that no one gets the drop on me again." Said Asuka.

"What are you talking about?" asked Hikari, totally lost.

"I'm talking about that drive-by, of course!" said Asuka.

"What drive-by? A drive-by shooting? Like they're always having in America?" Hikari wondered.

"I told you about it." Said Asuka.

"No, you didn't. What happened?" clarified Hikari.

"Are you sure I haven't told you? I could have sworn that I told you at the airport." Asked Asuka, suspicious.

"The only thing you told me at the airport was that you slept with Kaji. We never got past that, remember?" prompted Hikari.

"I didn't sleep with him." Said Asuka softly. More loudly, she changed the subject. "While you were gone, a group of crazies tried to shoot us at a street corner. Wondergirl shoved Shinji and I out of the line of fire, and she and I took care of them. At least Wondergirl can shoot good."

Hikari's mouth was hanging open. "They…shot at you?!" she managed.

Asuka shrugged. "Yeah, but they missed. We had to spend the rest of the break in the Geofront, though." Abruptly, she smiled like the Cheshire Cat. "It's had it's moments, though." She said, her tone a bit husky. Hikari was still silent, shocked that someone had tried to kill the Pilots. "Hikari?" prompted Asuka, nudging her friend's arm. "You ok over there?"

"Y…yeah. I'm…good." Managed the shorter girl. Asuka watched her for a moment.

"Nervous now?" she asked, her tone teasing.

"No. Of course not!" came the reply. "Why would you say such a thing?"

"Well, I seem to be a bullet magnet, and here I am walking with you." Teased Asuka. Hikari blinked. I'm not nervous. She mentally defended herself. Just…properly cautious. And from here on out, I carry my gun too!

-

Asuka slipped off her shoes and closed the Zoo's door behind her, hearing the lock engage. The apartment was quiet, indicating that the others were in bed now, most likely. Stepping to the kitchen, she grabbed a soda and rummaged around for a moment before finding a small bag of chips to go with it. Loot in hand, the Viking raider made for her home territory. Shipping her oars as the door to her homeport closed, the German girl saw her roommate sitting cross-legged on their bed, a heavy-duty notebook open in her lap, a pencil in hand, and a thoughtful expression on her face. "Welcome back, Asuka." Said the elf hunter, a bit distractedly.

"What're you working on, Rit-chan?" asked Asuka, setting her drink and snack on the small desk before beginning to undress.

"What? Oh, this." Answered Rit-chan. "Just doing a little writing in my journal."

"You keep a journal?" asked Asuka, curiously.

"Yeah. I started it a couple of days after we got snatched into the elf world. Just so I can always remember my thoughts from this adventure."

"Can I see?" asked Asuka, tossing her bra to the floor and reaching for her sleeping shirt. Rit-chan twirled the pencil into a holding grip and closed the book, handing it to the younger girl as she settled her shirt over her head. Asuka took the offered notebook and settled next to Rit-chan on the bed before opening the well-worn book. Starting at the beginning, she noticed that each page was packed with tight, crisp kanji and illustrations, front and back, top to bottom. Asuka grimaced at seeing the kanji.

"Something wrong, Asuka?" asked Rit-chan, seeing the grimace.

"My kanji stinks." Said Asuka flatly.

"Well, I am Japanese, so most of it is written in kanji." Shrugged Rit-chan.

"Most of it? You wrote in other languages too?" picked up Asuka, glancing at Rit-chan for confirmation. Rit-chan nodded. Asuka flipped pages swiftly, soon finding a section of a page in English. The pilot of Unit 2 swiftly read the passage.

Thursday the 20th. I SWEAR I'll kill that pea-brained asshole! We haven't seen an elf in two weeks now - male or female - and Junpei still can't accept that we're operating blind in our search. We were in this little town earlier today, and he saw a woman with a hat on that he thought was an elf. Being the brain-dead JERK that he is, he tore her clothes off on the spot, ignoring Airi's and my warnings that she wasn't an elf. Needless to say, that didn't make us any friends. We had to leave there before we could re-supply, and to make matters worse, the woman was the wife of what would be the Prefecture Police in our Japan. It took me four hours and some of my VERY limited supplies of explosives to end their pursuit of us. Airi isn't saying anything, but I know she's pissed. My tank's in need of maintenance and we're down to emergency rations. Since the failure to return us to our world, we've been playing at a disadvantage, since none of us are magic users. Guess I won't have to worry about getting fat here! Well, we're stopped by a small stream for the night, and the stars are beautiful here! We're making a cold camp, just in case those locals are still after us with torches and pitchforks, but by tomorrow, we'll be miles away from here. Well, gotta go; that CRETIN is trying to make a fire, and Airi needs help explaining to him that there will be no fire tonight. More later!

Asuka scanned ahead, ignoring the kanji as she searched for more written in English or some other language she could read. "Why the change in language?" she asked, turning a page, and stopping to admire a very detailed sketch of a small village in a narrow valley.

"Journals are dangerous things to have because you never know who might read it." Explained Rit-chan. "I don't usually keep one, but, well, this was a special case. Since Junpei is not always considerate of other people's privacy, I chose to write certain passages in other languages to keep him from reading them. Also, some of the sections dealing with intel that we gathered and most of the whole run-in with the Dark Judge is written in a special code I developed myself. No one but me can read those passages."

"You're hard-core, Rit-chan." Said Asuka, turning the page and squealing in delight. "You know German?!" she asked excitedly, seeing German on the next page.

"Yeah." Said Rit-chan. Asuka's eyes devoured what she considered to be her native tongue.

Sunday the 22nd. I don't know what I should do. I learned today that there is an elf living in a small shack deep in the ravines near this town. She's about my age, which, for an elf, is a mere baby, and her parents are gone, leaving her alone. I was all set to go strip her, but when I was asking around for leads on the exact location, I got more than I bargained for. A kid at this fruit stand said that his older brother knew where the elf lived, because he and his friends were dating her. When I went to find this older boy, I overheard the fucker selling the location of the elf to some men in an alley. Maybe we're not the only ones hunting elves. I know they have slave markets here; I've been to one with Airi already, and then there was that whole fiasco with those slavers last month. Maybe the men are slavers. I followed them for a bit, but lost them. I got to thinking, if they're slavers, and the older brother of that kid is dating the elf, why sell her out? Something wasn't right here, so I made an educated guess and found her house. It's more of a hut. The men weren't slavers; at least in that regard. I found a nice little nest on a partial ridge and watched the hut through my glasses. The men were having sex with the elf. I figured that if I timed it right, I wouldn't have to strip her to see if she had any spell fragments on her. Once the men left, I went down and confronted her. It turns out she isn't the girlfriend of the boy; she's his whore. She told me he and his friends raped her a year or so ago, and still come by regularly to have sex with her. They've also been selling her location to men from the surrounding villages. No spell fragment, no need to do anything, right? Yeah, who am I kidding? I guess I already knew what to do before I wrote this, but sometimes, I'm too scared to do what I know I should until I read it in my own hand. Yuki, this one's for you.

"Who's Yuki?" asked Asuka.

"A friend." Said Rit-chan softly. "From before all this."

"What happened?" asked Asuka, frowning as she realized that she had a good idea of what had happened.

"To Yuki, or with the elf?" replied Rit-chan softly.

"Both." Was her reply.

"Yuki was raped by her cousin when she was 11. No one helped her and no one listened to her when she told them what had happened. She's strong, so she managed to move on past it, but she's got a real thing about situations like that. As for the situation with the elf, well…" Rit-chan went silent, then shook her head. "Guess."

"Did you tell your friends?" wondered Asuka.

A headshake was her answer. "A-chan, let's just hit the sack, ok?" said Rit-chan softly, slipping off the bed and tossing off the last of her clothes before reaching for her oversized tee shirt with the blood-red NERV logo on it. Asuka glanced at the book in her hands. Closing it, she set it aside.

"Sure. Catch the light?"

-

Celsia's eyes opened, the elf sitting up in bed. Frowning, she tilted her head and concentrated. I know I felt something just a moment ago. The elf thought to herself. Several minutes went by. "Or not." She shrugged, preparing to go back to her meditation. Now, where I was I? Oh, yes. The missing link in the magic here. The elf resumed her ruminations, determined to find whatever she was overlooking so she could get herself and her friends out of this place. An hour or so later, she was snapped out of her mental exercises by a faint rumble in the ground and building around her. Too faint for humans to hear, it nevertheless was clearly audible to razor-sharp ears of the elf. Is that the sound of another attack? Wondered the elf.

-

Misato checked her appearance in the mirror as Ritsuko Akagi washed her hands at the sink next to her. "You know this so-called plan is insane." Said the doctor calmly to her old friend.

"Yeah, I know." Said Misato off-handedly.

"You would risk all three Evas on this gamble?" pressed Akagi. "If they are all damaged…" she continued.

"It's my command." Misato pre-empted the fake blonde. "I have faith in the Children." She added softly.

"You hate the angels that much?" needled Akagi. Misato refused to respond, choosing instead to go to the briefing of the pilots.

"You can all evacuate now; I'll take it from here." Said Misato to her three bridge bunnies. Hyuga turned to look at the woman he mooned after.

"One person can't do the job alone, Major." He said simply.

"And the Children are staying to fight, so we can't very well run away while they stay, now can we?" chimed in Aoba.

"The Children are safe." Assured Misato. "Right now, the safest place to be is in the Evas."

"But the Evas need us to back them up." Pointed out Maya.

"Thanks." Said Misato, relieved that her techs were staying, and not knowing anything else to say to them. Her eyes went to the three feeds from the three deployed Evas. Asuka was smiling and tapping her control yokes, eyes closed in the LCL-filled plug. Shinji was staring off into space, and Rei was as expressionless as ever. Please come home safe. Thought the purple-haired Major to her pilots. Just then, an alarm sounded.

"Angel inbound!" called out Hyuga. "Fourteen seconds till impact! Red zone!"

"Evas, GO!" roared Misato over the radio links. Three teenage pilots willed their bio-mech monsters forward even as their electrical feeds uncoupled. All three sprinted for the impact zone of the angel.

"Eva 2 is closest. Angel is well within lethal zone." Snapped Hyuga.

"My god." Gasped Maya. Misato's eyes snapped to the younger woman.

"What!?" growled the Major.

"Unit 1…just went supersonic." Was her stunned reply. Just then, there came a faint boom! From above them. The Radio uplinks to each unit came alive before the shocked bridge crew could even blink at the news that the massive Eva had broken the sound barrier. First on the scene, Shinji's tense voice came over the links.

"Spreading AT Field! Maximum strength!" he gritted out as the MAGI confirmed full deployment of Unit 1's AT Field. Cameras from ground level showed the houses and structures near the massive war machine being disintegrated by the unfolding field. Raising the arms of his mech, the Third Child braced for the impact of the Angel's falling mass. Units 0 and 2 were still seconds away, not having breached the sonic barrier like unit 1 had. The Angel fell on Unit 1.

"Asuka! Expand your AT Field!" said Rei, her tone tense as the two other Evas ran up the side of the small hill where Unit stood, holding the Angel back.

"Already doing it, Wondergirl!" bit back Asuka. Units 0 and 2 joined Unit 1 under the angel as Unit 1's arms began to fail and its legs began to sink into the ground. Rei grabbed her Prog Knife and made a small slit through the compressed AT Fields of the Evas and the Angel, as Asuka's Prog Knife stabbed in over her shoulder, sinking into the Angel's core, which flared for a moment, then went dark.

"Eat this, Angel!" cried the Second as the Angel died. Experience had taught them that the destruction of a core was nearly immediately followed by a huge explosion. Shinji grabbed his two lover's units in his Eva's arms and all three dove to the deck as the angel's overloading body settled over them as it went nuclear.

-

"So, they're out getting their promised dinner?" asked Rit-chan as she and Airi entered the Zoo, having just gotten back from the Geofront. The two had silently watched the entire battle come together. They had been invited to the steak dinner, but had passed, citing a previous engagement. And right now they were wanting to get that engagement over with. Airi set down the bag she had carried up from the car, and after setting some items out for later, the two women glanced at each other before taking the last two boxes out of the bag.

"Yeah. We should have time to finish this before they get back." Said Airi, making a small motion with her box.

"Um, together or separate?" asked Rit-chan nervously. She opened her box and swiftly read the instructions. Airi did the same with her box.

"Whichever way you want it, Rit-chan." Said the actress.

"I…really don't want to…alone." Said Rit-chan softly.

"Together then." Smiled Airi reassuringly. Together, the two stepped into the bathroom. Just before they started, Rit-chan touched Airi's arm. The actress glanced at her.

"Good luck." Said the teen softly.

-

Celsia stared at the small ball of eldritch light dancing near her ceiling. For the life of her, she couldn't understand how it got there. It shouldn't have worked. Thought the High Priestess. And yet, there is it. Why? What was different this time than all the other times? Several more minutes passed, the light slowly fading away. It was several more minutes before Celsia's eyes suddenly widened as her mind eventually found the missing link. Is it…could it be…no WAY! The High Elf had her answer. But for some reason, it gave her little comfort.

"We're out here." Called Rit-chan in reply to Asuka's enquiry as the three primary exhibits of the Zoo returned from their sojourn to dinner. The two women were sitting on the balcony, watching the city lights below them. Shinji slid the glass door open and approached the two women. Stopping between the two plastic chairs where they sat, he considered the city below the Zoo for a moment. "How was dinner?" smiled Rit-chan.

"It was good." He said, smiling back at her.

"Steak that good?" asked Airi.

"We didn't have steak." Answered Shinji with a chuckle. Seeing the two girl's arch their eyebrows at him, he elaborated a bit. "Well, Misato doesn't have a lot of money, so we went for Ramen instead."

"Doesn't NERV pay her well?" asked Rit-chan, frowning.

"Pays very well, or so I understand. And she gets a monthly stipend for covering Asuka-chan's and my expenses." Nodded Shinji.

"Then why doesn't she have the money to cover a steak dinner for you three Pilots?" asked the older red-head.

"Well, there's the beer budget, the utilities, the insurance bill, the wardrobe budget, the grocery funds; well, you get the idea." Replied the teen.

"Let me guess." Mused Airi, her tone sly. "The beer budget and the insurance pretty much guts the monthly income, right?"

"You've seen the refridge, and ridden with her. You tell me." Grinned Shinji, winking at Rit-chan. The three shared a laugh. "Oh, did you two finish your appointment while we were out?" he asked, remembering why the two were home.

"Yeah. We did." Said Airi calmly.

Shinji hesitated for a moment, then decided to ask. "Everything…ok?" he asked quietly. The two glanced at each other.

"Yeah. We're good." Said Rit-chan, touching his hand. "Thanks for asking." She added. Just then, Asuka's voice came from the living room, calling for him to come fight her in one of the untried video games the two had managed to find. Sighing, Shinji agreed, giving the two newcomers a final smile before entering the main apartment. Rit-chan waited for the door to close, then looked at Airi. "So, what now?" she asked her strategist.

-

"You mean that you've got it worked out?" asked Airi of Celsia five days later. Those Who Hunt Elves were grouped at the lakeside in the Geofront, ostentatiously have a lunch together as the Children underwent yet another test and Misato filed more useless reports. Right now, Rit-chan and Airi were sitting next to Celsia as Junpei skipped small stones across the dark water.

"Yes. I found the missing part a few days ago." Said Celsia quietly.

"All right!" exclaimed Rit-chan happily. "Now we're getting somewhere." She smiled.

"Not so fast." Murmured Airi. Studying the elven magic user, she thought that the elf didn't look too happy about her newly-discovered access to her magic. "There's a catch, isn't there?" guessed the actress.

"Yes." Said Celsia sourly. "There is."

"So, what's the catch?" came Junpei's voice. "You can only do it when your chained to a wall or what?" he heckled. Celsia bared her teeth at him in a silent snarl.

"Junpei, please be quiet for a moment." Said Airi, her tone carefully sweet and intimate.

"Sure! Anything you want, Miss Airi!" he nearly giggled before going silent. Rit-chan shook her head.

"Boob." She muttered under her breath. "So, what's the catch?" she asked of Celsia.

"I can only get the spells to work when there is an angel attack." Said the High Priestess. "More specifically, when the Evas and the Angels are engaged in close combat."

"Hmm. Does that mean that…" began Rit-chan, before falling silent.

"What are you thinking, Rit-chan?" asked Airi, seeing the girl frown.

"AT fields, Airi. Somehow, the interaction of the AT fields from the Angels and Evas are allowing Celsia to utilize her magic. And that means that we can only make a jump when the Pilots are fighting for their lives." She finished, distinctly unhappy at that thought. Celsia studied the young girl. Over the year that they had been together, the elf had come to like the girl, and they enjoyed a solid friendship, though they weren't as close as she and Airi were.

"What's wrong with that, Rit-chan?" asked the elf. "It leaves us free to go while everyone here is distracted. Sounds pretty good to me." She added.

"Oh, she's got the hots for this Shinji kid who pilots one of those robots." Interjected Junpei. A moment later, he was doubled over from a sucker punch to the belly. Rit-chan's eyes glowed with rage.

"Didn't we tell you to SHUT THE FUCK UP?!" roared the teenage girl, hands clenched in fists, her entire body shaking with her rage.

She's got it pretty bad. Thought Airi to herself. This could be a problem. "Rit-chan, please don't get so worked up." She said soothingly. "There's no point to making any choices right now, anyway, so let's take this a step at a time."

"What do you mean there's no need to make any choices right now? We got our magic back, so Fido here can jump us back to our Japan the next time one of these Angel things comes here, right?" said Junpei, recovered from the sneak attack of his youngest teammate.

"Not so fast, Junpei. We need a jump station, and we still have to find and re-provision Mike, right, Rit-chan?" explained the dark-haired woman.

"True. We could also use some additional equipment they have here - just in case we land in another unexpected place." Mused the girl.

"Well, I think that that should be our next goal, then. Find or make a jump station, locate and re-equip Mike, and scrounge the needed materials. Agreed?" The other three members of the group nodded.

-

"All right, you can go now." Said Doctor Akagi, frowning a bit as she reviewed the last few pages of her test results.

"About time!" snapped Asuka, rising and heading for the showers, Rei and Shinji just behind her. Misato moved for the door as well. Akagi gave her friend a half-wave as Misato said something or other; the fake blonde's attention was on the results of the recent test. For several moments after the others had left, the head of Project E stood motionless, her mind busy with possible uses for the new data, as well as planning the next phase of tests for the pilots and the Evas.

"Sempai?" a voice interrupted the lab-coated doctor's mental exercise. Blinking, Ritsuko spotted Maya Ibuki standing at her elbow, watching her expectantly. Clutched to the woman's modest chest was a MAGI laptop, with a heavy-duty wireless link directly to the MAGI main system.

"Yes, Maya?" said Akagi, not remembering why the woman would have been there.

"You wanted to see the MAGI's analysis of the synch-ratio fluxation between Pilots during the last test, right?" prompted the short-haired lieutenant.

"Yes, of course." Lied Akagi. I thought I told her not to bother with that particular task. Hmm. Better be clearer in my directives to her. Thought the doctor. Maya handed her the terminal. Swiftly punching in commands, Akagi scanned through the data, mostly to make her subordinate think that she was interested in the data. If Gendo weren't so damned set on being a devious bastard, I wouldn't have to constantly make up these ridiculous make-work assignments to keep the tech's attention off the real tests. Akagi was a bit resentful of her so-called lover's callus disregard for others. Abruptly, a read-out caught her attention. What the hell is this?!

-

"Report." Came Gendo Ikari's cold voice. Standing in front of his massive desk, Akagi smothered an impulse to sigh. Always the same. She thought tiredly. Aloud, it was a different story.

"The latest test revealed an anomalous reading in the Children's synch-ratios." Said the doctor, her tone direct. No reaction. Fine. "On three separate occasions, the three pilots' synch entered into a perfect balance between all three, resulting in an addition fourteen point spike in the ratios and points, putting all three over the seventy percentile mark at nearly eighty points. During these spikes, the bio-rhythmic indexes of each pilot were also identical, including brain activity, chemical and hormonal balances and involuntary musculature activity."

"I see." Said Gendo. A few moments passed, then he spoke again. "What are your conclusions about this occurrence?"

"It seems that the three are balancing each other out far faster than anticipated. Also, there is increasing signs of cooperation between them, including between the Second and Third Children." Replied the woman.

"And what of Rei?" asked Gendo.

Damn doll! "All tests show no noticeable change in her." Said Akagi, fighting to keep from grimacing as she answered her boss. "However, Asuka's last physical revealed that her hymen is completely gone."

"Completely?" questioned Gendo.

"Due to physical activity and training, her hymen was partially broken before she arrived here. Now, it is completely gone." Clarified Akagi. In other words, the little bitch has started sleeping around!

So, she did have sex with Agent Kaji. This is useful information. Mused Gendo. "As long as it does not interfere with her piloting, it is immaterial." He said aloud. "More troubling is that Pilots Sohryu and Ikari do not show signs of the anticipated mental and emotional conditions."

Akagi had no answer for that; aloud, anyway. No, the girl isn't losing her grip on reality yet, and Shinji is not falling into a deep state of depression and despair. Gendo stared at her, thinking.

"That is unacceptable." He said simply a few minutes later. Akagi said nothing. "Very well, we will have to act. Begin preparations for the `selection' of the Fourth and Sixth Children." He directed his primary hang-man.

"We have no more Eva units, and with Unit 0 so unstable and Unit 1 on the restricted list…" began Akagi.

"That is not your concern, Doctor." Interrupted Gendo, standing. "You will see to the recruitment of two Children from List 1 within the next three months."

"List 1? Are you sure that's a good idea? Shinji will doubtless be curious if…" questioned Akagi.

"Pilot Ikari has no say in this. Find the two with the highest potential indexes and viable core input material." Directed the Commander of NERV.

"Yes, sir." Said Akagi, knowing that the use of List 1 options was intended to hurt the pilots as much as possible. Especially Shinji. She added. Her thoughts were interrupted by Gendo stopping in front of her.

"Was there anything else, doctor?" he asked her.

"Other than an idea for a new test, not really." She said. Gendo studied her for a moment.

"Approved." He said simply before reaching out and seizing her breasts in a nearly-painful grip, using them to pull her to him.