Part 38: Death Rattle

Shinji absently scratched his shoulder where the feed-back inflicted injuries had appeared. With the advanced technology and materials that NERV had at it's disposal, fixing a minor wound like a knife cut was nothing. Three days ago he had killed the last of the Angels. Three days ago, he had climbed out of his Eva and gone to see Asuka, his shoulder and thigh still bleeding from the synch-induced injuries. Three days gone and his wounds were now just thin, dark purple wheals on his shoulder and outer thigh. It was only a day before he was able to get full use from the injured areas, and now, they were only a minor itch to him.

At the moment, he and Rit-chan were sitting in the Zoo, side by side, watching TV. Both had been at NERV for most of the day, with Shinji splitting his time between Asuka and his other friends and lovers. Rit-chan had spent six hours in the woods with Airi, Celsia and Junpei. They had talked, planned and planned some more. The Casting Circle was almost ready to be used, but as Celsia pointed out, without the interaction of AT Fields when Evas went toe-to-toe with Angels, the magic wouldn't work. Airi had had a few thoughts on that, but she wasn't ready to share them. More worrisome in her opinion was the direction her and Misato's research was taking them. Farther and farther into a nightmare. She thought, reviewing her latest discoveries.

After a visit to the range, Rit-chan had tracked down Shinji and pried him away from Maya, who had been discussing dishes with him. The tech had reluctantly let her former room mate and lover be taken from her by the younger red-head, rationalizing it as her having to get back to work. Stopping by Asuka's room, the two had seen Rei sitting silently at her side, reading a book, one hand covering Asuka's motionless hand. Looking up at the two, Rei had simply nodded. Searching for Hikari had cost them another half hour, but when they found her, they had collected her and headed back to the Zoo.

After a fine meal, Hikari had gotten a phone call from her sisters and taken it back to her home, telling them that they could come over when they were ready or she would rejoin them later. Both had nodded. Now, they were sitting there watching TV, both lost in thought. "Hey, Shin?" came Rit-chan's soft voice. Shaking off his mental musing, Shinji turned to look at her. The older teen was staring at the ceiling, head leaned back. "Have you ever wondered about rather or not fate exists?" she asked him.

"What?" he asked stupidly.

"Fate. The concept that everything has been decided long before and all you can do is follow the track it has laid out for you. Nothing can change it, and it is set. Have you ever thought maybe it does exist?" she explained. Shinji considered that one.

"I guess." He said, a bit dubiously. "But lately, I'm wondering if anything is fixed." He added. Rit-chan turned to look at him.

"How so?" she asked.

"Well, before you arrived, I was…well, spineless I guess." He smiled ruefully at that admission. "I used to think then that I was destined to be lonely and afraid. Then, the day you arrived, Rei-chan announced her interest in me as a lover, and since then, I can hardly believe how good life is. Now, I look back and wonder if I had run from Rei-chan where I would be now." Rit-chan nodded slowly.

"Makes a kind of sense, Shin." She acknowledged.

"Yeah. I figure I'd be dead or so messed up that I might have been grasping at any sign of friendship from anyone." Shinji's expression went grim. "Which is, no doubt, what he wanted." He added grimly. Forcefully, he shoved that thought aside. "But, I'm not. Thanks to you all, I'm…ok." He grinned at that little evasions. Rit-chan chuckled.

"Ok, is it?" she purred, pushing herself into him, knocking him back on the couch, pinning him with her body. "I think you might be a bit better than `ok', don't you?" she asked huskily, teasing his lips with her own.

"You might have a point." Breathed Shinji before her lips sealed to his own. For several minutes, the two were busy making out like the hormone-crazed teens they were. Shinji took the opportunity to work his hands under her tee-shirt and cup her breasts. Rit-chan moaned approvingly through her kiss. Gently, Shinji worked her nipples and stroked her proud breasts, her nipples snapping erect like they were spring loaded. Shinji smiled as he felt her hard nipples against his palms. The elf hunter broke the kiss, leaning back from him.

"You know, there's a perfectly good bed in both your room and mine." She noted, smiling lasciviously. Shinji grinned.

"You're right." He agreed, sitting up. Taking her hand, he headed toward the bedroom and the waiting beds. Rit-chan tugged on his hand when he stopped at his door.

"Asuka's bed is bigger." She noted, sending him a suggestive leer. Shinji nodded, squeezing her hand.

"I know," said Shinji, "but we shouldn't." His eyes searched Rit-chan's gray-green own. The older teen considered that.

"Because she isn't here, right?" she guessed. Shinji nodded.

"Yeah, kind of. But more to the point, it's her bed, and having sex in it without her ok is…rude." He finished a bit awkwardly. Rit-chan nodded.

"Yeah, I see." She said seriously. "So, is there anything wrong with using your bed, Shin?" she asked innocently. Shinji chuckled.

"Of course not." He answered, sliding his door open.

-

On the outskirts of Tokyo 2 was a warehouse district in an infrequently-used industrial complex. The owners of the warehouse district was an Italian trading and freight company that had risen to prominence in the chaos following Second Impact and the subsequent slide into anarchy as the waters rose, people died by the millions and the remaining political and economic powers fought for dominance. With a reputation for getting the goods where they were supposed to go every time and on time, the company had enjoyed a meteoric rise to dominance as the world situation coalesced into a firm UN-controlled quasi-government.

However, the peace was not kind to the company, as other logistical firms took over the market in the relatively calm reconstruction period that started in 2005 and concluded in late 2012. During those seven years, the company had slipped silently into bankruptcy and had been saved from certain death by a large inflow of cash from a silent partner. Within a year, all the old management was gone, and new management was in place at all their major hubs. Within three years, no one who started with the company or worked for it in it's heyday were left on the pay roll. It still handled the routes that no one - not even some armies - would run. The middle east route from China to Africa, the volatile South American market where governments changed on a sometimes day-to-day basis and the unprofitable South Pacific route were all theirs.

Now operating in a silent vacuum, the company had managed to make a modest profit for the first time in a decade. This was not due to brilliant leadership. Nor was it due to shrewd negotiating with the UN to keep it's farthest-flung outposts stocked. No, it was due to the silent partnership. It was also due to that silent and invisible partner that the company's cargos would make most armies feel under-equipped. Stacked floor to ceiling in the warehouses was everything from pistols to crew-served artillery, from missiles to bombs, from grenades to torpedoes, bullets to energy packs for beam and radiation weaponry, surveillance to interrogation equipment and biological to chemical agents.

If you needed a mercenary army assembled, outfitted, supplied and managed, the Italian company could do it. In the last three years, they had fielded merc armies on three continents and ten countries. Engaged in everything from surveillance to terrorism, security to corporate warfare, these teams were the ultimate in throw-away resources for the governments and corporations of the new world. Hell, three teams alone were acting under direction of the UN, which had the largest standing army on the planet. Still, some activities were not deemed publicly acceptable for the Super Government UN to engage in. Assassination of dissenting leaders, economic terrorism and armed revolution being among them.

But all that was a mere cover for their real purpose. Tonight, they would do what they had been waiting to do since long before Second Impact. Even before the Industrial Age. Yes, even before the height of the monarchy-based empires, the power behind the silent partnership had been waiting - and occasionally acting as necessary. Tonight it was time to act.

In ones, twos and three, people drifted silently into the seemingly abandoned warehouse. No lights were on, and there was no talking from any of the people slipping unobtrusively into the warehouse from different directions. Deep inside the warehouse, four low-yield cyclamen light sticks lay on the floor, the only illumination in the dark, cavernous storage facility. Each arriving person or group silently took a place at the edge of the dimly-illuminated circle of sickly green light cast by the chemical light sticks.

Last to arrive was a tallish man in a dark shirt and blue jeans, an old, worn leather jacket over his dark tee-shirt. The battered garment concealed the simple clerical collar he wore, as well as the two handguns he carried - one in a shoulder rig, the other in a small-of-the-back holster. Silently, he surveyed the assembled group. Satisfied, he reached into the pocket of his jacket and withdrew three hi-yield light sticks, snapping all three and tossing them carelessly to the floor next to the fading green ones. Within seconds, the white light they gave off illuminated the group in detail. "Good evening, my children." He said quietly.

"Good evening, Father." Said the group as one, genuflecting to him. He returned the sign.

"It is time, my children." Said the man, withdrawing a small palm computer and hooking it up to a miniature holo-display unit. The assembled team gathered around. Activating the briefing program, he began his mission brief.

-

The Japanese Minister of the Interior sighed and looked at the simple email he had received not ten minutes ago. Turning his chair to look out his window at the view from his down-town office in Tokyo 2, he considered what he was about to do. Is this the right choice? He wondered. I mean, yeah, the situation can't go on like it is, but still…this better be a perfect op based on perfect intel or this regime is finished. Forget being thrown out of office! We'd be lucky to avoid the firing squad for this! Grimacing at the thought, he turned his chair back around and tapped his intercom. A moment later, Machiko slipped into his office. "Get that brief printed out." He said. "And schedule a meeting with the Prime Minister and his cabinet." He added. Machiko nodded and slipped back out. Turning his attention to the computer on his desk, he typed in a short, one line reply: Approval granted. Commence operation on schedule.

-

Misato groaned and managed to get to her feet as someone knocked again on the Zoo's door. Snagging her USP, she eased the slide back until she could see the shiny brass of the round in the chamber. Letting it snap back into battery, she tugged her shirt back over her chest and straightened her shorts. Man, I'm beat. She thought irritably as she passed the kitchen, tempted to grab a beer, but opting not to risk tying up one of her hand with a drink. The person or persons knocked yet again. "Yeah, yeah, yeah! I'm coming already!" she yelled, turning the corner into the entranceway. Habitually, she glanced at the small recessed shoe area, noting that her shoes were the only ones there.

Glancing out, she saw a man in the uniform of a courier company from Tokyo 2. "You got the wrong address, mister." She said through the door, her thumb verifying her pistol's safety was off. "How'd you get into Tokyo 3, anyway? Didn't you hear? This place is a war zone and off limits to civilians!" she added, her support hand closing over her strong hand on the pistol grip. No one should be here but NERV personal and Airi's crew. She thought nervously. And that fucking dead man who shot at my Shinji! That issue was still a sore point for the Major. No sign of the man had been found, other than the occasional abandoned sleeping spot in different parks and abandoned buildings.

"I have a package here for a Misato Katsuragi at this address, ma'am." Said the man calmly, projecting his voice a bit.

"No one here's expecting a package." Challenged Misato, wondering if she shouldn't step back and get Rit-chan's G36 from Asuka's bedroom. She had two jungle-clipped magazines tucked into the edge of the mattress, and there was one in the mag well, so I should have 180 rounds worth ready to go… she mused to herself, her thoughts being interrupted by the man. "What was that?" she asked, her attention back on the man.

"I said, the sender said to say `Dumpy' before leaving the package." He said. Misato frowned. Choices, choices… Taking a breath, she opened the door. Gun held firmly next to her right hip, which was turned back a bit from the door, she studied the man for a moment before holding out her hand.

"Give." She said flatly. The man handed her a sealed envelope. As soon as she closed her fingers on it, he turned and walked off. "What, no signature required?" she called after him. He showed no signs of hearing her. Closing and locking the door, Misato studied the envelope intently. Slowly, she moved back to her bedroom, absently snapping the safety back on her USP and checking the seals on the envelope. Seems normal. She finally decided. Sinking down on her futon, she carefully opened the envelope.

Whatever was in there was thin. Shaking it a bit, she was rewarded with a single hotel keycard. Checking the envelope, she saw that it was empty. With no further clues to be had there, she turned her attention to the card. Picking it up, she read the hotel name and room number. Frowning, she was just trying to decide what to do with the card when her cell phone chimed. Fishing for it, she glanced at he screen and saw she had a text message. Opening it, she found it was garbage. Just before she erased it, though, she paused, remembering the class she and her former roomie Dumpy had had together. Wasn't it cryptology?

-

"You what?" said Airi softly, turning her head a bit to see Misato clearly past her impressive attributes. The two were once more cuddled up naked in a love hotel. The hotel TV was on and playing at a raised volume, the panting and moaning from the girl-on-girl action covering for their quiet conversation.

"I need you to go to Tokyo 2." Repeated Misato softly. "I can't go, obviously. But you can." She said quietly. "Can't you?" she asked, her tone a bit worried.

"Of course I can, Misa-chan." Assured the actress. "Remember, I can sell any performance. But why there? And why on such short notice?"

"Because there is a package there that needs retrieval and only I can get it." Explained Misato. "Well, me or someone who can make my former roomie think it's me." She qualified. "And with Asuka…" she sighed.

"I know. So, where do I need to go and when?" asked the actress, laying back as Misato impulsively hugged her, resulting in Misato laying on top of Airi. "And could you move down a little? It's a bit hard to breath like this." She mumbled from under the Major's tits.

"Oops." Giggled Misato, raising herself on elbows and knees. "Sorry." She added.

"No problem." Assured Airi. She's like a teenager! "Now, fill me in on this Dumpy I'm supposed to have gone to college with." She instructed, feeling Misato's nipples harden against her own breasts. As Misato began to brief her on her friend, Airi had one stray thought: This could be worse. It feels pretty good, in fact. Pushing the sensations of Misato's soft, silky skin rubbing against her own from her mind, she concentrated on cross-questioning Misato to make sure that nothing got over looked. This performance has to be perfect, after all.

-

Maya yawned as she exited the bridge after a full shift. Since the last angel had been dispatched by an enraged Shinji, she had expected to have some time off. But no, we're on full alert! She thought resentfully. Shaking that thought away, she decided to see if Shinji was still on watch with Asuka. Altering her course, she took a elevator to the lower deck, then headed for the medical wing and the cranial ward.

As she walked, the tech reflected on the situation with Asuka. Since she had been pulled unconscious from her Eva after the Sixteenth, Commander Ikari had ordered her stripped of the title of Second Child, a move that earned him a promise of death from Shinji if anything happened to his Asuka. Since the very first day, one of the core group had been with her at all times, seemingly taking shifts. Even the elf had sat with her for a few hours one time. It's probably a good thing, too. Thought Maya, turning into the cranial ward's entrance corridor. Those Section 2 agents had not expected to find Rit-chan sitting there, USP in her lap when they had come to take Asuka god-knows-where. The tech absently patted her own hip, where her USP rode these days. Rit-chan can be a scary girl when she tries. And she put everything she had into that performance! In retrospect, her eviction of the bridge crew during the incident with the Thirteenth was a good thing: it gave her promise to blow their fucking heads off unquestionable weight if they tried to move Asuka.

Stopping at her door, Maya took a deep breath before opening the door. Exhaling, she entered the room, wondering who would be on duty there. "Hi." Said the tech softly, glancing back to make sure the door closed. "How is she?"

"Hi, Maya." Came the soft voice of her commanding officer. "No change yet." Added Misato. Maya blinked. Misato had been reported to be in a love hotel until early this morning, yet here she was, sitting with Asuka. The young lieutenant hesitated, then decided to risk it.

"Um, where's the rest of them?" she asked, stopping by Asuka's other side. Unconsciously, she reached out and touched Asuka's bare arm, gently stroking it for a moment.

"Shin was here when I got here. He and Rei went somewhere. Airi's out with Rit-chan, and Hikari is studying that damned encyclopedia of a manual for the wings in her Unit." Said the Major, her hand clasping Asuka's. The EEG spiked at the mention of Shinji and Hikari.

"I see." Said Maya, turning her eyes from Asuka's pale face to Misato. "Um, did you sleep well, Major?" she asked, her tone hesitant. Misato's deep eyes turned to her and studied her intently.

"Yeah, sure. Why ask?" countered the Major. Maya felt her cheeks heat up a bit.

"No reason, really." She hedged. "You just seemed busy lately." God, that was weak, Maya! She chided herself.

"I see." Said Misato. So, she's been keeping tabs on me. Wonder why? Thought Misato to herself. Reaching into her pocket with her free hand, she pulled out her phone and punched numbers without looking. Putting the phone to her ear, she waited for the other party to pick up. When it did, she spoke quietly. It was a short conversation, and barely twenty seconds later, she ended the call and tucked her phone back into her pocket. "Come on over for supper tonight, Maya." Said the Major. "Shinji's cooking." She added.

-

Maya sat on the couch in Rei's apartment, having just finished an incredible meal with Shinji, Hikari, Rei and Misato. Rit-chan was with Asuka, and Misato was going to relieve her as soon as she finished eating. Rei was going with Misato to NERV, as she had another download to the collective. The girl no longer bothered with the pretense of `testing' now that Shinji knew the truth. Tonight, Shinji was going to feel Maya out about her loyalties. Hikari was in the bathroom, soaking in the tub as she worked her way through the manual for the wing system.

"That was good eating, Shin." Said Maya as Shinji settled next to her on the couch. "Thank you for inviting me." She added sincerely. Shinji smiled at her.

"Thanks, Maya-chan." He said, settling his arm over her shoulder comfortably. Maya leaned in toward him, resting her head on his shoulder. Shinji grinned at her and leaned over to kiss her deeply. Ibuki moaned a bit as he broke the kiss. "Maya?" he asked her.

"Yes, Shin?" replied the young woman, absently trailing her fingers along his chest.

"Do you trust me?" he asked her. Hearing the seriousness of his tone, she frowned, looking up into his face.

"Do I…?" she repeated. "Yes." She said after a moment of thought. "I do trust you, Shin."

"Would you believe me if I told you something that I swear is the truth, no matter how outrageous it sounds?" he prompted her.

"Well, yeah." She said, confused. Shinji sighed.

"Do you like Rokubungi?" he asked her seriously. He had been calling the Commander that ever since he came back from Unit 1 after the absorption caused by a four hundred plus percent synch. "I mean, do you think he's worth obeying?" Maya considered that one.

"Well, he is the commander," she began. Feeling Shinji draw in a breath, she pressed a fingertip to his lips, stalling his reply. "but," she continued, "he's been acting…strange ever since the seventh." She considered her lover. "Why? Is something wrong?" she asked. Shinji considered her for a bit.

"You could say that." He said. Taking a breath, he began to sketch in the developments of the last four months, glossing over some things, leaving other things out, but basically telling her the truth behind NERV and Gendo. Maya's mouth hung open most of the next hour.

-

On the outskirts of Tokyo 3, a bedraggled figure watched the slow trickle of Japanese Special Forces units surrounding Tokyo 3. He had been watching them for three days now, dodging their patrols and looking for a usable soldier. Since the incident on the train with the Spawn of Satan, he had realized that the evil minions were on to him, and would be on guard. So, he had been trying to find a way to get inside the lair of the Devil, where he judged them to be relaxed in their stronghold. If he could get in there, he could certainly finish off at least a few of the Spawns.

Last night, he had spotted a man he thought would do perfectly. Now, he was waiting for a chance to acquire that person. Patience is a virtue, after all. He thought, watching the man sitting with his fellow soldiers in a cold observation post, an encrypted burst radio at their station. All told, the man figured that there was a full company of troops already in the immediate area, and more were slipping in by the day. His thoughts were interrupted as the man he wanted slipped out of the concealed OP and made his way down to where the latrine was located. With practiced ease, the man shadowed his target. Once the soldier was relieving himself, the man slipped a knife out and eased up behind him, waiting for a moment as the soldier shook his gear off and began to tuck himself back into his pants. Slapping a hand over his mouth, the man drove the knife down into the hollow of the collar bone, point slightly inward, severing the lungs, trachea and hitting the aorta. With the lungs compromised, the blood filled them rapidly, while the punctured heart caused a sudden loss of blood pressure, robbing the victim of any ability to move.

Easing the corpse down onto the ground, the man looked around, then patted the soldier down, taking his silenced MP5 and moving back toward the OP. He knew that there were several other observation posts set up, but none of them were watching each other. Working his way up to the concealed position, he situated himself in good cover and slowly eased the MP5 to his shoulder, the stock extended and the fire selector set to single. Lining up the ACOG reticule, he steadied it on the back of the head of the second man and squeezed the trigger, getting a soft thock as the bolt cycled. Swiftly, he swung the gun and settled the sights on the third man, who was starting to turn toward the second, having been splashed with blood and brains. Touching the trigger, he put that one down, too. "Go with God, my sons." He intoned softly, moving forward easily to check the corpses.

"God smiles on those who do his bidding." He muttered, seeing that the burst radio was set to receive-only mode. Patting down the corpses yielded a code book and a time table, though nothing was noted other than the times and codes. Pretty good security for a last-ditch effort. He approved silently. Even though I have the codes and times, it tells me nothing. Checking the gear over, he took the ammo and a spare MP5, setting them aside before taking the personal kit of one of the men and the entrenching tool of another. Silently, he dug a narrow grave, barely big enough for the three corpses, and tossed the first two in, cursing a bit as he had to get in and pack them in to make room for the last one. Moving down the hill, he took the uniform from the first man killed and changed his clothes before slinging the body over his shoulder and humping it up to the grave. Once it was settled, he covered the grave and began to conceal it.

It wouldn't hold for long, but he only needed a few days at most. Settling into the OP, he opened the kit and found the military-issue shaving supplies. Humming a bit, he began to shave. Can't pass for one of them looking like a street bum. He noted, deciding to see if he could cut his hair to an approximate version of the military cut the three had had. Within an hour, he looked enough like a Spec Forces trooper to pass - at least if he stayed a dozen or so yards away from the rest. Settling in, he checked the area once more before opening a MRE and digging into his first real meal in close to five days. Ah! Just like my old life… he thought nostalgically, tasting the funny-tasting rations for the first time in a decade.

-

"Shinji?" came Hikari voice as she opened the door, towel over her shoulders, book and basket in her right hand. "You here?" she asked, stifling a yawn. She had been in the bath a bit more than an hour, and her skin was pruny. But, that would pass, and she felt better now.

"In here, Hi-chan." Said Shinji softly. Hikari made her way to the living room, to find Maya curled up with Shinji on the couch. Hikari blinked. Thought she was going home. The tech was all but in his lap. The naked teen saw Shinji's eyes on her. Carefully, she leaned over and kissed him gently. Shinji returned the kiss.

"Did you…?" began Hikari.

"Yeah." Said Shinji softly. Hikari opened her mouth to ask, but was interrupted by Maya making some sounds and moving. Glancing down, Hikari realized that her hair had been dripping onto Maya's face when she leaned over to kiss Shinji. Maya's eyes opened.

"Oh!" she gasped, seeing Hikari leaning over them. She struggled to get into a more appropriate position, but Shinji just held her in place. "Hikari, I thought you were in the bath." She said lamely. Hikari smiled at the older woman.

"I was." She acknowledged. "An hour ago." She added. She could see Maya's cheeks heat up. Turning, she moved toward the bedroom. "I've done all the studying I can do for a night." She said over her shoulder. "I'm hitting the sack." She added, entering the room. Maya tried to get up again.

"I better get going, Shin." She said. Shinji held her close.

"Stay here tonight." He suggested. "It's not like anyone is waiting for you at your place." He added. Maya hesitated.

"But, what about Hikari? And won't Rei be home?" she wondered.

"You're welcome to stay, Maya." Came Hikari's voice from the dark bedroom. "Plenty of room for all of us." She added. Maya blinked at Shinji, who just smiled and shrugged.

"What she said, Maya-chan." He said softly, kissing her again. Maya mentally shrugged. No one was waiting for me at home anyway. She seconded. Shinji was a bit surprised when Maya's tongue slipped out and caressed his. Surprised, but pleased. Shifting a bit to get a better position, he deepened the kiss. For a few minutes, all the sound the two made were soft, wet sounds as they played a quick game of tonsil tag. Finally, Shinji eased back a bit from his lover and smiled at her in the dim light of the room. Tossing his head toward the bedroom, he made a wordless suggestion. Maya froze for a split second, knowing that Hikari was in there, but then she nodded, moving to sit up. Shinji allowed her to this time. Standing, she reached down to Shinji and help him to stand. With her fingers still intertwined with his, she let him lead her to the bedroom.

In the bedroom, Shinji turned to Maya and began to unfasten her uniform top. With sufficient practice when they were living together, Shinji swiftly had her top off and laying on the floor, her simple front-fasten bra hitting the floor an instant later. Maya felt herself grinning like an idiot as Shinji's fingertips trailed down her bare chest to her skirt's waistband, pausing to circle around and pull her USP free. Reaching behind him, he felt for and found the bedside table. A moment later, he had set her USP on Rei's bedside table. Returning his attention to the woman in his arms, he moved his hand back to her zipper and smoothly pulled it down, letting it drop as he felt for the top of her white hose.

Feeling Shinji's fingers slip under her hose and begin to roll them off her, Maya decided that enough was enough and felt for his shirt buttons, which she swiftly began to undo. Her progress was halted when Shinji knelt to roll and tug her hose down her thighs and calves to her ankles. Resting her hands on his shoulders for balance, she pulled one foot free, then the other. Now naked, she felt Shinji straighten and gasped softly as he pulled her to him for a full length hug and kiss. Oh, god, this is making me so horny! Thought the tech to herself as Shinji calmly made out with her. Her nipples were as hard as diamonds, and her groin was tingly and hot. When the Third softly broke the kiss a while later, she whimpered in disappointment.

Hearing her whimper, Shinji smiled and touched her reassuring as he guided her to Rei's large bed. Rei-chan was right - we do need a big bed! He thought, feeling his dick throb. Holding Maya steady for a moment, he reached down to pull back the cover and sheets, only find that they were already pulled back. A fleeting touch of a warm, soft arm told him how the sheets had been moved back. Hi-chan is obviously awake. He noted. Pressing on Maya's upper arms to guide her, Shinji sat her on the edge of the bed and then pressed her back until she was laying down. Tracing a hand along her side from her shoulder to her ankles made sure she was settled and that the sheets were over her. Shinji swiftly pulled his own USP free and - after checking the status of his gun by feel - placed it next to Maya's on the bedside table before tugging his twin backup magazines free of their carrier and easing them into the top drawer of the table, letting them rest on top of the six magazines already there. Gotta remember to ask Rei-chan why she keeps so many magazines in there. He thought fleetingly.

With better things to do than wonder why his first lover kept a small arsenal in her bedside table's top drawer, Shinji swiftly tugged off his over shirt and undershirt, unbuckled his belt and pants, having a moment of difficulty as he tried to get his pants off over his erection. After a moment of arranging, his pants were free and hit the floor, his boxers landing on top of them a moment later. Heeling off his socks with his toes, Shinji stepped over to the bed and cautiously felt around for Maya and Hikari. He found that Maya had scooted over a bit to allow him into bed, and Shinji gratefully slipped in beside Maya, who immediately wrapped him up in her arms, one hand coming across his belly to gently seize his erect dick.

Slowly Maya stroked it with her soft hand, being rewarded with a long, happy moan from Shinji. The pilot turned on his side, his arms closing on Maya and bringing her closer to him, one hand cradling her head as he guided her to his lips, the other teasingly trailing down her side to her hip, then dipping inward, his fingers combing though her neat pubic patch before easing between her legs - and her vaginal lips. Shinji smiled around the kiss as he felt his fingertips encounter hot, wet Maya-chan. Thank god. I was a bit worried that she would be too nervous about Hi-chan being here to get excited. He needn't have worried; Maya was more than excited; she was horny. Settling in, Shinji moved his mouth from her mouth to her left nipple, lightly sucking on her hard nub, his tongue circling her areola between short, soft sucks and super light bites. Maya sighed happily, wrapping an arm around Shinji's chest and urging him on top of her as she spread her legs to give him better access to her soaked sex. Shinji shifted a bit to get a better angle to stimulate her pussy as he continued to harass her nipple. Where their flesh met, he could feel her body temperature rising.

Maya felt her first small orgasm roll out of her groin and giggled a bit, knowing that Shinji would make it his mission to give her bigger, longer orgasms and hopefully a few multiple orgasm as well. I can't believe that he's such a good lover. Marveled the tech as she floated back down before beginning to rise again as the pilot's thumb found her clit and began a slow, steady circle-and-cross motion, periodically interrupted by light pressure directly on the hyper-sensitive nub. With a squeak, Maya suffered her second orgasm. Taking his hand from her wet sex, Shinji switched nipples, gently licking the other breast as Maya panted and twitched. As Shinji diligently tended to her breast, he felt a warm hand touch his arm.

Taking the hand in his, ignoring the Maya-juice on it, he pulled it to him and took a moment from his breast consumption to kiss the fingertips of Hikari's hand. Through his lips, he felt her hand tremble. Gently, Shinji pulled on the hand, and therefore Hikari, drawing her closer to himself and Maya. Slipping the hand he held in his own between himself and tech, Shinji brought Hikari's hand to his throbbing erection, which was temporarily abandoned by Maya, who was out of her body for the moment on a trip to heaven. Hikari eased her fingers around his dick and began to stroke it, much to Shinji's approval. Hikari felt Maya's hand loosely gripping Shinji's rod, and rather than just nudging it aside, she interlaced her fingers with the young Lieutenant's, allowing them both to caress Shinji.

Shinji was busy with his own plans as he traced the arm back to Hikari's firm, trim body, which was now tight against Maya's side, his girl cum lubed hand settling over Hi-chan's modest breast. With the extra slick wetness from Maya's pussy covering his hand, he began to kneed and massage the small mound nestled in his hand. Hikari's soft gasps and moans told him that she was enjoying the effort. Her slight increase in the pace of her stroking him confirmed it as well. As her nipples grew hard in his palm, Shinji felt Maya's hand caress his head.

Maya became aware of Shinji again as she felt his erect member in her grasp. She seemed to be stroking it, but she couldn't remember directing her hand to do that. It took her another few seconds to register the warm, soft girl at her side. A few more seconds and she felt the arm connecting Hikari to herself and Shinji. Maya felt her groin tremble at that discovery. I've always wondered what it was like to do this. She reflected, touching Shinji's hair as he continued to work on her breast. After combing her hand though his hair a time or two, Maya took a breath and moved her hand over and down, touching Hikari's ribs just below her breasts.

Hikari twitched as she felt Maya's hand touch her ribs. For a few heartbeats, both girls froze, then Ibuki's hand tentatively moved a little farther south. Hikari began to pant, increasing her stroking of Shinji as Maya's fingertips touched her bellybutton. "Miss I…" began the girl, fighting for her voice. Shinji's fingers left her breasts and touched her lips, silencing her. Maya had frozen at her voice, her hand resting just below the teen's belly button. Did I mess up? Wondered the two women simultaneously. Shinji rubbed Hikari's lips once more with his fingertip, then leisurely moved it back down to her breast, still slick with the other woman's juice. For almost a minute, the panting of the two girls was the only sound except for the occasional wet slurp from Maya's chest. Finally, Maya's hand began to move again, easing down toward Hikari's aroused pussy.

Shinji felt the pressure building in him, and knew that he would reach his limit soon. Shifting a little, he moved between Maya's legs, feeling the joined hands of the two girls pause as he settled himself into place. Maya's hand squeezed Hikari's fingers gently before disengaging and coming to rest on the girl's forearm. Hikari stroked Shinji a few moments longer, then tugged gently on his dick, urging him forward. Gratefully, Shinji complied, feeling his tip meet Maya's wet, ready opening. Hikari wiggled his dick a time or two, then withdrew her hand as Shinji leaned forward, his pre-cum soaked tip spreading Maya's soaked petals to allow him to enter her. Maya felt Hikari begin to move her arm from between the two, and grabbed her hand to keep Hikari from doing that, guiding the Sixth's hand upward to her breasts.

While she was doing this, her other hand had reached Hikari's mons. Maya blinked as her fingertips slid over the slick opening. She doesn't have any pubic hair. She realized, surprised. Never having done anything like what she was doing before, Maya was a bit unsure of how to proceed. Shinji's dick in her pussy was also distracting as hell for her. Well, I guess I should just do like I do when I'm masturbating. We're both girls, so she shouldn't be too different. Having made her choice, Maya covered the pilot's hot sex with her fingers, beginning to rub her outer lips. Hikari moaned again. Ok, she seems to be liking this so far. Noted Maya distractedly, feeling Shinji's dick press against her cervix. "Yyeeesss." She hissed softly, feeling a huge orgasm building. Using two fingers, she spread Hikari's outer lips and used her middle finger to explore Hikari's entrance.

A single gently push was all it took for Maya's middle finger to slide into Hikari, the girl's arousal producing copious amounts of lubricant. The bridge bunny eased her finger a bit deeper into Hikari, and finally all the way to the knuckle in the warm, wet sheath. Slowly pumping her finger in and out, she felt Hikari's sex tremble. Shinji was in a good, building pace inside her, and she knew that when she came that time, it would be big; the added excitement of having her very first threesome was enough to guarantee a multiple orgasm. Working by feel, Maya added another finger, finding that two were about comfortable for the girl, who was now bucking her hips against the tech's side. Maya began to match Shinji's pace in the other girl's pussy.

"Aaahh!" gasped Hikari, feeling Maya's two fingers matching Shinji's pace in the tech's sex. Her hands were busy with Maya's small breasts, and her breath was labored. This is so good! She thought dazedly. Impulsively, she lunged over and pressed her lips to Maya's, her tongue slipping into the surprised tech's mouth, where it eagerly wrestled with the older woman's tongue. It took Maya only a second to recover and begin to return the kiss. Caught up in the building heat, Maya slipped another finger into Hikari's soaked vagina, her thumb coming to rest on the girls clit, which was full engorged with blood and standing erect like a tiny dick. The third finger was all it took for Hikari to hit her limit, a heavy orgasm wracking her entire body as her sex tried to crush Maya's hand.

Having held out as long as he could, Shinji thrust into Maya as deeply as he could, feeling his dick spasm, followed by his sperm flooding her pussy and uterus. His first three spurts were large, and he had three more after the first three, leaving Maya completely filled. Panting heavily, he balanced himself on his shins and tried to catch his breath. Below him, Maya was oblivious to anything, lost to a massive multiple orgasm.

When Shinji had cum, Maya had gone off on an extended vacation as well, the sensation of his hot, thick goo flooding her willing pussy and passing thought her cervix into her uterus being more than she could handle. Her fingers frantically moved inside Hikari like she was typing at her MAGI terminal. It was a good half hour before the tech came back to earth. Shinji had moved over so he was between them, and Hikari was sound asleep on his other side, curled up tight to her lover. Maya heard Shinji yawn. Giggling a bit, she pressed herself full length to him, being sure that her hips were titled to keep as much of his cum in her as possible. "Shin?" she whispered, her lips touching his cheek.

"Mmm?" came the reply.

"That was incredible." Breathed the tech, touching her lips to his. "Can we…do that again?" She felt Shinji nod. Grinning like a cat in a bird cage, she lowered her head to his shoulder, feeling Hikari's breath against her face from Shinji's other shoulder. "Soon?" she added hopefully.

-

Maya awoke to the sensation of someone kissing her thoroughly. Instinctively returning the kiss, she opened her eyes, expecting to see Shinji making out with her. Or it could be Hikari. She added silently. Her soft brown eyes focused on a sight that made no sense to her barely-conscious mind: pale, soft skin and blue hair. The eyes opened, and blood-red irises considered her carefully, though the lips never left her own. Holy shit, it's Rei! Was the tech's thought. The First broke the kiss. "Good morning, Maya-chan." Said the girl softly.

"G…good morning, Rei." Managed the shaken bridge bunny. Snapping her head around, she saw no sign of Shinji or Hikari. I know I didn't dream last night, so where…?

"Hi-chan is in the shower." Said Rei, her hand brushing Maya's hair back from her cheek. "I suggest you join her, as we are due to report to NERV in less than an hour." Added the First, standing and moving toward the door. She was dressed once more in the simple black sundress. "I will prepare breakfast." She announced. Maya was still blinking stupidly after Rei had departed the room. Kicking her mind into gear, the young woman swung her legs over the side of the bed and stood, preparing to go to the bathroom as directed. As she did so, she felt a familiar sensation as Shinji and her mixed cum began to seep from her satisfied pussy. Smirking a bit, she clenched her lower muscles firmly and moved to the bathroom, feeling the weird sensation of the fluid creeping down her thighs.

Entering the bathroom, she spotted Hikari in the large shower, scrubbing herself with some body shampoo and a body sponge. Taking a moment to relieve her bladder, Maya glanced around and spotted a second towel folded neatly next to one that had to be Hikari's. Finished, the teen ducked under the spray to rinse off, spotting Maya as she wiped the water from her eyes. "Good morning, Maya-chan!" she said happily. Maya flinched a bit.

"Good morning, Hikari." She said, finishing up and standing as she flushed the toilet. "Can I join you? Rei said that we're supposed to be a NERV soon." She added. I don't know how she'll feel about last night.

"Sure. Plenty of room." Chirped Hikari, motioning to the shower. "Where is Rei-chan?" she asked as the other woman entered the shower with her.

"She said she was going to prepare breakfast." Answered Maya, looking around for a moment before spotting the bottle of shampoo Hikari was holding out to her. "I didn't know she could cook." Added the tech, soaking her hair.

Hikari laughed easily. "Well, not exactly." She admitted. "But she can make a couple of simple dishes. We'll most likely have eggs, toast and hash browns." She predicted. "How did you sleep?" asked the girl with no warm up.

"R…really good. And you?" replied the tech, wondering if her blush was noticeable.

"Mmm. I slept like the dead; or so Rei said." Said the teen, her smile a bit dreamy. Maya decided to bite the bullet and just ask flat out.

"Hikari, have you ever…done what we did last night before?" she asked, watching the girl intently. Hikari froze for just a second, her cheeks growing a bit red.

"Umm, well…yes." She said, looking at Maya out of the corner of her eye. "But only once!" she added swiftly. Maya managed a nod.

"I see." She said. "Do you…like it?" she asked, her tone curious. Maybe I am a prude like the girls said in school. I mean, if Hikari is doing it at her age, what does that make me? Hikari's blush deepened and spread as she nodded.

"Yes." She whispered. "But, only with S…the right people." She qualified. Maya smiled. Taking pity on the girl, she leaned over closer to her.

"To tell you the truth, Hi-chan," she said softly, "last night was my very first time. Ever." Hikari blinked at her.

"You mean you've never experimented before?" she gasped, shocked. "But, you're so pretty, Maya! You must have done that before last night!"

"A threesome? No." denied Maya. "I was always too busy, a none of my previous boyfriends were able to talk me into it." She explained. Shit! That makes it sound like I'm saying that Shinji is my boyfriend! "Uh, not that Shinji is my boyfriend, or anything like that!" she swiftly noted. Much as I'd love to be his girlfriend, I can't really compete with Misato and Rei and Asuka, not to mention Rit-chan and Airi! Her thoughts were interrupted by Hikari giggling at her. "What's so funny, Hi-chan?" she asked, totally lost.

"You are." Said the girl simply. "It's ok to be his girlfriend, you know." She added more seriously. "I can tell you he really likes you, Maya." She expanded on the topic.

"I…would hope so, seeing as we slept together." Demurred the tech. Another thought occurred to her. "Hikari, you seem really relaxed about this whole thing. Aren't you worried about the other girls after him?" she asked the teen. Hikari nodded slowly.

"Yeah, but not the way you think." She said. "He and I…well, I'm not worried that he won't love me or anything." She said, smiling warmly at whatever she was thinking about. "But I do worry because I'm not as…build as they are." She said, her hands absently touching her A-cup breasts. This was something that Maya - with her modest B-cup chest - could relate to entirely. "I guess that with you, I don't feel outgunned; at least, not as much as I do around Misato." She amended, realizing that Maya might take her comment as an attack on her bra size.

"I know what you mean." Commiserated Maya. "That woman won the grand prize in the chest department." And the figure department! "And I can't even fill most B cup bras without holding my breath." Seeing Hikari's surprised look, Maya nodded in confirmation. "Almost half my bras are A cup, Hikari." She said quietly. "Ask Shinji - he did the laundry when we were together. I mean, when he was with me that time." She hastily doubled back.

"Well, at least we're not alone." Offered Hikari, a weak smile on her face. Maya smiled back, getting a stronger smile in return. "We…less developed girls have to stick together, after all." She said, getting a chuckle from Hikari.

"Yeah. But at least you have a figure! I still don't even have a bush!" she frowned at her bare mons. "I think my `growth spurt' got lost in the mail." She added sourly, dipping under the spray again. Maya giggled a little at that.

"And at least you have more growth coming to you, Hi-chan. I've gotten as developed as I will ever get." She countered. Hikari considered that for a bit.

"Ok, you got me there, Maya-chan." She agreed ruefully. "At least Shin's not a breast man." She muttered.

"Amen to that." Agreed Maya. Of course, I still don't know what his fetish is, but at least he isn't obsessed with the size of our tits! Hikari handed the tech her body shampoo and sponge. Maya nodded her thanks. Stepping out of the shower, Hikari took a towel and began to dry off. "Oh! Hikari, was Shinji there when you got up this morning?" she asked, wondering how long she missed him by. Hikari shook her head.

"No. Rei woke me about ten minutes before you, and she said that he left as she arrived. Going to relieve Rit-chan at the hospital, apparently." She said.

Maya considered rather or not to ask, but couldn't resist and asked. "Was she up when she woke you?" asked the tech, beginning to scrub herself. Hikari shook her head.

"No." said the girl. "I was using her like a body pillow." She gave a short bark of laughter. "I seem to do that quite a bit lately."

"How…did she wake you up?" asked Maya, almost afraid to know. Hikari paused for a moment before answering.

"Like she always does." Answered the teen carefully.

"And how is that, exactly?" responded the tech. Oh, no, you don't. Hikari turned to face Maya, her eyes steady, though her blush was back.

"She kisses me." She replied evenly. "Why? Does that bother you?" she asked, a bit aggressively. Maya shook her head.

"No. Not at all. I was just a bit worried that I was the only one she kissed." She explained. Hikari blinked.

"She kissed you this morning?" asked the girl, her tone curious. Maya nodded. "Well, how about that." She asked rhetorically.

"Why so surprised? What does her kissing us mean?" wondered Maya. Hikari resumed her towel work.

"It means that she considers us to be her lovers." Said the girl softly. "More than that, she considers us to be as close to her and she to us as she and Shinji are."

-

Airi was sitting at Asuka's side, having just relieved Shinji of the post. On her lap was the laptop she `liberated' from Akagi, and in her mind was the data she had retrieved from this `Dumpy' person that Misato knew. That woman was anything but dumpy. Thought the actress to herself. Her dress alone must have cost a couple of months worth of Misato's wages! Everything about the woman had screamed top-shelf. Still, she hadn't been able to tell that it wasn't Misato in front of her. Top-shelf she may be, but she's no match for me in that arena. Thought the Oscar-winning actress smugly. Her good humor was interrupted by the memory of her information.

Misato and she had taken a break in a secluded love-nest in the depths of NERV, and Airi had breathed the news to Misato about what her old contact had said. Misato had not been happy about it and after the bare minimum of time in the closet, she had rumpled her clothes and exited, playing at the just-got-a-quickie woman, though her mind was elsewhere. Airi had mussed her clothes as well and exited, sending a message to Rit-chan's phone. She had sent another to Junpei's phone.

From now on, Junpei was with Celsia in the Geofront proper. It had to be that way, because the information that Misato had gotten told her that a direct attack was imminent, and that the special order A-801 protecting NERV's autonomy was about to be jerked. The two had briefly considered warning the commander, but both independently decided against it. Shinji was a convincing salesman, and he had sold them on his and Rei's plan to end this once and for all. Airi's phone chirped, signaling a message. Opening her phone, she saw the message and frowned. That's not good at all. Thought the woman.

-

Rit-chan and Shinji had just returned from a trip to see Mike the tank and to drop off the last of the materials needed for a refit, and were in the lounge, having a snack with Maya and Hikari when Maya was paged to the Commander's office. A few moments later, Rei appeared and sat in Maya's seat. Seeing that something was on her mind, Shinji touched her hand, his eyes asking her a question. Rei gave him a faint smile.

"What happened, Rei?" asked Rit-chan softly.

"Akagi has been put in the brig." Said the girl softly. Shinji frowned.

"Why, Rei-chan?" he wondered. She's one of Rokubungi inner circle. Rei considered the answer to that question.

"She has emptied the Room of Guf." Said the First so softly it was barely a whisper. For a fraction of a second, it didn't sink in to Shinji's mind. When it did, he gasped.

"God, Rei-chan!" he said, clasping her hand in his. Rei gave him a slightly bigger smile.

"It is all right, Shinji." She assured him. "They were not me." Beside the two, Rit-chan considered that information. So, Shinji knows her secret now. And apparently, something went screwy in the Doctor's head and she either destroyed or disposed of the clones in that Reiquarium. Hmm. Curiouser and curiouser.

"When did this happen, Rei-chan?" asked the elf hunter.

"Late last night." Said Rei simply. Shinji frowned.

"What does he want with Maya-chan, then?" wondered the boy.

"It is my expectation that she will be given the responsibilities that Akagi once had." Offered Rei. "She is the most capable one to do so, after all." Shinji nodded.

"I guess so." Although I can't stand the idea of her being that close to the fucker. Rit-chan stood and stretched.

"I'm gonna go to the armory and get some toys." She grinned. "Wanna come with me?" she asked them.

-

Twelve monoliths appeared in the dark room. Seele 1 started the brief meeting. "Is all in readiness?" he asked the group at large.

"Yes. We will take over the MAGI using the other MAGI in the four primary Branches located in China, Germany, the US and Australia. With them all working together, the primary MAGI of NERV HQ stands no chance. Once they are under our control, NERV is ours, and we can seize Unit 1 and Lilith from Gendo to complete the scenario." Said Seele 2.

"And what of the others?" asked Kiel.

"The Prime Minister of Japan has been given a doctored report about the true aims of Gendo. His troops have finished massing on the perimeter of Tokyo 3. We can use them to do our work for us." Said Seele 5.

"Very well." Said Kiel. "The other units and their pilots are to be terminated on sight. I also want all nine of the Model Production units equipped with the copies and ready to deploy, just in case. Are the N2 mines ready?" he asked Seele 7.

"We were only able to get two of them, but yes, they are already airborne over Tokyo, ready to go inbound at our order." Confirmed the member.

"Then let us proceed." Said Seele 1. "Begin the attack." He said.

-

Misato was crouched in a cold switching unit casing, keyboard in hand as she searched for any sign of how to prioritize the protection of NERV. Kaji was right. Seele intends to use Unit 1 and Lilith to instigate Third Impact instead of using Adam and Lilith. That means that they will be after Unit 1. So, if they are after my Shinji, then what will they do to get to him and his unit? She asked herself, trying to put herself in their place. Her musing was interrupted by a klaxon alarm. "Already?" she wondered, dropping her board and making for the exit. There was no more time for research.

Arriving on the bridge, she found her bridge crew working feverishly at the controls. "Report." She snapped tensely.

"Ma'am! The MAGI are being hacked!" sang out Maya, her fingers flying over the controls at her station.

"It's the other MAGI systems!" cried Hyuga, also very busy at his station. Misato frowned.

"You mean the MAGI in Germany?" she asked.

"No, ma'am!" corrected Maya, her fingers flying over the board. "All the MAGI systems, Major! They're all working as a unit to attack our MAGI!"

"Confirming Germany, China, America and Australia! All four primary MAGI branches are unified! The sub nets are supporting!" warned Hyuga.

"Cut off all outside data lines! Sever the uplink to the satellites! Give me a full I/O bus lockout between each of the nodes of the MAGI!" ordered Maya. "Keep them away from the cores!"

"Too late! Line contact with Balthazar!" announced Hyuga. "Barriers and decoys are ineffective!"

"Just like that angel." Gritted Misato. She grabbed her phone and punched in a number. When the party picked up on the second ring, she snapped her orders. "Sixteen kilos of C12 and eight electronic detonators to the MAGI bridge NOW." She snarled, ending the call. Maya spared her a terrified glance.

"You can't be thinking…!" began the tech.

"If the MAGI fall, we fall." Said Misato. "I'll do what I have to." She added softly.

Above her, Gendo and Fuyutsuki sat silently, listening. "So, they move at last." Mused Fuyutsuki.

"Yes." Said Gendo. Touching a button on his personal phone, he gave his orders. "Bring her to the bridge immediately." He said simply.

-

The door to the pitch black cell opened. "Problems with the MAGI?" came a cynical voice from inside.

"You are to report to the bridge immediately." Came a cold, arrogant voice. Akagi smirked.

"He's got a pair on him, the arrogant jerk." She muttered. Still, this is my chance to set it all right. mused the fake blonde, standing. "And if I say no?" she asked, more curious than serious.

"My orders do not allow you a choice." Came the reply. Grunting, Akagi exited the cell. You really don't learn from your mistakes, do you, Gendo? She thought, wishing for a cigarette. "You'll be briefed by Captain Ibuki." Said the man.

"Captain?" sneered Akagi. "How nice for little Maya." She said sardonically. Arriving at the bridge, she saw all she needed to see by looking at the holo display of the attack. "Give me a number six board with mini display and a open the MAGI case locks." She ordered, not bothering to listen to Maya at all. "The only thing we can do is seal off the core coding with a type 666 firewall and completely lock out all access to the MAGI for 72 hours." She announced. Turning on her heel, she headed for the MAGI blocks, which were already rising to their access position. She didn't look at Gendo at all.

-

"All outside lines are being blocked by a fractal encryption firewall the likes of which I've never even heard of." Spat Seele 3.

"So, we can't gain control of the MAGI at NERV HQ?" asked Seele 1.

"Not for about 72 hours." Confirmed Seele 3

"Damn you, Akagi." Muttered Kiel. "Commence the physical attack." Ordered the leader of the Council.

-

The alarms shut off, and the MAGI swiftly reverted to normal mode as the firewall went into effect. "It's over?" murmured Fuyutsuki. Below the two, Misato knew better. No, this is just getting started. She thought grimly. Stepping over to Hyuga, she touched his shoulder.

"See what kind of situation our monitoring systems are in." she said softly. Hyuga began to punch keys.

-

The receive-only burst radio came to life with a single word: go. The man in the OP smiled. "Go we shall." He smiled. All around him, he saw soldiers coming out of hiding and heavy weapons moving up. Less than a minute later, cannon rounds and rockets roared in, hitting NERV radar, camera and listening posts mercilessly. Dozens of NERV employees died in the initial barrage. More would die in the next few minutes.

-

"We've lost our radar posts, monitoring posts and communication relays!" called Hyuga. Misato's lips tightened. "Gate three isn't responding! There are explosions at gate 5, gate 6 and gate 9!" added Aoba. "Attacks are coming in from every direction!"

"Sir! They appear to be Japanese Special Forces units!" reported Maya, sounding confused. "Message traffic coming through. Special Order A-801 is revoked!" reported Hyuga. "They're attacking us?!"

"Order security to defend the entrances at all costs." Came Gendo's voice. "Go to battle stations." He announced. Maya blinked at his orders. We were designed to fight Angels, not humans! She thought. All the defenses were geared toward massive, high-power beings from another world, not the military. "Send reserve security personnel to the western entrances." Added Gendo, seeing the largest gathering of forces there.

"Disregard that." Countermanded Misato angrily. "The west is a feint. Their real attack is from the east." She said, pointing out the connections being severed one-by-one. "Close and lock all section gates from E-3 to G-1. Flood all connecting passages with bakelite. That should buy us some time." She muttered. "Tell Shinji to stand by for combat deployment in Unit 1. Get Hikari to Unit 4 as his backup. Pull Asuka out of the hospital and get her into Unit 2. We'll hide her on the bottom of the lake for now." Decided Misato.

"But Asuka isn't even conscious, Major." Protested Maya. Misato took a step to her and leaned down to stare into Maya's eyes.

"They will kill her, Captain. At least in Unit 2, she has some protection." She noted. Maya nodded, picking up the phone. A few seconds later, Maya called out to Misato.

"Major, no one is answering in the hospital ward!" she announced. Misato spun to face her.

"What do you mean, no one is answering?!" she roared.

"Major! Shinji and Hikari are cut off in corridor F-7! The connecting corridor is flooded with Bakelite and the enemy has control of the other connecting corridor! What do we do now?" called Hyuga. Misato reached for her gun.

"We go get them, that's what we do." She said, checking the chamber of her pistol. Just then, the bridge door opened and Rit-chan slid to a halt. In her hands was a smoking flat-top M4 and over her shoulder was a musset bag of loaded magazines.

"Where're the pilots?!" she snapped. There were some smudges and small tears on her shirt and blue jeans. "They were headed here when these assholes hit us." She added, scanning the room and the holo display.

"They got cut off." Said Misato simply. "Are they armed?" she asked. Rit-chan nodded.

"Both have their pistols and two magazines a piece. Shinji has a rifle, but he only had three magazines left." She reported. "Where are they?" she asked.

"Corridor F-7." Said Misato. "But there's a bigger problem." She said, stopping Rit-chan as she turned to charge to the rescue of her friends. "Asuka needs to get to Unit 2 to protect her, but no one is answering down there."

"Where's Airi? She was with Asuka." Said the teen. Misato shook her head.

"No clue. We might have been infiltrated already." She said. "So, I want you to go get Asuka, while I go get Shin and Hikari. We'll meet at the cages. Be careful; we've flooded most of the passages between here and there with bakelite." Added Misato.

"Got you." Said Rit-chan, checking her magazine before replacing it and flicking the fire selector to full auto. "See you there." She added, bailing from the bridge, gun in the assault position. Misato took off the other direction.

-

"How about that door?" called Shinji, buttoning out the expended magazine and reaching for the last of his rifle magazines, seating it with a slap and cycling the bolt. Bringing the rifle back to eye level, he watched the end of the hall, where three dead forms lay crumpled. Behind him, Hikari was trying doors off the central corridor, her USP in her hand, but wasn't having any luck so far. A flicker of movement caught his attention and he fired a couple of rounds at it using the front sight as his flash picture. The form jerked back, and a moment later, there was a soft bang and smoke began to obscure the corridor. "Not this shit again." He groaned, remembering the trouble they had with the smoke grenades in the challenge. He fire a couple of short bursts into the smoke, aiming for the walls. He was rewarded with some mad scrambling and some return fire. "Let's go, Hi-chan." He snarled tensely, moving back. Hikari made for the last set of door on the corridor, her USP up and ready.

-

Rit-chan cleared the stairs as swiftly as she could and still be somewhat safe, the muzzle of her gun clearing each corner as she crouched around the corners. Finally! She thought irritably, reaching the right floor. Easing the door open, she checked the hallway on the side away from the hinges. Not seeing anyone, she changed sides and took a deep breath before throwing the door open and rolling across the hall, facing the other end of the hall. Her barrel swept the hall, but she saw no signs of anyone. Cautiously, she rose to a crouch and moved forward, gun up and ready.

As she passed the nurse station, she caught sight of some hastily-wiped blood stains. Pausing, she worked her way to the side enough to see under the station's counter. Two nurses were crammed into the space, both obviously dead. Grimacing, Rit-chan concentrated on the task at hand. We've been infiltrated, all right. She thought grimly. Airi, Asuka, hold on. The Cavalry is coming. Working her way forward again, she kept her eyes sharp and her ears open. Cutting the pie at the last corner before Asuka's room, she caught sight of some people outside of Asuka's room. Easing back, she studied the situation for a moment, then got into position, taking a calming breath before stepping fluidly around the corner, gun tucked tight under her arm, her finger holding the trigger back as she got the gun on line with the first guy in the hallway, shells spitting from the action as she moved forward steadily, emptying the magazine on full auto as her other hand held a spare ready to go in.

Even as the empty hit the floor, she was seating the fresh mag and hitting the slide release. Four corpses were sliding to the ground, blood and viscera splattered all over the wall and ceiling from her fullisade of shells. Rit-chan moved forward swiftly, but intently. Her eyes scanning for any sign of more troops. Reaching the door to the room, she crouched next to it and checked the lock. It was open, some white-silver scoring on the strike plate told it had been forced open with either a det sheet or a TKO shotgun round. She listened as best she could with her ears ringing from the rifle's report in the close corridors of the hospital. Not hearing anything, she pushed the door open with her rifle's muzzle.

Immediately, there were gunshots from inside the room, and Rit-chan jerked her gun back to prevent it from being damaged. "Shit." She muttered. If they were in the room, then she would have to dig them out. The best way was to toss in a couple of grenades, preferably one HE frag and one WP incendiary. There were only two problems with that solution: first, Asuka and Airi might still be alive in there, and tossing grenades into the room would most likely kill them, and secondly, she didn't happen to have any grenades just then. Her gaze flickered to the bullet-riddled corpses of recent vintage. Reaching out with her support hand, she patted down the nearest one, ignoring the sticky, still-warm blood on it. Feeling a duty belt, she ran her hand around and felt two familiar bulges. "Is that a grenade in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?" she purred, withdrawing her prizes and smiling as she spotted the type designation on the two lethal mini-bombs.

-

Hikari and Shinji were at a dead end, and the bolt of Shinji's rifle was locked open over the empty magazine. It was their last magazine. Dropping the rifle, Shinji pulled his USP and knelt beside Hikari, who had her pistol locked on the far end of the corridor. Each door the two had tried had been locked or inoperable except for the next to last. They had darted through that door a hair before the advancing troops hosed down the passageway. Apparently, the six fellow soldiers Shinji and Hikari had gotten had pissed them off a bit.

The problem was that they had run smack into another enemy force, and in the ensuing firefight, Shinji had burned his last few rifle rounds and Hikari had emptied her second USP magazine. Four more troops were dead, but two had gotten free of the kill zone while Shinji checked his rifle to make sure it hadn't just jammed and Hikari slapped in a fresh magazine from her carrier. Ricochets had nicked Hikari's arm and hip, while a spent bullet had smacked Shinji in the shin, making his leg hurt like a motherfucker. Still, with the amount of adrenalin in his system, he didn't really feel it at the time. Might not feel it ever. He thought grimly.

"Shin," said Hikari, her voice a bit shaky. "I don't want to die. Not like this." She said.

"We're not done yet, Hi-chan." Said Shinji. "We will make it to the Evas. I don't know how, but we will." He promised her. The two glanced at each other. "Wanna go?" he asked her, watching her warm brown eyes.

"Go? You mean to the Evas?" asked Hikari. Shinji nodded. "But won't they be waiting for us?" she asked him.

"They'd be waiting no matter what, and if we stay here, we'll die when we run out of ammo." He said "So? Want to go out big?" he asked her.

"Just…right at them?" gaped Hikari. Shinji managed a grin.

"That's the last thing they would expect." He noted. Hikari shook her head sharply.

"This isn't one of those American westerns, Shin." She said, almost offended.

"Course not; I don't have a cowboy hat." Returned Shinji. Hikari sighed.

"God, you're as bad as Aki." She muttered. Taking a deep breath, she stood, Shinji doing likewise. With one final look at each other, they raised their guns to the move position and began to advance. "Shin, just in case," whispered Hikari, her eyes never leaving the front sight of her pistol, "it's been incredible. Love you." She said.

"Same here, Hi-chan." Muttered Shinji, eyes also locked on the corner of the passage. We're not going to die. He mentally vowed. As they got within a couple of yards of the corner, an arm whipped around, a grenade flying from it's hand. Shinji didn't bother to yell, he simply dove at Hikari, tackling her as the grenade went past them, bounced off the wall once, then the floor, then detonated. Shinji felt some stinging in his left foot and calf, but he could feel his entire leg, so he figured that he would make it at least a bit longer. Pushing his USP around, he pulled off a half dozen shots at the figure that peeked around the corner to check the grenade's results, the second and third hitting the man in the face, the rest missing. Still, a pumped-up 9 mm pill to the cranium will fuck up anyone's day.

Scrambling to his feet, he pulled Hikari up as well, his gun pointed on-handed at the corner as he tugged her forward. He knew from listening to Rit-chan and Asuka that he had a fraction of a second of advantage at this point, and he needed to use it to it's full effect. Making the corner, he found that time seemed to slow as he came up on three more soldiers still gaping at the brained body slumped on the floor at their feet. Even as their eyes rose to meet his, he struggled to bring his gun on line. It felt like he was trying to move underwater, but eventually, he saw his front sight on the chest of the lead man, his finger pulling the trigger twice, seeing the rounds dig into the man's combat vest. With blood splattering from the man's chest, Shinji moved toward the next one, seeing the man slowly reaching for his rifle. It seemed an eternity before his front sight crossed the man's throat and head, Shinji once more pulling the trigger, this time three rounds worth. The first grazed the neck, the second hit his throat dead center, and the last tore the left side of his neck off just below and inside the jaw. The Third's eyes found the last man raising his rifle, already firing. Come on! Move it! He willed his body. Shifting his weight, he levered Hikari around behind him, using the resistance to bring his pistol on line with the last soldier's body. He pulled the trigger as quickly as he could, shells marching diagonally across the man's abdomen and into his groin. The slide locked open on his USP as time resumed it's normal flow.

Hikari's body mass threw him to the floor, Hikari partially under him. Grunting, he managed to get himself untangled and turned to check Hikari. "You ok, Hi-chan?" he asked her. She moaned groggily. Shinji checked her over, but didn't immediately see any wounds other than the two she had had before this latest firefight.

"Ow, ow, ow!" she muttered, rubbing her right arm. Her pistol was gripped loosely in her hand. "When you tackled me, I hit my elbow. Now my whole arm is numb." She muttered. Shinji helped her to her feet. His right foot and calf were beginning to sting.

"If that's the worst you got, then you're lucky." He said, tugging her past the bodies. "We need to get to our Eva before we run out of both ammo and luck." He added softly, buttoning out the spent magazine and inserting a fresh one, his thumb raking over the slide release as he seated the magazine. The two moved as fast as they thought prudent. Coming up to the next intersection, Shinji peeked around to find it empty. Just as he and Hikari stepped out into the hall, the door to the maintenance section opened and a figure jumped at them.

It was only the long purple hair that saved Misato from being gunned down by her lover. Seeing that, Shinji's finger eased off the trigger and he managed to catch Misato as she wrapped him in a hug, tugging Hikari in as well. "God! Shinji-kun! I was scared you might be dead." She cried. Easing back just a bit, she kissed him briefly before repeating it with Hikari. "Come on, we have to go." Said the major, wiping away a stray tear.

-

Rit-chan straightened the pin on the grenade, making sure it would pull free easily. With that attended to, she back off a bit and took aim with her rifle on the hinged of the door to Asuka's room. Firing off a five round burst at each hinge, she saw the door sag. The return fire from inside the room further splintered the wooden door. Rit-chan counted to five silently, pulled the pin on the grenade and rolled it toward the door like a slow bowling ball of high explosive. "Knock, knock, fuckers!" she screamed, tucking back and down. The grenade pretty much vaporized the door.

Even as the wood fragments rained down, Rit-chan was up and charging at the door. God, please let them be ok. She begged silently. She had made the choice that if they were still alive, then they would most likely be held at gunpoint deeper into the room. With a pair of frag grenades, she had decided to try an old soldier's trick to make an improvised stun grenade. Using the weakened door to dampen the blast and catch as many fragments as possible while allowing the shockwave through, she hoped to stun them long enough to rescue her friends. Jumping through the doorway, she swept the room, seeing a figure staggering around. A three-round burst put him/her down, and her barrel swung on around. Spotting a motionless form on the ground, she put a single round into the head and swept on. Cutting to the other side of the door, she swept it, spotting a third person partially behind the bed. Not seeing red hair or Airi's ear-rings, she put a round into that person's head as well. One final sweep and she lowered her rifle to her waist, swapping the nearly-spent magazine for a fresh one from her musset bag.

Moving around the room, she couldn't find a single trace of Asuka or Airi. Taking her phone out, she punched in a number and hoped the redundant comms links were good. A moment later, the person picked up. "Rit-chan! Where are you?" came Airi's tense voice.

"Asuka's room. Where are you two?" she said, keeping her eyes on the door.

"We're almost to Unit 2." Said Airi. "Rit-chan, get out of there! There's a group of people loose in there that are trying to kill the Children."

"Well, there are seven fewer of the fuckers now." Said Rit-chan grimly. "Coming to you." She added, moving for the door.

"We'll be looking for you soon, Rit-chan." Came Airi's voice.

"We? She's awake?!" asked Rit-chan excitedly. Her elation was short lived.

"Sorry, figure of speech. She's still in a coma." Said Airi.

"Ok. Stay put at Unit 2; Misato is coming there with Shin and Hi-chan." Said the teen, ending the call. Checking the hall, she jogged for the connecting corridor to the cages.

-

Airi was holding a naked Asuka in her arms when Rit-chan entered the entry gantry for the Evas. Seeing Airi alive and well was a real weight off her mind. Glancing at Asuka, she seemed none the worse for wear. Slinging her rifle, Rit-chan nimbly climbed up onto the Eva and opened the emergency hatch, punching in a code Asuka had told her about. The entry plug ejected and Rit-chan opened the entry hatch. Motioning to Airi, she helped the actress get the unconscious Second into her seat. With her situated, Rit-chan pulled herself out of the plug and closed the hatch, dogging it shut and entering the command for the plug to retract. It did so, locking into place with a loud clanging of armor.

Dropping to the entry path, Rit-chan grabbed her phone and dialed a number from memory. A couple of moments later, her party picked up. "Maya, it's me." She said without so much as a `hi'. "Asuka's in Unit 2. Flood the entry plug and send her to the bottom of the lake." Ordered the girl.

"Got you, Rit-chan." Confirmed the tech, Eva Unit 2 beginning to move almost immediately. "She's off." Reported Maya-chan. "Have you seen the Major or the other two pilots?" asked the bridge bunny worriedly.

"Not yet. Airi and I are heading for Unit 1 now." Said Rit-chan. "How's the battle going?" she asked.

"It's hard to tell; they've been systematically severing all data and surveillance lines as they progress." The young woman paused. "It's…bad, Rit-chan. Real bad." She said softly.

"Yeah. I saw." Said Rit-chan quietly. In her travels, she had cut the line of advance of the troopers several times, and each time, there were bodies everywhere, all in NERV uniforms. Most, she had noted absently, were shot in the back or at close range in the forehead. Execution style. Techs, janitors, security, nurses…it didn't matter. If they were in NERV uniform, they were being sanctioned. Picturing NERV's layout in her head, she tracked the enemy's progress. "Do you have any heavy weapons on the bridge?" she asked the tech.

"I think we have some submachine guns. Why?" asked the newly-made Captain.

"You're going to be getting visitors any time now." Said Rit-chan. "See if you can fort up on the command bridge. I'll see if I can get a pincer attack going with Misato and any security elements we have left." Decided the teen, planning her possible approach points in her mind. "If you can keep them off your level and away from your flanks, you have a decent chance at holding out. I'll call you when I link up with Misato." Said the teen, ending the call.

"You're planning to fight." Said Airi softly. Rit-chan turned to look at her closest friend.

"Well, we can't run." She said simply. "Come on, we need to link up with Misato." She added, heading for the door to the next cage, her rifle slipping into her hands easily, Airi following her silently.

-

Shinji, Misato and Hikari exited the lift from the lower levels, and Misato paused to shoot out the main gearbox on the lift. "We won't be needing that any more." She said. Shinji and Hikari nodded.

"Let's get to it, Hikari." Said Shinji, turning for his Eva. The girl nodded and jogged off as well. Misato turned to head for Unit 2, but stopped when she saw Rit-chan and Airi running toward her. The two stopped in front of her.

"We got her in and out, Mi-chan." Said the actress.

"They're going to hit the command bridge any time now." Added Rit-chan. "Do we have any security personnel left? If so, we need to get them going on a flanking pincer attack. If the bridge holds strong, we can break the back of their attack." Said the teen. Misato nodded.

"There are a few, but we've got bigger problems." She said, holding out a nicked, bloody radio. It was obviously taken from the corpse of one of the invading troopers. "They've reached White One." She said softly.

"Then Seele…" began Airi. Misato nodded.

"Shin's going to attempt it, Airi." Said the Major softly. The two stared at each other for a moment.

"Excuse me, but what the FUCK are you two talking about?" snarled Rit-chan. Airi turned to her.

"Third Impact with Unit 1 and the Angel in the basement as catalysts. If he can wrest control of it, he can stop them forever." Said the woman. Rit-chan's eyes opened a bit wider at that news.

"Does…?" she began. Airi nodded.

"Hikari and Rei both know what he plans to do." She paused, considering the next part. "They're prepared to die if that's what it takes." Said the actress.

"And that means you need to go." Said Misato, her tone uncharacteristically somber.

"Go? What do you mean, go?" demanded Rit-chan. "I'm staying." She added, sounding not unlike Asuka.

"Rit-chan, Shinji and I talked about this night before last." Said Airi quietly to the teen. "He told me about your talk with him. Please, Ritsuko, don't make your parents wait for their daughter forever." Begged the actress.

"So I should just leave them like this?!" demanded Rit-chan hotly.

"Yes, and here is why:" said Misato firmly, "because, win or lose, if you four are alive - no matter where you might be - then they are alive as well." Misato's cell phone chirped. Glancing at the screen, she connected and spoke to the person on the other end briefly.

"Celsia needs you now, Rit-chan, Airi. She and Junpei are pinned down in the access corridor outside her room. If you come up behind them, you can free them and reach your tank. If the circle is finished, see if you can get the spell cast when Shinji initiates Third Impact." The Major looked each of them in the eye. "You won't get another chance, guys." She said quietly.

"God damn it all to fucking hell." Bit out Rit-chan softly. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath, then opened her eyes and looked into Misato's eyes. "Misato, I need you to do something for me." She said.

"I'll try my best." Agreed Misato. If I live though this. Rit-chan leaned into the older woman and kissed her on her lips; deeply. After a few seconds, she broke the kiss and leaned back.

"Give that to them; for me." Said the teen, turning away. "And tell Shin I love him, ok?" she added softly, absently checking her rifle. "Ready when you are, Airi." Said the teen, her voice tight. Airi nodded and glanced at Misato. Smiling a bit, she kissed Misato as well.

"Same for me, Mi-chan." Said the actress.

"Hope you make it." Said Misato, "Your spell-caster seems unreliable." With a bark of laughter, the two moved off toward the far cages and their last chance to get out alive. Misato took a breath, holding it for a moment, then releasing it as she headed for the nearest corridor still in their hands. It was time to counter-attack these fuckers.

-

The party ran through the woods as fast as they could, hoping to reach the casting circle in time. Rit-chan's face was set in a flat expression of anger, and her AR was warm in her hands, her musset bag of magazines nearly totally used. Since leaving the cages, she had been heavy on the trigger, and had taken every chance to shoot at the enemies. Airi was a bit worried about her mental state. Still, they had made it to where Junpei and Celsia were pinned down quickly and Rit-chan had shown her a side she had not wanted to see in the girl: the side of the cold-blooded killer. The soldiers she had come up on from behind were hit with another point-blank full-auto barrage of gunfire, their bodies torn and shredded. Rit-chan had stepped over the mess as if it were but dead leaves on the sidewalk, pausing to put a round from her USP into the head of a soldier that was still feebly moving.

Junpei and Celsia had peeked over the make-shift barricade as Rit-chan stopped in front of them, dumping the empty magazine and slapping a fresh one home, her eyes on the opening that lead to the forest. "Let's go. Advance on the enemy." She said, making a couple of arm movements. Cycling the charging handle on her AR, she had spotted a bit of movement near the door, the flat top assault rifle settling into her shoulder as she began to fire single shots steadily, the figure jerking with each rapid fire. Junpei and Celsia could only watched, stunned, as the teen casually marched past them, shells falling from her rifle, her eyes on the target. She's one scary bitch. Though the fighter.

Now, they had reached the tank, and Rit-chan tossed the AR and the musset bag onto Mike's gear rack, taking her PS1 down and settling on top of the tank, scoping out the surrounding area for any targets of opportunity. As long as she was here, she would support her friends in any way she could. At the nose of the tank, Airi gave Junpei and Celsia a thumbnail of the events in the cage, and told Celsia to check the Circle as fast as possible. The elf nodded and moved off. Airi climbed up and retrieved the laptop she had put in Mike three days ago. Booting it up, she checked to see if she could log into the command center. She found that she could make some limited access, and she settled in to learn what she could of the Pilot's attempt to change the fate of their world.

-

On the command bridge, Maya ducked back behind the heavily-reinforced rim of the bridge, reaching for another magazine for her MP5/10. Hyuga and Aoba were firing as well, and they had managed to hold the bridge, even against a rocket attack. Maya's computer chimed. Setting her submachine gun aside, she pulled her laptop to her and checked the data. Her eyes widened. "Sir!" she called out, looking to Vulture Row. It was empty. "Shit!" she muttered, turning to look down to where the MAGI casings were back in lock mode. There were two bodies there, both in NERV Section 2 uniform. "Where's the commander?" she yelled to her two co-workers.

"What? He's gone?" wondered Aoba. Looking at the empty seat of the Bastard King of Hell, he shrugged. "Don't know." He said, popping back up to fire a couple of bursts at the soldier below them. "Hyuga?" he yelled.

"No clue. Looks like this is your first command, Captain." Said the glasses-wearing lieutenant. Maya blinked. Oh, shit! I am the ranking officer now!

"O…ok. We'll hold here until the Major arrives. Got it?" she said, trying to sound as commanding as Misato. Both men smiled and snapped her salutes.

"Of course, sir. Happy to, sir." They chorus like they were back in basic.

"Smart asses." Muttered Maya. I wonder where the commander and Sempai are? She thought before a ricochet forced her to pay attention to the fight again. Thank god for Shin and Rit-chan.

-

"Well, it took you long enough." Came a voice from the edge of the LCL lake in front of the massive white angle nailed to the cross. Commander Ikari looked over to see Akagi sitting there, feet in the LCL like it was a lake of water. Standing, the doctor turned to face her lover. "I was wondering if you had changed your mind." She said, spotting an emotionless Rei just behind the commander, stark naked.

Gendo's hand rested on his gun. "I was delayed by some minor issues, doctor." Said the man coldly, his tone arrogant. "What do you think you are doing here?" he asked her in a bored tone. "You are of no further use to me." He added. To his mild surprise, Akagi just grunted sardonically.

"Oh, that is too funny, Gendo." She said contemptuously. "Tell me, was I ever more than a warm pussy - or ass or mouth - to get off in? Or was I just like dear old mom - a simple tool for you to use and discard." Her lips twisted into a loathing smile. "Like mother, like daughter, it seems." She added. Gendo raised his gun and took careful aim.

"Then I will discard you as I did her." He said coldly. Ritsuko shook her head.

"Did you really think I came down here to die, Gendo?" she asked, holding up a small remote. "When you had me fix the MAGI firewall, I added some special commands to the core." Seeing Gendo's attention was captured, she went on. "If I can't have you…no, if I can't make you love me, then I'll kill you myself." Said the doctor, pressing a button. "Good bye, Gendo." She said, waiting fro the massive explosion of the MAGI-controlled N2 mines. Nothing happened. Glancing at the screen, she saw that one of the MAGI cores - Casper - had dissented, canceling the order. "You would choose him over your own daughter?" whispered Akagi. How typical of you, mom.

"Good bye, Doctor." Said Gendo, pulling the trigger. Akagi gasped as she felt the bullet hit her chest, knocking her back into the LCL. Gendo turned to Rei. "Rei." He said. "It is time." Rei nodded. Gendo took off the white glove on his right hand, revealing the embryo-like Adam, grafted to his palm. Reaching out, he touched Rei's breast, her eyes narrowing as his hand touched what was only Shinji and her loved ones to touch. A moment later, his hand sank into her flesh, and he began to move it down, toward her S2 organ in her belly. "Now, Rei, release your AT Field and fulfill your purpose." Said the man. "Take me to my Yui." He breathed. Suddenly, his hand couldn't move in Rei's body.

"No." said the girl flatly. Gendo felt his wrist crushing, and a moment later, he fell back, his hand gone. Rei's flesh crawled, her eyes beginning to glow. "I am not your doll, Commander." She said, rising into the air.

"Why?" croaked Gendo.

"Because I have chosen so." Said Rei, flying toward the white form on the cross. Pausing for just a moment, she considered the giant form. Here is where the battle begins. She thought, before merging her form with the form on the cross.

-

The JSSDF troops had been no problem to dispatch, really. Their weapons were no match for one Eva, let alone two. Within two minutes, the attack was shattered by the powerful Evas. Now, Shinji and Hikari braced for what was to come. Mother, I hope you're right about this. Thought Shinji to the soul in his Unit. He felt a warm, secure feeling wash though him. Smiling, he nodded to himself. Ok, mom. Let's do this. It occurred to him that he had no real idea of how Seele would attack them. He presumed that they would be relying on the Japanese troops and possibly the UN military, but they hadn't had the time to find out exactly.

The answer to that question arrived quickly in the form of a massive blast from above. "Multiple N2 detonations confirmed!" came Maya's voice over the comms. "Tokyo 3 is gone! Armor plates completely destroyed! We're wide open!" she said, monitoring what was left of their situation.

"I see it, Maya-chan." Said Shinji softly. Turning to look at the gleaming silver and teal unit beside his, he nodded. "Prepare to engage, Hi-chan." He said, focusing on the Eva. In the command center, Maya saw his synch with Unit 1 spike past one fifty.

"Shin, you're approaching threshold on the synch." She warned him, worried that he might be absorbed by the Eva again. Seeing how much trouble it was to get him back last time, I don't want to have to do that again. She thought to herself, hearing a burst from Aoba. Shifting screens on her laptop, she checked on Hikari's condition. She's at seventy seven percent steady? Maya's memory came back to her. "Hikari, you're above the synch threshold for the Wing System!" she said. "Ready to give it a try?" she asked the girl.

"R…right now?" gasped Hikari.

"You finished the manual, right?" asked Maya.

"Err…sort of." Answered Hikari. "I didn't really get it at all, though." she admitted.

"Can't hurt to try though, right?" pressed Maya.

"Maybe not you." Muttered Hikari, aware of her high synch rate and what it meant in battle. She got what the Eva got, and it did hurt. Out of the corner of her Eva's eyes, she caught sight of Shinji's Unit. It seemed to be smiling at her.

"You'll do fine, Hi-chan." He said softly over the link between the Units. Hikari sighed.

"Ok, but I can't promise anything!" she warned. "Let's see if this works…" she trailed off, mentally reviewing the checklist for wing deployment. The area between her shoulder blades began to itch a bit, and a moment later, she caught sight of two massive wings on either side of her shoulders. Concentrating, she unfolded them and experimentally beat them a few times, feeling the massive lift of the wing's surface area. Maybe if I beat them a bit faster… she mused, increasing the tempo of her wing beats. Without realizing it, she was moving up into the air, her power cord trailing after her. "Hey! This is…kinda fun!" she giggled, setting her eyes on the circular opening that led to the outside world. Her wings beat a bit harder, and her Unit climbed toward the open skies.

Abruptly, she felt a jerk on her back and she was loosing altitude. "Shit!" she screamed, trying to get stabilized again. "What the fuck was that?!"

"It was your power feed, Hi-chan." Came the sound of Shinji's voice. He was chuckling. "Or should I call you Captain Horaki the Pirate?" he teased her. Hikari settled onto the ground again - a bit unsteadily, the wings folding up on her back. "Nice trick, but we need to ditch the power feed if it's to be off any real use." He noted.

"Heads up, guys!" came Maya's warning. "We don't have much radar up, but something huge is coming in!" she said. Shinji turned his Unit's eyes upward, and shortly could see a dark shape in the air. Concentrating on the image, he realized what it was.

"I thought Units five through thirteen had been abandoned after the Fourteenth due to the cost of repairing our units." He said. "But those look like nine Eva transport planes." He squinted a bit. "and it looks like they're loaded." He added.

"If it is, and they are, then we're in deep shit." Breathed Maya. Below her, she heard an increase in the gunfire, but both Hyuga and Aoba were crouched down, changing magazines. "What's going on, you two?" she asked, muting her mic for a second.

"It sounds like the Major got here." Shrugged Aoba. The fire intensified, then began to die down. Soon, it was quiet below them. Cautiously, the three peeked over the chipped, pitted and blasted lip of their stations. The fifteen or so SF troopers were sprawled out, obviously either dead or dying.

"Maya! Hyuga! Aoba!" yelled a familiar voice. You guys ok up there?"

"All clear here, Major!" yelled back Hyuga.

"Good! I'm heading up there!" yelled back Misato as she stepped onto the lower bridge, a rifle in hand and a magazine carrier strapped to her body-armor-clad chest. Seeing a soldier moving a little, she paused to put a round into his head. "You three!" she snapped to whoever was still in the corridor, "Get in here and check these bodies. Any wounded are to be killed. Strip them of their gear and make sure to get pictures of their faces and equipment." She ordered, dropping her magazine to check it's remaining rounds, and - obviously not satisfied with the situation - replacing it with a fresh one from her magazine carrier. "The rest of you, begin the sweep. If you come across any enemy personnel in the core passages, they are to be terminated. Any injured in the outlying passages may be taken prisoner at the squad leader's discretion, though you are to prioritize your men's survival over taking prisoners. Got that?" she demanded.

"Yes, Major." Came the chant from outside the door.

"I'm moving NERV command to the combat bridge. Once the core passages are secure, we'll initiate a Code E-9 protocol and seal Command." Misato moved toward the access ladder to the upper bridge; it was the ladder that the bridge crew had fought so hard to protect. "And search for any sign of Commander Ikari, Vice Commander Fuyutsuki or Doctor Akagi." She added as an after thought, slinging her rifle and staring up the ladder.

"And what are your orders if we find them?" wondered a guard. Misato paused.

"You are to capture them if possible, and terminate them if they resist." She snarled. "Carry out your orders." She growled, resuming her climb.

-

Celsia finished her check of the circle as Unit 4 discovered the joy of flight. Rit-chan was watching the silver and teal unit with a smile on her face, her rifle resting in her arms. "Good job, Hi-chan." She said softly. Unit 1's head turned to the opening as Airi managed to get an A/V feed from the combat bridge systems.

"We're in trouble." She muttered.

"What's happening?" demanded her gunner, all her attention on her friend. Airi silently cursed her lapse of the tongue. She'll want to go help them, even though there is nothing that she can do.

"It's the Model Production Evas. All nine of them." Said the actress softly. "They're about to drop on Shinji and Hikari."

"Nine?! They can't handle that many Eva!" exploded Rit-chan. "Mike! Load a tactical nuke! We'll try sniping them with a super silver bullet." She growled.

"Meow?" came the confused-sounding feline ghost's reply. Rit-chan had always make sure he didn't use one of the `special' rounds.

"Rit-chan! If we use a nuke in here…" began Junpei.

"The Evas can handle a pea-shooter tac nuke without a problem." She assured him. Junpei winced.

"I was thinkin' of us, tank girl." He muttered. Rit-chan sent him a look he could have felt from a mile away.

"Guys! The Circle is complete and charged up!" yelled Celsia from a few yards away. "I'm beginning the incantation now!" she said.

"But the AT Fields aren't up!" yelled back Airi.

"They will be soon." Muttered Rit-chan, looking back to where Units 1 and 4 were moving into a better position. I'd feel better if Asuka's red unit was there with them. She thought fleetingly.

-

"Almost to drop point." Said Hikari softly. Shinji nodded at her over the video feed. She tried to calm down, but was finding it hard. Is this how they all felt their first time on the front line? She wondered. I wish Asuka were here with us. At that thought, she glanced over to see the power feed trailing into the lake.

"When they get here, split them up and keep out of their rage." Said Shinji softly. "We've got to shut them down before they can break into the Geofront." Hikari nodded.

"Ok." She said. A moment later, she came to a decision. "Maya? You there?" she asked over the command channel.

"Yes, I'm here, Hikari." Came the reply. "And so is Misato." She added.

"Good. Maya, I need the emergency S2 engine activation checklist, please." She said, her tone as even as she could make it. She sounded like she was ordering a dish at a strange restaurant.

"Hi-chan, that engine isn't safe." Came Misato's voice. "If you activate it and it generates another Sea of Dirac…!"

"It wouldn't be any worse than not using it and losing what small advantage the wings give me." Said the teen.

"Let's try it. They'll be here soon." Said Shinji simply. "Have faith in her, Mi-chan." He whispered to his commanding officer, guardian and lover. Maya looked up at Misato. The Major gave her a single clear nod.

"Do it." Said the Major. Maya began the transfer of the data to Hikari.

"Here it comes, Hikari." Said the tech. "Follow the directions precisely." She said, preparing a small subroutine that would assist the young girl in activating the limitless power source for her Eva. Hikari began the preparations, setting her plug controls as directed, and checking her power configuration. Above them, nine chalk-white Evas fell from the transports.

-

Asuka dreamed. She had been doing it since her defeat at the hands of the Sixteenth. Her younger form was tormenting her mercilessly. Time and again, she ended up opening the door, to see her mother swinging from the ceiling, a rope made of woven bed sheets around her neck. Each time, her mother's bulging eyes turned to her six year old form and her dead, stiff arms beckoned. Come with me to Heaven, liebshin.

"No. I won't. I don't want to die with you!" she screamed as she had countless times before.

"But where would you go if you won't go with your mother?" asked her younger self, clutching her teddy bear.

"I…I'll be by myself!" she sobbed. "I don't need anyone! I can live by myself!"

"Can you?" came the flat voice of Rei Ayanami. "Can you live as I did?" she challenged.

"Yes! I won't allow anyone to be close to me ever again!" she screamed back.

"What of Shinji?" asked a strangely young Misato, her hands grasping a bloody, torn coat, her silver cross dark with blood.

"He's a Baka!" she denied. "He's weak, and uncertain, and spineless…he's a loser!" she tried to tell them.

"And yet, he is the one you gave your heart to." Noted her younger self.

"Nein! Er ist nur ein Ausbildungsgehilfe!" she cried in German.

"You are lying." Came the cold voice of Rei.

"No." whispered Asuka, trying to make her hated rival disappear. Rei remained.

"Open your heart to him." Suggested the teenage Misato. "Just like he opened his to you."

"I…can't." she whispered. "If I do…Er wird sehen, wie schwach ich wirklich bin."

"Then you should go with your mother." Said the First. Asuka shook her head.

"No. I can't. I…I don't want to die!" she screamed.

"Then live!" roared a voice from deep in the shadows. Asuka's head snapped up.

"Mama?" she whispered.

"Ja mein schön Asuka. Ich habe recht hier. Ich habe versprochen, daß ich immer meine schöne Tochter schützen würde." Came a voice she only vaguely remembered from her childhood. Before Project E. Before being designated the Second Child. Before Tokyo 3. Before the Fifteenth.

It's really momma! She realized, seeing a figure stepping out of the darkness, light growing around it. "Momma!" cried Asuka, running to the figure and leaping into the outstretched arms. Behind her, forgotten in the darkness, her younger self vanished like dust on the wind, leaving behind nothing but a torn stuffed toy bear.

On the bottom of the lake, Unit 2's eyes ignited, glowing more brightly than ever before. In the cockpit, Asuka's eyes blinked, then opened, brilliant blue and full of fire. Looking around as her Eva hit full synch, Asuka frowned. "Where the fuck am I? Und warum ist die Hölle ich nackt?" she muttered to herself, willing her unit upright. Seeing she was on the bottom of the lake, she marched her unit up toward the surface, keying a comms channel into her Unit's plug controls.

"Hey! Is anyone listening?!" she barked angrily. "If this is some kind of joke, I'm not laughing!" she yelled as her Eva's head broke the surface. Just in time to see a nightmare unfolding.

-

"Hikari!" yelled Shinji, kicking one of the ghoulish MP Evas away from him and rolling out from under the other two that were trying to bite him. Up above him, Hikari's silver and teal unit was swooping and diving with three of the units after her. All these strange Evas had double-edged battle blades in their hands, and without heavy weaponry, it was a dangerous game of touch and go. With three on each Eva, it left three to wreak havoc on anything in their path. One of the three had just thrown his strange weapon at Hikari as she swooped low.

The blade flashed out like a spear and hit Hikari's unit in the chest. Instantly, the Eva crumpled and fell, the wings retracting as it tried to pull the massive shaft from it's chest. Over the comms, Shinji heard Hikari moaning and gurgling. "Misato! What's her synch at?!" he demanded hotly.

"One ten!" yelled back Maya. "Pilot vitals fading!"

"Hi-chan!" he yelled, completely enraged. Seeing a flash of white at his side, he swung a blow at the approaching MP Eva that tore it in half like a paper towel. "Die you fucking shits!" he snarled, Unit 1's eyes glowing brighter and brighter.

"Major! Shin just broke the two hindered percentile bracket!" Shinji threw the upper half of the MP at another, knocking them both over. Charging in to attempt to catch Hikari, Shinji unconsciously wielded his AT Field like a scalpel, vivisecting two more MP Evas. Maya caught sight of something on her screen. "Major! The MP Evas! They're…!"

"Hi-chan!" yelled Shinji, seeing several of the remaining white freaks grab her tumbling unit and fly up with it, tearing at it like a pack of starving dogs as they did so. A strangled scream came from her feed. "Cut the synch!" ordered Shinji.

"C…can't. Too late." Whimpered Hikari. In her plug, her body was nearly destroyed as her high synch took it's toll. Can't end like this. Gotta…pull a Rei. Thought the teen, her vision going dark and her body feeling cold. Fumbling, she found the panel as one of the MP Evas tore her legs off. One final scream was all she had as she bent all she had left to turning the handle, a single click the only sign she had made it before her heart stopped.

-

Asuka's unit rose from the lake as the MP Evas bore the torn, bleeding Unit of her friend out of the Geofront. An instant later, Unit 4 went nuclear, much like Unit 0 had done weeks before. The limitless power of the activated S2 engine fed the self-destruction, and it finished what remained of Tokyo 3, as well as the five MP Evas that had been dismembering it. Unit 2 had been knocked from the lake all the way across the Geofront proper by the massive explosion, landing close to Unit 1.

The two managed to get their Units upright, and Asuka turned to look at Shinji's unit, noting the battered armor. "What the fuck's going on, Shin?" she asked him over the comms. The only answer was a low, mean growl. Unit 1's eyes glowed brighter.

"Asuka?!" came Misato's emotional voice over the radio, which still crackled from the explosion. "Is that you?"

"What are you, stupid?" snapped the Second. "Who else would be in my Unit 2?"

"God, you're awake." Sobbed Misato.

"Yeah, yeah. Wanna tell me what the fuck is going on?" she asked pissily.

"It's a long story, and we don't have time for it right now." Interrupted Misato, gaining control over herself. "All you need to know is that those white things are Model Production Evas and they all have to die. Seele is attempting to initiate Third Impact, but we're going to stop them." She said. Asuka nodded to herself.

"Seems simple enough." She said. Taking a last look at Shinji's unit, she keyed a private line to his. "I have things I have to tell you, Shin, but it'll keep until this is over. I…love you, Shin." She whispered, then severed the line and spun her unit to face the charging MP units. "Ha! In a hurry to die, are you? I'm not like Shin and Hikari - I'm a real pilot!" she boasted, charging the units. And momma is with me, too! I can't loose!

"Major!" called Maya, scanning a readout on her laptop. "Her synch! It's over one fifty!" reported a dazed Maya. Misato nodded.

"Whatever happened to her actually helped her." Said the Major. An alarm sounded from the laptop. Maya punched keys furiously. "What's going on, Maya?" demanded Misato.

"Energy signature below us, Major! It's off the charts! Pattern Blue!" cried Maya. Not now!

"An Angel?" gaped Misato. Maya ran a filter program.

"N…no! It's a human, but the pattern is blue." She said, confused. How can a human be blue pattern? She forced her mind back to business. "Energy rising straight at us!" she reported. An instant later, a massive white form passed through the bridge. Misato's jaw dropped open as she saw a giant Rei move past her.

On the surface, the twin angels of destruction, Units 1 and 2, were standing over the shattered remains of the MP Evas. Torn to shreds and then some, they had been put down for the count by a pair of vengeful Children. As they finished, Shinji felt the approach of Rei. "It's time." He said, letting go of the last of himself, merging with Unit 1 completely. Maya's battered laptop would later report logging a synch in excess of one thousand percent.

The effects were dramatic, as the armor exploded from the form of the Eva, massive wings of pure energy unfolding as the Eva rose to meet the giant Rei standing over NERV. Asuka gaped at the sight. "Hey!" she yelled, "Wait for me, Baka!" willing her unit forward, she was unaware that her synch passed the five hundred percent mark easily, her unit's armor being expelled from the form of the monster as well. Side by side, the two entered union with the giant Rei.

"Third Impact." Whispered Misato.