Part 5: welcome to the asylum!

"Shinji, Asuka," called Misato as she exited her room, dressed in her work clothes of a short skirt with a dark turtleneck and her red jacket. "You're not going to school today. We're due at NERV in thirty for a meeting and some tests. The school knows you'll be absent, so let's get breakfast and go." Announced the Ops boss to her young charges. Asuka and Shinji, both dressed in school uniforms and already eating breakfast, were frozen by the sight of Misato Katsuragi, legendary drunk and slob, awake, sober, dressed and ready for work at an hour that she would normally have been passed out for. Only one other time had Shinji seen this miracle, and that was when they had gone after that damned Jet Alone wanna-be Eva. Something told him this would be no better.

"What!?" exploded Asuka, "When was this decided?"

"Last night. Commander Ikari called me about an hour after you two hit the sack to order me to bring you in." Misato had not liked having the commander call her.

"So I…have to see him today?" asked Shinji, about as excited to see his father as most kids would be to be slow-roasted over a fire. Misato didn't like the man either, but she knew that Shinji had a very bad time dealing with the King of Heartless.

"I'm afraid so, Shin-kun." Answered Misato sympathetically. Then her mood brightened and her eyes turned mischievous. "But hey, if he gets too unbearable sic Asuka on him."

"WHAT did you say, Misato?!" thundered the redhead. Misato laughed and began to bait the German girl mercilessly. Shinji tuned them out and finished breakfast, put his plate in the sink, retrieved his SDAT and waited for the gates of purgatory to open once more.

Ritsuko Inoue awoke to see a flashing red light from an alarm clock, and, across from her, the sleeping form of Airi. She yawned, then got up and stepped into the bathroom. As she tended to business, she wondered why they had been shown to this simple but nice room after so much harassment. Maybe they finally satisfied themselves that we are, in fact, humans. She mused. From outside the bathroom, she heard Airi yawn and the bed shift a little as she too got up. Ritsuko finished relieving herself and flushed the toilet, glad to have indoor plumbing instead of the various levels of primitive she had been used to. If I never have to pee behind a bush again, it'll be too soon. Thought the teenager. Of course, I suppose that I always pee behind a bush, heh, heh, heh. Funny girl. She groaned at the crass joke she had just made. Airi heard her moan.

"You OK, Rit-chan?" asked the actress, approaching the bathroom door. Ritsuko hadn't closed it entirely, being half asleep and of a mind to distrust doors in this place, as the door to the room had locked behind the guards who had shown them here.

"Yeah, I'm good. Just realized that extended exposure to Junpei has horrible effects on one's intelligence." Replied Ritsuko, opening the door and closing her robe. The paper gowns had been quickly discarded by the two soon after entering the room, as they were not exactly comfortable and of no real use to them. Now they both wore the cotton robes as their entire ensemble.

"That bad, huh?" commiserated Airi, entering the bathroom as Ritsuko exited it; she had to pee very badly and it was what had awakened her from a dream of being in her Hollywood home, deciding which script would be her next project.

Ritsuko grimaced and said "Worse than you think. I actually found myself making a bush pun."

"I feel your pain, Rit-chan. Let me guess: you always pee behind a bush?" Ritsuko's eyebrows arched.

"How'd you know?" asked a surprised teen.

"I too have been infected with his idiotic puns and stupid jokes, it would seem." Answered Airi with a touch of mock sadness. "Should we form a suicide pact to save our souls?" joked Airi.

"NO." was Ritsuko's immediate answer. "That time with Romina and Emmy was more than enough." Ritsuko suppressed a shudder, remembering the near-fatal run-in with the elf-as-a-nun and the ghost of an elf. "Astral projection is for ghosts, not me. Besides, without Celsia, we can't enter the astral plane anyway. And this time, they might have faster ovens."

"True. Attila the Nun, indeed." Mused Airi, getting a short giggle from Ritsuko. Silent for a moment, Airi decided to risk being heard by their captors and ask Ritsuko something that had been bothering her. "Say, Rit-chan?"

"Yeah, what, Airi?" responded Ritsuko.

"Did you happen to notice the amount of religious overlay here?"

"Come to think of it, yes. And it seems to be Catholicism. Again." The curled-lip tone of her voice let Airi know that Ritsuko was still holding a grudge for the whole nun-trying-to-kill-them thing. "It just reaffirms me as an agnostic." Continued Ritsuko. "Fucking religious assholes."

"Then you understand, yes?" asked Airi quietly, flushing the toilet as she did so.

"Yes, I guess I do. I'll back your play; whatever it might be." Confirmed the schoolgirl-turned-elf-hunter just as softly. Airi nodded to herself. Rit-chan might be a weapons otaku, but her skills are valuable. Observed the raven-haired actress. She eyed the shower.

"You want to shower first, or do I go first?" she asked Ritsuko. Before the strawberry blonde could answer the door opened and two guards came in, followed by two more, one of which had breakfast on a tray and the other carried their regular clothes. Ritsuko was glad she had her robe closed. Airi peeked out from the crack in the nearly shut door and watch the guards. She hadn't seen her favorite guard again, or any of the first five. These were new guards and she would have to start over from scratch.

The two guards watched Ritsuko and Airi as the other two set down their respective loads and turned toward the door. As the last one started to leave, he turned to Ritsuko and said "You have 20 minutes to eat and dress. The Commander will see you 25 minutes from now, ready or not. I suggest you hurry." The door closed behind him and locked itself. Ritsuko turned to Airi.

"Ten to shower and dress, ten to eat. I doubt we will be given the opportunity to be late." Said Airi, tossing her robe to the counter and starting the shower. "And there is no way that I will see this Commander without taking a shower first. I think you should as well, Rit-chan."

"Yeah. Guess we both go first." Replied Ritsuko, tossing her robe to the counter as well. Just think of this like a bathhouse. She told herself. Yeah, but a bathhouse is bigger and you don't have to rub against each other as much. Her thoughts were interrupted by Airi's voice.

"Warm or hot, Rit-chan?"

"Either, I'll grab the soap and shampoo." She answered, feeling the time tick by. Grabbing a bottle of shampoo and a pack of soap, she joined Airi in the shower.

Four rooms away, the guards prodded a snoring Junpei, attempting to awaken him. Finally losing patience, one of the guards turned on the shower, full cold, and with the help of another, tossed Junpei into it. The result was immediate and very painful for all involved. Junpei was shocked awake by the icy blast of water, and, pumped full of adrenalin, attacked the first opponent he saw, in this case, the two Section 2 goons. They were not a match for him, especially in close-quarters battle, and were rendered unconscious in less than a second. Junpei charged out the door of the bathroom, but skidded to a halt at the sight of three shotguns trained on him from the other side of a steel bar security door. If that damned steel bar door wasn't there, I could get them before they could fire, and then I could go to the rescue of my Miss Airi, then… his thoughts were cut short the realization that the men were talking to him. He started to pay attention.

"...and you better be ready or we'll drag you there as you stand."

"Uh, what was that again?" asked the confused man.

"The commander will see you in 20 minutes. Be ready." The men recapped. It was then that Junpei noticed that his clothes were on the bed and a tray of food was on the bedside table. He also realized that Miss Airi would be there and he ran back into the bathroom, tossing the two unconscious men outside and jumping into the shower.

Ritsuko drained the last of the miso soup and set the empty bowl back down. Rice, toast, fish and a little miso had been her and Airi's breakfast, and it wasn't as bad as some of the meals they had shared, but it wasn't the best either. Ritsuko checked her skirt and shirt again, noting that there were still a couple of minutes left. Her right hand instinctively patted her right hip, and it was still strange to find her trusty USP gone. She had worn it for so long it was as much a part of her outfit as the skirt and tie. Their clothes had been cleaned and doubtless tested as much as they had been, but she was glad to be back in familiar threads. Even her hair ribbon had been returned and her hip length hair again arched in a proud ponytail. Airi touched up her makeup and then stood as they heard sounds from outside the door. "Ready, Rit-chan?" asked the older woman of the younger woman.

"Sure. Let's do this." Was the cocky reply.

"I'd rather be in school listening to that same old lecture than getting one of Doc Mengele's exams." Griped Asuka, as she and Rei were dressing in the locker room. "And what the hell brought on this latest examination? Nothing's changed since the last one, TWO WHOLE WEEKS AGO!!" yelled the redhead, shaking her fist in the general direction that Akagi's lab lay.

"Incorrect, Pilot Sohryu." Rei informed her. "Two weeks ago, you were in the middle of your menstrual cycle, and now you are not."

"And who told you that, Wondergirl?!" snarled Asuka.

"The results were obvious, and you made no attempt to conceal the fact that you were menstruating. In fact, you made sure that we all knew it, including Pilot Ikari." Replied Ayanami, her voice as level and emotionless as always.

"And I suppose that you're the same rather you're on or off, right, Wondergirl?" challenged Asuka, finishing tying her bow. Rei had finished dressing a few moments earlier.

"I do not have a menstrual cycle, Pilot Sohryu." Was the flat, blunt answer.

"What, Commander Ikari order you not to?" Asuka attacked, her tone condescending and smugly superior.

Rei was silent as she considered the question. Eventually she spoke. "There were no such orders, but I believe that if it were an issue, Commander Ikari would have given me instructions as to my role."

"Shiest!" Asuka swore. "You really are a doll, First." With that, she left to find her favorite stress-reliever, namely Shinji Ikari. Behind her, Rei spoke softly.

"You are wrong, Sohryu. I am no one's doll."

Shinji was dressing after a particularly embarrassing visit to Akagi's lab. She had started with the normal battery of tests the pilots got nearly every week, but just before she finished, she informed him that she hadn't gotten a seminal sample from him. His questioning look had prompted Akagi to clarify.

"I mean, a sperm sample, Shinji." The good doctor laughed to herself as he went beet red. If he has that much blood in his face and neck, I doubt that he can divert enough to get an erection. The doctor thought to herself. It's so cute when he blushes like that and gets all flustered. Another thought occurred to her. I wonder if Misato would like a picture of his expression just now. She could get a lot of mileage from this situation. The doctor didn't suffer from a delicate sense of morals or ethics; neither was condoned when in Ikari's inner circle. A quick flurry of keystrokes save the video loop to a section of the MAGI and burned it to a disc for Misato's viewing at a later date.

"But I…you see…it's not…" Shinji was trying to speak, but wasn't having much luck. Akagi, knowing his tendency to run, cut off his retreat.

"It's no different from jerking off, Shinji. Asuka tells me that you do that all the time; and don't worry, it's normal for a boy your age to do so."

"But I…don't…" started Shinji. Again, Akagi cut off his retreat.

"No worries, I have you covered. Here are some materials that should get this done fast. Or, if you prefer, I have video of Asuka's last physical." She dropped several adult magazines on the table next to him. Shinji glanced at the covers and went even redder.

"Ah, no thanks…I don't think…"

"If you're into more mature women, there are the old photos of Misato from her collage days as well as some video from last year's Christmas party." Having lived with Misato for months now, Shinji knew how wild the woman could get when provoked. His mental images were interrupted by Ritsuko touching his bare leg. Her voice dropped to a sultry level as she looked him in the eyes with a look normally reserved for the bedroom. "Or would you like more physical assistance?" Asked the blonde, her hands wandering up toward his groin. Shinji wondered why he hadn't passed out by now. Ritsuko smiled as her hand found its target. Hmm. Not quite as large as some, but bigger than most; including Kaji's. Now, let's get that sample, Shin-kun. Thought the doctor, her fingers busy as her other hand reached up and pulled down the zipper on the front of her shirt, revealing her thin, lacy, low-cut bra. With the shirt open, she took Shinji's hand in hers and put it on her breast, smiling as she felt him reacting to her, getting harder every second. "It's easy, see? Have you ever felt a woman's breasts before, Shinji?" asked Ritsuko, her voice still bedroom-toned. Shinji remembered when he fell on Rei and had landed with his right hand on her left breast. It had felt like heaven, but, being the shy and uncertain youth that he was (and that it was Rei, one of the most intimidating girls he knew), he had instead snatched his hand off her and turned his back on her, even if she showed no concern for his seeing her naked. While he thought that, Akagi was speaking again.

"Do you want to see the matching panties, Shinji?" In her hand, she felt him twitch. Yes, this won't take long at all. He's so cute like this. Akagi smiled. Her other hand took his free hand and slowly guided it to the zipper on the side of her skirt. "Just pull that down, Shinji." She instructed, helping him find the tab and starting him downward, since his hand was shaking so badly. Of course, the hand on her breasts wasn't going anywhere, she noted, except for moving back and fourth over her breasts. She knew her nipples were straining against the fabric of her bra. Shinji had succeeded in unzipping her skirt far enough for it to fall to the floor. A gasp from Shinji told her he liked her matching underwear. The panties were black lace as well, low-cut and thong backed. Of course, Shinji could only see the front, as Akagi was standing in front of him and her lab coat and unzipped shirt concealed some of her. She felt him grow a little warmer in her hand. She smiled at him again. Almost there. A little more and I'll have the sample. She looked to the side of the bed where she had put the specimen container. Now for the kill. "Shinji, do me a favor." She asked. He made an inarticulate sound, which she took for a yes. "Unfasten my bra, will you?" The poor boy froze up. Ritsuko reached up and put her hand on his on her breast, and gently guided the hand to the clasp between her breasts. "You do it like this." She instructed, positioning his fingers and squeezing, the bra snapping open and pulling back to reveal nearly all of her breasts. Shinji slid his hand back to her breasts. Carefully cupping her left one, he seemed mesmerized by the supple flesh, gently massaging it and feeling the hard, erect nipple. Ritsuko felt herself get warm as he played with her nipples. Once more she reached down with her free hand and took his other hand in hers and moved it from where it rested on her hip to her right breast. "Don't play favorites, Shinji." She instructed. He began to do the same with both breasts. The doctor felt herself growing warmer. And wetter. Damn. He's a better lover than Gendo. That thought brought another to her mind. He might be watching on the security cameras even now. Maybe he'll get jealous. I hope he gets jealous; it would mean that he still wants me. That he still loves me. Ritsuko was finding herself turned on somewhat by the thought of the Commander watching her over the security cameras. She grew wet.

Her thoughts had distracted her from the job at hand, and he had gotten a little softer than he was before. Ritsuko shook herself out of her thoughts and noticed the situation. Shinji was still busy with her breasts, which were almost achingly sensitive now, and he had leaned closer to her while her mind wandered. Acting on an impulse, the blonde doctor leaned forward, snaking her arm around his neck and pulled his face to her breasts, her hard nipples pressed to his cheeks. "Why don't you see how they taste, Shinji-kun." She husked out. He obliged her, his lips finding a nipple and his tongue tasting it. Meanwhile, Ritsuko wasn't done yet. Her off-hand collected his and slowly, teasingly guided it down her chest, across her abdomen and down to her groin. She took his fingers and guided them to the waistband of her panties, hooking them into the fabric, then pressing down. He took the hint and carefully slid them down her hips and thighs, stopping when he couldn't reach any lower. Ritsuko guided his hand back up as she wiggled her legs, the panties dropping free, and she quickly stepping out of them in the time it took to bring his hand back up to her very wet groin. He gasped against her breast as she carefully guided her fingers over her wet sex, showing him how and where she liked to be touched. Shinji quickly picked up the skills. She went back to work on his erect member, her touch making it jump and throb. The doctor got an idea. Reaching up, she took his hand from her chest, and guided it too down to her wet, hot sex. She then took his finger, and gently slid it into her. He froze again feeling her warm, wet, slippery grip on his finger. His companion began to move his finger in and out, making herself moan a little. The moan seemed to free Shinji from his paralysis, as he resumed his attention on her breasts.

"Yes. Just like that." Murmured the blonde as Shinji moved his finger in and out while his other hand stroked and caressed her lips and clit as she had shown him to do. His mouth was working on a nipple, and Akagi was loving it. Selecting another of his fingers, she carefully slid it into her with the first, increasing her pleasure. Ritsuko waited for him to get into a steady rhythm, then she slipped first one, then another of her fingers into herself, coating them with her juice before removing them and grabbing Shinji's hot rod. The added lubricant made it feel much better for him, and he raced toward an explosion. Akagi was very close herself, especially when Shinji carefully pushed two more fingers into her to make up for the two of hers she had removed to stoke him. "Oh, god! Just like that, Shin, yes!" she panted, feeling the tightness in her vagina and the tickling sensation in her spine. Her hand, slick with her juice, felt his penis twitch violently, and she knew she had only a second to act. Pulling back swiftly, she lowered her face to his, and locked her lips on his, her tongue slipping into his still open mouth and wrestling with his tongue. Her other hand also sought and found the beaker, bringing it to where the tip of his penis was entangled in her fingers. It was not a moment too soon either as she felt him shoot, a little of his cum landing on her lower belly, where his hands were still stroking. The feel of his hot seed on her bare belly was all she needed to hit her own orgasm, her muscles clamping down Shinji's hand.

As her senses return, she realized that she had fallen forward on the bed, Shinji beneath her, her lips still sealed to his. Her hand with the specimen sample had managed to keep itself upright when she fell on Shinji, so the sample was perfectly fine. Ritsuko glanced at it as she kept her mouth sealed to his. It was full, and there was some of his cum on her belly and hand and she could feel the last of it dripping down her fingers from his softening member. That was more fun than I thought. The doctor thought to herself. She broke the kiss slowly, her tongue the last to leave, and smiled at Shinji's awe-struck expression. I'd say that he liked it too. Ritsuko was panting from her own orgasm, and she could feel that Shinji still had his fingers in her. In fact, he was still stroking her a little. Akagi felt the beginnings of another orgasm and struggled to sit up. When she did, she realized that she had fallen on Shinji with her legs straddling him. She also found that when she sat up, he stroked her faster, as his hands were no longer pinned between them. A whimper was heard from the doctor as she felt the tingle in her spine spread through her body, and she moaned as her second orgasm washed over her. It wasn't as heavy as the first, and it wasn't as long, so she was conscious enough to see his eyes on her chest. Ritsuko shrugged the lab coat and shirt off her shoulders, sweeping the fabric behind her, giving him a good view of her chest. Though she wasn't as endowed as Misato, she wasn't flat chested either, and her breasts were well proportioned to her body. She loved the feeling she got when she saw Shinji's awe-struck, admiring stare at her breasts. She glanced lower and saw his member becoming hard again. You know, I could get another `sample' from him. She thought to herself. I would be his first, and that would give me more control over him. And she who controls Shinji, controls Unit 1, and she who controls Unit 1, controls mankind's future. Ritsuko smiled and reached down to stroke him hard again. "How about we get another `sample', this time, inside me." She purred to the boy. He could only nod dumbly as she moved forward a little on her knees, putting her hips over his. She felt him begin to stiffen more swiftly, and, after carefully putting the specimen container down, she reached down and gently removed his hands from her dripping sex. "You won't be using these this time." She cooed. "You'll be using this." She emphasized the words by lowering her hips so the tip of his nearly-ready penis pressed into her lips, her generous amount of juice covering the tip and beginning to seep down his shaft as she pumped it. She leaned forward to kiss him again, leaving the tip of his penis against her sopping wet lips. Every few seconds, she carefully lowered her hips on his to see if he was hard enough yet to penetrate her or not. It was about a minute later when she felt the tip of his dick press into her instead of slip off target. Breaking the kiss, she straightened and looked down at Shinji. "Ready, lover?" she asked in a sultry voice. Rising up a little, she got ready to take his virginity, smiling at the thought of so much control over him and therefore Unit 1 for so minor an investment. You're mine, Shinji Ikari. She thought, beginning to lower herself onto him. Before she could, though, the PA came to life.

"Doctor Akagi, report to Commander Ikari's office immediately. Repeat, Doctor Akagi, report to the Commander's office immediately."

"Damn it all! Talk about your mood breakers." Muttered Ritsuko darkly. She looked down at Shinji and gave him a wry smile. "Sorry Shinji, work calls. Tell you what, we'll pick up where we left off next time, deal?" she asked, slipping off the table, pausing to kiss him again.

"Uh, yeah…I guess…" replied a dazed Shinji. Ritsuko quickly ran a towelette over her belly and cleaned off her thighs and groin, then dressed again. Before she left the lab, she put the lid on the sample and placed it in the sample cryo unit. She paused for a moment, glancing at some of the samples already in there. Sohryu, A., Sohryu, K., Ayanami, R., Katsuragi, M., Ibuki, M., Akagi, N., Akagi, R., Ikari, Y., Ikari, G., Ikari S., hell, most of the top roster of NERV are in here. And we have the samples from the four strangers as well. I could use these samples to control the genetic development of the human race. Her eyes fell to the empty spots next to the one she had just filled. Fourth child, Fifth Child, Sixth Child if necessary. Gendo, you are without limit in your quest. The thought of Gendo reminded her she had somewhere to be. She glanced at Shinji and said "Get cleaned up and dressed. Misato should be along to collect you before too long." And with that she was out the door, her mind already completely focused on work, having filed away her plans for the Third Child as a pending project.

I don't think I'll ever understand her. Or any woman for that matter. Thought Shinji as he finished buttoning his shirt. He had cleaned up with towelettes as Ritsuko had and was headed for the door when it opened and a certain Redhead came sailing in, her eyes locking on to Shinji. "There you are, Baka. Come on, Misato and Wondergirl are waiting." With that, Asuka turned and started for the door. She paused when she didn't hear Shinji behind her. Glancing over her shoulder, she saw him standing there, looking at a funny refridge in the corner of the lab. "What are you looking at, Dumkoff?! Let's go!"

"Coming, Asuka." Muttered Shinji, not knowing he had just made a Junpei-grade pun.

Ritsuko Inoue walked beside Airi, with two guards in front and two behind them. She pulled her ponytail over her shoulder and sniffed at it. "Something wrong, Rit-chan?" asked Airi, noticing her smelling her hair.

"Oh, no. Just that I keep smelling a faint scent of apple blossoms and lilac. I think it's the shampoo and the soap." Replied the teen, tossing her hair back over her shoulder. "Whatever it is, it's nice."

"Yes. After so long with only basic soap, it's nice to be pampered a bit, even under these conditions." Agreed Airi. "Now if they'd just give us some time with a stylist and a spa, I'd be back to my old self."

"I'd noticed you were looking a bit shaggy, Airi. I'd offer to trim you, but remember how that turned out last time." Replied Ritsuko.

"It's not your fault, Rit-chan. You're not a hairdresser and you were working with less than optimum equipment. Besides, the change in appearance was handy as it helped throw off the ones after us."

"True. But I think you look better with your original hair style." Observed Ritsuko to her companion. Airi gave her a bemused smile.

"Is that your way of saying I look bad now, Rit-chan?" she asked sweetly.

"Hardly. You always look good, Airi. It's one of the things I envy about you. But with that razor cut you had when I first met you, you looked better. That's all." Replied the teen.

"There's nothing to be envious about, Rit-chan. My looks are my livelihood, and therefore I have developed them to that end. You, on the other hand, are very smart and athletic, and beautiful as well. You are also young and have plenty of choices before you. I've always admired your competence with the weapons and your unstoppable desire to return no matter the cost. It sounds trite and cliché, but we're each special in our own way." Said Airi. Ritsuko sent her a crooked smile.

"Even Junpei and Celsia?"

"Especially them; they're special like Jerry Lewis's Kids." Ritsuko cracked up laughing at that.

"Any more special and they'd be turnips." She chortled.

"Please, don't insult turnips like that, Rit-chan."

"Ah, there you two are." Chirped Misato, seeing Asuka and Shinji approaching from the lab's area. She looked closer at Shinji. "Are you alright?" she asked, seeing that he seemed dazed and distracted.

"He's just fine, Misato, this is Shinji were talking about." Said Asuka sardonically. "He's always such a spaz."

"Been watching him from afar, eh, Asuka?" teased Misato, her smile conveying her true statement. Asuka went red.

"Hell, no! Why would I do that?! He isn't worth watching!" she yelled indignantly. Shinji was a little red too. Misato turned to Rei, who stood silently by and watched her fellow pilots and her commanding officer bicker.

"What do you think, Rei? Has she been watching him?" she asked the blue-hair goddess of ice.

"I have seen her watching him many times a day, and while at NERV too." Replied the red-eyed girl, her tone flat and serious, as if she were giving a report on an angel attack.

"I do not!" denied Asuka. "And you watch him too! You just said you were staring at him." Defended the redhead.

"Incorrect, Pilot Sohryu. I stated that I have seen you watching him many times a day and at NERV, and a review of the surveillance tapes will corroborate my statement." Corrected the First Child.

"So you DO watch him!" cried the redheaded fire goddess triumphantly. The reply brought her up short.

"I watch everything, Second Child." Silence fell like an avalanche. After several seconds of silence, Misato spoke.

"So, who wants some lunch?"

"Miss Airi, Miss Airi!" came a shout from their left as another corridor intersected theirs. Airi and Ritsuko immediately recognized Junpei's voice. Ritsuko grimaced and she noticed that Airi closed her eyes for a moment, a sign she was getting a grip on her anger. Then, her eyes opened and she turned to face Junpei, a warm smile on her lips.

"Junpei! We're glad to see you're all right. Aren't we, Rit-chan?"

"Sure. Whatever." Replied Ritsuko waving her hand dismissively. Airi had to fight not to laugh. Ritsuko still held a grudge for Junpei slapping her ass on numerous occasions, as well as his constant puns and innuendo toward both of them. She was still young enough to be bothered by his behavior, whereas Airi had come to grips with the way men like him behaved years before.

"Hey, miss Airi, did they give you two a physical too?" he asked. Airi's hand clamped down on Ritsuko's shoulder as she started to turn toward the white-clad fighter, fire in her eyes. "Man, I tell you, that doctor Akagi was a hot momma." He laughed, then added, "But not as hot as you, miss Airi." Airi laughed with him, but Ritsuko felt her increase the pressure on her shoulder to a painful level in her effort to maintain control.

"Yes, they did. And we're both healthy." Airi assured the man, her tone light and happy, though Ritsuko knew her well enough to tell she wanted to throttle him. She tentatively turned toward Junpei again, but Airi increased pressure on her shoulder, and she turned back.

"Yeah, that Akagi woman wanted some of my lovin', but I told her you were my one and only! Really! Being the stud that I am, I'm used to having women hanging all over me, wanting what I got. Even our Ritsuko there…"

He was interrupted by a resounding crack, as Ritsuko, too fast for Airi to stop, whipped around her and gave him a dose of folded paper fan rage full in the face, with a swing reminiscent of a tee shot on a 450 yard green. She followed through her right foot toe down and her arms together on the haft of her club, elbows folded behind her back, the very picture of a pro golfer. Junpei hit the floor with a crash.

"OW!! What's you do that for, Ritsuko?! That hurts!"

"Then I made my point, Junpei, you ass!"

"What point?! I was telling you about my physical, and you haul off and hit me with that fan!" he bellowed, getting to his feet. Airi had grabbed Ritsuko's shoulders and was pulling back on them, slowly working the angry weapons otaku away from the brick-headed martial artist.

"You were lying about me and wasting our time!" she snarled.

"Oh. I see. Ritsuko, it's all right to be in love with me; you're a woman after all. But I'm afraid I'll have to tell you the same thing that I told that Doctor chick: miss Airi's the only one for me." Replied Junpei mentally congratulating himself on his understanding of the female mind.

Ritsuko was so angry she was shaking, the blood vessels were standing out on her arms and forehead and she was literally snarling at Junpei, who was getting to his feet and dusting himself off, smiling at Airi, obviously thinking that she would swoon with delight at knowing of his devotion to her. Airi, however, was too busy trying to keep Ritsuko under control to pay him any mind. She had let go of the girl's shoulders and had opted for a choke hold on the shorter girl, her left arm around Ritsuko's neck and her right arm locking her throat into the crook of her left arm. For such a young girl, she's amazingly powerful. Thought Airi as she leaned back, increasing the pressure on Ritsuko's neck. Of course, Junpei brings out the worst in her and anger always makes one stronger. Airi applied a little more pressure. Please God, let her calm down before I have to hurt her. Begged Airi silently. Ritsuko was putting up a struggle that would have awed Celsia. In spite of her advantage in height, reach, age, weight and (normally) strength, the actress was barely able to keep the schoolgirl in check. She couldn't do anything about Ritsuko's mouth, though.

"Junpei, I'm going to kill, do you understand?, KILL you, you mother fucking asshole shit-for-brains knuckle-dragging mouth-breathing numb-nutted fairy boy! I'll tear your balls off and shove them so far up your ass they can talk for you as well as think for you, fudge-packer! You're a dead man, monkey boy!!! Nyhah, ha ha!"

"Airi, I think I hurt her feelings, but I couldn't just let her think she had a chance with me." Observed Junpei, watching Ritsuko struggle. Airi yet again increased pressure on Ritsuko's neck, taking the time to grit out from behind locked teeth.

"You're a fucking idiot, Junpei." About then, the guards stepped in.

Airi was walking directly behind Ritsuko, who now had on handcuffs and was rubbing her chest where the guard had hit her with a stun gun. It was just below and slightly to the inside of her left breast, and it had seized her up nearly instantly. While she was recovering, they had cuffed her. Airi had said nothing, but her eyes said plenty. When two of the guards had reached for her, she had intercepted them. "I'll do that, boys. You've done more than enough already." Her tone was cool and crisp as a morning breeze; if one happened to live in Antarctica. Having said that, she swiftly pulled Ritsuko to her feet and tucked her head under one of the girl's arms, supporting her as she was still convulsing a little. After a few minutes, she was able to walk on her own, though she was still much weaker than before. Airi had moved behind her and put both her hands on her shoulders, both to guide her and to calm her down. Something occurred to Airi. "Rit-chan, where did you get that fan?" she asked the girl. Ritsuko stopped rubbing her chest and answered.

"I folded it out of the paper gowns they gave us after the exam. I felt I might need it," She replied "so I tucked it under my shirt on my back and left a corner of my shirt untucked so I could reach back and pull it out. You know, kind of like drawing a gun from a small-of-the-back holster." Ritsuko looked around. "I don't see Junpei. Did I kill him?" Airi kept telling herself that the hopeful tone in the teen's voice was just in her imagination.

"Afraid not, Rit-chan. When the guard hit you with the stun gun, Junpei kicked him in the head, and, well, things went down hill from there." Answered Airi. Ritsuko looked around. There were four guards with the two women, as before, but the four guards that had been with Junpei were gone, and Ritsuko noticed that only one of the guards was from before.

"Where are they, Fuyutsuki?" asked Gendo; waiting was not something he did. People waited on him, not the other way around. His Vice Commander checked his cell phone, then answered.

"There was an incident on the way here. Seven Section 2 men will be on medical leave and another on sick leave." He said.

"Seven more? The girl again?"

"Not directly. It seems that the man managed to piss off the teenager, and when she attempted to kill him, the Section 2 men intervened. It seems that in the scuffle, the man took action. The girl is headed here with the woman, but the man is back in lockup; it took a lot to bring him down."

"I see." Replied Gendo. It would seem that Section 2 is not up to par with these four. Perhaps a little incentive would motivate them. Perhaps those that succeed live, and those that do not, suffer accidents. While the Commander thought his evil thoughts, the phone on his desk chirped.

"Commander Ikari." He said simply.

Misato hung up the phone and turned to see the children watching her expectantly. "Well?" they asked in unison.

"Commander Ikari is busy; he'll see us when he's done with his current project." She answered. He sounded more pissed off than usual. Heh. Bet he's not used to having to wait for anyone.

"Do you know...what he wants…with us, I mean." Asked Shinji. Asuka rolled her eyes at his hesitant tone.

"I bet it's about those people they snatched the other day. Why else would we be here?" she said, tossing her hair back from her shoulders. Rei said nothing, which was entirely normal for her. The four of them were in the cafeteria, which, oddly enough, was just down the hall from a first aid station and only minutes from the hospital's emergency room; a room the pilots were all too familiar with. Since they were at a table near the door, they saw several Section 2 goons helping more Section 2 goons past the cafeteria.

"Wonder what happened to them?" mused Misato to no one in particular. Rei silently pulled out her cell phone and pushed some buttons. After several seconds, she put her phone away.

"The men were injured in an incident a few minutes ago. There are seven badly injured, and another that will be out for a few days. It appears to be in connection to three of the four we apprehended the other day." She said quietly.

"Three of them took out seven of Section 2's finest? Not bad." Murmured Misato.

"Incorrect. Two of them have disabled nine of Section 2's agents in the last 14 hours. Several more are on medical leave." Corrected Rei.

"Just two? Section 2 must be slacking. And these jokers are supposed to be guarding us?" complained Asuka.

"Do you know which two, Rei?" asked Misato, ignoring Asuka for the moment.

"Reports indicate that the young woman accounted for two and the man accounted for the seven this morning. The minor injuries were caused by the young woman and the fourth person."

"You mean the blonde woman, right, Rei?" countered Misato.

"No. I mean the fourth person. It has yet to be established if she is human."

"What kind of stupid crap is that?" asked Asuka, "If she isn't an angel, then she must be a human, as we're the only two dominant species this planet knows."

"That is not a proven fact, Pilot Sohryu. Initial conclusions are that she is an elf." Said Rei, her tone serious.

"Don't try to joke, First; you haven't the talent." Replied Asuka snidely. Rei ignored her outburst. Turning to Misato, she addressed her larger concern.

"Captain, may I have an ice cream sandwich?"

Airi and Ritsuko stood before two simple, yet ominous, doors. The guards listened to their radios, then one stepped forward and removed the handcuffs from Ritsuko, who rubbed her wrists a little. "You know, I thought they'd be more ornate." She observed to Airi. "I mean, this is the warden of this gulag, isn't it?"

"I've always been told that the gate to hell is a simple bead curtain." Replied the actress thoughtfully. She touched Ritsuko's hand softly. When the girl looked over at her, she sent her a steady look. Let me do the talking, OK, Rit-chan? Airi's thoughts were clear to the schoolgirl. Ritsuko nodded once, then looked forward as the doors opened.

"In." came the order from the goons. The two stepped into the room, the doors closing behind them. In front of them was a large, dark room. Cavernous didn't do it justice. From the position of the heavily tinted windows, Ritsuko concluded that this room was at the top of a building that might be a pyramid, though it was not the whole top of the pyramid, as there was a roof, and from the angle of the glass in the windows, it was apparent that there was a lot of area left before the top. Ritsuko figured that the volume of the remaining building was nearly 5000 cubic meters. This is a VERY large building. She thought as she finished her calculations. Ritsuko also picked out a faint pattern in red on the floor and a matching set on the ceiling. She studied it, as it seemed familiar. Was it something that I saw on Celsia's stuff? It kinda looks like a spell diagram. Airi and she had come to be something of amateur magicians by necessity as they had pursued the spell fragments that should have brought them home. When there are elves trying to kill you with magic, it helps to know what you're looking for. The teenager looked to Airi and caught her eye, then glanced significantly at the floor and ceiling. The actress gave a barely-perceived nod, indicating that she had seen the pattern. The pair heard a sound, and looking across the expanse of darkened room, they saw an indirect light falling on a huge desk with a man seated behind it, hands folded in front of his face, glasses reflecting glare from the lights, making his eyes invisible. The two walked toward the desk. It seemed to take a long time.

As they got closer, the desk seemed to grow in size as well as the man behind it. I see. He uses the darkened room and indirect light to create the illusion of size, and uses that perceived size to intimidate those who meet with him. Well, pity I know his secret and I bet Rit-chan has figured it out as well. Thought Airi. A subtle glance at the clenched jaw of the teenager told her the sharp mind of her companion had indeed perceived the illusion. It was also obvious that it pissed the strawberry blonde off. The two stopped when they were close enough to make out the man standing behind and to the right of the large chair that spectacle-boy sat in. This man was much older and Airi got the feel that he and the man in the chair went way back with each other, but that the relationship was not a good one, per se. Airi chose to fight silence with silence. Out of the corner of her eye she saw that Rit-chan had picked a spot about an inch above the man's head and staring at it with an intensity that would have set fire to it, if they were in the elf world. The girl was as stiff and disciplined as a soldier at attention, even her posture seemed to be military. For contrast, and to throw off the balance, she adopted an exaggerated stance of indifference, slouching and shifting her weight to one leg, her arms crossed over her chest, with one hand raised to her face and one finger of that hand touching her lips in a very childish manner. She and her gunner waited for the man to speak. After three minutes, the old man to the right of the man spoke to them.

"Who are you?"

"You already know that, and if you want to talk, speak for yourself instead of relaying it through your patsy." Shot back Airi, her tone bored and vaguely superior. She felt Rit-chan's amusement, though the girl gave no sign of anything outwardly.

"You do not ask the questions here." Spoke the old man. Before he could continue, Airi interrupted him.

"We do, and if you want any information, you will speak yourself and answer our questions. We are not adverse to giving you the answers you seek, but be clear on this point: we have some questions of our own and we will not give you your answers unless you give us ours." Stated Airi. Silence. Then the man in the chair spoke.

"You don't seem to understand your circumstances here, Airi Komiyama. If you do not do as you are told, you will vanish without a trace." He said. His voice was low, cold and firm. He was obviously used to being obeyed unconditionally. Prick. OK, let's play hardball.

"Then kill us. But you will be left with no more information then you have now, and you will not know what will happen next. And I promise you this: if you act rashly, you will not survive this."

"You are not the first to threaten me, Miss Komiyama, and will not be last. And yet I am here, and they are not." Replied the man. Airi had a chink in his armor identified and she exploited it.

"You're boring me. Right here, right now, what's it to be?" Silence stretched for more than five minutes. Ritsuko was certain that this was the longest five minutes she had ever lived; it seemed like years. Without a doubt, this man was a cold killer and probably insane to boot. If this had happened a year ago, she would have broken or attacked by now, but Airi said she's handle this, and she trusted her fellow prisoner to do this. After all, she was used to dealing with these kinds of people; she was a free agent in Hollywood for god's sake! She left it in Airi's hands and bent her will to staring a hole into the chair just above his head. Her trigger finger itched fiercely, and she wished she had the familiar weight of her gun belt with her. The man spoke.

"Very well, what is your first question?"

"Who are you and what do you do?"

"I am Commander Gendo Ikari, and I protect the world from our enemies." He replied.

"By enemies, your mean Angels, right?" challenged Airi, her attention split between him and the old man. The old man flinched slightly. Bingo, I'm in this game now. Let's press our luck. "Having success, I hope?"

"We are doing quite well. How did you get here?" asked the man. Airi took a breath and organized her cover story. She knew that Junpei would be questioned separately to confirm her story, so she stuck close to the truth. The meeting ran long.

"Is his Majesty going to deign to see us or not?!" exploded Asuka. She was fuming about the fact that they had been parked on standby for hours and still no word. Rei was silent, reading a book of some sort, Shinji was zoned out with his SDAT, Misato was leaned against Shinji, sound asleep. Asuka had been playing a hand-held game for the last two hours, but she had beaten it so many times that she was bored with it. It was currently shattered on the floor. "Misato, wake up!" she screamed. Misato's eyes popped open and she snapped upright, her hand sliding under her jacket as she grasped the grip of her sidearm, scanning the room for any threat to her charges, especially her Shinji.

"What's your problem now, Asuka?" she asked grumpily, stretching and looking at her watch. "Damn, look at the time."

"That's my problem, Misato. The commander's wasting our time!" shot back the redhead pilot. "Call him and ask what the hold up is. I bet he forgot us." She wagered.

"If he has, that's fine with me." Muttered Shinji, just loud enough for Misato to hear. She shot him a small smile.

"Maybe he has, but we need to stay here until relieved to go home." She replied.

"Shiest!" spat Asuka. If she had of gone to school, at least she'd have been home or shopping with Hikari by now. "That tin horn dictator…" Her rant was cut short by the PA system.

"Captain Katsuragi, Pilots Ayanami, Sohryu and Ikari are to report to Commander Ikari's office immediately." There was no repeat. Rei rose and started for the door as Asuka and Shinji glanced at Misato, who was straightening her uniform. She finished and looked at them both.

"Let's go." She said, following Rei out and to the Commander's office.

The doors to hell opened and Shinji sighed as he and the others entered the Devil's Lair, as Asuka called it. He glanced up, expecting to see his father staring at them, but he was surprised by the presence of two others. He looked them over. One was slightly taller than Misato, with short, dark hair, the other was about Asuka's height and had long red-blonde hair longer than Asuka, which currently arched proudly in a ponytail. Her eyes were a lighter shade of blue-green than Asuka's brilliant blue, he noticed. She wore a school uniform, but it wasn't one he had ever seen. The two women watched the group approach. Shinji watched them both, and noticed that the younger woman was checking him out. He blushed a little and adverted his eyes.

Hmm. Not bad. Thought Ritsuko, then turned her eyes to the taller girl. She saw that the girl was watching her as well. We look a lot alike, but she's got lighter skin and darker hair than me. Wonder who she is? Her eyes slid to the third girl, and she blinked. Red eyes? Blue hair? She must dye it. Still, there's something in her eyes that seems…dead? She shivered and looked to the woman who stood behind the three children. She looked pretty friendly, and her figure was excellent. Ritsuko noted that she had been fortunate in the attribute department. Kind of reminds me of Airi, in a way. Thought the teenager. The commander interrupted her thoughts.

"Captain Katsuragi." He said. Misato snapped to attention and saluted.

"Yes, sir."

"These two will be on limited access for now. You are aware of the situation, so I am placing them in your care." Said Gendo.

"Do you mean, they're staying with me?" asked Misato. "Sir, my apartment is very full already with Asuka and Shinji, and while it may be possible, I think it unwise to put that many people in there, given that there are so many high-value targets there already."

"Captain, it is because your residence is so heavily guarded that I am sending these two to your place. Do you have a problem with that?" his tone made clear that she had best not have a problem with his orders.

"No sir." Said Misato.

"What?!" asked an incredulous Asuka. "Where are you gonna put them, Misato, on the balcony? And what about food? I doubt that they can live off your diet." Misato cleared her throat. Asuka went silent as she remembered that they were in the presence of the devil. The devil spoke.

"Your concerns have been addressed, Pilot Sohryu. They will be issued a NERV card for supplies and necessities. Furthermore, you and Pilot Ikari," he paused to stare at his son, who looked away and said nothing, "will be responsible for miss Inoue as she will be going to school with you for the time being. I expect good news, Children. Now, unless the Second has more objections, I have business to attend to. Dismissed." Misato saluted and herded the three and the two others out of the office.

Once outside, Misato signed and looked at Shinji. "You ok, Shin-kun?" she asked softly.

"I'm fine, Misato." He said, but his tone was strained. She sighed.

"What's the idea, tossing two more in our apartment? Misato, you need a bigger apartment." Huffed Asuka. She turned to the two women and got to business. "Who are you, what are you doing here and what did you do to piss off Commander Ikari bad enough to get tossed into Misato's cage?"

"Hey!" yelled Misato, "it's not a cage! Is it, Shinji?"

"Well, not now, anyway." He muttered.

"Ha!" exclaimed Asuka, "The Baka agrees with me!"

Misato smiled a very evil smile as she stared at Asuka. "Oh, Pilot Sohryu…" she called, her tone promising trouble. Asuka sensed a trap.

"Ah, yes, Misato?"

"Whose turn was it to do the dishes and laundry?"

"Shinji no Baka's turn of course." She answered promptly. What was Misato's plan?

"Are you sure, Asuka?" asked Misato, her smile getting bigger. Asuka stopped to think.

"Yes, I'm sure." Misato's eyes slitted like Unit 1's as she turned to Rei.

"Rei-chan, who cooked when you were over last night for dinner?"

"Pilot Ikari. He mentioned laundry as well." Replied the blue-haired girl.

"Did he say why, Rei-chan?"

"I did not ask, but Pilot Ikari volunteered that he had swapped chores with Pilot Sohryu so she could go shopping with Class Representative Horaki." Misato smiled a very scary smile.

"Thank you, Rei-chan." She turned to Shinji. "Well, Shinji, we have more room mates. I think we need to have a party." Shinji paled a little.

"Uh, Misato, I'm not sure that we should…"
Misato stopped him. "Not that kind of party; at least until we get to know them better. I mean like the party we had when you moved in and when Asuka moved in."

"Oh. Well, Ok, I suppose." He answered.

"Good. Here's what I need you to pick up." She took out a pen and wrote quickly on a notepad, tore the sheet off and handed it to Shinji. "Think you can cook that?" Shinji looked at the sheet.

"I've never tried to make this, but it seems easy enough." He answered. Asuka started to reach for the piece of paper, but Misato grabbed her arm and pulled her to her side, draping an arm over the redhead's shoulders and squeezing; hard.

"Good. Take Rei and get the necessary ingredients and get started. Me and Asuka," she paused to squeeze Asuka harder for a moment, making the girl wince, "will get things straightened out here and meet you there. Also, if you have a chance, clean up anything that needs it."

"And how am I supposed to pay for this?" asked Shinji. Rei spoke before Misato could.

"I have my NERV card. I will support you with this project."

"You…will?" asked Shinji.

"Yes. It is an order from Captain Katsuragi." Replied Rei as if that were the only way to see this situation.

"Well, OK, let's get going." He said, turning toward the elevator. He heard Asuka start to say something, but it sounded like Misato was choking her. He resolutely did not turn to look. Rei walked at his side, showing no concern for what might be happening to Asuka.

As the two pilots entered the elevator, Misato released her roommate from the headlock she had put her in when the feisty German had been about to start berating Shinji and Rei. Asuka muttered under her breath in German and gave Misato the evil eye. Misato ignored her. She turned to look at the two who would be staying in her apartment. Extending her hand, she smiled and introduced herself. "I'm Captain Misato Katsuragi, as I'm sure you figured out. The charming young lady behind me is Asuka Langley Sohryu, designated pilot for Unit 2. The young man who just left is Shinji Ikari, designated pilot of Unit 1, and the blue haired girl is Rei Ayanami, designated pilot for Unit 0. Rei lives in her own place, but you're stuck with the rest of us for roomies."

Airi took her hand, already liking this energetic, honest woman. "I'm Airi Komiyama, and my companion is Ritsuko Inoue. I'm sorry to be a problem for you."

"It's nothing. Besides, Pen Pen likes meeting people."

"Who?" asked Ritsuko.

"You'll see." Smiled Misato. "Now, come with us. There is some paperwork to do, you need your temporary passes and we'll see about getting your possessions together. By the time we get home, Shinji should have dinner ready." Asuka humphed.

"He better make something good; I hate wasting a day for nothing." She growled. "Damn!" she said abruptly. "I forgot to call Hikari!" grabbing her cell phone, she punched numbers and turned away from Misato and the two women, walking a short distance from them and talking on the phone. After a couple of minutes, she returned and looked at Misato. "Well? We gonna do this today, or what?"