Twenty three days ago. "We will begin the Unit Zero mecha activation test," announced Gendou, who then pushed up his spectacles. "Technobabble babble babble babble," said an anonymous operator. "More technobabble in lieu of action, just getting Unit Zero prepped up babble," said yet another nameless bit character. "Technobabble accompanied by lots of flashing screens and displays that's supposed to really impress you as to how far science and technology has come in the future," said Ritsuko. NEGEV a NGE Sci-Fi Elseworlds Fanfic Chapter 03: Rolling Thunder by E.L.Toh contact: firstname.lastname@example.org archive: http://www.teloong.cwc.net/ "Technobabble and ominous aside scene showing beer from Commodore Katsuragi's microbrewery contaminating the LCL supply as a result of Sempai's mind wandering," chirped Maya whose hand was on her sempai's pert behind. "Technoblah babble blah blah blah," said the first anonymous voice to help convey the dramatic irony of no one realising that anything was wrong. "Besides, you've got no idea of what's going on, do you, Ikari?" whispered Fuyutsuki. "You need a generalist who can see the overall picture. Which is why experts, professors and other troublemakers don't make it to _Full Admiral_," retorted Gendou. Cue Rei in the entry plug of the EVA-enhanced mecha which was really rather chunky and inelegant. Rei, who was quietly missing Shinji a lot and really looking forward to seeing him in nineteen days, thirteen hours, fifty two minutes' time. Approximately. Unknown to her, she was absorbing quite a bit of the alcohol in the LCL as the test progressed. "Zombie just stumbled," noted Ritsuko, "Rei, are you experiencing any problems with the neural linkages?" ~o~Round and round the mulberry bush/The monkey chased the weasel,~o~ came the response. Ritsuko frowned. "The authentic version is 'Round and round the cobbler's bench.'" "Rei, are you alright?" asked Fuyutsuki with obvious concern. Perhaps a bit too much concern. ~o~The monkey thought it was all in fun/Pop goes the weasel!~o~ The video image of the cockpit revealed a rather ruddy faced Rei hunched slovenly over her controls. "Cancel the experiment. Rei, stand down immediately," ordered Gendou, sounding mildly annoyed at this glitch in his Grand Plan to Save the Human Race. Rei slowly raised her head and regarded Gendou evenly. "Y..You.." she slurred in a soft monotone. "Yoouu seent my Shiinji-kun away... Whhy youuu litttle..." As the upraised fist of the combat mecha loomed before the transparent polycarbon observation window, everyone dashed for cover. Except Gendou who stood there impassively as the fist crashed down. "Cut the power!" yelled Ritsuko from behind a console. "I've already done that!" replied Maya who was sporting a 'Let's All Achieve Safety First' construction hard hat. "Unit Zero has got thirty five seconds of battery power remaining!" "Come on! Quit the tough guy act already!" shouted Fuyutsuki as he dragged Gendou away from the observation window. "Yeeeew!" he squealed as he noticed the puddle of pee that Gendou had been standing in. After two more blows and plenty of language that would make a seasoned sailor blush, the window shattered, showering the room with shards of polycarbon. Crawling on all fours and desperately seeking cover, Gendou knocked over a spanking fresh pot from Ritsuko's Cup O'Matic and thoroughly scalded both his hands in the process. "WAAAAAHHHH...." "Oh, stop it. It's so undignified," snapped Dr. Kodama Horaki as she arrived to administer the Admiral some painkillers. "And go change your trousers." Kodama wrinkled her nose. "Now." Gendou scuttled away, muttering something about scary grumpy spinsters which, luckily for him, Kodama didn't hear. The ship's Assistant Medical Officer was already on her way down to the Cage where that Rei girl was loudly singing incredibly bawdy drinking songs. -NE- -G- -EV- Twenty three days later. ~o~A penny for a spool of thread/A penny for a needle/That's how the money goes/Pop goes the weasel...A half a pound of tupeeny rice/A half of treacle/Mix it up and make it nice/Pop goes the weasel...~o~ Misato shook her head as she cleaned a beer mug. She glanced at Rei, who was singing to herself while slumped on the bar's counter. Not unexpected that couples had problems even while in Paradise. 'What had happened wasn't strictly Shinji's fault but he had sort of allowed it to happen,' reasoned Misato as she tried to put herself in the pale girl's boots. ~o~Up and down the London road/In and out of the Eagle/That's the way the money goes/Pop goes the weasel... I've got no time to plead and pine/I've got no time to wheedle/Kiss me quick and then I'm gone/Pop goes the weasel...~o~ "No more for you, young lady," said Misato gently but firmly as Rei began to wave her empty beer mug, her face still down on the counter. Maya appeared in the seat next to Rei, putting a sympathetic arm around her shoulder. All the while smiling like a cat that had spied a vulnerable canary or a politician sighting an unattended baby's candy. The arm's journey south was halted in its track by a glare from Rei. Maya smiled in a faux-innocent fashion, putting both her hands up and then winked out. Misato wondered if she should say anything. 'Naw, they're both sensible kids. They'll work it out themselves... Besides making up can be fun.' She smiled inwardly at her own memories and it widened when she saw Shinji speaking to Hikari and Touji, two of her best customers, at the other end of the bar closer to the door. Hikari had a thumb jerked in Rei's direction while chugging down another pint. Touji was grinning and nudging Shinji, who looked miserable. In the course of saying something completely tactless, tasteless, offensive or all of the above, he ended up with Hikari's fist squarely in his face as Shinji made his way towards Rei. Misato admired how Touji still had a firm grip on his beer. Shinji approached Rei like a sapper inflitrating a heavily armed and fortified bunker in a dense minefield overrun with concertina wire. When he finally reached Rei's side, he bent down slightly and spoke softly. Rei seemed not to hear him. He produced to adopt a grovelling posture to which Rei responded to by turning her head firmly away from him. Still, he persisted while not actually saying much. Rei then stood up to leave. Or attempted to. She swayed ever so slightly, red orbs seeming to roll left and right and left and right in her sockets before collapsing onto the ground. Shinji did a frantic little dance of panic and guilt before scooping her up into his arms and carrying her away, probably to sickbay. Rei chose that moment to start feebly punching his chest. Misato shrugged. 'Just needs a bit more time, I guess.' -NE- -G- -EV- "Alright, alright! Get that damned thing out of the way already!" shouted Hyuuga, standing before an Arclite tank, his left hand raised in a 'halt' sign while he waved towards towards the right with the other. "Where the hell am I supposed to put this anyway, Sir?" asked the tank commander as his head emerged from the top porthole of his armoured vehicle. "The right, Benson, the tank park's on the right of the dropship docking area," reminded Hyuuga. "Oh right, see you in ten, Sir." Hyuuga shook his head in wry amusement as the tank lumbered away and took a moment to observe the ordered chaos as the troops of his space marines battalion disembarked from their marauder deep space transports. Personnel, equipment and stores were in the process of being dispersed aboard the NEGEV. "Lieutenant-Colonel Hyuuga, I... Eep!" Hyuuga turned around to see a young lady, probably under twenty, barely avoiding being run over by a Vulture hovercycle. The rider laughed as he had easily swerved to avoid her but by just the bare minimum. Still enough to scare. He rode away, still laughing. "You alright?" asked Hyuuga as she checked herself and her midnight blue No.3 office uniform for any signs of damage. "The Vulture guys like to pick on admin people. Don't pay them any heed." She shook her head to indicate that it was alright while a hand was placed over a heaving and very ample bosom as she caught her breath. Hyuuga couldn't help but give her the once over. Raven black hair that reached the middle of her back. A fresh-faced wide-eyed sort of naivete. Formal double breasted suit jacket, buttoned and secured with a black belt, over a white shirt and midnight blue tie. A-line skirt that was just on the verge of too short. Translucent black stockings that ran down long long legs into her boots. Overall, her uniform was probably the correct size, but it seemed just a tad too tight around certain strategic areas. If he had been younger and more impetuous, his glasses would have steamed up. "Corporal A. Kuraki, the Admiral's personal assistant, I presume?" asked Hyuuga as he read the name tag above the left breast pocket as well as the white braid that ran from her left lapel to her epaullete. At the terminus of the latter hung a miniature sword - stylized more like a four inch pin and embossed with the four stars of her direct superior's rank. "Ah, yes, you can call me Ayumi," she said, smiling and scratching the side of her head in slight embarrassment. "Makoto." "I'd prefer to address you by rank or as Sir, if you don't mind, Sir." "Fine," shrugged Hyuuga as he included her as part of the empirical basis of his theory of how most male Admirals had pretty young things as their adjutants. "Well," she said, whipping out a palmtop from a pocket and began tapping on it rapidly with a pointer, "I must apologize that none of the senior officers are here to welcome you aboard. The Admiral, Vice-Admiral and captain of the ship all have duties to attend to currently." 'Admiral Ikari - medical appointment with Dr. K. Horaki. Burnt hands,' said one of the palmtop's entries. Ayumi sighed inwardly at how she had to make sure the silly man didn't make up another excuse to avoid the doctor. 'Vice Admiral Fuyutsuki - secure comms uplink to Earth Central database.' Probably downloading more music video clips again. 'Commodore Katsuragi - Logistics inventory.' Hmm. Tending bar at her micro-brewery. "Anyhow, would 16:00 hrs Earth Standard Time at the Admiral's office be alright for you?" she asked cheerily. "Sounds good to me," Hyuuga smiled back automatically. "And here's a map to your quarters and to the office," she said handing over an extremely complex diagram. "Don't worry if you get lost. It happens to everyone for the first few days. The DRDs or MAGI can guide you, since as officer commanding of the marines detachment, you have some privileges. See you!" she waved as she jogged out of the hangar, her jiggles causing two tanks to collide at low speed. "Hey! Watch where you're going!" yelled one tank driver. "You're one to talk!" retorted the other. Hyuuga rolled his eyes and walked towards them to sort it out. -NE- -G- -EV- "There you are," said Hyuuga to the door to his quarters. "Finally found you." He was about to run his passcard through the reader slot when he felt eyes on him. Part of his soldier's instinct. He kept a hand on his sidearm as he slowly turned his head towards the suspected source of hostile energy. Nothing. Wait. An outline in the shadows of one of the corners in the corridor a few metres away. Just about his knee's height. Bright orange incandescence accompanied by the sound of a deep breath being drawn. The faint and fleeting illumination highlighting a beak and beady green eyes in a field of white. Two rows of bright red feathers that ran to the back of his head. In between the red, a narrow strip of black. A puff of exhalation. The smell of pure tabacco. Pen Pen emerged from the shadows, dropping the stub of the cigar from a three-cawled flipper onto the floor and then thoroughly crushing it underfoot. He started to waddle away, then stopped and craned his head backward to fix Hyuuga with a look that seemed to say 'I've got my eye on you, pal' before turning his head back and walking out of sight. Hyuuga frowned and entered his quarters. -NE- -G- -EV- Ayumi took another sip of coffee as she pondered the command and control chart she had been directed to produce. It was felt that MAGI had more important things to do, like astro-navigation, life support, gunnery, and, of course, chasing skirts or tight female flight suits. She made a mental note to send a thank you note that very nice Lieutenant Commander Kevin 'Stormy' McHorney at UNDF Fleet HQ who had, at her request, sent her a guide to UNDF protocol. Hmm. Genny-chan went on top because as Battle Group Commander, he was over-all in charge. NEGEV was just one ship rather than a fleet of ships so it was a legal fiction that he commanded a battle group. But the ship was four times as big as anything the UNDF had ever put into service. Actual command of NEGEV belonged to Commodore Katsuragi as she was captain of the vessel and responsible for day-to-day running of the ship as well as most of its combat operations including the EVAs. Lieutenant Commander McHorney had clarified that under UNDF records, Genny-chan was not commanding the NEGEV but was merely embarked on it as the flagship of his non- existent formation and that Commodore Katsuragi was not merely an executive officer. But as Battle Group Commander, he was still her boss and she took orders from him even though she was ultimately responsible for the safety of the ship. Which meant if a conflict arose between hierarchy and her duty... and knowing what Commodore Katsuragi was like... Ayumi shook her head to clear the unpleasant thoughts. Genny- chan would have his own big box under 'Battle Group' with Vice Admiral Fuyutsuki and Doctor Akagi answering to him directly. Baroness Sohryu-Langley von Rikthofen also had her own separate box under 'Corporate Affliate' as she stood outside of military jurisdiction and did not submit to military authority. Rumour abounded that she had a Ghost in tow, but Genny-chan had relayed her wish not to have his presence recorded in any form. Aida was corporate as well, but he received permission from his employer to accept a field commission of fleet Lieutenant, so he fell under military discipline, unlike the Baroness. The rest was all fairly straight-forward. Lieutenant-Colonel Makoto 'Buddy' Hyuuga's direct superior was Commodore Katsuragi, but he was ultimately responsible for land-based operations and the performance of his troops. Everyone else slotted neatly into standard hierarchy. Except Pen Pen and MAGI. The penguin didn't have a rank as he wasn't a human, but still had the formal designation as Navigation Officer. But Commodore Katsuragi was still his superior as well as registered keeper. MAGI was part of the ship's vital systems but the hard- and software were privately held by an Akagi family trust out of Berne. The unified trio of artificial intelligences also had a single representation as a 'Maya Ibuki' who had limited Swiss citizenship under a law similiar to the act of '56. Under Doctor Akagi in the 'Battle Group' box and a dotted line under Commodore Katsuragi then. Having gotten over the more sensitive bits, Ayumi whistled happily as she began the fairly routine task of compiling the command and control charts for the thousand or so combat and support personnel in the marines battalion. -NE- -G- -EV- "We'll reach the vicinity of the planet Reuben in five standard hours. I'll take you all over the details for Operation Yashima," announced Misato to the senior staff and pilots who had assembled in the main briefing room. "This," said Misato, as an image appeared on the main screen, "is our target." The planet, code-named 'Reuben', was orbited by a ring of asteroids as well as a blue eight-sided crystal. The shape of the latter was somewhat obscured by a shadowy aura that seemed to wane and wax. "As you are aware, our target, which has been designated 'Ramiel, Angel of Thunder'..." "Who comes up with all these names?" muttered Shinji to himself. "...completely destroyed the 1st ExFor, which included thirty six Behemoth class battlecruisers armed with Yamato positron cannons. The information that we have now comes from ejected data capsules and survivors on board smaller, deep-space-capable craft that managed to escape," continued Misato. "Ramiel is designed like a fortress. It has a long range energy weapon that can sweep through targets and toast them to a crisp and is defended by an A.T. Field that seems to warp the time-space around the Angel, allowing it to harmlessly divert or absorb vast amounts of energy. The amount of energy required to cross Ramiel's threshold seems to exceed the total energy production of the entire human race," said Ritsuko. "But I have a brilliant plan." She grinned for effect. "Yaaaay!!!" shouted Maya who sprinted across the front of the dias in a cheerleader's uniform, waving pom-poms. Everyone in the room except Ritsuko sprouted a huge sweatdrop. Even Gendou, but as he had the uncanny ability of being able to control where his sweatdrop appeared, he exercised this marvellous power to put it under the bridge of his fingers where his hands hid it. Non-plussed, Ritsuko forged ahead. "Only an A.T. Field will cancel another A.T. Field out. As the EVA Units can generate the A.T. Field, the three will approach the Angel under the protection of their fields. One will neutralize the target's Field, another will lob an N2 torpedo into its face and the last will be act as backup with an extra A.T. Field and N2 torpedo." -NE- -G- -EV- "It can't be that simple," murmured Shinji as he waited for the launch order. He had been designated as the lead flyer to neutralize the A.T. Field while 2Asuka, who had the highest synch ratio, would be responsible for firing and guiding the N2 torpedo. Rei, who had the lowest synch ratio, would act as backup. Shinji sighed and called up a comms link to Rei's prowler. In an instant her impassive eyes stared back at him. He swallowed. "Be careful, ok?" he said. Rei nodded and then her look softened ever so slightly. "You too." "Awwww... how sweet," noted 2Asuka as her image popped up beside Rei's, voice dripping with venomed honey. Rei frowned and her image winked out. Shinji sighed. "Did my father ask you create trouble between me and Rei?" "I like a challenge," replied 2Asuka, smiling viciously, as she cut the connection. -NE- -G- -EV- "Good luck, everyone. Launch!" ordered Misato from Central Dogma. The progress of the three prowlers was tracked by MAGI and plotted on the main screen. NEGEV held its position in the relative safety of the other side of a nearby planet. "Unit One is breaking cover and coming within sight of target. Unit One has activated and spread its A.T. Field," announced Maya. "We've got an energy surge from within the target!" shouted Aoba, "Variances in its A.T. Field strength and resonance detected." "What does that mean?" demanded Misato. "Insufficient data. Collating," replied Maya. Ritsuko's eyes widened as she looked at the raw data that was scrolling across a multitude of screens. "This can't be right..." "The target's energy buildup has plateaued, A.T. Field variances are still fluctuating," reported Aoba. "Ten thousand klicks and closing," reported Ayumi. "Ritsuko, can Ramiel neutralize Shinji's A.T. Field at this range?" asked Misato. Ritsuko considered the question silently as she and Maya continued to consider the information that was being collected by the sensor arrays. Then something seemed to come together. "Misato, get him out of there now! Get them all out!" "Shinji, evasive manoeuvres! All pilots, return to base!" "Acknowle..." Shinji's transmission was suddenly cut off as a beam of energy shot from a pointy end of the blue crystal. Travelling close to the speed of light, it reached Shinji's position pretty quickly. "Unit One's Field has been breached! Damage to engines and navigation systems. Pilot is losing control of prowler," said Maya. "Valkyrie and Zombie, release N2 torpedoes at target! Grapple Unit One and return to base!" ordered Misato. "Acknowledged." Both prowlers, which had been following Shinji's at a distance, released their payloads and raced after his prowler, which was trailing smoke and careening in a downward spiral. "Zombie's N2 torpedo has been destroyed by Ramiel," said Aoba as the representation of the blast radius expanded on the area of the main screen like a ripple. "Valkyrie's N2 torpedo has impacted on the A.T. Field of the target, 500 klicks from the target!" "Unit Two has achieved magnetic grapple lock on Unit One. Both prowlers are returning to NEGEV. The distraction of the N2 torpedoes seems to have let them escape," announced Maya. A side screen showed an image of 2Asuka's prowler holding Unit One on its under-belly with Rei's prowler providing cover behind. "Pilot life signs?" asked Misato. "Weak but stable. Assistant Medical Officer is on standby in the Seventh Cage. Sickbay has been prepped." "I'm going down to the Cage. Ritsu, please take over for me here," said Misato, her anxiety straining against the constraints of her professionalism. "Understood." -NE- -G- -EV- "Mother..." pleaded Shinji as his small hands clutched the arm that was wrapped around his shoulders. The other arm clutched the wound on her abdomen. The red stain grew larger and larger, in that slow, remorseless way that life changing events unfold. His father was hugging her from behind, pleading in his own inarticulate way as chaos reigned around them. The flashes from the press cameras were like so many exploding stars, the collapsing universe of the Ikari family. The shouts of bodyguards and police as they jostled to keep back the tide of hysterical fans who screamed their grief and disbelief. The insane yells of the assailant who was pinned on the floor by half a dozen men, too late in the performance of their duty. The medical people who were still nowhere to be seen. "Mother..." pleaded Shinji as his small hands clutched the arm that was wrapped around his shoulder. He felt her grip tighten on his shoulder, feeling its strength ebb nonetheless. She gave him one of those small, tender, motherly smiles that said 'All's right with the world' and then she winked at him. Lips started to form unspoken words even as a trickle of blood leaked from her mouth. "Mother..." said Shinji as he emerged from unconsciousness. A face framed by blue hair turning, coming into focus, to face him. The red eyes. His mother's face but someone else behind those eyes. "Shinji," Rei said softly as she bent down to fill him with her embrace. They kissed each other lightly, almost chastely. When she withdrew, Shinji saw that Misato was standing behind Rei. She reached over and gave his shoulder a squeeze. "You'll be fine, kiddo. Nothing's missing." She winked. "So much for that brilliant plan," grumbled Shinji. "Ritsu is really sorry about that," said Misato, "there're so many unknowns with respect to using the EVAs and dealing with the Angels." "I don't really blame her. I just can't help but wonder why the hell we're on this crazy mission," sighed Shinji. "Duh. To save the world and all that." "Can't we just go around it?" asked Shinji, an air of resignation setting in. "And have it attack us in the rear when we encounter the next Angel? Oh, that reminds me. We're going to try again in six hours' time. Ritsu's got another idea." "And I'm lead pilot again." "How did you know, Shin-chan?" "I'm psychic." -NE- -G- -EV- "It should work theoretically," said Ritsuko as she started to trawl through the huge mountain of scribbled paper on her office desk. "See?" she said, waving a sheet of paper covered with the symbols of her mathematical proofs which, to Shinji, looked like tracks made by amphethamine-doped beetles whose legs had been soaked with ink and coffee. Shinji gave her his 'I am not impressed' look. "And just where have I heard this before?" Ritsuko cringed. Maya looked bashful. For once. "Hear them out, Shin-chan," laughed Misato as she patted his shoulder reassuringly. Shinji shrugged. "Oh whatever." "You see, we're actually fighting fire with fire," explained Ritsuko a little nervously, "Ramiel's energy weapon is certainly formidable, but at the energy levels directed at Shinji's prowler ..." "Ahem." "...of which a replacement will be built by the onboard micro- factory as soon as this mission is over..." "And?" "... err.. to the latest specficiations with every latest add-on..." ^_^ "...at those energy levels, Unit One's A.T. Field should have been able to absorb it. From the data gathered, we've managed to work out that Ramiel diverted part of its A.T. Field towards breaching Unit One's protection, allowing the energy to do the rest of the work. "The idea that Maya and I have come up with is similiar. We don't have the time now to figure out the intertwining of the energy attack and A.T. Field into one bundle, but Ramiel's attack has given us a model to copy for A.T. Field projection at a distance. At this moment, we're working on modifying a pair of mecha positron rifles to channel up to 99% of your EVA Unit's A.T. Field strength into a cohesive singularity and then using electro-magnetic fields to project. We call it the Singularity Discharge Gun. Patent pending," said Ritsuko, beaming. "So you've constructed a black hole gun?" asked 2Asuka, who whistled appreciatively. "That's not such a nice name," grimaced Ritsuko. "SD-Gun," noted Rei. "What?" "The short form of your invention's name." "D'oh! I've got to come up with a cooler sounding name later," said Ritsuko. "Anyhow we've transferred the EVA Units from your prowlers and plugged them into your adapted combat mechs as the prowler's aren't designed to handle rifle type weapons which are our only means of executing this particular part of the plan right now. "What happens is that the three mechs will be assembled on the flat-top deck of the NEGEV. We'll have Units One and Two as the snipers firing in tandem. It's a bit like shooting someone through a glass window. Due to differences in human reaction time, one shot will reach the target first. That disrupts its A.T. Field, while just a split second later, the second shot arrives to totally fry the target right down to the sub-atomic level. Unit Zero will use its A.T. Field to provide cover and I've instructed Main Engineering to build a really big shield as well. We'll have positron rifles on standby in the armament buildings as well. Any questions? Yes, Rei?" "Is there anything special about the shield?" "Well, of course!" replied Ritsuko. "It's reeeeally big!" "..." "We realise that we'll have to bring NEGEV into the open to engage the target for this operation. And if it doesn't work, we'll probably all be blown to the Kingdom Come?" noted Shinji as his sweatdrop receded. "We'll have to take that risk," said Misato, "and your father sees no reason to object to the plan." "Probably because he can't think of a better idea. Come to think of it, neither can I, so I'll shut up already." -NE- -G- -EV- "How's progress on preparation for Operation Yashima II?" asked Misato from Central Dogma. "The SD-Gun is working beautifully though it does take a little longer to cool down and recharge then we anticipated. WHAT A GUN! It's big! It's hot! It's cool! Our field test vapourized an entire asteroid! I want to take these babies back to my quarters and..." "Thank you, Kensuke," interrupted Misato, who was already plotting to set that boy up with a very nice master sergeant in the Goliath walker squad. "Progress on the shield?" "Wai!" exclaimed Mari and Nozomi in unison. Shigeru collapsed from insulin shock, but he was promptly saved by a timely injection from Pen Pen. "We've managed to scrape up space debris and spare materials to reinforce the shuttle hull you provided, Grand Sempai! The alloy mix has turned up a very very kawaii shade of pink," announced the duo of efferversence and sugar. "It'll last for at least 19 seconds against an energy output similiar to the one we saw the last time," added Ritsuko more usefully. "Thank goodness Grandma bought that spare space shuttle before we left Earth." Misato shook her head as she terminated the connection. "Looks like me and the troops aren't going to be much help," said Hyuuga. "Not for this operation. But we might have to fight one of those things on land sometime." "Got time for coffee?" "Sure!" said Misato brightly. Then her expression turned to one of puzzlement. "Huh?" They looked down to PenPen, who was jumping up and down next to Misato, pointing at his bill. "Gya kyaa kyaa kyaa!!!" "Oh, sorry about that. PenPen wants to be fed. Maybe some other time, okay?" smiled Misato, who then picked up PenPen and carried him away as she exited Central Dogma. PenPen made a raspberry at Hyuuga from where his head was nestled comfortably on Misato's shoulder. 'I swear, one day, I will kill that bird.' -NE- -G- -EV- "Let's get this show on the road! Free beer for a month to the one who nails that sucker!" shouted Misato. "Are you sure that's such a good idea, Misato-san?" asked Shinji nervously as he spied the almost eager expression that surfaced on the image of Rei's face for a split second. "Ayumi?" asked Misato. "It won't be so good for finances if the lucky person starts buying everyone rounds for a month," said Ayumi as she checked the all important PDA. "One night on the house for her or him?" "Sounds good to me," nodded Misato. "Let's go get 'em!" The ship manoeuvred furtively, well, as furtively as a 1.6 kilometre (1 mile to our imperialist friends) spaceship could, trying to get as close to the target as possible without exposing itself too openly. "We've got it in our sights! I'm helping to correct aim for distortions caused by our speed and bearing as well as gravitional disturbances," said Maya. "...5,4,3,2,1. Fire!" yelled Misato. Shinji and 2Asuka depressed their triggers and silently, two dark spheres of annihilation shot from their weapons towards the giant blue crystal. The entire ship was shaken by the resulting gravitional shock wave. "Target is still active!" shouted Maya, "the first attack wasn't strong enough to break through. But both have reduced its field to negligible levels. Sensors are showing target A.T. Field start to reform and strengthen. 1%. 2%. 4%..." "Energy buildup in target core!" exclaimed Aoba. "Spiking!" "Zombie! Blocking position! Wussboy, Valkyrie, are your weapons ready yet?!" said Misato. "Cooling and recharging. Seventeen seconds to go," replied 2Asuka. "Mine's been damaged by the discharge! I don't think it can fire again!" said Shinji. "I'm sending up a positron rifle to you! MAGI will coordinate fire so your volley follows Valkyrie's!" "Target is firing!" A yellow beam streaked towards NEGEV and found the shield held by Rei. Her mecha, heels dug in, strained visibly against the incredible of energy directed at her shield which started to show signs of rapid deterioration. In the space of a few more seconds, it disintegrated completely, the blobs of melted metal flying into space in all directions. The mecha took the rest of the beam straight in the chest. "REI!" "Ramiel is diverting its A.T. Field into its attack beam to counter Zombie's A.T. Field!" said Maya. "This is our chance!" exclaimed Misato. "Valkyrie, Wussboy! Status!" "Positron rifle ready for firing!" "...3,2,1. Firing!" said 2Asuka, her voice flushed with the rush of action. "Firing!" yelled Shinji. The dark sphere smashed the dark field around Ramiel and the positron beam, following in its wake, struck the Angel in the side. A very visible hole was blown open and the blue crystal's orbit wobbled considerably from the impact. "Splash one Angel! Target is down!" announced Maya to the cheers of the crew. Meanwhile Shinji, with 2Asuka's help, had dragged the mangled form of Rei's combat mecha to the foremost of the three deck lifts. "Take us into the cage NOW! Commence compression procedures! Rei, Rei! Come in! Answer me!" "Compression complete. Air lock established." Shinji needed no further prompting to rip off the housing over Rei's plug and withdraw the cylindrical module from behind the neck of the chunky, half-melted mecha. Quickly but carefully setting the plug down on the floor of the hangar bay, he began his own disembarkation. "REEEEEEEIIII!!! ARE YOU...!" 2Asuka looked up innocently and whistled as she withdrew the foot she had stuck out and with which she had tripped over Vice Admiral Fuyutsuki, sending him sprawling onto the floor and head first into a conveniently placed bucket. Shinji struggled briefly with the twisty hatch manual opening mechanism before it yielded to his efforts. Surplus undrained LCL, original flavour, spilled out onto the floor. Finding Rei slumped over her controls, he carried her out and began to perform CPR on her. Then he felt her arms wrap around him and her tongue reaching for his tonsils. "I see I'm not needed here," harumphed Kodama as she left the hangar. Shinji and Rei, of course, did not hear her. "Can someone please get this thing off me?" said Fuyutsuki, doing a partial and passable imitation of The Wizard of Oz's Tin Man. From somewhere outside the metal shell around his head, he could hear 2Asuka's malice-spiced laughter. "I think I will need to have some cuts bandaged," said Rei as the two finally came up for air. "It will be unsightly." "You..." began Shinji as he picked Rei up and carried in his arms, left under her shoulder and right under her knees, "...have nothing to worry about. Might I venture to declare that you are probably the first character to make bandages sexy." "Thank you," said Rei as she blushed. -NE- -G- -EV- In a darkened room, twelve monoliths appeared in a circle. Each bore a number from 1 to 12 and bore the prefix 'MJ' above the notation of 'SOUND ONLY'. "We have a problem," boomed a digital voice. "The damage to the NEGEV and the EVA Units can be repaired. What matters is that Gendou has achieved the first breakthrough," said another. "No, I meant with this communications arrangement." "What do you mean?" "Well, can you tell who is speaking right now?" "..." (x11) "We are a powerful, international Illuminati-like organisation that deliberates on the fate of the human race itself, but we can't even make any sense out of our own bloody communications system. Because of a supposed need to disguise our identities, our faces are hidden behind a 'SOUND ONLY' interface. Our voices have also been electronically distorted to that end. "Oh, it's all very well for tv shots to focus on, say, 09 when he or she is speaking, or for written formats to note 'MJ-09:...' in script form or '..., said MJ-09.' in a narrative form. But what about *us*? It's like using a walkie talkie or a telephone conference call where you can't see who is saying what." "How about we speak with really thick exaggerated stereotypical accents? That'll still carry through the voice distortion," suggested someone else. (But could you really be sure it was?) "That may be fun, but it isn't politically correct. And it's easier said than done. What does German-accented Japanese sound like?" "And why are there twelve monoliths?" "There's twelve of us." "No, you dummy. There should be twelve monoliths when we're in conference with Ikari, but among ourselves, there should be one of us in the flesh talking to eleven other monoliths. You don't think that we were stupid enough to build a room just for a dozen holographic monoliths to meet, right?" "No wonder Ikari and company thinks we're senile. And incontinent too." "Who said that!?" "Naaa-naaannnyy Boo-boo!!! You can't catch me! Naa-naany boo- boo!" "How about we rig the monoliths so that they'll glow with a hellish red light of brighter intensity when the owner of a particular monolith is speaking?" "How will that work when someone interrupts and when there's more than one person speaking at the same time?" "How about plain ole video image conferencing? With text labelling of our designations? It's not as if we don't know what everyone else on MAJESTIC looks like." "Kihl could certainly afford to lose a few pounds." 'I'll get whoever said that one day,' thought Lorenz Kihl. 'And all those people who keep reversing the order of my first and last name. Now if my name were Kihl Lorenz, it would be Chairman Lorenz and not Chairman Kihl, right?' "Alright, we'll retire for now and put off discussion of ominous things until our communications problems are fixed." "Who said that?" -NE- -G- -EV- "So Gendou, has the examination of Ramiel's remains yielded any further advances to our understanding of the Angels?" asked 2Asuka in the Admiral's cavernous office. "The power source was totally destroyed, but we are getting interesting results from its chemical and molecular structure. Dr. Akagi is also refining the use of the A.T. Field offensively from the data that has been collected," replied Gendou who was, of course, in his Position. "Well, we should have to do what we can. My sources back at the Combine tell me that MAJESTIC are pushing ahead with the Dreadnought and its LX cannon. You might become redundant when that comes to pass." "The LX requires a leap of technology that might take a very long term to fulfill." "Like the leap, masterminded by your wife, that gave the EVAs, the A.T. Field, and the S2 organ?" "My wife is no longer with us. But I take your point. What do you suggest?" "My spies will obtain a blueprint of their designs. With the knowledge we gather in the field and with the help of Fuyutsuki and Akagi, we should be able to surpass MAJESTIC's efforts," smiled 2Asuka. "You are playing a dangerous game here to try and supplant MAJESTIC," warned Gendou. "As are you... But... I would prefer to deal with you than with the old men." "As I would with you." Both smiled, inwardly and outwardly. And then burst into a fit of Evil Laughter. "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" 'I can't let that mere girl appear more of a cunning, uber- character than me! My laugh will go on!' 'Pathetic little man. I'll show him who's the real power here.' "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" "MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!" Half an hour later, both were lying on the floor. "mwaha...ack..*cough*...*hack*..." "Ack...dr..draw?" offered Gendou. "...*cough*... ack. Y..yes," replied 2Asuka. "That...*hack* son of mine... i..is buying... every...one beer tonight. *cough* Shall we?" "Ach...*cough*... Excellent." End of Chapter 3. AUTHOR'S NOTES In addition to influences already noted in previous notes, I would like to acknowledge a considerable debt to Ammadeau's 'Project Kawaii' in some of the characterizations. A great debt is also due to Andrew Huang's 'Neon Genesis Evanjellydonut' on how to skip technobabble. And I blame Slayers Next, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery as well as Monty Python's Quest for the Holy Grail and The Meaning of Life for some of the gags. The opening scene is dedicated to Jonathan Wang who sparked my imagination about it with some of his comments on Chapter 1. My thanks also go out especially to Kevin McHorney who has cast much light on naval and marine organization. Now I also need to get hold of an artist and a Nobel Prize winning astrophysicist. ^_- 09 Jan 2001 - First draft finished. 30 Jan 2001 - Big error spotted and changed. Many thanks to Eshin, Alain Gravel, Sidewinder and Jonathan Wang for c&c on Ch 03.