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Age of Evangelion
-----------------

Standard Anno/Gainax/ADV disclaimer here.

***

2 - Fortress

***

Like they were a pair of gunmen in the days of the Old West, Eva-01 and
the Third Angel faced off.  The silence of the moment was oppressive as
Rei stared fearfully at the alien visage which, somehow, appeared to be
staring back.  The sensory apparatus that was in the upper part of its
hulking body seemed to blink at her in surprise.

"Are you ready, Rei?" Misato asked from the control room.

"Not really," Rei returned in a trembling voice, "but I don't think I'll
ever be.  Go ahead."

"Good girl," Misato praised.  She switched mental gears from concerned
adult to military commander and said, "Release the final safety
interlocks!  Eva-01, MOVE OUT!"

With the blasting hiss of hydraulics, the bolts that held Eva-01 to the
launching platform spun and pulled outward.  The gigantic robot settled a
bit as it lost the support the platform offered.  Inside the plug, Rei
grunted as she suddenly felt dizzy, like she had stood up too fast.

Ritsuko's voice came over the communications link.  "Rei, just
concentrate on walking for now, the rest will follow."

"Walking," Rei murmured, and the Eva tentatively lifted up its foot and
almost fell forward onto the foot, like a child walking for the first
time.  "Walking."  The Eva brought forward its other foot, and with a
little more grace took another step.  Rei felt a bit of triumphant
elation.  

"OK," she reported to Ritsuko as she began to take a third step, "I think
I've got i-aaaiiiIIIEE!!"  The Eva's foot snagged on a parked car, and
began to topple forward.  Almost automatically, Rei brought her arms up
to stop herself from hitting the street, and the Eva mirrored her action,
landing on its hands and knees.  "Ooops."

"Rei, get up!" Misato yelled.  "Get out of the way!  The Angel-" If any
more words were said, Rei didn't hear them as the Angel grabbed the head
of Eva-01 and lifted it off the ground.  With its other arm, the Angel
grabbed Eva-01's left arm and began to stretch and twist it.

"My arm!" Rei screamed, grabbing said appendage as the pain exploded from
it.  "It's breaking my arm!"

Inside Central Dogma, Misato cursed.  "Rei, it's NOT your arm.  Rei,
listen to me!"  The girl only cried out in pain as the Eva's arm snapped
and hung limp.

"We're losing harmonization!" Maya yelled.  "Synchronization at 37%, 32%,
29%..." she trailed off and watched, horror-struck, as the Angel lifted
the Eva higher in the air and powered up the energy lance in its arm.

"Rei, MOVE!" Misato screamed.

The Eva dangled like a doll as the Angel began to pound over and over on
the head of Eva-01, the lance's point striking exactly on the plastiglass
that covered the right eye.  As the command crew watched, the armor
covering the head began to crack and splinter.

"It's going to give," Ritsuko reported from her console.  

As if on cue, the Angel dealt one final blow to Eva-01, the lance driving
clear through the purple robot's head.  The robot flew back, carried on
the lance that impaled its head and crashed against a building.  It slid
down a few dozen feet and lay there limply.

"REI!" Misato yelled again, then whirled on Makoto.  "How is she?"

"She's lost synchronization," Maya reported, "Unit 01 has gone completely
silent!"

"We're not getting any readings on her, Captain," Makoto said from his
station.  "All sensors are completely dead.  We can't even tell if she's
still alive at all!"

"Eject the entry plug!" Misato ordered.

"We can't," Maya snapped, her voice full of frustration and dismay. 
"It's not working.  It's not accepting any of our commands!"

Ritsuko reached over and pushed Maya out of the way, and began to type at
the console, her eyes locked on the screen.  "It can't be.  That's
impossible!"

"Unit 01 is useless to us now," Gendou said, his voice slightly muffled
by the hands he folded in front of his face.  "Launch Unit 00."  Misato
whirled and glared at him, her angry, frightened gaze meeting his
implacable one.  "That's an order, Captain."

"Yes, Sir," Misato growled, her tone making the title more an insult than
an honorific.  "Prepare Unit 00 for launch," she commanded the bridge
crew.  She glanced at the monitors, which showed the Angel standing over
Unit 01 like a curious child.  As she watched, the Angel turned away and
began to walk back to its original attack position.  At the same time, a
voice came over the com-system declaring the repairs on Unit 00 complete.
 "Set destination for block A-14."

"But that'll put it almost a kilometer away," Shigeru protested.

"That's right," Misato agreed grimly.  "I want him to have plenty of time
to prepare."  She paused as a tech reported Eva-00's final readiness. 
"Ready, Shinji?"

"Yes, Captain." The boy's voice came back, filled with a mixture of pain
and determination.

"Synchronization at 45%," Maya read off, surprised.  "That's up almost 10
points, Shinji."

"Don't get killed, now.  Eva, LAUNCH!"

Evangelion Unit 00 rocketed to the surface.

***

The Angel blasted the ground again, and the hole it was generating grew
steadily larger.  It sent another bolt of energy at the ground, not
noticing the bright orange giant that rose from the ground a few blocks
away.

"Release final safety interlocks!" Misato ordered.

Unit 00 staggered a few steps, the cement shattering under its immense
weight.  With a groan, Shinji regained the robot's balance, and it stood,
its left arm hanging limp while the right arm pulled a huge knife out of
the sheath that hung over its shoulder.  Shinji depressed the trigger
inside the entry plug, and the edge of the blade began to glow white-hot.
 A high-pitched whine emanated from the blade as Shinji sent Eva-00 into
a charge.

Sensing Eva-00, or perhaps hearing the noise the blade made, the Angel
turned to face the new presence.  It looked impassively at the new
threat, the sensory apparatus on its torso blinking again.  As Eva-00
reached the Angel, the knife held out like a lance, a orange field sprung
up in front of the Angel, and the attacker stopped dead.

"The Angel has generated an AT field!" Maya cried.  "Unit 00's field is
not deploying!"

"Where's the malfunction?" Ritsuko demanded.

"There isn't one!  It's just not deploying!"

"What the hell is going on?" Ritsuko said to herself as she frantically
typed at her own console.  "Why isn't anything working?"

The Angel brought up both its arms and held them together.  The energy
lances glowed as they were brought back, and then they flew forward
together, slipping through the AT field to strike Eva-00 in the chest. 
The giant robot staggered backward and fell onto its back.  Like a cat,
the Angel pounced on it and drove the lances into the Eva's chest again,
this time right about where a human's collarbone connects to the sternum.

"It's going for the pilot directly this time," Kozou mentioned to Gendou.

"It knows," was Gendou's only response as they watched the Angel pound
the chest plate once again.

Maya stared at her screens in shock.  She couldn't believe what she was
seeing.  "What the..." she turned to yell to Misato and Ritsuko.  "Unit
01 is reactivating!"  The monitoring cameras switched back to the fallen
mecha, which had worked itself into a kneeling position.  As they
watched, the cracked faceplate of the robot split open and slid down, and
the robot let out an impossible roar.  

"Berserker," Ritsuko whispered in an awed voice.

Unit 01 pushed off the ground and flew at the Angel, knocking it off of
Eva-00 and slamming it to the ground.  The Angel backhanded the giant
robot, which flipped backwards to land several blocks away.  Clenching
its left fist, a yellow light played over the broken arm and the damaged
appendage reformed as good as new.

"The left arm has been regenerated."

"AMAZing," Ritsuko breathed.

As they watched, Unit 01 reached to the sheath under its shoulder and
drew its Progressive Knife.  They could barely see the edge of the knife
begin to glow before the giant lifted the knife over its head and brought
the blade down in a stabbing motion, only to bounce off the orange
hexagonal field that sprung up.  Once again, the Angel brought its arms
together to strike at the Eva through the field.  The energy lances it
carried in its arms glowed brightly as they pulled back, ready to hammer
the mecha.

Suddenly, Eva-00's arm shot up from the ground and its hand wrapped
around the Angel's arms, crushing them.  The Angel facelessly watched and
struggled as the orange giant used it as a lever to pull itself up, and
then started twisting its arms around.  The orange AT field began to
flicker and fade.

"Unit 00 and Unit 01 are BOTH deploying their AT fields!" Maya cheered. 
"The Angel's phase space is being completely nullified!"  She looked at
the synchronization readings and gasped.  "Ritsuko, look at this!"

"Not now, Maya," Ritsuko barked, absorbed in her own console.

"But-"

"NOT NOW!"

Holding the Angel's arms behind the creature's back in a parody of a pain
hold, Eva-00 presented it like a gift to the other Evangelion.  Eva-01
reached its free hand forward into the flickering AT field and tore a
hole in it.

"It went though it like paper," Misato gaped.

The Angel remained motionless as Eva-01 began to pound on its red core
with the Progressive Knife, and sparks flew into the air.  Again and
again the purple giant pounded on the glowing red sphere, and cracks
began to form that spread over the whole thing.

Eva-01 brought the knife high over its head one final time, and like it
was waiting for that moment, the Angel's body suddenly flowed like
liquid, enveloping Eva-01's head and shoulders with its own flesh.  The
three giants remained like that for a second, frozen, and then the Angel
exploded in a pillar of fiery destruction.

"The Angel has self-destructed."

"What about the Evas?" Misato demanded, turning away from the monitor to
look at Makoto.  The man only stared wide-eyed at the screen, and then
wordlessly pointed at it.

The image was distorted by the smoke and flames the Angel's destruction
left in its wake, but clearly visible in the center of the screen were
the silhouettes of two giant humanoids.  As the firestorm died down,
details began to show themselves, first revealing Unit 00, its armor
melted and almost useless, and then revealing Unit 01, the armor
demolished around the face and left arm, but otherwise unharmed.

"God in heaven," Makoto swore.

"Ritsuko, look at this," Maya insisted, showing a printout to the other
woman.  

Ritsuko took the paper and stared at it blankly for a moment, before she
gasped in surprise.  "Are you sure about this?  There's no error?"  Maya
shook her head and Ritsuko returned to staring disbelievingly at the
paper in her hands.

"What is it?" Misato asked, peering over the blonde's shoulder.

"For a period of 4.7 seconds, at exactly the same time, both Rei and
Shinji showed synchronization rates of..." she trailed off as she checked
the scale one final time, just in case.  "...of 91%."

Their attention was brought back to the Evas as the sound of Rei
screaming came over the com-link.

***

The first thing Rei saw when she woke up was an unfamiliar ceiling, and
she felt a bit of panic.  Last she remembered was sitting in the entry
plug of the robot - the Evangelion - as the Angel broke its arm.  She
gasped and brought her left arm before her and stared at the undamaged
limb.

"You are unharmed," a soft voice said from beside her.  She turned and
saw the pale, blue-haired boy lying in another bed.

Rei climbed out of the bed and walked over to the prone boy.  "You're
Shinji, aren't you?"  She looked him over, noting once again how cute he
was at the same time as she took in the other injuries he had.  "I'm Rei.
 Rei Ikari."

"I know," the boy replied in a breathy, emotionless voice.  "The Third
Child."

"I guess," Rei returned uncomfortably.  "What about you?"

Shinji stared at her blankly for a moment, then replied in that same
voice, this time flavored with a touch of confusion.  "I don't understand
what you're asking."

*What is it with this guy?* Rei wondered.  "Are you in a lot of pain?" 
She tentatively reached out and put her hand on his uninjured arm.  "How
are you feeling?"

Her questions were rewarded with a frown.  "The painkillers are
effective, and I am feeling rather weary.  The combat yesterday was very
exhausting."

Rei felt a chill go over her.  "I wouldn't know," she admitted with
trepidation.  "I don't remember a thing after that monster broke my a-my
robot's arm."

"Angel and Evangelion are the accepted terms," Shinji corrected her. 
"Your memories should return soon.  The memory loss is usually only
temporary."  He paused, then looked her in the eyes.  "Our combined
effort destroyed the Angel."

A nurse chose that moment to enter the room.  She took one look at the
now-awake Rei and ordered her back to her bed.  Then she went to find the
doctor.

***

Misato stood at attention before the Commander's desk.  "Rei is finally
awake, Sir.  You should be able to take her home this evening."

"I do not think it would be...wise for Rei to live with me at this time,
Captain," Gendou responded.  "Other arrangements will have to be made."

A blink was Misato's only external reaction, but internally she was
gaping in surprise.  "I'll arrange for her to get her own accommodations
then, Sir.  Perhaps something in the C-block would be suitable."

"Actually, Captain, I have a request for you," Gendou said.  He swiveled
his chair to face away from her.  "I would appreciate it if one of the
bridge crew took her in."

"Commander?!"

Gendou was silent for a few heartbeats.  "I don't want her to be alone."

***

/He said what?!/ Ritsuko's shout reverberated over the phone.

"Just what I said," Misato replied.  "He wants one of US to take her in."

/Well there's no way she can stay with me,/ Ritsuko began, but Misato
broke in.

"Relax, I agreed to let her roommate with me."

/YOU?!/

Misato scowled.  "Yeah, me.  Why not?  I've got this huge apartment with
a spare bedroom."

/I've SEEN your apartment,/ Ritsuko said seriously.  /You can't even take
care of yourself, let alone a teenaged girl!/

"Gee, thanks," Misato sarcastically returned.  "What's the problem?  She
seems like a good kid, I doubt she'll get into any trouble.  Besides,
what do you think I'm going to do, take her out to bars?  Maybe bring
home boys for her to meet?"

/Of course not!/ Ritsuko yelled.  /I can't believe you'd even joke about
such a thing!  That's just like you, Misato!/

Misato held the phone a few feet from her ear and winced.  She could
still hear Ritsuko going off on one of her lectures.  "Some people have
NO sense of humor."

***

*This,* Rei decided, *is really, really boring.*  It was a surprise to
her.  Her she was, alone, in an empty room with a cute boy, and she was
bored to tears.

It didn't help that Shinji was not the world's most scintillating
conversationalist.  After having most of her attempts to start up a
discussion dwindle to nothing, she was anxiously waiting for her father
to pick her up so they could go home.  She almost cheered when someone
knocked on the door, but she didn't want to wake the sleeping boy.

Misato poked her head in.  "You decent?"

"Shhhh," Rei hushed her as she got off her bed and walked outside.  "He's
asleep."  She closed the door behind her and looked around.  "Where's
Daddy?" she demanded.  At Misato's uncomfortable look, her high spirits
fell.  "He's not coming."

"I'm sorry, Rei," Misato said, putting her hand on the depressed girl's
shoulder.  Inwardly she cursed Gendou for putting her in this position. 
"Your father is a very busy man," she tried to explain.  "He's often on
trips, and he doesn't really have the room for a second person in his
apartment."

"Yeah, besides, I'd just be in the way," Rei said bitterly.  "So I'm
living alone?"

"Nope," Misato responded with a grin. "You're living with me!"  She
handed the suitcase she was carrying to the surprised Rei.  "Here, let's
get going."

"My stuff!" Rei said with a bit more cheer, grabbing the case.  "I
thought I left it at the station."  She rummaged inside it and pulled out
a marker.  "Be right back!"  She opened the door to the room and quietly
stepped in, returning a minute later with a slight smile on her face. 
"OK, let's go."

***

Misato guided her battered car out into the countryside, sending it on to
a road heading into the mountains surrounding the city.  Finding a
convenient point to stop, she pulled the car over and got out.   "Come
on, Rei, there's something you have to see."

Rei exited the car and followed Misato, who was now standing at the edge
of the road, looking down into the still city.  Far off in the distance,
the sun was beginning to set, and it bathed the valley in an
orange-yellow glow similar to the light found in the Geo-Front.

"It's beautiful," Rei said admiringly.

"You haven't seen anything yet," Misato chuckled, and glanced at her
watch.  "Any second now..."

Rei looked away from the sunset and up at Misato.  "Any second now,
what?" She was answered by the sounds of warning klaxons rising from the
city below.

With a low rumble, some of the squares in the city that Rei had taken for
vacant lots suddenly began to rise from the ground.   "They...they're
growing!" she cried in delight and awe as she watched the ascending
skyscrapers.

With a final thunderous slam, the last of the buildings reached its final
position, and the klaxon died out.  Rei recognized the image she saw
before her.  This was the city she had seen in the Geo-Front below.  "The
buildings retract!"

"Yes, they do," Misato agreed.  "This city is a fortress against the
Angels.  Tokyo-3.  This is the city you and Shinji saved yesterday."

"Wow...." Somehow, that one word just expressed everything for Rei.

***

Gendou entered the room Shinji was resting in, and was surprised to see
the boy sitting up in bed, obviously bewildered as he looked at the cast
on his arm.

"Hello, Shinji.  How are you?"

Shinji looked up for a moment from his examination and nodded to Gendou. 
"I am much improved, Professor.  I expect I should be able to return to
duty on schedule, if not earlier."  Finally giving up his analysis, he
set his arm down, and Gendou saw the writing on the cast.

"Good," Gendou said absently, his own attention now taken by the writing.
 "What is that?"  He stepped forward, gently picked up Shinji's injured
arm, and read the words.  'Get well soon.  Rei.'  The words were
accompanied by a little heart.  "I see," he said, frowning.

"I could request they change the cast, Professor," Shinji offered.

"No, no, don't bother.  It's nothing important," Gendou murmured.  "Tell
me, Shinji, what do you think of my daughter?"

"Professor?"

"You've talked with her, I see, and that tells me she's somewhat fond of
you," he explained, pointing to the words.  "What do you think of her?"

Shinji frowned as he tried to go down a thought path he had never
traveled before.  "She intrigues me," he finally said.  "I find myself
wanting to know more about her."  He paused, looking at the words on his
cast again.  "And she confuses me."

Gendou turned away and considered what the boy had said.  It was obvious
that Rei was bringing out the emotional side of Shinji.  He supposed it
was better that it was by someone the boy's own 'age,' as opposed to one
of the women in NERV, or one of the girls at the school.  At least he had
some control over Rei.  A hint of a smile touched his face.

"Would you like me to disassociate myself from her, Professor?" the boy
asked, mistaking silence for disapproval.

"Oh, no, there is no need for that," Gendou reassured Shinji quickly.  He
walked towards the door, and placed his hand on the light switch.  "Get
some rest, Shinji."

"Good night, Professor."

"Good night." He turned the light off and reached to close the door, but
Shinji's voice stopped him.

"Professor?"  Leaving the light off, Gendou went to look down at the boy.
 "Would it be possible for me to keep the cast after its removal?"

The darkness hid Gendou's amused smile.  "I'll speak to the physicians." 
He walked out of the room and closed the door behind him.  He looked at
the door for a moment before chuckling softly.  *This could be very
useful,* he mused.