Source: geocities.com/seele_hq/Archive

               ( geocities.com/seele_hq)    
   The steady pounding of a heartbeat.

   Corpuscles surging through the passageway of an artery. Wave 
after wave in tandem with each pulsation.

   Chief Engineer Uraga Susukaze took another step backwards. The
pounding of his heart roared in his ears while the organ itself
felt like it was about to burst from his chest cavity. His back was 
soaked in sweat as beads of perspiration ran down his ashened face.

   "Baroness, please," Susukaze managed to gasp out, "you don't 
understand!"

   "Come, come, Uraga. You don't take me for a fool, do you?"
she said in a tone that could be described as mellow and slightly
amused if not belied by the predatory glint in those blue eyes.

   "Baroness. I...I beg you. Ha..Have mer..cy!" Another leaden
step back.

   "It's a bit late for that now. You should have weighed the
consequences more carefully before betraying what little you knew
about the EVAs to other parties. Now you must pay the piper, Uraga,"
she said, her tone still ostensibly reasonable and friendly.
   
   "You... You can't do this! E..ven one of your kind can..cannot
get away w...with murder." He was on his knees now, left hand 
grasping the crook of the other arm as he gasped for breath.

   The steady pounding of a heartbeat.

   Corpuscles surging through the passageway of an artery. Wave 
after wave in tandem with each pulsation.

   One of those passageways slowly constricting. 

   "You... aah... ack..."

   Uraga Susukaze keeled over, his death-rattle expiring soon after. 
   

      NEGEV      a NGE Sci-Fi Elseworlds Fanfic
      Chapter 02: Riding with the Valkyrie
      by E.L.Toh
      contact: toheel@singnet.com.sg
      archive: http://www.teloong.cwc.net/


   "I must object in the strongest possible terms to the order to 
launch, Admiral."

   "Your reasons?" asked Gendou seated in his usual position, cowled
in shadow and the blood red light of arcane symbols traced on the
floor and ceiling of his massive office.

   "Our weapons systems are still not yet fully operational. We'll
be sitting ducks if we meet any substantial force of raiders or 
rebels."

   "Your objections will be noted for the record. But launch will 
proceed according to schedule. Dr. Akagi and yourself will just 
have to do whatever you can to bring the weapons systems up to speed
while we are en route to the rendevous point. Is that understood?"   

   Maya's shoulders sagged in defeat. "Yes, Admiral."

   "Excellent. Dismissed."

   Maya winked out from where she had stood before Gendou's desk.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   Fuyutsuki surveyed the exterior of the NEGEV as his personal
VTOL shuttle began its transfer from the fast destroyer to the 
massive command carrier before him.

   'Damned Gendou is preparing to launch this behemoth without 
leaving enough time for the heavy guns to be fully charged,' he
thought, 'I hope he doesn't wreck the ship on its maiden voyage.
I'm certainly not going to be defending him in front of the 
Security Council next time.'

   Vice Admiral Kozou 'The Squint' Fuyutsuki looked every bit the
serious, professional and experienced fleet officer that he was.
His silvery white hair was still full but combed back severely. His
brown uniform, with silver trimmings and rank insignia, was crisp
and impeccably turned out. He was respected in the fleet for his 
tactical competence in battle and in the science corps for his
contributions to the study of genetics, biochemistry and physics.
While the Akagis had always surpassed him in inspired brilliance 
and sheer innovativeness, he had the discipline and reliability that
they seemed to lack. But he would never make Admiral, nor would he
ever have his own command.

   Fuyutsuki sighed. Every man has his weakness.

   'At least this trip back to Earth wasn't all just facing a torrent
of abuse and explaining elementary science to idiots,' he thought,
smiling as he opened his briefcase and admired the memorabilia that
he had managed to secure just before his transport had departed for
Europa.

   Realizing that the VTOL shuttle had completed docking procedures,
he quickly shut the briefcase and made ready to disembark.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "What did you think of the LCL today?" asked Shinji as he strode
down the corridor, hand in hand with Rei.

   "There were no problems," said Rei in her usual quiet zombie-like
tone, "except perhaps visibility was decreased slightly."

   "Yeah, I thought so too. The free-floating pieces of simulated 
orange pulp was going overboard a bit, even for Dr. Akagi. But the
taste was really quite refreshing."

   "Not as tasty as you," noted Rei just as flatly.

   "Err... thanks," said Shinji as he scratched the back of his head
in mild embarrassment. "Hey, do you hear something?"

   Rei pricked her ears slightly. 

   And frowned.

   "REEEEIIII-CHAAAAAN!!! HOW IS MY FAVOURITE NIECE TODAY? I...
- splat - "

   Slo-mo replay.

   Rei's expression returning to neutral mode.

   A humanoid mass of brown and silver shooting towards her.

   Rei gliding smoothly to one side at the last possible moment.

   Said humanoid mass passing a nonchalant looking Rei, outstretched
arms first, before pasting himself painfully against the bulkhead as
he missed the target of the attempted glomp and got a face-full of
NEGEV corridor wall.

   Return to normal play mode.

   "Hello, Vice Admiral Fuyutsuki," sighed Shinji. 'Why does Dad
always surround himself with weirdos? Oh right, birds of a feather...'

   "Hello, Uncle Kozou," greeted Rei for formality's sake. After all,
she thought of herself as a polite person.

   'Why does damned Gendou and that son of his always seem to have 
all the luck?!' cursed Fuyutsuki silently as he gradually slid down
the wall and onto the floor.
   
               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Safety locks and spacedock restraints have been released,"
announced Maya. "Main Engineering reports all propulsion systems
are go. NEGEV is ready for launch."

   "Yeeee-ha!" whooped Misato, "let's get this show on the road!
Pen Pen, take the ship out to the jump zone, nice and easy."

   "Waark!" responded the penguin from his console in the front part
of Central Dogma, the NEGEV's bridge and command centre. He deftly
began to manipulate controls with his flippers, aided by the various 
interfaces provided by the penguin augmentation unit that was 
strapped to his back.

   Gendou and Fuyutsuki observed all the proceedings from the top 
dias in silence. The latter was still sporting a black eye.

   "Aren't they just the perfect couple?" muttered Shinji who had 
come to Central Dogma to observe the launch of the command carrier
from its operational heart.

   "Don't be so rude about your father," admonished Rei quietly as
she nudged Shinji in the ribs. But he could see the barest of smiles
on her lips.

   "You're right. Afterall, he's not just my father..."

   Shinji was cut off by a sudden loud beep from the computer 
displays in Central Dogma. The massive holographic screens had been
projecting star charts, routes and coordinates when suddenly 
everything went blank. In their place, a second later, was a blue 
screen with a white bordered box in the centre that declared 
'General Protection Fault.' 

   "..."

   The stunned silence was immediately followed by everyone 
chorusing a single name with deadly finality.

   "RI-TSU-KO."

   "Alright! Alright! I'll change the OS back to the standard one! 
I don't get it, I thought I finally debugged the whole thing..." 
The blonde science officer trailed off, muttering to herself as 
she adjusted the settings.

   "Maya, do you really have to always indulge Ritsu-chan's endless
tinkering?" asked Misato, caught between frowning and smiling.

   "Ah! Such is the power of the love Sempai and I share! I have
no free will at all!" sighed Maya dramatically, eyes closed, the 
back of her right hand flat against her forehead and her left arm 
stretched out as she leaned her whole body to the right.

   "Now, that's the kind of speech that should be given from where 
Dad is sitting. About love or justice or something," commented 
Shinji who received another light nudge from Rei.

   Gendou was not to oblige. "Commodore Katsuragi, set a course for
the Ursa Minor system. Best speed."

   "Aye-aye, Sir! Course has been laid in!"

   "Engage."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Yo, Cookie, just slop some of that stuff on."

   Hikari grinned a toothy stained grin as she sat up from her
slouch behind the mess service counter, a limp cigarette hanging
from her lips. A long drag before stubbing out her smoke, the
motion showing off the lean musculature of her tattooed arm - the 
most prominent tattoo being a scrawl of pseudo-kanji that, upon 
closer inspection, turned out to be 'fuck off' in English. 

   "And I was just closing up the lunch shift. So what brings ya 
here to moi's humble kitchen, Wuss?" she asked, her freckled smile
steady as she flicked a couple of loose strands of colourfully
beaded braids away from her eyes. 

   "Just hunger and sheer desperation, Hik," replied Shinji 
smoothly, his metal food tray held before her in mock 
supplication.

   "Hell, ain't I honoured," Hikari 'Cookie' Horaki said as she 
wiped her hands on the apron she wore over a singlet and cargo 
pants. Shinji languidly noted the individual shapes and the 
distribution of the vast number of cigarette burns, food stains
and stains of other sort of the said apron as she slapped a slab
of crumb-crusted, unidentified protein, soggy greenish cabbage-
like leaves and an entirely too yellow lump of something that
masqueraded as mash potato.    

   "Shush," said Hikari, her left hand raised just short of 
invading Rei's personal facial space, before the latter could 
say anything.

   "Lemme see... hmmm...." Hikari muttered, eyes closed, index 
fingers on each side of her temple (serving ladle still grasped 
between her right thumb and middle finger), eye brows furrowed in
concentration. "Hmmmmmm...." Hikari's eyes snapped open and she 
pointed the ladle at Rei, declaring triumphantly, "No meat, 
right?!"

   Rei gave a small, resigned nod.

   "YEEESSS!!!" yelled Hikari as she pumped a fist, "I'm psychic!"

   Shinji patted Rei's hand as she sat down to join him at a table
whose species seemed to inhabit all drab communal eating places.
"She do that a lot?" he asked with a small, comforting smile.

   Rei shrugged imperceptibly. "I do not mind."

   "'Cos Wussboy knows how to keep a lady happy, rite?" interjected
Hikari, thrusting her hips repeatedly at the counter as she cleared 
it.

   "Join us?" asked Shinji.

   "Yeah, whatev. Gimme a minute, 'kay?" replied Hikari who then 
turned around to face the innards of the kitchen. "TOUJI!" she
yelled, the vocal exertion setting off a hacking cough. "Shit," 
muttered Hikari as she recovered and then spat. The hollow ring of
the mucus projectile striking the inside of a metallic container
resounded through the kitchen. "TOUJI! YOU READY YET?"

   "GIMME A SEC!" came the reply. 

   "HAVEN'T BROKEN DOWN BACK THERE, HAVE YA?"

   "BITCH."

   Shinji and Rei glanced at each other as Hikari ambled over in 
her heavy boots and plonked herself down beside the latter. Giving
the grin o' tar n' nicotine, she jerked her thumb back at the 
direction of the kitchen. "Einstein's warming up our own lunches.
How ya find the chow?"

   "It's actually edible, my compliments to the chef," said Shinji
as he chewed, trying to figure out if the protein was fish or pork-
based.

   "No shit." She lit another cigarette.

   "Hik, those things will kill you, you know."

   "Gotta die sometime." Another long drag. Exhaled in rings that
expanded, as they travelled away from source, before dissapating
completely.

   "Hey, Shinji! Long time no see!" greeted Touji as he emerged 
from the kitchen bearing two white, proper plates. Even under the 
overalls, the mechanical prosthetics of his left limbs were obvious.
That aside, Touji Suzuhara was your average jock of space trooper
build and turnout, including the flat top hair cut. 
  
   "Hey, Touji. How's it hanging?" greeted Shinji in return. He 
could hear the faint whirl of servos in the mechanical limbs as his
friend approached. And a smell that shouldn't belong to this mess
hall.

   "Not bad. Not bad at all... Here you go, hon," said Touji as he
put the plates before Hikari and himself before he got seated.

   Shinji stared in disbelief.

   On each shiny, grease-free ceramic plate were three spears of 
aspharagus, a portabello mushroom drizzled in olive oil, a small
mound of rice and a thin slice of beef.

   "Where did you get this stuff?" he asked, not having seen any
fresh food for six months straight.

   "My private supply," said Hikari with quiet satisfaction as she
tucked into her food.

   "More like scrounging off the senior officers' rations," noted
Shinji with a slight hint of reproach.

   "Aww dammit," said Hikari through a mouthful of rice, "keep 
forgetting how strong an esper you are. But none from your dad's
stash. Wouldn't wanna mess with mis-tah major league asshole. 
Mainly generously donated by Katsuragi who never eats her greens. 
The woman lives on insta-crap. Don't understand how she keeps that
killer figure though."

   "Oooh yeah, she's... OOW!!!" exclaimed Touji as Hikari tugged
his ear violently with a free hand while continuing to feed 
herself with the other.  

   Shinji couldn't help but smile at the comments about his father 
and former guardian. Then Rei tugged the sleeve of his jacket and
pointed at something moving along the floor in the mess hall.

   "What in the blazes is that?" he asked. "You there! Come here!"

   "Haven't you seen a DRD before? Diagnostic Repair Darters, ya 
know? Crawl around like bugs in capital ships and help with maint
and repair work and survelliance and the like," said Touji, with 
his mouth full as well.

   "I haven't seen a DRD that looks like that before. Definitely
isn't standard issue," said Shinji as the foot-long half-oblong 
of metal approached, its various tools and sensors on its 'head' 
waving in the air like insectoid eye stalks.

   DRDs were essential in doing work in the numerous ducts and 
vents that would be difficult or even downright dangerous or 
impossible for a human being to access. They also reduced manpower
requirements and enhanced security on a large ship. NEGEV's DRDs 
would be directed by the unique MAGI super-computer A.I. onboard.
DRDs were about function and utility.

   Someone certainly had other ideas about this particular DRD 
which had been painted on a floral theme. Its purple shell sported 
white and yellow daisies. The tips of the constantly wriggling eye-
tools were fitted with petals, making them look like daisies on an
acid rave.

   "Well," sighed Touji, "this is what happens when ya have a 
polymath who combines the jobs of Chief Engineer, Science and
Med Officer together into one post. Main Engine sect has got 
a real free hand as a result. Mari and Nozomi been having a 
riot doing equipment mod."

   "Mari Suzuhara and Nozomi Horaki, your little sisters?" asked
Shinji.

   Hikari sighed extravagently while Touji shrugged. "You'd probably
get kawaii-induced insulin shock if ya stepped into Main Engine
unprepared," he said.

   "Can't be as bad as Vice Admiral Fuyutsuki's office," muttered
Shinji. "Place gives me and Rei the creeps. Right, Rei?"

   "What the?!" exclaimed Hikari as she put her fork onto a plate
that was empty, save for the beef.

   "..."

   All eyes turned to Rei of the Bulging Cheeks.

   "What?" asked Rei through all that rice and veg, her red eyes
calmly surveying the faces of her companions.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Launch Wraith Squadron Alpha and drones," ordered Misato through
her communicator. Sixteen fighters rocketed out of the arch of the 
NEGEV's starboard arch, streaking off in opposite directions as they
cleared the launch bay, followed by several dozen robotic, boomerang-
shaped drones that emerged from shafts in the ship's main hull.

   "Thought I'd better set up a combat air patrol perimeter," 
explained Misato to Shinji and Rei, "even though we're not expecting
any company, this area of space is not really firmly held by UNDF. 
And this asteroid field has got lots of places to hide, even for a
capital ship."

   "And you didn't think it was necessary to send out our prowlers
too? No disrespect to the Wraith guys but the punch a prowler packs
isn't to be sniffed at," Shinji pointed out.

   "Valkyrie requested to meet you both upon arrival."

   Shinji nodded. A corporate scion was like royalty, not unlike 
back on Earth. But especially in the outer and border sectors where
the authority of the UN was even weaker, whole swathes of space fell 
under de facto corporate rule. And the Dreieinigkeit Combine played
a leading role in Project E.

   "Her biosoft dossier in MAGI was almost empty. Just a name. 
Baroness 2Asuka Sohryu-Langley Von Rikthofen. And a date of birth
in 2040."

   "Been snooping around about potential love interests?" asked 
Misato teasingly. "Even 90 year old ones?"

   Shinji put on his look of bored exasperation, carefully 
cultivated from previous years of living with Misato. "I've heard
things about the Red Baroness."

   "Things?" 

   "Yeah. The battle for Proxima-3?"

   Misato's lips were drawn into a thin line, her good humour 
having evaporated like dew in the morning sun. "That means that
we'll be getting one hell of a pilot. Even if she is over ninety."

   "We've secured a perimeter around the ship but no sign of the
transport or Valkyrie. Too many damned asteroids," reported the
Alpha squadron leader, her broadcast routed through to a console
in the Seventh Cage's observation deck where the trio were waiting.

   "MAGI, I need a long range, full spectrum com-scan of the area,"
said Misato.

   "I'm sorry, Commodore Katsuragi," said Maya who walked up to her
from behind, "but the ship was launched before most of the systems
were fully prepped. We can't give you full spectrum right now and
the amount of asteroid debris is causing considerable interference
with the com-scan capability that we do have."

   "Well, just try your best."

   "I will do so. Wait..." said Maya as she cocked her head to the
side, her expression was as if she were hearing voices in her head.
"Take a look at the displays on your console."

   The monitor showed a prowler and a wraith decloaking directly in
front of the command carrier, white lightning dancing across their
hulls as they revealed themselves to normal sight.

   "Valkyrie to NEGEV, permission to dock." The voice was female,
youngish and quite pleasant.

   Misato glanced at Maya, who nodded. Security code was valid.

   "NEGEV to Valkyrie, MAGI will adjust the approach vector of your
prowler and the wraith. Please advise your transport to cease its
concealment and approach the ship as well."

   "Jawohl."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "TAAAN-TAAAN-TAAAN--TAN-TA-TAN--TAN-TA-TAN!!!" blared the trumpets
as the prowler, wraith and cargo transport set themselves down the
deck of the Seventh Cage. Or rather, blared the Cage's speakers of a
recording. The broadcast cut itself off after a minute.

   "Ritsuko, did you do something to the systems in the Cage?" asked
Misato with a sideways glance.

   "It's not my fault!" protested Ritsuko.

   "Riiiight," said Misato skeptically.

   "Really, it wasn't! You can ask Maya!"

   "I'm sure Maya would cover for you. In exchange for some 
*quality* time, right?" smirked Misato as she winked at her blonde
friend.

   "Lies! It's all lies!" 

   "Rei?" whispered Shinji as he gave her a sideways glance.

   Rei blushed slightly. "I could not help myself. I apologize," 
she said softly as she fingered the mini-disc recording, in her 
pocket, of 'The Imperial March' from an ancient 20th century 
sci-fi movie.

   "Well, no real harm done," shrugged Shinji, "ah, looks like we'll
get to see Valkyrie face to face at last."

   "I hope she's cute!" chimed Maya.

   As everyone was recovering from their face faults, the prowler's
LCL was drained. This fighter had been fitted with an EVA Unit as 
well, evidenced by the biological growths adhering to the sleek and
very pointy craft. Soundlessly, the cockpit door opened. Then its
pilot, clad in a skin-tight red flight suit, hopped out gracefully.

   "Welcome aboard, Baroness," greeted Misato with a salute.

   "Call me 2Asuka," smiled the auburn haired woman who looked in
her mid twenties, "quite an impressive vessel you've got here."

   "We do our best," replied Misato, smiling her formal smile.

   2Asuka's smile took on a feral feel as she turned to Shinji and
Rei. "Siegfried and Sieglinde, I presume?" she asked, soft laughter
in those blue eyes.

   Shinji winced slightly. "That's not altogether the most accurate
of analogies, Red Baroness."

   Rei nodded silently in greeting.

   "No," laughed 2Asuka, "I suppose not. Still, the resemblence is
even more striking now that I am seeing you both with my own eyes.
The eye and hair colour seem to be something that Fuyutsuki over-
looked during the splice though. But I'm sure just a minor procedure
can correct that."

   "No thank you," said Rei in her quiet monotone.

   "You're looking very well," interjected Shinji.

   "As in, that I'm remarkably well preserved?" said 2Asuka 
pointedly, flashing another smile. "It's amazing what technology
can do these days."
   
   "So who's your shadow?" asked Shinji nonchalantly.

   2Asuka raised an eyebrow, her smile now amused in contrast to its
previously atavistic character. A refined cruelty now. "I think that
it will be interesting to work with you both... but right now, I'm 
afraid I have an appointment with the Admiral."

   "This way please," indicated Misato.

   Shinji watched as Misato ushered 2Asuka to the Admiral's office,
the former walking with the latter, slightly behind and to the left.
He found himself frowning. 

   "She is strong," commented Rei. 

   Shinji nodded. "Probably an Alpha-Omega psi rating like us. But
I wonder what her speciality is?"

   "Telekinesis." 

   "Kensuke!" exclaimed Shinji as he turned towards the newcomer.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Hello Gendou."

   "Baroness."

   2Asuka had put her feet up on the Admiral's desk after Misato 
left the room.

   "I trust the delivery is in order?" she asked.

   Gendou frowned slightly as he tapped a side panel at his desk.
"The sensors say that there is someone else in the room. Are
we able to speak freely?"

   "Of course," said 2Asuka as she took her feet off the table.
Her whole posture suddenly seemed very prim and proper.

   "Kaji-san?" she called out, her tone polite and gentle, without
a trace of its usual easy arrogance.

   "Ghost reporting," came a smooth male voice as a man faded 
into view. He wore an overcoat over an old-style sarariman suit.
The rest of his appearance was anything but conventional. Five 
o'clock shadow framed his roguish smile and he wore a short pony
tail. Aside from the sheathed katana strapped to his side, Gendou's
security sensors reported a mix of ancient and modern weaponry 
concealed on the man's person.

   2Asuka made a small bow in his direction. His smile became
more crooked and he responded with a tiny bow of his own.

   'A cloned corporate bodyguard and assassin,' thought Gendou,
'probably from the Japanese branch of the Combine.'
 
   "You may speak freely in Kaji-san's presence," said 2Asuka
confidently as she gave Kaji a sideways glance with a gentle
smile. "He is, after all, part of the extended family."

   "Understood, Baroness. I have ordered their installation into
Units Zero and One to begin at once. Though my science people 
would have been able to work faster if your Chief Engineer was
at hand to assist."

   "Yes, I know," sighed 2Asuka, "unfortunately Uraga died from a
myocardiac infarction just before we left. Good help is sooo hard
to find these days..."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Hello Shinji, it's good to see you too," smiled Kensuke, his
eyes hidden behind black goggles, a red beam of light dancing about
from the right scope which was half the size of the other.

   "Never thought they'd let someone as smart as you out of the
corporate arcology," said Shinji.

   "I'm not that highly rated but I must confess to be more than a
little surprised to get a transfer order to work on Project E. Just
got to this sector a few days ago to understudy the Combine's chief
engineer out here. Just in a nick of time too. Poor old bugger's
ticker gave out just before we shipped out here to meet you guys,"
said Kensuke, shaking his head.

   "Kareshi. Talk about death from overwork," quipped Shinji.

   "Happens more often than you think," replied Kensuke. "Anyhows
we've been ordered to begin installation of the S2 organ into EVA
Units Zero and One immediately. I guess you'll want to watch?"

   "S2 what?"   

   "S2 organ. Engine. Looks like a red glass globe. Think of it as
a new and unlimited energy source to power your prowler's new 
features."

   "Not more modifications again..." muttered Shinji, a hand over
his face. Rei patted his shoulder in consolation.

   "Trust me, once it's done, you'll wonder how you ever got along
without it! It'll be GREAT!!!" gushed Kensuke, the eyepieces of his
goggles humming and whirling as they compensated for his wild 
gesticulations. "And I get to work for one of the priestess of high
tech, Ritsuko Akagi! And the MAGI A.I.! And..."

   "Guess they don't call you the MechSage for nothing," sighed 
Shinji in resignation at his excited friend.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "The data suggests that the A.T. Field can be manifested by the
EVA Units. I expect you have actually managed to put theory into
practice with Unit Two?" asked Gendou.

   "Now now, Gendou, don't you have any faith in your dear late 
wife's work?" smiled Asuka sardonically and added after the 
briefest of pauses, "I mean her scientific work, of course."

   "Bridging the gulf between theory and practice is the main
determinant of whether we will succeed beyond our wildest dreams
or die horrible agonising deaths," stated Gendou blandly. "The
First Expeditionary Force certainly learnt that when the new 
positron weapons failed to counter the power of the Angels."

   "I assume then that a careful little man like you will require
a demonstration before your performance anxiety is assuaged?"

   Gendou ignored the barbs. "I value my life highly. Unlike some,
I cannot be ressurrected. Isn't that right, _2_Asuka?" he said,
stressing the numerical prefix.

   "Others have suddenly developed sudden and often fatal disorders
for less," retorted 2Asuka sweetly.

   "Nonetheless you can't afford to let me be in anything but the
pink of health, Baroness."

   "For now anyway," noted 2Asuka.

   "I'm glad we understand each other's positions, Baroness. I also
assume you will be assisting in the training the other two pilots in
the full capabilities of the EVA Units?"

   "And do you want me to do anything about your son and his lady
friend? Gendou!" she sounded scandalised, "the splice only makes
them very very distantly related."

   "That's what Shinji says all the time. The whelp thinks that if
he repeats it enough times that I'll come to accept them."

   "But it's true!"

   "Well, I don't like it. This is all that old goat Kozou's
fault," grumbled Gendou petulantly, his cool and mysterious uber-
character act cracking momentarily.
   
               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Wow wow wow!!!" exclaimed Kensuke, just on the verge of total
ecstasy as he and Maya worked side by side on the prowlers mounted
with EVA Units One and Zero.

   "Ken, I never thought I'd see ya get a woody over someone,
that is, something that isn't mechnical," observed Touji. Hikari
grinned at the comment.

   Kensuke had had a similiar fit of happiness when Ritsuko had 
given him specific instructions on how to recalibrate the EVA 
Unit's central interface prior to S2 conversion. He kept reciting
"I'm not worthy!" as he kowtowed repeatedly to Ritsuko who responded
by laughing madly about how at last someone appreciated the greatness
of the foremost scientific genius in the galaxy.

   "Ken, it's great to see that you're so crazy about Maya but...
errmm... how should I put it?" hesitated Shinji as he tried to
restrain his friend's overflowing enthusiasm.

   "But she is Dr. Akagi's bitch," offered Rei.

   "..."

   "She has already chosen Dr. Akagi as her horizontal mumbo 
partner."

   "..."

   "Dr. Ibuki is..."

   "Uhm. Rei?"

   "Yes, Shinji-kun?"

   "I think we get the idea."

   "If you say so."

   "No, no! You all don't understand! She's such a work of 
technological art! Sheer genius!" exclaimed Kensuke.

   "Ken, ya're talking about Maya like she's some sort of machine
or somethin'" said Hikari.

   Kensuke's eyes widened. "You mean you guys don't *know*?!" he
asked incredulously.

   "Know what?" asked Touji, scratching his head.

   "She's the unified holographic representation of the three MAGI
A.I.s! See...?" Kensuke thrust his arm in Maya's direction and then
trailed off as he realised how the aforementioned limb was making
physical contact with Maya's reasonably endowed chest.

   "..."

   "Hentai!" screamed Maya, her face beetred as she swung a huge
wooden mallet and nailed Kensuke straight on the head, knocking him
straight into the hangar floor before storming away.

   "Wooww..." moaned Kensuke on the floor, "wave imaging with 
particle manifestation properties."

   Shinji and Touji shook their heads in unison as they heaved 
their friend to his feet. 

   Klaxons burst into their cacophonic symphony as Misato announced
through the broadcast system: "Red alert! All personnel to battle
stations!" 

   The ship was rocked by an explosion a few moments after that.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Commodore, situation."

   "A rebel battlecruiser emerged from the cover of the asteroids.
We only detected it when its main cannon reached critical. Direct
hit to main aft propulsion thruster. We're dead in space. Both
Wraith Squandrons are engaging the enemy but without our main guns,
we're unable to seriously damage them," reported Misato. "Wait,
they're hailing us."

   "On screen," ordered Gendou.

   The comms screen was neatly bisected to show the craggy face of
an old soldier.

   "General Earle," greeted Gendou coolly. 

   "I resigned my commission when I was ordered to slaughter 
civilians during Earth Central's move to reclaim the outlying 
colonies, Ikari," growled the white-haired officer, "looks like 
my info was good. Two birds with one stone."   

   "What do you want?" asked Gendou, fingers bridged just under his
nose.

   "You and the Red Baroness transferred into my custody. And for
you to stand trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity."

   "You presume to have the proper authority to mete justice, 
Edward. And you presume the ability to achieve your objective,"
retorted Gendou.

   "Don't underestimate me, Gendou. You can hand both your asses
over and I'll spare the ship and its crew. Otherwise..."

   "... you'll just go away instead of dying a futile death,
sacrificing your valiant crew in this vain attempt to do 'the
right thing'?" mocked 2Asuka who stood up, blocking Earle's view
of Gendou.

   "Let me know when you come to your senses, before you let your
crew go down with your own worthless hides." With that, Earle
terminated the comms channel.

   "I presume you had something to do with this?" bristled Gendou.

   "Moi?" 2Asuka's eyebrows fluttered melodramatically as she put
a hand on her chest. "Gendou, you give me too much credit."

   "I take it this is your great chance to show us all your combat
prowess and the fulfillment of the promise of EVA."

   "An excellent training opportunity too."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-
   
   "We can't do a damned thing with our prowlers field-stripped into
nuts and bolts and organic goo!" exclaimed Shinji in exasperation.
Hikari and Touji had already deployed in their wraiths.

   "Then let's go on a ride in mine," said 2Asuka as she emerged
from a doorway. "No time to waste!" Her hand clammed on Shinji's
wrist in a vice-like grip and was already dragging him towards
her prowler.

   "But.. but isn't your prowler a one-seater too?" protested Shinji.

   "Details," snorted 2Asuka dismissively.

   Rei glowered and tried to grab Shinji's free arm but found her
way blocked as a suited man suddenly materialised before her. The
easy grace of his posture and smug smile belied an unspoken threat
against interfering.

   "That's right, Kaji-san," said 2Asuka as she herded Shinji into
the cockpit of her prowler. "She'll get her turn later. Now," she
gave Shinji a final pull, "get's go hunting."

   Rei's deep throated growl did nothing to faze Kaji.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Is this really necessary?" squeaked Shinji, his voice an octave
higher than usual as he sat astride Asuka's thighs and tried not to
fidget when she pressed her breasts against his back or breathed 
deliberately over the fine hairs on the back of his neck.

   "You want to change places?" asked 2Asuka innocently.

   "Ack! No!"

   2Asuka roared with laughter. "No wonder you've got such an
amusing call sign! Don't worry, I don't bite. Unless I'm asked
to." Shinji could see her wink suggestively through the reflection
on the cockpit's shell and he swallowed nervously.

   "Valkyrie is cleared for take off," came Maya's voice.

   "Acknowledged," said 2Asuka as the prowler roared out of the
command carrier.

   The sight that greeted them was pitched space battle between
two squandrons of fighters swirling around a hammerheaded battle
cruiser.

   Suddenly the front extremity of the battle cruiser exploded in
a shower of sparks and flame. 

   "Awright!" cheered Touji and Hikari who had executed the manoeuvre
that had brought about that display of pyrotechnics. When it cleared,
the damage seemed superificial but from the prowler's sensors, Shinji
realised that they had managed to disable the enemy's main forward
ATA cannon, thus neutralising the most apparent threat to NEGEV.

   "He's got to withdraw now," said Shinji, "he can't seriously
damage a command carrier of this size with his main heavy gun down."

   "You think so?" said 2Asuka, "don't underestimate the 
determination of the self-righteous. Looks like he's accelerating
and heading straight for the NEGEV."

   "Confirmed," reported Maya, "at their current course and speed,
they are going to ram us. With our main thruster down, we will not
be able to evade them."

   "All fighters, target enemy engines!" ordered Misato.

   "That's no good. At current momentum, they'll still hit the
command carrier pretty hard," observed 2Asuka, "and the good
commodore can't deploy an N2 mine at this range. It'll blow
everyone into smithreens."

   "We've got to do something! Rei's still onboard!" shouted Shinji,
his fists clenched in frustration.

   "Well, I could ask Kaji-san to evacuate her onboard his Wraith,"
said 2Asuka seemingly deep in thought. Shinji immediately turned
around to look at her hopefully and then realised that there were
so many others that couldn't be saved. And from 2Asuka's smirk, saw
that she was merely toying with him.

   "Enemy battlecruiser's reactor is going critical!" came Maya's
voice calmly over the general broadcast.

   "Not one to get the job down through half measures it seems,"
noted 2Asuka dryly.

   "How can you be still be so flippant!?" exclaimed Shinji. "Don't
you care about anything, anyone on board!?"

   2Asuka's expression darkened momentarily. "Of course I do. But 
I'm not worried because you are going to stop them."

   "How?"

   "You manifest the A.T. Field and I'll pilot. The Field will 
prevent the enemy from getting any closer and contain any possible
explosion from their reactor," stated 2Asuka.

   "I... I don't understand..."

   "Do you want me to give you a lecture while that battlecruiser
smashes into the command carrier and then blows us all into space
dust?" asked 2Asuka rhetorically.

   Fists balled. 'Father, what have you gotten us all into?'
thought Shinji. "I'll do it."

   "Good. Now concentrate like you do with your psi exercises..."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Valkyrie's vector is heading for a head-on collision course with
the enemy!" announced Shigeru.

   "Valkyrie! What are you doing!? Respond, dammit!" shouted Misato.
"Valkyrie! I'm ordering you to break off your approach!"

   "Belay that order," said Admiral Ikari as he emerged from the 
floor of his dias, already in the Gendou Position. Fuyutsuki 
quickly adjusted a desk lamp on the dias control panel so that 
Gendou's glasses became shining, impenetrable mirrors of light to
those gazing upon him from below. It severely reduced Gendou's
ability to actually see anything but he just couldn't resist the
impression of inscrutable invincibility that it conveyed.

   "Massive gravitional readings from Unit Two!" reported Maya.

   "Event horizon manifesting," frowned Ritsuko as she took in the
stream of data that scrolled rapidly across the screen. "Put it on
the main screen. Full magnification."

   Unit Two continued to speed towards the battlecruiser, barely
visible amidst a pool of darkness surrounded by a blazing, whirling
halo of light. From the perspective of the NEGEV bridge crew, the
battlecruiser seemed to crawl towards a halt and then abruptly
stop as if frozen in time. Then its structure began to buckle and
cave in as if tremendous forces were crushing it. If the vacuum of
space conducted sound, they would hear the squeal of metal fatigue
as its bulkheads twisted and warped. And then reaching a critical
point, the entire ship imploded - a brief flash of oxygen flaring
in space before being swallowed entirely by darkness.

   "Was that... the A.T. Field?" asked Misato in stunned disbelief.

   Gendou managed to follow everything by the verbal reports of the
crew. He smiled his mysterious triumphant smile. His arms on the top
of the desk, a crooked twist of his lips to the  right, no teeth
showing. All the while with glasses shining. Perfect.

   "Valkyrie to NEGEV. Mission accomplished," said 2Asuka whose 
image appeared on the main bridge screen, with an extremely 
flustered Shinji sitting on her lap.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Repairs to the NEGEV will be completed shortly. We will still
be able to reach our first destination on schedule," said Gendou as
he moved a chess piece on his desk.

   "Just make sure that we're at full operational readiness before
we go into our next battle. The Angels in the vicinity of Reuben
defeated over four dozen ships-of-the-line in the First Expeditionary
Force if I recall correctly," admonished Fuyutsuki as he made a
counter move on the board.

   "All three EVAs and the NEGEV itself will be ready," said Gendou, 
his face leaned lazily against the back of his left hand as he
made another move.

   "The old men of MJ-12 will surely kick up a fuss over how you
nearly turned our first combat operation into a total disaster," 
warned Kozou. "They're even more of a danger and a pain in the
ass than the Security Council." Another move.

   "The geriatics still rely on us to fight their battles and to
do their bidding. They have placed the instruments in our hands
and there are times the hand can threaten the head." Gendou 
captured a piece in his advance.

   "And Valkyrie? She is another complication to the situation,"
reminded Fuyutsuki. A counter offensive move.

   "She will serve our purposes for now. We can handle the Security
Council and the old men, we can certainly handle that corporate
brat," snorted Gendou as he made another move.

   Fuyutsuki paused for a moment. "I would have more confidence in
your plotting and scheming if you were better at chess." A final
move. "Checkmate."

   "Doh!"

   Fuyutsuki allowed himself a small smile of triumph.

   "Well, that's the only thing you've been able to beat me at.
Who managed to marry your favourite idol and enjoy the marital
fruits with her, huh? Huh!? Who's da man, huh!?" taunted Gendou.

   "_Shut_ _up_."

End of Chapter 02.

AUTHOR'S NOTES
Gosh, this took a while to finish. I'd like to acknowledge the
kind permission to borrow names from the following authors - 
Mari Suzuhara from Andrew Huang's 'Neon Genesis Evanjellydonut'
and Kensuke's 'MechSage' call sign from Hotwire's 'Together We
Stand'. Also to note considerable borrowing from Blizzard's 
Starcraft, William Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy and Farscape.

I picture Kensuke's headset as something used by Karl and fellow
man-in-black employed by Tachibana General Labortories in serial
experiments Lain. Any contributions of c&c, fan art and bottles of
red Burgundy will be greatly appreciated.

09 Dec 2000 - 1st draft.
13 Dec 2000 - Proofreading and c&c amendments made. HTML version.

Many thanks to Adam, Eshin, Jeremy Evans, Alain Gravel, 
Leif Johnson, Long Tsun, Kevin McHorney, Jerico Mele, 
Orlean, Jonathan Wang and Doug Whiddon for c&c on Ch 02.