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   "Heehee! Sempai! That tickles!" giggled Maya as Ritsuko 
prodded her again.

   "Almost done, dear," said Ritsuko, wielding her instrument,
eyebrows furrowed in concentration. A bead of sweat ran down 
her forehead.

   "Hiya, Grand-sempai and Sempai! Watcha doing?" asked a pair 
of high octave voices.


      NEGEV      a NGE Sci-Fi Elseworlds Fanfic
      Chapter 04: Someone Call for an Exterminator?
      by E.L.Toh
      contact: toheel@singnet.com.sg
      archive: http://www.teloong.cwc.net/


   Ritsuko and Maya turned towards the entrance to MAGI's core 
and saw the teenage duo of kawaii engineering, Mari Suzuhara and
Nozomi Horaki.

   In a flash of thirteen year old energy pumped up with a high-
sugar diet, they dashed around the pair looking at tools and
instrumentation and readouts. Maya had long given up trying to
track them when they had such bursts of hyperactivity.

   Presently, they came to a stop before their grand-sempai and
sempai. Mari's big pink ribbon in her black hair bobbed up and
down with her head as she nodded, a hand clasped under her chin
while Nozomi was sitting in the classic 'thinker' pose, with the
obvious add-ons of a pair of blue-ribboned pig tails. Besides
being cutely contemplative, they also looked seriously impressed.

   "You didn't touch anything, did you?" asked Ritsuko.

   "Noooooo," chorused the pair sweetly.

   "I don't mind," said Maya, smiling a toothy grin.

   "Maya..." said Ritsuko wearily.

   "Yes, sempai," replied Maya, chastened, "I know. I know. 
They're underage."

   "Show us! Show us! You're done already!" shouted the two in
excitement.

   "Alright," said Ritsuko as she assumed a suitably dramatic 
pose, "I, Ritsuko Akagi, present to you the MAGI Multiple 
Representation and Multitasking Module! No more will Maya be 
restricted to one holo-image at a time! Her main form will be
freed up from mundane tasks to attend to more *important* 
matters..."

   Maya blew a kiss at Ritsuko.

   "Behold!"

   A figure popped into being on one of Ritsuko's shoulders.
Just over half a foot (15 centimetres to fellow metricists) tall,
the super-deformed Maya waved a pair of rising sun fans and 
declared in an adorably cute voice, "Wai! Ritsuko-sempai's the
greatest!"

   It was immediately joined by another on the other shoulder.
"Wai! Ritsuko-sempai's a genius!"

   "WAI!" shouted Mari and Nozomi who applauded enthusiastically.

   Ritsuko was about to burst into a fit of Mad Scientist 
laughter but stopped herself. Scratching her head, she studied 
the two unbelievably kawaii chibi-Mayas on her shoulders intently.

   "Mari-chan, Nozo-chan..." she said finally. "Are you sure you
didn't touch anything?" 

   "Well, maybe just a tinny bit here and there..." said the two,
each with their own hands interlocked, arms stretched towards 
their legs, one foot digging toe-first into the floor.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "NAAH NAAH NAH NA NA NA NAAH NAA NAAH NA NA!!!" sang one 
hundred Chibi-Mayas (as the crew started to call them) as they
marched out of the MAGI's core chamber and off to work through
out the ship.

   "Don't they realise that Balthazar is the name of Gargamel's 
uncle as well?" mused Fuyutsuki as he watched the surreal little
procession on one of his desk monitors.

   "Sir?" asked Shinji as he sat before the Vice Admiral, 
squirming slightly.

   "No, nothing. Nothing of importance. So how is my niece?" 
asked the grey haired senior officer.

   "She's made a full recovery, Sir. But still it's very kind of 
you to recommend a day's more bed rest," replied Shinji formally.

   "Just make sure she does get some rest, young man." A raised
eyebrow. Lip curled slightly, increased squint intensity.

   Shinji blushed. "Y..Yes Sir."

   Fuyutsuki's admonishing look softened slightly. "But unlike
your father, I am not implacably opposed to your relationship
with Rei."  

   "I am grateful, Sir."

   "Yes, I can understand why you feel the way you do. She does
sooo resemble your mother. I don't think I need to point out the
extraordinary likeness," said Fuyutsuki as he gestured at the 
four walls of his office.

   Shinji's eyebrow twitched as he tried not to survey the 
multitude of posters and wall scrolls that covered every inch of
wallspace. An almost complete collection of the merchandise in 
that range released after Ikari Yui had suddenly burst onto the
international scene as an incredibly talented and popular singer-
song writer. Almost two decades after her death, they were still
churning out the stuff for the otaku market.

   "Yes," mused Fuyutsuki as he descended into nostaglia, "I'm
particularly proud of the strength of the resemblence even though
the DNA sample the record company allowed your mother to donate
was so small. The splice has produced such perfect results with
the embryo that grew into my niece, barring the anamolous 
emergence of some recessive traits. It was such a tiny splice that
the two of you are hardly related, on an overall DNA comparison,
you know. You *should* be grateful, young man. If I had to do it
again..." he droned on.

   'Oh no, not that story again,' groaned Shinji mentally. 'And 
he always leaves out the inconvenient bits. Like how the splice
might be responsible for some of Rei's problems with...'

   "Red alert! We've got an object heading towards the ship at
high velocity! All hands to battle stations!" came Misato's
voice over the intercomm system.

   "Another Angel?" asked Shinji and Fuyutsuki in unison.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "We can't tell for sure. Our sensors indicate traces of 
orange pattern but no blue pattern detected," said Ritsuko. "But
it keeps correcting course to match variations in ours and it's
gaining speed."

   "Twelve thousand klicks and closing! Our fighters are 
reporting that its sheer mass is preventing them from doing any
significant damage, even with the help of Wussboy and Valkyrie's
EVA prowlers," reported Shigeru.

   "All fighters stand clear! Open fire with main gun!" ordered 
Misato, swinging her arm forward to point at the image of the 
brown mass on the main screen and causing a jiggle in the process.

   A red nimbus gathered on the ship's fore and shot out towards
the object. It hit dead centre of the target and the beam seemed
to shewer it, bursting through its opposite end.

   "No significant damage to its structural integrity! It's too
mushy for the impact of the Yamato cannon to disperse!" reported
Maya.

   "Withdraw the attacking Wraith squadrons, drones and EVA-
prowlers. Deploy N2 torpedo! Set for detonation on mushy impact!"
said Misato.

   "N2 prepped and ready!"

   "Bombs away!" said Misato.

   "Aye aye!"

   The N2 torpedo streaked towards the object and a tremendous
explosion ensued. 

   "Target has been blown up," declared Maya as the crew cheered.
Most didn't hear the 'But...' until...

   SPLAT!

   "Goodness, what a mess," remarked Fuyutsuki as he surveyed the
scene which showed that most of the exterior of the NEGEV had been
splattered with the icky, slimy, gooey and utterly kimochi warui 
ectoplasmic mess from the exploded projectile.

   "As superior officers," began Gendou slowly and quietly, "we 
could get our hands dirty, working alongside our fellow officers 
and crew for the good of the ship. In that way we will earn their
respect instead of simply expecting it as something inherently 
due to us because of little pieces of cloth and metal on our 
epaulletes." He paused and exchanged glances with Fuyutsuki. 

   "Nah," they said in unison.

   Gendou stood up from his dias. "Commodore Katsuragi, I'll
leave the clean up operation in your good breas... hands, yeah, 
that's what I meant, hands." Then he made a quick exit with the
Vice Admiral.

   "With my intensive training, I will surely defeat you at
chess this time," crowed Gendou, sotto voce, to his deputy and
former superior.

   "Not a chance," snorted Fuyutsuki.

   "Gyaaa," noted PenPen sourly on the lower dias.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   Rei admired its head of creamy white perfection. Lips pursued,
she scrutinised the pale gold sheen, an occassional bubble rising
through it. Taking in its floral bouquet, she smacked her lips 
and raised the mug to them.

   "Kampai," she said to herself with quiet satisfaction.

   "I thought I'd find you here," said Shinji from behind Rei
before she could partake of any beer. Rei cringed and slowly 
turned around on the bar stool, mug of Katsuragi Reinheitsgebot
brew still in her right hand.

   "You're supposed to be resting," stated Shinji with a hint
of reproach, his arms folded across his chest. "And you know 
that too much alchohol interferes your routine medication."

   Rei's mournful glance shifted, slowly and repeatedly, between
Shinji and her beer. Then she took in a deep breath, which did
marvellous things with her chest but has got nothing to do with
the plot, and chugged the entire pint with a single gulp.

   "Rei!"

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   The heavy booted footfalls of Hikari Horaki were matched by
the even heavier booted/mechanoid footfalls of Touji Suzuhara
as they marched into the main kitchen.

   "I take back everything I've said about the uselessness of
our sisters's kawaii concoctions. The cleaning equipment that
they built got frelled up in two secs but that shower foam 
and shampoo cut through the shit pretty quick," said Hikari as
she flipped on her well-worn apron.

   "Yeah," said Touji, "but the stuff was just so... bad. It
sticks and stinks and it's worse than any sewage or rubbish
point I've ever had to clean in my life. And ya just kinda get
the feeling that it'll stick to ya for good. Brrrrr. Well, at
least we got away with just one shift, being the ship's cooks
and all."

   "What's on the menu today?"

   "Meat patty - ya know, the ground-up ears, hooves, tail, 
testicles and all that stuff. Reconstituted krill cakes. And
mushy peas from those genetically modified peas that grow big
as Ikari's asshole," replied Touji as he scanned the parade state
and indent forms.

   "Speaking of king-sized assholes, I think today calls for
a 'special' in Herr Admiral's munchies," said Hikari, grinning
her tar-yellowed grin, cigarette already halfway through.
"Heard about the way he just arrowed Katsuragi with the shit
job, patted his ass and waltzed off. Yeah, special for him
today."

   "But ya always spit in his food."

   "Uh-huh."

   "And filter his coffee with our week-old socks."

   "Uh-huh. That's why poor ole Corporal Ayu-chan can't figure
out how to make coffee the way he likes it - the way *we* make
it." 

   "So whaz the special, Hik?"

   In response, Hikari raised up a booted foot. Using a greasy 
spoon, she scrapped off the small trace of icky leftover goo 
that had been caught in the troughs of the sole's pattern. Her 
grin was so huge that she could have swallowed the whole ship
with one bite. The viscous fluid started to spasm slowly down
the back of the spoon.

   Touji wolf-whistled.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Checkmate," said Fuyutsuki.

   "D'oh!"

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" asked Ritsuko as she, Maya,
Misato, and Kodama examined various samples of the goo, that 
was being analyzed in the laboratory.

   "The chemical structure seems to be a mish-mash of all three
though it becomes even more confused at the molecular and sub-
atomic levels," commenteed Maya.

   "And it's a 99.89% match for human DNA," observed Kodama as
she tried to ignore the Chibi-Maya that was scampering around 
the main table and observing the ongoing experiments with piko-
piko blinks of disproportionately large eyes.

   'Same as the EVA units,' thought Misato with some surprise.

   "Wai! Lookee! Lookee!" exclaimed the Chibi-Maya as she 
pointed to one of the oldest experiments in the book, where
a goo sample had been put in a beaker of water and set on a
tripod over a bunsen burner flame.

   The four crowded around the beaker of boiling water and its
gooey resident.

   "The goo is absorbing a lot of the heat and seems to be 
rearranging itself on a molecular level," said Maya.

   "To what end?" asked Misato.

   "I need more data," replied Maya as she continued to collate
information from the readings.

   "Let's turn up the heat," proposed Kodama, "we might know
more from the substance's reaction to temperature variance."

   Ritsuko, Maya, and Misato nodded in agreement and the Chibi-
Maya created a sub-routine to remotely access the temperature
controls of the experiment.

   "Hmm. Looks like a plateau and cellular damage starting to
occur," noted Kodama after a few minutes. "Seems pretty organic
to me at this point. What the...!?"

   The goo suspended in the water seemed to stiffen, flex and
then suddenly launch itself out of the beaker. It would have 
impacted straight onto Ritsuko's chest, if not for a timely 
interception by Maya's Flaming (literally) Mallet of Justice. 
Maya adjusted her swing so that, after catching the offending
blob, she pinned it between the floor and the fiery hammer.

   "What in the blazes was that?" asked Misato, gesturing with
her sidearm.

   "Umm, I think I killed it," said Maya with a mix of relief
and regret as she lifted the matter to reveal a small mass of
burnt and flaking grey matter.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Checkmate," said Fuyutsuki again.

   "D'oh!"
      
               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   Hikari frowned as a knocking sound came from the pot with 
the Admiral and Vice Admiral's 'special' minestrone soup. 

   'I certainly don't need it to be overcooked. It'll probably
be one of the only decently edible things tonight, special or
not,' she grumbled mentally. The meat patty and krill cakes still
tasted nasty and industrial despite the sauces she had come up 
with to counter their sheer awfulness. 

   Touji was making short work of the giant peas as he loaded
them into the food processors to be mashed, boiled and dyed 
into something resembling English mushy peas. 

   As Hikari reached to lift the lid off the pot making the
offending sounds, the lid was thrust aside from the inside
and several appendages emerged from the insides of the pot.

   Slackjawed, Hikari took a step back as the slimy entity
seemed to lift itself out of the pot and began to reach for
ingredients nearby that were in the process of being cooked
or waiting for their turn. At its touch, they seemed to meld
into it, and take on its grey-green colour and texture.

   "That DOES it!" screamed Hikari as she reached into a 
utility cabinet and drew a Gauss semi-automatic heavy rifle.
"I get SHIT all day long to work with and the results ain't
fantastic but NOBODY does the 'The Food's Alive!' gag in MY
kitchen!!" she shouted as she began firing at what was
supposed to have been part of the dinner menu.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "There's a security alert in the kitchen area," said Misato as
she put a hand over her right ear where her earpiece communicator
was lodged. "Maya, holo-visual, please."

   A flat screen popped up before the four ladies in the 
laboratory. It showed Hikari and Touji, side by side, firing at
something in front of them and retreating slowly, step by step, 
as they continued to expend ammunition. The view was obscured by
the medium grade resolution of the image as well as smoke, 
richocet flashes and the combined swearing by the two pilot-
cooks. 

   "Situation analysis," requested Misato.

   "Source of the security alert is the presence of a similar 
blob in the kitchen area. Lieutenants Horaki and Suzuhara's 
standard issue U-238 ammunition does not seem to be affecting 
the blob. Neither is there any effect on the part of the DRDs's
inbuilt laser weapons," said Maya.

   "Comms link to Hyuuga," said Misato.

   Another screen popped up with the 'Sound Only' notation.
"I'm aware of the situation, Commodore," came Hyuuga's voice 
over the link. "There are two sections of marines are in that
sector of the ship and are en route. ETA 2 minutes."

   "Hyuuga, the Gauss rifles don't seem to be able to damage the
enemy, the low-powered laser weapons aren't any good either. Get
the marines to provide cover while you send in your firebats."

   "I concur," said Maya, "high heat seems to be an effective
weapon."

   "Understood," said Hyuuga.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "So that's what happened," said Misato as Hikari finished 
her story amidst the wreckage of the main kitchen - the result
of the combined efforts of Hikari and Touji's rifles and the 
flamethrowers of the armour-suited firebat troopers.

   "Yeah," said Hikari as she attempted to light another 
cigarette with trembling hands. The stick of tabacco and paper
slipped from her numb lips and rolled across a soot-stained 
floor, strewn with spent ammunition casings. She clawed for it
with fingers that shook of their own accord. Touji picked it up
and handed it back to her. Hiraki smiled gratefully as he 
squeezed her shoulder lightly.

   "Heat and moisture seem to activate it, enable it somehow,"
summarized Ritsuko. "And this incident shows that it assimilates
organic material. Its structure causes bullets to simply pass 
through it and lasers do minimal damage by similar logic."

   "And it's definitely vulnerable to high heat. The flamethrower
was an ideal weapon as the flaming liquid adhered to the blob's
surface. Orange pattern detected but no blue pattern," added Maya.

   "You... You'll file all of what I said in your report?" asked
Hikari nervously as she looked up at her commanding officer with
bloodshot eyes. "About the stuff I put in Gendou's soup? And..."

   "Don't worry about it, Hikari," winked Misato. "I'll say it 
was inadvertent contamination. Should have instituted stricter
decontamination procedures on my part."

   "T..Thanks," said Hikari. "But... I don't want you to get into
any trouble with the Admiral..."

   "Don't sweat it," laughed Misato. "What's he going to do? Fire
me and run the ship himself?"

   "Gyaa," commented PenPen.

   "Yeah, you're right," nodded Hikari.

   "I'll release the pre-packed field rations until the auxiliary
kitchen comes online. And Kensuke'll get on the repairs pronto,"
added Misato.

   "Speaking of repairs and starting over, I'd like to have a 
word with Hikari about that." Everyone turned towards 2Asuka who
stood at the entrance wearing a wry smile.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "I'm sorry, Commodore, but I'm afraid that the Admiral and
Vice Admiral are in a very important meeting and have ordered
not to be disturbed," said Ayumi apologetically as she received
Misato in the antechamber to the Admiral's office which was also
her station as Gendou's personal assistant.

   "They're not flamenco dancing in there, are they?" asked 
Misato teasingly.

   Ayumi looked ill as the image thrust itself into her mind. 
"No, I don't think so..."

   "D'OH!" came Gendou's voice through the supposedly soundproof 
door.

   Misato rolled her eyes while Ayumi shrugged and raised her 
hands in that universal gesture of 'It can't be helped.'

   "Just make sure he reads the report instead of just signing 
it and sending it back to my office, 'kay?" said Misato as she
put the file on Ayumi's desk.

   "Aye aye, Sir."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   Tactical Conference Room.

   "I've sent the DRDs on a sweep of the whole ship for goo
contamination, and when they detect anything, the firebat 
teams move in to clear them out," reported Ritsuko. "Thanks to
Hyuuga for organizing his troops so quickly and Maya for 
coordinating the whole thing. Now we're aware of the threat
and its vulnerability, NEGEV should be in the clear within
36 hours."

   "Good work, guys," said Misato. "But we'll remain on red 
alert until the all-clear is declared. The manual checking and
clear out is the best we can do since the goo doesn't show up 
on the scans for lifeforms or ship internal sensors. We don't
even know if this entity was an Angel, an Angelic servitor type
or that it's got nothing to do with the Angels."

   "The DNA analysis seems to suggest a higher probability that
it is the former two cases," pointed out 2Asuka as she called up
the information on the main screen. "The genome bears some 
striking similarities with Ramiel's."

   "We haven't had a blue pattern," said Ritsuko.

   "Yet," pointed out Shinji.

   "Ever the optimist, eh, Shin-chan?" said Misato, smiling 
lightly. "But you're right. We can't take any chances. The first
priority is to secure the EVA Units, together with their host
prowlers and mechs, against contamination."

   "Already done," said Hyuuga. "My men as well as some of the 
techs are maintaining a 24 hour watch on the EVAs and the Cage."

   "Hmmm. We also need to secure the high risk areas," mused 
Ritsuko as she absently spun a pen in her hand.

   "Just define what constitutes 'high risk' and we'll get right
on it, Ritsu," said Misato.

   "Any area with moderate, constant temperature. Damp or with
liquid supply. Preferably with organic material present as well
for assimilation and growth."

   "Well, the kitchen's been totally trashed and cleaned out
already, so that leaves the water filtration and recycling
facilities and..." Misato paled and suddenly stopped in mid-
sentence. And by that law of dramatic convenience...

   "Orange pattern detected!" exclaimed Maya.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-
   
   "NOOOOOO!!!" yelled Misato, pulling her long purple hair as
she surveyed the reports and monitors. "This CAN'T be happening!"

   "Oh yes, it is," said Shinji, and then looked up at the 
ceiling, whistling innocently as Misato gave him the evil eye.

   "I'm afraid Shinji is right," said Maya. "My systems have
designated the intruder as Sandalphon, Angel of Embryoes. At 
present, it has taken over the entire microbrewery facility.
The area has been sealed off, pending further orders."

   "What are our options?" asked Gendou from his command dias.

   "I recommend that we flood the entire brewery area with 
flamethrower fluid and burn the Angel to death, then the 
firebats can move in and mop up," said Ritsuko.

   "That'll totally destroy the microbrewery!" protested Misato.

   "Well, not totally," interjected Maya.

   "There's got to be another way!"

   "Yes, we could use the EVA-enabled combat mechs to generate
A.T. Fields to contain and crush the Angel out of existence, but
there definitely won't be anything left to salvage of the brewery
equipment after that," said Ritsuko as she produced a lightning
simulation of that proposal on the main screen. "There simply
isn't any surgical way to completely remove the Angel. I'm sorry."

   "The latter option risks contamination of the EVAs. That is
unacceptable. The EVAs will remain in their cages. Preparation
for Operation Burn Up Angel will commence immediately." 

   "What a dumb name for an operation," muttered Shinji. 

   "Commodore Katsuragi, will you be able to conduct yourself 
with sufficient professionalism to ensure our victory over the
enemy?" asked Gendou.

   "You're one to talk about professionalism," bristled Misato.

   "I'm afraid that the Admiral is right, for once," said
Fuyutsuki. "We can always ask Colonel Hyuuga to carry out the
operation if you do not wish to direct it yourself."

   Gendou smiled underneath the interlocked fingers of his hands.
And then frowned. 'Damned old goat.'

   "My first duty is to this ship and its crew," said Misato
evenly. "I'll do it."

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Commence the operation!" ordered Misato.

   Ducts and pipes normally used for ventilation and fire fighting
purposes spewed oily orangey-brown fluid into the drinking hole
and all over the brass-coloured tanks and pipes that used to 
perform that miracle of transmuting barley, malt, hops, pure 
water, and yeast into liquid gold. Now sickly green slugde oozed
from burst pipe joints and the main cylinder seemed to pulse with
malignant life.

   With steely determination, Misato gave the go ahead. "Fire it
up!"

   A spark later and the sealed chamber was transformed into
an inferno.

   "The Angel is losing 10... 12... 15% of its organic mass,"
reported Aoba.

   "Steady on the flow of barbaque fluid," said Misato.

   "15.5%... 16%... Rate of loss has stopped! Blue pattern 
detected!"

   "What!?" exclaimed Misato and Ritsuko simultaneously.

   "Sensors indicates that the Angel is generating an A.T. Field
to shield itself from the flames," said Maya. "Field strength is
increasing!"

   "Hyuuga, pull your men away from the main door!" shouted Misato.

   "Too late!" said Aoba.

   In the main screen image of the drinking hole, a shadowy wall
of force shattered the heavy metal door as if it were made of
matchsticks and scattered men and their equipment into nothingness
with the wake of fading concentric black octogtons. The entire
ship shook with the violence of the Angel's stirring.

   "I'm detecting pseudopods breaking off from the main mass of 
the Angel, forming into bipedal form and heading into the 
adjoining corridors," reported Maya.

   "Lock down the entire sector and mobilize all available troops!
We've got to keep a lid on this thing," said Misato. With her 
commands, blast doors began to slam shut throughout that section
of the NEGEV. "Are the pseudopods A.T. Field capable?" she asked
as the pseudopods began to hurl themselves at the newly found
barriers.

   "From what we've been able to observe, it seems that only the
main body of the Angel has the critical mass to do so. But the
pseudopods are showing an alarming capacity to corrode the blast
doors and to infiltrate ventilation ducts and DRD tunnels," said
Ritsuko as her fingers raced across the keyboards to throw all of
the technological resources at her disposal against the pestilence.

   "The main mass also seems to be continuing to grow. At this
current rate, in five to six hours, it will have sufficient mass
to generate an A.T. Field large enough to cause a major hull
breach. The ship will be break up from the inside," said Maya.

   Everyone turned towards Misato whose eyebrows and forehead
were furrowed in thought. After a long moment, she looked up.

   "We've got no choice but to go for Plan B. Ritsuko, get the
techs to mount the combat mechs with the EVA units. Pilots are
to report to the cage immediately."

   Holo-images of 2Asuka and Rei popped up. The former was 
all kitted out in mainly black combat fatigues with red high-
lights with bomber jacket and heavy boots, topped off with a
lazy smile of evil boredom. The latter, on the other hand, was
rubbing the sleep out of her eyes as she sat on the edge of
Shinji's bed, clad in a large t-shirt that proclaimed 'Blue
haired girls rule!'

   "Our first priority is to assault the central mass of 
Sandalphon. Hyuuga, I want troops to escort Shinji from 
Central Dogma and for 2Asuka and Rei from their quarters.
You two prepare to move out ASAP."

   "Understood," said Rei in her usual monotone and began to
change from t-shirt into plugsuit on viewscreen. 

   "WAAAAA!!!" shouted Shinji as he interposed himself between
the holo-image and dozens of prying eyes and nosebleeds, 
flapping his arms like a hummingbird on acid in the process.
"Maya! Turn that damned thing off!!!"

   "Wha?" asked Maya. She wiped drool off the edge of her
lips as she tried to edge around Shinji for a better view
until Ritsuko seized one of her ears with a free hand.

   "Maya!"

   "Awwww... Sempai!!"

   "Maayaaaa..." said Ritsuko with visible irritation.

   "Okie," whined Maya, suitably chastened.

   "There's no need to trouble your leathernecks," said 2Asuka, 
"but Kaji-san is more insurance that I will reach the cage 
quickly and safely than an entire platoon of grunts. Ja." She 
blew a kiss and the communication blinked out.

   "Let her be then," said Misato with less than her usual
warmth as Hyuuga gave her a questioning look.
   
               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   Shinji automatically fell into the marching pace of the
six marines, three on either side of him. He marvelled at how
the two firebats, one leading and the other bringing up the 
rear, kept time with their footfalls despite their heavily
armoured and insulated red suits as well as the weight of the
fuel tanks that fed the twin arm-mounted flamethrowers.

   After they turned round a corner, he heard Rei and her 
escorts bring up the rear. He felt her awareness of his presence 
before she tilted her head slightly, lightly waving a V-sign 
from her hand at hip level. He acknowledged with a smile and
a nod, then checked his sidearm once more.

   "This won't do much good against what we're facing... We'll
need the EVA's power, but we need 2Asuka and Ritsuko's help
in order to harness it. Good thing too that most of the key 
access tunnels on board are large enough to accommodate the 
passage of combat mechs... Even Dad has limits to his vain-
glorious stupidity," thought Shinji.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Achoo!" sneezed Gendou, completely ruining the 
inscrutability of his uber-character pose. Somewhat 
fortunately for him, the rest of the crew were too busy
to notice.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Valkyrie, pseudopod approaching from around the corner,"
advised Maya through 2Asuka's communication earpiece.

   "Acknowledged," said 2Asuka whose pace did not slow down
one iota as the greenish mass surged and flailed into view.

   She languidly waved a hand in dismissal and the entire 
pseudopod abruptly came to a wobbling, trembling halt. There
was a hissing sound as it pulsed with internal energies raging
out of control. The blob swayed slightly from side to side before
violently flying apart, the pieces striking the walls to either
side and the ceiling. The splash pattern rapidly evaporated into
black scorch marks under the heel of Baroness 2Asuka Sohryu 
Langley von Richtofen as she walked through, stride uninterrupted.

   Unseen, there was a faint whir as a hidden security camera 
recorded this display of raw power for further analysis.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Wussboy, Zombie, we're detecting a large concentration of
Angel servitor material in your immediate vicinity."

   "I do not detect any hostiles," replied Rei as her 
technologically enhanced vision swept the corridor, various
indicators on the metallic ridge above her left eye blinked
faintly.

   Then she felt Shinji's psychic presence melding with hers
and rode the spreading wave of consciousness as his extra-
sensory perception reached out all around them.

   There.

   Shinji opened his mouth to shout a warning to the soldiers
with him. There was an intense flickering as Rei ran towards
him with superhuman speed, her form phasing in and out of
visibility. Just as he was about to find his voice, she was
at his side and an arm around his waist, her momentum and
his premonition of her intentions carrying them forward and
away from danger.

   Just a split second later, a layer of organic Angel matter
peeled off the ceiling and engulfed the marines and firebats
in a soundless, suffocating grip. Rei continued to sprint as
one of the firebats' flamethrower tanks was ruptured by the
ambusher. The resulting explosion annihilated the eight men
and their attacker, and made a right pig's breakfast of the
passageway behind them. 

   Once clear, Rei phased back into normal light and slowed
down her pace so that Shinji could keep up on his own.

   "Thanks, Rei," he said breathlessly. She returned a small
smile and nod.

   "Not long to go now," said Shinji, as they emerged into the
huge penultimate passageway to the Seventh Cage, to see 2Asuka
in combat against pseudopods that were trying to obstruct her 
progress. Both met the same fate of molecular dismemberment 
as previous attackers, their component particles vibrating to
boiling point leading to cell-death and bodily disintegration.

   Shinji felt a chill down his spine at her almost childish
delight in her power, and felt a dread certainty that she
had exercised her abilities against human beings who had the
misfortune of incurring her displeasure.

   Another pseudopod surged out of a ventilation shaft in the
wall on her right and she spun in that direction, swinging her
arm like she was backhanding it from a distance. The Angelic
pseudopod was slammed by an invisible force against the bulk
head and within a few moments, became just another scorch mark
on the wall.

   Shinji and Rei simultaneously drew their sidearms and fired
at a pseudopod that was trying to ambush 2Asuka via a drop 
from the high ceiling, just as another one ambled towards her
from ground level. Despite almost every shot hitting the
falling pseudopod, the projectiles seemed to pass through it
harmlessly.

   With just two or so metres to go before hitting 2Asuka, the
pseudopod's descent was halted by the appearance of a katana 
blade which sliced through it without seeming to have any of
the smiley material sticking to it. The two halves separated
with so much force that they landed well clear of 2Asuka and
were duly telekinetically incinerated.

   In mid-air, the wielder of the blade faded into view as he
completed his somersault attack and stuck a perfect landing to
stand back-to-back with 2Asuka, salaryman suit and overcoat
completely unruffled and katana held low, poised for further
action. 2Asuka, who at full height came up to his chin level,
leaned against Kaji while stretching her arms above her head
lazily and smiling like a cat that ate the goldfish.

   "Progressive blade on the katana, the steel is still 
traditionally tempered and folded though," remarked 2Asuka
as she casually flicked a finger against the blade, causing
it to ring with a single pure note. "Don't try what I just
did do, boys and girls, it might take a finger off you."

   Shinji frowned. "You have ESP beside TK as well?"

   "No, but I've seen the questioning look enough times after
a demonstration by Kaji-san," purred 2Asuka.

   "But not all of them are able to articulate their curiosity
after the said 'demonstration'," continued Shinji smoothly,
still frowning slightly.

   "Most perceptive, but it's a real pain to be condemned to
be able to only see the truth, isn't it, Shinji?" said 2Asuka,
her smile a little more solemn now.

   "You have no idea," said Shinji quietly as he and Rei walked
past her and into the Cage.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Zombie, Wussboy and Valkyrie are en route to the brewery deck.
Their A.T. Fields have been effective at preventing contamination
and aiding the destruction of any pseudopods they've encountered.
The addition of flamethrowers has also been effective," reported
Aoba as he tracked the progress of the lumbering EVA-mounted
combat mecha.

   "Good work, Kensuke," said Misato to the MechSage over the
intercom.

   "Just wait till you see what the Hellfire incendiary missiles
will do once they reach the Angel's main mass and neutralise its
A.T. Field!" enthused Kensuke.

   "That's not going to cause a hull breach, right?" asked
Misato, already resigned to the fate of her microbrewery.

   "No! No! There'll be no problem! Akagi-sempai herself went
over the Hellfire schematics!" 

   Everyone in Central Dogma sweatdropped.

   "Maya, I want you to run a complete diagnostics and simulation
on those schematics before a single one of those things get
fired," ordered Misato evenly.

   "Righto."

   Ritsuko, slightly offended by the continuous doubt over her
scientific abilities, decided to sulk and seek refuge in some
fresh Cup O'matic brew, only to spit it out in disgust due to
it tasting like raw LCL.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "I still think the LCL tastes like coffee today," muttered
Shinji to himself as his combat mech made its way up the 
corridor.

   "Heads up, guys," said Misato over the holo-link, "Maya,
Mari and Nozomi have gone through the Hellfires and it's A-
Okay to use them."

   "Not a moment too soon too, we're almost to the brewery
already," replied Shinji.

   "You really shouldn't be so keen on destroying the micro-
brewery, you know, Shinji," said Misato plaintively.

   "And I still blame you for turning Rei into an alcoholic,"
grumbled Shinji.

   "I am not an alcoholic," said Rei flatly as her comms-link
appeared next to Misato's. 

   "Yeah, that's the spirit! Beer! Helping people to get laid
since Carlsberg! You should be grateful, Shinji!" crowed Misato.

   "Me and beer do not get along. And my personal life does
just fine without it. You, Misato, on the other hand..."

   "Alright! Alright! No need to wheel out the heavy artillery!"
said Misato, arms raised in an admission of defeat.

   "Well, I could definitely use a decent beer once in a while.
I can get Kensuke and the rest of my staff to rebuild the 
microbrewery, together with Hikari's kitchen, if you can
provide the plans," offered 2Asuka.

   "Yipee!"

   "..."

   Then Rei realized that everyone was staring at her. Stowing
away her twin rising sun mini-flags, she went back to looking 
her usual blank self.

   Shinji rolled his eyes as the three EVA-enabled mechas 
entered the brewery, their A.T. Fields forming a black-tinged
protective bubble around each of them. The organic material
fell apart when it came into contact with their fields and
even seemed to shrink back from them.

   "Now expand your fields, follow my lead," instructed 2Asuka.

   Shinji and Rei concentrated and their spheres grew larger
and larger, all three eventually merging and extending over 
the central mass of the microbewery tanks and pipes which 
throbbed malignantly, if impotently.

   "Any last words?" asked Shinji who couldn't sense anything
from the Angel except a certain quiet contemplativeness. He
shrugged off the feeling and wondered if Angels could understand
human thought any more than humans could understand that of
cockroaches.

   "Sic transit gloria mundi," sighed Misato. "Fire!"

   Flaps opened in the shoulders of the mechs' armour and
dozens of flat-tipped missiles shot forth, exploding on
impact.   

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Beeeeeer... Must have beeeer... You must have some! Give
it to me!!! This is Commodore Misato Katsuragi evoking security
override! Open up this instant!"

   "Wai! You don't have access!" said a Chibi-Maya that popped
up in front of the fridge.

   "But I need beer!"

   "Wai! Micro-brewery is still being rebuilt! And you've been
issued with your ration of canned beer already. Twice."

   "I need beer! Come out! You can't hide inside there forever!"

   Pen-Pen, wearing a bomb-shelter hardhat, sat tight inside
his fridge fortress, tightly clutching a can of beer to his
chest. 

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

   "Erm... Rei? Could you stop chewing on my leg please?" 
asked Shinji as he tried to go to sleep.

   "Beeeer..." drooled Rei.

   "This is all Misato's fault," muttered Shinji.

               -NE-              -G-              -EV-

Report to the Assistant Chief of the General Staff
(Intelligence), United Nations General Staff.

   The occurence of psi ability in the human population is,
on average, one in one million. Graded in terms of strength,
Epsilon psychics are the weakest and most common among the
psi-able population, up to 60%, while Delta psychics make 
up about 30%, Beta 8-9% and Alpha 1%. A special class of
psychics belong to the elite Alpha-Omega category who are
estimated to occur in one in one billion people. However,
when not hopelessly insane, they are usually inducted into
UN military Ghost and other Black Flag programs or are the
most valued holdings of mega-corporations.

   From UN data files, Zombie and Wussboy have been
officially designated as the highest grade of Alpha psychics
but our agent believes they have potential for further training
and development. From the survelliance of the most recent 
battle, MAGI has assigned a 97% probability that Valkyrie is
an Alpha-Omega psychic, and most likely to be the result of 
Dreieinigkeit Combine genetic engineering. Report on their 
corporate structure is still in the process of compilation. 
Valkyrie DNA sample will be required to confirm analysis but
no sample has yet become available due to the nature of her 
personal security. Her bodyguard, Kaji, is most likely to a 
cloned servitor of high Beta-low Alpha abilities, a mix of ESP 
and cloaking abilities.

   The relevant agents have been instructed to continue 
to lie low and gather intel at Level Two status.
 
End of Chapter 04.


AUTHOR'S NOTES
Boy, this took a long time in writing. RL, postgrad deadlines
blah blah. Gomen! Also want to just elaborate on the perceived
OOCness of the cast: Shinji's portrayal is strongly influenced
by the manga version where he has spine, some chivalry and can
be quite the smart-ass. NEGEV imagines an extension of this
with nine to ten years of personal development on top of that.
Rei's characterization takes a large piece of Joyce Wakabayashi's
'Urusai Asuka!' Fuyutsuki owes much to another Kozo - Kozo Kitaue
from Ammadeau's 'Project Kawaii' though his Yui fetish has its
sources as an exaggeration of anime canon and should turn out to
be fairly central to the deep history and future of the fic.
Maya is a reversal of her repressed anime self and also has
something to do with Joyce Wakabayashi's 'Maya and Makoto's
Excuriating Adventure' and its sequel 'Maya and Ritsuko's 
Problems Continue.'

13 Apr 2001 - First full draft.
02 Jun 2001 - Finalised. HTML version.

My thanks go out to Alain Gravel for his sustained encouragement
and thoughtful comments.