"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: email@example.com 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.