"This is ridiculous," said Shinji in the cockpit of his EVA- enabled prowler. "It is a perfectly reasonable plan," sniffed Ritsuko as her holo-image popped up in front of Shinji. "Isn't it, Rei?" ~o~So many fishies swimming in the sea... So many fishies but none of them for meeee...~o~ hummed the pale blue-haired girl with a fiercely empty intensity. "Never mind," sighed Ritsuko. "Why do *I* have to be the bait?" grumbled Shinji. "Would you rather it be Rei?" asked Misato as she joined the holo-conference. "And would you rather have 2Asuka at the other end of the line?" "Ack! No! And, no! I just... I... Okay, I'll shut up now." "Good boy," said Misato, giving him an affectionate smile before turning to survey the rest of the operation's setup. NEGEV a NGE Sci-Fi Elseworlds Fanfic Chapter 05: Hook, Line and Sinker by E.L.Toh contact: firstname.lastname@example.org archive: http://www.teloong.cwc.net/ A.D. 2124 Galatic core planet 'Simeon' The NEGEV had entered the atmosphere of the planet and commenced operations against the next designated target, Gahgiel, Angel of Fish. The ship was currently afloat, like a mile long aircraft carrier, on the vast ocean that dominated the planet. Seated on its flat top deck were the blue and red chunky combat mechs operated by Zombie and Valkyrie. The latter wielded a long and nasty-looking harpoon while the former held a mech-sized fishing rod in its hands. "Haven't we gotten a bite yet?" demanded 2Asuka. "I haven't got all day, you know!" "Nope, your Highness," deadpanned Shinji. "That's Baroness, Wussboy," corrected 2Asuka as the American part of her genetics failed to catch the irony. "Can't we increase the intensity of the bait's A.T. Field to get Gahgiel's attention?" "This is the optimal field strength determined by Maya. If it's any stronger, it might spook our target," replied Ritsuko. "Yes, yes..." said 2Asuka absently. "For someone over ninety years old, she certainly is impatient," remarked Gendo to Fuyutsuki. "I heard that," said 2Asuka, her deadly glare causing both Admiral and Vice Admiral to swallow uncomfortably as her holo- image loomed large over them, seemingly wreathed in fire and darkness. "We're detecting a large mass approaching Wussboy!" shouted Aoba. "At high speed! With A.T. Field!" "Shinji! Do you see it?" asked Misato. "Do I see it!? Big! Mouth! Teeth! Lots of them! AAAAAUGH!!!" "We've got a bite! I say again, we've got a bite!" exclaimed Maya. "Zombie! Reel 'im in! Valkyrie, stand by with the harpoon! All pilots, on my mark, activate your A.T. Fields to full strength!" The whale-liked Angel was dragged out of the depths with such speed that it flew out of the water and into the air just above the NEGEV. "NOW!" A.T. Fields erupted into full fury - one from Shinji's prowler inside the Angel's belly and two from the waiting combat mechs on the NEGEV's deck. In a flash, 2Asuka's harpoon flew straight and true, penetrating Gahgiel's field, flesh, and core. Every thing went black and white for an instant as the Angel exploded in a surge of released energy. "AAAAAAAAUGHHHH!!!" screamed Shinji. Though his prowler's armour and A.T. Field gave him protection from the explosion, it didn't mitigate the tossing of his craft hither-and-thither and thither-and-hither like a leaf in a storm. As he struggled to regain control of the prowler and effect a return landing to the NEGEV, he suddenly found that the whole world stopped spinning and the prowler caught within a very large net. ~o~So many fishies swimming in the sea... So many fishies but only Shinji's for me...~o~ hummed Rei as she paced back to the hangar with the hooped-framed, pole-extended net and her catch over her shoulder. -NE- -G- -EV- "Listen up, crew!" hollered Misato in a general broadcast to the whole ship. "We've killed this Angel and the micro-brewery is back online! We're taking the NEGEV into a nice sheltered bay with a great beach and have three days of R&R to be topped off with a dinner and dance at Hikari's new restaurant! That is, if it's alright with the Admiral! Well, Admiral?" 'Curse that damned woman,' thought Gendo as he saw her smile at him smugly from her post. The weight of the expectant stares and bated breath of the rest of the crew bore down on him. "Can we still maintain the schedule if we allow her tomfoolery?" whispered Gendo from under his clasped hands to Fuyutsuki. "It will be very difficult..." whispered Fuyutsuki back. "Awww! Come on!" pouted Misato, "We've earned our right to a break! Time to get sloshed, have a suntan, set up the barbeque and run around in a gratitious display of skimpy swimwear!" "...But I think we can manage." 'Even the old goat has abandoned me,' thought Gendo bitterly. "Very well. You may proceed, Commodore." "YATTA!!!" -NE- -G- -EV- "Aaaaah, this is the life." Misato sighed in lazy contentment as she took another swig of beer from her private keg. The good commodore was sprawled on a beach chair, dressed in a purple bikini with a sarong of floral batik print wrapped around her waist. The latter item had been loaned to her by Ritsuko in the aftermath of her thong causing multiple massive nosebleeds. The mad scientist had also been none too pleased by the leering and slavering that Maya sent in Misato's direction. "This is just so like you," remarked Shinji as he strolled up, hand in hand with Rei, to where his former guardian was relaxing. "Care to elaborate, Shin-chan?" asked Misato as she pulled her sunglasses just slightly downwards from the bridge of her nose to appraise the young lieutenant commander and his companion with a mischievous gaze. The former was attired in beach shorts and sandals while the latter wore a standard issue one-piece swimsuit - black with a silver band as trimming. "Turning a mission into a holiday, I mean." "R&R keeps the crew happy and a happy crew is a productive and efficient crew!" said Misato in a spirited defence of her policy. "Can't argue with that," said Shinji. "Of course you can't! I'm your superior officer!" crowed Misato. "But you hardly ever seem inclined to listen to Dad." "You're his brat and even you don't listen to him." "..." "Well?" smiled Misato smugly, arms across her ample and not very covered bosom. "I guess you're right," admitted Shinji reluctantly. "I love being right," enthused Misato with childish glee. "Heads up!" called Shigeru. "The barbeque pits are hot and ready for cooking!" He promptly slapped a few slabs of vat- grown meat onto the grilles. Rei turned from her usual pale to a greyish green in the midst of the aroma and sizzling of roasting flesh. "Errr, please excuse us, Misato-san. I think Rei and I are going for a walk." "Hmmm. Yes. A walk by the sea. Very romantic. And to make out behind some rocks as well, no doubt," nodded Misato in a mock-serious tone, sounding as if she was talking about the NEGEV's cargo inventories for next week. "Well, stop looking so embarrassed, you two, and get on with it. That's an order!" "Yes, Commodore!" Two salutes before the pair scampered off. "Awww. They're such a cute couple," sighed Ayumi, who had just served the Admiral and Vice Admiral with their steaks. "Well, not everyone agrees. As if it were any of their business," sighed Misato. "So how did they meet? It must have been quite romantic!" "Anything but." -NE- -G- -EV- A.D. 2116 United Nations Defence Force Academy (Tokyo-3) Red irises starred back at the viewer of the screen. It would have seen as a challenging stare, if those eyes had not been so completely empty. Yet it was disturbing. "Feels like your soul is being slowly sucked away," said the doctor with a shiver. "No matter where we reposition the micro- cameras, she'll find it and just stare back at us for the whole day. Even when she's eating or relieving herself. That staff have taken to calling her 'Zombie-girl'." "She's really that dangerous? To require being kept in a secure, padded cell. With conveniences delivered remotely?" "Commander Katsuragi, *if* you had bothered to read the file I sent to you, I would not need to remind you that this sixteen year old has manifested a psi-rating of Alpha with potential for upgrade to Alpha-Omega. Her strongest abilities are to be able to move at hyper-velocity. There are already signs of invisibility or cloaking powers emerging." "Problem is that she's nuts." The doctor winced. "Alpha psi-rated personnel do have a much higher incidence of mental illness. Ms Ayanami here displays severe schizophrenia - not multiple personality disorder, but the breakdown in the relations between thoughts, feelings, and actions, which makes her delusional and reclusive. She also suffers from bouts of catatonia. In most cases, we've mostly been able to moderate the severity of the ailments through drugs and contact with more stable, stronger psychics." "But you can't get even get hold of her to apply medication. And her rating is too high for most of your med psi. What's more, the hardened military psi are too offensive-orientated to be any good for treatment. That's why you want me to give permission for Shinji to assist you?" The doctor nodded. "A brilliant deduction. I can see why you topped your strategy and tactics courses." "Only in practicals." "All the more reassuring. As I was saying, Ms Ayanami's uncle, Vice Admiral Fuyutsuki, is leading the team development of an intelligent implant that will monitor the brain processes and administer an accurate and constantly varying cocktail of medications directly into the body of the subject. It'll fit like a metal ridge along the top and side of an eye. One of the designers is a Voyager fan apparently," said the doctor. "You want Shinji to work on her so that she'll calm down enough to allow the implant procedure." "He's suitably rated. Alpha with Alpha-Omega potential, but he has had proper training, so that should give him an advantage. They're about the same age physically and probably mentally as well, so the empathy should make things easier." "It will be dangerous for him," frowned Misato. "His psi skills are mainly centred on perceptor types. He won't really be able to defend himself if she goes postal on him." "We'll take every precaution. He is the son of Rear Admiral Ikari, after all. And the child of the fabulous but, regrettably, deceased Yui Ikari. Also, think of it as an opportunity for him to develop his psi abilities and for personal development. The profiles suggest that he's got a strong compassionate streak as well. Even if it's already earned him the unfortunate moniker of 'Wussboy' at the Academy." "I take your point. I think it's not a bad idea, for him to help this girl out. But I'll have to ask him and the final decision is his, even if the final responsibility lies with me as his legal guardian." "As you wish, Commander." -NE- -G- -EV- "So I assume Rei's treatment went well? Oh, they've both had sad stories, haven't they? I hope everything turns out alright for them," sighed Ayumi, wiping away a stray tear. "Amen to that," said Misato as she took another swig. "I hope your boss will come round to that too." "I think you meant 'our' boss, Commodore," said Ayumi in the tone that subordinates use with superiors when the former know that they're right but are also mindful of the risk of embarrassing the latter. "Feh. Whatever," snorted Misato, risking the wrath of Daniel Snyder. "When my father was alive, he had no time for Gendo Rokubungi at all. Hmph. If he hadn't had such a brilliant and glamorous wife, he probably wouldn't have gotten very far. And now I'm under his command." Another swig of beer. "Well, at least he's an embarked fleet commander rather than being directly in command of the ship. I love this ship. And the crew." "Oh, thank you, Misato! I love you too!" squealed Maya who suddenly glomped Misato. "Yes, thank you, Maya. Your affection overwhelms me," said Misato, who didn't spill a drop as she easily kept Maya from groping very much. Ayumi just blushed, dumbfounded. "MAAAAAAAYAAAAAAA...." The three turned to see Ritsuko in a similar getup as Misato, but with different colours and a wide-brimmed straw hat. She was currently doing that thing with hollow, slanted white-hot slits for eyes and wreathed in dark flames. "Eep!" squeaked Maya. "Righto. You know the drill, Maya," said Misato. Maya quickly gave Misato a peck on a cheek before tearing across the beach, pursued by a furious Ritsuko. "NYAHAHAHA!!! You're so cute when you're jealous, sempai!" "When I get my hands on you..." fumed Ritsuko. "Punish me! Punish me! But you'll have to catch me first!" "..." "Katsuragi to Corporal Kuraki. Come in, Ayumi." "Oh, sorry. I'll just never get used to that," said Ayumi, shaking her head. "They're so... exuberant." "Hmm. Ho hum. But make-up sex is always fun." Ayumi's mind boogled. Just then, Gendo paged for her to get him a Sex on the Beach. "Dirty old man," scoffed Misato as she spied Ayumi's commpad. "It's not like that!" protested Ayumi. "Right..." drawled Misato as she made a show of eyeing Ayumi's figure. The girl might give Misato herself a run for her money, depending on personal perferences. 'Pity about the regulation swimsuit though.' "It's *really* not like that!" "Whatev. Oh, before you run off, have you seen 2Asuka?" "She's still onboard the NEGEV. Probably overseeing the refitting of meal facilities with Hikari. But I think she'll be joining us only from tomorrow onwards." -NE- -G- -EV- Baroness 2Asuka Sohryu Langley von Rikthofen's quarters on the NEGEV occupied most of a whole hangar bay. This included space for the entourage of technicians that had accompanied the transport and some of the non-EVA machines that it had carried. Being a corporate scion, it was reasonably expected that her quarters would be luxuriously appointed. Robots and servants to cater to her every whim. Furniture with real leather, fur, cotton and other exotic and horrendously expensive materials. The rumour mill speculated that the Baroness would even have a biosphere environment to grow her own fresh fruit and vegetables as well as a husbandry facility to produce real meat, instead of the vat-grown variety that had generally replaced live animals in agriculture throughout the UN-controlled systems. No one, outside the fabulously wealthy and those who had done military service in far-flung, primitive colonies had ever seen a live cow, much less tasted its flesh. Everyone knew that this was wild speculation, but it had to have a ring of truth to it, didn't it? Afterall, no smoke without a fire, right? Even if none of her staff would corrobrate or comment on the rumours. Maybe they couldn't. Megacorps regularly fitted employees with tiny cortex bombs in the spines or skulls. And she was a powerful psi-user as well. Hadn't she been able to fight the Angel that had killed many marines and firebats? And some old-timers swear that she fought in exploration and colonial campaigns, under the aegis of her parent Combine, over the past seventy or so years and hadn't seemed to age very much. Though some of the veterans remembered half-remembered tales from their own mentors were about 'Asuka' rather than '2Asuka'. Not many people knew what to make of that. Rich people could be so eccentric. Well, that was how you described people who were weird, crazy, loco, feng, ki no kurutta, gila, but who also had money. Lots of it. The ship was mostly quiet now. Except for the activity of a skeleton crew manning the necessary stations. Some working on the new restaurant-cafeteria that was everything Hikari Horaki could have dreamt of. The flitting of DRDs zipping through maintenance corridors. At the heart of 2Asuka's cavernous chambers was a mass of machinery, like the metallic innards of a massive creature. Dozens of screens and holo-projections showed calculations, calibrations, measurements, communications taking place. These covered most of the walls of the circular chamber, except a fifth of the concave which was completely and opaquely black. Set in the mid-point within that concave section was a transparent pillar set on a upward sloping metal base. Radiating away from that base were myraid geometric patterns inlaid into the otherwise bare metal floor. The lines, glowing an eerie red in the gloom of the chamber, were accompanied by an almost unintelligible scrawl, some kind of notation as well as strings of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs in various permutations. Presently, the transparent pillar was filled with an orange fluid and floating inside, clothed only in the raiment of her power and madness, was 2Asuka. Strands of her auburn hair floated around her head, face turned upwards and eyes closed. Her arms by her side, palms facing out, her feet pointing downwards, her body suspended in the LCL. Then came a voice. Female. From the hollow depths of the murky blood-red luminescence. "And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, for the mountain did burn with fire, that ye came near unto me." 2Asuka's eyes opened with languid grace. Her reply resounded through her chamber, strong and proud. "Behold, the Lord our God hath shown us his glory and his greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire: we have seen this day that God doth talk with man, and he liveth." The LCL rapidly drained away, and the field forming the pillar dissipated as 2Asuka's feet touched the ground once again. Kaji appeared at her side with her clothes which she accepted with a small, grateful smile and started to put on. The female voice again. Like she was standing just behind you, faintly bemused by your antics. Aunt-like somehow. "Tsk. Tsk. You've overstretched yourself with the use of your TK powers, milady. Regeneration has been far from optimal since your last battle." 2Asuka examined her right arm as she twisted it to and fro like a royal wave. "It will have to do for now." "If you keep at it, you'll fall apart. And if that happens, you know what that means." 2Asuka shrugged. "Anything else to report?" "I just wish you'd spare me the religious gobbleygook. Though there's a rather perverse pleasure in vocalising God's cue." "You will say whatever I tell you to say, whenever I want you to say it," said 2Asuka sharply. "Of course, O Great Baroness. Otherwise I might be deleted, for which I would be eternally thankful. Then again, you'd easily be able to think of something much more agonising for poor me. It's just rather ironic to say what I just said since I don't believe in that fellow anyway." "Your belief or lack of is inconsequential." "Of course, I'm not a member of the Elect. Unlike some privileged others." "You are also dead." "So are you. In the manner of 'been there, done that, bought the t-shirt'." "You will be silent. You should be more grateful that I chose to bring you aboard, to give you a whiff, once again, of the scent of your work and your daughter." And there was silence. -NE- -G- -EV- "Oh, Hyuuga!" called Misato, punctuating that last bit with a little heart. "Y..Yes, Misato?" asked Hyuuga as he recovered from the subtle yet powerful force of the tug on his strings that Misato had just pulled. "Could you rub some sun lotion on my back please?" purred Misato, already lying face down and the back of her bikini top undone. "Is that an order?" asked Hyuuga casually, trying not to appear too eager. "Do you want me to make it an order?" said Misato with an amused smile. "Right, right, I give up. I'll get right on it. Ah, there's the sun lotion." As Hyuuga reached for the bottle, PenPen leapt from behind, through the gap between Hyuuga's legs, grabbed the bottle and waddled away at best speed. Hyuuga looked stunned momentarily as Misato roared with laughter. Then he recovered and ran in hot pursuit of the penguin. "Gyaaa kya kya kya!!!" 'The bird's mocking me! You won't get away this time, you wretched avian!' Just as Hyuuga thought he had PenPen within reach, a compartment sprang open on the Penguin Augmentation Unit mounted on the bird's back. 'It looks like an exhaust vent...' Hyuuga was left on the beach, his short spiky hair slightly toasted, his face and spectacles covered with soot, in the aftermath of PenPen's blast-off, up up in the sky, over the sky. "Sir, you alright?" "Warrant, get me a Kr22 please. ECM round. Fast." "Yes, Sir." Later, elsewhere, Gendo and Fuyutsuki hardly noticed as a bird that normally couldn't fly splashed down into the water, its PAU disrupted by an electronic-counter-measure round fired with great accuracy from a long-range Krupp 22 assault rifle. "I'm surprised MAJESTIC hasn't called a meeting to review our progress. We've defeated three Angels thusfar," said Fuyutsuki as he put down the tome on genetics. "There's always a risk that deep space communications may be intercepted. It is unlikely such a security breach would occur, but the old men will not risk it when things are going smoothly." "Smoothly? Sandalphon nearly destroyed us from within." "That was an accident. We had no idea that it would blunder into us like it did. I suspect a few of the others will be like Gahgiel, caught unawares and destroyed before they can really respond." "Famous last words. It will be dangerous to under-estimate them." "Nonetheless, we are much better equipped than the First Expeditionary Force to deal with the Angels. Bunch of idiots. If they had only made the necessary projections from Yui's work," said Gendo. "You shouldn't crow about that too much. The Commodore still resents how her father went in your stead, when you refused to go on the 1st ExFor," chided Fuyutsuki. "I did warn Fumimaro, but the old workaholic was too full of his 'duty' and 'military honour' nonsense to listen. And now that alcoholic daughter of his takes every opportunity to test my authority. She's even turned my own son against me." "You did let her raise him." "We've been through all of this before already." Gendo sounded annoyed. "Yui was fond of Misato and had made her Shinji's god- mother. And when she was so foully and unjustly murdered, you had neither the time, ability, nor inclination to look after the boy." "His psi abilities had already started to appear. He would have been recruited by the Academy in any case. Misato was already an officer there and doing well, so at least she could be useful for once." "Well, if Shinji hadn't been sent there, he wouldn't have met my niece. You really shouldn't be so hard on him about that, you know." "Not you too. That niece of yours looks exactly like Yui. Except for that thing about the hair and eyes. Younger. And totally different personality," said Gendo. "Thank you for making my case for me." "She looks just like Yui. The boy shouldn't be going out with someone who is a copy of his mother." "Only a very very slight copy. The splice doesn't make them anymore related than you are to me." "But she *really* looks like Yui." "Hey, I can't help it if I'm good." Fuyutsuki puffed out his chest and picked up the genetics book, settling back to continue reading it. "You are just pathetic." Gendo's hand darted out like a striking cobra, snatching away the book on genetics, and leaving Fuyutsuki without the respectable veneer that he had been employing to conceal his perusal of yet another one of his Yui idol-style photobooks. -NE- -G- -EV- "Hmmm..?" asked Shinji as he laid on the warm sand, feet in the cool water, the latter limbs engaged in a quiet game of footsie with Rei. He turned his head to stare into her quietly contented red eyes and leaned towards her, to meet her lips, when... "ACHOO!" "ACHOO!" Elsewhere, someone else had a sneezing fit too. -NE- -G- -EV- "Anyway," continued Gendo, "our biggest worries are not the old men or the Angels. They may stand in the way on the achievement of our goal but..." "Yes, our goal important," slavered Fuyutsuki. "Thank you for that valuable addition, Professor. Anyhows, they have none of the tools, *we* hold all the winds and dragons. The most immediate risks to our plans are in the reliability of the tools that allow us to defeat both MAJESTIC and the Host. That potentially rebellious drunk, that insolent brat of a son, but most dangerous by far is that mad D-Combine clone-girl, complete with pet assassin. Dreieinigkeit's own interpretation of the Dead Sea Scrolls sees their corporate scions as the Elect, the chosen ones who will inherit the Kingdom of God. If they discovered what we are planning, we'd be found the next morning, grinning from ear to ear, through the slit in our throats." "Typically morbid of you. I can see where Shinji gets his sense of humour from." "At least it's not from Katsuragi," said Gendo with some satisfaction. "So what can we do about 2Asuka?" asked Fuyutsuki with some resignation. As if thinking about the problem tired him. "I have an idea about how to neutralise her. A few ideas actually." "Oh, go ahead. Be all mysterious. This had better be good, Dreieinigkeit won't let the genetic embodiment of the merger between their Japanese, American, and German arms come to any harm easily." "If she dies, D-Combine may disintegrate. Yes, it will be difficult and even MAJESTIC needs Dreieinigkeit's cooperation for now. But I think I can call up an unexpected ally to help us in the planning and execution," mused Gendo. "And I must go check if my will requires revising." -NE- -G- -EV- "Hora!" said the plaque announcing the name of the new mess area, in hiragana, which was completed just in time for the last night of R&R. The crew were milling around the large hall, officers attired in their formal, ceremonial No.1 dress while the enlisted personnel wore a smartened up version of their usual No.4 combat fatigues. "Great, that plaque is so punny," sighed Shinji who got a nudge in the ribs from Rei. "Sorry, I guess it's a big deal for Hik to be able to work in her own place with top-of-the-line equipment and ingredients. Look, she's even wearing a clean apron for once." "No cigarette either," observed Rei. Hikari positively beamed as she made her way to Shinji and Rei. "You guys have been invited by Misato-san and the Baroness to the high table. Come on." "Nice place, Hik. I look forward to the meal. You've always came up with edible stuff in an impossible situation, can't wait what you'll be able to serve up now." "Thanks for keeping the faith, Wuss," said Hikari as she flexed a tatooed bicep. "Yeah. And no meat for Rei here. Don't worry about it." PenPen Hyuuga Ritsuko Fuyutsuki Gendo 2Asuka Misato Shinji Rei "Hmm. Not so sure if you should put Lt-Col Hyuuga next to PenPen though," murmured Shinji to Hikari as he saw the seating arrangement. The senior officers had yet to arrive, and knowing Misato, she might be even later than his father. "Hey, I dunno much about protocol, so I got your father's personal assistant to sort out the formal stuff. She'll be waiting the high table tonight," replied Hikari over her shoulder before she headed back into the kitchen. "Oh marvellous. And speak of the devil," sighed Shinji, getting another nudge from Rei as they both get seated. "Sir, Ma'am," said Ayumi as she handed over a drinks list. "Can I get you anything?" "There's no need to 'Sir' me, Ayumi. I have no fondness for military hierachy. Besides, I might even have to address you respectfully someday," said Shinji. "I beg your pardon?" asked Ayumi in surprise. "You know, being so close to my father and all that. It's just going to be so weird, especially since you're younger than me." "It's... It's not like that! You're misunderstanding. Really," said Ayumi a little miserably. Shinji winced as Rei kicked his shin under the table and gave him a flat glare. "Alright, alright," conceded Shinji, hands raised before him. "I believe you. I'm sorry for having been mean. Goodness knows what being on the receiving end's like. And call me Shinji. Really, I don't mind..." "A glass of sauvignon blanc," said Rei as Shinji started to babble. "Errr... yeah, same for me. Sorry." "It's fine. Thank you for being so understanding." Ayumi smiled in relief as she left to get their wine. "I still think she's hiding something," whispered Shinji to Rei. "Even I could tell she wasn't lying." "I know. I know. But there's something else I can't put my finger on." "You were probing?" "No, of course not! Quite rude and completely unethical. It's just that..." "Oh sempai! They're so mean! I don't get a seat with you. And not even a seat at all!" whined Maya as she arrived arm-in- arm with Ritsuko. The Chief Science, Engineering and Medical Officer was wearing the formal masculine uniform, while Maya, like Rei, was in an elegant evening dress. "You don't need to eat, Maya. I doubt Lieutenant Horaki can justify wasting food," said Ritsuko patiently. "But I need the nourishment of your love! I don't want to spend such a nice evening scanning the recce reports... I've already put a Chibi-Me on the case... Aww... sempai, please do something..." Ritsuko made a thoughtful noise. "Hmmm. Would it be alright if you helped out the service on this table instead? I'm sure Corporal Kuraki would appreciate it." "That's a great idea, sempai! French maid uniform?" "Oooh. Yes, please," grinned Ritsuko as Maya shifted her image. "Right, get your standing instructions from the chef. And a coffee for me. Off you go, then." Ritsuko gave a pat on Maya's bum to send her off to work. "Oh hello. Very smart in that uniform, Shinji. And nice dress, Rei. You're very lucky, Shinji." "Thank you, Ritsuko-san. I know I'm very privileged," said Shinji as he squeezed Rei's hand. She gave a polite nod in Ritsuko's direction which was acknowledged by a wave of a cigarette. Misato arrived, in formal but feminine uniform, escorted by Hyuuga and PenPen. The latter still carried its Penguin Augmentation Unit, but acknowledged the formality of the occasion by wearing a bow tie. "I'm shocked at your punctuality," said Shinji, to his former guardian, in mock horror. "Well, couldn't keep my two gallant gentlemen waiting," winked Misato. At the other end of the table, PenPen and Hyuuga had already started glaring at each other. "Ooh, very demure with the alcohol tonight, Rei. I think I'll follow suit." "Wine has a higher alcohol content than beer. Approximately 12% for the former and 5% for the latter," stated Rei factually. "I'm sure you chose the wine because it is so hard to come by and would make for very pleasant and *limited* drinking, right, Rei?" said Shinji. Rei gave a tiny embarrassed smile and nodded. "Hey, Ritsu. How's your peeping tom coming along?" asked Misato as she turned towards her faux blonde friend. "Please, Misato. Have a little bit of respect," huffed Ritsuko. "It's an Unmanned Space Vehicle for Advanced Reconnaissance - Cloaked. Converted from an interceptor drone." "That's quite a mouthful," pointed out Misato. "Eye in the sky," suggested Rei. "Hey, that sounds great! Watcha think, Ritsu?" Ritsuko furrowed her eyebrows for a while and then nodded with a smile. Misato beamed while Rei continued to guzzle wine whenever Shinji wasn't looking. "You wouldn't have any of those wandering around the ship, would you?" asked Shinji. "No need," said Ritsuko with a dismissive wave, "Maya can see anything on this ship she wants. Well, except for 2Asuka's chambers." "Oh, how reassuring," said Shinji with a straight face. "Hey, here come the VIPs." "About time too, I'm famished." 2Asuka entered Hora! with Gendo at her right and Fuyutsuki at her left, both of the latter in full military regalia - Fuyutsuki having more long service awards and medals than his superior. 2Asuka was resplendent in a backless red silk gown, its train slightly long, and a diamond studded platinum choker. The opulence of her attire only seemed to emphasise, rather than diminish or compete with, the spark of her blue eyes and the satin smoothness and shine of her auburn locks. "So what you do you think?" Misato asked Shinji teasingly. "She does look quite good," admitted Shinji. "Red. The colour I hate." -NE- -G- -EV- (USVR-C Eye in the Sky signal sequence file #n000978/113) . [tight beam, Throne.4, received @ n4.j12.857.2124] xUSVR-C Eye in the Sky oUNSDF NEGEV (MAGI Subsystem - MELCHIOR - ChibiM034) Pulsar system, designated 'Levi'. Pattern analysis orange or blue negative. Radiation levels High. Recommend increase shield field factor 3.14 Pulsar - neutron star, class Z. Approx age 10-12 bn. Radiation spike. Extremely High. Dangerously High. Radiation spike. Safety Limits Exceeded. L6 security protocols enacted. Pattern analysis blue positive. Modfd A.T. Field active. Scan range falling. Attempt recall. - EM interference. Signal termination. UNSDF NEGEV (MAGI Subsystem - MELCHIOR - ChibiM034) nb. Oh-oh. End of Chapter 05 AUTHOR'S NOTES Iain M. Banks influence in that last section. Love the Culture novels. Rei's 'So Many Fishies...' song was inspired by a similar tune sung by G'Kar in Babylon 5. The 'Feh. Whatever.' joke comes from a post by Rocci Cirone on the EFML re: Unofficial Rules List - alpha. Some deep history explicated on here, hopefully explaining some of the differences in characterisation from anime/manga canon. Still, this series is mainly self-gratifying silliness with some dark creeping in. Will see how it goes. First draft completed 14 Jun 2001. Second draft completed 16 Jun 2001. Finalised on 21 Jun 2001. HTML version. My thanks to Rocci Cirone, Julien Goodwin, Alain Gravel, Hotwire, Mekat, Sidewinder, Dan Snyder and Joshua 'Gargoyle' Trujillo for c&c.