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E V A N G E L I O N  +  U N P L U G G E D

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By RENEGADE:  renegade_y2j@hotmail.com

ACT 01: HANG ON SHINJI, LET ME SWITCH ON THE PART OF MY BRAIN THAT CARES

Like many sensible things, the story started at the beginning.

It was Wednesday, one o'clock. Misato was at home by herself, drinking beer and watching Survivor.

"The tribe has spoken," Jeff Probst proclaimed gravely, smothering the losing contestant's flame with a coconut shell. "You have ten seconds to make good your escape."

The man didn't get far. The remaining players, all starving, pounced on the man and plunged him into the cauldron of boiling water. Misato reflected on Survivor's increased popularity ever since the producers had upped the stakes by refusing the contestants any kind of food, water, adequate shelter or warmth whatsoever and landing all the losers into the cooking pot.

"Out of the frying pan and into the fire," the NERV Major commented as the man's screams faded into a commercial about mouthwash.

She rose to her feet and, like a military SCUD missile headed straight for a children's hospital, she aimed directly for the fridge. Opening it, she revealed her own personal alcoholic treasure trove, a hoard that would put Smaug of the Lonely Mountain to shame.

She glanced about. "All right," she snapped, planting her hands on her hips. "I'm Major Misato Katsuragi of NERV and I've had several reports of Yebisu-related disturbances in this area. I'm going to have to take you into custody."

She grabbed an armful of beer, cracked open several at once and poured the liquid down her throat. "No," she growled at the beer as if in reply to an unheard question. "You don't get a trial. I'm judge, jury and executioner. And you're guilty, Yebisu scum!"

She downed another.

Suddenly the telephone rang and Misato sighed, disliking being interrupted from her Yebisu fantasies. She tossed her beer can over her shoulder and out the window, brutally blasting a hapless sparrow from its perch in a storm of feathers. It plummeted ten stories to the ground, unconscious, and landed humourously in an open manhole cover.

Misato picked up the receiver. "Hello?"

Makoto Hyuga was sweating heavily and frantically slamming his fingers down on the buttons of his MAGI terminal, alarms wailing in his ears and klaxons blaring angrily at him from all sides. His desperately writhing figure was bathed in a pulsing, sickly red light and there was smoke pouring and sparks spitting and hissing at him from his workstation. The words TERMINAL SHUTDOWN--YOUR DEATH IMMINENT scrolled across the screen in blood red letters before his terrified eyes.

"Major Katsuragi!" Hyuga screamed into the telephone. "My God, why aren't you at work!? We're all about to die!!"

"Oh, hello Hyuga," Misato said.

"Jesus Christ, Major!" Hyuga shrieked in terror as an ominous countdown began, accompanied by an impressive, yet probably unnecessarily sinister booming voice: TEN…. NINE… EIGHT… "Where in the holy name of sweet Jesus and Mary are you!"

Misato cracked open another beer and took a sip. "I'm at home, silly. I decided to blow work off today."

"What!?" Hyuga choked out in a hysterical voice, flames beginning to lick at him from the computer. The walls around him began to vibrate with an extremely disturbing whine. The whole room began to shake. SEVEN… SIX… FIVE… "Major, for the love of God, you have to help me!!"

"Isn't there anyone else in Central Dogma who can help you?" Misato asked pleasantly.

Hyuga paused for a moment and glanced about him. The whole complex was empty. "There's no-one else in sight!" FOUR… THREE… Pipes and heavy machinery groaned and wrenched themselves away from the ceiling and crashed to the floor, missing the tech by inches. Steam began to hiss at him from all directions, making him splutter helplessly.

"Well, sorry Hyuga," Misato sighed, tapping her beer can idly as she cradled the phone in the crook of her neck. "I'm having a sickie today."

"Dear God, I'm about to die!" Hyuga's insane, trembling voice matched his wild, haunted eyes, locked on the readout that said DEATH PREDICTION: HIDEOUS. "Then I have to tell you something, Major Katsuragi!"

"All right, then, Hyuga, I'll talk to you later," Misato said absently.

TWO… ONE…

"Major! I love -"

*click*

Misato sighed again. Hyuga was a nice guy, but she really wasn't in the mood to baby him all the time. She dropped her beer to the floor and lazily watched the contents spill out, forever ruining the carpet Shinji had fussily imported for four hundred thousand yen and installed all by himself over a back-breaking, soul-destroying three week period.

Sadly, the carpet was about to become irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, because soon it would meet an agonizing and fiery doom. Unbeknownst to Misato, Pen-Pen had spent the morning behind the couch lighting pretty little fires.

Glancing warily over his shoulders, the arctic waterfowl felt his heart thumping as he pulled out another match. Holding his breath in anticipation, he struck it and stared in rapt attention as the beautiful little spark danced and writhed. Pen-Pen felt his arousal grow as his mind clouded in a hedonistic swirl and a particular part of his avian anatomy began to swell when the licking flames grew brighter.

Pen-Pen was a very disturbed little bird.

He swallowed carefully, not wanting to harm the flame… the flame was so beautiful… it must never die…

Yes. Pen-Pen was in love with the flame.

Then he accidentally dropped it and the effect was similar to napalm on a Vietnamese peasant's crops. Before the bird could even quell his thermal expansion, flames thundered and crackled up the walls and across the floor, devouring everything in sight.

*          *            *

Meanwhile, at a certain Tokyo-3 school, classes had just ended for the day.

"Class dismissed," croaked the ancient sensei as he lay back down and feebly pulled the coffin lid over him like a blanket.

"Okay everyone, seeya!" called Hikari Horaki brightly, having already done her class rep routine.

"Goodbye, sensei!" smiled Asuka Langley Sohryu as she walked past the coffin, giving it a sharp rap on the lid. "See you tomorrow!"

"Go away!" the living corpse within it groaned pitiably, fervently wishing for a freak viral outbreak to strike the classroom like the hammer of God. "I hate my life!"

The students wandered out. Asuka turned to her companion, Shinji Ikari and grabbed his ear in a vicelike grip.

"So, slimebag, what are you doing tonight?"

Shinji pondered the answer as Asuka twisted his ears, squirting blood and pus all over the footpath.

"Homework, I guess."

"You're so boring, Ikari," Asuka snorted, flicking her red hair over her shoulder, lashing Shinji painfully across the face in a movement that left him many deep, bloody cuts.

"Come on, I'm sure Shinji can be interesting when he wants to be," chided Hikari, coming up behind them with Touji Suzahara and Kensuke Aida.

"Oh sure he can!" retorted Asuka sarcastically, quick as lightning whipping her hand and clasping a passing fly between her fingers.

"Damn," it cursed, struggling valiantly but to no avail.

Asuka casually started pulling the wings off the screaming bug's back. "Ikari's about as much fun as an instruction manual!"

"He is not!" frowned Kensuke, pushing his glasses up his nose. He had lovingly added a fresh Band-Aid to the bridge between the lenses just this morning, as well as four new ballpoint pens to his right shirt pocket. "I've read some great instruction manuals…"

"Hey!" interrupted Shinji, annoyed as he pulled an instant ramen cup from his schoolbag. "I've been known to have fun before! Excitement practically follows me around like a fart at a party."

"Oh, really?" sneered Asuka, cocking her head on the side and accidentally twisting one of the fly's legs off, causing it to bellow in agony. "Okay, make a joke then, Third Child!"

Shinji muttered and absently used his chopsticks to poke at the cup of overcooked ramen. Asuka snickered victoriously and, detaching the maimed body of the insect from her fingertips, she flicked it into her companion's meal. Shinji sighed sadly, and knowing that he could not win these confrontations, just continued to eat.

"Oh Jesus, nooo!" cried the pitiful voice of the fly as it was ground between Shinji's teeth.

"See?" Asuka said smugly, crossing her arms as the group walked. "He's too lame to do anything fun."

Shinji glared at her with yellowed, bloodshot eyes reminiscent of the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. The Third Child muttered again under his breath, just loud enough for Asuka to catch it.

"Mmwhatwasthat?" she screeched, spinning to face him. Embarrassed, Shinji coughed, sending the fly shooting down onto the concrete footpath, where it lay moaning just before Asuka brought the full force of her heel down onto it. There was a crunch and a roar of pain.

"What-did-you-say?" Asuka said dangerously, narrowing her eyes.

"He called you a cat boner," Touji supplied helpfully, turning smugly to face her. He had his trouser zipper down halfway and had stuck his finger down his pants and through the hole. He had been amusing himself with this all day.

"I know he called me a cat boner!" Asuka yelled angrily, planting her hands on her hips. "Why?"

Nervously, Shinji looked for a way out as Asuka advanced upon him. "I… um… hey, I thought of a joke!" he tried weakly.

Asuka's eyes narrowed.

"Well… um… there's a penguin. And he's driving his car but it breaks down, right?"

"Yeah," prompted Touji.

"And he takes it to the repair place. The penguin says to the guy, 'You fix my car. I'm going to the shop.' So the penguin leaves his car and goes to the mall, where he has an ice cream. He doesn't know but he gets a bit of it on his beak."

Asuka tapped her foot impatiently.

"So," Shinji went on hurriedly, "the penguin goes back to the repair shop and says to the mechanic, 'You fixed my car? And the mechanic says to him, 'Looks like you blew a seal.' So the penguin wipes his mouth and says, 'No, it's just a little ice cream.'"

There was a heavy silence. Then came a feeble laugh. Five pairs of eyes went to the brutalized fly on the footpath.

"Heh, heh, heh…" it chuckled weakly before it's eyes darted upwards. "Noo!"  it screamed in terror as Asuka pointed a match and a deodorant can at it before bathing the wretch in flames. The tiny insect rolled around on the ground, howling in torment, suffering horribly.

"I've heard that one before," snarled Asuka, and continued to walk.

"Mmm. That was as weak as a baby fart, Ikari," Kensuke said wisely.

"Like you could do better," snorted Asuka.

"I could," Kensuke retorted defensively.

The redhead grinned savagely at the thought of breaching the walls of Fort Kensuke and slaughtering the natives living there. "I'll bet you three day's pay that you can't make me laugh."

Kensuke cackled evilly as he realised he had a chance at sinking the SS Asuka with an Aida-powered torpedo – he didn't have a job, so there was no way he could lose. Like a lamb to the slaughter, he took the bait.

"You're on," he said.

"So let's hear the joke," Asuka demanded.

"Hmm. Okay. This'll blow your mind. Two peanuts are walking down the street, right? One was assaulted… peanut."

The silence was so deafening it drowned out all the other noise.

"Shit," cursed Kensuke. "I thought that was funny as hell."

"Three days pay," said Asuka smugly. "I intend on collecting."

"Of course," Kensuke replied innocently, congratulating himself on his secret victory.

"So, Shinji," Touji said cheerfully, spinning to face him as he thrust out his groin. He curled his finger up and stretched it out again, grinning.

Shinji stared at it coldly. "Yes?"

"Are you coming out with me and Kensuke later? He says he has something to show us."

"Sure," the Third Child shrugged.

"Can't you give us a hint as to what it is?" Touji said with a frown, moving over to his shorter friend and stroking his upper leg with the… finger… sticking through his zipper.

"Hey! What the hell do you think you're doing!?" Kensuke yelled in a huff, waving away the roving appendage. It went limp in disappointment. "I'm not telling, all right? It's a surprise!"

"A surprise?" repeated Hikari brightly. "Can I come and see it?"

Touji's finger instantly went stiff again.

"Nah." Asuka nudged her knowingly. "We should go shopping at the mall."

"Yeah, okay," Hikari agreed.

The finger went so limp so quickly it was almost depressing. Shinji tore his eyes away from the spectacle and for the first time noticed smoke rising in the distance. He frowned.

*          *            *

The group arrived at Misato's flat to find that it now resembled Ritsuko's ashtray on a larger scale, minus any gigantic cigarettes. The Major herself was standing out on the street holding a sack, with a few onlookers nearby as well as some firemen who were valiantly trying to hose down the roaring flames that engulfed their apartment. Misato was eyeing them lecherously.

"Misato! What the hell happened?" screamed Asuka madly as they ran up.

"There's a fire," her guardian replied unnecessarily, before grinning. "But don't worry. I got all of our important stuff out in time!" She indicated the sack.

"Oh, good," Asuka sighed in relief. "Have you got my Warhammer 40,000 Chaos World Eater Khorne Berserker army, led by G'Grual the Painbringer?"

"Er…" began Misato.

"And my Russell Crowe Perfect DVD Collection?" added Shinji.

"Well…"

"And my favourite English Premier League video, the one where Manchester United loses 6-3 to Southampton?" continued Asuka.

"Um…"

"And my Goosebumps books?" put in Shinji. Asuka glanced over at him disgustedly.

"Why do you read those lame books?" she snorted.

"Well, the Fear Street series is for older teens, due to low violence and mild sexual references," Shinji pondered. He looked up, annoyed. "And anyway, Goosebumps is a fine series of complex literature that's rich in themes and style for any serious connoisseur of the horror genre…"

"Hmm, yes, How I Got My Shrunken Head really makes R.L. Stine look like today's Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft, doesn't it?" Asuka asked sarcastically. "The eternal question: should you read The Lurker at the Threshold or Revenge of the Snowman?" She turned away and began rummaging through Misato's sack.

"That one was really scary!" Shinji cried, breaking out into a cold sweat just from thinking about it.

"Um… before you do that…" Misato tried weakly.

"Well, there's two hundred pairs of bras and panties, some NERV-issue uniforms, a whole bunch of frilly and revealing clothes, a booklet of vouchers redeemable for Yebisu, romance novels, a laptop, a slightly irate warm-water penguin…" Asuka narrowed her eyes. "In fact, if I didn't know better, this whole sack is filled with your belongings, Misato."

"Rubbish," Misato huffed quickly. "It's filled with the bare essentials of living, nothing more. It's all I could save."

"The bare essentials?" Asuka echoed incredulously. "Misato, I really don't think that The Millionaire's Seduction is a requirement of basic human survival!"

"You could have made a better effort…" Shinji whined, wistfully calling up fond memories of Russell Crowe and R.L. Stine.

"I can't do everything. Who do I look like, Optimus Prime?" snapped Misato.

"Well, in Beast Wars he was a gorilla," snickered Asuka.

"Hey!"

"Look, let's forget about it now," interjected Shinji, the eternal mediator. "Where are we going to live?"

"All right, so maybe Optimus Prime was a bad choice of words," Misato said crossly, ignoring him. "How about… Starscream?"

Asuka grinned wickedly and brandished a fireman's axe. "Much better, I see the relevance now. After all, he died in The Transformers Movie..."

"Bumblebee?" Misato said quickly.

"He was just a dweeb Volkswagen," Asuka frowned as she jerked her thumb over her shoulder at her companion. "Shinji would be better as Bumblebee."

"Then you're Soundwave," Shinji muttered under his breath.

"Whaaat!?"

"Maybe I should call Ritsuko," Misato said.

*          *            *

When the telephone started to ring, Doctor Ritsuko Akagi grumbled as she released her hold on the latest Rei clone, cursing as it slithered gleefully into the sink and down the plughole.

"Damn, it's free!" she snarled, wiping her hands on a teatowel as the Rei clone's echoing laughter drifted back up the drain and into her ears. "Well, I hope it likes its freedom brown and sludgy, because that pipe links up to the sewerage drain."

A smug grin crept over her face as the clone's dismayed cry floated back up to her, followed by a very wet sounding splat. She turned and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

"Hey, Ritsu! It's me."

"Oh... Misato. Hi."

"Watcha doin'?"

"Just dropped a clone down the plughole," Ritsuko sighed.

"Uh?" Misato sounded confused.

"Was there something you wanted?" the scientist asked irritably.

"Yeah... um... I have some bad news."

*          *            *

"I can't believe you'd be so irresponsible!" Ritsuko fumed as she stamped around the NERV cafeteria. Shinji and Asuka were seated side by side at a table with Pen-Pen, watching her warily. Misato looked suitably abashed.

"I'm sorry," Misato sighed dully.

"How could you be such a... such a... cat boner!?" she exploded. Asuka started in recognition of the strange insult.

"I'm sorry," Misato said again. "I don't know how it happened." She didn't notice Pen-Pen's guilty look.

Ritsuko narrowed her eyes and sighed. "Well, come with me."

She led the troupe through the winding corridors. They passed several nondescript offices, some vending machines and a couple of cloning tanks that were home to creatures that vaguely resembled a cross between Paul Shaeffer from the CBS Orchestra and the Ugnaughts from Star Wars.

Shinji glanced at a sign that had a smiling scientist on it and a tagline that read NERV - a friendly and easygoing organisation! and another right next to it with a cold-eyed soldier wielding a machinegun in one hand and a ghurka knife with a human spine hanging off it in the other, and a tagline reading No trespassing, violators will be killed indiscriminately.

"Right here," Ritsuko said, opening the door that led to the huge chamber that housed the MAGI supercomputers.

"Oh, Semmm-pai, is that you-ou?" called Maya Ibuki in a singsong voice from an her workstation.

Ritsuko didn't even spare her a glance. She stormed over and planted herself in front of a MAGI terminal. "Maya!" she snapped. "Someone's put all these flowers and chocolates and crap on my desk! Throw them out right away! They'll get in the way of my..." here she stopped and sighed sensually, running her hands smoothly down her body. "Tests."

"Okay, Sempai," Maya grumbled, snatching away the brightly coloured flora and the nougat-filled candy.

"Oh... take these too," Ritsuko added absently, passing her slightly disgruntled assistant some large, heart-shaped balloons that said Sempai, Will U B Mine??

"Of course," grated Maya, grabbing the offending objects and stamping out of the room, pushing past a surprised Shinji and Asuka.

"Okay," Ritsuko said, turning around. "MAGI! Coffee, black, twelve sugars!" There was a whir, the sound of gears grinding and engines thrumming, and soon a little trapdoor on the workstation opened and a paper cup filled with coffee ascended from the depths of the MAGI's operating system.

"Neat," commented Shinji.

"Technology of God in action," agreed Ritsuko, sipping her coffee. "Ah. I like my coffee like I like my men."

"What... hot, strong and sweet?" Misato winked knowingly.

Ritsuko frowned. "No. Ground into powder and liquefied."

"Oh," Misato said carefully.

"Right," Ritsuko said directly, fingers flying across the keyboard. "I'll see if I can find you an empty apartment nearby."

"Thanks, Ritsu," Misato said gratefully as Maya slunk back into the room and pretended to look at some reports.

"Here's one!" the blonde woman said.

"Ooh, let me see!" Maya exclaimed, leaning waaay over Ritsuko's shoulder.

"Go away, Maya!" frowned Ritsuko. "Misato, look at this."

The Major hummed dubiously as Shinji and Asuka peered over her shoulder. "I don't know..."

"It looks like a crack house!" snorted Asuka. "No way are we moving in there!"

"All right," nodded Ritsuko. She quickly jabbed the Enter key several times as Maya stared at the keyboard jealously. "How about this one?"

"Hey, that one's nice!" Misato beamed as she saw the image appear. Shinji, Asuka and Pen-Pen nodded approvingly.

"Good. Can you afford it?"

"How much is it?"

Ritsuko tapped a few more keys and a figure appeared on screen.

Misato's smile flickered for just a moment.

The scientist narrowed her eyes. "How much do you have?"

Desperately, Misato forced her smile to remain in place.

"I see." Ritsuko sighed heavily. "Maybe you should ask the Commander for a NERV grant."

"Hey, yeah!" Misato brightened.

*          *            *

Misato opened the door that led to the dimly lit interior of the Commander's office. The giant logo glowed in the semi-darkness: NERB. A typing error in the NERV construction plans had led to this misprint being repeated all over the Geo-Front.

"...and that's why you'll never make full Commander, Fuyutsuki," Gendo Ikari was explaining casually. He was seated in his trademark ergonomic Commander's posture.

Kouzou Fuyutsuki gnashed his teeth. "Yes, sir," he ground out. He was standing behind Ikari, not actually doing anything but doubtless he was significant in the grand scheme of things anyway. "Sir... Major Katsuragi is here."

"Ah. Major." Ikari quickly slipped on his white gloves to hide both the Angel embryo embedded in his hand and his red nail polish. He also crossed his fingers in front of his face, masking his lipstick. "What is it?"

"Commander," Misato said woodenly. "Please look at this." She slid a sheet of A4 paper across the desk towards the Commander, who picked it up and scanned it.

"Interesting," he commented. "Futski, what do you make of this?"

"It's Fuyutsuki, sir," the elderly man reminded his superior, fighting to keep his voice steady. He leaned over Ikari's shoulder, wishing he hadn't put the g-string on earlier, and raised his eyebrows as he snatched the paper and gazed at it. "Hmm. You've burned your flat down? And you need money?"

"Yes, sir," Misato nodded.

Fuyutsuki snorted. "What are you, some kind of communist? There's no 'equal share for everyone' around here, Major Katsuragi. This is NERV. Take your evil beliefs back to Australia or wherever, you godless Red..."

Misato stared straight ahead, choosing not to remark to that. "I was under the impression that employees could gain some kind of benefit, sir..."

"It is true that we have a large savings account for such emergencies," Gendo commented casually. "A metaphorical sock under the grimy, lice-ridden mattress that is NERB."

"NERV," hissed his subordinate.

"However," Ikari continued, ignoring him, "I believe that Fuyutsuki here has been sneaking small amounts out of it every now and again. Buying sweets and so forth."

"No I bloody well didn't!" Fuyutsuki replied hotly.

"Did."

"Didn't!"

"I am not playing this game," Gendo told him sternly. "Trust me, Fuyutsuki, if NERB…"

"NERV."

"…was communist, my secret police would have had you disappear long ago for your heinous crimes."

Fuyutsuki blinked. "But we have secret police."

Gendo frowned. "I'm sorry?"

"Those men with the black shades and suits and guns that walk around being gruff and ominous...?"

Ikari snorted. "I believe that is their idea of 'under cover'. They are journalists. Ever since Bill Gates got down on one knee and proposed to MAGI Balthasar they've been all over the place, looking for pictures. Typical paparazzi."

The older man snickered. "Ah yes. Was that part of your scenario, Ikari? The old men at SEELE sure won't be happy with..."

"Yes, yes, I know," the Commander interrupted irritably. "You say that exact line every time an Angel attacks or an Eva goes berserk. I think I have the general gist of it now, thank you."

Fuyutsuki muttered sulkily to himself.

"And yes, it is in my scenario. As soon as Balthasar and Gates marry, I will have digital photos released to the press of him cheating, they will divorce, and we will demand a payout from Microsoft."

Fuyutsuki laughed grimly. "So which PC has he been cheating with? I know he has a thing for Pentiums..."

Shaking his head, Ikari spoke with satisfaction evident in his voice. "Not at all. Hewlett-Packard with a ten-gig hard drive, overclocked..."

"My God..."

Ikari nodded. "Yes, he's quite the player, isn't he?"

"Even with a babe as hot as Balthasar. I mean it can process a trillion commands a second."

"Oh yes, Mr Bill Gates actually has quite a dark side to him. Though I hear he doesn't have much of a hard drive himself."

"Oh?"

"Yes, he apparently gives new meaning to the term three-and-a-half inch floppy..."

Misato listened in despair as the conversation took ever more bizarre twists and turns. "Um... sirs?" she ventured. "About the money...?"

"Oh yes," frowned Ikari as he turned to his direct subordinate. "Well, if it wasn't sweets, what did you spend it on, then?"

"Beer and hookers," explained Fuyutsuki.

"I see," Ikari said through narrowed eyes, then shrugged. "Fair enough." He turned to Misato. "There is your answer, Major. You cannot have any of NERV's money on account of Vice Commander Fuyutsuki needing it for his boozing and whoring."

Misato swallowed nervously. "Yes... sir... um... are you sure that I couldn't have just a little bit...?"

"Get out!" shrieked the Commander in a high-pitched voice, leaping to his feet and waving his hands.

"Sir!" Misato quickly dashed from the room.

The two Commanders watched her go.

"This was not in the scenario," Ikari remarked coolly as he 'assumed the position' beneath the NERB logo once again.

"Oh shut up, you sissy," Fuyutsuki sighed. "I'm going to see Amber..."

*          *            *

"Hum," hummed Ritsuko hummingly. "Well, if NERV isn't going to help, you have no choice but to move into this house."

She moved the cursor around, giving her three onlookers a 3-D tour of the place.

"But it's a slum!" yelled Asuka angrily.

"It's not very nice," agreed Shinji sadly. "There's a four-foot cockroach arm-wrestling a giant rat at the table, look..."

"And they're drinking beer and blood out of human skulls," added Misato.

"And why are they all walking around on two feet?" asked Asuka suspiciously.

Pen-Pen looked understandably nervous over the concept of an insect that was larger than he was. As they watched, a violent brawl broke out between the cockroaches and rats.

"Oh knock it off," Ritsuko snapped. "Look, it was previously rented to a Russian man named Boris Saronovich."

"What happened to him?"

"He died horribly in... um... unexplained circumstances. He did have ties to the Russian Mafia."

"Ritsu, we can't live in there!" cried Misato miserably. "It's so... icky! Look, there's another rat wearing a leather jacket and urinating on the couch! And laughing!"

"Well, you have to live somewhere and this is all you can afford," the scientist said firmly. "I suggest you all get menial, demeaning jobs and earn enough money to rebuild your old place."

"Isn't there any builders in NERB? Er… I mean, NERV?" Misato ploughed on desperately. "Someone who can help us build again?"

"Sorry," Ritsuko said smugly. "There's no-one. And anyway, the only tools around here are you three."

The doctor was summarily bathed in the hot breath of her three companions as they released a huge, miserable, collective sigh.

Suddenly, the door swung open and a haggard figure stumbled out.

"Hyuga!" snapped Ritsuko. "Where the hell have you been?"

"Fire... pain... MAGI... damage... madness..." babbled the deranged computer tech, but then he saw Misato. "Major!" he yelled, quickly standing up straight and saluting, his insanity evaporating.

"Oh, hi Aoba," Misato said absently, leaning over her friend's shoulder to input a few commands into the keyboard.

"Er... Hyuga..."

"No, I'm Misato." The Major looked up irritably, a frown creasing her brow. "NERV cannot afford that type of incompetence, Lieutenant. I'm docking half your pay this month."

"Yes, ma'am." Hyuga sagged miserably.

"What was that problem you had this morning, Hyuga?" Ritsuko inquired vaguely, refilling her coffee.

"Oh yes, the MAGI went crazy and almost blew up the Geo Front." Hyuga brightened as he tried to get Misato's attention, and failed. "I fixed it at the last second, though. It was quite ingenious. You see, I got it to..."

"Silence!" roared Ritsuko, causing the bespectacled man's jaw to snap shut, almost severing his tongue. Which would have been bad, because it would have landed in Misato's coffee, and he never would have had a chance with her then.

"Ma'am!" squeaked Hyuga.

"NERV cannot afford that kind of incompetence," Ritsuko growled. "I'm docking the other half of your pay this month. I hope that's no inconvenience, but you have to be taught a lesson."

"Ma'am," Hyuga replied faintly. He staggered slightly and fought to keep his balance. "It's all right. I can eat my shoes... if I cut them up thinly then maybe they'll last..."

"Are you still here, you cat boner?" roared Misato. The miserable specimen of humanity fled from the room.

"Let's just go to our new home, Misato," Shinji said dejectedly.

"Good idea," nodded Ritsuko. "Now I'm sure I don't have to tell you that I expect you to figure this mess out by yourselves. I want you back here tomorrow for a progress report."

*          *            *

Misato Katsuragi was soon striding down the middle of the concrete footpath with a determined expression on her face. Shinji Ikari, Asuka Langley Sohryu and Pen-Pen were trying hard to keep up with their guardian. Their new apartment lay on the other side of town and coincidentally, the other side of the poverty line.

The Major kept her gun in plain sight as they hurried through the less-than-reputable neighbourhood. It was a cold, grimy, colourless place, filled with graffitti, car wrecks and the kind of people who would never get a spot on Temptation Island but who would definitely keep the nightly news interesting.

"Right," said Misato firmly as she marched, pushing a one-legged beggar roughly aside. Shinji was hauling their few remaining possessions on his shoulders in duffel bags and Pen-Pen was waddling along beside them like a sentient bowling pin. "Both of you are to get jobs, understand? That's an order. We have to move back home as soon as possible. Besides, we need more colostomy bags."

"Misatooo," whined Shinji pitifully. "You already work me harder than Burke from The Trap Door..."

"Shinji, I hardly think that comparing a five-minute, clay animation children's show from Britain to real life is all that fair."

"I'm not stooping to working with the common rabble!" proclaimed Asuka haughtily.

"You stooped to working with Shinji, just like the rest of us," Misato pointed out.

"Hey!"

"That's just convenience," the redhead retorted. "After all, who knows when I might need a human shield or something? I wouldn't want my Eva's paint scratched. It's bad for public relations. Plus they can always strip Unit-01 down for spare parts to put in my Eva."

"Hey!"

"Anyway, he just likes looking at my breasts."

Shinji began to choke, frantically trying to regurgitate his tongue.

"So, Shinji's you're protector, is he?" Misato teased. "Your noble bodyguard..."

"Hmm," Asuka mused thoughtfully as Shinji regained a measure of his meager self-respect and puffed his scrawny chest out proudly. "Weren't bodyguards supposed to be eunuchs in the old days?"

"Misato, Asuka can take care of herself," Shinji said quickly as he deflated faster than a balloon at a McDonald's birthday party.

"Maybe you should get a job as a bodyguard for someone else then," Misato said.

"I don't know..."

"Or, you can always sell your body, like last time, Shinji," Misato grinned as an elderly couple passed by. The woman gasped and fell to the ground feebly clutching her heart while the man froze on the spot and then groaned out a plea for someone to change his Depend. "Those scientific experiments were very profitable," Misato continued unfazed, patting Shinji companionably on the shoulder. He shrugged, considering.

Asuka snorted. "Misato, I don't think Shinji should sell himself like that any more. Didn't they say last time that if they kept fiddling with him there was a danger of biological meltdown?"

Shinji sighed sadly as he gazed into his reflection in a shop window and absently flexed his impressive pectoral muscles, the result of a previous experiment. "That's right," he said. "I don't know... I'll think of something. I've already spent the money from that Vogue shoot..."

They rounded a corner and gazed up at the crumbling apartment building. It was red brick, the colour of a Crayola red brick crayon. "We're here," Misato said.

Asuka stared miserably up at their new home, which was even worse up close. "Well, let's invite the President and break out the champagne and red carpet," she sighed. "Because it's going to be one hell of a party tonight."

______________________________________

Heya! Thought ya'd got rid of me, didn't you? Well, not-so-hot-on-the-heels of my last fanfic, Evangelion: All Is Right With the World, comes this… thing. If you read that fic, you might have noticed that I mentioned doing this, and yes, it has been in production since that time. I got into University, though, and dumb things like essays and the need to succeed in life have been getting in the way of doing more important things, like fanfiction.

Not that I expect this to be a masterpiece, or even very good, that is. The main reason I wrote this was to practice my writing and to see if I could even do a comedy. Unplugged is in five parts, and they're all finished, so expect the wait to be short. That could be a good or a bad thing, depending on whether you like this. Reviews? Not worth it? Okay, fair enough. Hmm. All right. Talking to myself, here. I'm going now.

Take it easy,

RENEGADE

=The Underground Empire= " May Odd Grant Us Strength"

Disclaimer: Oh, sure, sure, I own a multi-million dollar animation company and one of the most popular anime shows in the world. Yeah, why do you ask?