(It's the final countdown! (Insert Europe song here.) Thanks to all who stuck with me through a long and tough semester…sorry it took so long, but the stupid college won't accept writing dumb fanfics as writing credit…)

"That's not fair!" shouted Asuka angrily. "Stupid Scouts get to regenerate. It's worse than Vice City!" Rei rubbed her ear as Asuka continued to fume and spit. She remembered another time when an Eva pilot had fought something that could not be killed. It had not gone very well for that pilot. Rei looked at Asuka and wondered if she remembered.

Suddenly Shinji disappeared from the Eva Matrix readout. "Hey, where'd he go?" Asuka asked.

"I don't know—I lost him," Maya said, tapping keys. "Either the Matrix is locking me out, or Shinji's found a way to obscure his signature…I wish sempai were here…"

"She's dead." Gendo stood behind Maya, one hand on her shoulder. "You're the sempai now, Maya. Find him."

"Yes, Commander," Maya replied, nodding. She entered a command, then an alarm went off. "Oh oh. Look at this, sir."

Gendo looked at the monitors, Asuka squeezing in beside him. "Oh crap," she said. "Inus."

"How long?" Rei asked.

"Five, maybe six minutes. Rei, go charge the SIT." Rei nodded, pulled up a seat beside Maya, and flipped open a panel and began entering command messages on the tiny keyboard. Beside the keyboard was the Big Red SIT Button.

"You can't use that until Shinji's out," Asuka half-snarled, her fingers digging into Gendo's arm.

"I know," Gendo replied. "I am not the man I once was, Asuka." He smiled. "Don't worry. He's going to make it."

Shinji might have been cheered by his father's confidence in him, because he could have used some confidence in himself at the moment. He had fought Scout Moon, perhaps the most powerful of the Scouts, to a standstill and she was still after him. Being chased by a ditzy blonde would normally not have bothered Shinji, but a ditzy blonde who could smash a pie through a wall was a different story entirely. It was like being chased by a gamma-radiated Britney Spears with PMS. Worse, the feeling of futility was beginning to crawl through his mind again, the same way he had felt when he had seen Asuka's eviscerated Eva, felt Misato's dying breath…

Where did that come from? Shinji wondered, missing a step. How do I remember these things? Holy cow, who the hell am I?

That would have to wait as Shinji finally spied someone talking on a cell phone. He ran by the man and grabbed the phone in mid-stride. "Sorry!" Shinji called out from behind him. "This is really an emergency, trust me!"

"Hey! That's my phone!" the man called out, but Shinji was halfway down the street. The man sagged against a pillar. "Now I'll never get hold of the pig-tailed girl—"

Shinji stole a look behind him as he tapped in the number. To his horror, Scout Moon was now only fifty yards behind him, now dressed in a blue karate gi and clutching a wooden bokken. "Operator," came Maya's voice.

"Maya, I need an exit!"

"Shinji! Glad you're not dead—look, we've got some problems up here—"

"Would you shut up and listen to me?!" Shinji exclaimed uncharacteristically. "Shut down all the garbage mashers on the detention—wait, that's not right…" He fished a piece of paper from his jacket. "I mean, get me the hell out of here! There's a steak dinner in it if you do!"

"Well, in that case…head for the Heart of Tokyo-3 Hotel, at Takahashi and Ozuka!"

"Okay!" Shinji snapped shut the phone and continued running for all he was worth. He nearly ran over a young purple-haired girl pedaling a bike, holding Chinese take out in her hands. A moment later, and he was being chased by Scout Mars, who tossed a boiling pot of egg drop soup at him and then began flinging fireballs at him, not much caring who got immolated along the way.

As Shinji saw Scout Venus step out of an okonomiyaki palor with a gigantic spatula in her hand, he ducked into an alley. This proved not to be one of Shinji's better tactical moves, as the alley was a dead end. He whirled to see Serena advancing towards him with the bokken, Mars on her bicycle, and Minako with her spatula of doom. "Oh shit," Shinji said. He opened the phone and hit speed-dial. "Help, Maya! I need help!"


Shinji needed no further prompting. He ran through a doorway that was marked NERIMA HOT SPRINGS RESORT just as it was impaled by four smaller spatulas.

He was in a resort of some sort. He ducked as assorted soap bars, towels, and baskets were thrown at him as he dashed through the women's bath, then dashed up a flight of stairs into what looked to be a row of guest rooms. He saw Serena appear at the other end of the hallway, looking very annoyed.

"Door on your left!" Maya shouted into the phone.

Shinji promptly ran to the right.

"No, baka!" screamed Asuka. "Your other left!"

Feel like I'm playing Elevator Action, Shinji thought as he tore through a shoji wall and ran through a living room. He had a flash of a pink-haired girl as he ran into the kitchen. Reflexes saved him from eating the butt end of an electric guitar. Shinji looked up, expecting one of the Scouts, but the girl's features had not changed.

"What was that for?" he asked.

"Sorry," said the girl. "Thought you were someone else."

Shinji shook his head and ran out into the balcony. It was a dead end, overlooking several hot spring pools. He heard footfalls behind him, then a crash and the twang of guitar strings. "What in the name of the moon was that for?" he heard Serena yell, to which came a flurry of replies about thinking they were someone else and that they looked evil and such. Shinji didn't wait around to see who won the argument, but took advantage of the contrived delay and leapt from the balcony, grabbing one of the long poles that stuck out from the equally contrived hot springs below.

The tough but flexible bamboo bent in the middle, letting Shinji to miss the high stone wall that surrounded the pools and drop him into another alley in the surrounding megalopolis of Tokyo-3. Serena came out on the balcony, nursing a sore jaw, and heard Shinji yell as he fell off the bamboo. With the grace given a former Moon Princess, Serena leapt from the balcony as well, but nimbly skipped along the tops of the poles.

Mars followed in her tracks easily, as did Minako—but the bamboo Shinji had used was gyrating wildly, and suddenly snapped back and hit Minako in the face. She screamed and fell into one of the pools. "Oh, for the love of…" Serena grumbled. "Mars, get her out of there."

"What about the Third Child?"

"Mister Ikari I'll take care of myself. Get Minako out before she drowns." Serena shook her head as she continued running in Shinji's general direction. "And they call me a klutz—" Suddenly, she stopped, looking up at the sign on the hotel. And smiled, realizing where she had seen this sign before.

The Bebop was a stationary target, hovering in the former titanic sewer pipe. It was an easy target for the mass production Inus that dropped on it from on high. They instantly dug in their foot claws and began tearing into the Bebop's tough exterior with diamond-edged steel claws.

The four remaining members of the Bebop's crew looked up as they heard the sound of scraping metal. "Oh, schiesse," Asuka breathed.

Gendo nodded. The endgame was afoot. "Here they come," he sighed, putting his hand on the Big Red Button. Both Asuka and Rei looked at him, concerned. Gendo only smiled faintly. "He's going to make it."

Maya did her best to shut out all the distractions. "He's out of the Nerima district and made it past the Relocated Cursed Springs of Jusenkyo—he's at the hotel."

Asuka quickly walked over to Shinji's real body, which gave no hint of the danger he was in except for a sheen of sweat on his forehead. "C'mon, Shinji, you baka…just a few more seconds…"

"Fire escape at the end of the alley, Shinji," Maya guided. "Get into room 91300!"

Shinji didn't reply, only threw the cell phone over his shoulder as he dived through the door, a second before Mars' Burning Mandala fried it off its hinges. She snapped her fingers in frustration and looked at Minako. "Think you could be any slower? You would have to fall into the only cursed springs in the whole of the Eva Matrix!"

"Pika!" answered Minako angrily.

The scraping grew louder and more insistent from above. Then the Bebop's onboard computer screeched a warning. "They're inside," Rei said dispassionately. She stood behind Maya and Gendo, going into a loose fighting stance, prepared to die again to defend her mentor and friend to the last.

Asuka remained at Shinji's side; for what reason, she did not want to admit. She wiped his forehead free of the sweat with her sleeve. "Hurry, Shinji. You can do it."

Shinji ran down the corridor, his lungs aching from exertion, each breath hurting him badly. As he got to the ninth floor and saw Room 1300 at the end of the dimly-lit hall, he heard a phone ringing. Gonna make it, he thought, and smiled. He looked behind him, but no Scouts were on his tail. With no further adieu, he kicked open the door of Room 1300 and ran head on into the small breasts of Serena, Agent Scout Moon.

"Ecchi," she said as she pushed him back, the rammed the sharp end of her scepter into his heart.

Shinji gasped in pain, then coughed. He looked down in shock and saw blood—his blood—ooze from the wound, then rapidly cover the front of his plugsuit. He looked back to Serena, and was mildly surprised to see pity in her eyes, and even a hint of sadness. It didn't stop her from ramming the scepter even deeper into him, until the end ripped from Shinji's back. Slowly, Shinji staggered back into the hall, struck the wall, and slid down it, leaving a wet scarlet trail on the filthy wall. He sagged down to the floor, his eyes wide open and unseeing.

The Bebop's crew froze as the life monitor above Shinji's chair flatlined.

"It can't be…" Gendo said, stunned. "Not Shinji…"

Serena bent down and pulled the scepter from Shinji's unmoving form. She poked him with her boot as Mars arrived next to her. Serena nodded to her, her eyebrows beetling together as she saw Minako. "What happened to Venus?"

"Fell into the Spring of Drowned Pikachu. Is he dead?"

Minako waddled forward and pressed a yellow paw against Shinji's throat. "Pika," she said with finality.

"He's gone," Mars confirmed with a half-smile. "Let's go find Minako some cold water." They turned and walked down the corridor. Serena lingered a moment, cleaning the gore from her scepter on the ends of her borrowed gi. "Goodbye, Mister Ikari," she said, somehow saddened that it should end this way.

The Inus were tearing the Bebop apart, advancing on the main deck. It was only a matter of time. "They're in the after compartments," Maya said dully. Rei only nodded: there would be no resurrection this time. Gendo's fingers hovered over the SIT, still clinging to a shred of hope. Shinji had not died in Third Impact. He could not die now.

Asuka was caressing Shinji's cold cheeks. "Shinji…you know what?" she said in a small voice. "I'm not afraid." She brushed back Shinji's hair. "Belldandy told me I would fall in love, and that man, the man I loved, would be the Third Child." She smiled. "So, you baka, you can't be dead…because I love you. You hear me? I love you."

Asuka did two things she had never done before, at least in her own memory. She cried, but as she did so, she leaned forward and kissed Shinji full on the lips. It was no peck-on-the-lips, holding-the-nose kiss either, but a full-on, open-mouth, smack-that-monkey smooch.

The life monitors hiccuped. Shinji's body stirred. Asuka broke the kiss. "Now get up, baka! Get UP!"

Shinji's eyes snapped open and he sat up. There was no pain. "Hey! Asuka kissed me!" he exclaimed. "She wasn't playing games this time either! She REALLY KISSED ME!" He jumped up and began to dance a jig. "Hah! I got kissed! I got kissed!"

The Scouts turned around in amazement, their jaws dropping as one as Shinji's gaping wound suddenly healed of its own accord. Shinji stopped his dance and looked down at the wound, then looked up.

"No," Serena snarled. "it can't be."

"BURNING MANDALA!" Mars screamed, sending fireballs down the corridor.

"PIKAAAAA!" yelled Minako, following it with electrical blasts. Both sailed past a still astounded Serena.

Shinji simply reached out with his hand. A hexagonal field appeared, easily deflecting the flames and bolts.

If Maya's eyes widened any larger, she would have qualified to guest star on Di Gi Charat. "It's…it's an AT Field," she whispered. "How?"

Gendo only smiled, even as the Inus began advancing down the corridor. "He is the Third Child."

With a primal scream, Serena charged Shinji. She swung the scepter, but Shinji knocked it from her hand as easily as he would from a baby. She then aimed a flurry of punches at Shinji, but Shinji, looking somewhat amazed at how slow she was moving, blocked them easily with his hand, then simply began using his left hand to block, checking the nails of his right hand for dirt, picking his nose, and finally taking care of an insistent scratch on his neck. Once that was done, he turned to a flabbergasted Serena and flicked her forehead as he expanded his AT Field–how he did not know, but he did know he could and that was enough. Serena, meanwhile, went flying backwards as if kicked.

Shinji saw the corridor and the Scouts as if for the first time. He could see everything, down to the places where the animators had messed up, eraser marks, even cel miscolorations. He knew all, remembered all. "I am me," Shinji said clearly. "I am me."

Serena slowly got to her feet and prepared to defend herself, an unusual occurrence for her. Shinji got a running start and jumped into Serena–

"Like hell," Serena snapped at the author.

"Yeah, that's gross," Shinji added.

Sorry. Er, Shinji assimilated...no, that's copyrighted...Shinji and Serena became one....no...oh, hell, you've seen the movie. Shinji does something really kewl and disappears inside Serena.

"Urgh," Serena hiccupped, looking as if she had just swallowed a bowling ball. Cracks appeared in her skin and began travel up her body, and her ponytails stood straight out to either side. The Scouts took one step back.

"Hey," Serena said into the sudden silence. "Darien could be Tuxedo Mask. I never thought of—"

Then Serena, the undefeatable, magical, Agent Scout Moon, exploded. The Scouts ducked the pieces of her (eww) as they flew through the air and de-rezzed. In her place was Shinji, wearing a sailor fuku and a tiara. He flexed, and his clothes returned to the plugsuit he had been wearing and sparing the reader such brain-exploding images. The walls flickered and reformed into something more pleasant and clean.

Mars looked at Minako, who looked back worriedly. "Screw this!" She picked up Pikachu Minako and hauled ass.

"SHINJI!" he heard Asuka yell, and Shinji turned and was at the phone at the speed of thought.

An Inu had landed less than ten feet from Asuka and Shinji's still inert body. It looked up with blood-red eyes, ground steel fangs together, and advanced towards them, its claws clacking on the metal floor and between its fingers. It jumped into the air, hand claws a foot long. Asuka screamed and threw herself over Shinji.

Another three Inus were running towards Gendo, Rei, and Maya. Gendo glanced at Shinji, hoped he was right, and slammed his hand on the Big Red Button.

A nine-foot hologram of a girl in a green fuku appeared on the deck. She pointed and screamed "SIT!" Instantly, the Inus dropped to the floor and writhed in agony as the hologram continued to scream "sit." Finally, they stopped moving, their eyes dimming out like a stomped-on Terminator.

All was silent on the Bebop except for occasional sparks. Shinji's eyes fluttered open to see Asuka slowly rising up from where she had shielded him with her own body. "Hey," he said weakly, "don't go away yet." With confidence he would not have dreamed of before, Shinji reached up and pulled Asuka's lips to his own.

"I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid.

"You're afraid of us, the free ones. You're afraid of change. You've had it your own way for too long.

"I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. Mainly because I don't know if the author is going to do 'The Evangelion Matrix Reloaded' or 'The Evangelion Matrix Revolutions.' He has a life...not much of one, granted, but he does have one. Anyway, I came here to tell you how this is going to begin.

"Now I'm going to hang up this phone, and I'm going to show these otaku what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them that there is a great big world out there that they've barely touched. I'm going to show them that there's more than just subbed not dubbed, more than just pocky, that Japanese girls really do say 'ehhh' when they're amazed and that guys should not wear Sailor Moon fukus or Asuka's sun dress. A world without borders. A world...where anything is possible."

Shinji hung up the phone and stepped out of the booth. He put on his sunglasses and adjusted his plugsuit. Few paid him any mind...but they would. He tensed slightly as a policewoman walked up to him. "Hey pal," the copette said, "is that your mecha parked over there?"

"Yeah," Shinji replied.

"It's parked in a no mecha zone." The policewoman winked at him. "But if you move it right now, I won't ticket you."

Shinji grinned. "I'll be out of here so quick you won't believe it." With that, he leapt straight up to the head of EVA-01. A few moments later, the Eva dropped to its knees and then propelled itself straight up. Angelic, neon wings sprung from its back and it disappeared into a cerulean blue sky.

"I didn't know mecha could do that," the policewoman said. "Oh well...I guess in an infinite universe, anything is possible."