The Sound and the Furry Productions, copyright October 42, 19xx
Andrew Huang, nutcase, headcase, briefcase, member
begun August 25, 1998, with many lurching re-starts

As always, there are big, bad spoilers.

Evangelion is the property of Gainax (great bunch of people, they are).
ADV Films has the rights to the English translation.

Here we go!

---------------------------------------------------------------------
---------------------------------------------------------------------

A figure lurks in the gloom, sitting at a desk.

Tappity-tappity. Tappity-tappity.

"I'm working on it. I swear."

Tappity-tap.

"If you don't stop bothering me, I won't finish it!"

Pause.

"Wow, that actually worked. Um. Thank you."

Tappity-tappity.

"Dammit."

************************************************

Far, far above, doom approached, and it was the 14th Angel.

It was big. It was menacing. It was powerful. It was the Angel of Might,
Zeruel. It was....

"Why are you watching TV on the monitors? You know the commander's going
to kill you if he catches you."

"Hey, gimme a break. You know how much I love watching these parades.
Floats, bands, those big balloons...."

It was supposed to be watched for by the many eyes turned heavenward
around the world, as per NERV's budget. Take, for instance, one
observation station somewhere in North America....

"I don't care. I'm not having my butt tanned because you get bored on
the job." *click*

"Hey! Don't change the channel!" *click*

"Read a book or something!" *click*

"Who the frag reads anything anymore?" *click*

"I do!" *click*

"What, those damn porno books?" *click*

"Wha--I--that's not pornography, that's...'erotic literature'!" *click*

"Right, porn." *click*

*click* *click* *click* *clickclickclickclickclickclick* "OW! Leggo my
arm! Argh!"

"Heh! Right! Now, I'm gonna watch this parade, right? And...what is
_that_ thing?"

"...looks like the most hideous balloon ever buil...made...sewn
together. What's with that little face? And the arms...they look like
folded up toilet paper."

"..." *click* And the monitor switched off. "Never mind."

The thing is, the 14th Angel also did, indeed, look like a really
bizarre parade balloon. The timing could not have been worse.

"Now, would you let go of my arm?"

"Right, right, sorry."

"Ow. Damn, you bastard, that hurt."

"...say, you got any...can I maybe borrow one of your porno novels?"

"I said, it's erotic literature, not porn!"

"Whatever."

It definitely could not have been worse.

***
Neon Genesis Evanjellydonut, part 4:
The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly Angel
by Andrew Huang
written for The Sound and the Furry Productions
***

Asuka was home.

"Hey, look at what my aunt sent me!"

Joining her were the usual suspects.

"It's not another brick masquerading as cake, is it?"

There was a *whap* as Asuka gently shut Kensuke up. "No, this is from my
aunt in Germany. Marzipan!"

"Hey, they look like little fruits! Neat!" Hikari scooted closer to look
at Asuka's giftbox. "They're candy?"

"Yeah. Have one." Asuka plucked a banana-shaped piece out of the box and
tossed it to her friend. She looked up, then took out a few more and
handed them around.

Touji peered at his piece of candy--it was in the shape of an orange--
with a suspicious air, and was elbowed in the gut.

Hikari turned back to her friend, examining her piece of marzipan, and
said, "They're so well made. It's almost a crime to eat it." She then
promptly popped it into her mouth. "Hmm...it's pretty good!"

"Ah, there's plenty here, don't worry about it. Here, Misato, have one
too."

"Thanks." She caught the expertly aimed sweet as she walked in from the
kitchen.

Shinji, after sniffing at his mini-apple a bit, shrugged, and ate his
share. "Yeah. Pretty good." He swallowed.

"What is it made of?" asked Rei.

"It's almond paste, processed and stuff. Great for molding, so that's
why...Shinji? You okay?"

"Almond paste?" asked Misato. She glanced over at her ward, who had
frozen up at the word "almond".

Asuka nodded, slowly. "Yeah...why?"

"Shinji has this allergic reaction to almonds," said Kensuke, quite
cheerfully. "It happened once, 'bout a month before you got here. Say, can
I have another one?"

"Allergy?"

Misato nodded. "In about an hour, he's going to throw up everything he's
eaten in the past day or so."

Shinji started turning green.

"Well, when I say 'in about an hour', I mean, he _starts_ in about an
hour, you see. The whole thing takes him up to another hour and a half to
finish, if he's eaten a lot. And you saw how he stuffed himself at
dinner."

Shinji turned purplish.

"After he's done with that, then, for at least the next twelve hours, he
gets these dry heaves of which the likes have never been seen. Outside of
his case, that is."

The colors in Shinji's face compromised on a pasty, grayish tone, and he
slumped down in his seat. Rei was over to his side in an instant.

"And that was from one almond that he accidentally picked out of a can
of what was supposed to be only cashews. Now, when you say almond paste,
do you mean it's kind of concentrated?"

Asuka frowned slightly, pondering the question. "I...don't know. Maybe."

"Oh, damn. I'm calling Commander Ikari."

Asuka considered this for a long while, blinking. She finally managed,
lamely, "Oh. Sorry about that, Shinji. I didn't know."

With every ounce of misery that could possibly be stuffed into his
voice, Shinji answered, "You will, now."

------------------------------------------------

Gendou's glasses slid down his nose. He pushed them back up.

His cellular phone rang. As he reached to pick it up, his glasses slid
down again.

"Ikari here." He shoved his glasses up. "Almonds? Again?" He sighed.
"This will be inconvenient."

His glasses drooped.

"Very well. Keep me informed of his condition. And--I do not mean for
you to call me every time he vomits. Right? Good." He hung up.

Fuyutsuki coughed. "That allergy again?"

"Yes. What's worse, it seems like he ate more than last time. A piece of
marzipan."

"Marzipan?"

"Yes, it's this really delicious candy made from almond paste. They make
it in Europe. Around Germany, Switzerland, that area. Love it myself, and
Yui did too," said Gendou, rather happily. Fuyutsuki blinked. "But, as it
would happen, this son of mine has the misfortune of having an allergy to
almonds." He nudged his glasses up, but they simply followed his fingers
back down. "Damn."

Fuyutsuki shook himself off. "You seem to be doing that a lot more than
usual, sir. The glasses thing."

"Well, if you must know," said Gendou, removing his specs and tapping on
the frame, "the last time Rei and I, ah, argued, I landed on my face. This
hinge, here, is all bent."

The Subcommander barely suppresed a snort.

"Anyway, you see how it is. Plus, when I'm looking down, they can fall
right off my face. I have to hold them up whenever I read."

"Ah."

"And I get downright nervous whenever I'm standing at a urinal."

"...right, sir." I really didn't need to know that.

------------------------------------------------

Misato was presently putting down some plastic sheeting on the bathroom
floor around the toilet. Meanwhile, Touji had gone home to fetch a pair of
his rollerblading kneepads for Shinji's use, accompanied by Hikari.

Shinji was being cuddled up to by Rei on the couch, who was stroking his
hair and murmuring to him reassuringly. It must be noted, however, that
she seemed poised to leap away at a moment's notice, and was keeping her
boyfriend facing the hallway to the loo.

Asuka looked on in bemusement. "Why didn't you try to throw it up
earlier, anyway? Maybe if you got it out of you quickly enough...."

"Wouldn't work," mumbled Shinji. "I think I absorb whatever it is
straight through my stomach walls. By the time you were saying that the
stuff was made out of almonds, my mouth and throat were already itching."

"Oh. Well, I'm really sorry. Really."

"Urk," replied Shinji. His eyes bulged.

"The bathroom's over there, Shinji-kun." Rei popped her head up from
behind the couch. She walked over to his side, a slight distance away.
"Need some help?"

Shinji merely fell to the ground and scrabbled his way towards the
bathroom, followed closely (though maybe not too closely) by Rei.

"Ack! Shinji, let me out of the bathroom fi--oh, my slippers!"

"At least you did have the foresight to put down the plastic sheets,
Katsuragi-san. Shinji-kun, try not to miss the bowl this time...."

The music of a discontented stomach filled the air.

Asuka grimaced. "Oh, yuk." She tried to shut out the sounds from the
bathroom. Seeking a distraction, she looked around. "Hey, Kensuke. You're
still here?"

Kensuke gave a slight start. "Oh! Yeah. I am. Here. Er." He scratched
his head nervously. "Er. I, uh, found these. On the way here." He pulled
some daisies out of his backpack and held them out. "For you. Um."

Asuka blinked. This was not natural, not at all. "Ah. Thanks." She took
the slightly wilted flowers, and looked back at him. Their eyes met....

"Are you okay, Kensuke? You look a little sick."

"I'm fine! I am! Really. Er."

Asuka smiled, a worried smile.

Down the hall, Rei frowned, and sighed slightly.

The front door opened. "Hey, guys, I found my kneepads." Touji stopped,
listening. "Sorry, I seem to be a little late."

------------------------------------------------

Some time later....

Rei walked back to her apartment, accompanied by Touji and Hikari.

"Hey, Rei, are you feeling okay?"

"Oh, I'm fine, I am. Just a little worried about Shinji...." She walked
on in silence for a few moments. "He'll be fine, though. He's gone through
this already, and I know he's a strong, healthy guy."

Rei missed the coughing fit that suddenly attacked Touji, as well as the
whap upside the head that he received from his girlfriend. "But I'm also
worried about Kensuke and Asuka. I don't think it's working."

Touji stopped coughing and looked up. "You don't? He brought her some
flowers and all today, right? And I saw her smiling."

Hikari shook her head. "Wrong kind of smile. I think she was a
little...um, put off by it. I know Asuka, and she really wasn't
comfortable, there."

"Huh." Touji sighed, and groaned. "Kensuke must be screwing the whole
thing up, then. He's never really been one to charm to girls. Heh, not
like me."

*thwap*

"Maybe. I guess I'll have to, ah, check in on him, then." Rei ignored
the little squabble that had erupted behind her, and turned a corner to go
off toward her apartment complex. "I hope it works.... Well, I'll see you
later, then."

------------------------------------------------

"Is it over?" asked Asuka. She was answered first by a toilet flush.
"Gah, who could believe he had that much in him?"

A woozy Shinji staggered out of the bathroom, and tried to look at Asuka
in the eye, as much as a guy whose head and neck were imitating a freshly
sprung Jack-in-the-box could do so. "I...think so. Uh. Hngk."

Asuka felt herself starting to get a bit ill herself from the bobbing
and weaving, so she blinked and looked away. "Are you sure? And what about
the, um...."

"Don't worry about it, Asuka," grumbled Misato as she emerged from the
bathroom behind Shinji. She was looking a bit tired, and slightly pale.
"He feels a few kilos lighter now. That should be all. As for the dry
heaves...that's _his_ problem now."

"Gfhln." Shinji slumped against the wall. His body was still making odd
noises, from around the middle regions.

Asuka still felt a little guilty about this all, and she asked, "Well,
um, do you need any help? Some water? No, not even water, I guess. Can you
get back to your room all right?" She looked down the hall...about two
meters to Shinji's room.

"Ngh. No thanks." Despite his obvious discomfort, Shinji managed to
stand up straight, and with a determined (if swirly-eyed) glare, he
marched to his room, turned to enter, and then fell down through the open
doorway.

"Oh, boy."

"Haaaarglk!"

------------------------------------------------

The Subcommander entered the men's room. He happened upon Gendou, who
was vigorously scrubbing his eyeglasses in the sink while letting out a
muttered string of curses. There were some wet patches on the floor.

Fuyutsuki looked at Gendou, who had stopped and now squinted back.

"Not a word, Fuyutsuki. Not a word."

------------------------------------------------

"All present and accounted for, Chair. Except for Lazy, but she never
comes anyway."

One may wonder why an imaginary council within the mind of one person
would need to call roll during one of its not-really-existent meetings,
which happened every un-evening.

"Thank you, Bailiff," said Original, addressing Professional, who had
been assigned that position for the time being. She laid down her gavel
and arranged the notes on her unreal desk.

Then again, one may first wonder why such a dream-council would exist
anyway. However, Ayanami Rei is certainly a special sort of person, and
allowances should be made. Not to mention, the thought of a roomful of
Ayanamis makes the fanboys drool.

Original surveyed the council room, noting the changes that had taken
place since the first meeting. For one thing, almost everyAyanami[1**] was
starting to dress differently. She herself and Book (and a few others)
still kept the school dress, and Professional was still in the plug suit,
but Kickboxer now donned a gi, Irate had a t-shirt sprinkled with
expletives, Lazy was constantly wearing pajamas (when she could be found),
Affectionate put on things which would concentrate the attention of the
fanboys quite well, provided they remained conscious....

And that was just the Councillors. The chambers had been redecorated,
mostly by Affectionate. You couldn't look anywhere without setting your
eye on a poster of Shinji. Fortunately, Common Sense managed to persuade
Affectionate to use some good taste in the effort. Otherwise, Nervous
would have fainted upon entering. Or maybe spontaneously combusted.

"Very good. The Council is called to order.... First on the agenda is
our attempt to set up Aida Kensuke and Souryuu Asuka Langley. Memos from
Book on the events at Souryuu's coming-home party have already been
circulated, so we will not go over them here."

She paused a moment. "Ah, I do trust that everyone read the memo?"
Original's gaze swept over the room, noting with something akin to
satisfaction that only a few tried to avoid it. Book did likewise, then
nodded and smiled slightly. "All right. Hacker, please give your report of
this evening's communications with Aida."

An Ayanami in torn jeans *ahem* and a loose flannel shirt with wildly
colored hair (as opposed to the normal, unremarkable ice-blue) walked up
to the front of the room. Well, not really walked, so much as slouched in
an ambulatory manner. She paused to toss an empty bag of potato chips in a
trash can before making it to the podium.

"Well, yeah.... So I got through to him again, y'know, talked to him.
Asked him why it wasn't working. He said it's not his fault, he's trying
his best, all that. Told him that he's got to do better, he says it's our
fault that the plans suck, yadda yadda--"

"Could you please be a little more specific, Hacker?"

"Yeah, I guess."

They waited.

"_Would_ you please be a little more specific, Hacker?"

"All right. He said he was following the plans just like we said, so it
wasn't his fault that things weren't working. Answered that he's acting
all nervous when they talk, which is why it isn't working, so it _is_ his
fault. He started to argue back, I think, but that was when I noticed that
he was tracing the connection."

Nervous blinked, and jumped up. "Did, did he find us? Or come close?"

"...the Chair recognizes Nervous." She never does remember to wait to be
called on.

Hacker looked back at Nervous with a slight smirk. "No. I'm too good for
him. But I did kill the connection right away, just to be safe, y'know?
And I did, heh heh, warn him for doing it."

Original decided not to ask for details on that. "Anything else to
report?"

"Hmm...nah. That's it."

Hacker stepped down and slouched her way back to her seat. Original
stood again, after reading a few more lines on her agenda notes. "Now, for
the next order of business...a motion by Nervous on a wardrobe change."
There was murmuring in the seats--wardrobe change? From Nervous? Sure, she
had been trying to loosen up lately....

Original cleared her throat, and resumed after everyone quieted down.
"In her own words, 'Um, kinda, well, I guess, maybe we can wear our socks
a little lower down...maybe a centimeter or two? Yeah.'"

Everbody except for Nervous, Book, and Original sighed. Affectionate
stood up.

"The Chair recognizes Affectionate."

"I would like to propose an addendum to this...."

"...go ahead."

"I move that we add the measure that we wear nothing else for Shinji-
kun."

"NO!!"

************************************************

The author put down the big sign marked [1**], indicating a footnote.

"No, 'everyAyanami' is not a typo. It's a new indefinite pronoun created
specifically for this fic. Why? Because 'everyone' just lacks that...
significance which is demanded by a room full of Reis. You know."

The author continued.

------------------------------------------------

[What on Earth is that?] asked Melchior.

[Well,] said Balthasar, slowly, [Caspar has been watching that odd
American parade wossname that's being televised. Perhaps this is one of
the rejects?]

[Do you suppose they decided to cut it loose because it looks so bad?]

[Sounds about right.]

[How'd it get all the way over here, though?]

[Bad luck? I'm getting a headache looking at it.]

[We don't have heads that can ache, Balthasar.]

[Oh...parse me, you little binary operator!]

------------------------------------------------

Night passed, such as it was.

Asuka spared a moment to check in on Shinji, in his bedroom. She knocked
on the doorframe before sliding the door aside and stepping in. "Shin--"
she began, before stopping when she saw that the bed was empty. Then, she
realized, the floor was not. There was a twisted mass of bedsheets and
limbs writhing about, right next to the bed.

"Wsfgl," answered the lump. A head poked out; it had to be Shinji,
because the face on that head mostly closely resembled his, out of all the
people that Asuka knew. It probably better resembled some number of
particularly wince-worthy perpetrations of modern art, but at least they
didn't moan in pain. Well, she had heard stories, but never encountered
such things firsthand. "What...ugh...time is it? Gurk."

Asuka stared at Shinji for a good long moment, before shaking herself
off and answering. "...almost time to leave for school, but I'm guessing
that you're going to take the day off." He nodded weakly, convulsing
slightly. "I'll tell Sensei." She stared at him a while longer, before
finally turning and departing to get ready for the day. This had been
quite amazing.

Shinji twitched some more.

Above them, doom continued its approach. And it _still_ wasn't being
noticed by anyone. Well, not for a few lines more of this fic, anyway.

------------------------------------------------

"Oi, Kensuke!"

"AARGH!"

"AARGH!"

"Touji-kun! Aida-kun! Stop yelling! You're in the classroom!"

"Argh! ...sorry, Hikari." "Sorry, Inchou."

"Aida-kun...what's wrong? You've been glancing around nervously all
morning...and you look really tired."

"...dun' wanna talk about it."

From across the room, Rei sniggered softly.

And then her cellular phone rang. So did Asuka's and Touji's.

------------------------------------------------

A little after Asuka left, Shinji had finally made it to his feet
through sheer force of will paired with the realization that if he didn't
go to the bathroom _right_now_, he was going to explode.

After taking care of that, he staggered to the sink to brush his teeth.
He had been left far too tired even to think about doing so last night,
which meant that this morning, his breath felt solid. In fact, it seemed
downright chewy.

He gave up on this, after a while, as sticking a toothbrush in his mouth
did absolutely nothing to calm his gag reflex. He'd then decided to gargle
with some mouthwash; this actually worked for getting rid of the foul
taste, but when he tried to spit it out, his stomach happened to lurch
violently again, and he was treated to the experience of having used minty
Listerine jet out of his nostrils. This left him rolling around on the
tiled floor for a few minutes, before he could finally get over the pain
of losing several layers of cells lining his sinuses.

With that over, Shinji tried to get back up to his feet, failed
terribly, and instead crawled back to his room. Now, he was trying to lie
very, very still on his bed, thinking happy thoughts, as he stared up at
the ceiling. The ceiling was good. Nothing exciting or sudden or, heh,
unfamiliar about the ceiling...at least not this one. Quiet. Serene. Ahh.
Yes, it was such a pity that the celphone also started to ring quite
suddenly then, and that it was too close to Shinji's head for his liking.

He eventually managed to get a hold of the phone, get up off the floor,
breathe deeply, and open it up. "Hel...lo?" He listened to the NERV
technician, who sounded quite frazzled. "An...an angel attack? But...
ergh...I...wait, don't hang--" He looked at the phone and tried to sigh,
except that it ended up as a spirited attempt not to swallow his tongue.

That passed quickly, however, and he slowly turned to look at his door.
He knew that, already, Rei was on her way to HQ, as well as Asuka and
Touji. It was time to fight again. He certainly couldn't leave them to do
it alone; he was a pilot. Yes, that's right. It was his duty to protect
Tokyo-3.

And so, with determination, noble purpose, and an unfortunate tendency
to stagger into the walls, an increasingly bruised and still-queasy Shinji
made his way out of the apartment, starting on the long walk to NERV.

------------------------------------------------

We shall pass over the panicked shouts of the NERV deck bunnies, the
half-hearted snide comments tossed between Touji and Asuka after suiting
up and heading to the EVA cages, the technobabble about getting the Units
running and up to combat readiness, the bewildered questions about why the
other male pilot still wasn't here, and the fact that Gendou now had his
glasses actually taped down on the bridge of his nose, which really looked
quite ridiculous.

In a room of a hospital which had been retracted beneath the surface in
preparation for the attack, a young girl sat up in bed, silent. The large
book in her lap was momentarily forgotten, as she looked off sightlessly,
contemplating something.

"The Fourteenth has arrived," Suzuhara Mari spoke in a hollow, almost
monotonic voice. "The Fourteenth, the...the...um...." She glanced down at
the Big Illustrated Book of Angels. "The Angel of Might, Zeruel."

She paused.

"Waah! Scary!"

Now, back at NERV--

"Unit 03 isn't doing anything! It's...it's...."

"Whimpering in fear?"

The techs and Touji carefully listened to the black production model.

"Dammit, get me out of this thing! It's freaking me out!"

------------------------------------------------

"Sir...did you really have to do that? The duct tape, I mean. I'm having
trouble taking you seriously."

"It's either this or I'm blind half of the time," answered Gendou,
testily. "So what is it, Fuyutsuki?"

"EVA-03 will not activate, and your son is nowhere to be found, even
though it's been fifteen minutes since Techie Number Five managed to
contact him. So--"

The Subcommander paused to grab hold of the desk as the entire city
shook with a blast from the marauding Angel. Gendou merely sat still,
noting with satisfaction that his glasses didn't budge on his face. "So?"
he prompted.

"So, we've tried to get the Fourth Child to interface with 01. With no
luck. Same situation with the dummy plug system."

"...she's rejecting me again, isn't she?"

"Again? Oh, you mean like after that one lecture I gave, when Yui was a
sophomore in my class? I can remember it quite well; she gave you that
huge slap that they could hear all...the...way...." Fuyutsuki trailed off,
feeling the laser glare of the Commander melting a hole in his forehead.
"Um. Sorry. I won't mention it again."

Gendou muttered unintelligibly for a few seconds, then snapped, "Well,
get the other two out and at it, then. The First and Second. Have Touji on
standby for now."

"Yes, sir."

"And find that delinquent son of mine!"

------------------------------------------------

*BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM*

"I'm out of the hospital for one day, and then _you_ have to show up!
You bastard!"

*BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM*

"Eat depleted uranium, you ugly...ugly...uh...."

"Just kill the thing, Asuka!"

*BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM*

Misato was getting rather worried. Asuka had already unloaded a sizable
amount of ammo into this Angel, with no apparent damage--and it hadn't
even raised an AT Field. At least, one hadn't been detected. What manner
of strength....

"Guns! More guns, lots of guns! Misato! Gimme!"

The Major was shaken out of her reverie. "Oh! Coming up, Asuka!" She
punched a few buttons, sending even larger weapons up to the surface,
along with more powerful ammunition. "Take care, Asuka, these are
explosive rounds...."

"Yeah, yeah, try to limit collateral damage."

*BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAMBOOMBOOM*

"Major, smoke is obstructing the sensors. We can't read the status of
the Angel," called out Makoto.

"I can't see it, either," came Asuka's voice as she stopped firing. She
directed her EVA to step forward, toward the cloud of dust that now
surrounded the Angel.

"Wait, Asuka, don't--"

*whirrrrrSHICK*

"UWAAAAAAAAOURGHL!"

"Ack! What was that, Asuka? Oh, it cut off your arms. It cut off your
arms?"

"THAT HURT! I'M GONNA KICK YOUR ASS!"

"No! Asuka, retreat! Your arms are gone! What are you going to do, drip
LCL all over it?"

"It's only a flewaaaaaaagh!"

Misato spun around to the techies, but Aoba waved a hand and spoke
quickly. "Already cut the connection between pilot and Unit. She shouldn't
have felt a thing."

Misato sighed and nodded. She started to turn back to the console, but
paused, saying, "If anyone makes any jokes about losing one's head or
anything similarly tasteless, I'll tell Asuka about it."

"Damn," said Rei.

"Right, Rei. Okay, it's your turn--"

"Major," she started, in an emotionless voice, "Commander. There are
times when the utmost subtlety is required. A tree bends in the wind but
does not break. A strong force can be used against itself to defeat it."

Gendou stepped up to the console, beside Misato. He looked at Rei in the
eyes via the monitor, studied her carefully, and nodded solemnly. "Of
course."

"This is not one of those times."

"What?"

"You want some of this? You want some of this? COME GET SOME! YEAH!
WAHAAAAAAAA!"

*STOMPSTOMPSTOMPSTOMPSTOMPSTOMP*

"..."

"Commander, I think that's an N2 mine that her EVA has got in hand."

"...noted, Lieutenant Ibuki."

"And she's running right toward the Angel. Full speed."

"Yes, Lieutenant."

"The mine is armed."

"Shut up, Lieutenant, and just tell everyone to brace for explosion."

------------------------------------------------

Shinji wheezed for breath, and tried to fight off the impulse to retch.
As he stopped, bent over and gasping, something rather odd on the edge of
his vision grabbed his attention. That is, besides the severed head of
Unit 02. He'd noticed that a little earlier, when it had dropped out of
the sky and nearly squashed him. That sort of detail is not the kind to be
just barely caught in the corner of one's eye.

Yes, he was preoccupied with worrying about Asuka, too. Shinji's not a
cold-hearted bastard like his...well, like how some people think his
father is. That's why he barely noticed this new odd thing.

"Ka...Kaji? Why are you...uh...."

"Watering melons?"

"Uh. Yeah. Instead of...doing something."

"There's nothing that I can do now, Shinji. Lost my position with NERV
ever since my, hm, part-time job became public."

"What...what part-time job?"

"Oh, right, that happened off-screen. Never mind."

"Er."

"So, son," Kaji continued as the boy tried to catch his breath, rather
smoothly, "what are you doing?"

"I'm...trying to get to Headquarters. Gotta...gotta fight. Save Rei.
Asuka. Everyone."

Kaji nodded thoughtfully. "You know, Shinji, I can't do anything but
water these melons, now that I'm not with NERV anymore. And I know that
you're scared, but you can do a lot more than just run."

"Um. I know. That's why I'm going to Headquarters. I need to pilot."

"In fact, Shinji, you can still pilot."

"...that's what I said, Kaji."

Kaji stopped abruptly, blinking. He stared at Shinji, then ran the
preceding conversation over in his mind, this time allowing the words
actually to register. He scratched his head sheepishly, giving Shinji an
embarassed grin. "Sorry. I forgot you grew a spine."

Shinji glared.

The older man coughed uncomfortably, and tried not to look at the boy in
the eyes. "Right. Sorry. You'd best get on your wa...huh?"

*stompstompstompSTOMPSTOMPSTOMP*

"It's Rei-chan! And--"

"She's carrying an N2! Get down!"

*BOOOOOOM*

------------------------------------------------

Momentary chaos: the shaking of Tokyo-3, the falling down of personnel,
the scrambling back to stations.

"Report, Hyuuga!"

"It's still standing! There was a blue pattern spike detected just
before detonation--I think it got its AT Field up before it blew!"

"Visual recordings confirm, Major!"

"And Rei?"

"EVA is damaged but largely intact...audio connection established with
the entry plug."

"Thank you, Aoba. Rei! Rei, can you hear me? Are you there?"

"...uhh...."

"Rei!"

"...I've fallen, and I can't get up."

And the bridge shook once again, but this time due to a collective
facefault.

Once she picked herself up from the ground, Maya glanced at her monitor
and called out, "The Third Child has swiped his card for entry--he's on
his way!"

"Let me pilot!"

All eyes turned to find Shinji standing below the bridge, panting for
breath. He was looking slightly pale still, but other signs of his prior
illness seemed to have been burned away by the fury in his eyes.

"What are you doing here, Shinji?"

"SHUTUP! Shutupshutupshutup! I don't feel like getting into a stupid
philosophical discussion right now, Father, just get me into Unit 01!
There's an ass I need to kick! REI GOT HURT!" And with that, Shinji tore
off toward the cages at great speed, leaving the bridge crew to gape.

A figure staggered in through the corridor from which Shinji had
entered. "Yes, he _has_ grown a spine, hasn't he?" wheezed a tired-looking
Kaji. "But damn...how the hell did he get so fast?"

The eyes watching Shinji now swiveled to stare at Kaji.

"...what? Stop looking at me like that. Yeah, so I've been 'fired', but
you expect me to stay outside, away from the Geofront, and get trod on and
then blown up? I mean, if _that_ can happen to some watermelons, what
about my head?"

------------------------------------------------

Two EVAs down, one not functional, the other one just out of the cage
to intercept the Angel. Things did not look good. They looked downright
ugly.

In fact, Gendou presently found himself looking face to face at Zeruel.
It had broken through all the protective layers of the Geofront and
smashed its way into Central Dogma. With great violence, deafening noise,
and fearsome power, the Angel of Might had come. And now, in scene of
stark silence and a tension level that might be imaginable but not really
describable, the Commander of NERV was engaging in a staredown with one of
the most powerful adversaries in all of NERV's history. He couldn't falter
now; after getting bawled out by his son--Shinji, of all people!--he
really needed to save face.

Bits of debris fell down around the bridge. Neither budged.

The alert sirens cut in and out abruptly as power systems were
frantically being repaired by the utilities. Neither budged.

"Comma-" began Maya, but was shushed by Ritsuko. Neither budged.

Balthasar started singing (well, trying to sing) a bawdy drinking song
after taking in data from a corrupted disk. Neither budged, although
Misato and Kaji instinctively joined in for a few bars before correcting
themselves and looking around in puzzlement.

Were this a Western, a tumbleweed would have, well, tumbled past, at
this time. Just to make a point.

Zeruel began to make a sort of growling noise, and its arms started to
ripple slightly. Some of the bridge bunnies started to whimper, but
Gendou didn't flinch, not even slightly.

Instead, the Commander tilted his head slightly, such that his glasses
caught the light in a classic anime Lenses Flash. Zeruel cringed, almost
imperceptibly, but it was there. Even if the tape on the glasses somewhat
ruined the effect.

Then, quite a number of things happened at the same time, more or less.

Zeruel snapped one of its arms straight at the Commander, faster than a
human could adequately react. Right behind him was the rest of the bridge.

Maya screamed and glomped onto Ritsuko, which should please certain
fanboys. Ritsuko merely turned very pale; the other folks on the bridge
started shouting, dove for the floor, or in Makoto's case, started whining
quietly for Mommy.

Unit 01 crashed into the scene, smacking aside the extending toilet-
paper arm before it could reach the rest of the bridge crew, and
bodyslammed the Angel backward, away from the bridge into the more open
area of the Geofront.

And Gendou, who could have died a stoic death while watching the Angel
dispassionately, had his ass saved by the fact that the tape had finally
given out, and he was scrabbling for his glasses on the ground while the
razor-sharp arm merely parted his hair nicely as it whizzed right past
him.

Somewhere, in the land of Gendou-haters, there was much weeping and
the gnashing of teeth. But that is somebody else's problem.

"Shinji! Be careful!" yelled Misato. Not that it was really necessary,
though; Shinji was doing quite a good job. Driven by lovestruck adolescent
wrath, the giant purple robot was bringing the ruckus on Zeruel.

After flinging the Angel away from the bridge, EVA-01 immediately sprang
forward, launching itself into a flying tackle at its midsection. Both
crashed to the ground, the Unit on top.

"He's angry," whispered Maya, staring at the battle in frightened
fascination.

"I would imagine so. Could you let go of me, Maya? It's just a little
bit uncomfortable when you squeeze me there," said Ritsuko.

Maya blushed, and relinquished her deathgrip on the Doctor's bicep.

Shinji started to beat on the Angel with both fists, but was thrown
away by an unexpected energy blast. Zeruel immediately rose to an upright
position, and shot its arm toward the EVA--but Shinji had landed his mecha
on its feet with an impressive backflip, and was prepared.

The robot's right hand stretched forward, fingers slightly curled, to
intercept the arm; the EVA caught the thin streamer, wound it around the
wrist a couple times with fast twist of the forearm, and yanked hard. That
sent the Angel hurtling forward, straight into the left fist of Unit 01.

"Good fight," mumbled Fuyutsuki.

"Stop hogging the popcorn," said Gendou.

This was followed up with a knee to the crotch, or what passed for a
crotch between those stubby leg-buds on Zeruel; every male watching
crossed his legs upon viewing that. Zeruel shuddered at the impact; though
it didn't have jewels to speak of, that hit did do visible damage--the
kneeblade cut deeply into the Angel. Unit 01 now beat its fist on the core
on Zeruel's chest a few times, before palming Zeruel's beak and attempting
to give the word 'defacing' a more literal meaning with a mighty pull.

It seemed like such a pity, then, that the backup power gave out at this
moment. EVA-01 slumped backwards; Zeruel's face snapped back into place
like a rubber band, no doubt to the Angel's vast relief. After taking a
second to steady itself, Zeruel retaliated against the helpless robot,
first flinging it onto its back, repeatedly targeting Unit 01's torso with
its free arm.

"What the hell happened?" shouted Misato at the bridge bunnies.

Aoba cursed, and then yelled back, "The power cord must have gotten cut
when the Angel blasted the EVA earlier!"

"And no one noticed?"

"Well, did you?"

Misato muttered something, and flipped a switch. "Shinji! Can you
hear--" she drew back, grimacing at the flood of swear words that poured
out of the commlink. "Geez." She paused. "We're screwed, aren't we?"

A fatalistic silence spread over the entire bridge, as they continued to
watch the 14th Angel return the favor on Unit 01, while listening to
Shinji scream for his robot to move as well as cast aspersions on the
Angel's mother, whoever that might be.

Suddenly, Ritsuko sat up in her chair and blinked. She reached forward,
flicked a switch on her own station, and yelled into the microphone--now
hooked up to the loudspeaker system in the area.

"Hey! Yu--uhh, Unit 01! Zeruel said that your thighs look FAT!"

The technicians boggled at Ritsuko, and even Zeruel faltered for a
moment, seemingly confused.

"Yeah! And that your breasts are small, and your hips are nonexistent!"

Gendou and Fuyutsuki twitched slightly.

"Come on! Am I going to have to bring up your--"

Ritsuko was then compltely drowned out by a furious roar as EVA-01
suddenly sprang to life. Zeruel never stood a chance; it was bitchslapped
into submission by a hand the size of a cargo truck, before getting
smacked down into the ground once more.

"Sempai! We've lost contact with Shin...ji...the synch rate is above
100 percent--and it's still rising!"

"The Angel has been subdued! Blue pattern is fading!"

"But Unit 01 isn't stopping...."

Silence from the bridge crew for a few moments.

"It's just taken a tarp and tied it around its neck," reported Makoto.

"And now it's...oh, yuk."

"Mmmrglf," replied Maya, through the hand clapped over her mouth.

Misato simply stared for a few seconds, then weakly commented, "Well, I
suppose Shinji was feeling a little peckish after having an empty stomach
since last night."

Fuyutsuki quietly discarded the half-full popcorn tub, and would forever
have second thoughts about raw fish.

Unit 01 paused to cover a burp in a rather genteel manner, wiped its
fingers on the makeshift bib, then took another helping of Angel tartare,
rumbling contentedly as it enjoyed a quiet repast.

And off to the side, while everyone else was distracted....

"Doctor Akagi."

"Yes, Commander?"

"...cancel the dinner reservations for tonight."

"Right."

"And get me the number for the Eating Disorders Hotline. I suddenly feel
like never eating again in my life...."

"Get in line, Commander."

***
To be continued....
***

Ever wonder how Zeruel managed to get to Tokyo-3 completely undetected
until it actually struck? I sure did.

Yes, I realize this follows much of episode 20 in general events. I
promise, the later Angel encounters will be more original. But I had to
get Unit 01 its active S2 core. n.n;

Next part will deal with the result of 400% synchronization. That'll be
fun, won't it?

Finally, as pointed out to me by someone I can't now recall (sorry!),
the spelling for that one of the MAGI is "Balthasar". Whoops, silly me....