With a yawn and a stretch of her slender neck Ritsuko Akagi, reluctantly pushed herself off her document littered desk and sat up in her chair. Mouth dry and joints aching, the young scientist yawned once more and rubbed her eyes until the were no longer blurry.

The hot mug of coffee she had placed at the far corner of her desk was now cold and looked about as inviting as a tax audit. She reached for the mug and brought it to her nose, cringing at the bitterness of the smell. All the technology in the world, she muttered. and you still can't get decent coffee when you need it.

Having said that, she emptied the mug's contents into the waste-bin beside her desk. The mug followed shortly after.

Falling back into her chair, Ritsuko pulled out a small mirror, flipping it open with a click'. She stared dourly at the miserable visage that started back at in the mirror's reflection.

The long hours she been putting into her work as of late had defiantly began to take their toll on her. Her eyes were red and puffy and her hair, once the color of dark umber, dyed to resembled that of a blond's, was disheveled and messy. She had also lost a bit of color as an added bonus. The mole on her cheek seemed to stand out more than usual, because of this.

After a ten second fixing, Ritsuko managed to improve her appearance just enough so that it's poor state would go unnoticed by Nerv's more perceptive members. The last thing she needed was a criticism about her work-habits, especially if said criticism was coming from Mistato. Any other day she would be able to take such things, but no now, not this day.

Today the thirty year-old scientist had a bigger fish to fry. A large, one-eyed fish that had managed to become a large thorn in her side over the past few months. The thought of all the hours of tests she would be running on Unit 0 did not seem to curb her enthusiasm as it normally would have in the past.

She thought back to the very brief chat she had shared with the Sub-Commander yesterday morning. The old man had said that he was expecting good results. The memory made Ritsuko snicker. Expecting even a sufficient report was rare enough when dealing with Unit 0, but a good report?

Ritsuko banished the thought and began straitening the nuclear disaster that had befallen her desk. It was not long before a young, and ever eager Lt. Maya Ibuki stepped into her office, bowing politely as she would do so every morning.

Good morning, Ma'am, she beamed, bowing once more for good measure. Her beige, Nerve uniform was clean and without a single crease or wrinkle.

And an equally good morning to you, Maya, Ritsuko answered, forcing the most polite smile she could muster. She returned the bow with a simple nod, trying not to let the younger woman's cheery disposition chafe her already foul mood.

With perfect posture and a smooth, flawless gait, Maya approached her superior's desk, handing her a folder that was noticeably heavy. Everything I could find regarding Unit 0's most recent interior upgrades to both power relay and conversion systems and combat hardware. I also included your report from the first experiment. She stepped back and waited patiently while Ritsuko flipped through the file's contents.

Thank you, Maya, the blonde scientist said, thankful that she had been able to pass the task onto someone else. When she finished, she closed the folder and set it aside. Has Unit 0 been moved to cage five and prepped for testing?They're securing the Eva as we speak, Ma'am.Have all the necessary precautions been taken this time? The Commander doesn't want a repeat of what happened during the last experiment.Everything's been checked, prepped and cleared, Ma'am. All routine inspections have been made and all systems are confirmed to be in the green.Excellent. See to the last of the preparations, I'll join you shortly.You're not coming, Ma'am?I still have a few things here that need to be taken care of. She saw the look of unease touch her assistant's once bright features. Don't worry, I'll be there well before the first series of tests are conducted. Hold down the fort until then, all right? She gave her assistant a wry grin and made a dismissive gesture with her hand. Go on now, shoo, shoo!Y-yes Ma'am. Maya bowed one last time and walked briskly out of the office.

As she watched her leave, Ritsuko sunk dejectedly into her chair. When the door to her office slid closed, she removed a small, plastic bottle from her coat pocket. she said, shaking two pills into her palm. Here's to the progress of science. She brought her hand to her mouth, downing the two pills with a single, dry gulp. May we actually see some of it, today.

The elevator platform gave a creaking lurch before jerking into a smooth descent. As he stood hunched over the elevator controls, sucking a now flavorless wad of nicotine gum, Koru Masuki silently admonished himself for not calling in sick today. It's probably what anyone else in his place would have done, he had said earlier that morning when the idea had been very tempting.

It was Koru's good fortune that the boot of reason had arrived just in time to deliver his good morning kick to the head. He was already on shaky terms with his supervisors as it was. Plus, when you work for a globally recognized organization like NERV, you don't call in sick unless you're certain that you'll be dead by the next day. And you sure as hell don't brush off those special little tasks the man upstairs tacks onto the regular bullshit you had to deal with.

Standing at the opposite end of the platform was Hirosuke, Koru's coworker and close friend of twenty some-odd years. He was also the only other person he could find who had the grapes to come to this godforsaken place with him.

Facility 41 was nearly seven miles west of Tokyo 2, carefully tucked away where prying eyes and reckless curiosity would not find it. The structure's seclusive nature made it all the more unpleasant to be around.

But Koru had grown accustomed to it.

Like every other dark corner of NERV's high level operations, this one had its fair share of stories and rumors. Weather or not those stories were true didn't really matter to him. Stories didn't bother him. Small, cramped spaces with poor lighting and little breathing room that's what bothered him.

How much longer till we reach the bottom of this thing? Hiroshi shouted over the noise produced by the Elevator.

Koru pulled back his sleeve and checked his watch. Bout two hours maybe more, I don't know.Are you shitting me? I gotta take leak, here!Well, why the hell, didn't you say something before?

The shorter man shrugged. I didn't have to go then. Can't we just make this thing go faster, or something?This elevator's only got one speed setting, and that's dying slug'. The technician leaned forward and spat the flavorless wad of gum over the side of the platform. We can stop now, and take the stairs if you want. Probably would take you half the day to climb down, though.

He gave his friend a cynical grin before quickly popping another piece of gum into his mouth. A soothing wave of relief seemed to wash over his every nerve the moment the nicotine touched his tongue. An' then you gotta worry about whether your skinny legs'll be strong enough to carry you back out.Yeah, up yours too!

And as the elevator platform continued its descent into the darkness, the two technician's let the silence envelop them.

With eyes sharp as surgeon's knives, Gendo Ikari sat silently at his desk looking over the latest bundle of reports to arrive the from NERV'S American Branch.Because the reports focussed largely the upcoming completion of Eva Units 3 and 4, he could tell that development of the S2 Engine was still showing little sign of progress. Embellish progress to obscure failure, a pattern which had become a predictable routine when dealing with either of NERV's foreign branches. He pushed his tinted glasses over the bridge of his nose and tossed the reports aside.

As Supreme Commander of the NERV Organization, a position that required results that were nothing short of perfect, it was Ikari's responsibility to make sure that day to day operations were sufficiently carried out. When you operate out of a facility like the Geo-Front, you find that even smallest clog in the system can quickly grow into a noticeable problem. And with all the other projects that the old men of the Seele Committee had placed under his care, a clog in the system was the last thing he needed.

The Dummy System was already two month's behind schedule, which meant he would no doubt be receiving a very angry call from the committee. The thought of having to hear chairman Keel's voice again, did not appeal to Gendo in the least.

The feeling was soon dispelled by the ringing of his phone. Running his gloved fingers along his dark beard, the Commander quickly plucked the phone from the stand and brought the receiver to his ear. he said in that cool, even tone that he had come to rely upon these past twelve years.

There came no response, though he could hear the faint sound of nervous breathing coming from the other end.

What is it? he said, adding a touch of impatience to his voice.

a young voice said hesitantly. I'm sorry for calling you like this Dad, but but I uhhh.

Gendo's mouth tightened the moment he recognized the voice to be his Son's. What's the matter? he asked, clearly irked by the boy's call. Be quick!

The boy stammered for a moment before he could talk clearly again. Err, well... Today at school I was told to inform my parent that a career guidance interview will be taking place, but—I've already made it clear that Katsuragi is to be entrusted with such matters. You're her responsibility. Don't call me with this sort of triviality aga— the line suddenly went dead before Gendo could finish. For one fleeting moment, the commander stared at the phone's receiver uncertain of to make of what had just happened.

Had his son hung up on him? While the idea was certainly an interesting one, it just didn't seem likely, at least not where his son was concerned.

He was not given all that much time to analyze the thought before his cavernous office lights suddenly switched off, leaving him in total darkness.

Hirosuke, you stupid bastard, what did you do now? Koru was screaming so loud that he accidentally swallowed his gum. He flipped on the light that was built into his hard-helmet and turned to face Hirosuke. Didn't I tell you not to fuck with this thing?The hell are you talking about? I've been standing right here this whole goddamn time!Then what the hell just happened to the lift, huh? Mind telling that? An' while your at it you can tell me what happened to all the lights too! The forty year-old's heart was was pounding like an oil drum in his chest. Christ, this is all I need!What're we gonna do now?

Koru reeled on hi friend. You're asking me?You're the guy who knows this place better than I do, so yeah, I'm asking you! You gotta problem with that?

Koru stopped himself from saying another word and took e few long breaths, expelling them in long drawn-out exhales. he murmured. You're right. I do know this place better than you sorry.Just cool it, all right? Let's both try to make this little adventure as painless as possible.Fine, let's start by figuring out what happened to out power?Tough to say Hirosuke too out a flash light and shined it one of of the unlit overhead lights. Coulda' been anything blown fuse short circuit maybe the generator just decided to just up and die, that happens sometimes.Yeah that's possible. But why the hell haven't the backups kicked in yet?I don't know, the shorter man answered. I can tell you already, that somebody's definitely gonna be pissed when they hear about this.You mean if he they hearIf? Hey wait a minute, Koru, what's that suppose to mean?It means exactly what it sounds like. After completing a fairly simple lock combination, Koru threw open a small footlocker and removed a pair of orange, thermal-jackets. Put this on.

Hirosuke caught the heavy piece of clothing in his when it was tossed to him. What the hell am I supposed to do with this?Thermal-jacket, you'll need it for when we get to the bottom.When we get to the— Are you crazy? He shifted his beady eyes between the jacket and the other technician.

I'm not gonna lose my job because of a blown fuse, Hiro, Koru said, zipping up his own jacket. We'll use the stairs. He jerked a thumb, indicating the ladder that was mounted to the side of the elevator. If we keep a steady pace we might be able to reach the bottom in an hour or two.You're nuts! You know that, Koru?No, my friend, the forty-year-old technician said as began to climb down the ladder. I'm just a tired old schmuck trying to hold onto his dead-end job.

Hirosuke chewed the inside of his cheek while he watched his friend drop onto the stairs. He then looked down at the thermal-jacket he was still holding, then back at his friend who was now beginning to descend the stairs. I should've stayed in bed this morning, he said, slipping into the jacket and starting after his coworker.

Deep within the heart of Nerve Headquarters, Lt. Aoba Shigeru cursed silently as his latest attempt to return the power proved once again unsuccessful. He wiped his hand over his face and looked glumly at the lines of text that flashed across the small computer screen before him. No good. he called out The standby circuits still aren't operating.

Hearing this, Kozo Fuyutsuki, Sub Commander of Nerve gave a dejected sigh and frowned. As he stood atop the terrace-like command deck, the old man watched the many dozens of Nerve employees, officers and technicians fumble about the dark, working hastily to restore normal operations to the massive complex. What about the circuits that are opperating? he asked, his voice tired and fatigued.

Two percent in all. one of the technicians answered, Only 9 circuits from the original 2567 seem to be operational.

The Sub-Commander's frown only grew. He lowered himself into the chair that would normally be occupied by Commander Ikari and crossed his arms. Finally he said: Reroute all operational power supplies to the Magi and Central Dogma.

Shigeru spun around in his chair and starred at his superior But sir! Doing that will completely cut off life-support in the entire complex!I know that Fuyutsuki said. But we don;t have any other option, This is a top priority issue. he reached up and wiped away the perspiration the had collected along his brow. We'll just have adjust.

I still don't understand why all this bothers you, Third Child Asuka Langley said, making sure to keep a three step paced ahead of her sulking companion. So your Dad hung up on you, big whoop. At this point in your life, your supposed to ignore you parents half the time.

Shinji Ikari just shrugged. I guess, he answered, the rasp of his father's cold, lifeless voice still clinging to the back of his memory. But sill it'd be nice if he'd just you know.Don't lump your problems on me, Third Child, Asuka snapped. I only asked what was bothering you, so you'd stop sulking. I swear, you look like you've just come home from your best friend's funeral.Yeah, yeah, everybody's sorry these days. Maybe the Commander was just too busy to talk, did you ever think of that?I was wondering about that, Shinji said. The thing is I think that there may have been some kind of a failure in the phone line. Something like that, I don't know.

The fiery German girl just rolled her eyes, a look of slight disgust on her face. As a man, you shouldn't worry about those little details, don't you think?Yeah I guess.And if your dad's gonna act like a prick, then screw him!

Shinji frowned, but kept his downcast eyes focused on the sidewalk. Can we please just stop talking about it, Asuka?Jesus, you're a such pill sometimes, Asuka shot back. Fine, fine, just don't come bitching to me about your dad again, got it!

Shinji mumbled a half audible: Yes ma'am under his breath while glancing off to his left.

It was only now that the young Japanese boy finally took notice of the chain-link fence that ran along the side walk. As he walked along side the fence, he peered curiously at the barren stretch of flat earth that lay on the other side. Though Shinji had seen his fair share of construction sites during his life, he had never seen one that was quite so empty, or devoid of human activity.

There were no scaffoldings, no tarps, no mounds of dirt nor bags of concrete. There was no machinery of any kind, nor workers to operate them. All Shinji could see was an empty lot of dry, brown earth that had been totally stripped of anything green or living.

And the longer he looked at it, the more it seemed to consume him. And the more it consumed him, the more disturbed by it he became.

As the two Eva pilots neared the end of the block, Something suddenly caught Asuka's sharp, blue eyes. Slowing her pace, she moved beside Shinji and nudged him out of his daze. she said, though very quietly. Take a look at that. She jerked her chin towards the corner of the sidewalk where a large billboard sod.

Shinji tilted his head back, his dark eyes moving across the billboard's contents. It says that this is where the city's new stadium is to be built he said. The project's set to begin in less than a week.

Asuka crossed her arms, giving the billboard a scrutinizing glance. Phht, a stadium? Christ, of all the things the city council decides to blow its budget it on I mean when the hell are those bastards gonna get around to building that park with a statue of me in the center?I'm sure they'll get around to it Asuka, Shinji replied dryly.

So what's this monstrosity gonna be for anyway? Not another soccer-stadium is it? I swear to god you Japanese are Obsessed with that stupid game!Actually, it's where they're planning to hold the next Olympics.

Asuka lowered her gaze to the empty clearing that lay beyond the fence, sneered at it. Not much of a location, if you ask me.No one did. Shinji muttered.

Yeah, whatever, let's beat it, already. I'd like to get to Nerv Headquarters sometime in this century, you know! She grabbed a handful of Shinji's shirt and proceeded to drag him to the other side of the intersection. From there they would hasitlily make their way towards the nearset Nerve station, unaware that only a non-functioning entrance to the equally non-functioning Nerv Complex awaited them.

Hiroshi whispered, eyes nearly bulging from there sockets. He took another step into unlit bunker, moving past the fallen security locks, his flashlight held tightly in his gloved hand. It looks like someone took a goddamn bomb to the place!

Koru could only stare at what lay before him. The entire chamber was now in shambles. Equipment of all sorts, cooling ducts, conduits and and insulated tubing, all of it lay scattered and strewn about the room in jumbled piles. The solid, steel walls were warped and bent in some places, as were parts of the ceiling and floor.

The entire bunker had literally been torn apart.

Just what the hell happened, here? I mean shit!I know, Koru replied, instinctively popping another piece of nicotine-gum into his shivering mouth. Whatever happened here it really tore this place a new one.Yeah, brilliant deduction, Koru, Hiroshi muttered, picking up a piece of broken machinery. Mind telling me something I don't know? Like why the hell it's so cold down here? I feel like I'm gonna freeze my balls off!Cooling solution, Koru replied. This whole place was filled with it.What the hell for?Don't know. To be honest with you I really don't know what this place was used for. They send me here every couple of week to make sure nothings gone screwy or hey-wire.Wait-a-minute, back up! You mean to tell me, you don't even know why they send you here in the first place?Nope, not a single clue. I did ask them once when they first gave me the job told me not to ask which is just peachy by me.

They wandered further into the demolished chamber, shining their lights on anything that caught their attention. They could feel fragments of ice crackling under their boots as they walked, their breath like jets of misty smoke seeping from their mouths. The air was cold and had a funny taste that tingled their tastes buds when they breathed it in, the smell of spilt coolant and various other chemicals ever present.

Hiroshi suddenly stopped and grabbed Koru's shoulder. Hold on a second, he said, shining his light on the remains of a shattered glass cylinder. What do supposes this thing was used for?No idea. He took a step closer for a better look. Looks like it exploded from the inside, he said, touching a hand to jagged section of the glass. Whatever they were keeping in here all these years must've grown unstable and just blew up, I guess.

Hiroshi scowled, burying his freezing hands in his pockets. now what do we do?Did you hear anything on the way down? Koru asked. Anything at all? An explosion? Something that sounded like an explosion?I didn't hear shit, Koru.Then what the hell happened?Who cares? Let's just get out of here, already. This place is like a goddamn tomb.Not yet. Not before I get some answers stay here, I'll be back in a sec. He started to leave, but again, was quickly stopped.

Where the hell are you going?I'm just gonna have a look around. Think you can Just sit tight, until then?Yeah, sure, why not? Hiro groaned, his voice dripping with sarcasm. I'm already here, ain't I?Spare me, already. I'll be back in ten minutes.Yeah, yeah, Fuck you.

With a sharp nod, Koru turned and started back towards the security gate. He stopped only once, just long enough to look over his shoulder and shoot his friend an smug grin. Try not to touch anything, all right? This placed is trashed as it is.

Hiroshi snuffed at the remark, shoving his hands even deeper into his pockets. Have I said Fuck you yet? he shouted into the darkness.

But Koru was already gone.

Alone and cold, with only a flashlight in his possession, Hiroshi cursed under his breath, jumping up and down in quick, impatient hops, desperately trying to keep the blood pumping through his half-frozen legs. It was only then that the thirty year-old man became aware of the pressure gradually building within his bladder.

he hissed, gritting his chattering teeth at the sharp pain that was becoming more and more impossible to ignore. Of all the lousy times to be away from the, John! His chilled breathing resonated like the hissing of an angry snake as he thought franticly for a solution to his dilemma.

Only one seemed to presented itself.

Making sure that he was in fact alone, Hiroshi moved to a dark corner of the bunker, squeezing behind a section of collapsed wall. What the man don't know, won't hurt em', he whispered before unzipping his fly.

Naked, disoriented and nearly blind from the eleven long years of hibernation, the youth could only writhe and twist along the floor's cold surface. He was on his side now, much as he had been so for the duration of his flicking awareness. His brain throbbed and rolled in his skull and his eyes felt like two sacks of burning fluid, swelling in their sockets.

His chest rose and fell as he breathed, filling his lungs with oxygen for what felt like the first time in an eternity.

A new sensation suddenly filled his insides, a deep, wrenching ache that made his entire abdomen quiver. The youth tried to cry out, but from his throat came only the muted gag of a weakened larynx. He pushed himself onto his elbows and heaved, releasing a gush of bile and cooling solution from his gaping mouth. More heaves followed until he had finally vomited the entire contents of his stomach.

Bile dripping from his chin, the youth slumped against the side of fallen support beam. The cold steel stung his bare skin. He tried to open his eyes, but met little success.

How long had been like this? Though he was not entirely sure, it felt like hours. But but for all he knew, it could have been days perhaps even weeks. He flexed his fingers, one at a time at first, then all at once. He squeezed them into a fist, then spread them wide. The movement sent a pleasant feeling of warmth through his hand.

But it did not last.

The boy's head swooned and slumped forward as a torrent of memories suddenly invaded his mind. Clutching his head in agony, the youth fell forward, pushing his face against to floor. He clenched his teeth, his face contorted into a disfigured grimace. A hideous buzzing burrowed into his skull, blotting out the world in a red haze.

He saw many things things that had laid dormant in the darkest recesses of his memory.

A man wearing wire-rimmed glasses, his gaze cold and cruel

A woman with dark hair and a lab-coat misery humiliation

A boy dressed in red

A girl his age perhaps a year or two older. Her hair was dark like the woman in the lab-coat.

In a blinding flash, all of it came together, like fragments of shattered glasses reshaping themselves to reform the whole.

Consciousness finally returned to him, and for a moment, the youth was unsure as to weather he was alive or dead or just simply dreaming. He had already been dreaming for eleven years.

Supporting himself against the fallen beam, the youth slowly stood. His legs felt week, but he could still stand all the same. He brought a hand to his face and gently touched his cheek the tip of his nose his chin and lips.

The sound of approaching footsteps suddenly brought him out of his daze, causing him to stumble.

He was no longer alone.

Letting instinct take control, the youth scrambled across the floor, slipping out of sight. With only the cover of shadow to conceal his naked form, the youth would have to rely on stealth at least until other resources made themselves available to him. He blindly felt his way through the darkness, until he was convinced that no one would find him.

Through the blackness he could here only two voices two men's voices.

one said. It looks like someone took a goddamn bomb to the place! Just what the hell happened here? I mean shit!I know, Came the other voice, more deeply pitched than the first. Whatever happened here it really tore this place a new one.

The two men were completely unaware of the youth's presence. As he listened to their every word, he could see the glare of their flash lights moving about the chamber. They were moving further inside.

He had to be careful. From his hiding place he watched the them while they investigated the destruction that was no now certain had been caused by him. The realization filled him with a sense relief.

Relief and anticipation.

One more quick exchange passed between the two men before Koru, the deep-voiced one, turned away from his companion and ambled out of the chamber, disappearing into the dark corridor.

There was only one left now.

Even in his diminished state, the youth could not let this opportunity slip away. He quietly watched as the one called Hiroshi seemed to struggle with something. The man was now cursing under his breath while quickly jumping up and down.

He watched as the man practically limped his way to a dark corner of the chamber, squeezing behind a section of collapsed wall. What the man don't know, won't hurt em', he whispered.

Something was then hastily unzipped, and the man gave a relieve sigh.

It was only then that the youth became aware of the smell the potent odor of freshly spilled urine that stung his nostrils.

The man was distracted now.

Moving as quietly as he could manage, the youth slipped away from his hiding place, rising to his feet with each careful step. His eyes glowed with a look of raw hunger.

When Hiro had finally finished, he set his flashlight down beside him so he could zip himself. The sound of the zipper echoed off the walls and ceiling, bouncing like invisible flecks of rubber.

He bent forward to collect his flashlight, his back exposed and unprotected.

the silent creature who had been waiting patiently in the shadows moved in for the kill, swiftly and with all the cunning of a demon.

The sound of this man's screams would delight him for nights to come.

With an exhausted groan, Shinji collapsed onto his bed in a head, an arm thrown limply over his face. What a day, he thought to himself, reflecting on the events which had transpired just hours prior.

The power failure had completely turned both the city and the Geo-front upside down. From the pay phones, to the electrically sealed locks of the Nerv security gates, nothing in the city seemed to function. This had posed quite a significant problem for the three pilots when they had tried to gain access to Nerve Headquarters.

From that point, things only seemed to go from bad to worse. As they were now completely cut off from both Mistato and the rest of Nerv, Asuka, as usual, had assumed command over the trio, naming herself the unofficial group leader. Knowing how unwise it would have been to undermine her, Shinji had quietly submitted to the German girl's dominion.

Rei didn't seem to care either way, but accepted Asuka's decision all the same.

Their journey to Nerv was one that Shinji would not soon forget. From the dark maintenance tunnels that webbed beneath Tokyo 3's streets, to the narrow labyrinth of the ventilation systems, the three pilots could only rely on their own senses of direction and a few vague suggestions made by Rei.

Though Asuka will undoubtedly twist the story to give her role a more favorable light, Shinji knew that they both would have been lost without the blue-haired albino to point them along the way.

The memories of the journey were so clear that for a moment he was sure that he was back in the air-ducts, crawling on his hands and knees through dust and soot alike. He rubbed his cheek tenderly, remembering the sting of Asuka's shoe when she had kicked him repeatedly. Punishment for allegedly peeking up the skirt of her school-uniform.

Asuka always did enjoy her petty torments.

It was at that moment, that Misato Kasturagi dicided to slide his door open and poke her head through.


If anything, the sign's cold, florescent glow provided the only color relief against the gloom of the alley.

Like most of the roughneck hangouts in Tokyo 2, this particular dive could be found festering along the city's outer fringe. Located at the bottom of a grimy stairwell, mashed between the walls of a narrow back-alley, The Harukiya was the sort of place that received just enough nightly patronage to keep it's doors open for another evening.

The air was saturated with the reek of human waste and decaying garbage, enough to make even the strongest of stomachs reel in disgust.

But to the youth, the stench held a certain familiarity. He almost seemed to bask in it. With his hands tucked away; warm and snug in the pockets of his new coat, the youth quietly stepped out from the shadows and started down the short flight of stairs.

He stopped just two steps from the bar's door and stared at it for a moment, studying it as though it were a painting. Every dent and every stain, every mark of graffiti and every spatter of rot, each a separate brushstroke, delicate and refined.

As he pushed the door open, an automated chime announced his arrival. Round, squat tables, heavily marked and gouged, filled the much of the bar's floor-space, leaving only enough room to move about without bumping into another patron.

An old fashioned CD jukebox occupied the far corner. It was playing an old song from the Pre-Impact days.

He moved passed the empty tables and sat himself at the equally empty counter where the barkeep was busily swabbing out the inside of an empty mug.

The Barkeep was a tall, burly man of middle age with broad-shoulders, powerful arms and a clean-shaven scalp that reflected the light. He gave the youth curt glance, his mustache twisting under his nose. Out a bit late, aintcha' sport? he said. This aint the arcade, y'know, I don't serve milkshakes. He of course knew that milkshakes were the last thing on this kid's mind. His kind were a common sight around this part of the city.

The youth's mouth twitched as he murmured something under his breath. He then locked eyes with the Barkeep and smiled. Got any capsules? he asked.

It was a predator's smile, the barkeep had seen it many times in the past. He couldn't help but chuckle I might have few kicking around. They're not cheap. Harder to come by since the fedes cracked down on most of the dealers years back.I got money.I know you got money. Question is have you got enough?

The youth reached into his pocket and produced a crumpled wad of bills. Give me whatever this is worth, he said, letting the bills fall onto the counter.

The Barkeep took a good long look at the pile of bills, then at the youth.

He was weird looking kid, that much was certain. Though most of his body was hidden under the grungy looking coat he wore, it was fairly obvious that very little strength resided in the boy's flesh. A vaguely egg-shaped head rested upon a thin stooping neck, crowned by a mane of unkempt, black hair. His eyes were dull and bloodshot, his hands twitching every few seconds.

You sure you want capsules, son? You look pretty wasted as it is.

The youth's eyes narrowed at the question. Just shove em out, pops!

The barkeep chuckled again. Sure sure, if you want em' that bad He reached under the bar and produced small plastic bag. Last four in the house, he said, dropping it onto the countertop. Just don't blame me when you start bleeding through your eyes, okay sport?You got a bad attitude, pops, the youth retorted, emptying the drugs into his trembling hand. Why don't you lighten up before your arteries harden! And with that, he popped all for capsules into his mouth, swallowing them with gusto. As he let himself sink into the stool, feeling the drugs already taking affect, a worried frown spread across his face.

He had been careless back in the Cryo-chamber careless and sloppy. As much of a thrill it had been to watch that technician's brains cover the wall, he new it would probably come back to bite him in the ass sooner or later. It would only be a matter of time before the organization came to reclaim him. He considered the possabelities all the while chewing the tip of his thumb.

the barkeep filled a glass with water and set it on the counter. Seeing as how I've provided you with you night's worth of shit he leaned closer so that was at eye level with his young customer. How'bout a name?

The boy pursed his lips, frowning, considering the question. He picked up the glass, and held it in front of him for a beat his tongue pressed between his teeth. It's Tetsuo, he said, swirling the glass, watching the water churn. . Shima.