The 7th Angel: Disasters and Bets

Asuka was busy trying to get her new room in some sort of organization when she heard the phone ring. Rei was stacking boxes higher, trying to get some room in the middle of the room. She really wanted to get the beds set up.

Shinji suddenly interrupted them. "It's an Angel," he said grimly from the doorway. "They want us at NERV."

Fuyutsuki stood in the center of NERV's command center. "The Seventh Angel was spotted in the waters off the shore of Japan. We are still recovering from the effects of the Seventh Angel's attack, so our response is limited. Our combat capabilities outside of the Evangelion are only at sixty-five percent effectiveness." That seemed higher than the sub-commander remembered, but he would look into that in a bit.

Tony Stark nodded as he scanned through the data on the gigantic alien life form. "Not a lot of information from the remote drones. Though there is an odd bifurcation in the energy pattern."

Dr. Ritsuko Akagi frowned. The MAGI had not finished their data comparison. "Even so, we need to get our best assets to defeat this Angel out as far from the city as possible."

The sub-commander continued, "Unit 00 is currently down for upgrades and needed maintenance. Units 01 and 02 will sortie out immediately. Mr. Stark, if I could discuss some matters concerning the upgrades to the Geofront's security?"

Tony just nodded, though it was obvious this was going to be to keep him out of the fight. And he would not always be here. The first prototype for his inter-dimensional portal was nearly completed. He based it off the Nth Energy Projector that sent Squadron Supreme home to what he and the others labeled Earth-S. He only gave the projector a five percent chance of working, but it was always possible. "Of course, Sub-Commander."

"We have to redraw the map again!" Fuyutsuki later ranted after the battle very angrily. "We're laughingstocks internationally!"

Tony winced, even as the two children started squabbling about whose fault it had been. Kaji just smirked slightly in the background even as Misato came unglued. Now Tony had pegged Kaji as a dollar store knock off of Jasper Sitwell. Or possibly more like that loose-cannon Dirk Anger. Only without all the crazy.

"It looks like this Angel will be a tough nut to crack," Tony said blandly. "It has perfect teamwork on its side."

Kaji just smirked. "The two remaining EVA will have to work completely in sync with each other."

Fuyutsuki suddenly slammed his palm down on his console. "That is enough. Pilots! Return to your home."

Misato sat at her desk that was overflowing with paperwork. "Sheesh. You'd think that they sent all this paperwork as punishment."

"I don't think they are that devious. But it is something to keep in mind," Ritsuko mused.

"Ritsuko, old pal! You've come up with a plan to save my job, right?" the officer asked hopefully.

"Only half right." The blonde took out a data disk. "Kaji was the one that actually came up with the idea."

"But I don't think it's actually the best possible plan," Tony Stark said from the doorway he was leaning against. "It's not bad one, but I think we can improve his suggestions."

"Oh, and what do you suggest, Mr. Stark?" Ritsuko asked with a slightly frosty tone.

"All three EVA and their pilots working together can defeat this foe. It's innately limited to overwhelming its foes by double-teaming. It can not stand up to two or even three EVAs piloted with equal teamwork." He pulled out his own data pad. "This is my own personal proposal."

"But Unit 00 is currently weeks away from being operational!" Ritsuko countered sharply.

"That has been factored in, but time is of the essence. We only have eight days to get all three EVA functional. So if you could get an answer to me in four hours, we should be able to do what we can." Tony tossed the disk right in front of Misato, neatly between stacks of papers.

Ritsuko and Misato shared a quick glance with each other, even as Misato grabbed the two disks.

Toji and Kensuke knocked on Shinji's apartment door. "I'm really worried about him. He hasn't been to class in days," the bespectacled boy said.

"He's probably just got a cold or something," the jock replied. "But I did expect him to call."

The door opened, showing the scowling face of a new girl. "Who are you?" she snapped out.

The two boys quickly glanced at the door to verify the number. Finally, Toji piped up with, "Isn't this Shinji Ikari's place?"

"They are Shinji's friend's from school, Asuka," Rei called out further in the apartment.

"Oh, fine. We are taking a break anyways," she grumbled. "Come on in." She led the way into the living room which had changed radically from the last time the two boys had been over.

Misato was sitting on a chair, while a game system was set up with three controllers. Padding had been added to the wall. All three pilots were wearing exercise garb. "Hi guys!" Misato called out cheerfully, though she looked a bit tired.

"So what is this all about?" Kensuke asked with a confused expression.

"This is special EVA pilot training," Asuka spat out sarcastically; causing Shinji to cringe and Rei to bristle just the tiniest bit.

"And it's not going so well, obviously," the older woman said with her voice dripping with sarcasm. "I had high hopes for their teamwork after the last Angel, but it appears that was very premature."

"That's because these two drones can't keep up!" Asuka shouted, pointing at her two fellow pilots.

"Really? So why do they work fine when they do the paired team training?" Misato shot back.

"Hey! You've got Recon Combat Wolfsting XIII!" Kensuke shouted in glee. That was a cutting edge combat co-op game that had just come out.

"Yeah, they've got us playing games to work better together," Asuka sneered. "Like it's anything at all like piloting a real EVA."

That was when someone else knocked at the door. Shinji headed to the door to escape the bad mood that Asuka was generating. "Hello, Tony!"

"Good afternoon Shinji. I understand your training has some issues?" the very tired looking industrialist asked. His normally impeccable suit looked rumpled.

"Um, just a bit," the boy answered.

"So I see." Tony walked into the living room, taking in the groups. "Misato. Hello, kids. Asuka? May I have a moment of your time?" he asked calmly. He gestured to the balcony.

"Sure, Tony!" she gushed.

He closed the glass door, then attached a little device to the center of the glass. "Captain Katsuragi asked that I try to fix the issues that you guys are having. I have determined the problem succinctly. It is you, Asuka Langely Soryu and Second Child."

"You think I'm the problem?" she snapped out combatively.

"Yes. I could try to give you a pep talk, about the fact that their is no 'I' in teamwork. All that crap that would go in one of your over-pretty ears and out the other," he exclaimed harshly. "But I'll lay it out in simple terms. You are an insecure little brat that only feels better by belittling others and is afraid to build up those around you because your sense of worth is dependent on everyone around you being less than yourself."

"How dare you say that about me?" she shrieked.

"Because it's the truth. You are talented, skilled and eager to prove yourself. But with the way you are unwilling to open up and work with your teammates, they'll be writing the eulogy of humanity with your name on it. That your ego caused the destruction of everyone because you were too caught up in your childish antics and traumatic experiences." Tony stopped a second as she gaped like a fish. "I bet you can't work with others. You are too caught up in your own problems to worry about the big picture. Or anyone else's problems."

"I can too!" she shrieked out, her fists trembling with pent up anger. "I'll show you, no matter what!"

"The challenge is simple. Work with Shinji and Rei and succeed. Fail and the world ends in four days and be known as the girl that failed everyone. If we happen to win despite yourself, I'll move Heaven and Earth to make sure you never see the insides of your EVA."

"And if I win?" she snapped out. She smiled devilishly. "I want a real date out of this with you!" she suddenly demanded.

Tony raised an eyebrow. "You are on!" He held out his hand to seal the deal with a shake.

They both shook hands. Tony then took the device from the window.

"What was that for?" Asuka asked sulkily.

"That was for privacy. What we just said was between us only."

The girl was quite relieved, public embarrassment was always the worst form of torture for her.

Asuka stared moodily at the floor in front of the game system.

"Asuka? Are you all right?" Shinji asked as Misato walked Tony and his friends to the door.

Rei's eyes focused on the volatile girl while not turning away from the screen.

"I'll be fine," she said, her expression was dark and moody. She scowled as she realized that he was caring enough to even worry about her as a team-mate and yet she had not- "Oww!" She turned to glare at Rei. "Quit poking my mind."

"We are required to assist in training you with the psionic amplifiers-"

"Yeah, yeah," Asuka interrupted. "Let's get back to the game. I call for squad leader again!" She grabbed the nearest controller.

Surprisingly enough, things did work better.

Asuka lay on one of the futons in the living room that night. Per Misato's standing orders, all of the children were required to play, eat and sleep in the same room to force a familiarization with each other. Asuka was off to the side, away from the other two children.

It had been a long, grueling day with barely any improvement, though Misato seemed happier now. In Asuka's mind, she was replaying the conversation with Tony again and again. Anger welled up in her, along with disgust and self-loathing. Anger at his statements, because they were probably more true than she wished to admit. Disgust that she had acted... had been acting so childishly. And self-loathing because she knew, deep in the place where people put unpleasant truths that everything he'd said was absolutely true.

So Shinji's touch on her shoulder was startling and terrifying.

"I'm sorry, but- Are you alright, Asuka? You are... giving off some very bad emotions," he said as he snatched back his hand.

"Shinji is correct," came Rei's cool interjection. "Even I can feel it, though I do not understand them very well."

"I don't want to talk about it," she snarled back.

"Oh, sorry. Well, we'll be here. If you want to talk about it, I mean. We're just trying to help." Shinji paused, like he was trying to figure out something to say. "Well, good night."

Asuka opened her eyes to stare at the ceiling, thinking over the words that her two fellow pilots. The room was so silent that it felt she could actually feel Shinji and Rei's feelings herself. With a start, she suddenly remembered that she very well might be able to.

Could she?

Should she?


She calmed her breath down, while trying to reach out and feel something... that wasn't her. From the direction of where Rei lay, she felt a calmness, over deep anxieties. From Shinji, she felt some worrying, though the emotion reminded her of her own mother for some reason.

Like he cared.

And that couldn't be right, could it? Why should he care about her?

Asuka was truthful enough to herself to admit that he didn't seem to be that bad for a boy. He might even be a really good person, though he didn't seem to be an overly strong personality, something she disliked. She wished he'd grow a spine. She might find him attractive then.

Even as she drifted off, she never realized that she had a soft glow of feeling cared for, that someone actually worried about her well being.

Not that she was just a pilot.

"All right, move that last armor plate into position," Tony yelled out. "We've got ten minutes before the pilots are going to be here for the emergency sync test!"

Technicians and robotic waldos moved the mammoth parts of the EVA Units 00, 01 and 02. On Unit 00, the last armor plate was being attached.

"Too late, Mr. Stark. They are already here. Though your ability to get these units functional so quickly was very... inspired," Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki called out.

Tony checked his watch. "They are ten minutes early." He suddenly grinned, suddenly looking much better, rather than the worn and haggard man that had worked almost day and night for a week to refit the Evangelions. "Doesn't matter, we are basically all set."

"And the biological degradation on Unit 00?" the sub-commander asked.

"Still within operational limits, though I still have a few things to attempt. They require the pilot to be synchronized to the EVA. Good afternoon, pilots!" he called out. "Rei, if we can get you into Unit 00, we are going to try something before sending you into the field."

The albino nodded, heading to her entry plug.

"All right, Rei. I need to to think back to the fight with the last Angel while synchronizing," Tony said from the control room as she was being transferred into the EVA.


The staff at NERV ran through the synchronization process, though Unit 00 was only able to achieve a limited level.

"Rei, I want you to focus your thoughts on these areas, while trying to 'push out' the feeling of wrongness." Tony had brought up a screen showing her EVA, highlighting the stomach, left knee and right hand. Nothing seemed to be happening. Tony suddenly slapped his head. "Rei, only focus on one location at a time."

She frowned, but did as she was told.

"Regeneration is accelerating. AT Field is manifesting within the EVA," Shigeru called out. She looked up from her console where she sat near Horaki. "The process does seem to be working."

"It does make sense," Tony said. "Good job, Rei. With another fifteen minutes of effort on your part and your EVA will be at full functionality. The Evangelions seem potentially able to do anything that the Angels can."

Fuyutsuki nodded. "Prepare all Evangelions for immediate departure. We shall attempt to intercept the paired Angel at the designated coordinates."

The Seventh Angel had finally stirred after regenerating its damage from the N2 mine attack. The lumbering giant with the strange, split core was entering a valley near Tokyo-3 when it sensed danger.

In front of him stood a red EVA that charged to attack with a huge spear. Asuka yelled out, "I'll defeat you!"

Her attack again split the Angel that then charged in an eerie duet. Unit 02 seemed to fall back past the point of the elevator that had delivered her up into its way, the spear wavering between the two Angels.

They were running forward towards her in perfect unity when one of them was tripped by a purple EVA's hand that appeared from the elevator. This was quite disrupting to their coordination. Unit 00 appeared above them over a hill, then started to pepper the remaining Angel with long range fire from a heavy cannon, firing like a machine gun.

The trap worked better than expected, as the Angel was not prepared to not be able to work together. Each one, working alone seemed hesitant, taking minor wounds from the different attacks. However they would heal quickly, and it was clear that this wasn't stopping them.

'We need to strike the cores at the same time,' Shinji's mind was screaming. His EVA had its progressive knife out, trying to destroy the core.

So when he chipped it at the same time that Asuka managed to hit it in nearly the same place. The reaction from the Angels was extreme, as they tried to retreat back to each other.

But Unit 00 stood in between Asuka's, the EVA held up its free hand. The Angel slammed into an AT barrier. Rei's eyes were narrowed in concentration.

Back in NERV, technician Aoba looked up in shock. "Rei's sync rating has suddenly increased to seventy-eight percent. Shinji's is now at eighty-one percent. Even Asuka's sync rate is at eighty-five!"

"Rei has manifested an AT field of medium strength and blocked Target A. Target B remains engaged with Unit 01. Unit 02 is moving to assist Unit 00. Angels are regenerating all damage except the simultaneous strikes to the core," Misato said as she absorbed the information and reports on her screens. "Inform all Units to attempt synchronized strikes to the Angel's cores."

Once Asuka heard the orders, while not taking her eyes off the combat, she immediately started complaining with, "That isn't exactly easy!" The Angel in front of her swiped at her, almost catching her deeply with its claws, though it did shred the armor on her EVA's leg.

"I do not think she believed it would be easy," Rei replied as she slammed into its back, sending it tumbling.

"Now I know its the end of the world! Rei is making jokes!" the auburn-haired pilot shot back even as her EVA tried to spear the core again.

She again, only nicked it but noted out of the corner of her vision that Shinji had also attempted an attack.

The Angel suddenly leaped away, like a maddened baboon in a feat of great dexterity. The one engaged with Unit 01 also suddenly disengaged. "They are trying to regroup!" Shinji cried out.

"We know! We know!" the German pilot yelled right back.

'Rei? Can you do that AT field again? Try to intercept one of them,' Shinji thought up quickly. He opened his mouth to actually speak his plan.

Rei responded before he could speak vocally with a mental, 'Affirmative.' She had not even realized that it had been telepathic, she was so focused on the battle.

So when they both charged Unit 02 again, Asuka was caught off guard when Rei put her own Unit 00 in the way. At the last moment, she changed the AT field to be an angled field, knocking the left Angel into its right brother.

For only a bare second, the two Angels were knocked prone. Shinji's mind screamed, 'Hit them now!' even as he threw himself in a leap while stabbing downward with his progressive knife. Asuka followed his lead. Unit 02's spear and Unit 01's knife struck home at the same time on the two different cores.

The Angel's tried to reform, but the high-energy melee weapons pushed in further and further. Suddenly, they sagged as their cores cracked through.

"We did it! Wahoo!" Asuka shouted out. Then she turned her glare on Shinji. "And don't you ever scream at me like that again!"

"Oh, I'm sorry."

Back in NERV, all of the bridge officers and technicians shared confused glances. When had Shinji yelled? The only one doing any yelling had been Asuka. Misato just scratched her head. If she hadn't just watched the whole thing on live feeds, she'd swear she missed something.

Ritsuko was studying the information, a cold smile appearing on her lips.

"Recall the EVAs," Mistao announced. They had looked rather professional, she had to say to herself. Maybe that would get the United Nations military off their back.

Interlude: The Date

The next morning, the three children were going through the motions of getting ready to go to school when the doorbell rang. Shinji stuck his head out the kitchen door into the hallway. "Can someone grab that? I don't want to burn the eggs!"

Asuka glared at the unoffending door to the bathroom where Rei had just entered to take her morning shower. "Fine, fine!" she called out. When she peeked through the eyehole, she saw a deliveryman. She cracked the door. "Can I help you?"

"A delivery for Asuka Langely Soryu!" was the prompt reply.

Asuka opened the door wider to accept a large envelope and a box that rustled from something inside moving. "Um, thanks." She took her delivery to the table and opened them. "Oh, roses!" she squealed in delight.

Misato looked over with a grimace, as she was slightly hung over from celebrating the defeat of the Angel last night. "Wait a second, you haven't been in Tokyo-3 long enough to have a boyfriend yet. Who's the admirer?" she asked.

"Just Tony Stark!" Asuka said in amazement. She was reading her invitation which laid out a visit to a tailor for a new dress appropriate for a classy night on the town.

"What?" A vein started throbbing on her forehead.

"Isn't he, well, a bit old for you?" Shinji asked from the kitchen even as he turned over an omelet.

"I'm attracted to men, not immature little boys," she responded primly.

Shinji got the feeling even with telepathy he would never understand Asuka.

Shinji just stared with a bit of concern two days later at Asuka wearing a very fancy, though modest, gown. Rei looked on, though she was carefully trying to not show or let the other two children detect her worry in her emotions.

"That's some outfit for just one night. How did you afford it?" Shinji inquired. That then reminded him to actually see how much he was getting paid for piloting Eva 01.

"Tony paid for it!" Asuka said with a wide smile. It was so nice to have someone spend money like this on her.

"Um, but he's lost, from a different reality! How can he have this much money?" Shinji asked in confusion. Any money he had on him won't be legal tender and his credit cards would not work as he didn't legally exist until recently, and he had no credit history even after that.

Misato looked up from the couch, sipping her bear. "I heard he's actually pretty wealthy. His inventions and ideas have saved NERV thousands of millions of Yen already." She scratched her head for a second. "Now that I think about it, Ritsuko mentioned that he must be some sort of money making genius, as his Stark Industries is growing into one of the most productive and profitable companies in Japan."

"He did all that in just three months?" the young man exclaimed.

Asuka blinked. This was slightly... odd. "Whatever. He promised me a date and he'd better deliver!" she said vehemently.

That was when the doorbell rang. In just a minute, Shinji led Tony and a fancily, but conservatively dressed older woman into the room. Tony bowed and then gestured. "Asuka Soryu, this is Madame Watanabe. She will be your chaperon this evening on our date."

Asuka blinked and looked about to explode. For a moment Tony expected Asuka to start turning green or fly forward on ankle wings. Asuka clenched her fists even as the older woman bowed. The chaperon finished bowed and then spoke, "I will attempt to be as unobtrusive as possible. Please let me know when I am intruding too much as I accompany you this evening."

Shinji and Misato shared a look. This was not what either had been expecting. Shinji had no real ideas, but the NERV officer had been thinking of the horrible things that could happen between a much older man and a very young, naive girl. Or even one that thought they were more mature than they actually were like Asuka.

"Shall we go, milady?" Tony asked, holding out his hand to very carefully lead her outside and to the stretched limo. From up above, the other three members of the household watched on.

"Why is he using such a vehicle?" Rei finally asked.

"Oh, it's to show how important he feels about this evening. The fancier the vehicle, the more elaborate the plans shows how much you usually feel," Misato said in wondering voice. What a sneaky, cunning devil. He wows Asuka while all the time maintaining a very high level of respectability.

"So if I wanted to show Shinji how important I feel I must use one of these vehicles?" the albino asked in confusion.

Shinji started blushing heavily while Misato just suddenly started laughing. "No, I think you probably better wait until you are a bit older. That's something you sort of have to work up to," the NERV officer explained blandly while trying to not laugh in the poor girl's face.

"Oh. I think I understand now."

The other female pilot, much later that evening, was swirling her non-alcoholic beverage at the classy club where Tony had informed him the evening would be ending. The table they were at was in the back and quite hidden. They had taken in a very early German opera at a small theater, a small shopping trip to buy her a diamond necklace, then dined at the most exclusive restaurant in the city. Finally, they had ended up at this club for some light dancing.

During it all Tony had been quite attentive, speaking to her in her native German over any topic that she cared to go into. Even the chaperon had been quite unobtrusive, much to her surprise.

And on top of it all, Tony had been the absolutely most perfect gentleman possible, only holding out his own hands for her to touch, with the occasional touch of her elbows while dancing to the full classical band playing old Sinatra pieces.

She looked back over at Tony as he sipped his mineral water. He raised an eyebrow, opening the invitation to ask her question.

"So, Tony, exactly why have you been acting like this all night? I would have expected that you would have set this up to punish me or scare me away from dating you. This has just been... odd," she finally admitted.

"You won your bet and I try to always honor my word. And this is because you are too young, of course." He held up his hand to forestall her response. "I'm sure you are more mature than your age, but you are still young. You deserve to be protected from an older man or even the appearance of being taken advantage. While relationships between people of separated ages can work, a certain level of maturity and sense of identity needs to be developed. It would be far too easy for an unscrupulous older man to mold a naive young woman without her knowing. That's why there are laws about underage relationships in most nations."

"But I'm old enough to know myself! I wouldn't be one of those girls that lets a man have his way with her!" she retorted.

He nodded back to her. "You very well might, young lady. But how about some of the more meek girls in your class? Besides, society allows for something like this, even if it is a holdover from the far past when girls were betrothed to marry men three or four times their age." He shook his head sadly. "How old do you think I am?"

"Early thirties!" she replied confidently.

"I'm over forty-five, actually. My apparent age has to do with meddling reality warpers, magics, longevity drugs and having been resurrected after being killed fighting against cosmic entities that could vaporize planets with a blink of their eyes." Tony waited for her shock to subside, then continued. "Not everyone is as lucky. Most heroes, just starting out, only last a week. Most of the time, no one even knows what happened. Sometimes threats from the future kill them before they can become able to hold their own. Or they pick up the legacy of another hero and one of that hero's foes kills them. Usually in a brutal manner at that. And you don't even want to know what's happened to some mutants that try their hand at being heroes." He shook his head suddenly as if to clear cobwebs from his mind. "But that is a dreary subject. Are you ready to leave? I do hope you enjoyed this evening."

"I did. It was very nice of you to find all these things of Germany for us to take in." Asuka stood up and grabbed the tiny purse that came with her elaborate gown.

"Only the best for the young lady that overcame my expectations so absolutely. It takes a very mature person to make those changes when faced with an ugly truth." He stood up and held out his hand so that she could hold on if she desired.

"It wasn't anything, really," she stammered.

"Never belittle your own achievements. That did take a lot of strength and character. With a bit of work, I do think you will find that strengthening those around you in friendship and camaraderie can make you the best of people." He guided her across the edge of the dance floor where older Japanese couples still danced.

The young girl started snuffling. "I-I'm not that sort of person."

"But you can be. You proved that!" he responded firmly. "Would you like to take a moment to freshen up before we depart?"

She nodded. Madame Watanabe followed her into the woman's restroom. After the short cry, which made Asuka feel much better, her chaperon fixed her makeup with expert care.

As they drove home, Asuka finally asked as she stared out the tinted windows, "What if I was an adult? Would you really date me? And everything?"

Tony had to grin, his goatee's mustache twisting in mirth. "Quite possibly. I find nothing wrong with sharing a physical relationship with whom I'm dating. In fact," he said while stifling a laugh, "I'm known as a bit of a playboy. Mostly because I'm not really able to have a very normal lifestyle where dating one woman works very well. But I do try to treat my date as if she was the center of my world while we can be together."

"That I can see!" she replied brightly. "And if you are stuck here until I'm older?"

"Ha! If I can't crack making a dimensional transmitter in that long, I deserve to lose my mad scientist license! Though building a new Iron Man armor is distracting me. It's a very good exercise of my mind to see how advanced I can make it with limited materials!" He looked over at her slyly. "Besides, a cute girl like you will probably have a ton of boyfriends by the time you are an adult!"

Interlude: Dangerous Meetings

Gendo sat at his desk in somber darkness. Fuyutsuki and Ritsuko were standing in front of him. "How did this debacle happen?" he demanded.

"The Seventh Angel?" his second in command asked in confusion.

"No. The Third Child and Captain Katsuragi being given such classified information on the dummy plug system. That is what I want to know," he almost shouted. "How does just requesting access and security clearances get past you in this manner?"

Fuyutsuki looked very shocked. "But Katsuragi requested access to the project, citing a need to know to the particular departments while naming the project. You weren't the one that informed her of it?"

"I was wondering why you brought her and Shinji in on this project," Ritsuko said as she lit a cigarette. "Surprise, surprise; now I have a request on a feasibility study on applying the reincarnation technology to all of the Children. Not only do they know that the clones are to control the EVAs, but also that Rei has already died and been replaced. The information that she remembers her death was... startling, actually."

"We have had a severe breach in security. This jeopardizes everything," Gendo stated coldly.

"Actually, they seemed to be taking it calmly. I mean, she did request that study," Ritsuko mentioned, then took a drag on her cigarette. "There is nothing unfeasible about such a system. And it would allow us greater leeway in case of terrorist attacks or fatalities while fighting the Angels."

"You are advocating that we do not terminate them both?" Gendo asked coldly.

"They know and they aren't running for the hills. They are asking for some of the same things for the other pilots. It sounds like they had a small shock, but got over it. It's not like Misato doesn't have a very high security clearance already. And Shinji pilots a top-secret war-machine." She held her gaze passively.

"This will also allow us to watch them closely, Commander Ikari," Fuyutsuki mentioned as a counterpoint.

"And how is that good?" he snapped back.

"Because it will allow us to watch for their contacts that are feeding them information about the secrets of NERV. Once we've figured that out and if they have been suborned, we can take appropriate steps. Right now, we would just be smashing the obvious puppets."

Gendo took a moment to consider that. "You are right, old friend. Very well, Section 2 will continue monitoring the Katsuragi household. Ritsuko, see if you can worm out how Misato figured this out. Try to be subtle. You are dismissed."

Gendo sat in the darkness for half an hour, then retired to his private quarters. So no one was there to see a small grate open and close. In just moments, an invisible drone appeared in Tony's private lab in NERV.

"Now wasn't that just the most interesting conversation?" Tony said to himself. And mused that it was a good thing the Jackal or Mr. Sinister weren't in this dimension. He knew little about them, but enough that the cloning technology here would be on their Christmas list.

And the putting a mind in a cloned body reminded him of what Kang did. Tony sighed and shook his head. Gendo Ikari honestly had no idea how many people he remind him of. Doctor Doom, the Mandarin, both Stanes, Justin Hammer, the Wizard, the Leader, the Kingpin, Norman Osborn, and more.

'And he is in charge of saving the world,' Tony mused darkly. The only good thing so far is that none of the members of NERV thought the sun shined from Ikari's rear like many had believed with Norman Osborn with his thankfully brief second attempt at H.A.M.M.E.R.

The 8th Angel: The Curbstomp

The children were busy doing their homework, all sprawled across the living room, though it had taken Rei a while to become accustomed to it.

"I'm so looking forward to the class trip to Okinawa!" Asuka said with a grin. "I even got a swimsuit just to go scuba diving."

Misato looked up from her paperwork in the kitchen. "A school trip out of the prefecture is not going to happen." Had she forgotten to mention that earlier?

Penpen warked his agreement.

"We can't go on the school trip? Why not?" Asuka demanded.

"An Angel could attack," Rei said simply as she flipped the page on her textbook.

Shinji slumped as he realized that Rei was correct. "Oh, yeah. That would be bad, wouldn't it?"

Misato just shook her head. "They are right. I know how much you want to go, but there's no way. An angel is likely to attack us while you're away on the excursion."

Asuka almost had steam coming out her ears. "Why do we always have to wait? We should just track them down and attack them head on!"

"We would if we could," their superior officer explained. "Besides, this will allow you to all improve your grades."

"What?" Shinji called out.

"You didn't think I knew about your failing grades? I can access your records at any time!" their guardian said scathingly.

"Ah, screw you!" Asuka said petulantly.

The three pilots were in NERV, swimming in the pool. Shinji was on the side, doing some homework.

Asuka dived into the pool with a whoop of joy. Shinji had a small grin at her joy, but turned to look at Rei swimming at the far end, blushing as he watched her.

The auburn-haired girl stared at what Shinji was doing from the pool. She got out of the pool and patted herself dry, looking over his shoulder. "Science homework? That equation looks easy." She made some scribbles. "See?"

"Ah, thanks." This was not what he had been expecting. "So why did you have so many problems on your test then?"

"I had a hard time with the Japanese characters. I didn't understand what the test was asking." She shrugged as if she didn't care.

"Do you need some help with that?" Rei asked from the pool's edge. She pulled herself up, showing off her new two piece swimsuit, noting that Shinji was quite captivated by her, just as Misato had said. It was strange, it was a modest two piece suit, but it did show off her stomach nicely.

Asuka glared for a moment, but finally nodded. "It couldn't hurt, I suppose."

"Yeah, we can both help. And if you really are a wiz at these calculations, you could help me out." He suddenly grinned. "I don't think Rei has any problems with her grades though. So she can just help us both out."

The new girl thought about tweaking the boy sensibilities about thermal expansion, using her breasts as an example, but decided against it. That would be just too crass in front of his girlfriend. And the words that Tony had said about building up her fellow pilots still haunted her.

"We've definitely tracked down another Angel. It's Pattern Blue has been confirmed by the MAGI," Sub-Commander Fuyustuki said. Misato was over the video conference.

"I suggest that we use the A17 contingency!" she said. "I'll contact the Commander immediately.

"A17?" Tony Stark asked from where he was leaning against the wall. That sounded like one of the unlikely scenarios. He mused as he referenced their contingency operation plans what number 'superhero from another dimension shows up' was listened as. C52?

"A preemptive attack to capture an Angel while it is in its larval state," Ritsuko explained. "If we can get into position quickly enough."

"While I've increased the EVAs durability quite handily, they really aren't up to the magma in a volcano of that depth. May I suggest you just let me zip over there and cage it up?" he said.

"You can just do that?" Misato asked across the video screen, her eyes wide in shock.

"I'm not much of a fan for fighting things in volcanoes, but you do what you have to do. At least it doesn't look to be something in the class of Ultimo." He shuddered at that thought. "That damn robot just absorbs thermal energy to increase its own power. So the general way to power it up is to insert it into a volcano."

Ritsuko just shook her head. "We'll scramble the EVAs, but perhaps we should let Iron Man take a crack at it first. He can be in place-"

The image of Tony de-rezzed, then faded out. Over the volcano, Iron Man faded into view. "Now, actually. Linking computers with the MAGI. Initiating magma dive." His armor turned silvery all over, even as it dropped into the magma.

"We were talking to a remote?" the sub-commander asked.

"Yes, I guess so. So that's how he's been getting to all of his meetings on time. I knew it wasn't possible for him to be in two places at once. He was probably using the remotes virtually through some sort of data-link," Ritsuko said as she snapped her fingers. "I need to get one of those for myself."

"Extending a forcefield around the Angel. I've got it!" Iron Man called out. "It trying to wriggle away, but it's pretty weak right now. Ascending now!" The bulky Iron Man armor rocketed back up through the volcano, towing the car-sized proto-Angel in its forcefield. It's features were morphing, but it was trapped. "Bagged and tagged!" he said jauntily. He shot a super-cold bakalite to encase it, just like NERV had done to the EVA Unit 00 when it had gone berserk.

Ritsuko was very intent on the sensor readings. "This could be a major breakthrough!"

The sub-commander nodded. "Take it to the secondary site. It's far too dangerous to house within NERV itself."

"Iron Man caught a proto-Angel?" Asuka asked that evening at home. "Dang. I was hoping to be able to show my skill in my EVA!" She speared a piece of fruit in her bowl with a chopstick.

"They were going to recall us when he just finished it up. I'm fine having a small break," Shinji said with a smile. "And now Dr. Akagi can study an intact Angel."

Rei nodded. "Perhaps they can figure out a means to replicate the power source of the Angel, so we do not even need batteries."

The older woman in uniform nodded, even as she slurped some noodles. "Exactly. Which reminds me, you guys have Replicant Synchronization tomorrow."

"Is that new?" Asuka asked. "I don't think it's something I did in Germany." She looked confused.

"It's a technology developed for the Dummy Plug System. It allows memories to be implanted into cloned bodies in case of death." Misato shrugged. "Effectively, you get a new life in a new body. Oh, here's your new security clearances about the project."

"I'm... lost. What the hell are you talking about?" the fiery teenager asked.

"NERV has developed a way to copy a person's mind so that they can be brought back to life. Because of how dangerous piloting an EVA is, I requested that this technology be used for all pilots. That doesn't mean you guys can act recklessly, but it's an insurance in case you are killed in action or murdered by fanatics!" They had turned it down for anyone but the Children though. Dang it.

"That's damn creepy! How do you know that is going to be us in the new bodies?" the auburn-haired girl asked.

"That's why we do the special synchronization." Misato rolled her eyes.

"So these are copies of me that I keep updating?" she asked.

Shinji was curious about that too.

"No, your clones can not awaken, they do not have your soul or essence. Your AT Field transfers, from what I've read."

"So AT Fields are souls?" Asuka asked.

"Perhaps. Or perhaps they are related in some other manner."

9th Angel: Power and Gain

All the power in Tokyo 3 went out, even though it was supposed to be impossible.

Maya looked up from her controls in the main lab. "The Main power supply is non-operational. The voltage reads zero!"

"We haven't done anything! What is going on?" she asked her assistance.

Up in the main control room, Shigeru was rattling off the status. "No. The Standby circuit isn't operating."

"That can't be. How many operating circuits are still functional?" Fuyutsuki demanded.

"1.2 percent in all. Only 9 circuits active from area No. 2567," a female voice called out.

"Use all operational power supplies to maintain Magi and Central Dogma!" the sub-commander called out.

"But that will interfere with life-support in the entire building!" Shigeru sputtered out in shock.

"That's fine. This is a top priority issue!" his commanding officer snapped out.

"This is Tony Stark. I'm going to retrieve the Children and move them to a secure area!" the industrialist called out over the emergency communications. "ETA is five minutes."

"Right. What else can go wrong?" Fuyutsuki said to himself.

Iron Man was soaring through the air, homing in on the Children when he detected something at long range. "Damn it!" he swore softly. He switched on the new direct, emergency backup communications back to NERV. "Iron Man here. I have detected an Angel. Retrieving the Children and bringing them into their EVAs." He ignored the heartfelt swearing on the other side. He activated some manufacturing remotes and sent them to start restoring power.

"Pilots! I just detected an Angel!" he said as he landed right next to them on the road.

"An Angel? Now?" Asuka asked. How were they supposed to fight an Angel with no electricity?

"You are here to take us to NERV?" Shinji asked.

"Exactly. Shinji, I want you to climb onto my back." Iron Man waited until he was situated before his over-sized armor picked up each girl in each arm. "Hang on!" he said while lifting off slowly. In just minutes, he was landing near the entrance of NERV.

"There is a manual release here," Rei said, opening a side-panel to the armored door.

The over-large Iron Man crouched down and a micro-manipulator whirred, opening the door. "All right, go in. We need to get you to your EVA."

Maya and Ritsuko had made it to the control room. "Things are getting worse. And the air is getting more stale. These facilities should be the best fruits of modern science." Ritsuko was looking frustrated.

The other bridge control officers nodded in agreement. Shigeru suddenly piped up, "Wait! I'm getting a response from a tertiary backup system. It's starting its activation sequence by itself."

"What? That's as silly as them not working to begin with!" the lead scientist snapped. "Wait. If we have that much power, we can start the activation cycle on the main power grid. Maya!"

"I'm on it!" her assistant called out. She started tapping controls. "We are starting to get a response. It looks like some sort of sabotage, but the new holistic protocols are allowing us to bypass the damage."

"All right! Let's get the power back on!" Ritsuko called out.

That was when Gendo and Fuyutsuki entered. "Status!" the commander ordered immediately.

"Power is being restored by the action of our new extended design protocols that Stark installed as part of ongoing security upgrades. It just doesn't make sense. You would have to physically replace or repair-" Ritsuki suddenly stopped. "The MAGI are detecting a Pattern Blue. Sensor link from Iron Man has confirmed, it's an Angel."

"How long until power is restored?" Gendo snapped out even as he looked over the control room.

Shigeru and Maya started typing at breakneck speeds. "At this rate, we will have secondary power in thirty minutes. Primary power seems to have been sabotaged at the reactor control level," Maya called out.

"Order a security lock-down! Only the Children, Iron Man and security personnel are to be allowed to move within the complex!" the sub-commander ordered. Alarms started to scream at that point.

"Start the activation sequence on the Evangelions!" Gendo shouted.

"Their batteries are fully charged and the Children just arrived at the Cage!" Ritsuko called out.

"This is Iron Man. Ritsuko, please reroute secondary power to relays 520 through 640 to buffer a power surge back into the Primary power system," came Iron Man's distorted voice over the communications panel.

"Setting up power buffers. Thirty seconds for the program to finalize," the blonde scientist called back as her fingers clattered over the keyboard.

In the background, voices went over checklists as sirens wailed in Tokyo 3. Civilians looked up in surprise, then started moving quickly to the bunkers as lights and power started to come back on all over the city. Off in the distance, the Angel trod closer on its four spider-like legs.

Then the buildings started to move, transforming the city into a fortress, pillboxes with weapon emplacements becoming active. The local air base was scrambling to launch the heavy-weapon VTOLs.

The Children were sitting in their Evangelions as the computers started going through their activation sequence.

In the Cage, Iron Man was opening one of the main EVA power conduits and hooking his power armor up to it. "Preparing to jump start the Tomahawk reactor."

With a surge, electricity pulsed through the conduit, melting it in a burst of lightning. Deep within NERV, the heart started pulsing with pure electromagnetic fury, tightly contained and bound as the tomahawk reactor roared back to life.

Outside the city, the Angel paused as the fortress started to really come to life. VTOLs were buzzing around it, cannon weapons firing upon it but not really damaging it. But the energy blasts coming from pillboxes were starting to hurt. Ignoring the flying gnats, it sprayed the nearest pillbox with a liquid that melted it like acid.

"Angel is attacking the outer perimeter. Some sort of acid attack," Makoto called out even as more and more of NERV came back to life.

"MAGI are extrapolating, but believe that the attack is actually a nano-machine disassembler," Ritsuko said as she studied her screens.

"Launch EVA Units!" Misato called out. "Tell them to be aware of the attacks!"

The EVA units moved into position and then rocketed up the rails. Each EVA was released from their brackets and moved to acquire weapons from the weapon pillboxes.

Shinji narrowed his eyes. "Try to destroy it from range first?"

"Whatever! Let's just get to it!" Asuka almost snarled. She set her red bio-mecha charging across the city. The other two EVAs followed quickly, reaching the edge of the city in just a minutes time.

All three EVAs opened fire, inflicting only light damage with their cannons that were effectively rapid-fire howitzers. While it was spectacular, they were not in range to neutralize its AT field yet.

Rei realized that quickest, moving her EVA up to start neutralizing it with one hand of her EVA held out.

The Angel reacted instantly, turning to spray her with the acid-seeming jet of liquid just as Asuka and Shinji's EVAs cannon rounds started hammering it. In moments, it fell over in a spray of damaged meaty-chunks.

"Sheesh, that was way too easy," Asuka said with a frown. "I thought the Angels were going to be tougher than that." She was scanning the area to make sure it was all over.

"Yeah, that wasn't difficult at all," Shinji agreed.

"Damage was minimal. The new armor blocked almost all the attack," Rei said. She had only felt a light burning on her skin.

"Do you need to wash that off Unit 00?" Shinji asked.

Rei thought about it. How though?

"Rei, we are going to commandeer a couple of fire trucks to hose you down, then move you back," Misato ordered from NERV command.


Interludes: Nightmares

Asuka drifted off late that night, after a very tiring debrief. She was quite edgy, not really wanting to fall asleep. But she finally succumbed.

It was an hour later that images of her day flickered through her subconscious, starting her on the road to her private hell. Back in NERV, Unit 02 started to react across the passive training link that the children wore just about everywhere. Four eyes burned with anger.

Asuka found herself in the shattered streets of Tokyo 3, seemingly youthened and wandering lost and confused. She seemed to have found a treasured doll from her past.

In the apartment, Shinji and Rei started thrashing along with Asuka. Their own dreams were starting to turn nightmarish. Shinji was reliving the last memory of his mother while Rei was starting on the first steps of when she had been murdered.

Unit 01 eyes suddenly flashed opened, a muffled roared echoing under its restraints, causing an alarm. The night watch started scrambling, trying to figure out why the EVAs were reacting. And to shut them down quickly.

Asuka tightened the grip on her doll as she saw The Door ahead of her that was screaming danger/pain/hate to her. The Door suddenly banged open showing Asuka's mother hanging in the darkness, twisting silently.

"No-no-no-no-" Asuka started chanting to herself, her child hands wrapping around her thin body, her doll almost forgotten.

Two red eyes stared at her suddenly, pinning her with a dread gaze. Asuka's mother suddenly shouted, "You killed me!" But it was a stranger (no, Shinji's mother!) that finished voicing the accusation. She was suddenly looming over the strange gestalt of the three children's minds, ropes hanging from her neck.

Her hands gripped their neck, tight as a vice even as the flesh on the blonde-haired woman started to drip like hot wax. A shadowy, distorted EVA of human size was strangling them, seven eyes burning like hot, blood-stained stars.

"No!" Shinji's child-voice shouted.

The Shadow-Angel head reared back as if struck.

"No," Rei's monotone voice said.

The Shadow-Angel head reared back as if struck again.

"Nien!" Asuka screamed.

It and the room shattered as if it were a mirror, ending the nightmare for now.

Back in NERV, the night technicians were surprised to see the Evangelions seemingly calm themselves down. It would only be later than next day while combing the data that they would discover it was caused by a nightmare.

"Shinji! It's time to get up?" Misato called out. She slid open his door, only to see his bed was empty. She quickly checked the kitchen and bathroom again. Had he needed to go to school early? Rapping lightly on the girl's bedroom, she peeked in. She raised an eyebrow at the large blanket covered pile on Asuka's bed and Rei's empty top bunk.

She walked in and shook her head in amazement. All three children were sleeping calmly. She could even say they looked serene. But why were they piled around Asuka like that?

She rapped quite loudly on the door. "Oh boya! Wake up you slugs!"

The reaction was quite surprising as Shinji shot straight up and hit his head on the bottom of Rei's bunk while Rei jerked then slid out of the bunk and fell to the ground in front of Asuka's bed.

"Ow-ow-ow-ow," Shinji was exclaiming in pain. Blood was starting to seep out of a cut on his head.

"What the hell is going on?" Asuka shouted as she pulled her covers up to her neck.

"That's a good question. What were all of you doing in Asuka's bed? Aren't you a little young to be experimenting like that?" Misato asked in a knowing tone.

"What?" Asuka and Shinji yelled out. Shinji was looking around, trying to figure out how he had gotten into this situation.

"Asuka had a nightmare." Rei had a pensive expression as she stood up.

The auburn-haired girl glared at her room-mate. "I did not! I don't have nightmares!"

"But... everyone has nightmares," the boy said in consternation. "Isn't having nightmares considered normal?"

"Yup. But we'll deal with that later. It's time to get up and make, er, get ready," the adult said, covering her gaffe. She didn't want to admit that she was only getting Shinji up so he could make her breakfast.

Rei headed to the bathroom immediately. As she looked over herself in the mirror, she frowned at her crudely cut hair. She only vaguely understood the importance of the varied shampoos that Asuka and Misato had.

'Just need to find out what type of hair you got then buy the shampoos that help it, doofus!' Asuka replied in a sleepy mental-tone. 'Oh, and get a professional haircut.'

Was it really that simple? 'Thanks, Pilot Soryu.'

She felt Asuka jolt more awake at that.

8th Angel: Cameo again

Tony Stark stared at the frozen form of the Angel from the volcano encased in bakalite. Ritsuko nodded to herself. "Capturing an Angel was a big boon. The information we've figured out on the S2 Engine alone has been well worth it."

"Yes, I can see that. It looks like the American team in Nevada was on the right track." Tony frowned. "It doesn't look like we could shrink it much more meaningfully. I'm not sure adding a S2 organ to each of the EVAs at this point would be a good idea."

The blonde scientist nodded. "I agree. At least with your batteries, the EVAs will eventually run down."

"And they do have that problem where they try to go berserk, don't they?" he said softly to himself. "This is a very interesting organism. Even though it breaks several 'known' scientific principles, it's structure and DNA is very terrestrial. Either Panspermia is a very true thing, or life on Earth here is related in a different way."

Tony considered mentioning the Celestials but he hadn't found any sign of them, the Deviants or Eternals in this dimension. But he was trying to not completely scare them to death with all the strange things that lived in his universe.

"We aren't sure one way or the other. And theological debates aren't what we are here for," she sniped back.

"Ah. True." Tony sent a sidelong glance at her. "Even so, it's origin might let us know of their weaknesses or their plans." He frowned as he looked over some of the harmonic power surges within the comatose being. "Something doesn't look right..." he said finally.

"What are you seeing?" Ritsuko asked curiously. She started to bring up different scan.

"Are you seeing minor surges in the tertiary layers?" he asked.

"Yes, basically the the bio-rhythms of the Angel." The blonde scientist was looking over the information.

"Overlay the different surges. They are starting to synchronize!" Tony said suddenly.

"MAGI, run a data comparison on these surges and extrapolate forward." Ritsuko looked over the data that started scrolling over her screen. "It's adapting to the bakalite! It is going to break free in... twenty minutes!"

"No time at all. I think we better destroy this thing before it becomes a menace!" Tony shouted, even as he had his Iron Man armor decloak next to him. He jumped into it, so the over-sized armor could wrap around him.

Ritsuko dashed for the heavily armored door while hitting the alert button.

Energy crackled around the red and gold armor, focused on his fists only ten feet away from the Angel's core.

"Firing pulse bolts." The pulses of super-focused electron plasma-bolts struck home harder than a lightning bolt.

The bakalite shattered, but the Angel's form just seemed to explode as it rapidly heated up. Pseudopods slammed into the armored walls of the holding bay, rapidly co-opting the materials for its own uses.

But before it could cover its core back up in AT reinforced Angel armor, bolts of pure force slammed home, cracking the core straight through.

Then they would have to clean up.

Children of the Mind

Rei was feeling a bit confused as she sat across from Asuka at the dinner table. Shinji was at her right side and Misato was on her left on the square table. She had merely been expanding her awareness while eating, as she normally would. From the older woman, she got her normal feeling of being content while relishing a meal and her beer. From Shinji she felt satisfaction and a feeling of being approved.

It was from Asuka that she was getting the oddest feeling. It was jealousy and longing all wrapped in one. 'Asuka? Are you alright?' she sent to the other pilot in as gentle a manner as possible.

'I'm fine,' she snapped back, causing Rei to wince at the mental volume. They had only really started to 'talk' telepathically in the last day or so after realizing what they were doing. 'Sorry. I just don't know how to explain it.'

'You obviously desire something. But I do not see why you are envious," the albino replied in a confused tone.

Asuka sighed even as she grabbed more of the fish with her chopsticks. Continuing the mental conversation while chewing (one thing that the German found that she liked about telepathy) the young girl continued, 'I guess I'm wanting... something special made for my supper for once.'

'Shinji would be more than happy to do so.' Rei frowned almost imperceptibly as she chewed on her rice. 'Though he might need recipes written in Japanese.'

'I'll have to go to the bookstore then,' mused the red-head.

"You guys are too quiet," Misato complained.

Shinji just grinned. "Or you just can't hear the conversation."

Asuka expression turned horrified. "You could hear that?"

He shrugged. "Only a bit of it. When you seemed to concentrate and weren't shouting. Otherwise I only got a sense that you were talking. Really, only snippets."

"So there's private and public telepathy?" The very active mind of a college trained girl was suddenly thinking. "We'll have to do more testing."

"Only I would have to deal with rooming with three telepathic pilots of robotic super-war machines," the NERV officer grumbled. She took another deep swig of her Ebisu, bemoaning the end of the can for all of a second... before she opened the next one.

"Even Mr. Stark seemed surprised that we are developing full psychic abilities." Asuka focused on a grain of rice and floated it up.

That froze Misato seeing the rapt concentration of the telekinetically flying rice. "What else?" she asked as she nervously licked her lips.

"Psychoportation is also supposedly possible," Rei noted as she floated her own grain of rice. "But we haven't figured that part out."

"Teleporting? Well, that would be handy to get around." Misato was really, really trying to not freak out.

"I'm bored," Asuka said a week later.

All of the children were lounging around the house in the sweltering heat. Asuka had even gotten Rei to change into a t-shirt and cut-offs. Shinji and Rei both rolled slightly to look at her behind them, picking up a mischievous background to her thoughts.

"You have something in mind?" Shinji asked carefully as he looked back to his math homework. Behind him the TV was showing some Sentai super group.

"We can toss ping-pong balls at each other," she replied in a bland tone. She leaked a bit of excitement across their thoughts. With just bare flick of warning, she sent the lightweight ball resting on the TV zooming at Shinji's head, which he telekinetically bounced over to her. The ball started bouncing erratically around, even being tugged between the children.

Rei let out a cry of enjoyment, bouncing on her knees.

"Gee, Rei, you'd think you never played any children games," Asuka sniped in irritation at the childishness.

That stopped the young albino like she had been slapped. "I do not remember- No, I do not think I was allowed to play such games." Tears started to suddenly well up inside her. "Why do I feel so? I thought tears were only for pain?"

Shinji and Asuka digested that. They knew of her artificial origin, but had assumed that she had been 'grown' normally.

"Didn't you have any toys?" Shinji asked.

"I had a doll, but I no longer had it after-" Her voice cut off as jarring mental images roiled up from deep within her. Agonizing pain, cutting off her air as her toes feebly tried to reach the ground below her. A gigantic blonde woman was screaming and yelling in her face. The words did not really make sense.

She suddenly realized that Shinji and Asuka were holding her and she was holding them desperately hard.

"She... she was strangling you," Asuka finally said. "This is-?"

"That was the death of the Rei I," the half-angel said. "I am Rei II."

"That's horrible, Rei. Will we feel pain like you did?" Shinji asked in fear.

"I died painfully. Most deaths in EVA will not be painful, as we will die too fast," Rei said carefully.

"Still damn creepy, if you ask me. But-" Asuka looked conflicted as she let Rei go. "I don't want to die."

Back in Nerv, a minor emergency was under way. Misato shouted out as she ran into the command center, "What is going on?"

"Unit 00 is going berserk- Wait, it just cut off. This is defying all rationality! The EVAs just can't turn on by themselves!" Mokato shouted from his station overseeing the war machines.

Tony Stark and Ritsuko Akagi came running in. "What's going on?" the lead scientist for NERV called out.

"Unit 00 had activated by itself and suddenly tried to rip itself loose. It broke through Alpha-restraints and we were just about to to activate the Bakalite restraints when it just turned itself back off," Hikari called out as he typed frantically and pulling up more information.

Tony and Ritsuko both slid into their own upgraded consoles, fingers flying at an insane pace.

"There was a powerful mental contamination from Rei through your mental training devices," Ritsuko snapped out.

Tony just narrowed his eyes at that announcement. "It ran into mental contamination from within Unit 00 itself."

"Impossible." Ritsuko's heart was suddenly hammering in her chest as she watched a small screen that showed the visual record.

"There was a synchronization of memories externally and internally that caused the reaction-"

"Memories?" Maya asked in shock. "How can you tell?"

"The third spike within the Alpha wave. That's a key sign of a memory. The odd thing is the memories are very similar. I could image them both-" Tony was saying.

"I'm sorry, that's above your clearance," Ritsuko said as she closed the window and erased some key records. "Maya, purge the records for the last hour. I will inform the commander of the event myself." As soon as the purge was completed, she left them all in confusion.

"What was that?" Maya finally asked.

"That was a very angry woman," Tony replied truthfully as he drove a spy-remote over to Gendo's office through his cyberlink. "Though why would she be so angry?"

"Too many secrets in this place, man." Shigeru just shook his head.

The door to Gendo's office slammed open, startling the two men in a meeting. "You bastard. How could you do that to my mother?" Ritsuko demanded.

"Do what?" Gendo replied in a far too calm voice, hiding his surprise totally.

"How could you put her in that monster?" Ritsuko shrieked.

Fuyutsuki frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"We finally tracked down the problem with the reactivating Evangelions. It's due to synchronized memory contamination between the pilots and the Evangelion 00."

"Bleed over between the pilot and Evangelion-" he started to lie suavely.

"Gendo, I saw the memories of Rei being strangled. That was the final clue. What are my mother's memories doing in Unit 00?" she snapped out.

"She became unreliable and a threat to the scenario. Her murder of the first Rei over jealousy and paranoia meant that steps had to be taken to protect the project." Gendo pushed his amber-colored glasses back up the ridge of his nose. "Unit 00 needed a soul to function anyways."

"So you volunteered her," Ritsuko exclaimed with a sneer.

"Will this compromise your ability to continue the project, doctor?" the commander of NERV Japan demanded.

She hesitated for a long moment. "No. You're right, Unit 00 needed a soul. But that explains why it has always had an antagonistic relationship with Rei. Murderer and victim, forever fighting for dominance. It will probably never work with the Dummy Plug System."

"Unit 00 has no need for the Dummy Plug. We have Rei for its pilot."

The director of research nodded, feeling hollow inside. Gendo would pay, but not right now.

"This is so embarrassing," Asuka complained.

"We know, Asuka." Shinji just sighed as bubbles floated out of his mouth and to the top of the tank.

Rei just floated in her tank peacefully.

All three of them were working on their 'downloaded' memories. Their modesty was preserved by a very thin layer that had been painted over the bottom two-thirds of the Dummy Plug readers.

"Less talking. The more you disrupt the process, the longer you have to be in there," Ritsuko called out from her control panel. "And no telepathy. That really messed up the last attempt."

Two hours later, Ritsuko finally released them. They all quickly donned fluffy bathrobes and were released to go rinse the LCL from themselves.

"Hey, Rei? Have they... grown the clones yet?" Shinji asked morbidly.

"Yes." She stopped, then turned and walked them down a side corridor. She tapped in a code and they entered a dark room.

"This is creepy," Asuka complained as she tried to peer through the darkness.

Rei flipped a switch, illuminating the large tank full of LCL and her clones. "My un-awakened sisters."

"Gah!" Shinji said as he took in the floating figures with their open, staring eyes. He clapped a hand over his own eyes belatedly.

"Don't look!" Asuka shouted before she turned to him. She sniffed as she saw that he had actually covered his eyes. "That's going to be me?" she asked as she pointed at three smaller females further back.

"In two more weeks, yes. And those for Shinji." She was referring to three smaller male figures.

Asuka stared at the clones that were the promise of life as if she were staring Death in the face. "I don't want to be here any more."