Book Three Chapter One: " Troubled waters "

"In the last six months, Seele has, despite my best efforts, has begun to splinter. The Throne of Souls will soon be no more. All we can do is minimize the damage, and attempt to retain control of the key Evangelion technologies."

Keel looked across the meeting room table at his senior staff, and tried to read the people with whom he was trying to save the world.

Yui Ikari spoke first. Her hair was a bit longer now, and still dyed brown. She looked like a child in her mother's clothes.

" Has it really been reduced to that? We had so much international cooperation in the beginning. "

Still ever the optimist, brilliant, but the practical reality of how the world works escapes her. I'd trade her for Kyoko in a heart beat.

Misato was next. Actually in a regulation uniform, the simple gold engagement band on her finger the greatest change.

" Seele directed much of that cooperation. With their influence divided, how much of our current resources can we hang on to? We have a war to win. "

I am fast running out of excuses to dislike that one. Still, her main concern is the Children, and with them she has had her failures. You could call that inevitable when your only weapon is a child.

Kaji had changed the least, with only a matching wedding band

" When they were building toward Instrumentality they didn't need to worry about keeping themselves in power. These days they have given up all illusion of civility. On the bright side, I heard from our agents in Germany. It is confirmed, the regeneration matrix for Kaworu is no longer and issue. They have been above the board with us so far."

This one is too comfortable in the dark. He's the kid of man that that is far too used to playing both sides against the middle. Yet another important asset loyal for reasons that make me uneasy.

Kaji continued.

" With Berlin securely in our hands, that should make the next generation of Evangelion beyond any one else's reach. If the worse happens we know the battle field with be in the lead technology-wise. "

Keel spoke up again.

" Speaking of the last round of upgrades, what is the ETA on Unit 2. "

Misato answered as if looking at a clock.

" Twenty five minutes. Mind if I ask why you're not more worried about American 2nd branch, Sir?"

" Because Rei detonated the sixteenth Angel over Tokyo 3 eight weeks ago. The original generation of Angel focused on us, because we had Lilith. Unless there is some reason for them to migrate to Nevada, I'm blaming one man's argents for rushing both Evangelions to completion. I'm more worried they will try to get a look at the 2's systems. If we have no trouble, how long before we can get it back in the air? "

Misato again answered quickly.

" I have the transport staffed with an extra pilot. They need to refuel for the return trip. That's it. The big issue is the Asuka needing to stay in the plug for the entire trip. If she has to leave, the AT field drops and they can access the same diagnostic ports we use to maintain the Eva. Do we really have to treat the Americans like we do Taiwan? "

" The Senator wants to be the next President. Once that danger has past, we can repair relations by helping them rebuild from this disaster. We are sure this is a disaster, and not an Angel? "

Yui spoke.

" The scrolls said seventeen Angels. If we take that to mean that Adam born creatures, then, even counting Kaworu, we have one left. Now most of the Angels where driven by instinct to attack us here, because of Lilith, and Adam. They can't tolerate others of their kind, I think. If that translates to the Eva's they could have been attracted by the activation. Those however are very big ifs. Everything so far has been focused on us. "

Kaji broke in with a rebuttal.

" Unit Three was almost here when it turned back because of bad weather. We did have a blip on one sensor that might have been a blue pattern. "

Keel seemed to be rolling his eyes behind his visor.

This one can never come right out with it can he?

" I'm old, Mr. Kaji. D don't keep me in suspense. "

" How much of the scrolls were in Seele's direct control? "

Keel wished he had a cigar. H, he knew this was going to be a long day.

" Everything in public or private hands was collected with in five years of the Impact. Are you suggesting some one in Seele was holding out on the rest of us ? "

" If they knew the nature of a few of the Angels was viral like the one that attacked the MAGI, it would be easy to weaken the Eva's immune system. Fly paper for the Angel. "

" For a man with no Meta-biological background, Mr. Kaji, that sounds like you been coached on the Eva's immune system. "

" I was to retrieve a sample, if it happened here. The Angel infecting the Eva would need to create an S2 core. That would show us just how to create and install one of our own. The Germans have that knowledge and they only share it with us. The Americans wanted that information bad. "

A bright red warning light and a voice over the intercom ended the conversation.

" Evangelion is approaching American airspace. Transport confirms a pattern blue, repeat pattern blue. "

Keel speaks as every one begins to move to the command deck.

" Angel. "

25000 feet over Nevada desert the redesigned Evangelion Unit Two sprang to life inside a NERV transport. The bulky new backpack unit shone in the sun, as it went.

The lights in the plug came on, as Misato's face appeared on the com.

" Asuka, you're almost there. The MAGI confirms target is an Angel. "

She sounded a bit uneasy as she replied.

" You STILL haven't found the other one? "

" Doctor Ikari thinks the 2nd branch tried to bring The Four on-line and it went wrong. It used a refurbished S2 organ from an Angel Shinji killed. She said it could have created a Dirac Sea that swallowed the base and everything around it. It would need to stay stationary to maintain it, so you only have one to deal with. The Americans would have needed Unit Three to try to break the Dirac Sea, what happened to IT we don't know. "

The girl rolled her eyes.

" Great tell Wonder-Slut, to keep her hands on off my man. "

" Asuka! "

She activated a manual release, and the Eva went into free-fall.

The Angel appeared as a speck on her view finder, and began growing rapidly as ground rushed toward her at 32 feet per second squared. She watched the altitude counter near zero, as the image of the hunched over and warped former Eva Unit three came into full view. What remained of its restraints where scattered across last 500 yards of its slow random trek across the sand.

The hulking beast seemed to smile as it turned and look skyward.

" Feel me coming don't ya? That's good, because I've got jet lag, and PMS! "

On the ground the Angel looked on as the Eva sprouted wings, and roared head long into it.

The pair hurtled forward for a full mile before coming to a stop.

Asuka folded her wings, and brought the Eva up to a kneeling position over the stunned Angel.

" That's where I like to be, on top. Now, where were we? Oh yes, playing Doctor. I need my scalpel! "

A pair of progressive knife popped free from their wrist sheaths, and she drove them into beast's chest plating in succession .

" I had to cross an ocean for this crap, so I am taking my fun where I can get it. "

The blades sank half way into the creatures chest before it recovered its senses, and its serpentine arms wrapped around Unit Two's throat. Asuka felt her own throat begin to close as the arms elongated, pushing her back out of stabbing distance.

She threw all of the Eva's weight to the left, and lined the monster's face up with her left shoulder pylon. Asuka fired the spike launcher and the Angel went limp as its skull split into thirds. She spent a full three minutes gasping for breath, before turning to the radio.

" Unit Two . . . to command, Angel is down . . . but not dead. Do we know if anyone is in this thing? "

Misato's slightly annoyed face reappeared.

" That jet pack is not rated for combat, Pilot. "

" Tell the guys in R&D . . . it works fine. Now that Angel I'm sitting on. . . "

The purpled haired woman put her hand on her forehead, and groaned.

" That is enough. Lose the lip or I engage the dummy plug, understand? "

Asuka bit her lip and tried to sound professional.

" Yes Colonel. It's disabled, and not going to re grow a head anything soon."

" Good, pull back to 800 feet, and kill the S2 organ before it overheats. Put the Eva into active surveillance mod, and ONLY bring the S2 core back up to recharge the battery. Understand? The Americans are sending in a task force to try to contain the Angel for study, and try to recover the pilot. "

Asuka looked ready for another outburst, but to her credit it didn't come.

" Understood. . . . Unit Two out. "

Misato walked out of Dogma, with Yui at her side.

" OK, we have an Eva full of untested upgrades, on American soil, babysitting a headless Angel. Please tell me the telemetry said everything was alright. "

Yui looked as out of place as ever, like a child in her mother's lab coat. Her words defied her apparent age.

" The S2 organ is fine for short bursts, I'd have never let her leave if it wasn't. I'll spare you the techno-babble, but that Angel is built on the last generation Eva production module. Even if it heals as I think it can, we've got it out matched by at least 35. The thing that I can't figure out, is why the hell they tried to bring both Evangelion on line at once, in the same base? "

Misato tried to remember she was talking to someone old enough to be her own mother.

" We are run by the head of Seele directly so we get first dibs on funding. Also we have you, so we lead in R&D. They want to close those gaps as a matter of national security. We could conquer the world if we wanted, and they couldn't stop us. "

Yui sounded almost heart broken as she replied.

" When did this stop being about giving humanity a future? "

Misato almost laughed.

" This is humanity though. We always need to protect ourselves from each other. I know it's kind of sad, but its the way of the world. "

" I thought when it was over, they'd be running cities with Solenoid engines. "

Misato used the voice she normally reserved for upset children.

" They might still, but only if we can finish this. People always have a chance at talking things out. "

Yui's cell phone rang once and she rolled her eyes after checking the screen.

" Speaking of talking things out, times up. I'll be on the detention level with Rei for the next hour or so. "

Misato watched her walk off, and retrieved her own phone after Yui turned a corner.

" Doctor Ikari is on her way detention. Go to alert level 2, and move the Zero from deep freeze to the cage. "

At the very peak of NERV's headquarters on the main observation deck, Shinji Ikari wrapped in a blanket.

He heard the door slide open behind him, and he felt that knot in his stomach get worse.

" Shinji -- you OK, kiddo? "

He sat up at the sound of Misato's voice.

" Yea. "

She walked over to him, and sat on the floor to his left.

" You missed your therapy session again. You have something you don't feel like talking about? "

He tilted his head to lean on her just a bit.

" I'm just . . .not sleeping against. I don't want another bottle of pills. . . . "

" I was on those for a while. Knock you right out. Have any reason to not want a good night's sleep, Shinji? "

Her arm found its way around his him. He sounded tired as he tried to change the subject.

" I don't like that guy, he's just . . I don't know. . . "

" Asuka and Rei both talk with him. "

She felt him shiver a bit, at the sound of the word Rei.

" Shinji, you need to talk to someone. . . "

Shinji leaned on her just a bit more, and she knew what was coming.

" I . . .have nightmares . . . sometimes. . . . "

" If it's me, I'm not married yet! "

Shinji didn't react to her teasing, and that made her worried.

" What? "

Misato honestly didn't know what to say, so she took a stab in the dark.

" Is it your Mother? "

" Her. . . , and Rei. That tank down there too. I keep remembering the night she came back. I'm four and . . you were . . .still just laying there . . ."

She thought back to that dead limp half awake time after Gendo had Adam inside her. She pulled Shinji just a little closer.

" I am not going anywhere, Shinji. "

Shinji didn't seem comforted, and the ring on her finger felt heavy .

" You know, I still rent that apartment. Living in the dorm is a big change. . .with more pilots coming we needed to . . . .Asuka has almost as many years in NERV as I do. You can't make that up and go to school full time. This way we can do both, and protect you . . . "

She looked down at the boy and for a second she was fourteen again, alone in white room.

" Listen good, mister! You are not being abandoned. . . .not again, understand me? "

The boy finally fell asleep in her arms.

Rei sat in the dark, listening to the sink drip for the millionth time. Light appeared as the door slid open, and the sound of her own voice made her frown just a bit.

" We need to talk. "

Her again, the one I hate. Always in her shadow, and never in the light.

She walked to the cot Rei was sitting on and sat to her right. The light from the door still the only illumination.

" People saw you the other night, love. That can't keep happening. "

Rei was silent for a long minute, before answering in a whisper.

" Why? "

"Because, Rei, it draws attention, and it makes people afraid. "

Two pairs of red eyes locked, and one pair looked angry.

" They are afraid when the Angels come. "

" What is that supposed to mean young lady? "

Rei for the first time living memory, spoke up in an angry voice.

" I fight . . WHY! I LIVE COLD AND ALONE ! "

You found her own voice rising to match.

" You live with ME. "

" You are a ghost! "

Rei stood, and stormed from the room, and Yui sat in the dark.

Next: " Fly me to the moon ."