All of the lights save for the emergency ones have been out for some time, leaving the plug sparsely lit. The distinct hum of the LCL circulation system is the most apparent sound, and when paired with the thick stench of blood it is a wonder that any occupant of the plug does not go mad after just a few short minutes of being incased.

The current tugs on the two persons in the plug, though neither seems to notice. They've both long since adapted to its touch, learning to ignore both the flow and the smell through their hours of plug activity, but even the pilots cannot ignore the stark truth that at any time it may cease, trailed closely by their lives.

One of the occupants, wearing a red, feminine plug suit, sits in the command chair, her equally red hair sinking beneath her head, which is lent back against the headrest. Her eyes are barely cracked open, her pupils glancing around the plug occasionally, as if checking to see if anything has changed.

Her face is neutral, with no fear, anticipation or worry permeating it, her jaw slack. The only motion that shows her feelings is the slight tapping of her fingers against the controls, a rhythmic beat that she has kept up since the other person in the plug shifted positions a little while ago, a cadence that betrays her true feelings of anxiety and restlessness.

She has been trapped in this place for much longer than she had thought she would be, longer than she would prefer. Her urge to escape from the plug is carefully restrained in her body language, shielded from any onlooker but for the tapping of her fingers, but she cannot deny it inside of her own head. Worry, energy waiting to be released, like a coiled spring, has built up inside of her and waits for everything to come to a head.

But she won't let any of this show. Not to him, not to anyone.

He floats freely, out of her sight behind her and her seat, his back slightly arched with the tips of his toes just barely scraping the floor of the plug. Like his companion, he too wears a red plug suit. Another similarity to his fellow prisoner is that his suit is also a female fit, though because of the tightness around his legs, arms and especially groin, and the looseness around his chest, he does not seem to like wearing it nearly as much as she does, but he has long since given up any attempts at covering himself.

His eyes are closed and he is drifting aimlessly, occasionally hitting a wall but deflecting back towards the center. The only part of his body that stay in a constant position are his toes, just barely keeping him from being pulled anywhere in the plug by the LCL current, balanced near the back and bottom of the girl's seat. This boy's face has a little more worry on it than the girls, though it is somewhat masked beneath a small, crooked smile as well.

"Hey . . ."

It is the girl who speaks, who wants his attention. Her lips barely seem to move, her eyes ceasing their wandering and focusing straight ahead of her lazily, down into the depths of the plug.

He does not respond immediately, pausing to take a deep lung full of LCL. Just as the girl readies herself to call out again, he responds, his voice just as much of a mask as his face, shielding any emotion or thought.

"What?"

She bites her lip briefly, then forces herself to ask. "Do you think we got it?" Worry about the amazingly agile, swimming creature they had battled, the ruins they had fought in and around, the fleet that had supported them throughout the battle stayed hidden behind her mask, marked only by the smashing of her fingers into the controls with renewed vigor and a slight tremble in her voice.

His response is, once again, a long time in coming. He opens his eyes and stares at the ceiling of the plug as he shifts, lost in his own thoughts. Brushing and deflecting off the right side of the plug, his body begins its journey back to the other side.

"Doesn't matter."

She stirs slightly, blinking and turning her head to the left, glancing over her seat's shoulder to see what part of him she can. For a moment she cannot see any part of him and almost panics, but when he drifts into her sight range she relaxes, then stiffens again, as if she had momentarily forgotten something but has just remembered it.

"Doesn't matter?"

The answer comes with finality only one who has no time or patience for this type of questions could deliver, short and to the point, uncaring and direct, with no hint that there will be any elaboration.

"Yeah."

He drifts back out of her sight range and she turns back to facing the front, scratching her head with her left hand and pondering the last few day's events. Her right hand's fingers never stop their drumming on the fully extended controls, keeping the pace for her thinking.

After a brief introspection, she comes to a decision. She must ask, because she must know.

"Why doesn't it matter?"

Behind her, where she cannot see, the boy bounces back off the right plug wall and begins his travel to the left side. He smiles a smile a calm smile, like the deep waters they are threading through now, a sad smile, like his eyes watching the depths.

A mystifying smile, like someone who knows the answer to a question yet to be asked.

"Because if we didn't, we're already dead. And if we did, we're probably already dead anyway. Doesn't matter."

She winces at his statement and brings her legs and arms in closer to her body, her arms wrapping around her legs and holding them close, almost on instinct. Her fingers begin to tap against the thick plastic of her plug suit with the same rhythm and beat she had when doing so against the controls.

It was what she had been afraid to hear, but had known would be his answer. She had wanted nothing more than for him to tell her that they would be fine, that there was nothing to worry about.

The boy she had met just a fewdays ago would have told her just this. He would have been optimistic about their situation, or at least un-willing to tell her if he thought their situation really was hopeless.

But he had changed. She had changed. Both of them had seen things that they hadn't even had nightmares of before, that they hadn't imagined could walk the earth. They had heard and read things that, somehow, they knew in their bones to be true, despite the fact that these were things that any rational human being would find absurd, superstition and myth.

Asuka shivered as she briefly remembered a few of them, quickly pushing the thoughts away in an effort to keep some semblance of her sanity intact.

What she found to be the most disturbing part was that he had seen even more than she had, that he understood more of it than she did. That the boy floating in the plug behind her was not the same person she had gotten into the plug with. That their encounters with that . . . thing, that everything they'd seen and heard had changed him completely.

And that she, for some reason unknown even to her, envied the knowledge he had. The boy had answers, while she was simply left with a myriad of questions.

The brief beginning of tears began to form in her eyes as she looked up at the plug's roof. With the boy's statements, she was beginning to think that they really wouldn't be getting out of the plug anytime soon. Opening her mouth, she choked out a few words, mainly unspoken because of how quietly she said them. She did not want the . . . boy behind her to hear them.

". . . Mama . . . I want to go home . . . go back to the way things were . . ."

Then, deep within her mind, something clanked. Psychological pain shot through her conscience in exploding waves that she could not stop. Losing her carefully administered self control, she cried out and brought her hands to her temples. Her face contorted with the beginnings of sobs, her back arching and her arms flailing as she broke from her self created ball.

"What is this . . .?" she whimpered. "What in the hell is happening to me!"

As her pain continued to build and she lapsed in and out of consciousness, a soft chuckling noise came from behind her. Through the fog of her mental scarring, she could hear that thing speaking.

How she loathed it, how she loathed him, with the sweet velvety soft whispers pounding into her mind like hot searing nails being hammered in.

"You should've listened when I told you it hurt," It whispered sadly, "Should've felt bad, but no . . . but now you get to feel it. Tell me, girl, do you like it, like you thought I did?"

---------

Dissection

Written by Himonky

Prereading by Eric Blair.

An Evangelion canon deviation story.

Disclaimer 1: I do not own Evangelion; I just enjoy writing about it.

Disclaimer 2: I do not own the works of HPL.

Prologue: . . . In the Entry Plug

---------

Unit 02 soared into the air, propelled by the submerged detonation of the Sixth angel and the two battle cruisers. With a ship shattering smash it landed, eyes blazing and flickering around the Over the Rainbow. Over the radio came a cheer and then Misato's voice, "Power on down, we'll have you out in about an hour or so!"

The view screens went dead, and for a moment everything was quiet.

"Baka hentai!" Asuka suddenly yelled at Shinji, beginning to pound him in the back of the head like she had been doing earlier, before they had united to destroy the angel, "When did I say you could sit in my lap like this?!"

"G-gomen!" Shinji pulled himself away from her and the controls, hands rose in protest. "I was just trying to help."

Asuka turned away from him, closed her eyes, raised her face, and pouted her best pout. "Hmph! How could you? Taking advantage of me during the battle like that."

"Uh-h-I-didn-'t!" Shinji continued on, eventually ending up sputtering incoherently for a few moments before eventually sinking back to sit against the plug wall, holding his head in his hands and sighing.

An uneasy silence settled over the plug, both inhabitants being left to their own thoughts. Asuka's mind immediately returned to the battle, to the fact that they'd won, and how she'd felt during the intensity that was a real life angel attack.

Things had started fine. She had powered up the Evangelion successfully, even getting a chance to gloat at the Third Child when he tampered with her preparations. From there she had given a fleet's worth of sailors' nightmares that would not soon stop when she jumped from ship to ship. Landing on the Over the Rainbow and drawing Unit 02's progressive knife, she was sure, had made quite an impression on all her spectators, soon to be fans.

Asuka wrinkled her nose, continuing onwards to scrunch up her entire face. It was around that point that things had started to go awry. She had engaged the angel well enough, though she had dropped her progressive knife because she had not realized just how big the angel was. Then, to make matters worse, she had gone and tripped, sending her Eva into the water.

Asuka had thought that she'd felt fear during the simulations she had been put through back at NERV-03. Once, just a few weeks ago, she'd been fighting something that she'd been told resembled the Third Angel. She had felt the pain when its pincers broke through her shoulder armor, felt fear when she'd seen its particle attack charging in its beady avian eyes, just a few meters away from what she'd felt to be her own.

However, she had managed to beat it, and known it was just a simulation the whole time.

But when she'd fought this angel, the sixth, things had been different. She now knew what true fear felt like, what it felt like to know that your life hangs in the balance of your actions.

But she'd persevered through, and now knew that the next angel would be even easier than this one. She'd have this experience behind her; have this knowledge of the fear, so that she'd be more ready to overcome it when the time came again. Next time she would not hesitate like she had done today.

It was clear to her that she'd learn from every battle. After all, if stupid Shinji could do it then it would be a breeze for her. There was no way that he was just a "natural" at piloting. She knew that the only reason he hadn't hesitated like she had was because he'd fought more angels, had more combat experience. Stupid sims obviously couldn't match up to fighting in a real battle.

She crossed her arms and closed her eyes, intent on deciphering answers from the battle; ways to improve, ways to fix the mistakes she had made. She knew that the answers were there, all she had to do was unearth them. It was the only way for her to become better than him, especially since he would almost definitely be doing the same thing.

His eyes roamed around the plug for a minute, again searching for some place for him to sit, the first time he'd done this seeming as if it had been hours ago. Eventually he decided it best for him to try behind Asuka's seat.

To his delight, he found that he could drift loosely here, just placing his feet at the bottom of the chair's back and bottom. He began to relax, but quickly found that he could not stop himself from smacking into the sides of the plug occasionally. Writhing, he tried to bring his body to a balance in order to stop the sliding.

His thoughts focused on what would happen now. Would Misato be mad that they had activated the Evangelion without her permission? Surely the Admiral would want both of them skinned alive, even if he had gone along with Misato's plan in the end.

The two of them sat there for a while, waiting for someone to come along and eject the plug, setting them free from each others company and, more importantly, their own thoughts. As far as they knew, the angel had been defeated and there was no reason for them to remain in the plug any longer. Had they any power, neither one of them would've hesitated from pulling the command trigger and moving the Eva into a more acceptable ejection position.

But, since Unit 02's last few seconds of power had been used to land them on the Over the Rainbow, they waited, with no idea of when they would be released.

The minutes ticked by slowly, but surely.

---------

Misato, Kensuke, Touji, the Admiral, the Vice Admiral and the rest of the bridge crew of the Over the Rainbow let out a collective cheer as Unit 02 exploded out of the water, landing on the ship. Behind the red behemoth they could see the ocean rising up from the explosion of the sixth angel. In a square mile area around the explosion, droplets of ocean stormed back home.

"Power on down, we'll have you out in about an hour or so!" Misato informed them before their power ran out and the microphone in her hand returned only static. 'That must've been Asuka piloting just now,' she thought with a chuckle, 'only she could pull off a landing quite like that.'

Misato had to admit, this had been a very close battle. Shinji and Asuka had, as far as she could tell, only managed to beat the angel by one of three things. Luck, teamwork, or, somehow, raw and unbridled skill that they'd just now decided to pull out of their pockets.

The B-type equipment had made it, in theory, impossible for the Evangelion to operate beneath the water's surface. And yet, the pilots had still somehow managed to force it to open the sixth angel's mouth so that the two battle cruisers could destroy it. Misato wondered if this battle would be considered another example of an Evangelion going berserk.

While Misato was immersed in her own thoughts, things began to calm down on the bridge. As the Evangelion collapsed onto the outside deck, the UN officers remembered just who it was they were cheering with, how just only a little while previous they had been nearly enemies. As Misato turned back to facing them, they sobered and returned to their previous rigid stature.

Her smile slipped when she saw the thoroughly peeved expression the Admiral wore. 'What the hell is up with him?' she thought. "Is there a problem, Admiral?"

The Admiral's thoughts were a tempest. Of those he could identify, there was anger at his authority being usurped by NERV, disappointment at having the angel kill stolen away from him and his fleet, worry that he had been wrong about the importance of the Evangelion, desperation as he began to realize that it might really be more important than him and the whole fleet, anxiety of what would happen to him now that he had allowed most of his fleet to be destroyed. Had he been alone, he would've put his hands on his head and immediately began to pull his hair out.

However, he was not alone. He was standing in front of his men, proud sailors who had just been shown to be weaker than a pair of children. This could not be.

And yet, here he was, knowing perfectly well that the entire Pacific Fleet had just been out performed by two fourteen year olds. They had succeeded where five aircraft carriers, four battleships and nearly three dozen frigates and support craft had failed. To the admiral, it didn't seem possible.

Maybe, he one part hoped, one part thought, it wasn't.

He opened his mouth to respond to Misato's question, but froze when one of his subordinates shouted, "Sir!"

Turning to face the sailor, a tall, slim man, of only about thirty years of age who had just been transferred to the Over the Rainbow at the beginning of this journey, he gruffly asked, "What is it?"

The sailor, sitting at one of the many consoles on the ship's bridge, was leaning back from his seat with his arms spread and his eyes traveling up and down his controls. In his peripheral vision, the Admiral could see other sailors adopting similar positions, a few glancing underneath and around the sides of their stations. The addressed sailor turned to look at the admiral, then said, "Sir, I think we may have lost power."

A long silence gripped the bridge, the sailor's words sinking into all present. There were a few nods, as other sea men agreed with his assessment.

Finally, the Admiral began to reassert control over the situation. "Edward, Victor, head below and find out what's wrong, find out why the auxiliaries haven't come on yet." Two men, who Misato judged to be brothers or at least cousins by their similar physical appearance, dashed from the room, out the door and down the adjacent staircase. Turning to the remaining bridge crew, the Admiral questioned, "What's our current position?"

The Vice Admiral, leaning over some navigational charts with a few other sailors in one corner of the bridge, responded. "We can't identify that, sir. During the battle the angel kept switching directions. The only way we'd be able to figure out our location now would be to use satellites, and without power . . ." he trailed of, knowing fully well that everyone present could figure it out from there.

"What's the compass say?" asked the Admiral, wanting to at least know in what direction they were traveling.

The Vice Admiral pulled from his pocket the ancient device, seldom used since computers and technology had always been capable of telling them the instrument's function. Squinting, he double checked what his eyes read, then reported, "It seems to say . . . south?"

That was just wrong. While the Over the Rainbow was no sailboat, without power it would still partially be propelled by the wind as well as the waves, which were under the influence of the wind. If they were going south, then the wind almost had to be blowing south, which was preposterous because the jet stream here blew from west to east, not south.

The admiral twirled his mustache in his fingers. The Over the Rainbow was, potentially, indefinitely without power. There was, of course, a chance that power would return at any moment, but as the chief officer he had to assume that it would not just turn back on. It was his job to plan for the worst.

"Prepare to emergency signal the other ships as soon as we get the report from the Head boys. If the power isn't going to be able to be fixed, we'll need to evacuate."

Two men immediately stood and began to go through well practiced motions, having learned them as an emergency procedure that they had hoped to never need to use. Walking to a locker in a corner of the bridge, one man pulled out a special key. He used it to open the locker and then pulled out a large briefcase, inside of which was an archaic, but still important, high strength light and set of shudders, which would be used to signal the other ships.

The man turned and then carried the briefcase over to his partner, who had just finished opening one of the bridge's few windows. Setting the luggage down, the two men opened it up and began to go about their preparations.

"Abandon your flag ship, sir?" asked the Vice Admiral, as the two men went about their actions, surprised that his superior was even considering it.

The Admiral gave a slow, regretful nod. His better judgment told him that it might be necessary. No matter what, he knew, it was best to plan for any eventuality.

As the two men finished their preparations one of the soldiers, the same tall, thin one who had first suspected the power loss, called out that the fleet had another problem, approaching swiftly.

"Sir!" he shouted, pointing towards the great carrier's bow, straight south. Everyone on the bridge turned at the man's word, each of them having long since learned that he had quick eyes and a knack for seeing problems before anyone else.

In the distance, but rapidly approaching, all assembled could recognize a dense fog. Whether a freak storm of nature, the ill well of some unknown deity, or perhaps even an attack by another angel, it was clear that the nearing gray wall would soon limit any chance of communication between the Over the Rainbow and its escort.

For nearly a minute, no one stirred. None of the sailors, in all their combined years at sea, had ever seen anything remotely like this. It was unheard of until now.

Finishing his prolonged gawking with his subordinates, the Admiral issued three brief, explicit orders. "Someone get down to the engine room; tell Eddie and Vic to hurry up with their reports. You two over there," he gestured at the two men who were working on the emergency communications device, "signal the escort. Tell them we've lost power, that they should all stay as close to the Over the Rainbow as possible, and that they should immediately report everything that has happened to the naval base in New Yokosuka by radio."

Even though the fog was still a little ways off, it was abundantly clear to the Admiral that long range communications using the emergency light would be nearly impossible. If any messages from the Over the Rainbow were to reach any of the other ships, they would need to be very close.

He took a deep breath, then turned to the man who had first informed him of the power outage and first noticed the fog. "You," he said, "prepare the ship for fog. We don't know where we are, and I don't intend to let us run aground. Stow everything-" He glanced over to his left, where Misato was watching him, and choose his next words carefully. He knew that she would not like the rest of this order, but that it might be essential. "-and get everyone below decks as quickly as possible. I don't want to risk anything."

The man gave a soft smile before he hurried out of the room to follow the Admiral's bidding. Kensuke's camera, still running despite the fact that he was beginning to run out of film, briefly captured the man as he left the bridge.

Misato's mouth opened to tell him that Shinji and Asuka were still trapped inside of the Eva, but he held up his hand, forestalling her words. "I am fully aware that your two children," he dared not call them pilots, "are still trapped inside of that toy. However, they are surely safer inside of that toy than anyone else on this ship. You don't need to worry about them."

Misato's mouth closed with an audible click, made all the more audible by the fact that the bridge was now quiet enough that any and all present could've heard a pin drop. After a moment, she asked, "And what makes you think any of the rest of us will be in danger?"

The admiral made a smirk that looked much better than he felt. "We're without power, at an unknown position, about to be drifting aimlessly through fog. What makes you think we aren't in danger?"

Misato did not respond.

"All civilians and un-authorized personnel off of my bridge," he could see Misato preparing to grow angry out of the corner of his eye, so he added a stiff, "please," just to prove to her that he could be civil if he had to be.

Misato stood stalk still for a moment, seeming to weigh her options. Then she turned to Kensuke and Touji, her expression suddenly relaxed. "Well boys, we should probably be heading on down now." Her voice sounded for all the world like she was in charge, like it was her decision that they would leave.

The Admiral had to hand it to her; she did a good job of it. If he hadn't just ordered her to do so, he would've assumed that she was leaving on her own accord.

Freed from any excessive distractions, the Admiral turned back to facing the bow, which was just beginning to sink into the fog. A brief flicker of powerlessness flickered across his thought process, but quickly faded. He was in control of his ship now; whether or not it had power was irrelevant. As the bridge's view ports were overcome with white, he crossed his arms behind his back, exuding confidence that he knew his men would need.

He only hoped that they would leave some for him.

Reports began to flow back soon. Victor and Edward returned, informing him that the chief engineer, a man from Northern England named Jammes Seymour, the Heads' technical boss in the regular chain of command, but who was still below the Admiral in actual authority, was baffled as to how the power had failed.

Chief Engineer Seymour had told the two brothers that there was no immediately apparent reason for the reactor shut down. The angel had not damaged it in any way. There had been a few tense moments of worry, but it had pulled through and seemed to be operating smoothly. Edward, the elder of the two brothers, whispered to the Admiral in subdued tones that Jammes suspected that the reactor had been tampered with in some way. There was no concrete evidence yet, but the lack of sound reason for the reactor failing in the first place had raised the engineer's awareness.

The Admiral nodded at the two men before directing them back to the engine room, with orders to inform him immediately if anything were to happen. They were hardly needed on the bridge since their stations were dark and powerless. He had not been highly surprised by the notion of having a saboteur on board, he even suspected the Inspector Kaji fellow who had abandoned ship so quickly when it began to look like the angel might win. Still, it did not make him very happy.

Just as the Head brothers were about to leave the Admiral asked them if they might be able to check on the reactors security feed. It was on a different power supply from the main ship, and might still be operating. This would, obviously, be the easiest way to see who the saboteur was, and what they had done. They agreed, and informed him that they would get Mr. Seymour to take a look at it immediately.

The Admiral was then called over to the two men who had set up the emergency communications system.

"What is it?"

"Sir, we sent the message like you asked," said one, a sandy haired, hazel eyed man in his late forties. He was much the senior of the two, having been in the Navy nearly as long as the Admiral.

His partner, much the junior at twenty-seven, spoke up next. "But we got some bad news from the other ships."

The Admiral's eyebrows lowered. Bad news seemed to be at a premium today.

"The Tempest over there," said the older sailor, "says that its power's failed as well."

The Admiral's mouth suddenly felt very dry. He tried to swallow, but it didn't seem to help at all. "What about the Black Pearl? The Mariner?" he asked, indicating the only two other ships that were still within the Over the Rainbow's sight range.

Both sailors glumly shook their heads. The older sailor continued to speak. "The Pearl over there reports the same thing, and we haven't gotten a word from the Mariner."

Grimly, the Admiral nodded and bid the two men to stay in communications with the other ships, keep trying the Mariner and immediately inform him if anything came up.

He turned and walked back into his office, feigning that he needed to get himself a cup of coffee from his now powerless Mr. Coffee machine. Closing the door, he collapsed into his hard, rigid commander's chair, burying his face into his hands.

Everything seemed as if it was going to hell in a hand basket. First the angel attack, then the power had apparently been sabotaged, this freak fog storm had come out of nowhere, and now it seemed as if none of the ships in his fleet had been able to call for help before entering the fog.

They were lost at sea and no one else would even know for a few more hours. By then they could've drifted for miles and any search party would surely not begin by searching south. East or West, then the opposite, then there was a chance of them searching South, if they didn't try North first. In theory, they might be well into the Southern Hemisphere by then.

There was also, unfortunately, the possibility that the entire fleet would be assumed sunk. The angel had succeeded in laying waste to a significant number of ships and the last person to have seen the fleet and escape, Agent Kaji if the Admiral was correct, may very well report that they had lost. Enough flotsam and jetsam might be found to support this claim.

No. For now, they were most certainly on there own. There would be no helping hand from anywhere else. Unless the Over the Rainbow could get power, or even one of the lesser ships assigned to the fleet reactivate, there was little hope of rescue.

This meant that he was in charge of the welfare of several thousand worried sailors, full of superstition as most sailors are. Given the horrible luck that seemed to have settled itself upon the fleet, the Admiral knew that rumors would begin to fly very soon.

With a grunt, the Admiral stood back up. He could not just sit idly by while these things began. It was essential that he go back onto the bridge and show his crew that at least there commander was still confident they would all be fine, even if he didn't get that same luxury himself.

---------

Misato closed the door to the bridge and heard it click softly as it locked. Behind her she heard Kensuke and Touji's shuffling feet, both of them wondering if the three of them were somehow in trouble with the Admiral.

'Considering we were just practically thrown off of the bridge,' she thought, 'and worse, told that Shinji and Asuka are going to be stuck in Unit Two for who knows how long . . .' she could not find it in herself to disagree with them.

But that didn't stop her from turning around and facing the two of them with a wide smile on her face. At first they seemed surprised by her apparent merriment; they could see no reason as to why she would be happy. Both of their faces looked like they expected her to turn back around and try to break down the door.

"Well," she said, her voice somehow rising to match her facial expression, "let's get going then."

Touji looked stunned. "You mean . . . we're just going to walk out of here now . . . after all that?"

"All of what?" Misato asked innocently.

"All of what?!" Touji looked like he was going to have a spasm, pointing at the door and in the general direction of Unit Two, "After that guy just chucked us out of there! After he just told us that Shinji's going to be trapped in that thing with that girl for who knows how long! Come on Misato-San, have a little humanity here, the guy could die breathing in the same air as her for much longer!"

He was breathing hard, and Misato judged that by the way he had spoken he had momentarily forgotten his "undying love" towards her. "Oh, that," she said playfully, waving it off, "it's nothing. Just a battle, not the whole war."

Touji gawked. Kensuke froze for a moment, though his camera continued to record, shook, then hung his head. Misato just closed her eyes and smiled.

"Ah, you want to rescue those two pilots from the Evangelion."

The voice immediately struck Misato, Touji and Kensuke as familiar. Turning to Misato's right, the two boys' left, they found the same thin, lanky man who had first realized that the Over the Rainbow had lost power. He stood about fifteen feet down the hallway from the three of them, his face masked in shadow. Still, Misato and the boys had learned to recognize him by his lack of an American accent when he spoke Japanese, his pension for pointing out the problems that occurred on the ship, and his uniform, which was very loose around his build, like it had been made for a much bigger man.

"What're you-?" Misato began to ask, but then remembered why the man had left the bridge. Her eyes narrowed slightly, her joyful expression having disappeared almost as quickly as the man had shown himself. "Oh, I remember now. You were the one who was closing off the ship."

The man inclined his head and smiled briefly, showing a row of bright teeth. Then his mouth closed and his face was back to a very sober expression. "You know . . . out of everybody on this ship, I'm the only one who can get out onto the flight deck now that it's been sealed."

Misato's eyes would've widened, if they hadn't narrowed. Her demeanor was completely serious. "What're you implying?"

The man shrugged, stepped out of the shadows, and into the artificial light of the hallway's lights, revealing his face. He wasn't repulsing, just lean to the point of surprising Misato. There was no fat left over in the man's face, something that was altogether uncommon. It made the face look weird, though it could easily be explained after just a little thinking on the viewer's part.

"I'm not implying much of anything," he said as he continued to walk forward, "just saying that anyone wanting to get to Evangelion Unit 02 would have to talk to me first."

He stopped directly in front of Misato and nodded. At first she thought it was directed at her, but after a moment realized that he wanted to get to the door behind her. She stepped aside and he pulled out a key ring, gingerly flipping through the large set.

Finally finding the correct one, he inserted it into the lock. But then, right before he turned the key and unlocked the door, Misato interrupted him.

"What did you say your name was?"

The man's face remained facing straight forward, but his eyes turned towards Misato. She felt herself take a step back as her eyes met his, a strange feeling of discomfort latching onto her.

"I didn't," said the man, "but you can call me Hary Laptoten."

Then he turned the key, pulled open the door and disappeared into the room without another second's hesitation.

Misato didn't move. Her mind was jumbled from the conversation. While it had been relatively short, under two minutes, it had seemed like much longer.

What he had said was no riddle to her. He was offering to, or perhaps saying he could be bought to, take her outside so that she could free Shinji and Asuka.

At first consideration, it was a miracle, a break through, the first good thing she'd heard from the man. Misato was deathly afraid for the two kids, their limited power supply giving them only a few short hours of life support. Hary had just more or less offered to solver her biggest and most pressing problem.

But still, she couldn't help but wonder what he would want in exchange for his help. He hadn't hinted at anything specific, but she had gleamed from the sailor's eyes that such an operation as freeing Shinji and Asuka would not come without a price. She didn't know what he might ask, but her mind came up with several sick possibilities on its own accord.

"So . . . what just happened?" asked Touji, bringing Misato back to life.

She bit her lip, considering how much she wanted to tell Touji and Kensuke. "He offered to help," she eventually decided would be the best option.

Touji opened his mouth to say more, but then closed it. For whatever reason, he seemed to not know what to say now.

"Come on, let's go."

"Go where?" asked Kensuke.

"Kaji's cabin, Asuka's as well. They're the only two places we really can go to at the moment." And then she resumed her internal fuming about having lost on the bridge.

'If only Kaji was still here,' she started to think, but then changed the thought into something completely different, 'I'd ring his neck for having run off!'

---------

"My goodness, that was a rather eventful trip, wasn't it? Was it caused by this, I wonder?" Kaji asked, setting the thick metal container on Gendo Ikari's desk. He eyed the case greedily, desperately wanting to know its contents. He had an inkling, but had not dared open the case, just in case his suspicions were true.

He opened his mouth to speak again, but was cut off.

"That is for the two of us to know," said Fuyutsuki as Gendo pulled the case across and then off of the table, setting it on the floor next to him, "and for you to not question."

Kaji's eyes were fire for a second, angered at not getting to see the object he had carried all the way from Berlin. He had brought it all this way, they had entrusted it in his care, and he wasn't even trusted enough to get to see it with his own eyes?

Again, he sought to speak, but was interrupted.

"What do you know about the location of the fleet?" Gendo quizzed.

Stowing the fire, Kaji answered. "Last I saw of it, Unit 02 had just taken a spill into the water," he shrugged unapologetically before continuing, "Seeing as it was incapable of operating while under the sea, I doubt they survived."

"The angel was defeated," said Gendo, with complete confidence, "the question is only their whereabouts now."

Kaji's eyes narrowed. "Well, sir," he stressed the second word, "I have not received any intelligence that confirms their survival. Therefore, I cannot even hazard a guess at their location."

"The angel was destroyed, the Evangelion and at least part of its escort has survived," Fuyutsuki cut in, "that's all we know for sure."

Kaji's face was a mask, as were both Gendo's and Fuyutsuki's. The mood was most certainly tense, the full weight of the Commander and Sub-commander of NERV being poured onto him. The question was not if he would break to their combined will, but when.

Someone had once told Kaji that it was better to bend than to break.

"I will begin looking into it immediately, sirs," he proclaimed with a short, somewhat mocking bow. Then, with a last longing glance in the direction of the metal container behind Gendo's desk, he turned and exited the room.

Gendo and Fuyutsuki remained in their positions, Gendo with his fingers interlocked in front of his face, Fuyutsuki standing behind him to his left. For a short time, there was silence.

Then, Fuyutsuki broke it. "Their going missing like this was not in the Scrolls."

Gendo inclined his head slightly. "No, it was not."

Another pause.

Gendo continued, "But then, we have always suspected that the scrolls are not as whole as SEELE thinks. Hinged our whole scenario around it, in truth."

It was now Fuyutsuki's turn to nod. "Yes, but how are we to find them without any fore-knowledge of the outcome?"

Gendo stood, beginning to speak even as he righted himself. He said three words that he would not have said anywhere else besides his office, to anyone else besides Fuyutsuki, the only living person he would dare confess them to.

"I don't know."

---------

Author's Notes:

Whew, this took a long time. I'm on version 1.10 of this right now, having bounced it back and forth with Eric Blair for at least three weeks (has it really been that long?). This was supposed to be just a short prologue, but ends up being over 7-k. Out of everything I've done, this has definitely been the most ambitious. I've got quite a few chapters planned out, and I hope to go places with this one.

Now, I have a contest for all you readers. 1. One of the Author Created Characters in this fic is an anagram for another character, though I won't say from where or for what. First reviewer to name the anagram created character and his influence gets . . . a cookie.

2. I have an Omake that I hope to have finished by tonight. Now, here's how this is going to work. Anyone who hits that review button, types out two complete sentences for me (and one of those sentences cannot be "Update soon".) and then sends in the review, gets the Omake.

I'll be honest, the Omake isn't roflolmao hilarious, but I'm thinking it'll be pretty good. If I get a good response to this, I may end up doing one each chapter.

And with that, see everybody next chapter.