Disclaimer: I do not own Evangelion, or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

Disclaimer: I do not own anything belonging to Marvel Comics or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.

Chapter 18: Cruel Demonstrations

As Mayumi lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling, she couldn't help but be conflicted.

So much had happened in recent times. So many horrible things, so many tragedies. So many things that she had to deal with it even as the Angelic collective continued to deteriorate, day by day. And all the fears that she was forced to keep at bay as a result.

On the surface, her evening that day had been a typical one, a pleasant one. Mayumi had come home from school, spent some time helping around the house as her mother had prepared dinner. While they ate, the two of them talked about their respective days, her mother reporting how work was while Mayumi related the various going-ons at school. Simple, normal, ordinary things that, with each passing day, meant more and more to the half-Angel hybrid.

But even as she continued to maintain a facade of normalcy even as she bid her mother goodnight and went to bed, Mayumi sighed inwardly, for it was little more than a sham. Things were not normal for her. Not anymore. And she knew that her body and mind were moving further and further away from the purely human girl she had once been with passing day. And that, in time, she would be fully of Adam, fully of the collective. And every bit as vulnerable to the madness that was sweeping through it as the rest of her kin. Slowly but inexorably, she was running out of time.

And on more than one level, Mayumi frowned, thinking of what was to come. It would not be long before Iruel manifested within NERV Headquarters, before her brother would set about his quest to search through the MAGI, to find information that would either prove or disprove the Silver Surfer's word. If she was telling the truth, then we'll be able to track down the ones who are ultimately responsible for what happened to the All-Father, she thought, unable to stifle the instinctive rage of her kin. But...if she wasn't...

Unable to stop herself from shuddering at this horrific possibility, Mayumi shoved it aside for what felt like the umpteenth time. The Silver Surfer's word had been proven to be valid multiple times in each of their previous encounters. Time and again, no matter the situation, she had proven her veracity. She had to be telling the truth about this.

She had to be...for if she weren't, Mayumi knew precisely how her kin would respond to such trechery...

Besides, that's not my only problem, the nephilim reminded herself as she made her way to her room moved to lie down in bed. Making certain that she looked as if she were either asleep or trying to go to sleep in the event her mother came to check on her. With Iruel about to manifest...there's danger of another battle. Of his physical form being slain as well. And if that happens...

Shuddering at the thought of the madness worsening, Mayumi pressed her lips together in thought. Iruel's form would be different from those of the others. More like a virus than the massive titans of her kindred, and thus was likely less vulnerable to the monstrous biomechanical Evangelions. But that did not mean that he was invincible; there was always a danger that NERV could find some way to destroy his physical form. And even if they didn't, then it was likely that the Silver Surfer and Spirit would.

With a heavy sigh, Mayumi told herself, I know what I have to do. I've known ever since Tabris asked me to do what I could to protect Iruel. Curling up on her side, she once again examined her options, and found once more that she had only one choice. That once again, she had to entrust Ramiel's dream to another, if there was to be any hope of making it reality. And that no matter how anxious she was about it, no matter how fearful she was of being detected by her kin and thus turning them against her, she had to do it.

Focusing her thoughts on the ancient being whose voice had once sounded in her own mind, Mayumi reached out with her own soul. Lilith...can you hear me?

Yes, child, came the gentle, matronly voice of the 2nd Angel.

Hesitating for a moment, listening for any sign that her brothers and sisters had heard her, any sign of the outrage she knew would result if it was known she was communicating with the Mother of All, Mayumi only relaxed ever so slightly when all she heard was the chaotic rumblings and flow of emotion that was now the collective. There is something very important I need to talk to you about, she finally continued. Once, you were able to link my mind to those of the Silver Surfer and Spirit so we could speak with each other. I wanted to know...could you do so again?

Of course, child, Lilith promptly assured her. Would you like for me to contact them now, so that we can proceed?

Pausing to consider this, Mayumi frowned. On the one hand, she did want to get this over with as quickly as possible. She already wasted so much time with her procrastinating and fears. The sooner she was able to make the needed arrangements, the better.

But even as she thought this, Mayumi reminded herself that it was late at night, and that she had no idea what the nephilim aligned with Lilith were doing at this moment. They undoubtedly had lives of their own. They have been going to bed, or doing homework, or dealing with their families, or something else entirely. And to suddenly interrupt them...

No, Mayumi finally decided. Just...let them know that I want to speak with them sometime during the day, and ask them when would be a good time to do so. I'll arrange to be ready at...whatever time they want.

Very well. I will do so, Lilith assured the weather manipulator. Is there anything else you wish to speak of?

For a moment, Mayumi considered saying no. For even though the 2nd Angel had once assured her that her kin could not sense it when she reached out to her, she still didn't want to take any chances. And the best way of doing so was to keep such communications to a minimum.

But at the same time, she couldn't help but think back to an idea she had had during Sahaquiel's maddened rampage. That if she could speak with the Mother of All, then she may well be able to convince her that the Children of Adam were not the enemy, were not evil. And as this thought once again rang in her mind, the possibility of fulfilling Ramiel's dream and bringing peace between their races, Mayumi hesitantly asked, Lilith...are you certain that none of the other Angels can hear us? You're sure about that?!

Indeed, Lilith replied without hesitation. None purely of Adam's blood can hear my words, and when you speak to me, they cannot hear your words, either. They will and shall remain ignorant of what transpires between us as long as you wish for them to remain so.

Mayumi wanted her kin to remain ignorant of what she was doing. She wanted that very, very much. And so, once again putting her trust in the 2nd Angel's words, she proceeded. Lilith...you know what my mission is, right? What my brother and predecessor wanted of me?

Of course, Lilith confirmed. The Silver Surfer explained your mission; to create peace between the children of Adam and my own.

Heartened by this, Mayumi proceeded with greater confidence. Then...I ask you to believe me when I say that the children of Adam...we...they are not evil!

I believe you, Lilith immediately replied. All species are capable of good and evil. And while individuals may give themselves solely to evil, no one living being or species is purely evil by nature alone.

Then...you understand? Mayumi started again, caught between surprise and hope. That Adam's children...they only want to survive! To be able to live!

Certainly, Lilith replied once more.

Then...I ask of you...will you help me? Mayumi continued, stunned at how cooperative Lilith was being. Will you help me to create a peace between your children and Adam's?!

I would be glad to offer whatever assistance I am able, Lilith readily answered. But even as Mayumi gaped in astonishment at the effortlessness with which they were proceeding, the 2nd Angel went on to explain. However, there are limits to the assistance I can provide to you. I am not capable of physical intervening in this situation, and my power has been greatly limited. And as such, I must place my faith in those who would fight for my children, such as the Silver Surfer.

This admission took Mayumi by surprise, but this did not last. She knew from Tabris the great wars that had taken place between the children of Adam and Lilith in the past, long, horrendous wars. Wars that had left Adam a prisoner in the White Moon, and apparently had taken their toll on Lilith as well. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, she then decided. Ever since the All-Father's death, we have continued to sense a power akin to Adam coming from Tokyo-3, one other than Spirit's. I never really thought about it with everything that's been happening, but...it has to be Lilith. And as this thought registered, it moved and made its way towards its most logical conclusion. Which means that...she's a prisoner of NERV...

Saddened by the thought of any Angel, even those not related to Adam, suffering at NERV's hands, Mayumi sighed and tried again. But...even so, you were able to help us when Sahaquiel gave himself to madness, the weather witch reminded the ancient entity. And...Adam... Even as she shaped the words in her mind, the brunette winced and reminded herself as to who she was speaking to.

As Mayumi squirmed inwardly, wondering how or even if she should proceed, Lilith seemed to smile in her mind. I know that you are working to revive Adam. Starting at these words, the raven-haired girl was about to ask how this was so when the 2nd Angel explained, Gladiator made this clear when he and the Silver Surfer first confronted each other, and the Silver Surfer in turn reported this to me.

Now Mayumi was not only surprised, but felt like a little girl that had just gotten caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. She was dealing with one of the most powerful and ancient beings to have ever walked this world, a being that was responsible for giving root to life and shaping and guiding it, and she had basically admitted to trying to revive its nemesis. You have to understand, she began carefully, feeling as nervous and awkward as she would if she were working up the courage to admit to her own mother that she had just screwed up, Adam...he was the center for his children! He is what brought harmony to the chaos of the collective! Without him, there is only madness, and -!

You do not have to explain, child, Lilith interrupted in a soothing voice, again taking Mayumi by surprise. I am already aware of the suffering Adam's death has caused you and all of Adam's children.

A beat passed as Mayumi considered this, only to smack herself in the forehead and roll her eyes. Right. The Silver Surfer, she told you that, too, she grumbled, her words not even a question. As Lilith seemed to nod in her mind, the weather witch sighed inwardly. I...well, anyway...if...when that happens...perhaps you can...talk to him? If the two of you can come to an agreement, then maybe...

As Mayumi trailed off, her capacity words failing her, Lilith answered, Child...sister and successor of Ramiel...I would gladly seek a peace with Adam in the event you were to succeed in his resurrection. A sigh of relief sounding her throat, the weather manipulator then froze in surprise when the 2nd Angel went on to say, But I greatly fear that such an entreaty on my part would be in vain.

Again taken aback, Mayumi sat up in her bed, requiring a time to recover before speaking again. But - but why?! she demanded. I realize that you and Adam are different, but that doesn't mean you can't make peace with him!

No, it does not, Lilith concurred. However, child, in times long past, I attempted to make peace with Adam, long before the first wars between our respective children. And his response made it clear that he had no intention of sharing this world with me or any offspring of mine. That he had no interest in peace between us.

He -! Mayumi started, unable to fathom what she was hearing. But - I don't understand! Why wouldn't he want peace?!

I do not know. The ways of Adam and his children have always been a mystery to me, as the ways of myself and my children were a mystery to him, Lilith confessed. All I know is his actions, his refusal of peace. His efforts to shape this world to the liking of himself and his children alone.

But - no! Mayumi got out, sagging as Lilith's words echoed in her mind. We - I don't understand! I -! Even as her words failed her, she found herself flashing back to the day she had met her brother. The day he had given her his power, and pleaded for her to find the truth behind Adam's downfall, and to try and make peace. His last and only request of her. There has to be a - I can't just - I have to -!

As words once again failed the young nephilim, Lilith spoke in a soothing manner. There may yet be a path to peace, child. A path that as of yet remains unseen, she told her in a soothing fashion. But...perhaps understanding is the key to that path.

Frowning at this curious statement, Mayumi hesitated before asking, Wh-what do you mean?

You do not understand the trials I faced in dealing with Adam. The lone attempt at peace that was made...and its failure, Lilith began in a sage voice. And as I have already admitted, while I have knowledge as to the structure and hierarchy of Adam and his children, I cannot pretend that I understand his ways or theirs. Though I have observed and learned much, there remains so much about them that eludes me, simply because I am not of them. I have not seen the world from their perspective. Experienced life as they have. A tender smile seemed to appear in Mayumi's mind as the 2nd Angel continued. But perhaps we can help each other to understand.

How? Mayumi instantly asked, grasping at any possibility with undisguised eagerness.

You have lived as one of my children, and you have experienced the world as one of Adam's. You have walked in both worlds, have experienced the perspectives of both races, Lilith explained. As such, you have an understanding of Adam's children that far outstrips my own. While I have dealt directly with Adam himself, and have much knowledge of past events that have led to the conflict between our children. As such, by sharing our respective memories and understandings, we can help each other...help ourselves.

As Mayumi sat in her bed, processing the 2nd Angel's words, she frowned in thought. On the one hand, sharing her own memories seemed inherently risky. There was so much that was happening, so much that still needed to be done in order to facilitate Adam's resurrection, and if Lilith genuinely believed Adam to be as intractable as she claimed, then there was a very real possibility that she would somehow move to prevent this from happening.

But...still...I have to try! Mayumi then decided. If the war continues...if we can't make a peace...then either humanity gets wiped out, or the Angels do! And as the madness worsens...even if humans survive...!

Once again, the image of herself lost to the steadily worsening madness appeared in Mayumi's mind. Of a Storm that reveled in her power, lashing out mindlessly at everything in her path. With her mother, her friends all directly in her path.

She had to do something to prevent that happening. She had to do whatever she could to save both her people's from the doom that lay in wait for them all.

I...okay... Mayumi nervously answered. But...how do I...?

Simply focus your mind on the Angels that live in you. The memories of them, your experiences and interactions with them, Lilith instructed her. While I focus on the past, and show you how the conflict between myself and Adam began.

Still somewhat uncertain, but knowing that she had to do whatever she could in order to keep her brother's dream and both races alive, Mayumi lay back in her bed, and focused on those things. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the events that led to her becoming Storm. She thought of the immense, crystalline figure of her brother, and how they had met. She thought of their ensuing conversation, the revelation that she was somehow partly of him, and he a part of her. She remembered the shock of her rebirth, and how she had become one with the Angelic collective, was part of the harmony of their minds and souls. The strength, the security, the serenity of the collective as all of their minds contributed to the whole, and the whole in turn gave them.

Then she focused on her life as it was now. Upon the chaos that was the minds of herself and her kin had been plunged into when they had lost Adam, lost the key component that had given order to the symphony of voices that was the collective. The way the chaos increased as each outrage, each physical death, gave rise to even great fury and confusion. How the conflict amongst the Angels worsened, the madness growing inexorably, leading to self-destruction.

Mayumi took all of these things, and projected them through the mental link to Lilith. And in return, the 2nd Angel gave her the world of the past. The new Angel of Thunder watched in amazement as the Earth she lived on was first formed, as the Black and White Moons approached the still-forming planet. Looked on as the White Moon of Adam buried itself into the planet, while the Black Moon of Lilith became its moon. She watched as the two Angels began sowing the seeds of life upon the planet, only for those first life-forms to be obliterated by a rogue comet. She listened as Adam and Lilith agreed to cease dabbling with their individual efforts, and combined their efforts to give birth to a new race, feeling everything that Lilith had.

She felt the pride Lilith had experienced the pride and joy as the Golden Race, a race of nephilim appeared as a result of both her gift and Adam's. Mayumi then felt the anguish and horror as those children fell sick, stricken down from within. The shock and betrayal when Adam called forth children purely of him, the Silver Race of Angels, to strike down Lilith. The rage and despair as Adam and the Angels forcibly imprisoned her, and began destroying all of her works. Her fury and determination as she implanted souls of her own into his children, and caused the Silver Race to rebel, with Adam destroying them, and Adam himself weakened to the point where he was forced to retreat to the White Moon. And the sadness and hope as she again tried to fulfill her purpose; the creation of life.

What happened next was a montage to Mayumi. Eon upon eon of creation, war, death, and rebirth, with so much happening that it was beyond her ability to perceive everything. She was ultimately completely overwhelmed by the experience of living through so much.

And then, finally, after a seeming eternity, Lilith released her, the brief glimpse Mayumi had been given into her life coming to an end. Leaving the weather manipulator to open her eyes and sit up in her bed again, heaving deep, heavy breaths. I...I never imagined...I should've realized, but... she thought, wrapping her arms about her slender frame as she trembled beneath the weight of the memories that now lived in her. So much...she's seen so much...!

Long moments of silence filled Mayumi's room as a cold sweat ran down the sides of her face, her mind still struggling with the reality of the things she had seen, experienced. She had no idea how much time had passed, or was passing as she struggled to cope with what she had just lived through. But eventually, she recovered to a degree, enough to be able to focus on one, single event. One blinding moment of horror and betrayal that had killed hope in the past...and was poisoning it within. Lilith...what the All-Father did to you... she thought mournfully. If - when he's revived...

Then in all likelihood, he would reject any attempt at peace once again, Lilith confirmed in a somber manner. Yes...I fear this is the truth. But do not abandon hope, child. For while it may be impossible to achieve your brother's dream while things remain as they are now, that does not mean that things have to remain as they are now.

Starting at this strange statement, Mayumi asked, What do you mean? A beat passed as she further considered this, and with a strained voice, she asked, Do you...have an idea as to how we make peace?

Perhaps, Lilith answered in an evasive manner. This sharing between us has revealed much. You have given me precious insight, child, insight that has eluded me up until now, and I thank you for it. As Mayumi frowned, wondering what her memories had revealed, the 2nd Angel continued. For now, you need to rest. I will contact the Silver Surfer and Spirit, inform them of your intentions. And after that...we shall see what comes to pass...

And with that, Lilith vanished from Mayumi's mind. Leaving her alone with the voices of her kin, that still bickered and interacted chaotically amongst themselves. Leaving her alone with madness.

What could she possibly mean? Mayumi wondered.

"So..." Spirit began as she shot backwards, coming to the ground on both feet and digging furrows in the ground as she came to a halt, "...any ideas what Storm wants to talk about?"

"No," the Silver Surfer answered simply as she zipped towards her friend, unleashing twin bolts of electric destruction at her. Even as Spirit countered them with crimson blasts from her eyes, the mercurial superwoman shot up, already positioning herself for a different attack.

It had been shortly after she had woken up and was getting ready for school that Lilith had contacted Rei and Hikari telepathically, alerting them that Storm wished to speak to them about something, and had requested that Lilith ask them both when would be a good time for such a discussion. When Hikari asked what that something was, the 2nd Angel was forced to admit that she did not know; only that Storm indicated that it was a matter of some importance. So after a bit of discussion, Rei and Hikari decided that the best time for such a discussion would be half an hour after school. That would allow them enough time to get to the training ground, giving them both optimal privacy and thus eliminating any risk of intrusions while they were conversing with Storm, as well as allowing Spirit a chance to practice more with her new abilities.

Even as the Silver Surfer thought these things, she was brought back to the moment by twin blasts of crimson. Issuing a noise of surprise, she angled her board to better protect her from her friend's attacks. "You are getting better at controlling your new abilities," she noted with a slight nod. "Then I shall try something different myself."

"Oh?" Spirit asked, giving the Silver Surfer a look. "What do you have in mind?"

"This," the Silver Surfer returned even as she angled herself downward and shot down at her friend. Unleashing two energy bolts upon the ground, she focused her will on the very earth Spirit was standing on, the power granted to her by the board already reshaping it. Crying out in surprise as the ground began to shift, the Angelic adventuress spread her wings and attempted to flee, but even as she rose up off the ground, hands of dirt and stone reached up and wrapped about her legs.

"What the -?!" Spirit squawked in alarm. Reacting on pure instinct, she flapped her wings harder, trying to pull free. But even as she did so, the Silver Surfer took full advantage of her distraction. With their AT-Fields cancelling each other, she fired once more on the winged wonder. "Oh, crap!" Spirit cried out, holding up her hand and summoning her Soul Sword, but she wasn't fast enough. The twin blasts struck her directly in the chest, sending her tumbling backwards. Crying out in surprised pain, the winged girl instinctively sent forth huge tendrils of her silvery hair which wrapped about a couple nearby trees and a boulder.

"You recovered well from my attack," the Silver Surfer noted as she descended, watching and waiting as Spirit regained her feet.

"Thanks. Though I have to admit...I'm really glad you gave me this armor," Spirit returned. "I really hate it when I get chunks of my body blasted off!" Unable to fault her friend for this, the Silver Surfer simply nodded her understanding and watched as the winged girl retracted her hair and once again took a battle-ready stance. "That was a pretty good move, Surfer," she intoned, a look of grim determination on her face as her eyes burned crimson. "But let's see how well you handle this!"

With that, Spirit unleashed an optic blast even as she again sent tentacles of hair towards a couple of boulders. Even as the Silver Surfer angled her board to absorb the blast, the Angelic adventuress snared the large stones and lifted them towards her. Twin claws exploded from her hands, she sliced through the rocks in a single swift stroke. Unsure of what her friend had in mind, the Silver Surfer gathered her power in her hands, shooting up a short distance even as a surge of energy shot through Spirit's hair into the trifuricated boulders, causing them to burn with deadly energy.

"Catch!" Spirit cried out, launching the six energized projectiles at the Silver Surfer. Realizing what would happen if any of the stones struck her, the mercurial superwoman unleashed streams of electric destruction at them. One by one, the boulders exploded savagely, until only one remained. Realizing that it was too close for her to destroy without being hit by the resulting explosion, the Silver Surfer quickly angled the board between it and her.

As soon as the stone hit the board, it detonated, releasing the energy Spirit had infused it with. But even as the Silver Surfer rode out the blast, she frowned, wondering what point there was to such an attack. And then...

"AAAAAhhh!" the Silver Surfer cried out, her eyes bulging from their sockets as a horrible, burning pain cut deeply into her back. Instinctively looking over her shoulder for the source of the pain, her mouth fell open at the sight of glowing ring of light buried in her spine.

Acting quickly, the Silver Surfer reached over her shoulder and blasted at the offending weapon. But as the chakram dissipated and her wound quickly healed, she felt something impact upon her board. This was followed closely by the feel of something cold and sharp at her throat. "Game over, Surfer," came Spirit's voice. Quickly looking about, the metallic saw Spirit standing upon her board, the Soul Sword in hand and ready to do substantial damage to her throat. "I think this round goes to me."

Pausing to consider the matter, the Silver Surfer then looked squarely at her friend. "The attack with the boulders was simply a diversion."

"That's right," Spirit nodded. "While you were busy blowing them up, I threw my Halo Chakram and had it come at you from behind. And while you were busy dealing with it -"

"You flew up to take advantage of my distraction," the Silver Surfer concluded. As her friend again nodded, the high-flying boarder considered the matter for a time before conceding, "Your strategy was successful, in and of itself. But it would not have won the battle for you."

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Spirit wondered, clearly perplexed. "I have a sword at your throat! One move, and..." Trailing off, she then drew the forefinger of her free hand across her neck. "Well, just be glad I wouldn't actually do something like that."

"I am grateful for that. However, your strategy suffers from two very serious flaws," the Silver Surfer pointed out. "The first is that you are standing on the board, whose surface I control. I am capable of trapping you inside the board, or conjuring a weapon to attack with you."

Blinking a few times at this, Spirit looked down upon the mercurial surface she stood on, and grimaced. "Okay, true," she conceded before again looking up at her friend. "But I could still slice you up before you got rid of me!"

"Which brings me to the second flaw in your strategy," the Silver Surfer went on. "In my transformed state, even out of out contact with the board, I am more durable then a normal human. Even if you were successful in removing my head from my body, the board would still react to my situation and absorb my head and body, healing me fully." Giving this a moment to sink in, she then added, "So while you would inconvenience me, you would also put yourself at a disadvantage."

Again, Spirit groaned in dismay. "Ugh...good point," she finally admitted. "And here I was trying to forget how Asuka blew you in half..."

"In battle, we need to keep our strengths and weaknesses in mind at all time, as well as those of our enemies," the Silver Surfer informed her friend. "That can mean the difference between victory and defeat."

"Okay, okay," Spirit grumbled, dispelling her Soul Sword. "Oh, well...if I'm gonna screw up, I'd rather do it in training." Then she frowned, glancing to the side before asking, "So how much longer until Lilith contacts us with Storm?"

"Less than five minutes," the Silver Surfer immediately reported.

"In that case, let's take a break from training. I want to be ready for...for whatever it is that Storm has to say," Spirit decided, spreading her wings and leaping off the board.

Unable to argue with this, the Silver Surfer descended after her friend. As Spirit touched down on the ground, she looked over at her fellow superwoman and asked, "By the way...I meant to ask you this earlier, but...has there been any word on Shinji? Any idea when Gendo's gonna let him out?"

"No," the Silver Surfer admitted, saddened by this reminder of one of the few problems in her life that her board could do nothing to correct. "Misato has been inquiring at the base, trying to find a way of helping Ikari-kun, but...so far, she has been unsuccessful." Then she lowered her eyes to the ground and admitted, "She has to be careful. If she were to do something that would result in Commander Ikari dismissing her..."

"Then she wouldn't be your guardian and Gendo could do whatever he wanted," Spirit growled disgustedly. As the Silver Surfer continued to look at her own feet, the winged adventuress frowned in consideration. "You know...there have been plenty of people who thought that they could do whatever they wanted to anybody for some reason. Whether because they had a special position or they had gun or a knife or just because they were crazy enough to think that way. But sooner or later, people like them always go down. Adolf Hitler, the Red Skull, Mussolini - they all went down, sooner or later."

For a moment, the Silver Surfer considered saying that none of them were Gendo Ikari. But even as this notion occurred to her, she studied her friend, and realized the intent of her words. "You're saying that...sooner or later, Commander Ikari will be defeated."

"Right," Spirit nodded. "We just have to think of something we can use against him." As the Silver Surfer considered this, her friend went on to say, "And while we're doing that, we can also think of ways we can cheer Shinji up once he's out of the NERV prison."

Pausing to consider this, the Silver Surfer nodded. "Yes. We can do that."

"And maybe there's some other stuff that we can do," Spirit continued, her expression more thoughtful now. "Didn't you tell me that Gendo was gonna fire the pilot of that transport plane that Unit 01 was on?"

"Yes," the Silver Surfer confirmed. "Commander Ikari said that he would make an example of Lieutenant Yamamura, to ensure the obedience of those under his command. He's already subjected him to a full dishonorable discharge, and is now making arrangements to insure that he and his family remain unemployed indefinitely."

Spirit's eyes widened somewhat, just before her faced hardened like granite. "I swear, the more I hear about Commander Ikari, the more I feel like Shinji must be adopted," she grumbled. "How can someone so evil have a son like that, anyway?!"

"I do not know," the Silver Surfer admitted. "However, I can assure you that Shinji is Commander Ikari's son by blood."

A beat passed as Spirit gave the metallic superwoman a strange look, then snorted. "Then he obviously takes after his mother," she finally grumbled. "The point is that we can't just let Gendo do whatever he feels like. He's wrecking lives and setting up the human race to completely wiped out! And we can't let him do that!"

"Agreed," the Silver Surfer nodded. "But while I know what is needed to be done in order to prevent SEELE's plans, I do not know how I can help Lieutenant Yamamura and his family, or Ikari-kun." Pressing her lips together, the silver-skinned girl admitted, "I was...going to ask if you had any...thoughts on what we can do."

Frowning in a thoughtful manner, Spirit placed her hands to her hips. "I'm not too worried about Shinji. Like you once said, Gendo needs him to pilot. He can't afford to do anything drastic in his case." Nodding to this, the Silver Surfer listened as her friend continued. "As for this Yamamura and his family...if he can't get a job, then he's going to need to get money from somewhere else."

"That will not be possible," the Silver Surfer assured her. "As I said, Commander Ikari is making arrangements to insure that he and his family cannot find employment. He is also making certain that his is denied any and all assistance from support programs."

Her features darkening that much more, Spirit spat, "That twisted, evil -!" Cutting her off with a noise of disgust, the winged wonder then declared, "Then it's up to us. We have to make sure he gets the help he needs!"

"But how?" the Silver Surfer inquired. "I considered using the board to make food, but I cannot supply him or his family with money. Counterfeiting is illegal, and mass amounts of counterfeit money would damage the -"

"Wait!" Spirit cried out, holding up her hands to her friend. As the Silver Surfer paused, her friend's lips twisted into a smile of utmost deviousness. "Why create money for him...when we can get Yamamura the real thing?"

Taken aback by these words, the Silver Surfer considered this idea for a moment. "Do you mean you wish to steal the money Yamamura and his family needs?" she asked distastefully. "Spirit, I -"

"Who said anything about stealing it?!" Spirit demanded, her smile broadening into a wide grin. "Surfer, I -!"

Greetings, children, came the powerful, gentle voice of Lilith, cutting Spirit off. I apologize for disturbing you, but the time has come. Storm is ready to speak with you now.

Frozen with surprise from Lilith's intrusion, Spirit needed a moment to recover. "I don't think I'll ever get used to that," she muttered, running her hand through the massive tresses of hair that hung from her head. "So...this is going to be like last time, right? You're going to send us to that dream world where we're all linked together?"

Yes, Lilith confirmed. It is the only way to be certain that Adam's children do not become aware of your interaction.

Heaving a deep sigh, Spirit shook her head ruefully. "Okay, but...that was plenty weird the first time!" she grumbled. "Still...you ready, Surfer?"

"Yes," the Silver Surfer returned with a quick nod.

Pausing just long enough to roll her eyes skywards, Spirit sighed before saying, "Oh, well...might as well get it over with."

Very well then, my children, Lilith spoke. Let yourselves relax, and I shall bridge the gaps between you.

Almost instantly, the sights and sensations of the world around the Silver Surfer disappeared. The last thing she heard before it faded away completely was Spirit muttering, "This is all so weir..." And then that was gone, too, and in its place was the simple apartment that Rei Ayanami had come to know so well.

As the Silver Surfer looked about the warm, peaceful environs that had become a sanctuary for her, she was tempted for a moment to just relax, to enjoy this place that was her. But she did not, for it wasn't home. And not just because it wasn't the real apartment that she had been brought into, but it also lacked the people that had so eagerly welcomed her into their lives. The people that had risked so much, and all for her benefit.

Ikari-kun... the Silver Surfer thought sadly, only to furrow her brows before urging her board to move forward. There would be time for such thoughts later. For now, she had to find the others.

As the Silver Surfer flew through the walls of the illusory apartment, she found herself in the expanse of the Geofront. Momentarily jolted by the impossibility of this, she reminded herself that this was an amalgamation of her thoughts with those of the others, drawn from their minds. And as she flew forth, her surroundings became ever more chaotic, with buildings mashed together, forest running into towering skyscrapers, and more.

"Ugh..." came a familiar groan from somewhere off to the side. Looking about, the Silver Surfer saw Spirit rising up towards here. "I was hoping this place would be at least a bit less crazy with only three of us instead of four. So much for that." As the winged superwoman approached, she paused and glanced about. "Any sign of Storm yet?"

"No," the Silver Surfer reported. "But she should be here soon. As long as we remain here, we are highly visible. As soon as she sees us, she'll come."

Unable to refute this, Spirit simply nodded. And sure enough, a figure garbed in a black-and-gold bikini with a similarly colored cape soon appeared, gliding effortlessly through the sky of the mindscape. "I don't think I'll ever get used to this," Storm admitted as she approached. "Thank you for agreeing to meet with me like this."

"No problem. Though..." Spirit hesitated, looking about their chaotic surroundings. "Maybe we can take this meeting to someplace that doesn't look quite so...insane?"

"I would appreciate that," Storm confessed with a rueful smile. "I noticed an outdoor cafe nearby. It...well, it looks as normal as possible in this place. Let's go there."

"Fine by me," Spirit decided, and with that, Storm turned and flew off. Both the Silver Surfer and her friend were quick to follow, and before long, they were seated at a pleasant cafe. The outside was littered with comfortable seats and tables, and were protected from the sun by wide umbrellas.

"Whew. That is better," Spirit conceded as she sat back. "At least I don't have to look at that crazy sky." Then she frowned somewhat and scanned their surroundings. "Still...it's so quiet..."

"I know," Storm admitted. She looked as if she was considering saying something else, but then she shook her head. "Look, I...I am sorry for this, but there's something very important that I need to talk to you both about."

"Lilith told us that," the Silver Surfer pointed out. "However, before we start, there is something I would like to ask you." When Storm wrinkled her brow in confusion, the mercurial superwoman asked, "It pertains to the last battle. Were we successful in convincing the Angels that NERV is capable of defeating them unassisted?"

A heavy silence passed, in which Storm lowered her gaze in an expression of sadness. "Yes. Yes, we were," she eventually answered. "My brothers and sisters...some were angered that Gladiator and I did nothing to help Sahaquiel, but ultimately, they were satisfied that NERV has power, that they are capable of standing against the Angels unassisted. They will continue to follow the All-Father's path." Issuing a mild sigh of relief at this, the Silver Surfer cut it out when the weather witch continued. "That's part of the reason I've come to you now. You see -"

"Excuse me, ladies?" came an unfamiliar voice even as Storm opened her mouth to speak. As the weather witch's eyes visibly bulged, she and the Silver Surfer turned towards the source of the voice. Only for their jaws to pop open when they saw a well-muscled man wearing a pair of fine pants and a bowtie and nothing in between looking about them. "Can I take your order?"

Even as the Silver Surfer struggled to process what was happening, Spirit smiled and replied, "Why, yes. I'd like a glass of mint tea and some sweet dumplings."

"Very good," the man replied with a polite bow of his head. Then he turned towards the Silver Surfer and Storm. "And what about you fine ladies?"

As the Silver Surfer stared in silence at the impossible waiter, Storm gave her a harsh glare and demanded, "Where...did he come from?! I thought that we were alone here!"

"Oh, him?" Spirit broke in as the waiter continued to smile. "He's just something I dreamt up."

Glancing once more at the waiter, the Silver Surfer frowned. "You...imagined him?"

"That's right," Spirit confirmed. "This place was getting on my nerves, what with how quiet is and everything. But...since Lilith said that this place was drawn from our minds, I decided to see if I could...control it. You know, like they say you can control dreams." Then she glanced over at the waiter and gave a naughty smirk. "I guess it works."

As she studied the specimen of manhood Spirit had conjured up, the Silver Surfer was unable to argue with this. "I understand how you feel, but...you shouldn't distract yourself like that," Storm told her. "I realize that...you don't have any reason to trust me, but...this really is important."

"I'm not saying it isn't. I just wanted to be comfortable while we're talking, that's all," Spirit protested. "So, would you two like anything?"

Uncertain as to what she should do, the Silver Surfer glanced over at Storm, who simply sighed. Deciding that it did not matter, the mercurial superwoman turned back to Spirit and said, "Order something for me, Spirit. And for Storm as well. We will focus on the matter at hand."

"Suit yourself," Spirit replied before turning towards the bare-chested waiter.

Trying to picturing her friend acting like this in her role as the class representative and failing utterly, the Silver Surfer returned her attention to Storm. "What was it that you wanted to talk to us about?"

A beat passed before Storm replied. "Ireul, the 11th Messenger and Angel of Terror will soon manifest," she began in a low, serious voice. "He will appear within the Geofront, within NERV Headquarters itself."

"What?!" Spirit bleated, her face falling in astonished horror. "An Angel - inside NERV?!"

"That is correct," Storm confirmed. "I'm...not sure precisely when it will happen. All I know is that it will happen soon." Pausing to glance between her fellow superwomen, the weather witch tensed herself. "I came to the both of you to ask you - no...to beg of you - please, do not attack Ireul. Do not interfere with his mission."

As Spirit's face sagged in astonished confusion, the waiter she had conjured vanished. "Wait - are you serious?!" she demanded, sounding as if she was caught between laughing and shouting. "You honestly want us to ignore an Angel when it just happens to be attacking NERV Headquarters?! Where it can -?!"

"Ireul's mission is not to attack NERV, Spirit," Storm broke in harshly. "The success of his mission could be essential to a peaceful end to this war."

Now Spirit was even more visibly astonished, not that the Silver Surfer could blame her. Sitting back in her chair, she scowled at Storm and folded her arms even as the waiter reappeared. "Oh, this is gonna be interesting," she muttered, taking a glass of tea and a spit laden with dumplings from the waiter. "How is an Angel breaking into NERV supposed to help make peace?"

Shifting her gaze towards the Silver Surfer, Storm said, "You once told me about SEELE, the organization that you claim is responsible for orchestrating Adam's downfall and 2nd Impact. And you claimed that proof of this could be found within the MAGI of NERV Headquarters."

"That is correct," the Silver Surfer nodded. "I offered to retrieve the evidence for you."

"I know. And I refused, simply because I knew that my brothers and sisters would never believe this evidence if it came from you," Storm explained. "That is why we have waited so long to retrieve it; because the only way they would accept such proof is if one of our own was to retrieve it. And Ireul is the only one of my brothers with the capability of doing so without being detected, or causing tremendous damage and loss of life in the process." Then she leaned towards the Silver Surfer, her eyes narrowed intensely. "That is why I've come to you. Ireul will soon manifest, and he has been charged with retrieving the evidence you spoke of."

"And you wish for us to allow him to do so," the Silver Surfer intuited.

"Yes," Storm confirmed. "I know that I'm asking a great deal of you, but please - Silver Surfer, Spirit - I beg you! Let Ireul go about his mission unmolested! If you were speaking the truth, then the information within the MAGI could be essential to convincing the remaining Angels to cease their aggressions against humanity!"

The Silver Surfer narrowed her eyes slightly as she considered this matter. If Storm was telling the truth, then not only was Ireul's mission essential, but if she or Spirit were to interfere with it, then such an action could very well convince Storm and the remaining Angels that she had been lying about SEELE. And given the present instability within the Angelic collective, something like that could very well trigger the Angelic rampage they had hoped to avoid. "I...understand your feelings, Storm," she finally began. "But...I do have concerns. How will Ireul be able to retrieve the evidence?"

"Ireul's form. It will be that of a - well...I guess the best way of describing it would be as...a disease," Storm hesitantly responding. "A collection of microscopic organisms - like nanites - that act together as one. He will be able to infest the MAGI themselves, search their files for the proof you spoke of."

With Storm's explanation, the mercurial superwoman grew even more concerned. "If Ireul is capable of doing so, then he is also capable of accessing other functions of the MAGI. Weapons, defense systems," the Silver Surfer gravely intoned. "In theory, he would even be able to access NERV's self-destruct systems."

"NERV has a self-destruct?!" Spirit demanded, the dumplings she had been munching on falling from her hand as her eyes again bulged.

"Yes. It was designed to obliterate any and all Angels in the event that NERV was hopelessly overrun and there was no hope of defeating them by any other means," the Silver Surfer explained. "The base self-destruct is capable of obliterating the entirety of the Geofront, along with Tokyo-3."

Her eyes rounding with horror, Spirit groaned before slouching forward. "I think I just lost my appetite," she grumbled, tossing aside her glass of tea. "And I thought I had trouble sleeping before...?"

"I'm aware of these defenses, as well as the self-destruct system. As are the rest of my kin," Storm solemnly confessed. "So I do understand why you're worried! But please, believe me! Ireul's only interest is finding the truth! And if you interfere with him, my brothers and sisters will take it as proof that you were lying!" Then the wind rider frowned, her eyes falling as she added, "And...if he were to be...killed..."

Then the chaos pervading the collective would worsen. Making it that much more likely that the remaining Angels would rampage. "Oh, great," Spirit muttering, the emotion in her words summing up what the Silver Surfer felt. "But - Storm - can you be sure that this Angel won't do anything crazy?! You said it yourself; all of the Angels are going insane! What if he -?!"

"He won't!" Storm blurted out, rising to her feet and smashing her fists down upon the table. Both the Surfer and Spirit recoiled as the simple table shattered beneath her blow, breaking apart entirely. Sucking in a gasp of realization, the weather witch brought up her hands, staring at them for a time before closing them and lowering them. "I...I understand, and...you're right. We are all succumbing to the madness. But I am asking you to trust me. We can hold the collective together for a while longer. And Ireul has assured me that he will not attack...unless he is forced to do so."

For a time, both Spirit and the Silver Surfer stood there in silence, considering Storm's words. As the mercurial superwoman glanced over at her friend, the winged wonder gave a helpless sigh. "What do you think, Surfer?" she asked at last. "You understand the Angels a lot better than I do. So...what do you think?"

Frowning as the burden of decision was again placed upon her, the Silver Surfer looked from her friend to Storm and back again, knowing full well that she was up against the wall. If Storm was correct, then to interfere with Ireul would be tantamount to signing the death warrant for every being on the planet. But at the same time, if Ireul intended to attack after all, or if the madness overtook him as it had Sahaquiel...

I wish I could talk to Misato about this, the Silver Surfer finally decided. She would likely know what to do in a situation like this. Then the metallic girl frowned in a thoughtful manner. What would she do in my place?

For a time, the Silver Surfer considered Misato's actions in various situations. When in battle against an enemy that was clearly poised to strike, she was quick to implement counter-measures and battle strategies to deal with an attacker. But at the same time, when dealing with this situation with Shinji where her actions could have dire consequences, she hesitated. She tried to find a way of handling the situation without causing harm.

That's what I have to do. I have to deal with this situation without causing harm, the Silver Surfer finally decided. I have to be ready...for whatever happens.

With this in mind, the Silver Surfer met Storm's gaze. "Very well. We will not oppose Ireul," she assured the wind rider. "But only as long as he does not attack. We will monitor his actions when he manifests. As long as he does as you say, we will do nothing that would imperil him. However, if he does something to endanger the people of this city, or attempts to activate the self-destruct systems of NERV, then we will stop him by any means necessary."

Moments passed as Storm considered this, her expression one of controlled neutrality. "Very well. I can accept that," she finally, reluctantly declared. "There is something else. Tabris has asked me to keep Ireul from harm if at all possible. So when he manifests, I will dispatch Gladiator to NERV. Upon the completion of Ireul's mission, he will rescue my brother from NERV."

"Rescue a virus?!" Spirit wondered incredulously. "How's he going to do that?!"

"As I said, Ireul's form will be that of a collective of nanite-like organisms," Storm reminded them. "As long as Gladiator can retrieve something that has even some of those organisms, Ireul shall live. And the Angelic collective will remain more stable." Then she gave a low sigh and muttered, "For the time being, at least."

Finding no fault in this, the Silver Surfer nodded. "Very well. We shall allow Gladiator to do so, but again, only if he does not attack anyone at NERV."

Nodding to this, Storm replied, "I'll inform Gladiator of this. Thank you."

"Um, wait. Hold up," Spirit suddenly broke in. As both of the other superwomen eyed her, the silver-haired girl went on to say, "Look, as the Surfer said, we'll be there to keep an eye on things. But if we get spotted by NERV, then it'll look weird if we're just standing around, doing nothing while an Angel or Gladiator is ripping the place apart. So...we might at least have to make a show of trying to stop them." Frowning her confusion at her friend, the Silver Surfer looked hard as Spirit elaborated with, "If an Angel shows up and we're not around, then they might start wondering who asked us to stay out of its way. And then there's Commander Ikari and SEELE! If they see us letting an Angel go -!"

"Then they'll wonder why we did so," the Silver Surfer concluded, realizing the thrust of her friends words. "And they'll be suspicious of what Ireul was doing in the MAGI."

"Not to mention that they could show the entire world security footage of us letting an Angel getting away!" Spirit added. "NERV is already after us all! I don't want to give them anything they can use to turn people against us!"

Spirit's words making further sense, the Silver Surfer nodded and then turned towards Storm. "I understand. We have to be careful not to alert either my brothers and sisters, or anyone else," the wind rider finally replied with a polite bow of her head. "I'll inform Gladiator that his primary focus will be the rescue of Ireul, and that he is to refrain from fighting against you if at all possible."

"Good," the Silver Surfer returned with a polite of her own head. "Is there...anything else?"

Storm opened her mouth to say something, but then she paused and frowned, glancing off to the side in thought. "Actually...there is one other thing," she hesitantly answered. "When I spoke with Lilith last night, I...well, we had a long talk about...the possibility of peace between humans and Angels. And...she said something that didn't make a lot of sense."

"Lilith's words do not always make sense at first," the Silver Surfer noted, having experienced this more times than she cared to admit. "But I have found that they invariably help." Cocking her head to the side, the sky surfing superwoman asked, "What was it that she said to you?"

"She said that, while peace might be impossible to achieve while things are as they are, that things didn't have to remain that way," Storm answered. "Do you...have any idea what that could mean?"

Frowning at this typically enigmatic statement, the Silver Surfer admitted, "No, I do not. But I am certain that it is important."

"Maybe it just means what it sounds like?" Spirit chimed in, drawing the gazes of the others. "You know, that just because it's impossible for us to make peace with the Angels right now, doesn't mean that we can't make it possible for peace?"

"Perhaps," Storm admitted. "But what could we change? Lilith...she showed me her attempt to make peace with Adam. And...it did not end well." Knowing well what the weather witch spoke of, the Silver Surfer grimaced. "And my brothers and sisters...without Adam to guide us, we are all going insane! We need his guidance! And if - when he returns, if he refuses to make peace, then -!"

As Storm cut herself off, the Silver Surfer considered the matter. "There may well be a solution, Storm. Even if we don't know what it is," she finally intoned. "Spirit and I will consider the matter, and I'll discuss it with Lilith later. Perhaps by working together, we can find a solution. A way of saving both races."

Silence reigned as these words echoed through the mental landscape. "I hope you're right," Storm finally said, allowing a tiny smile to crease her lips. Then she heaved a deep sigh. "Well...I've...said everything I needed to say." Giving the other superwomen a sheepish look and a helpless shrug, the weather witch added, "And...I'm sure you have...things of your own to take care."

"Yeah, we do," Spirit confirmed with a rueful smile.

"Then...I guess that's it, then," Storm concluded. "I'll...take my leave of you then." Then she gave a wan smile of her own. "I...only hope that...when next we meet...it'll be under...better circumstances."

"Agreed," the Silver Surfer seconded with a nod of her head.

With that, Storm looked up at the false sky. "Lilith...please release us now."

As you wish, child, came Lilith's gentle voice. Mere moments later, the world around them shattered like the illusion it was, returning the Silver Surfer and Spirit to where they had been when they had been ensconced into the world of their shared mind.

"Whew...that's one thing I really hope I never have to get used to..." Spirit muttered grumpily. "So...what now?"

Giving her friend a look, the Silver Surfer replied, "Before Lilith contacted us, you were telling me of an idea you had to help Lieutenant Yamamura and his family."

Her eyes widening in surprise at mention of this, Spirit smiled sheepishly before smacking herself in the forehead. "Oh, right! I'd almost forgotten!" Giving a hapless shake of her head, as if unable to believe she'd done something like that, the winged wonder turned a devious smile towards the Silver Surfer. "Anyway, here's what I had in mind...!"

As the Silver Surfer heard out what Spirit had in mind, she eventually found herself smiling a small smile of her own. For while her friend's plan was a diamond in the rough, when properly refined, it should prove quite effective. If it works, then we'll be able to stop Commander Ikari from destroyed the lives of Lieutenant Yamamura and his family. Then she frowned slightly before adding, I only hope...we can find a way to help Ikari-kun as well...

Shinji really hated the ceiling above him. He had come to be used to the formerly unfamiliar ceiling of his room in Misato's apartment, and genuinely disliked the ceiling of NERV Medical, if for no other reason than he hated waking up to see it after he had had been brutalized. But he had come to the conclusion that he hated the ceiling of the NERV detention center most of all.

It had been three days since Shinji had been placed in solitary confinement under his father's orders. Three long, boring, lonely days when he had had nothing to occupy his time and distract him from his thoughts. He lacked even the comforting music of his SDAT to fill the empty hours and sooth his troubled heart.

Not that the batteries would have lasted long, Shinji muttered inwardly. Or that it would have done anything to change what I'm feeling...

When Shinji had first come to Tokyo-3, it had not been Gendo's invitation or the shameless picture Misato had sent of herself that had truly drawn him there.

It had been the past. It had been memories of better, happier times in his life, when Gendo Ikari had not been the cold, heartless Commander of NERV that everyone knew and fear. A time when he had been Shinji's father, a time when the present 3rd Child had known a father's love and a mother's embrace alike. Memories that he had carried with him during the awful ten years that had passed after Yui's passing, after Gendo had turned him away and dumped him at the train station, with no one and nothing but a few belongings and his own misery and tears.

Those memories had been the only thing, the only joy and escape from the misery of an existence in which Shinji had met friends, only for them to move away or disappear almost instantly. In a life where he was brought up by someone who made it perfectly clear that he didn't care whether Shinji lived or died.

Those memories had been the only thing to keep Shinji going. To give him hope that one day, things might actually change. And even when he had arrived in Tokyo-3 and learned of the real reason for which Gendo had brought him here, even when he saw how horribly Gendo treated Rei and how far he had gone to keep her trapped in that abysmal hovel, even when Gendo had set Misato up to be the scapegoat in the event of NERV's failure, that hope had remained. It had been diminished, but it had been with him.

But no more. Those hopes were dead in Shinji's heart no. They had died on the day when Gendo had punished Shinji for fighting to save the lives of heroes. When Gendo had looked him in the eye, and condemned him for trying to save the lives of those that had saved humanity and defeated the Angels, over and over again. Had looked Shinji squarely in the eyes, and without heart, without compassion, without any concern over the boy that was his son, had placed him in the detention center.

When Misato put me here...it was because she was upset about me disobeying orders, and putting Toji and Kensuke in danger, Shinji thought, recalling his second battle against an Angel. How Unit 01's power cable had been severed, and with two non-combatants at risk, she had wanted for him to retreat to the safety of the Geofront. And in all honesty, he couldn't blame her for this, simply because it was the truth; he had disobeyed orders and imperiled those that had since become his friends. But...I know Misato didn't want to. She was upset about so much.

And more importantly, Misato had proven that she did care about the boy she had taken into her home. She was clumsy about it, but she had demonstrated her compassion, both for Shinji and Rei.

Gendo had no compassion for anyone. Not for Rei, whom he treated so poorly. Not for Misato, whom he would have punished to save himself. And certainly not for Shinji. All Gendo cared about was getting what he wanted. And he would do whatever he could, hurt whomever he wanted, in order to get it. He would...

The hideous creaking noise of the detention center door opening interrupted Shinji's thoughts, prompting him to look up and off to the side. Wondering what was going on, he looked on and waited as the sound of footsteps echoed through the cavernous corridor, followed by a faint, squeaking noise. Narrowing his eyes, he peered about the confines of his prison cell, wondering what was happening.

It wasn't long before the source of the footsteps stepped in front of the bars of his prison, and confronted Shinji with the soulless glow of his glasses. No emotion to his features, no warmth in his appearance.

Father... Shinji thought, scowling at the man that stood before him. Then he frowned, and realized that he was wrong.

The man that stood before him was Gendo Ikari.

He wasn't his father. He had already proven that he was no longer his father.

And as the two of them looked at each other, Shinji began to think that he stopped being his father a long time ago.

"3rd Child," Gendo began, his features hard and cold as granite. "You stand charged with gross insubordination, assault on a designated child, damage of NERV property, and aiding and abetting known enemies of NERV. Any of these charges are suitable grounds for a full court martial. Possibly even execution." Giving all of this a moment to sink in, the Commander of NERV then asked, "Do you have anything to say to this?"

Looking deep into the cold disks that obscured Gendo's eyes, Shinji hesitated but a moment before answering. "I don't know what you're trying to do here...Commander," he intoned, mildly surprised how could his voice sounded, even to him. "All I know is that I'm sick of what you're doing. You say that I'm siding with the enemies of NERV, that trying to help heroes is wrong." Furrowing his brows even more deeply, he then added, "I don't know why the Angels are attacking us. I don't know why they hate us so much. All I know is that...whatever they are...you're an even bigger monster than them."

Completely unfazed by Shinji's words, Gendo wondered, "Shall I take this as meaning that you refuse to pilot anymore?"

"No," Shinji immediately replied, and this time, it was clear from the way his eyes widened ever so slightly that Gendo had not been expecting this response. "I'm not going to run away. I'm not going to leave this city. Not when the people are in danger." Then he stared coldly at the man that had brought him to this place. "But I'm not going to kill the Surfer or Spirit. I'll pilot to protect people. I won't be your executioner."

"Then you are useless to me," Gendo intoned in that cold, harsh voice of his. "I have no time to waste on a petulant child who won't do as he's told." Heaving a deep, thoughtful breath, the Commander then admitted, "However...at this time, I do not have the...luxury of dismissing you." Then his glasses shown a deeper, colder light, and he intoned, "Still, I will see that you will learn respect for me, and for NERV." Then he looked off to the side, the squeaking sound was heard again. "And suffering will be your teacher."

Taking a few steps back, Gendo watched as a cart rolled into view. Shinji couldn't make out what was on it, but he could see perfectly well when Captain Iwao Chiron stepped before it. Getting a very bad feeling as to what was about to happen, the 3rd Child looked on as the Section 2 head slid a keycard through the reader next to the cell door and popped it open. All the while wearing a cruel, eager smile.

Gendo wasn't Shinji's father anymore. And as Shinji watched both men, noting the way the Commander simply stood there, looking on dispassionately as Chiron wheeled the cart in, he realized that Gendo never would be again.

"I swear, one of these days, I'm gonna break that one-eyed troll's face in!" Mari Illustrious Makinami grumbled loudly as she paced about the room she was in, shooting the occasional glance at a nearby table. "I'm gonna rip his head off of his shoulders, and shove it up his ass with a cactus to keep it company!"

Mildly wondering if there was any way to keep said one-eyed troll's head alive so that it could adequately process the foul sensations to be found when up a man's rectum while in close proximity to a cactus, Mari paused in her pacing to glance over at nearby alcove, where a colorful uniform waited for her. As she looked at the uniform, the magenta-haired girl growled deep in her throat, because the suit was yet another reminder of the current sorry state of her life.

I know, Mom, I know! I should be smiling, not scowling! Mari thought, thinking of her younger years when her family had still been complete. It's like in the journals you read; life's too short to waste it on tears. And if this was any other situation, I'd probably be whipping out the bad jokes like there's no tomorrow. Then she scowled furiously as she began donning the outfit before here. But it's not that easy to make jokes when someone makes you the punch line of one of theirs!

With this in mind, Mari continued pacing about impatiently, wishing that she had had the foresight of bringing a book or some kind of video game with her in order to pass the time. Damn you, Fury! I don't know what you hauled my ass in here for, but after all the games you played with me, this better be -!

Mari's scathing thought was interrupted when the nearby table lit up. The dark, metallic surface shown with patterns of light, and a holographic screen appeared above it, baring simplistic image of a bird of prey. 'Attention: Incoming SHIELD message,' came a computerized voice. While Mari was rolling her eyes and muttered that it was about time, the computer went on to say, "Please verify identity and access level."

About damn time! Mari grumbled inwardly with a roll of her eyes. Making her way over to the table, she placed both hands on its surface. "Commence verification. Name; Mari Illustrious Makinami. Rank; Captain. Access Level 6. Verification code TAS-058."

'Handprint and voiceprint confirmed. Verification code accepted,' the computer voice returned, prompting Mari to stand up straight. "Welcome, Agent Makinami. Initiating decryption sequence."

With that, the SHIELD logo on the holographic display faded away, and was replaced by a host of scrolling numbers. But those soon disappeared as well, and in their stead was the image of a man with a crimson mustache and a blue bowler hat. "Hello, there, lass."

"Hi there, Major Dum Dum," Mari grumbled in a somewhat less nasty tone of voice. "Just out of curiosity, do you have any idea what time it is over here?"

"I know, I know. You're supposed to be in school right now," Dugan returned, holding up his hand in a soothing manner. "And haven't I told you not to call me Major Dum Dum?"

"Yes, you have," Mari snarked. "And I know you don't like it. Anymore than I like being called in for Priority One mission briefing on Fury's authority, having to excuse myself for school, dodge a whole bunch of Section 2 agents who are undoubtedly going to have a lot of questions for me later, are going to report my sneaking out of school to my Operations Director, who's going to have even more questions for me. And yet, I managed to get here five minutes before the designated briefing time...only to be made to wait half an hour for you to call about whatever it is the one-eyed big brother wants!"

"Half an hour?" Dugan repeated with a look of surprise. "Oh...I just...ugh..." Giving a tired shake of his head, the Irishman grumbled beneath his breath for a few moments before returning his attention to Mari. "Ach...I'm sorry, lass. I guess somebody got the time wrong." When Mari wrinkled her lips, making it clear that she was not impressed with this explanation, the Irishman went on to say, "SHIELD might be a top-secret organization, but we get our foul-ups every now and again, just like everyone else."

Yeah. Especially when Nick Fury gets involved! Mari grumbled inwardly.

Up until about two years ago, Mari's life had been fairly normal. She lived with her father, spent time reading the old war journals that her mother owned and missing the days when her family had been whole, playing sports and going to school, basically doing what any other twelve-year-old girl would do. But all of that came to an end on the day when SHIELD broke into her house, kidnapped her and her father, all to bring her to Major Timothy Dugan so he could tell her an amazing story, and so much more.

On that day, Mari had learned a hidden truth about her family. That she was the sole living descendant of the legendary World War II hero, Steven Rogers. The man that was known to the world at large as Captain America. Just as she had learned of the potential threat of NERV, and the tremendous power of their ultimate weapons, the Evangelions. And so, she had been effectively drafted by SHIELD, ostensibly for the purpose of infiltrating NERV as one of the pilots.

As a consequence of this, Mari had been subject to a more advanced version of the Super Soldier serum and Rebirth process that had been used to transform her great-grandfather into a human fighting machine, and she had been trained in hand-to-hand combat, martial arts, weapons, vehicles, and in piloting an Evangelion. All in preparation for the day that she would be sent to NERV Central and infiltrate it. To find out the secrets of NERV, and to help them wage war against the Angels.

But that day had never happened. Instead, some time before the Jet Alone disaster, Mari's life had been thrown into chaos once more. She had been practicing with Unit 05, the Evangelion that SHIELD had somehow managed to acquire for her, when a malfunction in its control systems had resulted in her causing severe damage to the training area of the 1st Branch of NERV. No one had been killed, but several people had been badly injured, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of NERV equipment had been ruined as a result.

During the investigation of the disaster, Mari had given a full report as to what happened. She made sure to tell the Operations Director and everyone else what gone wrong. But later on, after the investigation of the incident was complete, she was told that there was no sign of the malfunction that had caused the problem. As a result, not only was she blamed for everything that had gone wrong, but also condemned for lying in an attempt to cover it up. Between this and some political pressure being applied elsewhere, this incident doomed any chance she had of being sent to join the battle in Tokyo-3. Instead, she was shipped to NERV Germany, ostensibly to spy on them and Lorenz Keel, the head of the Instrumentality Committee.

But Mari was no idiot, despite what others might have thought of her. She knew that what had happened had not been her fault. And if NERV could not find any evidence of malfunction, this left only one possibility; sabotage. In which case, she doubted that NERV was the guilty party; if they had discovered her affiliation with SHIELD, then she could see them killing her or crippling her, but not ruining their own equipment just to make her look bad. The only thing this incident had done was make her look bad and untrustworthy in a warzone such as Tokyo-3.

And in the time after that disaster, after hearing some of the scuttlebutt from her SHIELD trainers in general and Phil Coulson in particular, it didn't take Mari long to realize who was responsible for what had happened. The man that had taken so much pleasure in chewing her out for her incompetence and ruining years of work and wasting taxpayer money. Who felt she was too uncontrollable, too unreliable to be placed in the heart of NERV operations, and thus had scuttled her for the mission for which she had been brought into SHIELD in the first place.

"Yeah, right. Just another mistake," Mari grumbled sourly. "I can't imagine Fury wanting to take another poke at me, just for shits and giggles."

Again, Dugan winced. "Look, lass, I know what Fury pulled was wrong. I know that full well. You've long since proven yourself. It ain't your fault he doesn't like the idea of you or anybody else trying to fill your great-grandfather's shoes." As Mari gave her mentor a sideways glance, the Irishman adjusted his hat and added, "But right now, we've got more important matters to deal with. Something of dire importance."

"Hmph! It'd have to be important if that chain-smoking cyclops wants to put a - what did he call me?" Pausing to finger her lips, Mari then snapped her fingers. "Oh, yeah! That's right! A braindead, hyperactive adrenaline junkie who treats everything like one big game and is only good for taking a bad situation and making it worse!"

Dugan's features creased with shame at this, and as she looked at her mentor, Mari sighed, and felt shame of her own. Shame for taking her frustrations out on one of the few people at SHIELD that had treated her well, with respect. Heaving a deep sigh, she paused to adjust her glasses before saying, "Oh...sorry, Dum Dum. I -"

"No, no, no, lass. You don't have to explain," Dugan quickly assured her. "Trust me, I know what it's like to be stuck on the bad end of bad orders. I'd likely be kicking in the walls if I was in your place." The Irishman gave a lopsided smile before remarking, "Dare I ask how your father's handling things?"

"You mean, aside from the fact that he already hates SHIELD and is POed about being stuck in a country where he doesn't speak the language? Not to mention that we're out here without any of the support and protection SHIELD promised us when they dragged us into this? Without even a quick way out of here if my cover is blown?" Mari remarked, wincing as she thought of the many rants her father had gone into since their arrival in Germany. "Let's just say that...now I know where I got the potty mouth from." When this mild joke succeeded in getting a chuckle from Dugan, the bespectacled girl asked, "And if we're done with the small talk portion of today's briefing, let's get down to business. What's got Fury in such a twist that he'd want me doing other than sitting around, looking cute all day long?"

"A big, bad problem, lass," Dugan informed her. "I'm sure you've heard all about the supergirls showing up in Tokyo-3, as well as that big purple lunk, Gladiator."

"Have I? Dum Dum, about the only way I couldn't have heard it is if I was a cave girl that had spent the entirety of my life frozen in a block of ice!" Mari assured him. "Word on base says that, if Gendo worked for Darth Vader, he would already have been Force Choked a dozen times over by now!"

"I don't doubt it, lass," Dugan smirked. "Well, we still don't know what the situation is with two of those girls, but we've managed to pin down something important about the Silver Surfer." As his face was replaced with the image of a mercurial girl riding on a surfboard of the same material, the Irishman went on to explain, "According to satellite surveillance and other sources, it looks like she gets all of her power from the board she rides on. Also, we learned that another of these half-Angel hybrids, the girl called Storm, paid a visit to NERV's 2nd Branch."

"Goldilocks's home base, huh?" Mari smiled, thinking of the bitch in sheep's clothing that was the only other American pilot. "I hope she didn't get hurt. Or anyone else, for that matter."

"Eh, details are sketchy at this point, lass. But we haven't heard of anybody getting hurt or killed." Then Dugan's expression hardened slightly. "The point of the matter is, our information says that she snagged a helmet from that base. A helmet that this Gladiator is presently wearing."

Mari was no idiot, despite what some people thought. So it took her only a moment to realize where Dugan was going with this. "Wait...so you're saying that this helmet is what made somebody a flying purple Eva-buster?!"

"That's the current theory, lass," Dugan confirmed. "We can't be a 100% certain about that, mind you, but given that Gladiator first showed up shortly after the helmet was stolen, it'd be an awfully big coincidence if one had nothing to do with the other." His eyes narrowing with deeper intensity, the Irishman continued in a graver manner. "But we do know that NERV has a bunch of these artifacts, and here's the clincher; Gendo Ikari, the Commander of NERV Central himself, recently got back from an expedition from what's left of Antarctica. Now, we weren't able to see what he was up to while he was there; satellite surveillance hasn't been worth much of anything in that part of the world since Second Impact. But when he got back, we were able to monitor him offloading something really big, as well as crates filled with strange objects."

"More artifacts, huh?" Mari intuited, not liking the way this was going. "You think NERV might be planning on making their own half-Angels? Fight fire with fire?"

"We don't know what their plans for these things are. However, we do know this," Dugan intoned, his voice turning that much more serious. "According to our intel, Chairman Lorenz Keel of the Human Instrumentality Committee is scheduled to arrive at NERV Germany."

"The head honcho himself, huh?" Mari returned with a raised eyebrow. "What's he up to?"

"Officially, he's supposed to be conducting an onsite inspection of the base facilities. But the truth is...we don't know what's he up to. And that's where you come in," Dugan informed her. "Tonight, you're to slip into the 3rd Branch, learn what Keel and the rest of them are up, and see if NERV really is playing around with these artifacts. If they are, then we want as much data as you can get on them, and if at all possible, one of the artifacts themselves."

"Right. Because I'm sure Fury wants a crack at whatever goodies NERV's stashing in their toy chest," Mari snarked. When Dugan made a face, the bespectacled girl gave him a cat-like smile. "Relax, Dum Dum! I never said I wouldn't do it! I've been hanging around here and doing enough small jobs for you to pick up a very healthy distrust of NERV." Then she cocked her head to the side and added, "But that doesn't mean that I haven't also picked up a healthy distrust of SHIELD in general, either."

A beat passed before Dugan sighed. "I guess I can't fault you for that. God knows we've had our hands in some shady deals in the past," the Irishman somberly admitted. "Just do me a favor, and put whatever problems you have with the Colonel on the backburner for now. You still have a job to get done."

"Don't worry, Dum Dum! I'll get Fury his intel and some souvenirs. In fact, if he's a very good boy, I'll even pick up some Black Forest cake from this nice little bakery I found when I got here!" Mari cracked. "Just be sure to tell him that, when this is over and I'm back home, I'm gonna pay him a visit, and take one of those awful cigars of his and shove right where it'll do the most good!"

Half-snorting a chuckle, Dugan replied, "I'll be sure to tell him that. But you better get on the job, Problem Child." Then he issued another, more genuine chuckle, he added, "And when you pull this one off, we'll see about given you a proper guard detail. Not to mention a victory dinner to celebrate."

"Yes, sir!" Mari returned, snapping off a quick salute.

Returning the salute in kind, Dugan nodded. "Take care, lass. Dugan out."

With that, the Irishman's visage disappeared, and soon after, the holographic display as well. Leaving the room as it was before. Leaving Mari to turn to the alcove where the colorful uniform waited. Where the battle suit and shield of Captain America waited for her to don them.

Great-grandpa...Steve... Mari thought even as she moved towards the battle suit and prepared to don it. I don't know if you'd have put up with the kind of crap that Fury is dishing out, but...I'm gonna do my best to live up to your name. I promise you that.

"Sempai! What happened?!" came Maya's voice. "Are you alright?"

"Huh?" Ritsuko returned, turning towards her understudy. Pausing to remove her reading glasses, she studied Maya's concerned face. "What is it?"

"Your arm!" Maya explained, gesturing at the doctor. "It's all bandaged up! What happened?"

Pausing to raise the arm in question, Ritsuko looked stupidly at it for a time before giving her younger friend a reassuring smile. "What, this?" she asked in a dismissive, carefree manner. "It's nothing, Maya. I just...tripped over something at home. Banged myself up a bit, that's all."

Pressing her lips together, Maya studied the bandaged arm for a time before asking, "Are you sure? I mean...your forearm is completely covered, and -"

"I'm fine, Maya," Ritsuko lied expertly, not wanting to alarm the younger woman. "Just got a little clumsy last night. Too much to do, not enough sleep...it happens."

It was plain from the look on Maya's face that she didn't believe the doctor's words, or at the very least, she was taking them with a grain of salt. But at the same time, she didn't have any real reason to disbelieve her, either. And so she gave Ritsuko a kindly smile and said, "Maybe, but...you should take better care of yourself, sempai."

"I know, I know," Ritsuko returned, giving her assistant an appreciative smile. Grateful to have gotten past that little hurdle. "Anyway, how goes the repairs on the Evangelions?"

"Smoothly," Maya reported. "Unit 01 is already fully operational, and per your orders, we've placed full priority on Unit 02." Then she gave the doctor a weary look. "But that still leaves Unit 00 inoperative. We have to cannibalize a lot of parts from it in order to get Unit 02 back to operational status after what Gladiator did to it. And with our budget the way it is, it's going to be a while before Rei will be able to pilot it again."

"True, but we don't have any other options," Ritsuko returned, picking up a cup of lukewarm coffee and wincing as she took a sip of it. "Besides, Rei's synch ability is the weakest of the Children. If any of them have to be sidelined, it's likely best it be her."

A derisive snort was heard of this. "With all due respect, doctor," came Makoto's voice, "Rei's not the one I'd like to see sidelined!" As Ritsuko turned towards the bespectacled otaku, who gave her a look of disbelief. "Well, c'mon! You know who I'm talking about!"

"I take it you're referring to Asuka," Ritsuko intuited in her usual, businesslike manner.

"You better believe I'm talking about her!" Makoto grumbled sourly. "I mean...did you see her when she shot down the Surfer?!"

"I know I did," Shigeru muttered, a scowl creasing his brow. "She was acting like she'd just won the lottery or something! And then when Shinji stopped her from blowing Spirit away...I'm telling you, that girl's sick in the head! She'd have killed us all, just to get at those girls!"

Making a face at this, Maya murmured, "I still can't believe it. I mean...she always seemed nice enough on base. A bit competitive, but..."

"Hey, we saw her, Maya. That bitch was wearing a slasher grin that would have fit in perfectly in a horror movie," Shigeru stated flatly. "She tried to kill those two, and she was loving every moment of it!"

"Besides, have you seen her lately?" Makoto wondered. "Ever since the Commander gave her that promotion, she's been looking down her nose at everyone on base!" Giving a derisive shake of his head, the otaku muttered, "Captain Sohryu. Every time I hear that, I think I'm going to be sick."

"Guess we should have figured that Commander would like her," Shigeru snorted disdainfully. "She hates those girls almost as much as he does. Who else would he put in charge except someone who wants to be his personal executioner?"

"I heard that!" Makoto returned with a nod. "And -"

"Excuse me, boys. But if I were you, I'd save that kind of talk for when you're not on base," Ritsuko broke in, giving the two of them a stern look. "I appreciate that you're unhappy about what's going on, but I don't think you should talk about it when you don't know for sure who's listening."

Giving a loud snort, Shigeru retorted, "With all due respect, Doctor, who's gonna care? I mean, is there anybody on this bridge who doesn't wish that the Devil wouldn't spend all of her time on base bragging about her 'big promotion', and who she was gonna -!"

"Wait, hold it, Shigeru!" Makoto broke in, holding up his hand to his friend. "Dr. Akagi, she's got a point! I mean...seriously, what if Fuyutsuki were to show up while we were talking? Or the Commander himself?"

"What?! Hey, what are the chances of that happening?" Shigeru demanded. "This isn't one of your comics, Makoto!"

"Hey, it could happen!" Makoto pointed out. "And given the unemployment lines these days, I'm not in the mood to risk the Commander hearing me when I -!"

"When you're doing what, Lieutenant Hyuga?" came a frighteningly familiar voice, one that froze the otaku in his seat, along with Shigeru and Maya.

As for Ritsuko, she turned about just in time to see Gendo stepping onto the bridge. As the doors slid closed behind him, he swept everyone and everyone present with a predatory gaze, his glasses reflecting a cold, soulless light. "Commander," the doctor spoke, acknowledging him with a polite bow of her head. "My apologies. We were -"

A could glare from Gendo quickly stilled Ritsuko's tongue in her mouth, leaving the doctor all but paralyzed. "Attention, everyone," the Commander announced, projecting his voice so that it seemed to fill the entirety of the room. Within an instant, everyone present on the bridge, no matter what they had been doing mere moments before, ceased what they were doing and swung their gazes towards the man that ruled NERV. "I have an announcement to make."

Giving this a moment to sink in, Gendo continued to sweep everyone present with his soulless gaze, freezing them in place effortlessly. "I am aware that, for some time now, many of NERV's personnel have been indifferent to the so-called superwomen that had been operating within Tokyo-3. That there are even those of you who view them as heroes, and even welcome their interference in NERV's business." His features wrinkling with disgust, Gendo went on to add, "There may even be those of you who feel that NERV and the Evangelions are no longer necessary. That we can simply turn the responsibility for the fate of this world over to them, that we can rely on them to save us from the Angels."

As the rest of the people on the bridge looked on, Ritsuko frowned. She knew what was happening; she had seen this sort of thing before, often with Fuyutsuki. Gendo was angry about the recent disasters resulting from the activities of the Silver Surfer and others, and now, he was reasserting his authority over them. He was putting on a show to make it clear that he was the power there, that his will was everything within the boundaries of Tokyo-3, and that he would brook no challenges to that authority.

"I'm telling you, all of you, that if you are wise, you will desist such foolishness immediately. These creatures have both damaged NERV's image to the world at large. Caused our backers in the UN and the Instrumentality Committee to question NERV's viability. Spread lies to the effect that NERV was in fact smuggling an Angel." Giving this a moment to sink in, Gendo again swiveled his baleful gaze across the bridge. "Through their actions and lies, these creatures are destroying NERV. They are attacking your lives and livelihood, decimating humanity's only true defense against the Angels. And this cannot be allowed to continue. I will not allow it to continue."

"I don't like this..." Ritsuko heard Maya whispering just beneath her breath, her voice so quiet that even the doctor, standing right next to her, could barely hear her words.

"From now, anyone who acts against the interests of NERV by either speaking in favor of these creatures or acting to prevent their capture or elimination will be severely punished," Gendo continued as if he had not heard Maya speak. "Furthermore, the Instrumentality Committee has given me free reign in deciding how such punishment is dealt. As such, I have decided to provide a...suitable example of just how serious the consequences of acting against NERV are."

So that's it, Ritsuko thought bitterly, unsurprised by this development. Gendo's authority was being challenged, his power threatened as a result of the actions of these human/Angel hybrids. And so he was responding in a painfully familiar fashion; by making an example of them. Still...this isn't good. If he's making a spectacle of it like this...

"During the engagement with the 10th Angel, the 3rd Child, pilot of Evangelion Unit 01, assaulted Captain Sohryu, and in doing so, allowed both the Silver Surfer and Spirit to escape, to continue to threaten NERV. And so I have personally seen that he has suffered the consequences of his foolishness and treachery." At this, Gendo made his way over to the doors, which obediently parted for him. "Captain Chiron, bring the 3rd Child in. So that everyone here can see just how serious these consequences can be."

"With pleasure, sir," came Chiron's hateful voice, followed quickly by the Section 2 head himself. A short distance behind him were two of his men, and between them...

Shinji... Ritsuko breathed, her eyes flying open in astonished horror. And it quickly became clear that she was not the only one who felt this way. All around her, the bridge personnel let out gasps of shock. Pens, pencils, and other assorted objects fell to the floor. At least one technician fell down on the floor. And to the doctor's side, Maya clasped her hands to her mouth, muffling either a scream, the urge to vomit, or both.

"Oh...my...god...!" Makoto breathed in abject horror.

"His face...!" Shigeru gasped, the color draining from his own features.

"I trust that you all now understand the consequences of acting against NERV's best interests," Gendo intoned, a slight, cruel smile curling the corner of his lips. When no one said anything in response, the Commander turned towards his personal thug. "Chiron, escort the 3rd Child home. I'll personally contact Captain Katsuragi, inform her that her charge is being returned to her care."

Nodding, Chiron grinned cruelly. "Yes, sir."

"And be sure to take the 3rd Child on an...extended trip through the base on the way," Gendo added. "I want everyone to understand fully...the price of treason against NERV."

I already know that price, Gendo, Ritsuko thought bitterly, her eyes narrowing with hatred and despair in equal measures as she studied his son. I learned that price a long time ago...

"Dammit, what's taking that porker so long?!" Misato demanded as she paced irritably about the living room even as Rei stood by, watching in silence. "It's been an hour since the Commander called and told me his was coming home!"

A beat passed before Rei softly remarked, "Actually, Misato...it's only been forty-seven minutes."

"Close enough," Misato irritably returned, not in the mood to mince words. And so scared and angry and a million other emotions that she was afraid to keep speaking, lest she inadvertently make Rei a target for her own inner torment.

When Misato had received the call from Commander Ikari, informing her that Shinji had been released from the NERV detention center, she had known even before the call was complete that something was wrong. She knew Gendo well enough to know that he didn't always use the same exact tone of voice; just like with Rei, there was enough variation in the way he spoke that a person who knew the Commander could pick out his moods from his voice alone. And the mood Misato discerned from Gendo's voice that day was one of triumph, of superiority.

The voice of someone who had just won a major battle, even if the enemy didn't know this yet.

Misato's concerns were sharpened when she said that she was going to come pick Shinji up, for Gendo to inform her that she was to remain where she was, that Section 2 was already en route to her apartment with the 3rd Child. The Chiron himself was personally escorting Shinji back home. On the surface, that might look like the head of NERV's secret police giving a proper guard detail to a NEW VIP, but Misato knew Chiron painfully well. She knew just what a thorough bastard he was, and how much contempt he had for women in general and her in particular. And thus she knew that the only reason he would undertake such a duty himself was if it offered him a chance to hurt her or put her down in some fashion.

And despite the fact that Shinji was a designated Child, despite the fact that he was desperately needed in order to pilot Unit 01, Misato couldn't help but fear how Chiron's involvement impacted the situation.

Dammit, Gendo! Chiron! Misato spat inwardly as she continued to pace about, feeling like a caged animal with no outlet for her frustrations. If you so much as hurt one hair on Shinji-kun's head...I don't care how long it takes or what I have to do, I'm taking both you bastard down! I swear it!

As Misato continued to wear a path in the floor, images of the revenge she would love to take on both Gendo and Chiron flashed through her mind. Horrible rage fantasies of how she would love to make them suffer, of the ways she could painfully torment them for daring to harm her little family until ending their pitiful existences.

Misato was no stranger to such fantasies. She had conjured up such imagery in the past, mostly in regards to her hatred for the Angels and how she longed for revenge upon them all. But she had concocted rage fantasies in regards to actual people as well. Kaji, Gendo, and others, she had pictured herself exacting revenge upon them for whatever reason she had at a particular moment.

Those fantasies were horribly intoxicating in a way, with the brief thrill of power they carried with them. But even more so, they were poisonous and sickening. leaving her feeling drained after they had run their course. And even worse, they did nothing to help Misato deal with whatever problem she had. All they did was poison her heart that much more.

I'm a child...even more of a child than Shinji and Rei... Misato thought bitterly. Too caught up in my own problems, in my past...why can't I -?

A harsh wrapping on the front door of the apartment sounded through the apartment. "Hey! Captain Whore! Open up!" came a voice that was even more irritating than nails on a chalkboard, bringing Misato to a halt. "I've got someone here you want to see!"

Chiron had arrived, Misato realized. And he was sounding far, far too cheerful. If she had been uncertain that she was not in for a happy reunion with her ward, this would have put such uncertainties to rest. Pausing to look over at Rei, who quietly returned her look, the purple-haired woman heaved a deep breath and started towards the door. "Hey, what's the holdup, slut?" Chiron went on, still using that poisonously happy voice. "Are you passed out on the floor? I've got your precious 3rd Child with me! Don't you want to see him?"

Her features creasing with rage, her fists clenching dangerously, Misato made her way to the door. Unlocking it and sliding it open, the purple-haired woman immediately found herself confronted by Chiron, who had was standing in such a way that he very nearly filled the entire doorway. Quickly glancing about, she scowled that much more when all she saw were more Section 2 people. "Alright, you porker," the purple-haired woman growled lowly, "where's Shinji?"

"What's the matter, slut? Are you in that big a need of someone to keep your private landfill clean?" Chiron inquired in a mocking tone, his words sending metaphoric plumes of steam billowing from Misato's ears. "Don't you have enough manners to even thank me for bringing the little bastard back to you?"

Biting back the urge to unleash a scathing diatribe regarding Chiron's lineage and breeding habits, Misato heaved a deep breath before retorting, "That depends. If you brought him back safely, then yes." Then she gritted her teeth and growled, "But if you did anything to him..."

"Relax. Neither I or any of my men laid so much as a finger on your little plaything," Chiron assured her. Then his smile creased with abject cruelty before he shifted over to the side, allowing Misato a better view outside her door. And sending her jaw plummeting in horror.

"At least...not after we left the base," Chiron added as Misato clasped her hands to her face. Very nearly falling over in horror at the sight of the 3rd Child.

Shinji was dangling helplessly between two Section 2 agents, their arms curled beneath their armpits. And as Misato studied her ward, it quickly became obvious why he was unable to stand on his own two feet. The simple prison outfit that he wore had been badly ripped and torn, revealing monstrous gashes and bruises all over his slender frame. His clothes were heavily stained with his own blood, but worst of all was his face. Both his eyes were blackened, with his left eye so badly swollen that it was completely shut. Dried blood had crusted beneath his nose and mouth, and more gashes and scrapes marked his features. His mouth hung open as he sucked in breath after pained breath, revealing a couple of broken teeth.

As Misato struggled not to scream, not to break down at the sight of her Shinji's mutilation, Chiron turned towards the agents carrying him. "What are you waiting for, men?" he asked in a poisonously polite manner. "Give the punk back to her."

Grinning in unison, the two agents tossed Shinji to the floor in front of Misato, prompted a gasping cry of consummate agony. This was the last straw for Misato, who immediately fell to her knees before her cherished ward. "Shinji!" she screamed, caught between wanting to scoop him up in her arms, and terrified of so much as touching him, left she somehow make his injuries worse. "I -!"

"What did you do to him?" came a hard, no-nonsense voice. Starting at it, Misato glanced over her shoulder, and saw Rei standing just behind her, her features hard as granite.

"Nothing the Commander said that I couldn't do," Chiron returned after a moment. "You see, he's...pretty upset about the way people have been talking about those so-called superheroes we've got flying around here. Particularly people like this..." he went on, pausing to nudge Shinji with his toe, "...so he had me make it very clear to this bastard that he won't be putting up with that sort of thing anymore."

At this statement echoed in Misato's mind, she looked up from her charge to Chiron, and in an instant, her mind was inundated with fury. "You...you tortured him?!" she shrieked. Leaping to her feet, she had just enough presence of mind to sidestep her fallen ward as she grabbed the Section 2 head by the hem of his jacket and pushed him against the rails that were the only thing standing between them and a drop of hundreds of feet. "You monster! I'll -!"

"You'll let me go and give me a proper apology, slut," Chiron broke in, not at all intimidated by Misato's interrupted threat. Every thought wiped away by the sheer rage this statement inspired in her, the purple-haired woman came dangerously close to shoving the Section 2 head off the walkway before he added, "Unless you want me have you brought up on charges of assault." Hesitating somewhat at these words, Misato watched as the dark-haired bastard smirked knowingly. "I'm sure the Commander would just love to have a reason to have you found as being an...unsuitable guardian for these two brats."

As these words penetrated the haze of fury that enshrouded her mind, Misato realized that Chiron was right. Gendo was using the children she had taken into her home, her life, and had made into her family against her. And as she realized this, she realized that she was in danger of throwing away those two children, of losing them. And allowing Gendo to once again do whatever he wanted to Shinji and Rei alike.

Rage turning sharply to disgust with both Chiron and herself, Misato shoved the Section 2 man aside to turn her focus again towards Shinji. "Hmph!" the Section 2 man snorted as she bent down again at the side of the boy he had brutalized. "I'm still waiting on that apology, whore."

Don't push it, Chiron! Misato thought furiously as she took in Shinji's brutalized form. Every cut and scrape, every bruise and bloody wound. Every torment the Section 2 obscenity had inflicted upon him. Don't you goddamn push it!

What Misato actually said was, "Don't you worry, Shinji-kun." Then she looked up at Rei and said, "Get my phone. We have to get Shinji to a doctor."

Rei promptly nodded and turned to do so. Only to freeze when Chiron sneered, "Don't bother, Captain Whore." As both purple- and blue-haired females paused to look his way, the Section 2 head smirked cruelly and added, "The Commander's already made arrangements with every doctor and hospital in the city. This filthy brat won't be getting any help from anybody for at least two days." As Misato's mouth again fell in horror, Chiron chuckled cruelly. "He wants to let that bastard suffer for a while. Make sure that he's learned his lesson."

In that instant, another round of horrid rage fantasies flitted through Misato's mind. As she hovered over Shinji, she pictured herself grabbing Chiron once again, drawing her Heckler and Koch and shoving it down his open mouth, and then force-feeding him every round in its clip. She could see herself attacking each of the Section 2 goons with him, sending them tumbling from the walkway and to their deaths.

Misato wanted to kill them. She wanted to kill them oh so very much. She wanted to make them suffer unimaginable torment before ending their miserable existences.

But at that moment, she wanted to do something else even more. So without even looking away from Shinji, she ordered, "Rei, get the first-aid kit. Bandages, rubbing alcohol, peroxide, all of it!"

"Yes," was the only thing that Rei said before her footsteps were heard fading away.

"Yeah, that's right, slut. Get to work on patching your living dildo back up. Don't want him getting gangrene and having to have anything important cut off," Chiron taunted her. But Misato didn't look at him. She didn't dare. She felt like she was just barely holding herself from collapsing in tears and exploding in rage, all at the same time. She needed to keep herself focused on helping her ward, lest she lose it and do something to condemn the children.

A pained groan rose up from Shinji's lips, riveting her focus in its entirety. "Stay still, Shinji," Misato quickly instructed her ward even as she looked him over, trying to figure out the best way to lift him up while avoiding worsening his injuries. "I'll take care of you."

"I bet you will, whore," Chiron sneered, once again making his way over towards where Shinji lay. As Misato again fixed the Section 2 man with her baleful glare. "But before you take him to bed, let me give him a bit of advice." Forcing herself to look away from Chiron, Misato set to work, gingerly working her hands beneath the boy's battered frame. "When they finally let you into NERV Medical, and they start doing whatever surgeries they have to put you back together, putting you through traction and whatever other shit they have to do so you can pilot again, I want you to think long and hard about what you'll do the next time those so-called heroes show their faces. And try to remember...just which side you're on."

Then Chiron punctuated his words by firing a devastating kick to Shinji's ribs, sending him tumbling away from Misato. Crying out in horror, the purple-haired woman forgot caution, and instead hurriedly moved towards Shinji. Wincing as he croaked in agony, she carefully scooped him up in her arms, refusing to give Chiron yet another chance to savage him. "Chiron...!" she hissed out from between clenched teeth as she rose up, too out of her mind with sorrow and rage and so much else to even notice Shinji's weight in her arms. "Get out...get out of here. Get the hell away from him! Because if you're not out of here by the time I get Shinji inside, I'll be back out with my gun...and then I'll make you eat it!"

"Oh, I'm so scared, slut," Chiron sneered before breaking out in derisive laughter. All the while Misato hurried into the apartment, unable to close the door.

Unable to do anything...but carry Shinji away from the monsters that had brutalized him. Her mind filled with sorrow...and rage.

"Heh, heh! Did you see the look on the whore's face?" Chiron asked of his men, chuckling maliciously as she disappeared from view. "Heh. That should show her who's really in charge!"

It had been a very good day for Chiron thus far. First he had been given the chance to have some fun at the 3rd Child's expense, and with Commander Ikari's blessing. Then he had had the chance to show off the fruits of his labors to the bridge staff and much of the NERV personnel as he had paraded the pathetic spawn of Ikari around NERV Headquarters. And the icing on the cake, he had been able to put that miserable slut Misato in her place, with the promise of having even more fun at her expense.

All in all, this has been one hell of a day, Chiron decided with tremendous satisfaction. Aloud, he asked, "What do you think, men? How about we stop for a quick drink on the way back to base?"

As various affirmative noises were heard, Chiron found himself hoping that perhaps he could find someone bitch to give him the kind of satisfaction that all women were meant to give while enjoying himself. But as he fantasized about this, one of his men asked, "Hey, what are you looking at?"

Startled out of his momentary fantasy, Chiron looked about, and found himself looking into the crimson eyes of Rei Ayanami. The Commander's personal windup toy was standing just inside the door of the apartment, staring at him. "What?" he started, in no mood to have his pleasure's spoiled by this living doll. "Don't you have something better to do?"

Rei didn't say anything. Didn't even move. She just stood there for a time, her eyes narrowing sharply as she looked at Chiron. "Why don't you go inside already?" he asked, getting annoyed with the pathetic robot Misato had brought into her home. "I'm not in the -"

Rei took several steps forward, moving so fast that Chiron's words fell flat in his mouth. An instant later, he perceived a blur of motion. The next thing he knew, the Section 2 head was staggering backwards, his cheek burning with pain.

"Captain!" one of Chiron's men blurted even as he recovered. Placing his hand to the affected cheek, only to wince in pain, the Section 2 man looked about and watched as Rei retreated into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind her.

Several seconds passed as Chiron realized what had happened. And when he did, the reality of it staggered him. "I...I don't believe it!" he muttered, contentment giving way to outrage. "That goddamned freak just slapped me!"

Chiron's first impulse was to march over to the door, kick it in, and drag out the little albino freak that had assaulted and show her hell for daring to lay a hand on him. But even as he started forward, he felt a hand upon his shoulder. "Sir, hold up!" spoke one of his men. Turning his irate glare at the man in question, the Section 2 head was about to give the agent holy hell for interfering when he continued with, "What are you doing?!"

"I'm about to teach that albino freak some respect! What's it look like?!" Chiron demanded.

"But - sir! That's Rei!" the agent in question reminded him. "You know, as in the Commander's favorite? The girl he's had people killed for messing with?!"

Chiron was a hairsbreadth away from taking this warning and shoving it down the man's throat. But before he could say a word, his tongue fell flat in his mouth. For the fact of the matter was...that he was right.

Gendo was extremely protective Rei. Chiron didn't pretend to understand this, or why he had kept her in that awful place in Hakone if he was so obsessed about her safety. All he knew was that the enigmatic 1st Child was of extreme importance to the Commander, and he was willing to have people brutally executed in order to keep people from interfering with her. It was for this reason that he was so infuriated by the fact that Misato had succeeded in snatching her away from him, and if Chiron were to assault her in any way...

Aw, damn! Chiron muttered inwardly, his good mood blown to hell. Guess I should've figured that a stupid bitch would only pull a stunt like this when she can hide behind the Commander!

Growling his disgust deep in his throat, Chiron made a mental note to report Rei's behavior before grumbling, "Alright, fine. Let's just hit the nearest bar already." Pausing just long enough to glower hatefully at the apartment door and the bitches cowering within, he then turned and started away. "I'm in serious need of a stiff drink!"

Author's Notes: I was hoping to get more into this chapter, but given how long it's been since I last updated, and the fact that it was getting to be a lot longer than I expected, I decided that here would be as good a place as any to end it. So please, read and review! And maybe check out my other stories.

Now, as all of you have noticed, Gendo isn't exactly acting like the Manipulative Bastard we all know and loathe. But given how much has gone completely wrong in this story for him, I get the feeling that, with as much stock as he places on being in control of everything, he would not what's been happening at all well.

For those of you who didn't know, the Superwomen of Eva stories now have their own pages at TV Tropes! So all of you tropers out there, feel free to add to Lilith's Herald's page!

Jetzul, no, this story has not been dropped. However, I will admit that the past few years have been exceptionally harsh on me. In that time, I lost both my father and my mother. I had to cope with a bed bug infestation and was forced to move. And now, I'm job-hunting and looking at ways to get a college certification. So I do apologize for the lengthy delay in updating this story. If it helps, I've recently hammered out a method of writing new chapters that allows me to get them done much faster. This chapter was completed in less than four days, so I think that says good things.

I do thank you for how I managed to handle Rei, especially early on. She is a difficult character to portray. And I thought it would be interesting to try and get into the heads of the Angels, as it were. Why they are so different from humans, how they would react to losing Adam, and so on. And I did figure that Gendo would promote those who he felt he could use to further his agenda, and Asuka's hatred of the superwomen fits in perfectly with that.

I'm glad you like how I handle Misato's personality. A lot of people see her as a slut, but the fact is she is very damaged, but at the same time does her best for everyone. And likewise, Asuka is also very damaged, but she handles her problems in precisely the wrong way, and in my opinion, doesn't seem to care how much she hurts others.

Well, Shinji is a hard one to handle. I do think that, while he wouldn't be willing to fight back on his own behalf, him fighting back for someone else is in keeping with his personality. As for Ritsuko...the reason I handled her in this way is because, while she would feel hope that there is a chance Gendo will fail, because of his influence and manipulations, she would feel there is nothing personally she can do to change how things go. Does that make sense?

As for the running gag with Happosai...it's pretty much become something for me to fall back on when I can't come up with anything else. Though it does make for a convenient way to bring in characters from other stories, as you will see in the omakes below.

As for what I plan on doing next...hopefully, cranking a lot a more in the way of updates!

Akuma-Heika, hoo, boy. I'll do my best to answer questions in the order asked.

Why is Ritsuki limping? This chapter might give you a clue.

No, Mayumi/Storm is not black.

Yes, Adam could potentially be awakened. The problem is how to do so.

Sandalphon is comatose as a result of the madness, and is basically shutting out everything.

In Storm's story, SOE: Tempest Aterna, she referred to a heavy lightning attack as Thor's Hammer. So I basically took that ball and ran with it.

Hikari's just being polite.

Okay, I admit there are some details I don't know about Eva canon. So I do a little fudging here and there. Sorry.

We've seen that both Angels are capable of influencing various life-forms. The DNA of Adam from Unit 00 is what transformed Hikari into Spirit, and their combined power transformed those early hominids into human/Angel hybrids. So it makes sense that some creatures created by Adam could evolve under Lilith's influence.

The situation with the Lance of Longinus is one that's always kind of bugged me. Putting such a massive weapon with Lilith in order to kill her? How would anybody even move that thing? But if the Lance was a weapon to allow Lilith to defend herself, that made more sense in my mind.

Again, there are some details about Eva canon I don't know. And so I blow it sometimes. Sorry.

The DNA of the 6th and 7th Angels was too badly damaged by the Silver Surfer's transmuting blasts to be viable enough for NERV to collect.

The armor is my own creation.

Lilith explained that Hikari carried a gene similar to those of early primates that were transformed. She inherited from a lineage that wasn't transformed, but had that potential.

I thought the powered version of Rei was Rei III, the one that came after the 16th Angel battle.

Gladiator from Marvel comics.

Yes, Kensuke's will is still alive, but is buried beneath the persona built into the helmet.

I have considered other such swords for possible Angelic Arms.

Ritsuko started asking such questions before Gendo interrupted here. But that question will be brought up later on.

Rei is still somewhat afraid of Gendo. But she is losing her fear, and become more likely to attack him.

Don't forget that Rei herself didn't collect the DNA samples. NERV collected them, and then she stole them from NERV. And because of her abilities, NERV wasn't able to get those DNA samples.

Yes, the claws are like X-23's.

Yes, eye beams.

Spirit will be experimenting with combining powers later on.

The 9th Angel's legs were left more-or-less intact. NERV sampled DNA from them.

Xardion, don't forget about Gambit's ability to charge objects and make them explode. And yup, the bad guys are in for a rude surprise the next time Spirit comes out to fight. And you better believe Asuka will abuse her new rank as quickly as possible. And you just learned who the newcomer is.

gunman, I'm glad you enjoyed how Maya made use of her powers to bait Happosai in. As for Shinji...let's just say She-Hulk's assets are just that ample. :D And Happosai and Jiraiya in school together? Scary.

As for Asuka, it's not surprising she's going down this path. She's had none of the character development that she got in canon, and given her narcissism and problems, she's completely focused on herself. Even the folks who created Evangelion said that Asuka seeks to put herself above all others. So it's not surprising that she would be getting nastier with each setback. And as you saw here, people are already getting annoyed with Asuka, to say the least.

You'll have to wait and see what happens when Spirit tries absorbing the 9th Angel's DNA. As for her situation with Asuka, I can't see Hikari being willing to give up on a friendship. Though she is alarmed by Asuka's hatred of the superwomen as a whole.

But don't be surprised if Asuka's nasty attitude comes back to bite her later on.

Guest, I was thinking more along the lines of Mimic from the comics. He's permanently copied the powers of all of the original X-Men. And as you saw here, Spirit is already getting better at using her new talents.

And now, it's time for some omakes. And we'll start with one featuring the newest member of the Superwomen of Eva from SOE: Storm Bringer!

Omake 1

"I really do appreciate you and your men providing me with a proper escort, Captain Chiron, sir," Maria Vincennes informed the Section 2 head, giving him a polite bow of her head as she spoke.

The Section 2 head glowered at the blue-eyed, blonde girl, and looked like he was biting back a scathing remark. "No problem, 5th Child," he intoned, his voice making it clear that he was speaking from behind clenched teeth. "Commander Ikari made it clear that he wanted us to insure that you were brought safely to your new quarters." Then he looked down at the large trunk he was carrying, muttering, "And...your things."

Enjoying the clear disgust the Section 2 man was exuding, Maria smiled as she made her way across the helipad. "Then be sure to give Commander Ikari my thanks as well." Pausing to look over the Section 2 personnel that had been assigned to escort her, she allowed herself a tiny, sadistic smirk as they struggled with the large suitcases that she had brought with her. "I just hope that my luggage isn't too heavy for you all."

Several of the agents looked stung, with Chiron visibly more annoyed than the rest of them. "Of course not!" he decreed in a haughty manner, straightening up and tightening his grip on the trunk he held before him. "We...may not have been expecting you to have so much on hand, but Section 2 is trained mentally and physically to handle any and all situations."

Hmph. Nothing like a quick shot to the pride to motivate some people, Maria thought. What she said aloud was, "Still, I really do appreciate this. I didn't want to risk anything happening to these things. That's why I brought them with me, instead of having them shipped ahead."

Wrinkling his face at this, Chiron didn't bother justifying this comment with an answer. Whether this was because he didn't feel it necessary or he was forced to save his breath for carrying the large trunk he held, Maria didn't know. And to be honest, she didn't really care.

So, I guess the rumors about Japan's Section 2 team were all true, Maria smirked knowingly. A bunch of braindead goons headed up by a male chauvinist prick. Chuckling inwardly, the blonde made her way towards the stairs. Oh, yeah, I can definitely have some fun with an idiot like this...

Already conjuring up the various ways she could have fun at the expense of someone clearly in need of being taken down a peg or ten, Maria was about to start down the stairs that led off the helipad when a strange noise caught her ears. Pausing in mid-step, she frowned, glancing about the area for the source. Only to be interrupted when a startled yelp sounded, and was followed immediately by a series of loud crashes.

"What the -?!" Maria wondered, turning about to see what happened. Only for her mouth to fall in shock when she saw what had happened; the Section 2 agents behind Chiron had been walking close together, one right behind another. As a result, when Maria and Chiron had paused, they had wound up crashing into one another, falling over each other like human dominoes.

"I don't believe this!" Chiron growled, quickly setting down the trunk he'd been carrying. "What is the matter with you idiots! Don't you know how to stay on your own damn feet?!"

My thoughts exactly! Maria hissed inwardly to the tune of her rolling her eyes. But even as she was trying to find a way of expressing her opinion of such incompetence without breaking the image of the polite, obedient child she had worked so hard to cultivate, she was brought back to the moment when that strange noise repeated itself. What the -?

"Woo-hoo! What do we have here?!" came a demented, elderly voice. Then Maria felt a draft between her legs, followed by that same voice crying out, "Ooh, blinds me!"

"Wha-?!" Maria cried out, watching as her skirt flew up, revealing her panties for the whole world to see. Instinctively pressing down upon her dress, she then watched as a diminutive figure of an old man darted out from between her legs, carrying a huge sack of loot. "Aahhh!"

"Hey! Hold it right there!" Chiron snapped out, instinctively reaching into his jacket and drawing forth his pistol.

"What?" the old man got out, pausing to glance at Chiron. "You talking to me?"

"Do you see anyone else trespassing on NERV property, you old goat?!" Chiron demanded. "Now, on the ground! Spread 'em!"

But the old man was already looking else. Making a thoughtful noise in his throat, he studied the spilled suitcases that littered the helipad. "Quite a bit of luggage you got here," he noted before turning towards Maria. "This yours, sweetie?"

Blinking a few times, Maria hesitated before stating, "Yes, those are mine. And I would really appreciate it if you would -"

"I said freeze, gramps!" Chiron reiterated. "Down! On! The ground! Now!"

"Oh, butt out, you snot-nosed punk!" the old man ordered, and from seemingly nowhere, he sent a barrage of large, home-made cherry bombs at Chiron and the rest of the Section 2 men. "Hold these! Happo Fire Burst!"

Crying out in surprise, Chiron acted on instinct and fired at the cherry bomb headed towards him. The result was it exploding right in his face, as did the other bombs that rained down upon the rest of Section 2. Shielding her face with her arms, Maria was then inundated by a wave of smoke.

Ugh! What is this?! Maria demanded as she closed her tearing eyes, coughing fitfully as she waved aside the plumes of smoke. She continued to do so for several seconds until the smoke cleared enough for her to open her eyes once more. And when she did, her mouth fell in astonished horror at the sight of every suitcase she owned, opened up. Clothes were spilling out of several cases, but other cases were completely empty.

"What in the -?!" Maria demanded, watching as the wind started blowing her clothes around. Crying out in shock, she moved to try and stop her belongings from blowing away.

As Maria grabbed hold of one of her nice dresses, an inane cackle was heard, causing her to pause in her endeavor. Looking towards the source, she gasped once more in shock at the sight of the old man, who was now holding two armfuls of lingerie. "What's that, my silky darlings?" he cooed to the underwear. "You all want to go with me?"

"Wha-?!" Maria started again, unable to fathom what was happening. She simply stood there, frozen with shock, until the old man leapt off the helipad and disappeared from sight. "Wait - get back here! Thief!"

"Did you hear that?" came a girl's voice. "He went this way!"

"Let's get that stupid old freak already!" declared another girl's voice.

"We have to get the All-Father's remains back!" sounded a third girl.

As Maria once more wondered what the heck was going on, Storm, the Silver Surfer, and Spirit flew into view. Without any better ideas, the blonde looked at them, then pointed in the direction the old man disappeared in. "That old man - he stole my underwear! And look what he did to -!"

"Did you hear that?!" Spirit called out, looking over her shoulder. "Happosai went this way!"

"That does it!" came a thunderous voice. "I don't care what it takes! That old freak is getting smashed!"

With that, the monstrously massive form of She-Hulk leapt into view, with Shinji lodged right between her breasts. As she came down from her leap, she landed squarely on Chiron's back. Completely heedless of the way he cried out in pain, she leapt forward once more.

"Did Happosai do this to your clothes?" the Silver Surfer wondered. When Maria absently nodded, the mercurial superwomen then projected her energy fields at the blonde's scattered belongings. Within seconds, they were back in her suitcases, which were then closed securely. "We'll be back as soon as we get your underwear back."

With that, the Silver Surfer, Storm, and Spirit flew off after She-Hulk. "Make way! Spider coming through!" came another voice, heralding Spider-Woman's arrival as she glided overhead.

"Wait up, sempai!" Ms. Fantastic called out as she flew up into view, only to come down on the helipad and start rollerblading over Chiron's broken body.

"The miserable thief must be apprehended!" Gladiator declared as he soared into view. "Milady demands it!"

"How about we just blow him up and save ourselves the trouble?" asked a painfully familiar voice. As Maria struggled to process what was going on, a star-spangled figure riding a motorcycle shot up into view before landing squarely on Chiron. As the Section 2 man cried out in pain, the girl known as Captain America looked about. Only to smile when she caught sight of Maria. "Well, well! Goldilocks!" she called out. "It's sure been a long while!"

"Not long enough!" Maria decreed. "And how many times have I told you not to call me - oh, never mind!" Giving a cross shake of her head, the blonde demanded, "Just tell me what's going on here!"

"Long story made short, an old freak by the name of Happosai stole Adam's body, made off with a whole bunch of underwear belonging to Storm, Spirit, Surfer, and She-Hulk, slobbered all over some of us, tricked us in pummeling a couple friends of ours, and racked up a huge tab at a restaurant and left two other friends stuck with the bill," Captain America quickly reported. "Now we're trying to catch him, beat the crap out of him, and get back all the stuff he stole. Does that explain everything?"

"You bet it does!" Maria declared, setting aside her dislike for the shield-wielder. "You better make room! Because I want a piece of that freak!"

"Then get in line and join the party!" Captain America invited her. "But first - I think you better suit up!"

"Obviously!" Maria shot back as she ripped off the crucifix pendant that hung about her neck. Taking it in both hands, she drove it down upon the ground, and was instantly surrounded by wind and lightning. When both soon died down, the blonde had been completely transformed. Her body bulged with muscle, her cross transformed into a mighty hammer, and her clothes had been replaced with Asgardian armor.

"Now, foul fiend...make peace with your gods!" Maria declared, holding up her hammer in both hands, lightning dancing ominously about the golden weapon. "For soon, you shall feel the wrath...of Storm Bringer!"

(Disclaimer: I do not own Ranma ½, or anything associated with it. I have written this story solely because I enjoy writing.)

Omake 2

"Lilith told us that," the Silver Surfer pointed out. "However, before we start, there is something I would like to ask you." When Storm wrinkled her brow in confusion, the mercurial superwoman asked, "It pertains to the last battle. Were we successful in convincing the Angels that NERV is capable of defeating them unassisted?"

A heavy silence passed, in which Storm lowered her gaze in an expression of sadness. "Yes. Yes, we were," she eventually answered. "My brothers and sisters...some were angered that Gladiator and I did nothing to help Sahaquiel, but ultimately, they were satisfied that NERV has power, that they are capable of standing against the Angels unassisted. They will continue to follow the All-Father's path." Issuing a mild sigh of relief at this, the Silver Surfer cut it out when the weather witch continued. "That's part of the reason I've come to you now. You see -"

"Excuse me, ladies?" came another voice even as Storm opened her mouth to speak. As the weather witch's eyes visibly bulged, she and the Silver Surfer turned towards the source of the voice. Only for their jaws to pop open when they saw...

"Suzuhara-kun?!" the Silver Surfer blurted as she took in her classmate transformed. His head looked normal, but his body was far larger and more muscular than normal. And he was wearing a pair of fine pants and a bowtie and nothing in between looking about them. "How did you get here?"

"That's what I'd like to know!" Toji admitted, pausing to scratch his head in confusion. "One minute, I was at the hospital with Sakura, and then...!"

Shrugging helplessly, Toji looked at the girls present. Prompting the Silver Surfer and Storm to fix Spirit with a glare. Issuing a sigh, the winged girl smiled ruefully. "Okay, you got me. I sorta...extended this mind gap to Toji to bring him here."

"And why'd you do that?!" Storm demanded.

"Because with all this plot development going on, I haven't had the chance to spend any time with Toji lately! He hasn't even seen my new-and-improved body yet!" Spirit declared. "And I don't know if you've noticed, but he hasn't had a lot of screen time lately."

A beat passed as Toji and the other superwomen looked amongst themselves. With the jock making a face before admitting, "Okay, good point."

"True," the Silver Surfer noted.

"Just be sure you don't screw up one of Orion's shots by doing something like this," Storm advised Spirit, giving a small shudder. "Believe me, he can get pretty nasty about things like that."

"Also true," the Silver Surfer agreed, shuddering herself.

Omake 3

Grinning in unison, the two agents tossed Shinji to the floor in front of Misato, prompted a gasping cry of consummate agony. This was the last straw for Misato, who immediately fell to her knees before her cherished ward. "Shinji!" she screamed, caught between wanting to scoop him up in her arms, and terrified of so much as touching him, left she somehow make his injuries worse. "I -!"

"What did you do to him?" came a hard, no-nonsense voice. Starting at it, Misato glanced over her shoulder, and saw Rei standing just behind her, her features hard as granite.

"Nothing the Commander said that I couldn't do," Chiron returned after a moment. "You see, he's...pretty upset about the way people have been talking about those so-called superheroes we've got flying around here. Particularly people like this..." he went on, pausing to nudge Shinji with his toe, "...so he had me make it very clear to this bastard that he won't be putting up with that sort of thing anymore."

At this statement echoed in Misato's mind, she looked up from her charge to Chiron, and in an instant, her mind was inundated with fury. "You...you tortured him?!" she shrieked. Leaping to her feet, she had just enough presence of mind to sidestep her fallen ward as she grabbed the Section 2 head by the hem of his jacket and pushed him against the rails that were the only thing standing between them and a drop of hundreds of feet. "You monster! I'll -!"

"You'll let me go and give me a proper apology, slut," Chiron broke in, not at all intimidated by Misato's interrupted threat. Every thought wiped away by the sheer rage this statement inspired in her, the purple-haired woman came dangerously close to shoving the Section 2 head off the walkway before he added, "Unless you want me have you brought up on charges of assault." Hesitating somewhat at these words, Misato watched as the dark-haired bastard smirked knowingly. "I'm sure the Commander would just love to have a reason to have you found as being an...unsuitable guardian for these two brats."

As Misato stood there, glaring pure hatred at Chiron, she sucked in breath after furious breath. "And just what makes you think..." she growled in a bestial manner, her eyes exploding with emerald fury, ",,,that you're gonna live long enough for that?!"

"Huh?!" Chiron spat out, only for his eyes to bulge in horror as Misato's body began to swell and bulge beneath her minimal clothes. Her breasts inflated by several cup sizes as massive muscles erupted from her frame. Her bones cracked and rebuilt themselves, larger and larger as her skin darkened, rapidly going from human pink to sickly yellow to bright green. "Wha- oh, shiiiit!"

"Oh, you got that right!" She-Hulk roared, grabbing Chiron by the head as the rest of his troops fell back from the emerald Amazon. "Rei, get Shinji healed and get him to bed! I've got some serious smashing to do!"

"Yes, ma'am," Rei nodded, watching with a certain sadistic amusement as a couple Section 2 agents jumped over the railing and into empty air, apparently of the opinion that their chances of surviving the fall were better than surviving She-Hulk's wrath. Unable to argue with such logic, she summoned the board and positioned it beneath Shinji, prompting it to absorb him so it could heal his wounds. As she sent the board back into the apartment, she followed a short distance behind.

"I hope Ikari-kun will be able to rest with all that noise outside," Rei mused as Chiron did a remarkable impression of the Wilhelm Scream.