Neon Genesis DBZ
a crossover by Dot


Acknowledgements, or Who to Blame for This Fic--Andrew Huang, whose "Neon Genesis Evanjellydonut" (yes, Andrew, you've created a monster :) showed that EVA fics can be lighthearted and funny, and Chris Davies, whose "Those Obnoxious Angels" showed that EVA can be successfully crossed over with a show that has absolutely nothing to do with 14-year-old children piloting giant robots to save the world.

Special thanks to Literal Translation Site: Evangelion Scripts for being there to help me get the 'facts' straight.

Also, I'd like to give a big "Thank You" to those at the FFIRC for their enthusiastic support, helpful comments, and weird ideas, and the brave folks at the FFML who voluntarily supplied C&C on an earlier draft.

Warning to the Uninitiated: There will be spoilers. Continuity will go out the window. Characters from unrelated shows will make inappropriate cameos. The Fourth Wall will be broken. People will act out of character. Dr. Pepper will be held in contempt. Please don't kill me. ^^

Legal Carp: Shin Seiki (Neon Genesis) Evangelion and Dragon Ball (Z) are owned by a bunch of people who are not me, so please don't sue me, as I'm broke. ^^


0:1--Something Fell From the Sky and...
Out in space...

Way out in space...

Way, WAY out in space...

Okay, not that far. Back up a little.

There. Much better.

--Ahem--

A small, spherical space ship, which resembled a giant baseball--complete with red stitches and grass stains--zoomed through space. The occupant of this ship was currently locked in deep sleep, the tranquil expression on his face not revealing his true purpose.

"Mmm...donuts..." the occupant mumbled, tossing slightly.

The spaceship entered the upper atmosphere of the Earth, leaving behind a glowing trail that most mistook for a shooting star. A young boy who was failing all of his classes wished to this star that he wouldn't have to repeat the fourth grade. The spaceship continued its fall, plummeting towards what was once a large, ice-covered continent.

***

NERV Commander Ikari Gendou pushed his glasses back up to his nose. "So the object has splashed down in Antarctica?"

"Yes, sir," answered Maya, typing at a speed that would have made Ritsuko proud. "Should we send an investigation team?"

"No, that won't be necessary." Gendou began to walk out of the room before remembering something. "Oh, and Maya?"

"Yes, sir?"

"See if you can get new glasses fitted for me. This pair never stays on my nose."

***

SEELE had also noticed the object.

"This is certainly an interesting new development."

"But it will not make a difference."

"The schedule will proceed as planned."

"Yes. Nothing can stand in our way."

There was an awkward silence.

"Um...just who exactly is talking, anyway?"

The various members of SEELE sweatdropped.

***

Radditz opened his eyes and stared when he saw where he was.

Yikes, did I do that? I didn't know that impact craters could be this huge... Using his scouter, he scanned his surroundings and scowled.

"So...he didn't finish his job after all..." Radditz noted out loud before opening the hatch and launching himself into the air. "Time for Big Brother to straighten things out!"

Water seeped into the spaceship, which Radditz had neglected to close.

***

Shinji Ikari was not having a good day. Of course, one could hardly have a good day if one was being pummeled by a gigantic monstrous being that--at least, according to the script--wasn't supposed to exist. Rei was in the hospital--again, thanks to Unit 00 going crazy for the umpteenth time--and Asuka wasn't doing that much better herself out on the battlefield, but she still had plenty of insults for her fellow pilot.

"Out of my way, idiot!" Asuka yelled as she plowed her Eva towards the Angel, only to get knocked away into several buildings.

Meanwhile, Shinji was starting to feel a little like wanting to go berserk, rip the Angel apart, and eat its core, the script be damned. He lumbered towards the Angel.

And that was when IT happened.

(No, not the release of a new Beanie Baby, although the ensuing chaos would have been even greater than the Third Impact. Something a little less disastrous.)

***

Ritsuko and Misato, watching the battle on the viewscreen, gasped as a young boy--with a tail, Ritsuko observed--easily trashed the Angel with his bare hands.

"Impossible..." the fake blond scientist whispered.

(Whoops, didnt mean to give that away. But you were warned.)

Gendou smiled slightly. "For God, nothing is impossible."

Ritsuko raised an eyebrow. "And that was in the Dead Sea Scrolls?"

Gendou shook his head. "No, just some unimportant first century writer. Claimed that God was born on Earth as a man, and some other silly nonsense."

A grave somewhere in the Middle East began turning violently.

Shinji's voice broke over the alarms. (Fortunately for the young pilot, his voice quickly put itself back together.) "Uh, Dad? There's a guy looking for someone named 'carrot' or something."

Gendou made a mental note to take away Shinji's Bakuretsu Hunters collection before answering: "Tell him to follow you."

"O-okay..."

"Gendou..." Ritsuko advanced on the commander, not realizing the double entente she was making. "You're not doing what I think you're doing, are you?" Gendou said nothing. "Are you nuts?!? You can't just grab any stranger off the streets and make him an Eva pilot!"

"I just did." slowly, carefully, and deliberately, Gendou pulled down an eyelid and stuck out his tongue. "So beeeeeeee-da!"

The world quaked from the massive facefault which ensued after Gendou's wildly out-of-character gesture.

***

Radditz soon found himself standing before some guy named "Commander Ikari".

Commander Anchor? What kinda stupid name is that? He wondered to himself, before saying out loud, "Look, I don't know how you got such advanced technology or what those giant things that attacked me were, but I'm taking over this planet and destroying all life on it whether you like it or not."

The man pushed his tinted glasses higher and clasped his gloved hands. "How about piloting an Eva instead?"

Radditz raised an eyebrow. "Does this involve rampant destruction?"

"Absolutely. And in the name of good, too."

Radditz thought this over for a while--which, for a Saiyajin, was precisely 1.9 milliseconds. "Okay. You've got a deal."

***

Blech, Radditz thought, as he tasted the rising LCL in the plug of Unit 02. This stuff tastes even worse than that weird soda I had for lunch...what was it called? Dr. Whatchamacallit...

(I refuse to use that Terry Pratchet word Andrew made famous. Have to make some of the story original, you know.)

"You ready, Radi-kun?" Misato's voice rang over the speaker the way a Styrofoam brick didn't.

"Yeah," Radditz answered in a bored tone.

"If anything happens to my Eva, you're beyond dead!" Asuka threatened.

"Whatever. Start the test already."

***

"Radi-kun?" Ritsuko repeated teasingly. "Isn't he a little young for you?"

Misato blushed--or, perhaps, she was just drunk. "I was only trying to be friendly..."

"Sure."

A beep sounded, indicating that the synchronization had initiated successfully.

"Amazing," Maya breathed. "Synchronization rate is 69%!"

Asuka grumbled and murmured something about the erratic whims of authors.

"Watch it, Asuka," Misato warned. "We can't afford to break the Fourth Wall too many times."

***

0:2--If Three's Company, then Four Makes Complete Mayhem
So, despite the vehement protests of Touji (who didnt make that great of a pilot anyway) and Kensuke (who would get his share of piloting in other fanfics), Radditz became the Fourth Child.

"Whaddayamean, he's staying with us?" Demanded Asuka. (As opposed to, say, Politely Asked Asuka or Playfully Flirted Asuka, now available at a NERV 'R' US store near you.)

"Is it even possible to put that many people into your apartment?" Shinji wanted to know.

Misato raised her hands to quiet the two pilots. "It'll only be a temporary deal, so live with it."

Radditz was more concerned over what Gendou wanted him to do while he wasn't piloting. "School? Why do I have to go to school?"

"Because the author's not creative enough to think of a better place to stick you for 8 hours of the day," Misato replied. "Besides, how would you be able to pilot an Eva if you can hardly understand the directions?"

***

"Oh. My. God." Radditz stumbled out of the classroom.

"Nice to see that you enjoyed the class, Radish-head," Asuka noted smugly.

"Shut up...argh..." Radditz clutched his head. "On my planet, what that teacher did would be called torture."

"He's not that bad," Rei stated quietly.

Asuka stared at Rei as if the blue-haired girl had just grown a new head. "Are you nuts? That teacher's lecturing methods are dangerous to our mental health!" Asuka gave Rei a disdainful look. "Then again, you've always been a few drinks short of a glass..."

Shinji unexpectedly grew a bit of backbone. "Hey! Leave Ayanami alone!"

Asuka gave Shinji a withering glare. "Are you telling me what to do?"

Shinji's backbone retracted itself in a hurry. "Er...no! Not at all!"

"That's what I thought," Asuka sneered.

***

Radditz looked around the apartment with dismay. "I'm gonna be living here? Where can I sleep?"

"Not with me, pervert!" Asuka declared.

Radditz snorted. "Like I'd want to sleep with someone as ugly as you!"

"WHAT?!? Why you..." Asuka launched into a long rant, occasionally uttering several unmentionable German insults. The subtitler, not knowing any words of German besides "Ich bin ein Berliner" (which meant, loosely, "I am a jelly-filled doughnut"), panicked.

Shinji only let out a 'Been There, Done That, Got Enough T-shirts To Clothe Tokyo-3' sigh and went into his room, sliding the door shut behind him.

"...and you're even worse. So there!" Asuka finished.

Radditz stifled a laugh. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"

"OOH!" Asuka pulled her leg up and kneed him under the belt. "OW!" She clutched hopped up and down in pain after her knee came in contact with what felt like a titanium wall.

This time, Radditz couldn't help grinning. "Did I neglect to mention that I can take inhumanly large amounts of pain without so much as batting an eye?"

"I give up!" Asuka threw her hands into the air and stomped off.

"Looks like you'll have to take the couch for a while, Radi-kun." Misato suddenly looked very sultry. "Unless you don't mind staying with me."

Radditz ran around the room screaming for five full minutes before Misato could convince him that she was joking.

***

The next hurdle that Radditz had to cross was the splitting of household chores.

"Why don't we play a few rounds of Janken?" Suggested Misato, who by now had come home again from a top secret--ahem--meeting with Kaji.

"You always cheat when you play Janken, and we end up with the chores," complained Shinji.

"You're just unlucky," countered Misato.

By the time the game was over, though, even Radditz suspected Misato of using underhanded tactics, as she ended up with all the easy chores.

"There!" Misato tacked the new chore arrangement on the wall. "And no whining, got it?"

***

The last, and most daunting, task that Radditz faced was Misato's cooking.

"You sure this isn't alive?" Radditz asked, poking nervously at the...something...that Misato placed in front of him.

"It just takes a little getting used to," opined Shinji.

"Just wash it down with beer," advised Asuka. "Lots of beer."

Pen-Pen warked out what sounded like Chopin's Funeral March.

"Gimme a break, you guys!" Moaned Misato. "My cooking isn't that bad, is it?"

Shinji and Asuka looked at one another for a moment before answering, in unison: "Yes."

Radditz gave his meal (?) one last critical glance before closing his eyes and tasting a spoonful.

The world came to a standstill.

"This is..." Radditz began slowly. "Edible..." he took another taste. "Good, even..." he quickly ate the rest of it. "Heck, anything's better than that awful Ship food they try to feed us!"

Everyone else could only stare.

***

0:3--You Know What They Say About Boys With Toys...
That night, Radditz sent off a report to his superiors (superiors, ha! He only called them that because they were paying him), stating that other being were also interested in the planet known as Chikyuu, and therefore he would be held up there for quite a while until the competition was eliminated.

"Oh, really?" Freeza murmured to himself, raising an eyebrow as he read the report. "In that case, another piece has fallen into place..."

Vegita also raised eyebrow, and made his move. "Checkmate."

"What? I dont believe this! One more match!"

Vegita shrugged. "If you want to lose again, thats fine by me..."

***

Gendou hated his regularly scheduled meetings with SEELE. He had a very low opinion of his guardian organization, and downright contemptuous of their so-called scenario.

As if they could make the Apocalypse adhere to a schedule, He thought to himself. Ah, well. At least he could make faces at the monoliths beneath his gloved hands.

"You are behind again, Gendou."

"Which, if I may remind you gentlemen, is not entirely my fault."

"Ridiculous. It's always your fault, Gendou."

"Silence. We are not here to bicker. Gendou, Unit 03 will be arriving soon from the United States. Don't screw up this time."

"Don't worry. Everything will proceed according to the scenario."

Gendou pressed a button, and his image disappeared.

"I don't trust that Gendou."

"No one here does. But he will soon learn who is really in charge."

The various heads of SEELE nodded.

"Um..." piped up a small, uncertain voice. "Was that really necessary?"

"......."

***

Radditz looked at the gigantic beast in awe. "Wow...is this my EVA?"

"Yes," nodded Ritsuko. "Would you like to try it out?"

"Yeah! That would be great!"

Misato reached out and pulled Radditz back by a large strand of his hair. "Hold it, buddy. You have to change first." she handed him a white suit.

"But...spandex makes me look fat!"

***

The curtain separating the girls side and the boys side was entirely too thin. And Ayanami Rei happened to be undressing on the other side. Radditz felt a tingle run down his tail when the curtain failed to block out certain aspects of Rei's anatomy.

"Is something wrong, Radditz?" Rei asked in her eternally quiet, slightly tired voice.

Radditz sweatdropped. "Um...hahahaha! Nothing! Nothing at all!" Radditz pulled on his plugsuit, and was surprised that someone had thoughtfully made a hole for his tail. He clicked the button on his wrist, and with a hiss of air the suit comformed to his body. A hiss of air coming from the other side confirmed that Rei had done the same.

"Are you ready, Radditz?"

Radditz shrugged non-comittally. "As ready as I'll ever be, I guess."

Rei headed out the door, not even looking at him. "Then let's go."

***

Blood, Radditz realized, suddenly feeling a strange sense of deja vu. The LCL tasted faintly of blood. He had eaten enough raw food to know. He should have recognized it the first time, but he had been too nervous to notice. Over the intercom, he could hear the various staff announce the startup of the synchronization.

"Synchronization successful, at 69%," reported Maya.

"Great!" Misato enthused. "EVA, launch!"

Radditz grit his teeth as the force of the thrusters pushed him deep into the back of the seat. Almost as abruptly, EVA came to a stop on the surface over a thoroughly ruined section of Tokyo-3.

"Okay, Radi-kun!" It was Misato again. "Just concentrate on walking for now. Rei will help you if you have any problems. Good luck!"

"Is Misato always this embarrassing?" Radittsu wondered aloud, before trying out the controls. They worked perfectly. "Awesome!"

Everyone sweatdropped as Unit 03 began a clumsy rendition of the Hokey Pokey.

(What are you staring at? At least it's not the Macarena.)

"Radditz, stop goofing off!" Ritsuko finally managed to sputter.

Unit 03 stopped. "So--rry," Radditz halfheartly apologized, stretching out the word just enough to let everyone know that he didn't really mean it.

The corner of Rei's mouth lifted imperceptibly. "You have a strange sense of humor, Radditz."

By now, even Misato had managed to regain her dignity. "The rest of us are not impressed, Radi-kun. Goofing off like that in such a big machine is dangerous! That's enough for today. Get back into the base right now."

"Okay..." Radditz dejectedly switched off the intercom and headed back in.

***

Radditz peeled off his plug suit angrily. "Can't I have a little fun?!?"

"I liked it, Radditz," Rei offered through the partition.

"You're just saying that to make me feel better," Radditz muttered glumly, not daring to look in Rei's direction a second time.

Rei said nothing more as she put her clothes back on.

***

The next day, during Gym class, the students were herded out into the field to play baseball. Naturally, Radditz was placed in the most strategic position his fellow classmates could find for him: far, far right field.

"Boring," Radditz complained to himself as he watched the first inning progress, his tail twitching restlessly behind him.

Suddenly, Radditz had the unmistakable feeling of being watched. Turning around slowly, he relaxed when he saw that it was Rei. "Oh, hi."

"Hello."

"Um...why don't you sit down?"

"Yes."

They watched the game in silence; no one bothered to call them in until the period was over.

A butterfly flapped its wings in the Amazon, but it made no sound.

***

0:4--Occupational Hazards
The next day, all of the Children were allowed to miss class for what Misato called a lesson in tactics.

"Okay, Radi-kun, as soon as everyone is in position, I want you to attack," Misato ordered via the comlink. "Shinji, you're going to be the first defender."

"Hai." Shinji maneuvered his Eva into place, and waited for Unit 03 to approach. Instead of running towards him, however, Unit 03s right arm simply shot out at him and hit him squarely on the nose. "What the--?"

"Bwahahaha!" Chortled Asuka. "Good one, Radish-head! Did you see the expression on Shinji's face?"

Radditz's reply came in the form of an agonized scream.

"Bloodymurderbloodymurderbloodymurderbloodymurder~~!"

***

Klaxons went off in the control room.

"We just lost all contact with the pilot!" Maya exclaimed worriedly.

"Blue pattern detected!" Reported Hyuuga. "It's...it's coming from Unit 03!"

"What?!?" Ritsuko stared at the readouts. "It can't be!"

"But it is happening," Gendou spoke up in his ever cold voice. "Rei, Shinji, Asuka: Your new orders are to stop the Angel."

"B-but!" Shinji stammered.

"You heard him, stupid," Asuka yelled, although her voice didn't have as much of its usual edge. "We can't let an Angel rampage around, even if it is in an Eva." Unit 02 began lumbering forward. "Besides, Radish-head can handle a little pain..."

Misato glared at Gendou for moment before turning to Aoba. "Sever Unit 03's neurological links and eject the entry plug."

Aoba pressed several buttons before answering: "I can't! It's not accepting the commands!"

"Come to momma," Asuka crooned in a deadly voice, pulling out her progressive knife. Before she could blink, though, Unit 03's stretchable arms knocked the knife out of her hands. She cried out in pain as Unit 03 made short work of her Eva and moved on towards its target.

Only Gendou didn't seem to be shaken by the fact that Unit 02 was taken out of commission. "Rei, move forward and intercept the Angel."

"Understood."

Rei managed to dodge under the first arm, but not the second. She gritted her teeth as her arm was grabbed and pinned behind her.

Hyuuga's eyes widened as he read the next string of repots. "The Angel is attempting to infiltrate Unit 00 through its left arm!"

"Sever that arm immediately," Gendou ordered.

"But the pilot..."

"Do it!"

This time, Rei screamed.

Almost as soon as this happened, Unit 03 also roared and fell back, grabbing its head as if in pain.

There was a slight buzz of static, and then Radditz's strained voice came over the speakers. "I've got it back under control, but I don't know how long I can keep this up." Unit 03 convulsed, and Radditz cursed. "Somebody better stop this damned thing before it does any more damage!"

Gendou pushed his glasses back up to his nose. "Shinji. You will sortie with the Angel." It was not a question.

"I can't!"

"Oh, don't be such a wimp--ARGH!" Unit 03 charged towards Unit 01 and rammed it into a mountain.

"What are you doing, Shinji?!?" Misato screamed. "Fight!"

"I...can't..."

"Is that so, Shinji?" Gendou's glasses flashed mysteriously. "Very well. Activate the dummy plug."

***

Shinji stared in horror as his Eva refused to obey his commands. "Father! What did you do?"

"What I had to," Gendou answered emotionlessly.

Unit 01 began tearing through Unit 03 as if it were made of paper. "Stop! Tell it to stop, Father!"

"Not until the Angel is utterly destroyed."

"Damn it!" Shinji slammed his fist on the lever. "STOP, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF JUNK!"

All of the members of NERV watched in morbid fascination as blood spattered everywhere, except Maya, who covered her face and wept.

"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!" Shinji felt his heart drop into the deepest depths of despair as he saw Unit 01 pick up Unit 03's entry plug. "NO!" He broke the sound barrier as Unit 01's fist clenched.

When Unit 01's hand opened again, the plug had been warped into a Radditz-shaped mass. Seconds later, the plug cracked open, revealing its rather beaten-up pilot.

"That hurt," Radditz moaned, before promptly passing out.

***

White sacrificed a Knight for Black's King-side Rook.

"So that's the way you want to play, eh?" Freeza made his move. "You're still down a piece, you know."

"Yes," Vegita answered, moving a different piece. "But I just won. For the 13th time in a row, too."

Freeza slammed a fist onto the chessboard, sending the pieces flying everywhere. "Damn! I can't believe I missed that!" he looked pleadingly at Vegita. "Another game?"

***

0:5--Little Runaway
For the first time since the initiation of the Human Implementation Project, Gendou realized how wrong he was to entrust the fate of mankind in the hands of a depressed, hormonally unbalanced 14-year-old boy.

Especially when said depressed, hormonally unbalanced 14-year-old boy was piloting a machine capable of making Tokyo-3 into a giant crater.

"Even if you disconnect the power cord, I'll still have enough power left to destroy this building!" Shinji threatened.

Misato took in a deep breath. "Shinji...don't you think you're over-reacting a bit?"

"Absolutely not! This is my big chance to win the sympathy of the world by showing them how miserable I am!"

"Well, at least we know what his motive is," Ritsuko remarked dryly while the rest of the people in the room (except Gendou, of course) facefaulted.

Gendou pushed his glasses back up to his nose. "Shinji. For the last time, I order you to come in quietly."

Unit 01 responded by mysteriously sprouting a tongue and giving Gendou the raspberry.

Gendou blinked. But, since he was wearing shades, no one noticed.

"Raise the LCL pressure to the limit," he ordered Ritsuko. "And get that kid into my office as soon as he wakes up."

"I can still stand here and whine for a full--grgl brbl gag..." Shinji fought unconsciousness, but quickly discovered that was hard to do when he couldn't breathe.

***

And now, a Totally Pointless Dream Sequence:

Radditz found himself siting in a train observing Shinji (wearing a plug suit) talking to...well, Shinji (wearing a school uniform).

"Why didn't you fight?" Plug Suit Shinji asked. "It's not like you've never killed an Angel before."

School Uniform Shinji shook his head. "This time was different."

"Why? Because the Angel possessed an Eva? It still would have caused the end of the world if no one stopped it."

"But Radditz..."

"He ended up being more hurt because you refused to do anything."

"Um...hey," Radditz called out, walking into the booth. "Don't you know that talking to yourself is a sign of psychiatric instability?"

Both Shinji's blinked, then answered simultaneously: "So?"

***

Radditz opened his eyes, and immediately regretted it.

"Ugh...did someone get the number of that truck?" He groaned.

"There was no truck, Radditz."

The fuzzy whirl of colors coalesced into a pale-faced girl with blue hair wearing a school uniform. "Rei! You're okay?"

"Yes, I was not hurt."

"But I heard you scream like someone was pulling your arm off!"

"Commander Ikari ordered Unit 00's arm be severed when the Angel tried to infiltrate it," Rei answered in the same way someone might say 'my hamster died today'. "I cried out because of the neuro-link feedback."

Radditz examined Rei carefully. "You sure you weren't hurt?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

Radditz let out a sigh of relief, then winced as his injuries decided to announce themselves: "Yes, we are still here, and we hurt like hell." He decided that he preferred to be unconscious, and thus promptly passed out again.

***

Handcuffs, while they were designed to create a feeling of humiliation, when used in the right circumstances could be quite kinky.

The situation that Shinji was facing, however, was definitely not kinky at all.

After all, how kinky could you feel when you've been arrested on charges of insubordination? (On second thought, don't answer that question.)

"I'm disappointed in you, Shinji," Gendou began, using his best 'stern father' tone of voice. Lacking practice, he simply sounded like a jerk.

Shinji suddenly developed an interest in studying his shoes.

"Unit 01 is not your personal toy for selfish use, understand?"

Shinji muttered something incomprehensible.

"Speak up when you're talking to me."

"I said, 'you don't have to worry about that, because I'm leaving'."

Gendou pushed his glasses back up to his nose. "In other words, you're running away." Almost as an afterthought, he added: "Again."

"But this time, I won't be coming back."

After Shinji left the office, Gendou picked up the phone and dialed a number.

"Hello, this is Ikari Gendou. The Third Child has just left my office." he paused to listen to the question. "No, he isn't still handcuffed."

***

One full week after the attack of the 13th Angel, Shinji was once again leaving Tokyo-3. Only Misato was at the train station to see him off.

"Radditz just got out of the hospital today, and Asuka's still mad at you," Misato explained.

"I don't mind. I'd rather that they not see me here, anyway."

The train pulled up to the station. Shinji walked forward to leave.

"Shinji, wait!" Misato called. She held out his identification card. "Keep this, it's yours."

Shinji kept walking. "I don't need it any more."

He made a muffled "umph" noise as he collided with the closed door of the train.

"I meant to do that," Shinji muttered, blushing furiously.

***

Shinji sighed as he watched the scenery pass by. Before he could ponder upon the meaning of the universe (42), however, the loudspeakers came to life.

"Attention. An Angel is invading Tokyo-3. The world as we know it will come to an end. Have a nice day."

An Angel...? Shinji shook his head. No. I don't care. I'm not a pilot any more.

***

The entire NERV building was rocked with a giant explosion, knocking everyone down (a la Star Trek) except Radditz, who had been called in as soon as the Angel was spotted.

Ritsuko was the first to stagger to her feet. "Report!"

The three assistants (otherwise known affectionately as the "bridge bunnies") scrambled around the displays. "The first 18 layers of armor have already been penetrated!"

"Send Asuka out into the Geofront," Gendou ordered, as calm as ever. "What's the status of Unit 00?"

Ritsuko shook her head. "No good: the left still hasn't been regenerated."

"Then send Rei out in Unit 01, and be quick about it."

As the entry plug for Unit 01 was lowered with Rei inside, Maya began the synchronization sequence.

Not ready reading drive. Abort, Ignore, Retry, Fail?

Biting her lip in frustration, Maya typed "retry", and got the same error message. She tried a third time; still, no luck.

"It's not working!" She reported worriedly to Gendou.

So she is refusing me. Gendou pushed his glasses back up to his nose. "Send Rei out in Unit 00, then. Keep trying to start up Unit 01 with the dummy plug."

Radditz, his arm still in a sling just in case, glared at Gendou. "Are you crazy?"

"It's all right, Radditz," Rei said softly.

"Rei!" Radditz exclaimed, shocked.

Rei looked away. "If I die, I can be replaced."

***

"It doesn't matter," Shinji repeated to himself as he wandered through the streets.

"Hey!" Someone shouted at him. "Get into the shelters, before you get killed!"

Still continuing to reassure himself that he wasn't needed, Shinji let his legs take him to the nearest shelter.

***

Only one more hit until the armor is exposed... Misato thought grimly. "Okay, Asuka, it's up to you, now!"

"Got it," Asuka replied, moving into position. "Let's see the Great Shinji do this!" She yelled as she pumped bullets into the target.

When the smoke cleared, the Angel was still standing, completely unharmed.

"What the hell?!?" Asuka grabbed another gun and began firing. "Why isn't the AT field going down?" Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something coming after her. Before she could dodge, however, Unit 02's arms were cut off. "AUGH!"

"Asuka, lure the Angel away as far as you can!" Misato ordered. "Rei's coming to back you up in a little while, and--"

"No, way!" Asuka growled, charging at the Angel. Straight into another sharp ribbon aimed straight for Unit 02's head. "Shitshitshitshit..." Asuka braced herself for the worst.

Thinking quickly, Misato shouted to Hyuuga: "Cut all of Asuka's neural connections, now!"

Asuka went offline seconds before Unit 02's head was severed.

Even Gendou had a hard time not wincing.

***

Shinji pulled his knees to his chest and let out a relieved sigh. At long last he was safe, and far enough away that nobody would bother to go looking for him. At this point, not even Asuka piloting Unit 02 could convince him to go back.

"GAH!" Shinji screamed as a giant orange head crashed through the ceiling. He instinctively fell into a begging position. "I'msorryI'msosorryIdidn'tmeanit..." this time, though, he didn't hear the inevitable "Stupid!" followed by the even more inevitable slap. "Huh?" After waiting nervously for a few more seconds, Shinji dared to look up.

And screamed again.

***

Asuka opened her eyes warily, and was immensely relieved to discover that she wasn't dead. However, she was also slightly annoyed that she had failed to defeat the Angel.

"Argh! I lost again!" She punched her fist at the wall of the entry plug. "Shinji will never stop rubbing it in if he ever finds out about this..."

Elsewhere (a few feet away in the control center, to be precise), Unit 01 still wasn't starting.

"Try again," Gendou ordered.

It's not working, you idiot. Do I have to spell it out to you more clearly?

Ritsuko made a mental note to run a full diagnostic on the Magi before reporting to Gendou: "Still no good."

***

0:6--Citizens of Tokyo-3, I Have Returned
Shinji walked out of the shelter and began wandering aimlessly.

"Shinji?" a familiar voice called to him.

Shinji swung his head around, and was surprised to see an equally familiar face. "Kaji-san? What are you doing here?"

Kaji grinned. "That's supposed to be my line, kid."

(The adult and the adolescent quickly confirmed this by checking their scripts. "Sorry," Shinji apologized.

"Don't worry about it," Kaji grinned again.) He gestured to Shinji. "You first."

Shinji went into pose #134, 'I am a coward and a loser'. "I...I decided not to be a pilot any more."

"I see. As for me, my last job got...exposed," Kaji winced at the memory. "So I've been watering here since then."

"Even now?"

"Especially now." Kaji bent down and patted his watermelons affectionately. "They remind me of Misato's breasts, which is where I'd prefer to die, but here will do."

"D-die?"

Kaji smiled sadly. "Let's just say that if the Angel isn't stopped, all human life will be terminated."

Shinji gasped as Unit 00, carrying and N2 bomb in her remaining arm, ran by. "Ayanami!"

Back in the control room, Ritsuko was equally shocked. "Is she trying to blow herself up?"

"No!" Radditz shouted. "Rei, don't!"

"I'm sorry," Rei replied over the intercom. "AT field, full power!" The Angel's attacks simply bounced off of Unit 00's field; when it was close enough, Unit 00 forced the Angel's AT field slightly apart and forced the N2 bomb through it.

The bomb detonated.

A strangled noise came from Shinji's throat when he saw that the Angel was still standing.

Kaji continued to empty his watering can onto his garden. "Shinji, I can't do anything...but I bet you can." Shinji didn't answer. "It's up to you." Shinji still made no sound. "You know, you do need to breathe every once in a while. Blue doesn't suit you."

***

The entire NERV compound shook ominously again.

"Oh, God...the armor plate has been completely penetrated!" a nameless technician shouted. Several other nameless technicians crossed themselves and mumbled a short prayer without realizing it.

"Isn't Unit 01 ready yet?" Ritsuko asked, wringing her hands. All replies were in the negative.

Radditz clenched his free fist. "Let me pilot it, then!"

Gendou shook his head. "You are in no condition to pilot an Eva."

Radditz fought back the urge to tear Gendou apart then and there. "If Rei can pilot with only one arm, then so can I!"

"No." Gendou turned to Ritsuko. "Try starting Unit 01 again, from the top."

"I'll pilot it!" A voice screamed from the hangar.

"Back already, Shinji?" Gendou asked, a slightly sarcastic tone in his voice.

"Well...they closed the trains, so I had to take a taxi...but that's not what's important." Shinji took in a deep breath and stared his father directly in his...uh, glasses. "I am the pilot of Unit 01, Ikari Shinji!"

"Tell us something else we don't know..." Radditz muttered under his breath.

***

Shinji managed to catch up to the Angel just as it landed in front of the control room, attacking with a ferocity only previously seen when the Dummy Plug had taken over. He didn't even seem to be bothered by the fact that the Angel cut off his arm.

He became immensely upset, however, when Unit 01 ran out of power.

"Move! Move! Move! Please move!" Shinji begged his Eva, his voice rising as hysteria began taking over. "Move move move move move move!" He banged his fists on the controls. "Move, or I'll--I'll feed you Misato's curry!"

Unit 01's eyes suddenly took a very strange glow.

"T-the Eva restarted..." Maya stuttered, in shock. She read the outputs that the Magi gave and gasped. "Sync rate is 400%...!"

"That means...'she' has awakened..." Ritsuko muttered to herself, watching Unit 01 regenerate a human-looking arm out of one of the Angel's 'tentacles'.

Maya turned a very unnatural shade of green as Unit 01 tore the Angel apart and began stuffing its parts down its mouth.

"Looks delicious," Radditz remarked, grinning. "Hey, Shinji!" He called out. "Save me some!"

Maya turned an even darker shade of green, leaned over, and threw up.

After Unit 01 finished devouring the Angel's core, it reared its 'head' back and let out a deafening roar, the 'armor' around it cracking and splitting apart at the same time.

Ritsuko blanched. "The binding..."

Misato raised an eyebrow. "Binding?"

Caught by her own words, Ritsuko had no choice but to explain that the 'armor' around Unit 01 was actually used to restrain and control its power. "...but now, the Eva is out of our hands..."

A former spy watering a garden of round br--er, melons--smiled to himself as he watched. "Things just get more and more interesting...SEELE isn't going to be too happy about this." he emptied the can onto his beloved plants. "Was this in your plans, too, Gendou?"

Gendou bit back a sneeze. Darn these allergies...

***

As Kaji predicted, SEELE was extremely upset at the recent turn of events.

"The Eva took in the S2 organ by ingesting it. How unusual."

"More importantly, it was not in the scenario."

"And it's something that can't be undone easily."

"We shouldn't have trusted Gendou with NERV."

"He was the only one that had the resources to implement our plans...but now, what is he thinking...?"

Someone swallowed nervously before piping up. "Say...isn't this getting a bit old?"

The other members of SEELE stood up as one and beat the hapless fellow into the ground.

***

0:7--Trapped in the Throne of the Soul (Without a Good Book)
As the staff were relocated to a new center due to the extensive damage done during the previous night's battle, and those in charge discussed the significance Unit 01's 'feeding', a small problem arose in attempting to retrieve Unit 01's pilot.

There was nothing in the entry plug save LCL. And a note saying: "Having a hallucination. Will be back in a month!"

Misato gaped at the image. "What the..."

"That's what happens when 400% synchronization is reached," Ritsuko explained.

"So...what happened to Shinji?"

Ritsuko looked a bit uncomfortable. "He was...absorbed."

"What are you talking about?" Misato stared at Unit 01, which had already moved on its own three times even though it supposedly had no connections to any power source. "What the hell is Eva, anyways?"

Ritsuko looked even more uncomfortable. "All I can say is that it's man's attempt to create something in his own image."

Misato laughed bitterly. "Create? Ha! You only copied what you found in the Antarctic."

Ritsuko shook her head. "No, it arose from human will."

"Whose?" Misato demanded. Ritsuko only directed her eyes to the floor.

***

Rei opened her eyes to find herself in the hospital.

"I'm alive...?" she whispered to herself.

A mass of black to her right caught her attention. Craning her head slightly, she saw that it was Radditz, who had fallen asleep watching her.

"....................."

***

Shinji opened his eyes, and immediately realized that he wasn't in his entry plug any more. Heck, he wasn't even in Tokyo-3, either.

"Hello?" He called out timidly. As his voice echoed, the particles around him began to glow and swirl, coalescing into a figure with about the same height, but rounder. Much, much rounder.

"Pervert," a female voice chided playfully.

Shinji blinked as the figure became recognizable. "Ayanami...?"

"Wrong!" The black-haired girl declared. "I'm your soul. Or, at least, a manifestation of your soul." 'she' thought about this for a while. "Actually..." 'she' shook her head. "Nah, never mind."

This made Shinji even more confused. "My soul...?"

"Yeah. I can take many forms, but this one ended up being the most appropriate." Shinji's soul sighed. "Now I think I can see why." 'she' snapped 'her' fingers, and two chairs appeared. "Sit down. It'll be a while before they get you out."

Shinji sat, as did his soul. "Where is this place, anyway?"

"That's more of a metaphysical question, but..." Shinji's soul tapped 'her' chin thoughtfully, then continued cheerfully: "To tell you the truth, I have no idea whatsoever."

***

Radditz knocked on the open door of Rei's hospital room with his formerly injured arm. "Hey, Rei. You awake?"

"Yes."

Radditz walked in and placed a large stack of paper on the desk next to Rei's bed. "Here are the notes that you missed. Have fun." looking around to make sure no one was looking, Radditz pulled out a small package from his jacket. "Cookies, from Hikari. I think Asuka made some of them, too." he smiled sheepishly. "I hope you don't mind that I ate a couple of them; they're really good." remembering something else, Radditz reached into his jacket again. "Oh, and here's what you wanted me to bring." he handed her a small pair of cracked shades, as well as the keys to her apartment.

Rei's cheeks turned an unusual shade of pink. "Th...thank you."

"No problem," Radditz grinned. "Get well soon, okay?"

***

"How's it going?" Misato asked, peering over Ritsuko's shoulder.

"I think I've figured out what happened." Ritsuko brought up a screen of numbers and letters and pointed at one of the lines. "Here. This suggests that Shinji's still in the plug, but his physical body disappeared because he lost his ego-border."

"Why am I not surprised?" Misato murmured to herself. Louder, she asked, "So it's possible to get him back?"

"Theoretically, yes."

"Theoretically?" Misato repeated. "You mean something like this has never happened before?"

"Well...there was an accident before I got here, and they tried the same retrieving procedure on the person who disappeared." Ritsuko drew in a breath. "It didn't work."

***

Shinji's soul twiddled 'her' thumbs idly. "So...how have things been with you?"

"Don't you know?"

Shinji's soul rolled 'her' eyes. "No. You're always locking me up in a little corner somewhere." Shinji's soul shook a finger at him. "That's not very healthy, you know."

Shinji's chair suddenly disappeared, and was replaced with a psychiatrists' couch. "Huh?"

"Now, zen," Shinji's soul intoned with a heavy Bavarian accent. "Tell me avout yourzelf."

***

"Well?" Ritsuko asked when the smoke had cleared from the room.

Maya shook her head. "No good. It's as if he doesn't want to come back."

Misato stared at the silent Unit 01. "Shinji...why?"

***

"...and I ended up here."

"Verry innteresting," Shinji's soul stoked an imaginary beard. "Zo you deeslike your father, eh?" 'She' chuckled. "How Freudian."

The chair and the couch suddenly vanished, leaving both Shinji and his soul sitting on the ground. "What was that?"

Shinji's soul was all business again. "They're trying to get you back."

Shinji looked away. "I don't think I want to go back."

"Of course you'll go back." Shinji's soul looked a little sad. "Things will go right back to normal, and you'll forget this ever happened...and I'll get stuck back in my little corner."

***

The entry plug of Unit 01 was beginning to activate.

"Cut off the power, now!" Ritsuko all but shouted.

Maya frantically typed in the commands. "I can't! It's not accepting the commands!"

"Dammit! Why do the commands never work when they really need to?" Ritsuko stamped her foot. "I tried to warn Mother about that Bill Gates and his OS..."

The entry plug opened, and LCL spilled out of it onto the floor.

"NO!" Misato screamed, collapsing. "Shinji-kun! Shinji-kun! Shinji-kun!"

***

"It's time." Shinji's soul began to shimmer and fade.

"Wait!"

Shinji's soul gave him a little push. "Go. People are counting on you." with that, she disappeared completely.

***

Misato gasped as Shinji was 'spat' upon the metal walkway as naked as the day he was born.

(Ritsuko swore she heard Unit 01 clearing its throat in a rather unladylike manner.)

"Shinji-kun! Go put some clothes on!"

Fortunately for the readers, a nearby rail conveniently blocked their view.

Ritsuko rubbed her temples. "Boy, am I glad that's over. How about a drink on me to celebrate?"

"Sorry, I can't," Misato declined. "I've got...other things to do tonight."

Ritsuko shot Misato a wilting glare. "Well, don't go home too late or you'll worry Shinji."

***

0:8--The Price of Truth
In the room of a love hotel at the edge of Tokyo-3, a fully dressed Misato and Kaji looked at one another somewhat sheepishly.

"Um..." Misato began.

Kaji dropped something into her hand. "Here. For you. As a goodbye present." seeing her confused look, he pulled her closer and whispered in her ear: "The Authoress doesn't do lemon scenes."

Misato brightened. "Ah." She grinned. "As if that was anybody's business, right, Kaji-kun?"

Kaji flinched. "Please don't call me that."

***

Sometime later...

Misato suppressed a twitch. "Fuyutsuki was kidnapped?"

The nameless SEELE grunt nodded. "Yes. We suspect the one responsible for this is Kaji Ryouji. Since you know him, you're also under suspicion for the moment."

"I understand," Misato managed to grind out between clenched teeth.

The nameless grunt smiled mirthlessly. "Thank you very much."

***

The Vice-Commander of NERV regarded the monoliths before him coolly. "You know, if you wanted to speak to me, you could have arranged an appointment."

Keele coughed. "Well, this was a rather urgent matter."

Monolith 07 spoke up next. "Yes. As you can see, we finally know who's saying what."

Monolith 03 leaned forward. "More importantly, Gendou's recent actions have been inexcusable."

Monolith 05 took a sip out of his NERV (tm) mug. "No hard feelings, of course, but we'll have to keep you in our custody for a while."

***

Fuyutsuki was contemplating the gray walls of his cell and was about to go into an Extended Flashback Sequence as he felt his cuffs being released. He let out a soft gasp. "Who--?"

"Sorry about that," Kaji apologized.

Fuyutsuki stood, rubbing his sore wrists. "You do realize the consequences of your actions."

Kaji smiled sadly. "All I want is the truth."

"You can't--" Fuyutsuki shook his head. "Nah. It doesn't sound right when I say it."

***

"You're free to leave," the nameless SEELE grunt told Misato, handing back her gun.

"Already?"

"Yes. We've...'taken care' of things."

***

Kaji took in a deep breath as he heard the approaching footsteps. "You're late," he commented casually, turning.

He facefaulted when he saw who was pointing the gun at him.

"Misato's been coming home past midnight an awful lot lately," the small warm-water penguin stated with an accusatory tone. It unlatched the safety of its gun. "And someone's been filching my beer."

***

Upon reaching home, Misato saw that her answering machine was blinking. She pressed the 'play' button.

"Hi, babe, it's me, 'Kaji-kun'. I just wanted to apologize to you and Ritchan. Also, I wanted ask one more tiny little favor from you. I've been doing a bit of gardening, and I need someone to water my plants for me. Ask Shinji for the directions." a pause, then, softer: "You have the truth. I trust you know what to do with it." an even longer pause. "If I see you again, I'll have 'something' to say to you. Ciao."

Misato broke into uncontrollable sobbing, having come to the obvious conclusion. "WAH~~~~! Kaji-kun dumped me!"

***

0:9--The Fall of the Mighty
Asuka was not doing well in her simulation, which caused her to think about why she might not be doing well in her simulation, which in turn caused her to do even worse during her simulation, which...

"Asuka, you're getting distracted!" Ritsuko scolded. "Pay attention to the test, and don't think about other things!"

"I'm trying!" She yelled back, her brow furrowing in concentration.

"Trying isn't good enough, Asuka," Misato reminded her.

"You don't have to rub it in," Asuka mumbled sourly.

***

After the synchronization test, Misato made her way to a certain meeting location and waited for a certain informant. (I would tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.)

"I'm here," Misato whispered.

"All right." the informant cleared his throat. "Units 5-13 have been produced."

Misato's eyes widened in surprise. "The committee must really be in a hurry..." she muttered.

"Do you think that they're expecting a large scale attack?"

Misato bit her lip. "Perhaps, but not in the way you're assuming."

***

Later that night, at Misato's apartment, Shinji, Misato, Asuka, and Radditz were doing a splendid job of avoiding each other. Just when Misato thought that they would pass the entire night without saying a single word, the phone rang.

"Asuka!" Misato called from her room.

"I'm not getting it! It might be a call from 'Kaji-kun'." Asuka said the name at a higher, school-girl-in-love tone of voice.

Shinji sighed. "I'll get it."

Asuka melodramatically put a hand to her forehead. "Oh, I'm so sorry for letting the Great Shinji do such a minimal task."

Shinji ignored Asuka and picked up the receiver. "Hai...moshi-moshi?" He listened to the voice on the other side of the line, then offered the receiver to Asuka. "It's for you, from your mother."

"What? Mother? Give me that!" Asuka snatched the receiver from Shinji and began to converse in rapid-fire German. A loud "whoosh" sound was heard as Asuka's conversation went completely over the head of the non-German-speaking Authoress.

Radditz looked at Shinji. "You know what she's talking about?"

Shinji simply shook his head and shrugged.

"...Guten Nacht!" Asuka put the receiver back with triumph. She let out a long sigh. "Ach, what a drag."

"At least you have a mother to talk to," Shinji pointed out, suddenly brave again.

"Oh, she's just my stepmother," Asuka said with a casual wave of her hand. "Not that I don't like her or anything, but I just feel a bit awkward around her..." Asuka frowned. "Wait a minute! Why am I telling you all of this?!?"

"Er, sorry?" Shinji offered timidly.

"Argh!" Asuka stomped away.

***

Asuka's synch ratio dropped even lower; at her current ratio, she could barely get her EVA to move.

"This is even worse then yesterday," Ritsuko stated with a frown.

"She's having a period," Misato explained to Ritsuko in a low voice.

Ritsuko shook her head. "That shouldn't affect her sync ratio." she turned on the microphone. "Asuka, you're free to go."

***

Asuka and Rei stood in the elevator, saying nothing due to the extreme dizziness caused by the sudden scene change.

Rei looked at Asuka.

Asuka looked at Rei.

The elevator descended.

Rei blinked. Once.

"Ha! I win!" Asuka gloated.

"........"

***

The next day, instead of going to school, Asuka went to where her Eva had been stored.

"Listen up," she addressed her mech with confidence. "I'm your pilot, so you're to do what I say, got it?"

"As you wish, Mistress Asuka," a deep voice intoned.

Asuka nearly had a heart attack when she realized that the voice belonged to Radditz, who was now standing behind her and smirking like the cat that ate the canary. Asuka was very tempted to wipe that smirk off of his face, but remembering what had happened the last time she tried to hit him, decided to stand there and fume instead. Radditz noted with some amusement that Asuka turned almost as red as her hair.

An alarm went off, indicating the approach of an Angel.

***

A large circular double-helixed band of light orbited the Earth silently.

"Hmm..." Misato tapped her chin thoughtfully as she looked at the image of the Angel. "Looks like we'll just have to wait until it gets in range and knock it out of the sky." she turned to Maya. "How's Rei and Unit 00?"

"Both are fine," Maya reported.

"Great." Misato hit the communicator. "Rei, move out and get ready. Asuka, take the back and cover Rei."

"Me? Back-up?" Asuka asked indignantly.

"That's what I said, Asuka. You're going to be the rear guard."

"Are you kidding? I'm taking point." Unit 02 began lumbering forward.

Back in the control room, Misato held up a hand to stop any protest. "If she wants to prove herself, let her."

"If Asuka screws up, can I be the next pilot?" Radditz asked half-jokingly.

"I heard that, Radish-head," Asuka all but growled. "Just you watch!"

The ring of light continued its leisurely orbit.

"Damn it, hurry up!" Asuka urged impatiently, aiming her cannon. The crosshairs moved together at a snail's pace. Just as the cannon centered on the target, something slammed into her mind with the subtlety of a ton of bricks.

o/ It's a Small World After All! It's a Small World After All... o/

(Sorry, I don't know what came over me.)

Asuka fired wildly as she felt the walls she had erected around her being pried apart. "No!" She screamed. "Get out of my head! Don't look at me!"

"What in the world is going on?" Misato demanded.

Ritsuko studied the readings coming from Asuka's Eva, and frowned. "I'm not sure...it's almost as if...as if the Angel's trying to come in contact with the psyche of the pilot..."

Misato stared at Ritsuko. "Then what's going to happen to Asuka?"

"I don't know..."

"No! NO! Stop!" Asuka screamed. The cannon had long ago run out of ammunition--the large craters in the ground testified to that--but she was continuing to shoot at whatever it was that was overhead.

A few feet away, Rei was preparing to fire the Really Big Arse Gun. The crosshairs joined, and Rei pulled the trigger, gritting her teeth as the recoil of the gun jolted through her Eva.

She missed.

Shinji, sitting in the entry plug of his Eva, winced at Asuka's cries. "Let me go out there and help, please!"

"No," Gendou answered. "The freeze on Unit 01 stands."

Misato looked around the room and did a quick head count. "Hey, wait a minute...where's Radditz?"

Someone pointed to a tiny figure on the screen that was flying towards Unit 02.

Mentally, Gendou was throwing a fit, but he kept his outward composure. "Rei, go to Central Dogma and retrieve the Lance Longinus."

Futsuyuki stared at Gendou. "You do realize what the committee is going to think of this."

Gendou clasped his hands. "That is irrelevant. The scenario must proceed as planned, and if I can't turn the clock backwards, I'll make it go forwards."

***

Radditz landed on the back of Asuka's Eva and quickly found the manual emergency eject button for the entry plug. He pressed it, and the diesel-powered engine slowly pushed the plug out. When the plug had fully ejected, Radditz jumped onto it, and reached out towards the levers that would open the plug.

"Yeow! Hot!" his hand automatically darted back upon touching the superheated metal. "Damn..." Radditz stared at the plug for a while.

Asuka was breaking into hysterics, and Radditz could hear it. "Stop! Stop looking into me!"

If I were in there, I'd sure as hell like someone to get me out, he thought. Steeling himself, he spit on his hands, wrenched his eyes shut, and grabbed the levers. With one mighty heave, Radditz forced the lever to turn. LCL began pouring out of the plug, covering Radditz in the sick-smelling liquid.

Almost a the same time, Rei, who had by this time returned with the Lance, took careful aim and ran three steps before launching the projectile with the grace of an Olympic athlete. This time, she didn't miss. The Lance streaked through its target into the darkness of space, and began orbiting Earth's only (natural) satellite.

Sinatra's "Fly Me To The Moon" suddenly broke out over all of the loudspeakers, causing a despondent NERV employee on the verge of a nervous breakdown to leap to his death in a manner reminiscent of a spoiler episode.

***

By the time Shinji found his way to Asuka, the clouds that had been dissipated by the Lance had returned, and it was drizzling lightly again. Asuka, though, didn't seem to care; she merely sat on the ground and dripped a mixture of water and LCL.

"Asuka?" Shinji ventured timidly, inching close to Asuka.

"Why didn't you do anything?" Asuka demanded angrily, unexpectedly grabbing Shinji by the collar.

"I-I wanted to, but I couldn't!" Shinji gasped out as his air supply rapidly diminished.

Asuka shook Shinji like a rag doll. "You didn't even try! I had to be rescued by Wonder Girl and Radish-head!" She looked like she was ready to punch him, but dropped him instead and sank to the ground, hugging her knees to her chest. "Stupid Shinji!" she repeated over and over again between sobs.

"Asuka, I..." Shinji dropped to his knees, startling Asuka into staring at him. "I'm so sorry...I wanted to help, honest!" Tears welled at the edges of his eyes. "Really, I did..."

Asuka suddenly developed an overwhelming urge to kiss Shinji. She shook her head. 'What in the world am I thinking? That's so way Out Of Character!' She looked at Shinji again. 'But then, he does look awfully cute when he's all guilty and apologizing like that.'

"Aw, to hell with it," Asuka muttered as she decided that she didn't care less about her reputation as a bad-tempered, angsty teen.

"Whaa--mph!" was all Shinji could say as Asuka's mouth connected with his.

Asuka held the kiss for as long as she had held her previous one with Shinji before breaking it off. "I feel much better now," she sighed. She shook a finger at Shinji. "Remember, this didn't happen." Shinji, whose brain had completely shut down by now, could only nod blankly. Asuka giggled. "You're so gullible, stupid Shinji!" She planted another small peck on his cheek before sauntering off. Meanwhile, Shinji began grinning like an idiot while his subconscious cheerfully hummed 'I Wish I Were an Oscar Meyer Weiner'. (It was either that or '99 Bottles of Ebisu on the Wall'.)

***

0:10--Rei's Soul
What looked like a giant glowing piece of noodle hovered at the edge of Tokyo-3, conveniently interrupting Gendou's "meeting" with SEELE--which, in reality, mostly consisted of Gendou acting unnecessarily mysterious and the SEELE members doing the old song-and-dance about the "scenario", yadda yadda ya.

"Radditz, sortie," Gendou ordered. "Or at least draw the Angel's attention."

"Hey, waitaminute!" Asuka protested. "That's my EVA he'll be piloting!"

"Don't worry, Asuka," Radditz said sweetly. "I'll make sure I be extra careful." he pushed the levers forward, but didn't get any response. "What the--?"

Back in the control room, Gendou only smiled and hid the wire clippers behind his back.

Meanwhile, out on the battlefield, the Angel was heading rapidly towards Rei. Unit 00 reached out to grab the Angel, and it did, but Rei gasped in alarm as something even stranger than Misato's cooking--if that were even possible--began spreading up her arm. She tried countering with her AT field, but that didn't seem to slow the Angel's progress much. Through the haze of pain and the frantic shouting from the speakers, Rei heard another voice.

Come, be [one] with me...

"[Who] are you?"

The scenery changed, and Rei found herself floating in a field of red facing a Super Deformed (and I do mean Deformed) version of herself.

"Come, be [one] with me..." the smaller Rei repeated.

Rei shook her head. "You are the [enemy]. I do not [wish] to become [like] you."

"Is that [so]?" SD Rei smiled eeriely. "Too [late]. You already have a [part] of me. Here, a [gift], from me to you."

A tear formed in Rei's eye and slid down her cheek. "What...what is this [feeling]? I do not like [it]."

SD Rei continued to smile. "This is [loneliness], Rei. An [emptiness] that will eat you up from the [inside]."

Rei touched the tear and looked at it. "I...I'm...[crying]?"

Somewhere in the back of her mind, Rei wondered why she and her mysterious companion had been speaking in brackets.

***

"Move, dammit!" Radditz slammed his fists onto the Eva's controls, to no avail.

"The freeze on Unit 01 is cancelled," he heard Gendou state over the speakers. "Move out and sortie."

"Yes, sir!" Shinji answered with unexpected enthusiasm.

"Shinji, develop your AT field!" Misato reminded Shinji.

"Yeah, and don't do anything stupid like get yourself killed," Asuka added, not without some bitterness.

"Hurry up!" Radditz urged. "I don't think Rei can hold up much longer in there!"

"I know," Shinji answered back solemnly.

***

Rei opened her eyes and found herself inside her entry plug again. She gasped when she saw Unit 01 charging towards her. "Ikari-kun!" Then, out of the corner of her eye, she also saw Unit 02. "Radditz-kun!"

A mental scale appeared in her mind's eye. On one side was Shinji, who cared about her, was nice to her, and the Commander's son. On the other was Radditz, who also cared about her and was nice to her, but wasn't related to the Commander in any way shape or form, and was even from outer space. She weighed the two options back and forth for a while before coming to her decision.

"I shall have thee both!" she cried out as the Angel wrapped around her EVA split into two and headed towards the other two EVAs. Shinji managed to dodge the Angel, but Radditz was too busy trying to start up Unit 02 to notice his impending doom. Fortunately--or unfortunately, depending whose point of view you were taking--Rei came to her senses and reversed her AT field, drawing the Angel back towards her and keeping it trapped.

"Rei, what are you doing?" Misato demanded. "Eject now!"

"If I do, the AT field will disappear." Rei strained to reach the self-destruct lever. "I'm sorry," she whispered as she grabbed it, taking one last glance at the world outside before giving it a hard yank.

"REI!" Shinji and Radditz screamed (perfectly harmonized) as Unit 00 erupted in a cross-shaped blast, taking the Angel with it.

***

Vegita smirked. "Checkmate. Again."

Freeza fumed quietly. How could he have not seen that Vegita's gambit had been a suicide attack intending to take out his defense? "Another game. Right here, right now."

Vegita shrugged and reset the board, starting with his Queen. "You never get tired of losing, do you?"

The veins on Freeza's face looked like they were on the verge of exploding. "Shut up."

***

Down the third corridor of the third floor of the third wing of the NERV HQ hospital ran Shinji, Radditz and Asuka. The three skidded to a halt when they found Rei sitting in front of room 333, sporting some bandages that looked oddly familiar to Shinji.

"I'm so glad you're alive!" Shinji gushed.

"Yeah! We were so worried about you!" Radditz patted Rei on the shoulder. "Thanks a lot, Rei. I owe you one."

Rei looked back blankly. "You do?"

"You kept stupid Shinji and Radish-head from becoming Angel food," Asuka said.

Rei blinked. "I did?"

"Don't you remember?" Shinji asked.

"I don't know..." Rei looked away. "I think I am the third."

"The third what?" Radditz wanted to know, but Rei didn't reply.

***

Much later, Rei returned to her apartment. After removing the bandages, she picked up the pair of tinted glasses resting on her nightstand. Looking at her reflection through the slightly cracked lenses, she idly twisted the frame, but the material proved to be too resilient to give in to her half-hearted attempt to destroy it. A drop of liquid landed onto the glass, followed by two more.

"I'm crying," she noted. "I see tears again for the first time." she paused, taking in the significance of this. "How very confusing."

***

0:11--I Think I'm a Clone Now
Ritsuko's mood was getting progressively worse. Not only did she have to see what was left of Rei after she self-destructed, but she was forced to stand before the monoliths of SEELE as Rei's "deputy", whatever that meant, wearing nothing but her birthday suit. Morever, she found out that her cat had died.

"We don't mean to embarrass you, Dr. Akagi, but this is an important manner." the display on Lorentz's monolith read "Audio Only", but Ritsuko wondered how true that was.

"I don't feel embarrassed," she lied.

"Ah, such spirit, such fire," noted SEELE 02. "The heavens weep that such a beauty has wasted away in the dark confines of the underground--"

A heavy thud echoed in the small room, and the monoliths actually seemed to collect a bit of moisture on their pristine surfaces.

Seele 04 cleared his throat. "Yes, it is easy to see why Ikari is attached to you."

"However, it was Ikari himself who recommended you to speak to us," interjected SEELE 03. "We only have a few simple questions..."

Of course, Ritsuko lied through her teeth during the entire thing, but the SEELE members showed no sign of whether or not they knew so. Finally, they allowed her to leave and get her clothes back.

"She's a difficult one, but she's still useful," remarked SEELE 07 after Ritsuko was gone.

"Yes. The time is drawing near," agreed SEELE 05.

"Um..." you could almost see SEELE 06's thumbs twiddle. "So...anyone for a game of bridge?"

***

Ritsuko frowned as the display panel read "ACCESS DENIED". Biting her lip, she tried again.

"It won't work without my special pass," Misato explained from behind her, pressing a gun to the back of her head and cocking it.

"Kaji's handiwork, right?" Ritsuko asked.

Misato only pressed the gun more tightly against the back of Ritsuko's head. "Show me everything."

"By all means." a soft shuffling could be heard in the darkness. "But Shinji will be a witness to it as well."

Misato handed Ritsuko a plastic card. "Open the door."

Ritsuko obeyed and led Misato and Shinji into the heart of Terminal Dogma.

"This...this looks like Ayanami's room!" Shinji realized as he looked around the lab they were walking through. The sparse decorations, the small bed, even the beakers filled with water resembled the First Child's apartment to the last detail.

Ritsuko shook her head. "No, that should be the other way around. She was born here."

"Oh." Shinji looked around the room again and marveled at how similar it was to where Rei was currently living.

Misato gestured with her gun. "Shall we move on?"

Ritsuko walked forward. "Of course."

The three continued forward, but came to a stop again before an immense skeleton.

"What is this?" Shinji asked, staring.

"The first EVA, a failed experiment." Ritsuko switched on the lights, revealing row after row of similar skeletons.

"A graveyard..." Shinji breathed.

"A dumping ground," Ritsuko corrected. "You might not remember, but this is also where your mother disappeared. She brought you here to watch her experiment, and you saw everything, including when everything went wrong."

"Ritsuko!" Misato scolded sharply.

"Sorry, but Shinji's daily angst quotient hasn't been reached yet." Ritsuko only continued forward. "Come along. The more interesting stuff is further this way."

They continued walking until they came upon another set of doors.

"This is it," Ritsuko said as she slid the card through the slot. "The truth about the Dummy Plug System."

Shinji walked into the room and looked around the glass panels. He let out a gasp as the lights behind the glass was turned on. "That's--"

The entire room was like a giant aquarium filled with Rei's. And they were all naked. Shinji began to feel a little faint.

"What...what is this?" Misato managed to ask after she recovered from her shock.

"The 'dummy' part of the Dummy Plug System," Ritsuko replied. "And parts for Rei."

"Is that..." Shinji swallowed, trying to keep his nose from bleeding. "Is that human?"

"Biologically speaking, yes, but Rei is the only one who truly has a soul. The rest of them are nothing but vessels, so to speak." Ritsuko pulled what looked like a remote control out of her pocket. "And I'll destroy them all, because I hate them."

"Wait!" Misato grabbed Ritsuko's hand as she was about to type in the commands. "You don't know what you're doing."

"Yes I do!" Ritsuko snatched her hand back. "Destruction." a haunting violin/piano melody began playing from somewhere. "After I risked everything, even threw away my own body, I lost against THAT. I can stand anything except THAT." she pressed a button on the "remote".

Shinji's nose erupted in a fountain of blood as all of the Rei clones linked shoulders and began dancing the can-can. The background music abruptly stopped and changed to a much more upbeat tune at the same time. It was only a matter of time before the overwhelmed boy passed out on the floor.

(Yes, I am very evil.)

Ritsuko sweatdropped. "Oops, that was Gendou's 'secret fantasy' button." she pressed a different button, and the music changed back to the previous melody as the Rei clones dissolved to the sound of childish giggling. She turned to Misato. "Mind if I skip the rest of that whole self-deprecation bit?"

"I don't see why not," Misato answered. "The whole mood's been ruined anyway."

***

Ritsuko made it a point to ignore Gendou when he entered her cell.

"Why did you destroy the Dummy System?" he asked sternly.

Ritsuko crossed her arms. "Because I felt like it. Besides, it wasn't just the Dummy System that I destroyed, but Rei." Gendou didn't comment. "Maybe now that she's not so easily replaceable any more, you won't take her for granted." then, almost in a whisper, she added, "like you did to me."

Gendou 'tsked'. "You disappoint me, Dr. Akagi."

"You don't even think of me at all," Ritsuko shot back accusingly.

"Of course not. You, too, can be replaced." with that, Gendou turned and left, closing the cell door behind him and leaving Ritsuko to sit in the darkness once more.

***

0:12--NERV Crisis Number 5
Sitting upon the pinkish sand, Shinji contemplated the large lake created by Unit 00's self-destruct.

"There you are!" using protruding bits of metal, Radditz leapt across the lake. "It's been real quiet without you and Asuka. Well, mostly without Asuka, but anyway..."

Shinji drew his knees to his chest. "Asuka's in a coma, Touji and Kensuke had to move, and Misato's locked herself in her room drinking all the time. I can't talk to anybody."

"Oh, I don't count as somebody?" Radditz asked, pretending to be hurt. "And what about Rei? You seem to get along pretty well with her."

"I can't face Rei any more..." Shinji whispered. "She...she reminds me too much of my mother..."

Radditz shook his head. "You're a real picky guy, you know that?"

Suddenly, the sound of someone humming Beethoven's Ode to Joy could be heard. Shinji and Radditz followed the sound until they came upon a young boy with gray hair and dark red eyes sitting upon a large rock.

"A song is good, don't you think?" The boy asked, smiling at Shinji.

Shinji blinked. "Huh?"

"A song brings us joy," the boy explained. He hopped off his rock and walked up to Shinji. "Greetings, Ikari Shinji."

"You...you know me?" Shinji asked, surprised.

"Of course. You're famous!" the boy extended his hand. "I'm Nagisa Kaworu. I'm the Fifth Child."

Shinji blinked again. "Fifth Child?"

"As in after the Fourth," Radditz scowled.

Kaworu continued to smile enigmatically. "Ah, Radditz! Pleased to meet you too!"

Radditz only continued to glower darkly. "Whatever."

***

Later, as Kaworu test-synchronized in the simulated entry plug of Unit 02, everyone (except Radditz, of course) was amazed at how well the Fifth Child performed.

"So what if he can synchronize almost perfectly with Unit 02?" Radditz muttered to himself after the test was over. There was something about Kaworu that irked Radditz greatly aside from the boy's self-confident attitude and his piloting skills, but Radditz couldn't quite figure out what. Above him, Kaworu skipped happily up the escalator, all the while humming that same stupid tune he'd been humming since the beach.

"Ah! Excuse me," Kaworu's voice carried easily across the large room. "You must be Ayanami Rei, the First Child."

"Do I know you?" Rei asked quietly.

"Nope, but I do." Kaworu walked closer to Rei. "You and I are alike in more ways than one."

Okay, that does it! Radditz thought angrily. Letting out a growl, he flew up the escalator. As Kaworu turned around to see who it was, Radditz grabbed him by the collar and rose high into the air.

"Is something wrong, Radditz?" Kaworu asked, apparently unaware of Radditz's fury.

"You, Mr. Think's You're So Awesome." Radditz shook Kaworu hard. "What makes you think you can just waltz in here, take my position as Unit 02's pilot, and get so cozy with everybody even though you've hardly known them?"

"Now that's the pot calling the kettle black," Kaworu chuckled.

Radditz narrowed his eyes. "You want to become a big smear on the ground?"

Kaworu held up his hands. "No offense meant, Radditz. Like you, I'm just doing my job. Now, could you let me down?" he stretched his smile even wider. "Please?"

Radditz glared at Kaworu for another five seconds before slowly lowering both of them back to the ground. "Whatever you're planning, I'm gonna be onto you, so don't try anything funny."

"I'll keep that in mind," Kaworu said lightly before sauntering off.

Radditz watched Kaworu leave until he vanished out of sight. Turning back to face Rei, who had watched the entire thing quietly, he offered her his hand. "Hey, want me to fly you home?"

Rei gave Radditz a strange look. "No, thank you." walking past him, she stepped on the escalator and made her way towards Gendou's office.

Radditz watched Rei's retreating back for a long time. "I'm an idiot," he mumbled sullenly.

***

Radditz returned home to find the apartment empty.

That's strange. I was pretty sure Shinji left before I did... his stomach rumbled ominously. Forget him, I'm starving. Radditz headed for the kitchen, thankful that Misato kept large stashes of instant noodles around.

After finishing his meal, Radditz watched television for the rest of the night. It wasn't until nearly midnight that Misato came home and promptly consumed more beers than recommended by the USDA.

***

When Shinji failed to show up at school the next day, Radditz noted it, but didn't give it much thought. During lunch, a few students asked about Shinji, but Radditz didn't know any more than they did, and told them so. After class resumed, Radditz barely maintained his sanity by playing some sort of game Kensuke had installed on all of the computers. He was on a particularly difficult level when a message came in.

00>How is Ikari-kun?

Only Rei calls Shinji that, Radditz thought. He immediately paused the game and typed back a reply.

04>Haven't seen him since the Fifth Child showed up.

00>I think Ikari-kun is avoiding me.

04>Really?

00>Yes.

That's strange, Radditz thought. I thought Shinji kind of liked Rei. And then he remembered their conversation on the beach.

04>Now that you mention it, I think he said something about not being able to face you. Have any idea why?

Rei did not reply for several moments.

00>I am not certain.

Radditz was about to ask her what she meant by that when someone tapped him on his shoulder.

"Enjoying yourself?" the teacher asked sarcastically.

"Ack!" Radditz quickly hid the window in which he had been playing and brought up some old notes someone had thoughtfully taken the first time the lecture on the Second Impact had been given.

"Much better." the teacher returned to the front of the room and began reciting the same thing he had repeated ever since the first day of school.

***

Meanwhile, Shinji was hiding in one of the many hallways of NERV waiting for Kaworu.

I need to talk to someone...anyone who can listen to me before I go insane, Shinji thought. Even if I've just met Kaworu, he seems to be a lot friendlier than Radditz or Asuka. He sighed, remembering his last visit to Asuka. While her caustic personality wasn't the easiest to get along with, it was still unnerving to see her in such a catatonic state. And then the memory of that kiss still lingered on his mind...

"Fancy seeing you here!" Kaworu greeted cheerfully from behind Shinji. "Were you waiting for me?"

Shinji jumped a bit. "Er, um...I...yeah!"

"I'm going to take a bath and wash off all this LCL." Kaworu smiled warmly. "Care to join me?"

***

Even though the water in the bath gradually grew tepid and Shinji's fingers and toes resembled raisins more and more, he had no desire to leave. Words tumbled forth from him as he told Kaworu everything, from his mother's disappearance to what he had seen in Terminal Dogma. Meanwhile, Kaworu listened patiently to the entire thing, not once showing any sign of fatigue or making any kind of comment. It was only when Shinji finished that he realized how much time he took.

"I...I didn't bore you too much, did I?" he asked sheepishly.

"Not at all," Kaworu reassured Shinji. "I like listening to you."

For the first time since he met Kaworu, Shinji felt a bit uncomfortable, but he quickly passed it off as his shyness. "Er...right."

"You fear contact," Kaworu continued, apparently unaware of Shinji's unease. Shinji made a tiny 'eep!' as Kaworu touched hands with him. "But you shouldn't be afraid."

"Kaworu!" Shinji squeaked, feeling himself flush all over. "I'm not like that!"

"Like what?" Kaworu asked innocently.

Was this guy born in a cave? Shinji wondered. He shook his mind. "Never mind." he stood up, being careful not to expose himself before Kaworu, and headed towards the changing room to put his clothes back on.

***

Shinji stared at the pouring rain in dismay.

I'm gonna have to walk home in this?

"What terrible weather," observed Kaworu as he opened his umbrella. "My apartment's not too far from here, and the rain doesn't look like it's going to let up any time soon. How about spending the night at my place?"

Lighting flashed brightly close by, followed by a crack of thunder. Sadly, Shinji missed this blatantly obvious Sign of Impending Doom.

"Yeah! That would be great!" Shinji stepped under the umbrella with Kaworu. "Thanks!"

Kaworu smiled back. "The pleasure is mine."

***

"I'm the host; I should be sleeping on the floor," Kaworu said apologetically as he helped Shinji roll out a thick blanket.

Shinji shook his head. "No, I don't mind. Besides, I'm the one inconveniencing you." He smoothed out the wrinkles in the blanket and slipped in. Kaworu got into his own bed as well and turned off the lights.

"Good night, Shinji."

"Good night Kaworu. Thanks again for listening to me."

Kaworu laughed, then let out a satisfied sigh. "I think I may have been born to meet you."

Shinji fell asleep before he could figure out what Kaworu meant by that.

***

0:13a--Knocking on Heaven's Door and Getting Hell Instead
"I'm home!" Radditz announced as he tossed his shoes into one corner and his bookbag into another.

"Welcome home," Misato slurred, causing Radditz, who had not expected anyone to answer, to jump nearly three feet into the air.

"What are you doing here?"

"Getting drunk," Misato replied, opening another can and downing it in one vicious gulp.

"Well, that's obvious," Radditz said sarcastically, noting the piles of beer cans scattered all over the room. "But what for? I thought you got over Kaji weeks ago."

"Kaji didn't know jack," Misato mumbled sullenly. "Every piece of information he gave me was either incomplete or totally off." She guzzled yet another can.

Radditz carefully stepped over the empty cans and sat down across from Misato. "You make no sense whatsoever."

"I did a little reshearsh on the Fifsh Shild." Misato tried to sit up a bit higher, but failed. "Turnsh out the kid is the Final Meshenger, or shomeshing like that." she reached towards a fourth can and found it empty. "Now doeshn't that beat all?"

Radditz shook his head. Boy, I thought Misato was crazy enough normally... And then something clicked in his mind. "Wait a minute." he leaned forward. "What do you mean, 'Final Messenger'?"

"Whatsh zat shound like? It meansh the boy ish an Angel, dummy!"

Radditz jumped up, knocking over the chair he had been sitting on, and cursed loudly in his native language, shocking Misato back into some sense of sobriety.

"What was that for?" she wanted to know.

"Don't you realize what you just said?" Radditz asked incredulously. "If that Kaworu guy is an Angel, what do you think he'll be doing right now?"

"He'd be...@$&@#!" now it was Misato's turn to let loose a string of obscenities. She also jumped out of her chair and grabbed her keys. "Come on, Radditz, we've got to hurry."

"Thanks, but I can get there faster by flying." With that, Radditz opened the sliding door that led to the balcony and took off into the air. Misato stared at him for a few seconds before dashing out of the apartment herself and heading towards her car.

***

Kaworu floated to the cage holding Unit 02.

"Well, then, shall we be off?" he asked cheerfully. Unit 02's eyes began glowing brightly.

Radditz ran into the room. "Hold it right there!"

Kaworu didn't even bother to face Radditz. "This is none of your business, Radditz."

"Yes it is!" Flying into the air, Radditz charged at Kaworu, but ran straight into an AT field. "You cheap bastard!" Radditz growled, rubbing his nose. "You're too wimpy to fight me, so you use your little barrier to keep me away!"

This time, Kaworu turned around and wagged a finger at him, smiling with his eyes closed. "I am rubber and you are glue: words bounce off me and stick to you."

If he wants to play that way, then... Radditz smirked. "Oh, yeah? Your mother wears Army boots."

Kaworu narrowed his eyes. "Okay, now it's personal." The air between Kaworu and Radditz shimmered a bit. "Catch me if you can," Kaworu taunted before zooming away, Unit 02 staring up after him. Radditz gave chase, and the two began a deadly mid-air battle.

***

"No, way!" Shinji punched the walls of the entry plug. "Kaworu can't be an Angel!"

"That's the reality of things, Shinji. The Magi have confirmed a Blue Pattern," Misato told him over the intercom. "Deal with it."

"How could he betray me like that?" Shinji asked himself as he dropped down the shaft Kaworu had entered moments earlier. "How could he?!?"

In the blink of an eye, Shinji caught up with Kaworu, who was still locked in combat with Radditz. "You worry about Unit 02!" Radditz shouted. "I'll deal with this guy!"

"Right." Pulling out his Progressive Knife, Shinji whispered a quiet apology to Asuka before blocking Unit 02's attack.

Shinji, Kaworu, Radditz, and Unit 02 continued to fall, all the way into the very heart of NERV. Upon reaching Terminal Dogma, Kaworu reactivated his AT field again and floated up to the gigantic being nailed to the cross erected there.

"It's finally time to go home, Adam," he told the being, who did not respond. "No, wait. This isn't Adam...this is Lillith! I've been had!"

Radditz, noticing that the AT field had gone down again due to Kaworu's shock, flew up to the boy and gave him a hard right hook.

"Thank you, Radditz, I needed that," Kaworu said, rubbing his sore jaw. He turned towards Unit 02 and de-activated it. Shinji, now free from having to defend himself, lumbered toward Kaworu.

"Why, Kaworu?" Shinji asked in anguish. "Why did you do it?"

"I'm just a pawn in a deadly game, Shinji," Kaworu replied sadly. "All of us are." he smiled again. "But meeting you was worth it."

"What do you mean, Kaworu?" the confused pilot asked. "What are you talking about?"

"My last words, Shinji." Kaworu faced Radditz again. "Freeza says hi." Before Radditz could react in any way, Kaworu dropped his AT field and performed a perfect dive from 35 miles above the LCL, killing himself the moment he hit the water.

***

Shinji didn't know whether to feel happy or sad that Kaworu was dead. On one hand, Kaworu had been someone who had been genuinely nice and friendly to him. On the other hand, Kaworu turned out to be an Angel out to get all of them. Radditz kept most of his thoughts to himself, but it was clear from the scowl on his face whenever Kaworu was mentioned that the Fourth Child didn't think much of the Fifth.

Actually, Radditz was more worried about himself. As of Kaworu's death, he had not contacted Freeza at all for fear of hearing the inevitable 'Hurry Up and Finish Your Job' speech. Radditz didn't really want to admit it, but he had gotten to like Earth and its residents. Especially a certain blue-haired one...

"Radditz? Hello?" Shinji waved a hand in front of Radditz's face.

Radditz blinked. "Hm? Did you say something?"

Shinji sighed. "Never mind..."

***

0:13b--Really Big, Expensive Special Effects, and Senseless Violence Too
With the Seventeenth Angel defeated, and the only means of initiating the Third Impact in the hands of NERV, SEELE resorted to desperate measures. Soon enough, NERV found themselves about to be attacked by a large army whose order was "Terminate, With Extreme Prejudice".

"We don't have enough firepower to hold them off, not even with the EVA's!" Maya exclaimed with worry. "What'll we do?"

"First, we need to make sure all of the pilots are safe." Misato turned off the viewscreen so that she wouldn't have to look at the advancing army. "I've already had Asuka placed in Unit 02 and sunk to the bottom of the lake in front of the headquarters. Radditz is..." Misato looked around to find the Fourth Child missing. "Where did he go? Didn't he just come in with Shinji?"

"He said he'd rather do something useful," Shinji answered for Radditz.

"And Rei is missing too...ugh." Misato shook her head. "Never mind. We'll just have to improvise. Shinji, get into Unit 01 and launch onto the surface."

"More Angels?" Shinji wanted to know.

"No, humans. You're going to be the cannon fodder."

"Why am I not surprised?" Shinji muttered to himself.

***

Meanwhile, in Gendou was headed toward Terminal Dogma with Rei trailing slightly behind him. He walked at a particularly brisk pace, and his eyes glimmered strangely beneath his tinted glasses. Futher in the back, Ritsuko's body lay in a growing pool of blood, having been shot by Gendou moments earlier.

Reaching the door to Terminal Dogma, Gendou discarded his gloves and slid his access card through its slot. He waited for Rei to enter the room before entering himself, then closing the door behind her.

"This is it, Rei. The day you were made for." He held up his hand, revealing a strange object implanted in it. "I have already united with Adam. Now, I need you to take me to Lillith." Rei made no indication whether or not she understood. Gendou took her arm rather forcefully. "Time is running short, Rei. Your AT field will not be able to hold you together much longer. Take me to Lillith."

Rei still did not reply.

***

Elsewhere still--the entry plug of Unit 02, to be exact--Asuka still lay in a near-catatonic state. Above her, the sounds of combat filtered through the water in the form of deep rumbles and booms.

"Why am I still alive?" she asked herself out loud. "I'm not of any use to anyone anymore."

The entry plug shook violently as a depth charge exploded near it. Asuka buried her head between her knees. "Mama..."

The entry plug was suddenly illuminated in a strange light, and a choir began to hum "Three Blind Mice".

Asuka...don't die yet...

Asuka looked around in alarm. "Who's there?"

Be strong, my Asuka...

Asuka finally recognized the voice. "Mama?"

I'm always here to protect you...

Tears began welling in Asuka's eyes. "That's...that's right! I can't die yet!"

WILL YOU QUIT ANGSTING ALREADY? THAT'S SHINJI'S JOB!

Asuka jumped a bit, then sat bolt upright in her entry plug. "Yes, Ma'am!"

With a roar, Unit 02 started up and jumped out of the lake, taking several ships by surprise. (And boy, were those ships ever surprised.)

"Asuka!" Shinji waved from where he was fighting off the Eva Production Series. "Am I glad to see you!"

"Eyes forward, stupid!" Asuka reminded him, plowing into the enemy Evas. "We can talk later!"

"Right!" Shinji turned his attention back to his task.

***

"YEAH!" Radditz crowed as he quickly made mincemeat out of the invading soldiers. "You idiots just picked the wrong place to invade!"

The survivors frantically scrambled away in a desperate attempt to escape, but Radditz caught up to them and went through them like a hot knife through butter. When he finished, he dusted his hands off and licked the tips of his fingers clean.

"A great job, if I do say so myself," Radditz declared with satisfaction.

A sudden movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Turning, he managed to get a glimpse of a retreating figure wearing a school uniform.

The figure had pale blue hair.

"Rei! Wait!" Radditz ran as fast as he could after Rei, but she always seemed to be one step of him as she wove through the labyrinthine hallways of NERV. Just as he was about to reach the door to Terminal Dogma, she seemed to vanish entirely. "Rei?" Radditz began slamming his fist against the large metal door. "Rei! Are you in there?"

***

Rei's eyes darted toward the door as she heard Radditz approach, and quickly darted back to Gendou, but he noticed it.

"Ignore him," he commanded. "He is no longer needed for my plans to succeed."

Rei's eyes flashed. "And what about me? What happens after I take you to your beloved Yui?"

Gendou nearly facefaulted at this sudden outburst of emotion, but quickly collected himself. After all, he was supposed to be the coldhearted bastard of the series. "Isn't this what you've always wanted?"

"You mean what you wanted me to think I wanted," Rei corrected accusingly.

Seeing that he was rapidly losing his psychological hold over Rei, Gendou took a more physical one. "Take me to Lillith, now!"

Rei responded by turning Gendou into a human pretzel. Then, she picked up his tinted glasses from the ground.

"I am not your doll," she said to the fallen Gendou, giving the glasses a vicious twist as she did, so much so that the frames gave and shattered. Letting the now broken shades fall to the floor, Rei turned away from Gendou and toward the exit.

"Uh...sorry?" Gendou offered feebly from the floor, but no one heard him. "Damn. Getting bitten in half was definitely the better deal."

***

0:14--The End (For Real This Time)
Freeza hit the chessboard so hard that the oft-abused object cracked in two.

"Damn! Damn! DAMN!" Freeza clenched his fists. "I was so sure I was going to win this time!"

"You forgot about the endgame," Vegita reminded Freeza.

Freeza glowered for a few moments. Then, a thought occurred to him. "Say, what in the world was all of that chessplaying for, anyway?"

Vegita shrugged. "Beats me. I think it's supposed to be some kind of Anno-esque mystery symbolizing something deeper."

"Or it could be just two people playing chess," Freeza mused.

"That, too," Vegita agreed.

The two stared at one another for a few moments.

"Say," Freeza began uncertainly. "Isn't the 'fic over already?"

Vegita pondered this. "I think so..."

"Then what in the world are we still doing here?"

Vegita snorted. "You think I can read the Authoress' mind? As far as I know, she might be keeping us here for the sequel she kept threatening to write."

Another uncomfortable silence passed before either one realized the significance of Vegita's words.

"You think she'd really...?" Freeza trailed off, staring at Vegita.

Vegita gulped. "Start running. Now."


Answers to some questions that may have come to your mind...

"Where did you get the idea for this story?"
I saw a fan-made icon with Goku's hair instead of the NERV leaf and the logo: "Goku is in his heaven. All's right with the world." And then it went downhill from there. ^^
(I think part of it was watching the earlier NGE episodes and laughing my head off at the humor they had, and then watching the later NGE episodes and feeling an intense need to make fun of the angst the characters went through. :)

"Why Radditz?"
Why not? :) Besides, there's enough stories with Goku as the hero, ne? ^^

"Where's the rest of the DBZ gang?"
Who needs them? (They fell into a Plot Hole. :)

"What's with the sudden changes of tones during some scenes of the story?"
I'm really sorry about that, but no matter how I tried to keep the story light, there still were serious aspects of the story that had to be dealt with. (Be very, very glad that I decided to skip some parts, or the story would have dragged even longer than it already was. ^^;)

"Is there really going to be a sequel?"
NO.
At least, I'm not writing one... ;P

"Man, this story sucks!"
PFFFT! :P
Er...I mean...could you be a little more specific? Do you mean the concept, the character development, the plot (or lack thereof ^^;)...


Copyright 1998 by Dot
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