Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is the creation of Anno and Gainax. I don't own it, make no claims to it, and am making no profit from this fan fiction. No infringement of copyright is intended. In other words, please don't sue.

Disclaimer: I do not own DC comics or anything associated with it and am making no profit off this fan fiction. No infringement of copyright is intended. In other words, please don't sue.


Chapter Seventeen: Bad Choices and No Choices

"I don't have time to deal with you, Cheetah," Wonder Girl growled. "I'm busy right now."

"Oh, so sorry to hear that, but I'm afraid I'm going to insist you make some time in your schedule for me," Cheetah smirked, pointing a wicked looking firearm that the Amazon had never seen before at her.

So far as the Champion of the Amazons was concerned, this was an absolute nightmare scenario, except she never could've dreamed of a disaster like this happening beforehand.

The Twelfth Angel, which had looked so harmless when it had appeared to be nothing more than a big, slow moving sphere of black and white floating through the city, had proven to be one of the most dangerous ones yet. The instant Unit One had attacked it, it had transformed into a great black maw that had swallowed several city blocks and was even now trying to consume the test type Evangelion as well.

Wonder Girl had rushed to the rescue, and between her super strength and ability to fly, getting Unit One to safety should've been an easy, if time consuming task.

Then Cheetah had appeared, flying with the aid of a jetpack and boasting a small arsenal of exotic weaponry. She had wasted no time in making it clear that she was intent on claiming not just the Amazon's golden lasso, but her life as well. Now Unit One was once again sinking into the void, like it was stuck in some kind of preternatural quicksand, and Wonder Girl knew wouldn't be able to pull it free with Cheetah harassing her.

Where in the world did she even get a jetpack? Wonder Girl thought, before discarding the matter was unimportant. She didn't have long before Unit One was lost to the Dirac Sea, along with Shinji. There was no time for questions.

She surged forward toward Cheetah, offering no warnings, attempting no witty quips. The Amazon just wanted to send the feline femme hurtling toward the horizon so she could turn her attention back to Unit One.

Wonder Girl's swift, head-on attack caught Cheetah by surprise, and the transformed woman froze for one second. If it had been two, the battle would've been over right then.

Cheetah pulled the trigger on her weapon, and rather than fire a bullet, it spat out two thin wires with little metal weights on the ends.

The Amazon didn't really register this and reflexively raised her arms, shielding herself from the attack with her bracers. The wires immediately wrapped themselves around the metal.

Wonder Girl only had a split second to realize her mistake before Cheetah pulled the trigger again, and a powerful surge of electricity went rushing down the wires, through the gauntlets, and straight into the Amazon's body.

"Ahh!" Wonder Girl cried in pain.

"You know, next to all the other stuff I stole, the supped up taser looked a little unimpressive at first," Cheetah calmly remarked as the Amazon writhed in agony. "But I took it anyway, figuring this might happen. Have to say I'm very glad I did."

Gritting her teeth, Wonder Girl grabbed hold of the wires connecting her and Cheetah's gun, ignoring the shocks and burning pain they inflicted on her palms. With a grunt, she pulled hard, and Cheetah was yanked several meters toward her, releasing an indignant squawk. The Amazon repeated the process again and again, pulling Cheetah closer to her each time and ignoring the agony sizzling into her.

Finally, her foe was in striking distance. Keeping a hold of the wires with one hand, Wonder Girl raised her other arm, fist ready to break the furred woman's face.

She probably should've expected what came next, but having enough electricity to instantly drop a two hundred and fifty pound man surging into her every second understandably didn't do a lot for her ability to think clearly.

Cheetah dropped the supped up stun gun she was holding, surprising the Amazon. Her hands now free, she brought her wrists—and the odd metal bracelets she wore upon them—together. Instantly, metal plates started sliding out of the gadgets, covering Cheetah's hands and forearms in bulky metal gauntlets. The things quickly began to release an ominous hum.

Ducking beneath Wonder Girl's belated blow, the feline femme retaliated with a punch of her own.

"Ahh!" Wonder Girl screamed.

The blow was much more powerful than anything that even Cheetah, hardly a weakling, should've been capable of mustering, striking the Amazon with the force of a speeding train. Wonder Girl went careening uncontrollably through the air, only stopping when she crashed into the side of one of the buildings that hadn't yet been consumed by the Angel, though it was teetering badly. The Amazon slammed into it with such force that the skyscraper visibly tilted further to the side as a result, her impact shattering part of one of the walls and sending up a great plume of dust.

I suppose I should be glad I didn't just fall into the Angel, she thought as she forced herself to her feet with a small groan, mildly amazed that her jaw remained unbroken.

"Well now," Cheetah said, flying closer to where the Amazon had landed. "What do you know? It looks like you found one with a surprise inside."

Wonder Girl frowned, confused. However, a quick look around immediately made it clear what Cheetah meant.

The Amazon had landed not in a normal skyscraper, but instead in one of the dummy buildings that were actually massive weapons turrets. Next to her sat dozens upon dozens of missiles, just waiting to be called upon to bombard an Angel.

Eyes widening, Wonder Girl turned back to Cheetah just in time to see the feline woman fire some kind of pistol in her general direction. The weapon spat out a bolt of crimson light, which streaked downwards and crashed right into one of the missiles.

The result was instantaneous, and the missile went up in a crimson explosion. The blast quickly set off another few waiting missiles, which themselves set off more of the idle ordnance. In seconds, a cascade of fiery orange plumes were erupting up and down the interior of the building, leaving the once largely intact structure a wasted shell.

"Now that's what I call firepower," Cheetah said appreciatively as she came in for a landing on what remained of the huge missile turret, holstering her laser pistol. "I'll say one thing for Gendo Ikari, he certainly likes his artillery big and plentiful. Now to see if I can find what's left of Wonder Bitch and claim my lasso."

All too aware that the building was only tilting further and further to the side and would soon be eaten by the Angel, Cheetah quickly began to explore the rubble, picking up chunks of broken concrete and tossing them aside as she searched for Wonder Girl's corpse.

"Come on," Cheetah grumbled. "Where are you?"

The Amazon exploded out of the rubble right before the feline femme, looking singed but otherwise undamaged. Anger shone in her scarlet eyes.

Growling, Cheetah took a swing at the Amazon, her hi-tech gauntlets once again humming menacingly. "What does it take to kill you?!" she growled.

Wonder Girl reached up and caught Cheetah's armored fist smartly in her small hand. The force of the powerful blow caused her booted feet to slide backwards a few centimeters, but that was all.

"More than that," she answered through gritted teeth.

Yellow eyes widening, Cheetah threw another punch with her remaining fist, but Wonder Girl caught that one as well. Scowling, but with an unmistakable hint of fear visible on her face, Cheetah struggled to free her hands from the Amazon's grasp. The machinery in the gauntlets began to hum again, but it was a much higher sound this time, the unmistakable whine of a piece of equipment that was being pushed beyond its limits.

With a grunt, Wonder Girl brought Cheetah's hands together with enough force to shatter both the metal gauntlets she wore. Then she pulled the feline woman toward her and quickly lowered her head, causing her skull to crack right into Cheetah's.

"Ah! Damn it!" Cheetah hissed, staggering back when Wonder Girl finally released her. She took a few drunken steps, clearly dazed by the blow to the head.

Wonder Girl curled her right hand into a fist and cocked it back, the muscles in her powerful arm bulging.

Cheetah's vision came back into focus just in time to see the Amazon's knuckles rushing to meet her face.

"Uh-oh."

Wonder Girl's punch hit with enough force to lift Cheetah off her feet and send her careening through the air, out of the ruined building, and flying off into the distance.

The Amazon was confident that the furred woman would reactivate her jet pack before she hit the ground. Now free of her assailant, at least for the moment, Wonder Girl went speeding back toward Unit One.

The purple Evangelion had sunk up to is neck in the black void of the Angel while she had been dealing with Cheetah. Wonder Girl quickly wrapped her arms around its horn and began to pull it upwards as quickly as she dared, knowing her foe would return soon, if she was able to.

Almost, she thought as Unit One's torso came free of the inky darkness. I will not you end up in there, Shinji, I promise.

"I'm not through with you yet, Wonder Girl!" Cheetah snarled.

You're quite through with the element of surprise, though, the Amazon thought scornfully as she turned to see Cheetah flying toward her from behind. Her attacker was now pointing a pair of the laser pistols she had used before at her. Wonder Girl could only imagine how Cheetah had managed to get a hold of so much bleeding edge weaponry.

The Amazon didn't release her hold on Unit One's horn until Cheetah's guns started spitting crimson laser blasts at her. Then she let go, her arms a blaze of motion as she moved to deflect the energy bolts. Blocking every one of the attacks, she sent some of them right back at Cheetah, quickly destroying the very guns that the feline femme was shooting at her with.

Cheetah scowled. "How long did you have to practice that trick before you could do that?" she demanded.

"A long time," Wonder Girl deadpanned.

"No doubt, but can you do it on hard mode?" Cheetah asked.

Before the blue-haired superwoman could ask what she meant, the furred woman pressed a button on her winged jetpack, and six guns sprouted from the back of the thing.

If she was someone else, Wonder Girl probably would've expressed exasperation and incredulousness at the sight. Being who she was, she merely scowled.

The guns started to fire in rapid succession, unleashing more laser blasts, and Wonder Girl didn't even bother trying to deflect them, knowing even she would need about two more arms to pull it off.

Instead she reluctantly abandoned Unit One once again, leaping off the purple war machine and taking to the air. Cheetah immediately pursued her, the guns on her jetpack still spitting scarlet blasts of energy at the Amazon.

"I was hoping for this!" Cheetah laughed. "A little cat and mouse before I put an end to you!"

Even Wonder Girl had to resist the urge to groan at the awful metaphor. She risked a glance at Unit One, seeing that it was sinking again, and unless she was mistaken, it was descending more quickly than it had before. Apparently, the Angel was growing more determined to consume the Evangelion while it could. The Amazon's jaw clenched.

Reaching down, she took hold of the lasso at her hip and began to twirl it, even as she maintained an erratic flight path to avoid Cheetah's fire.

"Going to try to hogtie me, Wonder Girl? Good luck!" Cheetah smirked.

The Amazon didn't bother to reply, but she allowed the ghost of a smirk to appear on her face.

Not only was her lasso indestructible, it was also heavy, probably too heavy for someone without super strength to use effectively. When wielded correctly, the loop at the end could be nearly as devastating as a buzz saw.

Turning abruptly, she cast her lasso toward Cheetah. As she'd expected, the feline femme quickly altered her course through the air to avoid being lassoed, but she didn't move far enough to the side. The golden rope cut through the metal arms holding three of the laser guns to her jetpack.

"How many tricks do you have up your nonexistent sleeves, anyway?" Cheetah asked, looking gob smacked.

Wonder Girl didn't bother to answer, surging through the air toward Cheetah. The feline woman tried to blast her with her remaining laser weapons, but with only three of them left, the Amazon was able to send the blasts back at them easily enough. Balling her hand into a fist, she threw a punch at Cheetah.

Only to have the agile woman dodge the blow and strike back with a lightning quick slash. Wonder Girl released a hiss of pain as her enemy's wickedly sharp claws cut a series of deep slashes into her pale cheek, sending crimson droplets flying.

With her other hand, Cheetah fired her own punch into Wonder Girl's firm stomach. The blow barely got a gasp out of the Amazon, but it served Cheetah's purpose of helping her push off and away from Wonder Girl. Once she'd gotten some distance between herself and her foe, she drew another gun.

"Try deflecting this with your fancy bracelets!" Cheetah yelled as she pulled the trigger.

Plumes of orange fire erupted from the gun she held, and Wonder Girl's eyes widened, surprised that someone had managed to create a flame thrower that was only the size of a modest rifle. She quickly dodged, sparing another glance at Unit One and wincing as she saw that it was up to its chest in darkness. She didn't have much time.

"Now just die already so I can take your lasso and go home!" Cheetah yelled, unleashing another blast of flame.

For several long seconds, Wonder Girl weaved and dodged through the air as Cheetah tried to burn her to a crisp. The Amazon quickly grew surprised at how long the feline femme's weapon could operate without any visible fuel tank. She soon realized that she couldn't wait for Cheetah to run out of ammunition.

She surged toward her foe, only narrowly avoiding a tongue of flame, preparing to knock Cheetah into the next prefecture, regardless of how many bones she'd end up breaking in the other woman's skeleton.

Unfortunately, Cheetah wasn't out of tricks yet. Before Wonder Girl's fist could connect, the furred woman threw a round object about the size of an apple at the Amazon. It instantly burst, and Wonder Girl let out a cry as she suddenly found herself covered with a "net" made out of ropey gray goo.

Before she could simply lash out at Cheetah anyway, a small device connected to the goop by her feet let out several high pitched beeps. Then, impossibly, the tiny gadget's weight seemed to multiply a thousandfold. Wonder Girl let out a cry of surprise as she suddenly had to strain to remain airborne, the device causing the goo to stretch downwards toward the dark maw of the Angel below them. The net of slime pressed hard against the Amazon, biting into her flesh in several places.

"Neat little toy, isn't it?" Cheetah asked. "I don't quite understand how it works. Something about magnetic fields or some such other. All very technical. Not really my field of expertise."

Wonder Girl ignored her and began to frantically try to break out of the net of slime that bound her. However, her enormous strength was of no use against these bindings; the goo was so elastic that it simply stretched when she tried to break it but snapped back the moment she let go, and there were so many strands that she couldn't create a hole wide enough for her to slip out through.

The "weight" of the device pulling how down increased abruptly, and Wonder Girl lurched downwards by several dozen meters before she could arrest her descent.

"Well, what do you know? Looks like you're caught by unbreakable bonds," Cheetah smirked. "This must be quite the turnaround for you."

"Cheetah," Wonder Girl grunted as she fell further down. "If I end up in there, you'll lose your chance at my lasso."

"You mean this?" the feline woman smirked, holding out the golden rope. "Nicked it from you right after I gave you those cuts on your face."

With a gasp, Wonder Girl felt herself being pulled further toward her death. The device dragging her toward her doom was inside the Angel now, but that didn't stop it from exerting force.

Think, she ordered herself sternly, resisting the urge to succumb to panic.

She had to get out of the gooey net she was in, but how? If she could alter the horrible sludge somehow, freeze it and render it brittle, or perhaps…

The corners of Wonder Girl's lips quirked upwards.

With a loud cry, she used every ounce of strength she had and every bit of magic within her enchanted boots to go surging upwards, charging at Cheetah head on once again.

Unsurprisingly, the other woman retaliated by pointing the flame thrower at the Amazon and firing.

Wonder Girl couldn't have avoided the burst of fire if she'd wanted to, which, as it turned out, she didn't. The Amazon flew right into it, letting out a cry of pain as the scorching heat washed over. Closing her eyes, she told herself that she was far tougher and more durable than a normal human and tried not to imagine her skin blistering, turning black, cracking and falling off.

Then, it was over. The Amazon, hovered right before Cheetah, the melted remains of the bizarre net dripping off of her. The gadget that had been weighing her down had gone plunging into the Angel's shadowy jaws. Cheetah's eyes widened.

Wonder Girl snatched her lasso back and then punched the feline femme square in the center of her face, feeling Cheetah's nose break beneath her knuckles. Then the furred woman was once again careening through the air, much more quickly than before.

The Amazon didn't wait for her to become a mere speck on the horizon. Instead, she turned and flew toward Unit One, finding that the test type Evangelion was literally up to its eyes in darkness. Grabbing hold of its horn for a third time, she began to slowly pull it out, the Angel resisting her the whole time but unable to deny the Amazon's tremendous might. Several minutes passed, and slowly but surely, she was freeing Unit One.

Then the sound of jet engines greeted her keen ears, and the Amazon's eyes widened with disbelief. Looking up, she saw Cheetah flying toward her once again, blood pouring freely from her shattered nose, running down her face and dripping off her chin.

"I don't even care about the lasso, anymore!" she roared. "I'll kill you, you little bitch!"

Before Wonder Girl could respond, one of the few dummy buildings in the city that hadn't been within the circumference of the Angel answered for her. The disguised weapons turret spit out a barrage of small missiles, all of which went soaring in Cheetah's direction. Seeing the assault coming her way, the furred woman released an undeniably feline yowl of terror and desperately tried to evade.

The missiles didn't hit her. Cheetah was too small a target for them; they had been designed to hit things the size of tanks. However, they did explode in her general vicinity, apparently detonated remotely from NERV headquarters. For several seconds, Cheetah was lost in a plume of fire and smoke.

When the flames cleared enough for Cheetah to be visible once again to Wonder Girl, the feline femme appeared little worse for the wear.

However, the same could not be said for her jetpack. Wonder Girl didn't know whether a piece of shrapnel had lodged itself into the device, or if all the shockwaves from the explosions had simply jarred the no doubt experimental device's innards too much. Whatever the reason, it cut out, and Cheetah went tumbling downwards with a scream.

By some miracle, she managed to grab hold of one of the few buildings that hadn't been completely swallowed by the Angel yet. However, her situation was obviously not tenable; even if she managed to hang on, the building she was holding onto would soon sink into the Angel soon.

"Wonder Girl!" Cheetah cried. "Help me!"

The Amazon blinked, shocked by the plea for help from the same woman who had been openly trying to murder her only moments ago.

"Please!" Cheetah screamed. "I beg you!"

Wonder Girl looked at the form of her enemy, literally holding on for dear life. She had nothing but animosity for the feline woman, but she had never actually wished her dead, she realized.

"Please, Wonder Girl! Save me!" Cheetah mewled.

Wonder Girl looked down at Unit One. The Angel was pulling on the Evangelion hard now, clearly having realized that the war machine was its enemy. If she released it, the Angel would not give her another chance to save the Evangelion. Or its pilot.

Saving Cheetah would mean allowing the Angel to claim Unit One.

No choice at all, the Amazon thought.

Cheetah's grip slipped, and she went plummeting toward the Angel's shadowy maw. "Damn you, bitch!" She screamed.

Then, silence.

Taking a deep breath, Wonder Girl turned her attention toward her current task. In a few minutes, she finally liberated Unit One and set it down on the ground well outside the boundary of the Angel. Her task at last completed, she headed toward the ground to change and resume her identity as Rei Ayanami.

She tried not to think about Cheetah's final scream as she did all of this.


"Wonder Girl has dropped Unit One off outside the perimeter of the Angel," Aoba reported. "The Angel isn't moving."

"I wonder if that's because it can't, or if it doesn't realize it lost its target," Misato murmured to herself, before snapping her attention back to her subordinates. "Get recovery teams out there. I want the Evangelions and the pilots back here as soon as possible."

"Right," Makoto acknowledged.

"What should we do about Wonder Girl, Major?" Maya asked. "She appears to be leaving."

"Let her go," Misato said at once, surreptitiously glancing at the Commander and silently daring him to countermand the order. "We were lucky she showed up, and even if we wanted to stop her, we don't have a lot of ways to do that right now."

For a few minutes, the bridge was relatively quiet. The technicians relayed the Operations Director's orders, and for a while it was largely just about waiting for things to get done.

"It was a good move to use one of the remaining defensive structures to shoot at that animal woman," Makoto remarked quietly to Misato. "You probably saved the Third Child's life by doing that."

The purple haired woman gave him a small smile. "Thanks," she said. Then she turned to Ritsuko, who had been observing that battle in silence for the last several minutes. "So, any idea on how we kill a black hole?"

"It's hard to say right now," Ritsuko answered, looking thoughtful. "We'll have to try to take some readings and run some calculations to figure out exactly what we're dealing with here if we want to know the best way of killing it. Though unless this one is making a complete mockery of the laws of physics as we know them, I suspect the most effective route will be to just…overflow it."

"Overflow?" Misato asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"Just throw too much into it for the thing to deal with," the bottle blonde clarified. "Even if it can expand the Dirac Sea inside its body, it can probably only do it so quickly. Treat it like one big stomach, and throw enough into it quickly enough to make it burst."

"Rits, that thing ate a few city blocks and didn't even show any signs of indigestion," Misato said flatly, crossing her arms. "How are we supposed to feed it until it goes pop?"

"Well, we wouldn't try to do it with simple mass," Ritsuko said, just a hint of condescension in her voice. "Not only would it require more than we can move, but we probably couldn't drop it into the Angel quickly enough. No, this will require explosives. The rapid expansion of the blasts will hopefully be enough to overwhelm…"

She trailed off as she realized that Misato had stopped listening to her the moment she'd used the word "explosives", a dangerous gleam appearing in the officer's brown eyes.

The scientist held back a sigh, knowing that all the data collecting and calculations that she'd have to get the MAGI to run—all those hours of tedious work that she had her subordinates would have to perform at a frantic pace—was just going to be a formality now.


"Incredible," Asuka said as she watched the heavy bombers streak across the sky, leaving trails of exhaust in their wake that crisscrossed the sky.

Hours had passed since Wonder Girl had managed to rescue Unit One from being consumed by the Angel, and the setting sun bathed the city in a fiery orange glow. Thankfully, the black hole in the middle of Tokyo-3 had remained stationary ever since it had first appeared.

The pilots, suddenly finding themselves useless, were nevertheless still on standby, mostly thanks to protocols that had been written without a situation remotely like this in mind.

So, Units One and Two sat inert and motionless just outside the edge of the city, safely away from the Angel, and Shinji and Asuka, still clad in their plug suits, loitered nearby. Even Rei had eventually joined them, despite her own Evangelion still being out of commission.

Neither the Second Child nor the Third really knew if Rei had materialized because regulations said she had to, or if it was simply because she hadn't had anything else to do.

"Those things are carrying enough firepower to bomb whole countries back into the stone age, and they're going to dump all of it onto one Angel," Asuka continued. "And they aren't even sure that it's going to work!"

Under more normal circumstances, Shinji probably would have pointed out that the UN military was unlikely to agree to using up its entire East Asian stockpile of N2 warheads in one attack without some fairly strong evidence that it would indeed kill the Angel.

However, the last thing Shinji wanted to do right then was draw the redhead's attention to himself.

After he'd gotten out of Unit One, Misato had given him a stern but brief lecture about attacking before everyone was in position and insisting on taking point when his commanding officer had other plans. He'd gotten the sense that she wanted to scold him further, but she'd had to leave to coordinate the massive bomb drop.

Asuka, still ticked off by his uncharacteristically arrogant remarks at the very start of the battle, had been only too happy to pick up where Misato had left off, though. So, for what felt like an eternity, Shinji had meekly endured a storm of yelling and recriminations from the redhead.

It had only come to an end because Asuka had eventually gotten tired of berating him, not because she had judged him suitably repentant or anything, so it was possible that the Second Child could start back up at any moment, now that she'd had a break.

"It is starting," Rei said, pointing.

Squinting, Shinji could just see some of the bombers dropping what looked like little black specks down toward the Angel, with others joining in every second.

"We should put on the goggles," the First Child added.

"Right," Asuka agreed.

The three pilots quickly donned the dark safety glasses that NERV had given them. So far as Shinji could tell, nobody knew quite what would happen when the bombs went off. The Angel could just shrivel up and die, or there could be exactly the kind of blindingly bright explosion one would expect from an N2 bomb.

NERV had made sure that the pilots and their very expensive Evangelions were well outside any projected blast radius and had also given them eye protection so they wouldn't end up hurting themselves by looking at it, if indeed there was anything to look at.

Putting the goggles on, Shinji found his whole world darkened to the point where he couldn't make out the distant bombs falling through the air any longer. He swore he could hear a series of whistling sounds, though that might've just been his imagination.

Several moments passed, in which the Third Child knew that the bombs must have fallen into the Angel and then detonated. The bombers, their runs completed, began to disperse and leave the area.

"Nothing!" Asuka eventually exclaimed. "Unbelievable! All those bombs must've cost a damn fortunate, and they just wasted them all. And now we need some new way of killing the Angel! They better not expect us to go inside the damn thing, because if they are they've got—"

The redhead's rant abruptly came to a halt as the ground beneath the pilots' feet started to tremble noticeably.

"Earthquake?" the Second Child asked, looking confused.

"Look," Rei pointed toward the Angel.

The black hole in the middle of Tokyo-3 was…cracking, exposing what looked like bloodied flesh beneath. The sight of the void, of what was essentially a hole, breaking just seemed impossible, and Shinji found it slightly vertigo inducing to look at. He redirected his gaze upwards, toward the zebra-striped sphere above the dark maw, just in time to see that it was shaking and turning completely black.

A second later a crack formed in it as well, but it wasn't blood that spilled forth. Instead, an intensely bright shaft of light burst forth. Even with eye protection, Shinji found himself squinting in the face of it.

The another crack formed in the sphere, followed by another, white radiance gushing forth from each new fissure as well. Then—

BOOM!

Shinji had to look away as the sphere finally erupted in an explosion of light and thunderous noise. A few seconds later, a wave of force washed over them like a strong, hot breeze, except the Third Child was able to feel it in his chest.

When he dared to look again, the Angel was gone. Both the sphere and the dark maw on the ground were nowhere to be found; where there had been several city blocks, now there was just barren ground.

The three pilots just stared for a few moments, silenced by the awesome display of destructive power, both that of the N2 barrage and that of the latest Angel.

Then, Rei's cell phone went off. She reached into her pocket, being the only one of the pilots not currently clad in her plug suit and thus the only one who had pockets, and pulled it out, opening it. "Ayanami here."

For a few seconds there was quiet as whoever had called her spoke.

"Acknowledged," Rei eventually spoke, closing the phone and turning to her fellow pilots. "NERV is standing down from red alert. They want us to return to headquarters."

"No doubt for the usual barrage of debriefings and health checks," Asuka sighed. "Come on, let's get this crap over with."


The Second Child's gloomy prediction turned out to be all too true, and for Shinji, a process that was usually tedium made manifest was significantly worse than usual. The debriefing gave Misato a second crack at him, and, just as he'd feared, she hadn't been done with scolding him for his earlier actions. Between that and the tongue lashing Asuka had given him, he'd found himself almost wishing that the Angel had swallowed him.

Mercifully, the medical exam he had then had to endure in the world was only as unpleasant as it normally was.

"Glad that's over," Shinji muttered to himself as he emerged from one of the exam rooms, still doing up the last few buttons of his shirt.

"Shinji."

He jumped slightly, caught off guard by the voice, but he quickly relaxed when he realized who it was.

"Rei," he said. "What are you doing here? They didn't make you endure a physical, did they? You didn't even fight in this battle."

"No, they did not," she replied. "I came to ask you how you were doing."

"Oh," he said, surprised and more than a little touched by the blue haired girl's concern. "I'm…well, I'm not having a great day, but it would probably be going a lot worse if Wonder Girl hadn't saved me from the Angel. And my own stupid self." He added in a mumble.

"I see," Rei replied.

Shinji smiled wanly. He'd become very fond of the pale girl since his arrival in Tokyo-3, and he found her very comfortable and pleasant to spent time with. However, there was no denying that she didn't always hold up her end in a conversation, and he wasn't exactly the best person to teach her how to do that.

"I would definitely be lying if I said I was looking forward to heading home tonight, though," he added.

Even if both Misato and Asuka were through yelling at him, which he wasn't sure about, especially in Asuka's case, the atmosphere around them was going to be unpleasantly tense, at best.

Rei tilted her head to the side slightly, a gesture that Shinji had secretly always thought was very cute. "If you do not wish to return to your apartment, you may delay that by coming to mine to eat."

He blinked. "Are you inviting me to have dinner with you?"

"Yes," she nodded.

"I would like that a lot, Rei," he said at once. "Thank you."

He sent Misato a text message to let her know of his plans, ignoring the guilty little squirm he felt as he did so. He knew that, busy as she was with all the work she ended up dealing with following every Angel battle, that it would probably be hours before she read it, so if she didn't approve of his plans to go out that night (even if "out" only meant one of the other apartments in their building) she'd find out about it much too late to do anything.

Once that was done, the two boarded one of the trains out of the Geofront and up to the city. Huge chunks of Tokyo-3 were still cordoned off, and it was more than just the area where the Angel had gobbled up everything present; NERV was searching for signs of contamination or lingering Angelic matter for a good distance around "ground zero" as well. Fortunately, the apartment building the pilots called home was close to the train's Geofront access point, so getting back there wasn't too much of a hassle.

"Would you like me to help?" Shinji asked as they entered Rei's apartment. "I could probably come up with something new to teach you." He added, though he was a bit doubtful about that, since he had already taught the First Child most of the recipes in his repertoire.

"That will not be necessary," she replied, removing her shoes.

For a moment, Shinji was too distracted by her actions to pay attention to her words; he remembered that Rei had apparently never felt the need to remove her shoes when she'd entered her old apartment, if the scuff marks on the floor were any indication. He was glad to see that she seemed to like and value her new home more.

Then what she'd actually said caught up to him.

"Huh?"

Even if he wasn't teaching her something new, she had never turned down an offer of help from him before.

"I…wish to show you what I have learned," she said, the faintest trace of pink on her pale cheeks.

"Oh, um, sure," he agreed, feeling a bit of heat in his own face.

He didn't quite know why Rei's words had left him feeling oddly flustered; it wasn't as if she'd just proclaimed undying love for him or anything. Still, there was something sort of…intimate about the whole thing.

We're acting almost like we're married or something, he thought.

That notion immediately caused the feeling of heat in his face to intensify, and he quickly turned away from Rei, under the guise of taking a seat at the kitchen table so he'd be out of her way.

"Thanks for this, Rei," he said as she went to work. "It's really good to be able to get away from, well, getting scolded for a little while."

"I am…happy to host you," she said, giving him a trace of a smile.

"Thanks," he said again. "I'm surprised you're not mad at me, though. Not that I'm complaining, of course." He hastily added.

"Nothing you did harmed me," Rei pointed out.

"Maybe not, but I definitely acted like a jerk," he said ashamedly. "And I think, or at least, I'd like to think, that part of the reason Misato got so angry at me was because she got scared when it looked like the Angel would eat me. Because she…"

He suddenly trailed off, realizing what he was saying and what it might seem like he was hinting at, trying to prompt Rei into expressing concern.

"I was worried for you as well," the First Child said frankly.

"Oh, thanks," Shinji said, surprised and touched.

She nodded. "I was…irritated with you as well, when I found out you had gotten into that situation by disobeying orders."

"I see," Shinji said, looking crestfallen. "Um, if you wanna yell at me, too, you might as well go ahead. Everybody else has taken their turn by this point." He added with a weak chuckle.

"Hmm," she hummed thoughtfully. "Do you regret your actions?"

"Uh, yeah," he said, a little taken aback by the apparent non sequitur.

"Do you intend to repeat them?" she asked.

"No," he answered emphatically.

"Then you have suffered enough," she said simply.

He smiled. "I guess that's one way of looking at it."

The rest of the evening passed pleasantly, Rei soon completing the meal she'd been working on. Shinji made a point of gushing over the rather simple fare, both out of gratitude and a desire to encourage her culinary efforts.

All too soon, they realized it was getting late, and Shinji reluctantly decided that he should head back to his own apartment.

"Thanks again, Rei," he said as he stood by the front door, putting his shoes back on. "It was really just what I needed after today."

"I am glad I was able to help," she replied.

He smiled at her, and she smiled back. A second or two passed like this, neither of them speaking.

"Good night," Shinji finally said, then slipped out of the apartment.


For several seconds after the Third Child had departed, Rei found herself just staring at the front door. Then she released a barely audible sigh.

Shinji had had no way of knowing, but Rei had invited him over as much for her own sake as for his. There were things she didn't wish to think about right now, things such as Cheetah's final scream. Her interaction with the Third Child had kept those thoughts at bay, but now that she was alone again, they were right back at the forefront of her mind.

Suddenly, she heard movement from within her apartment. Turning, Rei was relieved to find Athena there, rather than Aphrodite. She valued the love goddess's advice—it had been Aphrodite's suggestion that she should cook a meal for Shinji like she just had—but she didn't want to have to deal with Aphrodite demanding to know why she hadn't just kissed the Third Child, not now.

"Good evening, Rei," the goddess of wisdom and war said as the blue haired girl approached her. "How do you fare? I know about Cheetah."

"I am…" she hesitated, not quite sure what to say. She still wasn't used to people inquiring about how she was and wanting to know about more than her battle readiness, and she found that her emotions were a confused jumble. "I am troubled."

"Indeed? Why?" Athena asked, clearly pressing for further details.

"I do not know," Rei admitted. "When I think back to the battle, I still cannot see any way that I could have saved Cheetah without sacrificing Unit One and Shinji. Also, Cheetah was a dangerous enemy; her demise will likely make things easier for me in the future. The more I consider the issue, the more I am certain that I acted appropriately. Had I done anything different, the outcome would have been worse."

"But?" Athena prompted.

"I feel guilty despite that," Rei said. "I cannot stop thinking about it, and I still find myself feeling that I should have found a way to save Cheetah, no matter how much I tell myself otherwise. Is there something wrong with me?"

"No, not at all," Athena said firmly, placing a hand on Rei's shoulder and looking her in the eyes. "Just the opposite. It shows that you are a true Amazon."

"What do you mean?" Rei asked, bewildered.

In her time on Themyscria, it was clear to her that the Amazons were warriors. She couldn't imagine any of them letting the death of an enemy plague them like this.

"The Amazons are fierce fighters, Rei, but they also value life and peace," Athena explained. "They recognize the need to take life in battle, just as they recognize that sometimes there is no choice except to fight, but no true Amazon would ever feel pleasure or callous indifference toward the prospect."

"I see," Rei said.

"It's not a pleasant thing, to have a take a life," Athena said. "It can be unavoidable, however, in order to keep something even worse from coming to pass. The burden of such grisly work falls on warriors and champions such as yourself. I will not tell you to stop feeling as you do now, only to not let it control you, because you did do the right thing today, Rei. Know that I am proud of you for it."

"Thank you," Rei said softly.

Athena nodded. "Now rest, Rei," she said. "I fear new challenges may come all too soon."


Author's Notes: And so it looks like Cheetah has exited the building, and Shinji is spared his unpleasant head trip inside the happy fun ball.

Anyway, thanks as always to my readers and reviewers, and thanks to my beta reader as well.


Omakes

Support Group

"H-Hello, everyone. My name is Leliel," the zebra striped sphere spoke timidly, floating behind a small wooden podium.

Before the podium, several metal folding chairs were arranged in a semicircle, each of them holding a being that was…less than human. Some looked like dinosaurs, other like giant insects, a few were robots, and a couple were even as alien and bizarre as the Twelfth Angel itself.

"Hi Leliel!" they chorused in response.

"Something happened to me a few days ago that I thought I would never be the victim of," Leliel continued, its bizarrely androgynous voice trembling. "I mean, you hear about it happening all the time to other kaiju, but you just don't think it can happen to you…until it does."

The group's reptilian leader rose from his chair. "Say it, Leliel," he instructed, his tone kind but firm. "You have to confront it and accept that it happened, if you want the healing process to begin."

Leliel drew a deep, shuddering breath. "I was nuked!"

The other kaiju in the room, all familiar with that experience, cringed at the thought. Several of them murmured words of sympathy.

"And it wasn't just one nuke!" Leliel exclaimed. "It was hundreds! Very nearly a thousand! All at once! They say they're 'non-nuclear' but they still hurt just as much!"

Horrified gasps went through the crowd.

"A thousand?!"

"Those humans are complete monsters!"

"All I wanted to destroy Tokyo-3, find the All-Father, and remake all life on Earth in my own image!" Leliel cried, openly sobbing now. "Is that so much to ask?!"

"Seems perfectly reasonable to me!"

"Who doesn't want to destroy Tokyo? I mean, c'mon! We've pretty much all tried it, right fellas?"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Leliel said, weeping hard now. "I-I need a moment. Can someone else take their turn now?"

"Of course, Leliel," the group leader said kindly, leading Leliel back to its seat. "You've been very brave today. I know it may not feel like it right now, but this is progress."

"Th-thank you," Leliel sniffed.

The group leader turned to the rest of the assembled kajiu, all of them recovering from the trauma of similar attacks.

"So," Godzilla said, "who wants to be next?"


They Also Don't Protect You From Acid

"It is starting," Rei said, pointing.

Squinting, Shinji could just see some of the bombers dropping what looked like little black specks down toward the Angel, with others joining in every second.

"We should put on the goggles," the First Child added.

"Right," Asuka agreed.

The three pilots quickly donned the dark safety glasses that NERV had given them. So far as Shinji could tell, nobody knew quite what would happen when the bombs went off. The Angel could just shrivel up and die, or there could be exactly the kind of blindingly bright explosion one would expect from an N2 bomb.

NERV had made sure that the pilots and their very expensive Evangelions were well outside any projected blast radius and had also given them eye protection so they wouldn't end up hurting themselves looking at it, if indeed there was anything to look at.

Putting the goggles on, Shinji found his whole world darkened to the point where he couldn't make out the distant bombs falling through the air any longer. He swore he could hear a series of whistling sounds, though that might've just been his imagination.

"Nothing!" Asuka eventually exclaimed. "Unbelievable! All those bombs must've cost a damn fortunate, and they just wasted them all. And now we need some new way of killing the Angel! They better not expect us to go inside the damn thing, because if they are they've got—"

The redhead's rant abruptly came to a halt as the ground beneath the pilots' feet started to tremble noticeably.

"Earthquake?" the Second Child asked, looking confused.

"Look," Rei pointed toward the Angel.

They redirected their gaze upwards, toward the zebra-striped sphere above the dark maw, just in time to see that it was shaking and turning completely black.

A second later a crack formed in it as well, but it wasn't blood that spilled forth. Instead, an intensely bright shaft of light burst forth. Even with eye protection, Shinji found himself squinting in the face of it.

The another crack formed in the sphere, followed by another, white radiance gushing forth from each new fissure as well. Then—

BOOM!

"Ahh!" Shinji yelled in pain, reaching up to put his hands over his eyes.

Asuka and Rei exchanged a look. Neither of them were in any pain, but of course they were both secretly superwomen and nearly indestructible.

"Shinji, are you all right?" Rei asked.

"What's wrong, dummy?" Asuka demanded.

"The goggles, they do nothing!" Shinji cried.

The two girls locked eyes again, both silent for a long moment.

"…why is he talking like Rainier Wolfcastle?" Rei finally asked.

"Who knows?" Asuka shrugged.