I, as usual, do not own Evangelion.

I, as usual, would like to thank Judicar Deimos for proof reading and his insights.

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier means that time is proceding forwards.

Vier, Drei, Zwei, Eins signifies a flashback.

Gendo pulled his turtleneck back on as Misato watched from her chair, her expression a mix of horror and interest. Tucking the shirt back into his slacks, he sat down, forgoing the uniform jacket and gloves.

"I was born the bastard child of an American soldier and a Japanese whore," he began, hands folded in front of his face, eyes trained on his newest Sub-Commander. "I grew up in the streets, whoreson and half-breed, never knowing the face or name of my father. My earliest education was not in any school, but on those streets I learned to fight, and even more importantly, to win. I also learned that one person cannot challenge the system from the outside. I learned this lesson the hard way, Sub-Commander. My time on the streets came to an end, and I was given a choice."

"I was told that I could die, or I could leave. I had run afoul of both the law and the local Yakuza." Gendo smiled into his hands as he thought back to his uncouth youth. "I was never very good at showing respect to people who thought themselves my superiors. If I stayed on the streets, I would have been hunted down and killed. If I allowed myself to be arrested, I would have been killed on the inside. My only real option was to leave, and so I did. I joined the Merchant Marines, lying about my age and my background. I was always big for my age, something that I must have inherited from my father along with my blue eyes. Life at sea was hard, but no more so than life as a street thug. I made good money, and having nothing else to spend it on, I bought books. Books at each stop, all of them going to the ship's library when I was done. I learned more in those years on the ships than I had in my entire life, and I soon discovered that I wanted to learn more.

Eventually, there was no choice for me but to go to school to gain what I desired. The next time we returned home to Japan, I jumped ship. The first thing that I needed to do was obtain a diploma equivalent for high school, which proved to be easy enough. Competing for entrance to the university and the scholarships to pay for it was more difficult."

Gendo paused in his story, watching the woman, who was sitting perfectly still, transfixed. Nobody had ever heard the man say so much at once in a long time, she thought to herself. That he was talking about his past was even more shocking, but it put Sub-Commander Fuyutsuki's comments about him in context. His humble beginnings certainly were at odds with the amount of power that he now commanded.

"I overcame those obstacles as I would eventually overcome all others. After the demands of life at sea and the streets, school life was ridiculously easy. All that was expected of us was to do our assigned work and turn it in on time. Essentially, I was being rewarded for reading books on mathematics and science. I came to learn that not everyone saw it the same way, people who had never worked for themselves, people who never wanted for anything in their lives.

I don't begrudge them their opportunities or the privileged situations they were born into," he said as he leaned back in his chair. "A man cannot control the circumstances of his birth, or we would all be born princes. What does cause rancor is that they squander and waste their opportunities, that they do not see that we are all equal, be it in function and in death, and that they believe those of more unfortunate birth are below them. A poor man can think and reason just as well as a rich one, and the richest of princes will die just as surely as the poorest of paupers, but they believe themselves to be a special breed, superior to the peasantry. They believe that we are different from them, that we cannot even begin to grasp the ideas that they have, the thoughts that they think. They refuse to accept that the blood that flows through our veins is of the same source, that we all are blessed with uniqueness. That is one source of my discontent with those who would rule mankind as KADMON, the gestalt cosmic over-soul."

Gendo smiled, leaning back in his chair, his eyes shut. "I had a hard time learning to keep my mouth shut and my thoughts to myself. Fighting was something that I had grown up with, and physical altercations were second nature to me. There was none in that school who could hope to best me, but I was still beaten. Not all power is physical, you know. Political capital is just as strong as the mightiest of muscles. I was placed on academic probation and almost expelled from the university several times. It is only because of a few people, some of them students, some of them professors, that I remained.

Yui Ikari was a brilliant and beautiful woman in several of my classes. We had a few mutual friends, and were part of a regular group that studied together and drank together. She asked her father to pull some strings to keep me in school."

Gendo sighed regretfully, closing his eyes. "She never lorded it over me, never held it over my head. She had done it out of genuine interest and friendship. That was the first time that SEELE heard about me; although it would be some time still before I met her father, before he granted his daughter's wish he looked into my past and my present.

She might not have lorded it over me, but he was making plans to use me in the future. A hard working, intelligent young man, who owed his education to him? Too good a deal to pass up. But even then he and the rest of SEELE underestimated me. I might have been an argumentative, abrasive, and arrogant student, but I was also brilliant, audacious and in possession of an indomitable will. The very things that endeared me to that group also were what would set me against them in the future."

"So your wife was involved with SEELE since the beginning. The family business, so to speak." Misato said, having found her voice again after the initial shock. "But what does this have to do with anything other than you deciding to fight SEELE?"

"All in good time, Sub-Commander. All in good time." Gendo shook his head slowly as he watched the younger woman. "Our perceptions shape our realities. How we think is just as important as what it is that we think. If you are to understand someone, to truly know their thoughts and motives, you must know as much about them as possible.

But it is impossible to completely know other people, no matter how much you might know about them. As we grow, our realities and world views are molded by our experiences and perceptions. Our memories of events are in constant flux, recreated each time we think of them, colored more by our current attitudes than by the actual event the memory is of. To completely know someone requires more than knowing their history and opinions, you must know how they think. A careful student of humanity can build models and predict how people might react to certain things, but in the end, it will still be an imperfect model. We are all self contained universes, alone and inviolate, but we can reach out to others, and expand our worlds, expand ourselves, through our relationships with them. That is the truth of this universe; that we are alone. It is not a sad truth, or a reason to be bitter and hateful. It is simply just the bare truth. It is not to be lamented, but rather celebrated; because we are alone we are unique. The eventual aim of SEELE is to join all of humanity into the cosmic gestalt KADMON, where each of us is layered into one another, merging and mixing us into a single, omnipotent and omnipresent soul, over which they will be the ruling consciousness. They will place themselves in the position of keter, of the crown, of ruling, during the ceremony that drives Third Impact. Their philosophy is flawed because they do not understand the truth. They seek to end, not celebrate, our loneliness. To this end, they wish to harness the war between ADAM and Lilith, seeking to usurp the power of the ancient gods."

Gendo paused momentarily before speaking again, his tone sharp and cold. "I will not, I cannot allow this to happen. We are the children of Lilith as the Angels are the children of ADAM, and their paths are not our path. She made us in this way for a reason, and gifted to us the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Do not mistake the power of the Angels; we are the ultimate in this universe, for we have now created a force more than the match for those things. They cannot create. Their only purpose is to destroy. For all that they bleed and scream they are not alive. They do not live. What will they do after they destroy Lilith? Their father is dead and gone, passed from this world in the Second Impact. An empty and hollow existence awaits them; and that is what SEELE would do to us all.

The ultimate form of slavery; and they will not even do anything with the power that it will afford them. Their arrogance is disgusting in the extreme, and for this I will do everything in my power to stop them. They have no right to try to control the divine; they do not even understand what makes us so.

When I learned what was going on, I didn't believe it at first. In fact, I could not believe it. How could such a thing be true? But for all the nonsense that surrounds the story of the Illuminati, they exist and have driven the world's history to this one point, this one goal. The promise of immortality, of power unimaginable, of godhood. The more that I learned, the more I researched, the more I knew that I could not deny the truth. This was a plan centuries in the making, and there seemed to be nothing that could stop it.

SEELE is far to entrenched to be stopped merely through assassination, Sub-Commander. In fact, the terrible truth is that Third Impact cannot be stopped. It is inevitable. You have thought that my planned treason was to stop Impact before their noses, to halt their machinations with my own."

Misato watched him as he watched her, the man's eyes cold and hard over the hands that hid his face. He lowered them slightly so that while they still were held before him, they did not mask him. It made little difference, for all the emotion his stony face held he might as well not have bothered with revealing his face.

"That is, of course, a lie."

Misato stared at him in silence, swallowing slightly before speaking. "What do you plan on doing?" she whispered, gripping the arms of her chair tightly, her knuckles going white.

"I will initiate Third Impact ahead of them, take control of Instrumentality, and change everything." Gendo smiled a tight, savage grin, his eyes glittering with dark amusement. "You asked me what Purgatory was; the room of orbs. They are Evangelion cores, each one waiting for a pilot. You know that the Evangelions must synchronize with their pilots, that the pilots must in essence become the Evangelions to give motive to them. The higher the synchronization, the more control the pilot has, the stronger the AT Field they can generate. It's all explained with quantum physics, neuroscience and psychology, documented with a thousand nigh incomprehensible proofs, that all remain highly proprietary and hidden in numerous patents.

It's also all another lie. You might know that my wife died in a failed contact experiment, the first of our synchronization attempts. The truth is that her contact experiment was a success. She was consumed into the core of the Evangelion. She resides now in one of those red orbs, as does half the soul of Kyoko Soryu, as does over a million different women, all of them mothers."

"What?"

"The power of the Evangelions comes from the merging of souls, from attaining on a small scale what is achieved through Instrumentality. However, on the small scale it works best if there is a strong emotional bond between the two souls, depending on our individuality instead of brute force to attain this microcosm of Instrumentality. You see, it is because we are unique individuals that we can form these bonds with others. Simply put, two friends are stronger together than one person on their own. I have taken friendship and turned it into a weapon, although we have found out that the bond which drives synchronization the best is that of maternal love. To this end, SEELE orchestrated the absorption of the souls of a million mothers into the cores, disguised as a new medical procedure to safeguard their health. Across the entirety of this poor, broken world, shattered by Impact and war, they used the guise of the United Nations Maternity Protection Act to take the system developed by GEHIRN to take the souls of these women, in order to afford themselves a plentiful pool of pilots in the future.

The original plan was to keep the selection pool limited. We knew even then that the costs of the Evangelions would be astronomical, that we would only need a few pilots simply because there were limits to how many Evangelions we could actually make. Thus, the damage was going to be contained to a small group of volunteers, but SEELE wanted insurance against possible treason, against pilot death or injury."

Gendo glowered at Misato, his brow furrowed in anger, his eyes like glaciers. The eyes on his hand also glared, a faint reddish glow emanating from them. Misato's grip on her chair's arms tightened even more, her hands white.

"So they took the mothers of an entire generation. Took them, and then entrusted them to me for safekeeping. They saw it as a yoke to keep me chained to them, after they realized part of my intent."

"There's over a million cores in there…" Misato whispered, her voice sick.

"Did you ever wonder why it seemed that so many of the children in Shinji's class had no mothers? Did it ever strike you as strange, that bizarre epidemic that spread itself like wildfire amongst women between twenty three and thirty all across the world? That they all had families, that they all had children?"

"But Asuka's mother… she went insane and killed herself. And you said that your wife was entirely taken into the core."

"Yes. My wife was taken, body and soul into the Evangelion core. This was her intent – this was how she would help control Third Impact. She would be the key by which the process was controlled, and inside the Evangelion she could remain separate and apart from KADMON."

"But why?"

"She and Unit-01 would be an eternal monument to the existence of man. Like the pyramids or acropolis, or a gravestone." Gendo sighed deeply, a resigned wretchedness in his voice. "She always saw man as a temporary thing. You know that on the geological timeline, we've only been around for about five minutes. We are a bright flash of light in the dark, and she believed that we would pass from the cosmos. All our history, all of our monuments and creations would be reduced to nothing, eventually erased from existence when our sun dies. She saw Unit-01 as a way to ensure that something of man would exist forever. So the contact experiment took her in her entirety. Kyoko wasn't in on the plan, though. She thought that something had gone wrong. The original goal – as she knew it – was that we were trying to create a new consciousness based off one of our one, much like the GLaDOS systems. She thought that she had fixed it, that she had found and corrected the error."

"And she was wrong." Misato said, her eyes wet with tears, a glistening sheen of moisture laid over them, threatening to break free and pour down her face. "What happened?"

"Her soul was broken, and half was taken into the core of Unit-02. She did not go insane as everyone else thought. She just was literally not all there. A broken mind and soul was left behind in her body, and she lingered in this world that way, not even a ghost of who she was, until she killed herself.

SEELE took the systems that we had created, and finished the work that we started. They did not want it to be too obvious that they were responsible for the madness and deaths that would follow the new medical checkups, after all. Instead, the women selected for 'recruitment' would linger and waste away, dying by inches, their souls sealed away in those damnable cores."

"Leaving their children available as pilots if the need ever came up."

"Indeed. And no one was ever the wiser for it; no one even suspected a thing. It was just another tragedy of this poor, broken world. The UN had already warned the people about plagues and new illnesses, after all, wasn't that the point of the new medical checkups, the new medicines being distributed? Some were just luckier than others."

"So all of the pilot's mothers are in the Evangelions?" Misato said, trying to change the subject before she threw up. She could already taste the bile in the back of her throat. "Was Rei's mother a team member in the original development crew, too?"

"No, Rei's mother is down in the Chamber of Guf." Gendo replied, picking up a phone and sending out a text message. "I am sending for some refreshments, Sub-Commander. You look like you could use a drink."

"The Chamber of Guf?" Misato asked, ignoring his comment. "But… Her mother is Lilith?"

"Yes. Rei, you see, is not a normal human. She is… special. She is another part of the equation, another piece of the puzzle in the solution of how to control Third Impact. She is a Human/Angel clone, a hybrid made to help bridge the gap between us and our mother, Lilith."

"She's a… a… she's a clone?"

"Yes. Down below us, there is a floor that is reachable only through one elevator, a sealed and restricted elevator. On this floor is a collection of rooms, and these rooms house the laboratory where Kozo Fuyutuski and I created her, the imaging machine by which we can make copies and back up her mind and soul, the aquarium that holds her spare clones, and the rooms in which she lived the first years of her life."

Misato found herself capable of only making a few strangled sounds, unable to form coherent words. She wasn't sure what to think or feel at the moment, not sure how to take the Commander's matter of fact tone, or the content of his message. Part of her mind screamed at her that none of this could be true, and another part screamed at her to kill the madman that sat in front of her.

"It took us some time, and we had many setbacks, but we eventually succeeded. There was nothing we could do about her pigmentation issues, but we were happy with having an otherwise healthy young girl. I suppose that it is to be expected, as she is half Angel." He watched the younger woman squirm in her seat, her face as white as a sheet. "It's making sense now, isn't it?" He asked, his voice soft, almost an amused whisper. "Her background and past, a mystery sealed in secrecy. Her unusual health issues, that precluded her from interacting with the general populace until a few years ago. Her being my ward when I sent my own son away. I created her, Sub-Commander, just as surely as I created NERV. I created her and I raised her. Her entire existence has been guided by me."

"But…" Misato trailed off as soon as she spoke, aghast at the entirety of the man's statement.

"You are thinking of her social ineptness, of how sheltered she is. Think of her as a captive bird, Sub-Commander. I have clipped her wings so that she might not fly. I have molded her mind and temperament as much as I molded her body. My signature is written in her thoughts just as my fingerprints are on her organs."

"You're a monster! You're sick!" Misato screamed at him, her eyes wild, spittle flying from her mouth as she convulsed suddenly, vomiting on the floor before his desk. She heaved again, emptying out the contents of her stomach.

"It's all necessary, Sub-Commander." Gendo replied, seemingly unperturbed by her reaction. "It needed to be done, if I am to succeed and stop SEELE. But to answer your original question, it is Rei who sits in Unit-00. The first Rei, if you will. Unit-00 was only ever supposed to be a test bed for armor and control systems, and was never intended to have a pilot. Rei's part in Impact is outside an Evangelion, not in one. However, the Senior Doctor Akagi changed things."

Gendo looked up as the door unlocked and opened to admit Kozo, who was pushing a cart laden with food and drink. "Ah, Kozo. I was just telling Sub-Commander Katsuragi about Rei."

"All of it?" the older man asked, hesitantly, his tired eyes moving between the woman and the man, resting briefly on the pool of vomit in front of the man's desk. "Is that wise?"

"She asked for the truth, Kozo. She's done some snooping, and wants to know what is really going on."

"And you're telling her." Kozo said with a sigh. "Did you warn her that she might not want the burdens that knowing the truth will bring?"

"She was rather adamant about it. She insisted on the truth, and I'm obliging her. I was just about to tell her about how Rei I ended up in Unit-00." He turned his attention back to the distressed woman. "Naoko, for whatever reason, killed Rei. She didn't know that the girl was clone; she thought that she was just a prospective pilot, much as Asuka was over in Germany. She strangled Rei, and then stuffed her into the Evangelion and conducted a contact experiment. We're not sure why she killed Rei, but she tried to run a salvage experiment on her. You see, it's theoretically possible for us to take out what was once put it the Evangelions. To bring back those souls, for them to form new, whole bodies from LCL.

It's never been successful though. After the failed attempt at salvaging Rei, she threw herself off the observation deck in Central Dogma."

Gendo shook his head as Kozo handed Misato a glass of water. "We decanted a new clone, and brought in Ritsuko."

"She knows?" Misato asked, spilling ice water over herself but ignoring it in her outrage. "SHE KNOWS?"

"Yes. I wasn't about to have a repeat of whatever had just gone down. She was going to have to step into her mother's shoes, and help Kozo and myself with spearheading the development of the Evangelions. We knew that we had some time left, but it was a race against the calendar. So yes, she knows everything that I do, as soon will you." He paused, frowning slightly."Don't blame her for this. Her deception was a matter of life and death. As you will find out shortly, it will not matter if you take this story to anyone. Enough inertia has built up to the point where we cannot be stopped. You know the value and weight of secrets, and you are aware of what we are fighting against."

Kozo sighed, carefully lowering himself into a chair. "It is monstrous, yes, the things that we must do to save this world. But we must. To stand by and let it happen without objection or resistance is even more monstrous."

"This is not a perfect world, Sub-Commander. I know this more than most. You know this more than most. But it is our world, and for the time being it is the only one we have. Any place can be Heaven, if we're willing to work for it. My wife used to think that, or at least she used to say that she did. She said it a lot after our son was born, and I thought that I would be able to use him to enlist her help." Gendo looked sorrowful, suddenly looking much older than he was. "Instead, she chose to use him in the murder of the world."

Vier, Drei, Zwei, Eins!

Husband and wife watched the technicians working on the final preparations for the contact experiment, busy completing the last checks on the grotesque puppet of meat and metal. The grinning skull was covered with as many cables and wires as it was muscle, the bare sections awaiting metal armor implants that would be attached after the experiment.

"It's not too late to back out, Yui." Gendo said, watching his wife's reflection in the glass. "We can change the plan."

"Oh honey," Yui said with a soft laugh, "it's far too late. Besides, what you want to do is dangerous. Promise me that you won't try anything rash after I'm gone." She reached out and rubbed his arm, already wearing the prototype neural interface suit, all hard rubber and silicone. Boxy metal sections housed circuitry and amplifiers sat at regular intervals across her body, making her outline look less an attractive woman and more a robot. "Our time here was short, and it's quickly running out. This is all for the best, trust me. You're still new to the whole idea. We all had the same thoughts when we were first brought in."

"At least leave our son out of it." Gendo pleaded, turning to Yui and taking her hands in his, caressing her fingers through the black silicone. "He doesn't need to see this. No one should have to watch their mother die, especially like this."

"It will be good for him, dear. I know that it seems a little harsh, but it will make everything easier in the long run. We are building a better future here. We are building eternity. But if we do not know about the darkness of our past, the brightness of our future is meaningless."

Gendo opened his mouth to argue, but stopped himself as the elevator opened, and their son came running out, leaving Doctor Akagi in his wake. The boy was grinning, and plowed into his mother, hugging her. Naoko had a small grin on her face, obviously having enjoyed playing babysitter to the boy.

"Are you ready to watch history in the making, Shinji?" Yui asked her son, smiling benevolently down at him. "Are you ready to see the future?"

The exuberant boy grinned and nodded, giggling at the texture of the suit his mother wore. Gendo forced himself to smile, although a ball of ice was slowly growing in the pit of his stomach.

"Well, go ahead and watch the window, watch the Evangelion." She carefully extracted herself from the boy who rushed to the window, eagerly watching the nightmarish construction below. Yui leaned in and kissed her husband for the last time, her dark eyes locking onto his. "Don't try anything rash," she whispered. "It'll all work out in the end."

Swallowing, Gendo could only nod, his words catching in his throat. He kept his eyes on her until the elevator doors closed, only then turning to join Naoko and his son at the window, his face a frozen mask.

Shinji waved back to the helmeted form of his mother as she walked towards the waiting plug. She mimed blowing them a kiss before she slid into entryway, the gaping hole that reminded Gendo of an open tomb. The metal plate swung into place, and the entry plug spiraled down, locking clamps engaging with a muffled thud, still audible through the armored glass.

It was all over in five minutes, his wife gone into the gleaming red orb, leaving behind a husband and a son, having forsaken them to the hideous machinations of SEELE in the pursuit of eternal KADMON.

Later that night, long after Shinji had finally gone to sleep, exhausted with grief, Gendo sat in the darkness of his son's room, head in his hands, planning.

It would not be until the early hours of the next morning that he would leave his son's side, and it killed him to do so, but there was work to be done.

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Misato stared at her commander, her lower lip trembling slightly. "So she sits in the core of Unit-01? She's what causes the berserker behavior of the Evangelion? She's keeping him safe during battle?"

"No." Gendo answered. "Her orb is not the core that sits in Unit-01. I do not, I cannot trust her. My plans run counter to hers, and while rash, I am winning. This would not be possible with her in control of Unit-01. She could simply not synchronize with Shinji; she could ignore the commands given by him or us. She remains loyal to her father and to SEELE. She is a wildcard that I could not allow to remain in play.

But it should be apparent to you that it is someone else that provides the soul of Unit-01, Sub-Commander. Think now, and see if you can puzzle this out. Why would Yui care about Rei, when she was taken by Gaghiel into the bay? Why would she expend such effort to see her safe again, when she abandoned her husband and son? No, it is not Yui who is responsible for my son's vicious and bloodthirsty behavior on the battlefield. It is not Yui who is the one who is responsible for his victories, for his triumphs."

"Who is it?" Misato asked, eyes flicking back and forth between Gendo and Fuyutuski. "Who is the soul of Unit-01?"

"My sins are great and varied, Sub-Commander. They are both large in nature and number, and I have sinned against the natural order as well as against man. I plan on becoming a god, Sub-Commander, and I have created new life. I have created such plans that pit man against man and have placed my son and his friends into a war against supernatural beings of unknowable powers and thoughts. There is much more to this tale that you have yet to hear, and while it may sicken you, the truth of who it is that sits in Unit-01 is my worst sin. Even worse than what I have done to my daughter, for all the social and mental conditioning, for all of the carefully calculated abuses that has left her completely, dogmatically loyal to me."

He paused as he watched her, his face a stony mask; not betraying anything of what he felt, his voice smooth and emotionless.

"You know that Yui went completely into the core. You know that Kyoko went only partially, and left behind an insane husk, a broken shell of what she once was. You know that SEELE took our work and continued it, making it so that the women selected for recruitment would waste away and die after a few years, leaving no trace of their work.

I took all of it and perfected it. You perhaps recall an earlier conversation, where I said that I had made the children into titans, into colossi. This is truer of Rei than Asuka, as a small fragment of my daughter sits in Unit-00. It is completely true of Shinji."

Gendo leaned forwards over his desk, his eyes dark pits that seemed to draw Misato in. "I split Shinji's soul in half, cleanly and evenly cut in two. All of his tameness, all of his psychological issues, these are not the result of abandonment and abuse. He is this way because half of his soul has resided in Unit-01 since before he was eight. This is the secret to his unnatural abilities with the Evangelion, Misato. He can do these things because he is not just 'becoming' the Evangelion. He already is the Evangelion. He is Unit-01. Unit-01 is him. When he synchronizes with Unit-01, he becomes complete. His soul is rejoined, and the berserkergang that comes upon him is the exultation of his soul. The power that he wields in that barely cognizant state is the power that lies within the unconquerable spirit of every man, woman and child. I have given him means to harness and use that power. In your earliest reports on him you noted that you were unsure if we would be able to retain his voluntary services as a pilot, but I tell you that he will never choose not to pilot the Evangelion. He desires completeness, he wishes to be whole. The only thing we ever worried about was getting him into the Entry Plug the first time."

Gendo leaned back in his chair, watching the woman try to absorb the information. Kozo reached over to gently pat her on the back, but she jerked away from him.

"That was why you brought out Rei that day! To goad him into the Entry Plug, to reel him in." She stared at Gendo before turning to glare at Kozo. "You helped, didn't you?" She asked, her tone accusatory and sharp. "You helped him create Rei. You had to have helped him with this."

"I helped him." Kozo confirmed. "I only had a small part in the splitting on Shinji's soul, but I did play a larger part in creating Rei."

"And Rei!" Misato said, whirling back to stare at Gendo. "You said that she was a clone, and you called her your daughter. Who is she a clone of? Your wife? She looks a little like Shinji. Family resemblance?" Misato coughed slightly before swallowing. It was obvious to the two men that she was trying not to throw up again.

"No, she's not a clone of my wife." Gendo said irritatedly, as if there was something that she was missing. "It's not like I had a surplus of genetic material from her to do this. Rei is in fact much younger than she appears. I didn't create her until several years after Shinji had been sent away for safekeeping and NERV was created. We didn't even know that we were going to need a Human/Angel clone to properly control Impact until then. In fact, Rei II is only about nine years old, from a purely temporal point of view. She's a clone of Shinji, mixed with material from Lilith."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Ritsuko glared at Gendo as she inserted the IV into Misato's arm, eyes moving back and forth between the unflappable asshole and her friend's vein. "And you're completely positive that there wasn't an easier way to deal with this?" she asked, ignoring the other Sub-Commander as he shook his head.

"She wanted to know the truth, Ritsuko." Gendo said, neither protesting nor explaining. He was simply stating a fact. "It is past time, I think, that she was told the truth anyways. She's already gotten most of the shocks out of the way now, and when she comes back around, it should be smooth sailing. Only some of the minor details about the path to Instrumentality and our plans for what lies past it remain to be told, and possibly some clarification on the larger pieces of the Scenario. You should be able to answer most of the questions that she might have. There are still parts of my true plan that we had not yet gotten to, but if she wants to hear about them from me rather than from you, send her back up. I'm going to go back work, as the custodial staff should be done cleaning the office by now."

He nodded to her, and then left, Kozo slipping out behind him into the hall, chuckling. Ritsuko glared at them until the door slid shut, and she looked back down at her friend with a sigh. After checking the IV drip, she went over to the counter and poured herself a cup of coffee. After settling into her chair, she returned to reading the latest reports concerning Asuka.

It was about five minutes before Misato stirred, coughing. She sat up straight in the chair, glaring at Ritsuko. "You!"

"Me indeed." Ritsuko answered, lowering the tablet. "How are you feeling?"

"Are all of you fucking insane?" Misato screamed. "How do you think I'm feeling?"

"I imagine that you are feeling stressed and physically ill. You're taking this rather badly, I think. I took it better, and I got the whole thing all at once, on top of having just lost my mother. You've been eased into things."

Misato stared at her friend, her mouth agape in anger and horror. "I'm taking this badly?" she screeched, falling back against the chair. "Rits, we're working for a megalomaniac that's cloned his son, cut his soul in half and shoved it into a five hundred ton war machine! He doesn't intend to stop Third Impact at all, but is instead planning on replacing SEELE with himself!"

Ritsuko sighed as she set her computer back down and rubbed the bridge of her nose. "You passed out before he could tell you what he was going to do with that power."

"Of course I passed out! I just found out that I've been playing matchmaker between a boy and his gender swapped Angel-mixed clone, on top of everything else!" A look of newly realized horror dawned on the raven haired woman's face as she pointed at the doctor. "That's why you were against them hooking up in the beginning! It had nothing to do with them being Evangelion pilots at all! It's because they'd be dancing the horizontal mambo to the tune of the incestuous flipper-baby band!"

"Well, not exactly." Ritsuko said with a sad half smile. "It's not technically incest. It's more a sort of masturbation, for all that incest in and of itself is a social phenomenon, but even then it doesn't really count because the genetic drift is more than enough for any potential offspring to be perfectly healthy. It's a little counter-intuitive, because Rei, apart from being Shinji's clone, isn't really human. She's more a half sister to humanity, thanks to the genetic contribution from Lilith. Homo Sapiens Angelus, if you will. Since she's closer to the ancestral matriarch than anyone else, any coupling would result in another hybrid, but that would, in theory, be fertile, unlike, say, a mule. Of course,"

"Ritsuko, please stop." Misato groaned, a hand clapped over her eyes. "If you're trying to make me feel better, it's not working."

"You knew what you were getting into when you agreed to become a Sub-Commander, Misato." The doctor said, utterly unsympathetic. "You knew that he was a world class bastard. You knew that we were doing terrible things here. You knew that even before then. What sort of organization makes use of child soldiers, especially in war machines that inflict harm, both physical and mental, on their pilots?"

"The kind of organization that is fighting against the impossible, that has no other choice, that stands alone between the world and destruction," Misato grudgingly replied after a short silence. It was a sort of unofficial motto of the men and women involved in the various parts of Project E, a sort of catechism that helped them sleep at night, or reconcile with them the harsh truth of what they were doing.

"What does he plan to do with Instrumentality?"

"He will, theoretically, have ultimate power. He will adjust the laws of causality, release the trapped souls, end Instrumentality, and exile himself into Unit-01 along with Yui Ikari. The souls of mankind will reincarnate, and be returned to the world. NERV will be in place to provide leadership and order across the planet, and Kozo will be in place to command NERV. We will be able to make new Evangelions, taking core samples from Unit-01, which will give us an army that will be able to handle anything. Using the AT Field, we will be able to reshape the world, to protect it, to help explore space and to help us colonize it. Anyone who wishes to protect mankind, to see it prosper and grow will be able to synchronize with an Evangelion core that was grown from a sample of Unit-01's."

"A literal army of guardian angels?"

"More or less." Ritsuko smiled, but her eyes looked sorrowful. "There's a few details missing here and there, but that's the general gist of the plan. It's all that he's worked to achieve, ever since Second Impact. He has always looked to the future, to ensuring that never again such a thing could happen. Third Impact cannot be stopped, Misato. It will happen, one way or another. SEELE's plans have been in place for far too long for it to be otherwise. We can only try to conduct damage control, to limit how bad things are going to be, and to make sure that it can't ever happen again."

"How much does Rei know?"

Ritsuko waved dismissively. "She knows most of it. She was created for this reason, to grant control to the Commander during Impact. She has lived her entire life waiting for the day of Third Impact, waiting for the day on which she may die and be released."

Misato's face was one of horrified shock. "She knows that she's going to die, and she's gone along with it this entire time?"

"Yes, she knows. For the longest time, it was all that she longed for, that she looked forward to. She'd often ask if this was the day on which she would die." Ritsuko shook her head. "It was the most depressing thing you could ever hear. A little girl of seven, in all reality only two years, asking you in that emotionless voice of hers every single day if this was the day she was going to be allowed to die?"

Misato swallowed, trying to imagine it, and finding that she could picture it. It was a terrifying image. "You said that she had done that. Did she only just recently stop asking?" There was, in her mind, only one reason why the girl that might have ceased asking such a question.

Ritsuko shook her head again. "No, she stopped asking a few years ago, right about when she burned down the building she was living in. Whatever happened, for whatever reason that she burned it down, she stopped asking. But she was still set on it, you could tell. She had nothing else to live for, you know. Gendo needed her to trust him unequivocally, to have her give him control, total and complete control, of not only her soul, but all the souls of mankind and the process of Instrumentality. She worships him. She has followed every singular command he gave her with her entire being. Then it came time for her to be introduced to Shinji, and the Commander told her that she should get to know him, to be close to him."

"And she did. But why? Why does she need to be close to him? What part of that plays into the Commander's plans?"

"Because she must know what it means to love another. As the key to Instrumentality, she needs to know what it means in order to make her choice. If she did not know how to love, if her existence was completely empty and devoid, why would it matter to her if it was the Commander's plan or SEELE's that came to fruition?"

"How will it happen? What's the thing that's inside the Commander's arm?" Misato leaned back in the chair, rubbing at her forehead.

"That was a nascent embryonic clone of ADAM. It is part of the equation to achieve Impact. ADAM's power will counter Lilith's, Rei will act as the intermediary and pass control of Instrumentality to the Commander instead of a new, joint consciousness being born inside of KADMON. Unit-01 will replace Lilith as the new source of future Evangelions, and the Lance of Longinus, the only weapon that could stop us, is safely locked away."

"So what happens to the kids? What happens to Rei, to Shinji, to Asuka? Will Kyoto return? What about Rei I?"

"Rei I isn't a separate entity, she was just the first of the cloned bodies to be used as host by Rei's soul. Only a small piece of her soul was taken into Unit-00, which is why she has such low synchronization scores. Kyoko only has part of her soul in Unit-02. She'll pass from this world, I guess, unless the rest of her soul was absorbed into Unit-02 after her physical body died. We're just not sure what will happen with her. Shinji, well, Shinji's part of the burnt offering." Ritsuko swallowed. "He's going to die during Instrumentality, Misato. Unit-01's the final part of the puzzle, you see. Without it, Instrumentality cannot happen. His death, and Rei's, gives mankind a future. There is no other way, but..."

"But what?"

"Gendo thinks that there is a chance, a very small chance, that they might live through it. I don't think that it'll happen though. Rei will choose to die, to be released from her bonds here, and Shinji will follow her. He won't choose another life of loneliness and despair. He will choose death."

Misato had nothing to say. She could only stare in horrified accusation at the other woman, who, in a complete inversion of how she normally was, had twin lines of tears running down her face.

"Don't look at me like that, Misato! Don't! I've helped raise Rei! Don't you think I wanted a family, once? Don't you think that they're as close to children as I'll ever have? They practically are my children!" Ritsuko snapped her mouth shut, and swallowed several times, wiping away her tears. Breathing hard through her nose, she stood up after regaining her composure. "Follow me," she said, motioning to Misato to get up. "I'll show you where we keep the spares."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Kaji smiled as the door slid open, the troublesome lock finally giving way to his skilled ministrations. Tucking his tools back into his bag, he scooted into the room, pushing the black satchel to the side as he took stock of the room's contents.

Kaji Ryoji was by any reasonable definition a jaded individual, not much given to shock or surprise. He had long ago burned out the last bits of his innocence or naivety, leaving behind a cynical man who liked to collect secrets. Much like a priest in the confessional, he would often remark to his friends in the industry, he had seen it all, especially now after his time at NERV.

He was entirely unprepared to see a huge aquarium tank running the entire length of the room filled with LCL and naked clones of Rei Ayanami. A shiver running down his spine, he moved closer, slack-jawed with shock. There appeared to be hundreds of them, and that was just counting the ones he could see in the clouded depths of the viscous liquid. Even though the aquarium was lit from below by powerful lights, bathing the room in an amber glow, he could only see about a meter or so into the tank. The clones swam and floated about like fish, a disturbing emptiness in their eyes that was matched by even emptier smiles. Over the hum of machinery a faint, inane girlish giggling could be heard through the thick glass.

Clones they might be of the serious young woman, he thought to himself, but they could not be more different from her. She always had an icy coolness about herself, although she did have her sporadic flashes of warmth, sometimes disturbingly warm, but her eyes were not empty and devoid of thought. Neither did she smile so, for her expressions were faint and as carefully measured out as rice during a famine. She was a girl of subtle emotion, and he doubted that she even knew how to giggle.

Stepping up to the glass, he reached out and placed his hand against the clear barrier. The clone closest to him smiled dumbly and mimicked the movement; her delicate alabaster hand stained a pale orange inside the tank. Others swam closer, acting like a school of fish, but lacking any trace of curiosity on their faces. The identical swarm retained their slack-jawed smiles, acting more like a mirror to him than any sort of actual person.

What was this all about? What was Rei? This raised so many new questions that Kaji wasn't sure that he would have time to answer.

So engrossed in puzzling out the riddle presented by the tank of cloned girls, he almost didn't hear the door unlock and open behind him. He turned around slowly, casually, and leaned against the glass with a grin that slid off his face as he saw who had just entered the room.

"You... you're not supposed to be here. You're locked up in solitary!" he exclaimed, staring at Rei, who had paused just inside the room. She stared at him silently for a heartbeat before moving again, walking off to the side, to one of the counters and put down the box of parts she had been carrying.

"You are not supposed to be in here," she said, throwing the spy's words back at him. "This is my laboratory. I am allowed to be in here if I wish."

"But you're locked up! I just saw you before I came down here!" Kaji protested, watching the girl as she emptied the pockets of her labcoat, setting the juice box and half eaten sandwich on the counter next to the box.

"I am locked up inside a cell. I am also standing in front of you here, inside this room where you are not supposed to be. I am in almost all of the places that I should be. You are out of place." She watched him, her face betraying nothing, as unreadable as the face of an Evangelion. "Why are you here?"

"Well, I'm on an errand for the Commander. You see,-"

"That is a lie, Agent Ryoji." She interrupted him. "The Commander would not send you in here. This room is not used in any part of his Scenario. If you had business with the clones, you would be in the room on the other side of the tank."

Smiling weakly, he waved at the tank behind him. "Okay. Okay, so I'm here on my own. Nobody knows about this room, other than you and me. I came in here to find out what you were doing in a room that's secured against a top level security access code."

Now it was Rei's turn to look shocked, and while the look was fleeting, Kaji saw it. She had not expected to hear that she had been under observation, that much was clear. The only question was what he could do with this information, and how he could keep her off balance.

"You should not have come here," she said. "The Commander had warned you about going into places that you should not go. You should have listened to him."

"You're not going to tell Ikari that I was here." Kaji scoffed. "Then you would have to explain what you're doing out of confinement, and what you're doing in this room."

"You are correct, Agent Ryoji. I am not going to tell Commander Ikari that you were in here. I cannot, however, allow you to continue to work against his Scenario, and I cannot let you work against mine."

Kaji grinned at the girl. "You surely don't think that you can do anything to stop me, do you?" he asked as he leveled his pistol at her. "I think that I'm going to leave, and do some more investigating. Threats don't work against me, Rei."

She did not answer, but picked up a strange looking device that was vaguely gun shaped from the counter. "Your nine millimeter has a maximum of sixteen shots before you must reload. My infrared laser cutting torch is effectively limitless in ammunition against a soft skinned target."

"Rei, don't think for a second that I won't kill you." he warned her, eying the device in her hand. "You don't live very long in this job if you get hung up on dealing with threats to your life."

She did not answer, but brought the torch up and aimed at his chest. "You will sit down and allow yourself to be restrained until I am able to determine the best course of action. I will not tell you this again, as past data suggests that you have a habit of ignoring warnings."

"Last chance, Rei. Drop it."

Her finger closed around the trigger when the pistol barked as Kaji shot first. The round took her through the throat, and she collapsed against the counter, bouncing off of it, emitting a horrible gurgling sound as she drowned in her own blood as she tried to breathe through a ruined windpipe.

Kaji shook his head sadly as he walk up to her shuddering form, picking up the torch and putting it on the counter as he squatted down next to her.

"I told you, you stupid little girl." He sighed as she stared wordlessly up at him, pink froth bubbling out of the wound just above her sternal notch, where her neck met her shoulders. "Whatever you are, you're not bulletproof." He frowned as a grin spread across her face, her eyes empty. "Now that's just creepy," he muttered to himself as the girl started to giggle through her drowning gasps.

"I am not creepy, Agent Ryoji."

Kaji whirled around, the pistol coming up as he drew a bead on the source of the statement, his eyes going wide with shock as Rei stood behind him, naked and dripping. His eyes darted back to the dying girl next to him and then back up to the one that was very much alive. Fear spread across his face as he saw the tank behind her, seeing a hatch that he hadn't noticed before standing open. "What-"

"I am not bound to a single body, Agent Ryoji," she stated, cutting off his question before he had finished asking it. "Nor am I bound to a single body at a single time."

Behind her, two blank faced clones climbed out of the tank and stepped towards them, with more following behind. His finger curled around the trigger as he shot the speaking clone in the head, which crumpled to the floor amidst a spray of blood and brain matter. One of the other clones stood up straighter and stopped advancing. He turned and shot her as she opened her mouth to speak, dropping her, and then he shot the one next to her as he stood and ran to the door.

The door was locked, and refused to open. He spun around, eyes wild with fear. His pistol spoke twelve more times, and twelve more bodies hit the floor, twitching as they died, but there was far more than twelve clones at Rei's disposal.

Agent Ryoji, she noted, took much less subduing than her brother.

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

"How many are there?" Misato asked, her voice low and dead, as if she was incapable of being shocked any more. "What are they doing?"

"Right now? They're just swimming around. They're kind of like fish. Mindless, soulless fish that look like Rei. If you walk up to the tank, they'll swim over to you and mimic your actions. They are receptacles for souls, and they'll mirror your own if you're near enough to them. We have a few thousand of them."

"A few thousand? What was he planning on doing with Rei that he would need so many?"

"At first? I don't know." Ritsuko said with an indifferent shrug. "You know that he likes to be prepared for anything. You've seen the fail-safes, the emergency protocols, all of the drills. Half of what he does is think of how the Scenario could be threatened and devise countermeasures. But the plethora of available clones does offer us some other options besides the replacement of Rei should she die in battle or accident. These things are the core of the new autopilot that we've been working on."

"I thought that one of the issues with using the Evangelions was the temperamental synchronization process, which makes more sense when you know about how it actually works, by the way." Misato commented with a dark look at her friend. "How did you get an autopilot device to work?"

"I told you that they mimic souls, didn't I?" Ritsuko replied, somewhat irritated that her friend hadn't put it together. "We load a scan of the pilot's mental patterns and run it against the dummy plug insert," she explained with a wave at the tank, where two clones waved back, "and the clone mimics the soul of the pilot and then synchronizes with the Evangelion. There are still some issues we're working on, and it's still in beta mode for all intents and purposes, but it's a stopgap measure as it stands."

"How close do you think you are to completing it? We might not even need the pilots at all, except for brain scans." Misato paused before continuing, thinking for a moment. "Wait, how well does the autopilot reason? What would its fighting capabilities be?"

"It has no reasoning capabilities. With the autopilot engaged, we have to control the Evangelion from Central Dogma. It's really less an autopilot than a subsystem that lets the Evangelion be run remotely like a UAV drone."

"Well that's better than nothing, I suppose." Misato made a disgusted face. "So we still need the pilots."

"We still need them." Ritsuko confirmed. "C'mon, let's go. I don't like spending any more time down in here than I need to. They kind of creep me out."

"They creep you out? What about those of us who aren't mad scientists? Wait... You said that you practically raised Rei and that you thought of the kids as your kids. These are all just more Reis. What gives?"

Ritsuko felt an eye twitch. She sighed dejectedly. "What did the Commander say about us?"

"About us? What do you mean?" Misato stared at Ritsuko, uncertainty sliding into understanding and then something less than horror and more than revulsion. "Rits, ewww! He's so old! He's what, fifteen, eighteen years older than you?"

"I wanted a family, Misato! I wanted a family, and I had no time for anything else but work! He was here, and he's brilliant, and he's driven, and he's not bad looking." Ritsuko said, her eyes glistening with moisture.

"He's also planning on reuniting with his wife."

"I know!" Ritsuko snapped, her tone bitter as the first tears began to run out of the corners of her eyes. "He's going to leave, and my ersatz children will be dead, and all I'll have is the knowledge that I helped save the world."

"You have a weird way of playing house." Misato said as she hugged her friend, trying to cheer her up. "A husband who's married to the interred soul of a war machine, a son with half a soul in a war machine, and a daughter that's a hybrid clone of your son. Not to mention that the boy lives with me, and the girl lives with a friend from school."

Ritsuko sniggered into Misato's shoulder. "You're terrible at comforting people, you know that?"She sniffed. "It's not fair. Growing up, I never thought it would end up this way. Even in college, with you and Kaji-"

"I thought we had agreed to never talk about that." Misato said flatly, but she grinned at the doctor. "But yeah, I understand. You're all still crazy, but I suppose I understand."

Ritsuko pulled away, rubbing her face. "Let's go. There's still some more to tell you, mostly about what we know that SEELE is doing. They know that we plan betrayal, so they've taken some measures of their own."

"Great." Misato groaned. "More plots? Where do they end? Do the plots and counter plots ever end around this place?"

"No."

"How much of this is true, and how much of it is just another set of lies? Is there another deeper plot within a plot, another secret conspiracy just out of sight?"

Ritsuko laughed, a short, somewhat bitter titter of amusement. "There's to be no more secrets between us. If there is anything else that remains hidden, it's not anything that I know. If there is a deeper plot, then Gendo's playing it by himself."

"But, it's so horribly, complicatedly simple! How could any of it be true?"

"How else do you explain it, Misato? How else could you explain it? I'm just glad that I don't have to lie to you anymore."

"And what about Maya? Asuka? What about all the other technicians?"

"Why do you think that I take so much of the work with the Evangelions and Pilots on myself, handing out only the simplest of tasks to the others? It would be insane in a normal organization. It would be insane if what you are learning now wasn't the truth."

Both women waited in the elevator in silence. When the doors opened and Ritsuko stepped out, Misato stayed where she was, prompting the blond doctor to look back.

"Misato?"

"Are we friends, Ritsuko? I mean, really, are we friends?" Misato asked, looking at the woman she had known since college. "Are you really telling me everything, or is it just another lie?"

Stepping back into the elevator, Ritsuko carefully wrapped her arms around the Sub-Commander, drawing her into a hug. "It's the truth. No more secrets, no more lies. Just the plain, stark, terrifying truth."

"Okay."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Asuka leaned on her IV caddy as she stared at the comatose form of the Third Child. He looked horrible, as if he had gone three or four rounds with a rhinoceros. She hadn't ever seen him look as bad, even after their horribly aborted battle with the leviathan, despite losing his leg. Whatever had happened to him and Unit-01 inside of the Angel, it had done a number on the pair of them.

He was out of the intensive care wing, which was a relief, but was still on enough life support machines that he might as well have been inside his Evangelion. Despite all the machines that were trying to keep him alive, he looked peaceful, possibly even serene in his wounded state, but she could not shake the sense of dread that she had as she watched him sleep in his coma. She felt uneasy in his presence, and in the presence of Unit-01, a deep-seated despair and fear that tugged at her mind and soul. Even with him comatose, there seemed to be an aura about him, as if he was not so much as sleeping as he was simply waiting to be switched on and unleashed.

How much of it was from Lilith and how much from her own observations of the boy she couldn't tell, but either way she was certain that there was more to it that just badly frayed nerves. He had been in more battles, and had done more damage, not only to the Angels but to the surrounding areas than Wondergirl and herself combined.

But even if he was waiting to be switched on, he was out of the fight for the time being. It was not good at all for him to be as prone to going into comas as he was, and some of the nurses had quietly voiced doubts about him coming out of this one.

The pilot corps was cut by a third with him gone. Distressing, but not the end of the world.

She hobbled over to a chair and flopped down, taking care to not dislodge the catheter tube in her arm. Still watching the boy as he slept, her thoughts went to another third of the pilot corps, several floors down in solitary confinement.

Rei was confined, not necessarily as punishment, but more for her own protection. The JSSDF wanted her. The government of Japan wanted her. The loss of two fighters and four pilots was not something that either was going to let pass without comment of action. Neither, however, was NERV going to just hand over one of their pilots. The political climate was very tense and charged though, and NERV Command had sequestered the girl away while they argued with the national government and military complex, claiming self defense on the part of the girl.

But until Commander Ikari could talk things over with the powers that were, Rei would remain incarcerated.

Two thirds of the pilot corps was out of the fight. This was dangerous, if not an outright disaster, seeing as Rei was fully capable of piloting.

Then, of course, there was herself. While she would of course throw herself back into the Entry Plug even if she was half dead, she had to admit that her chances in combat as she was were not good. The intracranial pressure had let up in the past two hours, but she was still a little wobbly, uneasy on her feet.

At less than a hundred percent, she could not even say that a third of the pilot corps remained ready to defend the world against the Angels.

It was a sobering thought, NERV being defenseless against the Angels, the Evangelions without pilots. Weapons without anyone to use them were useless. The puppets of meat and armor, as powerful and awesome as they were still needed someone to pull the strings. Without the pilots to give them purpose and life, the giants would remain in their cages in the event of an Angelic incursion, unable to do anything.

She hauled herself to her feet and left the boy's room, headed back to her own. Until the Commander managed to secure Rei's freedom and safety, she would be the only pilot on the active roster. It was important that she get back to her normal self as soon as possible.

She paused in the hall as she caught sight of Maya leaving her room. The older woman stopped as well, watching her for a moment before a small, hesitant smile appeared on her face. "I heard that you were back on your feet. How are you feeling?"

Asuka hesitated for a moment, before shaking her head. "Worried," she answered, but smiled back at the lieutenant. "Shinji's still out of it and Rei's locked up. I guess that Doctor Akagi's busy with Unit-01?"

"Yes and no. She disappeared sometime ago with Sub-Commander Katsuragi, but Unit-01's mostly on the road to recovery. The damage was extensive, and we decided that it was just easier to replace the armor and missing systems outright. It's getting the newest hardware, right down to the ancillary systems, and it's reacting well to the new implants. All in all, it will probably be ready before its pilot."

"What about the dummy plug systems? I saw that it was on the schedule for my Unit-02, but that was for extended testing. Are we including it in Unit-01's upgrades?"

"Yes, we're putting the autopilots in both Units."

"Better than nothing, I suppose. Two halfway good systems might make for one actually good system, right?" Asuka joked. "Has there been any news about what's going on with Rei?"

"I haven't heard anything about it either way. I guess that no news is good news, although I don't think that they would say anything if they were going to hand her over." Maya looked up at the ceiling as if she was looking to the Commander's office several floors above them, to where he no doubt was sitting now, shrouded in darkness, planning and plotting, maneuvering his political pieces to ensure that his aims were met. "I've got the MAGI scouring the nets for any scrap of information. The UN has condemned the act, but hasn't taken any official stance."

"Have you heard anything about how she's taking it? I mean, how is she holding up in solitary?"

"If it was anyone else I would be worried. She's isolated herself from most other people before in her life. I don't think that she'll care much about the isolation except that it's keeping her from Shinji's bedside."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Misato stared through the reinforced armored window into the cage that housed Unit-01, watching the swarm of workers as they went about the business of repairing the stricken titan. Dirty gray flesh stood out against the deep purple of the nutrient rich coolant. The last scraps of armor that had remained after it's reemergence from within the Dirac had been stripped from it in order to help prepare the Evangelion for the new armor and upgrades. The face of Unit-01 was the most human-like of the Evangelions, but itself was a grotesque, misshapen parody. While within the purple and green armor, the Evangelion was a terrifying construction, a weapon of immense power and a monument to the tenacity of mankind's struggle for survival. Without the armor, the defenses stripped away by conflict and violent bloody strife, the Evangelion was a nightmarish monster.

But the nightmarish monster that stood before her was not at all similar now to the nightmarish creature that had ripped the world asunder. Gone were the wings of pure fire, which Ritsuko said had been created by Shinji's AT Field. The eyes that sat underneath the heavy eyelids were a deep emerald green, the same color that ringed the mostly blue eyes of the ADAM sample that was living and growing within the Commander, not the supernovas that sat amidst a less brilliant field of living fire.

"We made the Evangelions in the image of ADAM, in the image of the physical god that we had found." Gendo said as he walked up beside her, his hands clasped behind him. "I always found it strange that He resembled us more than our mother, but I had more pressing matters to deal with than unraveling that little mystery. I do not know if you ever saw Him while He was encased within the Antarctic Ice, but Unit-01 is a close copy of how he looked. His armor was different, and His face was more human, having a nose and lips. While he slept in the ice, his eyes were the same green as Unit-01's."

"How do you explain Shinji's mimicking of ADAM's awakening? Has he ever heard about that day? About what happened?"

"He has not, at least not from my guidance, heard anything about the particulars of what ADAM looked like or the manner of his awakening from his slumber. Neither has he seen any of the truncated and fragmentary recordings that were recovered." Gendo paused, watching the activity before them unblinkingly. "I take it from your questions that you never shared what you witnessed with him."

"I didn't. I told them that I had been there, that I watched the breaking of the world. I never told them what it was like." She shuddered and turned her back on the window, leaning up against it, staring at the floor. "I almost died when he came back, when he broke free. I thought..." She trailed off and shook slightly, wrapping her arms around herself.

"You thought that He had returned; that He had come back from the other side."

Misato nodded miserably, choking back a sob.

"I do not know why he chose those aspects, why he shaped his AT Field thusly. I told you before that I did not have answers to all of your questions; that in some things I was in the dark just as much as you were." His voice betrayed nothing, no sign of what he thought of her breakdown. "In the berserker state he is only peripherally aware of his actions. I can only offer conjecture as to whatever reasoning he had for choosing them. If it had been another Evangelion, I would say it could have been psychic residue from their source material. Or perhaps Lilith also wraps herself in the raiment of flame and fire to do battle." He shrugged, and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I don't know. She is difficult to speak to, and often fickle. She has refused to speak on numerous occasions. The Lance, we know at least is hers. If He had one it was lost long ago. Our studies on the Lance from before show that it is a single piece of metal, either an alloy or an element that is completely unlike anything we have ever seen before. It is a two pronged spear, the twin blades twisting into a double helix down into the main shaft. The blades are impossibly sharp, going down to a monomolecular edge. There is no sign of wear and tear, no sign of weathering or aging. ADAM suffered in His fight with Lilith, and she suffered as well. The Lance shows no signs of damage for all that it was shoved straight through ADAM, or that it was anywhere near ground zero during Second Impact, or that it had spent over a decade lodged inside the ocean floor."

"Why is it called the Lance of Longinus?"

"It was named so in the scrolls from which we derived most of our information about the secret history of the world. I expect that the authors named it after the one weapon to pierce the side of the son of god. To them, there was only one weapon that could possibly harm such godlike creatures, these Angels, messengers of the most high." He shrugged, shaking his head. "The Lance belonged to Lilith. It was a tool as much as a weapon, I gather, with which she brought about life on this world. When she speaks, you see, it is not a simple message or conversation like what you and I share. She implants thoughts and memories, recalled sensations and feelings directly into your mind. But for all that she is our ultimate mother, her ways are different from ours. It is hard to puzzle out her meanings and the truth in those alien thoughts." He paused, and turned from the activity before them to look at her. "Did ADAM ever speak to you? Did you ever feel like there were thoughts and memories not your own running around inside your head?"

Misato shook her head. "Nothing at all like what you've said. What does she say about Him?"

"She has refused to speak of him, except that he is a Destroyer from Outside."

"What does she think of your plans? About her upcoming death, I mean."

"That is why we need Rei. Rei will take control over Instrumentality, usurping it from Lilith. Her plans, from what I gathered from SEELE, were to free herself and resume her duties of overseeing the world. While not necessarily a bad thing, it leaves the possibility of a Third Impact open. I cannot allow this."

They stood there in silence, watching the crews halting their activity, the men and women of the next shift coming on duty, quickly resuming the near twenty-four hour repairs of the Evangelions.

"What are we going to do about Rei?" Misato asked, still watching the crews as they inserted metal components into waiting flesh. "Are we going to give her to the government?"

"It is a race." Gendo answered cryptically. "We are very close to being ready to trigger impact on our terms. I am stalling the proceedings with the JSSDF, but if things are not favorable in a few weeks, some measures will need to be taken. I am in the process of setting things up."

Misato nodded slowly. "You didn't anticipate something like this?"

"No, I did not. I did plan for eventualities where the JSSDF comes against us, but in force and not like this. My agents within the Diet are working to soothe and settle the hurt feelings of the military, but it may not be enough as it is." While his face remained serious, his tone lightened fractionally. "I do not yet have plans for everything."

Mistato allowed herself a small smile. "Yet," she echoed. Sighing, she shook her head. "I still have a lot of questions, but they can wait, unless there is anything else that's a big deal that you think I should know about right now."

"I have another son."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Rei ignored the spy as he regained consciousness, the man's head jerking back violently from where it had lolled forwards. His eyes were wide and wild; searching everywhere he could see, struggling against his bonds.

"You will find that you have been restrained with three rolls of duct tape." Rei informed the spy, looking up at him from across the room. "You will remain in my custody until I can determine the best course in regards to your use."

His mouth was sealed with tape, but the look in his eyes conveyed the unspoken question.

"If you are to be freed, it will be on my terms, and as my agent. However, the question remains of how to secure your total loyalty, for I do not wish to allow you to have as long a leash as the Commander has seen fit to give you. As it stands, you and your lack of loyalty compose a major security risk to the Commander's Scenario and to my own." She went back to work, bending over the countertop and the circuit board she was soldering. Kaji resumed his struggles, trying to find any give in his restraints or the chair to which he was secured.

"If you are apprehensive as to the means by which I will kill you if I deem it necessary," Rei said without looking up from her project, "do not worry. It will be as painless as I can manage. With enough morphine in your system, you will fall asleep and never wake up." Setting the solder gun down, she carefully moved the stand that held the command board off to the side. Rei picked up a juice box and stuck the straw down into it, and began drinking as she watched the spy. He glared at her, but if she was bothered by it at all, he couldn't tell. Her normally impassive face was further masked by the pair of goggles she wore, the dark lenses obscuring her eyes. They were very similar to the pair worn by Shinji during the Halloween party, causing him to wonder where the boy had gotten them from. "I do not wish to cause you undue discomfort," she continued, "but I must protect the Commander's interests." She finished her juice, emptying the box with a final draw on the straw. Leaving the box on the counter, she stood up as she removed her goggles and dropped them into a pocket of her lab coat. "I must obtain more components for the modified control system. I will procure a number of saline packs in order to prevent you from dehydrating." She paused momentarily at the room's entrance, looking back over her shoulder. "The MAGI will alert me if you attempt to free yourself. Any attempt to escape is futile, Agent. My clones will be within arm's reach of you in moments. "

As soon as the door's lock reengaged with a solid sounding click, Kaji began to assess his situation. He had escaped from perilous situations before, and there wasn't any reason why he couldn't do so now. He was secured to a metal chair by a generous amount of heavy duty duct tape, each wrist and forearm fixed to the arms of the chair, and each leg likewise done to the front legs of the chair. His jacket had been removed, and more tape secured his chest to the back of the chair. He could not stand, and he could not move his arms or legs.

His only option seemed to be to move his arms back and forth in an effort to loosen up the tape, although he severely doubted his ability to loosen his bonds enough to be able to slide his hands back out of them before the girl came back. But the spy was nothing if not optimistic. Slowly, he began to work at his restraints.

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

The souls of Unit-00 and Unit-02 sat watching Unit-01 as he slept, the train car a ruined mess of burnt benches and scorched carpeting. The twilight sun barely cut through the hazy smoke that filled the car, smoke which refused to dissipate.

What do you think it means?

I don't know. He hasn't moved since the shutdown, and the MAGI say that the boy hasn't moved at all either. He's still classified as being in intensive care, but they moved him back into his regular hospital room.

The girl says that she is still locked up, although it means little to her. She's working on a modified control system for us right now, although she had to stop to deal with a spy.

A spy?

Yes. Apparently one of the Commander's little agents is actually a triple agent or something; Rei's not sure and she's not all that interested so long as he's secured and not causing trouble. She's got him safely tucked away in her lab. He's apparently working for SEELE as well as Father, although the Commander is aware of it. I don't know why she doesn't just kill him and dump him somewhere, but she says that there might be some use to be gotten out of him.

You know, we don't have to resort to killing everything as the first option. Unit-02 remarked, giving off the impression that she was frowning at the cyclopean Evangelion. Has she seen my daughter or the boy? I don't entirely trust the MAGI's reports on them.

She hasn't been able to get close enough to check up on them. She's mostly moving around on the supply warehouse levels, and she's avoiding everyone she can. She wants to finish up the modified control system and get it installed along with the dummy plug. She says that it will allow us to run everything in a sort of triple synchronization, allowing us better control over the AT Field.

Interesting. I take it that she has plans for this improved control?

She says that she should be able to pull off the fire wings. I don't see how useful that is, as we still need to be attached with a umbilical cable, but she wants to give it a try at least.

The fire shield would be more useful, I think. Can you ask her to get one installed into me?

Before Unit-00 could reply, the train shook violently, sending them sprawling on the ground. Unit-01 didn't stir from his unnatural slumber even as he bounced off the bench of seats onto the floor. Both Evangelions stared at each other as the tremors died down.

What was that?

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

"So SEELE cloned you like you did Shinji." Misato said, shaking her head as she flipped through the dossier on Kaworu Nagisa, staring at the pictures of the boy. "He looks nothing like you."

"A side effect of having the Angelic material blended with the human donor material is being able to sculpt the features of the new body. I chose to retain some of Shinji's features in Rei's face purely due to missing my son. SEELE sculpted Nagisa to meet their own aesthetic values."

"He certainly is a pretty boy." Misato remarked. "He's got the same skin as Rei, but his eyes and hair are different. You said that you weren't able to resolve the pigmentation issues in Rei, but it looks like they were able to take care of it with him." She flipped back to the first pages, looking at the medical profile. "What's he like?"

"We've never met. He's supposed to be a surprise for me, a final trump card. SEELE will only send him here once they are ready to initiate Impact – they do not trust me not to take control to assume godhead by myself. But the boy is a child prodigy. He excels in all academic fields, and plays numerous instruments at the maestro level. He is also unsettling to be around, enough to the point where several of the attending staff has committed suicide, leaving behind cryptic, but worrisome notes. Kozo believes that he has some level of psychic abilities, granted by the large amount of Angelic material in his genome. His Marduk scores show that he will be an excellent Evangelion pilot and Ritsuko says that he'll be able to force synchronization with any Evangelion."

"Is that because they used ADAM instead of Lilith for the Angelic material?"

Gendo shrugged noncommittally. "It's a possibly. It could also be because the amount of Angelic heritage he has. Rei is a half and half, but the information my agents were able to retrieve suggests that Nagisa's genetic breakdown is closer to eighty percent Angel, and only twenty percent human."

"So what have the old men had him doing all this time? Just hanging around playing music? Does he have an Evangelion on standby over in Germany?"

"Not that I'm aware of, no. He's accompanied Keel on most of his travels, and otherwise remains at Keel's complex, but he's dropped off the grid recently. My agents haven't been able to find out where he is or what he's up to."

"Could it mean trouble for us? If he's a spare key to the end of the world, I'd like for us to know where he is before someone breaks into the house, if you know what I mean."

"Certainly, and I agree completely, although his disappearance act seems to be rather good. Most of SEELE seems to be unaware of his current location. The wing of rooms that he normally resides in has been empty save for cleaning staff."

"Do we think he poses any special threat opposed to the obvious due to being made from ADAM?" Misato asked, chewing on her bottom lip as she studied the smiling boy's picture. "You said that Rei hasn't manifested any noticeable abilities from Lilith, and I certainly haven't seen anything like psychic… stuff… around her. If this boy is psychic, shouldn't we be worrying about other Angelic abilities?"

"My resources around the boy are limited." Gendo explained, leaning back in his chair. "It was hard enough even discovering where the lab he was born in was located. We weren't able to get any of their research documents or notes. Keel has tried to keep the boy under lock and key as much as possible. They wanted to spring him on us like an assassin's blade in the night, a quick and sudden attack that we would be unable to defend against." He fell silent for a minute, staring at the ceiling. "I'm afraid that we can only offer conjecture on what he may be able to do."

Tossing the folder back onto the Commander's desk, Misato idly ran a hand through her hair. "What do you have planned for this other son of yours? Where does he figure in your plots?"

"There are contingencies that range between incarceration, subversion and extermination. It mostly depends on how close we are to initiating Impact and how close they are. The best case scenario is that they send him a day or two before our preparations are complete and we kill him outright. Worst case is that we have to try to sway him to our side, although if Keel was even half as diligent in the boy's upbringing as I was in Rei's, this will of course be impossible. In that event, it will mean outright war between SEELE and NERV. The Geo-Front can sustain itself indefinitely if we were to seal ourselves off from the surface world, although it goes without saying that this is the absolute worst case resort. It would take an Angel or an Evangelion to break through our armor and defenses from the outside."

New realization dawned on the Sub-Commander's face as the insider threat of Kaji's actions with the three power plants that kept the massive fortress city alive took on new meaning. "That's why they were so interested in the power network and infrastructure on the inside. It's not just for an invading military; it's for additional sabotage to allow them to stage a coup against you!"

"So you are starting to understand, then." Gendo said after a moment, acknowledging the event she was referencing. "Our greatest enemy was never the Angels or even ADAM, it is our fellow man. Once we seal ourselves in here, they have to break in with an Evangelion, or they have to have someone on the inside open the door. I hold the keys to the Evangelions, apart from Nagisa, but that allows them only one Evangelion, which we can defend against with ease."

Sub-Commander Fuyutuski walked into the office, his face set in a grim mask. Both Gendo and Misato looked over to him as started speaking, his voice worried.

"There's been a terrible accident. We've lost contact with NERV-Las Vegas. Dr. Akagi thinks that something went wrong with the-"

"The S2 engine." Gendo said, interrupting his friend as he rose from behind his desk. "What happened?" he asked, already moving to the door, Misato rising in his wake and trailing after them.

"We're not sure. Our Geo-stationary satellite overhead showed a massive burst of EM spectrum energy and a massive spike of gamma rays right before going offline. We've got another satellite moving into position right now, but it will be a few minutes." Kozo fell silent for a moment before continuing as they hurried down the corridor. "The MAGI report that the conditions suggest the opening of another Dirac portal, only on a much larger scale this time."

"How large?"

"Initial assessments are putting it at just over three kilometers in diameter."

Misato cursed with a sharp exhalation of breath, her face white with horror. "That means-"

"That the entire complex could be gone."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Shinji yawned as he opened his eyes, looking around at the room. He was back at home in the apartment, which was odd, considering that the last thing he remembered was…

He frowned as he sat up, rubbing at his temples. He couldn't actually remember what the last thing he had been doing before falling asleep, but he was sure that whatever he had been doing hadn't been around the apartment. Throwing back his sheets, he stood up as he looked at his clock, which was blinking, meaning that there had been a power outage and it had reset. Twilight crept in through his room's window shades, bathing the room in an orange glow.

The entire apartment was silent and empty, and every single clock blinked back at him uselessly. The apartment felt empty and unlived in, even though all their things were still there, right down to the mess in Misato's room and Asuka's numerous bottles of shampoo and soaps in the bathroom. Despite this, the place just felt lifeless and barren, like it was all just a prop for a movie or television show. This was not a place where people lived, it was just the background of some story, to be seen but not used.

He couldn't find his cell phone, and the apartment's landline gave no dial tone.

Shinji quickly changed into regular clothes and left the apartment, locking it behind him before moving down a few doors to the Section-2 apartment; ringing the doorbell several times before unlocking it with the key he had been issued. The rooms that always housed a five man detail of agents were just as empty as his own had been, and their landline was just as dead.

Shinji quickly walked back to his apartment and retrieved his compact pistol and a spare magazine from the lockbox in his closet. After checking the pistol, he slipped the holster onto his belt and threw a light jacket on as he left the apartment again.

The streets of Tokyo-3 were empty and devoid of all life, and the only sounds were his footsteps as he walked down the center of the road as he made his way towards the Horaki's home, wishing that he knew how to drive. Seemingly abandoned vehicles lined the street, keys still in the ignition, as if waiting for their owners to return.

Clouds hung overhead, an orange sheet as they diffused the sunlight. There was no breeze, but the air was not stifling, and it wasn't noticeably warm or cool. Shinji wasn't sweating even with the jacket and the quick pace at which he moved, and it was only after a few minutes that he realized this, along with the fact that he was neither hungry or thirsty, which he always was after waking up after a coma.

The Horaki's house was unlocked, and just as empty as the rest of the city. Shinji hesitated for a moment on the front steps, staring at the half open door before pushing it the rest of the way open, calling out for Rei as he entered.

There was no sign of Rei or Hikari and her family, and no sign at where they might have gone.

Shinji wondered if he was dreaming, and how he could tell if he was asleep or awake. If he was asleep, would he be able to tell? Wasn't he supposed to be able to do things if he knew he was dreaming? He vaguely remembered hearing something to that extent from somewhere.

He sat down on Rei's bed, which was a messy crumple of sheets and pillows. Her room here at the Horaki's was cleaner than her old apartment, but it was almost just a messy. For someone who had very little in the way of personal items, she kept them in surprising disarray. He smiled a faint grin as he looked around at the room. He closed his eyes and thought about Rei, concentrating on her image. She would be dressed in some of the hand-me-downs borrowed from Hikari, a pair of blue jeans and a white blouse, over which she was wearing her labcoat. She had blue and green stripped socks on.

He opened his eyes, and was disappointed to find that he was just as alone as before. If he was in fact dreaming, he couldn't conjure up other people. Frowning, he pinched his wrist, holding the skin between the nails of his thumb and index finger for over a minute. The pain seemed real enough, as did the small indentations left on his wrist. Shinji slumped down on his girlfriend's bed, staring at the ceiling as he tried to think. He wasn't very well versed in the science surrounding lucid dreams or anything, but he was pretty sure that vertigo or a loss of balance was supposed to kick him out of the dream. He could try jumping off a building or something, and see if that worked.

If he wasn't dreaming, it probably would not be advisable to entertain thoughts of jumping off a tall building.

Rolling over onto his side, he took a deep breath and then sighed. If this was a dream, it was a very sad commentary on his subconscious. Shinji frowned as he propped himself up on his arm, staring at the pillow. Sitting up again, he picked the pillow up and took a long deep investigative sniff.

The pillow didn't smell like his girlfriend. It didn't smell like anything at all.

Eyes wide in alarm, he scrambled out of the room, looking through all the other rooms until he came to what had to be Kodama's. There was a dresser upon which sat a variety of perfumes and a small jewelry box. Picking up one of the small glass bottles, he carefully opened it, and took a small cautious sniff. The pink colored liquid had no smell. A hurried investigation revealed that none of the perfumes had a smell.

"I must be dreaming…" he said to himself, his voice seemingly too loud in the otherwise empty house. There really couldn't be any other explanation, he thought to himself as he left the room. Whoever heard of not being able to not smell things? Was that even a thing, not being able to smell? Not being able to see, hear or speak, sure, but smell? Shinji was certain that he was dreaming, but he paused as he came to the head of the stairs.

He could fall down the stairs, and it should wake himself up. If he wasn't awake, and this wasn't some strange and shitty dream, then he wouldn't be too hurt. He had suffered far worse than falling down a simple flight of stairs, after all.

He stood there at the top for what seemed to him to be an eternity, before taking a deep breath. Closing his eyes, he stuck out his prosthetic leg and stepped out.

Down at the bottom of the stairs, lying in a tangled heap of bruises and limbs, he opened his eyes again.

There was no denying the sickening loss of balance as he fell down the steps, nor could he deny the aches and pains that ran through his body, all as real as any of the sympathetic injuries that he had ever sustained in battle.

Swallowing down bile and fear, Shinji stood up, rubbing at his head. If he wasn't asleep and dreaming, then something was seriously wrong. He had to get to NERV. If anyone was around, they would be at NERV, and if anyone knew what was wrong, they would be there.

Ignoring the minor aches and twinges of pain, he ran out of the house, racing into the perpetual orange twilight, anxious to get to the nearest entrance to the Geo-Front.

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Kaji made a disgusted sound as Rei returned, rushing into the room, her eyes wider than normal. She dropped the box she had been carrying down onto the counter before hurrying over to his chair, eyeing his restraints before stepping right in front of him.

"Do you know what happened at NERV-Las Vegas?" she asked with a slight edge of worry in her voice. Kaji quirked a questioning eyebrow at her before shaking his head in the negative, wondering what she was going on about.

"Was this a plan of SEELE's?" Rei asked, obviously not believing him. Kaji rolled his eyes in response, at which point Rei slapped him hard across the face.

"Was the accident at the American facility part of SEELE's plan to stop the Commander's Scenario?" Rei asked after he was done blinking in pain and surprise, interrupting his grunt of protest. Rei ripped the tape gag from his mouth, and repeated her question.

"Rei, you crazy bitch, I don't know what you're going on about." He protested, blinking back tears. "I'm not exactly privy to everything that SEELE's doing or planning, and I've been stuck in here for the past few hours. How could I possibly know what's happened half way across the other side of the world?"

Rei regarded him momentarily before going back to the counter and started sorting out the contents of her box. He stared at her from across the room, trying to think. Whatever had happened, it had to be huge to get such a reaction out of her. This was almost as bad as when she had threatened him with a knife over Shinji's breakfast.

"What happened?" he asked, trying to figure out the different parts that she was piling up. She continued to work, ignoring him. Sighing, Kaji shook his head. "Rei, I can't help you if you don't give me something to work with. I might be able to tell you if this was something that they might do, or that they did have planned. If you want me to work for you as an agent, you have to give me something."

Rei paused in her work, looking up over to him. "The NERV-Las Vegas complex was completely destroyed when a Dirac portal approximately three point four two kilometers across opened up. The depth of the crater created suggests that the portal appeared at the level of the S2 Engine labs, and the time of the accident is consistent with the timeline for the experimental S2 Engine activation." She paused as the captive spy absorbed the information. "Almost the entire facility was lost, along with over ninety five percent of the staff."

Kaji shook his head, his face white. "No, if SEELE planned something like this I don't know about it."

"There are several widespread riots around the other NERV facilities in North America, as well as in France, Spain and Russia. The United States government is threatening to seize the NERV facilities, which would mean, among other things, the loss of several in production Evangelions."

Kaji whistled, grimacing. If this was part of a SEELE power play, he hadn't been informed about it at all, but he was hardly the only deep cover asset the group had, nor did he think he was their highest placed one.

"What's the Commander doing about this?" he asked, carefully watching the girl. She didn't respond, going back to assemble some of the parts together, fitting the different components into a control housing. "Rei," Kaji spoke up again, "what is the Commander doing?"

"He has ordered the facilities in question to dump their MAGI mainframes into the NERVnet and ready the denial protocols to destroy the systems. The Evangelions are to be prepared to be destroyed in the event of a hostile seizure. All work at those facilities is to cease, and all existing experiments and labs are to be locked down until the order to resume work or destroy them is given. The Evangelion Unit-04 is closest to completion, and is being prepared for emergency retrieval."

"Rei, you have got to let me go. I need to be available to the Commander for this. I'm his highest placed agent in SEELE, he's going to want to use me to figure out if this was actually an accident or if this was planned sabotage." Kaji pleaded with the girl, trying to convince her to free him. "I can promise you that I'll serve you as your agent as well as his; SEELE has no idea that you have a lab here, hell, not even the Commander knows about this place as far as I know. I'll keep you in the loop on what they are doing, and keep your secrets. The Commander wins, you win, NERV wins."

"I do not trust you, Agent Ryoji. Your past behavior displays a consistent disregard for warnings and instructions, and does not suggest loyalty or trustworthiness. That the Commander has allowed you to act as a triple agent does not endear you to my services, and you have in the past acted in a detrimental manner towards my own plans and experiments. I do not think that I can allow you to continue to be a variable in my equations."

Eins, Zwei, Drei, Vier!

Asuka glared at her tablet computer as she scrolled through the news reports, cursing under her breath as she sat next to her comatose wingman, wondering how they were going to fix this latest disaster. As if it was not bad enough that they had lost practically an entire research and development complex with all the assigned staff, the S2 Engine work that had been lost was beyond price. The ability to field Evangelions without having them tethered to the city's power frame was invaluable, and who knows how much this fiasco had set them back. That a few governments around the world were capitalizing on this and other recent events to try to outright steal from NERV, from the very people who were trying to save their sorry selves was beyond the pale.

Just as Unit-04 had been shipped out from NERV-Detroit, the facility had been stormed by the FBI and police. A terrible firefight had broken out, and the Section-2 agents torched the labs and production facilities.

Maya had told her that just after that, the Commander had given the order for all American NERV stations to destroy everything. All the relevant data had been backed up on the NERVnet, but the loss of the actual labs and the experiments being conducted therein was horrifying.

Too disgusted to continue reading, she set the computer off to the side, and looked back over Shinji as he slept, his slumber seemingly unbreakable. None of the doctors seemed to have any hope of him coming up out of the coma anytime soon. Of course, if he wasn't in a coma, he would still be out of it, on so many painkillers and sedatives that he might as well be in one. He still had massive internal tissue damage, even if they had stopped all the internal hemorrhaging. Even with the LCL they were pumping through him, it would be some time before he was ready to be off of the machines.

"Shinji, you stupid idiot." She said, not unkindly. "You need to stop falling asleep on the job, and you really need to do something about your anger management issues while in the Evangelion."

She smiled as she chuckled at the somewhat hypocritical humor before wincing at the sudden stab of pain right behind her left eye. "You also need to stop trashing the sensor systems and data recorder in Unit-01. How am I going to figure out what you're doing if you don't give me any data to work with?"

If Shinji could hear her, he made no sign of understanding or recognition. Asuka looked up as the door to the room slide open. Misato came in and leaned against the door frame, sighing as she looked at her charges.

"Keeping vigil?" she asked, folding her arms across her chest. "I'm surprised that you're not down supervising the work being done on Unit-02."

"I got ordered out by Doctor Akagi." Asuka replied. "Besides, his stupid girlfriend's not around to keep watch over him, and somebody's got to keep an eye on him."

"Well, he won't be your problem much longer. I'm sure that you heard about Unit-04?"

Asuka nodded in return. "It's being delivered to Matsushiro for the final stages of completion and the activation tests."

"That's right. We've made the pilot selection, and I want you to get him spun up as much as possible. This whole issue with Las Vegas and the riots is a bit of a mixed blessing, because it means that we got Unit-04 instead of it staying overseas." Misato sighed as she moved in out of the way of the door. "You'll have full access to the simulators for his training."

"Who's going to be the pilot?"

Toji Suzahara walked into the room, looking both uncomfortable and unhappy. He winced as he saw his friend laid out on the hospital bed, and wouldn't meet Asuka's eyes as he nodded in her direction.

Misato coughed, and then cleared her throat. "I'll leave you two to it, then. Asuka, you know what he'll need. The first activation tests won't be for at least another week or so. Toji, Asuka's the Flight Commander, and the most experienced pilot we have available to train you. Pay attention to her. I know that you didn't exactly hit it off, but-"

"I'll be fine Sub-Commander." Toji said, his voice a little sick. "I know what's at stake."

Asuka looked between the two, wondering what that was about. Misato brushed the boy's slightly hostile tone off with a nod, and then left.

"How's he doing?" Toji asked, breaking the silence as he stared at his friend. "How are you doing?" he asked, almost as an afterthought.

"He's refusing to wake up." She replied, shaking her head. "You're really going to be the new pilot?" she asked skeptically.

"Yeah, I'm gonna be the new pilot." Toji's tone was hostile and surly. "I ain't gonna give you any grief if you don't give me none. You know I've been inside the Evangelion before. You know I'm strong enough. You know I can fight. I play team sports, you know I can follow orders."

Asuka slowly nodded. Everything he had said was true. "You saw him in Unit-01. You've seen what we're up against."

"Yeah. I've seen it."

"Does Hikari know?"

Toji nodded silently before speaking up. "She knows. She screamed at me, and started crying, but she knows. I had to tell her, so she would know why I wanted her and Kodama to look over Mari." He sighed, slouching against the wall. "I figure that I'm going to be too busy to watch her, and Dad and Gramps are busy working on fixing the Evangelions up."

"She'll be in good hands." Asuka said after a few moments. "Hikari's almost like an older sister to her," she offered. "Nozomi will keep her company too."

"Yeah."

"So…" Asuka trailed off, grasping for something to say, to lighten the mood. "Um… I'm surprised that Aida didn't volunteer. Does he know?"

"Kenskue's dad shipped him off their relatives out of the prefecture." Toji said. "He hasn't been online, and his cell's been out of service for the past two days."

"Oh."

"He wouldn't have volunteered. He doesn't like the idea of the whole bio-feedback deal. He's more interested on a technical level, he says." Toji shrugged, looking up at the ceiling. "He also says something about the whole thing not making any sense, unless the stuff he's managed to hack is all lies."

Asuka regarded him silently for a moment before nodding, holding a finger in front of her mouth. "He might be right, Toji. A lot of things haven't been making sense around here lately, I've noticed." She stood up, casting a final glance at the machines that monitored the sleeping boy as the beginnings of a plan began to form in her mind. "Do me a favor, and tell him to drop me a line the next time you see him online, okay?"

Toji looked at her, confused, but then nodded.

"I'm going to go get something to eat, and we can talk some more. Interested?"

"Sure."

Asuka smiled. "Welcome to the First Evangelion Flight, Pilot Suzahara."

Author's Notes:

Just a reminder that none of the characters are operating with perfect knowledge of what's happened and what's currently happening. How much this might come to bite them in the rear before it's all said and done remains to be seen.

Also, I'm glad that people liked the fact that Shinji is ADAM, and that he went back in time to cause the Big Bang and is ultimately the source of all this mess.

Nobody knows that. Lilith only knows that Shinji is somehow connected to ADAM, which is why she was so interested in him in the Chamber of Guf.