Otaku Reflected
Episode Three, Eva Revolution

Part Nine
A Superspy at Work

by Jared Ornstead
aka Skysaber

OoOoO

Jared noticed something.

"Say Genma, whatever happened to that kerchief you were always wearing?"

The Saotome patriarch gave a small laugh and let go of the boy to adjust the small cap he was wearing. In fact it looked remarkably like... but *nah!* THAT couldn't possibly be the case!

Genma self consciously adjusted his traditional Jewish tallit (prayer shawl) and put his yarmulke more fully back on his bald head, saying. "Well, you know how it happens. Study the Dead Sea Scrolls for a few decades. Read the Torah a few dozen times, go to a good rabbinical school to get the cultural background you need to understand that mess of insider references the prophets threw in; it all just adds up. Mazel tov! I can hardly believe the God of our fathers was so good to me! Surely, the one who chose Moses to lead our ancestors out of their captivity in Egypt, who led them across the Red Sea on dry ground, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has blessed me almost beyond my capacity to bear! Surely, it is as Baal Shem Tov has said: From every human being there is a light that reaches straight to heaven!"

Jared fainted dead away.

OoOoO

Later, Ritsuko and Misato, still in her Cutie Emerald guise, were both walking home.

"I think Jared is even more scared of Genma than he was of Gendo." Misato said, pondering back to that first day with picking up Jared to find Gendo's name sent him pale with fright.

Ritsuko considered it. "Well, Gendo was pretty standoffish. This Genma character looks like he'll be in Jared's face for the remainder of the boy's life."

"Yeah." Misato sighed, shaking her head. "Poor kid."

Ritsuko's eyes lightened, and she shot a humor-filled glance to her long term friend. "I think he's not the only one. Kid, I mean. You and I have known each other chronologically for longer than either of us have been alive, biologically speaking."

Misato tossed a fun-filled glance to her friend, but whatever it was she was going to say got lost as suddenly the corridor through which they'd been walking filled with men with guns, wearing shades and dark suits, stopping their path in front and behind.

"Okay, nobody move! Keep your hands at your sides, Cutie Emerald, or we'll be forced to shoot your friend."

"What's going on here!" Cutie Emerald shouted, obeying instructions in spite of how much it rankled her, or until she could think of something better.

The head man among the kidnappers smiled grimly, motioning forward teams of subordinates who began taking out knockout drugs in various applicators and forms. "We're just giving you a little trip, girlie. There's some folks who're mighty curious about you and all that stuff you *might* do if you really turn out like they think. I'd be mighty curious myself if you ARE a magical girl."

One of the villainous henchmen made a comment about what happens to the magic part if they stopped being girls. Their loss of innocence was clearly on his mind as the test.

Misato took a step back, while Ritsuko was paralyzed with fright. Misato accused the men. "You work for Cyber Jew, don't you?" The magic girl asked, trying to figure out how to escape from this.

The man just smiled grimly.

From out of nowhere Pen Pen appeared to do his magical mascot twirl and flip, causing a necklace with a yellow stone to appear and fall into Ritsuko's hands. "Ritsuko! Turn back into Pretty Akagi and help Cutie Emerald! The time has come for you to resume your fight against darkness and evil alongside your beloved team leader!"

Ritsuko's fist was thrust in the air faster than thought. While her foes were still gaping, she shoved any lingering doubts far down inside and flung the necklace in place around her white throat simultaneous as she shouted.

"By the Power of Love!"

The startled men started firing, their bullets bounced off the force field arrangement that Washu made up to create their 'magic' outfits, based off her daughter's fighting attire and the Jurai battlesuits.

When the amber light had finished, leaving Ritsuko in a yellow costume just as frilly and ruffled as Misato's, Pen Pen fluttered up, lucky that no one was firing on him as he said. "Magical Soldiers! Use your Gemstone Beams! Cutie Topaz, take the front! While you, Cutie Emerald, take out the bad guys behind you!"

Without even knowing how it was they were doing it, both girls responded to the call by assuming sentai positions they NEVER would've considered before meeting Jared. A hasty pirouette and spin each and they spread their arms like they were spreading double handfuls of glitter in clouds in front of them, which it was what it looked like they'd done.

"In the name of Friendship..." Ritsuko began as she spun.

"In the name of Beauty..." Misato responded, still spinning herself.

"Under the Banner of Love!" They both cried out together, coming down to assault poses, arms cocked and crossed to begin the glitter throw.

"Magical Topaz..." Ritsuko made the throw with empty hands and clouds of glittery yellow particles filled the air in front of her anyway.

"Magical Emerald..." Misato did the same, having turned to fill the corridor behind with her clouds of green sparkles. The men they'd been facing were stunned into immobility by a handy trick of Washu's. It wouldn't do to have the bad guys get away while a magical girl worked up to do her attacks, after all.

"Gemstone BEAMS!" Two rays of brightly colored energy filled the hallway in front and behind the Magical Soldiers, eliminating all life down to the microbe level and scarring a deep hole at either end of the corridor.

"YATTA!" Both magical girls bounced prettily into victory poses.

OoOoO

A plane set down on the tarmac of the Tokyo Three International Airport. Among the passengers to disembark were five cute girls, who quickly gathered their luggage and made their way to the exit gates. Another woman disembarked the same plane, carrying a long bundle that security guards had somehow missed.

By coincidence it seemed, they got on transports headed the same way.

OoOoO

"It was horrible!" Jared moaned, shivering in Sylia's protective arms.

"Shhh. It'll be alright, I promise you." The head Knight Saber cooed.

He shivered a few minutes longer, until finally he noticed something. "Say, when did *you* turn fourteen years old?"

"Ten years ago, silly." She ruffled his hair playfully, then turned to admire herself in a mirror. "But if you're asking when did I get a youthening effect, it was when you got in battle with Gendo and tapped all your friends for power. Apparently you went beyond the Eva pilots and grabbed *all* of your friends and fighting teammates. Then when the backlash of the interface rewrote everyone to an appropriate age to pilot the Knights it got us too. I just got word from the Laser Angels that they're returning here. Apparently being in their early teens hampers their efficacy as assassins somewhat."

"Oh." He resumed shivering.

Sylia once again enfolded him in a kindly hug. "Hush, it'll be fine. We don't mind. You have a remarkable subconscious, you know, able to do all sorts of things when you aren't normally up to them. All of the ladies dissolved in the interfaces got freed the moment you woke them up to use their powers. A minor thing like giving us an extra childhood isn't going to upset us."

With a sigh, he finally relaxed in her arms.

She leaned into him, giving extra care and affection into the hug. "Oh, by the way. I had Vision steal Knight Unit Six. She's its lady now. We're hiding it in a warehouse I own while we repair and fix it. Washu has offered to do free upgrades for us if we steal a whole set."

He leaned into the hug, relaxing. "That's nice." He murmured, softly satisfied.

OoOoO

In the morning.

"So where was this new pilot we're supposed to get?"

"Oh, her. She got delayed. The UN fleet that was going to escort her and the Knight has suffered delays getting assembled. They're actually further from getting here now than they were ten days ago." Ritsuko set out the bowls and the cereal, then went back for the milk.

"That's no surprise." Misato entered, scratched around one foot, and then went to add orange juice and a plate of waffles to the table. It was a low stress breakfast. Anyway, she went on to say. "That organization's got so many flaws you set them toward *any* goal and they'd walk backward away from it. I wouldn't be surprised if they brought on the end of the human race just trying to preserve it."

"That may be true." Agreed Rei, removing the apron she'd had on and hanging it from a hook in the kitchen.

"Say, Rei." Jared asked, finishing putting out the tableware. "Where are all the other Reis?"

"There were accommodations here only for one." She answered enigmatically, then killed the mystery with her next spoken thought. "So they have taken arrangements near to the command center, to be ready for emergencies. It hardly matters in any case, we are due to move to Germany when the new pilot arrives."

"You could send only one of you." Jared offered.

"No." Rei shook her head. "I like to stay in touch with myself. I will be going with the others when they leave."

"Well it's hardly a fair trade." Misato groused, laying out a dish of fish for Pen Pen. "I mean, you're Lady to the second most powerful Knight in the world! We're hardly getting a full value replacement. Although..." She sat down and rested her chin in her hands. "I know Asuka from when she was a kid. It'll be nice to see her again."

"So what magical soldier is she?"

"Sapphire... SAY! How am *I* supposed to know?" Misato snapped at the neo penguin that had just joined the conversation.

Pen Pen gave her the stare, the one that said 'how do you think?' He then fluttered up to speak to her face. "But you just answered. How *else* do you explain it but that the memories denied you by Cyber Jew are coming back? I'm just prompting them, Misato."

The off-duty magical girl blushed furiously, unable to deal with this right now.

Jared just grinned into his spoon, having already said a quick blessing on the food. He chose to wonder what the prima donna of mecha jockies would do when confronted with the fact that she had to fight evil wearing a frilly dress and short skirt.

Well, okay, she'd done the tests naked when required to. Outfits she could probably deal with. The sentai phrases were SURE to get her though, if a talking neo-penguin didn't first. He was rather looking forward to seeing Asuka's reaction to all this. He'd get out of marrying her for sure.

The door track slid open, revealing the happy horde of teenage parents had awoken and were now rising from their makeshift quarters in the basement.

"Hi There!" Yui caroled, coming over to give Jared a hug, then rumple Rei's hair.

*GLOMP!*

"Missie Darling! gOOd mORnINg! Did you have sweet dreams? Did you sleep well last night?" Misato's mother consumed her *terribly* embarrassed daughter in a hug wide enough to sweep all Tokyo into the sea and then proceeded to rub their faces to each other's, cheek by cheek. "I know, you were lonely for your lovie, dovie boyfriend all night, weren't you? Well, don't you worry, precious chub-chub. We'll get you married right away. You'll be glad that you wAITed, darling, precious dearie."

Watching Misato's mom go into singsong tones to cuddle a daughter no younger physically than the mother, Ritsuko broke up into giggles.

"But I thought, I mean that she..." Yui halted, flopping into a chair by the breakfast table. She'd been around long enough by now to have been plugged into the gossip chain among the staff somewhat, and had heard a few things.

Jared lifted a waffle off the common plate by a serving fork, which he returned. "You all seem to have had the wrong choices and resultant experiences burned out through the absorption process. Major sins were eliminated. You might say that you've all been reborn. From all that I've gathered so far none of you can even recall certain things about your lives, things that were associated with wickedness. It's as if they'd never happened to you."

The associated adults and... all the other kids, looked around the table at each other.

Jared poured a generous serving of honey, then dabbed at a spill with a napkin. "I talked with Maya after the physicals you all went through. You've all been reset to what you really were at this age, with some stray memories about good stuff clinging on. Misato had a scar that Maya said she doesn't have anymore. Even though some of you are the moms of the rest of us, you all still have the..." He blushed pink to his ears. "...physical evidence of virginity."

He closed his eyes, then opened to direct them in a kind gaze toward Yui. "None of you have any recollection of the major bad events that once filled your lives. Yui didn't even *recognize* the man who'd once been her husband... it's like all your mistakes in life back to this point have been erased."

"So Misato can't even remember..." Yui puzzled aloud.

"Neither can you." Jared poured more syrup. "Everyone at this table had things they're better off forgetting. You should've SEEN Ritsuko! Last night she came across the swimsuit calender and tore it to ribbons. It was worse than the first time she'd ever seen it."

Ritsuko was blushing now, looking demurely down to the table. "It's just that, those things they showed me wearing. It was so *embarrassing!*" Her glance went down to her breasts, which were definitely not nearly so full anymore, and frowned.

Jared gave the table a shrug. "So don't worry about it. Second chance at life and all that. Give yourselves a chance to enjoy it."

Misato's mother was back to horribly embarrassing her daughter in an all-consuming hug talking about her upcoming marriage.

Naoko Akagi, Ritsuko's mother, gave her daughter a friendly pat on the arm and sat down next to the other fourteen year old. As Naoko took a spoonful of miso soup, Ritsuko asked for her. "So how about you? Did you lose anything, Sky Lord?"

Jared shrugged. "Nothing much I could tell, but then I wouldn't be able to anyway. I would be willing to guess, though, that since I was losing no age in the change, I might've kept other things as well."

Having thought about it, the crowd turned to their breakfast.

Rei spoke up. "Today is parent-teacher conference at the school. Who will attend, in what capacity?"

There was a stunned, short silence.

"Well... I *am* officially Jay-chan's guardian..." Misato speculated.

"I should still be yours, dearest, precious Mi-chan!"

"But I am his legal mother..."

"Yeah, but you show up at school and they'll enroll you. They don't care about my doctorates any more than they will yours." Jared answered.

The entire flock of teenagers looked at each other, speechless.

"Back to school?"

"Ewwww!"

OoOoO

Washu's hoots of helpless laughter finally brought more attention from the Tenchi household in to see what was so funny.

OoOoO

The room was filled with monoliths, only this time only four of them were faceless. Over the entire room were brightly lit panels shaped as the backs of playing cards. The floor was one, their table was another, the ceiling a third, and the walls were paneled with them. In addition to that fact, three quarters of the silent, floating monoliths that had represented the most powerful men on the planet were in the shape of playing cards.

The back of every card read, in Hebrew, "CLUB your SEELE."

"Our plans to capture this magical girl for examination seem to have failed." 01 said.

"Purely predictable, given that her powers seem to be real." 05 answered, looking across to where 03 had once been. The man had at least lived long enough to pay up on their bet. But now instead of a monolith marking the presence of a man, there was only a huge playing card that read the Three of Traitors.

Monolith 01 morphed into Keele Lorenz in his usual garb, and the cybernetic vision device - or what they now assumed was one after Pen Pen revealed they fought some character called Cyber Jew. Keele touched a control and glanced between twin holograms showing Misato Katsuragi and Magical Soldier Cutie Emerald.

Other than hair color and costume, they were identical.

"I cannot see how these are supposed to represent the same person. They are too different for any reasonable person to assume a connection. We will have to research how it is they switch to make the replacement, and where Major Katsuragi goes when this other person slips in to take her place."

The strange thing was, he really MEANT it. In spite of how lame the disguise was to those who could see through it, it worked against those who hadn't seen the soldier change in person. Washu was rather proud of that device.

"So, Cyber Jew..." Began the sycophantish murmur or number 08, in between two cards that read the Nine of Sickoes, and the Seven of Farts.

"Do NOT call me by that name." Came Keele's answering snarl from where he was presently located in between the Deuce of Dunces and the King of Queers.

"So you are telling us that you are *not* responsible for the curse turning Magical Soldier Cutie Emerald into an alcoholic?" Returned 05's voice, displaying a certain amount of disbelief. That monolith hovered in between the Six of Slimes and the Four of Disgusting Criminal Foulness That Deserves To Be Burned.

Keele Lorenz scowled deeper than usual. "That you need to ask the question itself I find ridiculous. If there is indeed any connection between her and Major Katsuragi, of course I was responsible for events leading up to her addiction. It served my purposes. But I am not some twisted cartoon villain hatching ridiculous plots for world domination."

Crickets played in the sudden silence.

There came some stressed out sniggering from the monolith occupying the space of 11, the last of them to be still featureless. The playing cards all occupying space at the table were quiet in the grim silence of still death. 11, sitting back behind the remote station whose hardware brought him to this conference, looked between the Queen of Harlots and the Ten of Dweebs, wondering how he would look as the Jack.

"Something is killing us." 08 repeated the obvious. "Who better than you?"

"Our secure communications have been tapped." Keele retorted. "That should be obvious to any of you. We should no longer be discussing such subjects."

"Possibly that would have something to do with you publishing the design circuits' specifics and the frequency code. Not that posting the times of our usual meetings did any harm." 05 transformed into a hard man in a business suit, laying a copy of How To Destroy All Life In Three Easy Impacts on the table.

"That is not my doing." Came Keele's response.

"Then who else? There are facts in this book that I was not aware of, but on a search turned out to have been correct. I doubt there was anyone at this table able to lay our plots out in detail as firm as this... except you."

"We should instead be concerned with is containing the damage." Keele retorted.

"Perhaps we should." 08 replied. "By first plugging leaks."

"Wouldn't you agree... Cyber Jew?" 05 asked with malice filling his voice.

Keele Lorenz' face vanished, and his monolith winked out. The man who'd delivered so many death sentences would now be on a run for his life, if indeed he could die. If not he would still be scrambling to preserve his power by opposing the secret group he himself had worked to create.

Keele himself had retained tremendous power. It would be a battle royal.

The secret master of the Vatican turned to his business associate and long term friend, the man who covertly ruled the entire communist block. "The UN is the greatest tool under his direct command. We should move immediately to destroy it."

"Agreed."

08 rubbed his chin, thinking of which persons in which positions would be given their commands through what priests or confessors. "And I believe it is time for another holy war in the middle east. The Arabs may not be able to deny him access to the Jewish holy sites, but they can complicate his approach and restrict that resource nicely."

05 agreed. "I feel it is also time to start activating some of our remote groups. Nazis have been regrowing nicely from the seeds we planted. I can divert sufficient funds to their South American bases to make them a world power in under a year."

11 intruded now, speculating. "I believe we should also start to recruit new members to our society, replacing our losses with figures Keele will be less familiar with."

"Whom did you have in mind?" 05 asked over folded hands.

Monolith 11 resolved into the man who held in his gnarled hand the viability of every currency on the Earth, though all of the men there had branches outside their specialties as well, there were too many things to control not to. He touched a control and a new hologram appeared.

05 steepled his hands. "Interesting choice."

08 nodded. "I agree. What method shall be used to approach?"

11 rubbed his wrinkled hands. "I believe we have something already in mind."

"True, and the act of sacrificing her three closest vice presidents to our aims certainly proves both her ruthlessness and loyalty." 05 agreed. "By all means, recruit her."

08 nodded. "Yes, Doctor Sylia Stingray. Possibly the greatest robotics expert on Earth if those unmanned war machines are any indication. Her loyalty to us was *obviously* proven when she was willing to transform her three closest friends into androids according to our wishes. She could be of great use to us in neutralizing some of Keele's precious projects. By all means, recruit her."

11 made the notation. "I shall. Since her rather brutal takeover the Marduke has been a growing force in world affairs."

"Brutal?" 05 asked, curious.

"My agents cannot find a single person from the staff of those corporations, previous to her assuming command of them, that remains alive today." 11 smirked.

"I see. Yes, that certainly seems to qualify her. An excellent choice. I note in her file that she has many ties to world agencies under Keele's direct control. Shall we task her with infiltrating and perhaps destroying them?"

"Why not? If she survives, we benefit. If she fails, we benefit." 08 smirked.

05 waved a hand to indicate their room. "On another topic. I want to know who is the joker responsible for this."

The backs of playing cards representing the room and all their furniture suddenly flipped around to reveal joker faces, all of which began laughing.

OoOoO

11 lived long enough to send the right commands to his subordinates before troops bearing the UN logo broke into his private sanctuary and gunned him down. Later that same day Soviet stealth bombers dropped N2 bombs on both the New York and Switzerland UN Headquarters while the members met together in full session.

War was declared in the middle east by dropping chemical bombs on Jerusalem.

The drug lords in South America received instructions from their hidden masters and began to make shipments of hundreds of tons of hard cash into secret jungle bases where certain grizzled and hardened old men began to enact plans that had been in the making for years. The armies of Brazil and Argentina as well as neighbor countries were assimilated at once, and began to make their own changes in accordance with those plans while leaders were flown in from locations all around the world where they'd lain quietly waiting for this all of their lives.

The American Moon landing was officially debunked on global news broadcasts.

The US President was assassinated by a thermonuclear device backpacked in by a terrorist that eliminated half of that nation's capitol and almost all of its leaders.

A new revolt began in the soviet countries, starting in Russia, transforming them from their deceptive peaceful frame once again into the bloody killers they'd always been, under all their clever lies.

Bombings in northern Africa began to eliminate known terrorist hideouts.

The British Monarchy died from a rather sudden blast by satellite beam weaponry.

Global economic currency collapse began almost at once, as Keele couldn't get the agents he'd chosen to take that over seeing as how they'd all died, and central banking was something that demanded constant, intricate control, especially in times of crisis.

The secret recipe for Coca Cola was revealed and turned out to still have cocaine in it, dating back to its origins as cocaine cola (thus its name).

China declared war on the US, diverting its transports around Taiwan and sending them on to shore bombardments and assault landings in Washington and California, with support from troops sent up from the south by the bought-off Mexican government.

Japan retaliated by dropping its biological warfare agents in main Chinese cities. A sweep of Black Death, Anthrax, Killer Flu and Mad Cow disease all began to lay waste to those population centers, spreading quickly into India and Siberia.

Korea responded in kind against Japan. The Vietnamese began to load themselves into ready transports, starting an invasion against Japan in payback for WWII, while China got in the act with nukes.

Race wars began in Africa, black against white and tribe against tribe, using every weapon from the most modern to the ancient in their fervent desire to slaughter each other. The hatred and malaise spreading across the world in short order.

Cuba became the launch point of an invasion army reaching the US southern states. Canadian units began to shoot refugee Unites States citizens that began to flee across the border while the Canadian government denied there was any emergency.

Scientists announced that Evolution was so much hogwash and Darwin hadn't really understood anything about genetics anyway.

The pope called for an armed crusade against evil.

With the loss of the New York stock exchange (along with the UN Headquarters and most of the city), the other stock exchanges began to go wild, fueled by the crazy currency fluctuations just begun and that finally led to the greatest stock crash of all time.

Then the secret war got nasty.

OoOoO

"Will you look at this? It seems that the CIA just came out and admitted they're the ones behind all those UFO sightings in the States. They revealed the equipment and fully functional flying saucers to help fight off the invasion armies closing in on them."

"This is all happening so fast." Misato answered her friend, as Ritsuko read a paper in the helicopter gunship that took them near to Old Tokyo for the demonstration that was to take place. Jared was with them, having been excused from school because of Japan's present emergency crisis.

No one had been brave enough to do the role of Parent the other day, so they had ended up calling in Mecha-Fuyutsuki to the job.

He'd done it surprisingly well.

Ritsuko shrugged, putting the paper down. "It had to happen when we were in the midst of fighting for our lives against aliens, didn't it? I mean, I know all these pressures had been building for some time. I'd just hoped we could put a lid on it until after the threat of racial annihilation was past."

"People who hate don't think clearly, they just hate." Jared idly opened his mouth to respond. Rei had to stay with the Knights, but as they didn't have any functional (supreme exhaustion was worse than battle damage, in its way. Thunder Knight would be longer in making its recovery than some of the others), it was kind of pointless.

He looked across to where the others were both wearing plugsuits, third generation. Misato's was black and Ritsuko's was yellow. They all had sidearms strapped on their hips now, too. Japan was a nation at war. All sorts of no-weapon restrictions had gotten lifted.

Ritsuko and Misato both nodded, taking the information seriously. Jared was a little surprised how both ladies now took anything he might say as gospel. But then he stretched a bit, turning to look out toward their airship's destination: A big dome building larger than any stadium he'd ever seen.

They were there momentarily, at the vast conference center inside the headquarters to the rival of their own defense project, at a table reserved for Nerv personnel. Their hosts gave the standard speech about how this new project of theirs was going to replace the best the Earth had and outpace their competition, etc. For Jared it was so boring it was hard to stay awake.

They finally came to the question and answer period. Ritsuko had changed in body yet not so far in outlooks. Her hand shot up as the first one there. Jared was expecting the usual exchange of insults between her and the chairman of this conference, but he was surprised right from the start.

"Ah, one of our honored representatives from Nerv. Tell me, who are you and what possessed that rather tarnished organization to send a flock of children to represent them?"

Ritsuko was taken aback, forgetting her question.

Jared had already had enough of this guy and stood up, gesturing to the girl in her yellow plugsuit. "This is Star Queen, pilot of the fantastic Solar Knight, a veteran of the fights that have kept you and your precious organization alive long enough to be standing here to boast at our expense today."

Everyone seemed a little taken aback, but the man at the pulpit rallied quickly. "And that would make you Sky Lord, wouldn't it? We've all heard about you. Tell me, what came over Nerv to start naming things like they were a children's show?"

Jared had studied extensively those things that it was possible to do with a Knight, through his resources and superspy tools. He now tapped into its power remotely to glow and rise up from off the floor, forming a lightning spear with a peal of thunder in his hands, to the startled amazement of all those present.

"I won't let you mock us until after you *beat* us, mister! Care to try?"

The man had hidden behind the stand and was shaking nervously. He quickly said, several times, that was unnecessary, and Jared relaxed, allowing the spear to disperse and himself to float to the floor. Misato and Ritsuko were looking absurdly proud and defiant as they flanked him on either side, facing off against the roomful of people.

The audience burst into simultaneous applause, many of them with Sky Lord comics tucked under their arms or in briefcases. Hyuga and Aoba would get word of this event and acquire tapes so they could incorporate it in the next issue.

The man resumed his stand, looking much more humbled.

"Back to the subject at hand, did you have a question, Star Queen?"

Ritsuko glanced at Jared, not having had a pilot or a Knight's name until this moment, but not about to question him on it. Fortunately, she remembered her question. "Yes, the unit you are about to showcase, it contains its own integral nuclear reactor, doesn't it?"

The man up at the podium nodded, able to return to a great deal of his former pride to be finding himself back on a familiar topic. "Yes, this is our product's most distinguished feature, offering over 150 days of continuous operating power."

"Does it have a maximal overdrive?" Jared broke in.

"Excuse me, what?" The man at the podium asked.

Ritsuko had deferred to Jared the minute he'd started speaking once again. With a sigh, he repeated himself. "An overdrive? As I'm sure that you're aware, looking over our documents obtained through the freedom of information act, the longest actual battle with a dark warrior lasted just under five minutes. Even our Muscle Knights have ample power for that. LENGTH of operating time has been of trivial battlefield importance next to the power that can be focused into a few choice moments. Do your machines have any ability to reach greater output for shorter periods?"

The man blinked several times. "Uh, I'm not aware of any..."

Before he could say the end to that sentence, Jared was moving on. "Because so far the Archer class of giant android isn't what it could be."

"What?" The man was confused. "Excuse me, what did you call these? The project is..."

Jared waved him off. "Yeah, so you had your people think up a stupid name too. It won't stick with you forever, don't worry. Jet Alone makes me think of a solitary hot tub, not a combat machine, especially not one that doesn't have jets and can't even fly. No, what I'm worried about is that your project's most distinguishing features are its slow speed, lack of durability, and an utter void of useful weapon systems."

"Weapon systems are customizable suited to the need." The man retorted. "And as for durability..."

"I have been shot, stabbed, beheaded, strangled, frozen, dismembered and often many of those combined." Jared replied, overriding him. "All at power levels able to break through the rather thin shell over your android's chassis and breach its core. A Muscle or an Elemental Knight has the demonstrated capacity to restore itself from near total destruction in order to overcome a foe. That capacity to regenerate even on a battlefield also makes them cheap to operate, as repair or replacement costs are a fraction of what they could be if they were pure machines. A Knight can take punishment that would leave a score of this android style so much rubble. Compared to that, your project has no durability."

"But it's more humane than a system that induces tremendous mental stress and causes mental instability in the pilots." The man retorted, acquiring a nasty smirk. Several of the project's closer backers snickered aloud at this comeback.

"Is it more humane that one pilot should suffer or an entire city be boiled alive in the fireball resulting from one of your androids suffering a breach to its reactor core?"

"I would think it was more safe than an extremely *dangerous* weapon system in the hands of mere children." He flashed a page that had Thunder Knight's image on it.

~Aha! An Opening!~

"As far as *I'm* concerned _your_ weapon system isn't dangerous ENOUGH!" Jared shouted, really getting into this, and grateful that his plans were now proceeding. He took out a remote control device and hit a button, causing all the lights in the conference chamber to go black, except the exit lamps and a display screen suddenly lighted on the wall behind the officiator.

The display consisted of large-scale schematics of the Jet Alone.

Somehow the guy at the podium got his mike back functioning. He shouted into it. "How did you get ahold of these diagrams? They're private property top secret at the highest levels!"

Jared shrugged. "Thank you for confirming their accuracy. I only took a look at reports of their operating abilities and outward appearance and reverse engineered the rest from there. Actually, I think that my design might be better than yours, as I only needed a third of the internal space for the same capabilities. The rest I have divided into other functions."

"But..." The man at the podium sputtered, seeing his backers give their interest to the boy. "How could you? We only published that report four days ago."

Jared posed triumphantly, with a V for victory over his eyes. "Yes! But I am the Second Greatest Scientific Genius In The Universe!" He spun about, emphasizing the final two words. "In Training."

Ritsuko and Misato, along with the comic-holding crowd, burst into applause.

Actually, he *had* stolen the design specs, but he'd also made a call to the Agency and made a request that his scientific skills be brought back online for this mission, and it had been granted. He'd spent the intervening time modifying the Jet Alone plans.

"One minor feature," he shifted the displayed view to show the internal reactor space as now decentralized. "Was that I modified the former internal power from one fission plant taking up all that room unnecessarily, into a dozen decentralized micro fusion power reactors that individually have the same output, and collectively have a whole lot more. They're also safe from a combat perspective as I used a military auto-scram design on a cold core plant, meaning they wink out and stop operating instead of having a danger they'll explode if their integrity is ever breached."

The view shifted to a compare-contrast mode between the former back design of the present unit, and one of a new style. "Of course, coincidentally, this means that we have a mounting space along the back, now that we don't need those rods anymore. I've added shoulder rails along the Muscle Knight design so the new Archer class could take advantage of Geofront launch ports as well as the Knight series of transport/bombers." Jared touched a tab and the display shifted to a back view of the giant robot, with a boomer-style set of giant thrusters deployed. "Speed is a real issue, but with a combination of the Knight Wing transports and integral jump thrusters in the android we can set up a deployment system that can get them roughly to the area of a battle. That outta do them to start. We'll be losing enough of them in combat that we really don't want to be putting *expensive* options on."

A new view showed their armor panels.

"I increased the adsorbability of damage by 30%, but it really won't mean anything if they come under fire. So the only sensible option for deploying them is to go for range and distance attacks, rather than hand to hand." The view shifted yet again, to the Archer robot holding an energy rifle. "But with twelve internal fusion reactors they'll have the power to use a mobile positron rifle at full efficacy, getting a shot off almost every twenty seconds. That's why I'd assumed you'd be willing to deploy these as ranged combat support units. Thus the name Archers."

He gave a short nod. "Just like their namesake, weak and unarmored, foolhardy to risk in close combat, but nevertheless very valuable distance weapon troops."

Jared clicked off the display, posing proudly as the lights came back on. "Without an AT field they'll never have the ability to absorb crystals or take real damage. Not to mention they'll never regenerate and so you'll want to keep them out of the way of real danger, on the outskirts of the battlefield, really. But then we've already *got* close combat covered as well as any reasonable commander could like. No reason to reinforce our strong suit when there are still so many weak points that could be addressed." He tucked his arms up behind his head and posed casually. "The Archers' piloting issues raise real worries, but for a mass producible combat robot with the hitting power of a positron rifle I think we'd be willing to live with those. The fact that they're *inferior* to Knights doesn't mean they're unusable."

The chamber was deathly silent.

"Mass producible?" The man currently cowering behind the podium asked.

"Yah!" Jared produced rolls of plans, which spilled over his hands and onto the table. "I have here a little plan I whipped up in an odd afternoon to make a manufacturing plant for the mass production of the Archer style giant androids, self-sufficient from raw materials, that outta be able to crank out a dozen of them on a sustained basis each month. I was gunna take a lunch hour sometime and make a repair facility to go with it. But so far my homeroom athletics homework has been taking all my free time. You know how it is. We have to prepare for a paintball test coming up next week."

The sound of jaws dropping could be heard from as far away as Mexico.

After a long silence, one of the other guests asked. "What will the armaments of the Jet Alone be?"

The officiator cleared his throat nervously, fully aware that his entire lecture had just been trumped by a little boy - if even *half* the things he'd said turned out to be true. "Uh, well, we are well stocked with a variety of conventional armaments..."

Jared made a very rude noise.

"Conventional." The redhead fourteen year old made the word an insult. "There's nothing conventional that stands a chance against these bad guys."

By now the person behind the podium was getting sick of these interruptions. He slapped both hands down on the stand and shouted. "Well, perhaps the boy scientist would like to explain the nature of weapons that *do* work! It might save us millions on the design cycle."

"Very well." Sky Lord said graciously, aware of victory. "A short synopsis of the available unconventional weaponry seems in order."

Again the lights went out. The screen showed only the first English letter. "A, atomic energy; namely, nuclear weapons. These have showed some results against our enemies, but the devastation to our own landscape has been out of proportion to the good results. A fool's weapon and one of desperation as they would be prohibitively self destructive to destroy even a single Dark Angel this way. Even injuring one with these to gain time costs us dearly."

The screen shifted to show the second letter of the English alphabet. "B, biological energy; namely, bacteriological and germ warfare. Anyone who thinks they can brew a viral or bacteriological weapon against an alien biology in a few minutes has my hat off to them for trying, but I don't think they'll succeed. And so far each invader has had a unique biology even compared to the others who came before. Worse, attempts to make a wide enough ranging killer microbe to get more than one type of foe would wipe us off the planet before it did our enemies significant harm."

Again the screen changed, showing a single letter.

"C, chemical energy; namely poison gas and toxic compounds. Again, we've got the problem that whatever would kill the last one wouldn't kill the next, and anything toxic enough to get them both would wipe us from off the planet. Assuming the thing didn't warp to acquire immunity, and we could even come up with such a compound, the next one to arrive could use it against us deliberately, grateful for having been given such a great idea in the first place. A critter able to change its biology on the fly isn't going to be upset by a pile of rat poison. We should be grateful they haven't thought of this on their own yet, because this is *far* more dangerous to us than it ever will be to them."

Most of the crowd expected him to stop here.

But he didn't.

"D, dimensional energy; namely the super dimensional space-time oscillation bomb, code-named the Chocolate Parfait Monster. It's like taking an eraser to reality. Only, the only times it has ever been detonated that eraser has turned out to be a magnet scrambling an old computer disk. If you ever want to experience the birds shining and the sun chirping as you breathe the fire, walk the air, drink the earth, and warm yourself at the water, then this is your cup of tea. But I don't recommend it otherwise. If I were to measure it accurately, each time this bomb has been set off it has left only a sole survivor to the entire human race. But being a *time* bomb, in a literal sense, it has something of a habit of scrambling history back only to a certain point. Fortunately, there is a tendency of reality to reform itself, like water flowing back in to fill a lake that has been emptied by a big, volcanic eruption. But there's no telling what the lake will look like each time it reforms, or any guarantee that it will."

In the dead silent chamber, Jared said as an aside. "Would you believe the first time this thing was used it was by a nation trying to settle a *land dispute* with a neighbor? We didn't have aliens invading back then. But it appears each time this thing gets set off when we get reality back it is just ever so slightly weirder."

He laughed good-heartedly. "Not," he said calmly. "That any of you would notice."

"Are you trying to claim...?" Accused an old gentleman from across the room.

"Oh, pish-tosh." Jared pish-toshed. "By the very nature of the thing, there can be no proof. We're not carrying souvenirs about afterward. I'm not trying to make any claims, you'll never believe them anyway. We're just listing alternative weapons here."

"Uh, not to interrupt, but how many times has this thing been set off? And why?" Misato asked. "I mean, if anyone knew how dangerous it was."

Jared shrugged. He'd been inventing this stuff on the fly, borrowing from the various anime series he'd seen, just to fill in before he could get to E, but she had asked a decent question. "First off, there's no guarantee the person who knows about it has any effect on the decision to set it off. The knowledge just doesn't seem to translate for most people. Secondly, there are times when it *has* been set off in full knowledge of what was going to happen when it went. It makes a superb suicide device for those times when Third Impact has already happened, getting a chance to do over again the last critical fights leading up to where it occurred. Anyone I know would take a roll of the dice over an already accomplished extinction, so automates have often been put in place."

He sighed, wishing to terminate this and go on. "So far it has been used nine times."

"I see." Misato sighed, thinking that for once she'd be grateful for a chance to look at one of those previous lives, where she was beginning to strongly suspect that she'd been a magical girl in a fight verses evil. If this was weirder than THAT, what *was* going on around here anyway?

Misato glanced around suspiciously, trying to find if there was any way she could tell. Strangely, Ritsuko was doing the same thing, for exactly the same reasons.

"There was also in D, the Mole unit." Jared decided he may as well be thorough on this. "A small device of theoretically unlimited potential. Space is wrapped in a dimensional shield that becomes its own cocoon, completely insulating its wearer from the outside world. The pseudo-molecule that forms the outer shell can control the effects of radiation, heat, light, gravity... all forms of energy. The impact not only of bullets, but also of nuclear blasts will be negated. And through the control of inertial mass and surface friction it becomes possible to move at any sub-light speed. Furthermore, by control of the interface with normal reality, the strength of a user becomes nearly infinite, transcending completely all of the rules of modern physics. For all intents and purposes, a Moldiver can rewrite the laws of his personal reality on the fly to suit his purposes, limited only by his intellect and imagination."

If people thought they were stunned before, that was *nothing* now.

Jared straightened his glasses. "But it was learned dearly, and to our cost, how easy it was for the dark angels to overcome a Mole unit, and their users, Moldivers. Dimensional energy flux can be vicious, and many things can happen to those who take liberties with it - few of them pleasant. We had thought we were able to handle it, relying exhaustively on the principles of the Mole unit for our defense against the invaders. But the first of them to appear spread a harmonic field that interfaced with the Moldivers." He sighed. "They were sent crackling into acoherency, spread over a multitude of dimensions and forever unable to reconstitute themselves."

He directed a calm gaze over the assemblage. "The risks of Dimensional Energy are enough to break a cold sweat out on the face of any thinking person." He snorted. "As well as most madmen."

A final letter appeared on the board.

"E, elemental energy; namely the Elemental Knight and Dark Angel crystals. These are focused, non-terminal weapons that have the twin advantages none of the others share: We can control them, and they hurt the enemy. By virtue of their limits none of these poses risks to the survival of our race nor any of the physical laws we depend on. They are safe for the user and limited in their effect, with sufficient output and force to rely on in combat against the Hellspawn."

Jared gave a bow to the assemblage.

"Thank you for your attention." The lights came back on and he left with Ritsuko and Misato flanking him on either side.

OoOoO

The Jet Alone demonstration went off without a hitch, but it was rather anticlimactic. Jared hadn't been trying to steal their funding, but he succeeded anyway. The first mass production plant for Archer unmanned artillery robots began that same week.