Hall NE-ll2-3457-delta, known colloquially as "the Tallests' fully automated ego-stroker" (It translated better in Irken), was placed squarely as Conventia's most well funded and state-of-the-art building. To a human observer (assuming they hadn't suffocated in the thin atmosphere) the hall would proclaim itself an eyesore. There was the garish royal purple, clashing with every building it could manage (not to mention the sky), the soulless-eyed animatronic mascot that crackled: "GALACTIC CONQUEST IS HERE", like a sideshow operator, and, of course, the ugly cyberpunk domed roof. To an Irken, inversely, it was an architectural masterpiece, rivaled only by Imperial palace, the Grand courthouse, and the Massive (if one counted ships). Such an arena was the only place suitable for the launch of Operation Impending Doom II, and any lesser species who disagreed could go get subjugated all night long.

Here the swarm of Irkens funneled in like a unearthed ant-colony, their antennae brushing together and exciting each other, like a locust's swarm, their eyes wide and expectant like a praying mantis anticipating her mates' tasty neck. They looked a lot like bugs, is the point.

But backstage, the Almighty Tallest resembled nervous songbirds.

"For Irks' sake, we have to do something," Tallest Red half-shouted, his normally reassuring and commanding voice very nearly cracking.

"You've said that five times in the LAST HOUR," Screamed Tallest Purple, whose' threshold for panic was far, far lower than co-supreme-commander. Ironically, he was several fractions of a centimeter taller.

"You've been keeping count?" Red asked, fighting to stay calm as his semi-friend's arms flailed like kelp in a strong current.

"THAT'S HARDLY IMPORTANT," Purple shrieked. He was really getting worked up now. "YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE THE RATIONAL ONE. WITHOUT YOU WE ARE NOTHING. NOTHING."

"I'm flattered, but CALM THE F***K DOWN!" Red shouted back. Purple slipped into the corner, whimpering.

"We're doomed now," he said, eyes glazing over, "Doomed like a defective on a suicide mission. Doomed as a peaceful race that just wants to be friends." He forced his knees into his cheeks, exposing combed teeth that were as gritted as they'd ever be. When Red made and awkward move to comfort him, Purple choked, "Just listen to the damn report again. Control Brain! Activate last spoken report."

"Affirmative, tallest Purple," the organic computer confirmed, "Our sources have indicated that Nehindei have been discovered alive on a planet in galaxy Sang-Gannek, designated by locals as "Earth". Experts traced the arrival to around 4 billion standard years, and scientific evidence points to a 50:50 chance of awakening by the Nehindei threat."

Red bit his dry and scaly lip. "Oh Irk, 50-50. They'll wake up and find out who killed the rest and we'll have to go to a press conference once the news gets out, and-"

"CALM DOWN," Purple yelped, violently switching his opinion, mostly out of nessecity "IF YOU'RE NOT GONNA BE THE CALM ONE, I AM. THIS IS NOT GETTING OUT." He took a breath. "Come on, Red, 50:50 isn't that bad. They might not even get their revenge during our reign, and-"

"Whoa whoa whoa," Red held up is spindly claws, his eyes shut in frustration "Mass genocide of an entire species will not sit well with said species. If the Nehindei wake up, they aren't going to waste time."

"Which is why we won't let 'em," Purple slammed one fist into another. It hurt pretty badly, but he liked the confidence it gave him. "I say we find 'em and blow 'em up while they're weak. They'll be pretty pathetic, come on, it can't be that many.."

Red took a deep breath. He would not be upstaged in composure by his co-tallest. "Fine," he said, but we'd better get a demolition crew on this as soon as possible."

Millions of light years away, and several hours later, various transmitions on various wavelengths of Electromagnetic and Hyperspacial energy wracked the towers of the Irken-Occupied Raxicoricafalipatiorious. In a bureaucratic office, two members of the resident species shared a cubical, relaying messages in sweathouse conditions, and trying to stay out of trouble with Imperial slave drivers.

"Hey Paul," one of them whispered, scratching his small chin with his black, claws the consistency of steel. He shifted his wait, pressing an annoyed Paul into the opposite wall. "I really-oh, sorry man- I really think that now would be a good time to pull a switchy."

His inner eyelids spurted with mucous, a facial cue equivalent to the human grin.

"If you say so, Jeremy," Paul sighed. "Lets see…" he leaned towards the next two are coordinates… one of them is a suicide mission for a defective invader… Zim it looks like, I've heard of him. The other is top-secret- completely encoded."

"I can see that, Paul," Jeremy grumbled, "let's just alternate their destinations before the manager comes around."

They did, and somewhere in space, a small Irken, who would have otherwise been sent to some barren asteroid, got a lucky break. "Planet… Earth," he grinned at the readout on his Voot Cruises' computer. "Soon you will meet your destruction, followedpromptlyby DDDDDDDOOOOOOOOOOOMMMM!"

A pause. Then his cabin-mate, a grubby SIR-unit, smiled, "I'm gonna sing the doom song now,"

On said planet earth, six months later, just as a confused demolition crew destroyed said barren asteroid (but saw no Nehindei), an all-too familiar human hung up an all-too familiar phone, turning to face an all-too familliar train station. He paced out onto the street, unaware of the pleasant breeze, even of his own motion. Then, shaking, he recognized the car he had been given a detailed description of. The door of the car opened. A man with tinted goggles was in the drivers' seat.

"Shinji Ikari?"

"Yes?"

"Hello. I used to work with your father. You are in ABSOLUTE PERIL!"

"What?"

"Oh, it's nothing. These are my children. Say hello, extensions of my gEEEEnes!"

Shinji peered into the back. Indeed, two individuals, Caucasian he noted, and roughly his age, sat there.

"Can't talk, found secret level," droned a bored looking girl in Goth clothing.

"Wow, your Gendo's son?" chirped a bespectacled boy in a trench coat, beaming in awe, "Are the reports about hell spawn dissection true? What about the beastmen-fighting fusion mecha?" his Japanese was far more accented than his sister's and father's, but the grammar was all right.

The man whom Shinji could only guess was professor Membrane totted to himself, and said- "Get in, we're going to NERV. If we don't die TERRRRRRIBLE DEATHS along the way!" he added.

The Ikari boy, still silent, crawled into the backseat. The car smelled of formaldehyde and tobacco. He wished he had asked his father for more details.

...

A light went on. An organism wrenched itself from its' now useless shell. Bubbles of air tickled something that could probably be called skin. The river bottom was damp and murky, with little VERMIN flitting past, unceasing, reeking of the Black Moon. It reeked of the black moon, having spent so long in this place. It could smell the Father faintly, and the intruder, the usurper. The father had traveled too far to fail, and now the usurpers' roots had polluted this world. No matter. It could smell her, too. She was closer- he would destroy her before he freed the Father. Then he and his family would reclaim this husk in the name of the Nehindei.

Even if they had to do some weeding.

A Tokyo-3 overpass, 3:13 PM:

"Yeppp- it's looking soviet to me," Membrane breathed, his goggles touching expensive-looking binoculars. He leaned over the overlook, lab coat flitting in the wind, unruly hair following it. His son, who had introduced himself as Dib, climbed out of the car and to his fathers' side.

"The Soviets didn't have that kind of technology. And, you know they no longer exist," he insisted.

Membrane sounded irritatingly cheery when he said, "Your wrong on both accounts! That's their watermark their- that bird-skull thing," he pointed. "Can't possibly be of alien source, son, its' got to be a super weapon go awry." Shinji still couldn't see the Angel that they had apparently spotted, but was too nervous to get out of the car. It almost felt like he would go mad once he saw it, like one of those Lovecraft horrors he had read in his spare time- that had been a bad choice, he hadn't slept for days.

Speaking of the macabre, the Goth girl, Gaz, next to the Ikari boy remained unresponsive to her famillies' squabbling. He had noticed when he sat down that she had some type of portable video game hidden by her upturned knees. She had provided no source of comfort, with purple, harmful looking hair, and eyes that served the same function as a rattlesnakes' diamondback. Shinji decided to swallow his fear and witness the enigmatic Angel.

It didn't look as bad as he'd have thought. Humanoid even, rather like a Kaiju. Very like a Kaiju, given how if seemed to destroy everything it touched. Shinji was uncomfortably aware of its' closeness. As he glanced at Membranes' binoculars, he wondered why anyone would want to get a more detailed look. The professor and Dib were arguing something about the improbability of the arising of organic molecules, let alone ones that would reach such a humanoid shape, when a great FUHM interrupted the professor.

"Right, back in the car kids, it's not quite as safe as I thought," Membrane said abruptly, turning on his heel. Weren't you talking about mortal peril? Shinji thought. Back into suffocating vehicle, the Ikari tried not to succumb too much to fear. The NERV headquarters were supposed to be specially guarded against Angels, but rational thought was not serving as much of a help as he would have liked.

The forest around Tokyo 3, 3:35 PM:

"GIR! STATUS REPORT!" Zim barked.

"I saw a giiiant whirlybirdie," GIR beamed.

Zim was silent. The hidden potential that his Tallest had convinced him of had yet to show itself in GIR. The SIR was still in his deceptive-mode. Perhaps a malfunction had locked the tiny robot in a state of perpetual stupidity- the invader would have to look into it. Right now, he was focusing on the quaint little planet that they had claimed as future Irken soil. The Voot had landed in some mountainous area where they had tracked an interesting energy source. The land was heavily forested with photosynthetic life.

Zim scowled. Lush greenery all around, skies of blue goddamnit (true irken loyalists hated that color), and an overabundance of H20 set him on edge. This had been no humoring mission- the tallest had seriously meant to test him. Well, he would pass as many flying colors as a swarm of rainbow Reipins.

"Gir, stay here, I'm scouting the area." The tiny robot giggled, nodded, then scooped some moss into his mouth. Rolling his compound eyes, Zim set out.

The invader pulled himself over rocks and roots, glaring knives at passing animals, but shaking with unease inside. This planet had no shortage of disgusting Carbon-Based life, and it hawked it at every opportunity. Finally, cursing, he made it to a clearing. The sunlight made him blink (oh how he hated blinking) and the incessant noise of insect life had crossed the boundary from alien and disturbing to enraging and annoying.

That was when he knew it would be even more the mission he had thought it would be. Because, crushing a pitiful civilization underfoot, was the first Nehindei Zim had seen in his life, the source of the energy that had brought them to this side of the planet. And after the schlock, the fear, the hatred had passed, he smiled wickedly to himself. Fate had given him the greatest test of all, had he didn't even need to study to know an A+ was in store.

NERV HQ, 3:50 am.

"YOU DIDN'T TELL ME IT WAS UNDERGROUND, DAD" Dib beamed, taking in the orange hue of the expansive cavern that the party of four were now bathed in.

"I wanted it to be a surprise!" Membrane jovially said, his lab coat and goggles obscuring any complex expression, "I know how much you like the bases of paramilitary secret organizations. And good job remembering to exclaim in Japanese!"

Shinji suppressed a pang of envy. Before, he had not known any other boys his age with super scientist fathers, and had had no standard with to judge he and his dads' relationship. Membrane at least tried with his kids, and he was busier than Gendo. No, Shinji thought, I still don't know how busy my father is. Bad thoughts, very bad thoughts.

He tried focusing on the astoundingly huge central chamber, but the moving walkway had already deposited them into a nondescript tunnel. Ikari tried to occupy himself by studying his companions. Dib was shaking in happy anticipation, Membrane was unreadable when he was silent, and Gaz looked apathetic and frankly furious. Her father had forbidden her from her game while they toured NERV, and she had obeyed unhesitatingly, but still rather grudgingly. Perhaps there was still some conflict in this family.

They arrived at an elevator. Dib let out a shriek of enjoyment he had been holding in, then laughed nervously, self-conscious. In the car, he had talked nonstop about his conspiracy theories, his paranormal fascination, his interest in the goings-on of NERV, his excitement when he learned his father was staging his next project their, his happy surprise at the fact that he was allowed to come with. Shinji hadn't been able to get a single word out, which was fine with him. He didn't believe most of the things Dib had said about NERVs' ties with intergalactic conspiracy, but he had been able to accept the possibility of Angels being extraterrestrial, even if it was astounding. When Dib had asked him if he knew anything about the organizations' inner workings, Shinji had shaken his head. Membrane's son had looked disappointed, but had shaken it off in favor of rattling on about how the Judeo-Christian god was actually and advanced Bio-Computer run by Mole-people.

Now Shinji walked, shaking, off the elevator, observing a large pool of liquid that appeared a strange, industrial orange. He couldn't tell if it was the lighting, or if the fluid was indeed that color. A longhaired, kind looking woman, who smiled at the children, made to greet professor Membrane as he stepped off the lift.

"Professor Membrane-Sama! An old friend of the Commander, correct? Much thanks for making the long trip from the States. I hear you're quite famous there." She bowed politely. Membrane returned the gesture.

"It was no effort. Old Gendo and I haven't even spoken since second impact; we've been so busy with our respective roles in helping humanity get back in the game. It will be good to talk again," he said. "I have become rather well known for my endeavors, haven't I? So be it, all that matters is the cold hard hand of science reaching a warm and loving one out to help our species. May I ask your name?"

Shinji couldn't tell if the mixed metaphor was a joke. The woman couldn't either. She blinked. "Uh- Well- Captain Misato Katsuragi. I was going be Shinji's transport, before you offered. I hope you don't feel you had too."

"Not al all!" beamed Membrane, "A favor for a colleague is the highest honor. This is the boy, right here."

Misato turned on her heal towards a silent Shinji and said, "A pleasure, Mister Ikari. Can I call you Shinji-Kun?"

"What- oh, yes. The pleasure is all mine, Captain Katsuragi." He gave a severely polite bow.

"Misato, if you don't mind. Now, these must be your children, Professor?" She looked around. Dib was staring as intensely at the orange liquid as Gaz was staring unemotianally.

"What? Oh, yes. Dib Maltenson, Captain-Sama," Dib said, shocked out of his fascination. "And this is Gaz, my sister." Gaz grunted. Such an attitude with that girl, Shinji thought, he felt embarrassed to be in the same room with her.

Instead of the expected shock or outrage, Misato just chuckled. "So your last name isn't Membrane, huh? Is that like a stage name, Professor?"

What a laid-back women this was. Perhaps she had been given some sort of dossier detailing what to expect from the visitors. How much did she already know about him? Could she already know why he was here, a fact that Shinji was still in the dark about?

As if reading his mind, she said, still smiling "You children are all part of a great service to the world. I hope you are aware of that, and of the responsibility."

Dib looked as perplexed as Shinji. Gaz looked as blank as herself. Membrane giggled slightly. Now it was Misatos' turn for confusion.

"I- I was just remembering a joke. Shall we proceed to the main event?"

The captain reclaimed her smile. "Of Course!"

Somewhere in America, 1:43 AM:

"Let me tell you about freedom, and the cruel, taunting definition society gives the word."

Not one child didn't groan. Ms. Bitters had obviously forgotten the content of yesterday's lecture, which had begun exactly like this. As the decrepit middle school teacher droned on about topics children this age should truly not grasp the horror of, most students occupied themselves with either zoning out, giggling with friends, or just accepting the bleak nature of reality that Bitters advertised. Staring around the room would have done no good- it was grimy, sparsely furnished, and the sickest shade of pale green ever vomited. However, one kid, who will be referred to as "Lizardboy," dared to let his gaze drift.

He noticed something important.

"Where's Dib?" Lizardboy asked.

Ms. Bitters stopped daring the children to go, "run around naked, go on, see if humanity cares-" as her gaze locked on the boy.

"Dibhas moved." She said. It should have been a simple phrase, but her tone held so much contempt; it was like a three-hundred page novel of why he shouldn't opened have opened his wide mouth.

Lizardboy, remembering his place, gulping and flop sweating, nodded.

"Now if you would kindly let me continue with my thankless job, we could get into the dynamics of why communism is just as bad as anything else, and should not be dyscriminat-"

But her phone rang.

Such was Bitters' fury that one eyebrow movement could hush the entire class. Hand shaking, she reached for the receiver, and said into it, indignant beyond believe, "Yessssss?"

Her eyes grew wide.

She said: "Oh. Oh, I see. Yes. He didn't. Well too bad. Yes, dear. Yes, I'll come right over. Japan, was it? Yes, I can never keep track. Which Tokyo? Don't take that tone with me young lady. All right, fine. That dunderhead will have to be taught a lesson in manners. Without them we are pathetic- yes all right, I'll get a job at the school. And dear? Stop wearing that garish purple crucifix. It makes you look like a whore."

She melted into the shadows, leaving (though the children could of course could not recognize it) a distinct smell of LCL.

NERV headquarters, 3:00 pm:

"Huminahuminahumina," Dib gibbered. "What. What. What. This is- you can't deny-giant lizard-" he stood, mouth agape, witnessing the majesty of a futuristic Mecha suspended up to its' shoulders in the same orange liquid.

He turned to membrane, squeaking, almost. "Me… pilot…exactly what I thought- Me, PILOT? PIIIIILOT?"

Membranes' jovial laugh gave goose bumps to everyone in the room. "Of course, you've been genetically poised for it since the beginning! Of your LIFE that is!" He held up an overdramatic finger, one hand on his hip, very much recalling a small boy who was predisposed for digging. "Wait, hold on."

The professor made an impossible leap to the top of the gesture. This added very much to the surreality of the situation, thought Shinji. It might have been a cliché, but the Ikari boy might be able to consider the possibility that he was asleep.

Now, actually standing on the head of the thing, Membrane resumed the gesture. "OFFSPRING! YOUR MOTHER MAAAAAY BE DEAD, BUT SHE LIVES ON IN YOUR HEEEEEEART, AND IN THE SPIRAL- Hello Gendo!"

He looked behind him, and Shinji's father looked back. Shinji tensed. Despite all the bizarreness of the day, this was still his dad, the major incentive for this trip. Should he say something?"

"Shinji," Gendo Ikari boomed across the hangar, pushing Membrane aside after nodding curtly. His orange glasses and chinstrap should have been comical. Thousands of words couldn't say why they were the opposite. "Have they told you that you will be piloting one of these?" He tapped the Mecha with his impeccably managed boot.

"What!" No. No, he had to escape from this distorted dream world before he went as loopy as that professor.

"He doesn't know either?" Katsuragi gasped. "Sir, are you sure-"

"That's enough, Captain," Gendo interrupted, his gaze still on Shinji. "Son, all of the Children here, including you, have been selected for the piloting of these machines. I'm not going through the motions here- you have a choice: stay of leave. Make it now."

"STAY HERE!" Dib had finally regained coherent speech, and was using it to babble up a storm. Shinji understood very little of it, as the American boy, in his excitement, had lapsed back into his first language.

What Shinji didn't hear was: "YOU HAVE TO DO THIS WITH ME, MAN! THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY OF YOUR LIFE. CHILDREN WILL SING SONGS ABOUT YOU. TEENAGERS WILL RIGHT SEXY AND BADASS FANFIC ABOUT YOU. I KNOW THEY WILL ABOUT ME!"

The pressure on Shinji's flimsy will nearly overrided his reasoning ability and self-preservation, but sanity gave one last protest.

"No- no it's a ridiculous assumption to think I could pilot something like that! I've never seen something so- it's just- it's just="

"So be it. Membranes children will be enough, I suppose. I did not know he was bringing two. You may leave." His Father said, blankly. Almost crying for his expendability and humiliation, Shinji was escorted out of the room by Captain Katsuragi. Gaz watched her try to tentatively comfort the Ikari boy as they left, then turned to face her father, who said, "It's not much of a loss. You couldn't get me to pilot one of those things in a QUADRIIIIILION EONS."

"Hey," said Dib. His father ignored him, while Gaz turned her steely squint to Gendo.

"You said 'both' children," she asked, "does that mean I'm piloting too?"

Her brother's gaze snapped onto Gaz.

"Yes," said Commander Ikari.

"Sweet."

A Tokyo-3 Middle School Building, Retracted into the Geofront, 4:21 PM:

"This sucks. It just sucks, it's rampant false advertising is what it is."

"Is it?" Toji grumbled, avoiding eye contact with the ranting Kensuke. The boy would work himself into an apoplectic fit if NERV pulled any more classification methods with the current disaster. "I seem to remember you using that phrase more than once, and, I'm not gonna lie, it gets stale.

Kensuke was far from listening. "And look at that new kid. Skin condition my ass, the poor guy has to have been scarred in some horrible accident covered up because it's details would spill too many secrets!"

"Why don't you ask him yourself?" Toji half-yelled, getting fed-up.

"Toji, Toji, Toji," Kensuke sighed with maddening patronization, "It's not that simple. I could be assassinated for even thinking-"

"Excuse me?"

Toji and Kensuke both froze. Aforementioned "new kid" had just invaded their personal space in the confining, glorified holding-pen of a room. His hideous mutation was all the worse up close. Green, scaly skin, almost no extremities, those huge eyes… Toji almost couldn't stomach it. The fact that the boy- Zim, his name was-was scowling didn't help. He resisted the nasty human impulse to get as far away from the freak as possible, instead blinking for a few seconds and saying, "Yeah?"

"I couldn't help overhear your conversation. Apparently you think that my deviating visage is the result of some hideous abnormal occurrence of events. This is false. My only ABNORMALITY is the result of unfortunate genetic accident. Anyone who thinks it is anything more is either a SNIVILING LIAR or a DELUUUUUUUUDED PIECE OF ANTENNEA WAX. Good day to you sirs."

They waited for him to get out of earshot, then Toji said, "He's worse that the new teacher."

"You think they're-"

"I'm not having this conversation."

NERV, EVA Hangar, 7:28 PM:

"Come on," Dib pleaded.

"No," Said Ritsuko Akagi, head of NERV's scientific branch, who had introduced herself over the EVA's (or so the mecha was called) radio.

"Please?" Dib asked again.

"No means a thousand times no. I'm not up for negotiating," Akagi answered. "We are disposing of the Angel in a classified manner, no dissection necessary." The pilot could almost hear her pinch the bridge of her nose.

"But you're a scientist! You would understand our need to plunge into the unknown," the boy continued to insist. "It's been my dream to on-sight dissect an angel since, like, a month ago!"

"The Angels are far too dangerous for any formal examination. We still aren't entirely sure what qualifies one as 'dead' or not," Ritsuko said, forcefully.

"That's exactly what I would find out!"

No answer. Grumbling, Dib looked around the cockpit. The design really was a work of art, everything about this beautiful machine. That was why it absolutely had to be reverse engineered from some kind of extraterrestrial. Or perhaps a demon. Those fins certainly recalled natives of the eighth circle, but the head starkly reminded one of Styxian abyssals. But no, Mortos Der Soulstealer had all wiped them out in the third war of .

"That's just the LCL," explained Ritsuko, over the radio. She probably had withheld the information to get back at the Child. "It'll act just like oxygen. You'll get used to it fairly fast."

Dib tentatively let the strange fluid enter his lungs. It tasted disgusting, but it reminded him of something… a smell he associated with school of all places.

"Alright Dib, we will initiate synchronization in 3…2….

Tokyo 3, 7:46 PM:

Zim crawled through bleak rubble and dust, his PAKS' air filter and spider legs making the journey that much easier. Escaping the Geofront had been a breeze, though this journey was slightly more difficult. The invaders' single handed-capture and killing of the fearsome Nehindei would be so glorious; he had trouble focusing on the task at hand, and had slipped, once or twice. The Irken followed weak pulses of AT energy, tracking down the beast. Soon, very soon…

The pulse grew stronger and stronger, until, at last, he saw it- but no, this wasn't it, this was some giant finbeast with a lizard head. It resembled no Nehindei Zim had seen in history files, and yet its' gargantuan frame radiated AT like nobodies' business. Zim had trouble deciding whether or not he was curious or angry, but once he decided on angry, he went all out with it.

"Hey. Hey you there. Stop existing. You're confusing me."

The Colossus turned, and the invader thought that maybe there was the slightest inkling of a probability that he had gotten himself in over his head.

The thing stood there, impassive, resolute, and its' eyes were focused right on Zim.

Then it began to run.

Zim followed suit, away from it.

Screaming.

He ducked through caves of refuse, jungles of misplaced cables, refusing to look back for fear of losing kinetic momentum. He could hear footsteps, jogging footsteps, so ominous that they might as well belong to the Massive itself. Just when Zim thought he had found a safe hiding place under a misplaced wall or an overturned dumpster, the beast had found him, cowering, and he had resumed sprinting. Finally, when he could run no more, it picked him up, brought Zim to its' face, and inspected the little invader like a curious child does a to gift they haven't opened. Then, ignoring the Irken's frenzied struggling, it collapsed.

The pilot had not noticed its' missing cable, or NERVs' radio protests. All that mattered was the Actual intelligent alien life that he had found, living and breathing. Too bad he couldn't say the same for the EVA, he thought, unconsciousness slipping in.