The Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Japan. The reddish gold stain upon the shifting seas has spread out in the days following the destruction of the Roaring Beast of God. That which has not been reduced to energy or LCL drifts, chunks of flesh and bone steadily consumed by the abundant wildlife of the ocean depths. The Hunter has passed.

Now he is Prey, to feed that Lilim life that succeeds him.

The waters ripple, miles off the coast. POLARIS will not sense him- he has the access keys, after all. His own powers prevent the on-sight and other such more mundane surveillance systems of Tokyo-3 from spotting him.

Unless one somehow penetrating the field which he projects with but minute concentration, none would see the black, gold trimmed giant that now floats inches above the Pacific. Standing sixty meters tall, arms spread out, the iridescent lines on its armor give forth sunlight and warmth matching the Light of its Soul.

It hovers, the faintest whispers marking its passing. It turns its mask to the waters, the crimson visor centering on a floating and twitching piece of Gaghiel. The piece moves, some dim sense of awareness clawing its way back to the surface. Staring upon the black giant with accusing red eyes and thoughts of pure hate.

At least, until a larger fish breaks the surface and clamps down upon it with rows of razor sharp teeth, dragging it down. Moments pass, and the lilim predator breaks the surface again. Larger, its eyes now red and the faint buds of tentacles beginning to break the surface of its scaled flesh. It roars new dominance, and descends into the depths to take its place as the new alpha predator of this small chunk of the ocean.

Inside the plug, the ash haired boy smiles. "You keep what you kill," Kaworu Nagisa says, "It's a classic."

With that, thought becomes action, and Evangelion Mark-06 descends into the Pacific Ocean to claim what it seeks.


.

Chapter 12:

Blackout

.


Lights flood the cylinder, illuminating gray metal walls with a tint of dusky gold. Rolling his neck, Uri takes a deep breath and gurgles out a bubble. Sitting up, he hears the crack of his spine and the creak of the plugsuit. "Systems are starting up," he announces, "Safe mode confirmed. All mobility, autopilot, and weapons locked out from pilot control."

His hands dance against the butterfly controls. The tips of his fingers tap against buttons, triggers, and dials. Screen fold out from the ceiling. A diagram of the purple giant, showing the locks, the black boxes, the weapon and supply emplacements. A view link up to Central Dogma, where he sees his mother standing next to Akagi and Ikari, with Katsuragi standing in front of them.

A screen appears to his left, and he sees Unit-02 standing in the Cage next to him- his red partner now prepped to synchronize with Pilot Ikari, while he prepares to link his mind to Ichi.

"This is the Third Child," he says, "Ready to begin synch test with Unit-01."

Another screen folds out to show Shinji, sitting in a similar plug with the connectors faintly glowing on his head. "Fourth Child, ready to begin synch with Unit-02. Say, when we're done, could I get a set of connectors like Uri's? So I don't look like a catboy?"

The answer comes in the form of Akagi's grinning face. "Oh don't be so glum, Shinji. Not when we've already designed the tail for your plugsuit~" Which is then followed by Misato's hand clamping down on Ritsuko's mouth.


...


"Yeah, stop being silly," Misato smirks, "The adults are talking." Yui glares at them both and turns back to the console in front of Maya. On the screens above them in Dogma, the video feed shows a pair of black cylinders the size of cars being pulled out of Unit-01's back.

"Confirming Test Mode restrictions," the short haired lieutenant announces, her voice echoing through speakers on the ceiling. In front of them, past the edge of the bridge, the holographic display of the Geofront shifts into a pair of life sized mockups of the two Evangelions.

"Removing batteries from Unit-01, confirmed." Massive servos grind as the great mechanical systems retract on the hovering screen. Black cylinders, each the size of a city bus, are removed. Two from Unit-01, four from Unit-02. "Batteries removed from Unit-02, confirmed. Venting coolant!" Streams of yellow and blue shoot out the tops of the cylinders, leaking down the wall and down a series of drains at the feet of the giants.

Behind Maya, behind Yui, Kyoko nods. "I ordered the coolant in both Evangelions replaced," she says, "I didn't like how hot Unit-02's batteries were running against the Angel. If one of the batteries blew, it would have crippled Zwei."

The great bladed fans built into the fins of the Evangelions come to a stop. Plates rise along the perimeter. Clamps half the size of a fully grown man lock into place at the bottom. "Turbines locked down. Physical locks in place." Maya's hands dance over the console. "Software locks in place. Internal power vented and external power supply is now in place."

Yui nods. "Good. Keep them in Test Mode." She pats Maya on the shoulder. Ritsuko and Misato shuffle over. "We don't want a repeat of what happened with Unit-00."

A screen flips open in front of them to show Shinji, his eyebrow raised and mouth a line. "I can't help but wonder what information I have been denied."

Yui glances at Ritsuko. Ritsuko shrugs. "So," Shinji continues, "What's this about 'repeats' and 'Unit-00?'"

"Unit-00 went berserk during previous attempts to synchronize it with Rei. We keep the Evas in test mode so the armor locks up if they lose control." Yui shrugs. "That's all there is too it, really, because..." And from Shinji's perspective, what follows is a long string of meaningless words which he might understand if he had at least two PhDs to his name.

"Blahblahblah synch score blah blahblahblah core psychographs blergeblablabbityblah blah-blah armor security locks bleugiebluegibliggity blah blah organic components-"

"Hold up a second," Shinji interrupts, hand raised, eyes wide, "Organic components? I thought these were robots."

Ritsuko rubs her temples. Misato glances at the two of them and shrugs. Yui pins her son, somehow, through the video screen with a glare. "They're cyborgs," she says, "Cybernetic organisms. Partially organic. Partially mechanical." On the screen next to Shinji, Uri glances up from the screen in front of him, and taps his wrist. Another screen opens, but this one in front of Shinji, with the NERV logo highlighted.

Shinji's protest of secrets being kept from him is cut silent when he glances down at the screen and stares at the page. "Huh. Yeah, it's on page seventeen of the New Employee manual," he says, "Says it right here. Evangelions are very big cyborgs which are piloted by the Children. That's...kind of plain."

Yui folds her arms. "And you never read the manual. Am I going to have to quiz you?"

Shinji blanches, shrinking back into his seat. A bubble escapes his mouth, submerged in the LCL. "Please no. I'll be good." Misato cocks an eyebrow and mouths the word 'quiz.' He nods, turning to her. "Mom gave me 'the talk' when I was twelve. I had to take a quiz at the end. And get a hundred percent."

"I let you go at ninety and you're in an entry plug, so there aren't any windows to climb out of this time." Misato turns back to Yui. Ritsuko palms her face, shifting over to the side and towards the consoles. "Did you read the manual," Yui asks.

"In his defense, the manual's pretty shitty," Misato says with a shrug, "And we gave him, like, five minutes before we shoved him into the plug and had him fight the Fail Angel."

"She has a point. I got five minutes training and I stomped it. What was it, like, three? Four days later? And I fight the yonic tentacle monster." Shinji shrugs. "I mean yeah. I should have read it. I did." He coughs, then gags at the sudden LCL intake. "I mean, skimmed."

On the other screen, Uri rubs his temples, shaking his head. "And the manual's are badly written." Misato shrugs, walking around the screen and draping an arm over Yui's shoulder. "I mean, not as bad as the old ones, right? Remember the one they wrote when you were on the PR tour?"

Yui groans, rolling her eyes. "Don't remind me. I had-"

"The Commander and Subcommander wrote the manual," Misato interrupts, turning back to the screen, "And holy crap, it was so god damned bad. There wasn't, like, a single useful thing in there, it was all secrets and redacteds and all that. Like this gem!"

She yanks Yui's PDA out of her hand, flipping over screens and tapping an icon. Another screen opens in front of Shinji, who tilts his head. "'The Evangelion Combat System is an Anthropoid Combat System which engages superscalar opposing constructs.' What."

"It means the Evas are big, walk on two legs, and fight big things." Misato taps the icon again. "'The NERV Combat Evangelion is a combat system designed to engage enemy combat systems while possessing combat advantages that other combat systems lack in regard to superscalar combat systems.'" She stares at Shinji, who avoids meeting her gaze so he can rub his eyes.

"Okay, the manuals have a tendency of being...non...informative," Yui sighs, "Still, he should read it. He won't be as confused if we talk about the Evas being organic or the armor being restraints-"

"Hey, question." Shinji clears his throat. "Wild guess here, but if the Evas are this big, and organic, and nothing on Earth is normally this big...are the Evangelions Angels?"

"Yes!" The answer comes from Yui, Misato, Ritsuko, and Uri. At the same time. "Page 58," Uri clarifies.

Yui looks skyward as if for some sort of deliverance, but finally shakes her head. "Right, enough of that," she says, "Maya, how long until we're ready for the synch tests?"

She turns to find Kyoko hunched over the consoles with Hyuga, Aoba, and Maya. The redhead turns and smiles, patting Maya on the shoulder. "Ready to test Third Child and Unit-01," Maya announces, "Synchronization in fifteen seconds."


...


"Pilot psychograph check. Evangelion psychograph check." Ibuki's chipper voice comes over the speakers. Uri takes a deep breath and saturates his lungs with LCL. "Synchronization in ten seconds. LCL ionized. A-10 connectors charged. Synchronization in five." He closes his eyes. "Four." Hands wrap around the controls. "Three."

Careful and slow breaths. "Two." He feels the first pull of the Evas mind and he steels himself. "One. Initiating." And then color drains from the world.

He feels it yank him down like a physical thing, through a tunnel of time and light until he is sitting, not in his chair but on a bed of rocks and red flowers. He does not move, does not open his eyes, even as he feels the endless field of briar patches shift and undulate around him.

He makes himself a wall; he makes himself solid and singular, giving no handholds to the probing mind that gathers around him. To the thorns that attempt to prick his skin but find it stone. To the breaths that flow against his ears and nose to find neither opening or purchase. He waits it out- he always does, against the whirling, random intelligence that is the Evangelion-

Or at least, until his eyes are forced open by a pair of small hands, and he finds himself staring into a set of blue eyes. "Aw. C'mon," the voice says, "Don't be like that."

A deep breath followed by a gag, and Uri opens his eyes. The walls of the plug turn crystal, turn prismatic, and flow back like liquid. "Synchornization holding at 54%. Pilot and Core engaged in metaphysical bridge." He feels his nose, pulls away, and finds the red glove clean. What was that, he asks himself. He's never synched without at least a nose bleed, before.

"Activating the Evangelion in three. Two." The yellow eyes flash, a faint trace of blue washing over them, before becoming solid white. "One. Unit-01, activated." The head of the Eva rises, the shoulders rolling back in response to Uri's own stretch.

"This is the Third Child," he announces, "Synchronization successful."


...


The screen opens again, hovering in front of Yui. "Mom, I didn't understand what you were saying about Unit-00. Can you...uh." He rubs the back of his neck. "Can someone explain it to me in...uh...ways I'll understand?" Yui smirks, tapping the corner of the screen and walking over to the consoles, dragging it with her.

Kyoko looks up from the consoles. Above them, high up next to the Big Screen, the two matching rainbow spirals become an interlocking bridge. "Holding at fifty four percent," the redhead says with a smik, "Uri, that's ten percent over your record." She turns to Yui and the screen. "Well, if this plays out like it should, Shinji should have a higher rate with Zwei. We may consider rotating the pilots, yes?"

Yui nods, then lightly shoves the screen over to Kyoko. "Shinji needs an explanation and I keep using the ten syllable words." She shrugs, and Kyoko shakes her head.

The redhead taps the screen and drags it over. "Okay. Basic terms." Kyoko folds one hand behind her, the other hand open and gesturing at Shinji. "Unit-00 is the Prototype. It is also temperamental, over-engineered and unstable. In a perfect world, no one would pilot it, and Ayanami would pilot Unit-01."

He nods. "Okay. So why couldn't Rei pilot Unit-01?"

Kyoko shrugs. "I have some theories. Consider this." She extends a finger, waving it around before padding it against her palm. "Unit-00 was the testbed for all these technologies. The first time they were used together." She shakes her head with a shrug. "And Unit-01 tried to resolve some of those issues, it's the Test Model. So it's a bit of a kludge."

"That...doesn't sound good."

"Ah." Kyoko holds up a second finger. "That is also why it is less of a problem."

Shinji nods, hands still on the controls. Maya counts out systems, factors, new screens popping up around Shinji's head. "Anyway," Kyoko continues, "Unit-01 was created by Doctor Ikari. She oversaw its construction, and testing. Currently, we theorize that the Contact Experiment is what lead to the development of Unit-01's AI."

Kyoko turns to Yui. Yui nods, twirling her fingers and motioning for Kyoko to get on with it.

"Think about it," Kyoko continues, turning back to the screen, arms folded under her chest, "The first person it ever made contact with. Its creator, its guide. What do you think Unit-01 regards Yui as?"

Shinji cocks an eyebrow, glancing upwards. He thinks, visibly, before turning back to the screen. "Unit-01 thinks of my mother as its Mom, doesn't it?"

Kyoko turns to her rival. Yui nods with a shrug. "I'd have introduced you, but the Eva goes into sleep mode whenever it's not fully activated." She clears her throat, turning to Shinji. "It also thinks of the girls as its sisters."

Shinji visibly pales. "I've been linking my mind to something that thinks like Rei?"

"It's a magical place when you get used to it," Misato interjects.

Yui rolls her eyes, glaring briefly at Misato, then back at her son. "Shinji, you know there's more than one of the..." She rolls her eyes before she says 'Ree.' "And I'm not sure how that follows. You get along fine with all the girls and everyone really blows Rei's reputation out of proportion."

"I'm looking at worst case scenarios, Mom!" On the screen, he sinks back into the chair. "Wait. Wait wait. First, why does Unit-00 go crazy? You said it was the prototype, right? So an Eva can go...crazy?"

Kyoko and Yui both nod. From the slowly dawning look of horror on Shinji's face, they can guess that was not the answer he was hoping for.

"Unit-00 has a tempermental AI at the core," Kyoko explains, "Unit-01 has an AI at its core that identifies Yui as its mother, Rei as its sister, and you as, well. You were at the Contact Experiment when you were four. What do you think?"

Shinji blinks. "Unit-01 thinks I'm its big brother." Kyoko nods. "Huh," Shinji states.

"Huh," Misato says, rubbing the back of her neck. "Huh," Yui adds, glancing at Kyoko, "Well. That explains a lot."

"Okay, so what'll Unit-02 do, then? Think I'm its father or..."

Kyoko shakes her head, dragging the screen with her. "No, no. Unit-02 is the production model. Most of the problems are worked out. Unit-02's AI is less centralized than the others." She reaches over Maya's shoulder, her chest pressing against the back of the lieutenant's head. "It's not even an AI, really. Smart systems designed to be slaved towards a pilot."

Tapping buttons on the console, she nods and slides over to Hyuga, reaching over him. "In theory, anyone should be able to synch with it, as long as they meet pilot requirements. It's not exactly the case, but that's why we're here." She turns to the screen and smiles. "So don't worry. We've left the Evas powered down, just in case."

She taps the screen and flicks it over to Misato. Putting on her best megawatt smile, the colonel pulls the screen closer until her face takes up the entirety of Shinji's view. "Okay, questions answered?" Shinji nods. "Great. Now just sit back, do the thing you do with Unit-01. You'll be fine." And she taps the upper right corner, closing the screen.


...


He sighs, and immediately regrets it. As soon as the breath leaves his mouth, the blood-tasting gunk rushes down his throat again. Shaking his head, Shinji leans back. He lets the gel-filled contours of the seat press and mold against his back, his shoulders. It is an amazingly comfortable seat, and he wishes it didn't come with a giant robot.

Giant cyborg. Giant cyborg Angel. Right, that part. Now he's going to get a quiz. He sighs again, glancing from side to side, listening to the chipper sounds of Lieutenant Ibuki's countdown. From thirty, to twenty, to ten, to-

"LCL ionized. A-10 connectors charged. Synchronization in 5." He listens to the countdown, taking a deep breath to fill his lungs, saturate them. "Two. One. Initializing."

And then the plug loses color, and pulls him down, down, down...

and doesn't stop pulling-


...


Four eyes flash green. Shoulders rolling up, spasming, an inhuman roar escapes the locked jaw of the red titan. Fingers curl into fists and the catwalks around the cage warp in time with its howl. A howl which NERV knows well, knows to fear, and knows to prepare for.

"Unit-02 has gone berserk!" Maya announces.

The locks around the jaw break. Metal teeth line the broken seams, separating with an explosion of steam and steel. Pulling itself from the wall restraints, it takes a long, deep breath. Then, throws its head back and roars.

Kyoko turns ghost pale, fingers clenching against her palms. They can feel the vibrations even in Central Dogma, a second behind the Evangelion's roar. "What's going on w-"

Yui turns to the bridge crew before Kyoko can get out the sentence. "Eject the power cord," she roars at the top of her lungs, "Bakelite systems in ten!"


...


Twin explosives detonate against the back of the red giant. A cord covered in orange and white drops, billowing clouds of coolant and dust rising when it impacts against the floor. Free of its restraints, eyes four green suns that illuminate the Cage, the Evangelion lurches forward to its freedom.

It makes it one step before freezing up. The eyes flicker, dim, and go silent.

"Synchronization failed," the lilting voice of the MAGI announces, "Would you like to try again?"


...


In Central Dogma, Misato grabs a chair from one of the empty consoles and slides it over, catching Kyoko just as she collapses into it. Yui wipes the sweat from her brow with a relieved breath, turning to Ritsuko. "Disarm the bakelite systems. Suko. Data logs, all of them," she says, and turns to Kyoko, "Sohryu, what-"

Her question cuts off when the alarms shriek, booming in the familiar tone they have heard a handful of times before. "Blue pattern detected!" Aoba yells, "POLARIS is determining location-"

The alarms cut out just as fast. The red hexagons covering the walls, painting the room red, hover for a moment. Then, just as quickly, they disappear. "Huh," the long haired lieutenant says, "Maya?"

Maya nods, raising her hand. "False alarm," she confirms, "Some sort of irregularity in the MAGI-Eva connections." She taps on her console, the screens focusing back onto Unit-02. The back of the neck pulses, and the plate slides down, followed by the entry plug spinning out. "Medical teams en-route to retrieve the Fourth Child."


...


"-want to know what the Hell is wrong with your Evangelion, Sohryu!"

This ceiling, Shinji thinks, is getting way too familiar. These are the first thoughts of the young man as he opens his eyes with a groan and confirms that he is not dead. Lucky him.

The groan that escapes his lips his human. Mostly. Blinking, bringing up his hand to massage his tired brow, he looks down and confirms he is in a hospital gown. There is yelling, in the distance. Outside the door of the white hospital room, he surmises.

"Suuup." And he is not alone. A glance to his side confirms Misato is in the chair next to the bed. Smirking, putting down her PDA, she waits for him to turn his head completely to her. "Unit-02 doesn't like you," she says, "You're fine, so don't worry. It just..." She shrugs. "Sohryu and your Mom both say you didn't get any permanent damage. Just feedback."

Slowly, painfully, he pushes himself up onto his elbows. "This is apparently a feature," Misato continues, leaning back in the chair, "Not a bug. Uri deals with it all the time, and he got freaked out by Unit-01."

Both turn to the sound of the foosh of the doors opening and the hoomhoom of the blue lights decontaminating the entrees. Yui and Kyoko push through, still glaring at each other the entire way to Shinji's hospital bed. Which is a long time, Shinji muses, and wonders why these rooms are so big.

"Oh good," Shinji groans, "My mother and Doctor Sohryu are arguing."

"And all's right with the world," Misato finishes.

The two women glare at Misato, then at Shinji. Both the boy and his guardian shrug. Without a word, Yui walks over, cupping his face and pulling him up to sitting. "Shinji, are there any after effects? Cross contamination or odd thoughts?"

"I have the unexplained desire to never get inside large red cyborg Angels." Yui narrows her eyes. "I'm kidding," Shinji sighs, "I'm fine. Really. What happened?"

Yui turns, eyes narrowed to slits and centered on Kyoko. To her credit, the redhead just shrugs. "I'm still trying to piece that together. Nevertheless, we're not switching out you and Uri anytime soon." She taps her palm, glancing past Yui and to Misato. "Ibuki is checking on that blue pattern signature. I think it was the-"

"IFF recognition in Unit-02's spinal receiver, which was fried and briefly caused Unit-02 to emit a hostile Blue Pattern before shutting down completely." Kyoko and Yui turn to the doorway. Shinji and Misato look past them. Maya, hands covered in grease, hair soiled with dust and soot, triumphantly waves the blackened circuitboard.

Yui rubs her temples. Kyoko folds her arms, resting her face on her palm. "God dammit," she mutters, "We have to check all the connections in Zwei, don't we?" She groans, walking over to Maya and grabbing her by the crook of her arm, walking her out.

"One crisis down, more to go," Misato grunts, standing up, "Means I need to get in touch with POLARIS and anyone else who misread an Angel being in the base. Which means Kaji." Still swearing, Misato stomps out. Then peaks back in. "I'll be back in three hours," she says, "If not, get Section 2 to take Shinji home, okay?"

Yui nods, and the door closes to leave mother and son alone in the room. She pulls out her PDA, glancing at the schedules, lists. "I'm going to be busy figuring out why Zwei doesn't like you," she says, "So...aha!" She brings it up to her ear, waiting for the ringing, waiting for the faintly squeaky voice to answer.

"Hyuga! You're not doing anything, are you? Great. Can you take Shinji down to Sheol? I want him to meet the new girl and he wants to visit Hatchi."


...


Half an hour later, changed back to his school clothes and still smelling faintly of LCL, Shinji steps into the elevator alongside Lieutenant Makoto and finds Rei already waiting for them. The blue haired girl smiles, shoulders slumped in visible relief.

"Hey, Rei," Hyuga says with a wave.

"Suuup," the pale girl drawls, shifting to the side to let the two in, "They canceled the synch test for Unit-00 'cause of the whole thing with Unit-02, an' I just got here from the school." She slumps back against the corner of the cabin. "Had to cancel a lunch event with the younger years. Gonna have to do double-duty tomorrow."

The pale girl rolls her eyes, hands pressed against the railing. "So, we were on our way to containment," Hyuga says, in a tone best described as chirping,

Rei shrugs, and yawns. "Well, it's on the way to the B-Geofront, right?" Shinji gives her a puzzled glance. "A Geofront's most of NERV's facilities. B-Geofront's Hot Labs, Terminal Dogma, and the...well, the other stuff. The apartment's on the top level of it."

Shinji nods. Blinks. "The Reepartment?"

Rei sighs, rolling her shoulders with an added groan. Hyuga smirks. "Well, it's on the way," he says and gives Rei a smile, "Wanna come with us? I figure the new girl could use some company." He reaches over and taps a button. A green plate folds out and he presses his hand against it.

"Makoto, Hyuga. Lieutenant. Radiant-level clearance: Confirmed." The lilting voice pauses. "This elevator is non stop. Please do not try to exit the cab." A grinding of metal on metal and the cabin begins to descend.

Rei leans against the railings. Shinji folds his arms, tapping his foot. He glances, from the lieutenant, who has since pulled out his PDA to look over something, to the floor. Which is shiny.

"So," he says, "You know about..."

"Everyone who works for NERV admin or Project-E knows about the Ayanami sisters," he says, "Everyone above a certain clearance level knows about the circumstances. Below that, the story is that they're your cousins, and adopted by your parents."

Shinji cocks an eyebrow.

"Ayanami is the maiden name of your grandmother," Hyuga adds.

Shinji blinks. He glances to the side. He never knew that. Why was he never told that? He opens his mouth to protest. Hyuga glances at him and smirks. Shinji turns, and Rei quirks her lips. Shinji's foot taps on the floor, his arms folding and his shoulders rising in preparation for a sulk. Wait, he then thinks, Do I even know my grandmother's first name? Hasn't she been dead for, like, twenty years?

Then he begins thinking more. Well, thinking more clearly. Shoulders roll back and he scratches behind his ear. In what circumstances would my mother have to tell me about my grandmother's maiden name in the first place?

"Huh," he finally verbalizes, and turns to Rei, "So...why Ree?"

Hyuga shrugs. "Iti woke up six months after me," Rei chimes, standing on the railing, "Back then, she looked the same. So since it was basically 'two Reis', Iti made up a word which was the plural of 'Rei.'"

The cab jerks to a stop. Doors open with a light ding and a lilting warning of "Welcome to Nephilim Containment. Please follow all safety regulations and do not ingest samples left in the open."

Shinji blinks, staring at the speaker on the ceiling. "Is that in the manual?"

Hyuga nods. "Page 118."

"You really should read the manual," Rei adds.

Rei walks up behind Shinji, and with her hands on his shoulders she walks him out of the elevator and down the long, tube-shaped hallway leading to the spherical main room. "So, how many of these are there?" he asks, "I mean, containment rooms?"

"Hundred and fifty." Rei grins at the sound of Shinji's warble. "I don't think anyone plans for a hundred and fifty Ree, but it's not just Ree they keep down here."

Doors open, hitting them with a burst of cool, filtered air. A lone technician greets them with a wave, tapping notes onto her PDA before walking out. At the center of the spherical room, in a cylinder that stretches from floor to ceiling, the blue haired girl smiles and tilts her head.

The black, red piped plugsuit clings to her, hugging along her hips, her bust, and her waist. Pressing both hands against the glass, she presses her face and chest against the sole barrier between them. Rei cocks an eyebrow, looks down, and scowls.

Hyuga taps both teenagers on the shoulders. "Hey, I have to run up to Admin and make sure that the Eva's batteries are getting serviced. Rei, can you make sure Shinji doesn't get lost?"

Rei nods with a smile, and Shinji sighs, walking over to the tube. The doors open and shut, marking the Lieutenant's departure, and he waves. The girl waves back. "Hi!" The girl tilts her head. "I'm, uh. Shinji. I'm Shinji." He waits for a response. Continues anyway. "What's your name?"

The girl pushes back, folding her hands at her waist. "I'm Rei!"

Red eyes next to Shinji narrow. "No you're not," Rei says.

"Yes I am."

Pale nostrils flare. "No, I am Rei," Rei states, knuckles cracking, "You're not Rei. You're-" She shrugs. "Um...Kiko! Let's call you Kiko!"

"No no non." The girl wags a finger. "I am Rei. So are you," she says, pointing at Rei, and then Shinji, "And you. And him, as well, who just left. And so is everyone else, because at the very depths of ourselves are we not all Rei?"

Brother and sister stare at the girl. The newest Ree, or newest Rei, bobs her head from side to side. Before long, she swings herself from side to side, using the back and forth motion of her head to make herself into a curvy, blue haired pendulum.

During this entire time, the two visitors are silent. It is Rei who breaks the silence, speaking the words they were both thinking.

"Oh what the fuck."


...


"Yeah, thanks Hyuga. And yeah, agreed. If Rei's saying that." Feet up on the desk, Yui Ikari looks up from the floating monitor hovering over her lap. Ritsuko walks in, holding her PDA at her ear. "Yeah, Yui? Rei and Shinji just met the new girl. Rei's freaked out." Ritsuko narrows her eyes. "Rei."

Yui blinks. "Put it on my screen," she says, and leans back in her chair. The scene plays out in front of her. From Shinji's awkward introduction to the debate between the Reis. Cute, but odd, Yui thinks. But, if the new girl is insistent, it would be easy enough to, say, give her a middle name.

Assigning names is easier when they're younger. Kei was the newest, and physically she was nine when she woke up. Then, Yui had the precedent of her sisters for the naming scheme, and Kei's adorable devotion to her, so it was thankful that she-

"Oh mother fucker," Yui breathes, "They are both grounded."


...


"You," Rei says, finger leveled at the cheerful, cheshire cat smile of the new girl, "Are not Rei! I! Am! Rei!"

The new girl shakes her head, humming sharply with each turn before spinning around completely. Her head, followed by the rest of her.

"No! No!" Rei growls, tapping her finger on the glass. "I am Rei! My name is-"

"KEI. AYANAMI." The screens lining the wall to their right flash, and become a close up picture of Yui Ikari's face. Eyes wide, lips pulled back into a line and nostrils flared, the blue haired girl lowers her finger and buries her head in her shoulders.

"Kei. Where is your sister?" Yui speaks with a slow and steady voice. Shinji shifts to the side, away from Kei and away from the blast radius. "Answer me, young lady. Now."

"I don't know," Kei squeaks, index fingers tapping together, "Rei just asked me to take her place this morning, said that she had to do something and said she'd be back as soon as she could and I swear I don't know where she is and this was her idea but I take full responsibility for it."

For emphasis, Kei shrugs. "Okay." Yui growls, sitting back, the screen now showing her folding her arms and narrowing her eyes. Something plays over her face, something almost animalistic. Primal. Maternal. "Well, I'll have Section 2 track her down. You are absolutely honest? You don't know why she asked you?"

Kei nods, quickly. Squeaking for emphasis.

"Well. She couldn't have gotten far. It's not like Rei would have left the city."


...


The ever present roar of engines masks the sound of the cart wheeling down the aisle. Just wide enough to accommodate it, the wheeled monstrosity is pulled along, muffled apologies about bumped elbows and questions about ingredients. The blonde woman, clad in the blue skirt suit, decorated with the pins and emblems of her chosen profession, leans over the seat. "Miss?"

The girl works the headphones off, looking up with a smile. Pale blonde hair over an equally pale face, she pulls down the collar of her scarf and looks up at the flight attendant with red eyes. Albinism, the girl explained, which is why she went through check in with the cap on and kept her face concealed.

The attendant smiles, warmly. "We'll be arriving in Berlin in five hours. It's time for the in-flight meal. Would you like the steak, chicken, or fish?"

"Yes," Rei Ayanami responds. She pauses, then screws her face in confusion. "Wait, I have to choose one?"


...


"Hate. All I have is hate." A released breath, fluttering lips, and feet dragging alongside the infuriatingly cheerful woman. "It is my life's work, and it vexes me." She runs a hand through red hair, pulling herself up, and rubs the bridge of her nose. Kyoko Zeppelin Sohryu rolls back her shoulders and continues down the hallway next to Misato Katsuragi, the dark glower of the redhead's gaze threatening to murder the florescent lights above them.

Their heels click in time- a decision Kyoko has come to regret, as heels are never the best idea when crawling around the face of a giant robot. Cyborg. Angel. "This isn't the way to the cafeteria," she observes.

Indeed, they pass a vending machine. An empty vending machine, with a wad of bills shoved into its slot and the glass broken, a brick hanging from one of its shelves.

Glancing side to side, she spots the familiar dents in the wall. Passes a cart pushed along by two of the Project E interns, filled with congealed LCL. "Katsuragi, where are we going?"

"Zwei's out of action while we make sure he doesn't show up as an Angel and Rei's gone off to who knows where, so we're down Unit-00 too." Misato slaps Kyoko on the back, throwing on her best smile. "So, since Shinji tends to bitch about being thrown up alone against the tentacle monsters, we need backup."

Kyoko harrumphs, rolling her shoulders back. She twitches her nose, purses her lips, and tilts her head backwards. "Yes, so you need someone for him to drool over while you get him to agree." Nostrils flare and hands slide into the pockets of her skirt. "How do I look?"

The caked LCL gives way to faintly warped white metal. The hallway cleans itself, the faint humming underneath their feet telling them that they're getting closer.

Misato turns. She tilts her head, cocking an eyebrow. "Doc, what color are your eyes supposed to be?"

"Blue. Damn. Green?"

Misato nods. They pass a man in an orange hazmat suit, holding a white, glowing rod that hums with promised explosions. Passing a tinted, full wall window, the orange visor of a squat robot follows them. "One of'em is, at least."

Kyoko digs into her lab coat, pulling out a circle shaped, palm sized case. "One must have fallen out when I was crawling around Zwei's left brow..." She rubs her fingers over her right eye, pressing it shut and opening it. A crystal blue eye stares back out. "Surprised you don't have questions."

Misato shrugs. "Figure it's above my pay grade. Shall we?" She glances at the redhead. "Also, hike your skirt up, don't want to leave this to chance."

Kyoko mutters under her breath. Before them, two massive, double doors part. Blasts of steam hit them both- blasting Misato's hair back, and frizzing the end of Kyoko's. Light issues forth from the grinding doors, a brief flash of white followed by a steady, warm glow. Not hot, not burning, but like a pleasant sensation of the sun on a clear day.

"So, fusion reaction," Misato says, "Great. Do I have cancer now?"

The doors grind open completely. Shadows extend from behind them, stretching back the lengths of the smooth hallway floor behind them. Both women stare at the light- the pulsing, spinning rings of light which fades out into the tinted, muted light of the unveiled Arc Reactor.

The golden visor of the squat head glows dimly, red lights running along the parts of glass and metal. The gunmetal plates and black wires hang from the opened chest, pulsing with each rotation of the coiled black rings.

Misato looks down, and shuffles back from the line of green tape. "Yeah, I'm gonna guess we have to stand behind that, right?"

Kyoko walks over it, hands in the pocket of her labcoat. "David! Are you sure you should be working on the reactor when it's on?"

The sole inhabitant of the room- clad in a bulky, olive work smock and welding mask over a sweat shirt and overalls, turns from the reactor. He waves them over, waving the powered on plasma torch. "No worries! It's not a bad kind of radioactive!"

Misato quirks her lips and tilts her head. "Wait, there are good kinds of-"

"He's trolling you," Kyoko interrupts, and walks over to the smock-wearing Spencer, "We have a problem. Unit-02's out of commission while we make sure it won't grow tentacles and open one of its six mouths to sing the song that ends the Earth. Can you have Prime prepped for launch if necessary?"

Shuffling down the catwalk, level with the chest of the giant robot, Misato glances down. Usually, she muses, the hangars are filled with LCL. This one is...not...and hence Misato Katsuragi is given a good idea of how tall these giant robots actually are. "So how safe are we?"

"Jet Alone's not made from a space alien, so safe!" Spencer turns a knob on the side of his plasma torch, the glow subsiding. Reaching into his pants pocket, he takes out a set of keys and clicks them. The plates shift back into place, grinding shut over the white light.

A burst of steam follows the plates locking in place. The light mutes and fades, black rings locking at the center of its chest. Tilting her head, Misato stares at the giant- noting the wideness of its torso, the general, triangular shape of the robot. Muses on whether or not Prime is supposed to look more...feminine...than the Evangelions.

"Sides which, it's not exactly a nuclear reactor," he continues, "The Arc Reactor's based on Professor Katsuragi's Super Solenoid theories!"

Misato blinks. "He blew up Antarctica."

Spencer holds up a finger, walking past Kyoko and towards a work bench in front of the white ring. "Based on!" Skipping towards a disorganized, haphazard bench, he takes the thermos at the edge of it and pops it open, drinking from it while tapping an open laptop with his other hand.

"Back to the point," Kyoko says, walking over to Spencer, "David, the sole Evangelion we have that can be deployed is Unit-01, and that's the one piloted by the inexperienced pilot. If an Angel attacks, we- and by we I mean the human race- need your girls ready." She cups his chin, turning him to face her. "Can we?"

He tilts his head. "Don't try to do the whole lonely genius thing with me," she adds, "I know you were with Horaki from Section 4 last night."

Misato chokes, leaning on a railing. "Wait. Horaki, as in Hikari's mother?"

"Lovely woman," Spencer says, looking past Kyoko and to Misato, "I took her out to dinner and we compared baby pictures. I am aware that Doctor Ikari may be attempting to breed her middle child with Pilot Ikari, so don't worry."

Kyoko sighs, releasing his chin. Behind them, the chest of the giant thrums and hums, a faint vibration carrying through the floor. "Right. So, agreed?"

He nods. "Absolutely," he says, taking her hand and bringing it up to his lips. "And I know I have a reputation, Kyoko, but I'm not going to, say, try to get you to go out to dinner with me in return for this. That invitation would be completely unrelated."

She quirks her lips, shifting it from side to side. "Busy tonight and tomorrow. Saturday." She folds her arms, shifting her hips. "So, anything else? Or do you need more time to undress me mentally?"

He taps the laptop, a series of charts and diagrams popping up. "No need. I own the swimsuit calendar."

Blue eyes narrow. "Which one?"

Spencer waggles his eyebrows. With a harrumph, Kyoko turns on her heel and exits, Misato following.


...


Four floors up, somewhere between the ceiling of the sky and the base earth, a door opens in a darkened hallway. Clicking his PDA shut and taking out an actual flashlight, Jung Numi peaks his head out of the elevator and steps into the corridor. Looking up, he spots the source of the drip and the odd readings- a broken light, still sparking.

Sighing, he walks over to it, shining the flashlight over the florescent light, over the darkened tiles of the ceiling. "Yeah, looks like an LCL tank rupture," he says with a groan, "We really have to talk with Section 1 about the containment leaks."

He shines the light on the corners, taking out his PDA and taking pictures of the blood-colored mold. Normal effects of LCL saturation, normal enough that they know how to clean it up. "Damn electrical shorts," he sighs, and shines the light- and the PDA- down on the puddle on the floor.

Which, he realizes, taking pictures, is not the faint golden-white of LCL.

But instead, a rich, thick orange. The realization hits him.

Right after that, the orange tentacle dropping down from the ceiling hits him, too.


...


ALERT

AT FIELD DETECTED

BLOOD PATTERN TYPE BLUE: CONFIRMED

7281727th ANGEL: CONFIRMED

DESIGNATION: WHRGLBLRGL

"Piece of shit!" Maya Ibuki swears, both at the MAGI- the current source of her anger and hate- and at the stubbed toe she has received from kicking her console. Hopping on one foot, she leans against her chair in Central Dogma while sucking her teeth.

A cough, and she turns, leaning on her chair and looking up the stairs towards the command post and the seated Ritsuko Akagi. "Maya?"

"The MAGI's still glitching on Blue Patterns," Maya yells back, "In the last two hours, it's 'confirmed,'" she adds air quotes before grabbing the chair to keep balanced, "Blue Patterns on Yamada's dog, a three month old sandwich in Subdeck Seven's employee fridge, all of Greenland and Neptune."

Akagi rolls her hand. "I have confirmed that the sandwich has no nephilim or cherubim material," Maya adds, "And I took a blood sample from Yamada's dog."

Ritsuko shrugs. "Until Fuyutsuki or Commander Ikari get back, I have to be here."

Ibuki sighs, put upon as usual. Resting on her stubbed-toe-bearing foot, she turns to the long haired lieutenant who dutifully tries to pretend he is doing his job. "Shigeru! You're taking the east wing, I'm taking the west wing! We need to duct crawl the MAGI!"

He sighs, pushing the chair back. "Maya, you know how to get me on my hands and knees." There is a pause. A long pause.

"It's better when Katsuragi does it," Ritsuko chimes in, smirking in time with Aoba's closing mouth, "Kirishima just got on base. I'll send her along to help."


...


Elevator doors open, revealing a man with unkempt black hair and plentiful stubble. He smirks, inclining his head to the two, as he would put it, lovely ladies at the door. "Well, I lucked out, and I'm going up."

Kyoko rolls her eyes, rubbing the bridge of her nose. "Oh, look," she says, "You said you needed to talk to the EDF liaison, and here he is."

Nostrils flare. Black shoe taps against the polished metal floor. Balled fists rest on her hips and Misato Katsuragi makes a declaration. "Business, then," she says, "Try to skip straight to pleasure, and we see just what I consider pleasure." Lips part to reveal teeth, and a smile that makes promises.

A cart carrying a finger the size of a person rolls between the woman and the elevator. Two people in hazmat suits recognize the participants, and push the cart faster.

"Ah, youth," Kyoko muses, "If only my conversations with my ex-husband could have the promise of bondage play." She cuffs Misato on the shoulder and pushes her into the elevator. "I'm going down, anyway, so try not to come back injured or married."

The doors slide shut, just as Misato stands on her tip toes to glare into Kaji's eyes. Folding her arms, checking her watch, Kyoko shuffles over to her right and the other set of elevator doors. They open with a ding, and she smiles.

"And here I was just talking about exes."

Gendo Ikari pushes his glasses up his nose. "Katsuragi and Inspector Ryouji?"

Kyoko nods, and steps into the elevator. "What floor are you going to?"

"Terminal Dogma," he answers. She reaches over and taps the button to close the doors.

"Good," she says with a groans, shoulders slumping, "We haven't had time to talk since I got here."


...


The new Ree, which he has mentally labeled as Nonoreirei, is still swinging like a pendulum. Screens, both the ones physically attached to the walls and those floating in front of the wall, read vital signs, LCL temperature, and streams of data he would need PhDs to understand.

There are not any tends on the walls, either at head or foot level. Despite Kei's best attempts, which left her on the floor, holding her foot and sucking her teeth.

A phone rings. It rings, and rings again. Again, and again, and again. Until Kei reaches into her blazer, pulls it out, and stares at the screen with narrowed red eyes. Tapping it, again and again, trying to drive her finger into the screen, she holds it in front of her and lets it see her hate.

"Hatchi if you call me Rei one more time I will move your tube into Iti's room and make you read every single one of her books-"

"Dial it down there, Tsunderella. Mom found out?"

Shinji pads over, sitting down next to Kei. "Yep." Shinji digs into his knapsack, shuffling next to his sister. "You knew?"

"Kinda guessed, didn't know." A cough on the other side. "Honestly thought you were Rei until you hung up on me the first time. Didn't want to jump to conclusions." Another cough. "Anyway, Mom's prob'ly gonna be more pissed at Rei."

Shinji reaches into his backpack and shoves a thermos into Kei's free hand. "Half caff," he says, pulling out one for himself, "Hatchi, how're you doing? I'm not sure if I'm going to make it down today."

Silence on the other end for long second. "Oh, right. Not on video, so you didn't see me shrug. I'm fine, just kinda bored." Kei rests her head between her knees with a miserable groan. "But I convinced Mom to let Kiri visit me, so less bored now. I'm probably going to be out in a week, anyway."

Another cough. Shinji begins to wonder if she has a cold or an infection or something. "Shinji try to keep Kei from moping about how Mom's gonna ground her for, like, a day or something while she's pulling her hair out about Rei. Kiri and I are gonna work on our character sheets. Out!"

And the call disconnects with a click and beep.

Kei leans forward, slumping her shoulders with a groan and a moan. Head buried between her knees, phone held outwards and hovering over the floor, she goes completely silent next to her brother. He does notice the lack of sobbing, the lack of any outward breakdown. For a brief moment, he wonders if giving her the thermos- which he notices still sitting unopened next to her- was a wise idea. Then dismisses it, because what is the worst that could happen?

"So, character sheets?"

Kei sits up. She grabs the thermos, pops the top, and guzzles. Tilting his head, watching her half swallow the thermos, wrapping her lips around the lip of it as if it were some sort of baby bottle, he once again wonders if this was a good idea.

She lowers the thermos to the floor, shaking it and listening to the swishing of the dark brown gold within. Glancing into the half full cup, she cocks an eyebrow. "Odd." She wipes her lip on her sleeve. "I don't feel...hyper or anything."

"Mom's coffee is stupidly strong."

She glances at him, narrowing her eyes. Turning back to the coffee, she takes another sip. "It is, yeah." She sips again. "Character sheets, right. Yeah, Hikari runs games with me and my sisters."

Kei slumps her shoulders, pursing her lips. The clock on the wall ticks seconds. "Anyway, that's when Rei asked me to do a favor for her. It was the night before you went off to the Pacific Fleet..."


...


Eight Days Ago.

Five laptops open, four of them on the table, five sisters sit equidistant on the floor, with a massive cat napping on its bean bag chair. On each of their screens, the image of Hikari Horaki, the only thing visible other than her face the collar of her pajamas, tightly grips the bridge of her nose.

"...fine. Hatchi, roll your dice."

Clad in a white t-shirt and sweats, Hatchi taps on her keyboard, then pumps her fist into the air. "Fourteen sux! Tell me what I won!"

"...right. Okay, so Hatchi...I mean, Radiant Hatchet has successfully evaded capture and has managed to kidnap...I mean 'rescued and taken to a safe place' the handsome prince. Hatchi, what are you going to do with yet another handsome prince?"

Hatchi shrugs, leaning back onto her hands. "Figure I'll just do the magic thingy that puts him into enchanted sleep and put him in the protective case thingy with all the other handsome princes."

Hikari blinks. She works her jaw and blinks again. "You know, there are...other...things you can do with handsome princes. I kind of wonder why you're so intent on collecting handsome princes when all you seem to do is add them to your collection."

Hatchi snorts, barking out a laugh. "What, you think I want to do some overblown romance like Kei does? Booooooooring." She taps her finger on the table, shaking her head in time with her swinging ponytail. "Nuh. Uh. Handsome princes should be seen and not heard. Like pretty decorations I can hang on my wall. Not, like, Kei stuff."

Sitting across from her, Kei Ayanami narrows her eyes and glares at Hatchi from behind her reading glasses. She slinks deeper into her fluffy bathrobe and purses her lips into a thin, tight line. "He was a Shogun. Not a prince."

"Sparkling Squared Jewel," Hatchi says, hand extended at Kei, "She, like, threw herself into a volcano when after burning down the kingdom with sorcery and demons 'cause he loved someone else!"

"It was a Shogunate, not a kingdom." Kei slinks lower into the bathrobe. "And that's how those stories end! I mean, she's also immune to fire so she didn't die but that's how those stories end! That's how it goes in those sorts of epic romances!"

Next to Kei, Iti Ayanami pulls up the corner of her mouth in a knowing smile. Book pile next to her, legs folded underneath her and in sweats a size too big for her, she snickers and adds, "Romances you read."

Kei turns on her and raises her head imperiously. "Oh...oh just shut up, Iterative Harmony! And get back to that plan to, like, kill the guy by feeding him fish pie to make him sick and send him running to the toilet, where he'll trip on spilt perfume and fall out a window!"

Iti waggles her eyebrows. "The perfect killing."

A pile of blankets, robes, and pillows straightens up between Iti and Kei. Red eyes reflecting the light of the laptop buried with her, Siyon Ayanami adds, "I wanted to turn him into a newt."

A pale fist pumps into the air. Clad in bunny print pajamas, one hand on the keyboard, Rei Ayanami declares her allegiances. "And I agree with Noyis! Turn him into a newt! And then Glorious Ray of Sunshine wants to kidnap a princess! A redheaded princess with an adorable stutter! Who I'll then take back to my manse and make my sidekick!"

From all five laptops, the sound of a gavel being banged is heard. The five sisters look down to see Hikari's narrowed eyes, the webcam drawn in to just show her gaze. "Rei! Like I said before, there is no time travel! That means you may not travel back in time and kidnap Mnemon when she was moe!"

Rei looks up from her laptop, and across to her identical sister. "Oh, completely and absolutely unrelated, Kei? I got this favor I wanna ask you to do and I will totally owe you."

"And I still can't believe you named your Raksha 'Glorious Ray of Sunshine!" Hikari continues, and pulls the webcam back, "Okay! Hands off keyboards! I'm writing up the scene change!"


...


Kei blinks, sits up, and nearly spills the coffee. She turns, slowly, and narrows her eyes on Shinji. "Son of a bitch. I know where Rei went!"

Shinji blinks, scratching his head. Tries to understand the entire story. Fails miserably. "Back in time?"

Kei snaps out her phone, tapping a name and holding it up to her ear. "Mother! Rei's going to Berlin!"


...


ALERT

AT FIELD DETECTED

BLOOD PATTERN TYPE BLUE: CONFIRMED

ELEVENTEENTH ANGEL: CONFIRMED

DESIGNATION: MAYA IBUKI

With a grunt, Ritsuko kicks the console in front of her. The metal resonates, the speakers warble, and the red hexagons covering the slanted walls of Central Dogma disappear. "Maya, the MAGI thinks you're an Angel."

A girlish shriek of shock and surprise explodes from the speakers. "No! You filthy humans have found me out! Now I must kill again!"

Ritsuko kicks the console again. Her shoes- traded from her normal flat heels to steel toed boots, do not give. The metal of the console does. "Want me to dispatch Unit-00? If we can get Kei to destroy you, Ikari might not ground her."

A grunt from over the speakers, followed by a low snicker from Shigeru. "Hold on, Sempai," Maya responds, "Let me just get my tentacles back into my skirt. Oh, wait, it's Saturday, right? So the dress code's causal."

Two double doors open with a hiss, several yards back from Ritsuko. Hands in the pockets of her slacks, Yui pads out onto the bridge. Weaving past a discarded chair, a pair of heels, and pile of discarded plastic, she looks up at the screen. "So Maya's the Eleventeenth Angel?"

Three screens up on high blink in and out, reading off numbers and code. Yui glances at it and immediately regrets it, rubbing the bridge of her nose to ward off the immediate headache.

Ritsuko kicks the console again. "Trying to figure out if this's a bug, or something Mom put in the computer as a giant 'fuck you' to us."

Yui snorts. "Well fuck you too, Naoko."

The walls and ceiling darken and cover themselves in red hexagons, right before alarms shriek through the base.

ALERT

AT FIELD DETECTED

BLOOD PATTERN TYPE BLUE: CONFIRMED

^%#&%! ANGEL: CONFIRMED

DESIGNATION: YUI IKARI

"I can't tell if that's a glitch or if she just hated me that much," Yui sighs.

Ritsuko grunts and kicks the console. The alarms warble, and the red hexagons disappear. "We have two types of geniuses here at NERV," she sighs, "Well adjusted geniuses who can carry on social relationships with people they might have resented, and the myopic geniuses who build temperamental fucking supercomputers."

A screen hovers past, flipping between diagnostics, problem clusters, and corridor snapshots. Another floats by with a scrolling list of cake recipes.

"So, probably not a glitch." Yui pulls her PDA out of her pocket and brings it up to her ear. She nods, whispers a response, and slides it back in. "Kei just called me. She thinks Rei's gone to Berlin. Three guesses why."

Ritsuko kicks the console again. "It's kind of sweet," she says with a grin, "Rei was so disappointed that her best friend didn't come over with Sohryu. So she's going to go and kidnap her." She turns to Yui, leaning on the console. "Of course, this also leaves us down an Evangelion if shit happens, so you're going to nail her to a wall."

Yui nods. The red hexagons cover the wall once more, and both women sigh in time with the shrieking alarms.

ALERT

AT FIELD DETECTED

BLOOD PATTERN TYPE BLUE: CONFIRMED

WUBWUBWUB ANGEL: CONFIRMED

DESIGNATION: SATSUKI OOI

Ritsuko kicks the console once again, and the lights vanish. The speakers cut out a second afterwards. "Who's that?" Yui asks with a shrug.

"One of the backup bridge staff. They work the mid-shift." Akagi growls and kicks the console again. "Maya! Any luck?"

Maya's face appears, lit green and white from her PDA's night vision lens. A pair of goggles cover her eyes, and she spits out a wire that was hanging from her mouth.

"Looks like a false lead on an uplink node to POLARIS. I'm gonna head to the B-87 storeroom to get a replacement node!"

Yui nods, patting Ritsuko on the shoulder. "Looks like you've got things well in hand here, 'Suko. Meanwhile, I'm going to go find the Commander." She cracks her knuckles with a smile. "And then I'm going to kick his hairy ass."

Yui turns on her heels and walks out, whistling all the way. Just as she crosses the threshold of the doorway, the walls turn red once more.

ALERT

AT FIELD DETECTED

BLOOD PATTERN TYPE BLUE: CONFIRMED

18th ANGEL: CONFIRMED

DESIGNATION: HUMANITY

Ritsuko Akagi lets loose a blasphemy, and kicks the console as hard as she can.


...


Stepping into the elevator, Yui balls her fists with audible cracks. The hallway of Level 89 Subsection B4 disappears with the closing of the doors, and she rolls back her shoulders with loud pops. Rolling her head back, she turns on one heel, adjusting the collar of her beige turtleneck.

She smooths out her khakis, adjusting the hem of her lab coat. She will have to find Gendo, and lecture him- at length and possible using props- about going over head head on this. "It's not like I don't want Asuka here," she mutters, "But if I'm going to subvert Kyoko's authority it isn't going to be this blatant."

A sigh, and she rubs the bridge of her nose. Everything about dealing with Kyoko- one of the few people she considers her intellectual equal- infuriates her. Most- most of the time, it is not a problem. Most of them time, she thinks, watching numbers tick by on an ascent to Gendo's office, it is more manageable.

But Kyoko Zeppelin Sohryu has already ingratiated herself into the staff. Misato has already taken a shine to her. Shinji is seeing her as a counselor- which Yui encourages, yes- but still. Still.

A sigh, and she shakes her head. "Face it, Yui. You have to be the smartest person in the room." Rubbing her temples, she rolls her head back. Then the elevator stops with a jerk, and she stumbles back. "The Hell was that?"

She walks to the control panel- sees the power still on. Cocking her head, she taps the button for Gendo's floor again. And again. She wonders, idly, what caused the elevator to stop.

Then wonders no more, because that is exactly when the orange and red tentacle wraps around her mouth to cut off her scream, followed by another wrapping around her chest, locking her arms in place, and another around her ankles, before yanking her through the ceiling of the elevator cab.


...


The minutes tick by, brother and sister alternating between the swinging blue haired girl in the test tube, and the clocks. It has been an hour, and there has been no sign of Lieutenant Makoto. Clearly, Shinji thinks, he was lost and has been eaten by the giant man hand spider. Or hugged.

"So," he says, "What'd Rei bribe you with?"

Kei bristles, as is her purview. She arches her head imperiously and fixes him with a stare that does nothing. "What? I can't have decided to impersonate her out of the love I have for a sister?" She glares at him, daring him to question her.

"Nope."

She sulks, rolling her shoulders up. "Rei offered me more time out," Kei mutters, "Which neither of us will get, because now we're going to be grounded until the end of time."

He wraps an arm around her shoulder, shaking his head. So this, he thinks, is what being an older brother is like. Dealing with sulking sisters, weird alien girl things, and yonic tentacle monsters. He should call up Hikari, and they can exchange notes.

"We need to get back at Rei," he says.

She nods. "I will plan. You'll execute. We'll partner on this." She extends her hand.

He nods, and grips it in a firm handshake.

And then the lights go out. The two blink in the darkness, Shinji turning to where he thinks Kei is. "What was that?"

"Dunno."

"Can you, I dunno, see in the dark?"

Silence on the part of the blue haired sister. "No." Another pause, fingers tapping on metal. "Nor can I make my eyes glow. Hold up..." She grunts, fidgeting with something.

The screen of the PDA turns white, bright and illuminating the two. She taps a button and the back of the PDA glows, its camera flash providing illumination to the darkened room, the blank screens, and the gelatinous, trunk like creature that stands in the middle of the room, waving out tentacles and turning a single yonic red eye upon them.

Shinji and Kei both scream. The creature warbles its response, splitting down the middle to display a maw of feelers and eyes.

And in the cylinder, the girl opens red eyes. "Zut alors!" she cries, and smashes the glass with a single punch.

End Chapter 12