[FFML] Sic Semper Morituri Chapter 55 - Let the Ladies Be Heard From Part 5 of 5

Daniel Jess Gibson dan_s.comments at att.net
Sun Jun 22 13:42:25 PDT 2008


[Ranma][NGE][HPL][AMG][Fusion][Fanfic] Sic Semper Morituri
Chapter 55 - Let the Ladies Be Heard From

Disclaimer:
I do not own any of the characters from Ranma 1 / 2, Neon Genesis
Evangelion, Ah My Goddess, or the Lovecraft Cycle involved in
these stories.

C&C, MSTs are welcome
E-mail: dan_s.comments at comcast.net or  dan_s.comments at att.net
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http://www.cs.ubc.ca/cgi-bin/ftp/archive/anime-fan-works/Ranma/ty
pe/Sic-Semper-Morituri
(these are the original versions)

August 18, 1947
      "I _hate_ Mondays!" Asuka announced as they walked back from
school.
      "If you want to share your sentiments," Sammi said sweetly,
before Misato could interject, "You shouldn't shout them in
German.  You had all Sunday to just lie around, and complain how
bored you were.  I thought you'd like doing something."   Why has
she _suddenly_ taken an interest, Sammi wondered, knowing her
jealousy towards Misato was misplaced and irrational, She's not
taking care of the _kids_, probably following orders.
      The others laughed at Asuka's embarrassment.  Hikari,
politely, Horseface and Toji a bark.  Asuka glanced at Shinji and
Rei, who hadn't seemed to have noticed.  She frowned at that,
then grinned evilly.
      Something else to get to the bottom of, Sammi thought as she
caught Hikari, Mirei and Yumiwashi all bearing similar grins, A
_lot_ of something to get to the bottom of.
      "Is it true that you're making a movie about the pilots?"
Yumiwashi gushed to Hiro, who was walking with them, taking
notes.
      "It's a documentary.  I'll be interviewing the people who
know them too," the scarred man replied.
      Not man, homonculus, Sammi reminded herself, 'Non-humans
guard the pilots', the last hope of humanity, that would be a
_real_ good idea to put in the movie.  Some god has a weird sense
of the absurd.
      "People . . . like . . . us?" Mirei asked, suddenly looking
faint.
      "You won't have to act, just answer question," he smiled and
soothed, "Don't worry about saying anything embarrassing.  The
military censors are going to go over it with a fine toothed
comb, so no secrets will be let out.  Like what Langley-san was
doing in Berlin from when the Russians took the city in May, to
August when she escaped."
      "I'd rather not talk about that!" Asuka muttered.
      "So would the censors, they told me I couldn't even hint on
camera that you weren't in British hands the moment the surrender
was signed."
      "What were - " Toji began, and practically formed icicles
when Hikari and Asuka glared at him, he smiled wearily, "Never
mind."
      "My brother is _so_ smart," Yumiwashi said proudly, then
with disappointment, "Eventually."
      The others laughed at someone else getting caught up in the
crossfire.
      "Where's the third Stooge by the way?"  Asuka glanced
around, eyes falling on Rei.  "You don't have to keep wearing
those," she commented on the A10 nerve clip Rei wore, "And how
did your hair go back to blue so quick?  That dye should have
taken weeks to grow out."
      "On the nights of the new moon, I howl and revel with the
mouse-king.  He changed it back.  The 16th was the New Moon."
Rei stared at Asuka until Asuka shook her head.
      "Ask a silly question," Asuka said, "If that was a joke, it
wasn't a very good one."
      "It was a tall-tale," Rei replied, "A complete and easily
discernable fabrication."
      "Speaking of tall-tales," Hiro asked, pencil at the ready,
"What's this list of NERV rules I keep hearing about?"
      "Something that came in from the carrier," Tomiyo said,
"Evidently Maya thought people needed a warning about the horrors
of L.C.L."
      "It's not _that_ bad," Misato complained.
      "Now _that's_ a tall-tale, Wondergirl," Asuka told her, "Did
you hear how it sounds like she actually believes the lie.
Though your level delivery isn't bad."
      "Thank you," Rei replied, "I will study her methods
further."
      The group laughed again.  Hiro noted the changing targets
and the maneuver-and-strike tactics all the pilots adopted.
      A sense of unease nagged at Sammi.  She noted that the bulk
of the followers had peeled off and headed home on their own
routes.  It still struck her that the roads were emptier than
they should have been, Where are the other guards?   "Juri, raise
command, something's not right."
      "What?" Misato asked, her hand resting on her pistol, a
gesture mirrored by every armed member of the convoy.
      "There's supposed to be an escort on both parallel streets,"
Sammi said, "There isn't one."
------------------------------
      "I don't care if the order _is_ signed and authorized by
me," Simson managed to avoid shouting at the NERV security man,
"Get those patrols back on their stations, right now."  Simson
whirled and practically ran into Ramsey.
      "Our auxiliaries lost sight of them," Ramsey said
breathlessly, "One moment they were there, the next even a
physical sweep couldn't locate them."
      "This has to be the move," Simson said, "Dagnabit!  Call out
the Marines, scratch formations if you have to."
      "Right away!" Ramsey turned and left.
      Simson knew the route, knew he could race out there and
shoot it out with the enemy, but a commander stayed where he
could command.
      Gendo glanced into the radio room, saw Simson.  "I'm leading
a search party."  He was gone before Simson could order him to
stay.
      Rotten bastard, he thought angrily, Leaving me to mind the
radios.  I'm beginning to think rotating one pilot on call at all
times might be a good idea.   He waited, it was all he could do,
while spotters on the ground and in the air continued to give 'no
contact' reports.  Then every one of them, every radio went
silent.   That's just terrific.
------------------------------
      Mirei heard the gunshot and watched the pilots scatter.
Misato had been walking with the convoy back from school, now she
was searching for the source of the shot.  Sammi shoved Shinji
towards Misato and the nearest hard cover, before she spun around
and went down, the second shot.  Mirei's guards shoved her under
a truck and sandwiched her between them.  Rei was giving Asuka
the bum's rush towards an alley, when her head snapped sideways
and she screamed in pain, Asuka half-stumbled/half-fell into the
cover of the alley while Rei lay where she'd fallen.  Ran_ko_ had
flattened herself into a door way, and Ranma was nowhere to be
seen.   Much as I was thrust under a truck.  Where did Ranma go?
she thought as each person took cover and searched the environs
for the sniper.  Yumiwashi was whimpering from where Toji had her
and Hikari shielded by an ash can and his body, but the trio was
still looking around.
      Asuka had been staring at Rei's huddled body when she
spotted the sniper and broke cover.
      "Asuka! NO!" Misato yelled as the redhead zigzagged towards
the building.  Hiro broke from his cover and ran after her.
      "Hiro!  Come back!" Shinji yelled at the man.
      Right, that's going to happen, Mirei concentrated on the
girl in front of her, lying in a pool of blood.  She could hear
her grandfather calling for reinforcements, reinforcements that
should have already _been_ there, filling the street with bodies.
  They wouldn't be armed, but their honor would require them to
save the pilots, by sacrificing their lives if necessary.   She
saw that Sammi was climbing to her feet, shaking off the gunshot
that had put her down.
------------------------------
      Hiro concentrated on the girl in front of her.   I'll never
be jealous of the pilots again, he thought as he ran a straight
line, closing on the zig-zagging Asuka, I'm not a worthy target,
or he knows I'm immune.  This doesn't seem like Tembris's style.
      He concentrated on that fact as he ignored that he was
racing into the building with a sniper in it, and who was laying
on the sidewalk and street outside.   Where the HELL is NERV
security? he thought in a fury, After their previous failures,
and my warnings, I would have expected them to be more vigilant.
      Asuka took the stairs three at a time.   If she's the
target, she's running into an ambush, if the assassin was trying
to escape, somebody needs to keep track of him while I stop
Asuka.   He wished he had a loyal, magical animal, or a piece of
himself he could separate, to send out with orders to track and
detain the assassin. With that covered I can continue pursuing
Asuka, he thought sardonically, No, my creators had to be cheap.
      A moment later, Asuka nearly ran him down going the other
way.  "Rope ladder," Asuka yelled as Hiro reversed course.  Asuka
ran outside through another door and jumped into a storm sewer.
If he's retained his rifle, Hiro thought as he recoiled at the
stench, It can't hurt me and I've lived through worse.   "I don't
like this at all."  With that, he plunged after the pilot.
----------------------------------------
      Ranko charged through the sewers after the fleeing redhead.
Dammit Asuka! she thought angrily, You aren't going to help
anyone by catching a bullet!   She stopped at an intersection
Asuka had disappeared around.  She looked around and saw her.
But there's an echo of Hiro down the other path . . . he must be
lost, I go after the one I can _see_!_ she thought as she took
off after Asuka.  The smell's almost as bad as L.C.L., she
thought as she ran after her, Where do you think you are going?
----------------------------------------
      Mirei stood before her father and his `business associates`.
  I know what they do, she thought, My father, I love my father, I
can't imagine him doing anything `wrong`, but the others . . .
but I need what people have whispered about him and his
associates to be true.   She had finished her tale about what she
had witnessed during the most recent attack on the pilots.
      The men spoke quickly to each other, a volatile mixture of
anger, worry and cold calculation.  She didn't try to listen,
they valued their privacy.
      "Mirei-chan, please step outside," her father said.
      She nodded and moved quickly.   He's angry, but not with me,
she thought as two of the `rough` men closed the doors behind
her.  She went a short distance down the hall, so she was out of
the way, but could easily be summoned if needed.
      After several minutes, the doors practically flew off their
hinges as men poured out, all furious, but again, not with her or
each other.  Her father brought up the rear.  He stared after the
leaving men.
      "We will be moving out soon.  I think you need to come with,
the pilots might need to see a familiar face," he said, his rage
simmering under the surface.
      "Father, is it correct to be angry with the people who did
this?"
      Her father chuckled, "It certainly is, I am quite angry
myself."
------------------------------
      Rei slipped off the medical bed and walked unsteadily
towards the EVA bays, letting her long practice carry her there.
She knew she was not fully functional, she fully realized her
poor condition when she practically ran into a uniform.  She
raised her head and stared at the figure.   I cannot focus on it,
she thought as she tried to concentrate on the image swaying and
distorting in front of her.
      "Miss Ayanami," she recognized Admiral Simson's voice.
      "Admiral," she said, "I apologize."  She tried to steady
herself so she could step around him, except the floor kept
trying to slip out from under her.
      "It was either me or a wall you'd walk into."  His hands on
her arms steadied her.
      Rei said nothing.  Her anger at who or whatever was making
footing nearly impossible precluded making civil conversation, so
she closed down as she often did.
      "I suspect telling you to return to bed would get me
silence," Simson said, "So I'm _ordering_ you to tell me what you
had in mind."
      Rei paused, focused.   I am to obey lawful orders, she clung
to that thought while she tried to control her mental and
physical equilibrium.  "An EVA will be necessary, and I am the
only pilot available," Rei said, the room felt as if it were
spinning, not just from the emotions whirling with in her at the
thought of the danger threatening Mein Grosse Feldmarschall and
the Fourth, and the attack on them.
      "There is Shinji," the Admiral said, "What is your thinking
on that?"
      She took a deep breath, concentrating on her much safer
thoughts and not her maelstrom of feelings.  "Shinji-kun cannot
kill humans," she told him, finally taking a firm grip on her
fears of speaking and using it against her anger at events,
gaining a measure of control, then finally forcing them back
down, "I can, if necessary."
      "Very well," he said as he released her arm and took her
hand, letting her lean heavily on him, "I have a gurney.  I'll
lead you over, and I'll go with you.  You need orders to launch
and act.  I'll provide the orders depending on the situation.
Are you certain you can pilot in your condition?"
      "Yes," she said as she laid down on the surface, the world
and her mind seeing to come into proper focus once again, "The
EVA frees me from - "  She pinched her flesh.  "- this.  I can be
without all the limits."
      "I understand," the Admiral said nervously as he pushed her
towards the bays.
----------------------------------------
Met a man from China, went down to Geisha Minah
      The sewers are as fragrant and as dark as I remember them.
I'm just glad these are for rain run off, not the other kind,
Hiro thought as he followed Asuka, he found he could see and
navigate surprisingly well.   I guess they did spend their
efforts where they thought it mattered, he thought of the
darkness that surrounded him, Yet I never hesitated.  Of course
neither did Asuka, I think I'm being far more rational than she
is.
      The assassin had doubled back on the pair, trying to get
between them.  Hiro closed his eyes and risked the explosion by
making a small flare by lighting a match.  It destroyed his
opponent's night vision.  While the man was disoriented, Hiro
closed and hit him as hard as he could, before he could bring his
gun around.   I would punch someone wearing a flak jacket, he
thought he'd hit a wall, So it didn't hurt him as much as it hurt
me.  It did get him running, like most wounded rats he's headed
right back to his hole.
      Hiro dashed after him, realizing the ridiculousness of his
actions. Now Asuka is following me!   He considered pausing, but
knew that would give the man a chance to get away and strike
again at his leisure. I should be wary of traps and ambushes.
      Within moments, he realized, The fools haven't left any.
He smirked at that.   I should be professionally offended by the
arrogance that assumed I'd never pursue him, he thought,
considering diverting Asuka somehow, Except she's stayed on his
trail like a bloodhound.  I don't think there's anything I could
do or say to divert her for long.   Hiro positioned himself to
intercept his charge.   I wish somebody was with us.  Somebody
she trusted enough not to just ignore.
      As he saw the villain climb through a cover in the ceiling,
he grabbed Asuka and dragged her back to another opening.  "I
don't want to pop up into an ambush," Hiro told her as she tried
to struggle out of his grip to charge right after him.  Asuka
took a moment to recognize the odd figure before her.  Once she
did, she nodded.
      It worries me, that she isn't stopping to think, Hiro
thought as he led Asuka towards another grating, She's just on
the attack.   They climbed onto the street, Hiro going first,
depending on his non-human nature to immunize him from normal
bullets.  He gauged the distance to the other opening, and
reckoned it was safe to let Asuka follow him.  Hiro wondered if
he'd ever be able to smell again, and was glad he couldn't at the
moment.
----------------------------------------
      Ranma followed Asuka up into the factory floor.  He glanced
around, searching for her.  Where did she go? he asked no one.
He climbed out and sprinted for the shadows, before glancing
around again.  Where did she _go_?_ he demanded of the universe
while he tried to catch a sight or sound of Asuka, Even if I
could smell her, all I smell is sewer right now.
      He picked another shadowed area and disappeared into it.
Glancing around for his quarry and a place to advance to.
Finding one, he dashed into it, sweeping the area for the sniper
as well.  Asuka would be making more noise than this, he thought
as he heard the sound of dripping water, fluttering of an
occasional bird, and the creak of the metal walls, All this
noise, and nothing from Miss Mouth . . . can she _be_ quiet, or
is she dead?  She _can't_ be that much better at hiding than I
am!  Then he caught a glimpse of his own hands, raised them and
made a fist.  'I', a guy again?!  I changed back and forth during
the attack and then pursuit?  Almost like something was playing
with me, he realized, Why now?  Because I can fight better as a
guy, or for some other reason?  I wish I'd just _tell_ myself
these things! he complained, No answer.  I'm beginning to
understand why the others get so frustrated, even I don't
understand why this is happening.
----------------------------------------
      On the metal walkway, a pair of eyes watched, while another
pair watched Ranma's inevitable destination.  Thrice, it thought
as it considered the possibilities.  Then it considered where
Ranma would go, and what he would do.  It drew the shadows and
silence tightly around itself and disappeared, knowing another
part of Ranma would soon come to fore.
      Four? it wondered, Parallel or opposed?
------------------------------
      The warehouse Hiro and Asuka watched had offices above the
storage floor.  While Asuka practically vibrated with impatience,
Hiro noted the sun was going down. I hadn't thought we'd been
underground so long.  Hours since - he forced the thought aside,
I can't keep operating if I think like that.  If I let myself
remember.   One office was of particular note, right at the level
of the fire escape, it had the only clean window in a long line
of them.
      Asuka broke through whatever mental restraint had held her
and charged up the fire escape, crashing through the window to
confront the assassin.
      Hiro couldn't believe anyone could run up those rusty,
rickety steps silently, yet Asuka had managed.   I've followed
this far, he thought as he ran a few steps behind her, realizing
his noisy passage might alert those within.
      The assassin had no guards and had relaxed, no one would
leap through a window forty feet off the ground, no one could.
His rifle was carelessly left where someone could grab it, Asuka
had.  Hiro rushed across the room to lock and bar the door, to
keep them from being unexpectedly interrupted.   That door isn't
going to last an instant if someone gets serious, he realized as
he turned back, We have to get _out_ of here!   He noted the cold
expression on the girl's face.  Asuka didn't care if she was
filthy and acting abysmally stupidly, she wanted to hurt and kill
those who had done the same to her friends.
      Only now is she realizing how badly we could be outnumbered,
Hiro realized as Asuka glanced around, the rifle remaining steady
on the man's chest, I have no way to call for help, without
giving away the game.   Hiro crossed the room and looked out the
window, and then he rejected that as an escape route, unless he
threw Asuka over his shoulder.  The office offered no other
weapons either.   An entirely feasible possibility, he rejected
the thought and turned back to Asuka and the assassin.
      She was breathing hard, her face a mask of fury, the
assassin had his hands raised.  He wasn't sure if he _could_
surrender.  Asuka wasn't sure either.
      "Miss Langley," Hiro said softly in English.   If I could
order her, what would I say? he wondered.
      "Not this time," came the ragged reply.
      "Asuka, just wait for the others," Hiro said carefully.   I
feel like I'm talking her off a ledge, he thought while searching
for the best words to do that.
      "He killed Rei, he killed Sammi, they're the ones who
attacked us," Asuka said on the edge of hysteria, "Doesn't that
matter to you?  Is your movie all that is important to you?!"
      Hiro winced as Asuka's hot words stung deep, deeper than he
wanted to deal with right now.  "What happened matters more than
you know," he said as coldly as he could, hearkening back to a
few days ago, when he was at the mercy of madmen, for his very
survival.   If I had to do it again, I wouldn't survive, he
thought, I could feel myself slipping away, bit by bit.  Trading
what my humanity could be, for another day, another week.  If I
was that way again, I'd just end it.  There's only one other
person I can reach out to, to pull _me_ back.  I wonder if she
ever realized why I am always around, watching them, asking
questions?   "It won't bring them back, destroying yourself won't
help anyone."  Asuka's composure was cracking, Hiro pressed,
"You've never murdered, not a human, not in cold-blood, not even
an Angel."
      Hiro watched her determination fading, the gun snapped up,
"Hands on your head!" Asuka ordered, determination returned.
Outside were shouts in English and Japanese, several gunshots.
"The cavalry has arrived, ours," Asuka told their captive. "Let's
go."  She motioned with the rifle to the door.
      Hiro cracked the door and glanced outside, it seemed their
forces were in control.   I'm not sure _how_ Asuka knew they were
_our_ forces, but she was right, Hiro thought as he examined the
odd collection of office workers, laborers, Marines, Tokyo
police, a few NERV Security troops and a few very large gentlemen
in suits and dark sunglasses, I'd bet a year of my life that they
are Yakuza.  Mirei's doing.   He opened the door carefully and
waved to the troops assembled below.  A platoon of U.S. Marines,
half again that number of Tokyo police stood as a ring of guards
around the prisoners in the middle of the warehouse floor.  He
caught sight of Mirei and Hikari, who happily waved back, and
Mirei's grandfather.  Not the bent, old, dignified
clown/manservant, but very much in command.  He made a curt
gesture to a group of the mixed troops to recover Asuka, her
helper and her prisoner.  The old man had marks on his shirt and
pants, as well as a missing sleeve.  He still looked as if he was
going to drive the cane he leaned on straight through the
concrete floor.   What sorcery Mirei performed to assemble the
troops I can discover later, he thought as he glanced back to
Asuka.  "Help's here."   I'm glad they are alive . . . I can
grieve for the others later.   He smirked at the sight of Mirei's
sweet, fussy old grandfather, suddenly transformed into such a
dragon of a man.   He still manages to give the impression the
guards, Marines and police are protecting the assassins from him,
rather than the other way around, he thought.
      Another old, yet still large member of the suit and
sunglasses crowd stood close and held the old man's coat, adding
weight to the impression, although Hiro suspected that the old
man could stand with the world on his shoulders by raw force of
will, the other old man was there as a visible reminder that
power rested there.
      I'm still overjoyed to see them, even if nobody else is with
them.  They're probably busy guarding those who survived, Hiro
thought, Or mourning those who didn't . . . Rei gone, maybe Ranma
and Sammi too.   He glanced back at Asuka and saw even Asuka was
surprised by the force.
      A moment's surprise was all their captive needed, he grabbed
the gun barrel and started wrestling for the rest of it.  Hiro
tackled Asuka and fell in a tangle, with her protected by his
bulk as a fusillade passed through the assassin as he leveled his
gun.  He clutched her head to block out the noise and sight of 30
pistols and rifles fired almost at once.  The sniper fell to
pieces.  Asuka pushed loose and stared at the ruins that
decorated the walls and walkway.  Hiro pulled her to her feet,
and turned her away, as the first troops charged up the stairs,
their boots ringing on the metal steps.  A pair of the
suit-and-sunglasses crowd managed to pass the others and get to
the office to cover it.  A trio of Marines and three times that
many NERV Security followed, including Juri and Tomiyo-san, and
an older cop who could have been Tomiyo-san's father, all three
looking chagrined and professional.
      Asuka looked at the corpse and the prisoners, "It isn't
enough.  Not for . . . " she paused, "Not for one of us."
      "I'd be happy to let you wallow in self-pity," Juri
commented, through gritted teeth, the sight having cost more than
she was willing to admit.  "You saved her, Miss Langley.
Indirectly, but you saved her."  Juri reached up and tapped the
A10 nerve connection Asuka wore and had convinced Rei to start
wearing, 'to keep her hair out of her eyes.'  "I never figured
they'd stop a bullet.  She's got a fractured skull and a whole
series of scalp lacerations.  That's why she yelped, she was
getting scalped.  But she'll be fine.  In a week or five."
      "How about Sammi?" Asuka beat Hiro to the question.
      "Fine.  We can discuss the ammunition they were using later.
Let's just say it was optimized for Rei, they didn't expect
physical armor.  It saved Rei, it saved Sammi."
      Asuka let out the breath she'd been holding, "So we win
again."
      "Not by a margin I'd like to depend on again," Tomiyo
admitted, glanced worriedly at the frowning old man.
      Once the tension released, Hiro thought someone would have
to carry both him and Asuka down the stairs.   The way we must
look and smell, I doubt anyone would want to _touch_ us, Hiro
thought, then the old cop stepped up beside Asuka offering an arm
to her.
      "Tendo Minayo, Tokyo Police," he said with a curt bow, and a
glare at Tomiyo.
      Asuka laughed as she took the man's arm.  Hiro fell in
behind, not willing to accept the dismissal of his obligation so
easily.   I feel like flying, Hiro thought giddily, We're safe,
scared but whole.   They walked down the stair unsteadily, the
minders and their various `allies` seemed more solicitous, but
there was no room for them to intervene.  So, they took it slow.
----------------------------------------
      Sammi lifted the grate silently.  Asuka went off one way,
Ranma the other, she considered her present options, At least he
isn't walking into the middle of an ambush, like I am, she
stepped into clear view of any sniper or attacker.
      Except I'm more immune to bullets than he is, she thought as
no fusillade or massed ninja charge assaulted her as she walked
along.  She scanned the cluttered factory floor and walls for
every possible hiding place for threats, and for Ranma.
      He's getting better at hiding, she silently commented as she
walked, making no attempt to hide, I hope Ranma recognizes my
footsteps and doesn't run away from _me_.
----------------------------------------
      Ranma heard the footsteps behind him.  That's Sammi, he
thought, but the faint scratching of fingernails on metal drew
him forward.  Asuka might have fallen, and gotten hurt, so she's
trying to attract _my_ attention, without attracting _everyone's_
attention.
      He found the pit, a squared-off cube of metal, he peered
over the edge and scanned the floor and the blanket-wrapped
bundle some meters below.  Kid's stuff, he thought, I could jump
in and jump out carrying Asuka, or even Misa-chan's car.  He
jumped in and turned to face where Asuka's huddled form was.
----------------------------------------
      Sammi heard Ranma's scream as she rushed forward.  The blast
from out of nowhere made her leap for cover.  "Ranma!" she
shouted, "I'm on my way!"
      Then she saw the other half of the Ranma-trap, and her blood
ran cold.
------------------------------
      Ranma looked at the _thing_ that spilled out of the blanket.
It looked like a necklace of fingers.   Gooo-rrooos! he thought,
then it moved.  "Graakkk!" he shouted as he scrambled to the
corner of the pit to get as far away from the `centipede-biting
its own tail` creature trying to get at him.  The fingers acting
as legs, pulling the ring towards him.
      "You aren't related to Unit 04 are you?" he asked as he
thought, It's a trap.   Then he smiled. But you won't get _me_!
He leapt up, and was practically buried in thousands of falling,
furry bodies.
      He looked at the pile of meowing, moving forms, slowly
submerging him beneath them.  The other creature buried with in
the pile completely forgotten.
      The scream of pain outside the pit was matched by the scream
of rage and terror boiling up within Ranma.  However, when it
escaped him though, it was an inhuman waul of glee.
------------------------------
      Misato and several platoons of NERV troopers arrived by the
time Asuka and Hiro were all on solid ground, cleansed and
changed to fresh clothes.
      Reporters followed.  Asuka separated herself and walked to
them, back straight and head up.  "I would like to point out that
swift intervention of a number of concerned Japanese citizens who
took the slander of their nation and people _very_ personally,
allowed NERV, the Tokyo police and the U.S. Marine Corps to
overcome the complete radio blackout and deal with these doomsday
cultists who sought to bring about the end of the world."  She
turned to the prisoners.  "Gentlemen, you'll get your wish for
yourselves, the U.S. Government has a very effective means to
deal with treason and crimes against Humanity.  So does Japan.
They'll get you, either way."
      Mirei smiled as Asuka delivered the words that she, her
grandfather and Takemono-san had crafted.   A recently
bloodstained, still-defiant EVA pilot making such a statement
ensured it getting out, she thought happily, Ranma-sama is going
to be so _proud_ of me!  Branding the attacks the actions of
madmen gave everybody here a clear reason to be cooperating.
Nobody wants the end of the world.
      Asuka ignored the reporters' follow up questions and
continued on to the NERV vehicles.
      Hikari and I have nothing to add, Mirei thought as the pair
followed, closing the van's door behind them.  Safely hidden from
view, Asuka slumped exhaustedly in the seat.
      "I want to check on Rei, then I want to go home."
      "The beer halls in Germany may not be open this early,"
Mirei said carefully, smiling so Asuka would know she was joking.
      Asuka sighed, "Sammi's apartment.  I want a bath and to
sleep in my own bed.  If I want booze, I know who to visit to get
enough to be blotto for a week."  Asuka laid her head back and
closed her eyes.
      "You didn't have to wait so long to send in the help,"
Hikari teased.
      "Do you realize how difficult it is to have the cavalry
arrive at exactly the nick of time?" Mirei replied hotly, "Those
American movies make it look _so_ easy.  Liars, all of them."
Hikari laughed.  Asuka didn't join in.
      "They won't stop." Asuka seemed to melt further into the
seat, "They'll try again."
      "Then we just have to kill them all," Minayo said as he
entered the van, grimly determined, "You keep the Angels off the
neck of my police, _I'll_ get these bastards.  Once and for all.
No more games."  He relaxed again, blushed slightly.  "Sorry, I
eventually want grandchildren.  I'd love for them to have no idea
what I'm talking about when I mention the Angels."
      "At what price?" Mirei asked.
      "If I have to die or kill to do it?  Many who stood with us
would accept that as a fair price.  Maybe I should walk into
their headquarters and do whatever happened in Tunguska in 1908.
That would fix them."
      "Why not just use an atom bomb?" Asuka joked.
      "I've only got one, have to save it for a special occasion.
Like when I know where their boss is."  Minayo pulled blanket
over Asuka, who immediately fell asleep.
------------------------------
She's all out to get you
      Sammi examined the wound.   That shouldn't hurt so much, she
thought as she searched for the source of the attack, then she
saw the plate drop down over Ranma's pit.   At least he's out of
the line of fire.  There was something terrible about that
scream, considering all the cats, I don't blame him for
screaming.  He may be in Hell, but he won't be killed on sight.
She looked around the factory and spotted the figure.  She
immediately fled her hiding place, as another attack shattered
the I-beam she'd sheltered behind.  She fired at the figure as
she dodged towards where Ranma was trapped.  Her wound slowed her
enough that the next blast caught her squarely.
      She collapsed to the floor and rolled under the shelter of a
heavy machine.  She saw the wide open area surrounding the pit
Ranma was trapped in.
      Dammit! she thought, There has to be a way to beat this guy!
------------------------------
      On the small catwalk, it looked down and was pleased.
Either the girls' `pet` will destroy Saotome, or he will destroy
it, and either will simplify things.  In any case, the sacrifice
and the summoning will be made.   It listened to Saotome's
screams and was pleased.
------------------------------
      What the Hell were you doing?" Misato confronted Hiro, once
they had some privacy, "Trying to be a hero?"
      He winced as he considered the multi-lingual pun.  "No, I
was trying to protect National treasures.  I assume your delay
was because you had to get Shinji-san and Rei-san to safety, then
the problem of the radios.  I was hardly going to let her charge
off by herself."
      "And if you'd been killed?" Misato demanded angrily.
      "Then I would be dead.  There are some things worth dying
for," he replied, then realized the truth, The kids _are_
expendable!  Even Tembris doesn't know that.  You think if one is
killed you can just pick out a replacement!  That's very proper
thinking, except it's untrue.  These kids mesh, you drop another
in, there's no guarantee the fit will be as good, or all the
skills will be there.   He kept the horror of that thought from
his face, and continued being inscrutable.  "My movie is quite
important, money, time and - "
      "That's not what I meant!" Misato interrupted.
      So, you do care, he waited for her to give some inkling that
she had true feelings for him, instead she angrily stared.
      "If your duty and revenge are all that matter to you," he
said quietly, "I will say the sutras for a soul I'd hoped was not
dead.  Do not lose your anger, Major, it will be all that can
keep you warm at night."  He turned and left, without a word,
without a backward glance.   I don't want to know if she realizes
what she is losing by shutting out the world, he thought sadly, I
wonder if anybody at NERV realizes what a gift life and humanity
truly are, and if that is why the kids fight so hard.
------------------------------
      Asuka walked through the corridors of NERV.  She'd had it
with all the double talk.   I want to know where Wondergirl is,
and since neither Captain Ramsey nor Admiral Simson are
available, that leaves one source.
      "Hey, Asuka-chan," Kaji hailed her, smiling all the while,
"I think the Commander's busy.  It might be better to come back
later."  He had eased his way in front of her and was blocking
the door.
      She smiled back at him, remembering the effect his grin used
to have on her.  Remembering that when she'd been frightened and
hurt, he was no where to be found.  Remembering also he'd never
visited her, and rarely took the time to talk to her.   You never
wanted to be bothered with me, now you have to compete with Hiro
for Misato's attention, she thought, holding the sweet grin,
Guess what, I won't be played with anymore either.
      "Kaji-dear," she said sweetly in German.
      "Yes, Asuka-chan," he replied, mimicking her syrupy tone.
      "Get out of my way or I'm going to hurt you," she told him
flatly.  When he neither moved nor quit grinning, she swept his
legs out and shoved him aside.  He fell heavily, but she was
through the door and closed it behind her, before he recovered.
Nobody ever said _I_ couldn't learn, she thought, No matter the
teacher.
      Asuka marched across the Sephiroth, ignoring it and the
glare from Stoneface and his shadow.  "I'll be brief," she said,
"Where are Ayanami and Saotome, and why aren't I in Unit 02
backing them up."
      "Admiral Simson is with 'Wondergirl'," Gendo replied coldly,
"If he needed reinforcements, he would have called for them when
communications were restored.  Good day."
      Asuka nodded to him, spun on her heel and marched out.  Kaji
scrambled out of her way as she walked past him.  Asuka could
have cared less.   So, Wondergirl left her hospital bed to save
Horseface, and Stoneface doesn't want to risk another EVA, what
_are_ they facing?
------------------------------
      Sammi sailed through the cinderblock wall and out onto the
street.  She rolled to a stop and assessed the situation.  The
civilians scattered out of the way.   At least one thing's going
right, she thought as she glanced around, Lost my gun and my
sidearm, all I have left is a knife.
      She stood slowly, making a show of more pain than she felt.
She looked around for where the next attack was coming from.  Her
wounds pained her.   So much for 'mostly invulnerable', she
thought as she spotted her target, standing and waiting, Looks
like Janus.
      The creature stood some distance away, looking like a
manakin or a painted statue, the only `clothing` it wore was a
necklace of ceramic tiles.   Not anatomically correct, Sammi
tried to joke as she prepared for another attack by the creature,
At least he won clear - _NO_!_ Ranma get _out_ of there! she
wanted to yell at the raven-haired martial artists as he
stealthily crept towards the target on all fours.
      "Aaaarrgh!" Sammi charged with a scream.  The creature
focused his full attention on her, slamming her back with three
powerful bolts.  She didn't even have time to scream.
      "|RRAOOR!|" Ranma screamed for both of them, voicing an
inarticulate rage.  He sprang at the figure and nearly clawed it
in half with his first swipe of glowing claws emanating from his
fingers.  It survived only by batting the snarling martial artist
away.  Sammi tried to rise, but couldn't.  She saw the creature
standing amid a massive electrical discharge, so loud she
couldn't hear its scream, so bright she could barely see the form
writhing in agony within.
      Ranma opened his mouth, dropping the creature's necklace in
Sammi's lap, then he closed his mouth on her collar and dragged
her behind a solid-looking, low wall.  He held his right arm
tightly against his side, and favored his other side.
      Damn, she thought of his injuries, I'm supposed to protect
_you_!_   She glanced first at the necklace, next at the man
wreathed in lightning, his screams still drowned out by the noise
of his `corona`.
      Then a massive, orange foot descended on the creature.
      Geez, Rei, she thought, Talk about overkill!
------------------------------
      Rei raised Unit 00's foot again, and brought it down,
grinding it on contact with the pavement, pulverizing the
creature further.  She heard the voices in her mind similar to
what she had heard when the enemies were destroyed.  She felt the
creature's hatred of Roku-kun.  She also felt something else, the
creature's satisfaction.  "Oh," she said to Admiral Simson, who
stood at the bottom of the entry plug, directing operations
through the EVA's radios, "We were too late."
      "How so?  The critter is rather squashed," the Admiral
asked, she could see his paleness, feel and smell his deep
concerns, "Do you think you can quit stepping on it?  We really
need some remains to analyze."
      Rei did as ordered, but also explained, "The creature was
able to summon something else, all this was a waiting game.  It
has awakened our enemies."
      "How soon?  Where?" Simson demanded.
      She searched the stolen memories.
      "It did not know either," she said, "On purpose."
      "Terrific," he replied, staring at the walls of the plug as
he called in a forensic team and an ambulance.
------------------------------
      Asuka walked through the NERV base towards the EVA bays.
She wasn't sure what she'd do when she arrived.
      Do I want to make sure Wondergirl and Horseface are okay, or
do I want to strangle both of them at once? she wondered as she
watched the huge doors cycle closed, and the EVA locked itself
into its cradle.
      He-Horseface practically exploded out of the EVA bays, and
straight at her.  Asuka froze for an instant, then realized her
mistake as he slammed straight into her.  He knocked her on her
behind to the floor.  "Horseface!" she shouted as he climbed up
in her lap, "I'm going to - !"  She was stunned speechless as
Horseface reared up, gave her a sloppy kiss, almost a lick, then
settled back into her lap.
      She ground her teeth and grimaced at the kiss, and the messy
wounds on Horseface's side.   Those wounds are the only things
keeping me from pummeling you, she thought, fury, disgust and
sympathy warred within her.
      "_|SPINELESS_!|_" she shouted at the boy who'd been
following her at a distance, "Call the medical wing and get some
gurneys down here, or I'm going to _KILL_ Horseface, and you too
if you _ever_ mention this - to _anyone_, or laugh!"
      "Don't _|GO|_ there!" she shouted as he began to run, "Use
the phone!"  She pointed empathically at it.
      "Idiots, all of you," she pronounced calmly, glared at the
boy in her lap, pushed him to the floor.  "Yuck, like _you_ could
ever act like a cat," she murmured and stifled the urge to poke
his wound or pet him.  "God is punishing me, that's the answer,"
she concluded as she ignored the bloodstains on her blouse and
skirt.
------------------------------
      Ranma woke, took one look at Asuka and left her lap and the
room in an all-fired hurry.
      "You'd better run!" Asuka shouted, then stared at the other
figure who was huddled up beside her.   Wondergirl _and_
Horseface, when did _I_ become `mommy`? she thought as she sat
with her back against the headboard and resisted the impulse to
lay her hands on Wondergirl, either throttling the sleeping girl,
or petting her, as she'd caught herself doing to Horseface while
he purred in his sleep.  "If you two were trying to make me mad,"
Asuka said softly, "It's working."  She leaned her head back,
sighed and stared at the door, wishing that someone she was free
to abuse would walk in.
      You've got a weird sense of humor, she thought as Spineless
_and_ Admiral Simson walked in.
      "How are you feeling, Miss Langley?" the Admiral asked,
pointedly ignoring her reaction.
      "Trampled and crowded," she replied, "Horseface woke up,
realized he was curled up in my lap, and left.  As if I might
actually hurt him," she added sweetly, sighing and posing as if
emotionally wounded.
      Spineless approached quietly, stopped when she glared at
him.  He put his hands behind him as if he were suddenly
embarrassed by their existence.  The Admiral hid his smile at the
interaction.
      "How is Miss Ayanami?" Simson asked.
      "As irritating as ever," Asuka replied, her expression
softened for a moment as she looked at Wondergirl.  She hardened
it as she looked from the sleeping Wondergirl to the two males.
"She waltzed in here while I couldn't move because of Horseface,
and jumped into the bed without asking and _completely_ignored_
my orders to leave."
      "You could have pushed her off onto the floor," Spineless
suggested innocently, smiling but trying to hide it the whole
time.
      "She's hurt," she reminded him curtly and stuck her nose in
the air.
      Spineless apologized.
      Figures, Asuka thought.
      Hiro charged in, stopped.  "I beg your pardon . . . when I
heard.  Are all of you all right?"
      "Horseface is hiding somewhere, Wondergirl got scalped,
someone ripped out Spineless's growing spine - "
      "Sorry," he interrupted, glanced at Asuka in a suspiciously
challenging way.
      "We'll all live," she said, glared at Spineless, "Especially
if some of us learn manners.  How was _your_ odyssey?  Get any
insights into the pilots?"
      "I'm fine, nothing like a wild chase through the sewers and
an attempted murder to clear your head," he replied, "And I've
gotten a very thorough education today, thank you.  Would you
feel up to an interview?"
      "No," Asuka said.   I'm not refusing because I don't want .
. . yes I am.  Wondergirl needs her rest, and I don't want to
wake her up.
      "Ask Spineless what he was doing while he was asleep," Asuka
said, "I'm sure it will be _fascinating_._"  Setting Spineless to
squirming where he stood.
      "Good idea."  Hiro led Spineless away.
      "Have you got something to say?" Asuka asked the Admiral,
wondering if she could order him to leave.
      "Two things, first I'm glad you are safe and you realize how
foolish you were charging after those people without backup," he
said sternly.
      "Yes," Asuka begrudgingly answered.   It didn't stop _you_
from charging out in an EVA's rumbleseat when the chance
presented itself, she disciplined herself not to say.
      "Two, I'm glad you seem to be growing up.  When you arrived,
you would never have felt comfortable enough to allow Miss
Ayanami to do what she has.  Growing up has more to do with
tolerating and fixing the stupidity around you, rather than
pointing it out . . . at the top of your lungs."  He left with a
grin on his face.
      And blessing his luck that the only thing I have that's
heavy enough to throw at him is Wondergirl! she thought and
glanced at the sleeping form of her fellow pilot, And I won't do
that.  Everybody's getting into this 'Make Asuka angry to make
Asuka happy' idiocy!   "Sometimes I _hate_ you, Wondergirl,"
Asuka said in Greek so she wouldn't understand.
------------------------------
August 19, 1947
      Asuka sat in her hospital bed, Wondergirl still curled up
beside her.  Her forehead resting on Asuka's hip. We've been like
this, all night, Asuka thought.  Asuka thinking, unable to settle
her thoughts.  In stark contrast, Wondergirl slept peacefully.
Horseface had appeared long enough to toss a paper airplane at
her.   Nothing wrong with his throw, she remembered, Lots wrong
with his aerodynamics, Stoneface had to pick it up off the floor
and hand it to me.  I still don't know why he stopped in, he
barely looked at Wondergirl.
      Asuka replayed the thoughts which had whirled around in her
head, chasing sleep away, Wondergirl walks in, and without a
word, that bandage on her head, lies down in my bed without
asking, and goes to sleep.  Asuka felt her anger rise as she
raised her hand, but couldn't bring herself to strike.  The
second troubling thought occurred, That's the `Major's` way, not
mine.  If I can't get what I want with the strength of my
arguments, and the force of my personality, then I need better
arguments.  If I have to hit a colleague, then reason won't reach
them.  And the Major _doesn't_ reason.  I can't afford to act
that way, I can feel my powers growing.  Soon, I'll have to learn
to control them.  I know Wondergirl will have an intelligent,
logical and completely reasonable explanation for her behavior,
when she wakes up.  She looked at the once red-dyed, blue hair.
Only a few days, now it's over.  Raccoon and Ice Princess will be
back soon from their heroic travels and all the people fawning
over them, and here, not a peep, a few friends but no parades, no
medals, no letters of commendation.  You nearly had your brains
splattered all over the street, then went right back into the
battle, why?  You love Spineless.  Horseface is an irritant.
Maybe if I were Ice Princess or Raccoon, I could understand your
reaction to me.  Only I'm me, I've never liked you, yet you
rescued Horseface and Sammi, then came here to rest.  It makes no
sense, except to you.  Something years ago, surely that debt was
settled long ago.  Why?  Why me?  Raccoon has always been with
me, as himself, or the Dragon.  Why you?  What hold do I have?
Are you the kind of monster I know I'm becoming, hanging on to
human things like a drowning man holds a rope?   She noted she'd
laid her hand on Wondergirl's shoulders.  It took considerable
effort not to yank it away.   Or is it something else? she
thought, then cringed as Wondergirl snuggled up against her, Why
you?  When everyone else goes away?  Why you, when no one else
even _tries_ to understand?
      Wondergirl seemed to sense her turmoil, rolled against her,
wrapping her arms around Asuka's leg.  Making Asuka want to jump
out of her skin, as Wondergirl acted like a little girl would,
with a favorite stuffed animal or blanket.  Asuka slowly forced
herself to relax, as her tension caused Wondergirl to try and
soothe her, which just made it worse.
      Calm, calm, calm.  Don't belt her into next week! Asuka
repeated to herself, until she could unclench her fist and calm
down, Unemotional and unexpressive huh?  You are pretty, in your
own way.  Maybe you could have more than Spineless, maybe you
could have any boy  you wanted, any friend you wanted.  Then why
do you hide in the shadows until you strike?  Why do you insist
on playing the passionless, empty doll, when I _know_ there's a
volcano in there somewhere?
----------------------------------------

NERV's Official but Unwritten Rules
1.) Do not tease pilots who have just exited L.C.L.
2.) Do not do anything to Dr. Akagi's coffee you would not want
done to yourself or your children.
2a.) This applies to Commander Ikari's, Admiral Simson's, Major
Katsuragi's as well.
2b.) Do not move or mix coffee from one department to another.
3.) Yes, they are nasty-minded little S.O.B.s, they were
recruited because of that, not in spite of that.
4.) Knowing a few words in English and in Japanese will go a long
way towards a safer working environment.  No, fire, stop.  There
are several multilingual people on board, please contact them.
4a.) For any of you comedians, the Courts Martial board will not
be amused that one of your students was shouting defecate just
before the General stepped on a landmine.
5.) Do not call Commander Ikari's office 'The Ninth Circle of
Hell.'
5a.) Unless you desire a personal interview to test your
assertion.  Always willing to please.
6.) Do not do anything to Major Katsuragi's beer you would not
want done to yourself or your children.
7.) Do not tease the technical staff, especially during important
or dangerous experiments.
7a.) Phenopthalien is a powerful laxative, it will not make
people 'piss purple'
8.) Do not test if an EVA battery is charged by licking your
fingers and touching the posts.
9.) Do not distract the pilots while they are in the EVA, they
may accidentally step on you.
10.) You are not authorized to die, without specific written
orders to the contrary.
Gendo Ikari, Commander NERV, R. Simson V.ADM., CINC Task Force 7N
11.) Yes, the paint scheme does have a specific meaning, if you
don't know, you aren't authorized to know.
12.) All pilots and civilian technical staff will be armed at all
times, no exceptions, especially when going to the head.
13.) Japanese are not triskaidekaphobic, they aren't too happy
about the number 4.
14.) Do not substitute smoke grenades for practice grenades, just
to see if they notice.
15.) The difference between a monster immune to bullets and
resistant to bullets can be determined with a short burst of .50
API, if it is merely unhappy and not seriously wounded, it's
immune.  Further testing is unnecessary.
16.) The pilots all know the 'relative bearing grease' joke.  You
aren't being clever, see rule 3.


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