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A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack

Chapter 4: Tremor

Disclaimer: Neon Genesis Evangelion is not mine, but instead belongs to Gainax and Hideako Anno. The text of this fanfic is mine, however, and may not be used without permission. I took Nature's most perfect killing machine... and needlessly turned it into a robot!

Ayanami Rei was, for lack of a better term, somewhat distraught. Her mind was scattered, and she found herself unable to maintain a coherent line of thought: a most unusual situation for her and not one she enjoyed. She could feel a dull ache she couldn't quite place, almost as if she had sprained some muscle she hadn't known existed. Another - or perhaps the same - subdued pain throbbed in the back of her head, in time to her rapidly beating heart. She felt overwarm, almost feverish. Perhaps most importantly, she could not recall how it was she had ended up in this state: naked, on the floor of the back room of what she had been told was Tokyo-4's infirmary.

"You have exactly five seconds to stop stammering and tell me exactly what was going on here." Pilot Soryuu - even in her distracted state Rei could recognize that voice.

The other, stuttering voice that she had not noticed stopped for a moment, then started again, far calmer. "You aren't going to believe me."

"Try me, Ikari Shinji."

Rei willed herself to be calm, and succeeded to some extent. Her heart slowed its wild galloping, and even her various pains seemed lessened. Rolling over to face the doorway, she listened with interest as Shinji began to speak.

"I... was just keeping Ayanami company while Ibuki-san was taking care of another patient. We were talking - well, I was talking anyway - about Tokyo-4 and what she could expect."

Rei nodded to herself, gathering her thoughts. That seemed to match her hazy recollections of what had happened before... something.

"While she was naked?" Asuka asked, a biting, angry tone in her voice.

"N-no! Of course not!" Shinji took a deep breath. "She was wearing one of those hospital gowns."

"Um... Ikari, no offense, but then where is it? I sure don't see one." Suzuhara. Why hadn't she noticed him already? She must be in even worse shape than she had thought.

"Don't look at her, you pervert!" Rei thought to state that she didn't mind, but decided against it. It would merely antagonize the other woman even more. She never could understand why most people had such a fixation on nudity, though.

"I wasn't!"

Asuka dismissed the man's protest with a disbelieving grunt. For a moment there was silence, then Shinji spoke. "I think we should take this outside." He stepped towards the 'door' - more accurately an old shower curtain that hung across where the door had once been - and pushed the curtain aside. The other two began to file out, and Rei rose to follow.

Shinji turned to her. "Could you please stay here, Ayanami? I'll have Ibuki-san get you another gown."

It was phrased as a polite question, but there was something in his voice that left no illusions that it was anything but a command. Rei responded almost without thinking. "Yes, sir."

Shinji nodded, and left, pulling the curtain closed behind him, leaving Rei alone. For a moment, Rei stood there, her mind almost blank. Then, shaking herself, she stepped closer to the door. He hadn't said she couldn't try and listen to the conversation. Fortunately, though the shower curtain was sufficient to provide some privacy, it did not block much, or any, sound.

"- and that's when it happened." Ikari-k... Pilot Ikari.

"When what happened?" Asuka was making no effort to hide her growing irritation.

"I take it you came to find me when you felt something?" was his response.

"Yes," Touji said.

"I think we all felt the same thing."

"That still doesn't explain anything, Shinji." Irritation was no longer a good word to describe what Rei could hear in Asuka's voice.

"Can somebody explain to me what you three are fighting about? I was just talking to Maya, and then I hear you practically yelling at each other." Rei couldn't quite place the voice, though it seemed familiar.

Touji chuckled. "I'll let you know when I figure that out, Katsuragi-san."

"Please, just Misato."

Asuka coughed. "I would very much like to hear the rest of this story."

Shinji let ou a sigh. "There's not much more to it. That... feeling hit, so I wasn't paying much attention. All of sudden, I feel - see? - a... glow is the best word, but it doesn't work." For a moment Shinji paused, then let out a curse. "I could have sworn I knew what it was, but now that I think of it, I can't really remember what it felt like."

"And?" Asuka prompted.

"I feel something hit me, and the next thing I know I'm on the ground and you've busted in on me."

"That has to be the most insane thing I've ever -"

"Asuka!" To Rei's surprise, it was Touji who interrupted her. Even more surprisingly, Asuka paused and took a deep breath.

"I guess the stooge is right. Even you could come up with a better lie than that. God knows enough strange things have been happening, and Wondergirl's been at the center of most of them."

"That reminds me of something I forgot to tell you earlier," Touji said. "Another weird thing that happened with Rei. You see, we ran into some wild dogs -"

Shinji interrupted him. "Let's take this somewhere a little more comfortable. And I need to tell Ibuki-san that Rei needs some more clothes."

After that, all Rei could hear was footsteps, and soon not even that. She slowly backed away from the 'door', her mind rebelliously returning to the incident Touji had mentioned, an incident she had long since simply decided was unexplainable. She sat down on the small cot in one corner of the room.

She had been afraid. There were many who would not believe it of her, that she could or would experience true fear. Yet she could still remember the terrible fear she had felt each time she had merged her mind with her Evangelion, the mindless, raging, unthinking machine of destruction. Even at the best of times it was a struggle to keep the beast under her command, and there was always the fear that once again it would shake off its chains. That, once again, it would be the one commanding, not her. It had been an endless surprise to her that her two fellow pilots, with what she had always felt were weaker wills, had not been consumed by that fear. Compared to that fear, facing the Angels had been almost a blessing. Compared to that fear, there should be nothing that could shake her in the slightest.

Yet somehow, when she had faced the dogs, she had been afraid. It was laughable, almost. A mere animal, shaking her? But it could not be denied. The stomach-turning feeling could not be mistaken for anything else. When the animal had leapt at her, she had known she was about to die, and had known fear once again. And then... what?

A tremor ran through her, then another. She could not recall. She could remember falling under the dog's weight, remember pushing the dog's corpse off herself and assuring the others she was not hurt. What happened in between was a blank state, just likle what had happened before she found herself on the ground mere minutes ago. Just as she could not remember what she had done - for Suzuhara had assured her that she had survived - between her attempted self-destruct and awakening in the sea of LCL.

She began to curl into an almost fetal position, her head between her knees, her arms wrapped around her legs, but the tremors did not stop. She was losing control of herself, and that control was all she had ever had. Anything else could be lost, and she would care no more than she did when her hair was cut. But without control, she was nothing. That had been one of the first lessons taught to her, one of her first memories. Without control, she could not pilot Eva, and without her bond to Eva she was nothing.

She curled even further into herself, a feat she had thought impossible, all attempt to cease her shaking abandoned. There was no Eva for her to pilot, nor Angels to fight. She had breathed in the stink of Eva-01's fiery death, but only now did she feel sick. Without Eva, she was nothing. Nothing but a girl, cast out of her time and place, into this world of strangers with familiar names. She, who had always known her purpose and duty, now had no purpose, no use.

She desperately wanted - needed - to talk to Commander Ikari. He could tell her what to do, give her the focus she so badly needed. He was the only person she had ever known had truly understood her, even more than she understood herself. He was gone, though, like everything she had known.

Warm wetness trickled down her cheeks, splashed against her arms. Tears. For the second time in her life, she was crying. She had read somewhere, once, that crying was supposed to be cathartic. Yet she felt no relief, no clearing of her mind. Indeed, the tears seemed to merely redouble the emotions storming in her mind.

"Ayanami? We don't actually have any more clean gowns, but one of the girls left some clothes I think should - Rei?!" The last was worried, and Rei heard the sound of something falling. A few moments later, a hand placed itself on her shoulder. "What's wrong?"

Through some supreme effort of will, Rei stopped the flow of tears and uncurled slightly, raising her face to see who spoke to her. It took a moment for her blurry, burning eyes to recognize who was speaking to her. "Lieutenant Ibuki," she said, straightening somewhat.

The woman smiled slightly. "We aren't at NERV anymore, Ayanami. You can call me Ibuki-san, or Maya, or whatever would make you feel comfortable." She paused. "And there's need to feel embarrassed. It's perfectly normal to have a reaction like that to coming back. Almost everyone has a breakdown at some point."

Rei simply nodded.

A frown passed over Maya's face, gone so quickly that Rei was not sure that she had really seen it. "I understand that... something strange happened while Ikari-san was back here with you." She paused again, as though she were searching for the right words. "Is there anything you'd like to talk to me about? I promise I won't tell anyone else, if you don't want me to, but sometimes it an help to just talk about things."

"No, Lieutenant."

This time Rei was sure that she saw a brief frown on Maya's face. "All right. We still need to do the quick check-up, though."

The check-up proved to be fairly short and cursory, compared to the medical examinations Rei was used to from NERV. Maya measured and noted her weight and height, checked her pulse, and asked her whether she had experienced anything unusual since returning that she felt she should know about.

Rei answered negatively to that, and she could tell the woman wanted to press her, but Maya seemed to decide against it. "All right, then. The last thing is whether you have any preexisting medical conditions or were taking any medication."

"I was taking some medication."

Maya nodded. "I believe I remember that. Do you recall exactly what you were taking?"

Rei shook her head. "It varied, and Dr. Akagi did not always tell me how." She paused, thinking of something else. "As well, I am told I do not recall several months prior to Third Impact, so any information I have would be out of date."

Maya rubbed her eyes. "All right. Well, most people wind up not actually needing the medication, but let me know if you start to feel symptoms of anything."

Rei hesitated, then spoke. "I do not know..." She really did not want to talk of this, but it was possible it was important. "I have, twice now, experienced... memory loss."

A worried look appeared on Maya's face. "When?"

"Once, before I arrived in Tokyo-4, when Suzuhara-san's squad was attacked by wild dogs. The second time... just now, here." Rei continued, describing what she knew of both incidents.

"No wonder you were so upset," Maya said after a moment. "Don't worry about it for now. I'm going to see what Suzuhara-san and Ikari-san can tell me." She rose from where she had been sitting, and walked over near the doorway, stooping over to pick something up. "It's a little wrinkled now, but it'll still work."

When Maya turned back to Rei, she was able to see that the item was a simple, pale blue dress. "I think this should be about the right size for you." She handed the dress to Rei. "Come back outside when you've gotten dressed."

Rei found that Maya had been correct - though not anywhere close to a perfect fit, the dress fit better than the now-filthy clothing she had borrowed from Yamada-san in Suzuhara's squad. She soon joined Maya in the infirmary's outer chamber. The older woman smiled as she entered. "It looks like the others have probably headed back to the town hall. We should probably go find them and see what they want to do with you."

Rei had no objections to this, and said so. However, before they could leave, another person burst into the infirmary. Rei tensed briefly before realizing that the intruder was just a young girl - twelve years old, at most - who was doing nothing more threatening than panting for breath.

"Erika wants to know if she left her blue dre-" The girl cut off suddenly, seeming to just notice Rei. "Are you the new return?"

Rei nodded curtly.

The girl smiled broadly, bowing slightly. "I'm Rachael. What's your name?"

"Ayanami Rei."

"Nice to meet you."

Rei nodded again in reply, as Maya stepped forward, ruffling Rachael's short, almost boyish blond hair. "Go tell Erika that she did leave her dress here, but that Rei needed to borrow it, all right?"

The girl nodded. "Okay, Mom." Rei blinked at that as Rachael ran out of the room, almost as quickly as she had entered it.

"Your daughter?" Rei asked after a moment.

Maya nodded, smiling. "Adopted." She paused her smile slipping for an instant. "I knew her father from... before." After a moment, Maya shook her head. "Anyway, we should be going."

And with that, they left the infirmary, Maya carefully turning over a battered "Will Be Back Soon" sign by the main entrance. They did not make it far, though, before running into the others. Shinji, Asuka, and Touji were conversing quietly, while some distance away another woman, who Rei did not a first recognize, was leaning onto a fragment of what had once been a concrete wall, glaring irritably at the other three.

She glanced at Maya and Rei. "Don't bother going over there. They're having a... private conversation." The voice was easily placed, and Rei rexamined the woman, now recognizing her from her brief encounter on the way to the infirmary. She had forgotten that Major Katsuragi now looked much younger than she had before, a quite odd fact. Rei filed this away for future consideration as Shinji murmured something to Asuka and Touji, and the three walked over to the others.

"Hello, Ayanami," Shinji said quietly, and Rei nodded back in reply.

"Ya feeling all right?" Touji asked.

After a moment, Rei said, "Yes."

"That's good," the man replied. "So, what now?" The last was addressed to Shinji and Asuka.

Asuka sighed. "I don't know."

"First things first," Shinji said. "We need to find Ayanami a place to stay. I don't think it would be a good idea for her to stay in one of the dormitories."

Touji scratched his head. "Nah." He eyed Rei for a moment. "But she can probably take care of herself. She lived alone before, didn't she?"

Asuka shook her head. "Not a good plan, stooge."

"She needs to stay with someone for a while at least," Shinji said.

Misato shrugged. "I'd offer, but I'm still new here."

Shinji nodded absently. Asuka glanced at him, then shook her head violently. "I know what you're thinking, and my answer is no."

"I guess you're right. It would be awkward."

"That's an understatement," Asuka muttered under her breath. "Besides," she said in a louder voice a moment later, "we don't exactly have anywhere to put her at our place."

"I'll do it," Maya said.

Asuka blinked. "Are you sure? You already have -"

Maya smiled, waving her off. "If I can handle three, taking care of one more for a little while won't be a problem." She paused. "If that's all right with you, Rei?"

"I have no objections," Rei said after a slight hesitation.

And so, not much later Rei found herself sitting down for dinner at a table that was just a bit too small for five people. Across the table from her, Maya smiled. "I guess some introductions are in order. Girls, this is Ayanami Rei, who will be staying with us for now. Rei, you've already met Rachael."

The blonde girl seated to Rei's left waved cheerfully at her. On Rei's other side an older girl, perhaps slightly older than Rei, looked up from fiddling with her long, brown ponytail. "I'm Erika. Pleased to meet you," she said, obviously not particularly interested.

Rei nodded and glanced to the third girl, who was seated next to Maya. She seemed to be at most seven years old, and all that was visible of her was her short, black hair, as she had buried her face in her mother's side, occasionally taking quick peeks at Rei. "The shy one here is Nanami," Maya said. "Say hello to Rei, Nanami."

Nanami took another peek at Rei. "Hi," she said in a voice so quiet that Rei almost couldn't hear it.

Maya smiled. "Well, let's eat."

They did so, and Rei noted that meal consisted simply of some bread and fresh vegetables, though she wasn't sure whether the lack of meat was ordinary or a concession ot her own diet. She did not try particularly hard to follow the mealtime conversation, as it mainly concerned people and events of which she had not the slightest knowledge. The others seemed content to let her be, and Rei certainly had no problems with that. However, as the meal finished and the conversation died, Rei found Erika staring at her, as though she were thinking about something.

A few moments later she spoke, noticing Rei returning her stare. "Sorry, Ayanami. I could swear I've heard your name somewhere before, but I can't remember where."

Rei thought a moment, then replied. "I am the First Child."

Erika snapped her fingers. "So that's why they took you to see Ikari-san." For a moment she was silent, then she spoke again. "So, what was it like being an Eva pilot? I asked Soryuu-san once and she just about ripped my head off, and Mom won't talk about NERV either."

"I... would prefer not to talk about it."

Erika sighed. "Oh, come on!"

"Erika!" Maya said warningly.

"All right," Erika said, rolling her eyes. "May I be excused?" She left the table almost before Maya could nod.

Only a handful of minutes later, Rei was helping Rachael clear the table of dishes. Once all the dishes had been placed in a bucket of water to soak, Rei set out to explore the house. To her admittedly unpracticed eye, it seemed rather poorly constructed. At the very least she was certain it would leak in places if there was any heavy rain. It was also rather small - though of course it had more rooms, it didn't seem to be any more than twice as large as the one-room apartment she had lived in Tokyo-3.

Her explorations turned up nothing unusual. Besides the main room in which she had eaten, there were three bedrooms. Her quick glances inside showed that the two younger girls shared one, while Maya and Erika each had their own. When she looked into the last, she saw the Maya was presently helping Erika set up a small futon to one side of the room. Maya glanced up at Rei. "If you're looking for the restroom, there's an outhouse around back."

Rei shook her head, and Maya continued. "Then you can help us get this ready for you. You'll be sharing this room with Erika while you're here."

That task was quickly accomplished, and it was not long after when Maya declared that it was time for everyone to go to bed. This announcement was followed by a seemingly ritualistic negotiation with the younger girls, which resulted in a five-minute delay. By that point, Rei was already in bed, exhausted.

Yet, despite her exhaustion, she found it hard to sleep. Now that she once again had quiet and, if not solitude, only an unconscious companion - for Erika had quickly fallen asleep - all the strange feelings she had felt earlier in the day came rushing back to her. Her efforts to push them aside again proved futile, and she shivered under the thin blankets.

She found herself almost dreading sleep, for she was sure it would be restless. And when she awoke, she would still be as she was now, lost in this sea of unfamiliar feelings. What was she to do here, in this Tokyo-4? Her life was Eva, but there was no Eva. It was not a situation she had ever thought possible. Eva had been there from earliest memories, and she had been certain it would outlive her. She tossed and turned, these thoughts preying on her mind, but eventually her exhausted body won out, and she slept.

And then awoke. It was still night, and Rei wondered what had awoken her, but no answers presented themselves as she lay unmoving in bed. After a moment, she pushed the covers aside and stood. A strange detachment passed over her, almost as though she were nothing more than a passenger in her own body, as she walked over to the window. The wooden shutters were wide open, letting what passed for a night breeze into the room, but even in the light pajamas she had borrowed from Erika she did not feel cold.

Before she realized it, she had quietly slipped out the window and stood in the deserted "street". Somehow, she could not bring herself to be worried over her strange actions. Instead she made her way down the road, passing the nearby infirmary. She almost felt like she could feel something calling to her, drawing her nearer. Something familiar, yet she could not place it.

It was like she was in a trance, or some meditative state. She could not bring herself to feel even the slightest concern about what she was doing, or why she was doing it. It just seemed... correct, like she was answering a problem that had only one answer. It was almost to the point where she could not even comprehend the possibility that she might not do as she was doing. Each silent step brought her closer to her destination, to where she had to be.

Tokyo-4 was peaceful this night, and for some time she was able to thread her way through the complicated, unfamiliar warren of buildings without seeing any sign of habitation more immediate than the rare candle in a window. The eerie quiet caused by the total lack of the machinery that supported modern life, which Rei had found so unnerving when she had first noticed it, now seemed somehow comforting. The waning moon was still bright enough for her to see by, though she seemed to recall that her night vision had not been quite this good before. Somehow, she couldn't worry about it just now, though.

She found herself pausing as she reached the first structure that she found familiar, the ruined parking garage that served as Tokyo-4's town hall. Was this perhaps her destination? The call she felt seemed to lessen as she considered the building dispassionately. She took one half-step towards the entryway, then stopped. She waited a moment, as though she expected some sign.

She received one, as the horizon before her suddenly glowed with some reflected, strange light. For an instant, darkness returned. Then, as the near perfect silence was rent by a cacophony of human sounds, the sky lit once more. This time, she could easily determine the source from the orange color and by the sudden scent of smoke on the night breeze. Fire.

The detachment that had clouded her thoughts lifted, replaced by an equally strange, grim purpose. There was something that needed doing, and she was called to do it. She ran, and the sound of her bare feet hitting the dirt seemed the only thing that could be louder than the sound of her heart racing. The light in the distance grew brighter as she ran. A gunshot loudly echoed through the night air, then another.

Quicker than she might have thought, she reached the edge of town. The fires were no longer merely an orange glow on the horizon; the infernos that had once been wooden watchtowers blazed furiously on either side. She stopped her run, searching herself to determine what it was she had come here to do. Behind her, Tokyo-4 woke, distant alarm bells ringing out an overdue warning. Before her, the city's defenders were fighting. And losing.

Some of them she recognized. She could see Shinji and Asuka standing back, guns in hand, and she though she could make out Touji's squad as well. There were a half-dozen other fighters - she guessed this night's watch, or at least the survivors of it. She could see a number of still forms littering the ground nearby, though she could not say how many.

Against all this stood a single opponent, the defenders keeping a healthy, cautious distance away. The attacker seemed human at first, but as she unthinkingly drew nearer, she could see that it was hardly human, more like how someone working from a poor description might imagine a human looked. It was misshapen, with mismatched limbs and claw-like hands. Its face was twisted and asymmetrical, with silver tufts of hair protruding from its bumpy skull. It stumbled forward, its shorter leg dragging behind the longer, and for a moment its mouth gaped open, and Rei could see it had neither teeth nor tongue.

A gun fired; she could not see from who. The monster reared back, and Rei thought she saw a flicker of orange light in the air before it began to race forward with impossible speed, scooping up one of the defenders with a sweep of its unnaturally long arm, which seemed almost twice as long as the other. The man twisted in its grip, trying to stab his crude sword at the monster's stomach, and this time Rei was certain that she saw a flash of light as the blade was somehow turned away before it could puncture the leathery hide.

A couple of fighters - Rei thought one of them might be Touji - circled around the monster, attacking its seemingly unprotected rear. A casual backhand sent one flying away, as the monster's other arm hurled the captive man away. It was only when the man landed at her feet that Rei realized how close to the battle she had gotten as she had watched the fight. Touji blocked another swipe of the monster's shorter arm with his massive broadsword before slowly backing away as someone fired another ineffectual gunshot.

Rei knelt, checking the unconscious man's pulse, and found that he was alive - for the moment. She heard surprised murmurings, and concluded that the others must have finally noticed her presence. She rose, and for an instant her eyes met the monster's. The monster's eyes were red, she noted as it opened its empty mouth in a silent, challenging roar. Unthinkingly, she carefully stepped over the fallen fighter and began to advance on the monster.

"Rei! Get back!" She couldn't bring herself to respond to Shinji's cry, which was followed by several gunshots. She took another step forward, and the monster struck. Its short arm raised, and a lance of brilliant, purplish light speared out of the clawed hand. Time seemed to slow as the beam raced towards her. She took a step forward as the beam reached her. Reached her, and vanished. There was silence, save for the crackling of the fires behind her, and Rei took another step.

Her bare foot touched the cool hilt of a dagger, and she found herself stooping down to grasp it. She could tell it was well-balanced for throwing and idly wondered whether it might belong to Himiko, from Touji's squad. She pushed the thought aside and rose into a fighting crouch, slowly circling the monster. Rei realized that she was surprisingly calm, her heart beating at a rapid but steady pace, her breaths slow and deep. She could hear sounds behind her, but she had no concentration for anything save her enemy.

Rei shifted her grip on the dagger, and charged. For an instant something seemed to resist her as she drew near, but she pushed through. The monster's long arm whipped around in a rapid, high sweep, but she effortlessly slipped under and past the blow. Before the enemy could react, she struck, plunging her dagger into its thigh. She ignored the monster's hiss of pain, pulling the dagger down and out, ripping a long gash in the monster's flesh.

She had just enough time to realize that the wound was not bleeding before the monster counterattacked, short arm delivering a powerful strike to her stomach. There was a flash of light, and though she was forced back Rei never felt the blow land. She tried to regain the offensive, but found herself unable to advance on the monster, which tried to push its own attack, only to be stopped as well. Flickering patterns of light warred in the air between the two, and Rei realized that she could feel the two... walls struggling against each other, each somehow at the same time both irresistable force and immovable object.

Her eyes met her opponent's again, and she noticed that the crimson eyes, the same shade as her own, lacked pupils. For a moment, she thought she saw something unnamable in those eyes; then the monster pushed forward in a shower of light. Rei screamed as she felt it force its way through the barrier, easily grabbing her neck with its long arm. The dagger dropped from her hands as the reached up to grasp at the monster's wrist, but her struggles to free herself proved fruitless.

The monster's grip tightened, and Rei had to struggle to breathe. She beat wildly at the monster, to no effect. Her vision began to blur, and she realized that she was about to die. Unstoppable fear boiled up within her, rendering her unable to think. She imagined she could feel the monster's presence, and it was unbearably wrong. Its mind seemed to press at hers, and then -

Nothing. Her mind blank, fear and panic vanished, she unthinkingly pulled the monster's fingers away from her throat, not even able to wonder at the ease with which she did so. Time slowed as she dropped, landing gracefully. She half-spun, foot darting out in a lightning-fast kick that connected with the monster's jaw, and she felt something cracking under the force. The monster stumbled back, and without looking she reached down, her fallen dagger almost seeming to leap to her hand.

The monster regained its footing, clawed hand reaching out at her again. The attack seemed to come at her in slow motion, and Rei somehow forced the strike aside with her free hand and counterattacked. The dagger flew from her hand, plunging into one of her foe's strange eyes, and the monster reared back, clawing hopelessly for the hilt protruding from its face. Rei formed her right hand into a claw of her own and struck at the monster's chest. The flesh seemed to part before her hand reached it, and she plunged her arm into the monster. Her hand grasped at something hard, roughly where the heart should have been, but even as she reached to crush it, the monster seemed to shrink in upon itself. It began to melt, collapsing into what she somehow knew without looking was a puddle of LCL.

The dagger slowly fell end over end, until it plunged blade first into the now wet dirt. Time sped up again, and Rei realized that she was kneeling before what was left of the monster, shaking with leftover adrenaline. The distant alarm bells seemed unnaturally loud in her ears, rivaling the pounding of her heart. She felt hot, far warmer than the fires behind her could account for. She reached out, pulling the dagger from the dirt, and LCL slowly oozed down the blade like blood.

There would be more, she knew. She was not sure how she knew, but she was certain. This would not be an isolated incident. This was a probing attack, the first strike in a war. Or maybe the resumption of an old war. For, just as surely as she knew that this was the beginning and not the end, she knew what the monster had been. An Angel. A name quivered on her tongue, but even as she strove to voice it, the strange, certain knowledge faded as quickly as it had come.

"Rei!" She felt a hand on her shoulder, and she knew it was Shinji's. She could hear Asuka barking orders in the background, detailing people to carry the dead and wounded off, others to wake Maya and get the infirmary ready. "Are you all right?" Shinji asked after a moment, countless other unasked questions plain in his voice.

Rei nodded. "I am unhurt," she whispered.

More than that, she had a purpose. For if the Angels were returning, they would be a need to fight them. And she was made for fighting Angels.

Author's Random Ramblings

1) And that's a wrap. As always, this chapter took me far too long to write. At least this time I kind of have an excuse, given the start of the school year and other diverse distractions.

2) As is ever the case, my thanks go to Angus MacSpon for prereading this chapter.

3) As is also ever the case, any and all C&C is appreciated.

4) The previous chapters of this story are available at

5) My revision of Shades of Gray Chapter 7 should hopefully follow later today.

Started: September 08, 2003
Draft Completed: October 02, 2003
Draft Released: October 12, 2003
Final: October 21, 2003