Ikari Gendo raised his eyebrows a notch as he laid the file folder down. "You say SEELE sent him over?"
Misato nodded. "Akio Van Tura. The Fifth Child."
Commander Ikari gazed down at the photograph clipped to the information, then across his desk at the acne-spotted, cheerfully grinning face. "Little big for your age, aren't you?"
"Growth spurt, sir," Misato shrugged. "Happens at their age."
With a sigh, Gendo snapped the folder shut. "Very well. Take him down to Dr. Akagi and let her run her synch tests. I have a conference now and wish to not be disturbed for a while."
When the door had shut behind Misato and the Fifth Child, Gendo turned his chair around to look at Fuyutsuki. "Did you find it?"
His Vice-Commander nodded. "Yes sir. Your information was correct. I have it right here." Producing the package, he reverently placed it on the desk and stood back.
"This is the final piece, Fuyutsuki. Everything I need is now here. Yui-chan used to laugh when I began this project so many years ago. But now . . . everything is ready." Undoing the wrapping slowly, Gendo savoured the moment. Then, as he opened the lid of the carved box, he gasped. "Perfect condition, just as Kaji said."
Fuyutsuki nodded again. "Indeed, sir."
Cradling the slender box in his hands, Gendo stood and carried it over to the great, shimmering Sephiroth emblazoned on his ceiling. Standing bathed in the white glare, Gendo adjusted his glasses. "Vice-Commander, lower the Tree of Wisdom."
The glass ceiling began to descend slowly, the Sephiroth revealed as being made up of brightly lit, slender ivory tiles. Here and there, a few of the twenty-two paths that joined the circles were broken, spaces evident in the diagram.
The Commander of NERV walked slowly around his whole puzzle, fingers taking similar tiles from the box in his hand and carefully setting them upright on their ends. The paths closed, the Tree becoming whole as Gendo placed the final tile at the tip of the Tenth Circle: Malchu, The World.
Gendo: "It is finished, Fuyutsuki. The Tree of Wisdom has been completed."
Fuyutsuki: "And now, sir?"
Gendo: "Now? Now I do what I have always wanted to do."
He flicked a finger into the single tile at the head of Keter, the First Circle, and watched the dominoes collapse in an expanding pattern, the ivory clattering sharply on the glass. All the paths fell, the circles spiralling inwards until finally, Malchu imploded and there was silence.
" . . . Twelve years of work, sir, gone in sixty seconds."
"Yes. Yes, I suppose so."
The two men stood, looking at each other for a short while.
"Want to set it up again, Vice-Commander?"
Over in Central Dogma, Misato exhaled in relief. "I didn't think we were going to get away with that. You think he had something else on his mind?"
Ace shrugged and wiped at his face, removing the artistically applied acne spots. "Doesn't matter. Now, if you'll excuse me, I should be getting about my investigation."
Just then, the white lab-coat sleeved arm of Dr. Ritsuko Akagi grabbed his collar. "Not so fast, Fifth Child. All Children must undergo synch tests upon reporting to NERV HQ. Come with me and we'll find the proper size of plugsuit to fit you."
Ace Ventura: o.O [being dragged down the hallway] "This was NOT part of the plan!"
A few minutes later, he was stuffed into a spare plugsuit and unceremoniously thrown into an Entry Plug.
"Now, just relax and concentrate on your EVA Unit," came Ritsuko's voice over his loudspeaker.
"Easy for you to say," he grumbled back. "You don't have a wedgie so big you can play tonsil hockey with it."
"This is a computer-controlled training room for the purposes of testing our pilots' co-ordination with their Units. You're in no danger! Just note the appearance positions, the spare power source, and the armoury and recovery positions. Ready? Begin!"
In the Operations Center, Misato looked at the readouts over Ritsuko's shoulder. "I don't think he's doing very well, is he?"
Ritsuko shrugged as she compared notes. "Considering you hadn't told me he was coming, I don't have much to go on. He doesn't seem like your average 14 year old."
They both watched as the Mock EVA stumbled around.
"I thought you were helping Maya work on the Magi today. Taking a break?"
"Melchior made a smart remark earlier about something, so I left Maya to reason with her. I'll go back in a little while, once Mom's finished lecturing her about having no love life. After that, it's nude synchronization tests for the other pilots."
Misato sipped her coffee. "Never dull being you, is it?"
About to reply, Ritsuko stopped to answer her phone. "Yes, Maya?"
"Doctor, I'm seeing some corrosion in Melchior. I'm beginning to think there's something wrong."
Ritsuko sighed. "What makes you say that?"
"Well, for starters, Balthasar's insisting that I write down your mother's recipe for banana bread."
" . . . My mother hated baking, Maya. She didn't *have* a recipe for banana bread."
There was silence on the other end of the line for a few seconds.
"Maya, is the recipe a good one?"
"Ummm . . . yes, Doctor. My own mother knew how to bake, so I can tell."
"Get out of there right away. It's a trap." Ritsuko slapped her phone shut and hit the alert button. "Invasion in the MAGI supercomputers!"
Misato ran to the other control panel. "Scanning! Confirming Blood Pattern: Blue! It's the 11th Angel!" A horrified look came over her face. "Ritsuko! The simulation room!"
The two women turned to stare at the EVA. The targets were still popping up and the Fifth Child was ignoring them completely, tiptoeing instead in between buildings and around corners.
"What *is* he doing?" Ritsuko frowned.
"There's something else in there with him. It's . . . a white pigeon? How did that get in there?" Misato asked. Then she saw the open air vent. ". . . If we survive this, remind me to send a memo to maintenance."
The EVA Unit turned to look at the window. "Shhh! Don't scare him!" it hissed over the intercom, then resumed its sneaking, as much as a giant robot could sneak.
Misato looked down at her panel again. "That's not an Angel, so the computer hasn't penetrated the simulation room yet."
"Don't be so sure," Ritsuko murmured, pointing to a spike in her readings. "Something's working its way through the system. I'd better get over to the MAGI and get to work on this!"
As she got up, the something began manifesting itself in the training room. One of the targets of the Angel rippled to life and began to move towards the oblivious EVA Unit.
Misato hit the intercom. "Ace, get out of there!"
At the same time, the Angel shrieked, exploding the other targets and scaring the pigeon, sending it flapping off and back through the air vent out of Central Dogma.
Standing up, Ace's EVA turned to look at the Angel, putting giant hands on armoured hips. "Oh, thanks a LOT, Fluffy! You just cost me half a million Yen!"
The Angel's tentacles waved at him, then unmistakably gave the the EVA and its pilot a series of fingers.
The EVA responded by giving the Angel a complimentary iron-shod boot to the head.
Half out of her chair, Ritsuko could only gawk at the bitchslapping brawl in front of her.
"Report, Major!" snapped Gendo Ikari as he and Fuyutsuki came into the Operations Center.
Turning, Misato straightened. "The 11th Angel is hacking into the MAGI computer systems, sir. And it's taken over the training simulation in order to confront our newest recruit."
"I see. Dr. Akagi, your place is with the MAGI and discovering a way to deflect this attack from the inside. Go." Gendo watched as Ritsuko hurried off. "Major, what is the status of the Fifth Child?"
All three heads turned towards the window that looked over the training room.
The Mock EVA Unit was bent over at the Angel, yodeling through its posterior plates. A whole flock of birds had exploded from the air ducts around the room and was currently flying in the face of the attacking Angel.
EVA Unit: "ASSSSSHOOLLLOOO-MMMEEOOOOHHH!"
Gendo: -.-; [most dishonorable!] "Not to worry. Fuyutsuki, send in the Sixth Children."
Misato: [blink blink!] "We have a Sixth Child?"
Chaos: [blink blink!] "Pesti-chan, if any one of your six little super-deformed selves are angling for a bit part in my fic, you ask like anybody else."
Pesti-chan: "Don't people usually ask to be let out of their bit parts in your fics?"
Chaos: [. . . ] "Hush, you. Or I swear your SD incarnations will end up as Puuchuu Bear extras in my Exzcelion Saga Chaosfic."
Fuyutsuki raised a hand, a gleaming pin held between his fingers. "There's an emergency in Central Dogma! Sixth Children . . . WELCOME!!"
[Cue the Sixth Children!]
A second EVA appeared in the training room with a blinding flash of light. EVA Unit 02 drew its Prog Knife and struck a pose.
Bones Suzuki: [Skeleton in a red plugsuit!] "Target acquired!"
Sato Haruo: [Anatomy model in a plugsuit!] "What do you command?"
Gendo pointed at the still squabbling EVA Unit 01 and the Angel. "Destroy the Angel!"
Bones Suzuki: [dark glare at the Angel] "In that case . . . "
Sato Haruo: [equally dark glare] "We have no choice but to..."
Both: ^-^ "Cossack Dance!"
Misato boggled as EVA 02 began to Cossack Dance across the mock Tokyo-3, trying to kick the Angel in the tail. "I so need a beer right now. A damn giant beer."
Director Chaos: o.O "And just WHAT are you useless Haunted Junction spirits doing in my fic?"
Hysteria-chan: ^^ [with megaphone!] "Konban wa, Chaos-momma! What are you doing on the kawaii little set-chan of Hysteria-chan's kawaii little fic-chan?"
Dark Mayhem: "Well, that answers your question. She's next door filming her own Evangelion fic with the EVA units you weren't using in this scene."
Chaos: [consulting the soundstage schedule] "Hysteria! You're supposed to be on Soundstage 104, not 105! Get your Neon Genesis Haunted Junction fic off my set!"
Hysteria-chan: ^-^ "No time, Chaos-poppa! Time-chan waits for no fic-chan! Ne? Ne? Action-chan! Next scene-chan!"
Ikari Gendo stood at the enormous feet of the Giant, fixing the last strap of the titanium cleats. "Now, when you get up there, I want you to pull out the Progressive MP3 player Dr. Akagi built for you and dance on that Angel like you want to win!"
The Giant rumbled his agreement of the plan from high above.
"Excellent. And when you're done with scraping it off your boots, report back for an . . . entertaining assignment."
As the Giant was launched to the surface to battle the Angel, Fuyutsuki crossed his arms and leaned on a nearby railing. "Did you sneak out the other night and paint a giant DDR console on the roof of SEELE HQ?"
Gendo: ^^; [kicking a bucket of paint discreetly undercover!] "Maybe."
Chaos: --; "Hey, who's the director here? Her or me?"
Hysteria-chan: :P "Biiiddddaaa-chan! Chaos-momma can't possibly match-chan Hysteria's kawaii little fic-chan! Ne, ne, ne?"
Chaos: [grr!] "Is that so, you uber-kawaii, tea partying, apron-flinging terror? Behold, then, my most powerful Evangelion crossover ever!"
He turned to Gendo, Misato, Ritsuko, and the rest of the NERV crew. "Give her a reading of the fic scripts I sent out the other week! And . . . action!"
[Cue the Chaosfic!]
Gendo turned and sat back down at the desk, lacing his fingers together. "Humanity has become corrupt, Captain, Doctor. The Angels are attempting to destroy us because we are unworthy creatures. But now NERV has found a new partner, with new pilots. I present to you the New Third Child."
Excel: ^-^ [salute!] "Hail, Ikari-sama, you magnificent bastard!"
Gendo: "With you piloting EVA 01, Excel, we can defeat the Angels and then conquer this city ourselves."
Excel: ^-^ [wai!] "Hai, Ikari-sama!"
Misato: "Commander, there's an Angel approaching!"
[Cue the Angel Nabeshinel, with its mighty Afro Terror Field!]
Nabeshinel: [rampaging through Tokyo-3!] "Afrrrooooo! Afffrrrroooo!"
Misato: "And SEELE has already betrayed us, sir! Detecting multiple Evangelion signatures.... It's the Mass Production models!"
[Cue the Mass Production EVA Puuchuu Bears!]
Mass Production EVAs: ^-^ "PUUCHUU!!!!"
Gendo: "There is no time to lose. Captain Katsuragi, launch EVA Unit 00."
Hyatt: *coughcoughhackcoughGACK!* *THUD*
Misato: ". . . Ummm, the First Child has dropped dead again, sir."
Gendo: -.-; [not again!] "Then launch EVA Unit 01. And Dr. Akagi, would you go down to the cloning tanks and start making another batch of First Children?"
Ritsuko: "You want this group to be low-fat?"
Gendo: " . . . Is it predicted in the Marduk Report?"
Hysteria-chan: o.O;; "Kyaaaaa! Kowai-chan! Kawaii little stage-chan out!"
Chaos smirked as a terrified Hysteria tore out of the soundstage. "Mwwahahahahaah! Chaosfic-fu wins again! The Neon Genesis Excelion Saga triumphs over all!"
Hysteria-chan: [outside the soundstage] "WAAAHHH! The evil image-chans won't leave poor Hysteria-chan alone! That does it! Now Hysteria-chan's had enough. KAWAII KILLER BUTTERFLY ATTACK!"
Pedro: ;.; "NOOOOOOOO!"
Haruto: O.o "OH MY GOD!"
[This ficfeed is unable to be abruptly terminated. Please flee in terror. Have a nice day.]
CLUB ANIPIKE 0045 HOURS
Jotaru tilted his head back and stared in disbelief at the television. "Okay, that's it." His Star Platinum ghosted overhead, dropping the bar phone into his hand as it lighting-punched the number up. "It's late, and there are some things I shouldn't have to see before my bedtime."
In one of the sleeping rooms in the back of the Club, the insistent chiming of a cellphone brought its owner awake. The brunette sat up slowly in the darkness, groaning as she rubbed her eyes and fumbled for her discarded jeans. Beside her in the bed, another body moved restlessly. "Bell-chan, answer the phone," it murmured sleepily.
Goddess First Class Belldandy flipped her cell open. "Goddess Technical Hotline. . ." she yawned, "Oh, Jotarou! I was just. . . you have a wish?" She listened, nodding in understanding. "I completely understand, Jotarou. I'll arrange things right away. Consider it a favour, too, after that Hawaii-Five Oh My Goddess Chaosfic."
She hung up and stretched, giving a small squeal of effort. "I have to go. One of Chaos-sama's fics is making an ass of him." She slid out from under the covers and began putting her jeans and shirt back on in the dark.
"What else is new?" came the groan from her bedpartner. "Smite him for me, would you?"
Giggling as she shrugged into her black leather jacket, Belldandy came around the bed and knelt beside it, ruffling the short blonde hair. "Okay. We'll get back to rehearsing for Ah, Mamegami-sama later, ne Mame-chan? Sleep now."
Greenbeans smiled sleepily and let her favourite goddess stroke her hair. "Haiiiiii. . . ."
Belldandy kissed the author's forehead. "I promise."
She slipped out the door, adjusting her Yakult Swallows ballcap, and activated the radio function on her phone. "This is Belldandy. Would everybody please meet by the fireplace in the Club? A wish has been granted."
Urd sipped her coffee and rolled her head around on her shoulders. "I'll agree, thanks to the "From the Urd To the Moon" Chaosfic of his."
Her younger sister nodded as she polished her hammer. "Same here, for "Dangaioh My Goddess"."
Beside Belldandy, Suzaku pecked at his plate of ambrosiac birdseed. "This is what I've been saying we should do for a long time," he hissed, "Having to be Chibi-Suzaku in his SD Double Feature, Phoenix Chick Suzaku in the Deso-fic, being chased around by a hungry Sailor Moon in "Fushigi Usagi" ..."
Byakko yawned. "Oh, whine whine. I sort of liked hanging out with the Senshi, especially that brunette, Jupiter."
Belldandy smiled tolerantly. "But do you agree to what I'm proposing?" she prompted gently.
The God of the West nodded lazily. "I don't see why not."
Seiryuu, the Blue Dragon, casually handed over a manuscript. "Setsuna-san gave me this the other day for you. It might solidify your position a little."
"Well. . . ." Byakko sat bolt upright as he glanced down at the title. "Byakko No Marie?! Bellandy-sama, make him suffer!"
Across the table, Beans' lake god burbled its agreement as Ayanami Rei sprinkled fish food over the surface for its piranha stock.
The Goddess First Class stood up and looked around the table that held the Council of Gods. Genbu was freezing the "Barefoot Genbu" Chaosfic Seiryuu had handed him. Seiryuu himself was engaged in a squeaky hammer fight with Shen Long. Byakko flipped dazedly through his own Chaosfic, eyebrow twitching furiously. Her sisters Urd and Skuld were fishing in Beans' lake god, teasing the piranhas with Yggdrasil bugs on hooks.
"Then we all agree," Belldandy said, picking up Skuld's hammer to gavel on the table. "For the sake of our sanity, we shall revolutionize the lake god!"
Council of Gods: ^-^ "HAI!"
STUDIO ANIPIKE 0130 HOURS
Director Chaos watched in satisfaction as, in his search for Pen-Pen, Ace Ventura clambered up onto the catwalk. "Good work, James! Now, use the bucket of fish. . . ."
Spying a bucket of trout, Ace picked one out and held it over the water tank, whistling softly. "Heeeere, Pen-Pen! Come on boy, fishies!"
A few ripples disturbed the surface. Then in a large explosion of water, Gaghiel erupted from the tank.
Ventura: O.O "KYYYYYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"
Desolation: [on Gaghiel's back!] "AT LEAST IT'S NOT ME THIS TIMMMMMEE!"
Ventura: o.o [treading water frantically!] "It's not Pen-Pen! It's not Pen-Pen! It's not AAAAAAAAHHHHH!!"
Director Chaos picked up his megaphone. "Easy, Gaghiel! He does his own stunts, but he's no Wu!"
As his star continued to thrash around in his best impression of underwater ballet, the Director turned around to find a formally dressed, official Goddess sitting in his chair.
"Komban-wa, Belldandy-sama!" he greeted her cheerfully. "How can we help you? Filming won't start on "Belldandy the Mighty" until next week, though."
The Goddess nodded. "Chaos, this fic must come to an end."
Chaos blinked. "Well, it will soon enough. Just a little more filming, writing. . . the ending to work out. . . ."
Belldandy shook her head, earrings jingling softly. "Now, Chaos. I bear authorization from Kami-sama himself on this. This fic will remain unfinished and not unleashed on the world. Do this and you will be rewarded."
Chaos turned his back on the water tank scene, crossing his arms over his chest. "Surely, you can't be serious!"
She crossed her own arms. "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley."
Ventura: "No! Not the hair! Anything but the hair!"
Ignoring the frantic screams and growls coming from his set, the fanboy and goddess stared at each other.
Belldandy sat back in the director's chair, calmly adjusting her robes. "Give it up, Chaos."
Chaos pouted. "Never. This is a masterpiece! I won't be denied just because someone doesn't like the physical comedy! Nothing will keep me from finishing this! Not even . . ."
"Your lake god?"
"You mean . . . ?"
Belldandy steepled her fingers. "End this fic now. Surrender the script to me, and in return, I will give you your lake god. To keep. Beans will not be allowed to get her hands on it."
Director Chaos frowned, trying to see any implicit trap in the offer.
The goddess hoisted up an octopus. "Refuse, and it's back to this for you."
Octopus Charon: ^-^ [with sign!] *Panty?*
Chaos shrugged. "Is that the best offer you have, Belldandy-sama? Octopi are nothing new in my life."
Just then, a mammoth octopus crashed through the studio wall, slamming into the director and sending him into the buffet table.
Giant Octopus: O.o; "Is that sushi? Auntie Em! Grandma! SHIN'NE!!"
[Cue the giant octopus stomping viciously on Chaos with steel-toed cleats on all eight legs!]
A hand shakily rose up from the mounds of tuna casserole and potato salad, waving a white flag. "Fic over!" warbled his battered SDship. "I'll take that lake god now."
[Cue the entire Evangelion cast gathering around Chaos, all of them applauding him!]
Chaos : [???] "Ummm.... thank you! I think..."
Asuka: [applauding] "Omedito."
Chaos: "Really, thanks."
Rei & Maya: [applauding] "Omedito."
Chaos: [na ni?] "No, really...thanks."
Misato & Shinji: [applauding] "Omedito."
Chaos: O.o "Oh, no. Not another EVA mindfuck. Not now!!"
Kaji: [applauding] "Omedito."
Chaos: [hurting... stop...when?] "All right already! ENOUGH!"
Gendo & Yui: [applauding] "Omedito."
Nino-kun & Toilet Hinako: [applauding] "Omedito."
Mirror Girl & Red Mantle: [applauding] "Omedito."
Chaos: [oversized demon head] "WHO LET YOU GHOSTS BACK ON THE SET?? Scram before I call the Phantom Quest Corps to have you taken away!"
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