Chapter 6

Rei could feel the presence of Unit 01 through the layers and layers of solid steel. Her path had been uninterrupted until now, doors that appeared as though they had been intended to prevent such breaches had been inexplicable unlocked. Rei had paid the matter no heed as she had proceeded towards her destination. She was not entirely sure what it was that drove her, but she knew that there was much and more that she didn't understand about the world, the people in it, and most of all, herself. And the only thing she could think to do in order to remedy that was to confront whatever it was that contained the essence of the person she used to be. Maybe then, she could finally understand herself. Maybe then, she could finally understand what it was that Shinji had believed her to be.

She had finally been forced to come to a halt, not a hundred feet from her target. But now she could feel it, the swelling of power and consciousness. The presence, the force of will, the ego, the autonomy, the defiance of boundaries, the the latent potential energy, the intent, the desire to simply do… Everything that Rei was not - it all lay behind that final door.

It was alive, far more than she had ever felt. Whatever lay behind that door brimmed with primordial essence. It called to her; drew her to it. It was where she belonged.

"Who…am I?" she asked the force, for everything about it brimmed with sentience. "What was I supposed to be?"

The energy she felt stirred sightly, but in that stirring she could hear her own voice calling back to her. It was as if the soul within her had been split into many - that the one tiny fragment that existed within her body was not enough to keep her going for much longer, but the rest of her, in overwhelming richness, lay within the body of the machine she sought.

Once she joined with it, she might finally be whole.

Once she joined with it, she might finally be human.

Once she joined with it, she might finally understand…just what Shinji saw in her that she could not see in herself.

"I want to know…" she said simply. "I want to understand…"

The presence before her stirred with intent once again. She could feel it stretching out towards her, reaching for her, and she felt a fluttering in her heart the likes of which she had never known.

She closed her eyes.

"I want to see…the true Rei Ayanami."

And the presence enveloped her completely.

The bridge crew were scrambling to regain control of the Wunder as alarm bells sounded throughout the entire ship, a loud roar sounding through the craft as the air buffeted the ship as she tumbled Earthward. Everyone who wasn't strapped into their seats was thrown to the floor, or braced against a wall. The entire hull shook as the mighty angelic warship plummeted to the Earth.

"Main power offline!" Koji Takao exclaimed in a state of controlled panic from his station on the bridge. "Power relays from Unit 01 have all shut down! Attempting to re-establish connection!"

"Systems unresponsive!" Hideki Tama shouted in a not-so-controlled panic, not far from his elder. "All my consoles are giving me errors and static!"

"We're losing altitude!" cried the pink-haired Midori Kitakami, bracing herself in her chair as the entire ship pitched and rolled. "Twenty thousand feet and dropping fast!"

At the helm, the implacable Sumire Nagara gripped the control yokes with whitening knuckles, attempting to stabilize their descent using the ship's broad wings to leverage the craft through the air as they fell through it, drawing their descent up to about a thirty-degree angle, but not nearly enough to level them.

"Engineering!" Captain Katsuragi shouted, clinging to her post with a fervent determination, her cap long since fallen off in the commotion. "Report!"

"Unit 01 has shut down completely, Captain!" Lieutenant Shigeru Aoba shouted back. "All attempts to restart it are failing!"

"That Evas going to be the death of us!" Lieutenant Tama added with a shout of his own.

Misato struggled to grab hold of a console mounted radio affixed to the terminal with a spiral rubber cord.

"Ritsuko!" she shouted desperately, as the consoles all around her gave off error messages, and those screens that still functioned displayed the clouds rushing past them in a big hurry. "Tell me you've got something on this!"

There was no response. Outside, the clouds spiraled around them, as the Wunder descended into a tailspin, Lieutenant Commander Nagara struggling to keep their descent steady.

"Fifteen thousand feet!" Lieutenant Kitakami shouted, her post-in notes flying off her station and whirling around her.

"Hull pressure at critical levels!" Leiutenant Makoto Hyuga reported in alarm. "The ship will break apart at this rate!"

"Captain!" Ritsuko's voice sounded over the radio. "Captain, it's Specimen BM-00β! She's loose!"

Misato drew a blank through the groaning hull and straining bulkheads and shouting crew members. "What? Who?"

There was a pause as a gust of dense air hit them, sending the whole ship bucking sideways as out the main display, the sight of white clouds gave way to red sea, spinning and tossing as the ship rocked back and forth from Nagara's efforts to control their descent.

"Rei Q!" Ritsuko coughed, clearly not managing any better than Misato. "She's freed herself! And she's in the core area with Unit 01!"

"What!?" Misato demanded in absolute disbelief. "How!? Damnit, Ritsu, you have got to get her out of there, now! Before she destroys everything!"

"I'm trying, Captain!" Ritsuko blared. "I've triggered every defense we have in place! Nothing's working!"

Misato gritted her teeth. She could barely process what she had heard. This was the nightmare scenario - this was something that absolutely couldn't be allowed to happen. This must have been why the Ayanami Type had surrendered so willingly, something in the back of her mind mused. Why had she been stupid enough to allow that thing aboard the ship!? She had have simply killed it as soon as she had the chance.

"Ten thousand feet!" Kitakami screamed. "We're going to crash!"

"Keep it together, Midori!" Takao shouted. "We're not dead yet!"

"What's going on down there!?" Misato demanded. "What's that clone doing to Unit 01!?"

"I can't tell!" Ritsuko shouted back. "I have no visual, and all my monitoring equipment's going haywire!"

Nagara strained against the controls, gritting her teeth as she focused on the display of the ocean, rushing towards them.

"Come on, baby…" she muttered grimly, nearly bursting a blood vessel from concentration, tunnel vision overtaking her sense of sight. "Pull up…"

"Five thousand feet!" Kitakami screamed.

Then without any warning, the ship kicked up again, as the engines suddenly rebooted. Everyone was thrown forward, except for Lieutenant Commander Nagara, whose grip on the control yokes held true as she brought the ship out of its dive. Warning bells and lights still flashed as the g-forces rocked the ship's hull, the entire craft quaking and thundering before it shakily pulled up, forcing everyone not fortunate enough to be in seat to the floor. And as the Wunder finally halted its descent, its wingtips splashed the surface of deep red sea below with a mighty crash, its main body hovering above the water.

"Main power…" Lieutenant Takao coughed, climbing back into his chair, scanning his sensors for any information they would give him. "Main power back online, Captain…"

"Hull pressure stabilizing," Makoto reported, pressing a cloth to a cut on his forehead to stem the bleeding. "We're back in the green."

"Whew!" Tama breathed a sigh of relief as he also found his seat. "That was too close for comfort!"

Shigeru took a moment to peruse his instruments. "All sections of the ship reporting structural damage. Main AT Array is back online, and beginning with automated repair protocols."

"God!" Kitakami collapsed into her seat. "I thought we were finished!"

Nagara had to lever almost all of her strength to pry her own clenched fingers from the flight controls, falling back into her seat in exhaustion.

"We've regained control of the Wunder, Captain," she reported in panting breaths. "Shall I resume our course, or are we maintaining our position for repairs and diagnostics?"

Their position at the moment was less than a thousand feet above the surface of the Pacific ocean, its wingtips still occasionally dipping into the water as it hovered in midair, letting out the occasional sonorous howl.

Misato, who had been flung out of her seat, got to her feet and retrieved her hat.

"Set her down in the water, Lieutenant Commander," Misato grunted, straightening her uniform, cap and all. "Then shut down all engines completely. I don't trust this thing in the air again just yet."

She turned around to inspect the damage to the bridge. Much and more was in disarray, though the crew it seemed was uninjured. That was a silver lining at least. But she knew that the status of the bridge was only scratching the surface of the rest of the ship.

"Run full diagnostics and status checks," Misato said, turning for the door. "I want a complete damage report when I get back. Contact the main fleet; inform them of the situation, and ask them to send reinforcements. And tell Second Lieutenant Suzuhara to get me a casualty report as soon as she's able."

She marched out of the bridge and out the corridor.

"I'm checking in with the Doctor to make sure that thing didn't just set off Fifth Impact."

Misato stared at the Wunder's core through six inches of plexiglass at the unmistakeable sight of Unit 01's eyes glowing a faint but definite yellow.

"Could you repeat that, please?" she said slowly, her eyes not moving from the ghastly visage of Unit 01, as its own eyes stared right back at her.

The office from which she and Ritsuko stood looked like an absolute mess. Tables and charts and mountains of paper, manuals, folders and other materials littered the floor. Most of the computer systems, however, still seemed fully functional, and Dr. Akagi, it seemed, had done little more than right a chair in which to sit.

"Specimen BM-00β, who for simplicity's sake I will refer to from now on as Rei Q, has merged with Unit 01's core," Ritsuko reported simply.

Misato's expression did not accurately convey the disbelief she felt at that moment.

"And how, exactly, did this happen?"

Ritsuko lit a cigarette and began her explanation.

"At sixteen hundred and twelve hours today, the primary defense protocol around the Wunder's core were remotely deactivated by unknown means. At the same time, Rei Q managed to escape from her confines by unknown means. Shortly thereafter, she arrived at the Wunder's core. Again, how she managed to make it from her cell to the core without security picking her up is unknown. At the time of her arrival, the AT Barriers around the core were brought down, likely an override signal from Unit 01's lingering IFF sensors that would have normally been nullified by the core's primary defense protocol."

Misato's arms were crossed, her eyes still fixated on the giant war machine before her.

"'Unknown means,'" Misato repeated. "Are you telling me we have a saboteur on board?"

"That's a possibility," Ritsuko admitted. "But I'm not overlooking the chance that Unit 01 or Rei Q somehow managed to tap into these systems remotely, using their AT fields, although I detected no activity."

Misato studied the metal casing surrounding the core. It looked nigh impenetrable. Even she would not have been able to guess at an effective means of entry.

"Wasn't there, I don't know…a simple locked door or two between her and the Eva?" Misato asked, sounding flabbergasted.

Ritsuko nodded, exhaling a cloud of white smoke. "There are roughly a dozen, actually. The outer layer of entrances were remotely unlocked at the same time as Rei's prison cell doors, all of which are secured under Captain level clearance or below. Within a hundred feet or so of the Eva, however, Rei's AT Field was able to merge with that of Unit 01, and simply connected through the solid steel bulkhead. Rei was effectively drawn into the Eva through the very walls of the core shell housing, doing considerable damage to the ship in the process. It was at this time that the Wunder's main power system failed. Once the merging process was completed, however, the power connection with Wunder resumed, and our automatic emergency system restore processes brought the ship's main power back online."

Ritsuko took one more drag from her cigarette, before smashing it into an ashtray that she had retrieved from the floor.

"To answer the question that's currently occupying your thoughts, Captain," Ritsuko said in all seriousness, "No, there has been no indication of any activity from the Black Moon during this event. Nothing that has happened here has had any noticeable impact on the likelihood of…well, Impact."

Misato snorted at the joke. Some days, she really, really wished that she hadn't quit drinking.

"Why 'Q?'" she asked, offhandedly.

Ritsuko shuffled through some papers on her desk. "According to our intel, she's the 17th Ayanami Type created by NERV. Q is the 17th letter of the alphabet, so…"

"So this 'Rei Q' is still in there?" Misato nodded at the Eva with her arms crossed.

Ritsuko nodded back. "As far as I can tell. There's definitely something in there that wasn't there before, but I won't be able to determine anything until I can clean up this mess and get a probe in there."

Misato nodded. "Then better get started. Put a team together to help you get back to operational readiness, Doctor. In the meantime, we'll motor home using our backup N2 generator-"

"Actually," Ritsuko interrupted as she lit another cigarette, "Unfortunately, that was one of the components that was removed for maintenance during our repair procedures, along with our primary maneuvering thrusters. And when the Wunder suddenly took off for Outpost Naraka, well…"

Misato gritted her teeth in annoyance. "Then getting that NERV clone out of there is your top priority, Doctor. We're not powering on the Wunder's core until she's out. Got it?"

Ritsuko exhaled a puff of white smoke. "And if it turns out we can't get her out?"

"Then we're swimming home, Ritsu," Misato said brusquely. "Unless you can find another S2 engine lying around, we're not going anywhere. Reinforcements are already on the way, but it would take the entire fleet to tow this thing."

Ritsuko nodded. "Understood."

"And get me a detailed report on just what went wrong with the core's defenses and allowed one of our highest security-risk prisoners to waltz right up to it," she added, turning to go. "If we have a saboteur on board…there'll be hell to pay."

Having nothing to hold onto during their near-fatal crash, Shinji had been dumped unceremoniously on the floor during the commotion. Mari, ever the trained soldier, had managed to grab onto something solid and stay on her feet, and had been whooping and hollering throughout the descent, with Shinji tumbling about and cringing in fear. When they had finally stopped, Shinji had gotten back to his feet with more than a few bruises and bumps on his head.

"What…what just happened?" he demanded, having collapsed onto the bunk to catch his breath.

"We just got the ride of our lives!" Mari giggled gleefully. "Also, the ship seems to have hiccuped."

Shinji slowly go to his feet, his legs still shaking from the experience.

"You mean you actually enjoyed that?"

Mari shrugged. "What's the point of life if you can't enjoy it when you can?"

Shinji shook his head in disbelief. He could hardly understand Mari when he had first met her, and he was no closer to understanding her now. He laid back on the bunk, trying to calm his nerves, his heart rate slowly going down.

"Oh, don't tell me that was too much you, Puppy Boy," Mari winked languidly.

Shinji shuddered, closing his eyes.

"Just…give me a minute…" he panted, still out of breath.

But as his breathing slowed, his mind began to connect the dots. The pieces began to fall to place in his head as he remembered just what she had said before their sudden turbulence.

"So, let me get this straight…" he staggered to his feet, fixing her with an unbelieving stare. "You knew that was going to happen?"

Mari just gave him another catlike grin. "Nya."

Shinji frowned. "Did you have something to do with it then?"

Mari shrugged her shoulders. "In a manner of speaking."

Shinji shook his head in disbelief. "But…how? Why? Aren't you going to get in trouble with Misato?"

Mari shrugged again. "Probably. I wasn't expecting to be without power for that long; she must have run into some resistance."

Shinji blinked in confusion. "What? Who?"

Before she could respond, the doors to the outside slid open, and a girl in red strode down the corridor towards them.

"Asuka?" Shinji stammered in surprise, not expecting to see her again so soon.

Mari turned to smile at redhead as she walked into the room, still wearing her WILLE uniform, her expression unreadable.

"Hey there, Princess," she smirked. "Does the Colonel want another word with our prisoner?"

Asuka said nothing. Instead, she slammed her fist against the door controls on the wall, sending the metal bars separating Shinji from freedom into the wall.

Shinji recoiled, completely taken off guard. "What the…?"

Mari just blinked in confusion. "Hmm?"

Asuka turned her head to fix the other girl with a look of fury, before whirling on her, driving the heel of her hand into Mari's stomach, sending her lurching backwards with a grunt of pain.

"Oof!" she stammered, staggering backwards into Shinji.

"Whoa!" Shinji grunted, as he promptly fell over, with Mari falling squarely on top of him, the two of them piled in a heap.

Asuka wrinkled her nose and resealed the door, trapping them both inside. She then rose a handheld radio to her lips.

"Colonel," she said into the mic, thumbing the switch. "I need you in the brig as soon as possible. There's something you need to see."

Mari sat up, sitting on Shinji who was still reeling from the fall, as she offered Asuka a weak smile as she scratched her head.

"Is this about that time I put ex-lax in your coffee?"

"Umm…Miss Makinami?" Shinji's tiny voice stuttered from below her as he propped himself up onto his elbows, face red, to see her practically straddling him, reserve cowgirl style.

Mari turned back to give him a coy wink, before rolling off of him, standing to her feet and offering a hand to help him up.

Asuka did not look amused.

"Now, here's something funny…" Asuka said in a low voice. "As soon as the Wunder recovered from its sudden death-dive, I started hearing mutterings from the crew of there being a saboteur on board. Normally, I wouldn't pay these rumors any mind, but then I remembered just who we have on board right now. So I decided to review the security footage for the brig. Guess what I found when I rewound the footage from outside the Ayanami Type's cell?"

After helping Shinji to his feet, Mari's only response was another smirk. "Heh…such a ruthless lack of hesitation. Even I wouldn't have thought to act so quickly."

Asuka gritted her teeth, stepping up to the bars.

"Why, Mari!?" Asuka demanded, using the girl's name for the first time in years that she could recall. "Why would you do this? We've been fighting together for fourteen years now!"

"Yeah," Mari snorted sarcastically. "Fourteen years of name-calling and one-upmanship. Who'd get tired of that?"

"So what is this?" Asuka glared. "Are you defecting or something?"

Mari shook her head. "No. But I can't be the only one who's noticed just how rotten things have gotten around here. Miss Ayanami and the Puppy-Boy simply don't deserve the treatment they've been getting."

Asuka looked like she wanted to say more, but at that moment, Captain Katsuragi stormed in, looking about as amused as Asuka was.

"Captain Shikinami," she said brusquely, eying the brig's new occupant. "I assume there's an explanation for all this?"

"There is, Colonel," Asuka said simply, going over to the computer by the wall, typing a few keys to call up the digital feed for the security cameras around the brig, and rewound the footage from Rei's prison cell, before playing it back for Misato to see.

As Misato examined the footage, her eyes narrowed in disgust. When there was no longer anything to see, she then turned to Mari, and her voice turned to ice.

"Who are you working for?"

Mari gazed back at her commander, crossing her arms defiantly.

"Currently?" she asked. "You."

"Don't bullshit me," Misato said in a deadly serious tone. "There's no way you pulled this off on your own. Who put you up to this? Was it Warrant Officer Kaji?"

Mari's eyebrow rose. So, Kaji was a suspect, she mused with interest.

"Kaji's hardly the only one who's noticed what a cold-hearted bitch you've become," Mari snorted frankly. "And certainly not the one you should be worrying about. You may find, eventually, that Kaji is the only member of WILLE who really has your back."

She leaned closer, eying the woman with a catlike glare.

"You may command WILLE, Colonel," she breathed huskily. "But you don't speak for everyone in it. That's just a fact."

Misato met her gaze with a cold, deadly glare of her own, but otherwise said nothing.

Asuka, who had remained still, with her arms crossed and finger impatiently tapping her arm, finally gave up on decorum and spoke out.

"I still want to know why!" she shouted angrily, throwing her hands in the air. "Why would you jeopardize me and everyone else on this ship with a stunt like that!?"

Mari smiled at the pilot. "That's simple. I did it for Miss Ayanami."

Asuka's eye widened in disbelief. "For the Ayanami Type!?"

Mari shook her head. "I'm not talking about Miss Q, the girl who tagged along with you and Puppy-Boy here after that fight. I'm talking about Rei Ayanami, the girl from fourteen years ago."

She turned and gave Shinji a smile that was…downright sincere, he thought. Probably the sincerest he'd seen since Kaworu.

"You see…" she said softly, for first time revealing a hint of sadness. "I too owe her a debt."

She returned her gaze to the Second Child and sighed.

"While you were busy getting your beauty sleep after that disaster with Unit 03, you will recall that I was piloting Unit 02 against the 10th Angel. The Eva had been pushed to its absolute limit, and I had just managed to tear down its AT Field long enough for Miss Ayanami to strike with an N2 missile. And in that moment…"

Mari paused to remove her glasses, inspecting them idly.

"In that moment…that crazy girl threw me to a safe distance and took the brunt of the blast herself. It was barely enough to scratch the Angel, but it completely incapacitated Unit 00, leaving her as easy prey."

She returned her glasses to her face, and refocused her gaze to Asuka.

"Puppy-Boy and I watched her get eaten, Princess," she said simply. "We watched the Angel devour her Eva in a single bite. But it didn't just consume her body, you'll recall - it consumed her very soul! And then it metabolize her into its own flesh, and became something twisted. If it hadn't been for Rei Ayanami, it would have been me who got eaten. She sacrificed herself to save me, Asuka."

She threw a playful glance at Shinji with a wink.

"And I very much doubt Puppy-Boy here would have been so desperate to rescue little old me."

He just blushed, not knowing how to respond to that.

Mari's expression sobered and she looked back at Asuka.

"So now she's trapped inside of Unit 01 because of what she did for me," Mari said simply, crossing her arms solemnly. "I can't let that stand."

Asuka crossed her arms, far from convinced. "So why help the NERV clone then? You said yourself she wasn't the same person."

Mari nodded, eyes still on Misato. "Right now, Dr. Akagi is probing Unit 01 for contamination, I imagine?"

Misato did not respond, but her silence was all the answer Mari needed.

"She'll probably try re-inserting the entry plug as a sort of siphon to catch whatever's inside," Mari postulated. "But what she brings out won't be Miss Q. It'll be someone else."

"How can you be so sure of that?" Asuka demanded. "Since when did you become an expert in theoretical bio-mechanics?"

Mari shrugged. "I'm not. But I know someone who is."

She gave Misato a knowing smile.

"Not all your subordinates are as loyal as you think, Colonel."

Misato simply gave her a cold, hard stare.

"As for the Puppy-Boy?" Mari went on, unperturbed. "Putting a choker on him that will kill him if he makes a single mistake? This boy was one of us, Colonel! A Child of Eva! How much longer until you feel you need to put a choker on the Princess here, for fear of her angelic contamination? Or me, just for this little demonstration? How much of your humanity are you planning to set aside for your revenge, Colonel? Is this how WILLE treats its own? If it is, then count me out."

Her smile turned catlike once again.

"And trust me…I'm not the only one in WILLE who feels this way."

She let that hang.

Asuka turned her nose up at that. She did not like the implication she was making at all.

Evidently, neither did Misato.

"I don't have time for this," she said, turning to the guards, who had stationed themselves just inside the door at her entrance. "Leave her here for now. I want two guards at every cell area from now on. I've got a ship to repair, and we're sitting ducks out here with no power, no AT Field, and only a single JA Heavy Armor for defense."

She turned and strode towards the door, with Asuka following on her heels.

"That said, I want you on standby," she said to Asuka, all business. "You're our only functional pilot right now."

"As long as we get it painted red," Asuka stipulated.

"Sure," Misato snorted sarcastically. "I'll put that right at the top of my to-do list. Now get to it already."

"Yes ma'am," Asuka groaned.

The two guards followed them out the main door as it whooshed shut, and Shinji and Mari were left alone.

An uncomfortable silence descended on the two of them, before Mari let out a breath.

"Well…" she gave Shinji a reassuring smile. "I think that went fairly well."

Shinji wasn't entirely sure he would have agreed with her on that.

"Did you…" he muttered after another moment of silence, looking nervously at the girl. "Did you mean all that?"

Mari returned his gaze. "What? About the Colonel being a cold-hearted bitch?"

Shinji shook his head. He did not like thinking of Misato that way. "About…about Ayanami."

Mari smiled and sat down on the bunk running along the back wall, crossing her arms as she smiled at him. "Every word."

Shinji did not know how to respond to that. So he leaned against the bars across from her, glancing around the cell that suddenly seemed a lot smaller now that there were two people occupying it. There was a second bunk above the one she was sitting on, but that still meant that they were technically sharing a room. It didn't help that all he had on was a thin, threadbare hospital gown. Or how fetchingly Mari's WILLE uniform clung to her body. Anyone being in such close proximity made him nervous, but in these particular circumstances, it was worse by far. And as she was proving again and again, Mari was an absolute wildcard, which made sharing a space with her exponentially more uncomfortable.

"Hnnnnnng…" Mari stretched her arms, sounding fatigued. "Ahh… I figured they'd nab me eventually, I just didn't expect it'd happen so quickly. That Princess, I swear. She was so ready to take me down a peg, I bet she just couldn't wait to bust my ass. Oh well…"

Shinji didn't really have a response to that, though Mari seemed determined to continue talking.

"So bored," she sighed, kicking her legs back and forth. "Nothing to do now but wait for Dr. Akagi to finish up her work."

She smiled up at Shinji.

"I suppose we could always fool around for a bit, but they'd probably move us to separate cells if we did that. And that would be even more boring."

Shinji's face went beet-red as he pressed ever further back into the bars. "Wh-what!?"

Mari snickered in amusement. Such an easy mark, she thought.

"Besides," she purred. "You're much more interested in the Princess, aren't you?"

Shinji blinked and stuttered in confusion, and by some miracle he remembered that 'Princess' was Mari's nickname for Asuka.

"Wha-?" he stammered, still red in the face. "N-no I'm not!"

"You sure?" Mari winked. "As soon as you thought her life was in danger, Unit 01 flew into action to save her!"

She wrapped her arms around herself, swinging back and forth, swooning in an exaggerated fashion.

"Ohhhhhhh," she sighed melodramatically. "If only I had a knight in shining armor like that who would rush to my side whenever I needed him! I'd be so much happier!"

Even Shinji could tell when he was being outright mocked.

"Stop teasing me, will you?" he pouted, looking away. "It's not like I can control when it happens. Unit 01's just…like that."

Mari giggled. "Well, of course you can't control it. A puppy isn't born knowing how to walk or run, y'know? It has to learn how."

She leaned her elbows on her knees as she leaned forward to peer across the cell at him.

"You'll learn to control it eventually," she said, more seriously. "You pretty much had it down when you fought the 10th Angel. Eventually, it'll come to you, and you'll learn how to fully mesh with your Eva at will. And when you do…"

The catlike grin that appeared on her face as she laughed made Shinji far more nervous than anything she'd said or done thus far.

"When you do…" she purred, "You'll be unstoppable."

To be continued…

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