Wellington pushed the throttle of the jet sled as hard as she could as the flying platform sped towards the smoldering wreckage of Unit 05. She had watched the battle from a steel-lined shelter alongside the GeoFront interior and her heart had dropped to the floor while she saw Mari's EVA sliced in half by Unit 06's glowing tentacles. Unable to leave the bunker until the enemy EVA left the GeoFront, Wellington now flew her recovery unit as fast as she could to reach Mari, or what was left of her.
Alongside Wellington's sled was another platform with her team members. They flew alongside her and then peeled off about half-way across the now devastated GeoFront interior. She looked to her right and saw the white and grey platform move towards another giant pile of burned wreckage at the center of the GeoFront close to where the pyramid of Terminal Dogma was. The second rescue team was going to recover the body of the pilot of Unit 08, Kensuke Aida.
Sensors had confirmed that Aida was killed during Unit 06's attack, but after Mari's entry plug had ejected there was no signal given from it, nor were any of NERV's sensors within the GeoFront interior still functional enough to determine what had happened to her. Not knowing only added to the horrible feeling down in the officer’s stomach that something equally bad had happened to Mari.
Leaning against the jet sled’s railing, Wellington started to make out what looked like the wreckage of EVA-05’s entry plug. The long white cylinder looked like it had been snapped in half, it’s parachute system mounted at the cap never deployed. From her angle Wellington couldn’t see inside of the plug but the sight of the wreckage made her shove the throttle into the control panel more.
“Can you see the pilot?” she asked her subordinate, who also stood on the raft hanging onto the railing as she raced to the crash site. A young Japanese NERV officer lifted up his electrobinocs and scanned in front of them. “I can’t see where she is, the opening is blocked by some debris.”
Moira jerked the control stick to the right and the sled
banked right and then lurched forward again. As they got to within a few
hundred meters of the entry plug’s wreckage she shoved the throttle into
reverse in order to park the unit, and it violently swung around as she braked
the unit. With a hard “plop” it dropped another two meters to the ground and
hit the muddy surface, the engines whining in relief.
She didn’t wait for the raft to stop all of the way and instead grabbed a medical kit and foisted herself over the railing. Hitting the ground Wellington ran to the jagged opening where the entry plug had been cracked open. Red LCL spilled from the plug had spread everywhere within ten meters of the crevice.
The opening was half-dug into the ground, and pieces of debris from the plug, the EVA, and parts of the GeoFront even were crowded around the edge. The lieutenant hopped around the obstacles and looked for the control throne. In a second she saw it, detached from its mounting inside the plug. A body in a pink plug suit still remained on it, her hands clutching the hand activators at either side.
“MARI!” Wellington screamed as she sprinted towards the throne. Moira immediately fell to her knees and reached her hands out to Mari’s head. The pilot’s glasses were severely cracked and there was blood and bruises all over her face. Her eyes were shut and swallowing her fear Moira put her ear to Mari’s mouth, biting her lip and praying for something, anything from the girl. After a moment she could hear slow and very labored breathing: Mari was alive, but just barely.
“Mari? Mari, darling?” she called to her, gently patting the
side of her face. The girl wasn’t responding. Moira saw the pale white color of
her face and heard the gurgling of her breathing, and knew that time was
already running out.
Wellington tried to speak calmly to Mari as she gently removed her glasses. “Mari, darling, we’re going to get you some help, okay? Just stay with us please.” Cradling the girl’s head in one hand, Wellington dug into the medical bag and pulled out an air syringe. She immediately put it against Mari’s jugular and pushed down on the injector with her thumb. The syringe pumped a large amount of dark blue liquid into Mari’s bloodstream and almost immediately her skin became icy white, the girl’s lips turning blue from the cryogenic solution that was administered to rapidly lower her body temperature and keep her alive.
The cryo solution took full effect in a matter of seconds as Wellington used a handheld sensor and inserted it into a port on Mari’s plug suit. On the sensor unit a medical readout came back and the officer scanned it as her assistant now ran towards them with a portable stretcher.
“We can’t take her to the hospital, it was damaged during the attack,” the junior officer said to Wellington. “They’re taking all serious casualties offshore to the Liberator. They want us to prep her for air medevac.” Wellington read the readout from the scanner unit and then shot back at the officer. “She’ll be gone by then!”
“They can’t treat her here!” the officer replied, “they’ve only got the aid station for triage. Evac to the ship is the only chance she’s got!”
“No, it’s not!” Wellington and the officer strapped a backbrace all around Mari’s abdomen and then together they gently lifted her from the throne to the stretcher, with Moria supporting her head upward as they did so. “Get a hold of Foch, tell him to meet us in Terminal Dogma.”
“All the way down there?” the officer protested. “In the jet sled?”
Moira turned to the young man, her eyes now bulging in a rage. “Do it now or I’ll stick you for good!” she growled.
As the other officer ran the jet sled down the central shaft and towards Terminal Dogma, Wellington cradled Mari’s head and gently caressed her hair as they dropped in a near-free fall. Cut off from the rest of the world as they plunged down the shaft, Wellington’s emotions broke open after seeing the full extent of Mari’s injuries, and with tears running down her cheeks she comforted the girl as best as she could. Mari’s skin felt cold as ice and her breathing was now so shallow it was impossible to tell if she was alive or dead.
“It’ll be all right, darling,” she said softly to the girl, “everything will be alright. We’ll just get you fixed up and then we’ll have another go at it again, won’t we?” Moira did all she could to push back her sadness and fear. She was a soldier, she knew, and she had seen death and destruction and mayhem a hundred times before. This time it was different, and seeing the body of her fourteen year old charge broken so horribly prevented her from putting a brave face on what she knew was a chance of next to nothing for Mari’s survival.
“We’re getting down to the bottom floor,” her assistant
called out. Moira felt a cold chill and quickly grabbed a blanket to wrap
around Mari. Terminal Dogma was nearly three thousand meters underground, and
very inhospitable despite all of NERV’s technology. Fearful of what would
happen next, Moira placed her forehead down against Mari’s and closed her eyes,
reciting in her native Maori the most powerful prayer that she knew – the
prayer to raise the dead.
The raft landed on the hard floor at the bottom of the shaft. “We’re here!” he shouted, and Wellington quickly grabbed one end of Mari’s stretcher as the officer grabbed the other. They lifted up the stretcher together and then stepped out of the raft through a side opening, and then popped open wheels and struts that were mounted at the bottom.
The two officers rushed Mari’s stretcher down a long hallway lit only by LED lights glowing on the floor. At the end they reached a solitary room, its doorway was already open. Standing inside the Dummy Plug Plant and wearing a white lab coat was the old Dr. Foch.
“They need me upstairs,” he said them as they wheeled Mari in, “the hospital’s been wrecked and they’re short of just about everything including doctors.”
“We came as quickly as we could,” replied Wellington. The two of them pushed the stretcher forward
towards Foch as he lifted up his own handheld sensor and quickly ran it across
“Massive internal organ damage,” he read out, “Several broken bones. The spinal cord’s partially severed. There’s also some hemorrhaging in the brain cavity.”
“I gave her the cryo as soon as reached her, “ said Wellington. “I know it’s bad but…but,” she pleaded with the scientist. “You can save her, can’t you?”
Foch looked at her sternly. “I really don’t know.”
“You saved the Forrestal boy!” Wellie countered.
“That was just a face, this is everything,” said Foch. He then moved over to his computer console and punched in several commands as a sideways chamber light up a few meters behind them. “None of this is an exact science, really. We’re pushing the edges of heaven and earth down here. Besides,” he said as he continued to key in commands at his console, “even if I can save her, I might just only save her. She’ll never be the same again.”
Moira nodded in understanding. “I’ll take what I can get,” she said, struggling to keep composure. “Poor Mari’s so brave, despite all that she’s had to put up with her whole life. I can’t have her just go down like this without finishing the race.”
“Then we’ll help her as best we can,” the old scientist
replied. He moved from his console to another station behind him and then
removed a glass tube with a fluid that had been prepared by the unit. He then
took a syringe and drew the glowing orange fluid out.
Foch approached Mari and then took the syringe and plunged
the needle into her jugular vein, the icy skin crackling as he did so. He
pushed down on the syringe and injected all of the orange fluid into her. The
girl didn't respond to the injection but remained deathly still.
“Let's get her inside,” ordered the doctor. He pressed a
button on the cuff of the plugsuit and it immediately went loose as intakes
pulled in air. He then pressed another button and then both Foch and Wellington
carefully slid off the plug suit from Mari, revealing her naked body
underneath. Like her face, Mari's body
was nearly blue in color and discolored from bruises and wounds all over. The three of them then gently lifted Mari and
carried her to the sideways-facing chamber that was now humming and lit up.
They placed her body on a sliding gurney that was attached to the chamber, and
as soon as she was settled Foch pressed another button and the gurney moved
Mari into the chamber. The hatch of the chamber clamped shut and from the glass
walls LCL could be seen flooding the insides. Within a minute Mari's body was
entirely engulfed in the glowing liquid as they watched.
“She's in God's hands now,” said Foch solemnly.
In the snowy wastelands of Northern Norway, Kaji sat in a rocky cove covered with white camouflage. Playing his strong hunch gained from Patrick’s visions and also from what else he had learned from other sources, Kaji had pinned down SEELE’s location to this isolated and foreboding stretch of glaciers. Careful to avoid detections by any sensors or scouts they used, Kaji had waited patiently for over a day before there was activity at the location: a giant hidden set of doors that had opened up and revealed a blue-colored EVA which rose upwards and then vanished fifty meters above. He was too far away to move forward that time, but he carefully positioned himself for what he believed would be the return of SEELE’s own EVA-06, and in just a half-hour’s time he was proven correct.
Flashing above him was a large, pearl-colored sphere that suddenly appeared. He couldn’t see inside of it at first then as the sphere descended into the opening hangar doors it became less opaque and Kaji could see what was inside. EVA-06 was there again, but there were now two other units beside it. The crumpled, doubled-over figure of Unit 01 was to EVA-06’s right, the giant Lance of Longinus protruding from its abdomen. On Unit 06’s left, standing stationary and seemingly without resistance, was the silver-white Unit 04. The sight of two of NERV’s EVA inside of the sphere gave Kaji significant pause.
Well that’s not good, not good at all, he thought. Unit 01 is captured and Unit 04 may be as well…or maybe not. Something very bad just happened. Kaji watched as the glowing sphere continued to descend through the open hangar doors and into the hidden base below. As the doors started to close, Kaji made his move to follow.
Racing over the snow, the agent ran to the edge of the opening and then looked for a gangway or a railing to grab onto. The hangar doors were segmented into quarters and after the EVAs pass downward were now closing together. Kaji would have only a few seconds to get clear of them, otherwise he would be crushed to death.
Seeing a small maintenance railing on one side, Kaji ran and
then jumped through the opening a second before it closed. He flew downwards
and grabbed the railing with both hands, swinging himself sideways as the
hangar doors closed above him. With no time to lose, he saw the railing that he
hung onto continue to the edge of the top of the hangar, and then to a catwalk
that led to the interior of the wall. Kaji rapidly moved down the railing and
then leapt four meters in front of him to make the catwalk. A clanging sound
was heard as he hit it and he quickly rebounded on his feet and made for the
opposite end, leading to a covered corridor that was darkly lit. He bounded twenty feet down the corridor and
then removed his white parka, mask, and pants, stuffing all of them in a black
fabric bag that he then stashed into a metal locker that was nearby. Underneath the snow camouflage He wore a
black set of combat fatigues that would work for keeping hidden until he could
acquire a uniform from someone else, someone who didn’t know they were about to
loan him one.
Looking around, he worked out what his orientation was and then removed a pistol with silencer from his rucksack. The inside chambers of SEELE’s hidden base looked like they were a mix of old and new, steel framework that was decades old mixed in with modern electronics and power sources. The security systems inside would have been upgraded as well, he knew, and Kaji treaded carefully as he slowly made his way down the rest of the corridor.
Inside of his entry plug, the pilot saw Chairman Kiel’s face from a video screen that just opened up. “Good work!” Kiel exclaimed. “You’ve fully succeeded.”
“It didn’t take much,” the boy replied. “You were correct: Ikari came right to me.”
“The sentimentality of young fools,” observed the chairman. “Such is their undoing.”
“Where do you want them?” asked the pilot.
“Go to the bottom of this place,” Kiel instructed, “and nail the Daughter of Lillith to the crucifix there. We will make our preparations hence.” The video screen closed. The boy then scoffed at the ease by which he had completed his task. He then instructed his EVA to grab the limp Unit 01 by the arm and began dragging it down a large, dark tunnel that was adjacent to the hanger floor they had landed on.
Misato’s Thunderbolt approached Runway One while 500 meters behind her aircraft flew the two C-5s that carried EVA-02 and -07. Seated again in the rear cockpit of the aircraft, she unemotionally gave orders to her two pilots. On the audio channel she addressed Asuka first. “Unit 02, relieve Unit 09 from sentry duty.”
“Unit 09?” asked Asuka. “It’s activated?”
“I’m uncertain of its status but now that you’re here take over for protection of the GeoFront.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Asuka acknowledged with an unusual coolness and then ejected her EVA from the C-5 that carried it, dropping down a thousand meters and making a hard thud as it hit the concrete at the edge of the runway. As she dropped on the ground, she could see a large amount of smoke rising up from the large opening of the GeoFront, and as she approached Unit 09 Asuka glimpsed inside and saw charred remains all over the terrain down on the subterranean grounds. It looks like Hell down there, she thought.
Misato addressed Rei next. “Rei, take Unit 07 to the cages and get some rest. You’ll need to relieve Unit 02 in a few hours.”
“Roger,” Rei replied and then she also ejected her EVA from
her C-5 carrier, dropping down a few hundred meters and then landing carefully
on its feet. Without saying anything else Rei walked Unit 07 to a large
elevator that would then take them down to the lower levels of the GeoFront
where the EVA cages were located.
Asuka moved Unit 02 over to where another Evangelion was now standing. Unit 09 resembled Unit 08, with a helmet with three eyes covering up most of it’s head but unable to completely cover an oversized jaw. The rest of the EVA was covered in Yellow and blue bindings that resembled armor plating. There was a Pallet gun held by one hand but the EVA itself was not moving at all. Asuka opened up a video channel to the new EVA. “Hikari?” she called out.
On the video screen was Hikari. Dressed in a yellow plug suit, she grasped the hand actuators anxiously. Her breathing was rapid and shallow and she had a fearful look on her face. Once the video screen came on she answered immediately. “Asuka!” she cried out, “thank goodness you’re here!”
“Did you finally sync with your EVA?” the redhead asked her.
“No,” Hikari answered, “I can’t move it at all! They just dressed me up and put me inside, and then moved me out here. There’s no one else left!”
Things are really bad then. “Get back inside before you get killed out here,” Asuka said to her. “I got this for now.” EVA-02 walked right next to Unit 09, pulling out her own Pallet Gun and sliding the action back to load the magazine. As Unit 02 took over the guard duty at the top of the GeoFront, tractors moving below them hooked onto Unit 09’s legs and then slowly began to move it towards the elevators. “Thanks!” Hikari said nervously, and then “Asuka, something horrible…”
“I know,” Asuka replied, cutting her off. “Later.” Before Hikari could say anything else Asuka cut off the video screen. She let her mind push everything back but just piloting, relying on her training and experience to let her focus on just what she had to do right at that moment. There would be a time for emotions later, she knew.
After docking her EVA in the cages Rei disembarked the entry plug and then moved slowly to the pilot ready room. She felt numb as she shuffled the short distance to the elevator that would take her to the lockers. Behind her two female security guards in black suits and sunglasses followed her but she paid them no attention, and as she boarded the elevator she silently faced the wall as they both went inside after her.
Once alone in the locker rooms Rei slipped out of her
plugsuit and wobbled to the shower. Tired and disconnected, she closed her eyes
as warm water poured over her body. She lost track of time, standing underneath
the showerhead and breathing slowly, her brain felt as thick as rock as
thoughts and feelings of all kinds raced inside.
Eventually she turned the water off and moved to her locker.
During the Angel Wars Rei had kept inside her pilot locker just the minimum
essentials: one complete school uniform, her shoes and socks, and whatever
books she happened to be reading before she piloted EVA. As she opened her
locker now she saw her NERV uniform jacket and black turtleneck top hanging
neatly on two hangers, and her tights and boots were on the bottom shelf. There
were still books there, but she noticed against the wall that there were
pictures. She had never kept pictures while she piloted EVA before, but now she
had them. One photo was of Shinji, smiling for the camera as he stood next to
Asuka, their arms both around each other. Another was of the group of the
pilots, most of them wearing uniforms and plugsuits and again smiling for the
camera. A third photo, tucked into a top corner of the locker, was of Patrick.
He wore a simple white t-shirt and his blonde hair was unkempt as it often was,
but his facial expression was gentle, his smile soft, and his emerald eyes brilliant.
At some point she remembered that she wanted a photo of him and had asked
Kensuke to take one. Now both the boy in the photo and the one who had taken it
were both gone.
Listlessly she changed into her uniform and then wondered outside of the locker room, through the pilot lounge, and then into the hallway, making her way back to the pilot suites. She didn’t even feel herself walking, her mind became a blank as she seemed to drift to her destination.
Finally she found herself standing in front of the Boys’ Suite. She remained there for a few minutes, waiting to be let in. Usually she found that either one of the pilots or Agent Kikuchi would open the door within a couple of minutes of her standing here. This time she stayed motionless, her arms at her sides and waited. She then realized There’s no one left to open the door for me now, is there? She then pushed on the door and let herself in.
The living room to the Boys’ Suite was deathly still. The large-screen television mounted on one wall was off, and no one was on the couch. Rei looked at the doors that lead to the pilots’ bedrooms. Kensuke Aida’s door was now shut, as was now Shinji’s. Toji’s was propped open but no one was inside. She turned to the door to Patrick’s bedroom and it was now taped over with security tape that read: RESTRICTED: DO NOT ENTER.
She heard noises from the kitchen and then moved towards the kitchen door, pushing it open. Sitting at the table was Toji, and Hikari was next to him. Hikari still wore her yellow-colored plug suit and had her arms around Toji as he sat with his hands on the table surface. The expression on his face was sorrowful, and tears streamed down both of their cheeks.
“I…I just can’t believe that he’s gone!” sobbed Toji as he stared at the center of the table. He couldn’t get much more out, just sobs and chokes as he mourned the loss of his best friend. Hikari said nothing, but just held Toji as tight as she could, and cried right along with him. It took a moment for the couple to realize Rei had entered the room.
“Ayanami,” said Toji, his voice was bleakly soft.
“Ayanami-chan, I am so sorry,” added Hikari. “I don’t know what else to say.”
“There is nothing to say,” Rei responded quietly. She looked at the two of them, feeling her emotions drain out of her.
“I’m sure that Shinji-kun’s okay…somehow,” Hikari tried to assure her.
“I do not think that he is,” was her reply.
The class representative tried to reach out to her but Rei turned around instead and walked towards the door. She didn’t want to be touched right now, not by anyone. Hikari watched her go outside, and then listened as she heard the front door also open and close. She folded her hands and brought them close to her chest in anguish. “Maybe she just doesn’t feel anything at all,” she wondered aloud.
“Lucky her,” scoffed Toji.
Go on to Chapter 38