Hyuga positioned the screen so that both Misato and Admiral Vinson could see the footage. “Here's the relay from the recon drone just a few minutes ago,” he told them. From the monitor, they could see as the drone's camera focused on an ugly black and gray outcropping of rock nestled in between other snow-capped mountains. The camera scanned all around the mountain itself, seeing not much more than stone, rock, and ice until something moved within in.
“There,” Hyuga pointed out, “right
here.” he pointed with a cursor at the source of the movement and
the camera focused again. A small image of a white-silver head
appeared out of the rock. Captain Hyuga froze the image as the others
got a better look.
“No doubt about it,” Misato said. “It's Unit 04.” Vinson nodded, grunting in agreement.
Hyuga restored the playback and then another three second later a bolt of energy came rushing towards the drone's camera. The screen went static.
“That's pretty good confirmation,” Hyuga concluded.
Vinson folded his arms. “I would concur, Captain. At least whatever information Mr. Kaji had was accurate.” The commander pointed at the screen as Hyuga played it back again. “Colonel, that's your target. We need to work up a plan on how to bring them down.”
Misato thought for a moment. “It would have to be a direct assault with the EVAs,” she said. “It's a difficult target, there's plenty of space between it and the other peaks so they'll see us coming, enough to make a kill zone all around the summit. They'd have to have prepared defenses in there, the mountain itself is solid granite and they could have high energy weapons powered from inside. Then they have their own EVAs: Units 04 and 06, and however many Harpies they can bring up.” She sighed deeply. “Not easy.”
“Could you drop an N2 on it?” asked Hyuga, “or maybe more than one?”
“Any N2 would be repulsed by any EVA with an AT Field,” Misato replied. “Even if we fired dozens of N2s with that many defenders they could rebuff any open assault. Then we have to cover open ground with just the two or three EVAs that we have. The odds are very low of success.”
“Then we need another plan,” said the commander. “Between you two work on another way to get into that mountain and destroy whatever's inside of it.” Just as Vinson was about to say something else Maya came running into his office. “Admiral!”
“Yes, Captian Ibiki?”
“Dr. Foch has collapsed!” Looks of concern and shock came from all of the others. “What happened?” asked Misato.
“He passed out while with the technical crew for EVA-09,” Maya reported. “They took him to the Aid Station on A-Deck and they said it was a stroke. He's being brought by helicopter to Hakone City hospital now.”
Hyuga's heart sank at the news. “Oh, no,” he said to Misato. “With Dr. Viraat gone he was our best expert on EVA. Without him we'll never get Unit 08 activated!”
“Are the technical staff able to carry on without him?” asked Misato. Maya shook her head. “I'm sorry but no. They're enthusiastic but the new teams just don't have the experience or knowledge. If had the technical information out of the MAGI we might have a better chance, but that's part of the data banks that are locked up.”
“The poor guy was just worked too hard,” commented Vinson. “Going 72 hours without rest for a man of his age was unfortunately too much.” He sighed hard, folding his arms and tried to think on the best course of action, one that they needed to take immediately. With the increasing disasters at home and growing threat from a reinforced SEELE there was no more way to play safe and Vinson knew it.
“Ibiki? Go in the MAGI yourself and
try to run some of the later hack programs that the Japanese came up
with. Do this yourself, not with the others involved.”
Maya was reluctant. “It didn't work the last time we tried it.”
“I realize that but you knew Dr. Akagi better than anyone. Try to see if you can work around some of the bugs and find something that will reach the MAGI, and at least get into the technical data banks. Do everything you can short of a power-down or a hard reset. Go, now!”
“Yes, sir!” Maya nodded and then quickly ran back down the hallway she came from. Vinson then turned to Misato. “Colonel, take the G6 and go to Aries Base in Alaska. Go talk with the Man With the Beard.”
“Commander Ikari?” Misato answered.
“Former Commander Ikari,” confirmed the Admiral. “Make a deal with him if you have to. He can't have his old office back but everything else is on the table.”
“He's likely to drive a pretty hard bargain.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Hopefully being locked up in an icebox for a few months has made him more amenable. Go, do it now while we still have time.”
Misato nodded in acknowledgment. “Yes, sir.” Without saying anything else further she left the commander's office along with Hyuga. Commander Vinson was left sitting at his desk, silently contemplating the few options he had left.
The two of them walked down the hallway as Misato issued orders to Hyuga. “Work on getting the pilots ready, especially Hikari, she's the most inexperienced.”
“But Unit 09's not ready yet!”
“In case we actually do get it activated somehow I want her to be ready for it. But be sure all three of the girls are focused on their missions.”
“Yes, Misato-san. One more thing.”
Hyuga stopped walking and looked for quiet spot where no one else could hear them. When he found an empty staff room Misato joined him inside and they communicated at whisper.
“I watched that video feed from the drone several times,” he told her. “Unit 04 wanted us to spot her. Patrick had to be piloting that time, not the sister.”
“You could be right,” Misato said, “or they could be doing that as a ruse to lure us in. The truth is we really don't know and until we can confirm what happened with Unit 04 we assume it's hostile. She did kill the drone, yes?”
“Yes, with one shot.”
“Anything is possible but we can't count on what we just hope is true.”
“I just hate this,” said Hyuga in exasperation. “There's no way Forrestal-kun was part of any infiltration.”
“Not willingly at any rate. That's how these people work, Makoto” replied Misato as she referred to SEELE. “They prey on your connections to your loved ones and then use that to screw you over while you do their bidding. In the meantime, we'll do what we have to. I don't want to lose any more pilots but I fear we've already lost Patrick, one way or another. We need to move on.”
“I understand it. It just sucks, that's all.”
“Then save it for the hell we need to bring on these bastards. At least we'll avenge our dead. All of them.”
After two hours of carefully moving through both the underground tunnels underneath the mountain and then through several dark passageways inside the actual base itself, Omega led Kaji to the end of a dimly lit hallway. In front of them was a steel door that appeared rusted shut. Kaji watched as the other agent pulled out a remote control and dialed in a number. In the next moment the steel door slid open, revealing a secret room. The two men went through the doorway and then Omega motioned for the door to close.
“Clever,” said Kaji. “You built that yourself?”
“It’s not my first time being here,” he told him. “I was here once before, about 1989. The Soviets had put in a secret listening post in this place. I found this hiding spot while I was here and neglected to mention it in any of my reports.” Omega hit a switch on the wall and dim white light appeared from the ceiling. Kaji looked around and saw that the safe room was lined with steel plates, and that there was a second room connected to the first. “They can’t hear us from here,” Omega told him as Kaji observed the room further. “I’ve tested that to be sure.”
“The Nazis built the first fortress,” Omega continued as he took water from a cooler. “On their paperwork it was part of the atomic bomb project but that’s not why they were here.”
“Was it something related to the Angels?” Kaji asked.
Omega winced. “A good guess. There was a relic of sorts at the base of the mountain, no one really knew the origin but the Nazis were pretty good about researching possible ‘spiritual power bases,’ things like the Ark of the Covenant and so forth.”
“That was in a movie,” Kaji corrected.
“Sure it was. Anyway, they actually did find something down here important enough to convince them to dig out the bottom of the mountain. The trouble was no one knew what to actually do it with it and then the war ended. They burned their records but one of the men in charge ended up in the gentle hands of Soviet intelligence and then spilled on this place. The Russians then found the base and added to the fortress, all under the noses of NATO.”
“But it was the same problem again,” Kaji surmised.
“Correct,” Omega replied, who now had to admit he was beginning to like how the Japanese agent’s imagination ran. “They found this…thing at the bottom but no one knew what to do with it. That key information was in the hands of the Old Men, who were patient enough to wait until the Communists went the way of the Nazis and then they started work on this place. Sort of a ‘Plan B’ ”
“But you knew where to look, didn’t you,” said Kaji. “You knew even before the Russians left. How did you know?”
Kaji paused at that and thought for a
moment, then quickly pivoted to a new subject. “How is it that Unit
04 got here?”
“One or both of them brought it here. Obviously.”
“Did you know that Erin Forrestal was here?”
“Yes,” Kaji replied. Omega looked at him sternly. “How did you know?”
Kaji debated in his mind how much to reveal about what he knew, remembering the old spy adage You can't trust anyone but you must trust someone. He had to decide just how much he could trust Omega, who was as much of an enigma as they came in the world of shadows.
“I have an inside source,” Kaji said to him.
“Doubtful,” Omega replied. “You do know they're looking for you right now, don't you? I've had to do a fair amount of covering up for you since you got here. You're lucky to still be alive.”
“Why not just let them catch me?”
“Oh, I find you're a very interesting man, Mr. Kaji. My source said you had the balls to double-cross SEELE by actually capturing NERV's vice commander and then setting him free after the old men interrogated him about EVA. That makes you pretty high on their shit list. Then you go and walk in the Lion’s Den like you're doing now.”
“Sometimes I just need to find out for myself,” Kaji quipped, but Omega brushed it aside. “How did you know that Erin Forrestal was here?”
The agent took another tact. “Sir John told me.”
“Strike two,” said Omega, who now had his back against one of the walls in the small room, right next to the single doorway. Kaji could see that his arm was behind his back, holding something. “Johnnie isn’t going to inform this to just anyone.”
“I’m not just anyone.”
“But you’re not on the ‘need to know’ list and neither is anyone else in the Alliance.”
“Is anyone else on that list?”
“That’s for me to decide. Now you’ve got one strike left Mr Kaji and,” Omega chuckled, “as much as I’ve enjoyed talking to someone in the business I’m not going to let that get in the way of what we’re doing here.”
Kaji paused for a moment and again considered his options. He was facing opposite of the older man and while Omega didn’t disarm Kaji he knew that he would be at a distinct disadvantage if he tried to outdraw him in such a small space.
“I’ll make it easy for you,” Omega said. “You like stories, right? Someone like you seems willing to risk it all for learning the truth. I’ll tell you a story I haven’t told anyone, but in return you tell me how you came to be here.”
Kaji smiled to himself. “Such information usually comes at a price.”
“This is a relative bargain as things go,” Omega replied, his dark eyes staring silently at Kaji.
When all else fails, try using the truth. “The Forrestal twins are linked through the EVA,” he finally said. “At certain times they can see and feel through each other’s senses. I used information provided by Patrick Forrestal to learn the location of where the sister was held.”
Omega contemplated the answer for a few seconds. “All right,” he finally said, satisfied with Kaji’s answer. “You were trying to protect your pilot by not revealing how you came by this.”
“That’s the sense of it, yes.”
The older man took his empty hand out from behind his back and then slid down the wall, taking a position that was now sitting opposite of Kaji. He then reached to his right and opened up a small steel container, offering it to his new companion “Are you a whiskey man, Mr. Kaji?”
“I won't turn down generosity if it's offered on good terms.”
“Don't worry, you're safe. From me anyway.” Omega took a swig from the flask and then handed it to Kaji, who then did the same. He returned the flask to Omega who then took another drink and let out a long sigh. “I'm too old for this shit now,” he said in a tired voice. “When I was young I used to be able to pop in and out of places like you wouldn't believe. You find out a lot of things by learning how to live in the shadows.”
“It’s been said that you know too much.”
Omega nodded. “Aye, that is true. Knowing too much carries a burden unlike no other.” For a few minutes he sat silently, drinking out of the whiskey flask as Kaji watched. Emptying the container he set it aside and then straightened himself up against the wall.
“I suppose it begins,” Omega said as he looked at an attentive Kaji, “in Romania. The cocksucker who used to run that country decided when he took power that there weren’t enough people, so he banned all birth control methods. The result was an explosion of unwanted children.”
“My sister and I were put into a state orphanage we think from birth, and that was the only home we knew for about ten years. It was crowded, it was dirty, and it was cruel. We had each other at least, and I think that’s probably the only way we survived intact.”
“They used to test us for various things, including intelligence and strength. Both of us scored the highest on an IQ test so we got shuffled to another orphanage for the ‘smart’ kids. We weren’t there long until one day some men came over and offered to take us off the state’s hands, willing to pay hard currently to do so. Communists or no, they still took money when it came without strings and off we went.”
“From there we went to Albania, maybe three dozen of us kids. All of us were about the same age, about eleven to thirteen, and from all over Eastern Europe. Like with Romania the Albanians were Communists but wouldn’t turn away cash from strangers, just as long as they didn’t’ poke around to see what they were up to.”
“For a time things got better. While we weren’t thrilled about having to live in what used to be a monastery it wasn’t crowded, the food was better, there was a real school there, and the other kids weren’t all bullies. And, from time to time, he would come and visit us.”
“You know. Only we didn’t call him ‘Chairman’ but instead called him ‘Grandfather.” He was just a bit more personable then, and would occasionally sit down with me or my sister and talk to us.”
Kaji leaned forward, genuinely intrigued. “What did he talk about?”
“Shockingly, nothing important. How was our food? How was school? Ordinary questions like that. Sometimes we got presents such as books or candy.”
“It sounds downright homely.”
“That it did. Everything was fine until we started to notice children were disappearing.”
The younger man raised an eyebrow. “When did that happen?”
“About eighteen months after we got there. We were thirteen and we started to notice our group was being culled bit by bit. When we asked what was happening we were told they were being adopted by new families. All of us that remained promised to write when we got into our new homes but kids kept leaving and there were no letters coming back.”
“That looks suspicious.”
“Misha, my sister, started to wonder if something else was happening. She made a friend amongst the Chairman’s household, someone who was considered a bit of a dunce and who was usually reduced to pushing around the Chairman when he got too tired to walk. Misha found out that her friend was in fact quite good at playing the fool. And what he showed her and I chilled us to the core.”
“That day we learned three things about the world we were living in. The First was that Misha’s friend, Piotr, was a lot smarter than anyone noticed. The Chairman, or “Grandfather,” when he was there in the monastery, he would send for old scrolls that were kept in the monastery’s library. Our friend was thought too stupid to do anything but fetch them for his master but unknown to just about anyone, “the village idiot” was fluent in Hebrew and Aramaic.”
“If those were the actual Secret Dead Sea Scrolls, then that is a fortuitous coincidence.”
“I’m pretty sure you’ve been in the business long enough to know that there’s no such thing.”
“He was an infiltrator, then.”
“What’s more important was what he was reading in those scrolls on his trips to and from the Chairman’s office, the second thing that we learned. Everything was in there, in one way or another, about what was about to happen to our world. Third Impact. The Angels. The Black Moon and the White Moon. All of it. And…what was to come afterward. ”
“Did he tell you of what he read?”
“I’m getting to that. He knew that hell was coming on a freight train heading this way, and that he had to get word to trusted people on the outside. Then there was the third thing.”
Omega paused for a minute and took a long swig of whiskey from the flask, gulping it down and then closing his eyes in concentration. Kaji remained quiet as the other agent’s memories came flooding back in, but he could see from his face that the emotions it brought back were deeply felt.
“Attached to the monastery was an old keep, built by the Byzantines or Turks or whoever. When other children said goodbye to the rest of us, they lead them to where the keep was on their way out. None of us had ever been to that side before, we were told it was forbidden. Very, very forbidden.”
“Piotr took you to where the keep was.”
“Yes. The guy didn’t look it but he was bloody Harry Houdini. He knew all of the secrets of the place and got us through all of the doors and locks and traps to the keep’s dungeon. Then we had the answer we didn’t really want to know: why were we there.”
“In the dungeon they had this chamber set up. They’d have the children sit inside while they connected electrical anodes to their head. The children often didn’t do this voluntarily, and we could see the straps and chains that were on the seat inside. Then they’d fill the chamber with PFC. It was a form of liquid oxygen, a bit like what you call LCL but much thicker and uglier and unable to carry sound. Those who survived the trauma of having to breathe liquid into their lungs were then subjected to a battery of intensive electrical impulses via the anodes. In most cases their brains suffered sensory overload. A few survived the first round, but no one ever got out.”
“To make sure we got the point our friend then showed us the catacombs below the keep. We saw the bodies of our classmates, some of them still had the look of horror frozen on their faces. Just kids, all of them.”
Kaji leaned back against the wall. “They were testing the entry plug and A10 control interface for the Evangelion?”
“Early testing stages. Later as we dug into this we found out this was just the first series. In the ‘90s they moved the operation to what was then North Korea and continued the test with more children. In the final series they kidnapped other children from Japan and took them there for final validation. As far as we knew none of them survived. All sacrifices to the Marduk god.”
“My God,” was all that Kaji could say. “You got out, then.”
“Needless to say we were in fear of our lives. Our friend then worked out an escape plan, setting a fire in the monastery and using two of our classmates' bodies to serve as decoys while we got out through an underground passage in the Keep.”
“Just before we ran, he gave Misha a set of papers and told her to care of them. They were rubbings of what he was reading from the scrolls. We were to give these to someone we'd meet on the outside, once we escaped.”
“What happened to your friend?”
“That's not your concern, Mr. Kaji. He survived, that's all.”
“But where did you go after you escaped?”
“On the outside we walked for miles down an old road that our guardian had told us about, and at the end of that road was another man. He put the two of us in a boat and then took us to safety.”
The younger man contemplated what he
had been told. “Sir John had told us that Omega was a legendary
infiltration agent. Was your friend the 'real' Omega?”
Omega scoffed. “No, no, no. “Omega” came afterward, when I started working for the CIA. You see, you're right: my friend was a penetration agent. After spending millenniums trying to this 'Make-yourself-a-god crap' those Old Men had at least managed to get the attention of some others who were very observant, and it was from those others that our friend came from. Passed on throughout the centuries, a small group of watchers kept their eyes on the Old Men and their ancestors, waiting to find any way of stopping them from building their godhood out of the funeral pyre of Earth itself. That's who aided us.”
“And Sir John was one of them.”
“Yes. It was him who was waiting in the pitch-black night for two fourteen-old kids at the end of that trail on the Albanian coastline, and it was him who set us up with a new family in New York after we had given them the papers our friend passed to us.”
“So this group of watchers, they had the warning. They knew what would happen. Why didn't they do anything?”
“Who says they didn't?”
“If they knew of Third Impact they could have warned the world! Something could have been done to stop this!”
“Kid, by that time there was no one left to warn. By then SEELE had penetrated every major government, every intelligence agency, every media and academic organization. They were literally running the UN. Oh, there were some crackpot-types we could have gone to but you know what would have happened. We would have been killed and the message still suppressed. No, by that point it was too late. We needed a way to keep them from winning: an endgame. And that meant having the right people at the right place at the right time.”
“But you knew.”
“Remember what I told you about knowing too much, what kind of a burden it puts on you? Well, my sister and I had that burden when we were fourteen. When we moved to America, Misha kept an insurance policy, you see.” Omega pulled a plastic bag out of his jacket pocket. Inside of the bag was an old piece of parchment, carefully wrapped in cotton gauze. He handed the bag to Kaji. The agent carefully opened up the plastic bag and gently unwrapped the gauze that covered the old paper.
The parchment wasn't the original scroll, but a carefully handwritten reproduction of it done with ink and pen. With wording in Aramaic Kaji couldn't decipher what the scroll said.
“After hearing everything that our friend in the monastery told us, Misha decided she didn't trust anyone and kept one of the copies of the scrolls. With some luck we found someone in New York that could translate that for us.”
“What does it say?”
Omega chucked at first, and then started to laugh, his hard face finally coming to a broad smile. “It says...it says...Oh, God, I laugh every time I think of this...well, a lot of it is in this verse so it's very cryptic, but it basically says that the Old Man is fucked!”
Kaji didn't laugh along but instead looked at the other man with cold eyes. Omega saw his expression and while he didn't laugh he continued to chortle as he explained the meaning of the scroll Kaji was now handlng.
“Excuse my behavior, Mr. Kaji, it's been a long journey for me, but let me paraphrase for you.” Omega closed his eyes and recited the passage from the scroll from memory.
“At the end what was one world will become many,
and the Beast That Shouted I will rule them all,
In some he will rise, and some he will fall,
and in some he will live even as a Son of God,
In a Red Earth and Blue Sky.
All these worlds belong to him,
All except one,
The Daughter of the Moon will make her kingdom there,
And all will be renewed,
She will give birth to a new world,
And her many children will inhabit it forever.
The Dragon will cry out in anger,
Its nine heads will shout to the heavens,
He will call on his host and on the Son of the Dragon,
and he will strike at the heart of the Beast.
He lashes the Beast to a Tree and stabs at it,
But the Beast doesn't fall,
“What is done cannot be undone,” it cries out,
and the Dragon wails in agony,
It is cast off from the Heavens and Earth,
And languishes in the pit of the mountain.
The Son of the Dragon tries to slay the Beast,
But the Daughters of the Sun and Moon bear their sword and spear,
And the Beast reawakens,
Freed from the Tree he battles the Deceiver,
And unmakes him.
The Dragon sees the hand of the Almighty,
And knows the treachery it has done,
At long last he shows his true form,
as each of its heads are cut off,
As fire surrounds him,
The Dragon stabs at the righteous,
But he meets his fateful end,
at the hands of
With Two Hearts.”
With a heavy sigh Omega leaned back against the wall. “Knowing too much can be a burden, alright. A very heavy burden.” He looked at Kaji with a tired expression, his voice spoke in a quiet, mournful tone. “Sometimes I close my eyes at night and I can see their faces. All of those other kids, thinking they were about to go free and lead happy lives and then just to get destroyed like so many lab rats. I couldn't let that go. We couldn't be the only survivors and not do something, whatever we could about it. Do you know that feeling?”
“Yes,” Kaji replied to him. “Yes, I do in fact.”
“Then maybe it's good that you're here now, to see this through to the end.” Omega took one more swig from the flask and afterward offered it again to Kaji, who finished what little was left. He handed the flash back and Omega put it aside and then settled himself against a corner. “You should get some sleep,” he told him. “You're going to need it.”
Go on to Chapter Forty-Five