Admiral Vinson hurried into the command center as Sheffield and Musashi stood at the command platform along with another young female officer. Both of the others had earphones to their ears so they could listen to the live feedback they were now receiving.
“What's going on?” Vinson asked.
“NERV just went on alert again,” Sheffield responded. “Alpha was willing to risk detection to put this on live feed.” Vinson grabbed a headphone and also listened to the audio.
The audio feed was being sent via scrambled signal satellite phone so the voice on the end was crackly with much static in the background. Despite the background noise they could hear the agent’s description of what he was observing.
“EVA-02 is penetrating into Central Dogma!”
“EVA-02?” Vinson asked.
“Something's not right,” Musashi realized.
There was some more crackle on the audio feed, and then “EVA-02 is designated hostile target. EVA-01 ordered to engage.”
Vinson turned to Sir John. “Wasn't there a new pilot?” Sir John put his finger over his lips as he tried to listen more carefully to the transmission. After more static the audio came up again. “Fifth Child has been re-designated as 17th Angel! Repeat. Fifth Child has been re-designated as 17th Angel! EVA-02 is under control of the Fifth Child!” All three of them said nothing as they tried to listen for more. There was some portion of audio that was inaudible, and then it came up again: “Heaven's Door! They've opened Heaven's Door!”
Vinson asked the Japanese agent “What happens if EVA-01 can't stop him?”
“If all else fails NERV will set off the N2 mines below the facility and blow up everything, with the hope that it would destroy or at least severely damage the Angels as well.”
The British commander thought about that for a moment. “Would they set them off if we attacked them?” Sir John asked Musashi, who paused to think about the question. “I think it might depend on circumstance but there's certainly a risk.”
“Who controls the N2 mines?” Vinson asked.
“Central Dogma. There's probably an alternative way to activate them however.”
“A good point,” Vinson said, “if we make it that far. Johnnie we need a solution to that...” Sir John nodded and the three of them kept listening for more information on the current attack. There was static for a couple of minutes then a voice came on saying “Can't make it down any farther! Some sort of a force field is all over the place! I can see the First Child though, and the Commander.” There was more static and Vinson glanced over at the main display in the command center. The map was lit up with red and purple dots over Tokyo-3 and the message ANGEL ATTACK – 17TH ANGEL was on the screen. After a few agonizing minutes the voice came up again. “Angel destroyed. Need to sign off now!” Then the audio went dead.
“That's it,” Vinson said to the others.
“It's the last of the Angels?” Sheffield asked Musashi, who then nodded.
“Then there's no time to waste. Let's roll!” Vinson immediately turned and rushed out the door, Musashi following just behind him. Sheffield motioned to the communication officer next to him and she gave him a different headset while adjusting her computer display. Sheffield put on the headset and started issuing orders. “OLYMPUS to all gods. OLYMPUS to all gods. WEDDING MARCH. Repeat. WEDDING MARCH...”
When the alarm was sounded, Patrick ran to where EVA-04 was. Hurrying across the base he noticed a heavy flow of men and vehicles moving towards the runways, with the multitude of aircraft being swarmed over by technicians and aircrews in preparation for their attack. In his thoughts he had always compared Pine Gap to a beehive swarming with activity, and now the bees were energized and angry.
When he reached the EVA he found that the large tarps had been removed and the cranes had shifted it to a kneeling position. The entry plug was lying next to the unit as ground crews quickly went over everything. One of them, an older bearded man who sounded like he had a Scottish accent asked Patrick to just stand a while as they prepared everything for him.
Patrick looked over at the base and watched as the Alliance's vehicles, loaded with soldiers, rolled down the various roads. Other soldiers manning missile and gun emplacements watched the skies in case someone came to interrupt the launch. Some short distance behind the command building Patrick noticed that there were a set of small houses, probably built for the original occupants of the base. Looking at the houses he saw several people standing outside and watching the spectacle as he was. He noticed in front of one of them was a younger, dark-skinned woman with two small children. In the house closest to the command building there was another woman who stood in front, waiting nervously. She was short with long, dark black hair and looked about 35 to 40.
A moment later running out of the command building was the unmistakably tall and muscular figure of Admiral Vinson, now dressed in a flight suit with a helmet around one arm. He was hurrying along speaking in a phone on one hand and running towards the closest of the houses. Vinson reached the house with the short dark-haired woman and Patrick watched as the commander put away his phone and they spoke to each other, though he was much too far away to hear their conversation. After a few minutes the woman embraced Vinson tightly, and the commander bent over to kiss her. They kissed passionately for a while and then without saying anything further Vinson turned and hurried off with the woman silently looking after him as he ran to the airfield. Vinson glanced quickly at the Evangelion as he kept running, and then a HMMWV picked him up and took him the rest of the way to the tarmac.
As the admiral's vehicle turned out of sight the dark haired woman turned her attention to the EVA. She just stood there and watched as the crews prepared it for action, and Patrick thought that perhaps she was looking at him as well. She said nothing but just stared at the him in the distance and Patrick stared back at her.
Vance's mother, Patrick thought. Double-V had said she didn't know that he was a pilot. I guess she knows now.
After a while Mrs. Vinson slowly turned away and silently walked back into the house. While Patrick couldn't see the expression on her face, her slow movements seemed to express sadness to him. Patrick watched her walk back inside and took a deep breath.
Am I doing the right thing? he still wondered. Because there is no way I can do this by myself.
Patrick turned around and looked at the entry plug as the crew worked both inside and outside of it. As he watched the technicians he realized that he didn't know any of the ground crew that had been working on his EVA. Nearly all of the American-based EVA technicians that Patrick was familiar with either disappeared with NERV-2 or were killed in the EVA-03/13th Angel disaster in Matsushita. This crew that was now working on his plug all spoke English with heavy accents and mostly looked like they came from Europe.
On the ground next to the entry plug were a row of crates, cases, and bags all having equipment that would be later embedded into the entry plug, or were necessary for it's maintenance and operation. Most of the equipment was stamped PROPERTY OF NERV – FIRST BRANCH, meaning that it was “liberated” from NERV's former development laboratory in Massachusetts. Sitting on the ground next to a large crate was a black duffel bag with red stripes. Patrick took a closer look and recognized the bag immediately: it was an EVA pilot's plug suit, and more specifically the plug suit for EVA-03's former pilot.
Patrick grabbed the duffel bag by its shoulder strap and pulled it to him, then bent down and zipped it open. Inside the bag was a male plug suit, black with red and gray stripes along the sides, the number '03' around the base of the collar. He was pulling the suit out of the bag when the crew chief saw what he was doing and jogged over.
“Don't worry about the suit, laddie. We've got your own suit over in the tent for you to change into.” The crew chief pointed at a small khaki tent pitched a few meters away.
“Oh, well, it's okay,” Patrick told him. “I just wanted to see it. Was this ever worn by the pilot?”
“Donno. They brought it down from the States early on when they were getting ready to hit Japan the first time. Now if you don't mind we'll just be a wee bit longer...” the bearded man then quickly ran over to the other end of the plug and yelled at some other technician.
Patrick held the black plug suit in his arms and closed his eyes. Vance if I ever needed you, it's right now! Damn, why does it have to be like this? He looked again at the plug suit and then an idea popped into his head. He first looked around to see if anyone was paying attention. When he noticed no one was watching Patrick took the plug suit he was holding and ran into the tent.
The light of the full moon illuminated the runways at Alice Springs, as aircraft after aircraft took off from the two runways. A dozen large bombers took off first, followed by several dozen fighter aircraft. Following the fighters was a squadron of VTOL Thunderbolts, the same aircraft that NERV used in its tactical operations. After the fighters were clear then giant airlifters loaded with troops and equipment began to assemble on the runways and then climb one by one into the night sky.
The aircraft assembled by the Alliance represented a hodge-podge of types, from ancient B-52s and F-111s to modern F-35s and Typhoons. Some were stolen from the UN or reported as “lost in accidents.” Others were hidden away by their respective air forces during the post-Second Impact unification of Earth’s military. A few were kept as museum pieces or were prototypes that were not part of any declared inventory. With so many types assembled together it was a logistical nightmare, but one that the Alliance had been preparing for many months. Now with its plan in full swing the Alliance rushed into the air in its last-ditch effort to prevent the unthinkable.
The last aircraft to take off was the huge C-5M with Unit 04 strapped to its rear. The EVA, with its additional battle equipment, didn’t completely fit into the normally spacious cargo compartment so the airlifter had metal braces to secure its legs during the flight. It could fly even with that modification, but it would be unable to land without unloading the EVA first. The C-5M needed over a mile of runway and used attached rockets to accelerate to sufficient velocity to get airborne.
Standing and watching the aircraft make their runs were a large group of ground crews and others at the base, and among them were General Sheffield and Dr. Foch. Sheffield would stay behind at Pine Gap, using the Alliance’s barely functional satellite network to direct the battle as well as other Alliance operations directed towards NERV facilities in Germany and the USA. If the plan was successful and the Alliance managed to get control of NERV, Dr. Foch would leave for Japan with the next wave of support aircraft, as his help would be needed to support ongoing operations with the EVAs.
Sheffield and Foch both watched as the C-5 loaded with EVA-04 rumbled down the runway, hit its booster rockets and then nearly at the end of the tarmac lumbered off into the sky. The C-5 slowly climbed altitude, jettisoning its rockets once it was well clear of the runway. Once it reached the same altitude as the rest of the aircraft circling overhead, a pair of fighters joined either side of it and the mass of air power flew northward and quickly out of sight.
Sheffield spoke to Dr. Foch. “I always meant to ask you but hadn’t gotten an opportunity until now.”
“What was this?” Foch responded.
“How did you know EVA-04 would return?”
“An educated guess, really,” the scientist said. “It’s easy to assume that the Dirac Sea just swallowed everything at NERV-2 and compressed it into a black hole. But we knew from Japan that an EVA could survive a Dirac Sea. Making the assumption that it can survive, it would logically return to its point of origin when it willing to.”
“We scientists tend to try to break everything down to equations and theorems, work out cause and effect to reach a conclusion. Lacking data we go into crisis and try all sort of different angles and theories to explain things. If it was something as straightforward as an explosion or some other sort of chemical or physical reaction, we experiment and try to duplicate and observe the result and then draw up a theory to get an answer. But I spent enough time working with EVA to know among all things that it is the human element that matters most. If the heart can gain the courage to return, the will follows.”
Foch continued. “EVA will, among all else, protect the pilot. It’s the bond between pilot and the unit that provides the power, that generates the AT field, that provides motivation. Once the threat to the pilot is gone, EVA can follow its own heart if so enabled. And being human, the heart invariably wants to come home.”
“The EVA itself wanted to return,” Sheffield concluded.
“Somehow she knew she had to,” Foch told him. “But as I said, it was an educated guess.”
“Quite. Now we see if this isn’t all just a fool’s errand.”
“I don’t think God would have permitted us such a lost hope, even at this late hour. One thing is for certain, however.”
Sheffield looked at Foch, who was now walking back to the facility. “What is that?”
“This day, one way or another, mankind’s childhood will be at an end!”
The bright moonlight shone into Rei Ayanami's apartment window, waking her up. She rubbed her forehead and breathed deeply. The jumble of memories inside her head were beginning to sort themselves out more now, but still much inside of her mind was clouded in confusion.
She looked out the window and saw the full moon loom large in the night sky. Seeing it calmed her somewhat and gave her the stillness to put her thoughts in order. She pulled up her knees against her and sat on the bed for a while as she considered what had happened to her, and what was about to happen.
The door from heaven is closing, she felt, and the door to heaven is opening.
Rei closed her eyes and thought about the world she was in. A voice inside of her spoke. The time is approaching. The one living inside of you will awaken. The one you have always feared.
I know, she answered back to herself. I've tried to run away. But now I cannot. I want this to end. I don't want to keep going on, being reborn and reborn again.
Even if it means the end of everything? The voice inside asked her.
Anywhere can be Heaven if you have the will to live, she remembered another voice telling her before. But I don't want to live anymore, if living means that I can no longer be myself. She looked up at the moon again, and then she knew what she had to do.
Rei got out of her bed and walked to her dresser. Pulling out the drawer and lifting out her school uniform, she knew it would be the last time she would ever do this.
Inside the top drawer she saw another neatly folded pile of clothes next to her other school uniform. A white top with a plaid black and white skirt. She looked at them curiously. This is not a school uniform. When did I wear this? Rei tried to concentrate but the memory was fleeting, as it felt like something floating in her mind she couldn't quite grab. There was a small video player box next to the clothes and also a small silver cross. Unsure of what to do and feeling the need to go to NERV quickly, she fastened the small cross around her neck and then put on her school uniform and left the apartment.
Go To Chapter Fourteen