35,000 feet above the Western Pacific
Patrick sat restlessly inside the entry plug of EVA-04. It had already been flooded with LCL, but he had no visual signal outside of the aircraft as he was still in the C-5’s cargo hold. During the long journey from Australia he had spent the time running the Alliance’s battle plan over and over through his mind. While he was frightfully nervous during the flight, during the trip he had also remembered something that Vance Vinson had told him in training, a long time before his first trip to Japan.
“Double-V,” Patrick had asked Vinson during one of their many training exercises in the EVAs, “How the heck do you keep from being so damn nervous out there?” He asked the question as he sat in Unit 04, during one of his very first training sorties.
Vance smiled at him though the video link from Unit 03. “It’s simple really. Just assume you’re dead!”
“That’s all there is to it!”
Patrick shook his head. “I don’t get it. Isn’t the point of all this training to keep you alive during combat?”
“No,” Vinson told him. “The point of training is to get you to hit what you're aiming at, whether that's to kill an Angel, or if it's to drop cargo where it belongs, or anything!”
“But how can you do that if someone kills you?”
“Because either you or someone else kills them first, and that happens because everyone is focused on objective and not worrying about themselves.”
Vance softened his voice. “If all you're worried about is getting killed, you will get killed. If all you're worried about is hitting the target, you will hit the target. And your chances of surviving will greatly increase if you hit the target. So the best thing to do is assume you're already killed and then you don't have to worry about it.”
“And if you really do get killed?” Patrick asked him.
Vance shrugged his shoulders. “Well, if your number's up, it's up. There's nothing that you can do about that any way if you think about it. But if it's your time, it's a heck of a lot better to go out with a bang than a whimper, don't you think?”
Vance, Patrick thought as he recalled the memory of his friend, You probably knew it was coming anyway, didn't you?
Hearing the crackle of the communicator calling on each part of the Alliance force to call in, Patrick listened for his position in the roll call. His was the last in the order of battle.
“GABRIEL unit is standing by!” he called out at the end.
Vinson’s voice was now heard over the communicator. “ZEUS to all gods, WEDDING CRASHERS! Repeat, WEDDING CRASHERS!”
Once the admiral gave the order most of the aircraft in the group rolled and dove downward, rapidly losing altitude as they approached the Japanese air defense radars. A few heavy bombers stayed at high altitude, opening up their bomb bays and dispensing out dozens of cruise missiles that would be part of the first wave of the attack. The missiles themselves fell through the air until just a few thousand feet above sea level and then ignited rocket boosters to start their attack runs.
Patrick's stomach twisted a little as he could feel the roll and steep dive of the transport following the rest of the air wing. Not much longer now, he thought. He repeatedly pushed his fingers into his palms to keep himself focused. He shook his shoulders a little and looked at the black and red plug suit he was now wearing. On his wrist he could see the numbers “03” printed into the wristband. He didn't think Vinson's plug suit would have fit him well but it was snug and felt like a second skin, which is what it was supposed to do. Patrick then relaxed his muscles, leaned back into the throne and closed his eyes.
Well, Double-V...I guess my number's up!
Rei walked down the dark passageway as she made her way to the elevator shaft. Hidden in the large jumble of connecting tunnels, the narrow hallway was the secret access way to the elevator that would take her deep below to Terminal Dogma.
Not marked on any maps of the Geo Front, only a few knew of the existence of either the passageway or the elevator it led to. That few included the commander, vice commander, the scientific director, and a handful of security personnel that guarded them and the First Child. It was the chief of the security team that now stood in front of the elevator door in front of her.
Rei stopped and looked at the burly dark-suited man as he pointed a pistol at her head. On the ground she saw two bodies, dressed in dark suits as the chief was. Blood was spilling across the hallway from their corpses.
The security chief looked at the First Child as he put his laser point directly at her forehead. For years he had been part of the security detachment for the NERV core staff, all the while reporting to SEELE what he saw and heard. Now SEELE had given him one final mission.
Rei stood there and looked at him curiously. “So beautiful,” he said as he took careful aim. “And such a pity.” As he started to pull the trigger the chief felt two bullets thud into his abdomen from his right and collapsed before he fully realized what had happened.
The First Child watched as another Section Two agent walked out of the shadows, silenced pistol in one hand. This agent was younger and taller than the others, with a square jaw. “Sorry about the mess,” he told her as he stepped over the bodies and approached her.
“Ayanami-chan, you're in grave danger here. I need to take you to safety.”
“I need to go down there,” she calmly responded.
“I'm afraid I can't let you do that,” the agent said as he holstered his silenced pistol and grabbed a tazer from his jacket.
Without saying anything Rei walked towards the elevator entrance. As Alpha moved to grab her he felt an invisible force pushed him away from the girl. In the minimal light of the access way he could see geometric patters form around Rei as she opened the elevator door with her key card.
She entered the elevator door and looked back at him. “Please protect the others,” she asked as the elevator doors shut behind her. Alpha quickly ran to the control panel and tried to call the elevator back. Unsuccessful, he quickly stretched a piece of tape across the elevator door and hurried back down the access way to his next target.
The tape he placed on the elevator shaft was embedded with a radioactive isotope, one that could be found with a specially-equipped sensor that the Alliance assault team would have. Alpha just hoped they would get here before all hell broke loose.
In his darkened office Commander Ikari sat at his desk as the vice commander stood next to him. They were surrounded by the holographic boxes of the leaders of SEELE, who had summoned the meeting. It would be their last.
Chairman Keel, in the guise of “SEELE 01” spoke first. “The promised time has come. With the Lance of Longinus now lost, complementation using Lilith is impossible. Our only hope is to proceed with EVA-01, Lilith's sole clone.”
Gendo folded his hands and spoke plainly. “Our scenario is different from SEELE’s. Humans should evolve into a new world. That is the purpose of the EVA series.”
One of the leaders spoke behind him. “We have no intention of giving up our human forms simply to enter the Ark called Eva.”
”It is merely a rite of passage,” said another, “to bring about the rebirth in those who are imprisoned within their bodies.”
Other leaders joined in. “The fate of destruction is also the joy of rebirth! A sacrament to unite God, humans, and all other life forms in death.”
The commander didn’t react, but simply looked straight at the Chairman’s obelisk and gave the answer he had wanted to say to SEELE for years. Throwing down the gauntlet, he said “Death gives birth to nothing.”
Keel was quick to respond. “Then death is what you shall have!” The thirteen holographic monoliths then disappeared. The lights came on and the commander and vice commander looked at each other, knowing what came next.
“It’s best that we start getting ready,” Futsuyuki told him. “They won’t waste any more time.”
“Put us on full alert,” Gendo said. “They’ll start with the MAGI first…”
Misato spoke into her mobile phone as she rushed down a hallway towards an elevator on NERV's C-deck. “Status report?”
“Hyuga here. Tokyo-2 has just issued Special Order A-801!”
“That's right. Abolishment of special legal protection for NERV and transfer of all command to the government of Japan.”
The elevator doors closed as Misato continued to listen. “It's an ultimatum. Plus, the MAGI are being hacked. Things aren't looking good!”
Maya then got on the phone. “Ibuki here. Dr. Akagi has just begun protective countermeasures.”
“Ritsuko!?” Misato exclaimed as the elevator doors opened to Central Dogma.
Several floors below Ritsuko Akagi sat in a crawlspace underneath the MAGI computer system as she rapidly typed code into a laptop terminal. While the MAGI had an automatic defense system against intrusion by outside computers, their opponents were using the five MAGI “clones” supplied by NERV to its branch locations. Each of the five systems had nearly the same raw computing power as Tokyo-3's, plus they were working closely together to quickly worm their way into the main NERV system.
The MAGI trinity could easily defend itself against an attack by one or two of its clone systems, but an attack by all five was significantly more dangerous and risked overtaking the MAGI itself. If that happened NERV could be shut down from within and the Japanese soldiers who now surrounded the GeoFront could almost literally walk in and seize control. As a result Dr. Akagi was released from her cell where she had been held since destroying the Dummy Plug system, and was now rapidly reprogramming the MAGI's defenses to repel the five-pronged attack.
This smells like something Harrison Forrestal might have come up with Ritsuko thought to herself as she went through pages of code changes. No doubt he gave SEELE the hack program to gain their trust.
Misato stood on the operations deck and watched a graphic of the computer battle on the main screen. The MAGI appeared in the middle while other systems from Tokyo-2, China, the USA and Germany connected from all sides to gain control of each of the MAGI's main CPUs. Two were already controlled, while one CPU was nearly 90% taken.
“How much longer?” she asked the controllers.
“We should just make it!” Hyuga responded. “Dr. Akagi is amazing! One more minute to the end of page 120, and only two and half more minutes until deployment of a priMari firewall.”
Misato looked at the graphic nervously. They're just hacking the MAGI? She thought to herself. They're not going to let us off that easy...
Also watching the cyber battle on the command deck were the commander and vice commander. “The MAGI is only the first skirmish,” Futsuyuki said to Commander Ikari. “The bastard's objective will be the direct take-over of headquarters and the two remaining EVA units.”
“Yes,” Gendo replied. “With not only Lillith but even Adam in our hands...”
“No wonder the old men are so worried!” They both looked at the main screen as only one sector on the MAGI remained in control, the rest of the system was colored red. Suddenly a wave of green spilled over all three CPUs as the new firewall was implemented.
“Hacking against MAGI has been stopped!” Maya reported excitedly. “A Danang Type-B defense screen has been deployed. External access is impossible for the next 62 hours.” All of them breathed a deep sigh of relief.
In the crawlspace underneath the MAGI Ritsuko packed away her terminal. To her the reprogramming was challenging but not overwhelmingly so, as she had envisioned the possibility of such an attack some time ago and thought about ways to deal with it. Having formed a plan in her mind to create the transposing firewall weeks earlier she had given herself time during the battle to reprogram some other parts of the MAGI core system as well, parts that would again allow her complete control.
She put the terminal away, quietly picked up a pistol from a small unmarked compartment inside the crawspace and then dropped it in her white lab coat pocket. Into another pocket she dropped in a PDA which was now actively linked to the MAGI. She had earlier observed that Section Two had assigned just two guards to her. Overpowering them should be easy enough, she thought, and then there would be just one more target to go.Ritsuko patted the titanium cover of one of the MAGI's cores as she started to slide out of the crawlspace. “See you in a bit, mother.”
Off the eastern coast of Japan
On board the Liberator Kensuke Aida quietly sneaked out of his cabin. Listening to the sounds of the warship early that morning as it prepared for battle he had been unable to sleep, as he was excited with fantasies of watching all sorts of military men and hardware go at each other in high-tech mortal combat.
On the day before when the Suzaharas, the Horakis and himself arrived on board, they were quickly taken to sickbay where each was examined by the ship's medical staff and Toji's sister was given her own bed in the ICU. Once determined that they were okay the group were given rooms at the rear of the ship. Toji was separated from the rest of the group for a time but then returned much later that evening, telling Kensuke and the others that the Alliance intelligence people had questions about EVA and what he knew. While waiting for Toji to be returned to the group Kensuke tried to look for Mari, who had disappeared when they initially arrived on the ship. The group of Japanese civilians were unfortunately well guarded by sentries and he was unable to get past them and either look for Mari or explore the ship.
Now at five in the morning Kensuke had overheard the ship's loudspeakers call “General Quarters.” Aida's English wasn't very good but he knew the meaning of that term as a call for the ship to go into combat. Grabbing his video camera, he had left his cabin and tapped on Toji's cabin door. He knocked on the door a few times, and then he tried to open it and noticed it was locked. Figures. Armageddon's going to start and all you can do is sleep. Kensuke couldn’t blame him: among the group Toji had the worst day yesterday, so let his friend rest and moved on.
Aida tiptoed down the hallway. At the end of the hall he saw someone standing there with their back to him, but their uniform didn't look like the marine sentries that had been standing there earlier. Once he got closer to the person she turned around and a familiar voice cheerfully said to him “Good Morning!”
“Mary!” Aida exclaimed. It was Mari, only now she was dressed in a skin-tight green and white bodysuit. Kensuke walked up to her. “Where have you been?”
“Getting ready,” she replied. “Today's the day!”
“You're piloting, then?” Kensuke asked her and she nodded as she broadly smiled. He then looked at the strange outfit she was wearing. “Is that a...”
“It's a plug suit, yes.”
“It doesn't look like NERV's suits at all!”
“Oh, really? Well, I'm not really fond of the thing. It's too tight in all the wrong places! Perhaps I can trade it in when this is all over, yeah?”
“I'm about to go over to get set up with my EVA. Would you like to watch?”
“I've worked out a deal with the guards here,” she told him. “They'll let you go on an observation deck on the port side. Just don't go wondering too far.” Kensuke nodded excitedly and they both walked out a side passage to the observation platform. Next to them on the platform was another marine sentry, his watchful eyes scanning all around.
From the platform Kensuke could see lights floating in various places in the ocean distance. After a minute he saw that he could make out the silhouettes of various ships all around them. It was still very dark, but there was just enough light to see what he identified as several destroyers and escorts, at least a couple of amphibious assault ships, and a large container ship. There was also something larger on the horizon which he assumed was an aircraft carrier.
Kensuke just took it all in. “Wow” he said. “It's just like before!”
“Just like before?” Mari asked him.
“About four months ago I went with Toji and Shinji to the UN fleet to watch Unit 02 arrive. I got to watch the fleet in action then, too.”
“So it's not your first time, then?”
“Well, it was a bit different,” he said. “It was an Angel battle, you see.”
“So you have really seen them in action? The EVAs I mean?”
“Twice, for reals! And I was inside of it the first time, really!”
“I wondered how you knew as much as you did. You almost had me going on the train yesterday, you know...”
“Oh, uh, about that..”
“It's all right. I wasn't exactly up front either.” Mari stood there and took a deep breath. “Ten years of work and it all comes down to this.”
“Lucky you...” Kensuke told her as he checked his camera again. “Wish I wasn't just standing here recording this.”
“Recording's important!” Mari said to him cheerfully. “Somebody's got to be keeping records of what we're doing.”
Kensuke looked at the distance. “I'd rather be out there. Hey, where's your EVA? Is it on board?”
“Not this ship. It's on that one,” Mari pointed at the container ship, which had a giant green tarp on the top deck. “Anyway, I best be going.” She turned to face him. “Wish me luck then, will you?”
Kensuke nodded. “I'll give you a copy of the video when you get back.”
Without saying anything else, Mari bent over and kissed Kensuke on the cheek. “Right, then. Be seeing you!” and she turned around and ran back inside the ship. Kensuke stood and watched her run inside, brushing his hand against his cheek and sighed. Oh, man. I'm in love!
Go to Chapter Fifteen