“Ikari has executed a Type-666 protection program on the MAGI system,” one of SEELE’s leaders reported to the others. “It won’t be easy to breach.”
“I had hoped to solve this peacefully, but that is not possible now,” Chairman Kiel responded. “Take over the headquarters directly, now!”
Ten kilometers away from the Geo Front, General Yamashita of the Japanese Strategic Self-Defense Force (or JSSDF) stood outside his command vehicle and surveyed the Geo Front alongside Lake Ashi with his night vision scope. He focused on several weapon and sensor positions that were embedded within steel and rock lined around the perimeter of Tokyo-3.
NERV’s own mobile armored formations had been deactivated days earlier, but their fortress defenses were still there in front of his units. Against a single, large target like an Angel the fortress weapons were useful (if not entirely effective). Against a fast-moving conventional armored force such as the JSSDF however, they would be little more than a nuisance.
Yamashita and the JSSDF had been preparing this offensive for several months. At first only him and his senior commanders knew of the government's plan to eliminate NERV after the Angels were defeated. After the city of Tokyo-3 was destroyed, the Japanese government deployed Yamashita's 7th Armored Division closer to the Geo Front under the guise of “support for UN defenses of NERV.” Yesterday the general announced to the rest of his men that the “truth” about NERV had been discovered, and that they intended to bring about their own Third Impact. In order to save Japan and the world, his men would need to swiftly conquer NERV, destroying everything and everyone that was inside the Geo Front. It was to be a complete liquidation: no prisoners were to be taken.
Of course, Yamashita knew the complete truth. While everything else at NERV was to be wiped out, with N2 weapons if necessary, the Evangelions along with the MAGI system would be kept. There were others that wanted them for their own important purpose.
Yamashita's adjutant came over to him with the secure radio and handed him the receiver. He listened to the final instructions over the line, nodding to himself as the voice on the other end gave him the go-ahead. The general affirmed with his superior and then hung up the line. Giving the receiver back to his adjutant he told the young officer “Send orders to all units. Commence operations as planned.”
In Central Dogma Misato and the controllers barely had time to catch their breath after the hacking attack when alarms sounded again. This time the main display screen was wild with activity and there were panicked calls on nearly all audio channels.
All three controllers looked at their own displays and quickly tried to make sense of what was happening. While they had been through combat alarms many times and knew the pattern of Angel attacks on NERV, this time was nothing like before.
“JSSDF tank battalion advancing through Goura defense perimeter!” Aoba shouted.
Hyuga joined in. “Two more battalions approaching from Gotemba!”
Other voices called out to report incoming Japanese air and ground units attacking NERV's defenses, both the static gun and missile installations that surrounded the Geo Front as well as the small number of security troops that guarded the entrances to the fortress.
On the command platform, Ikari and Futsuyuki monitored the rush of reports. “It seems that man's ultimate enemy is also man,” the Vice Commander dryly commented. Gendo didn't reply to him but issued orders while seated at his desk. “General Quarters. Go to First Level Battle Stations!”
400 kilometers southeast of Japan
Vinson listened as General Sheffield updated him on the battle through the satellite radio. “ZEUS, OLYMPUS. I’m afraid I’ve got bad news.”
“They jumped off, didn’t they?” Vinson asked knowingly.
“Approximately two minutes ago,” Sheffield answered. “As expected the JSSDF are now moving at divisional strength versus the fortress, with full air and artillery support.”
“Damn! We’re still 30 minutes out. We need to clear a space through their air defense quickly. Tell POSEIDON to launch their second missile wave now.”
“Have ARES go after their AWACS ASAP, even if it means getting seen on their sensors,” Vinson ordered, referring to the Alliance’s stealth warplanes now coming in from Alaska. “We have to get in there quickly if this is going to work.”
“Will do. Also, MANTIS reports ready.”
“Good. We’ll need her if those big white boys show up. Any word from ALPHA on their EVAs.”
“Situation unknown. We’re unable to communicate with ALPHA since the firewall went up at NERV.”
Vinson frowned. “We can’t assume anything then. Have ARES have their bombers stand by with N2s in case we need them against the EVAs.”
“Copy, ZEUS.” Sheffield ended the transmission and Vinson opened up another communication with the other aircraft in his battle group. “ZEUS to all gods: Red Phoenix! Red Phoenix! The home team just jumped off so prepare for a hot entrance!”
It was mayhem all across of NERV’s outside defenses as the JSSDF’s overwhelming firepower made short work of the remainder of NERV’s defense emplacements. Tanks and armored vehicles were approaching the Geo Front facility from multiple directions, firing on small pockets of NERV security personnel that were spread out thinly around the facility. Within minutes nearly all of NERV’s large gun emplacements, missile launchers, radar stations, bunkers, and other emplacements designed to help defend against Angel attacks were destroyed by gunfire or explosive rounds launched by mere humans.
The JSSDF’s attack wasn’t limited to heavy armor. Groups of commandos took up positions along several points of entry around the underground facility. At the south hub-station, where Tokyo-3’s train system interfaced with NERV’s main entrance, dozens of black-clad special forces watched as a single trooper crawled to where a single NERV sentry stood guard with his sub-machine gun.
As they watched, a lone soldier crawled on the ground and behind the NERV sentry. Before the guard could react the solider had already jumped up behind him and neatly slit his throat with a combat knife, killing him silently. Dropping the dead guard's body on the ground, the soldier then moved to the control panel next to him and lifted a switch. Behind him, the security doors all began to slide up in unison as alarm klaxons sounded all around. The soldier made a series of hand signals and then the entire company of black-clad troopers moved in multiple columns through the security gates, guns at the ready.
Misato and the controllers watched the ongoing battles on the video displays at Central Dogma when another controller from the level below them shouted “Invading Forces have entered Level One!” A second controller added “South hub-station off-line!”
Misato looked at a computer graphic showing the enemy activity around NERV. There were large amounts of blue symbols moving towards the western side of the Geo Front, but now the train station on the south was also indicated as a combat zone on the display. Misato knew if the JSSDF got entry through the train station, they could quickly flood the Geo Front with hundreds of troops and NERV risked losing control of its home base.
“The forces attacking the west side are a decoy!” Misato shouted. “If their real target is the EVAs they’ll be going after the pilots. Have Shinji stand by at EVA-01, quickly!”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Hyuga answered.
“In sickroom 303,” Lt. Aoba reported.
“Put her in EVA-02 anyway!”
Maya turned around and faced the major, “But her sync ratio hasn’t recovered yet!”
“Yes, but she’ll definitely be killed if she stays here. The best place to hide her is inside EVA-02”
“Yes, Ma’am,” Maya responded and then spoke to the medical staff through her headset. “Stop medication to pilot. Prepare for launch!”
“As soon as Asuka’s inside Unit 02, hide it in the underground lake,” Misato ordered. “It’ll be found almost immediately but it’s better than leaving it in the cage. Where’s Rei?”
“Whereabouts unknown…” Aoba said. “We’re unable to locate her.”
“She’ll be killed! Find her, quickly!”
Misato looked at the tactical display in front of them, showing large amounts of blue symbols closing in on a much smaller number of red ones surrounding the Geo Front Some of the blue symbols had already breached well inside of the facility.
While she knew the NERV staff would fight valiantly, the truth was NERV only had a small number of security personnel and most of them were trained to prevent intrusions by terrorists or other small-size threats. They were neither trained nor equipped to hold off an army of professional soldiers, especially one as capable as the Japanese special forces.
The Major looked up at the Commander and Vice Commander on their platform above here, still stoically observing the battle. Both were emotionless, Commander Ikari was just sitting there with his hands folded in front of him as always watching the displays. How can he be so cool like this? Unless this is all part of the plan…
She closed her eyes and clutched the silver cross around her neck. Damn! If there ever was a time we needed help, it's now! Kaji, please...Misato thought for a moment and realized it was time to take a risk herself. She moved over to Lt. Hyuga's station.
“Take over for me for a bit. I need to go make a call!” Without saying anything further Misato ran over to the elevators, somewhere she wouldn’t be seen or heard, and took out her mobile phone. She quickly dialed the number and waited. It was picked up after the first ring.
A gruff voice answered. “Major Katsuragi, I presume.”
“How did you get this number?”
“Don’t underestimate my abilities! Did you send the message in the bathroom?”
“Major, it’s probable that your communications are being monitored.”
Misato had to control herself to keep from shouting into the phone. “It hardly matters at this point! Did you?”
“Who are you?”
“Someone who is highly concerned about the intended outcome of the Evangelion project.”
Misato listened as Kikuchi continued. “At this moment there is a force of very skilled, very highly motivated specialists that are on their way here to prevent this tragedy. If you have any concern for the pilots under your care, please allow me to remove them from this facility and to our protection.”
“Impossible! How can I possibly trust you?”
“Because our group can offer you much better conditions then the Japanese government, or anyone else, is likely to give you.”
“Why should I believe anything you say?”
Despite Misato's outbursts Kikuchi was calm. “Because Ryo-kun knew you were the one that we could depend on.”
Misato screamed into the phone. “Don’t screw with me! Just because you knew him from before…”
The agent cut her off. “Major, time is very short. I think we would both agree that his priority would always be for the protection of the children, yes? I can help, with or without your cooperation.”
Misato was silent as she considered everything. After a minute she then spoke to Kikuchi in a very serious tone. “If you and your people are truly concerned about the pilots, taking them away from here won’t protect them!”
“Then Major, what do you suggest?”
Within moments of ending the phone call, Kikuchi was already on the third floor of the hospital wing. He entered the room just as a nurse was slipping a red plug suit over an unresponsive Asuka. The nurse noticed him just as she activated the vacuum and the suit formed tightly around the girl’s limp body.
“I’ve come for the Second Child.”
“Her plug suit is on. She’s off the sedatives but it will take her some time to recover, if she’s able to at all.”
“Understood. Thank you.” As the nurse watched, Kikuchi picked Asuka up in his arms and gently placed her against his back, bringing her arms around his neck. Leaning forward so as to make sure she didn’t slide off, Kikuchi quickly tore off several strands of fabric from the sheets on the hospital bed. He took two long strands and tied them around his waist and Asuka’s body, binding the two of them tightly together. The agent then took another strand and tied Asuka’s wrists together, to prevent her from slipping off his neck and shoulders. With Asuka firmly in tow, he then took out his automatic pistol from its shoulder holster and detached the silencer, checking the magazine to see if it was fully loaded.
As he turned to leave the room Kikuchi spoke to the nurse once more. “And ma’am?”
“Yes?” she answered.
“Find a good place to hide, and don’t trust anybody!”
Kikuchi hurried down the hospital hallway, holding Asuka steady on his back with one arm while carrying his pistol with his other. He passed by several hospital staff who were busy making preparations for the likely casualties of the outside battle.
Stepping into the elevator, he closed the door before two other hospital staff could join them, then punched the elevator to the sub-level next to the EVA cages and keying a security code that would allow them no intermediate stops on the way there. He only hoped that the Japanese special forces hadn't reached that far.
Flung on his back, Asuka began to move slightly, mumbling incoherently as the sedatives wore off.
“Kaji-san, is that you?” she said wearily, her eyes still closed.
Kikuchi wasn't sure how to handle her in this state, but he played along. “Uh, yes.”
“Where are we going?”
“To your EVA. It’s time for you to pilot.”
When the elevator opened, alarm klaxons were heard all around as NERV personnel ran back and forth to duty stations or to flee areas already taken over. He stepped quickly out of the elevator still with Asuka on his back, and walked at a brisk pace toward the EVA cages, passing by a group of armed security personnel running the opposite way.
Asuka dreamily spoke to him again. “Kaji-san?”
“I need to tell you something...”
“What is it?”
“I love Shinji, but he’s so stupid that he can’t figure it out.”
“You can tell him yourself when you see him again.”
“Okay…” and she was quiet again.
Kikuchi got to the end of the hallway and saw the EVA cages in front of him, a series of eight giant steel docks each large enough to fit an Evangelion and immerse it in LCL. At the current time only two of the eight had EVAs in them, Cage 7 on the far end with Unit 01, and Cage 1 right in front with Unit 02.
Standing at the end of the hallway were two men in technician uniforms. When Kikuchi started to make his way toward the cages, the two men stopped him.
“If that’s the Second Child, we can take her from here,” one of the men told him.
Kikuchi’s inner sense didn’t feel at all right. “Sorry. I have orders to deliver her directly to the EVA myself.”
“Major Katsuragi contacted us just now,” the first man replied. “You're to give her to us. Now.” As the man was speaking, Kikuchi noticed that the second technician was reaching into his waistband. Before he could remove anything, Kikuchi pointed his pistol to the forehead of the first technician.
“I don't think so,” the agent said. The two men tried to move to attack him but Kikuchi quickly put a bullet in each man's forehead and then hurried towards the cages. In front of him was a flight of steel stairs leading to a two-hundred meter gangway that led to Cage 01. He rushed to the head of the stairs and noticed two more men in technician uniforms, but this time with guns out. Probably some sort of infiltrators, Kikuchi thought. At this point there wasn't time to sort out who was who, he just knew he needed to get the girl and himself to the EVA alive.
Crouching behind the stairs, he said to the girl strapped to his back “Asuka-chan, hang on please!”
“Okay…” she replied, still in a dream-like voice.
Kikuchi took a deep breath and proceeded to hop on the steel railing of the staircase. Both of the infiltrators on the gangway looked towards the stairs at the source of the noise, bringing their sub-machine guns to bear. Sliding down the railing fast and still with Asuka on his back, Kikuchi raised his pistol and rapidly placed another two rounds in each of the men on the gangway before they could get a shot off. When he reached the foot of the stairs he bounded off and ran as fast as he could down the gangway towards the cages.
Hurrying around another set of stairs he ran into another technician and pointed his pistol at the man's face. The panicked look of the red-jumpsuited tech assured him that he wasn't an opponent. Kikuchi lowered the pistol and the tech, now breathing just a bit easier, quickly hurried both of them up the gantry and towards the back of the EVA, where an open entry plug was waiting.
Misato was in operations monitoring the battle when her phone buzzed.
“We’re here,” Kikuchi replied. “They’re loading the entry plug right now.”
Misato felt immensely relieved, taking a deep breath and let it out. “Thank you. Find the First Child and get her out of here.”
“The First Child is currently in Terminal Dogma,” the agent reported, surprising Misato. “She should be safe there for a while. What about the Third?”
“He’s my responsibility. Please help me with Rei.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Kikuchi,” Misato said, “I’m taking an awful chance with you…”
“I understand,” he responded without emotion. “Please also know that I’m going against orders by assisting you in this manner. Hang on, Major. They’re coming.” The agent then hung up the phone.
In Central Dogma the controllers frantically worked as the enemy progressed deeper into the Geofront. One the large displays flashed “EVA-02 Launch” as the rest of the battle staff struggled to keep up with the battle.
“EVA-02 launched via Route 8,” Hyuga reported. “Stabilized at a depth of 70 meters.” Unit 02, with a barely conscious Asuka inside of it, had been launched out into the artificial lake inside the GeoFront's spacious interior. Laid on the lake floor five hundred meters down, the hope was that they could hide it as long as possible.
“Launch EVA-01 next!” Misato ordered. “Deploy it inside the GeoFront!”
Lt. Aoba shouted back “Negative! The pilot hasn't arrived yet!”
“What!?” Misato cried. Lt. Aoba showed the visual of Shinji's location. Far away from the EVA cages, he was sitting in a stairwell far on the west wing of the facility. “Oh, no!” What the hell is he doing? If he doesn't get over to the cages they'll kill him for sure!
The audio channel kept coming up with bad news. “Closing all Central Dogma barricades up to Level 2. All non-combat personnel evacuate via Route 87.” NERV had lost control of the top level of the facility, and the Japanese were rapidly pushing deeper inside. Aoba reported more disaster. “Number 3 underground barricade destroyed! Enemy forces invading Level 2!”
The Commander and Futsuyuki continued to look at the tactical display in silence. After observing the battle's negative progress for a few more moments the Vice Commander mulled out loud, “The JSSDF have committed almost an entire division...it's only a matter of time before they take us over completely.” He looked at his old friend. Without saying anything else they both understood the ultimate matter at hand.
It's finally time. Gendo took a deep breath and slowly got out of his chair. Ikari addressed the Vice Commander by his old title. “Futsuyuki-sensei, please take care of things here.”
The old professor looked at him and smiled. “I understand,” he said. “Please give my regards to Yui.” Futsuyuki watched as the commander silently walked to the elevator on their platform and slowly sunk down below the command platform.
Ten years of painstaking effort and it comes to this, the Vice Commander thought. And here I am his faithful companion left behind. But we both knew at the end of things only he could finish this.
I only hope that he decides wisely, for I know how his heart aches. Choose your ending well, Gendo Rokubungi...
Off the Japanese coast
On the observation deck of the Liberator, Kensuke Aida leaned over the railing as he strained his neck to see the activity above him on the flight deck. The noise of rotors was deafening but he didn't care. This was a dream come true.
Alarm klaxons were heard as the ship went to a higher state of activity. Out in the ocean missiles wooshed from launch rails to find their targets, and rapid-fire cannons shot down incoming missiles from the Japanese Naval Defense Force. Some of those incoming missiles had found targets, and one destroyer in the distance burned in anger.
While Kensuke tried to find the giant composition of noises above him a sailor running down the deck quickly handed him a helmet and protective headphones and then kept running down. Kensuke quickly donned the earphones and helmet and then looked up again at the flight deck.
Above him fifteen Osprey tilt-rotors floated upwards as their engines made the transition from vertical to horizontal flight. Then as a group the Ospreys, joined by a smaller number of Harrier fighters in escort, roared off to the west. As he watched them go, Kensuke jumped up and down on the deck, cheering wildly. Just as they soared off, another set of fighters above Kensuke rushed west at high speed. As he looked all around, missile after missile flew into the air as the Alliance's naval force put all of its strength into the battle.
As he watched the battle, Kensuke knew which missiles were being fired and how long it would take them to reach their targets. He knew each type of aircraft flew in the air and each ship in the ocean by class and individual name. He even knew which radars the ships had and what they their functions were. Most of all, he knew at that moment as he was able to watch the Battle of the GeoFront unfold, that he was probably the luckiest fourteen-year old boy alive.
Go to Chapter Sixteen