The mood in Central Dogma had become much more tense as the desperation of their situation was becoming apparent. In the last few minutes the JSSDF special forces had fully invested Level 2, pouring more and more troops into the battle as NERV's small defense forces struggled to make a stand.
“Level 3 Block B invaded!” a voice was heard from the tactical operators below the operations deck. “Defense Impossible!”
Lt. Aoba confirmed the breach. “Enemy also confirmed in Block F! Main bypass under crossfire!”
Misato understood the seriousness of the situation: once the enemy got past Level 3, they would be able to get to all of the lower subterranean levels of the GeoFront, giving them access to Central Dogma, the MAGI system that was underneath them, and then eventually to the Evangelions themselves.
“Abandon Levels 1 to 3!” she ordered. “Combat teams, retreat! Release Bakelite into all passages and pipes up to Section 803!”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Aoba acknowledged.
Bakelite was the chemical used to harness Angels (and Evangelions). Made out of a unique alloy developed by NERV, Bakelite was a cross between cement and Super Glue. It could be poured as hot liquid and then solidify within seconds as it cooled, becoming nearly impossible to break off without highly powerful explosives. By pumping bakelite through the upper decks Misato hoped to form another barrier between them and the JSSDF, allowing them to buy them time to get EVA-01 into action and reorganize their defenses.
Misato and the controllers watched as they saw color shades representing the bakelite flow into the tactical map above them, between the sections NERV still controlled and the Japanese. “This should slow them down a bit,” she said smugly.
“Major Katsuragi!” Hyuga interrupted, “Route 47 has been cut off...Group Three is unable to advance! If they can't get there Ikari-kun will be...”
Oh God, No! “All non-combat personnel avoid close combat!” Misato gave her last orders as she took her pistol out of its holster and checked again to see that the magazine was fully loaded. “The enemy forces are professionals. If you can't fall back to Central Dogma it's better to surrender.” She leaned over to Hyuga's station and whispered in his ear. “Sorry. Please take care of things here.”
“Sure,” he whispered back. Misato then ran for the exit.
Hyuga didn't watch her go, as he tried to concentrate on what he needed to do and didn't think about the risk to her or anyone else. We can't lose this, he thought to himself. It can't all be for nothing!
Katsuragi-san, please take care. I really want to see you again, he hoped, but somehow he knew he wouldn't.
General Yamashita observed the battle from his command position outside of the GeoFront, watching his men and armored vehicles progress further and further into NERV's defense rings. His men had initially made good progress against the static NERV defenses, but once inside the facility they had encountered a myriad of obstacles, the red bakelite his special forces had just reported only being one of then. Still even so, they were advancing.
“This is more difficult than expected,” he said to his adjutant.
“We never get the easy jobs, sir,” the young officer replied back to him.
Hyuga and Aoba could now hear the echos of gunfire from just outside Central Dogma, and felt one explosion reverberate through the walls. They looked at each other and then both of them moved out of their chairs and together uncovered a metal panel that was in the middle of the floor of the operations deck. Puling up the panel they began to take out several weapons, including sub-machine guns and pistols, as well as ammunition and grenades.
“This is bad,” Hyuga said to Aoba. “We were never equipped with full-scale close combat weapons.”
“Yeah,” the long-haired controller responded. “Anti-terror measures at best.”
Hyuga began to slam in loaded magazines. “If the JSSDF mounts a serious attack we don't stand a chance!”
Below them there was a loud explosion. Both of the men ducked for cover underneath their consoles. Lt. Maya Ibiki was already on the floor with her back against the console wall. Hyuga took a peek over the console and saw a squad of JSSDF with heavy body armor, including full-length shields, rushing through a large hole in the armored bulkhead of the control center. They immediately came under fire from NERV security on the bottom floor and returned the fire in much higher volume.
From the pile of weapons on the floor Aoba handed an automatic pistol to the petite Maya, placing it in her hands. “Release the safety.”
Maya's whole body was shaking “I...I can't shoot...”
Hyuga tried to be comforting. “Of course you can! Just pretend this is training.”
“But I wasn't shooting at people then!” she protested.
Hearing more gunfire below, Aoba lost his patience. “Idiot! It's kill or be killed!”
As the overhead display showed a series of blue arrows moving closer and closer to Tokyo-3, Sheffield was now on the lower floor hovering over the shoulder of one of the controller staff.
“Status of initial missile wave?” he asked quietly.
The female officer responded with an American accent. “Three minutes to target, sir.”
“Divert a larger portion of the wave to the Western side of the GeoFront. We need to give APOLLO more space to get down safely.”
“Yes, sir.” After a moment she reported back. “All target adjustments are laid in. Missile wave is concentrating on enemy mobile armor and air defense units.”
“Right. Be sure there are no NERV targets in the wave. It won't do to make new friends by blowing up their defenses.”
After she escaped being killed earlier, Rei came down to Terminal Dogma by elevator and then immersed herself in one of the LCL discharge pools on the level. In the past whenever she was troubled she had come to the pools to float in the warm LCL inside the pools and collect her thoughts. It felt comforting to her, like being an unborn child inside of a mother's womb, which was an experience she never had. It was also a way to isolate herself from the world and try to determine for herself the meanings of things. This day of all days was the most troubling to her and she lost track of time, floating naked in the pool oblivious to the raging conflict above her.
A voice inside her mind spoke to her and told her to go to the Dummy Plug Plant, which was not far away. She obeyed, leaving her clothes folded next to the discharge tank and walking still naked through the dark tunnels to the plant.
Upon arriving in the cavernous room where the plant was located she saw the familiar scan tube she had spent so much of her recent time in. Now visible to her behind it was a large tank containing orange LCL, and filled with floating body parts.
For the few years she had existed she had been in this room many times, but never saw what was behind the wall. Despite that, every time she was here she always had an uncomfortable feeling being in the plant room. Now seeing the storage tank in front of her she knew exactly why.
Rei walked up to the surface of the tank and placed her hand on the glass. She watched as pieces of herself drifted past. Arms, legs, heads and other parts swirled silently in the orange liquid, kept preserved in the LCL.
Somehow she had always known that she was not the first: her contact with the “Me” inside of Unit 00 had confirmed that. The complete truth of her existence was always the great unknown to her, the mystery that her mind constantly worked at solving. Seeing the remains of nearly one hundred corpses of herself that truth was now presented to her in astonishingly stark view.
She looked inside the tank and saw the bodies, especially noticing the heads. The eyes were open, the mouths smiling. Rei knew that the smile on their faces wasn’t from emotion, rather it was the effect of relaxed facial muscles that weren’t being used. All of these bodies were shells, without a soul, without feeling, and until a few days ago the body she now possessed had also been one of them.
Why would someone destroy us, she wondered. Perhaps the clones no longer served a purpose, or perhaps they were destroyed in anger. If the second answer was correct, only one person she knew was capable of such an act.
Joining with the “Me” inside EVA-00 had revealed to her the horror of the first Rei’s death. That Rei, with the body of a four-year-old child, was strangled in a fit of rage by Dr. Agaki’s mother, who had then in guilt flung herself off of the command platform in Central Dogma.
Rei had always felt she couldn’t trust the younger Dr. Akagi. Formed in the image of the Commander’s wife, Rei had unknowingly become the nemesis of the scientist, and just like her mother, Ritsuko had also made Rei the subject of her jealous rage.
While her face didn’t show it, in her heart Rei felt the deepest sadness. She had thought that once having made the discover
y of her true being she would find completeness in her soul, a way to rationalize her mind, body, and spirit. Now seeing the dead copies of herself drifting in the blood of LCL, she began to lose whatever hope she clung to of establishing her own identity.
I am only a doll after all.
Rei heard footsteps echoing from the front of the room and slowly turned around. Out of the darkness came Commander Ikari, stumbling towards her.
“Rei,” he said, “I thought you’d be here.” He stopped in front of her and spoke to her softly.
“The promised time has come. Let’s go.”
Deep within the crevices of the GeoFront teams of black-clad soldiers fanned out among the many tunnels and corridors. JSSDF Special Forces troopers moved through the fortress in groups of three, hunting for targets in the many rooms and hiding places that the underground facility afforded.
One team of three moved swiftly down a narrow hallway lit only by emergency lighting on the floor. “EVA pilots are to be terminated on sight,” a female voice on the radio crackled. “Unconditional execution of all non-combat personnel authorized.”
Well that certainly simplifies things, the team leader thought. Before the attack he and the rest of the soldiers in his unit were briefed on the dangers the EVA posed to Japan and the world. While it was regrettable that the EVA's teenage pilots needed to be killed, the danger that any one of them could pose by piloting was far greater of a threat. The higher powers had decided it was best to just eliminate any risk, and if that meant killing three 14-year-olds and other civilians to prevent the Apocalypse, so be it.
They had run into sporadic resistance from NERV security at times but it was nothing they couldn't handle. Now deeper into the lower layers of the GeoFront they were encountering more and more technical staff, and treating them the same way as the security personnel: with absolutely no mercy.
The three-man team went carefully down a flight of stairs, peering at the corners through their night-vision goggles to ensure they didn't miss anyone hiding in the dark. Once at the bottom they then paced down another dark access way and saw someone wondering around. The man, wearing a khaki NERV uniform, was oblivious to their presence and very disoriented.
The man heard a noise in the background and turned around, startled at the three soldiers. He threw up his hands in shock. “Don't shoot!” he told them. “I'm Japanese!”
Traitor. The team leader raised up his sub-machine gun and promptly put a round in the man's forehead. He flew backwards and against the wall, dead before his body slid down to the floor.
The three man team continued down the access way and reached another flight of stairs. After going down half a flight they saw another person on their night-vision scopes. This one was smaller, wearing a white shirt and dark pants, and he was just sitting on the stairs.
One of the soldiers pointed his gun to shoot at the figure, but the team leader waived him off. Followed by the other two he walked carefully to the boy. The solitary figure didn't look up at the soldiers, but just sat there with his head bowed down. The team leader took a careful look at him and recognized the face, remembering it from the pre-mission briefing: it was Shinji Ikari, EVA pilot and son of NERV's commander.
Poor kid. He knows what's coming. The team leader called it in to his superior. “Third Child found. Will proceed with termination.” As the other two soldiers watched, the team leader placed the barrel of his sub-machine gun against Shinji's forehead. Shinji didn't look up, but just sat there trembling. “Nothing personal, kid,” he said to him quietly.
The team leader heard shots in the distance and looked to his left. Charging down the hallway was a figure in red and black, shooting a pistol two-handed as her long black hair flew behind her. In a split second the sergeant saw his two teammates go down and tried to bring his weapon to bear on the oncoming threat, but before he could swing it upward she kicked the sub-machine gun out of his hands.
He struggled to pull out his backup pistol but the woman had pinned him to the railing, her pistol now pointing upwards under his chin. He started shaking as he looked into her raging eyes.
With her teeth gritted she said to him under her breath “Nothing personal here, either!” The last thing the man felt was a bolt of hot metal shooting up through his brain.
She watched as the dead body slumped to the ground, her pistol still smoking. Misato looked down at the still sitting Shinji, who was now shaking uncontrollably. She sighed and then grabbed his arm to drag him off the stairs. “Come on...let's get you to EVA-01.”
Misato had to literally drag Shinji back to her car, grabbing a radio from the dead solider before she left the scene. Once back to the car she listened to JSSDF communications on the radio as Shinji just sat there on the parking lot floor with his head hung down.
“Damn!” she said to herself. “They're trying to prevent physical contact between Shinji and EVA-01. There's no time to lose!” Misato turned to the boy. “Quick, Shinji. Do you want to run away, or go to EVA? Pick one.” The boy just sat there in silence.
“Look,” she said to him, “if we stay here we'll die for nothing!”
Shinji didn't look at her but spoke in a soft, whimpering whisper. “Help me, Asuka...help me...”
Misato nearly lost her temper. “Hiding behind a girl at a time like this?! Running from reality? Lying to yourself? Doing things half-assed is the worst thing you can do! Stand up! STAND UP!!!”
“No,” the boy said mournfully, “Just let me die. I don't want to do anything.”
The officer exploded at him. “Stop talking like a spoiled brat! You're still alive, aren't you? So, do all you can do keep yourself alive and then die afterward!” Without saying another word she proceeded to grab his arm and lift him off the parking lot floor, shoving him into her car.
General Yamashita kept his eye on the battle from his position, continually directing his forces as they encountered pockets of resistance from the remainders of NERV's forces. His young adjutant came over with the radio and spoke with him. “The Defense Agency wants to know why we haven't secured the objective yet.”
The general sighed. From a military perspective his division had been making great progress. “What do they think this is, a video game?”
“They've authorized the use of Special Weapons in order to take control over the enemy,” the adjudant said.
Yamashita gave himself a little smile. That should speed things up. “Very well. Patch me through to Artillery command.” His assistant changed the radio signal and put him through to the artillery commander. “Arty, this is Command. Launch the ballistic missile on the enemy strong point.” He listened for the confirmation. “Yes, it's authorized by the Prime Minister himself. Put it right on top of the dome. Once it's opened up launch a full rocket barrage straight through the top, use the entire battalion. That will clear up any opposition inside.” The general then gave the young officer back the radio receiver. “As soon as the artillery barrage on the GeoFront is clear instruct the Air Assault brigade to move through the opening and engage anything that's left. That should clear the rats out of the nest.”
Fifty kilometers behind them an armored artillery vehicle raised its rocket launcher and then launched a single, large missile. The missile shot straight up into the air reaching an elevation of fifty thousand feet, then changed course and pointed straight down towards the northern end of Lake Ashi. Moving at many times the speed of sound the rocket splashed down into the lake and once making contact with the bottom surface detonated its warhead. Visible from a great distance, the N2 bomb shook the entire Kanto basin as it shattered the top layer of the GeoFront.
In Central Dogma the controllers could feel the entire room shift violently as the nuclear bomb exploded.
“Isn't that a bit extreme?!” Hyuga shouted.
Vice Commander Futsuyuki was now crouching on the operations deck along with the three controllers. “Playing a bit rough, aren't we?”
Once the mushroom cloud of the N2 was visible, the JSSDF's field artillery units poured firepower into the cavity at the top of the GeoFront. Hundreds of rockets streamed into the opening and released their warheads inside the GeoFront itself. The inside space was filled with billowing clouds of fire, smoke and metal as hundreds of thousands of cluster bomblets exploded inside.
As the reverberations of the rocket strikes were felt in Central Dogma, Maya covered her ears and screamed. “WHY DO THEY WANT THE EVAS SO BADLY?!”
Go to Chapter Seventeen