Flying low at one thousand feet above sea level Admiral Vinson's Thunderbird crossed the Japanese coastline along with the rest of the Alliance force racing towards Tokyo-3. Once the assault force flew over the rocky eastern shore they caught the bright flash of the N2 detonating over the GeoFront, aircraft buffeting as the shock wave was felt.
“OLYMPUS, this is ZEUS. Did you catch that?”
“Affirmative,” Sheffield replied. “They've launched a full barrage on the target now. Given the progress that we've been monitoring we're nearly out of time.”
“When does the missile wave strike?” Vinson asked.
“Should be any moment now.”
Yamashita smiled as he watched his helicopter forces fly into the large opening at the top of the GeoFront they had just cracked open. While drastic, using the N2 to punch a hole in NERV's underground facility would help him pour more forces into the GeoFront and hopefully force a quick surrender. Already he had radio reports that the command center was being directly assaulted, and there were troops by the EVA cages. One of the pilots had possibly been taken out as well. As long as they kept up the pressure it was only a matter of time before his division would own the place.
His adjutant came to him with the radio again. “It's the Defense Agency again.”
The general sighed. “Now what?”
“They say the nationwide air defense network has been severely disrupted due to enemy air attack.”
Yamashita raised an eyebrow. “How?”
“Reports are of stealth-type fighters attacking our air cover and missile strikes on radar and missile installations,” the adjutant reported.
“Impossible. NERV doesn't have those kinds of weapons. If they've launched an attack like that we would have seen them do it.”
“But then who did?” the officer asked him.
Just as the general was about to grab the radio and speak with his superiors they heard a loud whooshing sound. He and the younger officer were then knocked back several meters as a fireball engulfed the command vehicle in front of them. Both of the men pushed themselves off the ground and saw the burning wreckage of their command track. All around them on the battlefield there were more fireballs and tall rows of billowing black smoke.
The general looked around for the source of the attacks and saw a missile fly just over their heads, headed straight for a column of tanks. As he watched, the missile exploded fifty feet above the tanks in a debris cloud of metal and then suddenly multiple tongues of flame shot from the debris cloud straight through the weaker top armor of four of the tanks. Each of the tanks that were struck immediately exploded.
Armor-sensing weapons, the general observed. Only the UN would have a system that sophisticated. What the devil is going on?
The two men heard another loud noise and looked up and saw a gray-painted fighter, a Swedish-made Griffin, fire missiles at the remaining tanks in the column and exploding another three of them. The fighter then flew past and over the treeline next to them, the general noticing that there were no wing markings on the craft as it went by. Up above them in the sky there were suddenly dozens more aircraft of all shapes and sizes, and all starting to get into the fight.
Yamashita’s adjutant looked at him in complete surprise. “They’re not UN!” he said.
“I can see that!”
“Then who are they?”
“Doesn’t matter,” the general replied, trying to think his way through the new situation. “Get the radio working, we need to get this changed around and quickly.”
Vinson’s force was now directly above the battlefield, as his fighters began to engage targets on the ground and whatever was left in the air. The area around them had been transformed into a violent concerto of machines killing other machines, with fire and black smoke rising above. The cockpit of Vinson’s Thunderbolt crackled with noise as other aircraft started calling in targets while Vinson directed the assault.
“Put fighters on their rear rocket units, we don’t want them to pop another N2 on top of us,” he ordered. “Get the other Thunderbolts over to the west side and have them start to work over enemy units there. We need to get APOLLO on the ground ASAP.”
“Aye, aye, sir,” the junior officer behind him reported and then went to work on his terminal.
The admiral checked his own tactical display to see where his and everyone else’s units were. Vinson asked his assistant again “Any sign of their EVAs?”
“No, sir. But the Japanese sent their air assault forces into the gap over there right after the blast.” He pointed to where the N2 had blasted a whole under Lake Ashi and was now a towering column of water vapor and smoke.
“Then maybe they’re keeping the EVAs inside the GeoFront.” Vinson keyed his microphone to another audio channel. “Command to pilot, get us over to the GeoFront through the top opening.”
The Thunderbird’s pilot came on in his helmet. “You mean go down inside there, sir?”
“That’s where the action’s at, son! Now move!”
Inside the entry plug of EVA-02 Asuka woke to the vibrations of bombs exploding next to her EVA at the bottom of the lake. NERV had launched her EVA through an underground tunnel beneath the shallow artificial lake inside the GeoFront. She was still groggy and incoherent when her EVA launched but now that the plug was shaking violently with each blast she had finally become wide awake.
As the explosions moved closer and closer the girl became more afraid and she lay in the seat of the control throne crawled up in a ball, her eyes shut tight and her body shivering in fear.
“I don't want to die!” she kept repeating to herself over and over, hoping the litany would provide some protection over her. Please no! I'm afraid to die! Please...
At the far end of the entry plug a glowing light began to appear. Asuka didn’t notice it at first, until the source of the light moved towards where she lay. When the light was directly over her she felt something touch her head and she slowly opened her eyes and looked up. Floating in front of her was a white apparition in the form of a female figure. She had long flowing hair like Asuka’s, and her gentle eyes looked right at her.
“Mama?” Asuka asked weakly. In response the ghost smiled brightly at her.
“Mama!” the girl exclaimed, feeling the energy of the apparition around her. The joy upon seeing the image had driven away her fear, as Asuka smiled back at the ghost.
I understand now – the meaning of the AT Field. It’s always protecting me! Always watching over me!
Asuka sat up in her seat, her arms wide open as she felt the warmth of the light that was now embracing her. “Always, always together! MAMA!!!”
Hovering over the lake in the GeoFront, a Japanese Super Cobra helicopter waited as something began to stir from the bottom of the lake.
“Did we get it?” the weapons officer asked the pilot. Before he could respond both men saw the looming image of a frigate being lifted straight out of the water and being thrown at them. The Super Cobra was destroyed in an instant.
Unit 02 rapidly rose from the lake as other helicopters attempted to fire on it. Even though it was unarmed the red Evangelion began to tear apart each aircraft it saw, swatting them like insects. EVA-02 smashed each helicopter in turn and then used the burnt-out frame of one destroyed gunship to club others in quick succession.
In Central Dogma Hyuga and Aoba were now too busy to monitor the outside battle, as they took turns popping over the edge of the operation deck and firing on the JSSDF commandos shooting at them from the bottom floor of the command room. Maya hid behind the stations with her laptop watching the battle as Futsuyuki also watched, giving out orders to their remaining defenders. A signal on her display appeared showed that EVA-02 was now active and engaging the enemy. “EVA-02 is active!” she shouted excitedly. “Asuka's okay! She's still alive!”
Futsuyuki saw the monitor and pointed at another set of unidentified markers on the display. “Who are those? More JSSDF?”
“Unknown, sir,” she responded. She watched for a minute and saw that the unknown targets were engaging the known JSSDF ones. “Wait a minute! They're firing on the enemy.”
“I don't know,” she replied. “There's no further data on them. It looks like another armed force.”
“Great,” Aoba commented as he shot his rifle over the console wall. “They're fighting over who gets to kill us first!”
“Looks like we're popular today!” Hyuga cynically joked as he dropped down and reloaded a magazine into his sub-machine gun.
On the ground inside the GeoFront interior a JSSDF captain saw the red EVA trouncing over their aircraft and quickly grabbed his radio. “The cable!” he shouted into the receiver. “That thing’s power cable! Concentrate all fire on the cable!”
At his command machine gun and grenade teams from all around began to fire on the telescoping steel cable behind Unit 02, joined in by whatever gunships were left in the air. After nearly a minute of withering fire the cable suddenly severed, spinning all around the air as it recoiled back underneath the lake.
An alarm sounded as Asuka saw the power monitor switch from Cable Mode to Timer, as the energy level in the EVA’s batteries counted down from five minutes. “Shit!”
She quickly put the setback behind her, picking up her pace as she kicked and crushed the remaining aircraft around her. Charged up with emotionally energy, the adrenaline pumping through her body, Asuka had never felt more alive. Gone was her aching loneliness and despair. Today she had risen from the dead. She was Asuka Soryu Langley, the greatest Evangelion pilot that had ever lived, and she was going to conquer anything that stood in her way.
Above the GeoFront the battle intensified as more Alliance aircraft arrived at the scene. A flight of three B-1 bombers flew above the ground at near-sonic speed, disgorging their load of two hundred guided bombs which came down on the Japanese forces like a hurricane made of fire and steel. The surviving JSSDF forces on the ground tried to reorganize, seeking cover in the woods or hiding behind destroyed NERV emplacements as others started to use anti-aircraft guns and missiles on the new enemy.
Two minutes after the attack began the second portion of the Alliance's assault wave came over the battlefield. Over two dozen air transports lowered their rear cargo doors and hundreds of paratroopers jumped out, their green and black parachutes pocketing the dawning sky. Close to the train sub-station more blasts were felt as newly-arrived Harriers fired on Japanese tanks and armored cars positioned there, while tilt-rotor Ospreys landed behind them deploying squads of marines. The landed marines immediately moved into the station and engaged in firefights with the Japanese soldiers hidden inside, The Alliance had now fully joined the battle.
On the western side of Tokyo-3 a flight of four C-17 transports also launched their cargo, as two large wrapped pallets were rolled out of each one at 10,000 feet. Dragged out of the aircraft by several parachutes, the bulky pallets swung in the air behind the transports and then jettisoned their parachutes as several larger chutes now popped open above them. Drifting to the earth at one hundred miles per hour, the pallets bounced roughly as they hit the ground, most of them landing on or nearby the major highway leading to NERV.
Following the heavy cargo to the surface were more than a hundred other paratroopers, who swiftly landed close to the pallets. Once they hit the ground some of the men were killed by machine gun fire from a nearby APC. Two paratroopers who had already landed launched missiles at the vehicle and it promptly exploded. Other soldiers ran to the pallets and jumped on top of them, pulling down the parachutes and opening up their camouflage covers. Within seconds each pallet was stripped to reveal an armored vehicle inside: an eight-wheeled Piranha twenty tons in weight. Engines were started, turrets rotated, and cargo doors opened as soldiers climbed inside. Once loaded with their crews the Piranhas rolled off the pallets and advanced down the highway.
Inside one of the Piranhas was Colonel Burke, who was on the satellite radio almost as soon as he climbed in.
“OLYMPUS, this is APOLLO. We've left our LZ and are proceeding to objective.”
“Copy, that APOLLO,” Sheffield replied. “Please use all expeditious speed. Intel reports enemy has penetrated deeply inside already.”
“Understood,” Burke replied and signed off. He then turned to the man sitting next to him.
“So, Mr. Musashi, how do you suggest we proceed?”
Musashi was dressed like the rest of the soldiers, in dark green and blue camouflage uniforms, along with helmets and body armor. “The fastest way inside is in the access way at the end of the Visitor Parking lot,” he told the colonel. “There's a tunnel there that leads to the central shaft of the GeoFront. From there we can reach the EVA cages and Terminal Dogma. Hopefully our inside man has done his job,” Musashi smirked.
“Yeah, well let's hope we even get that far.” Burke signaled the driver in front to follow Musashi's instructions and then ordered the entire company to follow their vehicle.
It didn't take long to reach the parking lot: It was at the side of the freeway, with large signs in Japanese and English reading “WELCOME TO NERV” as well as various signs about the area being under strict security and that trespassers would be shot on sight. Parked next to the underground parking lot opening were two JSSDF armored vehicles. One was blasted immediately by one of APOLLO's heavy-gun mounted Piranhas, while the other opened fire with its own cannon and managed to damage an Alliance vehicle before being destroyed.
The seven remaining Piranhas sped into the parking lot, rolling towards the back and a large open access way perhaps ten meters across. Standing in front of it were a squad of JSSDF special forces who dove for cover behind civilian cars as the Alliance vehicles approached. One of the soldiers hit a control switch on the wall that quickly closed the access way with a large steel door. Others opened fire on the vehicles with their automatic weapons and anti-tank rockets.
Cannon fire from all of the Piranhas swept through the parking lot, exploding cars and trucks in a mess of smoke and hot metal and quickly killing or incapacitating all of the enemy they saw inside. Burke looked through his scope inside the passenger bay of his vehicle and saw the armored door. “The door's closed!” he told Musashi.
“I can get out there and open it,” he replied.
“No bother. We'll do it the easy way. “ Burke got on the radio to his heavy-gun vehicle. “APOLLO 22 blow the door out now!” The heavy-gun vehicle fired a round at the armored door and it flashed in an explosion. As soon as the smoke cleared however Burke looked at the scope and saw the door was still there, a large black smoke stain visible on the center. “Shit!”
“Those doors have armor a hundred millimeters thick,” Musashi told him without being asked. Burke realized the solution and contacted his heavy gun commander again. “APOLLO 22, load AP and try again!”
“Copy, APOLLO,” the heavy gun commander replied and then told his gun crew “Load Sabot!” An armor-piercing shell with a depleted uranium tip (used for its high material density) was loaded into the tank gun and fired at the door. Burke looked through his scope and now saw a large hole in the door big enough to see through, but not big enough to drive through. “Do it again!” he ordered. Moments later another tank round hit the door, this time blowing it completely off.
The colonel didn't give himself time to celebrate. “Let's go, now!” he barked into his microphone. “Rear unit stays, cover our asses!” Six Piranhas rammed through the access way and down a dark tunnel, while one remaining armored vehicle pulled up to the opening and rolled its gun turret towards the parking lot entrance. Soldiers scrambled out the back door and started to spread out through the wreckage of the parking lot looking for any surviving enemy.
The men of SEELE were also observing the battlefield and were not pleased with the development of a new fighting force arriving on scene. Add to it that EVA-02 had awoken and was now destroying every JSSDF unit in sight and the current scenario looked as it might fail. However even this situation had been anticipated.
“That loathsome Evangelion,” SEELE 01 said to the others. “Do they stand in our way yet again? It seems that we must fight fire with fire...”
General Sheffield quickly walked over to the reconnaissance officer's station as he frantically worked at reviving Global Hawk, their aerial drone. They had lost contact with the drone a minute earlier as it was gliding at high altitude above the battlefield.
“Can you make contact with it?” Sheffield asked.
“Doesn't reply to anything,” the officer responded in frustration. After more effort the younger man pounded his fists on his station. “It's no use sir, I think they shot her down.”
“Damn. Contact the fleet and see if they can launch another drone out there. We need to see what's going on.” Sheffield was about to go to his command station when another controller called out “Visual on new enemy targets!” Sheffield looked up at the screen as the image was projected. On the screen, taken from the gun camera of one of the Alliance's fighters, was a group of bat-wing like aircraft descending down on the battlefield.
“Oh my God,” Sir John said quietly.
ZEUS was in his Thunderbolt circling around the GeoFront interior and trying to stay clear of Unit 02. The immediate area around the EVA was a mess of wrecked helicopters. The red Evangelion for its part was looking around for anything else to kill.
“ZEUS, OLYMPUS,” Vinson heard on the radio.
“Look up.” Vinson did as asked and saw that there were nine white winged figures circling above them. He didn't have to guess what they were.
“God almighty! All nine of them!” ZEUS replied. “Time to pull the trump cards.”
The arrival of the Mass Production EVAs wasn't unnoticed at Central Dogma either. Futsuyuki crouched below the stations as Maya showed him the new threat on her laptop screen. The vice commander raised his eyebrows in alarm. “Deployment of all nine units? Isn't that a bit excessive?”
Third Impact, he thought. They're not going to wait...
Asuka saw above her the white EVAs flying in formation and circling downwards towards her. She also knew what they were, having learned of the Mass Production program from Kaji early on. She fingered her actuators in anticipation as Misato's voice came on the communications link.
“Listen Asuka. You must destroy all of the EVA series. I'll have Shinji there to help soon. Do your best!” Misato then signed off,
As Asuka watched the monsters land she said to herself in frustration. “I have to destroy them all? Is she forgetting I was just in a coma?” Asuka looked all around her and saw the EVAs surround her from all sides around the artificial lake in the GeoFront, grinning at her with their eyeless faces and large teeth. She saw her EVA's battery clock counting down, and then took a second to make the mental calculations she needed.
“Nine units in three and a half minutes. That works out to only twenty seconds apiece!” At that she cracked her knuckles and took a deep breath. Here we go...
On board the container ship Mari Illustrious waited inside the entry plug of her own Evangelion. She sat inside the chamber wearing her plug suit as well as a virtual reality helmet plugged into the back of the throne by dozens of cables, a necessity as her EVA's optic system was unfinished.
“Wellie?” she asked her controller.
Wellington was onboard a different ship from Mari and her EVA, as she had a control station inside the Liberator's Tactical Action Center. Dr. Viraat sat next to her at his own station.
“What is it, Lusty?”
“How did my mum die?”
The controller drew a long breath. “What brings this up?”
“Something the American boy told me back in Oz,” Mari said plainly. “You know his mum is gone, too.”
“It was an accident, of course.”
“Did it involve the EVA?” Mary asked. Wellington was about to answer when she received a signal from the command link. “Uh,oh. Looks like you're on!”
“Right,” Wellington confirmed. “We're going to launch you on the rocket sled. It will take you thirty-five seconds to arrive on target. Once you're almost over the boosters tied into your frame will automatically go off to ensure you a soft landing inside the GeoFront. After that you'll have three minutes and twenty seconds of battery life remaining to defeat the Mass Production types.”
“Not more battery?” Mari asked
“Sorry, my child,” Dr. Viraat. “Best I can do under the circumstances, but your weapon systems are fully functional and you still can use your AT Field.”
Wellington came on again. “Don't try to take them all on at once like in Osaka-2. Defeat each one in turn then go on to the next one. EVA-04 is also there so you're alone this time.”
The officer started the launch sequence. “You're off in ten seconds. Two last things: use your power lance, it's your best weapon.”
“We'll go over the bit with your mum after you get back.” If you get back...
“Got It. I'm off!”
On board the container ship that housed EVA-05, the green tarp slid off the top and the EVA's true shape could be seen by all. Strapped onto a large rocket sled along the top side of the ship, the EVA's rocket boosters were strapped to four metal limbs that were fixed to its torso. It looked compacted like an insect inside a chrysalis, waiting to be released. Smoke and fire started to come out of the engines.
On the observation deck on Liberator, Kensuke was still watching the battle as Toji and Hikari now joined him. Hikari was again under Toji's shoulder, helping him move around. Kensuke took a quick glance at them both and noticed this was the first time he had ever seen Hikari with her hair long and not tied in braids.
“What the hell are you doing!” Toji yelled to Kensuke over the loud noises of the flight deck above.
Kensuke pointed to the container ship close by with one hand as he filmed with the other gripping his video camera. “Look, she's about to go!”
His two classmates stopped at the railing and looked on as EVA-05's rocket engines fully lit up. The green Evangelion streaked across the launch rails and shot rapidly into the sky with a trail of white smoke following.
“WOO-HOO!!! GO MARI GO!!!” Kensuke jumped up and down in excitement, nearly forgetting to film the launch. He moved his camera to follow the airborne EVA as it proceeded towards Tokyo-3. Hikari and Toji just watched in amazement as she blasted off.
Flying just around the edge of the battlefield, Patrick sat in his own entry plug and mentally went over his own game plan. As he had done many times during the flight, in his head he checked off all of the mission details as well as each weapon at his disposal. As the only one of the two Alliance EVAs with an S2 engine, it would be his responsibility not only to lead the charge on the EVA series, but also to cover EVA-05's escape when her batteries were close to zero.
On the communicator he heard Admiral Vinson's voice. “ZEUS to GABRIEL, launch now! Targets are inside the GeoFront. Engage at will!”
“Copy, ZEUS.” Patrick gripped his actuators and waited for his transport to fly him to the target. Another voice came on after Vinson's: it was the pilot of the C-5. “Kid, we're going to drop you just over the target. The Japs blew a hole right through the top so you'll land at the bottom. Good luck!”
“Thanks,” Patrick said and then he took a deep breath and closed his eyes, still gripping his handles tightly. There's nothing left but this moment. Nothing else matters...
The massive C-5 lowered to 1,000 meters in a shallow dive and then quickly climbed upwards. At the same time a series of parachutes came out the back attached to the EVA and it was pulled out of the transport by gravity and air resistance. The C-5 jerked sharply upwards as the weight of the beast was released from its rear. As the parachutes were then ejected EVA-04 began its rapid descent into the shattered opening of the GeoFront.
Vinson's Thunderbolt continued to fly at the outside edge of the GeoFront as he observed the battle between EVA-02 and the Mass Production series. “Where the hell are they?” he called out as he tried to push his own units on to the field.
“Both units are en route, ETA two minutes,” said his assistant.
At that rate it'll be too late, he thought. Vinson watched the red Evangelion as it grabbed a sword from one of the white beasts it had defeated earlier and now bashed it into another one standing in front of it, slicing its head off. In the last minute he had seen Unit 02 destroy three of the white EVAs in a flurry of aerobatic prowess, jumping from one to another as each one was swiftly destroyed in turn. Not a stranger to fighting against long odds, he couldn't help but admire the pilot. Damn she can fight!
At the end of the tunnel Misato slid her car into a parking stall and dragged Shinji out by the hand into the passageway. Looking both ways before seeing an open space, she pushed him forward first towards the elevator shaft, then ran to follow him. As they both ran across a team of JSSDF soldiers spotted both of them and opened fire.
Both of them ran as quickly as they could to the shaft and Misato thought they had made it. Just as she reached the entryway however she could feel something burning hit her straight into her lower back. She yelped with pain as she quickly turned and closed the armored door behind them both.
Reporting that they had spotted the Third Child again, the three soldiers were about to pursue them down the way to the shaft when they received orders to pull back to the tunnel. Engineers would be coming to demolish the entire section.
Misato tried to catch her breath in the hallway as she slumped down. She could feel that the pain in her body wasn't stopping and how her body was shaking and getting colder. Her breathing was heavier as the full effects of the wound were being felt. She knew what it was.
“That...should hold them off...for a while,” she told Shinji with labored breathing. Shinji looked at her in shock as he saw the bleeding on her uniform. Misato tried to cover it up with her hand. “It's okay,” she lied to him. “It's not as serious...as it looks.” She pushed herself up off the floor and staggered to the elevators, opening the gate of the one leading to Cage 7.
With her remaining strength Misato pushed Shinji against the elevator gate. Shinji wouldn't look at her but just hung his head down. She swallowed hard as she tried to push back blood and bile in her mouth.
“Shinji,” she told him, “from here on out you're on your own. You have to make the decisions by yourself...without anyone's help.”
The boy struggled to speak. “I...I can't do it,” he stammered. “I just can't!” Then Shinji said weakly “I'm so tired...”
Misato responded back in an angry tone. “I'm not going to feel sorry for you. If you don't want to go on then just die without doing anything at all! You've got to go, otherwise it's all been for nothing!”
Shinji started to cry and Misato shook him to stop. “Crying won't help you now!” She stopped shaking him and let him go on for a little bit. I'm running out of time. God help me, what do I do?
Misato softened her grip on Shinji and spoke to him in a more gentler voice. “Shinji, I know it's been so hard on you, for so long. I know it's painful seeing everyone suffer. I know that you hate yourself and want to make yourself suffer. I know the loneliness you feel. Everything you feel I feel it myself.”
As Shinji tried to calm himself she continued. “You're not the only one who feels this way. Don't ever think like no one knows what you go through. But as bad as everything seems you've got to do this one more time. Just one more time.”
Misato could feel her vision start to get blurry and felt chills all over her body. She struggled to find the words she needed. Steeling up he courage she made her last stand.
“Listen, Shinji. Pilot EVA once more and find yourself. Why did you come here? Why are you still here? Find your own answers. And then...” she said to him as she pulled the black cross from around her neck, “after you find them...come back to me.”
She gently pressed the necklace and cross into his hand. “It's a promise,” she said softly. “Now, go.” Misato then took her hands and gently held them against Shinji's cheeks. Then she kissed him deeply, finally letting her long-held passions escape from her. Unable to move the boy's eyes flicked open in surprise.
Misato spoke to him not as a boy, but as man. “That's a grownup kiss,” she said almost at a whisper. “We'll do the rest when you get back.” Before Shinji could respond Misato took the rest of her remaining energy and shoved him into the elevator, and then pushed the button to close the door. The last thing Shinji saw of Misato was her smiling face.
Go to Chapter Eighteen