Gendo Ikari and Rei walked through the darkened bowels of Terminal Dogma to a massive steel door labeled as “LCL PLANT.” It was also known to many at NERV as “Heaven's Gate,” where the First Angel was supposedly kept.
Opening the doors the two of them silently walked through and then down a steel dock that was placed on top of a huge underground sea of LCL. The source of the LCL was above them, a gigantic white humanoid figure a hundred meters tall. The white giant was nailed by its palms to a gigantic crucifix, and on its legs were bulbs that consisted of many pairs of what looked like tiny human legs protruding outwards. Its face was covered by a mask decorated with seven eyes, the ancient symbol of Jehovah. Out of the creature's lower abdomen was a constant flowing of orange-red liquid.
The Angel below was perhaps the deepest of all secrets of Evangelion. Known as Lillith, the Second Angel, it was the source of the LCL used in all EVA operations and maintenance. It was also the being from which EVA-01 had been originated, being created in secret by SEELE's followers in Japan. Lillith was the key to Instrumentality: if Lillith was unified with Adam and then combined with the Lance of Longinus, an ancient artifact that was found along with the two Angels, the resulting reaction would break down the physical barriers of all human beings and pull them together as one. Whoever employed the Lance and controlled the reaction of Adam and Lillith would become a god in their own right.
The Lance was now gone, used by Rei in Unit 00 to destroy the 15th Angel. Worse for SEELE, they had been tricked by Ikari into allowing him to have the First Angel for safekeeping. As a result he now had the two most critical components of Instrumentality, and over the last few years he and old Professor Futsuyuki had been working on the way to control them to their own ends.
It was Ikari's daring betrayal that had brought about the Armageddon above them now, but to accomplish what he needed SEELE was not the only one he had betrayed.
As they neared the end of the platform they saw a lone figure in a white lab coat who sat on the edge, looking at the white figure. The two of them stopped and the woman in the coat stood up from the dock and faced them.
“I've been waiting for you,” Ritsuko said calmly to Gendo. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her handgun, aiming it at the two of them. Gendo positioned himself in front of Rei.
“I'm sorry,” she said. “I secretly altered the MAGI's programming. Consider it a daughter's final request.” Ritsuko reached into her left pocket and grabbed the PDA inside, and then pressed the button that would activate her final program. “Mother,” she called out, “Please die with me!” Ritsuko closed her eyes and waited for the end.
After a few seconds she opened her eyes and noticed that nothing had happened. “It didn't activate! Why?” Alarmed, she pulled the PDA from out of her pocket and read the display. It said “CASPER-3: REJECTED.” One of the MAGI systems had rejected her command for self-destruction.
Ritsuko gasped. “Betrayed by Casper! Mother, how could you? Choosing your man over your own daughter!”
She looked up and saw that while she was distracted Gendo had pulled out his own pistol and was now aiming it at her. “Ritsuko Akagi,” Gendo said to her with a slight smile, “I truly...loved you.”
For a moment Ritsuko was surprised by that. But then, she thought, this was all part of the act, too. “Liar.” she said softly. Gendo fired a single shot that hit her on the forehead, and she plunged backwards into the LCL lake.
As Aoba and Hyuga worked at fighting off an increasing number of JSSDF troops entering Central Dogma, Maya kept monitoring the battle outside via her laptop.
“What's happening?” Hyuga asked her as he hid behind a chair and fired another burst at the invaders.
“Less than a minute before EVA-02 reaches its operational limit,” she shouted back.
Shinji sat at the side of the EVA cage. The violet-colored EVA-01 was standing there in front of him, partially encased in red-colored Bakelite. He wanted to go over to her but at this point he was unable to get his body to move forward. Frozen by fear, Shinji could only sit there and listen to the cage’s audio speakers.
“Geez! They just keep coming!” he heard Asuka shout as she fought the white beasts. “Where is that stupid Shinji, anyway?”
On the way down the elevator he had felt his lips and found blood on them. He knew from this and the way that Misato had kissed him that she was now gone. Separated from his protector and now on his own, Shinji found himself unable to go on.
The overhead speakers reflected the sounds of the battle outside between EVA-02 and the Mass Production EVAs. He could hear Asuka's battle cries and the noise of violent shaking that indicated the intensity of the conflict as one by one she took down the monsters.
“I can't lose!” she shouted as she got close to the end. “Not with Mama watching me!”
“Mama?” Shinji asked aloud. He looked at his own EVA. “Mother?” She knows!
With less than thirty seconds left on her battery power, Asuka threw a white EVA into a tall building in the open spaces of the GeoFront, destroying the building as she dragged the EVA through it. This was the eighth out of nine targets, the other Evangelions's dismembered bodies littering the ground around them.
“These are the last ones!” she shouted, as she saw another EVA moving towards her three hundred meters away, EVA-02 swung the unit she held onto into the air and straight into the one oncoming. As one EVA slammed into the other, Asuka charged at them both, punching both of them straight through the abdomen. EVA-02 punched with such force that it punctured both EVAs through the stomach. She cried out as she continued to push into both units at once, crushing their organs in a mess of red fluid. With fifteen seconds to go both of the faceless monsters went limp as their bodies became a bloody mess.
Behind her Asuka sensed something and moved her fist outward. Swinging to her right, she saw that one of the EVAs she had previously killed was now standing not far away, and it had flung a sword right at her.
Without a word she outstretched her hand and extended her AT Field outwards, stopping the sword in mid-flight. Instead of deflecting off the field the sword stopped and then morphed itself, becoming elongated and helix-like in shape. Asuka saw the transformed weapon and immediately recognized it.
“The Lance of Longinus?” she said in surprise. The only weapon that could cleanly penetrate an AT Field, the Lance could defeat an EVA with one strike. Now one of them was moving fast straight at Unit 02's head.
Unit 02's battery went down to zero and the EVA’s AT Field started to fail as the Lance tore through it, Unable to react in time Asuka screamed as the lance rapidly came right at her.
The five Piranhas ran down the tunnel at sixty miles per hour, following Musashi's directions. Running at full speed they came under fire twice from unknown sources and returned fire with their own cannons to unknown effect. As the armored vehicles blazed forward, Col. Burke looked out the scope at the outside of the tunnel.
The tunnel had a Plexiglas enclosure on its top that showed a dimly lit cavern of some sort, Lining the cavern were dozens of gigantic skeletons forty meters high, the failed predecessors of the Evangelions themselves.
Burke turned from the scope, stunned by what he saw. Turning to Musashi he asked “What the hell is this place?” The Japanese agent replied simply, “Here is the beginning and end of everything.”
The armored column approached the end of the tunnel with the heavy-gun car in the lead. The tunnel was only ten meters wide so they moved single-file, which made it critical for them to clear the tunnel entrance. As they approached, the lead vehicle came under fire again from automatic weapons and also from rockets and flame units: they had encountered JSSDF engineers at the tunnel's end.
The heavy-gun Piranha fired several high explosive rounds at the engineers, killing some and forcing others to take cover. It then sped out the end of the tunnel and rushed to the frame of the armored door leading to the next compartment, jamming its armored fuselage inside the doorway frame to ensure the door wouldn't close. The rest of the Piranhas spread out at the parking area at the end.
The vehicles now came under intensive fire from all sides, as more JSSDF troops were called in to deal with the new threat. The Piranhas returned fire with their cannons and also fired smoke grenades to cover the emerging infantry. Within seconds the entire passageway became filled with white smoke. Most of the JSSDF troops had night-vision sights and goggles and were able to see through it, and firing through the smoke their gunfire reached some of the Alliance soldiers as they rushed out of their vehicles and sought cover.
For over a minute it was a fiery duel between elite forces, with skilled soldiers on both sides looking for advantages against the enemy while trying to keep from being killed themselves. The Alliance had their armored vehicles however, and their firepower made the difference as the JSSDF were forced back into the next compartment. Even that didn't protect them, as those that made it in became targets of the heavy-gun unit firing canister rounds like scattered a giant shotgun all over the compartment. More JSSDF dropped to the ground dead or wounded.
Burke and Musashi were still among the living as the other Alliance soldiers pushed back the black-clad enemy. As gunfire raged in the next compartment Musashi motioned to Burke that below the compartment were the EVA cages, one of their two objectives. As they moved carefully under the cover of other soldiers Musashi looked at the small parking lot at the end of the tunnel and noticed a familiar blue sports car parked there. He quickened his pace and ran through the opening and towards the passageway.
Burke saw where Musashi was going and at first tried to hold him off. Realizing the opportunity, the colonel then directed the squad next to him to increase fire on the Japanese to enable Musashi cover as he ran for the elevators.
Musashi ran at full speed along the passageway and up against the armored door. He quickly pulled out a PDA and a skeleton key card and worked the lock. In the background he could hear the gunfire abate as the Alliance squad got the advantage on the enemy. His fingers moved swiftly as he activated the doors override control and opened it. The open doorway revealed a woman collapsed on the floor dressed in red leather and black, bleeding profusely.
He rushed to the figure and knelt down to look at her face. The woman was still barely conscious. She looked up at him and, knowing who he was, said weakly “Kaji...did I do the right thing?”
The agent caressed her hair and replied to her “Yes, yes you did!” With that she smiled faintly, closed her eyes and lay her head down on the steel floor.
Musashi shook her hard, “Katsuragi! Katsuragi!!!” He turned around and yelled. “I need a medic now!” Within a moment both an Alliance medic and colonel Burke were running through the doorway. The medic immediately turned her over and saw the wound in her back that was roiled in blood.
“You know her?” the colonel asked Musashi. He gently shook her and then moved his hand through her black hair. “Yes. No doubt she was here to protect the pilots.” Musashi turned to the medic as the other man frantically injected something in her arm and started working on her wound. “Can you save her?” he pleaded.
“Don't know sir, she's bleeding out,” the medic replied. “I'll do what I can.”
“Musashi” Burke asked, “where's the pilot?” The agent pulled himself away for a moment and saw the elevator controls. The elevator car was downward at the EVA cage.
“He's probably in the EVA already. If he's down there with her then he's safer than if we have him.”
Burke considered his situation for a moment. His orders were to secure and evacuate the pilots but also to get to Terminal Dogma, where Musashi has said NERV kept their own Angels. If the area with the Angels could be secured a Third Impact could be averted, presuming nothing else went wrong elsewhere. The colonel thought about the pilot and trying to recover him but they had taken severe losses out of the tunnel and didn't have the manpower to do both missions. If the boy was safe, then his priority was to get downstairs.
Burke jogged back out of the entry way and called for his RTO. Jeff came forward with a hand-held device covered in camouflage paint,
“Did you get the signal from here?” he asked Jeff. The RTO nodded and showed him a screen of a flashing dot superimposed on a digital map.
The colonel ran back into the elevator hall and moved next to Musashi, He told him in a low voice “Alpha's marked the elevator, we can get there if we move now.” Musashi didn't reply but just looked on as the medic worked on the woman. He could see that her face was now pale white as her body began to shut down completely,
“Hey, Mr K?” Burke told him softly, “If were going to pull this off we've got to move now, and we need you for this.” Burke waited a few seconds as Musashi stood there breathing deeply and looking at the dying beauty below him. The colonel was afraid he'd have to force the agent but Musashi shook his head, took a deep breath and faced him. “Then let's go.”
Go to Chapter Nineteen