Unable to find Rei earlier Patrick had spent two hours wondering around Terminal Dogma’s many dark passages, looking so much like a haunted house made of steel, stone and orange LCL (which despite the Second Angel’s departure was still in various pools all over the place). Finally he was picked up by Agent Kikuchi, who had dragged him back to the elevator, immune to the boy’s pleas.
One the way back to his room and after he had arrived, Patrick had ran the scene with Rei in the lab again and again in his mind. What had he done wrong? Did he push her too hard with the date request? It was the sudden turnaround that had shocked him most, as before it seemed like she really was coming to life. Spending quiet evenings in conversation with her for the last three weeks had changed his perspective of Rei. She had opened up to him, at least a bit, and her new more relaxed manner was even more endearing to Patrick than when he had met her the first time. He felt like now she was really, actually a friend, sharing common interests in nature and observing the little things in life they both saw. To have Rei suddenly shut the door on his heart like she did had come down on him like a ton of bricks. He couldn’t see another pathway to winning her confidence now.
Patrick knew that with the bad episode in Terminal Dogma he would definitely have strong nightmares tonight, and did everything he could to keep from falling asleep. Already coming off of a long patrol in the EVA his body was exhausted and now refused to cooperate, and he found himself drifting off on his bed.
In his dreams he was there again in Terminal Dogma. He could hear the faint machine noises in the background, and see beyond the dim lighting on the floor the giant LCL tank in the back of the Dummy Plug Plant. Body parts floated throughout the tank, gently bumping against the glass. Patrick dared to look at the tank and noticed this time the bodies were not Rei’s but just random people. He saw a head float by and tried to get a better look. When the head turned around he saw its face and recognized it as Vance Vinson, the previous pilot of Unit 03. He shuddered uncontrollably as he saw the graphic image of Vance’s head smiling at him as it passed by.
Standing in front of the plexiglass of the tank was a girl. She wore Rei’s outfit, and like Rei she stood facing him with her hands at her sides. Her hair was blonde and down to her neck. The girl had an elfin face and brilliant green eyes like Patrick’s. He recognized her as Erin, his twin sister.
“Erin!” he said in surprise.
Her face was one of anger and torment. Peering down hard on Patrick she screamed at him. “YOU KILLED MY FATHER! YOU KILLED VANCE!”
Patrick took a step back. “No! You don’t know the truth!”
“I KNOW THE TRUTH ENOUGH! YOU KILLED THEM!”
Patrick could feel the emotion in the room as her own anger reverberated within himself. In the tank behind her he could make out the faces on the heads that were floating. One was his father’s, others were people he had known at NERV-2 before the incident where EVA-04 had absorbed the base.
“Erin, that’s not what happened at all!”
The girl continued to fume at him. “You’re not my brother at all! You’re an imposter! You stole my EVA!”
“Erin, no!” Patrick cried out to her, trying to move closer to her. As he approached her she continued to shout out at him, clenching her fists in rage. “I hate you! I hate you! I HATE YOU!”
“Please listen to me!” Patrick shouted back, nearly approaching where she stood. When he was just a few feet away he looked at Erin’s face. It had changed back into Rei’s, who looked sternly at him.
“Rei?” he pleaded. “Please not you! What did I do wrong? Please tell me! Please…”
The sounds of alarms were all around him and he felt a strong shaking, jumbling up the dream’s image in his mind. In another second he turned around and then found himself falling back into his bed. He opened his eyes and saw Agent Kikuchi, dressed in a white dress shirt and black pants, shaking him violently. “FORRESTAL! WAKE UP!” he shouted.
It took another moment for Patrick to shake his head out of sleep. He glanced at the clock besides his bead. It read 3:16 AM. “What the hell?”
“Come on,” Kikuchi said in a raspy voice, taking him by the arm and pulling him out of the bed. “You need to go to the EVA now!”
Patrick’s eyes widened as he stood out of bed. They’re finally here. “It’s an attack?”
“Yes,” the agent replied as he started pulling Patrick towards the door. “Let’s go.”
Patrick tried to get some shoes on but Kikuchi continued to pull him towards the door. “Don’t waste time! Get moving!” Patrick finally fully woke up and then raced barefoot out the door along with the agent, both of them now running towards the elevator bank at the end of the hall. Kikuchi shoved Patrick in the elevator and then quickly grabbed a keycard and slid it on the control panel, entering a code that allowed him to bypass all stops and go straight to the EVA cages. The elevator rapidly went up, and then a few seconds later lurched sideways.
“Is it Harpies?” Patrick asked him, trying to catch his breath.
“Hell if I know,” the agent replied. “They’ll tell you more once you’re in the plug.”
Waiting for the elevator to reach the destination Patrick could hear alarms sounding on all of the areas they bypassed. The elevator itself went to emergency lighting as the call for Battle Stations was sounded. He stared at the door and tried to calm himself down, forcing his mind to start thinking about piloting and battle. The boy could feel himself shaking and grabbed his arms to soothe himself.
Kikuchi looked at the display and saw that they were almost to the cages. He then stepped over to Patrick and bent over to his right ear.
“Listen, Forrestal, I know life sucks for you right now but you need to focus on what’s coming. A lot of people are depending on you out there. Don’t blow it with stupid thoughts about your girl.” Patrick looked at him angrily at first, then nodded quietly as he realized the gravity of what he was saying.
“I get it,” he replied.
“Good, now go!” The elevator came to an abrupt halt and Kikuchi shoved Patrick out the door.
The pilot nearly stumbled when he was pushed out the door but recovered and sprinted down the hallway and over to the steel gangway that led to Cage 5, where the silver-white Evangelion Unit 04 was held. Racing down the gangway to the plug entry deck, he oddly felt like some sort of superhero transforming as he quickly shed his t-shirt and tossed it to the side and over the railing. Standing at the end were two NERV ground crew in red overalls, one of them holding an orange plugsuit.
“What’s going on?” Patrick asked the two crew members as he quickly stopped at the end of the gangway.
“Instructions from Central Dogma once you get in, laddie!” the taller of them said as he handed him his plug suit. Modesty went away as Patrick furiously shoved his sweatpants and underwear downward and then climbed naked into the plug suit. A moment later he jumped through the hatch and found his way to the control throne. Shoving his A10 neural headset through his hair, he was pushed back into the throne as the entry plug was shoved into the EVA.
The plug flooded with LCL and then went into Emergency Startup mode, which was the quick version of the launch countdown. Once the LCL was charged and went clear, his video screens went on. He could feel the EVA already being moved over to the launch chamber.
A smaller video screen opened in front of him, with an image of Hyuga, dressed in a black t-shirt and without his glasses. “Forrestal-kun,” he said, “enemy is conducting a missile bombardment. Unit 04 will be launched topside to Entry Point 23. From there we’ll provide you with a positron cannon for armament.”
“Any Harpies?” Patrick asked as he settled into the control seat a little more.
“None,” Hyuga replied. The pilot breathed a quick sigh of relief. They were an enemy he didn’t particularly want to face again.
A second screen appeared in front of him. Aoba, dressed in a black rock and roll t-shirt provided more details.
“Three ballistic missile submarines have launched their full load of ballistic missiles towards Japan. Apogee tracking reveals they’re targeting not just Tokyo-3 but most major cities in Central and Southern Japan itself. Your mission is to use the EVA’s positron cannon to knock out all incoming missiles before they can detonate their warheads.”
“Just me?” Patrick asked.
“The Alliance defense ring will also engage with their own missiles and laser systems. We may have additional support from NERV coming as well. Each submarine carries twenty missiles moving at a top speed of Mach 17, each missile could have as many as ten warheads.”
Up to 600 warheads, Patrick thought. Oh hell.
A third video screen appeared in between the other two controllers. Facing him was Admiral Vinson, who was wearing his camouflage uniform, crisply pressed. “Patrick!” he called out.
“There’s fifty million people in the target range. You’re the only real defense between them and those N2 warheads. Just remember that.”
“Yes, sir,” Patrick said.
“Right. Good hunting, Unit 04.” Vinson then pointed at the controllers. “Launch it!” The boy jerked back in the seat as the EVA violently screamed upwards.
In Central Dogma the command staff frantically gave orders as the missile wave approached Japan. Both controllers Hyuga and Aoba shouted into microphones at various departments to get them ready for action, which would be coming in just a few seconds. Admiral Vinson stood on the operator’s deck, studying the holographic tactical display carefully and then barking out selected instructions as he worked to adjust the defensive system that the Alliance and NERV had been hobbling together for the last two weeks, praying it would hold against an onslaught such as this.
Unit 04 raced to the surface, arriving on the north edge of the GeoFront among the wrecked buildings of one of Tokyo-3’s suburban areas. As the launch guides receded, Patrick looked around and saw a fairly intact tall building to his right flash lights all across it. Suddenly the side of the building slid down, inside of it was a very large cannon.
“Positron cannon in position,” Hyuga reported.
“Roger,” Patrick answered and then grabbed the cannon with the EVA’s right hand. It was very long, nearly as long as the EVA itself. Unit 04 took its left hand and plugged in the cannon directly to the EVA, as Unit 04’s S2 engine would provide the power for the cannon itself. “Cannon Locked in!”
“Activating Integration program,” Hyuga then said. Patrick watched the display as the weapons controls of the EVA were now merged with the Alliance’s air defense system, allowing the automatic fire control to direct the cannon to whatever threat it deemed appropriate. After a few seconds the display board on Hyuga’s control panel flashed green. “Integrated into system!” he reported.
“Here they come!” Aoba shouted as the large display in front of them began to fill with targets. Vinson saw the holograph and cracked his knuckles. “Engage!”
Patrick viewed the video display in the EVA and saw the night sky over Tokyo-3. Spread all throughout the sky on the display were dozens of target markers representing incoming weapons. Some were at the far horizon, the data marker indicated them as “boosters” while the closer ones were indicated “warhead” and there were very many of those.
He pointed the positron rifle into the sky and concentrated his mind on firing. “EVA-04, engaging!” All around him in various positions around the GeoFront were missile and laser batteries also pointed at the sky and firing furiously.
Because the rifle’s aiming point was controlled by the Alliance’s air defense computers, all Patrick really had to do was to just keep concentrating on firing the positron gun. It didn’t kick when it fired but he could feel vibrations from the energy buildup and discharge, which happened every three and one half seconds as he fired each pulse. He swallowed, gulping down any stray thoughts and tried to just keep the gun firing.
On the controller’s platform in Central Dogma, Sheffield quickly walked in, still wearing a smoking jacket and pajama pants. He saw the large hologram display and the other monitors and immediately grasped the gravity of the situation.
“How much progress into the missile wave?” he asked Vinson.
“We’re barely 5 percent into it,” the Admiral replied. “At this rate we’re going to get overwhelmed.” The commander shouted at all of the controllers and staff. “Pick it up, people! They’ll punch through before you know it!”
At the Alliance’s base in Okinawa, Misato and Kaji were observing the battle now being fought in the skies over Japan as Shinji and Asuka, awoken from the alarms, ran up to them.
“What’s happening?” Shinji asked the adults.
“SEELE’s payback for Japan,” Kaji replied. “Submarine launched missiles coming from three directions, all headed for Tokyo-3 and major cities in the vicinity.”
“Will NERV be able to defend against it?” the boy asked.
“Possibly. Unit 04 is in the field along with the conventional defense.” Kaji pointed to the sky and in a moment the pilots saw a bright flash of green light coming from the horizon, hitting a missile in flight.
“It’s a positron cannon,” Asuka said. “But those things need minutes to recharge. How can he fire it so often?”
“They’ve probably set the cannon for light impact,” Misato explained. “They’re warheads, not Angels with AT fields. If the reduce the power per shot the cannon can fire seventeen times a minute at over 3,000 kilometers. It’s their best chance against this type of attack.”
“What happens if a missile gets through?” Shinji asked.
“Those are likely N2 warheads,” Kaji replied. He didn’t have to explain it further.
Shinji steeled himself up, looking at Asuka as she nodded in agreement. “Then we should go out there too!”
“Can’t,” Misato explained. “All of your weapons here are for close-in warfare. We don’t have a weapon for the EVA that could really reach that far.” She turned to both of them and shrugged. “We don’t have any choice except to wait it out and hope for the best.” Both pilots grimaced in the helplessness that they felt.
“Ayanami,” Shinji said softly.
In his entry plug Patrick was concentrating furiously to keep up the fire, but as he looked at the display the number of target markers was only increasing. A number on the left hand side said “ESTIMATED AMOUNT OF MISSILE WAVE DEFEATED: 11%”
“Shit,” he said aloud, “We’re not making a dent into this!”
Hyuga’s voice came over the speaker. “Unit 04, concentrate your fire on the boosters at longer range.”
“What about the close ones?”
“Defense network will take care of that. Also we’re bringing in some additional assets. Just hang in there!”
Dressed in a rainbow-colored bathrobe, Dr. Viraat shouted at technicians as he stood on the gangway next to Unit 05, deep inside the GeoFront. “Hurry!” he said into a megaphone. “Lock the limbs in now! Get it ready or we’re all dead!”
The rebuilt Evangelion had legs now, but was still missing its arms. Two giant cranes each moved a single positron cannon mount into one of Unit 05’s arm sockets. As locks were slid forward to keep the new limbs in place Viraat called into his communicator held in his other hand. “Are you ready, Miss Lusty?”
Mari’s voice crackled over the speaker. “I think so, yeah. They’ve got me all plugged in now.” Her entry plug had not yet been updated, and she was still using the improvised interface that required the VR helmet she wore, with streams of cables plugged into receptors behind her.
“Jolly good,” he said, looking in the distance as the ground crew hurried out of the entry plug and it was then sealed and rolled into the green-colored beast. “Miss Lusty I just spent six weeks pasting this thing back together, mostly with foreign parts. Try not to break it again, will you?”
“No promises, Professor, but thank you!” the voice came back cheerfully.
“Off you go, then!” Viraat switched channels on his communicator. “Admiral, Unit 05 is ready for combat.”
“Thank you, doctor,” the commander’s voice came back, and then “Launch it!” Viraat could feel the rush even from a distance as EVA-05 was shot rapidly upwards. He remained on the gantry, looking at the empty space where the EVA once stood, sighing in deep relief. “We’ll, I’ve done my part,” he muttered.
The display in the plug read MISSILE WAVE DEFEATED: 20% when Patrick heard the rumbling next to him. Turning to his left he saw another hole open up in a city block and shooting out was a green figure the same height as his own. The twin cannons that stood in for arms spun around and pointed towards the sky.
“Lusty!” Patrick exclaimed, happy to see her and her EVA. Mari, wearing her VR helmet, appeared on a private window on the display.
“Lovely night for a war, isn’t it?” she said back. “EVA-05 ready for action!”
“Engage,” Hyuga ordered and Mari immediately went at it with the twin positron cannons. Mari’s presence gave Patrick more confidence as well and he concentrated on shooting down rockets in the far distance before they could disgorge their warheads.
Mari’s presence was noted far away as well, as the pilots on Okinawa saw the red pulses from her cannon engage incoming warheads.
“It’s Lusty-chan!” Shinji shouted out.
“Finally something she’s actually good at,” Asuka carped. Misato, who was anxiously holding both pilots by the shoulders as she watched, prayed silently as NERV stepped up the defense. Oh God, please don’t let anything get through.
The operators and other command staff in Terminal Dogma were still frantically shouting orders and trying to shift their weapons and sensors to get ahead of the missile attack when Aoba noticed that Rei was now standing on the operations deck as well, dressed only in a white nightshirt and slippers.
“Pilot Ayanami!,” he shouted, “Get down to Terminal Dogma! You’ll be safe there.” She ignored him and kept her attention on the large monitors above them, watching the battle as it unfolded. Aoba was too busy with the rest of the battle to glance back at her.
Unit 05’s addition to the defense allowed NERV to make rapid headway into the missile wave, destroying 50% of the incoming targets without anything getting through. Patrick continued to target the rockets that were thousands of kilometers away, as his positron cannon was the longest-range weapon in the shield. After constant fire he sensed that the weapon suddenly stopped discharging and saw a flashing warning on his monitor: WEAPON MALFUNCTION.
“Damn it!,” he shouted. “It jammed!”
Hyuga immediately jumped on it, quickly sending commands through his control panel. “Unit 04, release the cannon. We’re sending you a new one right now.” Patrick quickly detached the power cable from the cannon and tossed it aside, hoping that there wasn’t someone underneath the three-ton cannon he just threw away. Twenty seconds later to his right he heard mechanical noises and the weapons conveyor revealed another positron cannon, which he again plugged in and then immediately went to shooting.
“Wave destroyed by 75%,” Aoba shouted, “We’re gaining on it!” Vinson started to feel more confident about their chances, but before he could give another order Hyuga quickly reported “the air defense batteries are starting to run dry! Gotemba battery reports all missiles expended! Northern laser post also reports fuses blown!”
“We have to catch up on this before they run us out,” Vinson replied. He opened a private video to both pilots.
“There’s no more booster missiles, they’ve launched everything. I want both of you to concentrate on nailing remaining warheads,” Vinson ordered. “Don’t let anything pass!”
“Right!,” both Mari and Patrick answered back in unison as they redoubled their efforts and worked to knock out the scores of falling warheads still in the skies above them. As Vinson spoke to Patrick, the boy noticed in the background of the video screen that Rei was also in Terminal Dogma, watching the battle. He gulped and pushed back any stray thoughts, concentrating on his firing.
Mari continued her cannon barrage, shooting down every warhead the targeting computer could find. She found the intensity of the combat thrilling and screamed out with enthusiasm as her weapons continually blasted targets.
“90% of Wave destroyed!” Aoba reported. Hyuga followed with unfortunately more bad news, “South and east laser batteries blown out! Shingetsu missile battery expended! THAAD system is out!” He turned around and faced the commander. “We’re just down to the EVAs!”
Both pilots had heard the message and put everything they had left into the fight, pushing themselves and their EVAs to the full limit. Patrick could hear Mari’s battle cries as she tried to knock down everything in sight. It was at “97% destroyed” when her cannons finally gave out.
“Bugger!” she growled as she tried to get them to shoot again, but both positron cannons had blown out fuses and were inoperable. “Pats!” she shouted, “it’s up to you!”
No way I’m going to lose this, Patrick projected in his mind as he started on the last round of warheads. He kept up the fire, seeing in the corner of his eye the number on the far right of the screen. “98%....99%... almost there…” It was at 99% when the screen flashed again: WEAPON MALFUNCTION, but there were still targets left on his screen.
“Incoming!” Hyuga shouted. He thought to dive under his counter but realized even that might be futile. With the Geofront’s interior exposed, it would do little good to hide under a desk against an N2 exploding inside the dome. Inside the command center some staff scrambled for cover while others stood and watched, holding their breath and hoping the next few seconds weren’t their last.
Patrick saw three remaining warheads on his display, all of them headed towards NERV. His brain screamed for a solution but then he remembered that Rei was down there, along with everyone else. The final puzzle piece came to him.
“Mari, get covered!” he shouted, and he lurched the EVA towards a wrecked building in front of him.
“What are you doing?” Mari shouted back but Patrick didn’t answer her. Climbing up the tower like a monkey, Unit 04 reached the top and then launched herself in the air. Inside of her, Patrick closed his eyes tightly, taking a deep breath and shouting out “AT FIELD! MAXIMUM!!!”
As the Evangelion flew through the air it’s AT field extended itself across the ruins of Tokyo-3 city and the opening of the Geofront, its geometric hexagonal patterns visible in the night light as it spread out through the lower sky. A second later, three N2 warheads dove into the field and exploded.
The nuclear warheads detonated, but instead of exploding on top of the GeoFront their energy was arrested by the AT field, which then began to compress towards the EVA. The field was charged with energy and radioactivity as it began to shrink.
“The EVA caught the bombs!” Hyuga exclaimed. “He’s folding the explosion into the AT field!”
“What will that do to the EVA?” Vinson asked.
Both Hyuga and Aoba looked at each other and then back at the commander. “AT fields are strong,” Aoba said, “but three bombs with that much focused energy…”
Above the sky over Tokyo-3, Unit 04’s AT field contracted onto itself, and the Evangelion began to glow with a bright, radiating light. Arms outstretched, it appeared as if a golden cross had appeared over the GeoFront.
Inside the entry plug, Patrick closed his eyes tightly as he waited for the energy to penetrate into the entry plug. It was going to be bad doing this, he knew.
I’m sorry Rei, I guess I just hoped you’d understand. All I ever think about is you. Please, at least you go on, and do what you want to do…
A second later he felt searing heat as the force wave of the nuclear explosions was felt through the plug. Patrick felt his skin burning. He screamed in agony.
“Major damage to the EVA!” Hyuga reported. “Pilot’s life signs are dropping rapidly!” The pilot’s screams were heard on the speakers in Central Dogma, and then suddenly went silent.
Rei gasped, watching the whole event on the holographic screen as she stood on the controller’s deck. “FORRESTAL-KUN!!!!” she screamed as she saw the EVA’s glow begin to recede and start to plummet to the ground.
“Eject entry plug!” Vinson ordered. Hyuga quickly hit the eject button and the back of Unit 04 slid open while it fell down. Rockets burst as the white entry plug was pushed out.
“Patrick!” Mari called out as she saw Unit 04 land on the ground with a giant thud, bouncing off buildings as it came down among the city ruins. The entry plug shot up into the air about a thousand feet, and then popped a parachute out of one end. Mari quickly ran Unit 05 over to where the plug was drifting.
“Captain Aoba.” Vinson barked out, ‘any more leakers?”
“No, sir,” he replied. “The threat board is clear.” The feeling in the control room was not one of relief, but of worry and concern, as they had all watched as Unit 04 had taken the hit meant for them. Everyone in the room was silently watching the giant video as the screen showed the entry plug drifted to the ground. It was still smoldering from the heat of the blast.
“Combat SAR, pilot recovery immediately!” the admiral ordered.
“Already on the way out,” Hyuga reported, as he had given the signal already a minute before.
Unit 04’s entry plug landed on the eastern shore of Lake Ashi, a kilometer from the GeoFront and just on the edge of the lake itself. Mari’s EVA was the first to reach it. Quickly popping out of the pushed-out entry plug, Mari grabbed onto the rope ladder that felt out the plug door when it opened, and then jumped half the distance to the ground. Landing with a thud, she picked herself back up and ran towards Patrick’s capsule, pulling off and tossing aside her VR helmet on the way.
She reached the ejected plug and right away noticed how hot it was, even without touching it. Reaching for the eject handle, Mari held it for several seconds and tried to pull it open, but was unable to budge it before her hands felt about to burn from the heat. Hearing helicopter noises she looked behind her and saw an Alliance Blackhawk helicopter dropping down on the shoreline. Wellington had already jumped out when it was close to the ground, and sprinted towards the entry plug.
Mari tried again on the handle, using all of her might to pull it forward. As soon as she arrived Wellington joined her, and they both pulled on it until the handle gave way and they spun it until it was unlocked. The officer then ripped the door open and both of them backed off as the encapsulated heat in the entry plug escaped along with superheated LCL. It felt like a furnace inside.
“Pats? Pats! Are you alright?” Mari called into the opening. “Forrestal,” Wellington shouted, “we’re coming in!” First the officer and then Mari entered the plug, wading through the LCL. As the rushed through the liquid they both saw a body hunched over the entry plug seat and not moving. They both moved to where Patrick was seated and pulled him upwards. What they saw gave them both a fright, with Mari loudly gasping.
“Oh, bloody hell,” Wellington said.
Go on to Chapter Thirteen