In the commander's office, General Sheffield walked into the cavernous space that was previously the domain of Commander Ikari. Darkly lit and embellished with a giant Kabbalah diagram on the polished black obsidian floor, Sheffield walked over to the end of the room. The commander's desk had been placed at the head of the Sephiroaticum diagram which Sheffield, acutely aware of the diagram's significance, knew to be the position of God. Truthfully, he thought to himself as he slowly walked over, Ikari had ambitions that were grander than most men's wildest dreams. Ambitions that he almost achieved.
Fortunately the new commander of NERV was less concerned about such matters, but still had enough worry of his own. Admiral Vinson stood at the desk and spoke into a telephone as Sheffield arrived. The British general, a bandage still wrapped around his head, stood silently as his friend conversed on the phone. Noticing him as he walked in, Vinson continued his phone call.
“No, I don't want you here right now.” The admiral listed with some impatience as the voice on the other end of the line pleaded their case to him. “It's not that,” he replied, “but Tokyo-3 and the GeoFront is going to be target #1 for these guys. You'll be safer out there. Also this place is a mess, we're just now securing the area so you might have to stay cooped up in the GeoFront here and I know how you'll hate that.” Vinson again listened as the voice went on. “No, Maine isn't good either. They know who we are, if you go home you're just as likely to get hurt there. Please, just trust me on this one. Please.” The voice was silent for a while, then said something else more quietly. “I'm sure,” he replied. “And I'll let you know when it's all clear.” After some more words, he said quietly, “I'm sorry for the mess.” at that, the phone hung up. Vinson quietly put the receiver down.
“Maria?” Sheffield asked.
“Yes. She's ticked off,” Vinson said. “I couldn't blame her. We spend years keeping her in the dark about EVA and all, and now she has to deal with all of this firsthand. At least she'll be safe where I've got her now.” The admiral stood up more firmly, and moved to greet his friend with a handshake and a pat on the shoulder. “I'm glad you're here, actually, I need a hand getting this place under control.”
“Not that we have much in the way of doing that now, “ Sheffield said. “Do we have a plan for getting back on the initiative?”
“Colonel Katsuragi and I are meeting on that subject later,” Vinson said. “She's got an idea on how to draw them out. At least we're making progress with the EVAs. Unit 02 will get its S2 engine installed tomorrow and if that goes well...”
“A big if, considering what happened to Unit 04.”
“Dr. Viraat says he's figured it out. Anyway, if it's done we'll have two EVAs ready for outbound action, and another one and one-half for defense here. Plus I'm hoping for some good news from China from our friend Mr. Kaji.” Vinson referred to EVA-06.
“Any luck with the MAGI?”
“No, and everyone's afraid to try at this point,” said the new commander. “They let us operate within the GeoFront but not get into the memory archives.”
“Have the Japanese staff been any help?”
“With most everything they're surprisingly cooperative but still wary, especially the new government. We're supposed to get some troops from the new Japanese army but that's not worked out yet. I do get the felling they're not telling us everything, of which I'm not really surprised. Speaking of which, how is our most important 'guest'?”
“Cooling it off at the new prison,” Sheffield said. “Still nothing.”
“I figured as much,”
“Correct. Wellington was getting frustrated dealing with the man, so she requested reassignment to Tokyo-3”
“Good. I could use the extra hand.”
“There's one other thing.”
Sheffield didn't answer at first but walked to the large windows that made up the outside wall of the commander's office. There he could see the vast expanse of the GeoFront interior. It was still a mess from the battle, with large cracks in the reinforced sphere walls and much of the landscape and buildings in ruins, but lights were visible now all around as engineers worked into the night to continue repairs and reinforce the fortress.
“Just before the attack on Pine Gap I received a coded message. From Omega.”
Vinson raised his eyebrows, and walked over to where his friend was standing. “Omega? He's still active?”
“Yes,” Sheffield said. Omega had been the primarily source of the information about the truth of Second and Third Impact, Human Instrumentality, and all of the other bad things that SEELE had planned for humanity. To nearly everyone else in the Alliance, Omega was said to be a deep-cover agent for either British or Israeli intelligence. Omega's actual identity was a mystery but everything that he had informed the Alliance of had been completely accurate.
The general continued. “The message was that Omega had penetrated SEELE again, with an intention to bring the whole monster down.”
Vinson actually became a bit excited at that news. “Tell him to give us the location, then!”
“Unfortunately that wasn’t forthcoming. He indicated that he’d communicate again when everything would be ready.”
Vinson looked out the window at the engineer’s activity along with Sheffield, sighing deeply. “I don’t like this. He’s just manipulating events.”
“Perhaps. But everything he’s told us has been right so far.”
“Too bad we never seem to be in a position to take advantage of it.”
Piotr hurriedly walked down a corridor in the new underground base. While he had spent enough time in the service of SEELE in such places to practically transform from being human to being a mole, this last installation was to him the most haunted of them all. It was deeper underground then all of the others SEELE and their predecessors had possessed, yet parts of this new one were built to such grand scale to mimic ancient monuments reproduced in concrete and steel, and containing large murals written in an language he didn’t even hope to understand. Sunlight fell on no parts of the place, but rather there were miles and miles of underground passageways in all directions. He could feel heat in some areas of the base, and understood there was an active volcano in the nearby mountain. If hell had a makeover it might be like this place, he thought.
He heard footsteps following him but at first he didn’t turn around. Security guards were everywhere and given what had happened at what should have been Third Impact, the Chairman had become paranoid about security. Many that Piotr had worked with in Germany had not made the trip here, and what fate had befallen them he didn’t want to think about. The important thing was that he had not been suspected even now: decades of playing the fool for his master had ensured that.
“Hello, Piotr,” a voice called from behind him. The voice seemed familiar, but Piotr couldn’t quite place it. He stopped moving and the voice stayed where it was as well. “Do you not remember my voice?”
The old man slowly turned around, shaking in nervousness, hoping that his wasn’t some sort of trap set by security to catch traitors. “Yes?”
Standing ten feet behind him was a middle-aged man dressed in a security guard’s uniform. He was Caucasian in appearance, with salt and pepper hair, and a bit muscular. The look in his eyes was as determined as he had ever seen in a man, other than the failed eyes of his own chairman.
“Hello, Piotr,” he said again, “I know we’ve had contact over the years, but I’d thought you might recognize my voice at least.” The man slowly walked over to him. Piotr raised his eyebrows in recognition, and in surprise.
“What are you DOING here?” he asked, looking around nervously to see if they were being observed.
“Do not worry, this little corner doesn’t have any cameras or microphones in range of us.”
“Why are you here, Viktor?” Pitor asked again, this time more direct with the man. “I did as you bid me. They failed again. Isn’t that enough?”
“I’ve come to end it, Pitor,” the man said to him. “This time for good.”
Pitor scoffed at him. “He is crazy now!” he motioned towards the unseen chairman in the background. “Worse than when you were here. You are stupid to come back. They will just catch you.”
“No they won’t,” the man said confidently. “For I’m the last one they’d ever suspect.” He stepped close to Piotr, his eyes warming up just a bit. “I can count on you, can’t I?’
The older man was mournful but compliant, resigning himself to his own likely end. “If only for your sister’s sake, and not for your own,” he replied.
“Good enough,” the man replied. He then turned away and started walking down another corridor. Pitor said nothing in return but just stood for a moment and watched him go. If he is here it might end after all, he thought.
NERV's Fifth Branch was located 500 kilometers from the Chinese megacity of New Shanghai. NERV's presence was important to fast-rising China, and after receiving NERV's initial contract in typical Chinese fashion the entire surrounding province was cleared out of its previous inhabitants and rebuilt as a high-technology manufacturing center from ground up, centered on the assembly of Evangelion units.
During the Angel War, Fifth Branch was initially allocated to construction of Evangelion Unit 06, intended to be a military-type in the same family as Units 02, 03, 04 and 05. Like Unit 05, Unit 06 was behind schedule to be completed, and after the 14th Angel attacked Tokyo-3 the partially-assembled Unit 06 was stripped for spare parts.
Now a month after the attempt at Third Impact, the Alliance was catching up the China branch . Making it clear to the Chinese government that the Alliance had taken responsibility for all NERV operations, they sent a team of their own specialists to enter Fifth Branch and take the remaining portion of Unit 06 back to Japan. The hope was that the Chinese would at least cooperate, as the Alliance wanted no more additional problems on its hands than it had presently.
One hour later after a subterranean train ride and walking through several passageways, the team was show the construction pen for Unit 06. Large signs were posted all along the way, in Chinese and English, attesting to various warnings about safety. The steel cage itself was nearly covered in such signs and status monitors, and Kaji noticed that one couldn't see much of what was inside the large cage from the outside.
“Here we are,” Director Lin said as the final security gates were opened and they were brought inside. Inside of the steel construction matrix was a large humanoid figure, forty meters tall. Unlike the completed Evangelion units that NERV operated, Unit 06 appeared to be a mess of bone and tissue, mostly skeleton, with some binding plates and a helmet positioned on the head, looking like some warrior that had been buried in some ancient tomb and unearthed a thousand years later.
“As you can see,” Director Lin told the group, “after the orders to salvage parts from Unit 06, there wasn't much left to work with. We never received our last batch of funding from NERV, so construction was halted at the pathetic state you see here.”
“Oh, shit,” Colonel Burke said. “This thing might as well be junked.” As the others saw the remains of the unit, Kaji took a good look around both at the unit and the cage itself, carefully studying everything. After a few minutes he walked in front of an expecting Director Lin. “Director, can I ask you a question?”
“Where is Unit 06?”
The director scoffed at Kaji. “This is it!” he told him, pointing at the giant humanoid in the center of the cage. “After your commander Ikari nearly destroyed his own units in combat the UN just scrapped this and then cut off our funding.”
Kaji looked at the director again, now directly in the eyes. “I'm aware of what happened, but you haven't answered the question. Where is Unit 06?”
“We don't have the time for such games, Mr Kaji,” he said. “I assure you this is all there is.”
Instead of arguing with the director Kaji instead reached inside of his coat pocket and pulled out a small computer tablet. Quickly paging though a set of images, he showed one to the director.
“No. This is Unit 06.” the image on the tablet showed a nearly completed Evangelion, coated in black and blue markings.
“I told you earlier,” the director protested, “We were 80% complete when spare parts were requisitioned by NERV and we had to strip it down. This,” he pointed to the skeleton in the steel structure, “is all we have left.”
“By our own findings, the amount of spare parts that were requisitioned amounted to less than 8 percent of the total Evangelion's assembly. These were largely parts that your facility also manufactured for the Mass Production series.”
“You're quite incorrect,” the Director said. “That photo is not even real, it's just a CG design image. We were never that complete in our assembly.”
“Also wrong,” Kaji told him. “Because I took that photo myself three months ago when I came to your facility.”
“You never came here!” the director told him forcefully.
“You mean, I was never invited here, “ Kaji corrected. “I, however, invited myself. I was in this cage at the time I came here and took this, and several other photos.” Director Lin did finally start to become nervous when Kaji showed him the additional photos, all take secretly by him while assigned to the job by Commander Ikari earlier. All of the photos taken from several angles, showed a nearly complete EVA unit. “As I’m sure you’re aware, your EVA was well over 80% complete at the time these were taken.”
Realizing that Kaji had penetrated what he thought was his impregnable operation, the director came to fear what else Mr. Kaji might also have learned. For his part, Kaji knew he had gotten the upper hand in the discussion.
“Director Lin,” he said calmly. “You should know something about my new employers in the Alliance. They are quite serious about the security of the Evangelions, perhaps even more so than those who previously controlled NERV.”
“The Alliance is nothing but a bunch of has-been empires,” the director argued back.
Now Colonel Burke, who so far had stood back and let Kaji talk, stepped in the discussion. “Mr. Lin,” he said in a grave voice, “We’re not the UN. We play by our own rules: we’re either your best friend,” he said, firmly patting him on his shoulder, “or your worst enemy. And right now,” Burke said with a toothy smile, “things aren’t looking so good for you.”
Lin looked at Kaji, who smiled and said “I do suggest you cooperate, Director Lin. The Alliance doesn’t feel bound by the UN rules of engagement for warfare, and if they ever felt your rogue operation was a threat to them they would probably think nothing of dropping a couple of N2 warheads on your base.”
The Chinese man looked at Colonel Burke, who folded his muscular arms and gave him a toothy smile.
He turned back to Kaji.“You wouldn’t dare! Any such attack would be taken as a provocation against all of China. There would be untold consequences against the Alliance and its nations!”
“Nothing that couldn’t be handled by four fully-operational Evangelion units,” Kaji replied calmly. “On the other hand, cooperate fully and we can ignore what’s happened in the past and even allow you to keep whatever technology benefits you’ve managed to copy from the program.” The director, now very nervous, looked at the soldier again.
“Sounds like a deal to me,” Burke told him, this time without a smile.
Director Lin took out a handkerchief and padded his sweaty forehead. “I need security, my family will be a target.”
“It can be arranged, and quickly,” Kaji said calmly.
“They came the day after the attack on Tokyo-3,” Lin told him. “We were warned not to tell you, so we replaced the EVA with this old prototype.”
“Where did they take it?” Kaji asked.
“We don’t know,” the director said. “It was lifted by air, outside the country. That’s all I know, I swear!”
The two men looked at each other, and then at the nervous director, both sighing. It was the answer they had feared.
Go on to Chapter Nine