Patrick sullenly walked back to his own apartment. He didn't take the train back but just walked by himself through the darkening streets of Tokyo-3, running back the memories of the day in his head over and over again. So close and yet so far away...Had he done the wrong thing? Or maybe this was an impossible challenge to begin with?
Finally in the mid-evening he had reached their apartment in the NERV officer's quarters. As he reached their floor he could see Vance in the distance, probably back from another one of Asuka's video game challenges. Standing there talking to Vance was Mr. Kaji. He couldn't make out what they were speaking about, but Kaji seemed upset at Vance. What could that be about? He hid around a corner and spied on both of them.
“What ARE you two up to?” Kaji asked the pilot.
Vance gave Kaji a wide, knowing smile. “What ever do you mean, Mr. Kaji?”
“I mean what the hell is this?” Kaji showed Vance the syringe with the liquid obtained earlier from their apartment.
“You broke into our place!”
“Right now that’s the least of your troubles. Do you know what this stuff is?”
Vance didn't immediately reply, but turned his head away and thought for a bit. Then he looked directly at him. The game is up, I guess. “Mr., Kaji, do you have any idea what they’re really doing in the basement here?”
“As a matter of fact,” replied Kaji, “I happen to have an excellent idea. I take it you know about Terminal Dogma.”
“What I know about is Instrumentality.”
Kaji raised an eyebrow. He knows about THAT. “What are you aiming to do?”
Vance paused for a moment and then he said “we’re aiming to stop it!”
The teenager said nothing.
Kaji moved closer to him. “That stuff you take is going to literally eat your brain!”
Vance met his gaze directly. “What happens to me is not important.”
“What about Patrick?”
“He’s not part of this. He’s just a regular kid who got pulled in.”
Kaji took a step back. “Vance, there are a lot of things here bigger than you or me. If you are going to do something rash, the consequences of what you do may be bigger than anyone can control.”
Vance turned around and started to walk away from him. “Mr. Kaji, dad told me that you’re not just working for NERV. Look, whatever you do, if you know what’s good for you just stay out of my way.”
“Vance?” Kaji called after him, but Vance just kept walking back to his apartment. Patrick saw him coming and quickly went back around the corner and quietly entered the apartment. From the apartment doorway he could still hear some of their conversation.
“Vance, you don't have to do it this way,” Kaji said, almost pleading,
Vance stopped for a moment but still didn't face the Japanese agent. “It's too late already, Mr. Kaji,” he said softly. He then walked around the corner. Kaji didn't follow him.
When Vance opened the door Patrick was waiting inside. “Everything OK, dude?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine!” Vance however was holding his head again. It felt so very painful this time.
Vance doesn’t look too well, Patrick thought. I wonder what that was all about. “What did Mr. Kaji want?”
Vance reached for a water bottle in the fridge. “He just has some issues to work out, it’s cool. Anyway, I’m really tired. Hey, how did it go afterwards?”
“You mean with Rei?” Patrick sighed. “She kind of got sick and I had to take her back home.”
“That sucks. Well, anyway I feel like shit too so I’m going to get a shower. “
Patrick turned to Vance just as he was leaving the living room. “Hey, Double-V?”
Vance raised an eyebrow. “What brought this on?”
“I don't know,” said Patrick. “Suddenly I just thought about her. I never saw her when she was...normal.”
Vance took a deep breath and then sat on the top edge of the couch. To Patrick he suddenly looked very tired and his face was pale. “Your sister Erin was a very sweet and active girl who was also a very determined pilot. She always had excellent sync ratios, better than anything I could manage. She did really well with the EVA most of the time. She always seemed a little sad though.”
Vance turned to face Patrick. “She thought about you.”
“How? I thought I was a big secret?”
“You were,” Vance continued. “But she would tell me about this 'mysterious boyfriend' who lived in the mountains in her dreams. I'd always joke that she read too many teen romances. But then you came along and then I knew who she meant.”
“I wish I had known her,” Patrick said mournfully.
“Yeah, she was pretty special.” They both were silent for a while.
“Sometimes I really hate EVA you know,” said Patrick.
Vance sat up and headed for the shower. “The EVA is just a tool used to accomplish the salvation of humanity.”
“And we're just tools, too,” Patrick said disdainfully.
The following morning…
The controllers in Central Dogma were busily reviewing the flight status of all five Evangelion units and the outdoor training range as the EVAs were lifted by elevators onto the top level of the GeoFront. Preparations were being checked and double-checked for the next joint exercise between the American and Japanese branches of NERV. Misato was supervising the controllers as before while observing upstairs in the commander's platform were NERV commander Gendo Ikari and vice-commander Futsuyuki.
Hyuga was monitoring the Evangelions themselves. “All EVAs are activated and moving towards range.”
Misato addressed video feeds of all five EVA pilots. “Attention all pilots: today is a live-fire exercise. Each of your weapons is armed with live rounds, so please pay attention to all safety protocols. Absolutely no unauthorized firing!”
All pilots answered but their attitudes were somewhat subdued from the last round. “Yes Ma’am.”
“Oh, what’s the matter?” asked Misato with a cute voice. “Too much fun yesterday?”
Commander Ikari interrupted her. “Major Katsuragi, please be sure your EVAs are moved over to the firing range within the next few minutes as we will be transferring the S2 Engine to
“Yes, Commander. Maya?”
“Where’s Dr. Akagi?” Ritsuko was not in the control room, not like her at all for a major event such as this.
“She was still working on the American EVA evaluation,” Maya replied. “I don’t know when she's coming back.”
Shinji had been out late the night before with Misato and didn't see Asuka return to their apartment. She had gone alone earlier to NERV that morning.
“Asuka? How was the arcade?” he asked her, trying to be as friendly as possible.
“Don’t talk to me!”
Misato couldn’t help her curiosity, as she addressed the pilot of Unit 00. “Rei, your vital signs are 20% lower than your average. Are you alright?”
“Yes, Major,” Rei replied in her usual monotone voice.
“What about yesterday?” The chatter in Central Dogma suddenly went quiet as Misato asked the question.
Rei replied without emotion, “Yesterday was fine, ma’am.”
Misato looked around and saw the three controllers look at each other, and then glance quickly at Misato before quickly turning back to their work. Don't tell me they knew about the date too?
The dour attitude didn't escape Shinji's notice either, as no one was in the mood for the usual pre-fight banter. Seems like nearly everyone had a bad day yesterday.
Vance opened a private communication screen to Unit 04. “Patrick?”
“We’re good buddies right?”
“Yeah, I guess so...” What the heck?
“Right. So whatever happens next I just want you to stay the hell out of the way, do you understand?” Vance was unusually serious.
Patrick tried to laugh it off. “Dude, you’re scaring me here!”
Vance was now angry. “Just stay back, for your own sake!” and then he closed the channel.
Patrick thought to himself. That’s not like him at all! What’s going on?
Vance heard Misato call over the speakers in his EVA plug. “All EVAs now move to
Rei's EVA-00 was the first to reach the surface and it began to slowly move to the training range. Vance's EVA-03 and Patrick's -04 were on the next elevator, which had just reached the top, while Units 01 and 02 were still on the way upward.
Once reaching the surface Vance looked on his monitors and could see the outside of the GeoFront. The live-fire exercise was in an open area several kilometers from the GeoFront's outdoor opening, in a cordoned-off area. Right next to the exercise area was a large airfield where he could see a UN transport aircraft on the tarmac with several ground crew personnel carefully moving a large object draped in an unmarked black tarp. It’s right over there on the airfield. He looked at the clock: it said 08:29. It was almost time. His Evangelion started to walk very casually towards the airfield.
Suddenly, nearly the entire airfield lit up in a wall of flame.
In Central Dogma alarm klaxons sounded as the controllers analyzed what had just happened.
“Commander, multiple explosions within our defense ring!!” Hyuga announced.
“Is it an Angel attack?” asked Futsuyuki.
“Negative, sir. A number of missiles have penetrated the perimeter. Sensors arrays indicate stealth aircraft have entered our airspace.”
Aoba had more information. “Aircraft have UN markings but have shut off their IFF tags.”
“Sir, Air Defense reports aircraft are American-type, sir!” added Lt Hyuga.
Commander Ikari folded his hands and looked at the large tactical holographic display. This is bad. “Bring all defense systems to maximum alert. Engage all hostile all aircraft.“
Maya jumped up and pointed to one of the monitors. “Sir, the S2 Engine!”
One of the large video screens showed the wreckage of the UN air transport on the airfield. The ground crew around the engine had disappeared, presumably dead or forced off by the explosions, but the black-shrouded object remained on the tarmac.
The commander called down to the operations pit. “Major, who is closest to the S2 engine?”
“I can have EVA-00 there in one minute, sir.”
“Do it! “
Misato turned to the video feed for Unit 00. “Rei, get to the S2 engine on the runway. There may be an attempt to destroy or capture it.”
Commander Ikari addressed the screen himself. “Rei.”
“Defend it with your life!” he ordered.
Misato called out to the other pilots. “All other EVAs report!”
“I’m here!” Asuka chimed in.
“EVA-04 ready!” Patrick also replied in.
There were only three answers. “Unit 03?” asked Misato.
There was no response on the audio. Misato looked at the Unit 03 video screen which had suddenly been shut off.
“Patrick, Where’s Vance?”
“No Idea, Major.” Oh no, Vance, what the hell are you doing?
At that moment Dr. Akagi ran into the operations pit at Central Dogma. “I know how he’s spoofing the EVA! Major, shut down EVAs 03 and 04 now!”
Misato nodded and addressed the controllers. “Shut all power to EVA 03 and 04!”
“Powering down on EVA-04,”replied Hyuga.
Maya attempted the same for Unit 03 but was unable to get the Evangelion to comply. “EVA-03 is non-responsive!”
Misato called out to Unit 03. “Vance, shut down now!” There was still no response and the video screen was still dead. She turned to Maya. “Where’s Unit 03 now?”
“Moving fast towards the runway. Major, he’s disconnected the command link!”
“Telemetry Failed!” Hyuga shouted. “He’s hijacked the Evangelion!”
In the entry plug for Unit 04 most of the video screens went dead and the lights went down to the emergency red tint. Patrick looked at his power meter - it was flashing: CONROL-OVERRIDE - POWER CUTOFF.
“Oh, no!!!” He shouted into the audio feed. “Don’t shut me down now!!! Please!!!”
Evangelion Unit 00 reached the smoking wreckage of the UN transport on Airfield One. There were no signs of life but the black-wrapped S2 engine was still lying on its transport pallet, its tie-down cables snapped off by the force of the explosions.
“I’ve reached the S2 engine now.” Rei reported back to Central Dogma.
“Rei, hold onto it.” Misato ordered. “Whatever happens, don’t let EVA-03 get it. Use your AT field.”
“No, don't!” Ritsuko warned. Misato turned to her. “Why not?”
“The AT field might exhibit field interference with the S2 engine and could cause a stress reaction.”
“Such as?” Misato asked.
“In general terms…” Ritsuko then motioned the shape of a large explosion out of her hands. Misato understood the meaning. “Rei, be careful!” she called out.
Unit 03 ran out of the smoke of the explosions and was 1,000 meters away from the transport plane. There you are. Vance then saw Unit 00 on his monitor cradling the black-draped artifact under one arm. Oh, no, Patrick’s not going to like this. It can’t be helped. He then drew his progressive knife and his pistol and ran at Unit 00.
On the tactical display Misato watched Unit 03 charge at Rei and the S2 on the tarmac. “Rei, he’s heading right towards you. Hang on!” She turned to the other video feeds. “Shinji, Asuka! Go help Rei now!”
Shinji was clueless. “What’s happening, Major!”
“EVA-03 and 04 are now classified as enemy targets. Use all force necessary to stop them!”
“What?” said Asuka in disbelief. “You’re kidding?”
“NOW!!!” Misato screamed.
Inside EVA-04 Patrick shook the control actuators but he couldn’t stop the shut down process. “No, No! Come on, what is happening!!!” Though the main power was cutoff to his EVA, the entry plug still had an auxiliary battery and he was able to see the video feed from the outside. There he had a front-row seat, watching Unit 03 charging at Rei’s EVA. “Vance,” he screamed, “what the hell are you doing?”
Ritsuko address the blank screen that was supposed to feed to EVA-03. “Mr. Vinson this is Dr. Akagi. If you want to live past the next five minutes stop what you’re doing now! The serum you are using has a total fatality rate.”
“Ritsuko, what’s going on?” asked Misato.
“It seems our American pilot here has been cheating,” Ritsuko explained. “He’s using a neural control serum to interface with the EVA using part of EVA-03’s own DNA structure. “
Which means this guy is really desperate, Misato thought. “Oh my God! Rei!”
As EVAs-01 and 02 reached the top of the elevator shaft, Vance was already at the wreckage of the transport aircraft. He could see and hear around him the air battle between the NERV defense forces and his renegade allies. Up in the sky he could see a larger, modified assault transport circling the airfield. That's my ticket home, if I live to get home that is. NERV's air defenses were already starting to work over the opposing aircraft so to pull this off he knew he had to work fast.
On the tarmac was EVA-00 holding the black-draped organ under its left arm and its pallet gun on its right hand. Vance moved cautiously toward it and spoke on the loudspeaker. He knew he was close enough for the pilot to hear him.
“Now, Rei, be a good girl and give it up,” he said calmly.
Rei said nothing but tightened the grip around the S2 instead. She brought up her gun to fire but the knife in Unit 03’s left hand quickly slashed the barrel in half before she could bring it to bear. The black Evangelion proceeded to kick Unit 00 off its feet and onto the runway. Rei screamed but still held onto the S2, grabbing onto it with both hands.
Moving at full speed EVAs 01 and 02 ran to the airfield. “Ayanami!” Shinji shouted. “We’re coming! Hang on!”
“Shinji, I’m going to take the shot!” Asuka told him.
“No way!” Shinji protested. “You might hit her instead of him!”
Patrick had never felt so helpless as he watched his best friend attack the only girl he had ever liked. “No, no, Vance, NO!!!! REI! REI!” He kept shouting and trying to shake the actuators in the entry plug, but there was no getting the power back. As he watched EVA-03 move in for the kill, he suddenly remembered something. Maybe…
He released his tight grip on the actuators and closed his eyes, concentrating as hard as he could.
Please do something! She’s going to die if I can’t save her! Please, please, please…
EVA-00 was on its knees on the runway but still shielding the S2 with its arms, as EVA-03 closed in on it. It stopped for a moment as Vance took a syringe and pumped it directly through his plug suit into his thigh.
Standing right over Unit 00, EVA-03 then took its pistol and positioned it point blank at it’s core. Vance had noticed that Rei didn’t activate the AT Field, which meant that at this range one shot would blow open the core and the entry plug, almost surely killing the pilot. “Sorry it had to come to this, girl!” Unit 03 pulled the hammer back on the pistol.
Suddenly something impacted Unit 03’s head, and the Evangelion fell backwards.
Misato and the others were watching all of this from the control platform. She saw EVA-03 collapse and knew it was the lucky break they needed. “Shinji, Hurry!”
EVA-01 had reached where both Unit 03 and 00 were. Unit 00 was still kneeling on the runway while Unit 03 was sprawled on its back twenty meters away, dripping LCL from an open wound on its head. Shinji took EVA-01 and quickly pulled EVA-00 to its feet, its arms still clutching the S2. As EVA-03 got back on its feet Asuka’s EVA-02 arrived at the scene.
“Your ass is mine!” she called to Vance as she drew out her Progressive Knife.
“It’s been fun, but no more time for games,” he replied.
EVA-03 pivoted around and shot its pistol at EVA-00. The impact of the pistol was loud and LCL began to spray out of the abdomen. Rei screamed “Ikari-kun!!!”
“Pay you back!!” Shinji had moved EVA-01 directly in front of EVA-00 before Vance took his shot: it was EVA-01 that was bleeding out orange LCL as it fell to the ground.
“No way you’re gonna kill my friends!” Asuka shouted. As EVA-03 turned to face her she went after the black Evangelion, pushing it into a burning aircraft hanger with the stock of her pallet gun on her left hand. EVA-03 fell back into the building.
Vance pumped another syringe into his thigh as he felt his heart race and his breathing was very heavy. He tasted salt and syrup and reached up to his head and found his hair was sticky. His head felt thick as ice.
He heard Dr. Akagi voice’s again through the open audio channel. “Mr. Vinson, stop immediately. The serum will kill you if you don’t stop now! Vance, we can treat you if you stop right now.”
Can’t let them get me.
Unit 03 ran behind billowing smoke as Asuka in Unit 02 sprayed the area with gunfire. ”I AM NOT GOING TO LET YOU DO THIS, YOU BASTARD!!!”
“Asuka! Back away now!” Misato warned. “He may try to self-destruct!”
Asuka ignored the warning. “NO DAMN WAY YOU WIN THIS!” she shouted. EVA-02 ran through the smoke and flame and found a struggling Unit 03 trying to bring its pistol to bear on her. She used her gun again to knock the pistol of out its hand while thrusting with the Prog Knife in the other. Her attack was aggressive enough to push EVA-03 back against the hanger wall.
“TO THINK THAT I ACTUALLY RESPECTED YOU!!!” She repeatedly stabbed EVA-03 in the chest until it collapsed on the tarmac. It wasn't moving anymore and LCL and tissue were spilling out and onto the runway.
Vance could no longer move his hands or legs as the entry plug was lit up with all manner of warning lights and sounds. He felt the syrup of blood go down the side of his face as his vision started to go black.
Sorry, Patrick. Sorry for Everything. You were a good kid. They should have just left you alone.
He felt very tired and began to feel himself drift. As his view of the entry plug started to grow dim, Vance looked at the front of his throne console. Taped to the top edge of the display was a small photograph, the kind that comes from a photo booth. In the photograph Vance looked surprised as a 14-year old girl with collar-length blonde hair gently kissed him on the cheek. His last thoughts were of her.
Then something popped in his head and it was over.
“Asuka! Back off now!” Asuka finally did as she was ordered and moved Unit 02 back a few steps, weapons still at the ready. EVA-02 stood silently over EVA-03 as LCL leaking from the Evangelion flooded the runway.
In Central Dogma the controllers ran a remote scan on Unit 03. “No pilot activity readings for EVA-03,” Maya said solemnly. The meaning was clear.
“Sir, Defense reports surrounding area is secure,” reported Hyuga. The renegade air threat had been defeated as well.
Aoba turned to face the command platform above. “Sir, a message from NERV-2’s commander.”
“Yes?” Gendo Ikari asked. He had not moved from his seat the entire time.
“He says he’s received information that a rogue element of their organization was found plotting to hijack one of the Evangelion units,” Aoba reported. “He says that we should exercise extreme caution and shut down both units until they can investigate the threat.”
Futsuyuki turned to Ikari. “How very conveniently timed.”
Gendo scoffed. “Tell him it’s too late but we have the situation in hand.”
Patrick, still inside of EVA-04, had seen everything but he couldn't believe what just happened. He continued to watch the video monitor as Unit 00 supported Unit 01 with one hand and the S2 with another while rescue crews rushed to the scene.
“Rei! Thank God she’s safe.”
He saw the silent figure of EVA-03 sitting motionless against the aircraft hanger with Unit 02 standing at the ready above it. What the hell happened just now? Vance!? Vance!! Why?!
Suddenly he found it incredibly hard to breathe as the LCL pressure in the entry plug increased dramatically. Struggling to leave the seat, everything went deep red before he lost consciousness.
Continue to Chapter 11