Misato’s G6 landed at NERV’s Runway One in a torrential rain. As the aircraft taxied towards the terminal, Misato used her mobile phone to contact Hyuga, making sure he had all of their preparations made for their new “guest.”
As they disembarked, a HMMWV met them and then Misato instructed Rei to board so that she could be taken to EVA-07, which was already positioned on the GeoFront exterior. She would relieve Asuka and Unit 02 for patrol duties as soon as she got there. Rei didn’t say anything but simply complied with Misato’s instructions, and she didn’t look back as she boarded the military vehicle to go. Misato knew today had been a long day for her especially.
The rest of them met an armed escort that took them to A Deck, where Hyuga had a room waiting so Gendo could change clothes and attend to his personal care. Thirty minutes later Misato came for him, and together with Wellington and several armed members of the security branch took him to meet Admiral Vinson elsewhere on A Deck.
Vinson was discussing operational matters with Hyuga when both men noticed the group moving towards them. In between Misato and Wellington was Gendo Ikari. He now wore civilian clothes consisting of a dark blue sports jacket and slacks and a brown turtleneck. He had also now completely shaved off his beard, giving his face a dramatically difference appearance. His right hand was still bound behind his back, as Wellington led him forward. When Gendo approached the Admiral, Vinson looked into his eyes and saw something very different from the last time he had met him: the coldness of them was somehow gone. The new commander then addressed the old one.
“Welcome back, Doctor Ikari.” Gendo said nothing but simply nodded at Vinson.
“Colonel Katsuragi says that we can expect your full cooperation. Is that correct?”
“It is,” said Gendo.
Vinson quickly cut to the quick. “And what price are we to pay for this?”
Gendo paused for a moment, and then said “please ensure the safe return of my son. Nothing more is asked.”
Vinson glanced at Hyuga, whose mouth was drooped wide open in surprise: this was not the Commander Ikari that he had been taking orders from for most of the previous year.
“Very well,” said the Admiral. “Colonel, we need assistance in activating Unit 09, that should be our highest priority in working with the good doctor here.”
“Admiral,” interrupted Gendo, “it would be a more efficient use of my time if I were allowed to address the issue of unlocking the MAGI data banks first. Doing so would enable the NERV technical staff to have the resources needed to make the necessary repairs and upgrades to all of the components that you’re going to need.”
“Access to the MAGI was not part of the deal, doctor,” replied Vinson. “While the colonel here thinks that you’ve made some sort of turnaround I’m not about to let you back into our good graces quite so easily.”
“Commander,” said Gendo, “if the situation is as Katsuragi-san says it is, you’re not going to have the time to have me review your damaged systems one-by-one. Reactivation of the MAGI and attaining full interoperability will go a long way to achieving your goal of having an offensive force ready quickly. SEELE will be pursuing a re-start of Third Impact, and failing that an attack on this base. You need to be ready.”
“I know what I need, doctor. What security do you give us that you won’t just slip in a command override when I give you access?”
“You’re simply going to have to trust me,” Gendo calmly replied.
Commander Vinson laughed out loud. “Oh, God! You really are a son of a bitch, aren’t you?” He scratched his head and looked at the other officers around him, all of which were giving nervous looks to him and each other. Vinson threw his arms up in the air in frustration. “Oh, why the hell not? Nothing else we’ve tried works! Take him to Central Dogma and have Captain Ibiki meet him there.” Wellington them motioned for the guards to have Gendo brought to the elevators while she followed. As she was about to leave, Vinson whispered in Wellington’s ear: “you so much as see anything suspicious and you grease his ass there on the spot.”
“It’ll be my pleasure, sir” the lieutenant replied with a wry smile and she then marched way to catch up to her prisoner and his escorts.
Vinson then addressed Misato. “I’m taking a hell of a chance with him, you know that. What if he sets off the N2 warheads that are still hidden underneath here?”
“I’ve always known Ikari to be a survivor,” Misato replied. “I doubt he’ll do that.”
The commander pointed a finger at her. “We better not get burned on this. I want status reports in three hours and we meet in four so we can figure out if we’re better off for doing this.”
“Yes, sir,” replied both Misato and Hyuga. Vinson then dismissed Hyuga but motioned for Misato to stay a bit longer. He spoke to her in a more quiet tone of voice. “What the hell happened to him?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” was Misato’s answer.
Gendo was led to the command center where Maya was waiting on the operations deck. It was a peculiar feeling for him seeing something that resembled his old NERV but was still substantially different, from the new uniforms to the more diverse set of faces among the staff.
On the operations deck one of cowls was lifted off of the MAGI control sets as Maya stood next to a terminal that was mounted on the control core. Like most of the experienced NERV hands Maya did a double-take at the man now standing in front of her, unsure if he was the former commander at first.
“He says he can open it for us,” Wellington said to Maya.
“What is your current situation?” Gendo flatly asked.
“We only have 50% operability with the MAGI data banks,” Maya reported. “All of the technical data files are locked, but we have control over the GeoFront environmental and operational systems.”
“Meaning that you can operate the EVAs and the GeoFront but you can’t access the scientific data banks to make repairs or new advances.”
“Correct. We’ve been relying on more experienced staff such as Drs. Viraat or Foch to fill in the gaps but they’ve since…they’ve become casualties. Without their critical knowledge we can only perform Level B maintenance on the units.”
“Clever,” analyzed Gendo. “She doesn’t quite trust you yet.”
“Uh, no,” Maya replied. “Actually I myself tried several avenues to make contact with the MAGI decision core. I can communicate with her but there’s no convincing her of moving forward. It’s as she’s just waiting for something to happen. The commander wants me to do a hard reset but I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Then it’s good that I’ve now come. May I address her?”
Maya wasn’t sure if she should allow the commander access to the MAGI core. “Commander,” she addressed Gendo out of habit, “there’s a dynamic one megabit encryption key on the system. We’ve tried every method we know to crack it but we just don’t have the computing power or correct algorithms to bypass it.”
“Captain,” said the former commander. “She’s waiting for the right message.” He turned to Wellington, moving his right arm that was still bound behind his back. “May I?”
Wellington very reluctantly took her key and unlocked his handcuffed right arm. “Thank you,” he said to her as he then sat down in front of the terminal.
“Captain Ibiki,” said Wellington to Maya, “Mr. Ikari here gets one chance at this. If you see anything fishy, please let me know.”
“Of course,” Maya replied, herself becoming very concerned about what the former commander would do next.
Focusing on the terminal in front of him, Gendo used his right hand to quickly type in commands as Maya and Wellington watched. He used hexagonal machine code instructions as he did so, and Maya followed along with what he was doing.
After imputing a series of codes, the MAGI replied with their own set of hexagonal numbers. There was a back and forth between Gendo and the MAGI that lasted for a minute, until Gendo slowly typed in one remaining set of codes with his single hand. Maya saw what he typed in and drew a deep breath in surprise. As soon as Gendo hit the return key, a loud winding noise was heard from the MAGI cores and the lights all around them suddenly went out.
“Oh, fuck me!” exclaimed Wellington, who immediately brought up her knife and put it to Gendo’s neck. Maya saw what she was about to do and shouted “NO! WAIT!” A half-second later the lights went back on completely.
“What…what just happened?” Wellie asked, her knife still at Gendo’s throat. Maya saw activity on the terminal and jumped in front of it.
“Operational status…98%...99%...100%! We’re fully back on-line!” she continued reading as the others watched, Gendo calmly reading the display even as Wellington’s knife was still against him.
“Technical and Scientific Data banks are all fully open, at standard protocols! Also, historical data is also released! There’s an entirely new set of databanks I haven’t even seen before!” She opened one of the new files and quickly scanned it. “It’s…it’s the entire development history of the MAGI...and of EVA! She’s given up all of her secrets!” Maya quickly keyed in a few other commands and then got onto a phone next to the terminal.
“Commander!” she shouted. “He’s done it! MAGI are fully operational. In addition tell Colonel Katsuragi that we’ve got full historical records now accessible. “
“Is the system secure?” was Vinson’s first response.
“Yes! I put in a new command code myself, we’ve got full control now.”
As the others were scrambling to access the MAGI now that the floodgates of its memory banks were open Gendo calmly turned to Wellington. “Can I get a piece of paper and a pen?” Wellie quickly withdrew the knife and presented both to Gendo. Without saying anything he wrote down another set of numbers, which looked to Wellington like map grid coordinates. Gendo then gave her the paper.
“What’s this?” she asked him.
“It’s where the N2 scuttling mines are located inside the GeoFront,” he said. Wellington quickly got onto her mobile phone. “I need EOD now on these coordinates!” As she read off the numbers, Gendo got up from the chair and then spoke to Maya. “Captain, does this give you what you need?”
“Yes, Commander Ikari! Thank you!”
“Very well. I’ll be needed then with the EVA-09 activation.” With that he turned to leave the operations deck, followed at a now respectable distance by two sentries.
Wellington got off the phone and turned to Maya. “If he’s going to pull a stunt like that he should at least say something before he does it,” she said. “I don’t know if I hate him more or if I’m beginning to like him. What did he do to the MAGI, anyway?”
Maya looked on as the former commander left the command center. “He said to her…I’m sorry.”
Four hours later the senior staff met with Commander Vinson in the operations conference room. Graphics of the known SEELE forces and locations were displayed on the giant LED floor monitor as Hyuga led the reports about both NERV’s situation and SEELE’s. Joining Vinson in the room besides Captain Hyuga and Misato were Maya, the doctors Suzahara (father and son) who were now the senior scientific chiefs, and Gendo who in the short time he had returned to NERV was quickly making himself indispensable.
“If we can get activation of Unit 09,” Hyuga continued, “that gives us three fully operational units. At least one will be needed at Tokyo-3 at all times to provide a suitable defense against attack, leaving a maximum of two for any assaults on their stronghold.”
“What’s the current strength of SEELE EVAs?” asked Vinson.
“Assuming they can employ Unit 04 there’s two mainline units plus whatever remaining Harpies they can assemble. We haven’t seen any attacks on any locations since Unit 06’s raid, which could mean that they’re hoarding their strength in hopes of trying to re-initiate Third Impact.”
“How many EVAs would they need to do that?” Maya asked. “Is it nine like the last time?”
“If they have the actual Lance theoretically they might only need just one, “ said Gendo. “However, the fact that it hasn’t already happened would indicate there’s some difficulty in doing so. SEELE would try to scrape together nine units in order to be sure of success.”
Misato studied the graphics on the floor display carefully. “Could they do that?”
“They’d have to collect nearly every possible body they could,” Ikari answered. “The bigger issue would be how many S2 engines they could produce. Have units in their most recent attacks been powered with S2s?”
“Not all of them,” said Hyuga. “The two in Alaska were on batteries.”
“Let’s concentrate on the target,” said Vinson as he re-directed the meeting. “According to the NATO survey in the 1990s Stetland is solid granite, but hollowed underneath from previous engineering efforts. Colonel, any thoughts?”
Misato switched the display to her own presentation. “It’s a difficult target as we’ve discussed before. There’s no higher ground for fifty kilometers, yet it’s in the middle of a mountain range itself. That means there’s a wide killing zone all around the mountain. It’s difficult to maneuver to reach the mountain and It’s very easy for them to spot incoming attacks.”
“With that type of kill zone a frontal attack would be suicide!” Hyuga exclaimed. “Especially with only two units! Any chance of going under it?”
“There’s an underground active magma layer that’s below the mountain itself,” continued Misato. “That prevents us from tunneling under it.”
Vinson pounded his fist into his hand. “So we can’t go directly for it, and we can‘t go under it. Could we go on top of it?”
“Not as a parachute assault,” said Misato. “Too dangerous.”
Gendo now chimed in. “There is a way,” he said, “we go on top, but not by aircraft.”
“How?” the commander asked.
Ikari had his own presentation and loaded his file onto the display. “Any type of airborne assault could be seen from hundreds of kilometers away. Even with stealth aircraft, the combination of sensors and operation units will make an airborne assault difficult. But,” he continued, “if you can approach the target at a high-angle, high-velocity attack, you can be on top of them before they have a chance to fully put out their defenses. The initiative will be ours.”
“High-angle, high-velocity,” said Hyuga. “Are you talking about a ballistic assault? From orbit?”
“Correct,” said Gendo, who continued with his presentation. “Use space catapults to launch two EVA units into a low-Earth orbit, then deorbit them above the target. Their velocity coming into re-entry should be about Mach 20.”
“An EVA could survive re-entry,” observed Misato, “if it’s AT field was on full power.”
“An Evangelion unit with a fully extended AT field arriving at that velocity would cut through the mountain like a progressive knife,” said Gendo. “They would have the advantage.”
“It seems like the plan would work,” Maya commented, “but where are we going to get an orbital catapult to do it with?”’
“Asahi-dake,” answered Gendo.
Hyuga was surprised at the answer. “Asahi-dake was a decommissioned JSSDF space launch center on Hokkaido Island,” he said. “It was never at operational capacity and was de-activated after budget cuts forced them to shut it down.”
“I know,” said Ikari. “When it was shut down we used a shell company to buy the facilities and then Akagi-sensei re-engineered the site to be capable of lifting an EVA into orbit. We kept it as a precaution in case we ever needed it…off the books.”
“Even if it was operational,” Maya wondered aloud, “to provide the magnetic thrust for that much weight we’d need to have a massive electrical output to the catapults.”
“It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve done it,” said Misato, who realized the wisdom of the plan. “Just like Operation Yashima.”
Vinson considered all aspects of what the former commander was proposing. “It’s high-risk, I grant you that,” he sad to the others. “But I like the idea that we can just drop out of space on them. That evens the odds a bit. Colonel, we’ll proceed with this. I want you to have Units 02 and 09 prepared for the catapults.”
“Unit 09?” said Misato. “Admiral, we don’t have an experienced pilot for EVA-09. I’d like to use EVA-07 and Pilot Ayanami instead.”
“No,” Vinson counter-ordered. “We’ve put the First Child at too much risk already. She’s our ace in the hole in case everything else goes bad. Get it ready, colonel.”
Continue to Chapter 48