Boyfriend of Steel

A Neon Genesis Evangelion Fan Fiction site

Chapter Fifty: The Stage Is Set

Accompanied by two female bodyguards, Rei silently boarded the elevator and pushed the button for the EVA cages. Rei herself wore the new NERV uniform, while the two guards were dressed in black suits, each wearing sunglasses and with audio receivers in their ears. The three of them together stood in silence as the elevator took them down several levels, then stopped at another floor.

As the elevator doors slid open, Rei looked outside and saw former Commander Ikari standing in front. Behind him was Wellington and another black-suited male security guard. Rei gave no outward expression towards him and neither made eye contact with the other as Ikari and his guardians entered the elevator car. They all turned to face the doors as the elevator again descended.

The silence between all of them continued for another minute until Gendo spoke in a quiet tone.

"Thank you," he said to Rei.

"What for?" she replied back in her whisper-like voice.

"Doing what you did to get me back here."

"I only did what was necessary," Rei answered unemotionally. Neither one of them still did not face the other.

There was another long pause until Gendo spoke again. "Are you worried about him?"

"I am worried about Shinji-kun," she replied. "But Unit 01 will protect him. She always does."

The sound of a bell was heard and the elevator car stopped. The doors slid open and then Gendo, Wellington and the guard began to leave the car. On his way out, Gendo looked at Rei and said "That wasn't who I meant."

Rei's eyebrows went up in surprise as she was at a loss for words. The former commander gave her a slight smile. "You didn't give up hope for me, even though you should have. Don't give up hope for yourself." With that he turned and left the elevator along with Wellington and the other guard and the doors closed suddenly.

Rei put her hands to her mouth and bit her lip, closing her eyes as emotions she had tried to suppress while riding with the old commander finally made their way to the surface. He knew about Forri-kun?

In a large conference room Admiral Vinson stood in front of a holographic display as he went over the plan for their upcoming attack on SEELE-2. Seated opposite of him in several rows of chairs were the senior officers at NERV and the Alliance, including Colonel Burke and Admiral Gato. Also there were several top officers of the Japanese armed forces and all of them paid silent and careful attention as Vinson presented out the operations plan.

"SEELE-2" he pointed out on the holographic display "is believed to be surrounded by a sophisticated surveillance system that's able to detect even very stealthy aircraft that have come their way. We've lost three drones to the fortress' defense systems, but even so we've gained substantial knowledge about their layout and the likely opposition we'll face. Needless to say it's going to be like walking into a furnace."

"The conventional defense alone consist of a highly automated air defense network able to track and down all types of aircraft. That's just the outside. Once we get into the mountain itself we should expect to face a very large and very heavily armed garrison of seasoned troops, and they will defend this outpost to the last man. This won't be as easy as taking the Geofront." There were a few nervous laughs from the crowd of officers as he said that.

"Then there are the EVAs," Vinson continued, and the holographic display now showed several Mass Production models in combat poses. "There's no absolutely firm intel on how many Harpies they have inside but the total could be as many as nine, which would be the number needed to repeat the attempt at Third Impact from three months ago. What we do know is that there are probably at least several Harpies within the complex, and most if not all of them are S2 equipped, so each one of them is a hard kill for us." Vinson glanced at Misato who only nodded her head in understanding.

"Besides the Harpies there are three other EVAs within the complex. One is the captured Unit 01, another is Unit 06, who is the bastard who came in here and ripped us good earlier, and one is Unit 04, which for reasons that we all know is now considered to be an enemy asset."

"The mission is to take the fortress. This is how we'll do that." The display changed again and expanded to show a view of Planet Earth, identifying the locations of SEELE-2 and the GeoFront.

"We are going to conduct a ballistic attack on the mountain, by using the newly acquired orbital catapult at Ashi-Dake to launch Evangelion Units 02 and 07." At the mention of Unit 07 Misato smiled to herself, as she had again requested to the admiral before the meeting to include Rei instead of Hikari in the attack plan and the Admiral had finally relented after Misato' assurances that Rei would be loyal and focused on the mission.

"Along with the two EVA units we will also launch a N2 warhead in the megaton yield range. This warhead will drop on the mountain first and hopefully blow apart its defensive screen." The holographic display showed a graphic of a small cone-shaped warhead coming down from earth orbit on top of the mountain fortress, followed by the two EVAs."

"Thirty seconds later EVA-02 and EVA-07 will follow the warhead's de-orbit with their AT Fields on maximum. Using the AT field at their re-entry velocity of Mach 20 should drill a pretty good-sized hole into the mountain at the speed they'll be going, enough to crack it open like an egg. After landing Units 02 and 07 will then engage every EVA unit within the complex while we go in with our own conventional troops. Colonel Burke's Task Force Athena will be in the lead, supported by the Japanese 1st Special Forces Group."

"Once inside your true target will be this man: SEELE Chairman Kiel Lorenz." The holograph showed an image of the old chairman, wearing his vision enhancer goggles and seated in his wheelchair. "He will no doubt protect himself as best he can by surrounding himself with troops, booby-traps, and whatever else he can do to stay alive. You kill him," the Admiral instructed the others as he pointed to the graphic with his finger, "you end the war. It's that simple."

"Otherwise commanders will use their own discretion when entering the fortress. Based on our prior experience with the UN they'll be tricky bastards, doing things such as false surrenders and using hostages if they have them. Don't take any crap like that. Be aggressive: this is the end game, and it's time to end it on our own terms."

The holographic display switched other to another part of the presentation as Vinson finished his statement. "Two last things. One is that I want to mention now we do have at least one friendly intel asset in the facility, although we don't have contact with him currently." Kaji's picture now appeared on the display, as always in a wry smile that Misato couldn't help but smile with him. "The other is that the pilot of the captured Unit 01 could possibly be away from the unit, maybe captured in a prison cell or medical facility." The image of Shinji Ikari also came up on the holographic display, and Misato's smile turned into an expression of fierce determination. "Be sure your troops know who these two people are and if you encounter them make sure they're protected and brought to safety."

"Finally, a last word to all of you. Over three months ago the people in this room were on two or maybe even three sides of this conflict. We were pitted against each other in a battle over control of this facility, and all of us, on all sides, took heavy losses from that battle."

"I can speak with those of us from the Alliance side, going into this three months ago it was our hope that in taking the GeoFront and securing EVA we would end this war. Unfortunately that didn't happen, as the cocksuckers who've been pulling the strings on the whole planet still managed to survive and they've been a thorn in our side ever since."

"But something good came out of that battle. Those of us who were once on opposing sides of this conflict found common ground. We reached out to each other and understood that if we really wanted a better world, if we really wanted all of our sacrifices and the lives lost and the destruction that has come out of all of this to be meaningful, that we ourselves had to give it our own meaning. Rather than submit to the control and manipulation of others, with EVA we could make our own destiny and it could be a destiny of peace and tranquility for the world. But to do that we'd have to win first, and we couldn't win unless we all fought...together."

"I'm proud of the connections and partnerships that we've made in forming this new team, comprised of the men and women in this room, and the many others whom they lead into battle. It's not just a matter of joining East and West, or whatever you want to call it. It's a matter of finding unity in common ground, to not only defeat our enemy but also make things better after we get our victory. Colonel Burke has a great way of describing this philosophy: 'No Better Friend, and No Worse Enemy.' I sincerely hope that's what we are, to our friends and to our enemies.

Vinson now spoke with a true sense of passion in his booming voice. "When we go into that mountain, and I'm going in there with you, we are going to end this thing for good no matter what the cost. Get ready! This is it, the Endgame. If the Old Men want a Third Impact then let's make an Impact of our own. Let our selves be the sacrifice for a new world to be created, but on our own terms!"

Rei sat in the darkness of her bedroom as she waited for Asuka to finish getting dressed and ready. Sitting silently on her bed, she held a syringe containing orange-colored LCL stabilizer in her hands. Rei let her mind take in the soft noises of the Girls' suite that were around her as she contemplated what was happening and what, if any future, she might face. Her bedroom door was closed shut.

Standing next to her in the bedroom was the image of Adam, appearing as he always did like the person he once was: Kaworu Nagisa. Adam looked at Rei and gave her a soft smile, but she did not return it.

"What are you thinking?" he asked her, already knowing the answer.

Rei looked at the syringe in her hand. "Forri-kun's last injection was over seven days ago."

"By the time you make it to the enemy's lair he might already be gone then."

She nodded. "Do I accept that fact, or do I hold out hope that he might still be alive? And if he is still alive, did he compromise himself to the enemy?"

"What does your mind tell you?"

"There is insufficient information to make a correct analysis, except to say that with another pilot available to SEELE there is no need for him to pilot Unit 04. That makes him expendable to them and unlikely to pilot."

Kaworu raised an eyebrow. "Then why not just kill him when they took the EVA? There must be a use for him. Or are you really afraid he did cross over?"

"I…I," Rei at first faltered to answer. "My mind tells me it's a strong possibility but my heart screams no. I know him," she said, cradling the syringe. "He sacrificed himself twice already to save us. He will not be so easily turned."

"Despite that if you face him you have your orders, yes?"

"Yes," Rei said quietly. "We must recover Shinji-kun, we must end the war. Misato-san already considers him dead. Perhaps now I must do the same."

Asuka's voice came from outside the door. "Hey, are you ready?"

"Just a moment," Rei called out to her. She stood up from the bed and looked at Adam. "If it comes to it I hope that he is gone already. I'm afraid that despite what Commander Ikari said earlier I don't have any hope left," she said with a mournful expression.

"What would your Forri-kun want for you?" Adam asked her.

"To find my own true purpose in the end," Rei told him, "and to be happy for my own sake. This I know."

"Hey, First!" Asuka's voice cried out as she pounded on the door. "Come on, they're going to go without us!"

As the image of Adam faded away Rei looked at her bedroom one last time, sensing that she would never return to this place. The room wasn't as drab as the apartment she had rented in Tokyo-3 before, the floor was at least carpeted and there were pictures of landscapes posted on the walls that were painted in light blue. The furniture was all new, wooden in construction and not fabricated steel like the old place. She remembered that she was was uncomfortable being in this room at first, so different it was from what she had known before, but over the weeks she had gradually become used to the place. She knew she would miss it, and her time that was spent here in the company of Misato and the other pilots.

Images of Patrick Forrestal again pushed up to the center of her mind's eye. Rei forced herself to try and stop thinking about him, as painful as that was to her inside. If she survived the next thirty-six hours there would be time to mourn, but she now focused everything on the mission. It would be the only thing to her that mattered. Goodbye, Forri-kun. Where you fly my heart flies with you, but the door must close for us now as much as I wish it were not so.

Rei took the syringe and looked at it one more time, and then found the case for it on top of her dresser. The case for it was black and sat next to her own case, which was also black. Printed on the case were the letters "PF." She decided to give herself one last slim hope and then put Patrick's syringe together with her own inside of her case, taking it with her on the way out of the dark bedroom.

She opened the bedroom door and saw Asuka standing in front. She was wearing a bright yellow dress with spaghetti straps, the hem generously cut to mid-thigh, and wore bright red Mary Janes with her bare legs. She also wore full makeup including eye shadow, blush, and a deep red lipstick, and around her neck was Shinji's Monkey pendant, with its chain patched together. Over her shoulder was her plug suit bag, colored in red with a giant black "02" printed on it.

Asuka took one look at Rei as she stood by the doorway. Like Asuka, Rei didn't wear a NERV uniform but instead in agreement with her fellow pilot dressed herself up as best she could, wearing the blue party dress and heels from the Officer's ball, she kept her legs bare as well. She wore only lipstick instead of full makeup but still looked as stunning as she did that night. "Lookin' pretty good!" complemented Askua, giving a thumbs-up sign. Rei simply nodded and picked up a white plug suit bag sitting next to her bedroom door. "Let's go," she told Asuka.

Misato then entered the living room of the Girls' Suite, followed by Hikari who was carrying PenPen in her arms. Misato wore an olive flight suit with her old red NERV jacket while Hikari wore the new NERV uniform. "Are you girls ready?" Misato asked Asuka and Rei, who both nodded in unison. Asuka then turned to Hikari. "By the way, thanks for the dress!"

"You're welcome," Hikari replied humbly. "I just ran across that and I know you liked your old one. It's not exactly the same..."

"It'll do," quipped Asuka, satisfied with the return of her favorite outfit.

"I'm glad, but, why did you guys get dressed up like this?"

Asuka put her hand on her hip in a confident manner. "Hey, if I'm going out in the end I'm at least going to look good! Right, First?" Rei nodded her head firmly. "It's only for the trip to Ashi-Dake," Asuka clarified.

"Okay," Hikari acknowledged. She took a deep breath and squeezed PenPen tighter in her arms. "We're leaving him with my sisters for safe keeping. I guess this time I get to stay behind." Hikari moved closer to Asuka while Misato took a phone call on her mobile.

"Asuka, I'm so scared!" she whispered to her with a wavering voice. "They want me to defend Tokyo-3, but I'm the only one left! I have no idea what I'll do!"

"It'll be okay," the redhead said to her confidently. "Just think of the GeoFront as Room 2-A."

"What? Why?"

The experienced pilot tried to explain it to her. "If some bullies came into your classroom and interrupted everything like a bunch of jerks while everyone was eating lunch, what would you do?"

Suddenly the Class Representative came out of Hikari's personality. "I'd give them a piece of my mind, that's what!"

"Then you got it!" said Asuka. "Just think of those Harpies as middle-school asshole boys and you'll do the rest."

Hikari could help but chuckle, if a bit nervously. "I see. Thank you." Seeing that Misato was off the phone, Hikari quickly handed oven PenPen to her and then clutched Asuka tightly in her arms. At this point tears were flowing from her eyes and she was quivering in the anxiety of what was to come. "Please come back safe!" she said to Asuka.

"I'll do my best," Asuka whispered back.

The class representative held onto Asuka for a long moment and then released her, then moved on to Rei. "I'm...I'm sorry if we haven't gotten to know each other that well," she tried to say as Rei curiously looked at her. "But I always liked you, despite what the other girls in school used to say about you."

"They don't know anything," Rei replied back stoically.

"Please take care!" said Hikari as she grabbed Rei and hugged her tight.

"Okay," said Misato, interrupting them. "Girls, let's go." Hikari let loose of Rei and then took PenPen again from Misato's arms while Misato grabbed two bags from the floor: one was her flight bag, and the other was PenPen's things. Together the group of them marched out of the Girls Suite and into the hallway.

Joined by security personnel they made the quick walk to the elevators, which then took them topside to A Deck. From there they would split up: Asuka and Rei would join their EVA units as they were packed for shipping to Hokkaido, while Misato would go to the hanger where her aircraft was waiting. The group was mostly silent riding the elevator upward.

"Where's Toji, anyway?" Asuka asked Hikari.

"He's seeing his sister and then he'll come back tonight," she replied. "He's going to stay here at the GeoFront, along with his father and grandfather."

As the elevator arrived at the top the group of them walked out. In the distance of the lobby Hikari could see a middle-aged man and two girls, one teen-aged and one younger. "Oh, that's my family!" she told the others.

Misato gave Hikari one of her bags. "Here's his stuff," she told Hikari. "Make sure they keep from getting into beer. I've been trying to wean him off."

"I'll remind them."

Misato then affectionately cradled PenPen's head in her hands. "Mommy's going to take care of business now, so you be a good bird. Okay?" PenPen replied in an approving squawk.

"Mommy loves you!" she exclaimed, holding onto him for one last time. She then released PenPen back into Hikari's arms. "I trust he'll be okay."

"I'll make sure of it!" Hikari said with some confidence coming back to her.

Misato then put her hand on Hikari's shoulder. "Don't worry, I'm leaving you in the best of hands. Captain Hyuga's experienced and he'll take care of you while you're in the EVA. And you've got the full support of all of NERV."


"You'll be alright. You've got a head start over what Shinji had to go though in his first sortie, and we've done our best to prepare you. Just stay focused."

"I will." Hikari looked over and saw her younger sister excitedly waiving to her. "Nozomi can't wait to see PenPen again! I should go."

"Okay, see you later!" Misato told her. Hikari then quickly waived bye to the three of them and ran off to see her family, PenPen in her arms. Misato and the pilots quietly looked on as Hikari gave PenPen to Hikari to hold while giving the bag to her older sister Kodama, the two of them having a quick conversation filled with emotion as this would be Hikari's last chance to see her family before the battle. Seeing that they were okay, Misato turned her attention to the other two pilots.

"Captain Ibiki will make sure things are set up with the catapult," Misato told them, as she reviewed the plan again with them. "I'll be together with the assault team waiting for your attack. Once you clear though the mountain's exterior defenses we'll come in with our full force and push through any opening you can crack in the mountain. I'll try to contact you once we're underway but if you can't reach me at all your standing orders are to find Unit 01, killing any and all enemy EVA units you encounter."

"Got it," Asuka acknowledged, as both her and Rei listened attentively.

"Watch out for '06," she said to them both. "Your AT field will not protect you like before. You need to move fast to avoid being hit by that weapon of his. Work together, as a team. Both of you."

"Understood," said Rei.

"It may be powerful but it's only one unit. Your best chance is to double-team him. If you're able to free up Unit 01 hopefully Shinji is in some condition to help you."

Asuka gave a cynical expression on her face. "Doubtful," she said.

"Still, you'll need all the help you can find," replied Misato. "Also, they may try to use Unit 04 to trick you. Don't let them do it. Consider it a target like anything else." She looked at Rei as she said that. "Is that understood?"

"Yes, Misato-san."

"Good. Good luck to both of you!" she told them with a forced smile. "You'll do great!"

They both nodded together, and then Asuka asked Misato "you think they'll find Kaji-san there?"

"I sure hope so," she said, trying to force back her own worries. "As you know he's been in sticky situations like this before but still found a way to get out. Just gotta hope for the best!"

Misato turned her shoulder to see a group of soldiers in full battle gear making their way to the aircraft hangers on to Airfield One, where she herself would soon be headed. "Anyway, you've got rides to catch so get going before we get all mushy on each other." Asuka couldn't help but smile at her comment and before anything else she quickly grabbed onto Misato, holding her tight.

"He'll be okay! They'll both be okay," the older girl tried to assure her.

"I'm sure he will," Asuka whispered back, "'cause Baka better be alive so I can kick his ass when I find him!"

Misato and Asuka released each other and then Misato took Rei in her arms. "I'm counting on you," she said to her. "Please take care of yourself."

"I will," Rei replied in a quiet voice.

"See you both later." With that Misato grabbed her own flight bag and then started to run towards the aircraft hangers, following another group of soldiers that were going that way. The two pilots were left there with just their protection detail around them.

"Well, that's that," Asuka turned to Rei. "Shall we go, then?" Rei silently nodded in agreement.

Saying nothing further Asuka reached for Rei's hand and she gave it, and together the two girls made their way towards their waiting EVAs.

Entering through the giant steel doors of the hanger, Misato walked quickly towards a small group standing in the middle as soldiers and technicians moved all around them to prepare the Alliance's strike force that was about to leave. Inside the hanger were a dozen Thunderchief VTOL assault transports, larger cousins of the Thunderbolt gunship, each capable of holding two or three dozen troops while flying at supersonic speeds. Looking around as she moved towards the middle of the hanger, Misato could see the faces of the men and women in the assault teams, air crews, and ground technicians. All of them bore determined looks as they prepared, knowing that this current operation mattered much more than their previous actions.

In the middle Misato joined Hyuga and Maya as well as Admiral Vinson. All three of the others wore blue-green combat fatigues, with the admiral having body armor and combat gear in addition. He carried an assault rifle in his hand. "Colonel," he greeted Misato. "Are your pilots ready?"

"They are, sir. I just gave them their final orders before I came here."

"Very well. Captain Ibiki, do you have what you need for the operation of the catapult?"

Maya nodded and reported back. "Yes, admiral. The provincial government is cooperative and will allow us to use Sapporo-2's entire power grid for the operation, and they know to keep it quiet. The advance team is already there."

"Good. Get over there yourself and get your group ready." Maya nodded again and Vinson pulled out an envelope from his pocket. "One last thing: please be sure this gets to my wife."

Maya wanted to say something in protest but instead just took the sealed envelope with both hands. What was about to happen was a serious matter, and she wasn't about to interfere with the Admiral's personal wishes. "Yes, sir. I'll make sure it gets out before I go."

"Thank you. Captain Hyuga?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Are you ready here at the GeoFront?"

"As ready as we can be, sir. We've already evacuated all non-essential personnel and re-established the defensive grid as best we can. It's not very much, I'm afraid. If they send Harpies here we'll have to entirely rely on Unit 09."

"Then make sure your pilot is ready and has everything she needs. Use all of the extra equipment we have on hand. We have a Type Y combat assault kit, make sure the EVA has it."

"Yes, sir."

"Also, Captain," Vinson added, "I've allocated Task Force Aries to have N2 weapons in reserve for you in case you need them. If the situation calls for it don't hesitate to use them- no need for a prior authorization. You have our authority on this."

Hyuga took a deep breath, as he'd just been given unilateral command of nuclear weapons. "Thank you, sir."

Looking around him and being satisfied that his team was ready, Vinson made the final call. "Good, we'll proceed with Operation GLORIOUS VANGUARD , starting now. Good luck to all you!"

"Yes, sir!" the other three said in unison. Vinson then shook each of their hands in turn, turning to Misato at the last. "Colonel, I'll see you at the objective."

"You will, sir. Please be careful!"

"And you. This whole operation going to be is like sticking your dick in a hornet's nest!" The three Japanese officers blushed at Vinson's colorful comment and he couldn't help but grin at their reactions. "Let's just kick their teeth in, shall we?"

A final "Yes, sir," came from all three of them and then Vinson turned around and walked towards another group of officers on the hangar floor. Misato turned to the other two. "You guys ready?"

Hyuga and Maya looked at each other knowingly and then Makoto addressed Misato. "Begging the colonel's pardon but we were discussing something just before the Admiral came here. We didn't bring it up with him because we know you've gone to some trouble to keep your current, ahem, condition a secret."

Misato's eyebrows went up in surprise. "What...what are you talking about?"

Maya put her hand on her hip and narrowed her glance at Misato. "Misato-san, we watch you every day. Believe me, we know if something's happened with you."

The senior officer let out a long sigh, knowing what they meant. "Did one of the pilots tell you? Did Kaji?"

"No," answered Maya. "Just call it woman's intuition. Even I've got some of that."

"Anyway," followed Hyuga, "What we wanted to say was that maybe it's better if I go in your place today." He motion towards a flight bag at his feet, already packed.

"No," said Misato firmly. "I appreciate your concerns, really, but no. This time I need to be there up front with our pilots."

"It's about Kaji, too, isn't it?" asked Hyuga.

Misato nodded her head. "I owe him to do my best to get him out of there. There's also this: what we're doing right now is what I had always hoped that we'd be doing during the Angel Wars: taking the fight to the enemy. We're in that final stage but to do this we've all got bear extra burdens and take risks." She patted her stomach, "including this little one. Now if that's settled, we all need to get going."

"I've got to get my flight to Hokkaido," Maya said to the others. She then stood in front of Makoto. "Hyuga-san?" she said in a soft voice.


Before he could do anything Maya leaned up on her toes, took his head in both of her hands and planted a kiss deeply on his lips. Misato looked on in complete shock, as Hyuga was frozen stiff at Maya's sudden show of affection. She held the kiss for several seconds and then let him go. "Bye," she said under her breath, quickly turning around and running the other way.

Still in shock, Misato watched Maya run all the way to exit the hangar doors. "I...I always thought she was a..."

Hyuga put his finger to his lips and smiled to himself. "I guess you never really know anybody."

On the other side of the hangar Admiral Vinson walked over to his waiting Thunderchief transport. Standing in front were Colonel Burke and General Aida. Aida wore the white and gray camouflage uniform of the Japanese Special Forces with full body armor, while Burke wore the Alliance's blue-green camo uniform with his own armor kit.

"Gentlemen," Vinson spoke to both of then in English, "are we ready?"

"Five by Five," said Burke.

"Our men are ready as well, and very willing," reported Aida. His composure was restored from days earlier, and his face was now in an expression of stone-hard stoicism.

"Good," Vinson replied. "We've been taking shit for years. Tomorrow I intend to dish it all back to them with interest."

Colonel Burke looked down at the black assault rifle in Vinson's hands. It appeared to look like an older American-made M-16 but was slightly larger and had a steel drum in place of the normal magazine. "Sir, is that a Stoner?"

Vinson proudly showed him his weapon. "Stoner 63 Commando," he said. "The grandaddy of the M-16 line. My old SEAL team commander gave to me as a gift after I got my MOH. Dates all the way back to Vietnam."

"Does it still sing?"

"Oh, it sings like the Fat Lady," Vinson joked. "When she sings, it's all over!" Vinson and Burke laughed as Aida himself even managed a smile.

"You know, ZEUS," Burke addressed Vinson by his call sign, "I get the plan but you know they're going to see us coming towards them with the assault force."

"I'm counting on it," the admiral answered. "This is how I see it. If they think we're coming, the other side will have to make a choice: do they defend that mountain with all of the EVAs or do they take a chance and split off some of their force and try to come after us here in Tokyo-3? If they split their forces, that's less for us to work through at the fortress while hopefully in the meantime we can fend them off here at the GeoFront."

"They'll still be out and waiting for us in Norway," commented the colonel.

"And hopefully out and exposed on the outside of the mountain. They're expecting us to come from the air, dropping by parachute or air landing like we always do. If we used rockets, SEELE still has surveillance satellites in space that could detect a rocket launch. But if we shoot the EVAs up by catapult they can't be detected from orbit, at least not right away. By the time they figure out that we've got two EVAs up there we'll be right on top of them," the admiral continued to explain. "First the N2 clears out anything soft on the ground and takes a first crack at the mountain, while also cutting up any Harpies they've got standing guard in the open, then '02 and '07 come down like a bitch and slice up a hole that we can pour through."

"The strategy's all based on shock," observed the colonel. "Timing is crucial to it all."

"It will be," sighed Vinson. "I gotta admit I rather like Ikari's way of thinking on this. I just hope he's not going to fuck us over later on." Vinson patted Burke on the arm. "Get going, I'll be up there in bit."

"Yes, sir. Good hunting, ZEUS."

"And good hunting to you." Burke left to board his aircraft while Vinson turned to speak to Aida. 

"General," he said to him in Japanese, "I'm honored you're able to make this trip."

"It is what is required," said the General, fingering the sharkskin handle of the katana that was attached to his belt.

"From one man to another, who's lost a son in battle," said the admiral in a more quiet tone. "The best you can do is honor them."

"And to give their sacrifice purpose," Aida continued. "This I will do."

"Then good fortune to you, sir, and to your men."

The general nodded and offered his hand to the admiral. "Thank you, Admiral. Good hunting to you as well. Tomorrow will be a 'Red Day' indeed." Admiral Vinson shook his hand, and then bowed to the general in the Japanese manner. The general bowed back, and without saying another word each soldier went their separate ways.

Continue to Chapter 51