The three of them stood for a moment as Patrick was frozen in disbelief as he stared at his uncle now standing before him. "What...what the hell?" he finally managed to blurt out.
Omega, also know as Victor Rickover, let out a quiet breath and turned to Kaji. "We got about thirty-seconds to move out of here." The agent motioned to the twins. "He won't go without her, but considering that she stole the EVA..."
The older man ignored Kaji and went right up to the plexiglass wall of Erin's cell. Pressed against the glass, Erin's eyebrows raised up high in both surprise and recognition. "It's you!" she said from behind the glass.
Patrick turned to his sister. "You recognize him too?"
"When I first got here, he was one of the guards they put on me," she explained as Rickover started to key numbers into the lock of her cell door. "He was the only one around who spoke good English."
A flood of questions were now rushing in Patrick's brain and he tried to focus on what was going on right now. "No, I mean do you recognize him from the cabin? On that night when I first saw you!"
"No," she said, "that I still don't remember. Is he really your uncle?"
The boy nodded. "And yours."
The cell door hissed open and Erin hurriedly jumped out. "Thank you," she said to Omega, who just gave her a curtsy nod as Kaji looked on. Erin took a step towards Patrick as each of them looked at the other, both now finally free from their captivity. A moment later each rushed towards the other, Erin throwing her arms around Patrick as he grabbed her and squeezed her tightly.
"Finally reunited," said Omega in a soft voice.
Kaji was still not completely convinced of Erin's turnaround. "Can we trust her?" Before Omega could reply Patrick answered for him. "I'll bet my life on it," he said, still holding onto Erin in his arms.
"I've been listening in on their conversations," Omega said as he studied the scared expression on Erin's face. "I believe we can trust her. Besides, somehow this isn't going to work unless they're both in the unit together."
"Uncle, what's the hell's going on?" Patrick asked. "Why are you here?"
The older agent hurried the others out of the cell. "There's no time for that here. Get out and follow me." Without saying anything further Omega turned towards the prison door and rushed outside. Patrick followed him, holding onto Erin by the hand as they ran after him with Kaji following up from behind.
Running down a dark hallway made of rock, cement, and steel, Omega led the others to a crevice where he waived them to come over. The other three squeezed inside the small opening and waited as Rickover held up a hand to silence everyone. After another minute two blue-suited SEELE guards marched past the now locked prison cell door, momentarily checking for anything coming from the prison and them moving on down the hallway. Once they passed down the end of the hallway Omega waited another two minutes before lowering his hand in silence.
"Another two are going to come ten minutes from now," he said to the others. "My other camera bypass only works on the ground floor here, I need to get you to the cargo elevator and then we can go upstairs."
"Does someone want to please tell me what's going on?" Patrick asked.
"I see being on your own didn't help your patience much," his uncle snorted. Before Patrick could argue back Omega again led the group to shuffle down the dimly-lit hallway. They all progressed downward another two minutes until reaching an elevator shaft. There was no one else around, but Omega motioned to the other three to stay against the wall in the hallway until he himself walked to the elevator banks and pushed several buttons to call the next car. He scanned the area carefully with his eyes, making sure his diversion with the security cameras was still functioning.
The elevator doors opened up and Omega waived his hand for the others, the three of them running into the open doors of the elevator car a few seconds later. He then closed the elevator shut and keyed the "STOP" button. "That buys us three minutes," he said. "After that we go directly to the cages." Rickover turned to face his nephew and niece, who were understandably quite confused by this point.
"This isn't a college lecture," he told Patrick directly, "if you got something to say, now is good."
"Father told me the UN army took you!" the boy blurted out.
"You really believed what your father told you?" his uncle replied in a skeptical tone. "I thought you could do much better than that."
Patrick's patience with the situation was wearing thin, and he had forgotten just how much in the past his overbearing uncle had annoyed him. "Fine," he shot back. "Obviously not. But what's really going on here?"
"It's just another puzzle, lad. You figure it out."
"Uncle, be serious! Just fucking tell me for once, will you!"
"Were you two always like this?" Erin asked innocently as Kaji looked on.
"Worse, usually," Patrick said under his breath.
"Two minutes, thirty seconds," Omega counted down, his eyes still focused on his nephew.
"Alright, alright!" the boy protested. "You were preparing me for EVA when I was growing up, that's clear now."
"No," replied the uncle. "I was preparing you for what you'll be doing in the next few minutes, EVA is just the means to that end."
"You knew about Erin."
"And...you knew about SEELE and NERV and the UN and the Alliance and all that."
"Okay, go on..."
"and...are you like a spy or something?"
Rickover gave a slight smile. "Something like that."
"So let me get this straight then. You keep me away from my parents and Erin, then when something goes wrong you let Father have me, who then tries to screw up NERV with the EVA. Then after things go haywire with the EVA you...you like what, sneak in this place and then arranged to have me kidnapped?"
"You're grasping at straws, lad."
Patrick finally lost his temper and started shouting at his uncle. "I get that this is some sort of a secret plot, okay! But I've been through a lot in the last nine months and instead of being glad to see me alive you're still making me solve puzzles for you! I have you know I could freaking pound you into the ground with the EVA, man!"
"Patrick!" Erin admonished him, "he's not trying to hurt you!"
He looked at her pleading but that only made his temper towards his uncle worse. "Damn you, at least tell me I've got a twin! Do you have any idea how lonely it was being with you in that goddamned cabin! Not being able to contact normal people! Not being able to have real friends! Having your mother go away like that..." Patrick threw his fist into the elevator wall.
Omega didn't flinch with the protests but let out a long sigh. "I was afraid of this," he told the boy. "you still always see a downside and not an upside to your life."
"I got my face burned off two months ago!" he shouted, pointed at himself.
"You look pretty good to me," Uncle replied, "and you survived everything else. Even having NERV-2 get swallowed up and you in the middle of it."
"So you're still here, and now at the right moment you're exactly where you need to be," Patrick's uncle said simply.
Patrick angrily sneered at him. "And where were you, then?"
"Cutting the keys that you'll need to finish this for everyone." His uncle then flipped the "OFF" switch and the elevator started rising. The boy paused as his uncle now started speaking in a very direct and forthright way.
"It's true," he told the boy, "I did keep you in the dark about so much, and for that I am sorry. But if you contacted your Evangelion and what know what it really is, you probably know the real reasons why I did it this way." The boy didn't say anything in return at first. "It was mom, wasn't it?"
Omega nodded in agreement. "It was her instructions to me to arrange it to make sure we could spring you when we needed to. You needed to be an outlier, someone who was from the outside of both NERV and SEELE, and who could think on their own. He turned to Erin. "Your EVA tried to contact you as well, didn't she?"
"That's what happened during that test when I blacked out, I think," she replied. "Only I didn't realize it."
"Our original plan was that I'd switch the two of you," he explained to both of the children and to Kaji. "I would keep Erin safe while Patrick took her place at NERV-2. Sir John facilitated this but unfortunately your father got wind of it just before I got you two to make contact with each other. Erin, I'm very sorry. I didn't intend for your father to hand you over to SEELE when that happened, and that messed up much of our original plan."
"What does General Sheffield have to do with this?"
"Sir John, my friend Piotr, and others with him were part of a group that has been watching SEELE for centuries. It was they that rescued your mother and me from SEELE some years ago."
"What? You were with SEELE?!"
"It can be explained later, but that's how I came to be here. Now we move to the final piece in the puzzle: why you're actually here. Your friends in NERV and the Alliance are likely to try and attack this fortress sometime soon. They've already started moving units around and SEELE's sent a force to the GeoFront to try and destroy it and whatever Evangelion units are left."
"Oh, no!" Patrick said. "We have to warn them!"
"NERV can take care of itself. What's more important is how you two are going to end this war," said Rickover to the twins. "EVA is now here, and you two are also here and free, and," he said with a slight smile, "in sync with each other."
"So what is it that you want us to do?" asked Erin.
"This elevator is going to take you to the EVA cages that are here in this fortress," Omega instructed. "You need to take the Evangelion yourself and go to the bottom of this fortress with her. There at the very bottom you'll see a old stone temple that bridges a river of lava that's underneath all of this. In that temple will be your target: Chairman Kiel."
"You want us to kill the chairman using the EVA? " said Patrick with incredulity." You're a secret agent! Now that you're here, why don't you just shoot him?"
"It's not that simple. You'll find there's a lot more to the chairman than meets the eye. But," he told the twins. "I will be sure that he is there, and waiting. When the time comes, you will come for him."
"And after that?"
Omega shrugged. "You're done."
"It's likely that if and when the Alliance comes here they'll see their EVA unit as a target," Kaji interjected.
"Then they need to work fast and before the Alliance attack comes in full force. I sense that something will happen very soon. If we wait until the Alliance and NERV come here they'll be too distracted with fighting with SEELE's Evangelions and the Chairman will likely get away again. We're here to make sure that doesn't happen."
The cargo elevator reached the top and Omega again motioned to the others to stay close to the wall and outside of view while he checked outside for anyone else that could see them. Satisfied that they were unseen, Omega quickly urged the rest of the group to leave the elevator and run down a steel scaffolding. In the distance Patrick could see the giant white Mass-Production EVAs being prepared by technicians for moving out.
The older agent led the others to another part of the scaffolding, climbed up one flight of stairs and ducked inside of a small shelter-like structure that was on top of the scaffolding. Erin followed her uncle into the structure but Patrick instead nudged Kaji and the two of them didn't enter the structure, instead leaning against the structure's outside wall and out of sight. Both of them got down to their knees to keep from being seen by technicians or guards that were in the near distance.
"Patrick?" Kaji asked him, "is everything okay?"
The boy took a deep breath, hoping for what he feared wasn't true. "Mr. Kaji, how long have I actually been in here? I mean, how long since the EVA came in from the GeoFront?"
"About eight days," Kaji replied. Patrick closed his eyes in anguish as Kaji quickly surmised the reason for the question.
"You didn't get a stabilizer injection since leaving, did you?"
Patrick shook his head. "At first I was so freaked out and upset that I didn't really care," he tried to excuse himself, "but then Erin turned around and that gave me one more thing to live for. What can I do?"
"Were you told what happens if you don't get the stabilizer?"
The boy grimaced. "Dr. Foch didn't really explain it except to say it would be really, really bad if I went over one week without it. Right now I don't feel anything, except maybe everything just seems colder to me, but..."
"I see. You haven't told your sister?"
"And I don't want to give her any reason to give up hope or worry too much, know what I mean."
"I do understand, but unfortunately we're not at NERV," Kaji said. "We may not be completely without options however. The pilot of Unit 06 has a cloned body in the same manner as Rei. If he's here, it's likely he has something similar to keep his body alive."
The boy's eyebrows shot up. "We can get this?"
Kaji nodded. "I will make every effort to do so. However the plan for taking your EVA back is already in motion, if you're still able to function as it seems like you are now, you need to follow through with it and just hope that you can physically hold out until we can get you help."
"I understand," whispered Patrick in a resigned tone. "But please keep it a secret from uncle and Erin." Kaji nodded in agreement. "I will work on getting the medicine you need, but there is another thing that I need you to do once you have the EVA back."
"What is it?"
Omega and Erin were crouched down on the floor of the structure when Patrick and Kaji finally crawled inside and joined them. "What the hell kept you?" Patrick's uncle growled.
"Just catching up on current events," the boy replied. "What happens now?"
"I've been observing the crews outside, they're moving two more of the units to the outside of the fortress so they're definitely expecting an attack," said Omega. "They might call for Unit 04 to be activated and that means they're possibly on the way now to the prison cell to get one or the other of you to pilot."
"We'll have to move immediately, before they know the children are missing," Kaji realized.
"Correct. This is what needs to happen: the two of us," Omega motioned to Kaji and himself, "will need to take care of the the security sentries around Unit 04, they usually have four guards posted at any given time. Meanwhile the twins will have to make their way to the EVA's gantry and get into the entry plug on their own. It's too much distance for us to climb up and then help them once the guards at the lower level are out of the way. Unfortunately there will be at least two or three techs on that side of the gantry where the plug loader is located."
"Is the entry plug still in the unit?" Patrick asked.
"The good news is that it's half-way, so you can just climb up and get inside. But you have to take care of the techs first." Omega then pulled out one metal box that he had previously hidden inside of the shelter. Popping open the box, he pulled out a small Walther automatic pistol and then screwed in a silencer. He then checked one of the magazines to be sure it was loaded with the correct ammo, slammed it into the pistol handle, and then slid the action to load a bullet in the chamber, finally handing it to Patrick when he was done.
"You didn't forget how to use this, did you?" Patrick's uncle asked him.
Patrick took the pistol in his hand and felt the weight, carefully examining where the safety clatch and aim sights were. "Yeah, I know how to use it."
"Keep out of sight, then one shot for each tech, in the center. Don't double-tap. The bullets are hollow-points, they'll do the rest."
Erin looked at Patrick with alarm. "You know how to shoot?"
"Let's just say uncle gave me a well-rounded education," he told her.
"The techs may or may not be armed, but don't assume that if you don't see a gun that there isn't one they can get to." Uncle pointed a finger in the air towards Patrick. "Don't mess it up, lad. Your sister's life is on the line too here."
"Yeah, I got it."
Omega then turned to Kaji. "We need to go now. I'll go first, you follow in another minute." As Kaji himself checked his own weapons to be sure he was prepared, Omega again looked at the twins. "You'll have sixty seconds after we leave to start making your way. Once you take out the technicians, get them out of sight and work fast to get into the EVA."
"Won't they notice that we're activating once we're inside?"
"I've got that worked out too. You'll know when to get started." Omega checked his watch. "There's no more time left. Just remember, head down the main shaft after you've got the EVA activated and don't let anything distract you. Once you're in the chambers you'll find the target sure enough. There's no time to give you a more detailed plan, the two of you will just have to think your way through anything else."
Patrick looked at Erin and she nodded, mounting up her own courage. "It's okay," he told his uncle. "We're good, I think."
"Then off we go," said Omega. Just as he was about to lift off the floor Patrick told him in a serious tone. "Thank you. I mean, I'm sorry about arguing from before."
"Lad, don't screw it up and you can thank me later if we're all still around," his uncle replied and then slipped out the doorway of the shelter before they could say anything else.
Kaji himself got up to go outside, saying to both of them. "Once we're back I'll help sort things out with NERV for both of you. If you do encounter them for any reason before I speak to them, it's important that you don't engage them, but try to avoid capture."
"Okay," the twins said in unison, each taking the other by surprise with their simultaneous reply.
"Very good, and Patrick I will work on the issue we discussed."
"Yes, thanks!" he said, hoping Kaji was good at his word. "Um, Mr. Kaji? If you see Rei and somehow I don't again please...please tell her I love her."
"And tell the others," Patrick said as he looked at Erin,"tell them I...we're so sorry about all of this."
"If you can help us deal with the chairman, I think they'll be much more forgiving. In any case, it's time to go. Ciao," Kaji told them, and then he slipped outside the shelter and out of their sight.
The twins looked out the doorway as Kaji left them and then they were alone, for the last quiet moment each of them would have before all hell broke loose. Patrick took a deep breath and looked at his sister. While it was clear from her face that she was scared of what was to come, she also smiled at him. It was the first time she had ever done so.
"You ready?" he asked her.
Erin took his hand and squeezed it. "Yup."
Peeking outside of the edge of the doorway of the shelter, Patrick held the pistol in two hands as he scanned around to see if there was anyone else around. He knew if his uncle was good at his word and if Kaji was also helping him with the guards below, there wouldn't be much time for him to get both him and Erin to the entry plug.
Satisfied that there wasn't anyone within eyesight of them, Patrick led Erin out of the shelter and hustled towards another part of the scaffolding that contained a large electrical control box. They both leaned against the wall of the box and then Patrick cranked his head around again to see if anyone else was in between them and the EVA. While there were no guards in immediate sight he did see two men in green coveralls working on the top of the scaffold next to the EVA's open entry plug.
Patrick tried to judge the distance between where he was and where he needed to be and guessed about fifty feet. He also saw that it was not that well-lit at the moment , something that could work to his advantage. The boy tightened his grip on the pistol and then carefully went around the corner and to another hiding place in in the gantry with Erin closely following behind. Both of them were silently thankful that their prison slippers at least didn't make any noise on the metal floor below them.
From his new position Patrick saw that there were two men between them and the EVA, both focused on their work. One was right next to the entry plug but the other was just six feet away from where the two kids were crouching. He turned around and worked out the best way to approach both in his mind, trying at the same time to both control his fear and focus on his objective.
I don't want to kill them but I'm not given any choice. God help me with this because I really hate this whole stupid thing. Patrick looked over at Erin, who then silently squeezed his arm and gave him a reassuring nod. He knew she was just as reluctant to go through with this as he was, but also that given how high the stakes were they really didn't have any alternative. Patrick leaned his head around one more time and saw that the technician had gotten closer to them, now about three feet. Pretty soon he'd find out where they were hiding: he needed to act.
Uncle always said 90% of gunfights took place within five feet of the shooter, and 90% of them were won by the guy who drew first. Just because they don't look like they're carrying guns doesn't mean they don't have them either. Patrick took a deep breath. I won't get a better chance than this.
As he heard footsteps approach their hiding spot Patrick quickly swung around and saw the technician, a central Asian or middle eastern man in his thirties, just a yard in front of him. Without thinking anything further Patrick pointed the pistol right at the man's chest and pulled the trigger once. The gun made a plop sound and the man went down quickly, crumbling onto the steel floor below.
Knowing he couldn't stay there Patrick dodged past the man's body and found another hiding place among a large equipment container, diving to hide behind it. The second technician, a tall Asian man who was about five feet away, turned around to see what the sound was. He walked toward Patrick's new hiding place and Patrick again swung out and surprised the man, pulling the trigger twice. The technician fell backwards and against the floor, but not before a pistol in the man's hand dropped and clanged against the steel of the gantry. Oh, shit.
There was something spoken in German coming from around the other side of the gantry where the entry plug cylinder was located. Patrick kept his pistol pointed towards the air and searched for the source of the voice. From around a corner a third technician came towards him. Big and burly and weighting about 300 pounds, the European saw the boy with dark eyes. "Kinder?!" he said at first, then said "Infiltrator!" and reached for a pistol in his waistband. Patrick panicked and pointed his pistol at him, pulling the trigger four times. One shot went wide but three hit the man in his chest and abdomen and he dropped to the floor, blood spraying out as his internal organs were torn up into pieces.
His pistol followed the body as it fell down and Patrick kicked the man to see if he was still moving. His heart was racing and while the gun was silenced he could still feel the reverberations from the shots and worse, smell the combination of acrid gunpowder and bloody flesh. He felt bile come up his throat as Erin raced from her hiding place to where Patrick was now standing. "Patrick!"
The boy quickly swung around and then immediately pointed the pistol to the ground on seeing his sister. Patrick let out a large breath and shook his head as Erin looked at the carnage around them.
"Your uncle taught you to shoot like that?"
Patrick shrugged, trying to get back to some sort of self-control. "Actually…I do tactical training at NERV every week. Just never thought I'd have to do this outside of the EVA." He looked around at the three bodies now sprawled on the steel scaffold, bodies that were once men until he came here. "Um, we better cover up everything."
Patrick spotted two black plastic tarps that were hung over one machinery set and the twins each took one and threw them over the two bodies on the far end of the gantry. The fatter technician was harder to cover up and without any other tarps the only think he could think of was to move some tool boxes around the body to make it at least harder to spot from afar. While Patrick was dragging over the tool boxes Erin looked around and saw a set of duffel bags with various equipment for the EVA. Within the set she picked out two bags and pulled them out and gently laid them on the gantry floor. Each was orange and had a larger number "04" printed on them. After Patrick finished he hurried over to where she was standing with the two plug suit cases.
"You really don't need the suits to pilot," Patrick told her, as he was anxious to save time.
Erin motioned to the prison uniform she was still wearing. "There's no way that I'm going to get drenched in LCL wearing this garbage," she replied. Pointing to a part of the scaffolding that was blocked by several large cargo containers she told Patrick "I can change over there." She pulled a plug suit out of one of the bags, checking to be sure it was her own.
"They made a plug suit for you?"
"They wanted to make it black, but I insisted on my old colors," she replied, unfurling the suit in her hands. "Do you mind turning around?"
Patrick didn't say anything at first but just put his back towards Erin and then reached for his own plug suit while setting the pistol down on the floor below him. "If we're twins it's not like this is the first time I've ever seen you naked, you know," he joked.
"Shut up," Erin playfully shot back as she removed the rest of her clothes and started to put on the suit. Patrick did the same and within a few seconds he had it on, pressing the wrist switch that purged out any air and made the suit skin-tight. He stood there and waited for Erin to do the same and a second later another hiss of air came from behind him.
"Ready?" he asked.
"You can turn around now." Patrick did so and now saw Erin in her plug suit. Colored orange with black stripes, it was similar to Patrick's suit except that it was built for a girl's proportions and naturally it fit Erin quite well. "Looking good," he commented.
"Yeah," she said as she felt the suit around her. "I kind of missed it, actually." Erin noticed something and walked up to Patrick, gently putting her hand on his face. "Are you okay? Your face looks really pale."
Oh, no it's starting. "Um...maybe I'm still a little shaken from the shootout. We should get going."
Patrick turned to the entry plug next to them and spun open the hatch. Once open the two pilots jumped inside and then Patrick sealed the hatch behind them. The pistol, now empty, was left on the floor behind them.
They slid down the side of the plug and found the control Throne, both of them hesitating as there was just one seat for the two of them. "How do we do this?" Erin asked him.
"Sit in front, I'll sit from behind. That's how Rei and I do it."
"You both pilot at the same time?"
"More like she's a passenger." Following Patrick's suggestion Erin went on the throne first and Patrick sat close behind her. As there wasn't much room on the seat they were fairly pressed together. As Erin sat down she used the keypad that was underneath the hand actuator to start coding instructions to the EVA.
"What are you doing?" asked Patrick.
"While you and Kaji were talking your uncle told me they might have a security lock on the EVA's controls," she told him as she continued to key in codes while looking at the display. "This is a way to get around that."
"You're hacking the EVA?"
"Oh, please. The term is not 'hacking', it's 'cracking' and I'm not really cracking the code but just activating our own little shield program here. " She took a few more seconds and then finished, the monitor in front of them showing a rapid stream of characters followed by a message saying LOCKOUT ACTIVATED SLAVE CONTROL DEFEAT. "There," she said with a satisfied smile, "that should avoid any interruptions." Erin turned around to see Patrick 's curious expression and then explained it to him further. "Dad put a hidden script in the EVA control OS to prevent anyone from getting access to it other than the pilot."
"Could have used that a few months ago," mused Patrick. He put on his A10 receptors as did Erin. "You didn't tell me you were a coder."
"I learned from the best," she said sheepishly.
"If Dad wants to redeem himself now would be a good time. Let's crank it up!"
Go on to Chapter 54