After sliding down the giant shaft inside of the mountain fortress EVA-04 reached the subterranean chamber that was over a thousand meters below the base of the mountain. The Evangelion landed hard on the ground, but Erin carefully rolled her over and put her upright nearly immediately afterward.
The chamber was dark except for LED lights scattered throughout, but at the far end the two pilots could see a red glowing haze at the edge of the horizon. Just a few hundred meters from the cliff's edge was the now-glowing purple and green Unit 01, still nailed to the red crucifix and still with the Lance plunged into it side.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Erin asked Parick as she moved the EVA towards Unit 01, "Uncle said we needed to get down lower to where the chairman was going to go."
"I can't just leave Shinji like this," Patrick said from behind her. "Besides, if there's really an attack on this place they're going to need all the help we can get. Believe me if we can get them up and running, it's going to really even the odds."
"He's that good?"
"Yes," Patrick replied. "If you don't believe me just ask all the Angels that he killed."
Moving up to where EVA-01 was impaled, the two of them could feel the heat from the lava flows nearby even through the plug suit. As Erin moved Unit 04 along side Unit 01 she turned on the exterior lights and they both got a good look at what had become of Evangelion Unit 01. Patrick studied the EVA and saw no movement coming from it. "Oh, Shinji," Patrick said mournfully. "Hope you're still okay in there."
"What happened to it?" Erin asked, noticing the crystalline hexagonal pattern that was now covering Unit 01. "There's some sort of strange grid all over the surface."
Patrick looked over the EVA through the display and was at a loss for what he was seeing. "I don't know what that is! EVA can do pretty weird things sometimes…"
"Okay, we're here. What do we do now?"
"First, let's get him off of that cross." The boy grabbed the actuators and then started to move their EVA to push down the crucifix so that they could lower EVA-01 to the ground. Erin joined him and also pushed on the actuators with her hands along with Patrick, and together they started on the task to free Shinji and EVA-01 from their captors.
Led by Misato's Thunderbolt and another one in escort, EVA-02 and -07 moved through the giant passageway carved into the mountain fortress. The group of them went for two minutes without seeing anyone or anything in opposition until suddenly several bursts of cannon fire appeared from in front of them. Misato's pilot swerved to avoid the blasts but their escorting Thunderbolt took several hits and immediately burst into flames, crashing into a wall.
As Misato's aircraft hovered behind the EVAs, Asuka pushed Unit-02 forward and quickly moved her left arm in front. Several rockets were fired from the Evangelion's left wrist, striking the source of the gunfire. She saw another gun emplacement to the right of her and fired another salvo of rockets, violently dispatching the gun and its crew. The two EVAs and single VTOL then continued down the giant passageway.
"How much further do we have to go?" asked Asuka.
"Our sensors read a larger opening just a few hundred meters in front," Misato reported back. "Be ready, they might be waiting in an ambush for us at the end." In preparation Asuka tightened her grip on both of her blades as Rei pulled up EVA-07's rifle and pointed it forward.
They reached the end of the passageway and into another large atrium carved into the mountain, a large open space surrounded by steel beams to hold back the mountain itself. Looking around them they saw no movement except for the flashing lights of the fortress alarms.
Both Asuka and Rei looked around them as Misato's Thunderbolt followed in close proximity to the two EVAs. "This room looks all clear, and there's another passageway ahead of us. Guess we keep moving…" Rei however saw something and immediately shouted to the others "Above us!"
Jumping out of a part of the fortress walls was another white Harpy, teeth clenched in fury as it dove down on all of them with its double-edge sword held in front. Both of the Evangelions dodged the attack from above but the sword struck Misato's VTOL and sliced off it's tail. The aircraft started to spin out of control until it was quickly grabbed by EVA-07 before it could slam into a bulkhead, while Asuka immediately brought her own weapons to bear on the attacking Harpy.
"You got them, First?" Asuka shouted to Rei over the audio as she parried her katana with the Harpy's own sword.
"Yes," was Rei's reply as EVA-07 lowered the aircraft in her left hand to the floor below, while Asuka fought with the Harpy next to them. Rei looked at the VTOL to check that Misato and the aircrew were safe and then moved to help Asuka.
"God, I am really, really beginning to hate you guys!" Asuka yelled at the Harpy in front of her as she made an upwards thrust with the katana, finally pushing the Mass Production EVA's sword above its head. Seeing an opportunity she quickly used the smaller blade in her left hand to stab the EVA in the throat. The Harpy screamed and writhed and immediately countered by slashing Unit 02 several times with the sword before Rei plunged her rifle bayonet into the abdomen and fired a point-blank shot. The middle of the Harpy exploded in a giant cloud of guts and LCL.
Seeing the Harpy ripped in two Asuka looked for the dummy plug and found it and then used her katana to slice it in half. After a few more seconds the bloody mess of the enemy EVA stopped moving and just oozed out fluids from organs all over the floor.
"Second," Rei said to Asuka as she saw the wounds inflicted on EVA-02's arms and body, "are you alright?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," the redhead grunted. "I just need to recover the damage a bit, that's all!"
Below them Misato pulled herself out of the cockpit of the damaged Thunderbolt, helping the crewman behind her get out as well. The pilot, who sat in front of the aircraft, also pushed his way out but his leg was broken from the force of the strike and he hobbled to the side of a bulkhead on one foot as Misato and the other crewman joined them, at one point walking through LCL a foot thick on the floor. The room itself stank of guts and blood and cooked flesh and other unpleasant odors Misato didn't care to identify.
She looked at the pilot's boots and saw the swelling, indicating a broken ankle as well as the leg. "You can't move like this," she told him.
Both of the aircrew knew that meant trouble. "We're too far in front of the others," the co-pilot told her. "If SEELE finds us here, we're toast."
Misato wanted to call in their location on the radio to the Alliance troops now inside the mountain but knew that could actually make things worse: if SEELE was able to monitor the Alliance's radio network and if she reported their position, they could send their own forces here instead. Their options were limited.
"I have to go get help, but I can't hold the EVAs here to protect you," she told both of them. "They need to keep moving on. Best we can do is try to hide you and then make contact with the others to come and get you out of here."
The co-pilot thought about the situation as he grabbed a morphine needle from a medkit he brought from the aircraft cabin. "We can hide underneath the carcass of that thing," he motioned to the dead Harpy next to them. "It's smells bad but at least they won't likely come looking for us there."
"Do your best to keep safe, then," she told them. "You armed?" The pilot, still gritting his teeth in pain, showed her his pistol. "Don't worry about us, colonel," he told her as the co-pilot jabbed him with the morphine needle.
"Good. I'll get help, I promise!" Misato checked her own pistol and then went back to the cockpit to recover her other weapon. Once she pulled her submachine gun out of the aircraft cabin she then used a communicator to talk to both of the EVA pilots.
"Asuka, Rei," she told them. "I won't be able to join you further, you're on your own now. Go to the bottom and get Shinji and EVA-01 and get them safe. Then destroy any and all EVAs you can find. We got five so far by my count, but the tougher ones are yet to come so keep alert and steady."
"Got it," both pilots said in unison.
"Misato-san," Rei told her, "I can carry you back to the opening, that will be faster to get aid for the pilots."
"No," she countered. "What you're doing is more important than any of us, so please stay on mission. That's an order."
"It will be dangerous to move through the fortress on your own," said Rei.
"Don't you worry about me. We've stalled enough already, both of you get moving!"
"Okay," said Asuka for both of them, hoping that this wouldn't be the last time she ever spoke to Misato again. "Will do. Misato?"
"You're going to find Kaji too, right?"
The older girl smiled. "Yep, this time there's no way he's going to get away from me."
"Please be careful," was Asuka's response. It was in an unusual tone for her, almost pleading.
"You know me," Misato playfully said. "Now enough of this crap, both of you get out of here now!" With that she shut off the communicator and left the aircraft wreckage.
That's what I was afraid of Asuka thought to herself. "You heard her," Asuka told Rei over the audio. "Let's move!" Both of the Evangelions then started to lurch forward towards the opening to the next passageway through the mountain. Moving in the opposite direction and now completely on her own, Misato ran towards an open corridor with her gun at the ready, hoping that her luck hadn't completely run out.
Kaji himself was in another part of the fortress, disguised in a captured SEELE guard uniform that allowed him to scurry around as other men rushed back and forth all around him. He moved along a corridor with his face partially obscured by his cap and his pistol hidden underneath his jacket. Having planted a tracking device by SEELE's primary command center first, he had successfully been able to find one of the main electrical control boxes for the fortress and promptly blew it out himself. Now with the rest of SEELE's operation still in the dark and under attack from the Alliance, Kaji moved to find his other target.
He turned a corner and saw another set of rooms that went down for several hundred meters. From his earlier explorations of SEELE-2 he knew this was a set of suites for high value personnel, and was also the location of one person in particular that he was hoping to at least encounter and deal with before things got too out of hand. Kaji moved deliberately, trying to look convincing as just another security guard moving to follow orders to defend the base in some manner.
"You!" a voice called out behind him, and Kaji slowly turned around. From a few meters behind him a SEELE security officer shouted at him in German. "Where are you going?! The intruders are coming from the north side."
"I was given orders to join my other team mates on the South side," Kaji replied in fluent German.
"Orders by whom?"
Kaji used a name he had learned during his infiltrations. "I'm in Captain Kraus' security company, company number Eight."
"Kraus is on the North wall."
"Yes, sir, but he detailed one squad to move south," Kaji tried to explain in a convincing manner, "in case the north attack was a feint. I'm on my way to join the rest of the squad now."
The other officer tried to think about Kaji's story while keeping focused on else he was ordered to do as well, and time was wasting away. Something about the guard just seemed suspicious to the man. "We need every man we can get on the North side. Forget your orders, go with me to the other side now."
"Do it now or I'll shoot you where you stand," the SEELE officer threatened. Mentally during the exchange Kaji had already worked out a back up plan of action in case of this eventuality. "Yes, sir," he replied as he started to march towards the officer.
The SEELE officer looked around him and down other corridors, trying to find any others that he could marshal up and send to where the fighting was. As he was doing so Kaji silently reached at his back and grabbed the knife handle that was behind his jacket. As the officer again turned to who he thought was the wayward guard, Kaji was there and immediately slashed the officer's throat. The man's eyes were wide in surprise as Kaji then put his other hand over the man's mouth to silence any screams, while his knife hand made a second thrust into his chest. Within a few more seconds he was dead, and the agent quickly laid his body on the floor.
He didn't have time for a proper concealment of the body and knowing by now the entire fortress was a battle zone Kaji figured he probably didn't need to bother hiding it anyway. Instead he went back down the corridor and to the room that he was searching for to begin with.
Kaji entered the stateroom and found four dead bodies lying in various places, nearly all of them were mangled and twisted out of recognition. One was an officer, two were guards, and one was a physician. There was no one else present.
The clone boy's not here, Kaji thought to himself as he then searched the room for the boy's LCL syringe. After about a minute he finally found what was left of it, as he spotted the broken pieces of a syringe on the floor, empty of the fluid it had contained.
Damn, the medication's been destroyed. Patrick's only hope now will be getting him back to NERV, if he has enough time left that is.
He searched the room further and without success for an additional syringe or other medication. Not knowing where within the fortress the LCL stabilizer was made, Kaji knew trying to find it elsewhere would be chasing a ghost. Deciding he needed to move on, he then turned and left the stateroom. He took two steps outside and to his left now saw a team of guards inspecting the dead body of the officer further down the hall.
Kaji started to move down the hallway towards them but one of the guards turned towards him and in German shouted "Infiltrator!" Knowing there was no convincing them at this Kaji immediately reached into his jacket and brought up his pistol, taking out two guards before ducking back into the room to avoid the gunfire of the remaining guards.
Hearing the footsteps of two others approach his location Kaji then removed a grenade from his belt, pulled the pin, and popped it around the corner of the open doorway, rolling away from the door afterwards before the grenade went off. Two second later there was a large bang and flash outside and he could feel the steel wall reverberate. He carefully moved towards the doorway again and peeked around the corner. The good news was that now all four members of the guard team were dead, but unfortunately another team had now come and upon seeing his head around the doorway also opened fire. He quickly snapped back around and then leaned against the wall as bullets reverberated against the door frame.
The agent ejected his magazine clip and then entered another full magazine, mentally noting that he had only one other left, plus one additional grenade. Kaji saw that the room he was hiding in had no other exits. Not a good position if I'm pinned down here. He knew that he had one chance left if he didn't want to remain trapped in the stateroom. Seeing a pistol below him that probably belonged to one of the dead guards, Kaji picked it up and checked the magazine to see if was full, then reloaded it and tucked it behind his belt. He then took his last grenade and held it in his hand, listening again for footsteps on the other side of the wall. With grenade in his left hand and a pistol in his right, he knew he'd get only one opportunity at escape.
There were footsteps but they stopped well short of the door, and there was a silence for a few seconds afterwards. Kaji realized what was happening during the silence and immediately dove under the one bed inside the stateroom as the enemy grenades plunged into the space. Three explosions occurred right after each other and he could feel hot sparks tear into his face and his left leg. Fighting hard to suppress any urge to cry out in pain, Kaji dropped his unarmed grenade and then reached for the second pistol behind his back as he rolled to the other side of the bed. Outside the doorway he heard the orders in German given to move in, and as the guards did so the agent shouted a battle cry as he brought both pistols to bear on the intruders in a flash of fire and lead.
Down another corridor in another part of the fortress Colonel Burke led his own men as they slowly progressed against another group of SEELE security guards and others. In their situation Burke's men were on either side of the corridor crouched in doorways and in spaces, popping their weapons in and out in violent exchanges of gunfire with the enemy at the other end. Up until this position the team of soldiers had been able to dispatch several squads of enemy guards at the cost of just a few of their own men, but now as they were only twenty meters from SEELE's fortress command center their opposition had become extremely stiff.
Vinson slid down next to Burke as he recovered from firing another clip at the men at the other end. "How many at the other side do you think?"
Burke counted from his memory the likely number of opponents they still faced. "Two squads, maybe twenty left over. Pretty sure I saw a machine gun in there somewhere."
"Think we can smoke them out?"
"No, not this crowd," Burke replied. "We tried grenades earlier but they're too far down and they've even got grenade nets on their position. We need something bigger here."
Outside the door another, louder sound of gunfire was now heard and a torrent of bullets was felt at the edge of the doorway near to where they were hiding. Several bullets ricocheted around the room around them.
"Sound like the machine gun alright" Vinson said. "We have to move, if they pin us down here they'll blow us out soon. It's only a matter of time."
Burke racked his mind for a solution to their dilemma, as two of his soldiers in the room across from them tried to return fire down the corridor and were then promptly cut down by the machine gun at the other end. Seeing the urgency, he came up with what was a last-ditch idea. "Grenades won't work but rockets might. We've got one Carl Gustav we can use. Put it right in the middle and then charge them. Unless you got a better idea."
"Nope," said Vinson, who then removed his weapon's magazine and replaced it with a fresh drum of ammo. "Safe or Out, we need to slide into Home Plate."
The colonel motioned to his radioman. "Jeff, get the Swede." The specialist promptly pulled out a long cylinder from the backpack of another wounded soldier next to him. The Carl Gustav was a Swedish-made rocket launcher that was normally used to attack bunkers or other fortified emplacements a hundred yards or more from the shooter. Firing the "Swede" down the narrow hallway as such a short distance would be nearly as dangerous to the shooter as to the target.
"Let me do this," Burke said as he tried to grab the rocket launcher, but Jeff held it away. "No, sir. I want the shot."
"Jeff, I won't put you in the line of fire like that!"
"Sir," the solider said with a smile, "I'm sick of these snotty teenage kids getting all the glory fighting battles for us. I want the shot."
Burke couldn't argue with the man's bravery. "Then son, then you go and take them out. We'll be right behind you." The colonel then pounded on the steel wall next to him four times, a signal to the others in his team in the next room to stand by for an assault. Burke and Vinson stood up as Jeff held the rocket close to the doorway. Another soldier then prepared a grenade launcher and stood on the opposite side of the door.
"Mutt," Burke told the other soldier, "use the M203 to put smoke down the hall, That will give Jeff time to set up for the rocket. After he sends it down we move out, Got it?" The other soldier nodded in acknowledgement.
Taking a deep breath, Burke closed his eyes in a silent and rapid prayer and then looked towards Vinson. The Admiral held his own weapon and the ready and nodded to him once. Burke then gave a hand motion to the other two.
Mutt leaned out the doorway slightly and pulled the trigger on his rifle's grenade launcher. A 40MM white smoke grenade shot out towards the other end of the corridor, exploding a second later just a meter in front of the enemy defenders as it hit the grenade nets that were stretched in front of them. He ducked back inside and then Jeff rushed out and laid prone on the corridor floor with the rocket launcher in his hands. White smoke filled the other end of the corridor as Jeff then brought up the rocket to bear on the target dead ahead in front of him.
"Jeff, do it now!" Burke shouted. The air in the corridor was filled with gunfire as the enemy guards at the other end shot through the smoke at what they knew was an assault on their position. Burke and the others in the room moved away from the door as Jeff took aim and then pulled the trigger on the rocket launcher. In a second a blast of fire and smoke came out from behind the soldier as the rocket itself screamed in front of him, and then in another moment there was a large explosion at the other end.
"GO! GO! GO!" the colonel shouted to his team as other Alliance soldiers came out of the corners of other rooms in the hallway, firing their weapons and shouting battle cries as they charged down the corridor. Burke, Mutt, and Vinson also rushed out and started down the corridor. On the way out Burke looked downward and saw Jeff's body still lying prone on the floor, covered with red wounds all over him. "God bless you," was all that he could say as he turned towards the enemy at the end and ran at full speed towards them.
Rifles blazing, the team of soldiers moved through the billowing white smoke and overran the remaining enemy at the other end of the hallway. Several soldiers went down from enemy fire but others followed them and then took on the SEELE guards in hand to hand combat, slamming rifles over heads and bodies and firing point-blank into other men as they worked over the survivors at the other end. More men fell on both sides as reinforcements from SEELE security came from further down another hallway. As the new group of enemy soldiers tried to make a counterattack Burke and Vinson and their remaining teammates charged towards them with guns blazing and cut down the new enemy group. As they reached the end of the corridor, Vinson turned and saw a blue-painted set of double doors down the hallway just another few yards in front of them. Standing in front were just two more enemy guards, one of which had a flamethrower on his back.
"FLAME!" Vinson shouted as he crouched down and brought his assault rifle to bear. The SEELE guard with the flamethrower pulled the trigger and then sent a wall of flame towards the Alliance soldiers, but the admiral let loose with a long burst from his own weapon and shredded the soldier and the man behind him. As the enemy fell to the floor, Vinson pulled another long burst from his Stoner and shot up the flamethrower tank on the now dead guard's backpack, The entire end of the hallway went up in flames.
With no other enemies still standing Burke saw the double-doors at the end and then called back to his squad. "Get the C4!" Another soldier in his team ran up past the dead flamethrower guards and rushed to the blue-painted doors, quickly slamming in two grey-colored blocks of plastic explosive on the doors and then sticking a timer in each one. The soldier then quickly flashed ten fingers to his other teammates and then came rushing back towards them as the rest of them took cover wherever they could find it.
Ten seconds later the C4 exploded and blew apart both of the armored doors on the command center. Mutt then fired another grenade into the room and there was another explosion heard from inside. Not waiting to hear from inside Burke waved the rest of his team in and together the remaining members rushed inside the blown-out doorway and into SEELE's command center.
Inside the room they saw the wreckage of exploded terminals and displays, and saw dead and wounded men all around them. One enemy guard tried to bring up his weapon but was promptly cut down by several of the Alliance soldiers. As Burke directed his men to grab the surviving SEELE officers and technicians, Vinson carefully scanned the room, looking for Chairman Kiel Lorenz. Instead of finding the chairman he saw a man who he recognized as of the members of SEELE's leadership committee. He quickly moved over and grabbed the Russian, and then threw him against a wall.
"Where the fuck is Kiel?"
"He's…gone," the committee said as he choked on the smoke in the room.
Vinson slammed the man against the wall again in a rage. "WHERE IS HE?"
The Russian coughed up blood. "You're too…too late!" he wheezed. Incensed, the Admiral threw the dying man to the floor.
Burke looked to Vinson as his soldiers tied up the surviving enemy in the room. "The Chairman's not here," he confirmed.
"Kiel doesn't strike me as the surrendering kind," Vinson replied. "That son of a bitch might have some sort of escape plan or he might be trying to blow up this place. We got to find him." He then called out to the rest of the team. "Who's got the radio?"
"I do, sir, said Mutt the grenadier. Slinging Jeff's radio on his own back, Mutt approached the Admiral.
"Get me RAIDEN on the line."
Mutt worked quickly to bring up the Japanese assault group commander on the radio and then handed the handset to Vinson. "RAIDEN? This is ZEUS."
"RAIDEN here," the voice came back, but it wasn't General Aida's.
"Where's RAIDEN 7?"
"This is RAIDEN 6. RAIDEN 7 is down," the replying voice was Aida's second in command, The Japanese general had fallen.
"We have Objective One but no sign of the Primary Target, Have any on your side acquired Primary Target?"
"Negative, ZEUS. LZ is secured but no sign of Primary."
"Shit," Vinson cursed. "RAIDEN, get your teams to advance on their side and look for Primary Target. Engage on sight. Confirm, over?"
"Copy, ZEUS out." Vinson thought briefly about General Aida, who was now dead among his men on the other side of the fortress. Father and son re-united at least. "I need HUNTER," he told Mutt. The soldier tried several times to reach Misato but was unable to do so. "HUNTER not responding, sir." He told the Admiral.
Vinson thought to reach the EVA units individually, but knew that if Misato was off-air and possibly down they had standing instructions to continue to go after the enemy's Evangelions in radio silence. Contacting them would be unsuccessful even if they were still in operation. "Are the EVA units still active?" he asked Mutt.
The soldier checked his communication unit's display for any signals from the Alliance's two units. "There's still active transponders, sir. Both units are at least still on the move."
They had orders to go down to the subterranean levels after clearing the mountain of any EVAs they saw here, if the Chairman's gone downstairs let's hope they can find him."