In the intelligence center at Pine Gap Musashi stood over a thermal printer as an image was slowly processed. Beforehand a technician next to him had adjusted the image sent to them by the Alliance's agent inside of NERV, and then sent it to the printer when it was fully decompressed. Musashi grabbed the photo as soon as it was off the printer and looked at it carefully. He picked up his mobile phone as he ran out of the door and down the hall to the commander's office.
Not finding Vinson in his office he ran further down the hall to General Sheffield's office where he found Sheffield and Vinson going over plans for the upcoming operation. Musashi reached the open door and knocked on it. As both of the commanders turned to see him, Musashi quickly entered the room and showed both of them the photograph.
“This is from Alpha?” Sir John referred to their agent inside NERV as he studied the photo.
“Yes, transmitted just a moment ago.”
The photograph showed an image of a 14-year old boy with silver hair and pale skin walking along a hallway in the Geo Front. Next to the boy however was a very familiar looking girl with blue hair and red eyes, and wearing a blue and white schoolgirls' uniform.
“Well, I'll be damned! There's not a scratch on her!” Vinson observed.
“I take it she's not the original?” Sheffield asked Musashi.
“Presumably so. If anything this underlies the importance she may play in any scenario Ikari is working on.”
“Who's the boy?” Vinson asked.
“He's identified as Kaworu Nagisa and designated the Fifth Child. No information on him other than a birth date.”
Sheffield took another good look at the boy. “He has a similar appearance to her, including red eyes. Are they related in some way I wonder?”
Musashi pointed at the photo as he spoke. “I think the safe assumption is that he's an 'artificial person' much like her.”
Vinson turned his attention back to the new incarnation of Rei. “Johnny, could Alpha get to her?”
“She's guarded from a distance by their Section Two but with some patience he could do it.”
“Right. Tell him to pick her up.” Vinson looked at Musashi. “Any progress with the locals?”
“They've made some arrangements with military and other security units, although they have to work carefully as they've now come under surveillance from the JSSDF.”
“Let them know that we're just about ready to get this party started and that there's no time for a kabuki here. They have to move fast if this is going to work.”
“Understood.” Musashi then left the office and ran back to the intelligence center.
Sir John kept looking at the photograph as Vinson went back to the planning table. “Shouldn't we tell the Forrestal boy about this?” the general asked him.
“No,” Vinson replied without looking up from the table. “Right now he's where he needs to be mentally. Showing him this would only complicate things.” Sheffield said nothing but just tucked the photograph into his shirt pocket.
Misato was in her office as Lt. Hyuga knocked once at the door. He nervously looked down the corridor outside to be sure they were alone, then slipped in the room. Misato swiveled her chair and looked up at him as he came in.
“Section Two says they captured the Second Child alive,” Hyuga told her.
Misato breathed a sigh of relief. After being unable to move her EVA in the battle with the 16th Angel, Asuka’s pilot status had been revoked and she had run away from home as a result. Misato had been very worried about Asuka and pressured Section Two all week to locate her, along with her own efforts to contact her through friends and others she knew.
While she was glad Asuka was found, Misato also knew it wasn’t like Section Two to lose track of the EVA pilots so easily. Something was amiss.
“I see. They found her seven days after they missed her running away. This isn’t like them.”
Makoto Hyuga lowered his voice. “Maybe they ‘lost’ her on purpose, then. They’re trying to screw up Operations.”
“Possibly,” the Major concurred, also in a low voice. And today with the Fifth Child arriving to replace Asuka, this just fits in too neatly.
“Keep your eyes and ears open,” Misato told her assistant. “If we’re really getting close to the end we may see more crap like this.”
Hyuga nodded. “Got it.” He then left the room quietly.
Misato sat in the chair and parsed over current events in her mind, trying to work out a plan of action. Kaji disappeared soon after the Vice Commander was rescued…from SEELE. Rei is sacrificed and then brought back, and they were mass producing her downstairs. Asuka is conveniently lost and a new pilot suddenly appears. The commander puts Unit 01 on hold since gaining the S2 engine. Ritsuko suddenly freaks out. The Mass Production EVAs are nearly complete, but none of them are being sent here to fight Angels. Now the NERV security budget is cut. They’re setting the stage for Instrumentality, and lowering our defenses step by step.
And Shinji will be the next target.
Misato opened her desk drawer and pulled out her automatic pistol. While it was always loaded, she ejected the magazine and examined it to be sure and then slammed it into the pistol again. She then checked the sights by aiming at a coffee cup on her desk. Satisfied, she placed the gun down on the desk and took out the holster from the drawer. Misato quickly strapped the holder on, inserted the pistol and then put her red officer’s jacket over it. From this moment until things ended she would always be armed.
She took another swig at the coffee and had the sudden sensation to pee. I suppose I’m too nervous. I’m drinking coffee like it’s going out of style! Misato left her chair and walked out of her office to a nearby lavatory.
In front of the lavatory she saw some custodian cleaning the floor right in front of the doorway. She thought to find another restroom but the closest one she knew was too far away.
“Excuse me?” she asked the custodian. “Is this restroom open?”
The custodian turned around and faced her. Misato looked at his face and for a moment thought that she saw Kaji. She shook her head and realized that of course the custodian wasn’t him. For one thing he was probably a good ten centimeters taller than Kaji, but he did have a younger face hidden behind a large black mustache. I must be really stressed out to think this guy is Kaji. But that face, I’ve seen it before somewhere…
“Yes, Ma’am. You can go right in,” the custodian said in a gruff voice, looking up at her only briefly.
“Right. Thanks!” Misato hurried in the lavatory and noticed that out of three stalls two were taped over with yellow tape with the characters “Under Repair” printed on them. The third stall in the middle was still available, so she quickly entered it.
After fulfilling her biological needs Misato just sat there on the toilet seat. She had been doing her best to keep up appearances but seeing the man outside just brought Kaji back into her mind, and as a result she felt tears coming down and became choked up yet again. She bit into her knuckles out of frustration.
Dammit, Kaji! Why the hell do you have to leave me alone like this? I need you right now! If there’s ever a time I needed you, it’s now!
She fought to regain her composure. Kaji was dead. Even though there wasn’t an official word, they all knew it. And crying wouldn’t bring him back. The officer shook her head to get her self back in order and tried to put her mind back on what things were now important, such as preparing for the last Angel.
Misato reached for the toilet paper in the stall and just as she was about to use it she noticed there was writing in black ink. She gasped as she read it.
HELP IS COMING
PROTECT THE PILOTS
Who wrote this? She thought. Reading it again she knew the message was meant for her, and she knew she had been guided to this spot.
Misato quickly pulled up her tights and skirt and pushed open the stall door to run outside the bathroom, the toiled paper crinkled in her hand. As she got outside all she saw were two orange cones standing in front. The “custodian” was nowhere to be seen.
That face! I do know it!
Waiting for Kensuke in Osaka-2 were Toji and Hikari. Hikari stood next to Toji and his wheelchair at the top of a flight of steps that was across the street from the front of the Osaka-2 train station. Toji had wanted to wheel down the access ramp and wait for Kensuke at the bottom of the stairs but Hikari strenuously objected, afraid that he might not be able to push himself back up the steep incline.
“Shouldn’t he be here by now?” Hikari asked.
“Yeah,” Toji said. “He probably stopped to videograph a tank or something. That would be just like him.”
“Why does he like that stuff, anyway?”
“Don’t really know. It gives him a purpose in life, I suppose.” In his impatience Toji thought to roll down the access ramp anyway but thought better of it. Hikari was being a big help to him and his family in a lot of ways and annoying her like that would not get on her good side. He felt a buzzing in his jacket pocket and picked up his mobile phone. Kensuke had sent him a message.
B OUT SOON. MET BABE ON TRAIN THAT WANTS 2 MEET U.
Toji groaned as Hikari asked him what the message was. “A ‘babe’ on the train wants to meet me, he says.”
Hikari raised her eyebrows. “A babe?”
“Right. What kind of girl could he pick up?”
A moment later they spotted Kensuke walking out of the front door of the station. With him was a tall, slender girl with glasses wearing a burgundy and white school uniform, her long brown hair braided in twin tails. Kensuke saw them at the top of the stairs and waived excitedly.
“That bastard!” Toji exclaimed. “And a foreign girl no less! She is waaay too good for him.”
“I suppose even he gets lucky sometimes,” Hikari replied coldly.
Toji was about to shout at Kensuke when he noticed that two burly men dressed in black suits and sunglasses had walked up next to him and Hikari. Hikari gasped upon seeing the two men and quickly moved behind the back of Toji’s wheelchair. One of them looked straight at Toji. “Are you Toji Suzahara?”
“Yeah, who wants to know?”
The man placed is hand to his ear, which had an earpiece inside. “Fourth Child identified and acquired. Proceeding with termination.”
“Termination?!” Toji yelled. “Hey, I’m not even a pilot anymore!”
“Toji! Look out!” Hikari cried.
As the two men reached into their jackets to pull out weapons, Toji quickly grabbed one of the crutches that were held in a pocket on the side of the wheelchair, and swung it down hard on the head of the man closest to him. He then quickly swung the crutch like a baseball bat into the stomach of the other man just as he was pulling out his pistol. As both men cringed in pain, Toji let go of the crutch and grabbed a shocked Hikari by the arm. Pulling her into his lap, he told her “Hang on!”
Before the two men could recover the boy then quickly took off the wheelchair's brake and spun his wheels, pushing the chair rapidly down the steps.
“Who are those men?” Hikari asked with a terrified look.
“Hell if I know,” Toji replied as he tried to lean back the chair to prevent both of them from falling on the steps. Several shots ran out and Toji could see concrete from the steps ricochet on his way down.
Toji tried to the angle the wheelchair to turn sideways and around the corner of the steps. He almost made it, turning around an embankment but then he fell face forward on top of Hikari. He quickly tried to push himself up on his hands, while Hikari used her own weight to help him get up. She then positioned herself under his left shoulder so she could prop him up on his good leg. They looked behind them and saw the two men at the top of the steps get into a black sedan. At the foot of the steps was the wheelchair, now smashed up from the collision with the concrete. Running up to them at the bottom of the steps were Kensuke and Mari.
“Are you alright?” Mari asked him.
“Who the hell are you?” he shot back.
“I'm Mari. Quickly, we've got to get out of here.” Mary turned around and spotted an alleyway that she thought would be hard for them to be followed into. At the same time she fingered a transponder hidden under her skirt waistband, signaling that they were in immediate danger. Kensuke got on the other side of Toji and helped him get up along with Hikari, and the three of moved hobbled behind Mari as she ran for one of the small alleys in front of them.
“Did you see those guys?” Toji asked Kensuke.
“JSSDF, I think,” he replied as he strained under Toji's weight. “This is bad news. We gotta hide you!”
Mari ran through the little alley and searched all around trying to find a place to evade the men while the others slowly lurched behind. She fingered the transponder again but there was no response and her phone didn't buzz either. “Damn! They're supposed to be coming!”
“Who's they?” Hikari asked.
“The Alliance,” Mari replied as she searched for an exit to the alley. “You've become a target and we're here to get you out!”
Toji turned to Kensuke. “Where did you find this girl?”
Mari ran around the corner of the alley and found that it dead-ended next to an office building. She turned around and saw the three classmates in front of her and then a black sedan pulling up behind them with two large men getting out of the car. A black SUV pulled up as well. On seeing Mari's worried expression Toji, Hikari, and Kensuke turned around and saw the two vehicles and the black-clad men moving deliberately towards them. A straining Toji shot Mari a dirty look. “You set us up!”
“No! They're supposed to be here!” she retorted, but she saw the men approaching and knew she had to act. Without saying anything further she took from her handbag what appeared to be a one-foot long bamboo pipe and then rolled a switch with her hands. The pipe quickly telescoped into a six-foot bo-ken. With the bo-ken fully extended Mari yelled a battle cry and charged at the two men in front.
The three students watched as Mari swung around the staff before the two men could again draw their weapons, slamming one in the head and the other in the gut. Both crumpled to the ground. Another two men came and she again attacked, swinging the bo-ken over her head and crashing it on one of the men's shoulders. She then crouched down on one knee and spun around the bo-ken, landing it into the face of the other man. As she recovered her attack another agent slipped behind her and when she turned her head to see who was behind her, the agent slammed his pistol directly between her shoulder blades. Yelping in pain, Mari released her staff and dropped to the ground. The agent behind her promptly put his knee against her back and held the pistol to her head.
Upon seeing Mari's defeat the others tried to evade capture but the men grabbed each of the other three, with two of them holding down Toji to the ground on his one knee. Toji himself tried mightily to shake them off but one of the men landed a karate chop to his collar bone and the boy went down again.
With all four teenagers now being held by the agents the man who had first attacked Toji walked towards him, his face bruised from the melee. He spoke into his earpiece. “Target reacquired. Commencing with termination.” Above them was the sound of a helicopter flying low to the ground.
As the agent slid back the action on his pistol, Hikari screamed at him. “Don't kill him! He's not even a pilot anymore! What has he ever done to hurt anybody?”
The agent glanced at Hikari. “Orders, miss.” The agent then aimed the pistol point-blank at the base of Toji's neck. “SOMEBODY HELP! TOJI! NO!!!” Hikari kept screaming, until the agent that held her arms back covered her mouth with her hand.
Hikari kept trying to struggle and cry out until Toji, his face pale, looked at her and said “Class Rep! Class Rep!” Hikari stopped trying to shout but kept struggling.
“Class Rep,” Toji said more softly. The girl stopped resisting and looked at him, trembling. “Please take care of my sister, will ya?” He weakly smiled at her and Hikari nodded, her whole body now shaking. Toji then stared at the ground in front of him.
So this is how it ends, then. Hikari...So many things undone. God, please don't let anything happen to her or the others...
He closed his eyes as the agent prepared to fire. In the background there was the sound of screaming and cars honking. Hikari was frozen in fear and unable to speak while Mary was still sprawled on the ground, the agent's foot still on top of her. Kensuke tried to wriggle free again but the agent holding him pulled his arms further behind his back and he cried in pain. “Dammit, let him at least die like a man!” he shouted.
Unable to bear it any longer Hikari closed her eyes tightly. When she did so she heard several pops and felt something splash against her face, and then she heard the sound of something heavy thumping to the ground. Terrified, she screamed and kept her eyes closed until the agent released her arms behind her.
Not hearing any sound but smelling the acrid scent of gunpowder Hikari opened her eyes again. Toji was sprawled on the ground and so were the two agents that were holding him down. The agent who was about to shoot Toji was lying on his back with a crimson dot on his forehead, his pistol still in his hand. She glanced back and saw the agent who was holding her was also on the ground, his head lying in a pool of blood. She watched as Kensuke, no longer being held back, dove to where Toji lay. The one remaining agent had his gun drawn and tried to shoot in the direction of the cars until a knife suddenly appeared embedded in his neck and he went down.
Hikari quickly knelt down where Toji was lying as Kensuke tried to shake him. “Toji...” she said to him, hoping for a response. His eyes then flicked open and his face in an expression in shock. “Hikari....chan?”
“Dude, you're still alive!” Kensuke shouted as Hikari tightly embraced Toji while he was still on the ground. The three of them heard heavy footsteps and looked in the direction of the alleyway and saw four soldiers in green and blue camouflage standing there, weapons at the ready. One of them pulled off their helmet to reveal a dark-complexioned woman with an ornamental tattoo on her chin. She immediately went to where Mari was lying and knelt down.
“Lusty! Oh, God are you alright?”
Mari got on her knees and shook her head a bit. She then looked up and exclaimed “Wellie!”
“Are you hurt?” Wellington asked. Mari got up and dusted herself off. “A bit sore on the back but otherwise I think I'm okay. Where were you? That was too close!”
“Sorry, we came as quick as we could.” Lieutenant Wellington then walked over to where Toji was lying, as Hikari and Kensuke both tried to help him up. “Are you Toji Suzahara?” she asked him in accented Japanese. Toji saw the soldier's tattoed face and nearly screamed.
“Are you going to shoot me, too?” Toji said to Wellington.
“No. We're here to get you to safety. Come with us please, all of you.” Two of the soldiers then came over to help Toji off the ground. Kensuke stood up and looked at Mari and the soldiers. “Wow! That was awesome!”
“Shut up, Aida,” Toji said as Hikari nestled under his shoulder. “Where are you taking us?” he asked Wellington. “To the Liberator,” she replied. “It's an assault ship offshore.”
Hikari suddenly stopped. “I can't leave here!” she told the officer. “My family's all here...I can't just leave them!”
Without saying anything Wellington reached into a pocket and grabbed a PDA, showing the screen to Hikari. “Is this them?”
On the screen of the device Hikari and the others saw a digital photo taken somewhere outside the Suzahara's home. In the photo several solders dressed in the same green and blue camouflage as Wellington were shown assisting members of both Toji's and Hikari's family outside of the house. One solider had Toji's little sister in his arms while another carried Nozomi, who was crying and clutching Pen Pen, who was also crying.
“Our other team picked them up a few minutes ago. When we didn't find Toji-kun there we went looking for you and picked up Mari's beacon from here.”
“Are they okay?” Hikari asked.
“Yes, but again it was close. Everyone please hurry as they'll be back soon and in force.”
The Alliance team hurried the children back through the alley and out by the train station. Hikari remembered that she heard a helicopter earlier and now saw why: a large twin-engine tilt-rotor was now on the ground in front of the Osaka-2 train station, surrounded with another team of soldiers at the ready. Many people had gathered by the station to watch and there was also a car wreck, no doubt caused by the sudden appearance of the aircraft.
“Holy shit, a CV-22!” Kensuke shouted. “This is fucking awesome!” He tried to reach into his pocket and grab his camera but a solider quickly grabbed his arm and shoved him inside the aircraft. The others quickly followed behind.
Once inside the aircraft a female crew chief quickly strapped in each of the children into a seat. While Kensuke grabbed his camera and started snapping away, Toji and Hikari sat silently as the crew woman pulled their harnesses on. When she finished with Hikari without saying a word the crew woman gave her a wet towelette and then hurried to her own seat by the front of the fuselage.
Hikari looked at the towelette. “What's this for?” she asked Toji. Toji motioned to her face. Hikari took the towelette, wiped her face and then looked at it. It was soaked with blood. Trembling, she looked at Toji. “Is this mine?”
Toji looked mournful. “No,” he replied.
On hearing that Hikari broke down and cried, burying her head on Toji's shoulder. Toji took her hand and gently squeezed it.
After loading the rest of the soldiers the tilt rotor moved quickly upwards and above the train station. It hovered for a moment as its rotors rotated forward and then lurched off into the East.
Go To Chapter Twelve