Deep in the Australian desert, Pine Gap was once an intelligence and command facility run by the U.S. National Security Agency. Located just a few miles from the outback town of Alice Springs (which was literally in the middle of Australia) Pine Gap’s original purpose was to track, control and get information from intelligence satellites in polar orbit across the old U.S.S.R.. After Second Impact devastated Australia Pine Gap was abandoned, even though Alice Springs was the one place in Australia that was left relatively unscathed.
In the last year a slow trickle of people and aircraft had begun traveling in secret to Pine Gap. It had taken a few months for technicians to re-build the facility and make use of the old communication dishes there and much of the place was still in disarray, but within six months the Alliance had transformed Pine Gap into its operational headquarters.
Within the old facility was a large command center, it's interior spacious and dark. Several large monitors covered the walls, the largest being a map of earth showing all current satellites and their orbital positions. Technicians manned the control stations as others worked on installing even more equipment. Seated at the command desk at the far side of the room were two men: one was tall and muscular, with salt-and-pepper hair, the other older, thin with a smartly-clipped mustache. Their attention was drawn to one of the large screens in front labeled TOKYO-3.
“How long has that thing been up there?” the muscular officer asked.
“Perhaps an hour,” the other replied in a British accent. “They’ve made several attempts to attack it with positron cannons, but no effect.”
“Why hasn’t it attacked?”
“It did, some sort of a probing beam. There was no damage to the EVA but the pilot suffered severe mental trauma. They’ve pulled back the other one for now.”
Both of them watched the screen as colored dots on the lower left edge indicated Tokyo-3 and three Evangelion units and the large blue dot on the upper right was an Angel, in this case the Fifteenth. There was some rapid movement where the EVAs were and then the main space display was lit up with activity.
“Something’s happening, sir!” one of the technicians called out. The commander stood up. “What is it?”
“Something being fired at the target at very high velocity.” The main screen showed an object moving at very high speed towards Earth orbit. The object hit the blue-colored target and kept going outwards. Immediately after it did that the vast majority of the colored lights that represented satellites and other objects in orbit went dark. Several of the screens on the wall also displayed static.
“What the hell just happened!”
The technician reported “Whatever they did just knocked out everything in LEO.” LEO stood for Low Earth Orbit.
“What about geosynchronous orbits?” asked the other commander.
“Looks like a lot of that stuff got fried, too,” the technician said.
Another, younger female officer now reported. “According to initial analysis approximately 97% of orbiting satellites are either destroyed or inoperable.” A few long whistles were heard among the staff.
“What about the UN surveillance network?” the British officer asked.
“Also down, as is their communications constellation,” the younger officer replied.
The British commander looked at the American standing next to him. “They’re blind, deaf and dumb right now. There might not be a better chance.”
The American commander was silent for a moment, biting his finger and thinking carefully. “Johnny, once we do this there’s no going back.”
“Considering the fact that there may be only two Angels to go and also what we’ve learned about the other side’s EVA program,” the Englishman replied, “there simply may not be a better opportunity for us.”
The American took a deep breath and scanned the screens in front of him. The chaos that was likely from the downing of nearly all of Earth’s satellite networks would provide the perfect cover for what they had been planning for years. He turned to the British officer. “Agreed. Get it started.”
The other officer smiled thinly. “Affirmative.”
“Can we get our own satellites up there?” the American asked him.
“We can take some advantage of the chaos and with the extensive orbital debris it will be hard for others to track us. It might take them a few weeks to realize we’re up there with our own birds. We won‘t have too many, though. Just enough to have secure communications and a barely functional GPS system.”
“That’s enough. It only has to work for a little while. Let’s get it done.” The commander looked at him and nodded. “Yes, Admiral Vinson.”
The British officer picked up a phone and started issuing orders. “Comms, this is Command. Send the word on VLF - WEDDING INVITATIONS OUT.” The voice on the other end replied “Aye, aye, sir.”
Across the world during the next few days there were several reported incidents of UN military aircraft, ships, personnel, and even entire combat units disappearing. The destruction of the UN’s control satellite network made it nearly impossible for the world’s unified military high command to keep track of the sudden loss of some of its combat strength. On top of that though was the impending chaos created by the severance of the much of Earth’s way of navigating, communicating and operating efficiently. Considering the increasing panic coming from a terrified population and the clamor of world leaders in many countries that both the UN and NERV were grossly mishandling the situation, the UN military had enough to worry about. Besides, the high command considered, considering the chaos and the already many reports of ships and aircraft missing the assumption was that many of the disappearances were accidental in nature. It would soon learn that they were not.
The VSTOL took three hours to make the trip between Scotland and Greenland. During the flight “Musashi” told Mari an abbreviated version of what he and others had learned was the true nature of the Evangelion Project, especially the planned use of the EVA units to bring about Third Impact. Mari just sat there and listened to the man, unsure of what to make of his story.
Once over Greenland Mari looked out the window of the VSTOL and saw a large container ship docked in a makeshift port, which was next to an airstrip with several aircraft parked on top. The pilot landed the VSTOL on the airstrip and Mari, Musashi, and the other soldiers disembarked. Waiting for them was a woman in her 20s with dark hair and dark complexion. She had an ornamental tattoo on her chin, a vestige of her Maori upbringing in New Zealand.
“Wellie!” Mari called out to the woman.
“Lusty!” Capt. Moira Wellington warmly embraced Mari as she ran to her. “I heard about what happened at St. Jims! I’m so sorry I couldn’t contact you earlier.”
“It’s all good in the end, I suppose” Mari told her. “I’m just so glad to see you! I feared the worst!”
“I’m all right. Let’s look at you.” Wellington scanned her charge carefully. “Your glasses are broke!”
“Just a scratch,” Mari said, and then in a lower voice “They got Mrs. Hermes.”
“I know,” the officer replied as she pulled out from a duffel bag next to her a new pair of red-rimmed glasses for Mari. “I had considered contacting her earlier, but they had you under surveillance. I couldn’t risk tipping them off.”
Mari tried on her new glasses after taking off the damaged pair while Wellington grabbed a parka out of the bag for her to wear. “Who’s they?”
“SEELE, they call themselves. They had plants in Section 2. Right after we stole the EVA they put the whole operation on alert.”
“Stole?” Mari exclaimed.
“Yeah, it’s right over there.” The controller pointed to the container ship behind her. “Dr. Viraat’s been fixing it up for you!”
Musashi broke in the conversation. “They got the GPS working again. Just a few minutes and I need to get her on the plane to Australia.”
“Right. We won’t be too long,” Wellington told him. “Lusty, would you like to see your EVA?”
The girl’s eyes lit up. “Of course!”
They both walked over to the container ship and once out of Musashi’s earshot Mari spoke to her superior in whispered tones. “Quite a story he’s got there! Second Impact was caused by some sort of conspiracy behind the UN?”
“I found the whole thing a big outrageous myself, until I saw the evidence.” The Maori officer confided. “Now we’ve got to stop this before they boil the whole planet over.”
“How does my EVA work into this?”
“Right now all the Alliance has is just regular military hardware. With an EVA or two it evens the odds a bit.”
“Against what?” Mari asked.
“SEELE’s been working on their own Evangelion units, called Mass Production Series. Fighting them is just like fighting Angels, only EVAs are fit for the job.”
“What about NERV?”
“They’ve lost two of their five units, and the pilot for one more’s gone down. At the rate they’re going there won’t be much of NERV left. You might be the only hope we have of stopping this.”
Mary stopped in her tracks as they approached the ship, a worried look on her face. “Wellie, do you trust these people?”
Wellington shrugged. “Not quite, but it’s better than being killed by the other side.” The officer narrowed her glance at the pilot. “Besides, do you want your chance to pilot this thing?”
“Oh, God yes!”
“Then play along. This might be the best opportunity you get.” They both went up the gangway and up several flights of steps on the ship, and then arrived at the top level. Strapped down to the hull was a large green monstrosity with dozens of technicians welding and wiring. Walking among them was a short older man with oversized glasses wearing a white parka who appeared to be of South Asian decent. He was busy pointing out different tasks to the technicians until he saw the two girls and then walked over to them.
“Hello, Dr. Viraat,” Mari called out. “You’re part of this, too?”
Dr. Raj Viraat, former scientific director of NERV UK, shivered in the cold. “Regrettably yes. If I had known I’d have to work in freezing conditions I’d just done myself in ahead of time.”
Wellington ignored the scientist’s carping. “When will she be ready?”
“Working on this full steam, I’d say at least another two weeks. I’ve had to scrounge up odd bits of hardware to get it complete, so don’t be surprised if it’s not so…presentable.”
“I don’t care as long as she will go!” Mari exclaimed.
“That’s the spirit, child!” the scientist replied. He then turned around and started walking around the EVA again, checking each technician as they worked. The two girls watched them for a bit and then made their way down the steps again.
“Are you going to Australia, too?” Mari asked the officer.
“No. Someone’s got to stay behind and make sure things work out all right.”
“Then I don’t want to go down there,“ Mari pleaded. “Not if you’re here! Not if EVAs here!”
“I know it, but this is a big operation and they need the pilot down there with the rest of them to plan it all out. General Sheffield’s part of this, too. If he’s there, then I trust them just enough. Besides,” Wellington smiled, “I hear there might be other EVAs involved. You might finally meet another pilot or two.”
“That’s hardly reason to go,” Mari pouted. The Maori officer held her by the shoulders and looked at her. “Look, the hopes of all of my family, all of my people, are riding on you. I know you won’t disappoint.”
Mari looked at her with a sheepish expression. “I know.” They both smiled at each other for a moment, then Wellington handed her the duffel bag she was carrying. “Right, off you go then. There’s clothes in there that will do for Oz, and the plane’s got its own shower. So have yourself a nice flight and I’ll see you soon!”
What was once known as NERV Second Branch was now a gigantic crater over 170 kilometers in diameter, stretching from central Nevada to the edge of the deserted city of Las Vegas. Within the area where Unit 04’s energy field had extended during the incident two months earlier not only did every form of life disappear, but so did every natural feature: mountains, valleys, dry river beds, and high desert plateaus. Now there was only flat rock: smooth as glass and completely featureless.
Fears about high residual radiation had kept NERV from all but the most rudimentary investigations. One expedition carried out several days later with drones only revealed a still hot-core at the center of the energy field that melted the drone's steel exterior. NERV had not followed up the investigation much further, as their attention and resources were diverted by an increasingly desperate fight against the Angels. With the US Government's termination of their side of the EVA program and the UN already stretched worldwide, the crater that was once NERV-2 was now only barely monitored.
However, after two months from the incident the radiation from the energy wave had nearly completely dissipated, enough so that the Alliance decided to see just what was now there at the epicenter of the crater.
It was there at the center that teams of Alliance soldiers were secretly posted and ordered to quietly observe if any activity occurred at the site. No one in the teams would speculate on what the Alliance leadership was expecting, but the word among most of the soldiers there was that they were trying to locate EVA-04 and then use it in some way.
The current team had been there for five days now and had not seen any sign of life or activity at the epicenter. Colonel Burke, an ex-UN (and previously ex-US Special Forces) officer, mulled to himself that this was probably the most colossal waste of time he'd ever been a part of. Nonetheless being a good solider, Colonel Burke performed his mission and spent most of the time catching up on his reading.
“Jeff, get me my other book bag, would you?” he motioned to his radio specialist. The specialist, dark-skinned like Col. Burke, handed him a large desert camouflage rucksack. Col Burke reached out and grabbed a set of comic books and started to read again with relish.
“Sir, think that anything will happen?” the specialist asked.
“Don't know, son. Best to be prepared for anything, I suppose.”
“They think that it will return to the scene of the crime?” Jeff asked the colonel.
“Hell,” the colonel responded, “They probably think the whole base will just reappear.” The colonel had just leaned back against the far end of the large foxhole that they had dug and opened up his next book when a glint of metal in the distance outside the camouflage netting caught his eye.
“What was that?” he said to himself as he reached for this binoculars and his radio man reach for his own pair. Both of them looked at the middle of the epicenter and noticed a tall, silver and white humanoid figure just standing there in the desert. There was no noise or flash, it had just silently appeared. They looked at each other once, looked again through the binoculars and then they both said in unison “Holy shit!”
“Is that what they're looking for, sir?” Jeff asked the colonel.
“It very well may be,” he replied as radio chatter began to increase when others in the team saw the white monster in the distance and started to report in. Col Burke briefly listened to the other reports and then started issuing orders from the radio. “Get the drone out there first. Let's be sure this isn't some sort of elaborate trick.”
A minute later a small tan-painted hover drone glided across the crater floor and over to the humanoid figure. The drone hovered around the feet of the silver beast and then flew up over a hundred feet to the shoulders, probing around as it went. Col. Burke watched through a monitor connected to a camera mounted on the drone.
On the side of the right shoulder was a large symbol painted into the EVA that said “EVA-04: Combat Type” in English. Right next to the symbol was a very small American flag. Normally it was against NERV policy to have any type of nationalistic symbols on its units but some technicians had put it there anyway, a fact known only to a very few. To the colonel, seeing the small flag was enough to verify that what they had in front of them was truly the lost EVA.
“I’ll be damned,” he whispered. “Jeff, get me on satellite, now!” The radio specialist handed Col. Burke the satellite radio. “OLYMPUS, this is APOLLO.”
“OLYMPUS here. Go APOLLO.”
“WEDDING PRESENT is back in stock. Repeat, WEDDING PRESENT is back in stock.”
After a pause another voice came on the radio. “APOLLO, this is ZEUS. Anyone else in the store?”
“Then go get it and bring it home.”
“Roger that, ZEUS.”
With that he gave the satellite radio back to the operator and threw open the camouflage netting over their entrenchment. Col. Burke made an arm motion and the rest of the scout team came out of their foxholes at once and started running towards the EVA in the desert heat.
Within moments the team of two dozen men had surrounded the EVA. Some were climbing on top of it with cables to tie on. Others were running on the crater floor and placing down runway beacons. Still others were running sensors or other devices and the rest were watching the skies and ground around them, with weapons pointed outwards in case any uninvited guests appeared.
The scout team was lucky however, as the UN and NERV were apparently too bothered to check the site for activity. Within thirty minutes a flight of three large transport aircraft: two C-130 Hercules and a giant modified C-5 Galaxy, landed on the smooth crater floor and more soldiers and equipment disembarked. In another thirty minutes they had carefully lowered the EVA and rolled it inside the C-5. Once the Evangelion unit was packed inside all three aircraft loaded the remaining equipment and all of the personnel and promptly took off, the C-5 needing over a mile of runway to get airborne with its uniquely heavy cargo. Within seventy-five minutes of its reappearance, Evangelion Unit 04 had already fallen into the hands of the Alliance.
Go on to Chapter Three