The gunfire in Central Dogma had become so intense that the controllers were no longer able to lean over the edge of the operations deck and fight back. Aoba had already been shot in the right shoulder and held a bandage there with his left hand while holding a sub-machine gun in his right. Both him and Hyuga were now huddled underneath the center controller station. Maya was shielded behind both of the men, her tiny hands fearfully gripping an automatic pistol. Hyuga had a gun in each hand and carefully scanned the top of the control room as he saw movement above them.
Once more the controller deck was raked with gunfire and explosions and all three controllers leaned back into the station to avoid the onslaught. This time the gunfire was horribly intense as bullets rickashayed all around them, destroying pieces of the controller stations and the chairs. Futsuyuki's body buffeted as it was hit several times by rounds fired from all directions.
“Geez! Just get it the hell over with!” Hyuga shouted above the noise, wincing as several shots came within inches of where he was squatting. As if on cue, the gunfire tapered off and then finally stopped. There was a long moment of silence.
Hyuga and Aoba looked at each other in apprehension. “They're coming,” Aoba whispered as Hyuga nodded and brought his weapons up. All of them took deep breaths and readied for their last stand.
Aoba thought he heard a sound and looked up. Within a second a half-dozen men in green and blue camouflage dropped on the operations deck, repelling from ropes hung above them. The squad pointed assault rifles at the three controllers as one of them shouted “WEAPONS DOWN!!!” in English.
Both of them hesitated for a second and then Hyuga slowly brought down both of this guns and laid them on the floor. Aoba looked at him and then put his own gun down and slid it over to the soldiers. He then carefully extracted the pistol from Maya's hand and slid it down as well as she had completely frozen in fear. As he slid over Maya's pistol Aoba whispered to Hyuga, “are you sure you know what you're doing?”
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Hyuga replied as he brought out his back up pistol and gently placed it on the floor. The soldiers had already moved next to them as all three controllers slowly stood up with their hands raised.
The Harpies pulled him higher into the air and Shinji went from panic to outright terror. He shook the actuators violently trying to get his EVA to do something, anything to stop what was happening. His heart raced and he was hyperventilating. Inside the entry plug in front of him Shinji saw horrific visions of beings, angels or demons: he couldn’t tell which. He then saw a vision of a girl’s ghostly face turn into a skull, at which point he lost any remaining sanity he still held.
Shinji screamed out at the top of his voice “ASUKA! ASUKA! HELP ME! HELP ME! MOTHER! MOTHER! PLEASE! PLEASE!” and then as loud as he possibly could he shouted “AYANAMI!!!”
As the souls of Lillith and Adam were being bound together inside of her barren womb, Rei could sense everything and everyone around her, near and far, and she heard Shinji cry out to her.
No! Not him!
He is being destroyed!
But what can I do?
Realizing there was nothing else left to her she connected to the one inside of her, the part of her who did not call herself Rei. The one she had always feared. The soul of Lilith herself.
What must I do now?
The voice replied back to her. “Do you believe that you have a choice?”
But this is my purpose. I must fulfill it.
“No. You can choose if you wish,” the voice said. “It is this mercy that I can grant you.”
Rei couldn’t think of what came next, but the voice softly asked her. “What do you want?”
I must save the boy.
“I don’t mean for him. I mean for yourself. I mean for the one who everyone knows as Rei Ayanami. What do you want?”
A boy once asked me that question, but I didn’t know the answer…
“Do you know the answer now?” the voice asked. Rei then realized that she did.
Yes. I…I want…
I want to be me.
“Then that is the choice you have now. Remain here and the Rei that you know will dissolve into nothing. Or unify with me and Adam and fulfill a different purpose.”
What happens if I choose this?
“Everything will change, but you can still be you.”
Rei looked at the commander standing in front of her, his hand still inside of her womb. She made her decision, and her body began to assemble itself again.
Gendo felt the tissue around his hand tighten. “What?” Before he could pull his hand out, Rei’s body merged with the hand and with the arm it was attached to and absorbed it inside. The Commander’s arm was sucked inside of her, being ripped out of his own socket. In an instant her severed left arm was replaced with a brand new one.
Ikari looked at her in complete disbelief, grasping his now empty right arm socket with his left arm. Rei just looked into his eyes and said coldly “I’m not your doll.”
Patrick felt helpless as he watched EVA-01 being pulled by the nine Mass Production EVAs out of the top opening of the GeoFront. Earlier he had watched as Admiral Vinson's Thunderbolt had hovered above them, only to lose control and smash to the ground inside the GeoFront. Now the formation of Harpies and their prey were moving beyond the top opening and out into the open sky.
As he watched the EVAs flap their wings faster, Patrick noticed two very small objects flying just above them. When they were on top of the center of the formation of Evangelions suddenly there was a massive burst of smoke and what looked like a large halo made up of gray-white clouds formed around the top of the group. In the center of the halo he could see a small flare appear. A moment later seemingly the entire sky appeared to lite up in flame.
EVA-04 and 02 shielded their eyes from the flash and explosion. The bomb seemed like it was burning for several seconds afterward, much longer than a regular explosive. Once Patrick and Asuka opened their eyes again they looked towards the sky and saw the nine Harpies. They were all caught on fire, flames rippling through their wings and bodies, their flesh turning black and their screams were loud in agony. The burning bodies of the Mass Production units fell to the ground inside the GeoFront in a scene that looked like it was out of Dante's Inferno. They had let go of the cords bounding EVA-01, and now Unit 01 was floating to the ground. Her eyes glowed and her AT field formed a giant pair of dragon-like wings out of her back. When she had landed on the ground, EVA-01 gave out a loud roar.
“Shinji…” a stunned Patrick said quietly.
Unit 01 roared again and then searched the field with raging eyes, finding one of the Mass Production units close by with its flesh burning. The Evangelion quickly ran to it and furiously grabbed it with both hands. She quickly tore the beast in two and its entry plug snapped out at the small of its back. On seeing the entry plug Unit 01 took the white tube by its hand and slammed it to the ground, breaking it in two. She then left it on the ground and ran towards another of the nearby beasts.
Both of the other pilots saw what had just happened. “The entry plugs,” Asuka told Patrick. “It's the only way to kill them!”
“Then let's finish this!” Patrick said with venom in his voice. “Prog Knifes!” At his command two giant progressive knives ejected from their shoulder mounts on Unit 04. His EVA took both knives in her hands, their blades held forward in a striking position. He then screamed a battle cry at the top of his voice and began running towards the nearest of the Harpies to him. Asuka watched him go at first, then picked up her halberd and swung it around, looking for her nearest target. “Save some for me!”
Sheffield spoke in an unusually sharp tone as he pushed his battle staff for answers. “Situation?”
The recon officer shouted “Major damage reported on all nine targets!” Above them, the status board had changed to reflect the current situation.
“What about the EVAs?”
“GABRIEL and both NERV EVAs are still active,” a female officer called out.
“Any sign of ZEUS?”
“Negative, sir,” another officer called out. “Aircraft unit reports as destroyed.”
Sir John looked at the giant display and saw an incredible mess of colored data markers slowly moving around and flashing frequently. In the center where the GeoFront was displayed, there were purple, red, and white markers indicating EVA-01, 02 and 04, and nine black & white markers indicating enemies. He also noted a maker in blue and gray that showed ZEUS's last reported location, which was inside the GeoFront.
Let's hope this works, given the price we had to pay for it...
“General!” Sheffield turned and saw another officer, this time an older one, report to him. “Yes?”
“Secondary operations are commencing now, sir.”
The general had nearly forgotten. Tokyo-3 wasn't the only battlefield they were fighting on.
Alarm spread through the men of SEELE as they watched their dream disappear. “NO!” the Chairman cried. “The Door to Heaven is Closing!”
“The Mask of Jehovah has been stripped away!” one of the others shouted out.
“The shame! Our forces have been defeated by mere children!” said another.
As the members of SEELE observed their doom one of the thirteen monoliths gathered in their virtual coven suddenly vanished. Within a few seconds another three fizzled and disappeared one after another.
“We have been penetrated!” one of the members said in a panic before his marker vanished.
“There has been a betrayal from within,” SEELE 02 said. “We must regroup and gather what we still can.”
“Then sound the retreat,” ordered SEELE01. “We will withdraw and convene again according to plan.” Within a moment all of the other monoliths disappeared and only SEELE 01 remained.
“Interlopers! They do not know what they have done,” mourned SEELE 01. “But they will surely regret it!”
Patrick charged EVA-04 straight into one of the white EVAs that was lying on the ground writhing in pain. Quickly he jumped on and rolled it over, then with both of his Prog Knives ripped two large slashes down its back. As the carapace was broken open a red and white entry plug slid out and Unit 04 grabbed it and smashed it on the ground, breaking it into two. He left it on the ground next to the dead EVA and then hunted for another.
He found his second target a hundred meters away pulling itself off the ground. Despite the massive burns its skin was starting to again regenerate and recover itself. Fueled by rage the boy crashed into the EVA with his knives pointed forward, tearing holes in its chest and spilling out volumes of LCL. The Harpy struggled but Unit 04 had the edge, and rolled it into the ground face forward. EVA-04 then knelt on its back as she kept stabbing it in the rear until it stopped moving. Patrick then used the knife to slit open its spine and then grabbed its entry plug as it slid out, snapping it in half.
Now running on pure adrenaline Patrick moved Unit 04 upwards and searched for another target. He saw a white EVA in front of him but before he could strike at it the red Unit 02 jumped on top of it and pushed it down to the ground, spearing it repeatedly with her halberd. He then looked around and saw another Harpy to his right, but it too was under attack, this time by Unit 01. EVA-01 had grabbed a Lance and was rapidly striking the white beast all over its body as it writhed in pain.
Patrick moved to help Shinji in his attack but as he ran Unit 04 towards him he suddenly felt something painful in his back and chest. He tried to turn around to see what had hit him but he found that he was paralyzed and couldn't move. Time seemed to slow down around him and he tried to shout out something but couldn't do it. Then he saw the video display on his entry plug crack into a hundred pieces and he felt himself falling backwards.
Burke, Musashi and the rest of the soldiers ran down the dark hallway towards the source of light. They had ended their long elevator ride at Terminal Dogma and after Musashi guided them to a now empty laboratory the squad was now rushing to meet its final objective: securing the Angels in NERV’s possession.
Once reaching the end of the hallway they found a large steel dock at one end of a sea of LCL. At the other end of the sea was a giant crucifix, now empty. Standing at the edge of the dock and looking up at the ceiling was Commander Ikari.
The men rushed to the other end and stopped where Ikari was standing. Musashi then approached him from behind and pointed an automatic pistol to his head. He immediately noticed that his right arm was missing, and the decomposing remains of a girl’s arm were lying on the dock next to them.
The commander turned and faced the agent with a stunned look. “Oh, it’s you!” he said. “I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, should I?”
“What the hell were you doing?” the agent asked him.
Ikari looked away from him and towards the high ceiling of the cavern. “I wanted to be with Yui again but she wouldn’t let me.” His expression was that of a child who just had his toys taken away from him.
“Where’s the First…” before he could finish the sentence Musashi saw a body floating in the LCL lake next to them. Immediately recognizing her he broke away from the commander and dove into the LCL from the edge of the dock. Two soldiers moved next to the commander with their rifles aimed point blank.
Musashi swam until he reached the body and then with some great effort dragged it out of the LCL and onto the dock as Burke helped him get the body out of the lake. Carefully the two of them laid the corpse onto the steel floor.
The agent looked at her face mournfully, tussling her wet hair with his hand. “Who is this?” Burke asked him.
“It’s Dr. Akagi, the scientific director.” They both noticed the bullet hole in her forehead and looked at the commander. One of the soldiers had already fished out Ikari’s pistol from his jacket pocket and showed it to the two others. Gendo looked on with dead eyes.
The agent looked back at the face of his friend and used his fingers to close her eyelids. He then closed his own eyes tightly, his face trembling in anger. No! Not both of you on the same day!
Inside the Geofront Asuka continued to stab the white EVA underneath Unit 02 with her halberd. The weapon had earlier broken in two but she kept plunging what remained of it into the wreathing body of the Harpy.
“DIE!DIE!DIE!” she spoke in a trance, her eyes crazy with rage. Finally her attacks reached the core of the beast and LCL gushed out as she drove her blade in deep enough to smash the entry plug inside. Only at success did she finally stop.
She let go of the blade as she breathed hard, silently looking at the broken creature in front of her which was finally dead. “Asuka? Asuka!” She heard Shinji's voice on the speaker.
Without saying anything she looked up and saw him on the video window in the plug. Like her, he was panting heavily, hair roiled in sweat, and with blood on his lips.
“Hey,” she said in faint anger, “Don't take so damn long to come out next time!”
“Next time don't you take on everybody just by yourself!” Shinji retorted back.
The two of them looked at each other with angry faces as they caught their breath. Finally Asuka saw Shinji start to smile at her through the display. She responded, giving a sigh of relief and smiling back.
“Did we get them all?” she asked. Shinji shook his head and EVA-01 pointed towards the opening of the GeoFront: two scarred Harpies were now flying away from Tokyo-3, one of them still clinging to its spear.
“Oh, well,” she said. “Good enough, I guess.” She looked around and saw the remains of the battlefield they fought on. Corpses of EVAs, plus helicopters and other sinews of war caught on fire littered the grounds. There were dark plumbs of smoke and smashed buildings and structures. Sunlight was blocked by much of the smoke and debris as long shadows were seen all around.
“Asuka,” Shinji said softly, “check your power cable.” She did so and noticed it was severed. She also noticed that her EVA had power anyway, even though the battery clock was down to “0:00.”
“How...how is that possible?”
“Don't know,” Shinji said.
Asuka looked around at the entry plug around her. She did know. This is Mama's heart, she thought. She had the power when I needed it.
As she finally calmed herself down Asuka felt herself in a daze as she tried to recall what she was supposed to do next. “Uh, Kaji told me that I was supposed to tell you something the next time I saw you.”
“Kaji?! Asuka, Kaji is…”
“Yeah, I know but I….” she struggled to catch the memory, as everything in the last few days seemed like such a blur. Was it some sort of dream? “He was carrying me on his back and he said that I should tell you that…” Her words drifted as the rest of the memory popped in her head. “That I…” She was silent for a little while.
“Asuka, what is it?” Shinji asked.
She gulped down hard, unusually nervous. Then through the video channel she looked straight at him and said loudly “Shinji, I love…”
“Oh, No!” Shinji shouted. As soon as he did so EVA-01 started to move.
Oh, great. I finally do this and he gets distracted. “Hey, I’m talking to you!” Asuka called after him but Shinji wasn’t listening. He had rushed over to one of the EVAs lying on the ground. With its white color he had thought it was one of the destroyed mass production series at first but then at second glance he saw the helmet shape and silver trim and knew it was Unit 04.
Unit 01 quickly reached where EVA-04 was lying. Unit 02 arrived a moment later, dragging a bit from wounds it had received. The silvery-white Evangelion was lying on its back, a Lance of Longinus was protruding through its chest as LCL bled out of the opening. She wasn’t moving but Shinji could still see some light in the EVA’s eyes.
“Patrick! Patrick!” Shinji called out as EVA-01 knelt down and shook Unit 04’s shoulder to try to wake her up. There was no response from the Evangelion, nor was there any response on the audio or video channels. Was he dead? he wondered. The EVA still looked warm, like it was alive but just barely.
“Patrick!” Shinji cried, not sure if the American boy could hear him or not. “About what you said to me before, there’s something you should know!” He paused to wait for a response but none came. “Ayanami…she’s not dead! She’s still alive! And if you want to see her again just hold on! Please just hold on!” Behind Unit 01, something had started to glow and while Shinji was focused on the fallen Evangelion Asuka looked behind her at the source of the light and gasped.
“Um, Shinji?” she interrupted.
“Asuka, I can’t get him awake!”
“Baka!” she shouted. “Look behind you!”
Shinji did so and what he saw took his breath away. Standing behind them on the inside floor of the GeoFront was a gigantic, glowing white figure over 1,000 meters in height. The giant of light was growing rapidly as it straightened itself, the head was already outside of the opening at the top of the GeoFront.
Both Shinji and Asuka watched as the giant of light continued to grow. Neither of them knew what to do next.
“What is that? An Angel?” Asuka asked.
Shinji looked carefully at the giant. “Maybe the Second Angel, but…”
The giant turned and looked down at the two Evangelions. Then slowly the figure bent over and placed its hands next to where Units 01 and 02 stood. As the glowing figure bent downwards Shinji noticed that the body looked no different than a human female. When he had seen the Angel Lillith in Terminal Dogma during the fight with Kaworu, it had not looked like the giant he now saw in front of him now. He did however notice something very familiar about this one.
As the giant bent over Asuka moved Unit 02 in front of Unit 01, with her arms stretched outward. “Get out of the way!” she ordered, but Shinji just moved beside her. “It’s okay, Asuka! I think I know what this is!” Before Unit 02 could pull him aside the giant gently scooped up EVA-01 in its hands and began to bring her up into the sky.
Asuka tried to reach for him but as she did so her EVA finally ran out of power, the emergency red lighting coming on inside the entry plug as the capacitors whined down. Quickly she pulled the plug ejection handle and climbed outside to see what was happening.
All over the battlefield fighting ceased as those who could see what was happening in the skies above the GeoFront stopped what they were doing and looked up in stunned silence. The glowing white giant had now grown to several kilometers in height, straightening up its stance and holding up its hands in front of its face as EVA-01 hovered several meters above its outstretched palms.
On board the Liberator, Hikari and Toji pointed at the figure as Kensuke scrambled to find a video chip that wasn't already full.
“Oh, my God! What is that?” Hikari gasped.
“It's some sort of Angel but it's, like a person,” Toji observed.
Damn! Of all the times to run out of memory it's now. Kensuke had no choice but to wipe out one of the chips taken during the battle and reinsert it back in his video camera. He then quickly put the camera in focus on the towering figure, now nearly as tall as nearby Mount Fuji. “Whatever kind of Angel that is,” Kensuke remarked as he filmed the giant, “she's got nice tits!”
Shinji looked at the giant of light and saw the face. Oversized deep red eyes were sunken into its head as the mouth opened in a bizarrely wide smile. He was terrified at what he saw but at the same time had recognition of what it was. The lithe, feminine body. The beautiful round face with hair cropped short. He knew what he saw was not an Angel at all, and with all of his remaining emotional strength he closed his eyes tight and called out the giant's true name.
Go To Chapter Twenty-Two