Within the hour and acting on direct orders from the Prime Minister, the Jietai ground units began to move everything they had, converging themselves into the valley. Military vehicles were streaming in, with soldiers directing traffic at every intersection, while the airwaves were filled with orders, units exchanging location and status information.

Half of Yamamoto's forces have started to form a steel ring around the lagoon-like crater, with combat engineers bulldozing rubble to form makeshift barriers, which in turn to be reinforced with dirt and sandbags. Type-10 tanks and tracked M270 MLRS launchers would then be rolled in to position themselves hull-down behind the barriers, and meanwhile troops went about stripping their gear off and then gone to work on constructing bunkers and firing positions for heavy machine guns, mortars and anti-tank missiles. Trucks also came in with supplies, and soon the boxes of ammunition, rations, fuel, and anything needed for a very serious armed confrontation were hoarded into key spots. As for overhead protection, Patriot and anti-aircraft missile launchers were immediately stationed around this circle, and up in the air Reisen fighter aircraft in groups of four flew patrols over the valley. Below them were low-flying helicopters and gunships arriving in dozens, coming over to land at makeshift landing zones, either to offload more supplies and troops, or to be armed and refueled.

The other half of those forces was also being transported into the Geofront, and as they arrived with their tanks, IFVs and APCs rolling off the trains and express elevators, the soldiers were greeted with cheers and confetti (made from torn-up phone books and printouts) coming from grateful NERV personnel who earlier thought with apprehension that the Jietai could possibly destroy them.

Like their comrades-in-arms aboveground the Jietai troops wasted no time to reinforce the defense perimeter, all weapons and troops forming a ring around the pyramid as they started stockpiling ammunition, fuel and supplies which they hope would fuel a stiff defense should the enemy breach into the Geofront.

But even with this miraculous infusion of men and materiel, they asked themselves about the would-be enemy they might soon encounter: how big they could be? Where they could come from? How powerful are their weapons?

Among those who were asking those biting questions inwardly was General Yamamoto, as he and his aides were riding one of the express elevators, along with their gear and documents; his first agenda upon getting off the elevator was to meet up with his NERV counterparts.

An alternate path fanfiction by soulassassin547
Written on 5/21/2012 2:50 a5/p5

In Siberia, and inside the command center, Keel Lorenz grimly stared at the video wall, watching the world new outlets burst into a flurry of announcements and flash reports, all of the talking heads speaking of an enigmatic organization responsible for a massive conspiracy on a global scale. They even played the now-infamous secret UN video footage purportedly showing the root cause of the Second Impact.

His followers, all dressed in monk-like robes, appeared to be nervous, with one daring to ask, "May I ask a question, Master?"

"Yes?" Keel responded.

"They could stop us before we can even begin," the aide said. "Either Ikari or Fuyutsuki must have acted on their own accord. This smacks of treason."

Keel snorted. "They can talk all they want, surely expecting their governments to respond, but we have made preparations for that."

The aide blinked. "How?"

"You should know that we still have our loyalists in high office," Keel said in a rather confident tone. "They will do everything in their power to delay, if not stop, any action that could be initiated against our will. Not even the President of the United States can dare try."

The aide said nothing, as Keel turned to face him.

"I intend that we start as scheduled," the old man said, "rather than take any hasty course of action, which could waste more of our time and resources than what is necessary. Symbolically we will attack at dawn, and make the world know that its end is at nigh."

Only then Keel saw Quaritch enter the control room; inwardly he was surprised, but reacted only by blinking.

"Where have you been?" Keel asked as he picked up his half-full cup of tea.

"I'm sorry, I went to the toilet," Quaritch said. "Had to take my dosage… But, sir, what's up?"

After taking a long sip, Keel nodded. "It's happening," he said flatly, upraising his right hand and swept across the video wall full of talking heads. "What can you say about this?"

For Shinji, he had a surreal feeling of unreality, as they watched, from their vantage point on the balcony overseeing the HQ parking lot, the Jietai tanks and vehicles coming down here in droves, soldiers frantically directing every one of them to park at specified spots, to await for further orders to reposition. They could also smell the pall of diesel smoke, prompting Asuka to momentarily cover her mouth and try to get hold of her handkerchief from the pocket.

"Kaworu," Shinji said to the young man standing besides him, "Do you think this could be enough?"

"I hope so," Kaworu replied, with Rei besides him and watching silently. "If my memory is correct about the size of SEELE's forces, however, even if we now have this country's military on our side, we'll have a very tough chance."

The Children can then see, at one part of the parking lot, scores of mechanics swarming over a dozen pickup trucks, armed with their tools to transform this fleet into armed vehicles called "technicals", as Misato had earlier explained as she issued orders to the chief of the vehicle maintenance division: they would install machine gun mounts and attach sheets of thick metal to act as armor plating.

Nearby, standing on top of one Humvee and with a bullhorn in hand, Makoto Hyuga was busy calling out for volunteers to sign up and get trained for a crash course in basic infantry skills and weapons familiarization and usage. Below him, several long lines have formed, snaking their way to a makeshift registration booth, where would-be volunteers were questioned about any prior military experience and assigned according to their skill level; those with more experience were qualified to lead any formation up to platoon level. The volunteers would then be issued his or her equipment, and an assault rifle with five magazines to go with it, before led on to a cluster of tents set up to serve as field classrooms. Just beyond that was a makeshift firing range on the lawn, where the volunteers would try to hone their aiming skills, with experienced Section Two troopers to assist them. They could hear the loud crack of controlled gunfire, with the practicing volunteers trying to learn how to shoot in semi-auto.

Shinji frowned a bit at Kaworu. "'Tough chance'? I thought you were hopeful?"

Kaworu shook his head. "No, I mean… Seriously, what opposition we'll be looking at could bring an uneven battle, if not dirty. From what I have understood while reading the history of mankind, in war there's no such thing as a fair fight. It's not like boxing where you have a referee and judges to decide your victory."

Shinji nodded. "I see."

He then remembered the first time he came here, but found himself smack in the middle of a battle between the Jietai and that Angel, as they tried to kill it with bullets and missiles, but never stood a chance as their towering enemy simply demolished them all like a child scattering small toys out of the way.

It was only when he was riding the Eva that he gave that Angel an equal to fight with, but at that time he knew nothing about fighting, he was thrown in at the last minute, and it was quite a shock for him to be put into war without much ado.

But Unit-01 did the killing for him, destroying the Angel with brutal efficiency.

"I've decided," Shinji finally said.

"What?" Asuka said.

He turned to face her. "We'll deal with those other Evas only. I don't want to kill another man again, and besides, our Evas alone can't be stopped easily by any army."

"We'll leave the hand-to-hand fighting to Misato instead," Asuka said, and just as she was about to say another word, Misato walked into the balcony.

"Are you guys coming with me?" she asked.

The older woman was now wearing, apart from her battle dress uniform and a pair of Adidas GSG tactical boots, a PASGT combat vest, with a Thales AN/PRC-148 radio clipped to the back and with a throat mike connected, to permit troop-to-troop communications. Slung from her shoulder was an H&K G36K assault rifle, with her sidearm in its holster and riding on the right hip, and in her right hand was a folder.

In full battle gear, Misato looked very formidable.

"Whoa… Where?" Asuka asked.

"I'd like all of you to meet up with the Jietai general in charge."

Except for the 150-kilometer radius around Hakone, which was still being vacated, the rest of Japan was now in complete lockdown, more than six hours after the declaration of martial law, and as such, families were forced to stay indoors, prohibited from coming out into the streets. All activity, including school and work activities, and also domestic and international travel, were suspended until further notice.

At present, only the local police and military vehicles were cruising the empty streets, while helicopters flew above, their bullhorns repeatedly warning the populace.

Like many cities across the country, Tokyo-2 was almost a ghost town, and down in the suburban area where the resettlement zone was located, Toji Suzuhara was already chafing at the sudden national imposition of martial law.

But like the rest of his companions sitting on the nine-tatami mat, they all feel nervous, fearing that the worst may soon come, which meant their greatest concerns were focused on the four Children stationed hundreds of kilometers away.

"Damn," Toji muttered as he put down his cellular phone on the coffee table. "I still can't call any of them on the phone for the umpteenth time, and I'm sure that we can't even use the Internet."

"Of course they'll not allow us," Kensuke Aida reminded, tearing his gaze away from the television, which was tuned only to NHK and the newscaster droning on, with the government-owned television network currently authorized to broadcast, constantly airing the news and interspersed with reminders to citizens to remain at home, and to wait for further official announcements. "The lockdown's in full effect. Nothing goes in or out, and other than the official PR we're completely in the dark."

Toji fumed. How he wished he could have contacted his buddies earlier before the lockdown came in, and he wanted to know a clear picture of what was going on. He then turned to Hikari Horaki, who was playing a game of UNO with her sisters and Mari; they were trying their best of making something good out of their predicament, but Toji could see that Hikari's eyes were expressing doubt and her light laughter was one of unease than genuine.

Even Pen-Pen, normally an energetic creature who seemed to possess intelligence more unusual than any of his fellows within the same genus, instead lay by Hikari's hip as if he needed her presence for the sake of comfort.

He then stood up and to Kensuke he said, "Say, why don't you join me at the veranda?"

Kensuke rose onto his feet. "Sure," he answered.

Momentarily distracted from the card game, Hikari watched the two boys go out into the veranda, thinking they could get some fresh air, but as Kensuke closed the door, she knew it was going to be some serious talk between those two.

Which led the girl to worry about her classmates, wondering what they were doing at this very moment.

She remembered their last conversation over the Internet, which was of joy and congratulations, of seeing Shinji and Asuka now as lovers. How she would love to see them come to school together with their hands clasped, their blossoming romance a great spectacle of the whole campus.

If they could just come together again in the same classroom, but the sordid truth was that their school was a pile of rubble, that it could take a year or so before that school be rebuilt completely.

Oh, she missed the daily routine of her being 2-A's class representative, and wished none of the violence engendered by the Angel attacks ever happened at all.

Once Kensuke closed the sliding door, only then Toji began to speak.

"How long do you think this stuck-up's gonna last?" he asked.

"Maybe anywhere from three days to a week," Kensuke answered as he rested his arms on the railing. The late morning brought in some wind, but the only sounds they could hear were chirping birds and the distant siren of some patrol car. As always the streets were empty.

"Shit," Toji cursed. "I'm still really worried about them."

Kensuke made a sour face. "Yeah, me too, especially they're smack in the middle of the mess."

"Do you have any idea what the government is really up to?"

"If they think NERV is a problem, it makes sense that they'll go to great lengths to make this look like an industrial accident waiting to happen, and what they're doing is far too big not to ignore."

"And why would the government dislikes NERV?"

"My dad told me a few things, nasty rumors really, about a few Diet members he know of talking about NERV the other day."

Toji nodded. "Go on."

"Although they've not mentioned about it in public, there's a growing majority in the Diet who wants that organization to be disbanded completely for having excess power and autonomy, and some even say that the Evas are too powerful that their use should be curbed just like nuclear, chemical or biological weapons."

"Yeah, they're that dangerous," Toji said. "But I know Shinji's an okay guy who knows where and when to put her to fight, but only that his dad is an asshole for causing this."

For a moment he then absentmindedly adjusted his artificial leg, before Toji closed his eyes for a moment, and tried to will himself to imagine what was going on down at the Geofront.

He pictured the whole place being prepared for war, just like the movie he and Kensuke saw on TV several nights ago, which depicted the battle of Iwo Jima, the one where the imperial soldiers decided to make a final stand to defend the island and kill as many Americans as they could, only to be defeated in the end, paying a terrible price for defending a piece of rock in a vast sea.

Shivering, Toji thought if the situation in Hakone could be just as it was in the movie, and thus he prayed that they – Shinji and Asuka, Rei and Kaworu – were all right, not knowing that in reality it was a very different picture indeed.

Misato and the Children arrived at the reception hall, to find the Jietai officers and their NERV counterparts present, with Fuyutsuki turning to face them and smile. He was no longer wearing his customary formal uniform, but like Misato, dressed in a BDU except it was his first time.

Earlier the old man received the combat uniform wrapped in plastic, and though he was hardly a combatant throughout his entire life, the circumstances he was in called for this. As he dressed up, it was only then that if he needed to lead people, it was necessary to identify with his subordinates, to say firmly that he was willing to fight alongside with them.

Also present were Ritsuko and Maya, both women wearing work coveralls, and Director Hamamoto and his crack troops of the Second Section SRT, all dressed in the same urban camo fatigues and armed to the teeth.

"Well, good thing you people have come just in time," Fuyutsuki said.

"Thank you, sir," Misato said before she saluted at General Yamamoto and his staff, and they returned the favor at the same time, and then the general offered his hand. Misato took it and shook hands.

"Nice to meet you," Yamamoto said as he noted her cuff rank; she was now lieutenant-colonel. "It's quite a surprise that you rose up quickly in command, Colonel. Last time I saw you, you were then a captain."

"My pleasure, sir," Misato replied as they disengaged.

The general then went on to shake hands with each of the Children and exchanged a few words. It was with Kaworu that he noted a peculiar similarity with Rei, before he focused back to Fuyutsuki and said, "As my government has promised, I've brought the entire division to defend this place, top to bottom. If they come, we'll throw everything we've got at them, from land, sea and air."

"You forgot to mention the Evas," Asuka said pointedly.

Yamamoto chuckled. "Oh, sorry… the Evas," he said, before his facial expression turned stern. "Commander Fuyutsuki, it would be a great honor to work with you once again, and we look forward to completing our mission to defend humanity against possible annihilation."

Fuyutsuki and Hamamoto nodded. "It's also a great honor that your Prime Minister has sent you to help us," the new Commander said.

"Thank you, but I'd like to tell you a little story," Yamamoto said.

Fuyutsuki blinked. "I beg your pardon?"

"Well… According to my boss down at the command bunker, the new intel that you people mailed to him was quite a sensation," Yamamoto remarked. "Seriously it changed his mind, especially with that UN video."

"That's very good news," Fuyutsuki said.

"But after watching that, my boss saw the old man looked pale, as if he came across a ghost, and quickly went to the toilet... probably to pee. The whole thing scared the hell out of him."

Everyone suddenly laughed at Yamamoto's little anecdote, breaking the tension in the air and bringing in much-needed levity to an otherwise serious situation.

"Anyway," Yamamoto said afterwards. "Where do we begin?"

Outside, at the improvised shooting range near the Pyramid, many of the volunteers were practicing with the assault rifles and pistols, guided by experienced instructors who tutored them on the finer points of aiming their weapons, emphasizing on shooting at the center of mass as opposed to mere marksmanship. Others were taking one-on-one instructions on how to throw a grenade, using large round stones as stand-ins for the real deadly thing.

Not far from the shooting range and its loud staccato of gunfire was a tent erected as a makeshift classroom for the volunteers, and right now Tsutomo Kanzaki was lecturing about the basic information on the M4A1 rifle, once the mainstay weapon of the American army. Right in front of him was a table, and further out was his class, volunteers clad in urban camo fatigues; behind Tsutomo was a whiteboard scribbled with his own notations.

"This here is the Colt M4A1 assault rifle," Tsutomo began in English, hefting the weapon with both hands. "It can shoot 5.56-millimeter standardized NATO bullets from a 30-round magazine, at a firing rate of anywhere from 750 to 900 rounds per minute. Being shorter than the older M16 rifle, and also a direct descendant of the Colt Commando, it has an adjustable stock so that even the shortest of us can aim and shoot comfortably. The reduced size also makes it lighter to carry almost anywhere.

"Like its predecessor, but heck a lot more with the Picatinny rail on top of the receiver, the M4 can be customized extensively with any accessories, depending on the mission the weapon would be used for. In our case, every M4 you will be using is the MWS variant, which comes with a foregrip, a reflex red dot sight, and an AN/PEQ-2 laser pointer system, except for a customized batch made for spec-ops but now issued pronto to our SRTs.

"Apart from your M4s, you will also be issued with five magazines per man, due to our limited stocks, but in the heat of battle I know that the magazines for Type-89 rifles can't be used with the M4 because of a design flaw, which makes them non-STANAG, yet the ammo from those mags can be utilized instead, so try to pick them up while you can and wherever you find them, then fill up the mags."

Tsutomo laid down the M4 and said, "While some of you are veterans, mostly from the last war in Korea, this is in effect refresher training to get yourselves up to date, because what you learn here today could save your life tomorrow… So, any questions?"

A volunteer, a lance corporal, raised his hand and asked, "Sir, where did we got them, and when?"

"A few days ago," Tsutomo said. "They're basically surplus from the US government, because they're switching over to newer anything, and these weapons have been replaced by the SCAR series of rifles. Now if any of you are worried about any malfunctions, every rifle issued to you has their own servicing records, and they have been given great care and maintenance, even if most of them haven't seen action for more than a decade."

Another volunteer's hand, a staff sergeant, shot up as soon as the first questioner settled down onto his seat.

Tsutomo pointed his finger. "Yes, please?"

"Sir, do you have any more intel about the possible opposition?" the volunteer asked. "I mean, sir, what kind of gear they could be carrying? What about this private army that Colonel Katsuragi spoke about?"

Tsutomo frowned. "You mean the GPE – Global Protection Enterprises – boys?"

"That's right, sir."

"If my memory serves me right about reading their PR sometimes ago," Tsutomo said. "I remember that they have the best equipment in their inventory than any other PMC in history, which means that every one of their soldiers, mercenaries really, have their own pick of weapons and personal equipment, apart from volunteering themselves to field-test and fire working prototypes from defense contractors… and this is where we could have a problem, sergeant."

The volunteers started to whisper imprecations and make faces.

"If they're armed and equipped with anything that's ten years ahead of even the most powerful militaries on the planet, say, with magazine clips loaded with armor-piercing rounds not approved by the Geneva Convention, surveillance drones about the size of a fly, or lightweight armor that can stop an AK-47 round, there's another piece of advice that I would find very useful for all of us: remember that even the best advanced technology is still vulnerable to the most primitive forms of warfare."

"Sounds like 'asymmetrical warfare', sir," the sergeant corrected him.

"That's correct," Tsutomo agreed, before he scribbled 'asymmetrical warfare' on the whiteboard. "That form of warfighting has been proven from time to time, taking advantage of the weaknesses inherent in the enemy, even if he's well-fed, well-armed and trained, and has a lot of technological muscle compared to his opponent, and if you know your history, it's the kind of warfare that forced the American withdrawal from Vietnam, and some decades later, the Soviets from Afghanistan.

"However, while those guerillas were able to do so in a few years by progressively wearing down their opponents in several fronts without having to launch a major offensive, we don't have much time on our hands, just hours. But I'm sure some of you have any ideas on how we could deal with the opposition, even if he's ten feet tall and feeling damn cocky."

Tsutomo went around to the front of the table and asked, "So, does anyone have something else good to suggest, and if possible, I could even forward it to Colonel Katsuragi? Like her, I'm all ears."

In no time and to his surprise, the agent saw a lot of upraised hands, before he saw a very elderly man, still wearing his lab coat, stand up from his seat.

"Pardon me, sir?" Tsutomo asked, before he recognized the oldest volunteer in this class. "Oh, Doctor Tien, you're volunteering for this?"

Doctor Huy "Henry" Tien raised his hand; the elderly, silver-haired Vietnamese organic chemist was once a teenage NVA soldier who alternately manned an anti-aircraft gun during the bombing raids over Hanoi and worked at a war factory that manufactured satchel charges by the hundreds for the Vietcong down south. After the war he was sent to Moscow on a free scholarship provided by the Soviets, then later returned home a brilliant man, to help his country by making contributions to science until, by his government's prodding, he volunteered for NERV.

"Yes, my department might want to contribute anything substantial for our defense," Tien said.

"And what is it, sir?"

"We will try to create improvised explosives from out of any materials we have on hand," Tien answered. "Yes, assuming if my memory of my war days still serves me right, I also have the experience in making them, especially that we could produce ANFO explosives in large quantities."

Tsutomo grinned. "Excellent, sir," he remarked. "I didn't know that."

"Normally," Tien said, "some of us veterans don't want to talk much about our war stories because of trauma, that we don't want to relive about watching fellow soldiers die right before our very eyes, that we become almost deaf from the explosions, that some of us wake up to find a leg or a hand missing. For years after the war, I want to forget all that by burying myself deep into studies, thinking it would save me from the pain… Yet my experience of the war can't be erased altogether, it has become part of me till the day I die, and ever since I started working here I have gained many friends that they're almost family to me, so in a sense I'm more of a father to them. But, young man, should they be threatened by harm, or if any peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the problem we're facing fails, I will not regret about taking up arms once again on their behalf and of humanity, even if I'm an old man."

This time they were now in a command tent that was set up at the parking lot just outside the Pyramid.

With his index finger, General Yamamoto had his finger on the digitized map, which was an LED touch-screen monitor set face-up on a table, pointing out positions where he laid over his plans for the initial defense of the Hakone area of operations (AO). Everyone else, including the Children, encircled the map, and around the perimeter of the tent, his staff began to set up their own equipment, and already two of his radiomen were busy working the electronics and communication gear to link up with troops here and aboveground.

"First of all," Yamamoto said, his finger acting as a felt-tip marker, encircling friendly positions. "My naval colleague, Admiral Oshima, has just set his flotillas on either side of the Izu Peninsula, which will be our area of operations. This includes our best cruisers, guided missile destroyers, and attack submarines. Of course both cruisers and destroyers have full Aegis capability, armed with SM3 anti-ballistic missiles on ready within their VLS launchers, and in case there's an air attack, they also have surface-to-air missiles to intercept any enemy bogies."

Fuyutsuki nodded. "Go on," he said.

Yamamoto now traced his finger inland. "In case the enemy punches through this first line of defense, any approaches into the valley will be heavily defended, with tanks and troops to block such incursions. The enemy will also be harassed with our gunships and strike aircraft on call.

"Should the approaches get overwhelmed," Yamamoto went on, "I have a ring of steel put around the city, with more than enough tanks and other combat vehicles to hold the enemy at bay until we could bring in more reinforcements. Again I have also set up anti-aircraft missile batteries to inhibit further use of airpower."

"But what if they use an N2?" Misato asked.

Yamamoto blinked. "Come again?"

"Assuming they know that the top of the Geofront has been weakened, they'll land an N2 to destroy our overhead protection, and then funnel everything they have right in here. They'll also assume that they'll do that way to ease their assault rather than bother with the car trains or the express elevators."

This time the general blanched; a direct hit by an N2 at dead center of the lagoon would kill anyone within the blast radius roughly the same size as that of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima.

"So, damn, looks like I'll have to redeploy everyone there out of the blast radius," Yamamoto said. He then took a pen and a pad placed near the digital map, jotting down notes for a while before gesturing to an aide, telling him to send out word via radio that his troops should get ready for repositioning.

"You want me to set up a trap?" Yamamoto questioned afterwards as he, using his index finger on the map, rearranged his units out of the designated Ground Zero. Anything he did on the map would automatically update the other maps used by commanders and even squad leaders under his responsibility.

Misato nodded. "That's right, and just as Sun Tzu said, the best defense can be done deep into the bowels of the earth. They crash the party and we'll greet the bastards with a lot of firepower."

"Sounds good," Yamamoto said. "Do you have an idea about their capabilities?"

Hamamoto handed to his old friend a folder containing a full printout of the GPE order of battle. The general then spent a few minutes reviewing the contents, until he got a full picture.

The general laid down the folder and said, "Damn, these bastards are really up ahead as far as technological capabilities are concerned."

"They still have a flaw," Misato said.

"And what is it?"

"Well… If they depend too much on their technology, they get blind over time, and when they do, they're easy pickings."

"And then where would the Evas figure in this plan?" Yamamoto asked.

"We'll be anticipating not just a massive conventional assault, but those Mass-Production models," Misato answered. "Wherever they'll come from, we'll have to kill them, too."

"What danger they'll pose then?"

"These enemy Evas have the potential to start Third Impact," Ritsuko said. "They're very far ahead of us, each having a working S2 Engine and a Dummy Plug… But other than that, we're not sure about their exact capabilities and limitations, just guesstimates."

Kaworu wanted to say something, but even he, being the only one directly out of SEELE command, had no idea about the true destructive extent of the MPs, for Keel kept him in the dark and was only fed with small tidbits about their construction.

"Mister Nagisa?" Yamamoto asked.

This brought Kaworu out of his thoughts and made him blinking. "I beg your pardon, sir?"

"You're the only one who used to be under SEELE control," the general questioned. "Care to tell us if you know anything else about SEELE's Eva program?"

"About the only knowledge I have is that the Dummy Plug programming is very advanced," he said. "If I say advanced, I say it's brutal and unforgiving because they will destroy their opponents in less than two minutes. I know this because Lorenz gave me an opportunity to observe the Plugs in action, in a simulation where they were directed to attack Angels and… Evas."

"Is there a way to defeat them?" Yamamoto asked.

"To kill them is to target their cores, but because of their overall construction, they're very agile, which means they will be hard to neutralize."

"But, hey, how could we practice against them?" Asuka asked. "You said that they have your thought patterns, which means they're supposedly smart as you are."

Kaworu looked noncommittal. "That's right, I'm afraid."

Asuka then turned to Ritsuko, who was listening most of the time, and said, "Say, why can't we hook him up to some machine and try out?"

"You mean a direct neural link from an Entry Plug? It's possible," Ritsuko said. "But it's never been done before."

"Give it a shot," Asuka said. "You're the genius in charge, Doc. You can make things happen: just put Kaworu in a Plug, run a neural link onto him, use his thought patterns in real time to simulate a DP so that we can have opponents to practice on in the simulator."

Ritsuko nodded, but then smiled. "Okay, that's a smart idea, Asuka," she said. "We'll try it out after lunch, but we'll also have to wait for the Evas to finish the regeneration process."

"I see," Asuka said.

"So what you people can arm the Evas with?" Yamamoto asked instead.

The scientist pulled her hardened laptop towards, and fed a few commands. "Let's see… We still have our Pallet rifles and hand guns, along with the necessary ammunition, and then a couple of sniper rifles and a Positron cannon… but those are too useless and slow in a fast, close-in engagement. We do have hand-held melee weapons, though, but there are also special weapons still in the prototype stage."

Asuka and Shinji's eyes widened. "Really?" both of them questioned in unison.

Ritsuko sighed, realizing she caught herself too late. "All right, so I got the rabbit out," she said. "We have four Pallet submachine guns patterned after the Fabrique National P-90 weapons, their design chosen for their ease of control and compactness; to save weight, more than 85 percent of their construction is mostly made of composite aerospace material."

She turned the laptop around to show the Children the pictures of the submachine guns, the grips built into the frame system.

"They also use the same ammo as the Pallet rifles, by the way," Ritsuko said, before pressing another key to open a new picture, this time what appears to be a six-barrel Gatling machine gun, except as it was stored in a special cradle, the heavy weapon dwarfed a trailer truck parked in front of it.

"We were supposed to deploy this weapon a couple of months ago, but a design flaw in both the mechanism and the internal powerplant forced us to make corrections. Right now, it's still serviceable but hasn't been fired before. Like the SMGs, this weapon can use standard Pallet ammo."

An aide walked over to Yamamoto and whispered something into his ear, while handing over a scribbled note. The general nodded, and he turned to his audience.

"Our American counterparts are feeling the heat just as we do," Yamamoto said. "Right now they're under a state of red alert, meaning to say all of their bases across the country aren't going to sit on this, with their units armed and ready for this contingency, having set their ships to sea and flying fighter patrols. Seems that even their President has taken your message pretty seriously, despite heavy opposition."

The senior officers nodded in agreement.

"So what other potential threats we could encounter?" the general asked.

"We cannot discount the possibility of a hacking attempt," Ritsuko said. "Right now my division is working on several ways to neutralize such intrusions, and as you know, the MAGI is an irresistible target. Aoba and the rest of the programming team is working on the firewall code, but later I'll add a few more tricks of my own."

"You know what threats we might encounter on that side?"

"It's unfortunate that we can't contact our overseas branches, which means they have been compromised, and as they possess MAGI copies and also heavily secured and fortified, with nothing coming in or out, I'm sure SEELE would use them to lay siege on our networks."

"Anything has a Plan B, so what last-ditch resort do you have?"

"On my command, the Section Two boys will blow up the land-lines. That'll leave us with nothing but satellite communications, and if the dish farm falls, we'll switch to data packet radio."

"You sure all that are EMP-hardened?"

Ritsuko nodded. "Because we tend to work with unusual biological anomalies, and therefore could produce all sorts of stupid pet tricks, yes, we make sure our equipment are up to spec and can withstand anything… But as much as we try to be careful, there's always Murphy's Law."

"Otherwise if we lose the techno-thingamajigs," Director Hamamoto interjected, "all we could make do for comms is Morse Code."

They were now gathered around inside the holographic communications room, sitting before a circular table that formed halves of a ring.

A meter from this cluster, Keel had his own table, complete with a pitcher of water and a glass, a pen and a pad for which to write on, and a red secure telephone.

Through special visors, his eyes scanned the faces of the council members, dressed in the same robes as he wore, each one of them ready to listen as witnesses, each alone had the absolute power to affect events in their own countries or even a portion of the world, commanding scores of loyalists who believed that their way is the best and for the good of many.

At this moment, Keel had the entire council assembled, for he wanted to confer with Gendo Ikari for the last time, to deliver the final ultimatum, not knowing that his former protégé had been deposed by his teacher.

Thirty minutes ago Keel issued orders to activate sleeper agents, to begin the process of countermanding any attempts to locate their whereabouts, or enact an armed response, or at least delay the inevitable. Right now the UN General Secretary was one of those agents, as he, through a press secretary, denied the claims made by the not-so-secret Antarctica footage, calling the video as nothing but the work of conspiracy theorists; the same man also transmitted a notice that effective immediately they have disassociated themselves from NERV, now a fugitive organization considered dangerous.

Well, Keel thought, the more chaos, the merrier, that the ensuing confusion and in-fighting among the leaders of the world would take the heat away from SEELE.

With the snap of his fingers, Keel saw the room lights fade away, covering them in darkness, before he could hear the faint sounds of the modem engage, making contact with NERV's holo-com room through a secure line via satellite.

Just as Fuyutsuki was about to tell everyone that it was time to break for lunch, having glanced at his watch, hands almost close to noon, one of the phones connected from the tent to the command center rang, prompting the duty officer to pick up the phone and gestured to General Yamamoto to turn on the speakerphone.

"Yes?' Fuyutsuki asked as everyone else listened in.

"This is Aoba, and I'm sorry to interrupt you, sir." Shigeru replied. "We have an incoming transmission from the holo-com room, and they're waiting for you."

"Who's there?"

"According to the ID… It's Chairman Lorenz of the Instrumentality Committee."

While everyone looked surprised, slowly Fuyutsuki turned to Shinji, who seemed to be sharing the same thoughts as he was, and the old professor understood by nodding.

"Politely tell that old bum to wait," he said. "We'll be there immediately."

"Yes, sir," Shigeru said before putting down the phone.

After a moment of silence, Fuyutsuki looked into the faces of his subordinates, and to Shinji, the old professor staring at the Third Children with determined eyes, almost quietly he said, "You're coming with me."

Author's Notes: I've been taking time to write this chapter to prepare the characters for the inevitable face-off, as I wanted to provide the last two End of Eva episodes an added stretch.

The good news is that I now have more time to brainstorm than ever before, and at the same time I've been watching movies and reading books again to get more story ideas, so the tentative working title for the next chapter, at least for the time being, Auguries of Innocence.

I want to finish this and I will as promised. Thank you for keeping the faith.