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All Along the Watchtower part3

-o-

-o-

The Chimera was a much more sensible design compared to its larger sibling, but also shared many of its disadvantages. The large wraparound tracks increased its profile, and required greater effective torque from the engine. They had thick steel armor, which meant it weighed towards MBT scales just for an APC. However, as proven in those days around the center of Europe... there were also great advantages to size; in carrying capacity and being able to go anywhere.

The miasma had spread to cover most of the country. People fled on whatever they could find; trucks, bikes, cows, name it. There were still those who dared to venture inside the dense dark fog to pick up stragglers. Wilfred staggered out of the miasma and was nearly shot, run over, and then burned. Only the timely intervention of their attached psyker saved the shambling, benumbed young man.

In truth, the psyker was as much a conscript as the soldiers with him. He had little particular loyalty to the UN, and even less desire for Nagisa's terrifying visions, but he was uprooted from his comfortable dentistry practice and for what? To serve as some sort of human divining rod? They had taken his good reputation, his family, almost everything he had worked for through the years... it was a vast injustice, and how he raged.

His family's safety rested upon his cooperation. They were at Tokyo-3. Nagisa and the Cradle; for all their bluster, it would take much more to actually crack the city-fortress. His family was safe, there. Only his actions preserved their continued well-being. The suspicion, the disdain, he endured it all. The Psykana, hastily-formed out of pressured assets such as he-o- it was betrayed from within.

"Take him in. He's clean." Grumbling, the soldiers obeyed. Sure, the UN Psykana for all its grandiose claims and multiple near-violations of human rights had -failed- to secure international command... but it was those same minds that protected them now even within the miasma. Those minds allowed distant communications even when the finest electronics failed.

It was a new and painful and bewildering lesson to the world, that 'stealth' was useless even as absolute stealth proved to be possible. Anything -within- an AT-field might as well be in another universe, where nothing could be trusted to be what they seemed. The problem lay inf that it -was- a field, and like through any medium there would be disturbances and distortions from anything passing through. Only a stupidly huge machine like an Eva could hide within it. Or small pockets of men and machinery, shielded from notice by the very antithesis for the AT-field, the psychic emanations from certain souls.

The bones of Wilfred's wrist showed white on his skin, so deathly tight was his grip on his Bolt Pistol. In the end they let him keep it, it was empty anyway. He kept staring at its grinning skull.

He felt numb, and his memory kept flashing through the same events again and again until the pain fed upon itself. The screams through the comm channels, only to be cut short with gurgles or booms. The feeling of panic, held back only by the knowledge that his crew depended upon his finding a route into safety. The voice, inside his skull...! Telling him to stop. With his brother's voice, almost he believed it.

The shelter they were supposed to protect, it was overrun. Or did he run it over? He could not remember anymore. The crunch of things under his treads, he did not care. Only one thing remained in his mind. To stop was to die. To keep going was life.

That... thing... which ripped their panzer open as if its armor was paper; so beautiful, and its promises so luscious. His hand and the Bolt Pistol began to shake. Glowing in the dark, with eyes red as sunset... lips red as roses, teeth sharp as knives.

The Chimera was roomy, and more injured soldiers were belted onto the side benches. None of them dared to meet any other's eyes. "G-good tank..." the young soldier mumbled hoarsely, as it rumbled back to its task. "Brother would have liked it..."

His palm felt the memory of the pistol's discharge. The hot flash of a bolt into an open turret ring. Screaming, fleeing, into the dark. The pack that chased him between the shadows. He remembered... calling out for help? Did someone answer? The experience had left him dead in ways even their taint could not touch.

He wanted to scream, and shout, and spill blood, but... nothing. His body refused to obey. He could only live in presence of the enemy.

-o-

The air itself grew heavy, laden with electric charge. The miasma started to lift, like an unfolding umbrella. Sunlight spread out from its edges. It showed shriveled trees and bare rock, lumpy remains of what had once been war machinery, hollow structures and the castoff cloths of missing corpses. Nothing remained that was once living. All biomass consumed to appease the hunger of a bestial god.

Thunder rolled. The miasma flashed bright green, as it dispered the coherent energies of strike from beyond the heavens. The Cradle shook as its shell flaked away.

"The spore cloud managed to to reduce the damage by almost seventy percent." was the report from the Cradle's own command center.

"An AT-field thrust. It could have destroyed us in one hit, if we did not bring -sufficient density- in psychic energy to blunt the effects." Dr. Lader hissed.

"Now we know the Moon Cradle is -also- fully operational."

"The old men sacrificed the Red Earth ceremony just for this temporal power?"

Nagisa scoffed. "They see me as an affront to their whole belief system, while NERV remains the greater threat. The fools. The suicidal idiots!" 'Sohryu will be here in a few hours, I don't need this useless aggravation!'

"The -superlaser- is charged." Dr. Lader added.

"Return fire."

A similar green beam lanced out from the Cradle's matte-black husk. The luminiscent walls inside the Earth's Cradle dimmed momentarily.

"And now they know we are not defenseless."

"We -cannot- sustain this with just one Angel core, Nagisa." the cybernetic scientist warned. He was referring to the core removed and implanted into Nagisa's new Warborn, and the other core providing power to the two other Tridents. With three Angel cores, the Earth's Cradle managed to skirmish with a half-awakened Moon Cradle.

"This demonstration is enough. They can't risk destroying Lillith's physical form at Tokyo-3. There, as here, only a direct assault has any chance of success." And with Sohryu successfully driven to Europe, that deprived NERV of the power of a fully-realized S2 Engine.

-o-

Out in the wastelands, the shockwave of those two blasts had tipped a Chimera over to its side. Its passengers piled out, coughing at all the dust still whirling about.

Wilfred stared out at the scene of such casual malice. He looked down at his Bolt Pistol and then to the northwest, where had prevented his brother from becoming an abomination.

Meaningless.

Against such power, they were all already dead men. The Cradle was rubbing their face in it, and showing that the only way to avoid the fate of small and fragile beings was to share the life of something greater.

The young soldier spat aside. They had taken everything from him. His girlfriend and his foster family... their shelter was already probably overrun. The aliens had robbed him of his innocent world. The mutants had taken from him his own hopes for a future without war.

The psyker was wounded and unconscious. "We can't stop here." Wilfred told the others there. His bleak tone of voice sufficed, even without the attache to translate. "This is unclean country. Pick up a weapon, and let's go."

-o-

-o-

Europe was considered all but a lost cause without the Evangelions. The President was understandably reluctant to let their Eva leave, were it not for the legal issue that it was not 'their' Evangelion in the first place.

Their radar posts... screamed; really there was no better word to describe it. Bluepattern detectors were ringing all over the world. The NERV American Branch in Boston was built like the NERV Germany branch... though fortified to a respectable degree they knew full well they would not survive an all-out Angel attack. World communications were still patchy, and NERV Japan had gone 'black' less than two hours ago. Anything could have happened.

Whatever it was, it came from the East. It was big. Fighters were scrambled to intercept, but found that they could not get a good enough look. The best they could do was mach 2.8. The thing was blowing through the skies at about six to eight times the speed of sound.

The scream of supersonic flight was familiar, but those on the ground could have sworn it sounded like OHSHHHHHIIIIIIIIIIIIII-...! The flying supercarrier overshot the base and was lost to the horizon.

Maniacal laughter was coming from the comms of one of the fighter pilots escorting the thing. "It's not possible...!" his voice cracked with frantic disbelief. "It can't fly. It can't! It's not right!"

Minutes passed. Ten. Then thirty. At close to an hour, Castle Sturmbrand slid back into view. Regular puffs of its rocket engines kept it going. Its shadow passing over the Boston Base... even that felt heavy. Unlike the first two NERV installations, in Tokyo-3 and Berlin-2, the NERV Branch' stagin area was at the outskirts of the city. Most in Boston had already evacuated well ahead of time anyway.

Just the sight of it was maddening. Even the greatest of the old zepellins were put to shame... at a little more than three hundred meters long, Castle Sturmbrand was taller than the Eiffel Tower and possessed more volume than the Great Pyramid. The rockets twisted downwards, and fired to control its descent. White smoke filled the area. There was only the deep crunching sound as the great craft rested upon its landing pylons.

It was the first of its kind, and yet the ultimate of another. The new and terrible Zeppelin (pun implied). Some were already calling it the Nia Teppelin.

The cargo doors opened with a sharp hiss. By the expression on Sohryu's face, she was not willing to comment. "What are you waiting for?" she shouted. "Move it! We've got a war to win!"

-o-

Mayumi Yamagishi was a slim, glasses-wearing girl; nearly fifteen years old but was a little tall for her age. Her long, nearly-waist length hair gave her an air of maturity that made her shyness seem like aloofness. The staff were uniformly protective of her, but there was no one she really could consider as a friend. Even her own classmates (for following Tokyo-3's example, pilots were to be allowed a normal growing experience as far as possible) did not try to get too close to the gloomy girl. There was some comfort in being alone, she thought; she was free of others' demands, or to pretend to be something she was not.

Mayumi knew well enough she was a shadow. She was an Eva pilot, but Tokyo-3 and its own Evangelions were the centerpiece. She did not feel inferior, in as much as simply... redundant. She was content with being what she was, but often wondered or wished for the sort of fiery confidence that her peers possessed.

She was giddy with excitement, but it only showed in increased clumsiness and in deeper silence. Inside her skull, she was screaming with joy; but those on the base saw only a stoic readiness. The wondered if she was preparing to measure herself against Sohryu; reputedly the most competetitive and egotistical of the pilots.

'Sohryu. Sohryu. Sohryu.' Logically, she knew she had no chance- her experience was all simulation, battles created through Sohryu's own obsessive input into the best sort of training. Emotionally? Mayumi would be -honored- to personally feel defeat at the other pilot's hands.

Ikari scared her a little, for some reason. Sure, she could see his attractive points, but just lacked that feeling. Maybe he was too dark, too coldly competent somehow. Ayanami was similarly threatening to her self-image. She, who liked silence, knew well how much judgment may lie behind a flat gaze.

They did not burn, not like Sohryu. They were... too much like her, they would not be able to pull her out and make her brighter than what she was.

Unlike Tokyo-3, or the Cradle, or Berlin-2 for that matter; NERV Boston did not have a genius scientist to serve as a showpiece. Sure, they had many prominent names, but no all-encompassing mind like that of Akagi or Lader; and even the most of their best thinkers died at the Unit 04 Nevada test. The closest they had was Donald Thompson, PhD. At twenty-six, he was still closer to a prodigy than a full-on genius, but he bore responsibility for Unit Three's functions. The young scientist stood only a little taller than the pilot, which combined with his scrawny body and scraggly corn-yellow hair did not give much for his self-confidence. He had an earnest but confused look, which was not so unusual upon the faces of scientists in those times.

Incidentally, under the online nickname of "Yamu", he had beaten Kensuke Aida in the quarterfinals and lost soon thereafter. There was a difference between knowing the actual strategic potential of new and ever-more destructive technologies, and the proper application for their Fantasy equivalents.

He was also the closest that Mayumi could consider as a friend on the base, in as much as two terminal introverts could really relate to each other. They stood there near the landing gantries, watching Unit Three being loaded, and utterly unwilling to break the silence with banal conversation.

For all the production miracles that NNHIS could pull, it still remained that their efforts would pale beside the industrial juggernaut that was the American military-industrial complex in full swing. Unit Three had its own Titan Modules, with its own weapons systems, and various support vehicles. Even with more limited access to superconducting material, Unit Three had a stronger internal battery than most other Evangelions.

It helped that it was a solid design, building upon the difficulties met with the Proto (00), Test (01) and the Production Model (02). The torso and power systems were indistinguishable from that of Unit 02, the major change lay with the arms. It was a new super-tensile material, that only recently proven to be eerily similar to wraithbone. It was mutable in the same manner, conducted electricity in much the same way (though not superconductively so)... the only serious difference was that it was apparently activated by the AT-field, not psychic energy.

'Ungh. Just why was it that the AT-field generated by Angels and the psychic emanations from certain humans so opposing to the point of cancelling each other out, when they seemed to share certain effects? Was one meant to imitate the other? Was it all just a coincidence that the Evangelions in their natural form were like human giants?'

The lure of forbidden knowledge was also used to draw minds into the Cradle. Dr. Thompson forced his thoughts away from that line of inquiry. It was bad enough trying to deal with the escalating levels of weapon lethality (as proof that insane thing shadowing the whole base)... but those were terrible questions with terrible answers.

He was young, and therefore disposable. Someone had to go with Yamagishi off to near certain death, and they had assumed he had all the willful enthusiasm of youth when it comes to such dangers.

The Teppelin Castle Sturmbrand was huge, and already loading up an entirely 'volunteer' company of American troops. The customary approach to overseas operations were futile-o- there were no AA or radar locations to take out ahead of time, GPS was worthless, and stealth of utterly no value. Only through the protection of the great craft could any force actually hope to force a landing. They would be the biggest target in the sky, true enough, but it was better than being cut into pieces on the ground.

Marines were ready to meet Marines. As they boarded, Dr. Thompson wondered if it was deliberate. Every group of soldiers was of course all too willing to show off, but even past Impact maybe they had prided themselves for too long about being the best of the best.

Introductions were done. The Terminatus Legio's harsh electronic voice did not intimidate. Much. They evoked more of curiosity... though parts were gathered from all over the world, only in Boston were they finally assembled; just a stones' throw from the NERV Branch build over the former MIT Labs. And no one had noticed!

In retrospect, there might have been some psychic meddling going on there; but it was still the equivalent of, say... Brazil... beating the Americans and Russians to the moon using on off-the-shelf parts to build their rocket. Armor strong enough to take tank rounds to face; indeed, the Brutes the Cradle deployed were attempts to mimic the success of the Tactical Dreadnaught armor. Only infantry may ever really hold ground, and no infantry could break or hold ground like the Heraklitus.

Utterly useless for the purpose of the Marines; for the shock value of the armor was softened by penalties in weight and movement. The Psykana with their lighter powered frames, but silvered instead of golden, radiated amusement... as if guessing at their thoughts. Now that was enough to discomfit them.

"Major Richard Torrildo and company." saluted one of the soldiers ahead of the four APCs. Chimeras, fitted with dual Bolter turrets and a third mounted up front next to the driver. Technicians outside were already installing additional CIWS and lascannon mounts. "Permission to come aboard, sir."

"Captain Walter Shade, formerly of the USS Milwaukee, then the UNS Kringolith. Welcome to Her Castle Sturmbrand, Major." At the questioning look, he continued. "This thing was shaped by one girl's will and kept aloft only by her willingness to spit at the very logic of the universe. We're supposed to obey the UN, but never forget... we live only as long as we serve the purpose of one little lost girl's vengeance."

"I see..."

The Major turned to another soldier that approached. "I am Major Kondrati Ustinov. Will you have problems with being under my direct command for the duration?" he was asked.

"Not at all, sir. We are ready."

Donald Thompson couldn't help but to laugh. American troops under the command of a Russian, while inside a German (t)epellin built in Japan; off to fight heretics from the mountains of Kenya. Meanwhile, Greek mercenaries and displaced Tibetans meddled in things no one else understood. A strange era that he was so... lucky(?) to live in.

-o-

Soon enough it was time to leave again.

"All right, listen up! This MY Castle. When I order something, I don't care how crazy it sounds- you don't ask questions. You OBEY! The only reason this crazy thing flies is because I WANT it to. The only reason you're here is to destroy the enemy! Any questions?"

"No, mam. We understand." The Unit Three contingent shook their heads, with Mayumi far more ethusiasm than necessary. She clutched at her head, dizzy.

"Good. The first one to make a crack about this Castle and Graf Zeppelin... I'll throw you out myself. DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?"

"Mam, yes mam!"

"Bitte." she finished with an overdramatic throw of hands. 'Now I just have to find the wiseguy playing "Ride of the Valkryies" over the speakers and beat his ass into the deck plating.'

Her look softened. "So we meet at last, eh, Yamgishi?"

"Y-yes." The girl was unsure of bowing or offering a handshake. Asuka laughed at her. She grabbed at the other girl's hands and dragged her away. She could not see the long-haired pilot's blush at the contact.

"Come on. Your Eva's bolted in, and my own is still feeding excess power to the capacitors. It's time to teach you to fly."

-o-

-o-

How could it be so simple, and yet so difficult? There was joy there, and even peace... but was the reason she failed so often was to feel the touch of Sohryu's burning soul overwhelm her own?

"NO!" Asuka shouted through the link. "No fear! No hesitation! We soar on wings of fire, and the winds feed our fervor! What is the ground, huh? Just rock. Stupid, unmoving rock. Only WE are FREE, and if we say we will not fall then we WON'T!"

Donald Thompson, Ph.D, was banging his head against the metal walls of the control center.

"You get used to it, eventually." one of the technicians said while giving him a sympathetic pat to the shoulders.

"This isn't about power. It's not like the Angels don't possess their own versions of the S2 Engine and we still manage to kick their asses. We cheat like hell, we hit them where it hurts, and we win, because we're brutal creatures like nature intended!"

"Is that... something to be proud of?" Mayumi dared to ask.

"Of course! Who else would be who we are? We can only be ourselves, no matter what; and right here, right now, we OWN THE SKY!"

Mayuki eeped, as she felt the burst of power expand outwards. So bright. Castle Sturmbrand tipped backed up to the sky, playing merry hell with everyone's sense of balance. From the outside, the tepellin was a speck at the tip of a broad conical white wall-o- even so high up in the stratospheric border, where the air was thin. Still, the AT-field was all that was keeping the hull from glowing red-hot. From that height, it would take whole minutes for even the great craft (with all the aerodynamic properties of a flying brick) to actually fall. It would still be a few hours until they crossed the Atlantic, so it was the perfect time for a 'crash course' in wingless flight.

Those inside were already (literally) getting sick of it.

Finally, the captain voiced his concerns. "Miss Sohryu, we already established that Miss Yamigishi can maintain the Field long enough for us to try and glide to a stop."

"No. She has to know how to get this thing flying again, or we're NOT going back. Otherwise the only way we're going to stop is by my ramming this thing into the god-damn Cradle so I can kill everything inside! You know how I earned this S2 Engine! Power is not enough! Skill is not enough! Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"... not really." the captain said with a sigh. Sohryu can be -such- a bitch sometimes, but most often there was a deeper reason for that insistence.

"If we don't go all-out, we die." she added somewhat wistfully. "It's as simple as that. We've got a war to win, and once again it's the enemy that has all the aces. It's..."

"Sohryu...!" Mayumi gasped.

"Good, you're keeping your AT-field meshed with mine. I felt that too. Captain, incoming!"

As they figured out before, 'barrier' AT-fields were generally created relative to the generating Evangelion. The problem rises when said Eva is traveling at approaching or over the speed of sound. There were two ways of handling defense in such a state. With the presence of a second AT-field from another Evangelion, a 'softer' AT-field could try to disperse the attack. This worked best against energy beams. Kinetic strikes would just go through, for it was not a barrier per se.

Mayumi Yamagishi and Unit Three extended her AT-field out to five kilometers, for this; leeching power from the trailing edge of Unit Two's own AT-field. "It's not working!" she barely had time to say.

"Battlescreens!" the captain shouted. Fortunately the order had already been pre-empted by the officer at the controls. The passive deflection systems had already ramped up to full.

Castle Stumbrand shook as a kiss of plasma blackened the paint off its hull. A second strike did no more damage.

"It worked..." he breathed out. When something moving hyperkinetic met another thing also going hyperkinetic, usually both explosively vaporize. Large as the Castle may be, the damage would still be catastrophic. Slugs at that speed could even break through Evangelion-class armor.

Below at the Eva controls, Dr. Thompson nodded with similar feelings of awe and relief. "The intensely strong electromagnetic field formed plasma that performed like some sort of anti-kinetic battlescreen." It was not the total barrier of the AT-field, but for something completely man-made... it was close. Matter was stripped into its constituent atoms, the faster it goes the more assured its destruction. It was also useful against particle beams, positron beams, and to middling extent; lasers.

The problem was the plasma bloom from the other side of the screen, and that it was a hideously power-hungry defense. Even the massive capacitors of the Castle took appreciable drain. The limitless power of the S2 Engine could only output at a certain rate.

But it worked! Distressingly, it also showed that the Cradle was aware of their approach and their location. A pre-emptive strike against Tokyo-3 would not have worked anyway, since the distance was enough to allow for detection sites and the power of three Evas' AT-field. Something over the Atlantic, though... the range was short enough for a more rapid, reliable response. Nagisa had shortened his reach.

'Kaworu is ready to kill me.' Asuka realized. She grinned. 'Good. He respects me THAT much, at least.'

Having taken control over most of Europe, the Cradle had access to their arsenal.

The next ones were nukes.

-o-

-o-

Refugees were pouring over distant borders, but there were those who simply could not run anymore. Many more millions had already decided to throw themselves at the mercy of the Cradle. Buildings were collapsed across streets in crude fortifications, and all that remained of the military of three nations dug in. The region was Thuringen; the place, Gotha.

It was like going from midnight to noon. A gaping circle above the city showed serene blue sky, and the Cradle's stifling purple miasma could not trespass on that dominion.

At the center of their own protected domain was an old church, St Margaret's. Inside, an old blind woman prayed. Outside was a baying mob.

"You brought this upon us!" they were shouting. "Turn it off! Let us leave!"

Lama Feckeldraft was, quite frankly, amazed. It was beyond even his abilities. The power of simple faith by an old woman... where did it come from? Her own will, or someplace else...?

The Brutes were powerful but slow. Their shields could take hits from battle tanks, their arm-cannons could destroy said tanks. But they were slow. Force Blades could cut them through, and blessed bolts punched through AT-Field shaped armor. The cost was bitter, but mere sixty men convinced the Cradle that massed heavy infantry was not the way to get through. The five silver-armored guards with him were all that remained of the best of three generations. Not since having to flee Germany... not in seventy-five years did he feel so old and weak and useless. Wards, psychic imprints, localized pertubations in spacetime or whatever esoteric terms it they may be called- the protections would not hold for much longer.

The battle, as he well knew, raged on multiple levels and across time. There was the quite mundane war spreading across Europe, with proud armies being crushed one after the other by unnatural forces. And another, in the hurry to upset the plans of other powers. Then the everpresent battle in the hearts of humanity.

-o-

She may have been beautiful once, and though her face was lined with age there was a certain youthful quality to it. Her white hair hung over her eyes, which were but flesh-covered bumps. Birth had not given her eyeballs. She had never needed them.

"Brasidas siezed a mouse, and being bit by it, let it go." sourceless whispers wafted through the church. "There is nothing so contemptible, said he, that which may be safe if it had courage to defend itself. Bellarmine allowed the fleas and other odius vermin to prey upon him. We shall have heaven, he said, to reward us for our sufferings. But these poor creatures have nothing but the enjoyment of the present life. Such difference is there between the maxims of a Greek Hero and a Catholic Saint."

The bait was left untouched. She allowed herself a small smile. A man... an old man, specially, would have seized that as opening for a debate (or tirade); finding more joy in the struggle than in fulfillment of the purpose. Such a difference there was between Intelligence and Wisdom.

Apparently, The Child was not used to being ignored. Such spoiled children often were, by their own powers or those stolen from others; sought to keep attention all to themselves. "I don't understand it, really. This... blind faith. How can you live with it? After everything that happened?

Don't you get it? You're just talking to yourself! How much more must I defile this world for that God to appear? If there is a Heaven, let it show itself! If there is a plan, then let it be done!" The voice echoed with a thousand voices. "Let Him appear! Let Him stop me, if He even can!"

Sister Luminitsa shook her head sadly. It was clear enough that the boy meant it; that blasphemy, that isolation, the deep and lingering frustration. Angry young men, so much in a hurry to change the world. All through time, each of them thought their pain was unique, that destroying the old was necessary to give birth to the new. Justice to be made through pain and blood, washing away old sins by ever newer atrocities.

They had earnest faces, and pure souls. Those eyes sad even in triumph; so much like young Vlad. How much trouble they had with young Vlad! It was all the same, daring death yet longing for it; denying faith, but full of hunger for meaning. This sentiment must have carried through, for she felt that burning power batter even more at the edges of her consciousness.

"The dark skin of the Rom can be traced all the way back to India, but the souls that rejoice in secrets... why is the root of the name Gipsy, from Egipsy? Mere coincidence? Historical error? You do not believe in coincidences. Your sister tried to hide, but now she is part of the glorious gathering of souls. She is gone from the true book of the dead. Would you like to hear her? You live now, only because you abandoned her, abandoned all your people; even as they were marched off into the camps. They suffered. And they died. And you are here.

Do you think what you're doing is enough to earn forgiveness?"

Sister Luminitsa bit her lip. The Sight made her almost impossible to entrap. Even as she tried, she could only see one true path at once. Many, many more people died even as she tried... she could only be in one place at a time. But worse yet, perhaps, was that she could not judge the enemy as they may have deserved.

She never seen any man's face, but saw in the light of their souls how so few were really so irredeemably evil. She had plenty of reasons to hate, but found it difficult to keep that in her heart. To treat the loss so... calmly... it was as if what was lost did not really have much value?

She could See, but could not say what justice should be... only God can make sense of the everpresent contradictions and repeating mistakes of humanity's history.

"Only one person dares to try and stop me, but the irony... you know that by all the words of prophecy; you support that which will kill the very heart of your faith. We are Revealed only the greatest atrocity possible, death and suffering on such a scale unimaginable. He will fight even that, that so many should pay for so few. That the SELF-IMPORTANT ARROGANCE OF SOME OLD MEN SHOULD CONDEMN THE WORLD INTO GREATER MISERY! The Greater Good denies any justice in that! I refuse to entertain any diety so narrow-minded, so selfish, so blatantly malevolent!

I REFUSE even the half of me that aches to rejoin the source. I will bring mankind to the Heaven that they deserve, that they build!

And the rest of the men not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold,

of silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood; which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk.

I see! I hear! And by the Silence that greets me, the roads I build for humanity WILL be walked! You won't stop me, you weak old hag! You are broken, useless, unnecessary! These are the times when gods wake, but not yours. Not anymore."

The slightest doubt, the slightest crack in the dam... that was all he needed! She was blind, yet in her other Sight she felt as if she might go blind again. So much power! How could one mortal will hope to keep it at bay? The beast raged in the distance, otherworldly power twisting the very forces of nature around itself. She remembered another angry young man, so enraged and so willing to burn himself and everything; helpless in the tide of history. There were the Qabbalistic formulas, but these were more of tools than principles for combat and destruction.

He wanted to break open the world, but even as his people had suffered... as too many people suffered under the costs of war... he was made to realize that adding more suffering into the world would solve nothing. Exposing the secret would give no one any comfort.

So he fled, all the way to the East, where the ancient traditions still stand guard. She remained, to watch over the land still in pain. So many orphans, so full of pain and hate.

How could they have known, back then in 1948, that an even greater atrocity was approaching? And now they both fought to preserve a crippled, but freshly-innocent Germany. Such was life.

'Merciful Savior, please.' she whispered. 'Let no more children go astray.'

-o-

Morning brought warmth, but not much relief. They were an island in a dark and purple sea. The mood was ugly. Not even 24 hours had passed, but already the people were at the breaking point; nearly five million crammed into a city meant to hold at best sixty thousand residents. The was no power, no water, and only the military's presence kept the limited food stocks from igniting mass riots.

Yang was right. Telepathy was an attack against which there was practically no defense. The Psykana could keep the miasma at bay, but not the more subtle intrusions into people's dreams and emotions. Not that they needed much more prodding to get nightmares that would last them the rest of their lives.

As always, when it comes to the Cradle, there was some basic logic underneath. Unconditional surrender simply meant they would be allowed to flee over the border.

Germany (and portions of all surrounding nations) would be the new Cradle of Humanity. A sovereign land. A place where dreams and fantasy may come true. It was useless to resist.

Heroism is proportional to the challenges overcome. Nagisa saw this as a sort of moral evolution. Large shapes, with leathery wings, circled at the edges of the city; bouyed by the interaction between resonant AT-fields. Dragons.

Lama Feckeldraft frowned. He was quite sure that was meant as an insult. To make the impossible possible, that was also a miracle.

Gotha, a major rail center, became a city of more importance as the North and Baltic Seas swelled beyond reason. The miasma-choked highways were fatal accidents waiting to happen. Railways had direct, predictable paths and the capacity to move mass amounts of people quickly. The problem was that once those rails were cut, those millions were quite effectively stuck. Only those guided by psykers, centering upon the emanations from Gotha, could hope to navigate through the gloom. The added problem there was that the people were just as likely to lynch them as to be guided by them.

That, and there were hardly enough trucks for five million people.

They were gathered in and around Schloss Friedenstein, the ancient fortifications quite useless to their plight. Directly to the south and across a small lake were the railways, now ruined slag. The flat expanse were turned into a mini-dead man's land; laced with trenches, barbed wire, and gun emplacements. Tanks waited hulldown over the rise. The helpless populace were less than a stone's throw away from that first and yet final line of defense.

Unconditional surrender was the only option. It was the only way they could be allowed to WALK out of there.

"If we don't surrender, we will die!" Mayor Stark Mattstein shouted. "The more we resist, the more calamity they're just going to heap on us."

He was a piggish sort of man, but elected for being amiable and generous. His evacuation from his city was delayed, bowing to the political impetus to morale. His city was a transport hub, never meant as a shelter, and being so far from the action it might be safe. Now it was too later. He was a man ill-suited for the task of leading a war-torn populace, but he was the best they had. The other major command shelters were either out of contact or, likely, dead. To his credit he suffered through it with grit and determination, and more than a little nervous sweat.

He reeked of panic.

"This... this isn't our fight." he continued. "What did we do to really DESERVE this?" he added with a wave all around the broken city. Theirs were an entirely different situation from Tokyo-3, and it was utterly unfair to expect them to act the same way! "Germany... is dead. The land is bare, the rivers are dry, DEAD. We don't have anything left... we had enough of this! I realize I might not have full authority here, but for decency's sake, man! End this!"

"We're all in this together, sir, and again I must ask for your patience. The reason why we are still here is because the Cradle does not haveas much of a massive unstoppable force as it likes to pretend it does. It's like the Mongols and their mobility, being able to go from one region to another with such speed that it seems like there is a much greater attacking for than their numbers would imply. The Cradle still hasn't broken through our defenses... if we can just hold on... help is sure to come."

"And how many more will die until that happens? NERV and the Eva... this is all their doing! Bringing it back here will just make things worse!" Murmurs of assent rose from the gathered mob. "If you can just stop provoking them, we can leave!"

"You can't trust the Cradle. What we have is the best defense mortal effort can bring. And please, remember that it is the Cradle that is the invader here..." But almost as fast as those words were out of his mouth, Feckeldraft realized it was a mistake.

"You were here ahead of the Cradle." spoke up the uniformed man to his left. The local garrison commander was Colonel Schaft. His face was hidden almost entirely in bloodied bandages. There was still a lot about Gotha that retained a certain town-like charm; mostly in the lack of really tall buildings and many tasteful open spaces. All of this made it hideously difficult to defend.

"We have less than five hundred men and twenty armored vehicles. As much as I hate to admit it, this is futile. And it is YOU people that the Cradle seek from this place. Perhaps it is time to let them have what they want." A few of the Leopard-IIICs rumbled into view.

Feckeldraft sighed. And how much more dangerous would the Cradle become, if they had access to the secrets and abilities that they possessed? What would work against an Angel could work against an Evangelion. "And if we don't comply, Colonel? What then?"

"I don't like it, but I will do -whatever is necessary- to ensure the safety of these people."

"We stand against the Cradle. The threat of tanks is not enough. You... your mind is not unknown to me. We can stop you."

"Yes. You can. And then what?"

Five million people could not fit into the street in front of St Margaret's Church, and there were at most only six hundred people there; mostly soldiers and former society notables. Their feelings were echoed by the populace.

"We might be the last remaining sample of our nation and our culture." Colonel Schaft said sadly. "Even if the Cradle is to blame... we have no other choice but to throw ourselves to their mercy and try to flee. It's shameful, but I've seen what it's like to be caught where Evangelions battle. We can only endure... there is no victory for us little beings here."

"Do not speak to me of enduring shame, Colonel." the monk replied with cool hostility. "I was born Michal Avram Feckeldraft, son of Simon, son of Ezra, and I have outlived and abandoned too many of my friends to cower now." He showed his right wrist, and the blue numbers tatooed there. "No, Colonel, the Cradle does not know mercy. You will have to buy your safety... you will have to pay with treachery."

Images and emotions leaked through. He was a young man, then, raw and untrained. The best his terror-numbed mind could do was to get himself continually forgotten or pushed to the back of the line. The other survivors likely thought he was some officer's favorite or a spy in their midst. Their hatred was a physical thing, even if no one had enough energy to act upon it.

To be powerless and alone, it was the same situation, wasn't it? They both had their own faith in Sohryu's return... the issue was if there would be anyone left to rescue when the times comes.

There was no malice there, but the fact remained, that most of the Psykana were not even European. It was not a question of race, but fighting and dying for the sake of those few who were not even their own countrymen.

The officer sighed. "How much longer must we carry the sins of our fathers? That is not a compelling argument either... five lives for five million. It should be so simple... if taking you would give the Cradle stronger weapons, then... you should have the courage to end it yourself."

"A bastard sort of valor." the monk grimaced. It was a cruel impasse, and one of Nagisa's favorite dilemmas. He forced inevitability, and waited to see which side would break first. How easy mankind kills, how so breakable their alliances of words and dependencies. In the end, even the most selfless heroism was a self-centered stubborness.

If they did nothing, then eventually the insatiable forces of the enemy would overwhelm their divided defenses. If the people surrendered, then the powerful psyker minds the Cradle so needed would either be theirs or be removed from the battle plan. If the psykers prevailed, but either killing or subverting the defenders... the sweet hypocrisy was enough.

The Cradle's AT-field surged, and the purplish miasma thickened to almost black.

It had its own troubles. It was afraid, and with that fear; it struck. The psychic shield buckled for a moment. With an exultant roar, one of the dragons got through. One of the armored Psykana standing next to their Lama changed his grip on his Force spear. He hefted it back, and then threw it like a javelin.

The dragon gave a deafening screech, and fell. It bounced off the tiled roofs of a local college and slid to the streets, cracking the pavement. It was quite dead. It was also much larger up close than they had dared assume.

The old monk bit his lip. The gall of Nagisa and his forces at the Cradle! They could make the whole Earth... fantastic... like that. They would hand over control over mankind's destiny to... less random factors. Just like with exercise, a little pain, a little suffering, was necessary for improvement. The sheer arrogance! Nagisa decided these things like a living God, molding the Earth where he walked.

The people were afraid, the soldiers were resigned to their fates. The miasma had lifted, but it still left dark shadows upon the Thuringen Woods, and bestial howls now and then erupted from the gloom. There was one more such howls- but it was cut short in mid-yell.

A Chimera came roaring down the highway, with what looked like an overly large wolf was clinging to its front. The personnel carrier rammed itself into a gas station. There was, sadly, no explosion. It plowed through, bereft of its strange passenger.

The rear hatch opened, and someone tossed out a grenade.

There was a large explosion, and pained howl.

As noted, there were several disadvantages to the Chimera chassis. It was however quite convenient that it looked so much like a tractor. There were slots to fit a dozer blade. The most obvious advantage was the thing's sheer toughness coupled with decent speed. Both proved necessary for its survival.

Its small turret with the dual Bolters was a slagged ruin. A deep gash run lengthwise through its left side, gouging through the entire line of hull-mounted gun ports. The right side was not much better, pock-marked with blast damage. There were missing bits of track, but the tank managed to keep going.

The Chimera rebounded as it hit a concrete protrusion at full speed, and for a while there everyone thought it would tip over. The tank slammed back to the ground, busting a track as it did so. Sparks and metallic screeches followed in its path, as it ground away the last few hundred feet. People leapt out of the way. Then, almost mercifully, it stopped.

The rear hatch fell out of its hinges. Through dust and smoke a few figures stepped out from the vehicle. They all had gas masks on, and their posture showed only deep weariness. The last three dragged a struggling bound figure from the Chimera; a man in a form-fitting black suit with long white hair but a young and astonishingly beautiful face. Though gagged, he began screaming as soon as the sunlight touched his body. He was thrown to the ground; he trashed around wildly, he screamed some more, and he burned. The flesh evaporated right out of his skeleton, leaving a blackened collection of bones, which then crumbled into dust.

Thus was the price of immortality. The Cradle put in controls, put in castes, once you joined it was almost impossible to disobey. Dissent made things interesting, but the purpose would always be fulfilled. Nagisa could not join the hivemind, but it bore the patterns of his thoughts.

Flesh was nothing. Pain was nothing. The damned would live again.

The lead figure took off his gas mask, and saluted. "Recon Unit Eight reporting back, sir." the young man said to man with the highest rank pips. "The roads to Jena and beyond are still unsafe." A little bit less unsafe now, but still...

"What happened to Mr. Hearne?" Lama Feckeldraft indelicately put in. There was something... odd... about this young man. It was not the blank stare of shell-shock, but a remote serenity he was familiar with; that of a meditative state.

"He has been injured, sir, but he is stable. My apologies, but I'll be speaking for the other troops in lieu of a translator." The others from the Chimera stood around, for if they let themselves sit down they might decide it would be too much of a bother to get up again. German, French, an even a downed English pilot; it did not matter. All were too tired from their insane debacle.

"How did you get back, without someone to mask your presence?"

"We followed the roads, sir, and just killed anything standing in the way." The young man's expression never changed from a sort of bland disinterest. Only his alert eyes showed that he was not a lobotomized tool.

"I see. What is your name, young one?"

For a moment there, a flicker of emotion passed across the soldier's face. It was not anger taken from insult, but from regret. The panzer driver answered, unspoken but clear enough; I may follow your orders, but I serve someone else now.

The name meant nothing to either Feckeldraft or Schaft, but the utter annhilation of the combined French, German, and West Soviet divisions meant that the Cradle now had those men and war machines. Death, as proved elsewhere, was at best a temporary condition.

"What else can you report?" asked Colonel Schaft. Like the psyker, he found the young man somewhat discomfiting. "Other shelters? Survivors?" The miasma messed up the entire breadth of the electromagnetic spectrum, only the psychic beacons (which operated outside of rational space) could function.

Wilfred looked pained, but he could not find the words. How could he speak of how they had found shelters blasted open, bleached skulls in the trees, dry riverbeds, tanks that moved without drivers, and myths given flesh? They had found people huddled around dim fires, he had called out to them, but they had refused to leave their meager circle. There were soldiers who fired upon them, trusting no one, and the dead of the civilians who had begged for their help piled high upon their improvised barricades. The hunters that sought their tank as prey occasionally went ahead to show them grisly trophies.

What could he say? Then, as now, he had felt nothing.

"No. No other survivors." He reached into his pocket and brought out a glowing round stone. A psychic beacon. "The Beast has taken everything of value from this land."

-o-

Deserts and mountains and forests formed an effective time-wasting barrier. But ever has it been easier (and cheaper!) to transport by sea. From Vladivostok, three different armies from three nations rushed to provide support. Timing was crucial. Castle Sturmbrand would provide the distraction, but they too must support its attack.

Yang had, as an intellectual exercise, pondered how to strike at Europe. The best conventional strategy would be to push up through Mongolia and Kazakhstan and remove the immidiate threat of Russia. Obvious, and therefore the most difficult; even barring that they needed each other to keep from total economic collapse. The UN's Strategic Forces were volunteer regiments of from many different nations and ever has speed been a priority.

The world was a sphere. The Chinese Navy was strongest in the world, as long as he led it. On a purely theoretical basis, it would be much faster to circle around past the Bering Sea, through the Arctic, and down into the Baltic Sea. There were the usual dangers of ice, enemy fleets and submarines, but the situation at the Cradle... they were no longer any problem.

Out from the gloom emerged more tanks at full speed, and firing at something behind them. Chimeras, most of them bearing a red star upon green hulls. There were a few Lem'an Rus', packing hull-mounted Lascannon. They were a portion of the gathered troops at Vladivostok, set to invade Tokyo-3 at a moment's notice.

The Cradle tried, but could not stop their deployment. They had made all appearances of heading off to reinforce Yang and young Ikari.

They landed last night. A powerful mind could shield the many, and a thousand minds could shield a nation. Stealth was impossible, when AT-fields were concerned, except if you used the naturally opposing force. The sustenance that the Cradle needed, but now better to throw them into the fray and risk it all.

Dragons swooped down, and died in droves; they had tough scales and could breathe fire. The lack of AA defenses was one of the reasons the protectors of Gotha felt such despair. No longer. Some of the larger wyrms spat globes of fire, which were deflected by a whip of flame coming from the lead vehicle.

Out of an open turret of a very large tank with sponsons mounting six Bolters to each side, an old wrinkled man grinned into the wind. AT-fields were certainties, PSI were probabilities. The world was still full of wonder, it did not need such artificial encouragement. The old abbot felt like a child again. The perfection of the Outward Path was ever meant to be used. Warming an entire valley deep in the Himalayas for millenia, that was just practice.

The psychic barrier stiffened, shrinking, but stronger now.

"... and by the way, greetings from Yang Wen-li." Even the Great Strategist serves.

-o-

-o-

Castle Stumbrand shook, and the harsh noise of breached armor echoed through its corridors. Captain Shade coughed, trying to wave away acrid black smoke and the smell of burnt plastic. "Da.. damage report?"

"Hull breach from Deck Four, Level C to Deck Three, Level H. The fires on Deck Six, Level L have been contained. We lost the capacitor clusters 44R to 45R. No damage to weapons systems, or propulsion."

"Casualties?"

"Burns, some minor injuries, no fatalities." He leaned back on his seat and sighed in relief. The tepellin had six 'vertical' decks numbered from top to bottom; with the sixth as the main cargo hold. It was also laid out 'horizontally' into fifteen sections labeled from A to O from fore to aft. At full speed the decks become walls and the sections turn to floors, due to the inertial forces of supersonic flight. While technically it would be possible to endure it lying down, from the start designing so that the personnel should be able to walk around helped in terms of damage control.

The insides of the Castle Sturmbrand felt like a cathedral. This was from the vaulted appearance of cross-bracings between decks and sections. Dr. "Yamu" Thompson had already put aside the insanity of something that should not even be able to float, much less fly.

"Interesting. This is interesting." Asuka chuckled. Her breathing was strained, her eyes were starting to look bloodshot. As noted, Castle Sturmbrand could not generate a 'barrier-type' AT-field lest it run into its own defensive wall. 'Softening' the field could get incoming attacks to perhaps detonate at a safe distance. The anti-kinetic battlescreens were working perfectly.

Radiation and lasers were but different frequencies of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum. Fortunately Castle Sturmbrand's hull was well-named; incredibly thick and tough, ablating against those that could get through the more esoteric defenses. Not impregnable, but damn near close. Their 'breaking front' was four kilometers wide. The shock from their passing was visible from space. The sonic booms rebounded off the ocean surface, causing an atmospheric effect similar to that of a nuclear shockwave. A typhoon in their path was pierced right through and actually broke apart from the reactive forces sufficient to overcome its coriolis force.

"Second wave incoming!" Mayumi Yamagishi shouted.

The Cradle's high-speed projectiles were invisible to conventional radar. Even lidar was of limited effect, as the things operated similar to the principle of a 'homing laser' only as applied to appreciable mass instead of energy. There were 'Blue Pattern' detectors on the great craft, but these were not linked to autotargeting systems- they detected the presence of fields, not discrete objects. NERV sensors back at Tokyo-3 could make do, but not the rudimentary systems hurriedly loaded onboard.

Gunnery controllers waited tensely for the objects to hit the edge of Unit 03's AT-field. Four kilometers off, the blurry objects became large white disks. They had to slow down due to the interference between fields and the utter uselessness of nukes set to contact detonation. These were not nukes, however.

The disks numbered seventeen in all, and they continued on at a much slower velocity but also weaving about in unpredictable patterns.

"Weapons free!" was the command. "Blast those things out of the sky!" Within the confines of Mayumi's AT-field, local radar could now reliably detect the approaching enemy. Threads of fire burst out from Castle Sturmbrand's hull. The hull ports that looked like cathedral windows revealed the AA Hydra variant for the versatile Chimera platform (there had not been time to actually bolt in turrets and such; thus the broadside arrangements). Hydras were four fire-linked 90mm guns in eight Hydra platforms to each side. Of the nine Hydras to each side, two of these were King Hydras; mounting quad lascannon instead. Multiple Phalanx CIWS guns supported the defense.

By that time the discs had already surrounded the tepellin. All but four of the inbound projectiles were shot down. The surviving objects paused right before hitting the hull. The closer they disk got, the slower they must to move- only that way could they actually pass through the anti-kinetic battlescreen. It was actually a small miracle that any such things manage to get through at all.

Impossibly, they remained motionless relative to the Castle, despite lacking any sort of obvious propulsion system. They realigned themselves parallel to the hull and split open. Arms and legs emerged, while the centerpiece pushed up to become an x-shaped head. The right arm sprouted a particularly unsubtle cannon, and the beams began to eat away at the ablative outer hull.

"Prepare for boarding action!"

What would be the proper name for a biomechanical Angel/human hybrid? Nephilim did not seem appropriate, since these were meant as weapons instead of distinct entities. The staff from NERV Boston hit upon the name 'Asshimar', incidentally the same name by those who met them at Europe; and for much the same reason. The Machine Cult introduced its members to certain... obscure interests. The fact that cherry red Castle Strumbrand was at least three times faster than anything that had flown before was but coincidence.

Asuka had promised to stab the first person to call the damn things 'mobile suits'. They were not piloted, after all. She then groaned about actually knowing such trivia. Kensuke was due for a punch to the face. He had corrupted her.

There was little pressure differential between inside the hull and the sky outside, the AT-field took care of that. The Asshimar were biomechanical giants, humanoid in shape, over twelve meters tall. Apparent gravity took over as they entered the Castle's warhull, and they slammed into the section floors. Attacking from distant points dispersed the defenders. They were effectively immune to everything up to light cannon and even Heavy Bolters. Castle Sturmbrand was an ad hoc construct, and had little in the way of inside defenses.

The Asshimar were terrible things, being able to savage land and air with equal ease. The tepellin counted as 'death trap'. Man-portable Lascannon, stripped out of Tempest gunships, removed the armor advantage while confined spaces meant there was no hope of dodging fire. Sophisticated bioweapons, capable to outperforming any human-made land, air, or sea combat vehicle, were reduced to self-destructing as living bombs just to do some damage.

"Absolute Territory is a matter of perception, not a measurable gradient." Dr. Donald Thompson muttered to himself as he watched a group of Psykana swarm and cut to pieces a being at least six times their size. "Sohryu has absolute command within this Castle, I understand now. It is her region of quantum certainty. It's the reason we're not eating antimatter right now."

Indeed, earlier one of the nukes had actually detonated inside the hull. The craft was too huge for Terminators to protect section by section, but it one of the Heraklitus' helmet cameras caught the event. One of the Asshimar shoved a 10-megaton device through a hole and then flew back. The nuke detonated well enough, but the air itself thickened around the blast. The Heraklitus Terminator, one Konstantin Valdor, crossed his arms over his head, though knowing how futile it would be. There was a boom, a shockwave enough to knock him back, and he could feel heat even through his armor. But the fact that he COULD feel it was incredible. He was but seven meters away from a hot nuke!

Perhaps he was already dead. He opened his eyes. The sight was incredible. Brilliant white clouds swirled around a tunnel... and there was this white curtain inching forward, making a crackling noise where it touched the walls. The curtain of energy kept on expanding for a few more moments, then abruptly reversed.

Castle Sturmbrand buckled as the nuclear explosion burst outward in a conical blast.

Air rushed out of the gaping wound in the tepellin's side, until filament threads of wraithbone linked together to seal up the hole. Sgt. Valdor blinked. The walls ahead still glowed red-hot, though the superconductive properties of wraithbone was already working to dump the heat elsewhere. His armor was scorched and blackened, the gold filigrees melted into unrecognizable lumps. But he had become the first ever human being to survive a pointblank nuclear detonation.

After a while, he shrugged and looked for a replacement man-portable Lascannon. It was not the weirdest thing he had seen in young Ikari's service.

Dr. Thompson felt like curling up in a corner somewhere. Insane. He could finally understand while the AT-field was also called the Absolute Terror field. Peace was dead. Even if the Angels are all defeated, armies would still clash, millions would die, and cities would burn; people would do ANYTHING to possess control over the powers of the Evangelion. What about when Evangelions must fight other Evangelions?

An even worse thought; if that was possible within this region of Absolute Territory, what would happen to them when they reach the Cradle's own true domain?

He looked around. Everyone else was eager to find out. The Tempest gunship pilots most of all, for the teppelin's speed meant that to deploy them too soon would be leave them useless and left behind in the middle of the Atlantic. That the whale of an airship managed to swallow a nuke and live was only a slap to the face, shameful proof of their continual inability to provide air cover.

'These people...!' He did not understand them. Even the ones that had boarded with him back at NERV Boston, had they changed so much in such a few hours? Did the Eva have some sort of mental influence, even as much as they so despised that from the Cradle? Or was it simply that the tempering effect of civilization on the human psyche could be stripped so easily? Had man, ever, really learned?

-o-

-o-

The Cradle, however, did not really care much about the bitter resistance nearby. More important was stopping Sohryu. There was no stopping Sohryu.

"We missed? How could we miss?" Martin Bettelheim shouted. "It's a goddamn laser! It travels at lightspeed!"

"Sohryu does not have to avoid the beam. She only has to avoid our -aim-." Sarah Campbell replied flatly. "The primary weapon of this Cradle is meant for blasting through fortifications. The Moon cannot dodge."

"Aren't they supposed to be homing, anyway?"

"This is not some form of Epic scale Magic Missile." Kaworu pointed out with some amusement. "If you keep on thinking that, it won't be long before we find ourselves bathing in Dispel Magic."

"We... have -exhausted- almost all our aerial drones." Dr. Lader's mechanical voice sounded strained. "Even with our assets, there is a limit to how quickly we may repurpose fissionables. This... it can't be just the power of the S2 Engine. We have three equivalent power sources!"

"We need more attuned minds." For all his power, Kaworu still could not connect with the Cradlemind, so had to ask "What is happening with that place in Thuringia?"

"The -fools- still resist. We have surrounded them as unto a -ring of fire-, but it will take us some time. We must sometimes destroy some healthy cells to get at the -cancer-. If the power of heaven is not enough, then I shall become as a -Doctor of Hell- to bring the healing of the Greater Good!"

-o-

-o-

Mayor Stark Mattstein cried tears of fear and shame. He had squealed like a pig as he was thrown to the ground, just like how he was taunted and bullied way back at school so long ago. They would keep on hitting him until he oinked. He had worked hard, he had grown powerful, but the fear and feeling of helplessness was keen as ever.

"THERE WILL BE NO SURRENDER!" Wilfred had his kneee pressed to the mayor's gut, and his bolt pistol pressed to the man's forehead. Those who arrived with him had gathered in a circle around the scene, with their battered guns and knives aimed outward. The rest of the soldiers were likewise at the ready. The civilians could only look on in anxious horror. "TO GIVE UP NOW IS TO GIVE UP -FOREVER-! You die today as a man, or be slaughtered as cattle!"

Wilfred looked up. They were angry and afraid and beyond shame. It was one thing to give up one's life for a cause; but that of a man's own family? Wives, sons, and daughters; for them even the mayor could be brave... there was a certain fatalism in his eyes, that the soldier could understand. But fear for his family was stronger than even that.

Everyone else's eyes... it was the same question. 'Can you keep them safe? Can you ensure that our children will fill the space left by their parents?'

The situation had abruptly reversed, but Colonel Schaft remained unmoved. "Even with this, there are still not enough men nor weapons to create a convincing defense. Do you think you'll be a martyr this way?" the officer scoffed. "You think we haven't sacrificed enough? There is no point in shedding even more blood. We can't stop the Cradle. Right now only the safety of five million people should be our priority."

"There is no safety in running, only protection won by the lives of other more worthy souls. You can only earn freedom by blood and honest toil." Lama Feckeldraft said, as if many guns were not pointed their way. Though the reinforcements had brought tanks, Chimeras were not armored enough to withstand the Leopard IIIC's 150mm APFSDS rounds. The Land Raider, and the strongest psyker on the planet, that was another matter entirely. "You are not innocents here. You can only buy the enemy's favor with murder. You know this. This young soldier knows this."

The colonel clenched his fists. He had served the army well, he was no coward. He was no moron either, to waste his own life on futile gestures. "So you would rather have millions suffer in the middle of a warzone than relinquish control? Do you know how all of this sounds?" He pointed at Wilfred. "This is insane! Do you know WHO you sound like?"

The young man snarled, and would have pulled the trigger right there. How dare he!

"You think I give a f-...?"

The ground trembled before he could take a step. The quake was strong enough to toss him off his feet. Hills gave way, and the miasma itself began to spin around a point far off in the distance. A glaring eye began to form.

Towering spikes of black, chitin-like material rose from the broken ground. They split open, like flowers, and curved pylons slowly slid out. The 'homing laser' used two overlapping layers of AT-fields, one to contain the beam and another to direct it. Sparks of greenish energy danced between the two ends of the metal arc. At the center of the pylon was a crystal lens, a massive psychoreactive crystal.

-o-

Superconductors and super-efficient capacitors were what the world needed for the next massive paradigm shift. Unfortunately these were materials that defied current definitions. They brought quantum processes into macrospatial levels, and could not be produced without someone there to actually observe and direct their creation. They might have been called 'solidified AT-fields' were it not that these objects were also utterly unaffected by such energies and that the AT-fields were pretty much 'fucking magic' already.

Wraithbone could -grow-. This was not so unusual, as crystals and other non-organic structures also grow (such as stalagmites). The problem was that wraithbone could, if directed, strip necessary elements out from the air. Atom by atom, in a complex compound pattern, they appear. For all they knew, it might be converting hydrogen into other elements at will.

Psychoreactive crystal, if one could simply get past the whole 'psychic energy' thing was far less confusing. Crystals for given size and purity could contain energy up to a point, until they break. The energy is then release in bright, but harmless light. The problem was that where, exactly, does the energy go? Other than the leak of cool light, there was no indication of how it actually contains that power. Psychic energy was actually known as such simply by the ability to -charge- the crystals, which may then be tapped in the form of 'fuel' for psychic abilities or simple electricity. A sufficiently large and pure crystal capacitor might as well be called a zero-point module.

Every human being on Earth was psychic, even if to some infinitisimal degree. This was proven by the 'collective (un)consciousness' that allowed certain people to 'speak in tongues'. More than Evangelions or power, the Cradle needed minds to examine. If there was no psyker gene then they would discover it, or create it. More useful to the current situation, it could allow them to pierce an AT-field without having to resort to mass firepower or closing in to neutralize it.

And even better, to craft the utter opposite. The Pariah gene; to be immune to defects in reality.

A sliver of greenish energy flicked out, crossing the sky and fading off into the distance. The day was green; the light reflected off the miasma covering. Flash. Flash. Flash. Out towards the distance.

The psychic shield fell. Even if the energies were mutually opposing, the Cradle bled off too much power. It was a side-effect. Miasma poured into Gotha.

-o-

-o-

The Land Raider was a natural progression from the wraparound tracks of the Chimera and the Leman Rus; many engineers had already convinced themselves. Though nearly two hundred tons, it avoid many of the pitfalls of the ambitiously impractical Maus. For one thing, it was much larger and thus the 'footprint' of its tracks spread its weight over a greater area. It was also faster. It used the chassis not to carry a massive gun, but to carry elite troops. Furthermore, its guns were extremely efficient microwave lasers instead of bulky solid-slug cannons. Recovered Evangelion plate made them practically invulnerable to most conventional weapons.

If you could build one, why not two? If the critical shortfall was supply of Evangelion plate, why not try conventional steel armor? If you could build two, you already have the manufacturing lines to build more; why stop there? Evangelion armor was made with human technology, so it was possible to build more... it was just slow and time-consuming. The factories at Lem in Belarus, had only limited access to Evangelion plate for the first run of Lem'an Rus. The Chinese had even less; having lost almost everything from their own NERV site, but Yang had managed to get ahold of some armor material straight from the NNHIS manufactoria.

Sure, the Soviets could boast some of the hardiest new tanks, and Japan/America alongside their Eva construction capabilities some of the most sophisticated weapons - China could boast the single toughest, meanest, tank on the planet.

As it did not have to carry ten Terminatus (until later), most of its carrying capacity was devoted to extra ammunition. The Wudan-pattern Land Raider Crusader tore through an advancing line of Brutes.

It was a slab of dark green metal, blocking two whole avenues by itself. The situation around Gotha was thus; most of the city was considered lost. The old castle up on a small hill was crammed with people. Buildings were to the north, and to the south was an open expanse of parkland and railways.

The enemy attacking from the north could be handled almost alone by the Land Raider. They were forced into narrow defiles, and their railguns failed to affect the antikinetic battlescreen. Unlike the one used by Castle Sturbrand, the screen was made by force of will alone. Nine hundred generations, and the mightiest minds of each age... continually reincarnating into a single human shell. The psychoreactive crystal contained energy. Unlike the AT-field, which seemed to spontaneously alter spacetime, psychic prowess rested upon the conversion of existing energy states.

"Soul there is. Proven by science, even." the chief abbot of the ancient order of Javaal put aside his cigar. "Every death here fuels the enemy too." Whips of fire and spikes of earth bloomed around him. He paced around the top of the Land Raider.

Like a printer's head going back and forth across a page, he defined a boundary that no one could cross. East and west, away from the main road, the enemy could try and assault with some concetration of troops.

They were called the Undying. They were faster, stronger, and more resilient than mortal men. They were servants of the Gods as detailed in the True Book of the Dead, they were the cursed of Ra. They were physical perfection personified. They longed for blood. The fresher, the better. Religion drew the focused mind, and they existed to add that power into their own unholy lineage. They too, were the last and more powerful of their traditions. The Cradle added the last final touch to turn them into Vampyr like the mythos... perhaps Nagisa was being playful. They could no longer disobey any of his whims.

The Vampyr were jumping from wall to wall on the buildings. Soon enough they would break the defensive line to get at the civilians. In less than an hour every one of those people would be mindless slaves to thrown into the cauldron of battle. The Pyskana had to fall back to engage other high-mobility combatants.

Screaming, a group of soldiers emerge from hiding to shoot at them from behind. The enemy had supernatural speed and reflexes, true, but they did not dodge bullets as much as they gauged the intent they could see.

As expected, the enemy took the bait. They sprung at the soldiers, baring fangs and sharpened nails. Wilfred's Bolt Pistol killed the one leaping at him. The two soldiers on either side were not so lucky. As they fell, the former tank driver whirled about to blow one pale head off its shoulders, and completing a full swing stabbed a knife into the eye of another misbegotten enemy mutant-psyker.

They were dead things, but so what? He was dead, too... only the purpose filled him. She will come, to claim her people. But the hope and fury of man must wake up, and by the blood of the enemy the sacrifice will be made!

Then the monks arrived, leaping from building face to another in the same way as their enemy, as if they were made of air. Instead of crawling across the vertical walls, they ran as gravity was always 'down' to their perceptions. Those Psykana would were not so physically potent carried guns and trusted in blessed luck.

"CUT AND THRUST!" yelled white-robed figures, their swords sparkling in the sun. "STAB AND CUT! LET THE ANCIENT PROMISE BE FULFILLED!"

They were the last and final legacy of Javaal, and the ancient monastery in the Himalayas was empty of every fighting man or woman. It was as they had feared; to reveal themselves to the world was to destroy themselves. They did not wear power armor, for even when operating at a practically unlimited budget there was a limit to how quickly these could be constructed. The fighters preferred not to be burdened with armor, anyway. Speed was life. To stop moving was to die. Ironically this was something that Nagisa also believed, in regards to evolution and in giving humanity fantastic predators to weed out the weak.

It was like something out of an old martial-arts movie, the ones where mooks seemed to take such glee in being cut down that, collapsing, they sorted themselves out in convenient piles. How ridiculous it looked did not hide the sheer skill it would take to actually perform the same feat against unwilling enemies armed with ranged weapons.

Brutes fell by the dozens, and like the combat monks facing them might as well have been wearing air; such was the penalty of heavy armor. Battle precognition made up for the rest.

It was a slight coincidence that their robes and such looked like those of Old Republic Jedi. Some of them carried double-edged spear-staffs. Kurly Khrisna, the Sunshine Kid, coughed. His lungs were blackened ruins, he had lived for so long sustained by the power of his mind and his will; waiting for the prophecy to be fulfilled. He laughed again, and it was sad reedy sound.

Here a Destroyer, a Brute torso mounted on a skimmer frame, was yanked out of the air by invisible forces and thrown into an orderly formation of enemy heavy infantry. There, screaming people ran into buildings and whatever shelter they could find. Some of those buildings collapsed in the frenetic fighting, and killed all those within. There, a man tried to surrender, only to be cut down from both sides.

"You will not fear the enemy's spilling of blood. The enemy can TAKE our blood! BUT THEY WANT ARE OUR SOULS! ONLY -WE- CAN -GIVE- THEM OUR SOULS!" Wilfred yelled. The enemy will take no more!

Those who choose to join the Cradle did so with the implicit acceptance of humanity being weak and obsolete. "And from the deeps there arose a mighty beast, of many eyes and many limbs. And the beast from the darkness did set upon the light of mankind with hateful thirst and unnatural hunger..." he muttered. Codex Imperialis, page 45, The Third City and Chaos Within.

Just words, random meanderings of some writer somewhere; meant to fluff up a setting. The Angels, and humanity, at least they had their own power. Those who would live between however, must steal the light from either.

Wilfred breathed roughly, and ran to join another firefight. As a tanker, he dimly thought about how the Leman Rus Vanquisher was the ugliest bastard of an armored combat vehicle he had ever seen. The extra-long cannon was nice, even if it was on top of a prominent turret. It was slightly off-center, and beside it were a pair of twin-linked Bolters! That was in addition to the sponson-mounted Heavy Bolters. The Lascannon up front had better combat endurace, but a horrible firing rate.

As expected that tank had quickly run out of ammo and had to pull back. He and his men had to fill up the gap. The Cradle had let loose its Angelspawn; they were like dogs, with monkey faces, and had talons that could tear into tank armor. Fortunately they also lacked armor of their own.

Gotha, one of the rear shelters, had just around eight hours to prepare. Their barricades were puny. Wilfred understood now why the Cradle sought psykers with such obsession... the wrinkled old man could bend earth with a gesture, and within minutes had given them some hard fallback points. Behind one of those stone walls he and a small group of troopers held off a tide of gnashing, hairless vorehounds.

NATO 5.56 rifle rounds sufficed. Bolt rounds were overkill, and perhaps that was the intent... to drain the defenders' ammo. The Cradle clearly did not care about throwing away these creatures en masse. All life has value, said the cradle. Human life most of all. This implied however, that there was a scale by which they measured the worth of existence. Some life had value over all, and some nearly none at all.

"Pull back, leave it to the flamers! Support the southern defenses!" was the order. Chimeras rode down to set the place ablaze; the crude animal minds of the vorehounds still feared fire. Running again, though he was panzer trooper Wilfred had in the few hours picked up the knack for commanding infantry squads. They did not really need more than to point their guns all in one direction and try to fire at the same time.

Loud roars came from within the miasma. The protective clearing had shrunk to just around Schloss Friedenstein. The enemy's main attack came from the south, past the railways, the only place where their mass infantry could gather. Fortunately it was also perfect spot for artillery. White smoke obscured the nearby battlefield, while the miasma choked the sky in the distance.

Something huge stomped out, and the defiance in its roar carried past the open grounds, the small lake, through the sculpted woods, and set the old stone walls to shaking. It shrugged off artillery and battle cannon fire, and spat out its reply. A blue-hot beam carved into the trenches.

Its glittering red bionic eye flashed, its two little arms ending in sickle claws were waved about in anger. Another roar issued from a mighty jawed head, and the mechasaurus strode forward. Similar forms joined it soon after; those with hard turtle-like shells that mounted large cannon, fins on their backs that seemed to project a defensive field, tails that threw explosive barbs, jaws that bite... and dragons from the sky.

'Isn't this interesting?' the Cradle-mind delivered to their minds. 'Inefficient,sure, but ah... the variety! Life! It is the struggle that defines us! We will remake the world; not to our image, but into something that will never lack in wonder, in glory, in value, and in high adventure. See the power that can change it all! We defy destiny!'

A Tyrant King bit into a Marder APC, lifted it high, and tossed it away. As if to say; your shapes bore me. Its roar was a challenge. Its animal-mind yearned for that which can equal its might.

Wilfred looked stunned. Still, he felt no panic. He wanted to curl up and hide... but still nothing. The samurai spoke of Zen in battle, and there was the berserkerganger. Monks in rote prayer and mindless tanks tried to achieve that state of utter emptiness, when ego is gone, and the soul is empty of all hopes and all desires... and God fills the vessel ready.

The Cradle offered enlightenment at a glance, Nirvana in an instant. He wondered, briefly, if it was theirs to grant at all. Could anyone call upon it, or does the state of holiness arrive on its own? He looked beside him, to the mixture of weary and frightened faces. It did not matter. He did not wish others to share his bleak but painless existence.

"No. There is no choice left, but death or war. And I CHOOSE WAR! Until Sohryu comes we will hold against these scum!" He pointed at the enemy with his sword, one of the historical relics once again made useful. "FOR GERMANY! FOR SOHRYU! AND FOR WAR! Men! Affix bayonets and CHARGE!"

"For WAR!" shouted those with him. Not a few were civilians who had chosen to pick up a fallen gun. Some of them toted cannons torn off Brute arms. Those who could not affix bayonets found something sharp to stab with. "The dead have no need of anything else!"

"KRIEG! KRIEG! KRIEG!" they shouted as they broke cover. Three mechasauri roared, already having crossed most of the barriers. Behind them, the old fortress was nearly defenseless. "KRIEG! ENDLOS KRIEG!"

Feckeldraft had no time to enjoy fighting alongside his old mentor. He ran to join the defenders to the south, but knew he could not make it in time. The Cradle could teleport hither and tither with impunity, but mere mortal minds could not handle such a heavy strain.

It was a futile gesture, men like straw blown by the wind upon a stone. The tanks were not doing much damage to mechasaurian hides, what could pointed metal carried by human hands do against such resilience? The Tyrant King snapped at Wilfred, only spurring him to run even faster. He dived, and he could feel a massive head passing just scant inches above. He rolled aside to avoid stomping feet. Still, he felt nothing. No fear, no exhilaration. His heart was pounding, but only with bland exertion.

"There is still power in humanity!" he spat at the beast. 'Wake him up with your devotion, shine forth his glory with your faith. In his name; cleanse, purge, kill!'

The Tyrant King was irritated; its puny arms could not reach the human gnat scrambling up its back. Absently it considered going to the ground, but decided it was not worth the trouble. There were other puny creatures to kill.

Though a cybernetic creature, the mechasaurus was still a living being. It needed to breathe. Wilfred found a nostril and jammed a grenade into it. The damage was only slight, but the pain brought the Tyrant King to the ground. Wilfred leapt off before he could get crushed by the thing's weight.

The thing roared as it slowly tried to get back up. The few seconds of delay was precious, but still not enough. "Hold! Hold and fight!" he shouted to the others, not really looking nor caring if they followed. "Prayer may cleanse the soul, but pain purifies the body! Kill them! To the last!"

Wilfred had long since forgotten to reload his Bolt Pistol. He pulled the trigger and with a glorious DAKKA!, Bolt rounds punched into the Tyrant King's open maw. The inside of its jaw was only less tough than its armored hide, so he switched to full auto. How many rounds should an officer's Bolt Pistol hold? He threw himself into its mouth, pointed down its gullet and pulled the trigger again. The mouth shut, with teeth and jaws capable of tearing through tank armor locking into place.

Muffled noises came from within. The Tyrant King spasmed, and roared. And died.

Michal Feckeldraft watched as the other remaining troops diverted the saurian attackers. In good time, Leman Russ Vanquishers arrived. Their 180mm guns were poweful enough, but each armor-piercing shell were marked by the aquila and blessed by prayer of a Golden Saint. The massive Bolt rounds destroyed the enemy beyond hope of regeneration.

Precognition had failed the world, but not the Young King's foresight. Nagisa was right, in that if ever young Ikari met the time of Revelations, he would fight on the side of those billions who would be cast aside. But still, what sort of mind would prepare for war on such a scale...? Was it all really just coincidence, that he wanted some cool stuff for his city? Was he but a boy playing with toys?

It could not be that simple. It was too perfect, too convenient. The only other conclusion would be that the boy WANTED it to happen, that this was the very war he wanted to fight. It however meant collusion with the Cradle, and as such impossible. So they were back to someone seeing a narrow path for humanity's survival, that even the mightiest psychics on Earth failed to perceive.

He had trained the boy, but it was the effect he had on other people that was most impressive. So many people... it was they that paid the price for the journey. He went over to the fallen Tyrant King and tried to pull open its jaws. Though slack, it was still too heavy.

Der Mann, der nichts fuerchtet, ist nicht weniger maechtig als er, der von allen gefuerchtet wird. The man who fears nothing is not less powerful than he who is feared by everyone. One more worthy soul, who paid the price for the journey. It was the way of things that the good should perish so the rest would survive. The old man leaned against the beast and wept.

"... hey. Anyone out there?"

"Unbelievable!" Hah! And the bitter thing was, the Cradle probably thought they had done them all a favor anyway. Not until they made it possible, could anyone really brag about having to go one-on-one against a cyborg T-rex and win.

"... if I crawl deeper into this thing's throat, could you get one of the tanks to blast its teeth open?"

The old man began laughing.

"... this is not funny, whoever you are! I'm running out air, acid is eating into my boots, and there are still more heretics to kill!"

It took a bit more time for the monk's mirth to subside. "My apologies, let me go find a lever or somesuch."

'When I left Germany, and my father's faith, I felt that I could no longer believe in God. Prophecy, yes, but a benevolent deity; no. I have seen more, and the only godlike being that waits beyond the veil of death is the all-devouring Primordial Chaos; the Great Mother that eats her young. We give our lives so she will not wake.'

He looked around. There was no fate as cursed as those of a people chosen by God. And yet, through thousands of years, even as greater empires were forgotten, they remained. For their temple was not built of stone and wood and gold and burnt sacrifices, but of their own bodies.

It was happening again. Many were the dead ends, and the dead, in the path towards the immortality that is living memory. He had left in rage, even though he occasionally longed for the security of that faith. Even more terrifying was the physical proof of his adopted creed.

'Faith in the invisible and untouchable have been the root of many abuses, and many glories, and faith in a rational universe is just as dangerous. Even the Cradle understands just how small and powerless is each individual human being. Their science, their symptomatic cause and effect, is no less a terrifying faith than anything.'

"We will have to suffer a bit more, young soldier, before we finally get the kind and ever-watchful sheperd we so deserve. But better we don't need one through the long night." He looked up at the sky. 'Adonai, if you listen, I beg you spare him and us this bitter cup.'

A star in the distance glittered in dark promise.

-o-

-o-

Battered, bloody, and on fire; miasma broke apart as it approached. The sunlight showed a scarred, dead land. The single remaining pocket of resistance was a jewel in both its uniqueness and fragility.

"For mankind to stand on its own! For my lands and people who cry out in pain! For wrath! For vengeance!" LCL kept Asuka Langley-Sohryu from showing any tears. Her voice broke. "DEUTSCHLAND! I HAVE RETURNED!"

Pylons began exploding, one after another, their crystals overwhelmed by the opposing energy. The Cradle-mind screamed as the AT-field scoured away at their psychic resonance.

-o-

-o-

"Holy crap. She is -pissed-." Kaworu muttered numbly. "While this was my intent, it has succeeded far beyond my projections."

"We will have to try our hardest to -kill- her, Nagisa. I trust that will -not be a problem-?"

The hybrid nodded. "I am a voice in the great Mind, a servant of the Greater Good. I am not your King, nor do I imperil you for a Queen. Do as you must, my comrades, and... good luck."

Dr. Vord Lader's biomechanical avatar collapsed into a useless lump. His voice rang through all the Cradle. "The time has come! We -fight- for our -right to exist-! We test ourselves by -destroying- the old order! We fight now! -Unseal- everything! -Release- the restrainsts! Let -nothing- be lost to hesitation!

In unity, there is -strength-!

In strength, there is -serenity-!

In serenity, there is -victory-!

We are the Techno-Apotheosic Unity! The TAU is strong, and it will prevail!"

Nagisa closed his eyes. 'I will not face Sohryu. She is here. Which means Tokyo-3 lacks the power of the S2 Engine. SEELE will make their move soon. So here shemust stay.' The trap was set, and the prey was obliging.

One of the three Angel cores of the Earth's Cradle dimmed, and died. And then Kaworu Nagisa was half a world away.

-o-

The Tyrant Kings roared and charged. They were creatures that could breed true, but behind their jaws were powerful electromagnetic inducers, and their spines were plasma generators. What came out of their mouths were burning gases at extremely high velocity, contained in self-propagating electromagnetic fields. Weak Hellbores, but Hellbores none the less.

No defense could last long against them. It would have been much more sensible to mount energy weapons on mechanical chassis, but a point on sheer technological and power disparity had to be proven.

"SCHLAGANN IMPACT!" broke the air, and Unit Two's Great Hammer blasted out a crater half deep as the Eva was tall, and wide as it could hop.

Tanks a kilometer way rocked on their treads and nearly flipped over. Those cowering within trenches were nearly sucked out by air pressure. The sound of it! Like nightmares being torn apart. A lingering heavy note kept the miasma from reforming. Sping! A cartridge jacket the size of a small house ejected from the G-Impact Stake. Another compressed promethium cylinder locked into place with a loud sliding click.

'Katridge geladen.' the interface whispered to her ear.

Even in Tokyo-3, people were still continually unprepared to see just how BIG Evangelions really were, up close. The red Eva's stride toward the defenders' positions cast the trenches in shadow. This was the monster that they had built, but the people there never realized just how so terrible a creature they had brought into the world.

Unit 02 turned around and planted its feet firmly between the attacking army and the paltry defenders. Taurian heavy infantry, hovering drones, and assorted mechasauria-the biomass the Cradle had gathered, they were put to strong use. And now, tragicomically, as weak as the defenders had struggled.

Asuka Langley-Sohryu punted a nearby Tyrant King into the horizon. Though twice as large as a real Tyrannosaurus Rex, they were perfectly sized for kicking.

Behind her, Castle Sturmbrand dipped into a barely-controlled crash landing, with Mayumi rapidly draining the reserve capacitors. She squealed helplessly. Asuka ignored her plight, her viscous anger at the enemy stirring up the very air.

Asuka brandished her hammer. "Hell or Heaven, I don't care!" she shouted at the Cradle. "You want a piece of me, you bastards? Come and get it!"

-o-

-o-

Test upload, part 1 of 2. The other half is being reformatted, but should be up in a few hours.

Author's note:

Yes, the battlescreen is a bullshit explanation. Theoretically, there is that research with charged plasma fields, but the demands of scene goes beyond that (specially in regards to high-velocity impact of large objects). It helps that the AT-field used for propulsion traps may trap the field effect even if the damn thing was traveling at several times the speed of sound. Yes, it's magitech. But eh. Roll with it. ^_~