Tumbling Down part 2

o

o

o

Treason. It was the betrayal of one's sworn oaths. There were many reasons why
one could choose to commit it; from self-interest, to protect someone else, or to
feel that the oath's worthless from having been betrayed first. As humanity itself
faced extinction, could it be said that whole nations may commit treason?

The convoy was being urged back to Hawaii. It was confounding, since they were
already more than three-quarters across the Pacific, but orders were orders. The
warships escorting the large NERV freighter were politely insistent.

Jason Ostender saw the start of the Last War. It began when the UN NAVY Cruiser
PHILEMON exploded two kilometers off to the left of his ship.

He was the captain of the modified tanker HELIOS and was a NERV employee. The
ship had set out from San Francisco carrying a secret cargo from NERV Site 6,
Boston. As the package had to be transported by rail all the way across the North
American continent, he hadn't expected it to remain secret for long. He had
however, been expecting an attack from the Angels.

Flashing lights reflected off the ocean surface, briefly competing with the stars
themselves. Point defenses churned away, and he had to shout even inside his own
ship. Six brightly glowing streaks passed by and this time a Destroyer was doomed.

"What the hell's going on?" he yelled at his radar operator as he entered the
bridge.

"Missile attack! We've got ships due north, but the missiles are coming from behind
us!"

"That's not possible…" the captain gasped. A sneak attack like that! "Who are they?"

The HELIOS was escorted by six UN Destroyers and two Cruisers. They were all that
could be spared from the tensions in the Far East. Learning from the debacle with
the transport of Evangelion Unit 02, speed was deemed a priority over having
sheer number of ships as a deterrent. Unfortunately, this meant that the escort
vessels couldn't spread out as a proper screening force.

Submarine-launched antiship missiles swooped in and through the violent storm of
countermeasures, antimissile missiles and air-defense guns, a few surviving to slam
against the other UN Cruiser, the SALT LAKE. The ship wallowed, trailing thick black
smoke.

Both cruisers on either side of the HELIOS were smoking ineffectual hulks, and the
freighter captain was now just keenly aware of exposed they were. He grit his teeth.
'No... they have to be after what we've got in the hold.' He was more surprised that
the ship hadn't been hit by accident. To a missile, a big floating thing made of metal
looked very much like any other big floating metal thing.

The radio crackled with "Helios, we are detecting a laser target designator from
your ship. Cease and desist immediately!"

"What-?"

Then he heard gunshots coming from the door just outside the bridge. Charlie
Austin, one of the old hands from before NERV bought out the transport company,
walked in carrying a submachinegun.

"Sorry to bother you, cap'n, but we better slow down and stay out of this fight."
Behind arrived several soldiers, whose faces were obscured by goggles and
balaclavas. A warning shot at the radio operator had the man holding his hands
way up in surrender. "I don't want to kill anyone here, 'less I have to."

Ostender grimaced as he was forced to his knees and handcuffed. "What's going
on? Who are you working for?"

"Someone who wants a miracle to happen, cap'n." was the heavy reply. "Someone
who doesn't want this world to go all to hell because of people who have too much
power and not enough sense."

Deep in the hold, the rest of the boarding party checked the priceless cargo. It was
a large metal box, emblazoned with the red NERV logo. In white below it was "S2".
In the distance, in the center of the enemy flotilla, was a ship almost the exact
duplicate of the HELIOS.

=][=

"Which one do you want to know?" Kaji asked the last time he'd met with the
Defense Minister. "The outline of the operation of Replenishing Mankind?

Or the truth of Second Impact?

Or the aim of the ANGEL?

Or the relationship between ADAM and LILITH and EVA?

Or the identity of the men called the committee?

Or that of what we call 'the spear'?

Or the aim of Commander Ikari?"

Then, he laughed as he reached into his pocket for a cigarette. At the disapproving
look from the old politician, he just put it to his lips unlit. "Maybe you want to know
of the plans of young Ikari. Or just what is this Treasure Box?

I'll tell you, but you have to answer a question of my own first."

"Don't worry about it." the Minister replied. "Katsuragi won't be harmed when we
have to take down NERV." And all the while thinking it would be best if the woman
died 'accidentally' as she resisted protective custody.

"That's not what I want to know. What, you think they wouldn't have thought it
possible that they'd have to suffer through conventional attack? Or that they won't
have someone offering advance warning? No, don't answer. These questions are
rhetorical, not what I'm looking for."

Defense Minister Sakata looked sour. The inquest he participated in against the
suspiciously apt preparedness of NERV way back during the Matarael incident still
burned. Through the embarrassment, he felt he was proven right. NERV and its
enemies gave the world a good deal of unnecessary pain. Things just kept on getting
worse the more power that Ikari (both of them) grasped for themselves.

Kaji smirked. "As long as you have a secret, a question will chase after it. I asked
Yang the same thing."

"Don't be too presumptuous of your own importance. Trying to play both sides at
this point will end badly for you."

Kaji took the cigarette from his lips and pointed. "Then you'd better take what you
see as the truth."

Defense Minister Sakata considered not letting Kaji live to return to Tokyo-3, but it
was the most basic manoeuvre to ensure one's own unexpected death will just make
that much more trouble for everyone else. Kaji's been playing the game for long
enough that just a woman didn't sound enough to secure his loyalty. "All right,
what do you really want?"

"Answer me this, and honestly. What is the door for, opening or closing?"

"Huh?"

"Come on, now, this is really important to me. What do you think?"

The Minister rubbed at his head. "I don't have time for this."

"Shall I tell you what Yang said? That it's better left to itself. Blocked, buried even."

Minister Sakata looked up. "Are you talking about the technology of the Eva?"

"For me the door should be opened by force. That's the reason. That's why I'm
here."

-][-

Despite appearances, NERV was in no power vacuum.

With the Commander and Subcommander either gone or under arrest, that left
Misato Katsuragi as utter despot over Tokyo-3. While Yang's corpse cooled, she was
in the next room over ensuring that Tokyo-3 was locked down tight; all roads
secured, all flights over the airspace other than the one bringing her back were to
be warned away once then eat an anti-air missile if it refused to comply. Only the
AA turrets didn't require resupply, since in the last attack by Evangelion-class
enemies these fast radar-guided explosive-tipped missiles were just this side of
useless.

Kaji leaned on a wall, surrounded by armed guards. He had diplomatic credentials
but all knew it that he was far less of a target than Misato. He lit up a cigarette and
took out his NERV security pass. "Huh. Never noticed before how it's the color of
blood."

Of course, his guards made no comment. The security detail was waiting for armored
transport. Kaji had to leave ahead of Misato, since an armored limo was good enough
for him. He was no stranger to death, and seeing Yang's face split open like an
overripe melon wouldn't give him (and Misato) any nightmares. What scared him more
at that moment was the sheer –inevitability- of things.

He stretched out inside the limo and stuck his hands in his pockets. It was so tiring
having to play sides against each other. Maybe even Misato saw him as a fool.

Kaji closed his eyes, thinking a short fifteen-minute nap before having to report in
to the bureaucracy wasn't too much to ask.

He thought back to a few days ago, when he had to meet the Prime Minister himself
to explain again how it was foolish to interfere. It looked as if Sakata would be left to
hang, if his initiative failed to bear fruit. Japan had a lot of leverage ever since the
existence of the geofront was revealed, enough to convince the UN to move the
headquarters to Tokyo-2.

It was a poisoned apple. Didn't the see that?

He'd dug too deep and what he saw, it would only tempt fools to rush in. He was just so
tired of it all...

... sleep claimed him easily.

He came to inside a dark featureless steel room.

Quickly Kaji stood up. He wasn't handcuffed or tied down, which was a surprise. He
then checked his pockets for his cigarettes. He took out the pack. "Last one left." Then
he realized whoever had kidnapped him had taken the lighter. "Bastards."

The door behind him opened, flooding the room with light. Kaji turned around and smiled.
"Yo. I was wondering when you'd show up."

Misato Katsuragi entered and crossed her arms. Two black-suited agents of NERV Section
Two, one tall and tanned and the other shorter and pale with age, flanked her. Kaji
wondered if they were there to take over if Misato decided he was being too glib. He felt
a flush of approval. Misato shouldn't let herself be ruled by sentiment; unlike a fool like
him.

"I don't need this shit, Kaji." Misato hissed. "It's bad enough that Gendo makes my
mission a lie from the start, I don't need my own command staff working behind my
back, keeping secrets, as if I'd stomach being 'protected' like that. I just gave Shinji-kun
a good scolding about it. I don't want to have to repeat myself."

He grinned. "Then, who do you think you're really protecting?" He put the unlit cigarettef
on his lips. "There's no way out of this without people getting hurt."

=][=

"Sorry, miss- but orders are orders. Tokyo-3's under total lockdown. Nobody goes in
or out." said the UNIG soldier at the pass.

"This is an abuse of power!" Rika Izuna screeched from her news van. "The public
has the right to evacuate from danger zones! This is still Japanese soil, you know!"

Her faithful assistant sighed and began to reverse the van. "If we didn't try and hunt
down Horaki, we could have left with the rest of the team."

"Katsuragi's not going to get away with this!" the reporter yelled out with her head
out the window.

Katsuragi had given twelve hours for Tokyo-3 to empty itself of noncombatants.
Then at noon, heavy physical barriers went up over the north and east passes.
Metal shutters lowered over the mountain tunnels, and armor slabs rose from the
roads. The only way in was through the south, and there overlooking Cerberus Base
lines of JSSDF tanks straddled the highway. The entrance to Tokyo-3 itself was
blocked by the UNIG's fewer but stronger tanks. They faced outwards.

General Kiyosato Akira was one of the three generals who led the defense against
Sachiel. While events had later marginalized the role of the JSSDF in defending
against the Angels, he had been one of those very instrumental in getting the
UN support base up and running. Now, even he was denied access to Hakone.

He walked across the empty roads to meet Col. Nasuno, who was still in charge of
the city's defenses. Beside him was Captain Avrikupolous, unarmed and helmet-less,
though still very dangerous in full Tactical Dreadnought armor. NNHIS representative
Tokita followed, clutching his coat against the strong valley wind.

General Akira at the soldiers beyond the pass. Some of the tanks still had the red star
of the China, forces brought in some months ago with Ikari's return and then trickling
in with the UN's multinational detachments. He nodded to Nasuno. "What do you think
you're doing? It's fine if you don't want to leave, but you're edging too close to
treason here."

"I don't like it either, but those are the orders. You're going to have to find someone
who can countermand them."

"From Katsuragi?" He sucked his lips in. That would have to be the UN Security
Council. Everyone was just waiting for the situation to explode.

Unfortunately, if the situation DID explode, for NERV to remain neutral would
thereafter see them utterly dominating the world stage. General Akira looked back
to the sea horizon. China wouldn't survive all-out war, what with their nuclear
arsenals just for second-strike purposes; at most a hundred, with about thirty in
submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Their most of their site-based launchers were
used up against Sahaquiel.

Unfortunately, the Eva had already demonstrated the capability to intercept
hypersonic bombardment both globally and simultaneously.

"Politics doesn't really interest me, but why is that such a problem?" spoke Captain
Avrikupolous. "Even I know that no matter how many men the Chinese have, they
have no chance of getting across the Sea of Japan."

"Ahem, I don't think even Yang-sensei can pull off miracles when he's... dead." Said
Tokita.

"Not unless they're invited here." Col. Nasuno replied while rubbing his forehead. "If
they want to force the issue, it's either that or have a lot of people on both sides die."

Gen. Akira nodded. Unless the UN NAVY and all other forces there decided to immolate
most of the Korean peninsula facing east, the PLA had enough rockets and missiles
to kill the all world's naval tonnage twice over and reach all the way across the Sea of
Japan. It was a weird sort of MAD, since both forces would have enough advance warning
of a strike that they could launch their own counterstrikes well in time. But even if the
artillery and mobile missile divisions were destroyed, there were still others in transit from
the mainland. Yang loved the missile massacre so much. It would be much harder to
replace the ships, and without a force to screen the sea even the JSSDF's first line forces
entertained the notion they could successfully drive back a mass assault from the mainland.

The only reasonably safe platform in the debacle would be the submarines, and the PLA/N's
submarines were still less capable than the ones available to the UN and the JSSM. The
Sea of Japan however was so thick with subs and already well-monitored that it was
nearly impossible to hide. Again it would rely on whoever decides to strike first.

It was a dizzying complex sequence and that practically insured it was NOT Yang's
plan. Because they could see it, for all the difficult of predicting how it would go.

Tokita smirked. "It doesn't really matter, does it? No matter what they do, they
only have until Asuka comes back to... how's that go? Fuck their shit up."

No one had doubts about that. The Chinese would be treated to a red-haired
devil falling out of the sky, with barbarian rage and a valkyrie's spear, and verily
shit shall be fucked up.

=][=

Misato put one foot on top of the base commander's table and pumped her fists in the
air. "I hereby claim this land as the Principality of Katsuragi!"

Ritsuko hit her on the head with a plastic clipboard. "No."

=][=

All things considered, Kozo Fuyutsuki supposed, he could be a lot more
uncomfortable. He was being held in the JSSDF base at Atsugi. His cell was clean,
dry, and spacious. He was fed three times a day, and was allowed to keep a pot of
tea warm on an electric kettle. He had a small TV to keep from getting too bored
and could borrow newspapers from the guards. Monitoring was limited to cameras
and guards outside his cell. It was not how he'd expected to spend his retirement,
but better than he felt he deserved.

Thus when the screams and explosions began he was able to restrain himself from
looking for more than just a few minutes. With a tired groan he eventually went
over to the small window to his cell. He saw fires, and tanks and trucks overturned,
and in the distance something green and fast roared past.

He heard a soft click and turned around to see Gendo unlocking his cell. "I'm surprised
you actually even bothered."

"You were there at the beginning, sensei. It only seems proper you see how it ends."
Fuyutsuki shook his head and tugged at his gray hairs. "So you set her free, I trust?"

"Just as Yui wanted."

There was a loud crash from outside. "So the exit clause has been nullified. I don't
pity SEELE, but... she wanted you to become an ally of justice. This isn't revenge. This
isn't even punishment." He glanced at Gendo's scarred hands. "It was never this world
that took her from you."

=][=

"Katsuragi, this is edging very close to treason." the Prime Minister himself was
handing the remote conference. He was still fairly young, with long hair behind a wide
forehead. "Hakone is still Japanese soil. Closing it off and refusing to cooperate with
investigators… it's suspicious. Is that the image you really want to present"

Misato remained silent, her arms crossed over her chest. She refused to sit on Gendo's
old chair. "I'm fine with looking like a bad guy, if it means nobody gets to take a shot at
my pilots." She sniffed. "Yang died while I was talking to him."

Kaji, back at Cerberus base, chortled. "It's like the classic mystery question, isn't it?"
He pointed with his index finger and thumb out, and mouthed 'bang'. "Who benefits most
from the murder?"

"Kaji…" she hissed warningly. "I really don't need this shit."

"I guess yes, I do." he replied with a slight grin. "But it's not like anyone here in Cerberus
respects me anyway. But it's not worth the hassle." He leaned back on his chair and waved.
"But it's unlikely that Yang was killed for transient political power or a cassus belli for China.
In the short term, this reduces the efficiency of our forces and worsens relations. In the
long term... Yang was a relic. It wasn't really him that was the danger, but because he was
the best person to hold the Treasure Box."

"What?" Prime Minister Sato asked, annoyed at being sidelined.

"At the very bottom of Pandora's Box, after all the ills and monsters of the world was
set loose, was butterfly of hope." Kaji bowed his head. In the long term, who would
benefit most from Yang's death? Misato Katsuragi. It was time for her to move out of
the shadow of the previous generation.

"The Evangelion isn't going to just go away." Misato replied roughly. "We keep on
fighting and fighting, what the hell do you think we should get out of this?"

That left the Prime Minister speechless for quite some time. Then, with careful hostility
he said "I don't know. There's a lot who believe you want to cause Third Impact."

"That's as easy as letting any Angel through into Terminal Dogma." said Ritsuko. She'd
been content to remain silent as Misato stonewalled everyone else. As she joined the
discussion, everyone connected had to pay attention. She was the world's leading expert
on xenobiology, the only one to successfully resist a Unity mind worm, and while
Katsuragi could be replaced, Akagi was a prize for any world power.

Ritsuko smirked unkindly. How little they knew. "NERV is a UN operation. Well, it's
supposed to be. I don't know if NERV Boston's as free from American interests, but
here in NERV Hakone we can't afford picking and choosing who helps secure that
damn Angel down below."

"Why not just destroy it?" Prime Minister Sato asked. Nothing in the past fifteen years
seemed worth all this pain.

"That might wake it up." Ritsuko replied from her laboratory. "That would be a bad thing."

"What, it's not dead?"

"The creature caused Second Impact. We do know now that the Angels don't seem
to have a specific grudge against humanity, they might not even understand why
we're so small and yet individuals." Ritsuko smirked. "It's only a matter of time
until we exhaust even the Angels... eventually, their active evolution will imitate
our strengths to such an extent that we can communicate with them."

The Prime Minister looked doubtful. "Are you sure about that?"

"Who the hell do you think you're talking to? Would you prefer to keep on throwing
away lives and money in fighting an endless war?" She laughed pitilessly. "If you all
want to play with Evangelions in your little political games after this, I don't care.
Just don't get in our way until we get this damn thing off this planet."

Misato chimed in with "Gendo wanted to cause Third Impact and become a God,
you know." She grinned. "Really, all I'm asking for is to be supplied from whoever I
want."

Kaji added. "What you do about China is your own business. Anyone trying to take
NERV would be trying to control the doomsday trigger, and that would be political
suicide. No one should be able to threaten all the world and all of humanity at once."

"Yes, that includes us, damn it." said Misato.

"Removing the alien... this is NERV's actual plan? Where are you going to put it?"

"Somewhere in deep freeze until we're sure that just throwing it into the sun won't
make it return angry and on fire." Ritsuko's tone was the very pit of boredom, as if
daring people to believe she was telling blatant lies.

=][=

The streets were deserted. Shinji was a little creeped out, it was too similar to his
dream. While he knew that the people were but a prefecture or two away, he was
strangely stuck with nostalgia for the innocent times of but a few months previous.

There was no need to sneak around. An APC brought him over to the apartment
complex, and the guards had to remain outside. Power-armored people just
wouldn't fit through the stairwells. "I have to do this by myself." said the boy. "This
shouldn't take too long."

This little apartment. Shinji raised his thumbs to rub at his eyes. It was the one place he
felt unlike the tool of some abstract destiny or old conspiracies. That home, with
Asuka complaining, Misato laughing, and Rei or Maya dropping in now and then to
add a sense of enduring comfort, and Ritsuko trolling them all behind the scenes;
just one year and those were the memories he wanted to keep above all else. While
younger he took comfort in his isolation with the four personalities in his head.

They weren't enough anymore. He'd cast aside human concerns and conventional
morality for power and now ached for the warmth of mundane living.

'This city is dying.' He had friends growing up at Sendai, but only here and with them
did it blossom into magic. 'I don't want to be alone again.' He paused in front his own
room, with Misato's semi-sarcastic scrawl 'Shinji's Lovely Suite' on a hanging board.

In his room, Shinji Ikari found a plain white envelope on his bed. Inside was a
typed letter from the closest he had for a mentor.

00

"The old order changeth, giving place to the new
And God fulfills himself in many ways
Lest one good custom corrupt the world

If you are reading this, then I have departed well ahead of your own plans. This
makes things more difficult for you, and I apologize. But overawing the world to
keep order will not work. In the time of the great Khan, a virgin with a bag of gold
may ride from one end of his lands to the other, and both will be unmolested. At his
death both had to travel again under heavy guard.

Before you I walked the path of blood, and it's tiring work without any guarantee
that the Work will last. Yet there are things in this world that need to be fought,
and concepts that must be removed from the psyche through force if necessary. I
am writing this with a certain young woman nearby- and hers has been a most -
enlightening- tale, young Ikari.

It's heartwarming that you did think of me as your ally. The greatest threat to
peace in this world is now -
you-, and for this Shinji Ikari must die.

I know what it is that you fear. You can't run from it anymore. I am forcing your
hand, little prince. It is not power that will let you speak for everyone. It is not
violence that is the language all can understand.

All is prepared. Show Katsuragi that you've learned my lessons well.

-Yang"

00

"This shouldn't have happened." the boy whispered. "Yang-sensei, this is unfair."
Inwardly he felt a hot flash of guilt, unable to prevent himself from thinking, better
him than Misato.

Just the thought of it brought his hackles up. He couldn't even being to imagine the
tortures he'd inflict on whoever would dare to do that. Yang was right. He didn't
have a voice, but Shinji was terrified of what it would take to gain it.

He'd have to break the pride of nations just to get them to cooperate. The boy sat
on the edge of his bed and sighed. He was still in junior high. He'd thought ten,
twenty, even a hundred years of what they needed - the Eva's power was too great
to be misused – but he wondered if ever he'd get to go to College and learn and a
real useful trade.

On his study table, four figurines were knocked over from all the bustle of the
past battles. Shinji looked under the bed and took out a prepared suitcase. There
was nothing that he owned that was really all that valuable. He turned back to the
figurines. The Farseer. The Warboss. The Sorcerer. The Captain. Just plastic and
paint.

And silent now.

He smiled slightly and bowed before picking them up. 'Thank you.'

Everything he'd done has always been with the help of others around him, he
remembered. He looked at his own fists. Alone, he was nothing. Humanity's
frantic need to survive gave him power.

He fell back on his bed and laughed. 'It's not so bad, isn't it? Living? We can do this.
There's still so much suffering in the world, but we can't stop now.'

There was a knock on the door. Shinji put the figurines in his pocket and opened
the screen doors to his room.

"Oh, Ayanami."

Rei stood there in her school uniform. Hadn't Maya drag the girl off shopping for a
new wardrobe several times already? Well, whatever she was comfortable in. Shinji
owed Rei far too much to consider anything that would make her even the slightest
bit unhappy.

Rei stepped into the room and nose to nose with him. "Become one with me." said
the girl.

"Ah... this is not a good time." he said placatingly. "I'm sorry. How about-"

Rei grabbed both sides of his head and stuck her tongue down his throat. After a
few moments, Shinji gave in. Rei always cared. She just had a tendency to go
overboard in trying to remove his distress.

She bit his tongue. "Ow!"

Rei's eyes were glowing red. "The light of your soul calls to me. Let me feed. Let me
complete the circle."

Shinji blinked. He pulled away. He searched that ever-so-familiar face. "Wait... you're
not Rei." He grimaced. There was both timeless hunger and a child-like lack of mercy
in her eyes. She was savage and innocent at the same time, pure and beyond right
and wrong. "Raka? Didn't we speak about how -creepy- this is?"

"You will be mine again."

Shinji narrowed his eyes. "Lillith."

She smiled widely. "Hello again, meatling."

=][=

The flying fortress STURMBRAND hurried to lift off even with gaping holes in the hull.
Inside, a hastily assembled force, the 2nd and 3rd UNIG Heavy Regiments clung to
the handrails which were ladders when under full thrust. Wilfred Ingram Wulfenbach
realized that the 'nia tepellin' was less of an airship than designed as a spaceship that
just had to hug the gravity well. It was the power of the Eva that was providing lift.
There was no reason to assume that it couldn't be applied straight up.

He winced as the tepellin abruptly accelerated. The AT-field tugged at their very souls,
and through it everyone felt a resonance with the girl at the controls. Her fear and
desperation thickened the air. A sonic boom broke the sky over Gotha.

EUROSOC had replaced NATO and the CSTO plans, as the threat of overt military action
grew ludicrous after Impact. There was more focus on Western Europe and its tensions with
the frozen UK and France, while the New Council managed the resources uncovered
by warming Siberia. Germany by centrality and distance from the coasts ended up being
literally the heart of the new European society. That wealth and connectivity made it
NERV center for research and development, while the American bases were more
suited for production and testing. Wilfred realized he'd grown up in an atmosphere of
comfort and optimism. Intuitively he recognized that Russia had more to worry about
with its border with China (and Yang there) while France had to look to the Norman coast.

It was so easy to volunteer to head to the East. Like him, he supposed, it felt like
paying back the years. Europe was just the second stage. Over there, they would
fight the Angels directly. They could exact revenge upon the aliens.

Suddenly, somewhere over Ukranian airspace, their ride was wrenched aside. Red
lights switched on and alarms rang out. "All hands secure, everyone hold on tight!"
someone announced. "Prepare for combat maneuvering!"

"C-combat?" the soldier next to Wilfred muttered. "Are we under attack? Is it…
an Angel?"

Wilfred grit his teeth. The tepellin was just a big metal cylinder. It had nothing in the
way of offensive weapon, except perhaps… itself. He let out a delighted 'hah!' as he
felt everything around him spin and then speed up. Of course. Sohryu would just go
for ramming speed!

Outside, was a strange being formed of two helixes of bright white light looped around
each other. This was the Angel Armisael.

"Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" Asuka was screaming. Her voice was coming from the
hull of the craft, vibrating in tune to her feelings. "Stop singing!"

Cracking noises traveled through the metal, as batteries were forcefully discharged.
Inside her own Evangelion, Mayumi put her hands over her ears. "Who are you who
are you… get out get out get out!"

The front of the tepellin crackled with strange arcs of electricity. As Luftschloss
Sturmbrand pivoted and hurled itself like a dagger, Armisael glowed even brighter,
its song now reaching everyone inside. Wilfred growled. He was being pitied.

Armisael widened, and passed around the STURMBRAND. Then, softly, the tepellin
vanished, leaving just that eeried glowing circle. The Angel spun and shrank until
it was no more than hand's width in diameter and spinning furiously. Then, it too
vanished.

=][=

Shinji knew that his father had Adam implanted into him. Cells and organs needed
no awareness of themselves. Even then, Adam was from the start a much less
malevolent entity.

As he stared into those pitiless red eyes, he remembered why most of the oldest
legends spoke of the titans devouring their children. The world was often made
from the dismembered corpse of a primordial god.

The boy put his hand on her left butt cheek. "Ooh!" she squealed in delight. Then
he put his other hand on her right shoulder and in one quick motion turned her
around. A shove put her out the door, then Shinji kicked her in the back to send
her overturning the dining table.

Shinji forcefully slammed the the flimsy screen door shut and put his back against
it. "OHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAPOHCRAP." he mumbled while sweating in panic. This
was not supposed to happen! SEELE, for all their murderous goals, wanted to avoid
-this- exact scenario. He'd been hoping his experience with a self-aware Lillith was
just a hypothermia-induced hallucination.

Dammit. He'd been sure Rei could hold her back. As Raka, as his consciousness
dominant in her body, he might have just served to erode the barriers. Or a
conduit?

Shit. Souls could be split. They could be combined. If that dream had any slice of
reality, he carried with him a slice of Lillith's soul too, over his own existence as a
Lillim creature.

Dimly he remembered that Gendo durifng their negotiations talked about how he'd
eventually have to face an enemy he can't beat with an Evangelion or any amount
of trickery. He reached into his pocket to call for help. His cellular phone was in
fragments from a mere touch by Lillith. He moaned. The worst primordial terrors
were smart primordial terrors.

-][-

Pen-pen poked his head out of his freezer-cabin and briefly locked gazes with the
ancient one in Ayanami's shell. She was lying face up, head tilted back. The penguin
gave a nervous warble, slowly side-stepped over to the door, and grabbed at the air.
Oh. Right. He was too short for the door handle.

Hurriedly he grabbed for the umbrellas by the door, but clumsily knocked them all over.
He froze at the loud noise he'd made, feeling a red-eyed gaze. The penguin slowly
picked up one red umbrella, mindful of Lillith's intent but bored attention. Quickly he
pulled at the latch with it, and with his beak pried the door open. Leaving closed it
back with a soft click, and then was down the hallway, flippers flapping, as fast as his
webbed feet could carry him.

"Wark wak waaaaak!" he ran screaming to the elevator.

-][-

Lillith slowly got up, relishing the puny fires of pain from mortal nerve endings. Her
awareness, sapience even, was limited to the mortal mind She occupied. Ayanami
for all her reticence still felt the full gamut of human emotions. The pains, the
hungers. She was very hungry.

She had already devoured the child that was so afraid of turning into a monster.
Now, wearing that child's skin, she wanted to taste again that piece of soul that
was so different from her own. She flicked some wooden splinters from her skirt
and approached the door.

"There is no lock." she said loudly, and somewhat amused. It was just a typical
Japanese sliding door. "This will not stop me."

Beyond the door was a strange grinding noise.

Lilllith understood love. All-consuming possessiveness was the default state of
such a being. Rei Ayanami and Shinji Ikari had screamed from the depths of their
soul for power, and She answered. Now the contract need only be fulfilled by the
second of the two client creatures.

Lillith punched at the door, and much to Her surprise, Her fist was repulsed by an
equal opposing force. Briefly, a large two-headed eagle flashed on the blank
white pasteboard screen.

Puzzled, She tried again. This time, a strange eight-pointed star absorbed the
blow. She understood what it meant to hate; to be denied. To be rejected. Her eyes
were misting up, but She didn't know why.

Others, like Adam, were an existence that was not Her but sought the same
things. She knew of the all-consuming desire to destroy. From the memories inside
this shell, she saw that it was much the same for little beings.

Once more she struck, and a stylized eye flashed into being. It closed, apparently
stung.

Because she understood hate, Lillith was starting to comprehend an emotion called
mild annoyance. She held her fist high and punched with all the force she could
muster. The rebounding shockwave blew away all furniture behind her.

A winking skull with a jagged overlarge jaw was there. Its jaw moved up and
down, as if laughing. Behind the door, the noise had ceased.

With a flash of anger, Lillith kicked the door down. The light wooden screen simply
disintegrated. She poked her head into the room to see... her target wasn't around.
There was a jagged hole on the side of Shinji's room. From the outside she heard a
door sliding open and then hurried footsteps.

With his mini-chainsaw, Shinji had cut his way into Misato's room, and then
to the veranda. He had one foot over the railing already. If Nagisa had just decided
to go all-out and attack him directly, Shinji knew he had little ability to defend himself.
He needed proper tools and preparation, which he'd neglected in the delusion of keeping
his home a place of mundane family affairs.

He was a pilot, squishy and mortal outside the Evangelion. He'd been counting on
Kaworu's innate sense for the dramatic to keep it level. Even in their encounter at
Egypt, he had the advantage from knowing the limits of his enemy's powers.

'Damn it! There must be a way so we can win!' Angels only needed to make contact
with Lillith to cause Third Impact. It was fine, as long as it was secured under
Terminal Dogma. The resources of a world united could support one Fortress City
near indefinitely. If only Yang had lived… it was too soon to open the Treasure Box!

This? For the first time, the enemy dictated the terms of the engagement. He needed
to recover the initiative.

The boy took a deep breath and leapt off. He figured he had about three seconds
before splattering himself all over the ground.

His heart was pounding in panic, but there was no fear about how the wind whistled
past and the hard concrete of the apartment's parking lot grew to fill his vision. He
spread out his arms and legs to slightly slow his descent, and shouted -

"AYANAMIIIII!"

=][=

Rei Ayanami was undergoing an examination at NERV's secure medical facility.
She was wearing only a shapeless hospital gown. "I am confused." she said.

Ritsuko didn't bother to look up from her console. "Hm? Your synchro ratio was never
high enough to deliver permanent sympathetic damage." Rei's limit was why Unit
Zero required external support to improve performance, instead of just more power
reserves for exotic AT-field applications.

"The Commander has left us. I should feel betrayed, yet… I recognize this feeling,
Doctor Akagi. I am sad. I feel lonely."

Ritsuko quirked her lips. "Like it or not, that man has dominated both our lives for
far too long."

"I am thinking, did he ever really care? Pilot Ikari is…" Rei lowered her head. "But
still I hope that not all of what the Commander has showed me was a lie."

"Hmf. You could just consider yourself lucky instead." Ritsuko held her hand out
and one of her mechadendrites slid across her knuckles. "I should warn you that
your Ikari is just as likely to be consumed by his purpose like his father… but you
won't care about being used up like that too, wouldn't you?"

"I live this life for a reason, Doctor Akagi." Rei replied. "It is enough."

The scientist sighed. "Dammit. And here I don't know whether to pity or envy you."

Rei quirked her head up, and then her eyes widened slightly. "Ikari-kun." She
whispered.

She crouched slightly and leapt up.

Smash. Crash. Boom. Through the floors, out the pyramid, a sharp whine spreading
out as she cracked the sound barrier within the geofront. Then punching through the
primary armor layers of separating the geofront from the city, spilling a fountain of
glowing-hot liquified metal as she broke out into the surface.

Then braking suddenly, adjusting her AT-field that she wouldn't puree someone while
catching him in her arms. She had Shinji in a bridal carry.

He laughed with mad delight. Instinctively he hugged her and whispered into her ear "I
knew you'd save me." he said with a wan grin, playing the role.

"Of course." she replied. Their trust was absolute. She found nothing funny about the
situation.

Shinji's face flicked into grim seriousness. "We have a problem."

"I see it."

Both looked up to see Lillith balancing herself on the railings of the apartment. With
a cocky grin, She threw herself off. The air around Her shimmered and shortly
gravity ceased to have any upon her. Shinji felt his heart skip briefly, as Lillith pulled
on all the souls that bore Her mark.

All life on Earth. They could not see it, but small animals were keeling over, dead,
their tiny hearts burst. Birds were dropping from the sky.

They both hovered in the air, their AT-fields thrumming. Evangelions had power to
spare, but for all that still weighed thousands of tons and had an extra control step
put in. This fine control was possible only for those who had nothing between them
and their Angelic abilities.

The Evangelions were bestial beings of urges and emotions. Here there was just
the effort of will, and the world shifted around them. Shinji gulped. Their regions of
absolute territory overlapped. There would be no such thing as AT-field barriers
between these two.

No protection but speed. 'We are different.' thought Rei. She instantly zipped back,
then up, then to the left, as Lillith swooped with her right hand outstretched like a
claw. Rei tightened her grip on Shinji and said. "Hold on to me."

Recognizing the need for more complex evasive maneuvers, Shinji locked his fingers
together on Rei's hip and nodded.

Rei swooped down to skim the ground, weaving around trees. Lilllith followed, and
simply crashed into and through them. Abruptly Rei turned around, bent her knees
and pushed off a tree trunk. She zipped back the other way passing Lilllith. The
possessed girl looked back at her quarry, and then slammed into the mountainside.

"She is angry." Rei said calmly.

"MINE!" a voice resonated through the winds.

Rei smiled very slightly. Lillith's presence in that shell was very similar to possession,
an expression of desire so vast that the world twisted around to make it happen. But
for all that power, it was ignorant. Untrained.

Lillith, here, was herself unshackled. Yet it was was not Rei that was hurting inside.
The girl clutched at her chains of attachment and would not be moved.

Lillith thought 'COME HERE.' There was a keen ululating sound. The blue-haired girls
bobbed left, then right, as nearly invisible cutting shards slashed through the air. Rei's
AT-field flared as trees sent flying up struck her side, and that was enough to send her
spinning. Rei closed her eyes and embraced Shinji tighter.

'I will -protect-.' she said to the universe. 'He will not fall.'

She felt Shinji's lips on her hers. Surprised, she stopped. Her AT-field contracted
abruptly. Shinji extended his right hand, and Rei's AT-field obeyed. They both veered
left, then down. Far behind them, a hilltop was clipped out.

Shinji bared his teeth. "She doesn't know us."

Rei nodded. "We are always stronger together."

Rei's AT-field shifted in a way that only Lillith could perceive. It now held a distinct
flavor apart from her own. There was a shriek like a raptor's cry and six gossamer
wings of spacetime burst out of Rei Ayanami's back, fading back into the backdrop
of blue sky.

Shinji pulled free the buttons of his shirt and exposed the medallion he got back at
Javaal. The eye of Isha was made of psychoreactive material, the very seed for
everything else that used them.

Like the geofront itself, it was an alien construct.

What was more important was that it was placed into a new titanium casing. One that
served as a wireless remote controller. Shinji pushed a button on its back and the side
of a hill exploded outward. There were plenty of buried explosives around Tokyo-3.
They were no mere land mines. The explosion launched a wide net made of
superconductive wire. Whipping out at speed, it should wrap around any nearby
Angels and trap entire armored columns.

"Oh this is bad." the boy whispered as the smoke cleared.

There, floating with arms contemptuously crossed, Lillith looked unscathed. Worse yet,
the razor web looked undamaged on the valley slope. Either she phased through the
material, or simply let it pass through- fixing herself immovable in relative spacetime
and renegerating from all damage as fast as the wires sliced through cloth, flesh and
bone. An unseen wave passed over the city, and Shinji grimaced again. His heart felt
as if being pulled out his chest, and he felt cold straight to the marrow.

I AM/you are (not). There was no arrogance here. Only the starving truth.

"It is my body." said Rei. Theoretically, even a being such as Lillith should be
limited by what the mortal frame could handle. She was only functionally immortal,
Rei was keenly familiar in how easily she may be killed. It was blessing.

The problem was that Rei wouldn't have survived that attack. It was one of many
anti-Evangelion measures sprinkled around the city, to bind a berserking god-
machine.

"We need weapons." said Shinji, still with one arm around Rei. He showed no
shame about being in distress. He wished he'd indulged in his whims more, for a
sword that was one fire would be really useful just then. "Um, I'm going to need
both hands free."

"I will not let you fall." Rei replied grim finality.

Shinji chuckled lightly. Rei was a very physical person, and expressed herself in
deeds. Her words were never just what she wanted to say. "I love you, you know
that?" he said, tightening his grip.

Rei couldn't help but to blush. "I..." Shinji adjusted his place to be able to put both
arms on either side of Rei's head. Their cheeks were now touching. Rei looked down
with a slight smile on her face. "I do." Her AT-field weakened, for the light of the
soul was bound in the pain of Self. Then there was a subtle hum, and gossamer
long wings appeared and faded out from her back. Ayanami measured her sense of
Self from the purpose imposed upon her by others.

She rejected all things, all thoughts, all restraint, except for that single overpowering
absolute terror of being alone again. And in that fear, she moved.

Lillith's eyes flashed bright. One moment, three very strange teenagers were at a
standoff, and then there were two overlapping sonic booms.

Controlling the AT-field of an Evangelion was like trying to harness a hurricane. It was
not that Rei's AT-field was more compliant, but much more focused. Synching with
Rei was very much like synching with an Evangelion, only that it was constant and
noninvasive. The light of Shinji's own soul may not be bright as Rei's, but it burned
hot. Shinji squeezed his grip and lightning sparked from behind his eyes.

Rei weaved left and right, as Lillith forcefully –pulled-, drawing everything in a line
into a strange vacuum blade. Throwing out her will, it slashed away at the ground.
Lillith, for all Her power, really didn't know much about using an AT-field. Her
godlike power was intrinsic and instantaneous. Only a barest fraction of that could be
evoked from Rei's physical form.

Large area slashes, though barely visible on the move, though devastating to the terrain,
were doing nothing useful. Rei's own spatial senses could perceive and avoid them.
Annoyed, Lillith then held out both Her hands palm out, and hot line scorched the trees
passed by. It was a laser, thankfully not yet homing.

Shinji observed it, feeling Rei's AT-field like a second skin. He disentangled the mechanisms
behind it, and opened his eyes to a flash of new knowledge. He held out the medallion
and concentrated. From out the eye came small quick balls of blue lightning.

Lillith twisted sharply and let the rapid-fire plasma balls pass by. Then from either
hand threw pulsing jets of raw starfire. The blasts, humming through the air with the
crack of cannon fire, blew large craters where they struck. Out from the dust cloud,
came another bright blue burst in machinegun spread.

Boom! Boom! Vip! Vip! Vip! Vip! Boom! Vip! Vip! It was daytime, and the air duel
was only visible by the scars and explosions they left in their wake. Buildings
collapsed, streets were torn up, and the shockwaves left by the rapid turns shot
through the city with a sound like popping corn.

=][=

Inside the geofront, Misato was just being asked by the Prime Minister of Japan
"Where is Shinji Ikari?" It was quite suspicious that he wasn't around to be asked
if he was willingly participating in Misato's extortion.

All Angel alarms lit up. Overlapping DANGER signs replaced the conference screens.

"Majorly strong AT-field!" Makoto reported from the command center. The powers
being unleashed could not be ignored by mere programming quirks. "It's... pattern
blue... but there's two signals!"

"Where is it?"

"Downtown." He then worked over the feeds. "We don't have video, but there's
still sound pickup from the monitoring stations." Not realizing that the conference
linkup was still active, he piped in the data.

"I WANT HIM INSIDE ME!" loudly came Rei Ayanami's voice.

Misato's expression froze. "Just for once... this once." she said numbly. "Just let
that be exactly what it sounds like."

"Aheh. Sorry, Katsuragi-san. Ah!" Makoto found an intact monitoring station at an
outlying building. "It's... Ayanami. And Ikari. And Ayanami?" The readouts shifted
to familiar patterns. "It's an Angel attack."

"Dammit."

=][=

'It's kind of convenient that Tokyo-3's empty of civilians just when an Angel that's
human-sized comes along.'
the Prime Minister was thinking as he was cut off from
the conference. 'It's just like as Kaji said. The Angel attacks are nothing more than
a smokescreen.'

Misato gave no thought to Kaji, who merely bowed aside to watch her work. There
was truth in her relief at hearing the boy's voice. It sure made a difference, having
something or someone to protect.

Kaji looked around his own battle command deep within Cerberus Base.

This was Case Zero: an attack by a human-sized Evangelion-class enemy. Like
Nagisa. Or, say, Ayanami.

Shinji Ikari very nearly wrote the book on anti-Angel combat. Certain parties
compiled transcripts and offhand remarks and collected them into a small handbook.
An Uplifting Primer, one might say.

There was a section discussing why an Angel with human awareness and human
ruthlessness was the most dangerous enemy of all. Evangelions were all but
useless against them.

"Angelspawn are different. The Angel is not a gestalt consciousness, but within its
region of absolute territory it has no problem having whatever form of Self it wants.
Angelspawn are dangerous, but destroying them has as much harm to the Angel as
cutting off one's hair for a human.

A hybrid like Nagisa, who embraces all the power of his Angel half, can strike
with all the force of an Evangelion and all the subtlety of a human."

And when asked why doesn't Kaworu Nagisa just attack without having to use
the Earth's Cradle, he had this response: "Because while it takes an Evangelion to
kill an Angel, by wearing the human form the enemy is as easy to kill as you or me.
You just have to get through the AT-field. Nagisa doesn't dare attack me head-on
anymore because I've proven I can get past his AT-field anytime to give him a dagger
to the face."

How could a simple human without any special powers, as Shinji Ikari -claimed- to
be, get through an AT-field? Wasn't the whole reason for building the Eva because
no conventional weapon could bring down an AT-field?

And here the boy laughed. "It's strange, but you see... AT-field is the light of the
soul. It is the zone of absolute territory where the Angel may exist. If you're in one,
you feel as if you're being torn apart. There is this great presence that shouts

YOU ARE NOT.

It erodes the Ego Border that maintains our existence. It makes you doubt that you
have any worth in this universe. It destroys your personality from the inside, it burns
and mutates your body from the outside.

But through all this, I've found... it doesn't take any special gift, no bloodline, no
mystical ceremony, no technological aid. It's just that simple. We are all souls self-
evident. We can WALK THROUGH an AT-field."

It was just surviving the trip that was the problem.

Cerberus Base personnel had long resigned themselves to serve as a speedbump to
buy enough time to the pilots to get to their Evangelions. Now that NERV had no
functional Evas, they were faced having to repulse an Angel attack on their own.

That it was -the- sort of Angel attack that they were actually equipped to handle
still only brought on a feeling of panic.

Colonel Nasumo grudgingly had to applaud Katsuraig's paranoia. With most of the
city retracted into the geofront, he had a clear view for his artillery. The VTOLs
didn't scramble, their rockets would be useless when their target was small and
capable of kicking away at mach speed on a whim. The laser air defense towers
however, were active.

"Deny the enemy the sky." the section on Case Zero said. "The AT-field could
be used to wrap around lasers to split or turn them into homing lasers. We have
now access to psychoreactive materials, which have proven corrosive effect on
AT-field. There is another anti-Angel weapon... I call it the Thought Bomb.

Something like it won't destroy the typical giant Angel. But against a smaller
enemy, it can destroy its concentration. Anti-air defenses can be loaded with
psycannon shells, and lasers can be focused through crystal impregnated with
psychic power to act like a Personality Beam. As much as the AT-field destroys
our sense of being, so is it that when we project our own identity on the enemy's
region of absolute territory, we also taint it, we can weaken it, eventually to bring
the enemy down to the ground where it may be destroyed."

As much as a strong enough the AT-field could distort spacetime and serve as super-
ECM against trying to target it from beyond visual range (not much of a problem as
Angels tend to be big and conspicous anyway), it is also a massive beacon to psychic
awareness. Much as white-noise ECM tends to emit radiation that an ARAD missile could
home in on, warhead seekers could be made to take advantage of how wires of
superconductive wraithbone 'wrinkled' to follow or track an AT-field emitter.

Two targets on the main screen flared their AT-fields to repulse criss-crossing fire from
automated turrets around the city. "The AT-field can be used for defense, or offense,
but not simultaneously..." the Colonel murmured.

But Shinji Ikari, still carried by Rei, could attack anyway. Lightning crackled through
the sky even as the pair swooped for cover. Lillith had no choice but to go lower.

-][-

Most of Tokyo-3's central business and residential buildings were safe underground.
There still remained plenty of freestanding buildings all around the city center however,
and these were torn through by a pair of glowing blurs. Lillith blasted unhindered
through rows of tall tenements until she reached the other end of the city.

She floated there, confused. Her quarry had vanished. She looked up, but there was
only the bright glare of the sun. The defenses hemming Her in were annoying, but not
enough yet that she deemed it worth it to be distracted from her hunt.

While the awakened ancient maker looked around, Rei and Shinji were actually clinging
to the side of the second building in. "And of course she senses AT-fields." Shinji sighed
as he slumped against a fire escape's railing.

"Like a shark." Rei agreed. She placed a hand over his. "Do not worry. I will protect you."

"I do have some small amount of masculine pri… no." Shinji sighed again. "No, I don't. I
can't beat Lillith on my own, not with Unit One still locked down." He took a deep breath
and pushed off to stand straight. Whatever was necessary to win, pride and strength were
but tools to reach the goal. This was not the time to play the brash hotblooded idiot. It
was only him that was at risk. "You'll have to distract her for a few minutes while I get
things ready."

"Understood."

Shinji's eyes widened. "I know that tone... this isn't a suicide mission, Ayanami." He
gripped her by the shoulders and put his forehead to hers. "Don't do anything too rfash.
Wait for me, okay?"

Now would be an appropriate time for a hug; Rei thought. So she did. "Two shall stand.
One shall fall." she whispered, and then began to glow. With a crack, she was zooming
off over the city and towards the surviving point defense platforms. She was going to
test her body-copy's resistance to antimatter.

Shinji looked down at six floors and wondered if he should have asked her to float him
down before leaving. He began to run down, muttering imprecations to contain his panic.
He could perform some feats of above-human ability, drawing upon the intangible
connections between himself, Rei, and Unit 01, but now he mused that stealth was still
the most useful trick. It was why Angels just couldn't comprehend that people were
actually living, self-contained souls. At best, larvae. Souls unable to express themselves
were barely living, by their perceptions.

Lillith would have as much respect for individuality as one might have to the grains of
wheat at harvest time.

He heaved for breath when he finally touched down at the alley. He needed to find a
payphone or something. He heard a loud screech and something darkened the end of the
alley.

It was black car. Tinted windows rolled down, and sunglasses-wearing faces showed.

"Wark." greeted Pen-pen from the back seat, the bird leaning out the window. Yes,
he too was wearing special custom-fit sunglasses.

"We've sunk to a new low." said Agent Jiro. "Taking directions from a damn bird."

"Oh. Right." Shinji said with an appreciative whistle. "You can track and navigate
with AT-fields too."

=][=

Another important difference between NERV and Cerberus Command was that
the latter didn't have the MAGI to automate most of the necessary processes for
command, combat, and monitoring. It couldn't operate with a skeleton crew as
few as NERV could. On the other hand, because the military base had more people
to throw at a problem, it also meant a surplus of low-level flunkies to send on
errands.

The hot cups of coffee didn't help against this chill everyone felt through their
bones. Just earlier everybody had blanked out, it was like something reached out
from behind their brains and wrapped cold hands around their eyeballs.

"Gaah." Colonel Nasuno gulped down a hot mouthful. His hands were shaking.
For all the jolliness that Tokyo-3 residents treated being constantly on the edge
of total annihilation, it was getting too repetitive and too close each time. They
hadn't had the time to go into shell-shock because the traumatic stress just kept
on building and building and building, and - gaaah.

He forced himself to focus on present concerns. "Ayanami's a clone? Did you know
about this?"

"Of course." Kaji replied cooly. The extent of how the Dummy Plug System relied
on Ayanami was known only to a select few in the government, but it was enough
have some people see her as a parallel to Heisenberg's nuclear research under
Nazi Germany.

The soldier groaned. "So now Ayanami's gone rogue. Is there anything NERV
can do about this?'

"Unit Zero's missing a head. Unit One is missing both arms." Misato spoke from
the main screen of Cerberus command bunker. "We're lucky that Ayanami's still
fighting on our side."

"But in another sense, Ayanami HAS gone rogue." Ritsuko put in.

"Well, care to explain that?" Misato tilted her head down to ask. She was standing
up in the Commander's station, but unwilling to sit down in Gendo's seat. She
wasn't directly involved in the fighting, she felt the least she owed her children
was to stand and face the danger with them.

"No. I have no explanation." Ritsuko replied. She was sitting far more relaxed, her
ahoge swaying from side to side. "I just know Pilot Ikari has something do with this."

There was a chuckle from from behind, as the door to the UNIG command center
opened to let in Shiro Tokita and Kensuke Aida. Kaji raised his right eyebrow
inquisitively. With the Land Dreadnought just as useless as the Evangelions, he
wondered why they still stuck around.

"NERV doesn't have the forces to deal with this, but we do." said Tokita. "We're
the support base for Legio Terminatus too. We just saw them and the PSYKANA set
out."

Kensuke nodded. "Shinji told me about Case Zero just in case Tokyo-3 goes silent.
I think he was hoping I'd evacuate too, but what the hell." He looked up at the
screen. "Huh. I wonder why Aya... the other... the Angel? Why it's fighting outside
instead of heading down the geofront like usual?"

Ah. Aida could consistently be counted on to focus on his martial obsessions.
Where most people would be worrying about dying, Kaji mused that Kensuke would
worry about how it wouldn't be a cool enough end. The boy's words sapped some
of the tension from the command center. Kaji could see some of the operators
ease their shoulders slightly. There was still this formless terror weighing them all
down, more than the usual near-panic of an Angel attack.

They had to laugh at danger, otherwise they might give in to the urge to curl up and
cry. Kaji looked around. If they managed to survive this latest doomed enterprise,
he knew that these brave fools had one more test to endure.

The tools that NERV required to win, the Eva, the Lance, they had none of those
things now. Case Zero was just the hope that human half-measures would suffice.
He envied being able to trust in something or someone that deeply.

The communications to NERV fizzled for a moment as a large explosion rocked the
surface. One of the ammunition buildings just went up in flames.

"Hang on - Katsuragi-san, we've got contact." Shigeru's voice broke in. "It's Shinji!"

Up on the overhead tactical displays another armament building winked out of
existence. A few moments later however, they managed to get another signal.

-][-

A battered vintage black automobile screeched as it bounced off a fallen lamp-post.
Shinji had on a headset connected to the heavily modified radio on the dashboard.
He was belted in. Beside him sat Pen-pen, likewise wearing a seatbelt that was too
loose for his tiny avian body. The bird screeched in protest.

In a voice all too calm Shinji said "You're the one with an AT-field for no readily
explicable reason. You make sure we don't fall wheels up and get crushed to death."

Pen-pen let out an irritated trill and tried to cross his wings.

The car landed wheels-down and bouncing back up hard, its suspension nearly
cracking. Agent Jiro fought to get the wheels moving again. He licked at a chipped
tooth and adjusted some buttons on the dashboard. There were different 'flavors'
of the AT-field, and only a few served as a natural ECM. Unfortunately most shielding
effects fell under this heading. After a while, there was a crackle and steady buzz.

"We've got a link to the geofront." the agent said. "NERV, this is Section 2 unit Sigma
Three. Stand by for communications with Pilot Ikari."

"Shinji!" Misato shouted while putting both palms on the commander's table. "Where
are you? Are you all right?"

"... hello? Oh! Excuse me, Misato-sa-" there was the loud shriek of skidding tires. The
link faltered for a few seconds as Pen-pen's mediocre AT-field repelled a failling girder.
"Ugh. I'm fine."

"Situation report!"

Shinji took a deep breath. Misato was in her uncompromising command mode. Plans
and possibilities danced within the boy's skull. This was explicitly the worst thing ever.
To survive... somehow, Misato must be -persuaded- to deliberately try and trigger
Third Impact.

His father choosing to go away with Nagisa... was this yet another of Gendo's
scenarios?

"We're under attack. One of Ayanami's... other bodies... has been compromised. But
it's a Power-type enemy instead of an Infitration or Infestation-type, so defeating
this one should prevent the others from activating. It's... the Second Angel."

"What? What the hell did you do, Ikari?" Ritsuko's voice cut in suddenly.

"Um… sorry. There's-" Pen-pen squawked suddenly in alarm. "Can we talk about this
later?"

"Explain yourself or face my wrath."

Shinji sighed. He could feel a tingle at the back of his neck telling him that once
again either Lillith or Ayanami was nearby.

The communication was cut off. The front of the car separated from the rear half,
the boy and his penguin grimacing as sparks flew below their feet, as the metal frame
scoured against concrete. The front with the engine continued for a while longer
before sliding to a stop. Little slivers burned Shinji's shins.

Hurriedly he pushed at the release button for his seatbelt. He fell forward onto the
street, and Pen-pen obligingly slid out of his own seatbelt and onto the boy's back.
The bird let out a frantic warning. A shadow passed over them.

Shinji had no time to get up and run. He rolled across the pavement, while Pen-pen
scampered in place above him like riding a rolling log.

Whump! The rear half of the sedan was flattened by the tangled wreck of billboard
frame.

Shinji discerned a warm light from the corner of his vision. Painfully he tried to get
back to his feet.

He looked up to see the two Section Two agents get out of the front half of their
vehicle, and ineffectually firing their pistols at Lillith's AT-field. Fortunately Rei
intercepted the wave of force that would have turned the agent into so much meat
paste.

A heavy blanket of fear hung over the city. Shinji forced his way through it with
sheer hate. Lillith had a bored expression on Her face, but it was different from
Kaworu's arrogance. Feral madness glittered in Her eyes. She was a broken creature,
made of jagged pieces that didn't quite fit, and what she wanted were souls to jam
into the cracks.

That expression didn't belong on Rei's face. How dare this being defile Ayanami's
existence! Shinji wondered if this was indeed the slumbering god held captive within
the geofront, or a dead echo from a dead world.

A dim part of him noted how perfect it was: Rei Ayanami, who could renew herself,
could shed mortal shells like a serpent may shed its skin - should now hold the
primordial beast that sculpted worlds and carried the law with her teeth.

Rei nodded; go. She was radiant. She was almost smiling, content and fulfilled in
her purpose. And yet, even with all her powers unsealed it was still an unequal
battle. It was just skill and experience that carried her, and her heart was not
immune to the fear of Lillith's unmatched potency. If Lilllith had his and Rei's
memory, she would know about Case Zero.

Shinji was bait. On the other hand, Lillith couldn't focus completely on fighting
against Rei as long as she was made to worry he would get away. Lightning
crackled the the space between Shinji's fingers, but he had no choice. Indirectly
he was helping Rei more by being nowhere near her.

Shinji let out a soundless snarl and turned away. He ran, carrying Pen-pen under his
arm like a football.

There were tunnels all over Tokyo-3. He saw that the agents were already opening
a hatch. It was a calculated risk, he saw. Lillith wouldn't be able to find them so
easily. But if neither would she have any problem punching through the street level
to corner them underground. They would be as helpless as a rat in the path of a
pipe cleaner with a head of spinning blades.

There was only dim red light to see with within the claustrophobia-inducing tunnel.
There was another benefit to going underground however. Agent Jiro forced open
one of the maintenance lockers to take out a hardened radio that could tap into
the underground communication lines.

Unfortunately, this link wouldn't be as encrypted as that from the Section 2
radio transciever.

"NERV command, this is Ikari. Are you tracking us?"

"Yes, we can see you Shinji." Maya replied. "That's the access tunnel M5. There's
an intersection leading north and south ahead."

"Where are the Pyskana deploying?"

"We can guide them over to your position, but the main road to Cerberus Base is
to the south."

"Ikari, I haven't forgotten." Ritsuko cut in again. "You still owe me an explanation!"

Shinji sighed. He would have to explain on the move. "Fine. Rei told me she could
feel always the presence of the Angel from whose genetic information she was
designed. That thing that the Committee calls Lillith. Nagisa keeps calling us humans
as Lillim, remember? That creature is also the source of all life on this planet."

"Ever since First Impact." Ritsuko replied. "After billions of years, the Second Angel
chooses now to wake up?" Adam's release during Second Impact should have
done something. How curious. It wasn't like Lillith was dead, otherwise they'd
never have been able to grow the Evangelions. "Don't tell me… this whole mess.
You woke the damn thing up, didn't you?"

"I'm… not sure? What I did really shouldn't have an effect like this. Father had the
Lance. He was waiting at Terminal Dogma. I don't know if he did something before
leaving with Nagisa..." Or if it really was, as he feared, that a malevolent force
followed him across dimensions.

"Ther-... zzzt."

There was a long pause as the tactical map showed Shinji and two others were making
use of a sewer access. It may be smellier, but also wider and thus they could move
faster. The sewers needed to be large to funnel floodwaters out of the city. Such a
paranoid measure had proved insufficient when the city did end up being flooded
anyway... but better than nothing.

Unlike the maintenance access tunnel, it was dark inside the sewer outflow tunnel.
Agents J and K put on slightly goofy-looking LED flashlights on headbands. Agent Jiro
couldn't help but to mutter it was the perfect time for some sort of crawling alien
terror to appear.

"Stop!" Shinji yelled and pulled hard on the agent's collar. "Don't move!"

"What is it? What is it? Oh god it's a xenomorph isn't it?"

They were all thrown back as the tunnel in front of them collapsed inwards, and
choking heated air filled the confines. Up on NERV's tactical map, an entire city
block vanished.

Rei Ayanami leaned against a TV tower, breathing heavily. "... my body is mortal."
she whispered. That was the whole rationale behind Case Zero. While she could
use the AT-field like the Evangelion, unlike the god-machine she burned calories
with every movement. Eventually even Lillith in her shell must tire.

A few more of those wasteful cross-shaped energy blasts...?

Rei grit her teeth and pushed with her bare feet off the metal frame. The steel
buckled inwards, and she shot off with a mumbled 'ere we goes again'.

Agent Jiro popped his head out a manhole and let out a girlish scream as a tire
just narrowly stopped in front of his face. It was connected to a white news
van. He climbed out and rested on the road, with a hand to his chest. It was bad
enough there was a terror aura pressing down on everyone in the city, but a few
more shocks like that and he'd get a heart attack. Meanwhile his partner wasted
no time in commandeering the vehicle.

-][-

"Shinji!" Misato gushed, relieved, as the boy turned his radio back on. The tactical
display showed his beacon moving at a good clip south. "Good. Listen, the forces
from Cerberus Base are already set up at one-six-five-niner. Get there as soon as
you can, I'm raising some more armament buildings to cover you."

"Our systems still can't discern which AT-field source is Ayanami and which is the
Angel, Katsuragi-san." Makoto said in a tone he hoped didn't sound insubordinate or
second-guessing her orders.

"Use the manual override and get some gunners to aim the things."

"Understood. Switching control over to the secondary command platform."
Makoto began speaking to the operators below the bridge-like command tower.

"Raise barriers!"

Thick slabs of composite material rose from street level to block the way. Designed
as shields for the Evangelion, its ablative surfaces rated against what energies Angels
were expected to unleash, Misato hoped it would still trap or delay the human-sized
enemy. She was finding it a personal surprise, that despite having gained some
emotional attachment to the blue-haired girl with her own subtle brand of humor,
Misato was having no problem thinking of Rei as just another Angel to be destroyed.
Had it really been just a few hours since she felt so sickened by what Ritsuko was
doing with the Dummy Plug project?

Speaking of the doctor, Akagi had once again seized upon Shinji's inability to
elucidate properly. Just because he was fleeing for his life was no excuse.

"Ikari! If Lillith is self-aware, then because WE'RE NOT DEAD YET it can only mean
that it has Self but no Body. I already know you're insane, but what idiocy is this
to send Ayanami out to fight that thing? She might trigger Impact in contact with
it!"

"... that's actually the least of our problems. Ayanami is formed from the genetic
material of the Second Angel, but I never liked how people can be made to hate her
unfairly or want her as a tool used for self-extinction. We can't win this war until
we're free from that risk."

Ritsuko scoffed. "So to preserve her from further experimentation and exploitation,
tell me now, what did you do?

There was a long uncomfortable silence though the channel, broken only by distant
grinding sounds as downtown buildings were torn apart.

"Ikari!"

"Um… I... we… kind of… removed Rei's ability to trigger Impact…?"

"How?"

"Um…"

"I can see you're not in danger or out of signal range. Answer the damn question."

"I can synchronize with Rei like with an Evangelion, all right? We duplicated mother's
Contact Experiment and I transferred that piece of her soul into myself." He left out
the part of it being done by accident and from possibly from tearing his way out of
some other timeline or universe. And done only via Lillith's own consent. "As a human,
that would just kill me long before the process can complete."

Ritsuko groaned and bit her cigarette in half. "What -is- this I don't even."

Misato slammed her palms onto the table. "Shinji, that is unbelievably stupid. Why
would you even do that?" Other than the obvious reason, she supposed. Ah, young
idiots in love.

"Cloning me would be useless." Shinji replied all too evenly. "So if humanity ever
needs the Evangelions in the future, the Dummy Plug System would still function…
but if we get rid of the First and Second Angels we won't have to worry about
an Impact event ever again."

"But if you can… this isn't good, Shinji. You're just asking to get a bullet to brain."
Misato grit her teeth. This sort of grand self-sacrifice was an insult. She hated
that obsessive sort of selflessness from her father, and it was hypocritical to see
it from Shinji. "Seriously, if you say you think it's a fair trade, I'll hit you when
you get back."

The screen fuzzed out for a moment as the containment systems for a positron
cannon ruptured, unleashing a flare of antimatter annihilation into the air.

"Shinji!" Misato gasped as the locator signal vanished. This was very different
from sending the Children out to fight inside an Eva.

When the static cleared, everyone was relieved to see Shinji's radio beacon
moving at good clip south. A camera on the far end of the avenue caught glimpse
of a white news van.

In a strained voice, Shinji finished with "We'll have to deal with it anyway. Sorry,
Misato-san."

Eh. Misato shrugged. They were already used to cleaning up other people's
problems. "Ritsuko, options?"

"All our previous scenarios involve delaying action just to get the pilots to their
Evangelions. But we have no functional Evangelions. The enemy is too agile or too
small for many of our remote weapons. Ayanami… is doing surprisingly well.
Anything strong enough to take out the enemy is likely to kill her as well."

"I'm not shoving every N2 mine we have up to the surface, Ritsuko."

"That boy of yours made himself the target. Stupid martyr tendencies. Like it
matters… someone still has to die. Hah." At a peeved look from Maya, Ritsuko
relented. "There are more exotic methods out there. Methods that were
never under NERV's control."

Shinji Ikari brought in an army. The problem was that a full unleashed Rei, as
an Angel, could devour whole armies and everyone knew it. Getting her so
unflinchingly loyal to him, that was a cunning move. Ritsuko smirked. Whatever
words the boy might use to justify it to himself, he was a user like his father. He
just took better care of his tools.

-][-

Agent Jiro spun the wheel and sent the white news van into a sharp turn. The
cameraman/driver/flunky shielded Rika Izuna with his own body. "Hey, careful with
the equi- oof!" he tried to say as Rika in trying to get up dug her elbow into the
small of his back. Agent Kentaro grabbed Shinji by the back of his shirt before the
boy could accidentally faceplant into the reporter's breasts.

Shinji didn't even seem to notice, his attention consumed by the military radio held
up to his ears. "Turn left at the next intersection, they're ready." he said, opening
his eyes to see Rika Izuna's outraged expression. His own face showed confusion.

She was about to slap him but missed from her cameraman moving out from under
her. Just as well, since Agent Kentaro despite his dark shades radiated hostility at
trying to punish the kid for a perversion he hadn't even done. Or it could be that
the boy reminded him too much of his own younger days and strong-willed
women that dominated his teenage years.

The new van's roof caved inward, and the rear door was ripped right off. Flipping
head over heels, a blue-haired girl slid into the van. Rika screamed at seeing Rei's
feral grin, her eyes glowing like hellfire.

"Stay back! Or-! Or..." Shinji yelled brokenly. Quickly he fumbled behind him
looking for any weapon. His fingers found something soft, and he pulled.

"Wak?" said Pen-pen. The bird saw it was face to face with Lillith and began to
scream in panic.

"BEHOLD MY PENGUIN LASERR!" Shinji yelled with his eyes tightly closed.

"Wak." said Pen-pen.

"What." said Lillith.

Shinji squeezed the side of Pen-pen's belly, and the penguin's eyes glittered bright.
A cross-shaped flash burst out, clipping the hairs just above Lillith's ears, and
blowing off a skycraper's top in the distance.

A long uncomfortable silence stretched within the vehicle, interrupted only with the
clanking of the motor and short bumps as the van rolled over the broken highway.

"... in my defense, I wasn't expecting that to work, like, at all." the boy whimpered.

Pen-pen spun around in Shinji's hold and began to viciously assault the boy's face
with his claws and feet. "Wakwakwakwakwakwrakrakrak!" As Shinji let out a
"Yargh!" of pain and let go to protect himself, Pen-pen dropped to the floor and,
giving a last contemptuous sniff, waddled over towards the front of the vehicle.

"Um..."

There was a whump, as a second set of footprints appeared on the van roof, and a
slim arm reached down to grab Lillith by the hairs at the back of her head. As quick
as she appeared, she was gone.

"... wasn't that Ayanami?" asked the cameraman.

Again they all had to look for support as the van skidded into another sharp turn.

As the van rounded the corner, it passed a line of large armored mercenaries, the
Legio Terminatus, all sixteen of them.

Wraithbone was horrendously expensive. Psychically-charged material however,
was apparently almost the same thing as the Lance and could break through
passive AT-field protection.

The Legio Terminatus, twelve armed with cut-down anti-tank autocannons, were
burning through about three hundred million dollars worth of psycannon rounds per
second. All of that just to keep Lillith pinned down. If Her AT-field was focused on
defense, then it was not being used to tear to shreds everything in sight. Overlapping
hexagons flared all around her and She had to drop to the ground.

Above here, on the roofs on either side were the Psykana. Lama Pagnor was there,
in full Terminator armor and with the experimental psychic hood. The rest of the
were wearing lighter armor but still with the strange tall helmet. They were all
wielding spears of black metal.

A third of the city was rubble. Half of the rubble was on fire. Shinji winced at
feeling three broken ribs. His elbows were scraped and bleeding. He was grinning.
Ayanami was worth an army. But what about Ayanami PLUS an army?

The white van lurched to a stop, and slowly those inside got off. A penguin hopped
out of the front side seat and began to berate the driver in unintellegible squawks.
Agent Jiro shot a wild 'help me I don't know what the hell I'm doing here' look
to his partner. They were supposed to Shinji's sentries, kept a comfortable distance
away from his zone of weirdness.

"What's happening?" Rika Izuna asked, while jabbing at her companion to get
his camera up. "I heard part of your conversation with Katsuragi. You seem to know
a lot about this latest Angel attack, Pilot Ikari. What is Lillith? What was that thing
about removing Ayanami's ability to trigger Impact and implanting it into yourself?"

By the gods, just when she thought that any Ikari's power-grubbing ways couldn't
surprise her anymore, they just go several more shameless steps further!

Agent Kentaro stepped between the reporter and the boy. "No comment." He put
his hand over the camera lends. "Thank you for your patience while we
commandeered your vehicle, but now it's best if you left. It's dangerous here."

The reporter mulishly stuck her jaw out. "No. I'm not afraid of you." she said while
holding her microphone like it was a dagger. "I'm not afraid to chase after the truth!"

"That's... brave of you." Agent Kentaro lifted an eyebrow. "But stupid."

"You fascist assho-"

"No, just one twenty kiloton N2 device isn't enough." Shinji said into his radio. "It's
going to take at least ten megatons to overwhelm Rei's AT-field, and timing all
those N2 mines is going to be tricky." He blinked. "Yes, I want to preserve the city.
No, we're fine. Just bring them to the surface, please."

"Wait. Did he just say what I think he heard he said?" the reported asked shrilly.

Agent Kentaro pointedy looked past her. "Maybe you'd better turn that camera
around. We all have to fight for survival in our own way. The truth also contains
what people give of themselves."

Shinji Ikari smiled thinly. From an armament building, a metal box shot out and
landed close by. The box opened with a steaming hiss, exposing a Mark III
armored plugsuit.

Now, he could fight.

After all, Kaworu Nagisa could do everything that Rei could. Case Zero relied
heavily on his experience fighting Kaworu, hand to hand, in the desert of Sinai.
The Mk3 armored suit instead of a full-body suit was instead separated into
pieces for the chest, arms, thighs, and knee-high boots. Armored joint covers
vent over his knees and elbows.

With a thought, wraithbone fibers grew, linking plates together. Shinji took out the
strange eye-shaped medallion he was given at Javaal. Its secrets were uncovered
in his Egyptian expedition. They called it the Stone of Kings.

He slid it over the belt buckle of his plugsuit, incidentally over the chakra point over
the groin.

He'd run away long enough.

=][=

"So this is how it ends." said Pagnor. He'd lived a long time, like most of the
masters of Javaal, eating the pain of the living world. He'd always known that the
hatred from the color of one's skin or the faith held by one's fathers made no
sense, but it was still odd to have all of man's old grudges put to stark
insignificanceby one strange blue-haired young girl.

All the wars that men fought, was for nothing. All the power that men claimed, was
for nothing. This was a war that could only be fought and won inside the heart.

He looked to his left and right. These were the warriors made for final war
prophesied over five thousand years ago. When he first learned of his own abilities,
contacted in the streets of Chicago in 1938, he'd been hateful at being prevented
from using his powers to make change, to make them all pay.

The Thule Society broke his illusions of people of his abilities being any more moral
or worthy to rule. He'd been brought to Javaal for training, and and fought in the
scarred wastelands created by the sacrifice of millions, in worlds half-formed and
in the shadows behind men's eyes. But it was just one piece of the puzzle. A
greater horror lay in wait.

To SEELE, the war was just an excuse. The Japanese Imperial Government had
opened up the geofront, and thought they could use the dead monsters within
as their trump card. The metal wasted for the battleships Yamato and Musashi was
nothing compared to those sunk underground. It would have been a fortress
beyond anything the world had known, a city in darkness, an empire in secret. That
was the last counter-invasion plan. A shadow moon, untouchable, slid sideways in
time where one may counterattack with impunity.

SEELE had no need for Imperial Japan. They needed the secret broken, the Allied
powers in excited frenzy at this power beyond their atomic weapons, pouring
more funding into research that must be hidden from the rest of the world, for
the victorious mood should not be broken by the proof of man's insignificance
in the universe.

To more subtly and inevitably nudge the powers behind nations into the
ultimate blasphemy.

There had always been monsters in the shape of man.

"The temptation is too much." Shinji had said. "The Dummy Plug System sounds
like a mercy… or at least efficient… compared to having pilots like me, but it's still a
trap. I wonder how many worlds before us were consumed by tainted self-interest?"

"Are you saying that man's shape is not unique in the universe?"

"I'm saying it's inevitable. Where did the story come from, I wonder, the undying Mother
who wears Her daughters' faces?"

Pagnor took a deep breath, lightning sparking around his face like a blue halo. He slammed
his helmet over his head and growled. He lifted his spear and jumped off, running down the
side of the building in defiance of gravity. It would end here. The others followed
without hesitation.

The world had changed around them, it was as if in the distant past someone had cut
a sliver out of time just to make sure there were those who could stand at the right
moment - mortals with the power to slay a god.

And then there was lightning.

Lama Pagnor looked down to see that Shinji Ikari had finally joined the fray. Physically
the boy was weak, and to try and wrestle with the Chaos Serpent would only get
him snapped like a twig.

"When above" the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater
ocean was there, "the first, the begetter", and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, "she who bore
them all"; they were "mixing their waters".

Adam and Lillith. Apsu and Tiamat. While it was sufficient to think of this as a reflection
of the civilizations arising on the banks of a great river empying out into the ocean,
where both farming and fishing provided freedom from hunger, there were also strange
symbols hidden in the memories of man. Water, the Dead Sea scrolls that contained the
writings of a long-dead ancient race said, had always been the metaphor for life. Fire had
always been the reference to intelligence.

The First Angel, Adam, was rendered dormant by Lillith's arrival. And yet, so was Lillith
exhausted by the struggle that the life that emerged was not yet a copy of Herself.
But it was inevitable - the Dead Sea Scrolls were sections of the Tablets of Destiny,
and whoever possessed Dup Shimati was supposedly ruler of the universe.

The Tree of Life needed the light of intelligence to bear fruit.

"We were born to no purpose." the boy had said with a laugh. "How arrogant it is to
think we are the ultimate form of life in the universe, when two gods sleep with us.
And these beings of near-omnipotent cosmic power were created as mere
Gardeners."

Psykers had no explanation for how the hell Shinji Ikari could do the things he did.
The closest that anyone could get was that he had a passive synchonization with
Unit One going on all the time. While psykers could impregnate psychoreactive
materials with energy, Shinji could only drain it. But he could do it swifly, explosively,
and somehow Not Die. Wearing a suit of superconductors only made it easier for him
to will electrons out of the air and into punching lightning out of his fists.

'Seriously', he thought. 'What the hell is up with that kid and being so attuned to
lightning?'

Shinji's palm slapped onto the stiff surface of an AT-field. Lightning crackled inside
the field towards the one creating the field. Lillith pulsed the field, throwing off both
Shinji and Rei in a shockwave, and in dropping the field narrowly avoided being flash-
fried.

The region of Absolute Territory was not absolute where he was around. There was
no Terror that could hold him.

'There's a collective unconscious that links together all of humanity. Those who can
pull power out of that wellspring is the Golden Saint phenomenon.' the warrior-priest
pondered. But the boy was no goddamn Saint either.

Chimera tanks with 110mm cannons pumped out high-explosive rounds at Lillith,
forcing her to raise her AT-field again. While the attack would do no damage
whatsoever, the more she used it, the more She would tire out.

Her presence filled the air. Her demented laughter scratched at the insides of
everyone's skulls. Nagisa, like all the Eva pilots, could enjoy combat, the artistry of
those who clashed in personal battle. This enemy did not lust for the confirmation
of one's own power and existence, as Kaworu indulged in.

There was only hunger.

Slowly, She walked forward, uncaring of the hot flashes continually battering Her
shield. She bared her teeth and leapt. The glacis of a tank caved inward, and a
driver was pulled out screaming.

She drank of his terror. Corporal Hideaki Toba, age 20, had a girlfriend who he
was afraid was seeing someone else due to his reluctance to propose and the
danger of being assigned to Tokyo-3. His name, his past, his hopes and his
dreams, Her red eyes pulled out the kernel of his identity. The soldier screamed as
his flesh bubbled and broke open into bloody sores under an intensely strong
AT-field. The Ego Border collapsed, and he exploded into a gout of blood.

Blood which drained off the stained tank hull and into her shadow. Aside from the
empty uniform, it was as if he'd never existed.

Lillith frowned. It was not enough. The void inside of her just ached more from
having tasted the bounty.

"We too are tenders." Shinji Ikari had said, in a planning session with the
PSYKANA and over his father's own copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls. "We are but
leaves in the Tree of Life, and eventually... we were meant to be consumed."

Superconductive wires lashed out like the heads of a hydra, spinning together into
threads, then a rod, then a staff. Lightning blasted across Lillith's side, and with a
grimace She forced the mortal shell to endure. She thickened Her defensive field
considerably on that side and turned with a look of annoyance. At the other end of
the street, Shinji's face was set in defiant snarl om return. He shone with the hopes
of billions.

That should sate some of her hunger.

There was just enough time to react, to take the premonition and turn to get Rei
Ayanami's fist in Her gut. Then a jab to her throat, and while Lillith didn't need to
breathe the flush of pain disoriented Her anyway. She failed her arms out to keep
balance and was caught.

Rei Ayanami pulled at her opponent's arms, her knee on her doppelganger's back. The
power behind their punches was an explosive release of the AT-field. Leverage still
applied, and with such an pin not even a being of Lillith's power could do anything with
Her shell in such a pose as if crucified.

She could only be forced to watch as, like host of descending golden raptors, the
Psykana descended in the culmination of Case Zero.

Their spears crackled with power, the AT-field blazed red, and was pierced through!
There was just a staccato of heavy thuds as they drove their spears down with both
arms and all their strength. The pavement cracked under their boots.

There was the scent of burning meat as eight long spears impaled deep into Ayanami's
body and out the back. Rei just gave a slight wince as the blades over-penetrated to
make shallow stab into her own flesh. Steaming blood dripped down the blade coming
out of Lillith's neck and stained her pale green hospital dress.

Lillith let out a strange gurgling noise. The primordial being was trying to laugh even
as Her lungs filled with blood.

Shakily she reached out to grasp a grim, scowling helm of the Psykana. Gently she
cupped the long chin and spluttered "… and now… the gift is all mine" She threw her
head back, the heavy spear straight through her eye breaking her neck.

An invisible wave spread out, pulling out dread and despair from everyone. It soaked
down through the ground, and forced those in the geofront to hug themselves. It
slid through the air to the sea, and the warships in Sagami Bay looked towards the
city in horrified realization. The heartbeat of the world seemed to skip, and those
asleep on the other side of the world woke screaming.

Mankind in all the billions shared a vision of a murky dark sea, and from its still waters
two needle points began to rise. The two-pronged spear met in a long coiled shaft.

Something in the depths of their souls wanted to burst out, hurting and alone, and
out there was something that wanted to end their pain.

Bloodburst out of the neck of the armored form She was touching. The mailed suit
flopped wet and empty onto the road. Lama Pagnor winced and managed to push
back, letting go of his spear. Others, too slow, were dragged in as their spears were
sucked into Lillith's torn flesh. Rei's skin began to flake off, she grimaced in pain but
refused to let go.

A cross-shaped blast rose high over the cityscape.

-][-

"Is... is it self-destruction?" Misato asked through the tense silence that permeated
the command center.

There was high droning noise, and the sensors went wild. "Blue Pattern detected!"
Shigeru shouted. "It's... IT'S AN ANGEL!"

"Oh come on - !" Misato snarled. "Can't we catch a break?"

High above Tokyo-3, a spot in the sky grew bright, then abruptly shattered outward.
Threads of energy shot out like from a broken loom, weaving together into the counter-
rotating helix that was Armisael.

The Angel swung in mid-air, letting out a hard twanging noise, to hover above the place
where Lillith lay. Ritsuko had a brief flash of panic- the Second Angel was out of the
geofront. Contact between it and an Angel born of Adam would cause runaway Third
Impact. She held her breath and steeled herself to watch the world end.

The empty space within Armisael's rings flared bright, and a bright hot pillar of raw
star-fire lanced down. It had nothing but hatred for the very idea of Lillith. The shock
of the beam caused the air around it to burst out in a shockwave, sending cars
tumbling over and into buildings. The particle beam pulsed continuously but,
impossibly, was deflected. The beam blasted down at an angle into the geofront,
effortlessly burning through layers of earth and armor to scar the green fields beneath.

Monitors fizzed out into static, and the ground shuddered.

There was flame, and there was smoke, and then there was silence.

-][-

Ayanami crawled. Her elbows and knees were scraped raw and half her face was
covered by blood. Slowly she moved by shifting on her side, snake-like, pushing with
her thighs. Her only thought was to see Shinji safe. He was not born to this power,
and thus she thought it only fitting that only she should suffer. Her strength was his,
and his own strength was the one that kept her living.

"Ayanami..."

She smiled. He too was on his knees, coughing, trying to find his way through the
dust cloud. She knew in her heart that, if they were to just touch, then everything
forever would be all right. They were like broken mirrors whose jagged pieces fit
perfectly. Shinji had never really healed any of Rei's issues with her self-worth. They
had channeled it into more productive purpose.

Rei could not bring life onto the world. Thus she had to be the preserver.

Behind her came the the light clacking of footsteps, the concrete screaming where
shoes touched. Rei flinched. She saw Shinji gasp in wonder, and she regretted
having been unable to spare him this pain.

The floating cloud of debris burst, clearing away right and left as if blown away by
the flapping of great wings. The white of a laboratory coat shone eye-hurtingly white.

Yui Ikari smiled.

Who, after all, could have told Gendo Ikari it was possible for a mere human to claim
the powers of a god? To trap it within flesh-and-blood body? Gendo had sought her out
for her connections to SEELE, but it was she who decided to betray them.

Armisael, above, began to furiously spin its helix. Hostile light bore down and splashed
against a monstrous AT-field. The Angel didn't let up. Instead, it compressed the
beam and pulsed even quicker, like it was screaming DIE! DIE! DIE! DIE! with every
flare.

Until, finally, a pencil-thin beam broke through. Yui Ikari skipped lightly, to the side,
the beam singing the edge of her coat. Her left eyebrow lifted in fascination. Her
fingers twitched, and there was a sound not unlike that of a piano key.

Yui lifted her hand to her face. Delighted, she wiggled her fingers. The sounds
formed by the interaction of the AT-field she now controlled took on a more musical
timbre.

Humm.

Yui shifted the position of her handm up and down, held out and to the sides.

Humm.

Hummm.

Hummmm...!

She stretched out, exulting as her muscles strained, and sliced up with her open palm.
There was a sound not unlike a harp string being cut, and then the air rang with a
scream.

Armisael staggered in mid-air, unraveling. Cut straight through, its strands leaked
thick red blood as it crashed onto the buildings. It continued to break apart into glowing
strings, which darkened and dissolved into thick red ichor.

Dead.

Yui Ikari resumed experimenting, on her face a look of delighted inquiry. Tall buildings
began tumbling down around her, with every gesture cut straight through their metal
support beams; with every gesture a perfect note on the most perfect piano.

-][-

Down delow, Ritsuko Akagi slumped defeated on her seat. "So this is how the world
ends..." she whispered. "To the strains... of Für Elise."

-][-

Rei felt herself being picked up by the back of the neck, weak as a kitten. 'We were
wrong...'
she thought. 'People are separate because being together brings pain.
That which cuts through the AT-field... is what we call the Spear.'
Lillith's own lance,
the trigger of evolution.

The grip began to tighten and she couldn't breathe.

"Ayanami!"

Shinji's panicked cry pulled her back from the abyss. From her peripheral vision she saw
him attempt to leap to help, only to fall to his chin as he was tackled from behind by his
Section Two bodyguards.

"Dammit, Ikari!" Agent Kentaro whispered fiercely and with regret "Remember you're the
trigger for Third Impact now!"

The blood from Armisael's stringy yet gargantuan corpse was starting to flood the edges
of the avenue.

"I won't sacrifice Ayanami... not again!" the boy blubbered, desperately and in futilility
reaching out with his right hand. Fear and hate and shame bubbled through his veins, for
he knew that this too, was likely his fault too.

Yui turned to look at him while still effortlessly holding up Rei by the neck with one arm.
She tried to speak, but there were no words. A metallic shriek was all that she could
make. Though she might wear the shape of a human, the region of space she occupied
might as well have been a different universe in itself, a singularity in a soul.

The plaintive twang of strings seemed to croon 'It's going to be fine.' Yui turned back to
Rei, and gripped the girl's neck with both hands. 'It's all going to plan. I'm going to fix
everything, you'll see.'

There was a loud crack, and Yui's head snapped back. A crumpled dart fell from her
cheek. It had a tungsten carbide penetrator head with a psychoplastic material core.
Yui looked annoyed.

Within the fifth floor of a cark park several blocks over, a UNIG sniper shivered with
sudden, maddening fear. His eyes met hers through the scope and he opened his
mouth to scream. There was an explosion of blood and an empty uniform and an
anti-material rifle slapped onto the garage floor.

Slowly the Tactical Dreadnoughts of the Legio Terminatus and a few weary Psykana
shuffled back into the street. Lama Pagnor's armor was dented inwards. Many of his
comrades had not fared so well, devoured by Lillith's presence or had their bodies
crushed by debris. Faith and willpower had not served as well as thick layers of armor.

They couldn't attack, fearing that Yui would use Rei as a human shield. They looked
to the anguished plea on their employer's face and saw that the boy had nothing
left. He'd met the foe he could not defeat through raw insanity. He was still pinned
to the ground, his chin to the road surface. He would not be able to let go of love
and pride.

Never again. Not to Ayanami!

Yui looked to Shinji, then to Rei, and tilted her head aside as if to ask: Is this
enough for you?
Lillith was a beast out of the primordial Chaos. Yui understood the
human yearnings that beat within the young girl's heart. It was loyalty. Wasn't it just
a transaction of emotions? Ayanami was being loved as payment for her power. She
had never stopped being a tool.

Anger flashed across Rei's face. Her lips curled up in a slight snarl. Of course it
was enough! She was replaceable. Sohryu could become a mother. She existed
only to die for him. Rei now valued herself, but because of that she could also offer
herself. There could be no sacrifice without having worth.

Pride and delight spread across Yui Ikari's features. Gratefulness shone in her eyes.
'You have done well.' she mouthed out. The girl had fulfilled her purpose to the
outmost. The tool had served very well, until the time the Project could be
completed.

And now the tool must be put down, so that the hand could be free to grasp new
things, to reach for new heights.

Yui squeezed. And squeezed. Someone was screaming. There was a squelching
noise and a crack.

'So Sohryu wins after all.' was the thought. It was pleasant anyway. Knowing
love and friendship, no one could take that away from her.

Rei Ayanami's body fell limp onto the blood-slicked road. Her head went another
away.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!"

Shinji screamed and screamed until his throat cracked.

The street lit up in fire. Autocannons and Storm Bolters blazed away. The shots
struck and sparked off Yui, standing there casually with her hands in her pockets,
all futile as shooting Superman. She still had that sad, yet satisfied smile. As long as
Ayanami existed, there was the possibility of Lillith leaking out. She blinked and put
a hand to the sides of her face. Strange. Was she weeping? Ayanami's soul was
more beautiful than she had expected.

She looked at Shinji, still cowering in despair, and met Agent Kentaro's eyes. The
older agent had removed his sunglasses, and his weary expression seemed to ask
'why?'. He had been an acquaintance of Yui even back when NERV was still GEHRIN.
Part of her bodyguard detail, in fact. He got his answer, but to no avail.

Agent Jiro twitched horrified as blood spattered over his back, and sunglasses fell
to break near sensible black leather shoes.

Down below, the clones in the tank began screaming even through their drugged
mindless state.

Armisael's blood was now a thick red tide through the street, carrying loose debris
with it.

Shinji body jacknifed about uncontrollably, the wild flailing of his limbs forcing him out
of Agent Jiro's shocked hold. The boy curled into a fetal position, shaking. Perhaps he
should have been more careful about constantly declaring Rei to the be 'the other half of
his soul'. It seemed the universe perversely paid attention to things like that.

The boy's shaking subsided, his sorrow not at all. Shame at his weakness, hatred at
being unable to prevent it, and even more self-loathing at the side of him that
reminded him to just get up and move on. She would never have held him at fault,
and would have wanted him to use her death to serve his purposes. The war needed
to be fought.

But he'd never realized before just how much he relied... how he needed that pure
faith. He'd always feared he would prove unworthy of it. Rei was gone! That was his
new reality. He didn't want it to be real. He wasn't as ruthless as he'd imagined himself
to be. Fighting in an Eva, no matter how gruesome, somehow there was still a facile
veneer to it, that he could somehow deny the worst-case scenario.

Burnt, crushed, decapitated – a god-machine was still a flesh-puppet. The entry plugs
were located in a place hard to target and hard to damage. He'd used improbable battle to
feel alive.

He felt dead inside. Everything in his mind fled. He was beyond terror.

He suddenly was drained of hate, of stubborn self-importance. He shakily crawled on
all fours like an animal towards Rei's corpse. The white of his plugsuit was being
stained red.

And another part of him whispered scathingly: bet you wish you had some sort of
superpowered evil side now, huh?

He reached out, and plucked Rei's head as the Angel blood draining towards the
lake brought it closer. "Ayanami..."

Her face in death was peaceful as ever. She had no regrets. "Ayah... ayana.. mi..."
Shinji sobbed and embraced his beloved's decapitated head, cradling it to his chest.
He remained there, bent over and in tears even as others around him continued to
fight. And die.

Their mistake was thinking that, because psychoreactive material could erode
AT-fields, was that they would work against all Angels, even Lillith. Except, as it
turned out, all that the psyker activity throughout humanity was to rebuild Lillith's
own Lance.

It was inevitable. It was the flowering. Humanity was one fractured being, and
that being was the next generation of the Lillith-lifeform.

"Get him out of here!" Lama Pagnor roared to Agent Jiro, as he and the Custodes
tried to force back whatever this abomination wearing a dead woman's body. He
put two fingers to his temple, and then pointed. Lightning flashed out from his
fingertips. Yui stepped back. Good; he thought. If she... it... didn't want to get
hit by a psychic attack, then there might still be something they could do. His
combat focus was powerful, but the other masters had other esoteric methods.
He looked aside for a moment to check, and saw that Agent Jiro and the reporter
were dragging an insensate Shinji away from the fighting.

He turned back and saw that Yui Ikari was already at his face. Her face was
solemn. She held up a slim finger and touched the hollow of his throat. Then she
was ripping him open in one easy flick from neck to groin. Blood and viscera
poured out of torn composite armor.

The Legio Terminatus were falling back as fast as they were able. There was another
roar, and a bright flash, and steel rained from the skies as an artillery strike landed
right over their previous position. Corpses left on the battlefield, including Pagnor
and Ayanami, were torn to unrecognizable shreds.

Yui Ikari walked out of the hellstorm, dusting off flesh of metal ash from her lab coat.
She sneezed a small cute 'higu', and rubbed at her nose with her palms together as
if praying.

-][-

Inside the geofront, Kaji popped back into the conferencing window to say "Katsuragi,
I'm going to order that all UN assets launch all their strategic assets now. Any
objections?"

"No." Misato said, suddenly so very tired. "Ritsuko…?"

"Heading down to self-destruct the MAGI now." She closed her eyes and only saw Yui
Ikari's triumphant expression. "We've have to face it. We've lost."

"All right. We all die in ten minutes." Kaji looked aside and gave a hesitant grin. "Those
words I couldn't say before, I suppose they won't be a comfort now. But let me just
say... it's been real, Katsuragi."

"Yeah. Good-bye, Kaji."

In the Sea of Japan and just outside Sagami Bay, submarines surfaced and hatches
opened. Many of the boomers could have fired off safely from underwater, but here
independently from each other they had decided that for this they would not hide like
sell-swords in the night. From the waters rose pillars of flame. From the mainland,
atomic arrows shot out. Half a world away, decades-old silos opened and for the first
time fired in anger. The UN had a pre-set staggered launch schedule, timed that the
first wave would strike at sufficient delay that the missiles wouldn't uselessly spend
their fury in fratricidal detonations. The next wave would arrive five minutes later.
Then the ICBMs would rain down continuously five minutes after that.

The Flying Castle Sturmbrand was still nowhere to be found; not in the sky, not anywhere
on Earth.

-][-


Ugh. It took way too damn long to finally get this far.

As for Rei… sorry, but you know… it's just what she DOES.

Like Optimus Prime.

As before, while this has been run over by a spellchecker, there may be some missed grammatical issues. Please review and help me close up any plot holes. Because this portion was delayed too damn long, I'm still feeling rather disgusted about the state of this story and large sections could still be overhauled or replaced.