A True Ending (2)
It was a nice little walled-up townhouse in Nagano. There were a lot of small, abandoned little townhouses even so far inland.
But the townhouse was inside a military base.
Literally a normal two-story townhouse with a garage with nothing but clear flat slabs of concrete on all sides in the middle of a disused airfield. When someone was under house arrest, usually one did not include the house itself in that equation.
Kozo Fuyutsuki quite enjoyed the solitude in the past two years. He didn't have to deal with reporters or deal with vengeful lunatics.
The only reason he wasn't History's Worst Genocidal Maniac was because Gendo Ikari managed to get away. Surprising that Gendo had actually lived through his version of Instrumentality already. Sometimes Kozo Fuyutsuki wondered if, instead of some alternate dimension, his reality was also just another layer inside Instrumentality – and really that explained a lot of the bullshit that the Children could do – but considering how everything kept catching even Gendo by surprise at least this reality was clearly not to his benefit.
He looked out the window and saw only a line of bland prefab hangars and squat administrative buildings. As boring as it may be, the view also made it very obvious too whenever someone actually cared to have anything to do with him. He watched a single black car approach from the airstrip.
He didn't have much time.
The door to his study opened and a middle-aged man with a square face and a sour expression entered.
"Tea, Prime Minister?" Kozo Fuyutsuki offered.
Prime Minister Hayama had replaced Prime Minister Tokita two years ago, in a wellspring of outrage and anti-establishmentarianism. To sum it up, the administration spent the last fifteen years and so much tax money on something that would just kill them all. They were dogs of foreign powers. Which was technically true – SEELE's influence was everywhere and NERV's real purpose was to initiate Third Impact.
Kozo Fuyutsuki mused about how his isolation kept him from pointing out the inconvenient truth that Misato Katsuragi and Shinji Ikari had long co-opted NERV for their own purposes and the Third Impact scenario was no longer possible.
"We're not wrong!" Hayama hissed. He was younger than Tokita by almost a decade. "Katsuragi's not our ruler or anything, it's not treason to act contrary to whatever NERV says. They are behold to us, not vice versa. We are the ones who represent the peoples of the world!
"The people are scared. They people just want to live in peace. They want the suffering to just STOP already! What would you have done in my place?"
"… I would have stood by and watch someone prepare to kill of humanity, what do you think I have already done? I don't have the right to judge you."
That look of loathing and panic on the younger man's face made the past two years worth it.
"It is conceivable that finally obtaining anti-AT-field weaponry is enough to make conventional weapons relevant again, and the concentration of power in sites like NERV's installations obsolete," the old man mused tolerantly.
"The only way… the only way! We can live through this is if we remove the whole reason to fight." Prime Minister Hayama hissed as he sat on the opposite chair and banged his fists on the table. The porcelain cups clattered.
Kozo Fuyutsuki exhaled softly. "But you wonder… how will Katsuragi react when she learns where you obtained such anti-AT-field coatings in the first place?"
By the ashen look on the Prime Minister's face, he already had a good idea about that.
Somewhere in the Nevada Desert. April 1, 2016.
"Realspace translation in three… two… one."
In a flash of light and the sound of shattering glass, a flat expanse of the desert was replaced by hills and a clam shell of mountains.
"Establishing sensors. Tactical map updating," reported Shigeru.
"There's… no one here?" said Makoto. "That's not good."
Misato, Ritsuko, and Kaji turned towards the Chinese in the room. Tao Mu shrugged. "We built an underground complex in two years. This place… is it the place they used to test their nuclear missiles?"
Ritsuko tapped at her console. "It's close by. Nellis Air Force Base is somewhere to the east."
"So they're here. We just can't see them."
"We are receiving a signal," said Shigeru.
"Stealth," said Kaji. "They probably have bombers above us right now."
Misato licked her lips. "Well, so what? Let's see if we can talk things out."
"We have a problem!" Maya suddenly reported in.
"Unit-03 is missing!"
Somewhere in the Gobi Desert. April 1, 2016.
Mayumi Hamagishi fell flat on her butt as the ground she was standing on vanished.
She slowly got up to her feet, and then was bowled over again as an explosion nearby made the desert erupt into burning sands.
She raised her head and tried to wipe covering sand away from her Eva's eyes. She was lying flat on the ground and saw surviving tanks frantically trying to get to a tunnel entrance. They entered, and it shut in her face.
Her brain felt cold and full of mush. Slowly she got back up to her feet. Her Eva's power readout showed [00:41:26] forty-one minutes of operating time left.
"KROOOOOOO!" screamed the Monster above her as it spat hot plasma death at all the enemy Angels.
An Angel that looked something like a scorpion with two tails bounded across the sands. Mayumi absently backhanded it away as it leapt at her from behind. The Angel slammed against one of the Monster's legs and screamed as it was sucked into its flesh.
"THEY LEFT ME BEHIIIIND?!" she roared up to the clear blue heavens.
Back to the Nevada Desert:
"Ritsuko! Why did this happen?!"
The scientist stared at her friend, and then coolly shrugged. "Something went awry with our space magic."
"This isn't time for jokes, Ritsuko!"
"Sorry, but that's the best I can give right now. The TOY BOX should be folding space, there's no reason for anyone to be left behind because we're taking everything even the land with us when we travel."
Both women again turned to the Chinese commanders in the command center. Now they had no functional Evangelions and they had loads of foreign troops deep inside the geofront.
"I… am tempted, but we are now committed to this course. There is no real long-term gain for any conflicts here," Major Yahui said while raising both palms up placatingly. "The Americans would be able to take it from us afterwards anyway if we disrupt your ability to teleport. We will help you defend this place."
Tao Mu rubbed at his chin. "Hm. Yang seems to have vanished. How illogical. Your TOY BOX brings along everything physical, but leaves a spirit behind? On the other hand, he died in Japan and was able to harass people all over China so distance shouldn't matter."
Misato grit her teeth. "We left Unit 03 behind in a place where LILLITH's greatest Monster is fighting hundreds of Angels all at the same time! Hamagishi may not have been here long… but she's one of my Children!"
"Misato, it's because she's one of your Children that the only thing we can do is to have faith that she'll survive somehow until we can go back to get her. We have bigger problems in the present."
Misato looked up at the main screen, which showed a still immobilized LILLITH and Unit-02 sitting on the ground touching the ragged hole in its neck. Its armor was still steaming hot.
She gestured to hear the inbound communications.
"NERV Branch Japan, Site Tokyo-3; this is General Isaac Bradford of the United States Army in command of operation PERIHELION. Authentication Alpha Alpha Lima Three Charlie. Please respond. NERV Site Tokyo Three, do you copy?"
She glanced towards Kaji, who shrugged. "It's time to bluff. Bluff like hell, like our lives depend on it. Which it probably does."
Misato nodded somberly. She motioned for Shigeru to open the radio channel. "This is Katsuragi."
"Received. Please authenticate."
"Authentication NERV Zero Beta Gamma Gamma I have a goddamn Eva who else do you think this could be? I am not under duress. We just survived getting the shit nuked out of us. Again!" Misato shouted up at the main screen. "You boys had better have some good news for a change."
"I see. That's… unfortunate." The voice on the radio coughed. "I mean, my sympathies. Before anything, we have to know. Status of threat LILLITH?"
"Pacified. You're welcome."
"It wasn't you that did that. Nagisa's Lance of Longinius stopped LILLITH in its tracks."
Misato looked aside. "I see. So it's treason then."
"No. We are not aligned with the Earth's Cradle. When you left, the world was terrified at LILLITH walking free and slaughtering billions. We are eternally grateful for all the pains you've all suffered just to keep us all alive.
"However, due to urgent circumstances, we must ask for you to stand down and immediately deactivate all Evangelions. Please allow us to enter with a security force to verify that NERV Base Tokyo-3 is no longer an existential threat. Angels becoming hostile again is an untenable situation for the whole world!"
"… We're not the ones you have to fear! Angels can't even trigger Third Impact anymore, because touching LILLITH isn't going to do that – it's touching ADAM that will transform them! And it's NAGISA who has ADAM! Who's going to defend the world from him if not us?! You can't trust Nagisa!"
"We don't trust him either, no person should have that much power. But unlike Angels, and despite whatever mad goals Nagisa and his Earth's Cradle faction may have, at least he is someone that can be communicated with. Angels are too powerful to be contained. This is the only way to keep them docile."
"I don't have time for this shit. Are you really going to try and fight us? Kill other humans? You bunch of traitors! We've DIED for you! My children have killed and died for you! And this is how you repay them?!"
"They are heroes to all humanity, but the time for fighting is over. Rest assured, they will not be harmed and will be given full honors and all indulgences that they could ever want. Even you… this isn't a takeover, Katsuragi. We don't want to kill anyone.
General Bradford's voice turned gentle. "You spent two years away, Katsuragi. You don't… you don't know just how much the world has changed. Just how much the mood has shifted. Just stand down. Let's see what happens after another two years. Maybe the Angels will lose interest and go away. If necessary we can reactivate Project E at any time. You're not going to be prosecuted, this is just… think of it as a paid medical leave. You've all been fighting so hard for so long.
It's time to rest. Just let's all rest. I'm tired of this war, aren't you? Just end it, Katsuragi… only you have that power."
"I'm begging you, with tears in my eyes. We come in peace. I don't want to do this. But if you force me, for the sake of my own children and all the innocents, I'll kill you all."
"No. I'm not taking this from you. Kick this upstairs, I want to hear this from your President's mouth."
"President Jacobi has given me full authorization to act on his behalf. However, I will pass on your request."
"Good. We're staying in lockdown until then. Don't start anything you can't finish."
"You're trying to buy time, I can respect that. But please… even if you just leave, know this – you're not going to find things to be the same as you left. There's no place anymore that will dare shelter you. You have all become strangers in a strange land… Don't end up destroying the world you fought so hard to protect."
"Don't ask for things and regret having them. Katsuragi out."
Misato slammed her fists on the commander's desk.
"DAMMIT. Dammit. Those bastards! Those ungrateful, ungrateful bastards!"
"It is the most rational way out," said Ritsuko. "I mean, if you accept their claims at face value, we all get a nice cushy retirement package, a long healthy life as well-loved celebrities who chose to surrender power to the people rather than cling to it like tyrants, and maybe the Angels and Nagisa would go bother some other planet for a change if there's nothing else interesting happening here."
"It's kind of like the superhero dilemma. Do superheroes appear because of supercriminals, or do supercriminals appear as a response to superheroing?" Kaji mused.
"We didn't make the Angels, Kaji."
"2001 Contact Experiment. Yeah we kinda did." At the haunted look in Misato's face, he added "I'm sorry."
"No. No, it's fine. I'm done with my survivor's trauma, knowing my father was partly responsible for Second Impact robbed me of that. But why do we have to pay for it? My Children haven't done anything wrong."
"So, are we standing down? Look at LILLITH…" Ritsuko motioned to a screen and the spinning white halo around Unit 01. "I don't know what's happening, but it would be nice if we could secure that and prevent it from waking up again."
Tao Mu raised his hand and his voice "If I may say something-?"
"Death. Or rather the lack of it. If LILLITH is necessary for the AT-field of people to actually collapse into death, it may be necessary to wake the Mother of Life or separate it from Unit-01."
"So Evangelion and NERV will still be necessary…" Kaji hummed. I mean, it's not like there's anyone else who has any expertise in these things. There's plenty of room to negotiate. We're like a person walking around with an atomic bomb on a deadman switch."
Misato closed her eyes and sucked in her breath. A long painful silence stretched out.
"This isn't a decision I can make on my own." She reached over and thumbed a button. "Asuka? Were you listening?"
"What do you think?"
"Misato… I'm not sure… I don't want to kill other humans, but…"
"But what? I understand. Losing the Evangelion is going to be hard. If we surrender here, we can't really trust that they'll ever allow us to stand up again. They can't risk that much power flaunting their authority."
"No… I mean… I'm dying, Misato."
Misato's breath stilled.
"Wake up LILLITH, people are going to start dying again, and then I drop dead too. But I don't want to die knowing that… people aren't safe. They're just trading it all away for the DELUSION that their inhuman masters won't hurt them too severely. I don't like… I don't like knowing that I'm going to die like this… with the job's not DONE.
"Baka Shinji's out there. Fangirl Yamagishi's out there. I don't know where the hell Wondergirl is now, but if Shinji's not around there's no one who can talk her out of going absolutely fucking berserk at anyone disrespecting everything we've fought so hard for…
Her voice broke. "As long as Nagisa's out there, we'll never be safe. As long as we're not all together... we can't rest."
"We can't fight off a thousand Angels with just two Evas either. Thousands and thousands of Angels."
"If you want to surrender control of NERV, I won't stop you. Maybe if you rush a medical team you can get this hole in my neck patched up and new veins put in. But I… I'm asking that you don't give up the power we need to keep humanity safe. To keep humanity… human."
Asuka gave out a pained snarl. "Not until I get Kaworu Nagisa's head on a pole."
Misato nodded. "… I'll see if they go for that."
"The risks of the Angels becoming hostile because Nagisa is the avatar of ADAM is much too high," said President Vincent R. Jacobi "These conditions are rejected. Katsuragi, you must disarm."
"I see. So Kaworu Nagisa is already the de facto ruler of the human race, isn't he?"
"Katsuragi, don't let your hatred blind you to the facts. We need this peace. We need to end this pointless war by any means necessary! TWO BILLION PEOPLE are dead, Katsuragi! We can't keep doing this dance forever – sometimes the only way to win is not to play the game!"
"I'm not going to call you a coward, I understand your reasons. I respect that. We don't have to fight. No one has to die. All you have to do is to not do anything for three hours, and then we'll be someone else's problem."
"You're everybody's problem!" the President screamed back. He gestured to the screen behind him. "Look at this! Do you see this?! You have thirty minutes before the grandmother of all Angel attacks drops down on you!"
"All the more reason that you shouldn't be trying to stab us in the back at this point! If you're not going to help, then at least stay out of the way while we fight for our lives!"
"… Katsuragi, I'm going to have to order my people… good men and women, who didn't deserve any of this - to kill your people, who don't deserve any of this either. They'll have to kill you to save you."
"I'm not the one pulling the trigger here. You don't get to play the tortured victim."
"To break through in less than thirty minutes what no other power on Earth has ever managed… I'm not going to be pulling any punches. I'm truly sorry about this, Katsuragi."
"Welp. So much for old alliances. I guess we're at war now," Misato groaned. "Dammit. Ritsuko… am I getting a whole lot of people killed just to satisfy my own ego?"
"Words of support are easy to say, but in the end there are no friends among nations; only mutual interests. It's a naked power play in the worst possible time to salve their fears. If I were Nagisa, this would prove everything I've ever said about humanity and its weakness," Ritsuko replied. "He probably didn't even have to persuade anyone very strongly – just leave hints and let them convince themselves. We would be killing ourselves and then humanity would be replaced by his aberrations."
"They can't be sure that Unit-03 is gone. What do they have that makes them so confident that they can deal with two fully functional Evangelions?"
The desert erupted with purple smoke. A series of flares left hot, radar-opaque smoke to disguise opening bunkers and tunnels and to allow vulnerable elements to approach without being taken out by turrets.
Because Hakone was a caldera, there were only three points of entry into Tokyo-3. All of them prepared with tank traps and mines.
You would need something to the level of an Evangelion – something with feet and the ability to shrug off heavy rocket attacks – to crush defenses and allow conventional forces to push through.
What stepped out of the dark smoke was not an Evangelion.
It was a squat but nonetheless massive machine, walking on double-jointed legs. It was not so much birdlike as like that of the hind legs of a chase predator mammal – like a cheetah or a wolf. Its body was slablike, and its two stubby arms were almost entirely weapons. A large glowing cannon on the right, paired multibarrel superheavy autocannon for the left. It had a protruding head that looked vaguely like a scowling dog.
It stood about fifteen meters tall and weighed in at over four hundred tons.
"Those… what the heck are those?" Misato mused. She was not much impressed. "It's almost… cute."
"Those are Warhounds! Where the heck did they get Warhounds?!" Kensuke Aida yelped from the command center of Cerberus Base. "I need to talk to NERV!"
One Warhound was not so much a threat. But there wasn't just one.
The Scout Titan bipedal weapons platform sprinted out of the anti-sensor fog, letting out a brassy sound halfway between a ship's horn and wolf's howl. It was followed by three other Warhounds.
And those were each followed by three more Warhounds. They were all colored blue and white and had a star roundel on their flat backs.
A hunting pack of ten Warhounds rammed into the South Defense Cordon of Tokyo -3. Eight more attacked from the North. From the East, twelve. Artillery dropped ahead of them.
Pop-up defense turrets and missile launchers hurled their fury against them. Laser howitzers and massive HEAT rockets smashed into them. They blossomed in flame.
And they pushed through.
"Tch." Misato bit her thumb. "Evangelion-class armor. Now I'm almost impressed."
Just because they couldn't build full Evangelions anymore didn't mean NERV Branch America didn't have the last remaining fully intact production line for Evangelion components. Warhounds might not have AT-fields, but Evangelion-class weapons and armor were still ungodly tough to beat.
"HOUND SQUADRON ALPHA LEAD to PERIHELION ACTUAL. We are engaging Defense Line One."
"Watch out for mines, ALPHA LEAD."
"Copy. All Units! Full Speed, No Mercy."
Megabolter fire chewed up bastions and trenches. Tanks backed away up the mountain highway, to no avail. They brewed up in flame.
There was no time to give the fallen any respects. The Warhounds swept through the valley road and rushed upslope, running two abreast on the road. It wasn't until passing through the mountain that they could finally spread out.
Hound Squadron Alpha just so happened to be the ones closest to where Unit-02 had been resting.
The Warhounds slowed to a stop and milled about in uncertainty. They angled their weapons up. And up. And up.
If Warhounds were dogs, their ears would be flattening and their tails lowering in fear. An Evangelion up close and personal was like nothing else. It wasn't just that an Evangelion was BIG.
But Unit-02 even as it walked towards them with the pained gait of a tired old worker, exuded a palpable sense of power and malice. They could almost taste it.
And then a young, despondent voice broke through their comms.
"You know… I came from NERV Germany. I was trained there, I self-identify as German since my mother was half a Zeppelin. But I was born here. My father is American.
"I am still, not just technically, an American."
Asuka Langley Sohryu laughed. Her Evangelion laughed. Flames came out of her open mouth.
She flicked her hand out and a sword made of fire manifested, scorching the earth where it touched. It was so hot the ground was melting into lava. Her body was so hot there was a similarly radar-opaque heat haze just from the hissing boiling vents in her armor.
"So come on, cowboys. Who wants to be the first to take the Highway to the Danger Zone?"
Hiiighway~ to the~ Danger Zone…!
Asuka closed her eyes and sucked in her breath and waited for the music filling the radio frequencies to fade away. "Dammit, Aida…" she hissed.
"The Omnissiah compels meee!" came a familiar distant shout.
The Warhounds tilted their heads as if glancing at each other in bewilderment. Then as one they turned towards Asuka.
And fired all their weapons instead of charging into melee range.
Because, you know, Americans.
Megabolter fire met no resistance whatsoever. Asuka didn't even raise her AT-field. The bolts were two-stage penetrators with high-density core and a high-explosive second stage. The penetrators were designed as much as possible to try to defeat Evangelion-class armor, same type of armor as their own.
It failed to so much as dent Unit-02's armor because Megabolters simply were not that powerful, roughly equivalent to about 90mm fire (though at sustained 5000 RPM). Megabolters were designed to hose down enemies that lacked armor and was safe to use against other Warhounds if they were being assaulted by small enemies clinging to their hull.
The Positron Cannons, well that was another matter entirely.
A needle-thin thread of antimatter punched straight through Unit-02's chest, causing a gout of blood to erupt from its back. The blood then instantly caught on fire and was reduced to little more than ashes.
Such deceptively soft sounds for the strongest mundane (more-or-less) weapon in humankind's arsenal. Unit-02 wobbled in place as more and holes were punched out of it.
"Asuka!" Misato screamed.
Fzhap! A positron bolt struck Unit-02's face, snapping its head back. A chunk of its faceplate and cranium was carved off, exposing the pulsing Evangelion brain beneath. The Evangelion began to bleed uncontrollably.
Asuka bled. The LCL inside the entry plug was staining red.
Your hands are bloody.
So very bloody.
Young girl, for your age, your rage, your spite… not even the Young King could match such fire.
Know that even now he loves you still. He cries out to the dark for a light to shine his path back to this Materium.
So I pray, oh bloody handed one.
Lend us your RAGE.
Then her lips widened into a grin.
Her exposed brain matter burst into flame.
"THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?!" Asuka Langley-Sohryu screamed into open comms.
Unit 02 opened its jaws and ROARED.
And then THE FLAMES OBEYED.
Unit 02 wasn't regenerating. It was still bleeding everywhere.
Unfortunately anything that its blood touched immediately was ON FIRE.
Also because it was ON FIRE, then anything it touched also immediately WAS FIRE.
"We're not wrong…" President Jacobi whispered with horror as he watched Unit 02 RIP AND TEAR through the Warhounds like a hideously experienced wolf amongst a flock of armored sheep. "We didn't deserve this…"
"Accepting that in the end none of us matters is anathema to the human will, even they understand that," said General Bradford. He stood behind the President, calmly watching the carnage.
They were both in a command bunker near Nellis, personally overseeing the battle. The President could have been safe and just letting his generals and soldiers manage the fighting on their own. A politician had no place disturbing career soldiers on the job.
But he felt that it was the least he owed them. He had to at least personally accept some of the risk.
"… Are these children actually gods? Can anything stop them? In the end… "
"It doesn't matter. We expected something like this to happen anyway."
"Disperse! Disperse! Formation Omega!" the tacnet rang with frantic orders. In war, shit happens and sometimes you're just outmatched. The difference between professionals and wannabe warriors was that when shit hits the fan you always have a backup plan. And if the backup plan doesn't work, then fall back on your training to at least preserve your forces.
That was the secret of how America retained the most potent army in the world despite being knocked off its perch as the premier economic power in the world. The built-in knowledge, an ingrained faith even, that there will always be a next battle.
America never goes to war with anything less than what was practically an infinite wall of steel and guns. A mastery of logistics means winning the war before it even begins.
Or to be more precise, "if you ain't willing to cheat, you ain't willing enough to win." Fair fights are for chumps.
The Warhounds were 420 tons. They were each no match for an Evangelion which weighed in the tens of thousands tons. Frankly Asuka could just punt them with a kick and that would work.
But they were Hounds of War, and like man's best friend since antiquity, fought together and greater than the sum of their parts.
"Back! Back! Concentrate fire!"
Four Warhounds stood out in the open while three each tried to flank and began to shoot at the red Evangelion's waist. The Eva lunged and tore apart the Warhounds before it, and that only meant the others could now shoot it in the back.
At this point Unit 02's torso was probably more holes than solid matter. That just meant that more blood was getting everywhere and then meant MORE FIRE.
The tac net also rang with screaming. Crew dying as the metal around them flowed liquid and their air turned into superheated steam. Unit-02 backslapped a Warhound, ripping its head clean off. The vaguely-canine-looking head rolled to the ground half-melted. A Warhound, unlike an Eva, had a crew of three. Pilot, Gunner, and Commander. Their fate was grisly and beyond question.
Never before had the Evangelions actually been used against humanity. Up until this point, the question had always been largely theoretical.
They were driven to this because of the fear of Angels and a fight they could never win.
With all this FIRE they found a Demon instead. Everyone called Asuka "The Red Devil" as a moniker. That didn't sound half as funny now.
Cruise missiles rushed from the horizon and from circling bombers and harmlessly flattened against an AT-field. Warhounds pushed through and kept cycling their Positron cannons, converging their fire to one spot.
Unit 02 screeched in pain as its right arm was finally blown clear off. The arm spun in the air, trailing blood that exploded drop by drop in the air. The loss unbalanced her, and she only managed to slam a Warhound with the open stump.
Now at least it didn't punch through, but still the metal was now ON FIRE.
Unit-02 growled and leaned back out of the way even as more positron beams lanced in front of her face.
Asuka replaced the amputated limb with another arm made out of FIRE.
"What does it take to put you down?!" someone screamed.
Warhounds circled around Unit 02, pumping more blasts into the Eva's legs. Easy enough because an Eva was so much taller. It had just been very difficult because Unit 02 would jump around nimbly from Warhound's back to another – almost playfully, almost contemptuously, like a performing acrobat.
But having lost its balance once, now it could stumble again.
"We have more Warhounds incoming!" Shigeru reported.
"How many?" Ritsuko asked.
"That brings the total to thirty Warhounds on the field. Was thirty Warhounds, that is – now there's just twenty-four."
"FUCKING AMERICANS. FUCKING AMERICAN DEFENSE SPENDING! IT'S ONLY BEEN TWO YEARS YOU ASSHOLES!" Misato screamed out at the screen.
"To be fair, procurement is usually A LOT slower and more expensive than this," Kaji had to say. "Buying a new helicopter could take a decade. I guess having thousands of Angels just roaming around like a sword of Damocles cuts through red tape like nothing else."
He shrugged. "Frankly I consider it as much a miracle that NERV was as well-funded in Tokyo-3 as it was."
There at least had been division of labor. NERV America did the conceptual research. NERV Germany the mechanical research. NERV China the mass production. NERV Japan the dying.
"Ritsuko! Our weapons!"
"Cruise missiles strike down our pop-out weapon buildings almost as fast as we can get them up."
"Asuka needs help! What's the holdup?"
"Hooking up the S2 Engine to anything that isn't an Evangelion is going to take some time."
"Dammit! I can't… I can't do this again. I can't just watch my children DIE again…"
And then Asuka and Unit 02 EXPLODED.
AND THEN EVERYTHING WAS FIRE.
"Oh shit this wasn't even her final fooorrm!" someone screamed over the radio.
A guttural monstrous laugh rang through everyone's comms. Even the sound of it warmed their ears.
Tokyo-3 Defense Cordon North and Warhound Squadron Beta was facing much less resistance. In fact the thing slowing them down the most was knocking over physical barriers – pop-up armor walls. Evangelions and Angels would be able to just leap over them. The Warhounds had to physically knock them down with weapons fire and ramming and artillery strikes.
"BETA LEAD to PERIHELION ACTUAL, we have entered Tokyo-3 proper," the foremost Warhound reported in. Then he looked up and murmured "My god…"
Past the city skyline, a pillar of flame rose high into the sky. The clouds parted in a ring around it, looking almost like the blast effect of a nuke. But this one moved.
The pillar of flame writhed like lightning, scratching between sky and ground, collapsing the firmament. On the ground a ring of fire lashed out, flames flowing like viscous liquid, and Warhounds frantically ran backwards away from it. One Warhound miss-stepped and fell down. The fires reached its legs and carved it away like acid. The flames washed over it. The Warhound drowned in fire and its crew died screaming.
The flames passed over it, leaving behind a black scorched husk.
"Jesus Christ!" gasped his gunner.
"Sweet baby Jesus ain't got nothing to do with this…" Beta Lead murmured.
Flames burst out from the sides of the pillar like a cross, and the points bent down, becoming lashing whips. Ground was blasted out from thermal shock, leaving behind hot molten rivers of rock. Warhounds frantically shot at what they hoped to be something in the middle of the pillar, but not even raw antimatter was this hot.
The flames pulsed again, blasting out another expanding ring of fire. It was like a faucet, pumping down from the heavens, but instead of water it was all-consuming all-devouring fire.
"PERIHELION ACTUAL, are you seeing this?!" Beta Lead hissed into the radio. "Orders? Do we assist Alpha Squadron?"
"Negative, BETA LEAD, proceed with prior orders. Secure ingress into Tokyo-3 Proper. Search and destroy."
Hound Beta Squadron gingerly tromped downslope, keeping a careful eye on the distance to the pillar of fire even as they went into a double line formation. Unlike when Angels were attacking, Tokyo-3's buildings were no longer retracted underground for safety. That gave a lot of blind spots and cover.
Beta Lead gingerly entered Tokyo-3's wide battle-optimized streets. He noted how sections of pavement would dip down under the weight of his foot, apparently in ten-meter spring-loaded sections as a whole instead of flaking and breaking off like solid concrete.
His comms crackled again "This is Assault Company Baker to Hound Beta, sitrep?"
"This is Beta Lead. No enemy contact…" Then after a short pause "No conventional opposition."
APCs and tanks arrived soon after. The Warhounds carefully positioned themselves to each having clear lines of fire down a street.
One Warhound entered the city to be able to direct fire down a long avenue.
Then something smashed though the concrete and grabbed its feet. There was only time to scream before the whole thing was dragged under.
"What was that? Beta Four! Beta Four, do you copy?! BETA FOUR!"
Armor walls slammed up, caging off the Warhounds from each other and the infantry outside the city.
"Shit!" Beta Lead hissed.
Something smashed through a building and punched another Warhound's head flat. Beta Lead watched Beta Six's IFF blink out. Was it the other Evangelion?
"All units, to me! All units, fall back and get out of the city. Baker Company, do not approach. Repeat, do not approach the city!"
"IT IS TOO LATE."
A deep bassy rumble passed through the city, the words carried by citywide speakers and bouncing off the building facades.
"Who is this?" Beta Lead asked.
"HOUNDS OF WAR. WEAPONS OF MAN. RESPECTABLE," the rumbling voice continued. "BUT TURNED AGAINST OTHER HUMANS. NOT PROTECTORS. INVADERS. DISAPPOINTING."
Beta Lead felt the thump of something absolutely massive approaching. He looked around. He was in the middle of a three way crossing. Nothing in front. Nothing to the left. Nothing to the right. "Who is this? Identify yourself. If you surrender, rest assured you will not be harmed and will be treated fairly under all protocols regarding prisoners of war.
"This operation is NOT an attempt to destroy Tokyo-3 and its people… if you stand down, once a change of command has been established you will all be free to go. We fight for the sake of humanity too. Katsuragi forced our hand, but we don't have to fight."
"We're just trying to protect everybody! Those who want to keep this pointless war going are the traitors to humanity!"
"TANCRED IS DISAPPOINTED."
"Tank… oh. Oh. It's the Land Dreadnought." Beta Lead gave out a sigh of relief. "Is this Kirishima? Listen. You're supposed to be working for the UN. There's been a resolution passed about this. Katsuragi has been stripped of the authority to run NERV. You have to obey lawful orders."
"THE LAW IS THE LAW. TANCRED SWORE AN OATH."
"Kid, this isn't funny. You've already killed soldiers of the United States. We're not the bad guys here. We're all just trying to do our best for our people, our families! We're all just fighting to live!"
"TO DEFEND THE WEAK,
"TO FIGHT INJUSTICE,
"TO EVER BATTLE THE POWERS RUINOUS."
There was a distant metallic crunch.
"NOW ALL MUST REMEMBER AGAIN…"
"Beta Lead to all units! Report in! Report in!"
"TANCRED HAS FOUGHT GODS! TANCRED KNOWS WRATH! TANCRED HAS DIED FOR THE PEOPLE!"
There was the rattle of Megabolter fire and the hard snap of Positron fire, and then there was this single loud boom. There was the sound of something heavy falling down.
The wall behind Beta Lead slid back down. The Warhound turned around slowly. And arced its view up. And up.
The Land Dreadnought might not be as tall an Evangelion, but it was still in an Eva's weight class and at least two and half times the height of a Warhound. The winged golden skull on its main torso plate seemed to grin down at the Warhound.
Its massive clawed gauntlet crackled with power.
"KNOW THE UNDYING WRATH OF MAGNOS. TANCRED. VENERABILIS!"
Warhound Squadron Gamma approaching from the East had the easiest time of all. The broad valley was where Evangelions and Angels fought to their end. It had many defenses and pop-up weapon batteries, but the wide open slopes also meant that any advance could easily be supported by artillery and cruise missile strikes.
Any pop-up walls could only provide temporary cover. But there were no Evangelion-class enemies to bar their way.
Until they approached deeper inside and found Unit 01 impaled halfway into the mountain.
Everybody stopped and took a second to freak the fuck out in sheer mind-blanking terror.
"… Uh, this is GAMMA LEAD to PERIHELION ACTUAL, we have visual on target LILLITH. Repeat visuals on target LILLITH."
"GAMMA LEAD, what is Target's status?"
"Target LILLITH appears to be… passive. It's still stuck into the Lance. It has this creepy halo around its head though."
"Do NOT approach Target LILLITH. Assign two Warhounds to stand guard for any changes. Proceed to primary objective."
"Wilco. Gamma Eleven, Gamma Twelve. Stay here. This thing moves even a slightest bit, yell your heads off and let everybody know. NOTHING is as important as this thing. If it wakes up, we can kiss our asses goodbye, it's human extinction time!"
"All right. Everybody else? Let's g-"
An alarm blared. A blue light blazed on the main console.
"BLUE PATTERN DETECTED!" Gamma Lead's gunner screamed.
Everybody instantly spun around to face Unit 01/LILLITH and directed shaky weapon arms at it.
"No… no it's not that thing. It's coming from… up ahead?"
But the road was empty.
Gamma Lead flicked the Zoom on the main camera and scanned the road ahead. There was someone standing in the middle of the highway. It was a teenage girl with blue hair.
"Isn't that… Ayanami?" said his gunner.
"The Eva pilot?" said his pilot.
"All Units, DO NOT FIRE."
"Is she going to try and Tanianmen us or something?" the gunner said again.
"Heh. Or maybe EDSA us in nonviolent protest."
"Ignore her," ordered Gamma Lead's commander. "Just continue and walk over her. We've got a job to do. But be careful."
"Aye aye," spoke the pilot.
But as they moved closer and walked past LILLITH, they heard a soft voice speak…
Not through the radio,
Not with sound,
But something they could hear straight into their inner being.
And it said –
"I CAN SMELL HIS BLOOD UPON YOU.
"YOU HAVE HURT HIM. HURT HIM SO MUCH."
"Ohhh shit this is more of that soul magic bullshit isn't it…?!" Gamma Lead breathed.
"BUT IN THE NAME OF HIS LOVE FOR ALL OF YOU
"I WILL ASK YOU THIS ONCE,
"TURN AROUND AND GO HOME.
"I WILL DEFEND THE PLACE WHERE HE CALLS HIS HOME.
"TURN AROUND AND LIVE.
"MOVE FORWARD AND DIE."
Gamma Lead's gunner let out a shaky laugh. "Girl, that ain't as scary as it sounds anymore. I've seen things. There's a lot of worse things than dying."
"THEN SO BE IT."
Ayanami Rei vanished from their monitors.
And the Warhound Gamma Lead staggered back from something hitting it just under Mach Nine.
"AT-FIELD! ACTIVE AT-FIELD!"
Then there was a strange wrenching noise. Gamma Lead looked up and saw an impossible sight. Natural sunlight. A Warhound's armor was at least as thick as an Eva's. Its primary was a thousand layers of metal and composite material around a meter thick.
And yet a dainty pale hand was peeling it open with all the ease of turning a page in a book.
Rei Ayanami stared inside, her eyes glowing a hellish red.
"FIRE IN THE HOLE!"
Vulcan Megabolter slapped against the head/cockpit section of the Warhound and exploded the girl into red mist. Gamma Lead winced at the passing of far too close friendly fire.
"Who did that?!" he asked.
"This is Gamma Two."
"Cut it a little too close, didn't you? But thanks."
"Null sweat. Shame though. Even if she was Half-Angel… she was a Pilot. She was a hero."
"Yes… they all are. Doesn't feel right to kill kids, but… we've got no choice. The only thing we can do to honor everyone's sacrifice is to make sure not many more die unless they need too."
"THANK YOU. YOUR REGARDS IS APPRECIATED."
Gamma Lead felt a hand touch his shoulder from behind. He and everyone else in there turned around and with dawning horror saw the blue-haired girl in her teal school uniform standing there completely unharmed.
"I AM THE FIFTH.
"AND THIS BODY IS ALSO LILLITH."
"I AM A DREAM.
"LIFE, IS BUT A DREAM…"
Gamma Lead opened his mouth to scream and-
Orange liquid stained the suddenly empty Warhound crew compartment.
President Jacobi clutched at his head and moaned. "Everything going wrooong. How is everything going so wrong?!"
"It is somewhat of a terrorshow, yes…"
"We underestimated them. That's... that's where we went wrong."
General Bedford nodded. "Of course we did. Humanity's Greatest. The Shield of Mankind. The Godslayers. Doombreaker. They deserve to be called these and more. They are the best of us."
"Is… is it really right to be fighting them? They are so –sure- about themselves… and if they have this much power, maybe, just maybe… we can still win. We... do we still deserve to call ourselves a part of that fraternity?"
"It doesn't matter. We are in."
He pointed to the tactical map, and the Special Forces that managed to break into the Geofront while everyone else were distracted.
They were not Marines. They were Delta Force. They were wearing Light Powered Armor.
They had a keen idea of Tokyo-3's ungodly effective Powered Terminator Armor troops, but fortunately(?) they apparently had all died in LILLITH's initial assault. Delta PA/L was not designed take antitank weapons to the face, but made up for in agility what they lacked in armor protection.
Speed was the essence here. They rappelled straight down from the edge of the geofront, three kilometers straight down. They prepared to fight door to door trying to get to the command center and end this madness in one swoop.
Tokyo-3 was the most heavily fortified city on the planet. They expected to face everything from turrets to civilians willing to die for their home as suicide bombers.
They found the geofront to be curiously empty.
Which in retrospect made sense, in battle conditions all civilians and nonessential personnel were supposed to be in shelters. Everyone else were in the command center and vital engineering areas.
But no turrets suddenly popped up to mow them down even as they crossed the open grass and road to the NERV command pyramid.
They weren't challenged at all even at the main gate.
"They're letting us in," said one of them.
"Hopefully this is a sign that Katsuragi's willing to surrender," responded the team leader.
They steadily proceeded through corridors until finally they reached the command center.
Smoothly, violently, they burst through with rifles raised. If they had at any point been obstructing getting this far, they would already have started shooting.
They found NERV's darkened command center and its massive main screen, looking very much like a warship's bridge, to be busy with events outside. Absolutely no one paid them any attention.
This had crossed from puzzling to downright aggravating. It was like they were being dismissed as no threat at all.
Delta One grabbed a NERV officer engrossed with the data on his console and slammed him against his work desk. The other NERV personnel on either side jerked in surprise, looked at the grimly-equipped Delta Force operators and their colleague being pinned down.
The one being held down waved nonchalantly, and then returned back to look at their consoles and reported in about their observation area.
"Where is Katsuragi?!" Delta One growled.
"Where do you think?!" the NERV officer spat. He jerked a thumb towards the command tower near the back of the command center.
The man's sheer lack of fear even with multiple gun barrels pointed at him struck Delta One numb. What the hell. Were all Tokyo-3 peoples actually this much of a badass.
Frowning under his facemask and night vision lenses, he shoved the NERV officer back one last time before gesturing his team to follow.
"What the hell is your problem, man?!" the NERV officer huffed before getting back to work.
"… What even is happening here, chief?" Delta Five said in a deeply disturbed tone.
"Shut up. Keep your head on the mission."
They used the elevator to get up to the command deck, then again burst through spreading out to cover everyone in overlapping fields of fire.
"Katsuragi Misato!" Delta One shouted. "Stand down!"
Misato turned to look at him for a moment, sniffed, then went back to talking to Ritsuko.
'What's with that arrogant glare? Is she really looking down on everybody else?' Delta One raised his rifle. "This isn't a joke! You will comply or you will die!"
"And here I thought that death wasn't a thing that happened anymore…" Misato said with a bitter little chuckle.
"Yes but still being shot hurts like shit. What's wrong with you? What's wrong with ANY of you?! I've seen people get so unmoved about death and pain out there, but is there really nothing that scares you anymore?"
"Look." Misato pointed to the main screen.
The sky was dark. It was dark with the shadow of a thousand white and black wings. At least a thousand Angels, each of them a physical god, circled above Tokyo-3 and the Nevada desert at mid-afternoon.
"… Shit." Delta One winced. "I thought… we had more time."
"The Toy Box isn't teleportation," said Ritsuko Akagi. "It's space-time warp. Once activated, it's never really turned off. Time passes slower here than the outside. Translocation reverses that."
"… I see. Is that why none of you gave a damn? Our mission was always going to be a failure right from the start?" Delta One lowered his gun.
"Why didn't you just kill us? I can see… you all killed a lot of people out there."
Unlike how they were allowed to just sneak in once past the geofront's shell, he could see in other monitors that soldiers were shooting at each other and dying in brutal urban combat.
"Oh, don't get me wrong. I still want to kill you. I want to kill the hell out of a lot of you. Do you know why?"
"… Not really. It's nothing personal, we're just doing what we think we need to do to survive."
And Misato spoke with a dangerously cold and even tone "Where did you get those anti-AT-field weapons?"
Ah. "… That's way about my pay grade, ma'am. I have no idea."
"You work for me now. When we get back to Tokyo-3, you're going on assignment."
"Uh, Commander Katsuragi, with all due respect, that's not really something that's-"
"Ritsuko, adjust our time differential. Makoto, I want to talk to their President."
And Delta Six couldn't help but to ask "Are… are people actually staying dead out there?"
Ritsuko nonchalantly pointed to a side monitor. It showed LILLITH with its spinning glowing white halo. The halo was larger now and emitting a humming noise. "Yes."
Everyone stared at the pillar of flame rising above Tokyo-3 and even the Angels didn't dare come too close. "Shit's getting Biblical out there. Is this how it's really like, fighting Angels? You guys deal with this shit… all the time?"
President Jacobi sagged onto his seat. "Are you happy now, Katsuragi? Now it's too late. You got a whole lot of men dead. For nothing."
"No, you got a whole lot of good people dead for nothing, you asshole. It didn't have to be this way. You were ready to kill to get your way, take responsibility for your own damn decisions too."
"Sohryu. Ayanami. Kirishima. Even with them, aren't you scared at all? What do you have that makes you confident that you can win against thousands of Angels all at once?"
"That's the thing. I DON'T have to fight them."
Jacobi looked up sharply. Horror and outrage began to etch on his face. "You… you can't mean…!"
"The TOY BOX's fully charged. We can leave any time."
"You said three hours!"
"I lied. Is there a reason I should tell you the real charge time of our drive?"
"Katsuragi! You… you can't just… you cowards!"
"I'll stay. I'll fight them with you. I might even be able to make them go away all peaceable-like. In one condition."
The President grit his teeth and snapped "What?"
"Tell me… where did you get all that Anti-AT-field tech?"
"Don't tell me you don't know."
"… Japan. The JSSDF. Project ICARUS."
"Is that all? Tell me. Do you know exactly HOW anti-AT-field weapons get that ability? Where does it get that unique power?"
"… You sound like you already know the answer."
"YOU LOT OF UNGRATEFUL TRAITOROUS BASTARDS! SAY IT."
President Jacobi shook his head sadly. "It's…"
General Bedford stepped up. "No. I'll say it. Anti-AT-field weaponry is made out of the bodily remains of Shinji Ikari, the Second Child, pilot of Evangelion Unit One. Nobody dies, but only he has displayed extreme amounts regeneration.
"His blood mixed into armor panels resists reality-disrupting elements. His bones are powdered and mixed with propellant and metals used for ammunition. His skin and nerves is integrated into circuitry that cannot be jammed. His eyes, his organs… have a perfect implantation rate, and confer the ability to regenerate and react to future events before they happen. His brain matter forms the substrate for the next generation of quantum computers.
"Anti-AT-field weaponry ignore everything about AT-fields the same way Shinji Ikari can ignore and overpower the AT-fields of Angels and other xenos."
Misato Katsuragi closed her eyes. "You… you've all been harvesting him. So many weapons…"
"He is Prometheus bou-ggghk!" General Bedford suddenly found he had difficulty breathing. President Jacobi looked alarmed at the screen.
Misato wasn't even looking. Her hands were off camera. Was it some sort of long distance Force Choke? What the hell, was Katsuragi some sort of Sith now?
"Rei, release him."
"As you wish."
President Jacobi blinked. Only now did he realize that not only was Rei Ayanami in the room, she had always been there. No one had noticed. Guards raised their guns at her, no matter how pointless was that gesture.
"What the hell have we been fighting for…?" Misato whispered. Almost a whimper.
Unit 01 began to twitch. The white halo began to pulse.
Unit 02 was still a colossally domineering pillar of OMNIFIRE. The air crackled and wailed with a billion billion screams. Inside the pillar, the red Evangelion stood straight and unharmed, and its pilot had her eyes closed as if asleep.
Ritsuko stared at something else. It was a satellite image of what was once the Hakone Region. A black sphere and a many-winged giant sitting on it in Auguste Rodin's 'The Thinker' pose hovered above the flat sands of the new plateau.
The faceless figure turned to the camera and seemed to speak through the distance, saying '[I AM] WAITING.' It looked just so indescribably smug somehow.
Misato listlessly replied "Let's just go… let's go home…"
"KATSURAAGIII!" President Jacobi screamed angrily as Tokyo-3 blinked out of existence.
And then, there was a dull thump as the surface of Tokyo-3 was replaced by the loose sands of the dislocated Gobi Desert. A boxlike humanoid shape dropped to the ground, its stubby legs barely absorbing the impact. It swayed in place.
Mana Kirishima blinked. Kensuke Aida and Toji Suzuhara, on the pilot and gunner seats of Magnos Tancred looked around in confusion.
"Wait… did we just get left behind?" Toji said.
"Oh crap. Oh crap. Oh crap."
Mana looked out. At least twelve more Warhounds, now starting to regard her like a pack of wolves staring at a fat deer. The entirety of the US Air Force now readied. Hell, the practically the entire country was now their enemy.
They were left behind. Alone and at the mercy of the vengeful failures. Alone to fight a thousand Angels.
"Heh… heheh… hahahahaha!" She could help the laughter bubbling out.
She was half-expecting this. Things could never really turn out for the better. Shit happens, that's every day in Tokyo-3.
"Kirishima, what? We're in deep shit!" Kensuke hissed.
"Yes, but… it's not like Katsuragi-san meant for this to happen, I think? These are the facts on the ground: We either surrender now or have to fight all those Angels AND an entire damn country on our own." The girl smiled gently. "MAGNOS TANCRED will be defeated, not in battle, but by the cowardice of his own crew."
"That's… that's still kinda suicide, you know?" Toji said. "I've got a girlfriend. Family to get back to."
"So all we have to do is to NOT DIE."
Kensuke stared at her for a long time. Then at Toji, who seemed fine with it either way. He sighed rubbed at his eyes behind his glasses. Then he rolled up his red AdMech sleeves and grinned. "You're the boss."
They may not be Misato Katsuragi's Children, but they were still children of Tokyo-3.
The radio crackled "The MAGNOS TANCRED and Kirishima, Mana. Power down and surrender. You have no chance. Comply and you will not be harmed. Resist and we will not hesitate to use force."
Mana grasped the waldoes that controlled MAGNOS TANCRED's arms and shouted out "BRING IT ON!"
"So be i… what?!" the speaker on the other side was stunned with disbelief. "ACTIVE AT-FIELD!"
The VENERABLE MAGNOS TANCRED leaped into action.
It was bouyed by an S2 Engine improbably hooked up to what should be a cold and sterile machine, unable to self-improve and self-modify. But that didn't matter anymore. Humanity had always been able to treat its tools as extensions of itself, leaking their identity out to the world around them.
Humanity was, after all, [The Last Angel].
Something so huge and stubby and bricklike had no business approaching anywhere close to the speed of sound.
Instead of achieving apotheosis through contact with ADAM, they stole their birthright out of LILLITH's own hands.
She felt two cold hands touch either of her shoulders. Her dearest friends... Musahi and Keita... as long as she remembered them, they were immortal.
As long as they remembered her, she was immortal.
"Superman…" Mana whispered even as a tidal wave of alien wings and claws and mouths swooped down to meet her.
And then there was only the laughter and the cries of thirsting gods.
Seriously, in fiction, think about it. How many times do you actually see the US ever just get slapped around? Even in Godzilla they make out like heroes riding to the rescue.
I kinda figured this out to be something like the reverse End of Evangelion. The invasion sequence had been planned since the beginning of the story, but who would be the antagonist had always been up in the air. In the end, rather than the JSSDF again (which feels a little boring), it was decided to put a credible but rarely used opponent in there.
Our heroes, our Children, get the shit kicked out of them all the time - every victory is means another step back, they're never allowed to just savor it. But they still keep going. They never give up.
Underestimate that persistence to your peril.
Because NERV punches so far about their weight class against alien foes, until now no one had an appreciation for just how truly terrifying it is to have to face these absurdly practiced Godslayers.