Chapter 15: Heaven's Fire
Shinji was stuck. He was curled as tight as he could manage as Misato leaned over him, peering through a pair of electrobinoculars and adjusted the scope settings. She studied the digitally enhanced view and zoomed in as the Blackhawks circle Sachiel. Every now and then one would unleash a blazing plasma energized laser stream but as Misato watched, the streams were tapering off. Fewer and fewer of the aircrafts were shooting now.
She lowered the electrobinoculars with a frown. "Hang on," she said, "I'm going to pull over for a second." She said as she left the road and went onto the shoulder. She stopped the car and whipped the electrobinoculars back up to her face to study the Blackhawks' formation.
"What's happening?" Shinji asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"I'm not sure…" Misato said as she watched as the Blackhawks suddenly accelerated away from the enormous XT. Wait a second—! she yanked the binoculars away, Pale Horseman? She flung the binoculars away and grabbed Shinji, forcing him into a crouch. "Take cover!" she barked as the entire world seemed to turn white.
"Execute!" one of the JSSDF Generals cried out triumphantly.
Matsuda watched impassively as the several story high holographic video display showing the gigantic XT suddenly flashed white and dissolved into howling static.
"Secondary camera arrays now!" another General ordered.
Instantly the view of static switched to a more distant viewpoint. Matsuda shuddered at the horrible sight.
It was a rapidly expanding sphere of white light that doubled, tripled, and quadrupled in size even as a pillar of intense glowing energy shot upward from the center of the growing mass like a hideous sort of blooming flower.
The view suddenly blinked and wavered crazily, lines of static crackled throughout the picture. "Registering massive electromagnetic pulse!" Makoto Hyuuga called out, studying his instrumentation even as the cameras finally died, leaving the screen a hash of flickering white snow. He did not even look upward, "Secondary camera arrays are down," he reported unnecessarily.
One of the JSSDF Generals looked irritated, "I thought these new monitor cameras were hardened against EMP."
"Hardened. Not invulnerable. They're intact. But they have to reboot their systems. They could maintain functioning even through a regular nuclear detonation but not an N2. Much too potent EMP spike," the other General explained a trifle bit smugly.
"That's the power of our N2 Mines gentlemen," the third General said, able to contort himself so he could pat himself on the back self-importantly. He snapped his fingers, "With our new N2 Mines, we no longer need the EXO-Frames. We've rendered those overgrown tinkertoys obsolete," he finished with a haughty air.
It took over thirty years of military discipline to force down Matsuda's scream as his hands clenched into tightly balled fists. He narrowed his eyes into flinty slits of fury as he glared at the trio of pompous Generals. What about Hiroshima? he asked bitterly. What about Nagasaki?
Japan had the dubious honor of being the first country in the world to suffer the horrors of nuclear war.
Matsuda himself had been only a teenager when he had visited the rebuilt city of Hiroshima for the first time on a school trip.
He remembered seeing the memorials, the statues, and the entire city and had come away with a disturbed feeling of horror. Matsuda had never been a very religious sort of person but standing there in Hiroshima, he could not help but feel the ghosts of all those countless civilians surrounding him, enveloping him, begging him. Never again, their voices whispered. Never again.
He had joined the predecessor to the JSSDF; the Japanese Self Defense Forces filled with that purpose. To protect and defend his country and his people from that sort of horror. He glared at his superior officers and felt the fingernails digging sharply into his palms. He had spent over thirty years in uniform, determined to avoid this. To prevent this sort of thing from happening ever again. A nuclear weapon being detonated in the heart of his homeland. And in all of his nightmarish scenarios; which ranged from terrorists, to deranged world leaders, to another World War ... he never ever imagined that they would be doing it to themselves. It made him sick.
You just ignited a fucking nuclear bomb on your own goddamn country, he thought with a deep sense of revulsion, and you're proud of that?
He turned away, barely registering Hyuuga's tense voice, "Approaching shock wave!"
The entire Fortress trembled and quivered as though a great hand had suddenly seized them and violently shaken them for a moment. Lights blinked and flickered. Holographic screens fuzzed and twitched in midair momentarily before resolving into their perfect transparent clarity once more. Shock absorbers whined and impact dissipation coils groaned as they shouldered the earthshaking tremors and then slowly reset themselves.
Halfway across the world, deep beneath the Mojave Desert, layered and protected by the heaviest, densest metals ever forged by mankind, dug nearly four miles beneath the surface of the planet was one of the greatest strongholds for humanity. This was Fortress-3.
Tied into a vast array of tasked satellites, radar installations, and other sensor platforms, it all filtered into the Monitor Womb which the workers informally called the Operations Area or OA.
OA was usually busy; under normal conditions they constantly maintained a scanning and monitoring watch over an entire cone of space projecting outward from Fortress-3.
This was the reason for the wide geographical locations for each of the Fortresses. When each was complete and on-line, they would tirelessly keep a watchful eye for possible extraterrestrial activity and incursions from all possible points.
But not today. Today, they practically ignored their designated sector and disregarded the automated probes and sensor sweeps. Instead their focus was on a series of secondary repeater screens and plots as they watched the drama unfolding half a world away.
Their regular sensor platforms were retasked, shifted from their normal viewpoints to another far more distant one. Bearing towards the Pacific where OA nervously monitored the brewing situation. Their readings were much more erratic and badly degraded as Fortress-3 was never really designed to be overseeing another Fortress' territory.
One of the monitoring technicians, a female lieutenant started as her screen registered a massive infrared and electromagnetic signature. It was in fact, almost impossible to miss.
"Detecting massive electromagnetic pulse!" she announced. It was followed almost a second later as the entire Monitor Womb flickered. Holographic displays fuzzed momentarily. Then slowly, almost unwillingly, the various displays returned.
A middle aged blonde Army Colonel snapped around to look at her, "Readings!" he barked.
She felt a trickle of sweat beading down her suddenly pounding temples as she examined her screens as they refocused and reprocessed sensor data, "Enormous fluctuations in the EM wavebands, cycling through the gigahertz to the megahertz ranges, starting to cycle downwards, transitioning through the medium broadband spectrums. Disruptive effects reported throughout the Asian Pacific Rim, centered in Japan, Kanto Region."
"Holy God! That was a N2!" another officer, a Major blurted out, "They detonated a N2! What the Hell is the JSSDF doing?"
"Steady there!" the Colonel snapped. He glanced downward at his own monitors and looked at the female monitor tech intently, "Was it an N2?" he asked quietly.
She nodded choppily. "The EMP spike is distinctive. That was definitely an N2 detonation," she reported firmly, "now registering tectonic and seismic upheavals on my monitors."
The successor to the Atomic Bomb, the N2 was considered to be an improved version; a Second Generation Nuclear Weapon.
The N2 surpassed the original destruction yield of the old fashioned nukes. It unleashed a massive and incredibly powerful explosive detonation but was "safer". One of the hazards of the original nuclear bomb was that it accompanied by radioactive fallout that severely contaminated the surrounding area afterwards. The N2 however did not. The synthetic radioactive core that was the heart of the N2 became rapidly inert and thus radioactive contamination was not a factor.
But one hazard that was still unavoidable was the EMP.
The EMP or electromagnetic pulse was in effect, a surge of electromagnetic waves that would overload or burn out any electronics or circuitry or electrical devices. It accompanied all large scale nuclear detonations including the N2. However the synthetic radioactive core used by the N2 resulted in an EMP that was not only hideously powerful but incredibly wide ranged.
Despite the distances between the Japan, Fortress-3 was still on the very fringes of the EMP wave and were still detecting the disruptive effects.
Effectively, a singular N2 could cripple a nation's electronics and telecommunications, reducing them back to the Stone Age.
Theoretical computer simulations had demonstrated that successive detonations of N2 devices in close proximity to each other could exponentially propagate the effective range of the EMP … even augmenting the disruptive effects to the point where even electronics that were specifically designed to withstand the electromagnetic shockwaves were no longer infallible.
Even more troubling, some sims had predicted that such an augmented EMP would not dissipate very rapidly. That it might take years to fully dissipate. Meaning the entire world would be permanently thrown back into the Dark Ages. The chaos and anarchy that would follow that didn't even bear thinking about. Much less if humanity would even be able to rebuild itself back up afterwards.
For this explicit reason, the United Nations had instituted a ban on all N2 devices as a precautionary measure and would only permit them to be used under their specific guidelines and permission.
And as far as the United States knew, no such permission had even been hinted at. Which meant the N2 Ban had just been violated. The JSSDF weren't just flirting with possible disaster with the XT ... they were outright courting another World War.
Colonel Alan Scott's face tightened as he gazed down at his readouts. Underneath the console, his hand tightened into a balled fist hidden to his officers. Quietly but urgently he spoke, "Get me the President."
Misato Katsuragi shook her ringing head. The first thing she noticed was that the entire world was askew. She vaguely remembered the entire car flipping over several times. The second thing she noticed was that she was sitting completely inverted. And that she really needed to clean the floor of her car more often.
She looked around for her unwilling charge. "Hey Shinji! You alive?" she called out.
"Mymouizfllufdzt." Shinji mumbled.
There was the sound of spitting and coughing. "I said, my mouth is full of dirt," Shinji said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
"Quit whining. A little dirt never killed anyone."
"Judging by the condition of your car, I'd have to agree otherwise you'd have succumbed years ago." Shinji retorted.
Misato huffed and began working at her belt buckle. Smartass, she thought sourly. The latch unsnapped itself a split second before she abruptly remembered about gravity and slammed headfirst into the car's roof that was now resting on the ground.
As Misato Katsuragi continued to swear, she and Shinji failed to notice the rotund metal body of the servitor droid lying nearby. It's head module tilted upwards slightly and flickered momentarily. A pair of lights blinked and a series of ones and zeroes rapidly scrolled across the droid's optic sensors. And paused. New words scrolled across the optic sensors.
IMPROPER SHUT DOWN.
DETECTING DAMAGE TO HARDDRIVE.
REBOOTING OPERATING SYSTEMS.
Those last two words continued to flash unseen and unnoticed.
Secured Hologram Projection Conference Center
Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
It wasn't the standing still that was the worst, Snapper Carr decided, it was the smell from the ozone gas from the multiple laser beam projectors.
Green beams of light flashed as they swept over him, measuring his body dimensions, mapping his contours, examining his shape. He reached up and loosened the knot of his tie slightly.
Standing beside him, a stone faced General Frank Rock coughed slightly. "Try to hold as still as possible, sir. It'll speed up the image processing," he said diffidently.
The network of lasers mindlessly continued their work as they continued to crisscross over their bodies in a grid pattern even as the computers churned away using the data acquired from the mapping lasers to construct a three-dimensional computer image of Carr and Rock.
Snapper interrupted, "Are you sure about the JSSDF detonating an N2 General? I mean, it wasn't some sort of mistake or faulty sensor right?" he asked, nervously running a hand through his hair.
"Positive," Rock said tersely as he gave a quick glance over the younger man's clothing with a twinge of disdain at his so-called superior. The sports coat was rumbled looking and his shirt had a ketchup stain that he had apparently blotted with his tie and his socks didn't even match.
Rock ground his teeth silently. This is the President of the United States, he thought to himself acidly. He looks like a damn kid who didn't know how to dress himself properly. George Washington would be spinning in his grave, he thought darkly. In contrast, Rock himself looked like he had just stepped off a recruiting poster. His uniform was spotless, the metal buttons gleamed and the four stars on his shoulder boards still sparkled brilliantly. The creases looked freshly ironed and sharp enough to cut steel.
Thousands of miles away across an entire ocean, in a similar chamber to this one; a holographic projector was flaring to life, light photons spun and danced as they formed a holo-image of Snapper Carr.
Finished with their task, the brilliantly glowing lasers dimmed to near invisibility as they shifted to their new function, tracking his movements and updating his holographic image.
Almost simultaneously, the entire chamber darkened and a series of translucent figures sprang into existence. For a split second, Snapper felt a shiver of supernatural dread at the appearance of such ghostly apparitions but he dismissed them with a quick head shake. Although the new holo-form projections were a relatively new technology, he had seen it in action too often to get the jitters over them.
He heard a disembodied voice echoing throughout the chamber, announcing his appearance, "Lucas Carr, President of the United States."
The holographic "ghosts" all turned in his direction. "Good of you to join us Mister President," a diminutive figure dressed in a sari said inclining her head slightly, "Welcome to the United Nations Security Council."
Snapper Carr felt himself gulp reflexively as he looked at the holographic images of no less than eight heads of states and elected representatives of the most powerful nations that had survived the holocaust of Second Impact. Together they comprised the new Security Council of the United Nations.
He nodded, "Thank you Chairwoman Desai," he said and winced hearing his voice crack midway through the routine greeting. He cleared his throat and glanced around at the other holograms, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a situation in Japan. General Rock has informed me that the JSSDF has unilaterally detonated an N2 bomb."
Frank Rock narrowed his eyes fractionally as he saw various members of the Security Council exchange looks. Something was wrong here. They weren't alarmed or even surprised.
Snapper Carr paused dramatically, "The N2 Ban has just been violated," he concluded and looked around.
The slender Indian Prime Minister paused, "That is not entirely correct President Carr."
"I beg your pardon Madam Prime Minister," Frank Rock rumbled, "but Fortress-3 has confirmed the readings. They are rather distinctive."
"True." Prime Minister Arani Desai confirmed, "But the N2 Ban was not violated. The Security Council had already authorized the JSSDF to deploy a N2 bomb."
"What!" Snapper Carr blurted out, his eyes widening in shock. He shot a look at Rock who held himself carefully still. Carr's mouth opened and closed a few times, clearly having lost the power of speech momentarily even as his eyes flew around the entire room in bewilderment. "But—I never—you—" he sputtered and then gritted his teeth, "Do you mean to tell me that you authorized this—without even informing us?" Carr demanded, anger darkening his voice for the first time.
The Indian Prime Minister folded her hands together, "The urgency of the situation required us to expedite the approval for the Pale Horseman Tactical Scenario. It was always a considered response in the event of a subsequent XT incursion as you know," she reminded him gently.
Snapper was in no mood to be handled. Even gently. "But to act unilaterally without even informing the United States was not—"
"That was regrettable Herr Carr," a heavily German accented voice interrupted, "but we did need to act quickly to save lives. That was the important part. And to be honest, we already had a majority vote of the rest of the Security Council," Chancellor von Mannheim of Germany explained spreading his hands to include the other holographic ghosts surrounding them. "Even if you had vetoed the motion, it still would have carried through. You simply were unable to participate in the vote as it were."
Carr was staring dismayed at the other holograms who were nodding agreement with von Mannheim.
Rock felt a scowl creasing his features as he studied the various holographic heads of state.
The United States of America had been the last of the global superpowers of the twentieth century. And many of the other nations and countries had greatly resented the US' position and power.
Once upon a time, the United Nations had been a relatively ineffective agency that had been hamstrung with little or no authority, regulated and bound by bureaucracy and rulings by a badly divided membership.
In the wake of Second Impact however, the UN had been forced as a matter of mere survival to reorganize itself into a more efficient and effective governing force. One of their most unexpected moves had been to relocate their central headquarters from New York City to Paris, France.
As various nations and their governments had collapsed, the UN had stepped in to assume broader authority and more power. It had nationalized economies, absorbed and consolidated the various military forces, established social and welfare programs and had grown in size and prestige until it was a World Government in all but name. And incidentally boasted the largest and most powerful military force on the planet. Only a handful of nations such as Japan and the United States still retained any sizable military forces of their own.
But at the same time, Rock had sensed a growing sense of arrogance in the United Nations. The new UN had grown far too accustomed to their unchallenged authority and had been throwing their weight around more and more forcefully. A number of his brother officers in their commands had noted more than once that they were expected to be subordinate to the UN's own forces, even in the United States' borders.
And there were other more disturbing rumblings.
The United States had been marginalized in the New World Order as the UN saw themselves as the new superpower and were loath to permit any challengers to their presumed authority, even if it meant slapping down the upstart United States.
Rock glanced at his curiously shrunken President who looked lost and alone as he looked around the room for support and finding none. He was too weak, Rock realized bleakly again for the umpteenth time. How had it come to this? Rock wondered.
No one answered his plea.
Lorenz Keele smiled cruelly as he watched a small hologram that was currently displaying the real-time images of the United Nations' inner meeting chambers and private sanctum as the entire drama played itself out.
He wondered just how those deluded fools would react if they knew how much of their security systems were completely and thoroughly compromised by SEELE.
He wondered if anyone really appreciated just how truly insidious computers were. Probably not, he sneered. When he had first seen the Nazis and their 'tabulating machines' he had been appalled. He didn't give a damn just how easier they supposed made things. Easier. Hah! he snorted to himself.
Anyone with a quarter brain should understand just how dangerous technology really was. And computers most of all. The problem with computers was that they were so stupid really. Yes, they were faster and more complex than human beings. But they didn't think. They didn't comprehend. They didn't understand. And because of that failing, they were prone to errors. To making mistakes. And yet everyone seemed to believe they were so bloody infallible.
And yet, all it took was a few negligent pushing of a few buttons and he had complete and total access to the entirety of the United Nations' secret database and mainframe. He had all of their security ciphers, their lockdown procedures, even authorization codes.
If he wanted to, he could have the computer trigger one of their own N2's in their armory to detonate. And the computer wouldn't give a second thought and do it because he had the proper authorization codes.
And the UN didn't even know that their own security was compromised because their own computers didn't tell them.
It vaguely amused him to manipulate technology like this. Almost as much as manipulating these so called governing bodies. It was pitiful really. Humans and human nature never really changes, he thought wryly as he watched the impotent President of the United States. Shame really. It had been so useful to have an incompetent blessed with staggering and such woeful ignorance of the reality of backroom dealing and high level political exchange. The democratic process, he bit back a snigger, was so easy to subvert really.
It would be a tremendous loss of manpower and materials but Keele was confident that Sachiel could be contained. He would have to write off Japan, but sometimes sacrifices just have to be made. He touched a few touch panels and nodded to himself. He did not have access to a BRAINIAC-Class computer but the computer models predicted that the total loss of Fortress-1, their complement of their EXO-Frames, and the core of the JSA would cause the panic stricken United Nations to dismantle the thoroughly discredited JSA Program. Which would allow SEELE to step right in and assume control with their own puppet organization NERV into place.
He had the Lance. He had Lilith. He had the Dead Sea Scrolls. And very soon, he would have the JSA too. And after that ... well, he would have everything else too.
The hundred-foot tall holographic display screen was filled with nothing but snowy static and fuzzy bands of interference.
The oldest of the JSSDF Generals, his hair white and thinning turned from his intense discussion with his associates to demand an update. "Target status?" he barked.
Makoto Hyuuga studied his monitor boards and screens intently and shook his head, "We're unable to confirm due to EMP interference."
The youngest of the three Generals scoffed, "It must be finished. You saw the size of that explosion."
BRAINIAC cut into the discussion, "Reboot completed. Running diagnostics. Diagnostics complete. Sensors reinitializing."
Hyuuga grinned. "Sensors restored," he confirmed.
The holographic screened blanked momentarily. Numbers and symbology appeared, dancing across the screens. A grid pattern formed a topographical display. The screen flashed as it updated itself and new data become available. The screen flashed again as more details filled in and appeared. The screen flashed again. And again.
The topographical contours updated themselves as in the middle of the once relatively flat surface suddenly showed a gigantic crater.
The screen flashed as the outlines of the crater became clearer and more distinct.
Suddenly a red light blinked on and off at the very center of the crater.
Hyuuga felt his shoulders twitch and despite himself, heard the alarm in his voice as he declared, "Energy reading!"
The red light flashes alarmingly as a gigantic jagged reddish spike appears.
"Detecting a significant energy reaction at the epicenter of the N2 explosion," BRAINIAC remarked mildly, "Tentatively identified as Pattern Blue."
"It can't be!" the youngest General screams as he leaps to his feet.
"Visual monitor restored." BRAINIAC continues, undisturbed.
The holographic screen switches immediately to a visual display. For a second, only clouds of smoke is visible. And then, a dark shape becomes visible through the haze. "Magnifying and digitally enhancing image." BRAINIAC reported.
The screen fuzzed momentarily as it enlarged itself and then again as more detail was filled in. The blurry image wavered and then the picture froze and resolved itself into crisp clarity which was accompanied by gasps and startled cries and strangled curses as the nightmarish apparition of Sachiel appeared standing in the midst of the firestorm. Billowing clouds of ash and smoke drifted across the screen. Slowly, one by the one, the remaining Generals slowly rose shakily to their collective feet as they stared at the Third Angel, alive and intact.
"It's not possible..." one of them hisses and then falls back into his chair, "That was our last resort," he mutters wide eyed.
"No effect ... I can't believe it," the oldest of them says as he stumbles backwards on trembling legs to fall heavily in his seat.
"It's a goddamn demon!" the last General screams in protest as he hammers a fist on the tabletop.
Makoto Hyuuga pulled off his headset and glanced over his shoulder at the triumvirate of dazed Generals.
His mouth felt dry. He wanted to ask for orders. He wanted to. But was afraid to.
Because he had a feeling that if he did, he would find out that they didn't have any to give.
He gulped convulsively and replaced his headset and returned his attention to his tactical readouts. And like so many young military officers over the centuries of organized warfare, quietly prayed that his superiors really did know what they were doing.
Ore Mountains, Germany
The lights dimmed and there was an audible thrumming as the circulated air lowered in temperature several degrees. Then cones of colored lights flared in existence, sweeping back and forth before merging together. Holographic resolution was superior in slightly lower than normal temperatures and without any dust motes floating in midair to distort the patterns of light hence the various air vents designed to generate a constant flow of cool air. In smaller holograms it was usually not necessary but the stupendously huge tri-dimensional holographic tank needed such superb precision and high tolerances of exactness.
The hundred foot tall projection blurred and wavered slightly as portions of the display fuzzed out while the colors bleed and ran in others, turning the ordinarily crystal clear image into hazy disarray.
Professor Jason "Jay" Garrick cursed and with a balled up fist gave the computer console a good thump.
As if in response, a disembodied voice snapped at him accusingly, "Do you mind?" the voice demanded in a high nasal British accent, "I happen to be conducting some very precise and very delicate diagnostic programs and you're generating disruptive seismic vibrations that are interfering—"
"The damn hologram is still on the fritz," Garrick complained, giving the recalcitrant computer another good solid whack while eyeing the still stubbornly hazy holograph projection for any visual changes.
"Oh yes, that will teach it the errors of it's ways and no doubt inspire it to immediately fix itself," the voice said in the best sarcastic dust dry tone that only the best British accents could accomplish.
Despite himself, Jay Garrick couldn't help but suppress a slight shudder at the perfect mimicry of the late Clifford DeVoe.
A British mathematician attached to the original Japanese project to develop the quantum computer known as BRAINIAC and later to the JSA itself, DeVoe had inherited the task of replacing Naoko Akagi after her untimely death. DeVoe had dedicated himself to creating an improved version of the BRAINIAC computer that he immodestly dubbed "The Thinker".
Technically speaking, the Thinker did not demonstrate any dramatic or significant breakthroughs in computational ability, memory, storage, or even hardware. But what DeVoe had dedicated the remainder of his life to was the programming of the artificial intelligence itself.
The original BRAINIAC was self-aware to a basic sense, but it had only the most rudimentary personality. But Garrick (and everyone else) believed that the Thinker could have done without said personality.
Essentially because the personality in question was arrogant, condescending, pompous, fussy, finicky, petulant, stuffy, and prissy to the extreme.
And bore a remarkable resemblance to the late Clifford DeVoe as well. It wasn't enough that the damn computer has to imitate his vocal patterns, thought Garrick, but does it have to act like him as well?
Garrick wondered not for the first time if DeVoe hadn't somehow impressed his own personality upon the Thinker. It would certainly explain some things.
Garrick had never been close friends with DeVoe but the man's genius had been undeniable and with the loss of Akagi, unfortunately almost irreplaceable. Which meant that he had been forced to tolerate DeVoe and his quirks. He hadn't realized that he would have to endure them even after the man was dead and buried though.
"So then what's wrong with the hologram?" Garrick demanded.
"Diagnostics complete. Some minor burnouts and circuit boards need replacing. Probably due to the minor power surges and energy fluctuations from the worldwide electromagnetic pulse," the Thinker said after a moment.
A split second after that, the entire hologram blinked and snapped off. Garrick heard the air vents cycling before the hologram flashed back on and after a moment of opaque fuzziness around the borders of the image, became a picture of crystal clear clarity.
"I have bypassed the damaged sections, using the secondary relays and have updated the maintenance logs so the technicians will be able to replace the damaged sections during their next maintenance cycle." the Thinker said in a smug tone of voice that said, 'something you mere organics were obviously incapable of performing, you're welcome,'.
Garrick was barely aware of the Thinker's remarks as he found himself staring at a magnified image of Sachiel. Breathing membrane flaps opened and closed rhythmically as the Angel stood in the midst of a cauldron of nuclear fire, silently regenerating itself.
Unlike before, the creature seemed actually injured. It's flesh was torn and burned. Blood or some other type of fluid like ichor was splattered across it's torso.
Instead of simply repairing itself, it appeared to be literally regenerating new organs, new skin and flesh while the old, damaged ones were being sloughed off. It sort of reminded Garrick of a snake shedding it's old skin. It was impressive. It was disgusting. He caught his breath and then shook himself alert.
"An impressive display of electromagnetic interference. 'It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury ... signifying nothing,'" the Thinker quoted before continuing in his arch tone, "It astounds me at how your feeble organic brains are just incapable of grasping the ineffectiveness of the destructive yield of an N2 against a fully deployed Absolute Terror Field."
"Yes, yes," Garrick waved off to quickly interrupt the pompous AI, aware of the behavior traits that usually preceded one of the Thinker's all too frequent lecturing about the fallibility of organic based intelligences. Unfortunately the Thinker was absolutely convinced that the A in AI stood for advanced rather than artificial, "so then why isn't it pressing forward with it's attack?" he demanded.
"Unknown," the Thinker admitted.
Garrick raised a wry eyebrow, "You mean an advanced intellect such as yourself doesn't know everything?" Garrick placed a hand over his heart dramatically, "I think I'm in shock," he said mockingly.
"My decision making processes utilize logic chains, probability trees, and rationality Professor," the Thinker said in it's iciest tone of voice, "so I am somewhat at a disadvantage when trying to anticipate the actions of a life form which may or may not employ such measures. However if you insist," the Thinker paused, purely for dramatic effect Garrick was sure, "there is a 63.17 percent probability that the XT is evaluating and analyzing the N2 attack which it has never before encountered; a 12.91 percent chance that it has momentarily exhausted it's available energy reserves and is recharging itself; a 10.56 percent possibility that part of it's unknown prime directives involve not initiating offensive operations until it is at peak operating capacity; and a 9.33 percent chance that it may have sustained vital injury with potential life threatening effects. With a margin of error of approximately 4.03 percent due to current variables of course."
Garrick winced despite himself. He had asked for it but still hearing the heartless mathematic probabilities laid out for him was almost too much for him to stand. He felt his gore rising up and forced it down.
There was suddenly a flash of light and the image instantly turned to static.
"Oh shit." Garrick cursed as he leapt to his feet. "Switch to another camera feed!" he barked.
The image blanked momentarily and a new, more distant view of Sachiel appeared along with a rapidly expanding ball of light in midair that used to be an expensive remote camera drone.
"Confirmed, the XT is still operational." The Thinker said a trifle bit too smugly for Garrick's taste.
"You think?" Garrick snapped.
"It is my primary function," the Thinker remarked blandly, "I—" and suddenly paused. Garrick inclined his head, clearly something had caught the AI's attention despite it's multi-tasking capabilities and it was forced to 'concentrate' on the ongoing situation more closely, "—we appear to have a problem, Professor." The Thinker said in a sour tone of voice.
"A problem? What kind of problem?"
The Thinker was silent for a moment. "It's a new problem regarding an old, long standing difficulty," the AI said delicately after a moment.
Garrick chewed the inside of his cheek thoughtfully as he tried to decipher that cryptic statement. Then his face cleared as understanding dawned and he sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with one hand and moaned, feeling a familiar headache beginning to form. "Asuka." he groaned.
"For an organic intellect, you do have your moments Professor,"
Misato grimaced as she tried again, thrusting herself forward but once more she remained well and truly stuck. She lay there for a moment, jammed halfway in and halfway out of the window frame of her car and caught her breath for a second.
Memo to self, go on a diet! With a muttered curse and an audible grunt, she sucked in her stomach as much as she could and tried shoving herself again. This time however she popped free. Misato would have cried out triumphantly at her hard won freedom except her skirt was riding up and she was breathing dirt through her nostrils.
Instead she slithered forward, remembering that she had done this in basic training as she crawled away from her sports car before propping herself to her hands and knees.
Swaying she got to her feet and heard something crack in her back. Wincing, she straightened upright and heard more joints popping. I'm getting too old for this, she thought. Absently she dusted herself off as she studied her car lying upside down. This was definitely going to be a problem. She quickly surveyed her surroundings as she reached into a pocket and pulled out her phone. She flipped it open and punched in a number and held to her ear. Static. With a grimace she tried another number. Then another series. All she got was static. She glanced at the various readouts on the phone and shrugged. Right EMP, she noted ruefully and closed it again with a snap.
The phone was probably fine but the carrier waves were all scrambled right now in the wake of the electromagnetic pulse. She would just have to try again later. In the meantime... she crouched down and poked her head inside her car, "You doing OK Shinji?" she asked.
Still buckled in and dangling upside down, Shinji Ikari drawled, "Peachy."
Misato grunted and rummaged around the accumulated junk now resting on the ceiling before successfully extracting the electrobinoculars. She held them up to her eyes and activated them. An amplified view immediately snapped up and flickered momentarily before stabilizing. Let's hear it for military technology, Misato silently applauded.
"Right. Stay here. I'll be right back," Misato said and trotted off to find the highest bit of elevation she could find and see what was going on.
Shinji waited a minute. Then another. The blood was rushing to his head. "Forget this," he muttered and began his escape. With one arm extended to the ceiling of the car, he fumbled around with his other hand to unbuckle himself. Successful, his other hand quickly extended itself to the ceiling so he was performing a sort of handstand. With some grunting, he managed to extricate himself from the seat and flipped himself over and squeezed out of the window of the sports car and swore as he stubbed his toe on something hard and metallic. Wincing, he crabwalked sidewards and pushed himself free.
Then he glanced down and saw what he had struck with his foot. Lying in a crumbled heap lay the motionless body of the servitor droid. Shinji picked it up and studied it. "Geez, I totally forgot I was carrying this thing around," he remarked to himself. Absently he remembered Misato picking it up and pitching it with his bag into the backseat of the car.
A flashing light caught his attention. Shinji squinted as he read the words scrolling across the blank faceplate of the robot.
PLEASE WAIT ...
Instantly he heard something whining to life inside the body of the robot. Slowly the robot began to hover in midair. The head unit slowly spun around before fixating on Shinji and it's entire body smoothly swiveled in place. In a flat and emotionless voice the robot recited tonelessly, "Subject. Human. Male. Designating as default controller."
Instantly a scanning beam leapt out from it's faceplate and ran up and down Shinji's body before blinking off.
"Identification Registered. Ikari, Shinji. Date of Birth; June 6, 2001. Age 14. Blood Type; A. Ethnicity; Japanese. Biological Father; Gendo Rokubungi, deceased. Biological Mother; Yui Ikari. Additional information..." the robot tilted it's head unit slightly before continuing, "... additional information is Classified."
"Classified?" Shinji blurted out. "What's classified?" he demanded rhetorically even as he wondered. My grades? My book reports? My library card?
"Accessing JSSDF Military Network. Sub-directory, Japanese Scientific Analysis and Advisory Board." the robot continued in a monotone voice as lines of codes danced over the faceplate, "Designated as EXO-Frame Pilot Candidate. Former Status, Reservist. Current Status, Activated."
Shinji frowned. EXO-what? He suddenly had a sneaking suspicion that his mother had more in mind than a family reunion.
Suddenly his attention was attracted by the hovering robot. It was twitching in midair. Static flickered across the flat monitor of it's face and then sparks came spewing out. Shinji took a step backwards. Uh oh. Did I miswire something—
The robot gave a cough and dropped to the ground with an audible clunk. It wheezed and then it straightened itself and looked around and one spindly arm reached up to scratch the dome of it's head unit as it looked extremely confused.
"Ow." The droid said in a surprisingly new voice. Unlike it's former toneless, emotionless synthesized voice, this one was ... well, the only word that sprang to Shinji's mind was it was so human sounding. The robot looked around seemingly perplexed, "This is ... something's different. I think. I think?" it repeated and craned it's neck as if perplexed, "I am thinking. I can think. How odd."
Yeah, Shinji thought bug-eyed as he stared at the seemingly human-like behavior of the robot, no kidding.
Snapper was dimly aware of the rising cascade of voices filled with urgency and panic.
They were shouting. Arguing.
He glanced down at his clenched hands.
It wasn't fair. It really wasn't. He shouldn't have to do this. Hell, even Washington didn't have to endure more than eight years of the Presidency! What more did anybody expect of him? He shouldn't have to do this.
Snapper closed his eyes as he felt his self honesty rearing it's ugly head.
He could have resigned. Hell, he should have resigned long before this. But he didn't. Why didn't he? Because he was a coward. Too afraid to be President yet too afraid to decline. So he had just stayed in limbo, trying his best not to make any decisions at all. It was easier that way. Simpler. Safer. He opened his eyes and stared at the floor plates.
And he remembered.
He was just a kid. Trapped in Middle School. Forced to take classes that he didn't understand why he needed, forced to absorb useless trivia so he could regurgitate on some test at a later date that he would never use again. Forced to do what some people called "learn".
He couldn't remember the name of the class, if it was civics or social studies or something else, not even the teacher's name. But he remembered that one day, in the middle of the class, the teacher had abruptly stopped reading from the text book and shut the book. It had taken everyone about a minute or so to realize it and look up.
The teacher was studying them intently. Then he asked, "What does all this mean?"
"Surely you must have an opinion about it." the teacher prodded.
"Is this going to be on a test?" someone called out from the back of the room.
"Not on any written test," the teacher said, "But there are tests ... and tests. Some tests you will undergo at a later date, some will be ones you won't even realize you are taking or have taken yet. We've been reading about your rights given to you by the Constitution. Your right to free speech, to bear arms, to assembly, to choose your own religion, and most importantly of all, your right to vote. Now, how many of you are planning to do so?"
One or two people tentatively raised their hands almost afraid he was going to pounce on them or something.
The teacher just shook his head sadly. "Do you know how many men and women died to give you the ability to chose for yourselves? How many of them pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor and risked everything from imprisonment to death for you? You have rights!" the teacher exploded, holding up the text book and shook it at the entire room, "You have so many rights! And most of you don't seem to appreciate it! This is the United States of America! This country was founded on the principles of freedom of choice and it is the most powerful country in the entire world! Yet barely one-third of you plan to participate in electing your leaders in the future!"
"Why bother?" Snapper heard a boyish young voice asking and barely recognized it as his own.
The teacher turned to look at him. "Why bother?" he repeated with a tone of incredibility.
Snapper remembered feeling his face flush in embarrassment as the rest of the class began looking at him as well. "Yeah, I mean, why should we bother voting? I'm not rich. I'm not important. I'm just one person. Nobody is going to care what I think. The politicians don't. They're all chosen by people with money and power. It doesn't matter if I vote at all. Everybody knows it. That's the way it is."
The teacher just looked at him for a long moment. "If that is what you believe, then nothing will ever change," he said in a dispirited tone of finality.
Snapper suspected he knew why now of all times, that memory would choose to resurface. Because now he was the President of the United States. For all intents and purposes, he WAS the United States of America. Or at least he stood for it. Or he was suppose to.
He had been chosen. By chance or fate or maybe just pure dumb luck. And deep down he felt unworthy of it. Incapable of it. Perhaps he was. Perhaps he would fail. Or falter. But somehow, somewhere he felt a surge of defiant anger for the first time. Because with the fate of the entire world at stake, he would be damned if he didn't at least try.
"Ladies and gentlemen," his calm voice cut across the shouting, "I move that we activate the JLA Protocols."
There was a long pregnant pause as everyone stopped their arguing at the sudden interruption.
Then the entire room exploded.
A/N: In case you missed it, the members of the UN Security Council happen to be actual DC Universe characters. Arani Desai is the civilian identity of Celsius of the second Doom Patrol (or at least, her pre-married name as she was Arani Desai Calder, the wife of the Chief of the Doom Patrol). Albrecht von Mannheim on the other hand is the Wild Huntsman, formerly of the Global Guardians. Both of whom are currently deceased, last I heard. I wanted to have an actual national citizen to actually represent their respective countries, so I thought it was only fitting.
On another note, when I wrote this episode for Anime Addventures, I had a bunch of comments about the N2. So I'll relate my own response to the various comments. One of the MANY vague things about the Evangelion series was the N2 devices. I think I read somewhere that the N2 stood for "Non Nuclear" but I wasn't sure where and my editor didn't know for sure either. I try to base most of my writings on the Evangelion TV episodes so I'm not aware exactly how the N2 do actually work. However, the impression that I received was the N2 was some sort of upgraded nuclear weapon.
So I created my own version of it. My universe's version is a bomb that uses a synthetic radioactive core that has an incredibly short half-life that any radioactive fallout becomes inert in a matter of minutes and incidentally delivers a much more powerful explosive force than a conventional nuclear bomb of comparable size. This synthetic radioactive element was derived from Kal-El's spaceship in case you were wondering.
So the N2 is a "clean" nuke. But the one drawback is that the whole thing generates a MASSIVE electromagnetic pulse. And the reason why I added that in was because I wanted the N2 to be regarded as a weapon of last resort, a doomsday apocalyptic weapon that they would use out of sheer desperation because the effects are so scary. To be frank, the Evangelion guys sure didn't seem to have any problems with using their N2 if the situation called for it.
For those inquiring minds who want to know, Jay Garrick is the real identity of the original Flash naturally. Garrick is the one who fought in World War II and wore the Hermes helmet. Clifford DeVoe is also the real identity of the Thinker, who was one of Garrick's original foes as well. DeVoe originally was a criminal mastermind who later got an upgrade with a "thinking cap" that enhanced his intelligence and gave him limited mental powers.
DeVoe eventually succumbed to one of the most unlikely deaths in comics. Old age. However he, or at least a version of him was resurrected in the modern DC era as an electronic "ghost" of sorts and has continued to bedevil Garrick and those who have inherited his heroic legacy.
I thought it appropriate that DeVoe or the Thinker would reappear as the BRAINIAC computer of Fortress-2.
DeVoe's quote: "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury ... signifying nothing," incidentally comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet.
The original full quotation goes:
"Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.
It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury