A little shorter than most, it just didn't want to be any longer. R&R

"Fuck!" I yelled as the bright light hurt my eyes. The cross flare reached high into the sky as static poured from the handset. The truck swerved, the helicopter behind us pulled for altitude as the blast wave came in, no pilot wanted to be caught low altitude in that kind of turbulence.

Calvino pulled himself back inside of the HMMWV and passed my rifle back up to me, "went through about nine rounds, couldn't put one through the cockpit." He explained as he hauled the door shut.

Kharms had sweat running down his face as he fought with the wheel against the rushing winds, I saw the Blackhawk out of the side window, the pilot had the craft angled against the shockwave, using the winds to gain altitude as they pulled away from us.

"Somebody knows what he's doing" I commented dryly as we pulled into a more densely urban area, the outskirts of Tokyo-3 didn't have the tall buildings of the city center, but they weren't small either.

"Yeah, Anatoly's the best behind the wheel I've ever seen." Calvino remarked, not realizing I wasn't talking about Kharms, but I didn't bother correcting him.

"Shame Bucket isn't here; he put a fifty through the canopy of a Hind in Afghanistan, the first time around anyway…" I offered up to Calvino as the helicopter arced back around towards us.

"If we had any ammo for the fifty…" he started before stopping, his point obvious.

There was another bright flash, another cross flare, closer than the first. The HMMWV lurched, the Blackhawk pulled away again. The Anti-Angel Intercept buildings started to shift into their combat orientation as we pulled towards the center of the city.

I snapped open the four pouches on the Mosin's sling and looked inside, the first two had four stripper clips each, I did the math in my head in a second and figured that came out to forty rounds. The third pouch had a handful of loose ammo, the fourth had two stripper clips and a canvas pouch with what I would assume was the weapon's cleaning kit.

"Fifty and change plus what's in the rifle." I said as I closed the pouches back up, "Not that it'll be much use against an Angel…" I added as another flash lit up the sky in the distance. The ground started to shake and Kharms hit the brakes.

A split second passed as the ground shook, the road in front of us split and Evangelion launch rails shot out of the ground; the purple titan Evangelion Unit-01 rose from the depths of Nerv.

Another flash, the top of a hill disappeared, a black monstrosity sauntered over the top and I knew what it was, it was too soon, far, far too soon... I kicked the door of the HMMWV open and ran towards the surface access door that I knew was there, even though I wasn't sure how I knew.

I heard footsteps behind me, Kharms and Calvino must have followed me. I reached the door and tried the handle, to no avail. It was locked and I didn't have my ID badge; I did have a rifle. I folded back the bayonet on the rifle and pressed the muzzle of the rifle to the door and pulled the trigger.

Red hot sparks showered the ground as the steel penetrator shattered the locking bolt, a swift nudge later the door swung open. I ran inside and down the staircase, the two marines close behind me as I descended into the geofront.

"Hey kid! Slow the fuck down!" I heard Kharms yell from behind me, I hesitated for a moment as the footsteps drew closer, I cycled out the spend cartridge and pressed in a fresh one from the pouch as they closed on me.

"I can't leave him out there alone, this… this is the fight that breaks his spirit, and I won't let him do it alone… not this time!" I yelled back as I kicked an access door and ran out into a corridor. There was a linear express line that would take me to the cages, if I could get there…

A big hand grabbed my shoulder as I pushed into the hallway, I turned around to see Calvino's incredulous face, "What are you talking about, you're gonna go out there… and fight, after what you just went through? You're just a kid!"

"Semper Fidelis, I would think you're familiar with the motto, I'll stand by him, to the end. I won't leave him out in the suck alone… it'll kill his soul." I said, knowing more than Calvino could have known, more than I should have known. Even if everything had been different, something deep within me told me that this fight would play out exactly the same as I remembered… unless I could change it.

"We'll get you where you need to go." Kharms interjected as I heard the distant echo of a door being slammed open, somebody came in after us.

"Then let's run for it, there's a rail line just up the hallway." I offered as I took off down the hall towards the carriage, hoping I could get to the cages in time, the footsteps echoed behind me. Maybe, just maybe, I could make it different this time.

"Kharms, I'm putting a claymore here, you get the other side. They come through here; they'll enter the involuntary leg confiscation program." Calvino said behind me as I stepped onto the tram, a few moments later the two followed me in, and the door closed, sending the tram on its way.

"There's no way we won't meet resistance between here and the cage, they're not going to want me anywhere near an Evangelion after I've been a prisoner, not without checking me over, but there's no time, so damn the consequences." I said as the linear carriage sped towards Unit-00.

"Sounds a lot like we're going to get shot" Calvino deadpanned as he leaned against the side of the tram, checking his rifle over.

"It does sound a lot like we're going to get shot" Kharms agreed from his seat across from me, "But, we knew that coming into this. Hell, I thought it was the end of the god damned world fifteen years ago, this is just borrowed time anyway, right?"

"Smart thing is to run away, but I couldn't live with myself if I did. You don't have to come with me, and I won't think any less of you if you leave." I said softly as I checked over my own rifle for what must have been the fiftieth time, locked and loaded, ready to fire.

"We're long past turning back; we'll just have to figure it out as we go." Calvino stated matter-of-factly, "Besides, I'm not about to let you go in there by yourself, not after what you've been through."

I got to my feet as the tram slowed, the cages would be only a few dozen meters from the doors, but there would almost certainly be resistance between the tram and Zero, section two, armed most likely.

"Well, here's to hoping they don't have shoot on sight orders" I joked as the doors slid open, I folded back the bayonet on the rifle, at this range I wouldn't need the stability anyway.

I jumped into the corridor, rifle shouldered, Zero was just behind the door ahead of me. Five men, weapons drawn between me and my engine of destruction, they seemed surprised to see me.

"Let me pass." I stated directly, rifle pointed directly at the center agent's chest.

"We can't let you do that, Ayanami. We have orders to take you into custody." The agent at the end of my rifle said, he face completely calm despite the weapon pointed at him.

"We really think you should let her through" I heard from behind me, a glance out of the corner of my eye let me see the two marines who'd been helping me along, were flanking me, backing me up.

"Let me through, I've still got a chance to make this right… I can help him!" I yelled suddenly, pleadingly to the agents blocking the path.

The door behind them opened, he was there, Commander Ikari, in the flesh. His face blank, like always. "Rei" He stated, one word, one single syllable, and yet…

"Commander, I… I can stop this, send me out, I'll help Ikari, he doesn't have to face this alone, he can't do this alone… and you know what you'll have to do, and it'll break him… Just let me stop that, don't force his hand…" I pleaded, my aim shaking as my finger felt slick on the cool steel trigger, I was starting to panic, it wasn't… it wasn't right, "You promised her you would take care of him, keep that promise."

His façade cracked, for a moment, I could see the conflict, I caught him off guard, and yet… there was something else, something I didn't want to see, "It's too late for that, it's already done, the battle is won."

My eyes went wide, I'd changed nothing, I'd been too slow, from the moment I entered that tram I'd never had a chance to turn the tide of the battle, never had the chance to save him from what he'd be forced to do… all of this, coming back from the dead, being put here into this world, this nightmare, and nothing I could do would make a difference…

So I pulled the trigger.