The Day of Wrath/All Strings Awry [25]

 

[Intro track — gathering storm : Godspeed you! Black Emperor]

[Incidental music — selections from Yanqui U.X.O. : Godspeed you! Black Emperor]


[Scene: The Tokyo-3 lake under bright morning sunlight. The rubble where we last saw Asuka sitting, now casting its shadow out over the lake. Where the shade falls, we something pale under the water.

[Close up. The pale object is revealed as a child's doll, half buried under debris. A fish swims up, nuzzles it incuriously, and, with a flick of its tail, is gone.]


[Scene: The pilot testing labs in NERV HQ. Maya and Misaki are in conversation with Dr. Mihara. Misaki is still wearing her plug-suit — the test has just finished.

[Freya enters, with another almost identical girl. We can tell them apart by hair colour. The newcomer's short, spiked, hair is red, except for a bleached tuft at the front.]

“Well,” she says, petulantly, “I did it.”

She hesitates, then in a haunted voice, continues.

“And there wasn't a trace. Not a ghost of him.”

She slowly shakes her head, and stands, gaze downcast, looking along the room, at no-one in particular.

Maya places her hand on the girl's arm.

“Well done, Asuka.”

They stand in silence for a while, heads bowed close together.


[Flashback: The lakeside at night, where Asuka has been sitting, mourning, since she fled from Terminal Dogma. She has spent all her tears, and is now sitting, staring out across the dark expanse. The only expression on her face is one of contemplative weariness.]

Maya approaches along the shoreline. She stops next to where Asuka is sitting, and turns to look out in the same direction. She places one hand on the rock They stare out in silence together for some while.

Timorously, Asuka places a hand on Maya's. Maya shifts slightly, to lean against the rock.

“I am here.” Maya speaks in a voice that is thick with emotion.

What else can she say? How else can she help?

[The scene zooms out. In the foreground, now, we see Misato's silhouette against the lake.

[Head and shoulders close up. She's speaking on her mobile.]

“Yes, I have found the Second Child.

“No, no recovery necessary.

“And tell Intelligence Division to keep their noses out of this.”


Asuka

The second time is easier. If I let myself, I could believe that nothing bad had happened, nothing happened at all. Just slip back into the old routine. Pilot Soryu, out to save the world.

Only I did that already, didn't I? The last Angel.

[Flashed image — Kaoru — titling “5thChild — Nagisa K.”]

So why are we carrying on with all this? Inertia? Or something else?

What is hatching in the depths?

[Flashed image — Lilith crucified.]

There's an odd mix of anti-climax and anticipation in the air — and a couple of times I've heard the word 'Instrumentality' in whispered conversations that go silent when I approach. But when will it happen, whatever it is? The one more Angel to destroy still remains.

“Let's call that a wrap,” Dr. Mihara decides.

It looks like this is being nearly as make-work for him as for us pilots — Freya is doing all the monitoring locally, everybody else seems to have gone back to the acting command center.

We're out, and about to hit the showers, when it all hits the fan.

“General Quarters: Second Level Alert! Repeat — General Quarters: Second Level Alert!”

Misaki and I exchange glances. I throw her a towel to dry up the worst of the LCL, and give my own hair a quick towelling.

“I don't think this is a drill.”

Neither do I.

In the lab, Dr. Mihara is leaning over the console where Freya is working.

“The MAGI are under attack,” she announces.

“AT Fields?” I ask.

“No, no Angels.”

Nor any official order to launch as yet. Maybe this is just a false alarm, maybe it's just more hurry up and wait.

Minutes pass, then Freya reports that the attack seems to have stopped. I'm just getting to the point of thinking that I can finally get changed and out of here when the Commander comes on the PA

“General quarters. Go to Level-1 Battle Stations.”

Misato bursts in to the lab.

“They're after the Children. You have to launch.”

She takes in the scene.

“Where's Shinji?”

“He should be in Kaji-san's garden,” Misaki volunteers.

I see her pause for a moment.

“I'll find him,” she decides, “Launch Unit 02 via number 8 route to the surface. Launch EVA-01 next — deploy it inside the geofront, ready to take on a passenger.”

She heads for the door, stops, turns,

“A proper dinner this time — no expenses spared.”

and she's gone. I think she means that she doesn't expect to make it, and hopes that we've all got our wills up to date.

And the PA starts to announce that we're flooding the upper levels with NBC lockdown sealant.

“Soryu-san,” Dr. Mihara looks deadly serious. And that's cause enough to panic.

“Please take Freya with you.”

I guess he doesn't think we'll make it, either.


[Scene: Unit-02 launch]

[Scene: Misato on motorcycle, with flak jacket and combat helmet, riding down a long corridor. She's holding an Uzi awkwardly on the handlebar. There's an obstruction ahead.]

There is an exchange of fire, and then she's through, and spraying fire back over her shoulder.

As she goes past, she grunts. Something has hit her, but we can't tell how badly.

“Shit!” she yells, as she skids into the next corridor.

There's a wall of plate-glass doors ahead. She whips the gun around. Shards of glass are still falling as she sails through, and over the steps outside the main pyramid, landing with a bounce on the open ground beyond.

[Scene: Shinji standing, watering can in hand, looking across the geofront. In the background, there is an intermittent rattle of small-arms fire, interspersed with the louder “Crump!” of something heavier.]


Asuka

I emerge into a small war. And I'm everybody's favourite target as soon as I show.

“Maya!” I yell “Tactical update!”

“Asuka! Asuka!” she gasps, breathlessly. I can hear firing in the background on her channel.

“Don't let me down now. I need you, Maya-chan.”

“I — I'll do what I can. They've cut most of our sensors.”

Oops — some of the aerodynes have come over to play.

“Freya — take over the channel. I think I'm going to be busy for a while.”

By comparison, Angels were easy — they were big, stupid, and, with just the one sort-of exception, came one at a time. But then these idiots don't have AT fields.

I pluck an aerodyne from the sky and use it to swat the next two. By that stage, it's starting to lose structural integrity. And the artillery on the main highway have joined the party. But I am close enough to the lake to be able to get something bigger and better — the naval cruiser that's been parked there for a while.


[Scene: Shinji still standing and watching, as Unit 01 looms up beside the pyramid. The gunfire is closer now. We see figures in black approaching.]

“That's the Third Child.”

“I'll call it in.”

The first speaker grabs Shinji.

“On your knees, kid. This shouldn't hurt too much. Or for very long.” He chuckles to himself as he pushes Shinji down.

Sound of motorcycle engine, and a burst of fire. The assailants collapse.

Misato skids to a halt, and sweeps the slope with fire. She tosses a flak jacket that she'd been carrying on her lap over to Shinji. He catches it by reflex, but that is all.

“Put it on, Shinji-kun, and all aboard.” He starts to pull the jacket on, while Misato loops the bike around.

They are coming under fire now.

Shinji climbs aboard, clumsily, the bulky jacket half on.

“Just hang on to me. With this jacket on, it doesn't matter where you put your hands.”

They roar off.

A burst of fire sweeps the slope behind them. A stray round hits one of the melons, which explodes into red fragments.


Asuka

The cruiser hangs together better than I hoped. The keel cracked a bit as I lifted it, and swung it into position, but it swatted another couple of aerodynes, and held almost in one piece as I lobbed it into the artillery positions.

But now I'm having to do this bare-handed, and the soldier-boys are showing some signs of intelligence — they're starting to bring fire to bear on my cable — several hundred meters of pure liability.

“Incoming!” Freya speaks in my ear, and points.

Way up, there's the contrail of a bomber heading back for home. That explains the few low-intensity sources that have been directed my way. Laser designators — they sure don't seem to want to miss me. And it's a heavyweight N2 anti-Angel warhead.

The gloves are really off now. At least it isn't a cruise missile I only spot at the last instant — or worse, a whole flight of them. For the next twenty seconds or so, I simply have to keep them off my cable.

Now N2 strikes have had some effect against Angels — mainly to slow them down. But like I said, the big Angels were stupid.

I have an AT field and I know how to use it. It's going to be like the 10th Angel, only a whole lot hairier.

All I have to do is catch it…

It's like I'm holding a handful of hell — but I can hold it. And through the open side, where I'm not obstructing the blast, it sprays like I have the devil's own flamethrower.

It acts like a rocket of course, and I'm flying out over the water. And at some point either enemy fire or my own actions have severed my umbilical. But the hills overlooking me are a firestorm.

I keep powered up just long enough for splashdown, and then I hunker down, until I can get an updated sit-rep. I'm lying on my back, looking up through the waters.


[Scene: Misato and Shinji on motorcycle, approaching Unit 01.

[Unit 01 turns its head to face them as they approach, then almost kow-tows to them. The entry-plug emerges, and the hatch opens. Shinji looks up at the Eva.]

“I never thought I'd go back to Eva.”

He climbs down from the motorbike, and looks up.

“Don't think about it, Shinji-kun, just do it.”

“No. I can't. I can't be there to hurt or kill people.”

Misato pulls the bike onto its kick-stand, and dismounts. She walks around to face Shinji, a pleading expression on her face. And then she steps forwards and with one arm pins him against the Eva's lower leg.

“I thought you'd say that.”

With her other hand she stabs something into his thigh.

“I'm not going to feel sorry for you. If it was just about you not wanting to be hurt, then I'd simply leave you to die without doing anything at all for yourself!

“But there's a young lady who feels otherwise.”

Shinji slumps.

Misaki leans out from the entry plug. Misato slings Shinji over her shoulder and begins to climb. She manages to tip him in through the hatch, with Misaki's assistance.

“He should sleep that off in a few hours. Good luck, Suzuhara-san!” she says, and then starts to climb down.

“Aren't you coming with us?”

She shakes her head. “Too old. It'd be like what happened to his Mum. Now, shift it. You have to destroy the rest of the Eva series.”

She slides down, and almost collapses when her feet hit the ground. She clutches her side, as she mounts the bike.

She guns the motor, and heads off.


Asuka

I'm just touching bottom when Misato comes on the channel.

“Listen Asuka.” she says, “You must destroy all of the EVA series. I'll have Unit 01 there to help assist you soon. Do your best.”

The news only gets better.

“Any time in the next four and a half minutes would be peachy!”

There are nine black flying wings passing over. And as each passes, it drops something white, that glides down. That gives me a shade under 30 seconds each, after allowing for the time to get back to the surface. Oh, well, here goes.

[Flashed images: 13th Angel — Unit 02 falls.]

Third time lucky, perhaps.

[Flashed images: 14th Angel — Unit 02 is dismembered.]

If only.

I engage power, and spring to the surface.

There's a white Eva by the lakeshore. Number one.

I charge. But even as I do, something else enters the fray, erupting from under ground in a fountain of energy that mantles it like wings.

“Hello Asuka. I'm afraid I had to stop to pick up cargo, so I was a bit slow — but that should still leave you with over four minutes.”

Cargo? I don't ask — that's not important.

“How are you off for power?” That is.

“No limits. You're the odd Eva out, Asuka — everyone else has an S2 module.”

Oh, wonderful. Nine units with super-symmetry engines harvesting power from the quantum zero point fluctuations. And I'm on batteries that don't keep on running and running.

“Like the 14th Angel, if you recall.”

Actually, I missed most of that one — but I did see the after action reports. And I'm not brilliant for nothing.

“Roger. Copy that, Magic Knight.”

And in more than just old CB slang.

The first Eva swings its double-ended blade at me, but I go in under it. Kyoko knows what we're after. Our fist drives through its body, and we pull back, dragging something that quivers like a still beating heart.

I feel it go down like liquid fire, like a slug of schnapps on a winter's day, while my first opponent collapses like a broken puppet.

The fire settles in our belly. I feel pregnant with power. We throw our head back and howl.

I'm too busy exulting, too slow to react. I see movement — another Eva has flung its blade at me, and as it flies, it morphs into something like the Lance that was used against the 15th Angel. It bites through our AT field, and one tine catches me full through one eye.

Jesus, Mary, and all the Saints, it hurts. And I swear I felt it or heard it scrape against the entry plug. But that still leaves me with 4 of the 6 eyes I started out with — and most of the visual feed is coming through the A-10 shunt direct now, so the sympathetic damage can be pushed to one side.

I grab the shaft and pull it free.

There is something about this thing that resonates with me, though just by handling it I know it to be the Shadow and not the Substance.

Still, it will answer to my plea.

And for this task, I have need of swords, not wands.

“Red Heat! Red Heat!”

It takes a second to realise that Misaki's using my old dæmon's name to match my calling her Magic Knight.

“I'm hot! Check this out.”

A crimson blade, as long as we are tall, cross-hilted.

But she's ahead of me. She may not be able to master the material of these blades, but she has taken one from its owner unaltered, and is wielding it to terrifying effect.

We can tell that their pilots have never done this for real before — or even in the Spirit Warriors virtual arena. The trouble is, they're not staying down when we put them down. Except for one of them.

That one.

They don't work if you pull their plugs.

“Time for seconds, Magic Knight.”

After that, it's just a chore.


We survey the blackened scene, the utter destruction. Holy fire is coursing through our veins. We have gorged on the golden apples of the Sun.

I look across at my companion, no longer entirely certain of where my boundaries are, where Asuka stops and Kyoko begins.

I move my little inner self and switch back into the main command channels. At least there is still that physical entity, it hasn't washed away.

“Anyone. Anyone who can respond. This is Unit 02. I think this battle is won.”

“Asuka?” It's Maya's voice.

“I think so. I'm… a bit adrift just now.

“Units 05 to 13 are destroyed.”

There still seems to be sporadic gunfire in the background from the secondary command centre, but surely it can only be mopping up left to do, now. And the two of us should be able to provide force majeur in any bargaining to come, when the pieces are being picked up and sorted through.

And then, when it seems to be all over.

“Unidentified high-energy source approaching rapidly from Terminal Dogma!”

“AT Field verified! Analysis pattern blue!!”

The fun just keeps on coming.

I hear Maya shriek in terror, then the channel goes silent.

“Maya!” I cry, “Mayaaaa! Mayaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!”

[Outro track — Unknown Tongue : Blve Öyster Cvlt]


© Steve Gilham 2004
© Mr. Tines 2004

#include <std::copyright> — most of the characters and situations in the fic belong to GAINAX/Project Eva, and almost all the rest to the ladies of Clamp. It's just this form of words that is mine.


[24] The last temptation/Bloody murder

[26] Lux Æterna/Wish you were here

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