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/qst/ - Quests

>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>Episode 05 - "The weight of a soul"


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>New Tampa Reclamation Zone

"System sequence start."

You exhale slowly. When you breathe in you let the LCL fill your lungs like you were taught, fighting your panicked 'drowning' reflex. It only takes a moment to familiarize yourself. Once the LCL begins to oxygenate your blood directly, a strange sense of calm washes over you. A sense of protection and . . . isolation. You feel detached from the world somehow, like someone else is watching over you.

"Initiating primary connections."

"Connections accepted, nerve pulses free flowing. Eighty-eight percent efficiency in neutral responses."

"Only eighty-eight?"

"It will have to suffice. Rose?"

You are Rose Holiday and you're currently in the entry plug of your Evangelion, Sever.

"Rose, can you hear us?" Your father repeats the question.

"Loud and clear," you respond quickly, gripping your activation throttles nervously as the Eva finishes its post-start check.

"-Major," your father says. In your nervousness, you'd forgotten his rank. "Loud and clear Major." Leave it to your father to worry about such things on the eve of battle.

"Sorry, sir. All systems are in order, Major," you say, keeping all emotion from your voice.

"Very good. Begin combat deployment. Main elevator engage, bring Sever to the deck," Holiday says.

Your Eva's sensors come online and you see through Sever's eyes. With the hiss of pistons and groan of strained mechanisms, the darkness above your Eva splits open, filling with the turquoise light of the sky. Your Eva lies flat on its back on a steel pad which begins to climb upward toward the opening hatch above as the elevator rises up.

You're vaguely aware of the subtle side-to-side rocking of the freighter you're aboard.
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As the cargo elevator nears its apex, you rise to your feet, compensating for the motion of the ship you're aboard. Standing up, you look across the water and onto the derelict ruins of Old Tampa. The city is far beyond salvaging. Waist-thick kudzu vines wrap the buildings, their tops lost in groves of dense vegetation. Mangrove trees form green patches here and there. With a little magnification you can see flocks of birds roosting in the trees across the ruin.

This city is a grave marker for the countless dead of the Third Impact. You'd been a young girl when it had happened, hardly old enough to understand why your world was suddenly upended. You'd been alone when your mother had died. Your father, the Major, had already been deployed by the US military.

Alone. You'd dealt with it all alone. You were a military brat, you were supposed to be stronger than regular kids. More able to deal with this. Your dad had taught you to be tough, self-reliant, and capable. Maybe that was why you didn't break, maybe that was why you took the chance to be a pilot when your father told you about it.

All around this freighter is a small flotilla of warships bristling with guns and missiles. Cruisers, frigates, and patrol boats. Helicopters buzz and circle above you while jet aircraft orbit high above.

This meager force is all that sits between the ruins and the New Tampa construction area. Further away you can see small green islands, earthen dikes surrounded by mangrove and cypress trees. Above these little islands are the spinning, white blades of the wind turbines which provide power to the farms and homesteads there.

The chatter of the tactical command staff continues as you take all this in.

"Doctor, what's the latest read on the target?" Holiday asks.

"The Magi's consensus is unanimous,." Dr. Kaufman says. "It's an Angel. Currently moving in the shallows around the ruins. Energy readings are fluctuating."

"What exactly does that mean, Doctor?" This time Colonel Versetti speaks. He's your father's old friend from the military, but he's always unsettled you. There's something that feels fake to you about his demeanor. You don't want to dwell on it.
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"Unknown," Kaufman answers. "The Magi are still analyzing. This is the first time we've managed to get such close contact with an Angel. With the first two we hardly had time to blink."

"The Evangelion will change all that," Versetti says with utmost confidence. "It's time to take our future back. Major?"

"Sir," your father acknowledges. "Rose, your target is the Third Angel. Designated Garbiel. It's moving among the shallows here. Your orders are to advance and destroy it before it can turn back for New Tampa."

You feel the weight of the attention of this entire task force turning to you. Every sailor, pilot, and staffer turns their hopes to you. You alone can save them or doom them. You refuse to fail. "Understood," you say, "I'll proceed with my orders, Major. Sever is moving out."

You half-hop from the deck of the freighter and splash down into the murky salt shallows, your power cord spooling out behind you, leashing you to the onboard nuclear generator on the freighter. The cord trails along behind you as you walk forward. The water comes up to just below your Eva's hips, cascading away in a rough wake as you wade forward.

You're afraid, but you bury that deep within you, swallowing fear. You've trained as much as you could for this moment. Years of practice, years of reviewing the only existing footage of the first and second Angels. This is your moment.

"Air recon has spotted movement in the city," you father says. "Proceed with caution."

"Affirmative." You decouple the assault rifle from its holster on your Eva's back and ready it. You pause a moment to rub your eyes before proceeding. You pass down the swampy avenue between the skeletal skyscrapers that rise above you. Hollow, empty windows stare back at you. Here and there dirty glass panes are somehow still intact, you catch glimpses of your Eva's reflection. It's staring monoeye seems to haunt you.

"Movement detected ahead, five hundred meters."

You see the splashing a moment after it's announced. A picture-in-picture window appears, giving you a birds eye view, piped in by a recon aircraft. A feathery white wake plows between buildings as some sort of large aquatic creature darts forward.

"Target is closing on Sever."

You see it a second later, the wake banks around a skyscraper and then accelerates straight toward you.

>Open fire on it while you have a clear shot
>Leap onto a nearby skyscraper to avoid it
>Switch to your spear and try to lance it as it passes
>Write in
Good afternoon, TKQM!

>Switch to your spear and try to lance it as it passes
>Switch to your spear and try to lance it as it passes
>Switch to your spear and try to lance it as it passes

Oh shit, the first use of an Eva.
A moment of indecision comes and goes, passing like a breeze through your mind as combat training takes over. You hear your father's voice in your head,

Don't give them fear. Giving the enemy fear is no different from giving them aid or comfort. Accept that you have nothing to lose, accept that all you have is what you take from them. Give them nothing.

You drop the point of your spear and slide your right leg back, your heel dredging through the silt and sand to crunch into the submerged asphalt of a forgotten city street.

The Angel comes on quicker, whipping and thrashing like a serpent, throwing a pray of seafoam across the flooded buildings. The wake breaks through shattered window panes.

"Come on," you whisper, tightening your grip on the spear shaft. The silver head blurs to white as the vibromotor purrs to life. "Come on you bastard!"

A laser rangefinder ticks the distance down, meters vanishing to nothing until it's on you. Your pour your entire being into one mental command. Thrust!

You lunge with the spear at the apex of the Angel's mad charge. The spearhead finds flesh and punches in, the weight of the Angel slamming into you, kinetic energy unleashing its fury on you.

You cry in alarm as your Eva rocks backward with the impact. Your monitors flash static for a moment. Sickeningly, you become aware of the ground giving way beneath you, the street you stand on has eroded from the tidal activity until it sloughs away. You sense yourself falling, your balance shot.

Your death grip on the spear intensifies, seeking to keep yourself from going over.

The Angel, thoroughly impaled on the spear, thrashes even more intently, throwing water and foam in billowing cascades that swamp your Eva. You catch glimpses of smooth, grey skin and flapping wing-like fins.

"Impact! Target AT Field has been breached," control says.

You grit your teeth and struggle against the Angel's heaving bulk which threatens to bowl you over or wrench your spear free.


Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
Rolled 4 (1d6)

Rolled 4 (1d6)

Rolled 3 (1d6)


You take a titanic step backward, your foot pulverizing more underwater asphalt before you regain balance and press against the creature with a cry of rage.

The Angel fights even harder, twisting, turning, and pulling to try to free itself. With a powerful tug, it wrenches free. A spray of foamy red blood washes over your Eva and it darts away, swimming deeper into the city.

"Sever, pursue," your father urges.

"Acknowledged! Sever moving!" you press the throttles forward and your Eva lurches to life. Its awkward wading gait gives way to large, powerful strides as you sprint after the fleeing quarry. The Angel's blood cooks off the head of your spear.

In a second you lose sight of it as it rounds a leaning skeletal tower.

"Sonar indicates it's turning back. Target is coming around for another pass."

You come to a halt and ready your spear. "Which way?"

"Your left. Come about thirty degrees."

You turn to face the broad avenue, weapon in hand.

"You have to finish it, Rose," your father says. "Kill it in this pass before it can regenerate."

"Affirmative." You push aside the doubt in your mind that you can do that. If an Eva can't defeat an Angel then there's no hope for mankind.

The Angel again races around the corner, water sheeting across a half-glimpsed, smoothly ridged back.

"Here, I am," you say to yourself. "Come and get me."

The Angel zigs and zags, leaving a bloody trail in the water before it seems to sense you again and rushes forward with a burst of speed.

>Impale it again, the same as before
>Leap onto its back as it passes
>Evade the charge and engage with your rifle
>Write in
>Leap onto its back as it passes
>Impale it again, the same as before
looks like it'll fall for it again.
>Leap onto its back as it passes
>Leap onto its back as it passes
Welcome back TK
>Welcome back TK
Good to be back!

>Leap onto its back as it passes
You brace your knees and leap at the last second, arcing into the air with a graceful twirl that spins your loose power cable out behind you, narrowly avoiding the Angel's charge. Above it, you can clearly see it's diamond shape, like a massive skate or ray. It's gray back is lined with smooth ridges, a perfect landing spot.

You fall.

A moment after your descent begins, the Angel flaps a powerful wing-fin and overturns itself. As it flips over, you see that its belly is split by a vertical, tooth-lined maw, open and waiting. A tense shock of fear runs through you as you fall helplessly into that mouth. Its jaws snap shut on your Eva's legs, just above the knee. Surprise gives way to pain which shoots through your legs with such intensity that you're unable to scream. Your calves are on fire and you feel the bones of your knees being ground to pulp.

"Sever is taking damage to both legs!"

The Angel's momentum catches you and whips you sideways as it continues swimming at speed, now with you caught.

You suck in a deep breath, trying to find yourself.

"Rose, engage the target!" your father demands.

A twin set of luminescent, pink tails rise from the rear of the animal where a stingray's barbed tail would be.

"Destroy it!" Major Holiday shouts.

You don't have time to go for your rifle. Your spear is in hand, and all you have. You stab it downward into the mouth, shattering a scything tooth and drawing a fountain of blood.

The Angel's tails strike. The first wraps around the shaft of your spear, clenches, and shatters the weapon. The second tail remains pointed at you. You see the glowing tip of that appendage frozen in your vision as it strikes toward you. You gasp.

This is the last thing you ever see with your right eye.

There is a blinding, stabbing pain in your head and you release the controls to grab your face. Tears come instantly, you're crying in agony. No tears come from your right eye, only a thin dribble of blood that runs down your cheek. Your voice cracks as you scream and claw at your own face, trying to remove the wriggling, burning tail from your eye.

"Sever, focus! Focus on the mission!"

The teeth begin chewing and pain shoots anew from both your legs. "Make it stop! Make it stop!" you cry out. Your mind is adrift, cut off from logic and reason, flooded with panic, fear.

The Angel's second tail lashes out, wrapping around your Eva's chest and midriff before constricting with the same force that shattered your spear.
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There is a groan of armor plate before your Eva's carapace gives way, buckling under pressure. One of your monitors fizzes out to static and you find you can't draw breath. You can feel your ribs flexing, bending inward as you're constricted. All around you is the sound of armor plate collapsing and bones splintering

"Her AT field is totally gone!"

"It's attacking the Eva directly now," Dr. Kaufman says. "Sever all nerve connections and eject the plug, she's finished."

"Belay that order." This time Colonel Versetti speaks.

"Rose, listen to me. You have to destroy the Angel. You have to destroy it." Despite your unbearable pain and the dim knowledge that you're about to die, your father's voice comes through clearly.

"I-I can't!" you gasp.

The entry plug casing around you fractures. Thick, red blood spills into the LCL around you, swirling to create a red, soupy mix.

"You don't have a choice," your father says. "You don't have any choice, do you hear me!?"

The plug itself now begins collapsing, monitors explode and flick shards of glass through the cockpit, your blood mingles with the Eva's blood in the LCL. You can taste it now, that bloody taste. It fills your nose and mouth and you start to choke. You're going to drown in here.

"Colonel, this is insane, eject the plug, we can still save the pilot!" Kaufman protests.

Versetti doesn't answer.

"Rose, you know what you have to do, so do it!" Your father shouts.

You controls feel so far away from you, your body is wracked by agony as your Eva is being eaten by the angel one painful bite at a time. There's one option left. One way you can still save the city and meet your father's wishes.

Somehow you grope in soupy mix, feeling along the side of the pilot couch until you find the self destruct handle.

"Do it, Rose!"

Awash in a world of blood and pain, you grip the handle just as the lights in your cockpit go out, plunging you into blackness. You pull with everything you can. You pull knowing that you're killing yourself. You pull knowing this is your father's last wish for you.

The handle thunks into place and then your world is erased by light.
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You are Captain Rose Holiday and you're standing in Nerv 03's main command center staring at recon photos cycling across the display.

"What's the analysis?" you ask.

"Blood pattern is blue," Yezhov says.

"The Magi are unanimous," Max agrees. "An Angel."

You brush a lock of hair behind your ear and fold your arms, studying the strange images before you. "Then why's it so damn different?"

The Angel in question isn't much like any Angel you've encountered before. The images show a brilliantly green . . . structure. You're having a hard time framing it in your mind. Rising from a central pillar-like stalk, the Angel has burst from the pavement in the middle of Atlanta's financial district. Stalks branch off at regular intervals, creating a fractal pattern, each of which terminates in a broad, flat diamond-shaped plane of green crystal. It's massive, threatening to choke out the skyscrapers around it, easily dwarfing an Eva.

"It looks like a plant," Mbaru says.

You'll be damned if it doesn't. Branches, leaves, even strange crystalline flowers. It also hasn't moved so much as grown. Bursting out of the ground and rapidly expanding. Branches have penetrated into surrounding buildings as it grows skyward, the primary column terminates in an elaborate petal structure which glows red.

You cycle through photos of this thing at various stages of growth.

"Rapid growth over just an hour and now nothing," you say.

"Maybe it's finished," Max suggests.

"Or maybe it's waiting for something else," Yezhov says.

"What's the status on the evacuation?" you turn automatically to Sayid's station before noting that it's empty. "Anyone?"

"The UN is hopping mad," Max says, "They're overseeing the evacuation. Sounds like most people in the immediate vicinity are clear, but they want to know how this thing got into the city."

"Fantastic question," you say. "We'll let them know as soon as we do. What about underground, plants have roots, what's it doing there?"

"Unknown," Mbaru says. "We have no way of getting a clear picture. Minor seismic activity. The city is interfering with detailed ground scans."

The doors at the rear of the room hiss open and your father enters, followed by Colonel Versetti. You salute them both. "Colonel, Major. I wasn't expecting you."

"An Angel has just sprung up like Athena from Zeus's skull," Versetti says. "And the UN Council is demanding we take immediate action."

"We're evaluating our options."

"Then evaluate faster," Your father says. "Time is of the essence here. Every moment we delay gives that thing more time to spread. I don't need to tell you how important that city is for logistics along the southern coast."

"No, sir," you agree.

"Then get me solutions."

You turn back to Yezhov "Has Dr. Caswell and the Science Branch had a chance to analyze the readings?"

Yezhov nods after reading a report on his monitor. "They confirm it is Angel and that is is not growing now. That is all they can confirm."

>Write in
Ah shit. Let's scramble the jets, get some bombs and napalm down. Get an idea of what we're dealing with here.
You pull with everything you can. You pull knowing that you're killing yourself. You pull knowing this is your father's last wish for you.
Cold. But if a self destruct is at least as powerful as a nuke, it's not a terrible option when your only EVA is toast anyway.

Speaking of, what in an EVA would generate that strong of an explosion? It can't be a power core, because EVAs use offshore power. Surely they don't carry nukes onboard purely for self-destruct?

>Plan of action
Keep the evacuation moving. Use military transports if needed, but get them out as soon as possible. Anyone evacuated from the city should be held short-term for any sort of physical changes or other shenanigans. Mask it as a check out procedure or something. This Angel is very out of pattern, and I'm a touch worried it maybe have ability out of normal as well.

Encircle the city, primarily with sensors of various types. Make sure plenty of them are pointed underground. Maybe even stick a few poor guys in the outer sewers. We may not be able to see into the city, but we can watch the boundry.

What is the status of all EVAs? How many EVAs can we get on site, and how quickly?

State of local power grid? Fallback power options if the local grid is compromised?

Suggest slicing (for plant) and blunt (for crystal stuff) melee weapons be on site.

Get the conventional forces to do probing runs, ideally with drones, missiles, and other standoff weapons. We're looking for a reaction. Avoid needless collateral damage, but don't worry about it overmuch.

There's not much info yet, but see if the eggheads have any theories on chemical options for damaging or suppressing it. Something that isn't horribly toxic for humans would be best, but I doubt it'll be that easy. If they do any any ideas on that, jerry rig a bomber wing with as much as the stuff as can be gotten on short notice. If the chemical is safe-ish for humans, go ahead and time the drop with EVA arrival. If bad for humans, keep it in reserve. Make sure the emergency kit in the entry plugs (they have those, right?) contain full face gas masks.
I'm thinking we should avoid fire for now, as this is in the middle of a major city that we'd like to be more-or-less intact after this, and fire has a nasty habit of spreading.
That's fair. I'll swap to your much more thought out write in.
>Equip EVAs with progressive axes.
The whole thing is a crystal rose. An axe seems like a fair compromise between edged and blunt weapons.
>Continue monitoring the situation and hold off on engaging the Angel until EVAs get on site
Atlanta isn't far. Focus on the evacuation. Conventional methods aren't too helpful against Angels but keep them on standby.
I'm going to guess that something happens when the flower "blooms". That could be an explosion or pollen of some kind. I think this is going to be a DPS race.
Feel free to combine any of these ideas, I'm spitballing here.
No update today. Real life sucker punched me and I have a ton I need to do. I'll continue on Friday, sorry guys

All Evas are operation but Korine is not on active pilot status and cannot be deployed. Katya, Ethan, and Renton are available.

>How many EVAs can we get on site, and how quickly?
Three listed above can be deployed in just a few hours, very quickly.

>State of local power grid? Fallback power options if the local grid is compromised?
Grid is intact and functional, more than enough to power three Evas, Backup generators can also be flown in.
Do what you gotta TK, this will give us time to strategize.
Thanks! I can check in to answer questions throughout the day. Hit me if you have any.
Axes sound like a good idea, if we have them in stock. If not, shorter, heavier blades would be preferable, something along machete lines.

Thanks for the info.

Renton and Korine were out on the last deployment, so Katya and Ethan are up. We'll keep Renton (and Korine) in reserve at home. Here's hoping Katya took Ethan's advice post-mission to heart.

Go ahead and bring backup power systems; This Angel came out of nowhere and is affecting a large area. There's no guarantee they won't cause damage to the grid or the plants themselves.

Among our various bomber loadouts, do we have pure kinetic payloads? Or maybe ICBM kinetic 'warheads'? I'm wondering if they might help shatter the crystal, and pure kinetics have a much lower collateral damage potential. Plus there's no risk of duds resulting in UXO in the city.
"What are our options for a conventional strike?" you say.

"Conventional?" Major Holiday blurts. "You're joking, Captain. You're going to bomb the city we're trying to save?"

You don't look at your father as you answer. "Precision ordinance. A tactical strike, probing for response. We have to know what it's capable of before we go in blind."

The Major looks at Versetti who remains stone-faced and silent.

"Captain, collateral damage must be minimized at all costs."

"One rule for Buenos Aires, another for your cities, yes?" Yezhov says, not bothering to hide his sneer.

You interject before your father can. "Agent Yezhov, you will recognize command authority or you will be escorted from this command room by NervSec, is that clear?" You narrow your good eye at him.

Yezhov snorts and turns back to his monitor, what's gotten into him you can't imagine.

This time, the Colonel speaks. "This is a delicate situation. Buenos Aires cannot be allowed to happen again. Burning down a flooded ruin in an act of desperation is one thing. When I made that call, I did so knowing I had no alternative. You have an alternative, Captain. Deploy the Evangelions."

You nod. "Once I've gauged the situation, we'll do so." You turn to Mbaru. "Renton and Korine sortied last time. Put Katya and Ethan on this one. Transfer Hydra and Corvus to Snelson AFB via the number eight transit rail."

Mbaru plugs in the commands.

"Outfit them with gladius and progressive axes."

"No ranged weapons?" Max asks.

"In close quarters, I'm dubious how useful they'd be. Make sure we deploy the backup power generator too." You spy Yezhov glowering at his terminal. "Agent Yezhov." You wait until he looks at you.

"Captain?" The fury on his face is naked, raw. You don't allow him an inch.

"What are our options for a payload to strike this thing with?"

"I confer with Science Division," he says curtly.

"You do that."

"Max, conventional assets?"

"There's an armored brigade already deploying to the city from Fort Benning for evacuation assistance and fixed-wing attack craft from Dobbins AFB."

"Task a squadron to attack the Angel," you say. "We'll transfer the Evas north, it will at least buy us some intel."
The attack squadron levels out on final approach toward the target. They're flying low enough to maintain visual on the Angel rising like a glass flower from the heart of the city.

Ten strike fighters close at speed, each one carrying a half-dozen laser guided bombs with enough explosive force to shatter a steel-reinforced concrete bunker or split a battle tank open like a rotten fruit.

"Target, sixty seconds. Arm weapons."

"Affirm, weapons armed."

The range finder steadily counts the distance down to weapon release.

"Paint the target."

"Thirty seconds."

Each man prepares to drop their ordinance.


"High energy reading," Max says.

On the main monitor of Nerv 03's central command, you watch the Angel's flower top glow with inner red light before a beam lances out and sweeps the sky. Each of the attack craft explodes at the slightest caress from this high intensity beam. A heartbeat later, ribbons of metal fall from black smoke puffs like rain.

"Attack squadron totally destroyed," Max says softly.

You nod, internalizing the information. The Angel struck as soon as it was targeted by the laser guidance system.

"Alright, lets a ground approach. One company. No guided munitions."

Max hesitates until you look at him. "One company, got it."


The streets of Atlanta's financial district are deserted. The civilians in this area had evacuated long ago, allowing the tanks of the armored company to advance at speed, their treads a blur. Behind them. Here and there a parked car remained abandoned. The tanks hardly slowed for these, battering them aside or simply rolling over top of them, crushing them like empty cans.

The commander of the lead tank pears from his open cupola hatch, staring up at the towering Angel in something like dread.

"In range, sir."

"Company, full stop," the commander says.

The tanks shudder to a halt, aligning the muzzles of their main guns with the Angel. The commander knows this is a fool's errand. He's the one meant to trip whatever tricks the Angel has in store. So be it.


Each gun booms, slinging an armor piercing sabot faster than the eye can follow. The shells streak through the air, angling straight at the Angel's main trunk before they strike an invisible barrier, glancing off to ricochet wildly away.

"Reverse, company withdraw!"

The pavement in front of his tank factures open and a sharp, glassy black tendril shoots upward before angling to face him.

His grabs for the pintle-mounted machine gun beside him on reflex. It wouldn't make a difference.

This root stabs out with blinding speed and spears his tank as others are similarly attacked.
In Nerv 03, you watch the tank company taken apart in short succession by the submerged roots. They emerged from the ground and from neighboring buildings to attack the tank, not stopping until the vehicles are wrecked. Some of the crew bail out and flee on foot unmolested.

"Self defense," you say. "The Angel is reacting to hostility and protecting itself."

"Are you suggesting it can think?" your father asks.

"I don't care if it can think or not, but it seems to follow a pattern of behavior. You look at your watch. "What's the ETA on the Evas?"

"Hydra and Corvus are thirty minutes out," Mbaru says,

"Have the UN ground forces draw back and form a perimeter around the Angel. No one gets closer. I also want seismic sensors deployed at regular intervals around the perimeter. If this thing is growing underground, I want to know." You turn for the door.

"Where are you going?" your father asks.

"Science Division. I want to see what Caswell and Yezhov have for me."

Within a minute, you're in Science Division, seated in a deserted auditorium with Yezhov, looking up at the screen Caswell stands beside.

"It appears to be a plant," he says. "I mean, superficially. Leaves, roots, stems, a flower." He indicates these things on the image behind him. "It grows like a plant, it's largely stationary like a plant. Truly remarkable, it's almost like this is another branch of the Angel evolutionary family we've never seen. Some other possibility of life."

"Fascinating," you reply sardonically. "But I'm much more interested in how we kill it."

"Well, Rose, we just don't know that much about it," Caswell says, tapping his chin and studying the image. "Spectrographic analysis indicates that it's crystalline, as it appears, not flesh. I'll be surprised if it bleeds. We don't know how it sustains itself, if it sustains itself. It looks like a plant, but again, that resemblance may purely be superficial."

"Can we spray something on it? Defoliant?"

He shrugs. "You could. But I think you'd be wasting your time. Even Angels that are more recognizably biological don't seem to follow laws of biology. I doubt any poisons mankind has ever dreamed of would have any effect."

"Useless," Yezhov mutters, loud enough for you to hear.

"We tried to attack it with guided munitions and it defended itself. It seemed to sense the attack."

"Yes!" Caswell says, "I saw. Fascinating. I mean, tragic obviously, but how it was able to determine our intent was pretty incredible. Of course, it could just be coincidence. Maybe some distance threshold we crossed which caused it to defend itself."

"My last option is to send in the Evas," you say. "And it looks like that's going to be a slog. Unless you have anything for me."

Caswell looks at Yezhov who just shrugs.

"Maybe," he says. "But . . . it's pretty out there."

"I'll take 'out there'."
"Have you ever heard the term 'rods from the gods'?"

"Is that a euphemism?" you ask, raising an eyebrow.

Caswell flusters a second. "Ah, no. It's an old military project from before Second Impact, it was folded into a project called 'Brilliant Pebbles'." He chuckles. "It's a play on words, you see? 'Brilliant Pebbles' are 'smart rocks'."

You don't react.

Caswell clears his throat. "In short, it's a kinetic payload delivered at high velocity, usually from orbit, rather than an explosive payload."

"What's the point?" you ask, before realizing what he's getting at. "You think it can be shattered?"

He nods. "Yes. Well, maybe. It seems likely. I think if we disrupt the central structure enough, the whole thing will go off like Prince Rupert's Drop."

"Roger," you warn.

He collects his thoughts. "What I'm getting at is 'yes'. I think it can be shattered."

"So can we hit it with the smart rocks?"

He shakes his head. "The project never got off the ground so to speak. However!" He holds up a finger. "I think we might be able to cobble together the next best thing. A tungsten penetrator the size of a telephone pole, carried via an intercontinental ballistic missile. The targeting on those isn't exactly pin-point perfect. But I think we can launch a whole batch, like a shotgun blast-" he mimes a spread with his fingers. "The penetrators theoretically could cause substantial collateral damage if they miss, but it will be nothing compared to a nuclear strike."

"In short," you say.

"In short, if you give me some time I can replace the MIRVs on an ICBM with tungsten rails, and we can launch from a missile base out west and drop it right on the Angel's head. It would never see it coming."

"And the downsides?"

He frowns slightly. "Two obstacles. The first is time. I think with some hard pushing from Colonel Versetti, we can get everything we need set up and deployed within twenty four hours."

Convincing Versetti to green-light dropping sub-orbital tungsten rods on Atlanta was going to be a tough sell, but you think you might be able to swing it provided Roger is confident in this plan. "And the second thing?" you ask.

"The AT Field," Roger says. "High-velocity or not, I don't have high hopes of a clear penetration of an AT field. If the Evas can get close just before the moment of impact, I think we can neutralize the field and shatter the Angel-" He claps his hands. "-like that.

Twenty four hours to leave the Angel alone, unchecked. It's already grown massively in just a few, though it seems to have stopped. You have no idea what could happen in twenty four hours.

>I'll talk Versetti into it, begin preparations right away
>Too many variables. We'll launch a standard Eva sortie
>We'll sortie with the Evas right away. If they fail, we'll go to your plan as the backup.
>Write in
>write in
"How many of these payloads can we prepare?"
send one in initially as a test of the spread/accuracy. Even if it fails to puncture the AT field, it will give a good idea of the accuracy error to be dialed on on subsequent shots.

Assuming that the AT field protects the angle, advance the Evas when the second ICBM is ready. Use them as both a distraction and a way to counter the AT field. Drop the second, hopefully more accurate, tungsten spikes with the AT field down.
>I'll talk Versetti into it, begin preparations right away
>I'll talk Versetti into it, begin preparations right away
>"Attack squadron totally destroyed," Max says softly.
>His grabs for the pintle-mounted machine gun beside him on reflex. It wouldn't make a difference.
Aw hell. I hate spending good men and materiel like that. I wish we had more long range options for probing.

>"Have you ever heard the term 'rods from the gods'?"
Those were the things I was thinking of when I asked about kinetics, though true orbital-launched RFGs have so much energy on impact they act like meteor impacts.
If these ICBM-based ones work, we're going to want a substantial part of our existing missiles converted to kinetics; the nukes don't do the work anymore, and kinetics don't leave fallout.

>"Is that a euphemism?" you ask, raising an eyebrow.
Rose, you can't give others a hard time about cracking jokes when you're doing it yourself.

>Write in
>We'll sortie with the Evas right away as aggressive recon. If they get too much pushback, we'll pull them back and wait for the missiles.

>"No ranged weapons?" Max asks.
Ideally, they'll still have pistols on hand. But I think it may be a little late for that. Do we even have EVA sidearms?

While we're at it, continue to get as many sensors on this thing as possible. Most Angels before this one have only been 'visible' for a short time before they were destroyed; this is an excellent opportunity to get slower, more powerful sensors in place to examine an Angel while it's still 'alive'.
>Do we even have EVA sidearms?
Dunno, but revolvers would be cool
>Speaking of, what in an EVA would generate that strong of an explosion?

Sorry, I missed this question. I'm not 100% sure. They do that in canon, but it's never really explained. My own personal explanation is that all Eva's have an S2 core like Angel's do, only the Eva's is inactive. Hence they are capable of exploding with force.

>Do we even have EVA sidearms?
They Do exist, but given how relatively ineffective things like assault rifles are, a pistol would likely be nearly useless.
>>4929945 supporting
>I'll talk Versetti into it, begin preparations right away
They do have cores.
>I'll talk Versetti into it, begin preparations right away


Write in

You mentally review all the details a moment before speaking. "How many of these ballistic penetrator warheads could we prepare?"

Caswell hesitates. "I . . . guess there's not really an upper limit. The bottleneck is boosters and guidance assemblies, and god knows we've got plenty of those lying around from before Second Impact. Western vintage I mean. The old soviet models don't have the sort of accuracy we need."

"What assurance you have that American missiles can hit a target so small?" Yezhov asks.

Caswell's grin falters. "Well . . . none I suppose."

You ignore the bickering. "Get two ready ASAP," you say. "American-make for now, until we can get hard data about the Russian models."

"I'll get right on it."

"I want the first shot ready in twelve hours."

"Twelve?" Caswell freezes.

"Twelve," you repeat. "Consider it a test. Let's see if we can even hit the bastard before we throw the Evas into the mix. Get the Magi running simulations of an Eva attack as well as a missile attack. I want some hard data."

Caswell nods.

"And get as many science division field teams as you can to Atlanta. We don't often have a chance to study our enemy for long. Let's do the best we can with this."

"What about Versetti?" Caswell asks.

You stand up, feeling the muscles in your leg pulling from the injury you'd taken thirteen years ago. You don't allow yourself a grimace, and you refuse to limp out of here. "Leave the Colonel to me."
The conference room you stand in is drowned in darkness, only the three people physically present are visible, each wrapped in a stark circle of light. You have the sensation of being watched. This conference room is equipped with an advanced communication suite allowing long-distance, real time virtual interactions. Your father and Colonel Versetti make frequent use of it when dealing with their superiors in the UN.

"Have you lost your mind?" Major Holiday demands. "You want us to drop an ICBM on Atlanta?"

You don't flinch, keeping your good eye fixed straight ahead at a point between Versetti and your father. "The standard nuclear payload will be traded out for a collection of tungsten penetrator rods, each one slaved to the terminal guidance package of a repurposed independently targeted reentry vehicle. The Magi have run weapons simulations and found the weapon spread to be within a fifty-five percent probability of optimal outcome."

The Major is dumbfounded for a moment, gaping silently at you. You catch his eyes flick to Versetti, gauging the colonel's opinion. From your point of view, Versetti is as still as the surface of a lake. He sits, hands folded, his lips formed into a placid smile. You also know that Versetti might just be the only person on this world that your father trusts. They've been working together a long time, long enough to read one another at a glance.

"Fifty-five percent," Holiday repeats, "meaning what exactly?"

"In eleven hundred computer simulations we received an optimum result in six hundred and five of them." You reply with mechanical precision, not daring to let an ounce of emotion into your reply.

"What's optimal, Captain?" Versetti asks, the first time he's spoken in this meeting.

You swallow. "An optimum result is that one of the penetrators hits the target."

"Then we have almost fifty-fifty odds of even hitting the target?" Holiday presses.

"Yes, sir."

"And this is your plan?"

"Sir, in simulations of a direct Eva attack, the outcome was significantly worse. Thirty percent probability of target destruction, eighty percent probability of one or both units being rendered inoperable." You don't bother to give him the probabilities for the pilots surviving.

"That's abysmal," Holiday says. "You're the tactical commander for this base, you understand that? You want us to believe that-" Holiday draws short, noting a slight hand gesture from Versetti.

"This is your favored plan, captain?" Versetti asks.

You don't answer right away. You're smart enough to know that's not what Versetti wants to hear. "This is the best plan with the resources we have, and the one with the highest probability of destroying the Angel within twenty four hours."

Versetti and Holiday are silent, but they trade a look. It only lasts a second.

"Then it's the plan we have," Versetti says at last. "See to it, captain."

You salute. "Sir." You turn with military precision and leave.
The door closes behind Captain Holiday and a half-dozen other figures appear around the conference table, the UN committee in holographic form, at its head, Chairman Saito sits opposite Colonel Versetti.

"You place too much faith in your friend's daughter, Colonel."

"Captain Holiday serves our needs," Versetti replies, not rising to the bait. "Were she not the best candidate for the role, she would be replaced."

"You don't truly intend to go through with this scheme, do you?" The French representative demands.

"I do," Versetti says. "If the plan fails, we have all the usual fail safes, beyond which Atlanta is important in the short term, but New Tampa will soon eclipse it as an infrastructural hub."

"See to it that you don't fail," Saito says.

The Committee vanishes and the lights in the conference room come up, revealing the multitude of projectors and plastic screens needed to bring the holograms to life.

"Touchy," Holiday says.

"They've lost one of their pawns," Versetti says. "We knew how they would react to us eliminating the spy."

"The old bastards expect us to keep doing their dirty work despite everything," Holiday says, hands clenched in rage. "After all they took from us-"

Versetti holds up a hand to silence him. "In time," he says. "The stage is set, and with the spy removed, we have more freedom to act. Kaufman has been silenced, and Womack has been firmly shackled to his work. The old men won't know that their plan has been changed until it's too late."

"I hope you're right about this, Versetti," Holiday says. "We only have one chance."

"Timing my friend. It's all in the timing." He smiles.
You are Ethan Chandler, Evangelion pilot, and you're outside of Atlanta, sitting on a tall metal gantry which currently acts as the staging platform for your Eva, Hydra. The city of Atlanta sprawls before you. Relatively untouched by Second Impact, it experienced a massive boom afterward, growing exponentially as former trade hubs like New York and Tokyo were vaporized, and London flooded.

The crystal towers of the newer financial district are testament enough to the success they found. Of course now those towers play host to the truly alien. The Angel growing in their midst would seem more alive if it moved more like a plant. Since it overshadows many of the skyscrapers around it, it's no doubt beset by high winds, but you haven't seen it move at all.

You find its stillness eerie, but it's undeniably beautiful, easily the most beautiful Angel you've seen. The geometry of its lines and angles is perfect somehow, almost artistic. It reminds you of math, of fractals and the golden ratio.

Your plugsuit does little to ward the breeze that whips around the gantry and you pull your arms closer to yourself.

You can see a military cordon extending in both directions forming a perfect circle around the affected part of the city. Armored vehicles, trucks, spotlights, and sensor gear dot the line at regular intervals, all intermittently patrolled by men in olive green uniforms and Nerv science division personnel collecting readings.

The sound of footsteps on metal makes you look back. Katya approaches, also in her plugsuit.

"I interrupting?" she asks.

"No," you shake your head. "Just looking at it."

She comes and leans on the railing, looking toward it.

"It's pretty, huh?" you say.

"Pretty? No. Evil."

Her curt dismissal catches you off guard. You don't bother to tell her something can be both.

"Still, it's something to look at. Sometimes I can't help but wonder why they're here," you say.



Katya shakes her head.

"What's up?" you ask. "Need something?"

"I . . . no." Katya tenses. "I just come to . . ."

"Keep me company?"

"Yes." She does not elaborate.

>"Are you worried because of what happened in our last battle together? This won't be like that."
>"Thanks for sitting with me. I hate to be alone before a mission."
>Say nothing. Just sit.
>Write in
>"Thanks for sitting with me. I hate to be alone before a mission."
>>Say nothing. Just sit.
We've done the quiet comfortable silence thing with her before; Neither of us are the chatterer type.

>"Then we have almost fifty-fifty odds of even hitting the target?" Holiday presses.
>"Yes, sir."
Still, kinetics have a fraction of the collateral damage potential. While it will cause damage to the city, at least there'll be a city to fix afterwords.

Crazy idea: I suggest we spin off a part of the R&D department as a "mad science" group. They'd be specialized in coming up with crazy applications of existing technology that could be weaponized against theoretical Angels.
I doubt conventional forces will ever be more than auxiliary, but if we can make them useful for more than suicide-by-scouting, it will go a long way in reducing our dependence on the EVAs.
I'll support both of these. I do wonder when Linda will appear next. How long has it been since Ethan last encountered her?
>I do wonder when Linda will appear next. How long has it been since Ethan last encountered her?
We last saw her shortly before the arc end, where it was indicated she'd be leaving for a while because we'd messed up. The only hint we've had as to the time between the arcs is that Korine is still off-duty, Renton is at least healed enough from the burn damage to be back on the roster, and all the EVAs are repaired.

I'd like to see her again especially as an emotion backstop for Ethan during combat, but I doubt she'll be around for a while.
That's a good point actually; This will be Ethan's first fight without her in the flesh or in spirit. I hope that doesn't rattle him too bad.
Short and sweet.

I support the RND proposal.
>"Are you worried because of what happened in our last battle together? This won't be like that."
>How long has it been since Ethan last encountered her?
Several days at least Likely a week or two.
"Thanks," you say.

The rumble of heavy machinery passes beneath you. A column of tracked carriers with missile racks on their roughs drives north, toward the city to reinforce the perimeter. You wonder if it makes anyone feel safer to have these military assets around the Angel. Is it just psychological? Who is it supposed to comfort, the civilians who live in the surrounding area or the higher ups sitting nervously in their bunkers.

You think about Linda. This is your first battle without her. The last time you and Katya had fought as a team, you'd very nearly died. Only Linda's intervention had saved you. She claims you saved her once, you suppose that makes you even. All the same, you feel that old nervous tension creeping into your gut. Fear that crystalizes to a raw anger. Katya is right, the Angel isn't pretty, it's evil.

You're just too afraid to accept the unknown. You kill Angels, how am I any different?

Linda's words sting to recall. Were you being single-minded? The Angels were a clear threat to mankind. They existed only to destroy and to take and to ruin. You'd grown up in the ashes of a world they'd tried to burn to the ground.

But this Angel does nothing. It's fixed in place by roots, growing steadily toward the sun. Does it really have to die? What would Linda say?

"Ethan," Katya says, cutting your thoughts short.

"What's up?"

"I want you to know, I remember what you say to me. We are a team. We will fight together."

Before you can answer, a series of megaphones along the perimeter crackle to life. "All personnel be advised, Longshot in five minutes. Forward reconnaissance teams draw back to safe distance."

"I'm not worried about it," you tell her. "If we fight together there's not an Angel around that can stand."

She smiles slightly before turning her face away, hiding her expression.

The Angel glitters in the reflected light of a dozen spotlights. Each facet of the prisms that make its leaves seems to catch the light differently, throwing a hundred crisscrossing rainbows across the emerald trunk.

This Angel has to die. Even if it's just because those are your orders. You're one man against the weight of the world. It's immaterial what your opinion is. You're a soldier.
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Inside Nerv 03's Central Command room, the tactical staff watch the main display with growing apprehension. Smaller displays show the camera feed from the main missile body as it finishes terminal alignment and separates the final descent stage. Metallic chaff flutters away in the black void of low orbit as the stages separate.

The blue-white curve of the earth is visible for a moment in the grainy camera feed as the booster re-aligns. The planet seems both indestructible and fragile from this god-like view. The mission timer continues to count past zero.

"MIRV separation confirmed," Max says, reading his display. "Terminal descent commencing."

Rose doesn't reply, keeping her jaw clenched tight, staring hard at the monitor, willing success. She doesn't look back at her father and Versetti watching. This is a roll of the dice.

If there is a God, she muses, now's a good time for Him to act.


The activity at the perimeter falls to nothing. All eyes are turned inward toward the angel. The lenses of binoculars glint in the light. Targeting arrays, radar dishes, neutrino scanners, and all manner of sensors are aimed at the Angel.

A large LED display nearby ticks off the seconds until impact. Less than a minute remains.

Katya and Ethan watch transfixed, waiting for the attack.


Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
Rolled 3 (1d6)

>"All personnel be advised, Longshot in five minutes.
A fitting name, in more ways than one.

no whammy no whammy
Rolled 2 (1d6)

Bring the Iron Rain!
Rolled 2 (1d6)

Oh fuck the 2s have returned
Rolled 2 (1d6)

Damn. Missed the roll because I was at work. Don't count my roll. That bit about the golden ratio makes me wonder if there's a way to mathematically deduce a weak point in the Angels structure.
Jesus these twos! Definitely don't count that!
Rolled 3 (1d6)

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>All these desperate rolls.
Fate has spoken.

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Rolled 6, 4, 5, 5, 6, 1, 2, 1, 5, 1, 3, 5, 2, 3, 6, 4, 1, 6, 6, 2, 2, 6 = 82 (22d6)

oh no
You are Ethan Chandler, and only see the briefest flicker of light pass across your vision before you see a towering skyscraper crumble into glittering dust. The sound of the impact comes a moment later like a thunderclap, like God snapped His fingers. You feel it in your chest.

A hushed murmur goes up from the soldiers on the ground around you. Camera shutters click, capturing the event.

Four more impacts sound off as each of the tungsten penetrator rods strikes the ground successively, gradually moving away from the target. A few punch into open spaces like streets or parking garages, others clip buildings, twisting frames and blowing out windows into a shower of glass.

The sound of the impacts reverberates in the silence that follows.

The Angel shudders, it's leaves all trembling at once, fluttering in unison a moment before stopping. It sounds like a giant wind chime.

Then nothing.

Katya blinks, then looks at you. "We missed?"
You are Captain Rose Holiday in Nerv 03 Central Commander.

"Yes, ma'am," Max confirms. "A miss. All five rods overshot the target. Closest impact was one hundred and fifty meters away."

You swear under your breath.

"That's practically right on top of it, captain," Dr. Caswell says. He'd come up to the command center to watch the strike. The amount of room for error, accounting for atmospheric conditions, the earth's rotation-"

"We missed, Doctor," you say, cutting him short. "I don't care if it's by an inch or a mile, we missed."

Caswell refuses to be drawn into your anger. He looks you in the eyes, "Yes, but that means we've got a better chance of not missing the next time."

"We can ready another shot," Max suggests. "We've got plenty of those old missiles."

"There's no time for that." Colonel Versetti speaks and everyone falls silent, all eyes go to him. "Every moment we let this abomination remain is a moment we risk annihilation. There won't be any additional test shots. You have the Evangelions in place, and they've always been our first line of defense. Initiate the attack and coordinate it with the last missile. If the attack fails, we have Orion on standby."

He means if the pilots are killed.

You remain stiffly at attention as Versetti speaks to you and respond only with "Sir." You turn to your team. "Doctor, prepare Longshot II."

"We'll analyze the telemetry data and adjust our next shot," Caswell says. "If it hits-"

"If." You cut him off again with that word, not willing to let his boundless optimism taint a very down to earth planning session. You're not in the mood. "Yezhov, coordinate with the UN forces on site and prepare for the attack. Max, run final diagnostics on the Eva systems and weapons. Mbaru, what do we have ready?"

"Progressive cleaver for Katya," Mbaru says, "A battle axe for Ethan."

You saw the videos of the tank company being taken apart by those root-like structures, you saw how fast they reacted to a threat to the central body. You just hope the Evas can get close enough to lower the AT field. Then it's up to Roger's missile strike. You have to hope this time his added data helps.

The plan is straight forward: advance both Evas as a team directly at the Angel, getting as close as possible before attacking. Do you want to make any changes?

>No, proceed with the plan
>Yes (Write in)
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>only see the briefest flicker of light pass across your vision before you see a towering skyscraper crumble into glittering dust.
That is a wild image.

A single tweak: make sure the EVAs are spaced out enough to avoid AOE attacks getting both of them. Otherwise,
>>No, proceed with the plan
There are too many unknowns to make any more complex plans. Let's get some.
>No, proceed with the plan
My biggest concern is possibly hitting our EVAs with Long shot 2. They'd get eviscerated.
>>>No, proceed with the plan
Cue "Decisive Battle"
>No, proceed with the plan


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>1000 hours in MS Paint
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"We're go for Longshot 2. Have the Evas prepare to launch," you say. You spare a glance toward the end of the control room, toward the Colonel and your father, their expressions unreadable.

The display behind you switches over to a full-screen countdown starting at fifteen minutes.

"Sierra Castle missile base reports Longshot 2 is airborne," Max says.

You nod. "Alert the pilots. I want them advancing in ten minutes."


You are Ethan Chandler and now you're nestled within the armored entry plug deep in Hydra's heart. Final ignition checks complete, the voices of technicians buzzing distantly on the radio as the electrical system of your Evangelion hums to life, impelling nerves and muscles to obey your commands. You feel a strange mental pressure weighing on your mind as you synchronize with the Eva. Its nerves become yours, and your thoughts become its.

"Hydra is online and active. All systems nominal," a technician says, silencing the radio chatter.

To your right is a small timer running down from fifteen. It represents the time until the second missile strike will arrive. If all goes according to plan, you'll be in perfect position to neutralize the Angel's AT field when the missiles strike it, destroying it. That's a long way to go in a short time. Timing is going to be everything.

You open your fist, laying your palm open on your leg. A single, pristine, white feather rests delicately on your skin. It's not possible of course. It's not possible that you had this feather clenched in your hand a moment ago, and it's not possible that you have it with you here now. You didn't bring it with you into the cockpit, not consciously anyway. It's a final calling card from Linda, a single feather left behind. It's with you when you want it, and gone when you forget it, like a relic of memory.

You turn it over, holding it carefully as if you could break it. Whatever tied Linda to you, you remain tied through this feather somehow. It's a reminder that she's left, but she's not gone.

"Linda." You close your eyes and close your hand around the feather. You focus your thoughts inward, stilling your mind and calming your nervousness. For a moment there's nothing but then . . . there! You feel it, like the delicate vibrations of a taut string. Notes, bars, a melody. You could hum along if you wanted to. The Waltz. Linda's Waltz.
"Hydra, Corvus, acknowledge."

"Hydra copies," you say, opening your eyes and taking the throttles in hand, song forgotten.

"Corvus copies," Katya echoes. Her image appears in a small window on your display, her features set, serious, focused.

Rose appears center frame, looking as anxious as you've ever seen her. "Longshot 2 is inbound. Dr. Caswell assures me they've calibrated this second shot so it will hit. You need to make sure you're in position beside the Angel before it hits to neutralize its AT field. When you're that close, your own AT field will be gone. The chances of you being hit by one of the lances are slim to none, but be careful."

"What if the shot misses?" you ask.

"It won't," Rose says.

"But if it does?" you press.

Rose doesn't say anything. "We're all counting on you. Do whatever it takes to destroy that Angel."

"Yes, ma'am."

Rose hesitates a moment. "And both of you come home in one piece." Her image vanishes and the final restraining locks on your Eva release. A glance at the timer tells you that you have about ten minutes to cross through the city and get in close. Ten minutes is a long time be be in close proximity with an Angel.

"Ready, Katya?" you ask.

Corvus steps from its gantry nearby, its white armor shining in the sun. "Ready." She carries a huge longsword with a thick blade. You have your own heavy weapon, a double-bladed Ax. What better for cutting down an Angel?

You don't say anything else, there's nothing to say. You advance.

The two of you walk carefully and deliberately forward, moving steadily into the more and more heavily urbanized financial district, closer to the Angel's main body. It's gargantuan, towering over you, casting distorted colored shadows across the ground as sunlight passes through its crystal leaves.

In the probing attacks, the Angel seemed to respond to aggression, so your plan is to get as close as you can before the Angel reacts.

It doesn't take long.

"Seismic readings ahead," Max says. "It's reacting."

The street before you ruptures and a black, shining tendril strikes out, lancing straight for your Eva. You turn aside, avoiding the attack and bring your axe down on it out of instinct. The progressive blade cleaves through the root with a sound like cutting glass. The severed end explodes into splinters which scatter harmlessly through the air.

"Engaging!" Katya shouts, batting away a similar attack and avoiding another.

The building beside you explodes as a fresh tendril lashes out from it. The ground seems to crawl and squirm, as if it's alive as more tendrils move to attack.

You have five minutes until the missile arrives.

>Rush the Angel's main body together
>Stay here and keep the tendrils occupied while Katya moves in on the Angel
>Split up and try to move toward the Angel's stalk separately
>Write in
>>Rush the Angel's main body together
>Write in
Essentially move together but staggered. Push into the center of the Angel but leap frog when necessary to watch each other's back. I get the feeling these roots are going to be every where.
> For a moment there's nothing but then . . . there! You feel it, like the delicate vibrations of a taut string. Notes, bars, a melody. You could hum along if you wanted to. The Waltz. Linda's Waltz.
Good to know she's still got our back if things go off the rails.

>The chances of you being hit by one of the lances are slim to none, but be careful."
Rose, I know you're being supportive, but we all saw the first round come in; we wouldn't have time to realize we were in the path, nevermind any attempt to dodge. We'd exist in one moment, and... not exist in the next.

this. bounding isn't strictly necessary in this situation, but it may help us keep better situational awareness as we move.
They are everywhere at the same time. "Expect the unexpectable".

"Seismic disturbances increasing."

You don't need the reminder. You twist and turn, parrying attacks as the come in, your axe swinging to and fro. Shards of severed appendages rattle off your Eva's armor like crystal rain.

"Ethan!" Katya's warning comes a moment before she swipes her cleaver and bisects a stabbing tendril that was coming for you.

The timer is rapidly falling to zero.

"We're going to get torn apart here," you say, the two of you going back to back, watching more roots slither like glass snakes from shattered streets and crumbling buildings. It feels like the city is falling apart around you.


"Go. I'll buy a little time, we'll leapfrog."

"Ethan, I-"

"Go!" You don't give yourself time to be afraid and leap toward the massing tendrils, axe singing through the air.

Katya drops her Eva into a sprinter's posture and explodes toward the Angel, feet pounding and arms pumping. With the effortless grace of a dancer she side steps one attack and leaps over another before landing and continuing on, racing for the towering Angel's central stalk.

You need to buy her a second before it catches on. You loop your axe in a circle overhead before bringing it crashing through a tendril slithering toward your leg. The Axe cleaves it and embeds itself in the pavement, radiating massive fault lines in all directions. You're off balance for a moment, enough time for your guard to be down.

Another root smashes into your rib cage with the force of a freight train. Your Eva lurches sideways and you gasp from pain. You have enough foresight to use the momentum of this hit to wrench your axe free and deal a retributive blow to the root, smashing it to shards.

"Ethan, now, come!"
You don't hesitate, you trust. Turning, you sprint after Katya, moving neatly through the small gap she left in her passing. As you run along, trying in vain to catch up with her, you see furrows in the pavement chasing after her, others arrowing in ahead to intercept. The Angel hasn't given up.

Your timer shows three minutes.

"Katya, move your ass!"

She doesn't respond as the intercepting tendrils reach her and attack. She cuts off a pair of them before a third wraps around her legs from directly underneath and yanks her flat on the ground. She hardly has time to cry out before you reach her, cutting the tendril and then another before the two of you are on the move again.

"Evas are entering AT neutralization range," Caswell says. "You guys have to stay close to make sure the field goes down. No matter what! Just . . . don't get too close."

You don't have time to criticize the contradictory direction, the tendrils are looping back, racing at you and then . . . they stop. It's as if an invisible wall has stopped them all.

"The roots," Katya says.

"Maybe we're out of range," you suggest.

The Angel shudders, the leaves flapping as if caught in a breeze. You and Katya turn and look up to see the Angel contorting itself, branches curl and change angles, leaves rotate, sunlight flashing off their smooth surfaces as they come into alignment.

"High energy buildup detected within Angel's central structure."

The red flower atop the Angel begins to glow with an alien light, petals shifting and aligning like an array of lenses.

You remember watching this exact weapon cut down a flight of aircraft with little effort. Now it seems to be channeling even more energy to this attack.

>Split up and circle the Angel
>Advance and attack the stalk directly
>Circle the angel together
>Write in
>You don't hesitate, you trust.
That's what it's all about.

>Split up and circle the Angel
Cold calculation time. A singular massive beam weapon won't be able to hit both us of if we're on opposite sides of it. Plus, the lateral movement relative to it should make the targeting difficult (hopefully).
>Split up and circle the Angel

>singular massive beam weapon won't be able to hit both us
But what if it splits into two?
>Split up and circle the Angel
I would also suggest weaving between the exposed roots and branches. Don't stay still but if we can cause it to hit itself that'd be a nice bonus.

I'm hoping against hope that it can't split the beam. Even in the case that it can't split the beam whoever it happens to target is probably going to get their power umbilical cord cut. If it can split the beam well... we're on a timer anyways.
>Split up and circle the Angel

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The glow in the central flower intensifies, seeming to double in brightness again and again. You know that sort of build up can only last so long.

"Katya, go left!"

There's no hesitation on her part, she darts off, circling the Angel, staying between the plant body and the root tendrils that seem to follow along on the edge of striking range. You don't have the time to watch her, the only way this plan will work is if you both present moving targets.

"Keep up with this, you son of a bitch!" You turn and sprint in the opposite direction. You hardly get a step before your Eva is pulled short with a violent yank. "Shit!"

Your heads up display blurts warnings at you about the power cable. You look over your shoulder to see the thick powerline is pulled taut, winding among buildings. You don't have time to sort it out. A glance at the missile attack timer shows a few slim minutes left. You depress the key to eject your cable with hardly a second thought and return to running.

"Katya, watch your cable" you warn.

"I watch!"

Urban scenery flashes by you in a blur. The mirrored glass-fronts of the skyscrapers you weave between all reflect the green crystal body of the Angel and its quivering leaves.

"MIRV terminal guidance updated," Max says. "Longshot 2 on final approach. Two minutes to impact."

The Angel fires. For a moment, everything is bathed in a sickly red light, like a filtered flashbulb going off. You stagger blindly in that instant, your Eva's arm clipping a high-rise and smashing the façade in. Steel girders buckle and groan but you push yourself away and continue staggering on. It takes you a second to realize you're unharmed.

"Corvus has sustained damage to right leg. We have tears in major ligaments, the right soleus is completely destroyed. Power cable severed."

Far away, on nearly the opposite side of the Angel you see the cause for the red-out. A swatch of smoking ruin has been carved through the city, as if a gigantic cutting torch had been run through it. Buildings drip molten glass, sagging in the heat. Others topple, completely bisected by the beam. At the end of this path of devastation you see the white-gold figure of Katya's Eva, Corvus. It lies sprawled, armor steaming.


The Eva twitches, then lifts itself up, trying to get back to its feet. You're too far away to see the extent of the damage, but Katya looks lucky to be alive. She'd only sustained a glancing blow. But it's enough to put her out.

Corvus topples back to its knees when it tries to put any weight on its right leg. Katya hisses in pain as if the leg were hers.

"Corvus is combat ineffective," Rose says. "Hydra, finish the mission."

"Sixty seconds for Longshot."
"Katya?" you ask, frozen in place.

"Here," she says. She stabs the tip of her cleaver into the ground and uses it to lift her Eva into a standing position. She's not going anywhere any time soon, but she's out of immediate danger.

"We have an energy buildup inside the angel again!" Max says. "It's going to fire!"

The flower is beginning to glow once more with that hateful red light. The crystal leaves dance to an unfelt breeze and begin to align themselves again.

Your eyes go to Katya's Eva, it's a sitting duck "Rose, pull Corvus back."

"I neutralize the field, Ethan," Katya interjects.

"Thirty seconds to Longshot."

"Rose, get her out of there!" you shout.

Rose doesn't answer you. She either can't, or won't. Like it or not, you need Katya's Eva to neutralize the Angel's AT field. If she ejects, her Eva stops projecting its field, and that might just be enough to allow the Angel to protect itself.

Katya won't survive another hit, but if Longshot works, she won't have to.


You have no way of knowing if the Angel is targeting you as a remaining threat, or aiming to eliminate Katya. Either way, your next move is clear. You start sprinting again, circling around toward her Eva as fast as you can.

"Impact in ten seconds."

It's a race, a race between the ethereal power of the Angels, and the technological supremacy of man.

Far overhead, faster than the eye can follow, five tungsten rods the size of telephone poles streak toward the earth with suborbital velocity. If the missiles hit before the Angel fires, then what happens next won't matter. But if they miss again . . .

You run faster.


Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
Rolled 1 (1d6)

Dice gods please I beg you
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>Dice gods please I beg you
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Rolled 6 (1d6)

Rolled 4 (1d6)


Net neutral I guess
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I don't think Ethan would handle losing a second teammate very well at all. But Linda might appreciate the company.

If the shot fails to connect, we're going to be in a lot of trouble. One crippled EVA, one disconnected, and a doom laser that it seems happy to use repeatedly.

I've never been entirely clear if Killer takes the top die, or mixes in all 3.
Have some faith anon.
>I've never been entirely clear if Killer takes the top die, or mixes in all 3.
It never occured to me that I didn't explain the dice system.

It's very simple:
>Three rolls of 1d6
>4,5,6 are success
>Each roll requires a certain number of successes for whatever degree of success.

No successes = total failure
3 success = incredible success

Some tasks require only a single success, others require 2 or 3 depending on their challenge.


Thank god. I'm surprised no one asked sooner.
Kinda reminds me of World of Darkness dice rules.
The petal-shrouded red orb pulses with malevolent red light. The sunlight around it seems to sicken somehow as it's channeled into that quasi-organic focusing chamber. It's going to fire.

The flower bulb explodes.

You blink in surprise and stare up at the expanding cloud of glittering red dust.

The thunderclap of the sound barrier being violated comes a half second later, the concussion of a high-velocity ballistic impact slaps your Eva, and staggers you back a step.

"Impact! That's a direct hit!"

More penetrators stab down around the Angel like God's fingers, obliterating nearby buildings, vaporizing them. Billowing clouds of thick dust climb to the sky where skyscrapers topple and fold in on themselves. Despite the carnage around you, you keep your eyes fixed on the now flowerless Angel.

The color seems to go from its leaves and they stop their strange quivering dance, staying eerily still. A moment later they explode, all of them. Every straight stalk, every fractal branch, every geometric leaf, and every root bursts in a fine, crystalline powder. It sounds like a million windows shattering in unison. The glass dust rains down across the city, swirling as it's caught in the eddies of wind that sweep between the buildings.

You look down at your Eva's hand and watch the thin powder coat it before getting blown away by the wind.
You're Captain Rose Holiday and you're in Nerv 03's central command. All around you the tactical branch watches their displays carefully, each going through the myriad of reports coming from the observation teams in the field.

You don't dare speak, watching the smoke rising from Atlanta on the widescreen.

A moment later, Dr. Caswell breaks the silence. "We're getting no more energy readings. All scopes are dead. The target is silent." He looks to you and smirks. "We did it."

You exhale slowly before turning back to salute Versetti and your father. "Target destroyed, sir."

"Well done, Captain," Versetti says. "That's quite a handy little trick we've earned ourselves."

You relax slightly. "Yes, sir." You pause a moment before continuing, "Sir, with your permission, I think we'd benefit from having regular inter-team meetings related to research and development. We might find more ways to make conventional weaponry more impactful, like Longshot, sir."

Something passes between Versetti and your father. It's more than just a glance. It's impossible to miss that something was communicated between the two of them.

Your father speaks, "Tactical has done well on this- and you, Dr. Caswell. However, we've placed all Research and Development under the control of the Technical Branch. Dr. Womack has things well in hand."

You frown slightly. "Yes, sir. Of course." Why did they shut down a chance to develop fresh weapons? Longshot had proved its worth, why not pursue that path? It could only serve to strengthen the UN military and enhance its Angel-killing capabilities. What was there to lose?

"Begin Eva recovery," Holiday says, interrupting her chain of thought. "Get Corvus into repairs immediately. How bad is the damage?"

"It was a lucky hit," Caswell says "Or maybe unlucky from Katya's perspective I guess. The repairs won't take long. Maybe a few days. A week?"

"Get it done," Holiday says. "Until Corvus is operational we're down to two Evas."

"I'll get right on it," Caswell says.
You are Fox Renton and you're in the New Tampa Eva cage, sitting in Orion's entry plug on standby. It seems an exercise in futility, to be ready to deploy when the battle is across a sea. Standard procedures have to be followed however, like the word of God. When an Angel is active, no matter where it is, then all Evas have to be deployed.


You look across the cage at Korine's plastic-shrouded Eva. You're confident that they'll let her back on the team one they're sure she's not a liability. If they were done with her- truly done with her, then she wouldn't be on standby, she'd be gone.

Max had threatened you with as much.

We’ve got Skobeleva and Chandler. We don’t need you. You don’t think the boss can’t just pull a new name out of a hat and have a different kid here on a plane tomorrow?

You're as expendable as anything else here, after all, there's no shortage of orphans wandering this planet waiting to be scooped from poverty and given a chance at meaning, a chance to defeat the enemy.


You scowl harder. The real enemy is here in this city. The real enemy has a name.

"Anesidora," you whisper it like a curse. The name second in your thoughts only to Isabella herself. Anesidora, the enemy.

Your enemy.

You close your eyes and release it from your mind. You try to conjure Isabella's face. She was just a girl last time you'd seen her. A child. You find quickly that you can't piece together what she looks like anymore beyond vague impressions. The memories have been eroded by time like sandcastles on the beach.

Something else they stole from you, it only fuels your simmering hate. It was one more tally on the board for you.

"Renton?" It's Max's voice. "We're coming off standby. Get showered, okay?"

Soon. You'll have your chance soon.

You are Ethan Chandler and you stand beside Katya, watching your Eva's ponderously loaded onto a pair of heavy aircraft. Katya hasn't said much since the battle, hardly even acknowledging you.

"How's your leg?" you ask.

"Sore," she says. "It eh . . . tingles still."

"That was a nasty hit," you say.

She doesn't answer.

A helicopter thunders overhead, low on patrol over the rapidly dissolving military perimeter around the city. The city itself is in the process of being completely decontaminated. Teams of soldiers in hazmat gear vacuum up the Angel's glittery dust, all that remains of its passing. Whether or not any significant scientific advancement will come from studying it, you're not sure.

Your role in all this is finished, and that's all you care about for now.

Katya brushes hair from her face, quickly tying it back into a ponytail that had come loose in the fighting. She's watching the city.

"They'll rebuild," you say.


The synergy you seemed to have with her in combat isn't there now. It's as if something has switched off, or some barrier has come down. When you fought through the tangle of animated roots, it felt like you each could sense the moves of the other, but now you can't be sure what she's thinking.

"I think you almost died out there." The words surprise you the moment they leave your mouth. You say it so nonchalantly, so matter-of-factly, that for a moment you refuse to believe that you said them at all.

Katya looks at you, her expression is blank, her eyes are on yours.

"If it had fired again," you say, "That would have been it." It feels like a stab in the gut, like a dam in your mind has been breached. The possibility that you almost watched Katya die in front of you hits you like a freight train. You're suddenly feeling so much. Grief, guilt, shame, anger and a deep, turbulent sadness. It's like emotional whiplash and you're worried for a second that it will pull you in, that you'll break down in front of her, or - even worse - inflict the same emotional pain on her.

"No," she says. "I do not think so."

Her flat denial is not what you were expecting. "Katya, it had you. I mean . . . it had you."

"You figure out something I think," she says.

You're dumbfounded. "But-"

"You say we are a team, yes? This the only way we make it through. You my team mate," she says. "I trust you like you trust me."

You want to argue with her, tell her what a fool she is to trust you. She doesn't give you the chance.

"I just ready to go home," she says, looking back at the heavy lifters.

The scream of revving jet engines washes out any ability you'd have to respond to her. The two of you watch the aircraft climb skyward, Eva stowed in its belly.
You are Captain Rose Holiday and you're on your way to review another report from the UN Armed Forces in Georgia regarding the restoration of the city. The damage was considerable, noteworthy to the point where you'd had to field complaints from a number of civil authorities. You'd gotten lucky all things considered. It could have been worse. If only you could make these bureaucrats see that.


The voice startles you and whirl to see Max leaning on a bare cement wall. He's half-hidden in the shadow of a recessed light above him. The red-glow of a cigarette cherry lights his face as he takes a drag.

"Max, Jesus. You scared the hell out of me."

He blows a stream of smoke across the passageway but doesn't say anything. He flicks the cigarette to the floor and crushes it with the toe of his shoe.

In that second, a few things register in your mind. First of which is that this meeting isn't accidental. This passageway isn't a place to congregate. Narrow, cramped, poorly lit, and off the beaten path, it's a shortcut you take a lot between Nerv's Civil Liaison office and the Tactical Division's offices. The only reason Max would be here is if he was waiting for you.

The second thing you realize is that Max looks awful, terrible even. His skin seems devoid of all color and he's sweating.

"Are you alright, Max? What's wrong?"

"Fine," He says, coughing lightly. "I'm not sleeping well."

You glance both ways down the passageway. The two of you are alone. There's not even a CCTV camera in this particular stretch.

"What is it?"

"How did Aaliyah die?" Max asks.

It's not the question you're expecting, and that makes it worse somehow. You hadn't prepared yourself for it. Max stares into your good eye intently, his gaze doesn't waver. He's looking for something.

"Max," you say, as patiently as you can, "I know you two grew close-"

"How did she die?" he repeats.

Irritation flashes across your features. Why the hell is he interrogating you about this? "Max I told you."

"Tell me again."

You sigh. "There was an accident during the virus attack. A pneumatic blast door triggered."

"Did you see the body?" Max asks.

You remember the hermetically sealed box NervSec had dropped off. The label sticks out most clearly in your mind.


"There wasn't enough left," you say. Your voice is hollow.

"What about where it happened?"

"Max, what is-"

"Rose, did you see where it happened?" Max presses.

"No. And why the fuck should I?" you demand, sick of this game.

"I did," Max says. There are two other crushed cigarettes on the ground beside him. He's been waiting here a while. "It's a junction near the C30 Eva elevator access."


"So what the hell was she doing there?" Max says. "It's in the middle of nowhere. No reason for her to be out there."

"What reason do you have to be out here?" you counter, gesturing to the hall you're in.
"I'm up to something I probably shouldn't be," Max replies.

The frankness of his answer stumbles whatever response you might have had.

"I wonder if Aaliyah was too," he continues.

"What exactly are you getting at?" you ask.

Max takes a fresh cigarette out of his shirt pocket and studies it, rolling it between his fingers. "I wonder if she knew something she wasn't supposed to know. I wonder if she was hiding something."

"And why do you think that?"

"Because someone told me she was."

"Who?" you demand.

Max doesn't answer. "Rose, let me ask you something. And I want you to think about it before you answer me." He goes silent and looks back at you. "Kaufman. You knew him since you were a kid. I knew him since I got here. He was a good man."

"Yes," you say.

"He was a good man," Max repeats. "So why the fuck would he murder someone? An engineer? Shit. Where is Womack? That son of a bitch has hardly been around. Caswell's supposed to be running the division but all the special projects go to Womack."

"What's the question, Max?" you demand.

"Do you trust Nerv?"

"Of course I do," you reply automatically. "What the hell kind of a question is that? We're the last line, Max! It's us against the Angels. You've lost it. You're delusional." You turn away but Max grabs your sleeve, moving faster than you would have expected he could given how terrible he looks.

"No," he says, "You didn't think about it. I know the Major is your dad. I know that. I know the mission is important. I know what the stakes are. I didn't ask any of that. I asked: do you trust Nerv? Do you trust them that Kaufman was a crazed murderer? That Aaliyah died in a freak accident? Do you think they're hiding something?"

>I trust them with my life, and you should too
>It doesn't matter if I trust them or not, we need them
>I know they keep secrets from us. They have to, it's their job.
>Write in
>>I know they keep secrets from us. They have to, it's their job.

Its all coming together
If EVAs are God-machines, what does that make that which can obliterate them?
>However, we've placed all Research and Development under the control of the Technical Branch.
I'm sure the accuracy of Longshot will continue to be improved in time without our intervention.
Honestly, I'm tempted to set up some informal meetings with R&D anyway, do some idea spitballing over lunch with a few of them or something; let them claim credit for any ideas. Maybe it goes somewhere, maybe it doesn't. But the firebombing and now Longshot show conventional means can work very well against Angels, when applied with the right means, at the right time and place. Conventional costs are a drop in the bucket compared to EVAs', and frankly I'm worried about how many eggs are in the EVA basket. Especially as the Angels appear to be slowly getting stronger; how long before EVAs can no longer cut the mustard on their own? Our nuclear trump card no longer works.

>"Until Corvus is operational we're down to two Evas."
If it came down to it, I wonder if high command would reactivate Korine, or resync her ride to a pilot with a wrecked EVA? In an emergency, there's no way they'd leave a fully functional EVA in the hangar.

>Teams of soldiers in hazmat gear vacuum up the Angel's glittery dust, all that remains of its passing.
I was wondering about that.

>"That would have been it." It feels like a stab in the gut, like a dam in your mind has been breached. The possibility that you almost watched Katya die in front of you hits you like a freight train.
There it is. Adrenaline crash is a hell of a thing.

>"You figure out something I think," she says.
Oh God. If When we lose her, lines like this will make it hurt all the more.

>"How did Aaliyah die?" Max asks.
Not this again. Leave the dead to their rest, Max. She lived a hard enough life to deserve that much, whatever her other faults.

>I trust them with my life, and you should too

I'm starting to think the Max might need to be pulled from active duty. He is acting very erratically for someone in such an incredibly sensitive position (managing EVA pilots and 'bridge crew' for EVA ops).
Bro Max has cancer. he doesnt give a shit wither he dies or not.
I'm not worried about him eating a bullet, I'm worried about his mental state. If he does something stupid while managing Renton or while on the 'command deck' during an Angel attack, a lot of people could die. Frankly, I'm surprised he hasn't tripped any internal monitoring alarms.

I do feel sorry for the guy; he's been hard done by his time here in more ways than one. But too much rests on his shoulders.
Seconding. God I miss Aaliyah. It was a good counter balance to what the pilots were doing. Great story nonetheless.
I never really liked her.
She did what she thought was right, and I can respect that. But I disagreed with her. I suppose I lean more toward Ethan's way of thinking.
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>"They'll rebuild," you say.
Neon Terminus Evangelion confirmed for Rebuild movies.

>I know they keep secrets from us. They have to, it's their job.
>I know they keep secrets from us. They have to, it's their job.

"I know that Nerv keeps secrets from us," you say. "They have to, that's their job."

"So you're admitting that maybe - maybe - Nerv is lying to us about Kaufman. About Sayid," Max says.

"Only because it helps keep us safe," you counter. "If they're lying about that- and that's a big if- then it's for a good reason."

Max flicks the wheel on his lighter and a flame springs from the sparks. He puts the cigarette in his mouth with his other hand and stares at the flame.

"He drove the celestial team," he says. "And man was lord of the fire." He lights the cigarette and draws in deeply. He exhales through his nose. "Lord of the fire." He looks lost in his thoughts a moment.

It's all the time you need to collect yourself and recover from this uncomfortable conversation. You take a step closer to Max so you're almost chest to chest. "You'd better pull yourself together," you say, voice just above a growl. "It's not just your ass on the line if you go to pieces on us. Those kids - the whole damn world is counting on us."

Max just nods.

"We've known each other a while, Max," you say, taking half a step back and lightening your voice. "I like you. You're smart, reliable. I don't want to have to do something about this conversation. So don't make me."

"One life," Max says. "Funny how far we'll go for one will millions wasn't enough." He finally looks up at you again. "We watched billions die. I was there when a city evaporated. Sometimes I wonder if that fucked up our sense of things, warped our sense of responsibility. How much we value a single life I mean."

"I'll trade a thousand if it saves a million," you say. "In a heartbeat."

Max shakes his head, "It's not about that. It's not a number's game. I just wonder how far we'd go to save one. Just one soul." He looks distant again.

You turn away from him and start to leave.

"Rose," Max calls.

You stop, your back to him.

"Keep your gun on you. Never know."

"You never do," you agree. Max doesn't stop you this time when you leave. You keep thinking about what he said as you go about your day. You wonder if he's right.
You are Ethan Chandler and you're relaxing in your apartment. You'll never be as good as Katya at this game, you've accepted that much, but you can see why she plays. It's cathartic, almost meditative when you get on a roll and get into the zone.

You think about Katya standing defenseless under the deadly red gaze of the Angel.

You don't want to think about that. It's done. Mission accomplished. You keep playing.

But your thoughts return. You think about the beam that eviscerated a city striking her instead. No amount of armor on an Eva would stop it. The plate would boil away to nothing. Muscle would cook, skin would bubble, sinew would contract and pop. The LCL in her entry plug would scald her to death.

You put the game down and close your eyes.

You would have stood there and watched her die. There was nothing you could have done. Just blind luck that the missile had hit exactly when it did.

Your hands feel clammy, your whole body feels cold. You wrap your arms around yourself and wish this was over. You won the battle, that's all that matters. You both came home.

But you won't always. Chance won't always be on your side.

"Stop it," you whisper. "Stop."

You let Linda down. You told Katya to split up. She'd been alone. She'd almost traded her life to save hers. If you'd been there with her you could have protected her, gotten her to safety.


It's just a matter of time.

"Stop!" You raise the game system over head, ready to bring it smashing to the floor but you stop, muscles frozen. This game is a gift from Katya. You lower it back down and set it gently on the table, unharmed.

"Enough," you say, rubbing your eyes. "It's fucking over."

For now.

You reach for the game again but your phone rings.


"Ethan. It's Renton."

As if you needed to be told. "Hey, man. What's up?"

"Listen, today's the day!"

"The day?"

"Ah, you've forgotten, but maybe you'll remember. Maybe not." Renton laughs.

"You drunk?" you ask.

"A little, my friend. But not enough. The Cats are away, so I think we mice should play. Come drink with me."

"Sure," you say. "I'll see if Korine and Katya are up for it."

"I think not," Renton says. "Just us, eh? Brothers."

"Sure," you say. "Just tell me the place I guess."

"Ah, I knew I could count on you, Ethan. I will text you."
It doesn't take you long to reach the place. It's not trendy, it's not hip, it's not even cozy really. It's a flop. The bar is set in the basement of a shoddy pre-fab apartment building near the docks. You can barely hear the bang of steel and thrum of heavy diesel engines if you stand outside the place.

Inside, everything is tinted red and reeks of cigarette smoke. The men and women here keep well clear of you, but it's clear that they're the fringes of society in New Tampa. They're not clerks, administrators, technicians, and bureaucrats, these are the working stiffs. Sailors, cargo handlers, cleaning crews, and construction workers.

Renton is waiting for you in a booth and grins wildly once you enter.

"Hell of a place," you say as you sit.

There is a pair of empty beer bottles on the table already, and a third that Renton is sipping. A fourth sits across from where you sit. Renton gestures to it and you drink. It tastes like cold piss.

"Rough," Renton agrees. "But I don't mind."

"Did we make plans?" you ask.

"Long ago," Renton says, "But you probably didn't notice. That's alright, I don't hold it against you."

You shake your head and drink again before wincing. "I see why you didn't want to bring the girls."

"Nah. They can handle themselves I think. A place like this doesn't scare them. I understand it that Katya stared an Angel down and did not blink."

"Yeah," you say, turning the bottle in lazy circles on the tabletop.

"Ah, don't be so glum. Survival is victory as far as I'm concerned."

That tiny voice deep in the back of your mind seems to gloat at this, intent on reminding you on how fleeting life is. "I guess. So what's the occasion?"

"How about 'survival'?" Renton asks, grinning wider. "That's fitting, no?"

"Look man, I'm really not in the mood for-"

"Ah, I push things too far," Renton says. "My apologies. You have been through a lot too. Don't take offense, but I'm quite drunk."

He smells like it.

"How long have you been drinking?"

"Since I was a child, my friend!" Renton laughs.

"That's not what I-"

"A while, that's all that matters eh?"


Renton finishes off his beer and lays it sideways on the table, spinning it idly. "This isn't easy for me," he says. All the levity is gone from his voice and you sense only pain. The sudden transition is jarring, as if he pulled back the curtain on something else.

"What's not?"

"I am going to tell you about that someone," he says, almost reluctantly. "That someone that I lost."

You don't say anything, letting Renton consider his next words.

"Isabella," he says. "I do not know her last name. I do not know if she knew. Knows. She was a child you see, like me. Only she had no one. We were born on the boats and our mothers did not survive."

"I'm sorry," you say.

"Sorry," Renton snorts. "Ethan, I have a grandmother. Who do you have?"

You hesitate.

"No one," he says. "But you are sorry?" He shakes his head. "You are too kind for your own good you know."
"Isabella," you prompt.

"Yes. You see, a boat is a family. It is a neighborhood. It is your life. If you lose that boat, you lose everything. The poor wretches inland, well, their days were numbered. We were the lucky ones. We. Us. Lucky. Imagine that. Every day going hungry, every day being terrified, but we had all the world for what the bastards on shore did, the ones who survived I mean. A boat is a family," he repeats. "You fight, you bicker, but you pull together. When pirates come, when there is trouble between ships, you know which side you are on. Brothers. Like you and me." He smiles.

"I know what you mean."

"Maybe not quite," Renton says sadly. "It is a sort of family bond of necessity. We are not family because we love each other, we are family because without them we die. Hm." He taps on the glass and things.

"The ship was part of a fleet you see? Or a flotilla. A squadron. A detachment." He chuckles. "A regiment. It sounds so official. Fleet. No, it was a group of boats. There was no leader, but there could not be. It was anarchy in the kindest sense of the word. The fleet works together when it can. We trade when we can. Food, fuel, parts, whatever we have for whatever we don't. The children would play together, adults would discuss navigation. What port will have us? What is safe?" The smile fades from his lips. "This is how i met Isabella. She was on another ship."

"How old were you?"

"Old?" He thinks. "Nine? Maybe ten. I thought I was a young man back then. I guess that's the thing about becoming a man, eh? You always think you are one until you find the next step between boy and man. There's always one more, amigo."

"You two were friends?"

"Friends!" He agrees. "As tight as could be. Inseparable. You see, the fleet was like the ax you replace every part of, yes? Different ships every time. Boats come and go. Her ship and my ship would find one another now and again. Her ship was special to us you see? They were also Uruguayan. That seemed to matter so much to the adults, especially in the early days. Later on we had people of every language, but back then we knew that there were so few of us left, fewer every day."

"You guys had stuff in common?"

"A little," he says. "Futbol, fishing. I would give her a hard time and she would give it right back," he laughs. "She was tough. She had to be. I liked that about her."
You sense the moment coming. You have to broach the topic somehow. "What happened to her?"

The light goes from Renton's eyes, his expression is cold. "Her ship left the fleet. I never saw her again."

"So she could still be out there right?" You say. "Find the ship and we find her."

Renton says nothing. His expression doesn't change. There must be more.

"No," he says. "Today is not about the hows and whys. Today is not about what was lost. Today is about what we had. Survival." He toasts with his empty beer bottle.

"Isabella," you say, toasting with your own glass. "To Isabella. To the ones we lost."

Renton clinks his bottle on yours. "Yes. To the lost souls."

>She'll turn up, Renton. I'm sure of it
>I don't think Isabella would want you to worry about her
>More drinks!
>Write in
>>I don't think Isabella would want you to worry about her
>>I don't think Isabella would want you to worry about her
>I don't think Isabella would want you to worry about her
>More drinks!
Drink to survival and to cherishing what we still have.
>"I'll trade a thousand if it saves a million," you say. "In a heartbeat."
Cold old math. If Rose wouldn't make that choice, though, she wouldn't be fit to lead EVA ops.

>There was nothing you could have done. Just blind luck that the missile had hit exactly when it did.
A horrible truth. but a truth nonetheless.

>A boat is a family," he repeats. "You fight, you bicker, but you pull together. When pirates come, when there is trouble between ships, you know which side you are on.
A tribe, it a rather literal sense.

>You see, the fleet was like the ax you replace every part of, yes?
It's amusing he brings up George Washington's axe, instead of the Ship of Theseus, considering the topic.

>I don't think Isabella would want you to worry about her
Keep it light though. Goodness knows we know how it is to carry that weight, and he's trying to lighten the load a little at the moment.
>I don't think Isabella would want you to worry about her

You finish your swig and set the bottle back down. "But we're alive," you say. "We made it."

"Yes," Renton agrees.

"So maybe it's best if we say something about that. We should cherish what we have."

"Cherish?" Renton asks.

"Sure," you say. "What good is it to survive if you don't live? I bet Isabella would want you to live your life, right?"

"I live my life every day for her," Renton says firmly.

"Sure, but I don't think she'd want you to be totally consumed by what's happened, right?"

Renton gives you a thin, taut smile. "And maybe Linda would not want you to continue to fight Angels."

The accusation shocks you more than he can know.

You kill Angels, how am I any different?

Renton shakes his head, "I am sorry, my friend, I meant nothing by it. I merely want to illustrate that I think you and have more in common than you will admit, or maybe more than you are aware. You live to fight the Angels, yes?"

"I live for myself," you return.

"Of course, but the Angels give you a purpose, yes? You feel that you must destroy them, so that what happened to Linda cannot happen to anyone else."

You hesitate. "Well, yes."

"Then we are the same," Renton says, signaling the barkeep for more drinks. "We are brothers in purpose. We fight to protect those left."

A moment later, two fresh bottles of beer are laid before the two of you. Renton pops them both open and slides you yours. "To brothers," he says, holding the bottle in toast. "We don't always see eye to eye, but we are family."

You take the beer and smirk. "I don't know what having a brother is like," you say.

"You do now," Renton says before drinking.

You join him.
You are Captain Rose Holiday, and the music of the club is muted by the bathroom walls. You lean on the wall and re-button your blouse with careful precision.

"That was," Caswell says, catching his breath still, "A little risky."

You give him a look, regarding him a moment before smirking and wiping a smudge of lipstick off his neck. "I didn't hear you object beforehand."

"Well," Caswell says, "No, but. I mean . . ."

"Biological imperatives?" you tease before tapping the tip of his nose and turning away. The bathroom is small, private with a door that locks. That's enough for right now. You look at yourself in the mirror, brushing your hair out with your fingers. You pluck a tube of lipstick from your purse to redo your makeup where it smeared a little.

Roger joins you at the sink, splashing a little water on his face before looking you over. "You're beautiful by the way."

"A little out of order there, Doctor," you say. "I think you're supposed to say that part first."

"I'm serious."

"So am I." You smack your lips and return the lipstick.

"It's nice seeing you out of uniform," he says.

You give him another amused look.

"I mean, ah. . . . civilian clothes. You look nice."

"Thank you." The response is bland, rote. You look presentable. "Ready?"

"In a second," Roger says, he looks uncomfortable. You know that your 'sessions' together have that effect on him sometimes, and you know why. Unfortunately, he's going to bring it up again. "I wanted to . . . I've got this new album I've been listening to," he says. "At my place. It's this kind of ambient sort of jazz. You should stop by and listen to it with me."

"I appreciate the invitation," you say, turning for the door "But I think drinks and that was enough for one night."

"You don't always have to run after we make love," he says.

You stop in your tracks. "You think I'm running?" you look over your shoulder.

He shrugs. "You don't stick around."

"Roger," you say, trying to find the right words. "I like you. A lot. Really, you should know that."

"I do."

"But you also know what I do. You know that this-" you point between the two of you. "It can't work. Forget personnel guidelines, if the Colonel knew-"

"Or your father."

You stop, mouth tightening. "Yes, or my father. It would have serious ramifications for both of us and if it came down to it, one or both of us would get transferred out of here. Then where would we be?"

"I'll resign," Caswell says. "I can get a new job. UN Outer Space Affairs maybe. God knows I have the qualifications."

"You wouldn't," You say.

"And why not?" Caswell replies. "Say the word, Rose. I'll resign and we can make things more official."

You hesitate.

"Unless you don't want that," he says, frowning.

"I don't want to have this conversation in a bathroom," you reply.

"Then where?" he asks.

You unlock the door and pull it open. "Another time. Another place."
Caswell follows you out. The moment you open the door, the music is more clear. Smooth, soft jazz echoes through the bare passageway that leads to the bathroom. You're alone for now.

"You're afraid of him," Caswell says.

You stop again and round on him. "I'm getting tired," you say, "Of people telling me how I feel."

Roger shakes his head, "I get it, the Major is an intense guy. I understand that he's your dad, but you're a grown woman, Rose. Nerv doesn't have to be your life anymore."

You take a moment to think about your reply before delivering it. "I do what I want because I want to," you say. "That's why I'm here with you, that's why I'm with Nerv. Are you asking me to choose? Because I don't think that's a choice you want me to make."

Hurt registers across his face. "No, that's not what I mean."


"Rose," he takes your hand before you can turn away again. It's a gentle grasp, not desperate or afraid, it's caring. That makes it worse. "Listen, I don't . . . this came out all wrong. I'm not trying to change your life."

"Good," you repeat, finding it hard to meet his gaze.

"I'm not much for telling lies. I want to be with you. More than just occasionally. I want to take you out to dinner, I want to go on long drives with you. I want to be with you. I understand that you're not ready for that. But will you ever be?"

You find it hard to keep your righteous indignation in the face of his earnestness. "Eventually," you say. "When all this is over."

"Then," Caswell says, slowly releasing your hand. "I'll wait."

You feel a pang in your heart. It's unfair that a man as honest and open as Roger Caswell cares this much about you. What had begun as a relationship of convenience had become something else. As much as you hate to admit it, you feel something for him. It's an almost girlish excitement when Roger is around, especially when you're alone together, and especially when he says stupid mushy shit like that.

You kiss him before either of you has time to think about it. His arms go around you, holding you tight as you grip him back. You break the kiss before you can't.

"You're an idiot, Doctor," you say with a half-smile. You wipe a spot of lipstick from his lip with a thumb and continue into the club itself.

Caswell follows behind a second later, catching up as you take your seat at the booth the two of you shared on the edge of the room. Moody blue and purples light the stage where the five man group is playing. Live music in a city as soulless as New Tampa is a rare luxury, one the both of you savor.
You smooth an invisible wrinkle out of your dress as you watch the band play. Caswell mostly watches you, but you don't give him the satisfaction of noticing. "I wanted to talk about the R&D group," you say at last.

"What about it?" Caswell sounds annoyed. He doesn't like discussing work on these rare dates.

"The Colonel was very clear about the project not going forward," you say. "I think it would be good if our teams meet occasionally in order to share notes," you say. "To ensure that we're not duplicating our research efforts."

Caswell catches your meaning. "Of course. I think I can compile a list of relevant projects to ensure that Tactical doesn't spend their time on the same thing."

You nod, not taking your eye off the stage. It's not like you to go behind Versetti's back, but in this case, what's the harm? They have reasons for their secrets, so you have reasons for yours.

"Did Aaliyah ever talk to you?" you ask.

"To me? Of course," Caswell says, confused. "About?"


Roger hesitates and this time you look at him. "Secrets," he repeats, wracking his mind. "She did come by my office and told me she felt like she was being kept out of a secret."

"What secret?"

"Kaufman," Roger says. "She asked me why he did it, asked me if I'd visited him."

"And what did you tell her?"

"The truth," he says. "That I don't know, and that I did not."

"Why did she ask?"

"She said she felt left out," he says. "What's brought this on?"

>Don't worry, Doctor. Chalk it up to paranoia.
>I have a feeling she got into something she shouldn't have.
>Max told me he thinks she was murdered. Can you pull her file and see what info you can find?
>Write in
>I have a feeling she got into something she shouldn't have.
>I heard a rumor that someone thinks she was murdered. Can you pull her file and see what info you can find?
>"We don't always see eye to eye, but we are family."
Renton is haunted, but he's a good dude.

>"I think it would be good if our teams meet occasionally in order to share notes," you say. "To ensure that we're not duplicating our research efforts."
Excellent. Conventional arms have been to useful to not continue developing them, even in this small way.

>Don't worry, Doctor. Chalk it up to paranoia.
>>I have a feeling she got into something she shouldn't have.
>>Max told me he thinks she was murdered. Can you pull her file and see what info you can find?
Mix of these two. More of the first than the second.
I like the vague approach more than throwing Max under the bus.
>Write in
"Just keep your eyes open."
Busy today guys, I'll get the update out tomorrow. Sorry!
Thanks for the heads up.
>I have a feeling she got into something she shouldn't have.
>I heard a rumor that someone thinks she was murdered. Can you pull her file and see what info you can find?

"A feeling," you say, tapping a fingernail on the table in time to the music. "A rumor."


"I think Aaliyah got herself involved in something she shouldn't have."

Caswell is silent a minute. The song ends and the audience applauds. "Like what?"

You shake your head. "I heard a rumor that she was murdered."

Caswell is silent.

You glance at him and see his jaw set, determined.

"You're not surprised?" you ask.

"I wouldn't put it past us. We see children as expendable, how is that any better?"

"But it's necessary."

"I know," Roger says. "But that doesn't make it easier to swallow."

"No," you agree.

"So what do you want me to do?"

Caswell's willingness to follow you into this mad endeavor is touching, even if it's a little depressing. You almost try to deny it, to claim you don't need or want his help. Caswell is smart enough that you know he'd see right through that.

"I need you to find out what you can about her. Her personnel file was pretty sanitized when I received it."

"And you can't ask yourself because it would set up red flags," Caswell says.


"I'll do it. For you."

"Do it because you want to know," you say. "Not for me."

"It's probably nothing," he says.

"Right," you agree. "It doesn't hurt to know what's going on behind your back."

The band starts its next song.

"I'm sure it's nothing though," you say again. You smile at him. It's genuine.

Roger smiles back, relaxing a little.

"That album you have," you say. "It's good?"


"Hm. Well I think I'd like to listen to it after all," you say. "If the invitation stands."

"For you? Always."
You are Ethan Chandler and you're pretty buzzed. You and Renton laugh madly as you walk shakily along the deserted avenue toward the nearest metro stop. Everything feels funnier than it should be, your highs are higher and you feel like Renton gets you.

Maybe you're a little more buzzed than you think.

"Korine is grounded," Renton says.

"Yup!" you agree. "It's bullshit."

"Yes, but it's a fact. Skobeleva is out of action too yes?"

"Yes," you say.

"So then . . ."

"Then it's just you and me!" you say.

"The two of us against the world, amigo!"

"Maybe not the whole world," you say.

"Maybe. But at least some. Not enough to stop us though!"

"Never!" you agree.

Renton staggers as he steps over a steep curb but you catch his arm and steady him. The two of you share a laugh about this narrowly averted disaster. It only gets worse when you nearly lose your balance in return before Renton rights you.

"The drinks will finish what the Angels started," Renton teases.

"Fuck off," you laugh.

Miraculously you reach the Metro and take it back to your apartment building.

"You must go alone from here, soldier," Renton says. "I have to go home and you cannot come with me."

"Someday I will," you promise. "I want to meet your family and see if they're half as fucking weird as you are."

Renton laughs. "We'll see about that." The doors of the metro try to close but he stops them. "Ethan, my brother. You and I together, yes?"


He gives you a flippant salute. "Farewell then."


Renton allows the metro doors to slide closed and you watch the train hiss forward and accelerate out of the station. You're alone on the station. Almost alone. A man in a suit and sunglasses watches you from nearby.

You ignore him and proceed up the stairs like a man summiting a mountain. You need to hold the railing with both hands to ensure you don't slip, but you make it to the top and reach the elevator. Mercifully, you don't have to hang on to anything here.

You're not really tired. In fact, you're pretty upset that your time with Renton is over. He's normally a pretty distant guy, but you feel like you're making progress with him. It's not that late yet. You could probably check in with the girls, see what's up, maybe talk with them about important things.

>Go tell Korine you were afraid she was going to kill herself
>Go tell Katya you were afraid she was going to die
>Heck, invite them both over! We can have a party!
>Write in
>Heck, invite them both over! We can have a party!
>Write in
>Attempt drunken video games
Because that sounds amusing, and the presented options sound like a great way to mess up our pleasant buzz.
Maybe we can actually get better.
>Heck, invite them both over! We can have a party!
For shits and giggles
>Go tell Katya you were afraid she was going to die

No reason to end the night early, or even to end it alone! Once you reach your floor you start crafting a group text on your phone. It's an invitation to Korine and Katya telling them to wake up and come over for some classic video game goodness. Never mind that the only video games you have are on a single handheld. That's not going to hold you back.

You send the message a moment before you swipe your keycard to get into your place.

Korine replies first.

Korine: What?

Ah, you've made a few typos. You take the time to carefully write it out again.

Korine: Now? Do you know what time it is?

"Don't be a wuss." You say it as you type back.

Korine: Dude are you serious?

Katya: Video games now?

You shake your head and reply. Yes. You're serious. Yes. Now.

Some people . . . For now, you need to prepare. You sweep your coffee table free of clutter, grab some sodas from the fridge, and turn on the TV. It's at this point you recall again that you don't have any game consoles. You fire another text to Katya telling her to bring everything.

You're just wondering if you should go help her when there's a knock on your door. You open it.

Korine is here, "Holy shit dude, you smell like an AA meeting gone wrong."

"What? Shut up. I was drinking with Renton."

"Yeah, I can tell," she says. "Are you drunk?"

"No," you return.

"You sure?" Korine grins and steps past you into your apartment. "Katya still coming?"

"She better," you say. "She's got the games."

Korine flops onto the couch and cracks a soda. You watch as she sips. Seeing her happy like this makes you feel like maybe the moment where you doubted her was all in your head. Sadly, you know that it wasn't. Korine's emotional state is fragile, even more than yours it seems. Her identity and self worth is tied to her piloting so tightly that she doesn't seem to have a reason to live without it.

Could she really have been thinking about suicide?

"You alright?" Korine asks. You're staring at each other.

"Fine," you say, not entirely sure how you would even broach such a topic. Probably best left unsaid.

There's another knock at the door.

"Katya," you say. You go answer it and see a confused Katya holding a bundle of consoles, cables, and cases.

"I bring the games but . . . are you drinking?"

"Yeah earlier," you say, "Come on in!" You usher her inside and close the door. "Thanks for coming, I was just coming back from the bar with Renton and I realized I'm not tired or anything. I was like, shit, let's play some games!"

The girls stare at you.


Korine laughs. "Nothing. Sure. Let's play some games. What do you have for us, Katya?"

"I . . .eh . . . I have a lot." She starts laying everything out, carefully sorting the cables into tidy, wrapped loops, and stacking the games.

"Pick something," Korine says.

Katya taps a game case with a star fighter and an exploding spaceship on the cover. "I think this one. There is a team mode."
"Let's do it," you say. You wedge yourself onto the couch between them and take the controller Katya hands you. "Renton's a good dude," you say, unprompted.

"He hides it well," Korine says.

"Ah, no. He's not so bad, right Katya?"

"Yes, I like Renton," she says.

"Yeah," Korine says, "He's fine. Better if he knew when to shut up."

Katya gets off the couch to start plugging in the console to the TV. You talk as you watch her.

"Says I'm his brother. He's a little weird yeah, but I mean that's all of us, right? They're not normal people for this job."

No one responds. Maybe that came out more insulting than you meant, you speak quickly to try to diffuse the perceived tension. "I mean you guys are cool too. There's nothing wrong with you. That's why I invited you guys over. It's like a party but with video games, you know?"

Korine snorts. Katya sits beside you but just looks a little uncomfortable.

"Hey, what's wrong?" you ask.

"Ethan, shut the fuck up," Korine laughs. "You're babbling like a fucking idiot. God."

"What? No I'm not," you say defensively. "I'm making small talk."

"Less small talk, more games, huh?" Korine pats your back.

Katya presses start.

"I don't think you guys are weird," you say.

"Well we think you are, so that's on you," Korine says.

"No, I don't think you weird," Katya says quickly.

Korine laughs again.

The game starts, the screen flashing with a 3D starfield that resolves to a title. It's gone before you can make it all out, was that Japanese? You're at a ship selection screen and flip through your choices before selecting a craft you like, seeing the model rotate in polygonal glory on the screen. The girls choose and you're all dumped into the game, and a sprawling space battle. This game is really hard. Well, for you. Katya is doing great and Korine seems fine. You keep getting hit though.

"Shit," you say.

"You overreacting too much," Katya says. "Slow turns, not so much boosters."

You try to follow her advice but it proves more difficult than she makes it sound. "We should go see Renton," you say. "Feels weird that we never go and visit him."

"That's because he lives on a dirty freighter with a bunch of refugees," Korine says. "Not exactly party central."

"Maybe he is embarrassed," Katya says.

You shake your head, "That's nothing to be embarrassed about." But the more you think about it, maybe it makes sense. You and the girls live in a pretty upscale apartment. Based on what you've heard from Renton, it sounds like he lives in far worse conditions. Crowded, run down. Maybe he just doesn't want the version of himself he projects to you and others to get violated.

"It can be different," Katya says. "Moving somewhere strange. It is strange for me. Maybe is strange for him."

"Well like I said, he's a little weird," you say. "But good."
Somehow as time goes on, your playing only gets worse. You're starting to think maybe you did have too much to drink. Even so, you're having fun. You get into the game and are able to put aside your worries about Korine, and about Katya, about Linda and about yourself.

"God, you suck, Ethan."

"Hey, shut up," you say, crashing your ship into the carrier for the second time. "It's hard."

"Not hard," Katya says with - is that a smirk?

"You watch it!" you warn. "You're going on my list."

Katya glances at you and- yes, this time she's definitely smiling.

Korine puts her controller. "That's a night for me, that's all I have. I need to get to bed. You two have fun though, eh?" She stands up, finishing her drink.

You're tired, sure, but you're also having fun. Who wants to stop that? You can always deal with being exhausted and maybe a little hungover tomorrow. It's not like you have have tactical training tomorrow.

Of course, given your current mental state there is a strong possibility of you making a fool out of yourself.

>I think I need some sleep too
>See you, Korine!
>Write in
>>See you, Korine!
>I think I need some sleep too
Well, at least we didn't try to play with fire while drunk, and Ethan had a good time.
>>I think I need some sleep too
>I think I need some sleep too

"Yeah," you agree. "It's late. I need some sleep. Bad."

"You definitely do," Korine agrees. "Alright, come on Katya, let's go."

Katya gathers her games and bundles them with a level of efficiency that makes you think she's done this before.

"Thanks for coming guys." Waves of exhaustion are hitting you hard now. Good timing.

"Thanks for the entertainment," Korine laughs.

"Good night," Katya says.

"Good night." You close the door and make it back to the couch before you fall asleep.
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You are Fox Renton, and morning comes early for you. You're not even sure you really slept so much as waited. You've been dreading this moment.

The bang of steel on steel echoes through the dockyards, beating out a mad tempo to the slosh of water and the calling of seabirds.

You're at the bottom of a gangway looking up at the ship. Anesidora. She didn't used to have that name. She used to be a commercial vessel, a freighter or tanker, maybe laden with grain from Argentina or stacked with cargo containers bound for Montevideo. Relics of a past sunk beneath the pitiless waves.

Now it's a home for hundreds. Refugees. Boat people. South Americans, West Africans, Caribbeans, people without a home. People.

Yo clench your hand into a fist before shoving it into your coat pocket. Your teeth are clamped hard enough to hurt your jaw, your guts feel solid, tense. Fear? Or maybe fate?

Whether god played dice or the universe has seen fit to bring a conclusion to your crusade, here it is. Anesidora. Sender of gifts.

You look at the gangway before you, unguarded, leading straight to the deck of the massive ship and the tent city on its top. It's not berthed near Salvacion or near any other vessels really. It sits alone on the edge of dockyard beside some unused warehouses. The people on this boat have been freshly admitted to the city. Once the new residential district is done, they'll be given a home. Before that happens, you have to know. You have to see who's onboard. You have to see if she's here.

You start up the gangway, your shoes feel full of lead. At the top, a man in an oversized puffy jacket leans on the side of a repurposed shipping container smoking a blunt.

You look at the sawed off shotgun hanging from a simple sling on his shoulder.

He looks at you.

"Hail up." He sweeps his dreadlocks back to get a better look at you. "Who you, man?"

"Renton," you say. "Fox Renton." You switch effortlessly to Spanish. "Salvacion. We sailed together long ago."

The man's face splits with a grin. "Renton, eh? Big man now. Home in Babylon?"

"Home is a long way from here," you say smiling back but wanting to spit acid. "I used to have family on this tub. Can I take a look?" He seems to understand your Spanish well enough that you don't bother switching back to English.

"Alright here. Walk good."


"One love."

You step past him, already forgetting him. You'd made up your mind long ago.
You are Ethan Chandler and a day has passed since your drinking with Renton. He's been distant since that time, distracted, but not any less friendly. You'd almost think he was avoiding you.

It's not something you dwelt on. With Katya and Korine both out of action, more work has fallen on you and Renton. Drills, sync tests, tactical studies, weapons familiarization. All of it has picked up in pace, taking more and more of your time and energy.

This live exercise is the latest part of it.

"Hydra, clear to proceed. Advance south along Righcrest Avenue until you reach the waterfront, copy?"

"Copy," you answer Nerv control automatically. It feels strange to be in your Eva in New Tampa in peace time, but these drills are important for familiarizing yourself with the city in an emergency.

With a thought, you command your Eva to move, striding carefully down the wide avenue, mindful of the mirrored surfaces of buildings to either side of you. A single misstep would smash out all that glass in an instant.

Renton moves just ahead of you, assault rifle in hand, checking corners, sweeping open areas with the barrel of his weapon.

"Watch out," you say, "Don't want to step on the wrong person's car."

Renton gives you a tight smile in reply but doesn't answer. The streets have been cleared after all, there's no risk of that.

"Pilots," Rose's voice comes over the radio, "the live fire portion of the course is beyond the last row of buildings here. Your targets are buoyed beyond the primary dockyard. You are authorized to engage them when you come within range. Call your targets, use proper weapon safety, and check surroundings. A spent shell casing from that weapon is still dangerous."

"We copy, Captain," you say.

"Ethan." Renton hails you on a private channel. Normally you'd use this sort of thing to express some mission jitters to one another, something you might not want to broadcast to the whole command center.

You toggle over. "What's up man?"

"This may be strange, but I want to tell you about Isabella."

It is strange. Very strange. But that's par for the course with Renton. You make sure you're keeping up with him on the narrow course toward the docks.

"Tell me."

"I was just a boy when I knew her," Renton says. "But I could tell that she was special. Beautiful. She was like a sunset on a calm ocean. I took every excuse I could to see her. Any reason. You understand?"

"I do."

"She was a friend, yes. But as I grew older, she became something more. She lit up my world. You see, when all you know are the four rusty walls around you, the hunger in your belly, and the fear in your heart, you hold onto that sort of light."

You know perfectly what he means, but can only imagine how much more important someone like that must have been when you were stuck on a dying cargo ship.
"The UN, your UN, they brought us food sometimes. But never enough. We traded for what we needed. Spare parts, skills, labor, weapons, anything." There is a long pause. "That hunger could make you do anything to fill it. People would turn on one another. Like animals."

You emerge from the urban canyon and into the sea front. The dike here is low enough that your Eva towers over it, looking out to sea. You see the floating balloon targets suspended not far away and you see rows of cargo and container ships lining the docks to your left.

The two of you stop, Evas facing the water.

"One night, her ship felt that desperate need. They felt the clawing of their bellies, the fear of death nipping at their heels. They'd do anything for food, and so they did. They made a trade." He is silent a moment, "They traded away a human life."

You feel cold shock, a horrible chill. "Oh my god. They traded her?"

"Yes," Renton says sadly. "She was alone. No family to care for her, no family to miss her. And so they turned her over to another ship. They ate well that day. When word spread in the fleet of what they'd done, they were shunned. They left, they had no choice."

"Renton, that's horrible."

"I hold out hope she will turn up someday," he says. He lifts the rifle to his shoulder and sights one of the target balloons, delivering a perfect volley of fire that shreds the target. "But I know what happens to little girls who get sold to pirates." He fires a second salvo into one of the target balloons.

"Renton . . . my god, I'm so sorry."

"They're here you know," he says conversationally. "The ship that sold her. Anesidora."


"Yes. I checked the ship for her the morning after we drank. I searched the entire ship. I knew that she wouldn't be on there but . . . I had to know."

"I . . . god. Renton, is there anything I can do?"

"Yes," Renton says. His answers surprises you. He fires again and destroys a third target before ejecting the magazine of his rifle, letting it drop to the pavement beneath him.

"Nice shooting, Renton," Rose says on the public channel. "Let's get three more and then Ethan can step up."

"Do you remember," Renton asks, "When we spoke about the Angel that killed Linda?" He slides a fresh magazine into his rifle.

You feel a cold chill. "Yes."

"You told me that if you faced it in the future you would kill it, without hesitation, because of what it had done."

"Renton, I-"

"So," he says, "Now is the time. This is the moment for vengeance."

"Renton, wait."

"Wait?" Renton snaps, "Wait!? For what? I waited years and nothing. Now this is dropped into my lap. What good will power be if I cannot use it, hm? This is the time for justice."

Your mind is racing. You see the freighter in question, moored alone on the edge of the docks. It's an easy shot from here. Dead simple. "What do you think they'll do to you after you do this?"
"That doesn't matter to me," he says. "Besides, with your help, this will appear to be an accident. Won't you help me, Ethan?"

"Renton, hang on."

He lazily swings his Eva's arm so the muzzle of the rifle points directly at the ship like an accusation. At this range, he can't miss. "So many nights," he says, "I looked for her. I checked bars, brothels, shelters, alleys. So many nights I thought I might find her and reclaim her life for her. I would get that light back."

"One misstep Ethan, your Eva bumping into mine and it will be all over."

"Renton, everything alright?" Rose asks.

"How can you be sure?" you say, still using the private channel. "How do you know that the people responsible still live there? It's been a long time, Renton."

"They are," he says firmly, angrily. "Of course they are! What sort of cosmic cruelty would let those monsters escape my justice? That boat - that hell - will be their graves." Renton looks you in the eye via the heads up display. "Give me the chance, brother. Let us right this wrong. We face the Angels for Linda, let's face the human monsters for Isabella." His Eva's finger tightens on the trigger.

>Jostle Renton's Eva to allow him to accidentally fire
>"Renton, I beg you, don't do this, I won't help you."
>Tell Command to sever all nerve connections on Renton's Eva
>Write in
>It feels strange to be in your Eva in New Tampa in peace time, but these drills are important for familiarizing yourself with the city in an emergency.
They're also good for general familiarization. While all 4 of us are by now veterans, Ethan has commented on how the sims aren't the same as running live. Better to cement what real operation feels like while not under the gun.

>striding carefully down the wide avenue, mindful of the mirrored surfaces of buildings to either side of you.
This is also good practice. When EVAs are deployed things like collateral damage are minor concerns, so it can be easy to get lazy about fine control.

Also, I wonder what the civies think about seeing the EVAs striding around in peace-time. On normal deploys, they would usually be hiding or running in terror, but exercises are a good opportunity to watch the EVAs at work without mortal peril.

> "So," he says, "Now is the time. This is the moment for vengeance."
oh no.

>still using the private channel.
While Ethan and Renton wouldn't know this, but with how thoroughly the pilots are watched, there's no way the 'private' EVA channels aren't monitored.

>Jostle Renton's Eva to allow him to accidentally fire
This is a game of double or nothing. If we don't help, he will at best be cold towards us and likely suspended. If we rat him out, he will be hostile and likely pulled from pilot work entirely. Either case will drop us to 2 pilots.

How many people might die down the line due to lack of operational EVAs? More than one ship's worth of people, that's for sure,
>"Renton, I beg you, don't do this, I won't help you."
And "try" to restrain him, but bump him instead, leading to
>Jostle Renton's Eva to allow him to accidentally fire
>Write in
"And what if you're wrong?"
Tell Command to disable Renton's weapon, he's got a jam or an unsafe misfire or something unsafe. Just don't tip them off to what he's doing.
>"Have you checked the ship to make sure she isnt there?"

>>Jostle Renton's Eva to allow him to accidentally fire
>"Renton, I beg you, don't do this, I won't help you."
And I’m supporting >>4953571
This might be fanon I’m getting mixed up but I thought Evas had cores but NOT S2 cores (hence why when shinji’s goes berserk it consumes the S2 core of an angel)
>>"Have you checked the ship to make sure she isnt there?"

>"Yes. I checked the ship for her the morning after we drank. I searched the entire ship. I knew that she wouldn't be on there but . . . I had to know."
>Jostle Renton's Eva to allow him to accidentally fire

>Tell Command to disable Renton's weapon


I don't think it's ever really made clear.
I’m fairly sure there’s a distinction made between N2 and S2 but I can’t remember anything beyond that and eva isn’t exactly clear on a lot of the technical details
"Renton, please," you say.

"Don't make me do this alone, Ethan," Renton says. His voice wavers.

There's no time to think. There's only time to act.

You take a step for him, reaching out. The moment your Eva's hand touches his the muzzle of his weapon erupts with the flash of gunfire.

A trail of glowing tracer rounds streak out and lash across the ship at anchor. Rusted steel can't stand against depleted uranium penetrators. The shells punch through the ship's hull as if it were tissue paper. Large gouts of water explode on the other side where the shells penetrate through and into the harbor.

You and Renton stare at the ship, unable to move, unable to speak.

"Weapon discharge!" Max shouts.

The freighter begins to list right away, slewing first to the left, and then backward as water rushes in through the holes punched beneath the water line. Smoke comes almost instantly, boiling out of every open hatch and porthole on the deck.

You feel like you're in a dream, like this can't be real. As you're watching the ship sink and roll over, you see the deck crawling with movement. It takes you a second to realize they're people.

"Oh my god."

People leap from the deck, jumping for the safety of the dock. They leap into the water. Some alone, some in couples, others clinging to their possessions.

"Oh my god."

Flame licks from the bridge. You see that a shell cored it out, passing cleanly through the command deck, blowing out all the windows. You doubt anyone is alive in there.

Rose's voice interrupts your dream state. "Dispatch emergency response now. Whatever we have available."

The water around the ship darkens with a spreading oil slick. Renton's shot ruptured the fuel tanks of the ship, the very fuel that's catching fire now.

The moment is frozen before you, like a snapshot. A capsizing freighter being abandoned by its passengers one moment, a fireball the next. If there was a moment in between, you don't remember it. The ship detonates like a bomb, flames climbing skyward.

The fire is rapidly quenched by the ocean as the ship falls beneath the waves, presumably settling to the bottom of the harbor, only a burning puddle of oil remains atop the frothy water.

"Oh my god," you say again.

The ship burns.

"Evas, stand down," Rose says, voice strained. "Clear weapons at once and return to base. Now."

You see the red-blue flash of emergency vehicles approaching from the city. Helicopters are closing in from all directions. You'll be surprised if anyone survives that inferno. It was thorough.


Renton ejects the magazine of his rifle and lays it down on the street before reaching over and taking your rifle from you as well and doing the same.

You killed them. Renton killed them.

You look at Renton on the display. He stares back at you. Where you feel shock, he shows none. Vengeance. Justice. Whatever he calls it, it's been done.
A lifetime later, you're back in Nerv 03, seated alone at a featureless table in a blank-walled room. You have a blanket draped over your shoulders and a cup of water on the table in front of you, untouched. It's not a dream.

The door unlocks and opens, Rose comes in. You've never been so excited to see her, familiarity is a relief after a small procession of agents from various departments asking you to tell the same story over and over.

I stepped forward to help Renton with his rifle and I overreached and bumped him. It was an accident. I didn't mean for this to happen. I'm so sorry.

At least the last part is true.

The relief you feel turns to guilt. There's no relief for the people you helped kill today.


"Captain, I . . ."

She shakes her head. "Are you alright?

No. "Yes."

"What a horrible accident," she says, sitting across from you. "I'm so sorry that we've put you through this, but it's procedure."

You nod, feeling numb.

"I'm sure you didn't want this."

"Of course not," you say quickly.

"But unfortunately, this is the reality we have to deal with. In our line of work, accidents happen. People die, Ethan. Sometimes they die because of the choices we make, good or bad. Sometimes they die because- well- because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

You nod without looking at her.

"Our logs show a communication channel open between the two of you just before the incident," she says. "What were you guys talking about?"

Your blood freezes. "We were just chatting," you say.

Rose stares at you. She stares at you long enough that you think she knows. She must know. She has to know.

"Alright," she says. "I think Katya is waiting for you. You free to leave, Ethan."

You stand up, legs trembling.

"Ethan," she says, stopping you. "Let's just make sure that this never happens again."

You nod and then keep walking. Out of the interrogation room, you see Katya at the end of the wall waiting, still in her plugsuit. Once she sees you she hurries over.

"Ethan!" She puts her arms around you, pulling you into a hug. "I hear what happen. How awful. All those people. What a terrible accident!"

You break. Tears come with no sign of stopping. You put your arms around her and press your face to her neck and cry silently.
You are Captain Rose Holiday and you watch Ethan holding Katya. He's a man shaken, but hopefully not broken. The death toll was a stiff price to pay, but losing a veteran pilot would be worse still. Nerv can make this disappear. You think you can still count on Ethan.

Adjusting your grip on the manila folder in your hand, you turn your back on Ethan's raw grief and continue further along the row of cells until you reach the one Renton is in. You unlock the door and enter.

Like Ethan, Renton sits at a plain table, hands folding, staring blankly ahead.

"Hello, Captain."

You drop the folder on the desk. "Three hundred and forty five people."

Renton looks at the folder and then back up at you.

You sit across from him. "Three hundred and forty five men, women, and children, Renton. Dead."

"It's awful," he says.

"It's beyond awful," you say. "It's a nightmare. One that Ethan is never going to forget."

Emotion flickers on Renton's face, guilt. It's gone in a flash, replaced by that same, dull sadness. "He was not the one who fired."

"No," you say. "No he wasn't. Did you know them, Renton?"

Renton says nothing.

"Those people? That ship?"

"I don't know."

"Anesidora. Anesidora," you repeat the name of the ship. "Ring any bells?"

"There were many ships in our fleet. Captain, are you suggesting I did this on purpose?" There is an edge in his tone, as if he's daring you to accuse him.

You stare back. "Did you?"

"No. It was an accident."

Renton's face says otherwise. There's something behind his eyes, something hard, something once hidden. There's a hint of satisfaction on his face. For an accident, it's too perfect, too convenient. The long delay between Renton's target firing and the shot fired into the ship is strange. Coupled with the neural activity you have-

"Your Eva's logs show an intentional impulse at the time of firing," you say, laying out the graph for him to see.

Renton looks it over. "I tried to move away from Ethan's Eva. I tried to save the ship."

It's the same story he's given to everyone who's talked to him. You won't get anywhere. Over three hundred lives. Your words to Max haunt you, about trading lives. Was the life of a single Eva pilot worth more than all the lives on that freighter?

You know the answer, though you hate it. You stand up from the table without saying anything.

"Am I released?" Renton asks.

You look at him. "Someone will be along to let you out." You close the door behind yourself. Max is here. "Well?"

Max hesitates, "How is he?"

"Max, the audio logs."

He shakes his head, "NervSec won't turn them over. They're citing a dozen guidelines and procedures we need to follow. They say it's 'security related'."
"Bullshit," you hiss. The only reason they wouldn't release the recordings of the private channel between Renton and Ethan was if they felt it could someone post a threat. What bigger threat was there than incriminating evidence against one or both pilots? Whatever transpired, you can't prove, and you're not even sure you would want to.

"How is Renton?" Max repeats, his voice heavy with concern.

You stare him down, eye flashing with anger. "Well he just killed over three hundred people, Max."


"Did you have any inkling he was capable of this? Any sign of what he was planning?"

Max hesitates. "No."

"Nothing? Really?" You point an accusatory finger at his chest. "You're his guardian, Max. He's your responsibility, and when he goes off the deep end and blows up a freighter-" you draw yourself short.

Max's face is a mask of grief. He looks horrible, weak, tired, anguished.

You let out a breath. "Max-"

"I know," he says. "I know, okay. I'm falling down, you think I don't know?" His voice is tight, pained. He glances around to see there's nobody listening. "Rose, please. This is all I have left, okay? Renton is . . . when I go, I want to make sure what I do matters. Please."

You've already made up your mind about Renton and Ethan. You can't spare Ethan, but you don't trust Renton, not now. He's coming off pilot status pending the result of the official investigation, though you know what they'll ultimately find. You'll just have to put Korine back on active status for now. It's less than perfect, but what choice do you have.

As for Max . . .

>Take a break. You need it. You have your own problems that need to be dealt with first. I'll bring you back when you're ready.
>You've got to pull it together Max. I know what you're going through, but everyone is counting on us. Don't let anything like this ever happen again.
>You're through. I can't rely on you. Turn in your ID.
>Write in
>>Take a break. You need it. You have your own problems that need to be dealt with first. I'll bring you back when you're ready.
The uncertainty of that act, to assist or to protect, will haunt Ethan for a long time, I think.
I'm afraid this half measure will hurt more than either of the direct actions.

>I stepped forward to help Renton with his rifle and I overreached.
>"I tried to move away from Ethan's Eva. I tried to save the ship."
These statements don't quite align, unfortunately.

>Your blood freezes. "We were just chatting," you say.
While I am now somewhat dreading our next conversation with Renton, if we can talk normally with him again we're going to need to get our story straight on what we "chatted" about. If we're hard pressed, we could indicate it was something mildly embarrassing (maybe something about the girls?), thus the private nature of the comms.

>Max's face is a mask of grief. He looks horrible, weak, tired, anguished.
More than anyone else, I hate how much the events so far have worn poor Max to the ragged edge. He seems like a cool dude, but nothing has gone right for him since the quest started.
>Take a break. You need it. You have your own problems that need to be dealt with first. I'll bring you back when you're ready.
I hope he takes this break seriously, and get himself sorted out even if it's only long enough for his final push.
I fear he will use this time to sink into depression or obsession.

The upper echelons seem to be covering for Renton for now, but I have a dark suspicion have two pilots pulled for mental reasons (with one returned due to need) will trigger the process for having a spare pilot shipped out.
>>Take a break. You need it. You have your own problems that need to be dealt with first. I'll bring you back when you're ready.
>You've got to pull it together Max. I know what you're going through, but everyone is counting on us. Don't let anything like this ever happen again.
Putting him on a break ensures he’ll never come back
>Take a break. You need it.

You sigh. "Max, I'm sorry about all that's happened to you. I really am. I know you're close to Renton. I know you've been . . . "

"Dying," he says.

"Dying," you say, forcing the awkward word out. "I . . . Max, you need to take some time to yourself."

"I have too much as it is," He says.

"Max, please. Don't make this harder than it needs to be. Take some time, take a break, You need it. Go to the beach, take it easy. I'll bring you back when you're ready."

Max opens his mouth to argue but nothing comes. He shakes his head and puts a cigarette in his mouth. "Don't take too long, hm?" He lights it and walks past you.

You clench a fist. So many good people lost. More every day, and no sign of the Angels letting up. Is this just how things are going to be? Will this ever end?

You banish the thoughts. You have a department to run.


You're Ethan Chandler and you're alone. Seated on a bench staring out at an empty park just a short walk from a metro stop. You don't want to go home, you can't. The image of that ship exploding is playing through your mind again and again, like a highlight reel gone haywire.

One moment a ship - a village in panic. The next moment a fireball spreading across the water. One moment a collection of individuals, families, people, the next moment a funeral pyre. One moment a boat, the next a ruin.

You squeeze your eyes shut but the image won't go away.

"God," you say, part curse, part plea. You want this feeling to pass. You had to help Renton, didn't you? It was the right thing to do, wasn't it?

When you open your eyes, Renton is across the park watching you, as if summoned. His hands are in his pockets and he stands motionless, looking back at you. Moments after you see him he approaches, crossing the green to come to sit beside you.

"Renton," you say, "I think . . . I think they don't believe us."

"No," Renton says. "No, they know that I killed them. Rose does anyway."

You look at him with shock before looking around. "They'll hear you."

He shakes his head, "It doesn't matter. They know. I, Fox Renton, killed every person onboard that ship. I did it intentionally and without remorse." He says the words clearly and slowly and when he's done stops and waits expectantly. "See? They don't care. You know they watch us, they have a confession, yet I am a free man. Why?"

"I . . . I don't-"

"Because they don't care, Ethan. Those people mean nothing to them. People like Rose will hate me, but they will do nothing."

"I didn't think . . . I didn't know . . ."

"Ethan," Renton says "I will tell you this: You could never had stopped me. No matter what you tried, I would have killed them all. You never had a choice, you see? I am sorry that I involved you, but you never would have saved them."

You look at him without speaking.
"Yes, I killed them all. But do you know what you have done? You brought justice to a little girl whose life was stolen from her before she ever had a chance to live it."

"All those people, Renton," you whisper.

"Yes, all those people, and not one of them lifted a finger to protect the innocent among them, the girl who had no one to miss her and no one to look out for her. They turned on her like animals, Ethan, they forgot their humanity, they forgot what makes us human. They are alive because they made her suffer." He looks away, anger still simmering behind his eyes. "I would do it again if I could. Again and again. I would barbecue those bastards a thousand times, and everyone like them who has done such despicable things."

You don't respond.

"A society that sacrifices one for the many is tyranny. Injustice. They worry about animal hunger and they ignore the weight of a soul." He looks at you again. "I am truly sorry for what I've put you through my brother. I am sorry that I have forced this on you. You may think that this is your fault, that you made a decision. I tell you the truth." He stands up. "You never had a choice. Tell them if you want, if you must. Tell them I killed those people, but know that if you had tried to stop me-" he looks at you "Then I would have killed you too."

Silence. There is nothing more to be said.

"Goodbye, Ethan."

Again, you are alone.
You are Rose Holiday and you're trying to catch your breath. Roger lays down beside you, handing you a lit cigarette. Together, you both lie in bed and stare up at the ceiling of your apartment. The ceiling fan overhead spins lazily. You smoke while Roger lights his own.

You've been seeing each other more often than you ever have. Was it mounting stress? Growing affection? Something more? Something less? You never think too deeply about it.

"You alright?" Roger asks.


"Are you alright?" he repeats.


He's silent a moment. "You've been different lately."

"Different how?"

"Less open, even more withdrawn than normal. Something is bothering you."

Renton. Nerv. Your father. The Angels. Sayid. Yezhov.

"No," you say, puffing a cloud of smoke up where it gets dissipated by the fan. "I think you're reaching."

"Did Renton really blow up that boat?" Roger asks.

Yes. "I don't know.

Roger is quiet. A look at his expression tells you he's thinking. His arms arms are behind his head, a cigarette hanging loosely from his lips. "What the fuck are we doing, Rose? What are we doing with these kids."

"Kids," you snort. "He's seventeen. Younger have fought and died for their country."

"Kids," Roger repeats but more forcefully. "We're not savages anymore."

"Aren't we?" you grin at him. "We kill the ones who hurt us, we fuck like animals, and we lie to get what we want."

"Who's lying?" Roger asks.

Your smile fades. "Forget it."

"We reach for the stars, Rose. We come together as one. If we were really just animals then we would have squabbled with one another in the ruins of Second Impact until there was nothing left." He shakes his head. "No. There's a spark of the divine behind these dull cow eyes. We're destined for greater things, Rose."

"I'll settle for another day to eat and fuck and fight," you say before realizing the own absurdity of the statement and then laughing.

Roger gives you a strange look. "You really are something else, eh?"

"Watch it," you warn, "If you're not careful we might start to like each other." You laugh again, this time Roger joins you.

You both smoke in silence, savoring the afterglow until the cigarettes are burned down to butts. You take Rogers and stub them both out in a clean ashtray beside the bed.

"I found out about Sayid," he says.

You sit up in bed, letting Roger watch as you hunt for your bra. "Go on."

"Born in Dubai before the Impact. Her record is blank until she graduates from an American university with a degree in Resource Management and a minor in Criminal Justice and gets assigned to the UN Refugee program."


"Seem a little odd?"

You find your outfit piece by piece and dress yourself. "No, lots of people live mundane lives."

"Well let me tell you a story about another Aaliyah Sayid."

You look at him curiously, noting an insufferable grin on his face.

"Born in Dubai, admitted to the Al Madam refugee center in late 2001. She scored top marks in the schooling system there and was admitted to UN Special Operations training in Europe once she turned eighteen. Graduated with honors and transferred into-" he pauses. "Intelligence."

You forget dressing and listen, transfixed.

"Her record goes cold there," he says, "Aside for the unfortunate fact that she died in 2015 in a training accident."

"It couldn't be."

"Couldn't it?"

"Would they really be so fucking sloppy as to use her same identity?"

He shakes his head. "I had to piece this together with the help of the Magi. Her record is fragmented. Some of this is pre-impact some of this . . . well, we weren't meant to see it."

"Roger! You didn't use the Magi."

"I did," he says. "Relax, no one will know. The only one who knows it better than me is Womack and he's knee deep in whatever the hell Versetti has him doing."

UN Intelligence. Max was right, Aliyah was a spy. This begs the question, why the hell would the UN send a spy into Nerv? And perhaps a bigger question, why would Nerv potentially want her dead?

"Who else have you told?"

"No one."

"Keep it that way."

"What are you going to do about it?" he asks, sitting up.

You shake your head and continue dressing. "Nothing. Nothing."

"Rose, just what the hell is going on?"

"Hopefully nothing," you say. "This could just be a big cosmic joke."

"But if it's not?"

You hesitate, "If it's not, then we're on the cusp of getting mixed up with something better left alone. Don't tell anyone, okay? Let sleeping dogs lie."

"Sure," Roger says, looking unconvinced.

"Unless you want NervSec to talk with you."

"My lips are sealed."


You pull on your blouse and start to button it up. You need some time to think about this and there's no reason to involved Roger in this anymore than you have to. Maybe your father could shed some light on this . . . maybe.
"Syncro ratio test complete. Nice work, Katya."

You are Katya Skobeleva and you open your eyes, feeling the mental pressure recede like the tide. "Thank you."

The entry plug monitors all turn blank, giving you a moment of solitude after the test. In the days following the accident, Ethan has been distant, troubled. You told him that what happened was not his fault, that he could not have known that would happen, but nothing seemed to reach him.

You sigh, hanging your head. You're tired. Things between you and Ethan are stranger than ever now. You don't have the courage to tell him how you feel, and he hasn't given much indication that he returns your feelings and you think you understand why now.


The entry plug hatch cycles open and you step out. As technicians begin to connect diagnostic gear to the plug, you take the neural clips out of your hair and pull your hair out of a ponytail, shaking it loose so it falls over your shoulders.

Whatever Linda and Ethan's relationship, it's more than you would have known before he told you the truth about her. They're entwined somehow, interconnected through what you can only describe as supernatural force.

Thinking about it hurts. Your chest hurts, you feel tired all the time. You thought you had a chance, and that's what hurts the most.

You make your way down the gangway toward the exit from the cavernous testing chamber. You like Renton and Korine, they are both what you would consider friends, but you've never felt like they were close to you in the way Ethan was. You thought the two of you had something special. Maybe you still do, and it's that hope that hurts more than anything.

"Hey," Korine appears beside you. "Making a run for it huh?"

"No," you protest, "Nothing like that. I was-"

"Avoiding me?"


"Yeah, that sounds like you." Korine grins. She'd been in good spirits since being returned to the pilot roster. Whatever had happened to her after Sayid had died had really taken a toll on her. She never told you what happened, but you can imagine. "Don't we have some tactical thing after this?"

"Science Division weapons seminar," you say, recalling the meeting title from memory effortlessly.

"Right. New toys."

You walk side by side through the passages of Nerv, following the signs toward the science division development chambers. You still don't feel entirely comfortable in this labyrinth, but at least you know how to get around in it.

"Nice work on the test," Korine says.

"Thank you."

"If my score was anywhere close to yours I would definitely have a list of demands as long as my arm. Indoor pool, home theater, a full size arcade-"

"Arcade? You think they do this?"

Korine laughs at you. "God, that is so you. Do I think? Hell, maybe. But do I think you're the kind of person to really blue ball them to get that? No. Besides, couldn't you just have your dad buy you an arcade or whatever?"
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You frown. "I don't know."

"Hey, I'm sorry."

"Is okay."

"You don't get along with your dad, right?"

"No. He is . . . he does not . . . is complicated."

"Yeah, I get it. Seriously, forget I brought it up."

Awkward silence lapses as the two of you board an elevator. Korine presses the button for the appropriate floor. You keep your eyes fixed on the monitor, watching the digital waves lap at the beach. You watch the animated arrows endlessly scrolling as you ascend.

"Is Ethan okay?" Korine asks.

"I don't know," you say.

"Doesn't he tell you stuff?"

You hesitate. "No."


The doors open and you both get out. The conference room isn't far from here. You see Yezhov talking with Dr. Caswell at the door, they both notice you arrive.

"Ah, welcome, welcome," Caswell says. "Here, some lighting reading." He hands you a soft-bound booklet labeled with the Nerv logo.


"Positron?" you ask.

"Focused anti-matter," Caswell says, ushering Korine into the conference room. "It's wild stuff! Make your head spin." He smiles. "Cutting edge. The Science Division has finalized the production model, it's replacing the old ballistic impact rifles. I think you'll enjoy it. This is the classroom portion but we've got some simulator training after this."

"Katya loves video games!" Korine calls from inside the conference room.

You feel your cheeks redden.

"You'd be hard pressed to find a better one than these!" Caswell says. "Come on, let's get started, we have a lot to cover."

You take a seat at the table as Caswell prepares the projector for his presentation. As you wait, you leaf through the manual, trying to glean information from the endless technical screed.

"You want to go hang out again tonight? After all this training crap I mean. My schedule is open."

>That sounds good
>Sorry, I already planned to check on Ethan
>I think I'd like to take the day to myself
>Write in
>"A society that sacrifices one for the many is tyranny.
A bitter irony, considering HQ is letting Renton get away with it because they're willing to sacrifice a few to save the many.
This is, of course, up top of how needing to put children into EVAs, and spend lives to do any sort of recon on the Angels.
I still think it was the best option, but you could cut the irony with a knife.

>"What the fuck are we doing, Rose? What are we doing with these kids."
What we must. without EVAs we're dead in the water. Even more reason to pursue conventional alternatives.

>And perhaps a bigger question, why would Nerv potentially want her dead?
Isn't "being a spy" reason enough? No one wants spies snooping around, "friendly" or not.

>"Focused anti-matter,"
Holy Hell. I was tinkering with Xray-pumped lasers as a trump card, but that's also good. I imagine they'll have serious drawbacks in size, weight, and general fragility. On the plus side, if it can be mounted in a EVA-grade weapon, conventional mountings should be available as well to provide more options.

>That sounds good
Korine is kinda noisy, but she's friendly, and it's good to see her in high spirits again after being off active duty for a while.
>>Sorry, I already planned to check on Ethan
>Why dont you come with?
>That sounds good
>That sounds good
It's the best of the two best options
>That sounds good

"Yes," you say. "I like that."

Korine grins, "Sick. I'm working on this song, I need someone to tell me how it is."


She nods, "Yeah. It's . . . a thank you. Long story, but you're part of it. Anyway, we'll hang, and bring more weird movies. I liked that last one."

You don't remember her liking it exactly, but you don't argue. You'd like to take your mind off things. "I will."

Caswell configures the projector finally and the Nerv logo is replaced with a spinning three dimensional model of a large rifle, not dissimilar from the impact rifle. It's bulky and long. The muzzle brake on the barrel is replaced with some kind of emitter. The magazine looks more like a compact reactor.

He smiles proudly. "There. Ladies, shall we get started?"

He toggles to the next slide listing the weapons power output and effective range. You take diligent notes though your mind is already on spending time with Korine.


It's night and you are Renton. You ascend the gangway from the dock to your own ship, to home. Your legs are heavy, you've been walking all day. Transitways, sidewalks, parking garages, alleys, metro stops, parks, you've walked until well after dark. You weren't ready to go home. By now word will have spread of what happened, what you'd done, and there will be little doubt in anyone's mind about whether it was an accident. You're not ready to face that so instead you waited until long after everyone would be asleep.

Each footfall clangs on the metal until you reach the top and look up in Max's face.

"Max?" You blurt the name in surprise. He's clearly been waiting here a while, a long while. His eyes are shadowed, he looks exhausted. He knows. It's immediately clear that he knows what you did, and maybe he even has an inkling of why. He's here to level accusations at you, here to threaten, here to demand, here to-

"Renton," He pulls you into a hug. He's thin, painfully so, bony in a way an older person might be. He's dying.

All of this registers through your mind like a flash, so quickly you barely have time to make sense of it, least of all the hug.

Max doesn't let go. "I'm sorry," he whispers. "I'm sorry I wasn't there for you."

You can't do it. You can't maintain it any longer. You're not cool and collected, you're not poised, aloof, and sophisticated. You're scared, tired, and emotionally frayed.

You start crying. You cry like a child, your hands clenching at Max's shirt tightly as you sob. "I want her back," you choke out between tears.

"I know," he says. He rubs your back as you cry. "I know, man."

There's nothing more to say.
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You are Captain Holiday and it's morning. You didn't sleep well so the alluring promise of sleep nags at your thoughts. It's so early that the rising sun has only just started to blare in through your bedroom window.

As you stare at your own reflection in the bathroom mirror you brush your teeth, mentally ordering your day. Unsurprisingly, the tribunal investigation into the destruction of Anesidora came to its conclusion: a weapon malfunction. Since there were no survivors, and no next of kin and no government to apologize to, those people who died are simply struck from the refugee registers as if they never existed.

Your cell phone buzzes, vibrating alarmingly close to the edge of the sink before you catch it, expecting a call from Roger. The caller ID shatters that expectation.


The voice that answers is Yezhov.


Alert sirens boom into life across the city. Your TV, previously idly playing news in the bedroom flashes over to the emergency channel.

"All citizens are required to take shelter immediately. An Angel has been sighting in close proximity to the city. Please refer to your emergency handbooks or your emergency coordinator for directions to the nearest shelter."

"Here!?" you demand.


"I'll be there in ten minutes," you say, glancing at the clock.

"You'd better to make it five I think," Yezhov says.

An air force VTOL streaks over your house before boosting into the sky, you follow it visually through your bedroom window only to see the black circle in the sky, far enough away to be virtually a dot, but visible none the less. An Angel.

You're dressing as you rush out of your apartment, pushing past bewildered residents making for the sub basement shelter of your building.

"How the hell did it get there!?" you ask.

"Unknown, the target appeared overhead without warning," Yezhov says.

You key in your emergency override code into the building elevator and punch the parking garage button. "Who do we have available?"

"Skobeleva is in standby, Chandler and McIntosh are on their way."

"Start prepping all available Evas for launch, I'll be there." You hang up and side step through the opening elevator doors to sprint to your car.

The roads are all clear. The city's residents are either well drilled or frightened enough to quickly make way. Your trip to HQ takes you a little over five minutes. When you reach the command room, chaos reigns.

Your father is standing over Mbaru's shoulder when you enter and he gives you a cold look.

"What's the situation?" you ask.

Your father regards you a moment before speaking. "The city is moving into lockdown, Corvus is ready for deployment in the number six elevator. UN air assets are circling the object."

Your eye drifts to the central monitor displaying a highly magnified image of the object, presumably an Angel.
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"An Angel? Max, what does-" you stop, mentally berating yourself.

"Blood type is blue. The Magi confirm the presence of an AT Field."

"Has it moved?" you ask.

"Not since it first appeared," Your father says. "Where the hell is Caswell?"

"Here, sir!" Roger hurries in, trying to catch his breath. "Sorry I'm late, I was conducting-"

"Doctor, analysis," your father barks.

"Clearly it didn't just spring into existence above us," Caswell says, "It likely has a non-linear method of movement. Some form of remote transport or teleportation."

"Teleportation?" Your father asks, both dubious and annoyed.

"Science Division is still collating the data," Caswell says, "But logs show the presence of an AT Field 0.51 seconds before the object became visible."

"Before? How?" you ask.

"By not giving a damn about our understanding of conventional physics," Caswell says.

"What about hard details? Distance, potential capabilities?"

"So far it's defied our ability to gauge its distance with conventional range finding, laser, radar. All return nothing."

"Nothing? How can that be?"

"It's a hole," Your father says. "It's not an object at all."

Caswell smiles before stopping himself. "Exactly right, Major. It's a hole and it's hovering two kilometers above the city. It's also shrinking."


Caswell nods, "We've verified it, on high speed playback, the hole is contracting."

"Well what the hell is on the other side?"

"That's . . . harder to say. A Dirac Sea maybe. A uh . . . a sort of plane of negative particles-" he stops when he sees the look on your father's face. "In short, nothing, sir."

"Nothing? How the hell do we fight nothing?"

"There's nothing to fight," you say, looking back at the hole on the monitor. "If an AT field made that hole, maybe another one can unmake it."

"It's possible," Caswell says, "But we don't have any reliable way of getting an Eva up there aside from a transport craft, and I don't know how long one would fare in combat."

You resist the urge to swear. You can't very well sit here and do nothing, but so far the Angel hasn't made a move.

>You have no choice but to wait it out and see what it does next
>Target the hole with guided missiles
>Send a drone to fly inside
>Write in
>Send a drone to fly inside
>"I know," he says. He rubs your back as you cry. "I know, man."
Max is good people. I wish he was dealt a better hand.

>Alert sirens boom into life across the city.
Holy crap, it must have really appeared out of nowhere for Rose to be alerted at the same time at the general population.

I suspect this will prompt a 24h rotating watch shift for the pilots; we cannot be caught with our pants down again.

>But logs show the presence of an AT Field 0.51 seconds before the object became visible."
We can detect AT fields at range? That sounds like it'll be useful sooner or later.

>"Exactly right, Major. It's a hole and it's hovering two kilometers above the city.
If that's the case, how was the "blood type confirmed as blue"? I never was clear on what they meant, desu.

>Target the hole with guided missiles
>Send a drone to fly inside
Send the drone first, situation permitting.
>>Send a drone to fly inside
>We can detect AT fields at range?
Short range, yes. It depends on the strength of the AT field, but the detection technology is nebulous in the show, so it's the same here.

>how was the "blood type confirmed as blue"?
Also nebulous show terminology. Effectively "Blood type blue" means "AT Field that is not an Evangelion." (Orange type)
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>Awkward silence lapses as the two of you board an elevator. Korine presses the button for the appropriate floor.
pic related

>Send a drone to fly inside
if it disappears, send another one, this time with a rope or cable on it to see what happens when the drone disappears
>Send an Eva up in a transport craft so its AT field is in contact with the angel’s, and then send a drone inside
We’ll probably get a reaction just from the conflicting fields, and if it allows us to come close then we can send the drone in protected by a friendly AT field
>Send a drone to fly inside

"I'm not risking anyone on this," you say. "Let's get an unmanned drone in there. Doctor, can we do that?"

"If that hole is what I think, then I'm not sure how well radio signals will carry, or how matter will react, let alone-"

"Doctor," you say, halting him.

Caswell thinks a moment. "Yes. We can do that."

"Yezhov, get a drone up from Snelson. Fast as you can."

"I do that," Yezhov says.

The unmanned targeting drone is launched minutes later. These are primarily used for patrolling the seas around New Tampa, but it will do for this task. The craft accelerates and climbs into the sky, drawing closer to the steadily shrinking hole.

Mbaru counts down the range while you keep your eyes glued to the main monitor. You almost don't notice Colonel Versetti's arrival in the command room.

"One hundred meters," Mbaru says. "Fifty. Ten. Drone has passed the horizon."

You look back at the main screen, currently displaying camera feed from the drone. Black. Nothingness.

You grind your teeth and fold your arms over your chest. "Nothing?"

"A little more than nothing," Caswell says. "It's theoretical space. Think of a pocket dimension, only instead of matter as we know it-"

"Captain," Mbaru says, cutting him off. "We have something."

You take an involuntary step closer to the main monitor, squinting into the light static fuzzing the display. The drone's forward momentum is maintained, but control surfaces are unresponsive. Whatever is on the other side of that hole, it isn't air. What really interests you is the white speck in the center of the screen. Small, but it's growing larger.

"What is that?" you ask.

Caswell just shakes his head.

The speck continues to grow larger, drawing apparently closer, though distance, speed, and relative size are impossible to make out without reference.
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The object is a light, an elongated, glowing, white spark.

"An Angel?"

Whatever it is envelopes the drone and its signal goes to static.

"Camera drone destroyed," Yezhov says.

"That was an AT field," Caswell says, clearly awed. "A new way of using one. Clever."

You cast him a glare that shuts his mouth.

A moment later the display resolves to an external shot of the hole in the sky and you see that white spark descend out. It's large, maybe the size of an Eva, perfectly symmetrical, but with a texture like frozen flame. Details are hard to make out because of its luminosity.

It's descending toward the city, falling slowly. Above it, the hole finishes closing and vanishes to nothingness.

"The Tenth Angel," you say. A moment later the Magi generate a name. "Designated Xiziel. Where are the pilots?"

"Skobeleva is standing by for launch," Yezhov says. "Chandler and McIntosh have not yet reported in."

"What the hell is taking them so long?" You demand.

Yezhov shakes his head.

You're being unrealistic, no one anticipated having to deploy so rapidly. All the same, this is the second time the city has been caught unawares. You'll need to establish an alert rotation, and with only three pilots you can rely on, that's going to be hell on them. Three eight hour shifts a day, every day, with no breaks. You'll need more pilots.

"Launch Corvus immediately." Your father delivers the command to you with no hesitation.

"Sir, with respect, I don't want to deploy Katya on her own. We don't know-"

"Captain, your concern is noted, but the Major is right." Colonel Versetti says. "Launch the Eva now. At worst she may buy us time to deploy the other two."

You tense your jaw, wanting to object. You don't. "Yes, sir." You look at Yezhov. "Launch her."
You are Katya Skobeleva and you're going in alone. You haven't fought alone before, not in a real battle. No one has, not since the early days of the Evangelion project and the war against the Angels. As far as you know, the last time anyone fought alone against an Angel was also the first time. Rose's scars and eyepatch come to mind but you shake your head to clear it.

You may be alone, but that's not going to be your fate.

"Ready?" Yezhov asks you on the com.


The elevator engages and your Eva rockets long magnetized rails from the Eva cage up to the surface, the city.

Warning lights flash as the blast doors grind aside and your Eva emerges, slamming to a stop on street level. You'd fought your first battle here, in the city. This is nothing new.

"Positron rifle deployed," Mbaru says.

An armored cargo elevator station snaps open beside you and you see the rifle. You've handled it in simulations, but this is your first time in reality.

"No different," you say, grabbing it. The moment you touch the grip, your Eva's onboard computer synchronizes with the targeting hardware onboard the rifle. A wealth of information flashes across your monitors. Power status, temperature, energy reserve, all nominal.

"Katya, the Angel has landed in the city, just a few blocks from your current position. Your orders are to engage it and destroy it if possible. Ethan and Korine are scrambling, we'll be launching them soon. Keep it busy."

"Affirmative," you say.

"Katya, it's Roger, the rifle you've got has been field tested, we know it works, so don't worry about that. It will be just like the simulations. It has a lower rate of fire, but much more punch. Just don't miss!"


Towering glass buildings around you reflect your Eva's white-gold image back at you from all directions.

You start jogging forward. Empty cars dot the roads, people had abandoned them in a mad scramble to get to shelter. You don't want to imagine what your rifle would do to a shelter if you missed. You think about the ship that Renton accidentally destroyed and harden your mind. That won't be you.

You circle around a building and advance along an avenue, weapon at the ready.

"The target is just ahead," Yezhov says.

"We don't know much about it but we know it can use its AT field offensively. Be careful," Caswell says.

You wish they would shut up. Their talking is only distracting you. The hunt is no time for talking.

You nestle the butt of the rifle to your Eva's shoulder. "Affirmative." You advance.

The Angel's sudden appearance startles you. An Eva-sized ball of white fire moves into view. It's hovering serenely along an open avenue a few blocks away, moving between buildings.

You freeze, lift the rifle on instinct and center the crosshairs which flash with an affirmative lock.
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The Angel passes out of view behind a skyscraper. For a moment your crosshairs are full of a closeup of a residential building. You hiss and release the trigger, lowering your weapon.

"Katya, is every-"

"No shot," you reply, again wishing they would shut up and let you work. You quickly circle around the buildings, moving to get a better angle on the Angel. A few blocks further you catch the Angel down a boulevard, moving directly away from you toward the center of the city.

This is your shot. You shoulder the weapon, center the crosshairs, exhale, and fire.

The rifle bucks as a concentrated stream of energy is unleashed. You don't fully understand the science behind it, but you understand what it's capable of doing. A thick stream of light stabs from the muzzle of your rifle, the recoil pressing your Eva back hard enough to dig its heels into the pavement. The beam of light races along the boulevard with dazzling brightness and then vanishes into a hole in the air between you and the Angel.


The hole closes, swallowing your shot as if it never existed.

Your HUD beeps at you.


The Angel stops moving, hanging in the air motionless. A second hole opens like a tear in the fabric of reality, this one is slightly larger than the Angel. The Angel floats into this hole which closes up behind it.

"Target lost. No more AT field on scope," Yezhov says.

"Where?" you try to look in all directions at once.


"It intercepted my shot," you say.

"Copy, Katya, stay alert," Rose says.

"AT spike!"

Your sensors blurt the same alert. It's behind you. There's no time to react or turn. You swing your rifle to point straight behind you, over your shoulder and pull the trigger.


Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
Rolled 1 (1d6)

Rolled 1 (1d6)

Oh no
Rolled 3 (1d6)

Well at least it could be worse.
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>You'll need to establish an alert rotation, and with only three pilots you can rely on, that's going to be hell on them. Three eight hour shifts a day, every day, with no breaks. You'll need more pilots.
It'll suck, unequivocally. But the alternate is far worse.
Plus, hopefully after a short while Renton can be brought back up to active, and a 3-shift 4-man system can be set up, to prevent one pilot from being perpetually on the graveyard shift, and to give them an occasional break.

>"Launch the Eva now. At worst she may buy us time to deploy the other two."
His reasoning is right on the money, unfortunately.

>Just don't miss!"
This is incredibly true, but a touch tasteless, considering the recent accident.

>The hole closes, swallowing your shot as if it never existed.
I really hope it isn't storing that shot for later.

not by much, but you're not wrong.
RIP russian cutie.

it hurts QM. Make it stop.
The trigger clicks.

The immense recoil of the gun temporarily puts you off balance, the positron beam lances down the street behind you, skirting just past the Angel and carving a molten crevasse across the face of the buildings. Glass evaporates and steel slag falls like rain onto the empty cars below. The beam cores a clean hole through a skyscraper at the end of the street before setting fire to the apartment complex behind it and dissipating.


You're already spinning around to bring your weapon to bear when the Angel strikes. Your Eva lifts off its feet and pitches forward, smashing face first into a building, shattering the glass façade.

The damage is negligible, you hardly feel it, but something's wrong. You spin around and thrust the muzzle of your weapon forward, aiming dead center at the Angel. The targeting reticles flash positive. You pull the trigger.


The message flashes on your screen with an accompanying harsh tone.


You swear under your breath.

The Angel doesn't move, but the air around it shimmers like a heatwave. Cars nearby flip over and skitter away as if driven by a gale of wind.

You feel a cold sweat go over your body.


You are Rose Holiday and beside you Yezhov swears.

"AT spike," he says, "Huge!"

"What the hell is happening?" you ask.

"I think," Caswell says uncertainly, "I think it just destroyed her AT Field."

"It did what!?"


You are Katya Skobeleva and you are afraid. Your eyes are stuck on that frozen spark hovering before you.

The air shimmers again between you and the Angel.

"AT field is spiking again," Yezhov says.

"Katya!" Rose's voice snaps you from your paralysis.

You side step, slipping between buildings to get away from the Angel.

An invisible force caves in the front of the building you step around. Steel buckles, glass explodes, and the entire skyscraper wobbles before slumping onto itself and collapsing. A billowing cloud of grey dust expands in all directions.


You catch a glint of light through the dust cloud. It's a slim chance, but you take it. You don't have time to be a hunter now, this is kill or be killed. You shoulder the rifle and pause only a moment to sight it before firing.

The flood of positrons lashes out and blasts the cloud of dust away, stabbing straight at the Angel before the shot is swallowed by another sudden hole that opens.

Your rifle begins recharging again.

The Angel flares in brightness momentarily, like a fire given kindling.

"Another AT spike."

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You are Katya Skobeleva and you are alone. You wear your plugsuit, you wear your nerve clips, but you are not in your Eva. You are in a building.

You look around, feeling a strange sense of detachment. You don't know where you are exactly, but that's not alarming, just uncomfortable, like an ache in the back of your mind, the feeling that you've forgotten something important, a memory that slipped its leash.

You're in a hospital hallway. It's dingy, old, the wallpaper - a pale shade of green - is faded and peeling in places. The windows let in thin, pale light but are clouded as if with frost. You don't need to see outside to know where you are. This is a Soviet-era building.

The signs are all in Cyrillic. This is a Russian hospital.

You feel momentarily comforted, you're home again after all, but that feeling is replaced with concern. You can hear someone crying.

"Hello?" You voice echoes down the empty hall without response. You begin walking. Each room you pass is empty, dark, save one. Light bleeds from the doorway. The crying comes from here.

You lay a hand on the door and push it open.

You are back home. Home. Not a faded, worn-out hospital, but instead a place of comfort. Your older sister Anna's room. Her old room. That momentary recollection sours your joy. Still, you find yourself marveling at it. All of Anna's things were so adult, so exciting. Of particular interest is a poster for the UN Air Force on her wall, showing a blandly attractive woman in the act of climbing into the cockpit of a fighter jet.

Anna tears the poster off her wall with a shocking lack of care. One of the corners comes way, still stuck to her wall by tape. She's angry, and she's crying. She folds the poster with hasty negligence and shoves it into her suitcase.
You remember this day. You frown. This is the day Papa told her to leave.

"He can rot!" Anna tells you, wiping tears from her face as she continues haphazardly packing. "That blind old pig can die alone when he drives off his whole family!" She looks so much like you, so much like your mother you're told. Her hair is cut short and she wears her military fatigues. You thought they were so very cool when you'd first seen her in them. Now they seem almost shameful.

"Sis?" you say, trying to delicately break the tension to get her attention.

Anna looks at you, defiant. Her saw is set, her eyes ringed red from tears. Anna was the strongest of all of you, even stronger than your brother Dimitri, but it didn't matter. Your father's words had cut her to the bone and laid her low.

She sniffs back more tears and tries to put on a brave smile for her little sister. You're a teenager now, but only just. "You will come, yes? Come to live with me? My pay is not much, but I can get a small apartment for us. If you can find work too I think we can make it work, Katya. We can stay together and get away from this place."

This place was always your home, overbearing or not. The thought of being exiled to the city where the poor masses clamored for work fills you with dread and anxiety. You're sheltered here, you know that. Your Papa has made the situation outside the walls of the Skobeleva home very clear.

"I-" you hesitate, now unable to meet Anna's gaze. "I don't know. I can't just leave like . . . that."

You look up to see Anna's heart break anew. Her sister- her closest sister has now betrayed her too. Her shock and sadness flashes to anger and she turns away, continuing to pack. "Then stay here."

In your memories you like to think that's all she said, that she left it at that, but it wasn't. In that moment of emotional weakness she let slip her true feelings. "Coward."
You are Katya Skobeleva and you're not alone. All around you is the press and bustle of capitalism. Here in the finest mall in Vladivostok you are surrounded by people and economy, though not the sort of drab, dirty industry your father owns. This is the pinnacle. Consumerism.

Movies, music, clothes, electronics, video games, exotic foods, all beckon with glitter and glamor. You like it here although you hate the crowds. You've been trained to be fashionable, even if you don't really know why. A Skobeleva should enjoy the finer things.

You are shopping with Karina, your oldest sister. Karina is so much like Anna but so different. Tall, poised, severe, she never smiles but is always dressed in stylish business attire. She studies business management, works diligently to keep abreast of the goings on in your father's capitalist empire. She in many ways is everything that Dimitri is not. All of this she does in the hopes of one day running family affairs. For Karina, power is its own reward.

Her high heels click rhythmically with every broad step she takes, trailing you behind her like a shadow. Her relentless, militant advance only stops when she comes to a store worth entering. In this case, a clothing boutique. School starts for you soon, and you need a uniform.

As Karina shops, you wander nearby, eyes sliding across racks of designer outfits to ultimately rest on a small stand of accessories. You see them right away. Cat-ear headbands. The faux fur on them nearly matches your own hair color.

Your eyes widen with delight and you pick up a pair, turning them over in your hands. You think they would really just be adorable, they suit you so well!

They are shiny, new, and not so expensive. Karina could easily lump them in with the purchase of the uniforms and no one would blink an eye.

You carry them back to your sister who is at the checkout counter. Karina is juggling a cellphone call, your new uniforms, and credit cards. She spares you barely a glance. She's so mature. Confident, poised, well-dressed.

"Sis, can we buy these also?" You hold out the headband.

Karina covers the phone to look down at the headband. "A costume, Katya?" The question is exhausted, full of disdain.

You feel a flush of embarrassment and look away. "It's not a costume," you say the words softly.

Karina's voice get stern. "When will you stop being such a child? Hm? Do you think Papa wants a useless child? What would Mama think?”

You don't defend yourself, only feeling that shame deepen. "It's a headband. I think I'll need one."

Karina sighs and rolls her eyes. She snatches the headband away from you and drops it on the counter to be bought. She preaches as she pays. "You will have to grow up sometime. One day the fun and games will end you and will need to get serious. This life is not yours to waste."

The words sting because you know they're true.
You are Katya Skobeleva and you're out in the cold. You don't mind the cold, in fact you welcome it. It means escape, even if just for a while.

"I don't know," Dimitri says, his voice visible in the frosty air.

The two of you trudge through the woods on one of your hunting trips. The snow is almost knee deep in places, requiring large, awkward strides. It crunches softly with each step.

Papa doesn’t know that Dimitri takes you out with him. It is an excuse for Dimitri to drink and shoot guns, but for you it's a glimpse of freedom. “I think you're overreacting, Katya. Maybe you should just fall in line? Don’t be so stubborn, so rebellious like Anna. You’ll break Papa’s heart.”

You hang your head a little and hold the rifle closer to your chest, burying your feelings. Maybe you are being a child about all this. Maybe you're hurting your family with your selfish desires and childish ways.

This life is not yours to waste

Dimitri stops, turns to you and smiles. He holds his rifle in the air like some old recruitment poster. "But now," he says, "we shoot!"


You are Katya Skobeleva, and you are in your room. You're making your first strides into the adult world and you've found your sister's air force pins. She gave them to you years ago - before she left. They were a symbol of the world outside your family, of adventure, of being part of something greater.

You hold them up to the light and smile before holding one to your collar, imagining yourself in the same trim, well-fitting uniform Anna wears. You miss her more and more every day. She writes to you sometimes, and you video chat when she has the time, but it's never enough.

"Put that down!" Your Papa barks.

You startle and drop the pins, looking up, heavy with guilt

He stands in the bedroom doorway, staring at you. In that moment you think you can see his true feelings in his face. Resentment. Bitter resentment. His eyes go to the pins on the floor and back up to you. He's been drinking. His cheeks are flushed red like his eyes which are thick with tears. He's been crying too.

"You silly girl," He says. "You want to leave this family like your sister? You want to run away too? Throw away everything I've built, eh?”

Hurt lances your heart.

"No, Papa," you say. "I would never leave you."

He exhales through his nose. "No," he agrees. "You won't." The bitterness in his eyes remains with you. It's the same bitterness that drove you to go with Anna to be tested into the Eva program, but it hurts all the same.

You turn away from your Papa and push open the door to the hospital room.
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It's October, 2000 and you've just been born into Hell.

A private hospital room is a rare luxury as the world falls apart. Second Impact swept away half the world with it, now this hospital teems with those who ride on the knife's edge between life and death. For one man, it's all irrelevant. Global tragedy is supplanted by personal tragedy. All the power, all the money, none of it could make a difference for the one soul he most wanted to save.

Your Papa is half-slumped beside a hospital bed, sobbing, pleading, begging for a life that will never come back. He calls your mother's name pitifully, like a child.

You can't see the form that lies in the bed. It's been mercifully covered with a sheet. A nurse stands silently behind him, holding a newborn baby girl, who is crying just as pathetically as her oblivious father.

You regard the baby with equal parts wonder and apprehension. You're looking on the sad beginning of your own life.

On the opposite side of the hospital bed you see yourself. Your hair is tied back like Katrina’s, gaze hare like Karina's. You stand upon a smoking, ashy mountain of industry. The pitiless queen of a petroleum empire.

“A wasted life,” your doppelganger says to you, voice full of scorn. “Look at you. Weak. Pathetic. A sniveling child. You can’t repair the hole you tore in your family when you came to this world. Receiving you in exchange for taking your mother was not an equal trade." She shakes her head in cruel judgement of you. "No matter what you think you've accomplished, you are a waste. A waste. Understand?"

Your voice is quiet but firm. "I'm not a waste."

Your mirror version looks shocked, angry that you would dare say such a selfish thing.

“The Ice Princess,” Renton says.

“She’s stuck up,” Korine says.

“A spoiled brat,” Yezhov says.

“You leave me anyway?” Your father asks, eyes full of tears. “You take your mama and now you run away from me?”

"You let them all down," your copy continues. "You hurt everyone. You are still a child. You are not your mother, you can never be your mother. How can something so pathetic ever hope to amount to more than a curiosity?"

>My mother was weak. I'm not. She left me alone and she shaped this broken family. I'm nothing like her.
>My life does not matter. I know that. That is why I fight. It doesn't matter if I die, so long as I save someone else.
>I never asked for this. I didn't want to lose my mama. I didn't want to hurt my papa. I don't want to be a burden anymore!
>Write in
>The message flashes on your screen with an accompanying harsh tone.
On reflection, maybe what amounts to a bolt-action rifle was a poor choice for CQC.

Man, that pic feels very familiar, which is odd as I've never seen it before.

>Your Papa is half-slumped beside a hospital bed
And the pieces click together. From here, his relationships will become as sand: the tighter he holds on, the more they slip through this fingers.

>My life does not matter. I know that. That is why I fight. It doesn't matter if I die, so long as I save someone else.
At least this way, if when she bites the dust, she can go down swinging.
>>My life does not matter. I know that. That is why I fight. It doesn't matter if I die, so long as I save someone else.
Ethan has rubbed off on her, seeing that Ethan was not used by the angel.
>My mother was weak. I'm not. She left me alone and she shaped this broken family. I'm nothing like her.
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>My life does not matter. I know that. That is why I fight. It doesn't matter if I die, so long as I save someone else.
>My life does not matter.

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"It doesn't matter," you say. "My life doesn't matter. I know that."

Your mirror image sneers at you, a triumphant, sadistic grin.

"That's why I fight. It does not matter if I die or not." A tear rolls down your cheek, soon followed by another. Your vision is blurred by tears. "It just matters that maybe I save someone else."

Your copy leans forward, planting her hands on the edge of your mother's death bed. "Your own life means so little do you? Pathetic."

"The lives of others," you say. "They matter more than me. That is all. That is all I have."


You are Ethan Chandler and you're angry.

"Come on, come on!" You grip your control throttles tight as your Eva races up through the underground elevator shaft.

"Ethan, the Angel is interfacing with Katya's Eva through its AT field somehow," Rose says. "Don't let it get close to you."

"That won't be a problem, just get me there," You say.

"Sync ratio approaching minimum activation threshold," Caswell says mournfully.

"Come on!" You roar impatiently at the elevator. In seconds, sunlight flashes around you as your Eva stops with a jolt. A drum-fed assault rifle deploys from a nearby cargo rack and you seize it while already stepping off from the elevator. You move as fast as your Eva can carry you, heedless of the cars you smash flat with your Eva's feet and power cable.

"Don't matter."

You blink, surprised. "Katya!?"

"It doesn't matter what happens to me."

You're aghast, "Katya, that's not true! Do you hear me? Katya?"

There's no response.

"Hydra advancing on target," Mbaru says. "Lupus is deployed. Advancing."

"Korine, hustle!" you demand. "We'll catch it in a crossfire. Watch Katya's Eva."

"Yeah, I got it!" Korine says, sounding more frightened than angry.

You slide around a building and come into sight of the Angel and Katya's Eva. The buildings here are partially melted from the intense heat of Katya's positron rifle which now hangs loosely in her Eva's grip. Corvus stands in a slouched posture, arms limp. The Angel hovers just in front of her.

"Ethan, I'm almost-" You don't let Korine finish.

You shoulder the rifle and fire. Ejected shells spew from the rifle to crash to the ground around you. The Angel flits back, evading your first burst so that it passes between it and Katya's Eva.

"Son of a bitch!" You track your fire after it, muzzle flash strobing in your cockpit, feeling the satisfying vibration of the recoil. You don't worry about collateral damage, tracking fire across skyscrapers, knowing the rounds will penetrate through the relatively soft buildings to find the Angel behind them.

The destruction is tremendous, almost cathartic. The building you trace fire across disintegrates, steel splinters flying in all directions as you saw it in half with gunfire.
"Korine, circle left!" you call. You catch a glimpse of her Eva as she hesitates before darting off after the fleeing Angel. You let off the trigger once your targeting computer trills a lost contact.

The building closest to you is on fire, the muzzle flash from your rifle ignited something combustible. The other buildings in your way are either punched full of holes or cut down like timber.

"Angel is moving north," Mbaru says, "toward the sea wall."

"I'm heading it off," Korine says.

You spare a glance at Katya's Eva, still motionless. "Katya? Are you alright?"

"Pilot vitals are stabilizing," Rose says. "Recovery teams are on the way, Ethan, go after it."

You curse yourself for your hesitation and hurry after the Angel, vaulting over a topple building. You're going to kill it. You're going to hurt it if such a thing is possible. You'll burn this whole city if that's what it takes.

You hear gunfire ahead. "Shit!" Korine says. "It blocked the shots, I-" she cries out and you see a building wobble and fold in on itself nearby.

"Lupus has taken damage to frontal armor plates," Yezhov says.

"Rose, where is it?" you demand.

Your HUD is overlaid with a three dimensional wireframe by way of answer. You see Korine's Eva where it's been thrown into a building, you also see the Angel hovering just on the other side of a row of buildings.

You don't hesitate. The buildings give you almost no resistance as you plow your Eva directly through them, charging like a linebacker. Girders and masonry roll off your Eva like raindrops and you come face to face with the Angel. Too close for either of you to evade.

Your rifle is already at the ready. You pull the trigger.

With no AT field or armor to stop them, each shell punches into the Angel's crystal hide with a shower of sparks. Thick red blood spurts and oozes from the bullet holes and the entire Angel rocks back with the impacts.

You don't stop firing, laying on the trigger, watching as each round takes its toll. The Angel comes apart just like the buildings. Bloody, jagged pieces slough off and fall to the street until the entire Angel collapses into a morass of gore.

You stop firing when it stops hovering and drops to the ground. Smoke wisps from the barrel of your rifle.

"Target is completely silent," Yezhov says.

You lower the rifle and catch your breath. "Korine, are you-"

"Fine," She says, getting her Eva back to its feet. The destruction around you both is significant, emergency response teams are scrambling already.

"Katya?" You ask.
You are Captain Rose Holiday and you exhale.

"Katya's vitals are stable," you say. "She's alive."

Ethan's relief is silent, but visible on the cockpit monitor.

You wish you shared it. Katya is alive, but what exactly transpired when her Eva was in the grip of that Angel remains to be seen. A look at Caswell tells you he's just as interested, and just as worried.

"What's the extent of damage to the city?" Your father asks, fuming with barely constrained anger.

"Substantial damage to District 00's east central areas," Yezhov says. "Collapsed metro tunnels and emergency shelters, heat damage to surface telecom infrastructure."

Versetti interrupts you father before he can speak. "Acceptable," he says. "We did what had to be done. You and your pilots did well, Captain."

"Sir," you say, "with respect, the destruction to the city-"

"Is superficial," Versetti says. "Buildings can be rebuilt. Today you succeeded in your primary mission of destroying the Angels. That - above all else - is your top concern."

"Yes, sir."

"Recover the Evas," Vesetti says, standing to leave. "Send a report to my office when you can."


You are Katya Skobeleva. The hatch of your entry plug opens after the LCL has drained out. Physically, you're fine. You get out slowly, blinking at the harsh overhead light of the Eva cage. Mentally . . . you can't shake that image of your mirror self. Had that been . . . ?

No. No, it was just a hallucination. Angels don't communicate, they barely even think. You take your nerve clips off and start for the ready room and a shower.
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>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>/End Episode 05


Thanks again for playing everyone. I'm going to take a short break to lay out Episode 06 and then we will continue.


See you soon.
>"Sir," you say, "with respect, the destruction to the city-"
>"Is superficial," Versetti says. "Buildings can be rebuilt.
I hate that he's right, but he completely is.

It's also worth noting that Ethan absolutely steamrolled that Angel once he started ignoring collateral damage.
However, on the numbers end, there is a long term trade-off in infrastructure damage vs ability to maintain EVAs. Too much damage to the cities will eventually hamper our ability to build, maintain, and deploy EVAs.

Thanks for running.
We'll be here when you return.
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i wanna see where this goes. thanks for another awesome episode, TK
thanks for running TK.

It hurts even more now
Thanks guys!

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