[FFML] Sic Semper Morituri Chapter 56 - One Throw of The Dice Part 2 of 3

Daniel Jess Gibson dan_s.comments at att.net
Mon Jun 23 17:28:14 PDT 2008


[Ranma][NGE][HPL][AMG][Fusion][Fanfic] Sic Semper Morituri
Chapter 56 - One Throw of The Dice

Disclaimer:
I do not own any of the characters from Ranma 1 / 2, Neon Genesis
Evangelion, Ah My Goddess, or the Lovecraft Cycle involved in
these stories.

C&C, MSTs are welcome
E-mail: dan_s.comments at comcast.net or dan_s.comments at att.net
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http://www.cs.ubc.ca/cgi-bin/ftp/archive/anime-fan-works/Ranma/ty
pe/Sic-Semper-Morituri
(these are the original versions)

What has gone before:
      Admiral Adams and Doctor Akagi learn that the faster advance
of their carrier battle group might be needed.
      Nabiki and Ritsuko have a heart-to-heart to discover why
Nabiki has felt unworthy.  Ranma and Ranko have a heart-to-heart
about what each one truly wants.
      Nabiki and Jeff discuss their new position as half of
Chaugnar Faugn, and how to best use it.  Jeff begins teaching her
how to use her powers, control is the key, Nabiki has power in
abundance.
      Hiro has gotten General Tembris and SEELE their desire, and
has learned that SEELE is planning to move against the pilots.
Later he reveals all he knows, and discovers that Simson already
knew what Hiro was.
      Kaji discovers the details of Gendo's secret plan, and even
he can't believe what he learned.
      Asuka begins developing her own plans, after a discussion
with Commander Ikari.  Later enlisting Shinji to assist her.
      NERV's Official but Unwritten Rules begin to be compiled.
      Maya begins teaching the Marines new tactics to combat their
Mythos enemies.  Ranma begins teaching Rei the Chestnut Fist, Rei
of course modifies the regimen for efficiency, after she
practically dragged all the secrets and nuances from Ranma.  In
repayment, Rei gives Ranma another lesson in using guns.
      Nabiki, Belldandy and Jeff `discuss` the greater realities.
Neither Belldandy nor Nabiki are pleased by what they learn.
Nabiki and Jeff then rescue Megumi from the Curse of Chaugnar
Faugn, although Megumi's despair worries Nabiki.  Until a Great
Old One responds to Nabiki's wish for answers.
      The attack on the pilots injures Rei, Asuka charges in for
revenge with Hiro in pursuit, Mirei draws her father's people in
to the battle while Ranma and Sammi are drawn into a battle with
the Twins.  Rei takes out an EVA with Admiral Simson assisting
her.
      Sammi, the Neko-ken and finally Unit 00 wound then kill the
Twins.  Rei discovers that it successfully summoned another foe.
Both of the injured, the Neko-Ken and Rei, curl up with Asuka.
Once Ranma reemerges, he takes to his heels.

      Misato was furious.  "And you felt no need to tell me?" she
practically screamed at Hiro.  Sammi fully expected her to leap
across the table and physically attack him, as she had others.
      "I didn't pick you up at that bar to get to NERV.  I didn't
know who you were.  My cover was as a documentary film maker.
I'd already made my contact with the Navy."
      "I bet you took advantage though," Misato growled as she sat
at the dining room table with the other two.  Her fists clenched
and veins bulging.
      Misato wants that clenched fist to hit someone, or to wrap
it around a beer, Sammi thought, But has been denying herself.
What intrigued her most was how PenPen, standing under the table,
stayed close to his mistress, and to Hiro.  As if he wants the
`grownups` to kiss and make up.
      "I didn't take advantage to get close to NERV secrets.  I
_did_ take advantage to help my film."
      Sammi laughed at that, earning a glare from Misato.
      "You think this is funny?"
      Sammi decided to give Misato the verbal slap she needed.
"He took less advantage of you than practically every _other_ man
in your life has, except the pilots.  Is that why you're so mad?"
At him and at them? she wisely didn't add.
      Misato looked like she'd been splashed with ice water.  Hiro
stared at the ceiling and wanted to be _anywhere_ else.
      Too bad, I've heard all the comments about you - Major.  If
half of them are true . . . you're no fit guardian nor officer.
Otherwise, you're lucky, Sammi thought, matching Misato stare for
venomous stare.
      "So I'm supposed to just accept that?" Misato asked in a
more subdued tone, her underlying anger undiminished.
      "We have interrogated him fully.  With the entirety of
Section 2 coming under suspicion, we've had a lot of security
concerns.  He is no longer one of them," Sammi replied carefully,
"How you treat him in your private life, is your concern.  The
Admiral and the Commander want the film to go forward, and have
no objection to supervised visits with the pilots and staff.
You've got no say in that decision."
      "I don't think I can trust you," Misato told Hiro, then
looked at Sammi, "I don't see why you do."
      "I don't trust anyone, _except_ the pilots," Sammi replied
coldly, "And I trust _them_ to be teenagers."
      "There are procedures you don't need to know about," Sammi
added in a more business like tone, "There will be consequences,
but I thought it important that you hear it from him."   Leaving
out he's actually an artificial creation, she mentally added,
That's not what you need to know.  That and we're all aware
you've been drinking a _lot_ less since you met him, and have
_almost_ caught up on your paperwork.  The High Command decided
he was good for you.
      Misato continued to glare at Hiro, then looked away if she
thought he might be looking.  Hiro tired of the game and started
looking steadily at her.  The deadlock seemed destined to
continue.
      "So how's Shinji?" Hiro asked.
      "He's got a worse case of whatever Asuka and Rei have a
touch of.  We're hoping it isn't encephalitis.  But this is the
season for it," Misato answered, glancing worriedly at the room
where the Third Children was bundled up in blankets despite the
heat and humidity that gripped the city.
      "He'll pull through," Hiro said with confidence and a smile,
"He's a tough kid."
      "They're just kids," Misato muttered angrily.
------------------------------
      It was vaguely surreal, the looks of rapture on the faces
around him.  Captain Ramsey let them ooh and ahh at where they
were, and focused his thoughts on the mission at hand.  We've
still got enemies out there, he thought unhappily, Considering
the implied infiltration of our chain of command, these people
may be our only troops of guaranteed loyalty.  Although whether
they'd be loyal to the kids themselves, or their image of the
kids, remains to be seen.
      Before coming here, Captain Ramsey had left the meeting on
the security situation.  He'd checked on the assassin team and
the continuing interrogation of them.  They still haven't told us
anything we hadn't figured on our own, he thought, Except that
they weren't working to a coherent plan, it was multiple
operations working without coordination.  Now we know their
remaining forces _will_ strike with coordination.  But does that
mean today, tomorrow, next week, next month, when?  And how good
will _our_ coordination be?  When are _we_ going to run out of
rabbits to pull out of our hats?
      He looked at the groups, and factions within the groups of
people who'd come here.  I've got a more productive meeting to
attend.  It seems that the groups are as conflicted as the pilots
themselves, some enemies, some allies, even within the same
group.  I have to wonder what the pilots would think of these
people and their beliefs, he thought as he approached the group
who'd gathered at the site of the school building, The pilots'
old school.  It's almost fitting that this is where they agreed
to meet.  With everything that is going on at the other school, I
wonder if we'll move them back here soon.
      Leaders and their aides from all the cults were waiting for
him, the uneasy peace among them seemed to be holding.  The
construction of the building was continuing, but enough had been
completed to allow a meeting out of the view of prying eyes.
      They act as though they were meeting at church, or more
likely, a cathedral, he thought as the cultists spotted him and
pointed him out to the rest of their group.  "You've all read my
reports, and have heard _and_shared_ all the rumors?" he asked,
dropping into his role as messenger and guardian of the gods.
      "One cannot find the invisible, nor can we see what will
happen.  Since the move to the new school, we make the auguries,
and cannot interpret them," the unofficial hierophant told him.
      "Auguries?  Like Tarot cards, chicken entrails?"
      "There are other methods," the black suited man said
fearfully, "You don't usually pour molten metal into a vat of
water, and get dozens of exactly identical tesseracts.  We're
planning to offer them to various universities as Christmas
ornaments."  He handed Ramsey one of the odd structures of rods
and plates that perfectly diagramed the hypercube.
      I wonder if the kids would see this as I do, Ramsey idly
wondered as he turned the solidly made object over and over in
his hands, Or would they see it as it truly is?  "How many do you
have?"
      "One hundred seventy-five kilos, about 385 pounds, in ten
different metals.  Every augury we've done for a month."
      The hierophant spoke up, "The rest of us have had the same
luck, the readings are gibberish, yet eerily similar."
      Ramsey decided not to comment on the idea, As if anything
about the children and their enemies could be anything _but_
eerie.
      "I suspect if we tried chicken entrails," the hierophant
continued, "The bird would spontaneously batter and fry itself
while we watched.  A good picnic lunch, but a poor
prognosticator," he joked to lighten the mood, it utterly failed.
      "The situation remains as dangerous as it was when I first
contacted you.  We must find those people, and soon.  Before,
they were working behind the scenes," Ramsey told them, "Now they
are working to orders and a plan."
      The cultists glanced around, looking both worried and
ashamed.
      They are on the verge of failing their `gods`.  We already
failed the kids once, that _they_ know of.  If Gendo is right,
the kids simply won't have it in them to fully trust us again.
If the `grownups` screw up badly enough again, we'll only have
fear and threats left to control them.  As big a bastard as Gendo
is, even he knows that can't work in the long run, Ramsey
thought.
------------------------------
      Rei waited atop the building across the road from Mein
Grosse Feldmarschall's apartment.  Juri is in there with her, Rei
thought, But I desire to be her point guard.  I have told the
Commander about the girls, and my suspicions of the links among
our woes and their actions.  He said he was preparing a response.
She considered the possible and reasonable responses.  I doubt
they will be allowed to live.  That is not my choice, unless they
come at me, or Shinji-kun, or Mein Grosse Feldmarschall.
      She wrestled with her desire to protect Shinji-kun.  Sammi
can guard Shinji-kun adequately.  With Erin's death, Juri must
take over her guard duties, and she does not know Mein Grosse
Feldmarschall as well as Sammi does and Erin did.  So, perhaps
they will reason, as I have, that the weakness lies here.  She
looked at the Garand that had been left for her.  I will have to
inquire to that officer in ordinance who has assisted me in the
past, she remembered the instructions that the rifle grenades
could be shoulder fired, but also could be used as a mortar, and
she waited, I am good at waiting.
------------------------------
      In the apartment, Asuka was playing cards with Juri.  She's
quiet, Juri worried, She's normally loud.  'Quiet Asuka is a
violation of the Natural Order', Erin had said often enough.  It
bothers me.
      "One card," Asuka said so softly, Juri almost missed it.
      "The Bunker Hill will be here tomorrow," Juri said as she
gave Asuka the card.
      "Is Horseface moving out?" Asuka asked.  No emotion, no
outward signs.
      "If Dr. Akagi is coming back, I would think so."
      Asuka merely nodded.
      No shouts of joy or cries of protest, Juri thought, Simple
acknowledgment of the information.  Juri took two cards.  No
exhortation of victory or defeat.  Her card playing is a good
deal less aggressive that I'd heard.  I just wish I knew what to
do.  Loud and abrasive is hard on the people around her, but none
of them were comfortable the _last_ time she was this quiet.
This seems even worse.  Juri knew that the pilots and guards were
concerned about what Asuka would do in combat, in her present
condition.  I don't know how the High Command will react, she
thought as she laid down her cards.  "Three fives," Juri said.
      "Four of a kind," Asuka said, quietly laying down her cards,
and seemingly waiting a moment, for permission to rake in the
pot.  Asuka stared at the door, with the first look of real
concentration on her face.  A moment later it was gone.
      I wonder if the others can draw her back out of her shell,
Juri wondered, I can only hope.
------------------------------
      Mirei smiled and waved at Ranma-san and Tomiyo-san, then
returned her attention to the softball captain's exhortation to
play their best.  Easy to say, when we've only come close to
beating you twice.  If Yuki had let us give 100%, we would have
won.  Not likely, Mirei thought to herself, The `battle` will be
joined soon.  Mirei smiled as she walked not to her usual
shortstop position, but to the pitcher's mound.  Let's see if
you're as tough as everybody thinks you are, she thought.
--------------------
      The meeting was interminable, as all such bureaucratic
maneuverings were.  Why can't they just accept we know it was no
one's `fault`.  We are just trying to make certain it doesn't
happen _again_, Gendo wondered as he noted that both Simson and
Tomlinson had adopted the completely thorough stone mask that
many Japanese bosses had.  Letting none of their irritation show,
It seems they too can learn and adapt.  Officer Shigeru
approached and waited for Gendo or Simson to acknowledge him.
      "Report," Simson ordered.
      "Sir.  We've discovered some unusual activity around the
city.  No Angels, but very strange.  I -" the man's statement cut
short as something materialized beside him and hurled him aside.
      Gendo looked around frantically as dozens of other similar
twisted, misshapen humanoid creatures appeared.  Gendo glanced at
Fuyutsuki, and cast his spell, leaving the others to their fate.
--------------------
      Simson had been as stunned at Ikari's and Fuyutsuki's
instant disappearance, as he was by the invaders' shark-toothed,
crab-clawed, rubbery appearance, and their subdual or dismantling
of the Marine guards.  He was even more shocked when several
humans arrived in the same manner as the monsters had.  In the
background, he heard several explosions and an exchange of fire.
      "Communication," Tomlinson said and frowned, leaving Simson
to judge how the situation had degenerated.
      There has to be _something_ we can do, some warning we can
get out! he thought angrily as he considered his sidearm, his
constant companion now, And useless as a thrown rock against most
mythos enemies.
      "Surrender, and you will not be harmed," one of the humans
ordered.
      Simson could tell that whatever force Security and the
base's Marines had put together was being pushed back.  So likely
they can't rescue us in the next few minutes, and these bastards
are likely to kill us if they can't take us prisoner, his mind
raced, And the quicker we're gone, the quicker Ramsey and Stedman
can get the base back up and running.
      He glanced at Tomlinson, who nodded.
      I agree, we can do more damage at their base than getting
slaughtered here, he thought as he put his sidearm and two clips
on the table in front of himself.  "We surrender."  He saw the
shock on the faces of the Japanese, who had been waiting for
_someone_ to guide the group.  They put whatever pistols or
knives they carried down at the end of the table and retook their
seats.  To await further orders.  That's the problem, Simson
thought, One, thankfully, the pilots don't share.  If an idea's
wrong, they say so.  I'm guessing, that because I'm `the boss`,
these men don't question.  Very dangerous, but I can use it
later.
      The oddly misshapen creatures surrounded the table.  "Where
is Ikari?  Where is Fuyutsuki?" the human asked angrily.
      Didn't get the two key players, did you? Simson thought,
That's another wedge to use.
      "They were here when you appeared, and they vanished,"
Tomlinson said, "I thought you'd gotten them."
      "We did not, but we have you, no matter," the human's
bravado failed to convince the two general officers as the staff
room at NERV was replaced by another unfamiliar room that looked
like a poor copy of the NERV auxiliary control station.
      Now, what was it Saotome said?  Watch, learn, wait and
strike! Simson thought, Sun Tzu would approve.
--------------------
      The half-track passed through the brush bordering the ball
field.  One of dozens of increased patrols around and alongside
the places the pilots frequented.  The quad mount 50's aimed at
nothing in particular, passing the same trees and shrubs they had
since yesterday morning.
      None of them knew or considered if that same brush had been
there before they began their patrols.
------------------------------
      "Three to two," Ranma said, "They're doing the best job
yet."  He applauded a catch by Mirei, fielding a grounder into a
double-play.  "_YES_!_" Ranma jumped from his seat and shouted
with the rest of the crowd.  He glanced at Mirei's parents who
beamed proudly as the two teams switched sides.  Mirei gave Usagi
a tremendous smile as they passed on their way to and from the
pitcher's mound.
      "Perhaps, you could learn a little about teamwork, even
_you_ can't be _everywhere_!_" Tomiyo sat down as he commented,
getting a frown in return, "Misses Tomoe don't seem too pleased."
      Ranma already had his revenge on one front planned.  All I
have to do is spring my trap, he thought and waved to the old man
who seemed to be looking for them.
      "Father?!" Tomiyo exclaimed.
      Ranma turned to smile at Tomiyo.  "Yeah, I invited him.  I
thought you two might want to meet `at work,`" Ranma said as he
sat down, "I promise to be as much trouble as possible.  Prove
you can do your job."
      "That may not be a good idea.  I doubt he'd approve of
Mirei-san's parents."
      "_|BALL?|_  ARE YOU BLIND?" Ranma sprang to his feet and
shouted.  He sat down in disgust.  "You aren't meeting her
family.  You're showing off for your dad."  Ranma didn't
understand why that seemed so important to him.
      The girl at bat managed a single, and Mirei was up at bat.
      "Hit it out of the park!" Ranma shouted his encouragement,
and Mirei belted the ball.  Only to have it go foul.
      "Control," Tomiyo chided him, "A Martial Artist should know
that.  Can you imagine a girl with tremendous strength and little
self-control?"
      Ranma briefly considered a girl with Rei's strength, Asuka's
temper and his own problems with controlling his impulses.  He
shook his head.  Rather face the Elder God of . . . those furry
things, he decided.  "There are some things man was not meant to
know," Ranma muttered.
      Usagi glared at Mirei, who smirked back.  This time the ball
sailed over Usagi's head and into the trees, Mirei stood,
dropping her bat disdainfully and smiled at the other girl.  Hate
roiled off Usagi like a cloud.  The girl seemed to be glowing
with it.  Her fists clenching and unclenching as she could only
be controlling herself by pure will.  A will that seemed to be
slipping by the second as Mirei began a leisurely walk around the
bases.  Tomoe took a few steps after the girl
      The explosion shocked Ranma, for an instant he thought Usagi
and Tomoe had literally exploded with rage.  The places Mirei and
Tomoe, and Usagi, had been standing a moment ago, were only
clouds of smoke and columns of dirt racing into the sky.  He
didn't hear the explosion, he barely felt the hot wind that
plucked at his clothes.  He could only stare and remember that
weeks ago, when those explosions had seemed to come hunting
_him_. They aren't alive, he thought as he noticed that several
more explosions had annihilated those who'd been standing on the
bases, But I can't fight them, I can't save anybody.
      Ranma felt the impact on his chest as Tomiyo shoved him off
the back of the bleachers.  The man seemed backlit for an instant
as Ranma fell.  Ranma landed on his feet as explosions shattered
the bleachers and the people in them, throwing pieces of wood and
people in all directions.  As bits struck his face, his clothes
and the ground all around him, he could smell the burnt wood,
explosives, and blood, but he could hear nothing, as if he was
watching a silent movie.  Every instinct told him to advance,
attack, and defend those weaker than himself.  There's no target,
there's no one _to_ hit, he thought as he came out of his initial
shock.
      Sound returned, practically throwing him back with its
intensity.  Tomiyo probably told me to run, he thought as he
turned, running _away_ from the carnage, while every variation of
the word 'coward' rang in his mind, This isn't a fight I can win.
I couldn't beat the mortars before, when they killed Nancy
Thompson, I cannot beat them now.  He increased his speed, hoping
to outrun whoever was adjusting their aim.
      Shinji and Asuka! he realized as he turned and ran at his
best speed, he glanced over his shoulder as the ground behind him
continued to erupt.  The explosions seemed to be stomping on the
bleachers.  He tore his gaze away and faced forward,
concentrating on where he was running.
      He let his training and Sammi's endless lectures take over.
He pointed himself to Misato's apartment and ran.
------------------------------
Call Or Raise
      Rei watched the men with guns approaching the apartment.
None wear uniforms or act as authorized personnel would, Rei
thought as she loaded the HE grenade and the rifle blank.
      As she had been trained, she popped up and fired, then
ducked back down.
      The explosion sliced through the men.  Rei glanced up to see
if the other escape routes were clear.  A second group was
approaching the upper door, but had frozen at the explosion that
had shredded the first group.
      The first group were to flush Juri and Mein Grosse
Feldmarschall, Rei thought as she emptied her pistol into the
upper group, Into the hands of the second.  She ducked as she
came under fire from somewhere.  She glanced at the other
building, then shot and killed the sniper who'd thought to pin
her down.  She loaded a white phosphorus grenade on the launcher
and fired it like a mortar into the second group.  She
immediately loaded another WP round.  I hope someone has called
NERV or the police, she thought as she crept along behind the
building's parapet, to pop up and see where her next target was.
The survivors of the lower group peppered the parapet with fire,
as Rei fired the grenade in a high arc to land amid the men.  She
ignored their screams as she loaded another HE round, crawled to
a new position and prepared to pop up again and to determine
which of the two groups she would fire directly into next shot.
------------------------------
      Sammi watched as Hiro `retreated` towards the patio and
Misato headed towards the kitchen for a beer.  Poor PenPen, she
thought as the penguin looked from one to the other, He seems
torn who to go after.  The bird has more sense than both of them
put together.
      The penguin let out a horrendous scream, and raced for
Shinji's room.  Sammi saw Misato reaching for her pistol as she
reached for her own.
      "Behind us!" Hiro called about the men landing on the
balcony.
------------------------------
      The cacophony was almost deafening.  "Cut off those
channels!" Admiral Adams ordered.
      "Colonel Stedman in the clear, sir!" a rating reported.
      "Report!" Adams ordered.
      "We're just hanging on, sir.  They've hit every opening they
can find and a few we didn't know about.  An armed Marine beats a
locked door, and we have both, but we've got a lot of
infiltrators."
      "Hold out as long as you can.  Help is on the way."
      "Aye - " noise replaced the Colonel's voice.
      "Sorry, sir," the man apologized, "We get a hole, and they
close it."
      "Keep on it," Adams said in a controlled tone as he turned
and marched towards where Dr. Akagi and her group were putting
the fragmentary information together.  "Status."
      Analyst Ibuki pulled out the map they'd been working on, and
held it so Adams could see it.  Dr. Akagi indicated the areas in
red, areas critical to NERV operations and military support of
them.
      "They knew exactly where to hit us," Akagi told him quietly,
"I doubt it's more than a battalion or two.  Mostly standard
infantry, with a few items of magical support to stymie us."
      "Who, and why?" he whispered back.
      "I don't know.  I do know that this is now the only
integrated and coordinated military force between Nagoya and
Sendai.  And the only one with full air and artillery support."
She looked pointedly at where the ship's 5-inch gun turrets would
be.
      Adams looked grim and considered the targets, deployments,
and all the things he and his staff had been wargaming since Dr.
Akagi had counseled more speed and keeping their true location
secret throughout the group.  "Initiate plan Alpha 7, a
fleet-supported invasion against a prepared enemy," he told his
officers, "We'll add units already on the beach to our TOE as
they become available.  Boxer will remain far enough offshore to
continue to operate aircraft.  All other vessels, including this
one and Wasp, will move up to support the landing troops.  As
soon as we're in range, signal the Coral Sea, Tennessee, Alaska,
South Dakota, and any other warship that isn't actively shooting
at something, to use their radios to break through this damned
interference and gather some useful intelligence on what is going
on out there."  Adams turned back to look at the map and
contemplate the invasion of Tokyo.  "The EVAs, how effective will
they be against the attackers?"
      "That depends on the pilot.  Pilots Davis and Ayanami will
give you good results, but the others, I have doubts," Ritsuko
admitted.
      Maya looked as uncomfortable as Adams felt about sending
kids against these people.
      Ritsuko continued, "But against infantry, they'll need
infantry support themselves."
      "We'll provide that," Adams said.
      "There is one thing, sir," Maya piped up, when no one
shouted her down, she continued, "The EVAs have very powerful and
complicated radios."
      "A sophisticated communications suite with automatic
counter- and counter-counter-measures integrated," Dr. Akagi
quickly explained.
      "Captain Madison is qualified on the EVA and with
communication," Maya finished.
      Adams nodded.  "I don't think I can command as well from an
EVA, and I've never been sync tested," Adams said, "Someone
should give Captain Madison the good news."
------------------------------
      Jamie felt the rescue workers lower her onto the stretcher.
While she'd been too close to the blasts for a human to have
survived them, she was not human, nor were her compatriots.  She
hoped that they'd been able to save their current `guardians`
from the bulk of the blasts, and that her deafness was temporary.
 From what I smelled as I lay there, I'm almost glad I couldn't
hear, she thought, Too many years, and too much knowledge.  At
least Ranma got away, but we're in no condition to pursue or
assist.
      She could barely move to look around, so she didn't know the
full extent of the carnage.  She couldn't hear, so she didn't
ask.  Ayanami lives, and so does Ranma, in neither case can
anything be done, she thought as the ambulance doors closed,
darkening the interior, and allowing her to openly reform her
wounds.  The odd, yet unmistakable smell of war wounds filled the
air around her.  Explosives, burnt metal, blood and more told the
tale.  There will be Hell to pay for _this_ lapse, or this
infiltration.  With all that was _supposed_ to occur at the
meeting at NERV, I doubt there will be anything but
finger-pointing for some time, she thought, the rough ride of the
ambulance tempted her to leap out and begin her hunt.  She
refused.  When I catch these men.  I shall crush their balls, she
thought, as she transformed her clothing to a nurse's uniform,
Then I will laugh.
------------------------------
      Minayo looked down at the corpse of his son, then over to
where the medics were evacuating Obayun Shimurata and his wife.
At least I will have something to bury, he thought, Saotome
wanted me to be proud of my son.  Now I am, and there is no way
for us to reconcile.
      He turned away, leaving the grieving father at the side of
his dead son, and returned to being a detective.  The military is
in chaos, but I know all the places they will need to go, he
thought angrily, Japan is _our_ home, our place, _we_ should be
the ones to defend it.  Perhaps we can, if only second-hand.
------------------------------
      Nabiki concentrated.  The gentle winds moving the dust
around the map, gave it an odd, crawling appearance.  More like a
bug than wind-blown sand, she thought.  Only Ritsuko and Maya
were with her in the `Pilot's Playroom`, as she cast the spell.
All three watched as the dust crawled off in two piles towards
the edges of the map.
      Nabiki felt the hair on the back of her neck rising. I'm
casting and controlling the spell, and I'm still freaked out by
it, she thought as the dust settled in two piles near opposite
edges of the map.
      "Figures," Ritsuko said as she marked the locations, then
explained, "The one outside of Fuji is Gendo's bolt-hole.  The
one at Matsuhiro is the backup base, in case we lost the first
base in Tokyo.  I think the situation goes beyond mere
'communication difficulties'."
      "So," Nabiki said as she released the spell, grateful that
Maya caught her as she sagged, "This is hard work.  Do we go
after the Admiral or the Commander?"
      "Split up," Maya offered as she steadied Nabiki on her feet,
"I'll take a force to contact the Commander.  You two can get the
Matsuhiro base up and running."
      Ritsuko raised an eyebrow.  "You'll 'take a force'?  Doesn't
the Navy have anything to say about this?"
      Rather than wilt, Maya smiled.  "I'm sure they'll say
'yes'."
      "That assumes that you _|are|_ going after the Commander,"
Nabiki said, "Once that dust separated, I had no idea which was
which, and still don't."
      Ritsuko considered.  "You'll go with me to Matsuhiro, Maya
and her new army can go to Fuji and collect whomever is there."
      This time Maya blushed and stared at the deck.
      "What about getting to HQ and getting another couple of
EVAs?" Nabiki asked.
      "We'll leave that to the commanders in the field," Ritsuko
told them, "I think Admiral Adams at least needs to be informed
of our plans, before he has to carry them out."
      "It's never stopped us before," Nabiki said as they trooped
out.
------------------------------
      Ranma ran headlong for Shinji's apartment.  The speed and
motion let him focus on the problem and ignore all he'd seen.
Sammi will know what to do, who to call, he told himself as he
raced up the stairs.  Some instinct told him to freeze, so he
quietly crept up the last few flights, to peer at the hallway in
front of the apartment.
      The man standing in front of the door wasn't military or
NERV, and while apparently unarmed, stood like an armed guard
would.  The sound of gunfire from inside spurred Ranma on.  The
guard barely had a chance to register Ranma and begin bringing
the concealed sawed-off shotgun around when Ranma piled into him.
The martial artist kicked the man through the door and into the
apartment, knocking over a half-dozen men who'd been waiting in
the hallway.  The cacophony of automatic fire made Ranma dodge
away from the doorway.
      Ranma jumped through the doorway, ready to attack.  Those
who waited were down, wounded by their own weapons.  Rather than
exult, Ranma felt terrified about the possibilities.  Got to
know, he thought as he ran through the short hall and ducked into
the kitchen, ignoring the bloodied men he stepped on.  In the
quick glimpse, he saw men shooting at Sammi from behind the
furniture.  Hiro was already down, lying near the shattered patio
doors.  One of the living room chairs had gone through the patio
doors, and skewered a man on the balcony.  Misato was in a heap
beneath the dining room table, she'd never even gotten her gun
out.  He saw all this in an instant, his senses alive and
drinking in the information, prioritizing targets, planning
attack patterns.
      While the time since his first kick had seemed long to him,
he realized that his enemies were only starting to react to the
disturbance, Ranma felt his need to protect Shinji and the others
boiling up in him.  Go! he commanded himself, the blue-white ball
that erupted out of his chest to explode among the attackers
surprised them as much as it did Ranma.  Ranma recovered first,
and an instant later, he was among them.
      These aren't school kids, or monsters from another
dimension, he realized as he struck with full force, They're
flesh and blood combat troops.  Ranma ignored the fact that they
seemed to be practically standing still in comparison to his
speed.  He still held back only enough not to kill.  I won't kill
people, he thought as he shattered one man's gun and most of the
ribs behind it, I will _hurt_ them!  They won't hurt anyone else
_ever_!_  He waded through them.  Striking to break bones and
joints.  A dozen men had stood against him, now they were
writhing on the floor, if they could even move.
      He kicked their guns onto the patio and jumped to where
Sammi lay in the short hallway to the bedrooms.  He knelt beside
her and reached out to her.  Her skin was painfully hot to the
touch, beyond fever.  A light passed over her face like a spot
light, and she convulsed.
      "Ranma," she sobbed, taking his hands, "Please . . . "
      "Shinji's okay, I knocked them down."  Her grip was so
strong, he wanted to cry out, but the pain anchored him.  He
glanced briefly at his opponents, they weren't moving.  Neither
was Hiro.  PenPen glanced out of Shinji's room, and withdrew.
      "Please take me," Sammi sighed, "I can't last much long."
She grimaced.  "Hurts so much."
      "You'll be fine.  Help's on the way," he assured her.  I
can't carry her _and_ Shinji, Ranma thought, Without hurting
them.
      "Always . . . a bad liar."  She convulsed again, her face
and hand tightening as light shone on them, but this time, her
grip had no strength.  "Forgive Ritsuko, she only wanted you
safe."  She looked at him, her expression softened as she gained
a moment of peace.  "I loved you.  I couldn't help it . . . but
so many others do - " She flushed as her face glowed again.
      What are you talking about? Ranma wanted to shout.
      When the moment passed, Sammi grew determined.  "Take me.
You don't need the EVA anymore.  I have knowledge, insights that
you need about the others.  About _you_.  Don't let it be lost,
let it be my legacy."
      "I don't understand," he replied in horror, turned to ask
Hiro's help, but instead of a body, only a handful of blue and
white crystals spilled out of the man's deflated clothes.
      "As you take from our enemies - accept from a friend," Sammi
gasped, "Please say yes, even if it's a lie."
      His flesh crawled at what he thought she was asking, at
Hiro's disintegration, at the attacks.  "Yes, I . . . I don't
understand," Ranma said miserably, knowing he was missing
something, knowing that she was beyond what little healing he
could do.
      "You will - I can give you that.  Forgive me, forgive
Ritsuko, we only wanted you safe."
      "You've done it, Shinji's safe . . . " he trailed off as she
went limp in his arms.  He couldn't even scream as she began to
break down, becoming the gray dust the Angels did as they died.
Ranma reeled back, falling to the floor as he felt his mind
exploding.  He clawed at the carpet, tried to back away until the
wall stopped him.  He couldn't run away from what cascaded
through his mind and into his soul.  Unlike the disgusting
feeling of a Great Old Ones' `self` slithering into his mind,
forcing him to fight for his life and sanity, this was gentler,
softer.  An offer, not a battle.  Thoughts, Sammi's thought, was
all he could manage of his own.  He centered himself, knew that
he had to do something, and Ranma Saotome _never_ lost and
_always_ figured out a way to win.  He tried to keep the
thoughts, feelings, emotions, bits of Sammi together, keep her
together.  He desperately raced around in his mind, trying to
herd them back together.  Even as they escaped, he developed
better techniques from his thoughts and the other's experiences,
but her thoughts and emotions were like quicksilver, slipping
through his fingers even when he caught them.  Knowledge and
information began to pile up.  Promised insights into the other
pilots, understanding of himself, martial arts, bits of other
languages and sciences.  Triumphs and tragedies.
      All I want is you _whole_!_ he wanted to wail as more of her
eroded and faded away, becoming him, nothing he did slowed the
process, as if she _sought_ oblivion within his mind, as if she
sought to get away, from her pain, from _him_, Don't you love us,
don't you love _me_?  Then _stay_!_  Don't leave me, don't throw
me away!  He turned away, tried to claw at the walls to escape.
Please, somebody help me!  Anybody?  I can save her, if somebody
can help me!
      Realization hit hard, he tried to deny she was gone, even as
her last warm thought ensconced itself in his mind.  He tried to
deny it, tried to promise that he would reverse the process, or
the others would.  Acknowledgment came as he watched the odd
splashes as his tears struck the fine gray dust his thrashing had
scattered all over the hallway.  He slid to the floor, staring at
the carpet and the tiny heaps of dust scattered like a mountain
range from a titan's point of view.
      He lay there, helpless.  I was too late.  If I'd been here,
if I'd stayed instead of . . .   Memories of Mirei's death, and
Tomiyo's crashed into him.  Even as he blamed himself, a soft
voice comforted him and told him, 'Not you or anyone else could
have changed things.  You can only live with what is, not what
you wish it as.'
      I have no choice now, he thought, his fingers idly moving
through the dust, all that remained of his teacher, his friend -
- my mother, more than almost anyone else was.  I'm crying, why
don't I _feel_ something?  Why is all I feel . . . wonderment?
Joy, her joy at being with us, protecting us.  He raised himself
up from where he'd fallen.  His thoughts were finally clear,
because his mind felt empty, as if he'd been destroyed too.
      He heard more as the attackers began stirring.  Now all he
could feel was rage, cold not hot.  They killed Mirei, and
Tomiyo, and Hiro, and even Usagi and Tomoe.  They killed us all,
and for what? he demanded of his new found knowledge, and found
he had only one answer.  "It doesn't matter," he said calmly, his
rage had fled along with all other thoughts, as if they feared
contact with the one thought that remained.  One cold and
rational conclusion, a sea of clarity in his troubled life.
There were no words, but Ranma knew, These men have hurt us over
and over, now they will never threaten the pilots again.
      As he stood, Ranma ignored PenPen's squawk of alarm, and the
arrival of Captain Ramsey and a squad of troops.  He had a
mission.
------------------------------
      Captain Ramsey ran through the door into the apartment,
followed by the dozen men he'd managed to scrape up.  He saw
Saotome poised to strike.  His victim glanced at Ramsey.
      "I know the whole network," the man told Ramsey, "You'll
lose it all."
      Ramsey knew, We need that info!  But he looked in Ranma's
eyes and saw madness, not anger but a cold insanity.  Ranma's
glance registered Ramsey and the combat troops, but returned to
his target.  I can order Ranma off.  I know he'll obey . . . and
that would be the last time I could be certain of an order to
Ranma by anyone being obeyed again.  I'll have used up all the
respect I and the others have built up.  "Saotome, that's not
necessary," he said, trying to persuade rather than order.
      Ranma glanced at him.  It isn't stubbornness in those eyes,
or any of the other traits Ranma had that I know I could
manipulate, Ramsey realized, feeling a creeping horror that he
was witnessing a murder, He looks at us with tolerance.
Tolerance of me, the men with me, and our moral qualms.
      He paused out of politeness, Ramsey realized, Now he's going
to act.  He watched as Ranma knelt next to his target, taking
especial care.  This is like one of those samurai movies, Ramsey
thought as he approached, They take special care when they kill
themselves.   Then it struck him, That bastard down there is
going to destroy Ranma, or our ability to use him.  Either way we
lose!  Crap!  "Saotome, it's a trick.  If you kill a helpless man
it's a line you've never crossed.  He's trying to _make_ you
destroy yourself, even if he dies, he will have won."  When Ranma
paused, Ramsey hoped he had gotten through to him.  "Leave him to
us," Ramsey said as he drew his sidearm as he got close, "I'll do
it.  You can make sure it's done."
      Ranma ripped the gun out of his hand and threw it away.
Making it clear the death and the killing would be his alone.
Ramsey glanced at the men who'd come with him, none were willing
to face Saotome in combat, not over a man who would be executed
anyway.  There's nothing I can do, he thought as his failure and
helplessness closed in on him, Not if I want any of them to
follow orders in the future.  I can either lose Saotome, or lose
all use of him.  The answer came simply.  My oath is against all
enemies foreign and domestic, he thought as he reached for Ranma,
Not to live through it.
------------------------------
      Ranma appreciated what Ramsey was trying to do, but he'd
made up his mind.  I know the cost, and the risks, he thought as
he tossed Ramsey away as gently as he could, Sammi wouldn't want
me to hurt someone who was trying to help.  But I don't want that
help.  He raised his hand to strike.  I give you a clean death,
he thought, More than you deserve.
      The sandy-brown hand occupied the entire patio windows, and
struck before Ranma could.  The immense fist enclosed Ranma and
carried him outside.  Even Ranma's martial arts skills gave him
little chance against an EVA.  Ranma's violence and rage, beating
on the massive warmachine, screaming insults and twisting to
escape, might have gained the leverage he needed to escape.  You
don't dare use your full strength against me, he thought as he
struggled.  For a few moments, he thought his skills old and new
might prevail.  Then he remembered how ruthless his opponent was.
      "|DAVIS!  GODDAMN YOU!|" Ranma shrieked as something new
enclosed him, setting off echoes in his mind and heart of Sammi's
love for him, and Nab-chan's, even Asuka and Rei's in their weird
way.  "Damn you!  Damn you!  Damn you!" he shouted as his
resolved crumbled.
------------------------------
      The martial art's frantic counterattack availed him nothing
against the EVA that held him.  Then the huge machine opened its
fist, and Saotome made no attempt to escape.  Instead, pounding
weakly on the machine's palm.
      Ramsey watched as Ranma's black hair and screams of protest
and rage, changed to red hair and became sobs of grief.  The EVA
held the martial artist no less tightly, but the intent had
changed completely.  While it soothed and cradled Ranko, another
arm came in the window.
------------------------------
      Did you deny Ranma the kill, just to make it yourself?
Captain Madison thought of the pilot floating in the plug bottom,
Yes, Tendo or you might -_would_ do - exactly that.
      His attention returned to the scene in the apartment as the
man's expression changed from smug condescension to alarm as the
EVA pinned him to the ground.  No, I was wrong, he thought, You
aren't going to kill him, because that would be too easy.  After
all he's done to you and the others, you are going to destroy
him, an inch at a time.
      The EVA didn't crush him as Ramsey and the target expected,
but the man's screams of terror soon outstripped Ranko's cries of
unconsolable grief.  Madison squirmed at the sounds, and watched
Ramsey and his men react much the same.  Then the EVA removed its
hand and revealed what the target had been going through.
      Rather than bending in the usual places, each of the man's
legs zigzagged like a child's drawing of a lightning bolt.
Ramsey and the other soldiers drew back in horror at the scene.
      At least he's alive, Madison thought as he turned away,
Davis, you are a _sick_ bastard.  He looked into the faces of the
horrified troops who accompanied Ramsey and arrived later.
      "Get some people upstairs to res - _receive_ Saotome,"
Ramsey ordered, "And get a medic for Katsuragi."  The man looked
ready to lose it right on the carpet.
      Madison was gratefully the EVA put Saotome in the makeshift
stretcher and walked away from the apartment.  I doubt Saotome
will be in any condition to pilot in any case, he realized, That
leaves Ayanami, Langley and whoever is still aboard the carrier.
And God help anyone who gets in their way!
------------------------------



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