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

Daniel Jess Gibson dan_s.comments at att.net
Mon Jun 23 17:28:21 PDT 2008

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

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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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
      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
      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.

      The destroyer approached the pier.  The pilot boat shearing
away, but still staying in range of the 40mm guns, as if offering
itself as hostage to the good behavior of the men and women
waiting on shore.  Colonel Tyler looked out of the windows of the
destroyer's lightly armored bridge.  Every squad has either a
police officer or a man with a cap from the Imperial Army or
Navy.  They look like they're on review, he thought nervously,
They also outnumber my first batch of Marines, although a
destroyer at point-blank range evens things up considerably.  He
noted the AA gunners with their automatic cannons covering the
men who waited on the dock.
      "Thank you for the smooth ride, Commander.  What do you make
of that?" Tyler asked Evans, the destroyer's captain.
      "Saw it on the Philippine landings, the populace wants to
help.  I watched teams of cops directing traffic, until the MPs
could take over, and people pulling the jeeps and prime movers
across the beach to get them moving," Evans replied, "They led us
in and tied us up proper, good evolution.  My boys have them
covered, and they know it."
      "Might as well get this over with," Tyler said, "Weirdest
goddamn invasion of all time."
      Captain Tendo Minayo felt the sweat crawling down his spine
as the Marines landed.  Three destroyers had him and his entire
force in a crossfire.  I vouch for all these men and women, or
someone I trust does.  There will be no untoward actions on our
part, he tried to reassure himself, And I can't exactly _order_
them to hurry.
      The Marine Major started as the entire formation saluted,
and held it until he'd returned it.  Minayo nodded to two of his
aides to follow him as he walked forward and a 40mm quad Bofors
tracked their every step.  "We have assembled what forces and
volunteers we can.  All the armor is still locked behind locked
gates and green lieutenants with no orders," he said as he
offered his hand in an American-style handshake, rather than the
more fitting bow.  He was relieved when the Marine took it and
shook it once, but firmly.
      He gestured for his two aides to open the maps they had
sketched out.  "Several of the larger armories are held by
scratch forces of whoever could be trusted," he said as he
pointed out the friendly positions, and politely ignored the
Major's guards pointing their guns at him.  I'm a cop, not a
soldier anymore, my job is to defuse problems, he reminded
himself.  "There are groups of soldiers who have assembled, ready
to fight, but not knowing where to go or in which direction to
attack.  My people are not so married to radios as you Americans
are.  Perhaps one day all Japanese will have a radio, perhaps
everyone in the world will have a Japanese-made radio," he said
and chuckled at his foolishness, getting the American Marines to
smile for once, a sign that violence would be either occur this
instant or be indefinitely postponed.  "That is not today.
Today, boys too young and girls have their bicycles as our
      "You offer yourself as guides?" the major asked, signaling
to someone still aboard the ship.
      "We know you would not trust us with weapons, Major.  Do not
mistake us," he explained, "We do not want you here.  Like any
child who thinks they are an adult, they despise the reminder
that they are not.  But the robber is at the door, and if we must
take a second role to defend our homes, we shall do so."
      "I think we may be able to do better than that," the Major
said grimly.
      Gendo ran.  He didn't know if they were closing on him and
Fuyutsuki, or not.  The old man was obviously laboring.  How did
they know? he wondered about the team pursuing him, Only Dr.
Akagi and Kozou knew about that hideout.  I hadn't even told the
U.S. military.  So how were they waiting for us?
      "Can - can't - go - on," his old friend told him, leaning on
a tree, gasping for breath, "Even if that Dark Young catches me."
      Gendo too was out of breath, too out of breath to waste it
assuring the man he'd be fine.  Not that he'd believe it, Gendo
thought as he directed Fuyutsuki under some cover.
      "Draw them off," he promised as he dashed away.  He didn't
know if he meant Fuyutsuki would draw them from him, or he'd draw
them from Fuyutsuki.  But now they'll close in, I'm too tired to
keep running for long, he thought as he ran.
      "Admiral Adams," Captain Miller said, "The Marines have met
allied partisans, as well as scattered Allied armed force units.
Colonel Tyler requests permission to incorporate these elements."
      He's asking High Command's position on arming the Japanese.
I can hear the screaming from the Joint Chiefs if I say 'yes',
but nobody will hear _anything_ if our enemies are able to gain
the secrets at NERV, he thought and wished the NERV officers
hadn't departed.
      "Tell him to follow his best instincts, Captain Miller.
Light weapons only, and keep them spread out over the
formations," Adams told the Captain.  He returned to the map that
the officers and noncoms were filling in to give him an accurate
picture of the actual situation.
      "Reports from Dr. Akagi's group," the rating reported,
"They've reached the outskirts of Matsuhiro."
      "Let me guess, they're meeting stiff resistance," Adams
      "Yes, sir.  That was the impression I got before they were
cut off," the rating reported.
      "Nothing about today has been easy or simple," he muttered
under his breath.  "Send them air support and arrange for gunfire
support by our group and the battleships.  All of you please
remind the units that locating the other pilots is our highest
priority."  He waited for the chorus of 'Aye, aye, sir's and
returned his full attention to the map.  I never wanted Simson's
job, I just took an action that will make certain I don't get it,
he thought, But I will not go down without using every weapon in
my arsenal to their best effect.  Odd that only at NERV and
Matsuhiro has resistance been encountered.  They wouldn't have
been stupid enough to assume they could hold off the U.S. Army
forever did they?  Even if we didn't show up early.  Our
knowledge of the operational art may be the biggest advantage we
have.  It's an advantage we'd better pass on to the pilots P.D.Q.
      He watched one of the Marine infantry platoons being
scratched out on the clear map boards, and replaced with another
symbol, the marker for an armored battalion.  "Everywhere we find
guides, applause and all the help we could ask for," he told the
Captain quietly, "It's going to be the Champagne Campaign all
over again.  As long as we don't hit any further snags."
      "They can still hurt us," the Captain reminded him, "The
pilots are the key.  If they've gotten them, we've lost."
      "If we can find the source of them, we have a carrier
airwing, an EVA and two battleships to silence it."
      "Yes, sir.  Until then, it's the Marines' job."
      Rei looked in disgust at the bent end of the rifle.  It will
not function now, she thought, Even if I ignored my own safety
and the weapon's accuracy.  She briefly considered throwing the
rifle at her foes, or the grenades.  I do not know how to arm
them for hand-throwing.  A serious gap in my knowledge.
Potentially fatal, she thought, a brief amusement at her joke.
      She crawled to a new locations and popped-up for a glimpse.
As she ducked back down, she registered the four additional
groups of men closing in on the doors on both levels, from
opposite directions.  They wore uniforms, a mix of NERV, Tokyo
City Police, USN, USMC and even the Imperial military, she
thought of the groups.  The sound of sustained submachine gun
fire brought her up for another glimpse.  The new groups were
gunning down the besiegers, then spraying the bodies with
additional gunfire.   Odd, she thought, then sensed movement
behind her.  Another group of uniformed men were arriving on her
roof.  She fired a warning shot from her pistol as she maneuvered
to take cover from either side.
      The ensign looked up from where he'd thrown himself flat.
He spotted the hole in his helmet, and the chief shaking his
      "Son, you should just stay _away_ from the pilots," the
chief warned as he stayed behind cover and began tying a large,
white cloth to his rifle's sling.
      "I've got that damned code-phrase," the ensign answered
angrily from his prone position, riffling through his notebook,
"Blue hair, got it."  He rolled over and then shouted, "Roku-kun
sends his regards!  Have you found another violinist for a string
      "What kind of a password is that?" the ensign asked quietly.
      The white flag the chief extended and waved didn't get a
bullet through it.  "One that works," the chief told him, "Now
we're getting somewhere."  He waved the flag and stepped out of
cover, and didn't get a bullet through himself.
      Ritsuko and Nabiki followed the combat troops, who were
methodically clearing away the enemy guards with no mercy.  A few
tried to report or cry for reinforcements.  Such men usually were
cut to pieces.
      This is going to easy, Ritsuko thought, then saw one man
simply fall over backwards.  The others rushed towards him, and
stumbled when they stepped where he had been.  Force field of
some kind, Ritsuko realized.  "There's an invisible wall out
there.  Have the men probe for the edges, but look out for
      The Marine Captain nodded as one of the tanks bounced a 75mm
shell off the wall and everyone took cover.
      "Don't do that," Ritsuko suggested forcefully, "And don't
probe the shield with gunfire.  We don't know where those bullets
will bounce."
      The enemy began firing at the troops.  For whatever reason,
their bullets could get out of the field, but none of the return
fire could get at them.
      "Fall back!" the captain ordered, then turned back to
Ritsuko, "You NERV ladies have any suggestions?"
      "Call the Admiral," Nabiki offered, "You're going to need
more than what you brought, and I know where they have some very
big guns."
      Asuka peered at the chart, her mind awhirl as she
calculated.  A hapless ensign had made the mistake of suggesting
she shouldn't be in the CIC.  Asuka had just glared at him
momentarily, then turned away to continue writing.  She saw
someone escort the man away.
      "Admiral Adams, I have a solution for you on how to deal
with those shields," Asuka announced as she approached the man,
who was realizing _all_ the pilots were like this.  "A Time On
Target barrage."
      "A what?" Captain Miller asked.
      Asuka sighed.  "You Americans invented it.  You calculate
the flight time of each shell and you make a firing schedule
based on that, so all the shells arrive simultaneously."
      Adams frowned, then began, "That would take - "
      "I've got it."  Asuka handed him the paper she'd been
writing on.  "I simplified it by assuming the center of the ship
and I assumed only the 5 inch 38 caliber guns would fire.  That
gives you approximately 142 guns that bear, the dispersion will
probably be on the low end of two to five seconds, but I was in a
hurry and I don't think your people are trained in this
      Adams stared at the list of ships, angles of elevation,
powder charges and firing times, then back at Asuka.  Adams gave
up to the inevitable.  He turned to an equally shocked Captain
Miller and ordered, "Have this transmitted to all ships along
with a time synchronization signal.  Then tell the ground troops
to stand by, no use sacrificing perfectly good infantry when
artillery will do the job, thank you Miss Langley."
      Asuka smiled and marched off to find some other problem to
solve.  She overheard Adams saying to his flag captain, 'I don't
_want_ Simson's job.  Monsters are one thing, we can _shoot_
them.  The tricks these kids pull off, and out of left field, are
just scary.'
      Wonderful, Raccoon and Ice Princess have _him_ trained,
Asuka thought happily as she approached the communications
operators and the problem of enemy jamming.
Wild Cards
      "Black Sheep Actual, this is Lost Lamb," Nabiki called into
the radio, "The target is 35 degrees eight minutes from panel
marker, best course is 55 degrees magnetic to put it right down
their throats.  Over."
      "Black Sheep Actual, Black Sheep two and six are standing by
Bess, but the Navy wants to start the show.  Over."
      Nabiki ignored the snickers and smiles of those around her
to concentrate on getting better cover.  "Probably the
battleships," she told the radio man, "Get under cover."
      Then it seemed that every ship in the harbor opened up at
once.  The silence that accompanied such a display of violence
gave the event an eldritch feel.  The noise of that many shells
ripping through the air, followed by the noise of their firing
was incomparable to anything in Nabiki's experience, even the
ordinance car going up outside of Roswell hadn't been that loud.
The detonation of the shells was worse.  The noise was muted by
her ears refusing to register a sound that loud, and it was
mercifully short.  Once the dust finished raining down around
them, Nabiki glanced at Ritsuko who stared back at her in shock.
Both stared over the ridge of the dugout at the real target of
all the shell fire.
      "Radiation?" Nabiki asked as she looked up at the mushroom
cloud and the huge disrupted area viewable only by glimpses
through the dust and smoke.
      "Don't be ridiculous.  They don't have battleship-fired
nukes."  Ritsuko didn't sound like she believed it.
      "Bess, report on target, over," the radio demanded.
      "It's covered with dust and smoke," Nabiki replied, then
realized she'd automatically answered to 'Bess', "Wait one,
over."  She watched as the dust settled and all the outer
defenses were devastated by the shell holes.  "Black Sheep
Actual, Lost Lamb, target has been neutralized, I say again,
target neutralized, over."
      "They got it, over?"
      "They got it and a half," Ritsuko commented under her
      Nabiki ignored her and replied, "That's affirmative.  Don't
run off, we may still need you, over."
      "Everybody else is waiting on this dance," Black Sheep
Actual replied, "Against the main base, they'll be sending in the
EVA, over."
      "I think I feel sorry for them," Ritsuko commented.
      Nabiki nodded.  "Depends on who's driving.  With Rei or
Jeff, the level of kill is - _way over._"
      The roots had seemed to leap out of the ground at him,
tripping him, and throwing him to the ground and his glasses gods
knew where.  He looked at the shapes approaching, cringed at the
blast of gunfire that one of his attackers let fly, so Gendo
would know who had absolute control over his fate.
      "You will die now!" one of them shouted.
      Gendo couldn't make out the figures well enough to know who
had said it and whom he should focus on.
      '|STONEFACE!  HIT THE DECK!|' he heard the shout in English
and threw himself flat on the ground.  The sound of _several_
American 50's opening up filled the air.  He heard the whine and
wet thwack of bullets, for a brief instant, then the sound of
someone scrambling towards him.  The figure was just a blur, but
he recognized the color and pattern of Marine combat fatigues.
      "Commander," the voice said in Japanese, an oddly familiar
voice.  Then he saw two rods heading for his eyes.  He scrambled
back against a tree, trying to avoid having his eyes gouged out.
The rods neatly missed his eyes, slid on either side of his head,
carrying the red lenses of his glasses with them.
      "Better, Commander?" the soldier who'd come into focus,
asked in Japanese.
      He stared at the determined face under the helmet, unable to
speak, believing he'd truly gone mad.  It's impossible! he
thought.  "Lieutenant Ibuki?"  He looked over the kneeling woman
in the Marine uniform, including the M3 `Greasegun` cradled in
her lap.
      "Yes, Commander," she replied with a smile and a salute.
      "Lieutenant."  A grizzled Marine sergeant approached, also
carrying a submachine gun, this one ready to be used at a
moment's notice.
      Maya carrying a submachine gun?  Commanding armed troops in
combat?  This is like watching a lone duck eat a lion alive, he
thought, looking around at the troops appearing on both sides,
_She_ set up this ambush?!
      "We picked up another old man," the sergeant informed her,
"And something big thrashing around out there."
      Gendo felt, but hid, a stab of fear.  They don't have any
special weapons teams, he thought of the device he still carried
with him, This looks to be a standard infantry platoon.  Then he
saw Maya's determined look, the fear he expected was still there,
but so was a confidence he'd _never_ seen before.
      "Do you have a direction, Sergeant?" Maya asked as she
      When the sergeant nodded, Maya nodded and composed herself.
      "Squad!  Volley fire, present!" Maya ordered.
      Eight men hefted bazookas.  They all acted as if what they
were going to do would actually matter.
      And Maya seems to believe the same thing, Gendo noted.
"That won't stop it," he explained.  Maya gave him a gamine
smile, hiding a secret.
      The Dark Young crashed out of the trees.
      "Aim!  I said _AIM_!_" Maya shouted, forcing the men's
training, and her own, to overcome their instincts to flee.
      A volley of eight bazookas fired at once.  The Dark Young
reeled back at the impact and fell with a crash, while the
bazooka team frantically reloaded.  He watched in fascination as
the creature almost instantly quit writhing and lay still.  He
also stared as _Maya_ of all people deployed troops, arranged for
transport, leaving the sergeants and the Master Chiefs to
actually place the troops, but they were clearly following the
lieutenant's orders.
      "There are other problems, sir," she told him, "We'll get
back to a secure point and better be able to deploy our forces."
      "They sabotaged the communications system at headquarters,"
he told her.
      She frowned, appearing cute rather than ferocious, until she
glanced at the combat veterans awaiting her orders.  Cute she
might be, he realized, But she is obviously in command.
      "We'll have to get back to the carrier," she told the
troops, "Bring up the trucks and arrange aircraft to pick us up."
      The radio man nodded and gave the orders.  Gendo stared at
Fuyutsuki as he arrived.   The old man was also staring at Maya,
as if she were a rabid lion, rather than their rather shy bridge
      "This is the old man," a corporal said to Maya, nodded to
the deputy commander.
      She saluted Fuyutsuki smartly and smiled at them.
"Professor Fuyutsuki, I presume."  Then turned to the others.
"Don't worry about the pronunciation.  You'll get it soon
      Gendo had been watching the entire exchange with
well-disguised fascination. Two months ago I would have bet my
library this was impossible, he thought, Yet, here it is.  I
guess Simson _is_ correct, we need to adapt and grow.
      "Commander," Maya addressed him in formal Japanese, standing
at attention, "We should move out."
      "You are in command of these troops," Gendo told her as they
walked, "They neither know nor trust me enough to follow my
orders.  Until we get back to NERV and can straighten out the
chain of command."
      "How badly did I hit my head to be hallucinating all this?"
Fuyutsuki asked.
      Maya chuckled at that.
      The troops advanced cautiously, carefully.  Near the rear of
the formation, Nabiki and Ritsuko scanned the area with more than
human senses.  "Funny," Nabiki said, "You'd be the first to stick
me in an EVA, or rush out yourself to fix one in the field, but
against ordinary humans with guns, you hold us back."
      "First," Ritsuko replied, "You're a girl, so we trained you
first."  She smiled at the old joke.  "Second, against the Angels
we would risk you, not against an ordinary infantryman.  Third,
do you really want these men to see how bulletproof we are?"
      Nabiki considered and decided to wait for the all clear.
      "This is it," the captain said, smacking his fist against
the heavy door.  "They'll be hostages in there, but we'll need
artillery to crack that door."
      "No, I just need you and your men to clear the corridor and
the adjoining areas," Ritsuko said coldly while staring at the
door, "Wait for my signal to return."
      "Ma'am, that goes against the Admiral's direct orders," the
captain told her.
      "We have scavenged some alien equipment, and we'll use that
to open the door," Ritsuko replied, smiled at the man and
continued, "You don't want to see it operating."
      "We _have_ clearance, ma'am," the captain said, trying to
stay polite as he argued, "Perhaps a small security force -?"
      "Captain, have you heard the stories, rumors that at NERV
there's a boy that changes into a girl?" Nabiki asked.
      The captain glanced around.  "One hears all kinds of strange
things, ma'am."
      "What do you think started the rumors in the first place?"
Nabiki asked, looked at the other men and smiled broadly, "Or
rather, what were the rumors started to cover up?"
      The captain saluted.  "I'll assemble a security force just
around the corner, and we'll be ready to move in as soon as you
call, or the doors are open and the device is off."
      "Very good, Captain, also call up someone with an
oxyacetylene cutter," Ritsuko said, "Miss Tendo will operate it."
She pulled out a soup can-sized object.  "We have an enhancer for
that too."
      "Very good ma'am."  The men hastily removed themselves to
their new guard post.
      "Very good, Miss Tendo," Ritsuko said with a smirk.
      "Can you really pull this door open, Doctor Akagi?"
      "Easily."  Ritsuko put a foot on one door and dug her
fingers into the joint between the doors, and pulled.
      Kaji watched without reacting as their captors received
reports.  I wish I'd studied the Matsuhiro base better, he
thought, Then I might have a plan.  He watched as their captors
panic slowly ratcheted up, neither Admiral Simson nor General
Tomlinson were anything but calm and collected.  They must have
gone to the same training as Commander Ikari,he thought.
      "Have you ever encountered an enraged pilot?" Simson asked
calmly, as he glanced to his fellow captives, and the leaders of
the kidnappers, "It is _quite_ something to see."
      The leader had already sent off his Spectral Hunters, and
was facing the attackers without them.
      "Your kidnappers are helpless against a pilot," Simson added
smoothly, sounding vaguely sympathetic.
      "Seal off the room!" the leader ordered.  The heavy doors
rumbled closed, side-to-side.
      Kaji knew, The complex was supposed to be the stronghold
where his Majesty and his general staff would direct the defense
of Tokyo.  It was supposed to be proof even against gunfire from
battleships, Kaji thought, I doubt it would stand against fully
equipped combat troops, without infantry support of its own.
      "That won't be enough," Simson replied, shaking his head
      What _are_ you playing at? Kaji wanted to shout at the
arrogant American.  The general, on the other hand, seemed calm
and composed, not even deigning to speak with his inferiors.
Kaji glanced from one to the other.
      The loud explosion from outside the sealed door, drew
everyone's attention.  The simple hum of the hydraulic pumps
`idling` to keep the doors closed became a squealing protest,
rising in pitch and signaling imminent, if not immanent, failure.
The metal of the doors began to groan loudly as something outside
began working on them, forcing them open against their own mass
and the power of the hydraulics.
      And the hydraulics are losing, Kaji thought in horror,
looking at the Americans who seemed far too satisfied with
themselves for his peace of mind, Perhaps their confidence has a
reasonable cause.
      "Close the blast doors!" came the sharp order.
      The leader whirled around.  "Admiral!  You are _not_ - "
The loud clang of the blast doors slamming down into position
told everyone that fear ruled, not the hierarchy.
      "Look, I don't know what you've been told about the pilots,"
Simson leaned forward and said reasonably, explaining, not
pleading, "I do know you don't have the equipment or training to
deal with one.  That's clear enough.  So consider what kind of
person you would have to be to face a Great Old One, or Outer
God, not only without soiling yourself or running away screaming,
but able to fight and kill to orders?"
      The leader looked at Simson, then back at the door.
      "Once they slip the bonds we hold them on," Tomlinson's
patient tone was anything _but_ reassuring, "There's very little
to use as a control.  If you've infiltrated us to that extent,
you must know that very subject has been a matter of some
      The kidnappers were all looking around the room nervously
now.  The sounds of the outer doors' death struggle to remain
closed were muted, but the final squeal and the vomiting forth of
hydraulic fluid from the pumps gave unmistakable proof that even
the blast doors were only a temporary respite.
      "Only their respect for us, and the chain of command, allows
us to control them," Simson explained reasonably, "If they get in
here, and see there _are_ no legitimate controls, I doubt they'll
stop even when they realize they are attacking - killing - _us_."
      "They'll be filled with regret later," Tomlinson added
helpfully while nodding sagely to Simson, "Of course, that won't
do any of _us_ any good."
      The boom of something powerful striking the blast doors
themselves, carried more weight than the logic of the Americans'
      Kaji wondered how much was shaded truth, and how much was
'Kentucky windage'.
      "Those people hold the entrance, we don't!  Over," Aoba
reported from outside NERV command.  For some time, the NERV and
U.S. military troops had been playing frequency hopping games,
transmitting in the clear until the enemy jammed them, then
finding another clear band.  Slowly they were assembling a force.
      "You have reinforcements on the way," came the American
voice over the radio.
      Only an American could sound so chipper when the world is
coming to an end, 'We'll make it better out of the ashes!' he
thought as he waited for a chance to remind the radio operator
that reality _was_ out there.
      "We have reports they have some kind of shield over the
entrance, over," the American added.
      "Yes, they've got one over the main entrance, but not over
the entrance to the EVA bays.  They're just waiting for us to try
that one, over," Aoba replied.
      A loud burst of sustained static meant their enemy had found
the frequency and jammed it.  "Find me another hole," he told the
communication officer as he moved to the dugout that was serving
as the makeshift CP.
      "We heard," a Marine sergeant told him.  Pencil marks on a
map outlined the limits of the screen, and also outlined where
the enemy gauntlet was waiting for them to make a dash for the
`unguarded` EVA bays.
      "You'd better get out an eraser, the Navy sure has," another
sergeant said, and pointed to a stream of Corsairs and Avengers,
laden with ordinance.
      They watched as the planes strafed the suspected positions
before dropping their cargoes of bombs and napalm.  The flash of
the explosions beat the dull woomph of them by several seconds.
      Aoba winced, remembering comrades who'd fallen victim to
that stuff on Saipan.   Better them than us, he thought, A couple
more strikes like that, and we'll be able to breach those
defenses.  Then what?  We've got no pilots and we don't know
what's in the EVA bays.  More troops, or the EVAs themselves?  He
shuddered.  Maybe with other pilots in them.
      Adams had heard that the scratch formation of Army troops
had been repulsed in their attack on the cultists holding NERV's
main base.
      "Order them to fall back and regroup.  The EVA will be up to
support them, along with Marine and Army units with their full
load outs," Adams ordered.
      "The Tokyo police and civilian volunteers are making sure
that our units have guides to the armories and have been rounding
up units," Captain Miller reported, "I think we could just pass
out rifles and let the citizens deal with these idiots."  The man
chuckled.  "A banzai charge of 4.6 million angry people would
deal with the problem once and for all."
      "I think Colonel Tyler was more scared of the greeting he
got, all those people lined up waiting to be helpful," Adams
admitted, "How soon will Lt. Ibuki and her force be back?"
      "About half-an-hour, Commander Ikari is with them."
      "Then we should find Admiral Simson and General Tomlinson at
Mats - Masu - the other place," Adams said, "How soon will
Captain Ramsey be at NERV HQ, we need officers familiar with the
layout to guide our troops in."
      "He's there already," Captain Miller said, "
      Adams knew that Ramsey had left the pilots, who'd been
brought on board, with Miss Juri. And asked me to give orders
_not_ to let them out of our sight.  'The pilots will go after
whoever did this, once they hear about their dead friends,' Adams
looked over the maps and considered Ramsey's warning, 'We need
them clearheaded and ready to deploy their EVAs, in case'.
      "The cultists should have whistled up an Angel, if they
wanted to win," Miller suggested, "Instead of striking at us this
way.  All they did was rile up everybody."
      Adams nodded as he continued to monitor the situation.  I
don't really know what more I can do that my troops can't, he
thought, The 5 inch barrages might cause less collateral damage
than the Tennessee's and the South Dakota's main guns, but they
are having the desired effect.
      Aoba watched the troops and tanks pulling back, but the
enemy wouldn't _let_ them disengage.  They know we can't call in
our heaviest firepower while they were mixed with our own men.
Marine close-support aircraft tried to hit the enemy, and the
shield around the main entrance with guns or rockets, bombs were
almost out of the question.
      Then he saw it rising out of the ground.  Twisting and
writhing as it moves, as if clawing at the very air around it.
It looked horrible and that was having an effect on some of the
troops.  When an armed man went mad amidst other men, they could
either shoot him or try to subdue him.  The latter took a lot
more time and men, so the creature took advantage of it by
intentionally disturbing the troops.  Occasionally a tank would
get off a clean shot, the monster would create a hole through
itself, shell would pass through and detonate in the distance.
      They'll need the EVAs to fight this thing! he thought as he
stepped to the radio dugout to make the call.  He found the radio
operator staring at the apparition.  "Why didn't you call in -?"
Because the radio's useless, he thought, Nothing intelligible was
going to get through.
      The monster sailed through the air and landed in the
distance, more stunned than hurt.  Cheers went up from the troops
as Unit 04 walked onto the scene.  The creature disentangled
itself from the mess of trees and stones it had landed on and
faced Unit 04.  The creature charged the EVA, it punched, kicked,
and dodged, its blows landed, but to no effect.
      How much damage can an EVA take? Aoba worried about finding
      Unit 04 made a shout, the creature shock and clawed at the
air, then vanished.
      "Just an illusion," Davis's voice came through the Unit's
speakers, "More help is on the way."
      Maya checked her helmet, sidearm and the submachine gun she
still carried.  It had been her plan, but she still worried about
the safety of the advance.  The EVA reaching down into `her`
troops, and plucking her out of them shocked her.  As Jeff aboard
Unit 04 set her down, he scolded her, "Leave the sergeants to run
the companies, the lieutenants the regiments, there's too few
officers who know where all the defense positions are.  You want
to help your troops, either get up here and use the EVAs radio,
or stay back with the maps to direct the artillery."
      Maya felt an odd anger and disappointment that she'd be out
of the line of fire.  She acceded to the logic, and the fact that
it was pointless to try to argue with an EVA.  I can command, she
thought ironically, But I can't persuade.  "Very well," she said,
then she raised her voice, "Get some mortar up there!"  She
pointed at the EVA's broad back.  "And plenty of shells, I want
to rain on those . . . gentlemen!"  She ignored the shouts from
the troops as she headed for the makeshift HQ.
      It's not fair.  I'm sending them in, with my plan, and if it
doesn't work . . . I'll be safe behind the lines, she thought,
Quite a change from timid little Maya who left Japan.  She
arrived at the HQ and began marking out on the map the positions
she knew, and their expected firing arcs.  She looked around at
the officers.  The few NERV veterans seemed surprised by her
demeanor, the Bennington and Bunker Hill Marines took it in
stride.  One only knew the old me, the other the new, she
considered, The ones who know me as the fighter outnumber but
don't outrank the ones who know me only as the bridge bunny.
      Colonel Tyler arrived, he glanced around and saluted Maya.
Maya stood at attention and returned it.  "Lieutenant," Tyler
said formally, "We'll make a proper Marine of you yet."
      "Yes, sir," she replied.
      "Brief me on the position we're assaulting," he ordered as
he and his staff crowded around the map table.
      Maya ignored the stunned looks from the NERV veterans as she
spoke as a respected fellow officer to these combat veterans.
      The Marines, NERV security and Occupation Army troops
advanced steadily.  Before them, Unit 04 sidestepped, its AT
field protecting the unit and the troops behind it.  A dozen
mortar crews atop the EVA continued to salvo rounds at the
bunkers.  Firing on the move made a hit doubtful, but that wasn't
the point.  Suppressive fire was.  Any bunker above ground level
was sheared off as the AT field pressed forward.  Fire teams
sprayed the surprised men with submachine gun fire, or with a
flamethrower.  Positions further out were targeted by artillery
and hunter-killer groups with bazookas and rifles.
      Maya watched the killing, and was disturbed that when the
Marines incinerated a bunker and anyone left alive, she felt
nothing.  Yet when one of the soldiers on _her_ side fell, she
felt a tear at her heart.
      I should lament any deaths, she thought, But those who die
on my side, they may have been my friends.  And those on the
other side brought pain and death for no reason, so I don't care
about them.
      The advance continued to the doors of NERV.
      "We must advance with the first wave and retake critical
areas," Rei said as she arrived with the Commander.
      "I'm certain the troops can take any positions that need
taking," Maya assured Rei.  Why do I feel the need to tousle her
hair and treat her as something fragile and in need of
protection?  When I left here, I was intimidated by her, all
knowing, and never caring, except for the Commander's goals.  Now
she seems lost and trying to please the adults.
      "Is something amiss Analyst Ibuki?" Rei asked, staring at
Maya as intently as Maya had been looking at her.
      This time Maya did not look away and try to divert the
girl's attention.  Maybe she was always like that.  Maybe it's me
who's finally grown up, Maya thought.  "I think you should leave
the attack to the troops.  It's not like you could be replaced,
despite what you've said in the past.  A novice pilot might be
replaceable, but an integral member of the team is far less so."
She glanced up at the Commander who was watching her carefully.
"The Commander needs maximum combat effectiveness.  Replacing you
at _this_ point might harm that efficiency for some time, perhaps
a critical time."
      Rei stared at the Commander, as if seeking confirmation.
      "The idea should be considered.  The gain weighed against
the loss," Commander Ikari said.
      Rei stared at Maya.  "I will consider it."  She paused for a
moment, then said, "I should accompany the second assault wave."
      Maya realized that was the best she was going to get.
"Maybe a few support troops?"
      Rei considered.  Then shook her head.
      Should I mention Sempai?  Does the Commander know? she
looked at the Commander whose expression seemed to say 'take what
you got, you won't get any more.'  "Perhaps the EVA?  That would
certainly be able to assist you."
      The thrum of powerful motors sounded through the corridor
and everyone took cover behind whatever they could find.  The
huge blast doors rumbled back up into the ceiling.
      I hope nobody wonders about all the marks cut into the metal
by Ritsuko's fingers, Nabiki thought as she and Ritsuko put the
bulk of a truck between themselves and whatever would come
storming out of the room.
      Nothing attacked.  Not a monster, not a spell, not even a
sound issued from the room.  The leader of the assault troops
hand-signaled his men, and they prepared to charge.  Nabiki could
feel the tension. With hostages inside, we can't simply throw in
a handful of grenades, she thought nervously, And sort out the
bodies later.
      With the massive obstacle _finally_ cleared, the troops
stormed into the room.  The shout of 'clear' a moment later
absolutely stunned Nabiki, as she and Ritsuko exchanged confused
looks, before walking around the truck and into the room.  The
troops had surrounded the prisoners, who were all on their knees,
their hands behind their heads.  All of them cultists, the
hostages stood around and watched their rescuers enter.
      Except Kaji, Nabiki thought, The man looks positively ill.
What happened?!
      Although they'd been supplemented by the troops from Bunker
Hill and Boxer, it was clear that Admiral Simson and General
Tomlinson had been guarding the 40 plus prisoners using only
their sidearms.
      "Don't worry Miss Tendo," General Tomlinson assured her, "We
had them under control before you arrived.  Right lads?"
      When the half-hearted agreements from the captives failed to
satisfy him, Tomlinson repeated, "I said 'Right, lads'?"
      There was emphatic head nodding and affirmatives in four
languages Nabiki recognized and more in some she didn't.  With
the troops now outnumbering the prisoners by two to one, the
soldiers began separating them and searching them.  Simson and
Tomlinson headed for Ritsuko and Nabiki.
      "I'm glad to see you two, especially so early," Simson said
as he grinned, "It seems I misread Admiral Adams slightly.  I
wouldn't have credited him with the guts to pull off a sneak
attack like this.  I am glad he did however.  He's up for a Navy
Cross, if I have any say in the matter."
      They stepped out into the corridor and headed outside.
Nabiki and Ritsuko numbly followed.  "So you didn't need
rescuing?" Nabiki asked.  Why do I sound disappointed? she
      "Oh yes, Miss Tendo, your arrival and the little
demonstration on the outer doors was _very_ helpful," General
Tomlinson said jovially, patting her on the shoulder, "We
couldn't have done it without you, that's a fact."
      "I know you two are enjoying your little joke," Ritsuko
said, sounding more like Asuka than herself, "Boys will be boys,
and all that.  But if I don't get some answers - " She let the
threat hang.
      The two general officers looked at each other as if they'd
been caught snitching cookies.
      Maya had one destination, NERV Central Dogma, NERV's master
control room.  And I'm just bringing 500 of my close friends to
see to it I arrive, she thought as the troops walked through the
corridors that the sappers and infiltration troops had cleared.
We'll have to debrief them, to find out all the places they got
in, so we can close them, she thought as she walked, I hope the
Commander finds the EVAs undamaged and the equipment still
working.  She smiled as she thought of the troops retreating from
the Commander's forces, only to run into Unit 04 and another
contingent of troops.
      Lt. Aoba started at the apparition who approached, as did
Colonel Stedman.
      "Lieutenant Ibuki reporting, sir.  You'll need a second
operator to reinitialize the Magi."
      "Yes, Lieutenant," the Colonel said quietly, returning the
salute and closely examining the scene and the incongruities in
      She removed her helmet and pulled her headset from the
drawer.  Just where I left it, she thought, How many months ago?
And who is it who returns?  Me, or someone else?  She noted the
men had taken up positions to return fire on any remaining
      "Ma'am, get under cover," Colonel Stedman ordered, "We're
short operators."
      She nodded and slipped under the console and let herself
drift, to link with the Magi.  I just wish people would quit
staring, as if they don't recognize me.  Even Aoba, who was
always teasing me, acts like I may shoot him any second.  She
initialized the interface and called up the 'functional but not
there' keyboard.  "Ready?" she asked Aoba, who nodded as he
prepared himself.
      They began calling up diagnostic subroutines, checking for
intruders in the system, and trying to find any sabotage or
booby-traps an enemy might have left behind.
      It's like coming back home.  Not this city or this job, but
supporting all of this, being important.  This is home.  "No
anomalies, proceeding to second-stage activation," she said as
the data rolling in front of her eyes seemed to be in acceptable
patterns.  She ignored the odd stares from those who knew her as
a soldier.  This is what I do, this is what I am, and I wouldn't
change a thing, she thought.  Then something caught her
attention.  "Fire alarms, junction 610, level five."  She caught
herself as she started to stand.  No, I can't rush off to fight
them, she reminded herself, That's not my job now.  I'm the
complex's eyes and ears, not its hands.
      She turned to Stedman, who was already sending a pathfinder
with the platoon of soldiers.  I'm stuck here, again the 'bridge
bunny', she thought then glanced down at the M3 Greasegun beside
her on the floor, and resisted the urge to reach over and safe
the weapon.  I'm not ready or willing to go back _all_ the way,
she thought with a smile, Not yet, maybe not ever.
      Rei sat up and prepared to roll off the bed when the
dizziness nearly hurled her back down.
      "Let's start with a gurney this time, Pilot Ayanami," a
voice that sounded like Analyst Ibuki told her.
      "Yes," Rei replied.
      "You can stand down, Pilot," Ibuki told her, "You've done
more than enough for one day."
      "No, there is more to do."
      "Killing yourself to no great effect will not help anyone,"
Ibuki counseled, "The Commander and Mr. Kaji have detailed troops
to deal with the more sensitive areas.  Doctor Akagi has
certified the secure areas were never breached."
      That is a good point, but the Commander's plan and the
pilots are in jeopardy, Rei considered.
      "We've got communications restored, and conventional forces
are hunting down the insurgents, and all the pilots and VIPs are
safe and under guard."
      "Then I can rest."  Rei lay down and returned to sleep.

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