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File: Abyss Title.jpg (89 KB, 900x675)
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>Neon Terminus Evangelion
>Episode 06 - "The Abyss's Gaze"

***
Old threads - http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=Neon+Terminus+Evangelion
Twitter - https://twitter.com/TimeKillerQM
My Discord - https://discord.gg/BnJeeu4
What's the deal with NTE? - https://pastebin.com/AXWHpqGp
>>
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>New York City
>2000

It's always the same.

You are Max Goldberg and you're just a kid sprinting down a street in New York. You're chasing your friend Mike though you can no longer remember why. He was always faster than you. Too fast to catch. He's laughing but you're just trying to keep up. It's just a game but you don't want to look weak. He's rounding the bend, headed for the waterfront near the Upper Bay.

You don't remember why you were running anymore, but you remember the sound of his laugh before it stopped.

The world went white, shadows became hard. It was as if an enormous flashbulb went off, a second sun birthed into existence a few hundred meters above Manhattan. It was for an instant, only an instant. In that moment the temperature of the air rose a hundred degrees. You can't breathe, it's too hot, it's too bright, you squeeze your eyes shut against it but the light comes through, streaming through your skin the way neutrons shoot through.

You don't hear Michael scream, but you can't. You couldn't, not over god roaring.

The blast wave comes a second later and throws you like a ragdoll. You roll across the pavement like an empty can, skidding and bouncing until you strike a lamp post hard enough to break your arm at the wrist.

God is still roaring and there is nothing but sound and light and heat. Your skin burns all over. It lasts for an eternity. Forever and ever, you're screaming, blind, and burning.

You were lucky. You didn't know it then but you were shielded from the blast by an building. Your skin felt like it was burning, but it didn't combust. Your eyes were full of light, but your corneas weren't seared away. You survived.

Eventually eternity ended and you found you could see. Everything was hazy, washed out, blurry. Your eyes ache, your skin feels raw, your arm hurts where you broke it. You sit up and try to blink away the after images. Tears stream down your cheeks. You can only faintly hear.

You look up and up and up at the towering pillar of smoke rising from where the city was. That carcinogenic cloud climbs toward the heavens, billowing over your head.

You remember that you weren't alone.

"Mike?" Your throat is hoarse from screaming. The world spins when you try to move. "Mike!?"

A chorus of car alarms sounds from nearby.

"Mike!?"

"Max!" You see Mike. He's crawling on the pavement, groping forward with his hands. He'd gone around the corner before you had. He was also ways faster than you. "Max! I can't see! *I can't see anything!*"

It's snowing now, only it's not snow. Soft flakes of white-grey ash rain down around you, beginning to cover everything.
>>
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>New Tampa
>2017

You open your eyes.

You are Max Goldberg and you are alone. A ceiling fan spins lazy circles over your bed room. It's dark. The curtains are pulled tight against the warm, sub-tropic sun which is only visible as a sliver of white light between the curtains.

It's time to start the day. Another day. One of your last.

Sitting up, you get out of bed, already feeling the first pangs of pain through your body. You dress quickly and go to the bathroom and snap on the light. You stare into your own sunken eyes in the unforgiving flicker of overhead fluorescents. Your body is decaying. Rotting from the bones out. You survived that day in New York. You survived long enough to see Mike die in an overcrowded hospital, scared and alone. His parents never came. Your parents never came. No one ever came for you. There was no one left.

But you didn't survive, not really. The person you were died then, that kid never left the city. The person carrying his name was someone else. Now, seventeen years later, a stray burst of neutrons or some ingested thorium was going to finish what that bomb started.

Your medicine bottles are lined up like soldiers awaiting inspection. You start popping tops and going down the ranks. Each one serves a purpose, each one makes your life longer and more bearable by degrees, but each one is destined to fail.

You swallow them by the handful.

You've lost weight to the point that you look dead already. Ribs protrude, your skin is pallid.

Your sidearm sits on your counter, unholstered. Bare black metal shines in the light. You've thought about ending it all of course. You know where to shoot to make it as near to instant as possible, but for that to be a viable option, you have to consider death preferable to this.

And truthfully, you're terrified of dying. It's the last thing that scares you.

You turn the lights out and turn away from your side arm. You have unfinished business. You haven't been working for Nerv since you confronted Rose about Sayid's death. You know now that Sayid had been murdered by Nerv and you couldn't simply look the other way.

You know Nerv could use your help, but it's not the only thing. Your charge and the closest thing you have to family now, Renton needs you. He went off the deep end. He killed people, civilians. Whether or not they were guilty of whatever crime Renton charged them with, you know he did what he felt he had to. But you also know he's a kid, a kid with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

You can't sit around this dingy apartment waiting to die anymore. You need to get out. You need to do something with the time you have left.


>Tell Rose you've got your shit together and ask to work for Nerv.
>Spend more time with Renton, help him cope with what he's done.
>Sayid was murdered and you're going to find out why. No matter what.
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41t7QgqC-Dw
>>
>>4995539
>Tell Rose you've got your shit together and ask to work for Nerv.
>>
>>4995539
>Sayid was murdered and you're going to find out why. No matter what.
>>
>>4995539
>>Spend more time with Renton, help him cope with what he's done.
>>
>>4995810
>>4995912
>>4996513

por que no los tres?

Writing
>>
>>4996624
Who are you
>>
>>4996624
Whoops, forgot my trip. It's me, your friend, Time Killer!
>>
Whether weeks, days, or hours left, you have a life to live. You're not dead yet and you're sick of feeling sorry for yourself. Nerv needs you. Renton needs you. Sayid needs you.

You pick the pistol up off your bathroom counter and slide it into your holster. "No rest for the wicked."

You pick up your cellphone next and dial. It rings twice before Rose answers.

"Holiday."

"Captain, it's Max."

"How are you feeling, Max?"

You ignore the question. The answer is obvious to anyone who looks at you. "I'm ready. I'm ready to come back." You expect her to ask you if you're going to let this business with Sayid go. You're surprised when she doesn't.

"That's good. Welcome aboard. We could use you."

You feel a wave of relief. A part of you was worried she might refuse. You joined Nerv to safeguard what was left of humanity. That's an obligation you want to see fulfilled, no matter the cost. You also know that it's the best way for you to remain close for Renton, and probably your best way to get answers about Sayid.

"I'll come by first thing in the morning."

"Why not right now?" Rose suggests.

"Now?"

"We have something. I think you'll find it . . . interesting."

"Interesting?"

"It's easier if you see it for yourself."

You hesitate, but only for a moment. "I'll be right there."

"Glad to have you back, Max. We need you." Rose hangs up.
>>
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You've only been gone a matter of days, but it feels longer. Returning to Nerv feels like coming home. The smell of recycled air, the echo of footsteps on bare cement, the hum of electronics, this is the life you're used to.

The tactical division office is just like you remember it, only it's crowded with staff. Rose, Mbaru, Yezhov, and associated technicians and staff from the tactical division. Also here is Dr. Roger Caswell and a few other representatives from the science branch, as well as Major Holiday, Rose's father and head of operations.

All are gathered around a central conference table and a large, singular monitor displaying an image of a map.

"Something interesting has come up," Rose says. "We've located an Angel."

"An Angel? Where?" You join the others around the table, your eyes glued to the monitor.

"Eleven degrees north, one hundred and forty one east," Mbaru says. The map flashes the approximate location.

"That's nowhere," you say.

"The edge of the Marianas trench, to be specific," Rose says, raising an eyebrow at Roger. "A team laying fiber optic cable in the area located an anomaly via side-scan sonar. After reporting it to the local authorities, that report was relayed to the UN and then to Nerv." Rose presses a key on a handheld remote and the image resolves again.
>>
File: Embryo.jpg (142 KB, 892x795)
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You and the others stare at it for a bit.

"It's approximately twenty meters in diameter," Rose says. "Unknown physical composition, but it's not a natural formation and it's not native wildlife."

"It's organic," you say, "That's the Angel?"

"The Magi are unanimous in that assessment," Caswell says. "This is an Angel. Just not a form we're familiar with."

"It looks embryonic," Yezhov says.

"What do we do about it?" Mbaru asks, all business.

Rose is content to take her time. "That remains to be determined. It's apparently inert. This may be some earlier form of Angelic life that we're unfamiliar with. Some kind of chrysalis stage. As far as we can determine, it's totally dormant. No movement, no energy readings. Really just dumb luck we stumbled across it."

An embryonic Angel. You stare at the strange, symmetrical form, trying to imagine this enormous, anomalous . . . thing resting on the abyssal ocean plain.

"Do not be deceived," Yezhov says. "Egg or not. Dormant or not, an Angel is an Angel. This is not the first dormant Angel found."

"Adam," Rose says, "and Severnaya."

"Neither situation is comparable in my estimation," Caswell says. "Adam was unprecedented. The Katsuragi Expedition had no idea of what they were dealing with. The Severnaya Angel revived and attacked before any cohesive plan could be made."

"One pilot was killed," Yezhov says, "the other blew his brains out with a handgun two weeks later. Both Evas were a complete loss. This would be considered bad, yes?"

Caswell ignores Yezhov's barb. "It's still not comparable. That Angel was frozen in the permafrost, this one appears to be . . . gestating."

"Fluke or not, we don't want a repeat of the past," Rose says. She turns to Mbaru. "What is the UN's recommendation?"

"They submitted a plan to attack the Angel with a spread of nuclear depth charges and torpedoes," Mbaru says before giving a toothy grin.

"Typical," Rose says.

"Science Division would like to submit an alternate plan," Caswell says.

"Let's hear it," Rose says.

Caswell hesitates, collecting his thoughts. "Capture."

Rose raises an eyebrow.

"Capture and study," Caswell says. "If we can secure and contain an intact, undeveloped Angel, there's no telling what we could learn from it. Imagine, we might even be able to harvest an intact S2 core. If we did, we would have a source of unlimited energy potential. The Evas would become independent of the power grid. The last hurdle in their development would be overcome. Not to mention the civilian applications which would be-" Roger catches Rose's eye and falls silent.
>>
"Suggestions?" Rose asks.

"Destroy it," Yezhov says, not even waiting. "There is nothing to be learned. Nothing worth the risk. Let the UN bomb it until it's nothing."

"Mbaru?"

Mbaru thinks for a moment. "I believe that Dr. Caswell's plan has merit. If we capture the Angel, imagine the possibilities. We could save many lives."

Rose looks at you. "What about you, Max?"


>It should be destroyed by any means necessary. This would be an easy victory.
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it
>Write in
>>
>>4996699
>capture

we can make an omelet
>>
>>4996699
>>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it

Magma diver, anyone?
>>
>>4996699
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it
What could possibly go wrong.
>>
>>4996705
Ocean diver now.

Dying by drowning seems preferable than burning alive.
>>
>>4996699
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game. No power limitations would be huge. We should consider capturing it.
>Write in
See how Renton is doing. Trying to capture an Angel is going to require multiple EVAs. I'm thinking Ethan, Katya, and Corinne. Even if Renton doesn't deploy for this mission we still need a pilot at our base.
>>
>>4996699
>It should be destroyed by any means necessary. This would be an easy victory.
Does anyone ever go for the somewhat safe option?
>>
>>4996699
>>It should be destroyed by any means necessary. This would be an easy victory.
What EVAs are made of is something of an open secret, it seems. I'd be worried about what putting an Angel's core into an EVA would do to it.
Also, I'd be worried about the core creating a new Angel around it.
>>
>An S2 core will change the rules of the game.
>>4996705
>>4996707
>>4997282


Writing


>>4997581
>What EVAs are made of is something of an open secret, it seem
It's open to Nerv, secret to the general public.
>>
>>4997796
and to the pilots themselves?
>>
>>4997813
The pilots know the Evas are made from Angel genetic material and enhanced with technology. Nothing more specific than that.
>>
You weigh the decision a moment, grateful that the final choice doesn't fall to you. "An intact S2 core would change the rules of the game. If we could eliminate our reliance on the power grid . . . yes. I'm in favor of capturing it."

Rose nods and starts to turn away before you speak again.

"But that's a bit of a blind spot for us, isn't it? The core is the heart of an Angel's power, what effect would it have on an Angel? Couldn't an Angel regenerate itself from only the core?"

"To your second question," Caswell says, "The short answer is 'no'. It's beyond the Hayflick limit. Apoptosis will set in before the Angel can regenerate to that extent I think. If the core were surgically removed, it would be like cutting your heart from your body. As far as implantation goes, well we would need to do some testing. Theoretically the connections are all there. The Angels and Evas are biologically compatible. We would have to act methodically."

Rose looks at the strange embryonic form on the monitor again. "I have my reservations about this, but capture should at least be considered. Major," she addresses her father. "It's the tactical division's recommendation that we pursue capture and retrieval as a strategy.

"Agreed," Major Holiday says. "This opportunity is simply too valuable to pass up but is the operation feasible?"

"The depth is about five thousand meters," Caswell says. "Deep, but still perfectly accessible for a Evangelion B-type diving suit. It would take some modification to rig the suit, a crane assembly, and a capture cage, but that should cover it."

"Where would we take it?" you ask. "I mean once we have the sucker."

Caswell looks at you like you asked the weirdest question imaginable. "It could be . . . anywhere really. Styx, Perdition, Tartarus, Elysium, even one of the main Nerv facilities. I think we have some old containment bays in the lower levels here that could be activated."

"Here?" Yezhov asks, alarmed.

"Of course."

"You don't see a problem bringing an angel to Nerv?" Yezhov says.

Caswell blinks, "Not particularly. I understand that it's dangerous, but where better to store an angel than close by our evas? Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, yes?"

"We'll want to inspect them," you say. "I don't think they've been used since early Evangelion development."

"See to that," Rose says. "You and Yezhov go with Roger after the meeting and inspect our containment facilities."

You nod, Yezhov just shrugs.

"If everything is in order," Rose says, "Then I think we have our plan. Outfit an expedition to secure and retrieve the Angel then bring it to safe containment for dissection. I'll draw up an operational plan and get it on your desk by the end of the day, Major."

"See to it," Holiday says.

The meeting adjourns.
>>
You are Captain Rose Holiday and you have a dilemma.

You sigh aloud and lean back in your chair, glowering at the documents on your desk. Readiness reports, psych evals, personnel files. The problem is that for a job like this you can't trust it to a single pilot. The provisional diving rig will only support one B-type suit but it's better to have an auxiliary on hand in case things go awry. However, sending two Evas will leave only one left to cover New Tampa, and anywhere else that could have issues while your expedition is away.

You aren't going to leave your rookie pilot watching New Tampa, which means either Katya or Ethan will be staying behind. Renton is not longer a suitable pilot in your eyes. For better or worse, publicly outing him for the murder of those people isn't poltically viable. Instead you'll have to be content to sideline him indefinitely. The conclusion is clear. You need more pilots.

You scoop the handset up from your desk and dial an extension.

"Versetti."

"Colonel, it's Captain Holiday."

"Ah! Captain, good to hear from you. I understand we have quite an operation coming up. An S2 core is on the line, I expect good news."

"Yes, sir. There is something else sir. I wanted to discuss changes to the pilot roster."

"Changes?"

"Yes, sir."

There is a period of silence. "I'm just finishing a meeting with your father. Why don't you join us?"

You reach Versetti's office a short while later. Bizarrely, his office is located on the same floor as the Magi's primary processing and so is virtually deserted. Piping for coolant runs along the ceilings and moisture beads down steel walls. The only sound is the ceaseless whirring of ventilation fans. The office itself is expansive, the far wall behind his megalith of a desk is taken up entirely by a blue-lit aquarium packed to the brim with all manner of sea life. That blue glow permeates the room.

Versetti sits opposite you at his desk while your father leans against a wall nearby.

"Captain, please, come. Sit."

You enter the room, already feeling anxious. Versetti and your father track you with their eyes until you sit across from the colonel.

"You mentioned roster changes. You find the current situation untenable?"

You collect your thoughts before speaking. "Katya and Ethan have performed beyond our expectations. Korine shows promise but lacks experience and her psychological profile is less reliable."

Neither man speaks.

"I would like to remove Renton from the roster."

Versetti doesn't answer.

"What for?" Your father speaks for him.

"Sir, with respect, all indications are that Renton killed those people intentionally. We have neurological data to backup interrogation. It was a conscious thought. I feel that if I had access to the private communication logs-"

"I'm afraid to say that the logs were purged," Versetti says. "Routine maintenance. The IT department was not told to flag them for preservation."
>>
Covering it up. "I see. But the fact remains that Renton killed those people in cold blood. I can't rely on an Eva pilot who acts with such callous disregard for human life. I would like to see Renton transferred to Perdition proving grounds and have him replaced with a new pilot."

"Your top concern with Korine was that she was inexperienced, yes? Well what good would it do to bring in more rookie pilots?"

"I can work with inexperience. We have enough capable veteran pilots to train a rookie up."

"I'm afraid that transferring Renton away would be seen as us acknowledging his culpability for this unfortunate incident," Versetti says. "If we do that then we will tarnish the image of our pilots and this organization in the eyes of the general population. We can't have that." He smiles apologetically.

"Then I would like to request an additional pilot to bring our count up to five. I've seen the reports, all other Nerv pilots are listed as 'training' status. We're the only operational deployment. We should increase our numbers."

"That will be difficult," Versetti says. "From a budgetary perspective"

"Budgetary?" You fail to contain your confusion. "This is the bastion of mankind? Who gives a damn about the money?"

"Captain." Your father's eyes widen with anger.

"I do," Versetti says, still smiling. "It's a part of my job. Yes, New Tampa maintains the only combat ready Evangelions, a situation that's unlikely to change any time soon. I can't simply collect new pilots here on a whim. Even I have limitations."

"With respect, sir, I need another pilot."

"You have one," Holiday says. "Renton. Use him."

"Sir?" You blurt.

"Restore Fox Renton to active status."

"Renton's mental state is totally unpredictable, he-"

"That's not a request," Holiday says, "It's a direct order."

Conflicting emotions battle within you, rage, confusion. You bottle them up. "Sir."

"Restore Fox Renton to active status and make your pilot selection."

"Yes, sir." You stand and salute, refusing to look at your father. "Will there be more, sir?"

"No, that will be all, Captain. Thank you."

You turn and march out of the office, but you don't leave. You wait in the hallway, fuming. Your anger is barely in check when your father emerges, momentarily surprised to see you.

"Have you-"

You're alone here, you don't bother to hold back. "Just who the hell is really running Nerv's tactical division?"

"Excuse me?" Holiday is too taken aback to respond immediately with anger.

"You saddle me with an unstable and unreliable pilot, you tell me we can't get replacements. I thought I was the one calling the shots on these things."

"You're out of line, Captain."

"I'm trying to do my job, dad!" you shout. "But lately I feel like I am getting nothing but brick walls from command. What the hell is the reason we can't replace any of these pilots? What's the real reason?"
>>
Your father's face turns red with anger, you sense an explosion but he fights it down, glancing around to make sure the coast is clear before he takes a step closer to you. "Your mission, Captain is to destroy the Angels. And you will do that within the confines we set for you. No questions, no arguments. You either do your job the way we tell you or I find someone else who will."

The answer hits you like a slap in the face. Your rage is extinguished by something even more powerful. Hurt.

"Yes, Major."

For a moment, there's a flicker of something on his face, maybe concern. You turn away before he can speak, and start back for your office. You have a mission to plan and a pilot to assign.

Who will be the veteran pilot you assign to the expedition to retrieve the Angel?


>Katya
>Ethan
>>
>>4997833
>>Ethan
>>
>>4997829
>"You don't see a problem bringing an angel to Nerv?" Yezhov says.
For once, I agree, with him. Assuming we can get the thing, bringing it back here is a terrible idea. Stick it out in a remote facility, same as you would for any other hazardous research.

>>4997832
>"Budgetary?" You fail to contain your confusion. "This is the bastion of mankind? Who gives a damn about the money?"
Katya's father may have been wrong about a lot of things, but he wasn't wrong about the money. "Requisitioning" can only be done sparingly; damage to the economy isn't easily undone, and the economy is what lets you build and maintain all the shiny stuff you need to win the war.

>New Tampa maintains the only combat ready Evangelions, a situation that's unlikely to change any time soon.
...What? Really? I knew we had the most EVAs on station, but I'd assumed there were others scattered around the globe as watchdogs and stopgaps.

>"Restore Fox Renton to active status."
I personally think he's good for active duty, so no problems here.
There is another option Rose could take, if she is really that sure: Arrange for Renton to have an accident.

>"Just who the hell is really running Nerv's tactical division?"
She's not wrong. While I've not served, it seems like the upper brass have an awful not more micro control over Rose's command than they should. The EVAs aren't exactly a normal command though, so it's not entirely unreasonable.

On the other hand, Rose does seem to get rather wrapped up in personal opinions of the Pilots, unduly coloring her judgement of them. I think at one point or another, she's expressed doubts about all the active pilots.


>>4997833
>Ethan
I think Ethan can handle the stresses better running solo. Hell, he might operate best without fearing for the life of a partner.
>>
>>4997833
>Ethan
Clearly the most reliable and experienced pilot we have. Definitely. Absolutely.

I'm cracking up about them claiming budget reasons for not getting spare pilots. This is just higher ups making the strings they have very obvious.
>>
>>4997833
Actually, I will say
> Renton
There will be few nearby civilians, and Command wants him on the roster. Well, give them what they want. If things go pear-shaped, well, that may not be too bad, following the reasoning of
>>4997863
>>
>>4997833
>Ethan
We can trust him to do his best on his own, tactically and emotionally.

Plus, more mission time for the girls together I think is a good thing, mostly for Korine to learn from Katya.
>>
>>4997833
>Write in
Renton. This is his chance to redeem himself. If TK isn't cool with that write in I'll change to Ethan.
>>
>Ethan
>>4997841
>>4997863
>>4997981
>>4998947

>Renton
>>4998310
>>4998975


>I'd assumed there were others scattered around the globe as watchdogs and stopgaps.
To be clear their ARE Evas at other locations, major Nerv bases, but none which have any operational mobility. They can't be flown to meet Angels in the field.
>>
Ethan was the clear choice. Hothead or not, his skill as a pilot is indisputable. You also feel a little better keeping the more even-tempered Katya here to watch Nerv. You'll keep Renton here at Nerv still on standby. You won't deploy him unless you have no other choice. No sense taking the risk.

As for Korine, you'll send her with Ethan as a backup. They'll be out of contact for at least a few weeks. The Evas can be carried most of the way by air, but to be loaded onto the retrieval fleet they'll have to sail out.

The mission is planned, the die cast.
>>
You are Max and the elevator has finally arrived. The elevator doors roll aside noiselessly and the three of you step inside, Caswell coming last.


"Quite exciting stuff. The possibility of studying a living Angel up close. We know very little about them. Even less about their life cycle and how their energy is generated." He hits the down arrow on the elevator.

"Why try to extract core of the angel by force? Save all this effort of bringing it back."

"A combat extraction would bring its own risks. For instance, would a damage S2 core still function? Or function safely? Not to mention the potential damage to the pilot. Truthfully, we know little about the super solenoid. We know that it's the source of the Angels' power but little more. The popular theory-" Caswell stops to give you an awkward, apologetic smile, "-my theory: is that it somehow focuses and magnifies zero-point energy. Something like Maxwell's Demon-" he stops and looks at you and Yezhov. "It's a big question mark for us." He gives a friendly smile.

You're nowhere near on Caswell's level, but the details interest you all the same. "Clearly they can release catastrophic amounts of energy when they're destroyed."

"Yes, though not always!" Caswell says. They've been known ti simply leave behind dead shells. There's been talk of trying to reverse engineer an S2 core from the shards we've but . . . it's been deemed too risky thus far."

The elevator slows to a halt and the doors whoosh open. Caswell is the first one out of the car and you and Yezhov follow behind.

The Russian seems to be particularly sour today. Even his characteristic sneer is gone, he is quiet, subdued. You don't know him- or truthfully really care about him enough to ask about it though.

You enter a side door and are now in a large computer lab. On the far end is a narrow armored window, everything is covered in plastic sheeting.


"This is the place," Caswell says. "That window looks into the holding area."

You start making your way to the observation window. "It couldn't be any riskier than bringing a life Angel back here, right? I mean even if the core goes super critical, it just takes out some remote research base."

You approach and look out, Yezhov does the same beside you. It's a huge, red-lit, cubic area. The walls are all tiled with heavy armor plates and dotted with strange, almost occult markings. There are some loose, Eva-sized bones scattered at the bottom by a large drain.

"A live angel has other benefits."

You stare into the desolate containment area in awe. "Such as?"

"A live Angel can be kept stabilized indefinitely," Caswell says. "Theoretically. A lot of that science was done by my predecessor, Dr. Kaufman, so I can't say I understand it all, but I trust his work. A man-made super solenoid has potential . . . side effects. Dimensional tears and Dirac seas."
>>
"Dr. Caswell," Yezhov says, finally speaking. "What are those bones?"

"Hm?" Caswell approaches and looks. "Ah. Prototypes probably."

"Prototypes?"

Caswell nods. "A lot of early Eva development was done here. These walls were originally intended to contain the prototype Evangelions. That was primarily handled by the Gihern Group. Before my time."

The bones are massive, human in form but scaled to an Evangelion's size. It's hard to tell from this distance but it looks like the bones are etched with serial numbers and the same strange icons as the walls.

"Is quite unsettling," Yezhov says.

Roger shrugs. "I'd say the same thing to a surgeon at work. It's not pretty, but it's progress."

"Why would you need to contain something that won't move without a pilot?" You ask, confused.

Roger gives you a fixed smile. "Evas can move without a pilot, just not how you want them to."

You feel a momentary jolt of surprise. You'd been trained that an Eva without a pilot was inert, a brain dead body.

Caswell wipes some dust off a chair and sits before noting your surprise. "You don't know much about the Evas do you? Their development I mean."

"No," you say, "I guess not. Less than I thought, but I'm interested."

Roger's smile is a little distant.

"It started with Buenos Aires. That - coupled with the discovery that an Angel was behind Second Impact - was the first indication that we were facing more than a natural cataclysm. It was also the first indication that conventional weapons were not enough." He frowns. "What a shock that was, to see the atomic god toppled from his throne." Caswell pauses. "The first Evas were made using genetic material taken from the Angels, I'm sure you know that much."

You nod.

"They were grown and tested here," Max gestures to the holding tank. "It quickly became clear that we would need more control over them. Armor plates double as electro restraints and energy dampeners. This culminated with the decision - the need - to interface with a human pilot. The Marduk institute was formed to scour the globe for viable pilot candidates."

"How does this relate to bones?" Yezhov asks impatiently.

Caswell glances at him. "Lots of failures," he says. "But this was one experiment where failure was simply not an option. If the human race was to survive it needed this. Hundreds of gestations just to produce the paltry first wave. Construction methods have become more efficient, but it's always been a high-loss process."

"Energy dampeners?" You ask. "You mean the Evangelions would be stronger without their armor?"

Caswell considers this and shrugs. "They would certainly be more like the Angels - their genetic parents. The armor forces them to behave and follow the rules we set out for them. Birthed from the angels but controlled by man. Without that they're a lot less predictable."

You find yourself calling to mind Nerv's motto. He drove the Celestial team, and man was the Lord of the Fire.
>>
"If the Evangelions are really just descended from angels, then how come they don't have cores?"

"Who says they don't?" Caswell says. "Present but vestigial. Like a spleen. In our efforts to domesticate Angels we've also weakened them. We're playing with fire, you see. Tampering in God's domain." He smirks at this bit of sardonic humor. "We don't understand the S2 core well enough to grow one is the fact of the matter."

You nod. "Well, if this place was enough to contain unbound Evas then it stands good odds to contain a sleeping Angel. What sort of countermeasures are in place here, exactly? Armored and treated walls?"

Caswell smiles blandly. "This facility comes with three safeguards in addition to the obvious ones." He counts them off on his fingers. "Firstly, the ability to isolate select sections of the complex with explosive charges, emergency shutters, and blast doors. Secondly, the ability to flood most areas with a military-grade polymer, code named Bakelite. Lastly, this facility was constructed around fifteen, high-yield thermo-nuclear weapons. They can be triggered manually by us or automatically by the Magi in the right circumstances."

You let out a low whistle to cover the sudden unease you feel, knowing that this fortress might one day be your grave. "Who's in charge of pushing the button?" you ask, "Would you do it?"

"If it meant preventing a Third Impact, yes. In a heartbeat I would," Caswell says.

"I've seen what I wanted," You say. "I think this place is as good as any, and at least the Evas would be on hand in the event of trouble."

"I concur with Assad," Yezhov says, reluctantly.

"Then I'll make my final report to Captain Holiday," Caswell says.

"One more question, doctor?"

"Go ahead!"

"How could an Angel trigger a Third Impact? That's what this is all about, right? All these counter measures."

Caswell is silent a moment. "What we know- all we know about the Second Impact comes from just two sources," Caswell says. "The Katsuragai Expedition in 2000 which unearthed the being we now know as the First Angel. And the Versetti Expedition in 2001."
>>
"Versetti? The Colonel?" You ask.

Caswell nods. "Yes, the Colonel Versetti led a fact finding mission the year after Second Impact in order to determine what exactly had happened in the South Pole. We know that Dr. Katsuragai had unearthed the being we call Adam frozen in the ice. The team conducted an experiment to learn more about it. Details are sketchy but perhaps they were working at the S2 core. Whatever the case, the Angel exploded with enough force to permanently shift the earth's axial tilt and erase seasons. I'm not keen to find out how it happened exactly. All we know is that Angels must be destroyed as swiftly as we can manage." Caswell looks at you. "If that means that we keep one alive for now to learn how best to destroy the others then I am onboard."

"The question on my mind is, what it is about this place that bring the Angels here," Yezhov says.

Roger frowns a little, "Now that is a mystery. The Angels seem to pop up randomly, but they also seem to be focused on our little city. I'm sorry, bud, I can't answer that." He shakes his head.


>Letting them come to us just makes things easier
>What do we know about Angel intelligence? Is there any possibility they're smarter than we give them credit?
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable
>Write in
>>
>>4999103
>To be clear their ARE Evas at other locations,
Oh thank goodness.

>>4999182
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable
Unfortunately, the trick there will be figuring out what in the city is attracting them in the first place.
Pretty sure their intelligence is one of the most scrutinized topics going.
>>
>>4999182
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable
>>
>>4999182
>What do we know about Angel intelligence? Is there any possibility they're smarter than we give them credit?
>>
>Have we given any research into that? I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable

Writing
>>
"Have we given any research into that?" You ask. "I think being able to lure the Angels would be incredibly valuable."

"No doubt," Caswell agrees. "But no, we haven't had much ability to delve into that. It would be hard to prove any theories and I don't think the Colonel would appreciate us spending time trying to lure Angels rather than just kill them."

"Or capturing," Yezhov says sourly.

"Ah, yes. I do have my own theory though."

"I'd like to hear it," you say.

"It's just a theory," Caswell says. "Untested, unproven. More like speculation really. And it doesn't explain everything."

You wait.

"Well, I wonder if the Angels are attracted to their own."

"Their own? You mean the Evas?"

"In part, yes. It seems most Angels have gravitated toward locations with Evangelions, especially New Tampa which has such a large concentration of them. But it leaves other gaps in the theory, like the attack on Buenos Aires. The Versetti Expedition didn't have any Evas with them of course at that time."

"Versetti?" You ask.

"Oh, yes. Colonel Versetti and his expedition were returning from Antarctica at the time of the Angel's attack. It was Versetti who ordered the nuclear bombardment of the city to destroy the Angel."

"I didn't know that," you say. The thought of Versetti ordering all those people vaporized sends a chill up your spine.

"It's not well advertised," Caswell says. "Not something Nerv is particularly proud of for obvious reasons."

"It couldn't be helped," you say.

"Yes, but 'necessary' and 'pleasant' don't always overlap."

"Right."

Caswell checks his watch. "I hate to run, but I'm afraid I have a meeting right after this one."

"Is it about the capture operation?" you ask.

Caswell gives you a sad smile. "Not exactly. I have an evaluation with Miss Skobeleva."
>>
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You are Katya Skobeleva and the nurse has just finished her basic physical exam and closes the door behind her. You're now alone in the examination room. It's sterile, cold, bare. Everything is stainless steel and featureless linoleum.

It reminds you of the hospital room.

You look down at your hairband. You took it off before the exam because it somehow felt improper. Now you can't bring yourself to put it back on.

"Was it real?" you ask yourself the question in Russian, a whisper. You see the hospital room in your mind, as clear as a photograph. You see your mother's form beneath the sheet which mercifully covers her face. You see your father crying, you see the baby. You.

You let them all down

"Shut up."

Someone knocks gently on the door, startling you. A moment later it opens.

"Hey, Katya," Caswell says, coming in with a grin. "Good to see you again."

"Yes," you say, although it's anything but.

Caswell sits in a rolling chair opposite where you sit on the exam table. He flips through sheets of paper on a clipboard, furrowing his brow from time to time as he reads. "Hm. Looks like you're fit as a fiddle! Hardly a scratch on you," he says. "You're lucky."

You are a waste

"Yes," you say.

"Ah, I guess it doesn't feel that way, huh? That was a rough spot for you."

Your hands curl to fists at your side. "Yes."

"I can't begin to imagine what you kids go through out there," Caswell says. "It hardly seems fair to put a burden like this on you."

"This is what I choose," you say. "This is what I am good at."

It does not matter if I die or not. It just matters that maybe I save someone else.

"Maybe," Caswell says, "But I bet if there were no Angels you would have chosen something else, hm?"

"No Angels?" Your mother would be alive. You wouldn't be blamed by your family as the one who killed her. You would be happy. "Maybe I be something else."

"But I guess so would I. I try not to think about that sort of thing to be honest. Thinking about what was or what could have been will drive you crazy. I try to focus on what can be done and what can happen."

You don't reply.
>>
"Can I ask you something, Katya?" Caswell asks.

"Yes."

"When that Angel immobilized you, right after Ethan saved you, you said something. Do you remember?"

It doesn't matter what happens to me.

"No," you lie.

Caswell stares blankly at you for a second. "You said 'it doesn't matter what happens to me'. Do you remember that?"

"No."

He's undeterred. "Do you know why you would have said that?"

"No."

He taps a pen on the clipboard rhythmically. "That's a pretty bleak thing to say, don't you think?"

"Yes."

"Forgive me if I'm being nosy, that just doesn't sound like the Katya I know."

You almost ask him which Katya he thinks he knows. It seems like no one knows you. Maybe Ethan, maybe Korine, but maybe not. The Katya he knows is the one you let him know. The one who does her job and never shies away.

"I think maybe I mean that I don't want Ethan to worry," you say. "Destroying the Angel is more important, yes?"

"Maybe," Caswell says. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm glad he did, but I'm not so sure I could just give up on my own life like that."

Caswell waits for an answer that doesn't come. You just look at your hairband.

"I've looked over your neurological data from the battle," Caswell says. "I know in your after action report you said that when the Angel neutralized your AT field, you blacked out. You said that you don't remember anything between then and when you were removed from the entry plug."


You're not sure you can ever forget those moments. The things you were shown.

"I'm wondering if anything came back to you," Caswell says. "Your brainwaves suggest activity. A lot of activity. From what I can tell, the Angel somehow interfaced with you and your Eva. Do you remember any of that?"

You don't answer. You see yourself standing across your mother's hospital bed. Your duplicate sneers at you. You see your family falling apart. Because of you.

"Did the Angel communicate with you?" Caswell asks.

How could an Angel communicate? The thought strikes you as absurd. They're animals. Barely animals. They're aliens without intellect. There is nothing to communicate with. It was purely your own mind reacting to whatever the Angel did to you.

Wasn't it?


>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
>Write in
>>
>>5001051
>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
So…..deny, deny, deny?
>>
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>>5001051
>>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
>>
>>5001051
>>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
>>
>>5001284
Reasoning is, Ethan told her his burden. Maybe she should learn from him and tell Caswell.
>>
>>5001051
Tell caswell we need time to gather our thoughts before we're ready to talk more.
>>
>>5001051
>>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
Crazy people don't get to pilot god-machines.
>>
>>5001288
Maybe in time she'll tell Ethan, as her told her. But Ethan never told an authority figure either, for good reason.
>>
>>5001051
>Tell Caswell the truth of what happened
I think the science guy needs to hear this. This would be the first human Angel communication disregarding Ethan and Linda (I still don't know what Linda is, if she is an Angel why doesn't Nerv detect her?) This could be the thing that leads to a breakthrough with the Angels. New weapons, armor, and even engagement strategies could be developed. We don't know that telling the truth would result in ejection from the pilot program. Ethan's case is different and it makes sense that he wouldn't talk about it. Plus we're about to bring an infant Angel nearby and there's no telling how the two will effect each other.
>>
>Tell Caswell you don't remember anything
>>5001111
>>5001258
>>5001284

Writing
>>
You stare at the cat ear headband without speaking. A minute elapses before you give a light shake of your head. "I don't remember."

"Anything would help, Katya, any detail-"

You look at him. "There is nothing."

Caswell taps his clipboard twice. "Right. Right, well if anything occurs to you, just let me know, okay?"

You can't imagine doing that. You're a Skobeleva. You don't go running to others for help, especially not with your future on the line. You're an Eva pilot, that's all you are and all you can ever hope to be, and what good would you be without that? Without your Eva you're just another frightened, helpless child. If you're going to die, you'll die with a gun in your hand instead of hiding in a bunker.

Caswell can't help. What would he do? Prescribe you medicine to make you feel less at best. Remove you at worst. No. You won't tell him. There's nothing to tell. You had a bad experience, that's all there is to it.

"I do that." The lie comes easy.

Maybe Ethan would understand. He's been through worse, hasn't he?

Thinking of that strange eclectic jolt you felt makes you shiver. But . . . maybe he has enough to worry about without adding you to the list. The name alone makes you afraid. What is she? What does she want?

Linda...
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxHkLdQy5f0
The waltz. You recognize it at once. Tchaikovsky.

I'm kind of a dork about old music. Linda had said the words to you as the song played from fuzzy speakers in a barracks in Anchorage. You'd never heard anything like it, something soft, airy, free. It was almost hard to imagine that humans made it. It was hard to imagine a time that wasn't full of struggle, even harder to imagine a time that might inspire such music anyway.

You lose yourself in the sounds, the sweet hum of strings, the staccato melody of the dance and the accompaniment of horns. It's a song for revelry, a song for eternity, a song for tomorrow.

You are Ethan Chandler and this time the ballroom isn't empty. It's packed to the brim with swirling dancers, stepping in time to the music. Wall to wall is full of a swirling array of dancers, each partnered with another, moving as one, their faces indistinct. The ballroom doesn't merely contain the suggestion of a melody anymore, it surges and swells with the sounds of the song.

The men wear finely cut suits, as you do now.

The women wear pink pastel dresses that come just below their knees. All but one of them anyway.

The opposite end of the elegant ballroom is faced with enormous windows that look across the ocean. The waves flash in the light as the tide rolls endlessly in.

The entire dance floor is packed save for a small open space in the middle, like the eye of a hurricane. In the middle of it all is a teenage girl in a long white gown. Her back is to you but the carefully folded white-feathered wings make it impossible that she's anyone else.
>>
You move your way through the crowd, though they seem to part around you like waves on a rock. You don't have to slow or change course, every couple dances effortlessly around you, sailing by with a hint of laughter.

You stop behind the girl with wings and say her name. "Linda."

She turns around. Linda. You're awestruck by her. She's gorgeous, far more beautiful than you ever remembered or maybe noticed. She's not the strange, bubbly girl you knew in Anchorage, she's more.

"Ethan," She smiles warmly.

You embrace her without a second thought. The joy of being reunited is overwhelming.

She meets the embrace, putting her arms around you delicately. Linda unfurls her wings to wrap them around you as well, enveloping you in a soft, white cocoon.

"I missed you," she says.

Your answer is automatic. "I missed you too"

She gives you a last squeeze and release before taking your hand. "Dance with me, Dino." It's an invitation you can't refuse.

You take her hand and step off, letting your feet follow the carefully orchestrated rhythms of the waltz.

It's heady, exhilarating. The two of you hold one another as you sweep around the floor, moving through the storm of dancers. Linda smiles up at you. You see now that a golden halo floats above her head.

Your feet aren't touching the floor anymore, the two of you are literally dancing on air, moving higher above the others.

"I wish we could do this forever," Linda says wistfully.

"I was afraid," you say, "I thought I'd lost you again."

"Aw. No. I'm not going anywhere." She smiles up at you and gives you a soft kiss on the cheek that warms your skin and heart. Electric tingles run over your body.

"I heard the music," you say. "I hoped you were coming back."


"Always," she says.

The strings swell and you revolve together, circling around the ornate chandelier that hangs from a decorative plaster medallion on the ceiling.

"Is this a dream?" you ask.

"It's as real as you'll let it be, Ethan."
>Where did you go?
>Please don't leave again
>This can't go on forever
>Write in
>>
>>5003360
>"Dance with me, Dino."
...?

>Where did you go?
It's good to see her again, as subtly off as ever. Not gone as long as I thought she'd be.
>>
>>5003446
>>"Dance with me, Dino."
Weird. No idea. Pretend it says Ethan.
>>
>>5003360
>>Where did you go?

>>5003488
Watching dinosaur train huh?
>>
>>5003360
>Write in
Just enjoy the moment.
>>
>Where did you go?
>>5003446
>>5003643

Writing

>>5003643
>Watching dinosaur train huh?
I have no excuse.
>>
>>5004585
kek
>>
"Then it's real," you say, gripping her a little tighter.

"Things have been rough . . . since you've been gone."

Linda frowns. "I'm sorry, Ethan. Really. I just . . . I needed some time. I still do."

"Where did you go? Where have you been, Linda?"

She looks away, "I . . . I've been around. I needed to think about some things."

"Like what?" you ask.

"I'm not afraid anymore," Linda says.

"That's great," you say. "I didn't really know you were scared."

She nods. "Of my future of . . . of what will happen next. I've been afraid of everything, but I've been learning a lot about myself since I've been with you, Ethan."

"What have you learned?"

Linda looks shy. "I learned that . . . you didn't just save my life, Ethan." Linda looks away bashfully, as if suddenly embarrassed. When she looks back, you see the reflection of a strange, double-barred cross in her eyes. "You set me free."
>>
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You open your eyes.

You're lying in bed and early morning sunlight is just starting to come through the window of your apartment. You lift your hand to your face, and open it. The feather is gone, if it was ever there.

"Linda."

That image, of the shape in Linda's eyes lingers in your mind like the after image of a bright light.

You sit up and exhale, looking around your empty room. A dream?

It's as real as you'll let it be

"Then it's real," you say.

You dress and prepare for the day. Sync testing this afternoon. You know you've been assigned to this deep sea recovery mission, but you don't yet have all the details. It will be you and Korine alone. Katya and Renton will be staying here, and that has you nervous. You've always been able to count on the full team to some degree. This time, for the first time since Anchorage, it will be you and a partner with no one else.

And just like then, your partner will be counting on you.

You shake your head, trying to clear your mind. This will be nothing like Anchorage. You catch sight of yourself in the bathroom mirror. You look tired, hollow.

Nothing like Anchorage.
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOTFm1n3A9g

You are Katya Skobeleva and you have your eyes closed. The pressure of the Eva weighs on your mind, pressing in from all sides. It's like sinking into a deep, dark ocean, the weight of the water around you threatening to smash you to a pulp.

The ocean. Thinking about it only makes your mood dip lower. Ethan and Korine would be leaving soon for the Pacific. You don't want to dwell on it.

This sync test, you find that your thoughts have been troubled. Normally you have no trouble clearing your mind, drawing on that boundless well of inner tranquility you have within you. Only now it seems like that well is dry.

"Katya, it's Caswell." Caswell's voice interrupts your meditation. "Everything alright?"

"Is fine," you say.

"Try not to get distracted by anything. Remember, this is just a test. Nothing to worry about."

You see your doppelganger sneering back at you. You are a waste.

"I understand."

***

You are Captain Rose Holiday and you're watching the results of the sync test on the monitors in the control room.

Four entry plugs sit in the open room, each with a pilot, visible on monitors here. Renton, Ethan, Korine, and Katya. Each is deeply concentrated on the test.

"This is abysmal," you say, frowning at the results.

"It's not that bad," Caswell says. "Ethan's score is up by two points."

"And that puts him at number one," you say, "but only because Katya is down by fifteen. And Renton is down by ten. These are their lowest scores on record."

Caswell looks downcast. "Yes. Well . . . they've both gone through a lot."

"Do I need to remind you that Katya and Renton are the two we've selected to defend the city?"

"No," Caswell says, "You don't. But look at the bright side: these are the pilots who need the rest the most."

"Hm."


>Tell Ethan that he got the top score this round of testing
>Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores
>Lie and tell Katya that she got the top score again
>Write in
>>
>>5004685
>>Write in
Tell them all their scores in a neutral voice.
>>
>>5004685
>>Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores
Releasing the scores will either light a fire under them, or just depress them. Low scores are a bad thing, but I wouldn't be worried unless it becomes a trend.
>>
>>5004685
Changing from>>5004700
to
>>Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores
>>
>>5004685
>Write in
Say nothing.
>>
>>5005041
+1
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>1 Congratulate all the pilots on a good job but don't release the scores

>2 Say nothing

Writing
>>
You sigh. "There's no reason to make them worry. They have enough on their plates, especially with the retrieval operation coming."

Caswell nods.

You sigh again. There's never an easy moment. "The test is over."

***

You are Ethan Chandler and the pressure on your mind lets up a moment before the entry plug door opens. The abrupt end takes you by surprise. Typically Rose would announce a top performer, and that would invariably be Katya.

You don't dwell on it long, your thoughts remain with Linda.

You set me free.

You don't know what she meant by that, but you don't think you like it. Since she spoke with you, you'd dwelled on it, turning it over in your mind. What she said, and the cross you saw. Did it mean something?

It felt like it did. It felt potent, it felt important. It felt like a premonition of things to come.

In the crushing dark depths of the secret sea. Standing on dead, sun-bleached rocks and ruins alone in the ocean. From the beginning to the end and everywhere at the end of time. It's always us.

"What will happen next." You mutter Linda's words. What will happen next?

"Looks like you broke it," Korine says.

"Broke it?"

"The test," she says, stretching her arms over her head and standing on tiptoe to relieve a crick in her back. "You broke the test. What did you do?"

"Maybe Miss Skobeleva shattered another record," Renton teases, joining the three of you.

Katya walks by everyone without stopping, without so much as a glance.

You all watch her go.
>>
"What's up with Katya?" Korine asks.

All eyes go to you. It's no secret that you're closer with her than anyone. You can only shrug. "I don't know."

The group breaks up to shower and change. You're briefly alone with Renton who says nothing to you. You say nothing back. You've done your very best not to think about what happened. Those people.

You could never had stopped me. No matter what you tried, I would have killed them all. You never had a choice, you see? I am sorry that I involved you, but you never would have saved them.

Renton's words haunt you. It was a lie, but a comforting one. Was that why he told you that? He'd said he would have killed you if you tried to stop him. Somehow you don't believe that. You look over your shoulder at Renton who is buttoning his shirt. Was he trying to insulate you from his choice? Shield you from the consequences? If so, did that make him any less of a bastard?

Renton speaks. "Ciao." The locker room door closes behind him.

You finish dressing and leave. The halls of Nerv feel emptier than before, as if something vital was missing from them, some critical element. Maybe it's just your own emptiness that you feel. It's a relief when you finally encounter Mbaru waiting in the parking garage.

He leans on the driver's side of the black sedan, looking as implacable and aloof as ever. "Ready?"

"Ready," you say.

It's not a long drive from Nerv 03 back to your apartment, but heavy traffic has slowed things down. Mbaru watches the road, eyes on the van in front of you. The city feels as alive as ever, maybe even more so with all the activity preparing two Evas for long range deployment.


>Ask Mbaru if he knows what's going on with Katya
>Tell Mbaru you're nervous about the Pacific operation
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>Ride in silence
>Write in
>>
>>5006811
>>Tell Mbaru you're nervous about the Pacific operation
>Ask Mbaru if he knows what's going on with Katya
>>
>>5006811
>Was that why he told you that?
Almost certainly. While it's possible Renton would win a fight between us and him, it would be hard-fought and NERV would have disabled one or both EVAs before any such fight really got going.


>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
If anything, I feel like Ethan would be looking forward to the Pacific op somewhat; can't lose a comrade-in-arms if you're running solo.
>>
>>5006811
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>>
>>5006811
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>>
>Tell Mbaru that you're worried about Renton
>>5006865
>>5007232
>>5008846

Sorry for the delay guys, real life has been a bitch. I'm going to try to resume one post a day.


Writing
>>
"Do you talk to Renton much?" you say.

Mbaru raises an eyebrow while keeping his eyes on the road. "Renton?"

"Yeah."

"No. Should I have?"

Stupid question. You feel stupid for having asked. "Ah, forget it." You turn away to watch the sidewalk slowly rolling past. The car is hardly moving, coming to frequent stops because of the traffic.

"Is this because of what happened?' Mbaru asks.

"I guess. Yeah. I'm worried about him."

"It was an accident," Mbaru says.

"Yeah but-" you have to proceed carefully. "That's a lot for someone to take in. All those people . . ."

"Just numbers," Mbaru says. The callousness of his response shocks you. "Those people died, yes. It was their time. There is no sense in dwelling on it."

"Maybe if things had been different-"

Mbnaru shakes his head. "There is no shortage of death in this world, Ethan. Renton is a warrior like you. He is a killer."

"He's not a killer," you say, but the words are weak.

Mbaru shrugs. "Maybe not of men. But a killer of monsters. Sometimes that line is blurred."

You want to argue with him, tell him he's wrong, tell him every human life is precious. But if you really believed that, then why didn't you stop him?

"Renton will have to cope with what has happened," Mbaru says. "He will do that or he won't."

"That's pretty fatalistic," you say. "You really think like that?"

Mbaru finally looks at you, just a glance. "If I was here to kill you, would you stop me?"

"What?"

"Would you kill me to save your own life?"

"I . . . I mean I would defend myself."

"You would do whatever you needed to to survive," Mbaru says, confident. "This is how all people are. We turn our nose up at killing until we must. Then the weak turn to people like me. People like you."

You study the scar on his face. Mbaru had said he was a pirate before. Had he killed back then? Before his life now? It's a frightening prospect. "But these people didn't need to die. Renton didn't mean to." You perpetuate the lie.

Mbaru shrugs. "A tragedy, yes. But it has happened and there's no sense dwelling on it any further.

"I guess."

"And you are bothered?"

"I wish I could have saved them," you say, turning away.

"You are a kind man, Ethan. Too kind I think. It will hurt you to be like this. It is like a wound that won't heal. Harden your heart. This war isn't over yet."

You nod and fall silent. Does Mbaru know Renton killed those people on purpose? Does he care? Either way the result is the same. Still, you can't agree completely with Mbaru's sentiments. You know you would fight to defend yourself and your species, but a warrior without a conscience is just a killer. You're not a killer.
>>
Your car door opens and someone unbuckles your seatbelt. "Out!" Hands grab you and pull you from the vehicle and onto the sidewalk. "Wh-what" You resist, pulling back, bewildered.

The car is stopped, the van you were following sits idle in front of you, the doors are open and men with guns and masks have weapons trained on Mbaru in the car. They're not in uniform, wearing only non-descript street clothes.

A bystander nearby screams. The man dragging you toward the van is gripping you by the wrist with one hand, the other holds a pistol. Despite your conscious mind telling you it's a bad idea, you resist, pulling back, still half-dazed, overwhelmed by the suddenness of this.

"Let me go!" you say, anger and fear replacing confusion.

"Ethan, please you have to trust me!" Your captor's voice is surprisingly soft, pleading.

"Come on we don't have time!" One of the other gunman from the van calls, glancing at the man holding you.

You look to Mbaru for help but see that he's frozen, under the watchful gaze of a gunman by the van, unable to move.

The man dragging you suddenly releases you, turning to look you in the eye. They're wide, afraid. He's sweating. "Ethan, we're not going to hurt you, we need to talk to you."

"Me? Who the fuck are you?"

"My name is Rakesh Bindra," he says. "I used to work for Nerv. They're lying to you. You need to know the truth of everything. We need to-"

"Let's go!" one of the other gunmen in the van calls, voice edged with panic. "There's no fucking time."

Rakesh looks back at you. "Ethan, please. Come with us. " He gestures toward the van.
>Go with Rakesh
>Do not go with Rakesh
>>
>>5010734
>>Go with Rakesh
>>
>>5010721
Was starting to get worried about you. You do what you need to, we'll be around.

>>5010733
>It will hurt you to be like this. It is like a wound that won't heal. Harden your heart. This war isn't over yet."
That sums it up pretty well, unfortunately. Our uncertainty in making that choice has left Ethan is a terrible sort of limbo.
It won't be easy, but he's going to have to put it behind him if he wants to stay sane.

>>5010734
>Do not go with Rakesh
Ethan isn't the sort to buy into anti-NERV propaganda.
>>
>>5010734
>Do not go with Rakesh
>>
>>5010734
>Go with Rakesh
I want to see what's up, and if we don't they'll probably kill Mbaru. And then we go with them anyways.
>>
>>5010734
>Do not go with Rakesh

They've already half-assed it, which means whatever bullshit they're thinking, they're not ready to do it.
>>
>Do not go with Rakesh
>>5010844
>>5011083
>>5011528

Writing
>>
You take a step back from him.

The rip of automatic gunfire deafens you.

Rakesh jerks and falls backward, his blood painting the van behind him.

Before any of the gunmen can react, Mbaru adjusts his aim and lets out another deadly burst of gunfire through the already shattered car window, cutting down one of the other would-be kidnappers. Whatever spirit these men had evaporates in an instant. The survivors scramble into the van which accelerated away with a squeal of tires.

You stand, frozen in shock, staring at Rakesh's body where he lies.

Mbaru gets out of the car and extends the stock on his sub machine gun before shouldering it and firing a series of shots at the fleeing van.

Rakesh is trying to sit up in vain, blood welling from his chest and mouth. He keeps his eyes on you. He opens his mouth and a blood bubble pops. He slumps back, eyes unfocused.

"Ethan, get in the car." Mbaru sweeps the area with the muzzle of his SMG before taking out his cellphone. "Guardian Three, shots fired. There was an attempt to kidnap Chandler.

You keep staring at Rakesh, alive a moment ago and pleading with you, dead now.

"Ethan!" Mbaru grabs your arm. "We can't stay here."

You nod jerkily. This all feels very unreal. "R-right." You get in and close the door a second before Mbaru guns the engine, swinging the car around in a tight loop. He drives with his right hand, gripping the handle of his SMG with his left, and keeps his cellphone pressed to his ear with his shoulder.

"White van," Mbaru says. "Unmarked. Five men and a driver. Two dead. Chandler is secure." He pauses, listening to the other end. "Right. We're on our way to the safe house. Understood." Mbaru drops the phone into a cup holder. He looks at you. "Are you alright?"

You nod.

"Injured?"

You shake your head.

"What did he say?"

"He wanted me to go with him," you say.

"Why?"

Nerv is lying to you.

"I don't know."
>>
You are Captain Rose Holiday, and you're furious. Less than six hours ago, there was a kidnapping attempt on one of your pilots. It was clumsy, amateurish, but clearly planned in advance.

"How can you have no idea?" you say, barely restraining your fury.

The NervSec agent standing opposite you in your office look no more pleased than you do. For the past six hours, NervSec and UN security had swept the city streets. The van was found abandoned, but no trace of the other occupants.

"Ma'am," the NervSec agent says, "You have our report. The assailants remain unidentified. Our suspicion is they are disgruntled nationalist actors from-"

"Bullshit," you say, drawing him short. "Do you even hear what you're saying? 'Disgruntled nationalist actors'? Are you kidding me?"

His face flushes red behind his sunglasses. "You have our report, ma'am."

"The audacity to call this-" you drop the thin file folder to your desk "-a report. It's a guess. It's a shrug. You're sweeping it under the rug."

"That's your opinion."

"No," you say, "My opinion is that NervSec is a goddamn joke. Ethan could have been killed, or worse. And you don't even know who would want to do such a thing."

"As I said-"

"Don't even bother," you hold up a hand to silence him. "I don't want to hear more bullshit. You think you guys are the only ones who hold keys around here?" You open your desk drawer and retrieve your own printout, tossing it into the open. "Personnel files. Dr. Rakesh Bindra and Eugene Redmond. Both Nerv employees here at Nerv 03 until a short while ago."

The agent stiffens, silent.

"You didn't think I'd find that out, huh? Now tell me, why the fuck would ex-Nerv want to go after Ethan."

"It- it seems likely there was an attempt to extort money from-"

You hold up another hand. "Forget it. You did your job. Just go."

The agent doesn't move. "I'll remind you, Captain, that pilot safety isn't our only job. Informational security also falls under our jurisdiction. I'd be careful where you stick your nose."

"If you guard info as well as you guard pilots then I don't think I have anything to worry about," you say before giving him a merciless smile.

The door closes behind the agent and your smile fades to nothing. Ex-Nerv employees going after Chandler made no sense. Nerv personnel were vetted, vetted carefully. You wouldn't hire radical elements or sleeper agents. The recollection that Sayid was just such a thing draws you short. The system clearly wasn't foolproof, but were these more UN spies? It would explain how they were able to remain unnoticed in the city, but it wouldn't explain the amateurish attack.

You drum your fingers on the desk in thought. More questions and still no answers. And the pilots leave for the retrieval operation tomorrow. You sigh and return your papers back to your drawer. Somehow the truth will come out. Sooner rather than later you think.
>>
You are Max Goldberg and you finish ascending the final few steps to the deck of the refugee ship Salvacion. The sky is the same color as the rust spots on the well-worn metal plating you stand on. The air here smells like a mixture of food cooking, marijuana, and sweat.

Renton is leaning on a railing nearby looking toward the newest reclamation zone on the edge of New Tampa. Dredger ships circle the beach like vultures, spewing tons of sea-floor silt to add to the growing landmass protruding from the city's flank like a tumor. The skeletal frames of housing developments dot the land. When it's done, that new neighborhood will likely be the home for refugees like the people of Salvacion. It's the promise of a future free from the uncertainty of the sea.

You and Renton haven't spoken much since he killed those people. You'd heard that after the city lockdown was lifted that Renton had come home, so you'd come to find him. You're still not sure what you're going to say. You don't know if you should talk about what happened or ignore it. You don't know if you should hate Renton or love him. You made a promise to yourself that you were going to spend more time with him, and now you aim to fulfil it.

"I see the terrorists passed on you," you say, coming to stand beside him.

"I can't say my feelings are hurt at being overlooked," Renton says. "Better Ethan than Katya or Korine though I think."

You take a cigarette from your shirt pocket and light it. "That's cold, man."

"Ethan can take it," Renton says. "He's a soldier. Tough. The girls are going through something I think. Katya especially. She is not herself."

"Yeah," you say. "What about you?"

"Same Renton. Different day, same Renton," he says.

"Good to know some things never change," you say. You listen to the sound of the docks and the lapping of waves on the hull of the ship. "Any idea what's eating Katya?"

He shakes his head. "Something about the Angel I think. A brush with death, maybe."

You don't believe that for an instant. "Maybe. Ethan and Korine leave for the Pacific tomorrow. Said goodbye?"

"No. There's no point to it. I'll see them when they return." For all his bravado, he can't hide his fear from you. It's as obvious to you as your cancer is to him.
>Why did you kill those people, Renton?
>I'm here for you, Renton. Every day, I've got your back.
>You up for a game of soccer?
>Write in
>>
>>5011566
>Mbaru gets out of the car and extends the stock on his sub machine gun
Mbaru doing the work! He was either waiting to see what we did, or was just waiting for an opportune moment; he had everything under control.

>>5011569
>You up for a game of soccer?
I don't know how long Max can play, given his physical health, but I think playing together will do more good for both of us than pointed questions or platitudes, even well intentioned ones.
>>
>>5011569
>You up for a game of soccer?
We can get to the serious questions later.
"Would you kill me to save your own life?"
Totally thought this was foreshadowing.
>>
>>5011569
>>You up for a game of soccer?
>>
>>5011569
>>You up for a game of soccer?
>>
>>5010844
>Was starting to get worried about you. You do what you need to, we'll be around.
Forgot to respond to this! Thanks for understanding. We'll see this thing to the end.
>>
>You up for a game of soccer?

Writing.
>>
You glance over your shoulder at the green-painted rectangle in the center of the deck. It's hardly regulation sized, but the goals are marked with white plastic buckets. A threadbare ball lies nearby.

"How about a game?" You nod toward the ball.

"What, are you joking?" Renton looks at you smugly. "You're an old man, you'll hurt yourself."

"Ha! Not my first game of soccer, you know. I used to play when I was a kid like you."

"Futbol," Renton corrects you. "And you were a kid a long time ago."

You walk to the ball, ignoring his objections and give it a few experimental kicks, passing from one foot to the next. "Then come on, don't be a wuss."

Renton snorts. "If it's a matter of honor, how can I refuse?"

You play as hard as you've ever played. The hollow thuds of feet on metal plate echo into the air as you and Renton take turns juking around one another and shooting goals, or failing to. You play until your blood burns and your face is sheened with sweat. You can't play as long as you used to, but you play until your body forces you to quit. Just for these few minutes you push aside the nausea and fatigue, the aching bones and chill skin.

When you play, Renton is smiling, he's laughing. For every minute you can push through the pain, he's happy, and there's no limit to what you'll sacrifice to keep him that way.
>>
You are Ethan Chandler and you're back in your apartment building. You watched two men die today. You'd watched Mbaru kill them both in service of protecting you. Those men had died for something, and you still aren't even sure what.

You stare at the door in front of you, Katya's door, and you knock again.

You tucked the memories away. Locked the sight of blood away within yourself, burying it deep, deep enough that you can forget it for now. You bury it with the sight of that freighter burning, the thought that you were going to let Katya die. You bury it with Linda's screams.

The door remains resolutely closed. There's no movement behind the peephole. You look at your phone again, checking your messages. Nothing from Katya. Where is she?

You text her. Are you home?

You'd really rather not be alone. Not after the dream of the ballroom again, not after what happened today. With NervSec agents posted around the building, it's not your safety that you're worried about.

Katya isn't home, or isn't answering. You don't really like either possibility, but you're also not going to force the issue. She has her own demons.

You start back for your room. You feel guilty almost right away. Korine of course is right next door to you. You have no reason to be alone. Still, you're a little anxious about being alone with her. She's volatile and you really don't need more trouble.

You wince. What a selfish attitude. Korine is your friend, the same as the others, maybe she'd appreciate a visit. You stop by her door and knock. She opens a moment later. She's in pajamas already, clearly ready for bed.

"Ah, bad time?" you say.

"Always, come on in." Korine opens the door wider and you enter. "No Katya?"

Did she know you'd gone there first? "No, she didn't answer. Any idea where she is?"

"She's here I think," Korine says.

"She's not answering her door."

"Yeah, I dunno." Korine flops onto the couch and you sit opposite her. "She'll be alright. Just let her have some time." She says it with such conviction that you feel like Korine knows something. Best to let it lie.

"I hope I'm not interrupting your sleep."

"Nah. Can't sleep. Too scared."

"Of the mission?"

Korine nods.

"Relax," you say. "I'm taking point, you're the backup. It's no pressure."

She gives you a look. "Sure. Right. No big deal." Korine looks sour.

"Seriously, are you really scared about the mission?"

"I'm scared about everything, Ethan," she says. She looks tired in a way that sleep can't fix. "It's seriously fucked up. Everything. It's going to shit. Aaliyah, Renton, Katya. Everything is going to shit."

You know what she means. It feels like a low spot.

"Do you even know what this mission is about?"

"Some kind of operation in the Pacific. You can bet it involves an Angel, beyond that-" you shrug.
>>
"Right." She fidgets uncomfortably. You're just about to say something when she speaks again. "Can I play you something?"

"Play?"

"Yeah, on the piano."

You look at the keyboard you and the other pilots got for her. "Oh. Yeah, sure. You take requests?"

"Sure," she says, springing from the couch, "But not right now. I have something special in mind."

"Alright," you say, bemused.

Korine sits at the keyboard, flips it on, adjusts the foot pedal and settings to grand piano. "I actually have been working on a piece. It's just a little thing."

You don't get a chance to reply before she starts playing.

https://vocaroo.com/12VRd2NIiQiS

As she plays, you can't help but watch her. Her fingers move with a dancer's grace, going from key to key with clockwork precision. She bites her lip as she plays, concentrating on each note and working her way through the song carefully. She seems like a different person. Relaxed, confident, focused.

The song is over before you realize it. She's looking at you expectantly.

"Wow, you wrote that?"

"I mean I came up with it I guess," she says. "Did you like it?"

"Yeah. I'm not really a piano guy but it was good."

"Don't be weird," she says, it sounds like a warning. "But that's for you."

You blink. "For me?"

"Yeah, but not like . . . in a weird way! I just . . ." Korine flusters. "It's just like a thank you. It's a gift, okay?"

"What for?"

"For not ditching me." Korine doesn't look at you. "I know I've done some really fucked up shit, and I've been a horrible bitch to you, and I probably will be again. But . . . I . . . I'm glad that you're still around."

"We're friends," you say. "Of course. You don't need to thank me for that."

"Yeah, well I did. Don't be weird about it. Now do you want me to play something stupid or what?"

"Freebird."

"Ha ha."

"Just play something," you say. "It's relaxing."

She gives you a look of bewilderment. "Really?"

"Yeah."

"Relaxing?"

"Yes? Why wouldn't it be?"

She smirks, "Dunno, no one ever told me that before. I guess I never really played for anyone except my foster parent." Korine resumes playing.


>Just sit and listen
>Tell me about your foster parent
>Seriously, you play beautifully
>Write in
>>
>>5012385
Good to see poor old Max not getting the short end of the stick for once.
Good to see both of them happy for once.

>>5012388
>"Yeah, but not like . . . in a weird way! I just . . ." Korine flusters. "It's just like a thank you. It's a gift, okay?"
huh.
Well, we know piano is her outfit, so I'm willing to take that a face value.

>"We're friends," you say. "Of course. You don't need to thank me for that."
She was our first friend here, while we were still in shock over our first real fight; consider it "returning the favor".
And we all have our demons, so it's not like we could judge even if we wanted to.


>Just sit and listen
She likes playing and we like listening. Just enjoy the moment.
If she gets flustered, she can try and teach us to play or something. But for now we're content where we are.
>>
>>5012388
>>Just sit and listen
>let a manly tear slide out.
>>
>>5012388
>Just sit and listen
>>
>Just sit and listen

Writing
>>
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZW57CMgpo

Korine plays on. Short, nervous melodies gradually give way to soft, flowing music. It's invariably sad. The tune is melancholy and remorseful. It's a melody for something long gone or never obtained, but fondly remembered.

You close your eyes and get comfy on the couch letting the strains of Korine's music fill your mind and push out your apprehension and pain. No one speaks, but no one needs to.

You stay awake long past when you should, just listening to her playing. Despite the tone being entirely different, despite the tempo not being remotely the same, it makes you think of the waltz. Linda's waltz.

***

Morning comes without mercy.

You're already packed and waiting when Mbaru arrives at your door. All your worldly possessions fit in a single duffel bag. You sling it over your shoulder and follow Mbaru out. Korine and Katya are here, as well as Yezhov. Everyone looks tired, everyone keeps to themselves.

The car trip to the airport is similarly uneventful but you're surprised to find Max and Renton here waiting for you.

In fact, the otherwise deserted terminal is full of Nerv personnel preparing to fly out. A cadre of technical and command staff has gathered here, evidently to support this assignment, and many others are here to see them off. You see Dr. Caswell saying goodbye to Rose and picking up his bags. Mbaru likewise is accompanying you.

Somehow, in the press and bustle of people, you and the other pilots find themselves alone together.

Renton speaks first. "It's not fair that they're only taking two," he says. "But it makes sense they'd want to keep the core pilots to defend the base."

"Ha," Korine says.

"I wish you were coming with us," you say.

"Me as well, my friend," Renton says. He glances at Katya who's not looking at anyone in particular. "Whatever it is that they have you doing, be careful, will you?"

"We'll be fine," you say.

"Ethan promised he'd do the heavy lifting," Korine says. "I'm here for moral support."

"I think you two be okay," Katya says. "You be a team."

"Yes," you say, equal parts agreement and promise. Katya looks worried, unusually so. There's no better chance than now, "Everything okay?"

Katya looks surprised, like you caught her in the middle of a memory. "Yes, I'm okay. I just worry."

"Don't," you say. "It's just another mission."

"Exactly," Renton agrees.

Silence settles over the group, you somehow feel it falls to you to break it.

"We're a team," you say, "All of us. We've been through hell and we're not out yet, but we're here together. So we've got nothing to worry about."

Renton nods.

"Right," Korine says.

Katya doesn't answer.

Renton opens his mouth, closes it, then speaks at last. "We'll see you when you come back, yes?" He puts his hands in his pockets. "Try not to take to long, hm?"

"As quick as we can," you promise."

"Ethan, Korine, Ciao."

"Ciao," Korine echoes.
>>
Katya hugs Korine and whispers something in her ear. Korine looks a little surprised but says nothing. Katya turns to you, momentarily making eye contact before looking down again. There's a moment of hesitation and then she hugs you too. She whispers to you. "I be waiting for you." She pulls away and follows after Renton before you can say anything else.

You and Korine exchange a look.

Korine shrugs.

"Alright folks," Caswell says, speaking up to be heard over the crowd. "We've got a plane to catch. Away staff, check in with NervSec and start boarding. Let's go."

"Come on," you say to Korine, giving one final glance back at Katya's retreating form before following Korine onto the plane.

***

You're no stranger to travel, the monotony is manageable. You've developed mechanisms for coping with the boredom and discomfort. Meditation some might call it. You're just beginning that process when it's interrupted by Dr. Caswell entering the small forward cabin of the plane that you and Korine are sharing.

The plane had taken off about thirty minutes ago, setting course west, chasing the setting sun.

"Hey guys, sorry for barging in but I figure you're just about ready to hear some details about this mission," Caswell says, taking and empty seat nearby.

"Is it an Angel?" Korine asks.

Roger gives a half smile. "It always is, isn't it? Yep. An Angel in the Pacific ocean. Dormant as far as we can tell."

"Like the one in Siberia?" you ask.

Roger regards you a moment before speaking. "Not far off from it. We think it's in some kind of suspended state. Embryonic maybe. It's not active."

"We're going to kill it?" Korine asks.

"Capture," Roger says. "We'll be joining the UN Pacific Battle Group. Two aircraft carriers have been modified to house a diving rig. We'll be lowering an Eva down with a containment cage. We'll bag the Angel, return to the surface, and cart it back to Nerv for study."

"Just one Eva?" you ask.

"The rig can only take one."

"Then why am I here?" Korine asks.

"We need a second Eva on standby, in case anything out of the ordinary happens. We're not taking chances." Caswell looks at you. "Ethan, we've selected you as the primary on this operation. Are you up to it?"

"Of course."

"Great! You guys have any questions for me? I mean I'm sure you have a million!"


>What happens if the Angel wakes up?
>What are you going to do with the Angel after we get it back to New Tampa?
>How long is this all going to take?
>Write in
>>
>>5013202
>>What happens if the Angel wakes up?
>>What are you going to do with the Angel after we get it back to New Tampa?
>>How long is this all going to take?

>write in
>How deep is it?
>How can an Eva withstand that pressure?
>Im hungry, is there any snacks around here?
>>
>>5013202
>Assuming no movement, no sound, nothing to emit, how'd THEY found it?
>If it's embryonic, what... uh... feeds it?
>Do you hope it just won't go pop once you decompress it?

Man, I've skipped the start of the thread and now regret it.
>>
>>5013202
>Two aircraft carriers have been modified to house a diving rig.
Seems like an excessive waste when modified cargo ships would have worked just as well, but I guess they're not as valuable as they used to be.


>What happens if the Angel wakes up?

>What's the actual capture going to look like? Am I just popping down, grabbing the thing, and coming back?

>How deep is this thing? How long will the descent take? Ascent same speed?
>How will ascent and descent be handled?
The tether obviously isn't designed to dangle an EVA from for any length of time.

>Weapons or tools available/required?

>Conventional assets available, underwater and surface?

>Modifications made to the EVA I need to be aware of? Has Korine's had the same mods?
This would include things such as max safe depth and changes to mobility.
If it's of considerable depth, we're going to need lights, sonar systems and/or hydrophones.
I assume we're be running a tether like normal, which should handle coms and power.
>>
>Write ins

>Writing
>>
"Yeah I've got a few," you say. "Like for starters, who found this thing? You said it's Embryonic?"

"We're not sure what it is," Caswell says. "But it's dormant. We suspect it's not fully grown, or even active at all. As for how it was found, surveyors involved with laying trans-oceanic fiber optic cables came across it. It was observed on sea-bed scanning sonar, identified as an anomaly, and later positively identified by us as an Angel."

"How far down?" You ask.

"Deep," Caswell says with a thin smile. "Abyssal plain deep. There will be no natural light that far down, you'll be reliant on your diving rig. That's how the Eva will survive past a human's crush depth. It's specially fitted armor plates that will alleviate the worst of the pressure. It's got banks of lights and things. Visibility won't be a problem."

"How long will descent and ascent take?"

"It's five thousand meters down, give or take. Descent will take a little under an hour. For ascent- depending on the weight of the Angel- triple it."

"He's going to be down there for four hours?!" Korine says.

"Longer than that depending on how long it takes us to locate the Angel and secure it," Caswell says. "With the B-Type equipment, the Eva can stay down there forever effectively, our only limiter will be the pilot."

Hours on end in the Eva sounds exhausting. "No problem," you say.

"How is something like that even alive? If it's an embryo it needs nutrients or something, right?" Korine asks.

"The short answer is that we just don't know. Angels defy most of what we formerly called 'the natural laws of science'. A longer version would be that- as far as we can tell- the Angels don't need to eat, they can generate their own energy from within, which means they're wholly self-sustaining."
>>
"What about the mission itself?" you ask. "Equipment, weapons, conventional assets on hand, the capture procedure-"

Caswell holds up his hands. "Whoa, whoa, buddy. Don't worry about all that stuff. Rest assured, the whole UN Pacific blue water fleet is gathered around this one. We've got a capture cage fitted with experimental electromagnetic screens that will grab the embryo and a sampling of the water around it. The cage holds the whole thing under pressure for the ascent."

"And what about me?" Korine asks.

"You're going to be waiting on the carrier. There's only one capture cage and the winch-assembly can only handle one Eva. If . . . anything goes wrong, we can hook you up and send you down." His smile falters a little.

He doesn't say the part where your Eva has to be detached to send Korine, and it's an hour down. Korine isn't here to back you up, she's here to replace you if you die.

"Right," Korine says.

"And . . . this Angel, it's inert you said?"

"Yep!"

"And what if it wakes up?"

Roger stops smiling. "Then you have to kill it."

"Right." You don't look forward to that prospect. "And then we're just taking it back to New Tampa? What for?"

"It will be dissected- uh . . . dismantled. However you want to look at it. We're going to cut it apart bit by bit to study and collect samples. Anything that could help us in the fight. When we're done, we'll dispose of it. The trip back will take a couple weeks for the main fleet. We'll need you and Korine on standby during that time, just to ensure nothing goes wrong."

You nod. "And I'll get more details before the mission?"

"Yes, of course. No sweat, bud. We've even got a simulator onboard for you to familiarize yourself with underwater movement, and the new equipment."

"Great," you say.

"Anything else?"


>Just for you to tell me where the snacks are
>Yes (Write in)
>>
>>5014110
>>Just for you to tell me where the snacks are
My paranoia is tingling, but that pretty well covers my questions.
I will be curious to see what weapons and tools they give us for this though.
>>
>>5014110
>>Just for you to tell me where the snacks are
I think something bad is about to happen. we just have to be prepared is all.
>>
>>5014110
>Yes (Write in)
How does one pee during a four-hour sortie? Not in the LCL, no? Also, is there a snack box in the entry plug?
>>
>>5014316
I will support this too
>>
>>5014316
>How does one pee during a four-hour sortie?
Same as every other mission? IIRC, this isn't the first time we've been on-station for hours at a time.
>Also, is there a snack box in the entry plug?
Seeing as the plugs are filled with LCL, and LCL is known for reeking of blood, I can't imagine willingly eating anything while strapped in.
>>
>>5016246
Hey, someone out there likes blood sausage.
>>
>>5014160
>>5014287
>>5014316
>>5014425


Writing
>>
"Isn't that an awfully long time to be stuck in an entry plug?" You ask. You're used to long missions, but that's pushing it.

"Built in life support functions can sustain you for twenty four hours on low gain mode. I just suggest you ah . . ." he glances at Korine uncomfortably. "You use the facilities before the mission."

Korine snorts.

"Right," you say. "So what about creature comforts right now? Where are the snacks?"

The rest of the flight passes slowly and uneventfully. You manage to doze off once or twice though turbulence wakes you each time. Eventually, after refueling at an airfield, the flight reaches the fleet. As the plane circles and descends, you keep your face pressed to the window, marveling down at the tremendous number of ships in the blue water below. The combined UN Pacific fleet. It's made up of virtually every ocean-going naval vessel from every Pacific power. Russia, China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia, the United States, and many others are represented below with a staggering array of carriers, cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and auxiliary vessels.

Korine whistles. "That's a lot of boats."

At the center of this congregation, you see the focal point of the operation. Two, massive, flat-top carriers that have been concerted to act as Eva staging bases. Hydra and Lupus lay prone on the deck, each one bulked out with the addition of B-type gear.

The two carriers are crudely mated together with an enormous, construction-yellow gantry system. This is the framework they're going to drop you down with.

"Overkill much?"

"Not like they have anything better to do," you say. "Besides, if shit goes sideways, we might be glad to have them around."

Korine snorts. "Right. As if. You weren't in the desert, but the UN did jack shit aside from burning me and Renton the fuck up. Could have done that on our own."

You don't bother arguing with her. You know that short of a third Evangelion, this is the best you can hope for in terms of backup. Not to mention with the crane's apparent weight limitations, it will be the only real backup you have.

You just hope it's enough.
>>
You are Dr. Roger Caswell and you're glad to be finally off the flight, even if now you're just in the crowded command center of the Nimitz-class carrier UNS Giant Leap. All around you is activity, the hushed conversations of navy officers as they relay orders and updates through their headsets. The clatter of keyboards is constant. You can't shake the sensation of being an interloper in this place. You and the other Nerv command personnel brought in for this operation have had a niche carved out for them, but you feel more like outsiders than anything else.

"No issues on arrival," you say, pressing the handset tighter to your ear to hear Rose's voice better. "The pilots are getting familiarized with the diving equipment right now."

"I want to get this operation underway as soon as possible," Rose says. Distance makes her voice thin on the line. "The longer we wait the higher the chance of something going wrong."

"We're in position now," you say, reading over a report that Mbaru hands you. "Attack submarines have formed a perimeter around the Angel, standing off a few kilometer, but even the Russian Akulas can only go down a few hundred meters. Nothing in our arsenal can get close but the Evas."

"So what's the contingency plan?" Rose asks.

"We've requisitioned some undersea submersibles- civilian models, used for oil surveying. We've modified them to better withstand the dive pressure, automated their controls and the Navy is installing a pair of Trident warheads in them. High-yield nuclear bombs, city killers. It's the most wallop we can pack. Anyway, in the event we need to, they can be sent down. Otherwise we'll need to wait for the Angel to surface. If it surfaces."

"That's a lot of gaps," Rose says.

"It's the best plan we have on short notice. It's the only plan."

"How are the pilots holding up?"

"Nervous," you say. "I think they're ready to get this done and get home."

"Understandable."

"Once both of them are familiarized with the diving gear and operational parameters, we're going to send Ethan down. He'll land on the seabed, locate the Angel, cage it, and then we'll winch him back up and secure it for storage."

Any modifications/changes to the plan?

>None, proceed
>Yes, (write in)
>>
>>5017035
>Nimitz-class carrier UNS Giant Leap
Interesting. Renamed? Or an extension of the IRL production run?

>and the Navy is installing a pair of Trident warheads in them. High-yield nuclear bombs, city killers. It's the most wallop we can pack.
While more options are always good, I'm surprised they bothered after the low effectiveness of six point-blank nukes last time.
Better hope any divers, subs, and EVAs get very far away if they need to light them off; while the full destructive power of nukes is reduced in deep water, the pressure wave is likely to crush anything beneath the waves.

>None, proceed
Assuming nothing goes wrong ha!, no more plans should be needed. If things do go wrong, how it goes wrong is too open-ended to plan for, so we'd have to wing it.
>>
>>5017035
>>None, proceed
lets gooooooooooooo!
>>
>>5017035
>None, proceed
>>
>>5017189
>Interesting. Renamed? Or an extension of the IRL production run?
Renamed.

When the UN unified the world's militaries, a number of warships were renamed to reflect a united mankind.

>Proceed
Writing
>>
You are Ethan and it feels good to be back in the cockpit. It's like coming home. Through your Eva's heightened, super-human senses, you perceive the motion of the carrier you're aboard. The blue horizon rings the fleet in all directions. Your radio hums with chatter, most of it meaningless to you.

Helicopters and VTOL craft buzz around the diving rig and flights of combat aircraft circle high overhead.

It's all a show, you know. It's all posturing. There was no guarantee any of this hardware would serve any purpose here, but even in the face of the unknown- especially in the face of the unknown mankind clings tight to its weapons.

You toggle your visual zoom to look up and track the progress of some UN jet aircraft. Their wings are laden with bombs, though you're not able to identify the type. Even if they were nuclear, what guarantee was there that something birthed in the darkest depths of the ocean would be remotely affected by nuclear weaponry?

"Alright, Ethan?" Korine asks.

You see her Eva standing on the deck of the opposite carrier. A picture-in-picture display shows her face. She looks ill at ease.

"Nervous," you say honestly. "Never been much for swimming, never done anything like this."

"I'm not really sure anyone has," Korine says. "Um . . . before you go I just wanted to say that if anyone can pull this off, it's you. And . . . if anything goes wrong, I'm here."

"Right," you say, refusing to let Korine see anymore of your fear. A part of you wishes Linda were here.

"Hydra, we're starting." the voice in the radio is unfamiliar, one of the UN officers maybe.

"Copy."

You step forward to the edge of the carrier deck, watching as the crane gantry takes up the slack of your umbilical cable.

Hydra is tethered to the carrier by means of a heavily reinforced cable. It's twice as thick around as the normal power cable and has been reinforced with carbon fiber nanoweave to allow it to withstand the weight of hauling you and the Angel up from the depths.

Designed for a space elevator, Caswell had said while explaining it to you. All theoretical stuff, but made real. Pretty cool, huh?

"Hydra ready for descent," you say, double checking your gear. It's fairly minimal all things considered. You're armed with a long vibrolance, which- aside from your backup knife- is your sole weapon. Most of your attention is on the massive deployable stasis cage attached to your Eva. The capture rig will be used to secure the Angel after you locate it.

"Copy, Hydra."

"Ethan," this time it's Mbaru. "Good hunting."


"Thanks."

"Proceed with the operation," Caswell says.

You take one last look up at the sun. You won't be seeing it for a while. In a moment you hit the water and it washes up and over your head, becoming a sparkling blue canopy above you. Down you go.

You watch your displays, noting the altimeter and chronometer as minutes and meters tick by.

The light around you dims as sunlight struggles to penetrate.
>>
As Hydra plumbs the depths, you have nothing but time on your hands, time alone with your thoughts, your only company, the steady depth count from command.

"Ethan, how are you doing?" Caswell's voice is unexpected, but not unwelcome.

"Fine," you say.

"Wanted you to know that you've just passed the Dallas. That's one of the submarines on standby."

"Neat," you say dryly.

"You're coming up on Volk. Once you pass it, you'll be deeper than anyone else in the fleet." The way Roger says it makes it sound exciting, but you feel your stomach sinking faster than your dive can account for.

"What's it like?" Caswell asks.

You look around, seeing only deepening blackness. "Dark."

"I bet! When we bring you back up, you need to tell me all about it. I used to want to be a marine biologist when I was younger."

You don't feel like making small talk, but you nod. You don't mind Roger's friendly yammering though, it keeps you occupied. As you dive he continues to talk, topics ranging from space exploration to classification of deep sea creatures.

"Just think," he says. "All the avenues of exploration that Evas will open up to us. Space, sea floor. The possibilities are endless!"

"One hundred meters to touchdown," the UN controller cuts in.

Your onboard sonar begins pinging a return from the ocean floor.

"Fifty meters."

You watch the depth gauge and brace for landing. A moment later, you touch down with a dull thump.

"Contact," the controller says. "Activating floods."

Your light rig snaps on in a flash, illuminating a barren waste of muddy sand that spans to the edge of your field of view in all directions. Stirred up silt floats around your knees where you landed. Your flood lights cast dark, hazy shadows from the occasional jutting rock rising from the mire.

You turn your head, marveling at the abyssal expanse around you, apparently devoid of life, as dead as the surface of the moon. You have a mission though. "I don't see it," you say. "No sign of the Angel."

"Copy Hydra. We mark your position one kilometer south of the Angel accounting for drift."

"Copy. I'm moving." You start walking. Each step fountains clouds of sand up which rise to waist level before beginning to dissipate. It's eerie, being so alone. You marvel that no one else has ever been here before you. You're gazing on terrain no human eye has ever seen.
>>
Something glints in the dark ahead and you freeze.

"I see something ahead," you say. "Something shining."

"That's probably it," Caswell says. "Approach with caution."

You start forward again. Step by step you close in until it comes within the circle of light you broadcast in all directions. It's a large, semi-translucent ovaloid. In the harsh light of your diving rig, you can faintly make out some kind of strange, symmetrical shape within the chrysalis. It's impossible to tell what it is, but it's not like any creature on earth.

"This is it," you say.

The embryo is resting in the muck of the ocean floor, but it's huge, easily as long as your Eva.

"Copy, deploy the capture rig and bag it."

You unfold the rig and watch it self assemble into a cube ready to secure around the Angel. You take a deep breath and approach the egg. It's weirdly smooth and clear, like a marble. The shape inside, while clearly alive, also seems geometric somehow. As if whatever designed it cared more for symmetry than practicality. It's split into at least four distinct branches. It flutters within its shell.

"It's moving," you say. "Something inside the egg."

"Don't sweat it," Caswell says. "We were anticipating that. Just a twitch. It's not ready to hatch."

"Right," you say.

You take another step closer and place the cage in position, carefully sliding it around the Angel. It's time to activate the stasis field and lift it clear.

***

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

>>5017993
Captcha please
>>
Rolled 3 (1d6)

>>5017930
Interesting, thanks.

>>5017991
>A part of you wishes Linda were here.
Oh, but Ethan, she is.

>Hydra is tethered to the carrier by means of a heavily reinforced cable. It's twice as thick around as the normal power cable
If things go tits up down there, we'll need to remember that extra bulk will likely cause some finesse issues.
Of course, we're going to be deep underwater in a diving suit, so that may be a minor consideration.

>You're armed with a long vibrolance, which- aside from your backup knife- is your sole weapon.
Good choice. I can't imagine any of the projectile weapons working well underwater.

>>5017992
>You don't feel like making small talk, but you nod. You don't mind Roger's friendly yammering though, it keeps you occupied.
I feel a little bad for Rogers sometimes; he clearly puts in the effort to be good people to the pilots An incredibly rare thing in NERV, but his work tends to feel unappreciated.

>>5017993
oh boy
>>
Rolled 4 (1d6)

>>5017993
>>
>1
>3
>4

Writing
>>
You inch the cage closer, meter by meter, keeping an eye on all the associated gauges and readouts to ensure you have a good fit with the frame. You feel a chill across your body, were it not for the LCL you're sure you would be sweating.

"Frame in place."

You glance up at the chrysalis and see it's glassy surface flex subtly as something within it stirs. That radially-split thing inside twists, its arms pressing against the exterior of the pod enveloping it. Your breath hitches and you don't dare move.

The Angel rolls inside the egg, turning to what you imagine are alien dreams. Then it falls till. Could Angels dream? If so, what would they dream of? You put this out of mind.

"Activating stasis field."

The hazy energy barrier flickers on before intensifying, sealing off a cubic chunk of the ocean within the stabilized confines. Your eyes wander across the gauges. "Pressure is good, energy reading strong, no signs of activity." You allow a smile to creep across your face. "We did it."

You can hear the muted cheering on the carrier's command center through your radio link. "Nice work, buddy!" Caswell whoops. "Helluva job! I owe you a beer for that one, champ."

You laugh. "Easy peasy."

"A win is a win, my man. Alright, verify the Angel is secure and begin the ascent."

"Copy." You recheck the readouts again, grinning from ear to ear.

"No fair," Korine says, "You always get the easy ones."

You laugh, "We've got a long way to cart this thing still. The hard part is going to be keeping me company on the ascent." You don't wait for her to reply. "Hydra confirms green across the board. We're good to go. Take us home, doc."

In response, you feel a gentle tug which increases in insistence until the winch catches and your Eva is lifted from the desolate seabed, Angel in tow. As you ascend, the ring of light you cast diminishes until the seafloor is again absorbed in darkness. The light rig powers off and you're plunged into the inky abyss.

This time you're not alone in your travels. Your eyes wander over the Angel you have captured. It hangs below your Eva, secured firmly to the umbilical cable. It's hard to make out features through the electromagnetic screen, but it's amazing just knowing you're so close to an Angel.
>>
"Dr. Caswell?"

"What's up, bud?"

"Dumb question," you say.

"Dumb questions are the first step to learning! What's up?"

"Do Angels dream?"

"No," Caswell says immediately. "I mean, probably not. We don't know too much about their minds but . . . they're generally animalistic. Very primitive. Think of something like an amoeba. They wander aimlessly around until they bump into something at which point they eat it if it's smaller than them, or flee if it's larger. It's just motorized instinct- no, less than that. It's just stimulus and response. That's all."

You look over the egg. "Big amoeba."

"Sure is. It's why we can't coexist with them. They're not just alien, they're not even really alive. Not like you and I are. Heck, they're less alive than even amoebas. Not mindless exactly, but certainly not thinking beings."

Linda said something to you about mankind's inability to coexist with the unknown. You can't remember what exactly, but it seems as true as ever. "Right."
>>
You're Doctor Caswell and you're basking in the afterglow of a successful operation. Truthfully, you'd been terrified. You're a scientist, not a soldier. This sort of thing was generally Rose's job, and for once she's not here. Mbaru is along as your tactical advisor, but you're glad you didn't need him.

"Dr. Caswell Sir?" one of the sailors seated at a computer station calls your name uncertainly.

"Yes?"

"We've received a transmission from Volk that . . . they report a sonar ghost of some kind."

You have no idea what that means. "What kind exactly?"

The sailor looks over his console, re-parsing the data. "Transient returns mirroring the Eva's ascent."

"Is it some kind of false positive from the Angel?"

"No, sir. I mean, Volk doesn't think so, sir. Russian passive sonar gear isn't on par with American-built but they're getting distinct sonar activity. They initial chalked it up as biologics- uh, animals sir-"


"I know what biologic means," you say with as much friendliness as you can muster. "How do they know it isn't?"

"It's way too deep sir. Nothing that big moves that far down."

"Can't they ping it?" You say. "Get a stronger signal to go off of?"

"Yes, sir." The order is relayed.
>>
Captain Dastanov wipes sweat from his brow and re-reads the order telexed from the carrier group. Despite the submarine's depth, the air was warm, muggy, the consequence of an overtaxed life support system. The Akula-class was cutting edge in many ways, but creature comforts weren't among them.

"Orders, sir?"

Dastanov looks up at his executive officer. "Nerv wants to know what it is we've picked up. Engage active sonar, let's take a look, shall we?"

"Yes, sir."

"Just one ping, please."

"Yes, sir."

Volk's sonar thrums. A single burst of sound radiates through the ocean toward the distant Eva and captured Angel. Their returns come back, clear and sharp. The Angel's boxy stasis cage is particularly easy to identify. The mysterious contact radiates a softer, hazier return, but a clear one all the same.

"What the fuck is that?" Dastanov mutters, voicing aloud the confusion of the sonar operator.

"Captain! Target is emanating new sound and accelerating!"

"Patch it in."

The sound fills Volk's bridge, a strange churning hum, like a dozen propellers running at once.

"Target is closing in on us. Speed is twenty five- thirty knots! And accelerating!"

Pulling that kind of speed, it had to be another submarine, only it didn't have the characteristics of any submarine on record, and it was still too deep, much too deep, well below the crush depth even for the Akula.

"Heading?"

"Target is closing directly on us!"

Dastanov's skin goes cold. "Emergency ascent! Blow the tanks!" The bridge explodes to life as air is forced into the dive tanks, turning the Akula buoyant and sending it rising for the surface. "Flank speed, take us up!" Dastanov grabs the sleeve of the communications officer. "Get me weapons release authorization from the carrier! Now!"

***

"Uh- Dr. Caswell?"

You turn to the sailor again, patient smile in place. "Yes?"

"Volk is-" he screws up his face, listening on headphones pressed to his ears. "They request weapons-" He winces and pulls the headphones free with a gasp.

A hushed silence falls over the command room.

"Undersea explosion," another sailor says. "Contact lost with Volk."

"They requested weapons free, sir," the first sailor says, "before I lost them. "They reported the sonar contact trailing Hydra went active."

"Volk is gone?" you repeat, incredulously.

"Dallas confirms. They picked up the sounds of a submarine breaking up. Volk was destroyed, sir."

There's no way that's an accident.

All eyes are on you.


>Write in
>>
>>5018986
Knew it wasn't going to be that easy.

>?
>Go to action stations across the fleet

>Restrict the use of underwater active sensors, heavily monitor passive sensors

>Sub in particular are to rig for silent running, glue their eyes to their passive sensors, and make for Ethan
The subs are the only support Ethan is going to have until we hit the surface, and Ethan can't fight very well in these circumstances.
By the way, how much time is left on the ascent?

>Make sure the subs stay light on their feet, and bug out if things get hairy
If it starts picking off the subs, we'll be blind.
Modern torpedos also come with built-in sonar, so we may be able to use them a decoy to keep the thing distracted with a little work.

>Surface ships are to get depth charges and any other long-delay explosives ready
>non-combatant ships are to flee the area

>Tell Ethan to get ready for potential combat, as best he can
No lights or active sensors for him either, not unless the thing is obviously going for him anyway.

>Prep ranged weapon for Korine, but otherwise leave her offline
Unless she's going to jump into the water without a tether, she can't do much until they surface.
>>
>>5019100
>By the way, how much time is left on the ascent?
A couple hours.
>>
>>5018986
>>5019100
>Restrict the use of underwater active sensors, heavily monitor passive sensors
Well, we could drop sonobuoys. May drop an active ones far off as decoys. Also have Ethan vary his angle of ascent slightly, straight up is too predictable.
>>
>>5019354
This. We can try to distract it. buy us time. put the bouys leading away from ethan
>>
>>5019354
>Well, we could drop sonobuoys. May drop an active ones far off as decoys.
That works, though it'll have to be the subs doing that, seeing as we look to be very deep still.

>Also have Ethan vary his angle of ascent slightly, straight up is too predictable.
Ethan is hooked to the lifting rig, which is built between two aircraft carriers. Trying to move two ships hard-linked with a massive weight underneath is likely to damage the rig or the tether.
>>
No update today guys, we'll continue this on Monday, sorry.
>>
>>5019963
Thanks for letting us know.
>>
>>5019100
>>5019354
>>5019479
>>5019620

Writing

So sorry for the delay guys. Heck of a week.
>>
You feel a tight knot in your gut. It has to be an Angel.

"Go to action stations throughout the fleet."

A moment after the command is relayed you hear the muffled alert siren echo through the carrier as sailors scramble to combat stations.

Mbaru stops by your shoulder, speaking low. "An Angel? Here?"

"Unlikely, I know, but it's the only explanation."

He nods.

You step past Mbaru to review the tactical plot, watching ships and aircraft as they maneuver. Volk was targeted after it engaged its sonar. It's possible this thing used that as a point of attack.

"Minimize the use of sonar throughout the fleet," you say. "That might be how this thing is targeting us. We need the submarines to stay alert, silent running. They're our best link with Ethan. What do we have?"

"Dallas and Memphis are closest."

You nod. "Right, we need to keep them alive. Have the surface fleet prepare for anti-submarine action."

The naval officer looks concerned, "Sir, at that depth we don't have anything that can touch it."

"No," you say, "we have the submersible bomb. At least until it comes up further." You're not quite ready to deploy that, there's no telling what sort of effect it will have on Ethan or the Angel in the cage. "How long on the winch?"

"Two point five hours, sir."

Too long.

"Power off the Eva's light rig and sonar array."

"Sir, if it's hunting by sonar, we can drop a line of sonobuoys leading away from the fleet."

"Do it." You are all too aware that a large number of lives depend on this operation going well, including yours.

On the tactical plot, anti-submarine aircraft fan out in a rainbow from the fleet and begin dropping lines of sonobuoys which ping the depths.
>>
You are Ethan Chandler and you're plunged into darkness.

"Wha-"

"We've detected something in the water," Roger says before you can ask. "Might be nothing, but we're going dark so as not to make you a target. Be ready for possible attack."

"Affirmative. An Angel?"

"We think so," Roger says. "Don't worry, champ. We've got this."

The line goes dead, leaving you alone in the dark with the Angel.

***

"Dallas reports contact on passive array matching the signature of the target designated Alpha One."

You are Roger Caswell and you're nervous.

"Where's it going?"

"Heading suggests it's pursuing the northernmost buoy line." The officer draws a line on the tactical plot indicating its movement away from the fleet. "It's not moving at its top speed though, sir. It . . . " he hesitates.

"What?"

"It's like it's being cautious."

There's no telling now long it will continue to follow this trail of breadcrumbs.

"Depth?"

"It's in our outer engagement zone. We can get it with air-dropped and rocket-deployed torpedoes. Also with that nuclear submersible, sir."

You eyeball the distance from Ethan and the fleet. It's at the edge of safe engagement range. Chances are you'll feel some of the shockwave if you blow the trident warheads on it. There's no way to know how the fleet- or the captured Angel- will respond to that sort of blast wave.

Still, this may be your best chance to engage with conventional ordinance. If you can force it to the surface, Korine might be able to engage it at range.


>Hold off, see if it takes the bait further out
>Attack with conventional weapons to try to force it up
>Attack with the nuclear submersible
>Write in
>>
Rolled 3 (1d3)

>>5025096
In order
>>
>>5025129
>>5025096
>>Attack with the nuclear submersible
They demand it.
>>
>>5025096
>Attack with the nuclear submersible
>>
>>5025090
>Attack with conventional weapons to try to force it up
Too close for a nuclear strike, gotta try and keep it interested if we can bait it away. I’d rather not wake up the captured one, you know?
>>
>>5025096
>>Attack with conventional weapons to try to force it up
>>
>>5025085
>So sorry for the delay guys. Heck of a week.
Don't worry about it.

>>5025096
Good call on the sonar buoys, They look to have worked a treat.

>Write in
>Hold off, see if it takes the bait further out
>If it starts moving back towards Ethan,
>Attack with the nuclear submersible
We are in a very vulnerable spot. Even if we had multiple EVAs armed to the teeth on every carrier, we'd still be in a bad spot. The EVAs are locked to the slow moving and very sinkable carriers, without which they'll go for an uncontrolled plunge into several miles of water. The Angel in the water only needs to sink the carriers to kill the EVAs.

As such, if we can let it get away, we should. Until we figure out how to mount the weapons EVAs carry onto ships, deep water combat is a bad idea if we can avoid it.
>>
Changing
>>5025158
to
>>5025394
>>
>>5025132
>>5025158
>>5025198
>>5025214
>>5025394
>>5025520

Writing
>>
You rub your temple as you study the chart. It's close. Much too close. You'd have preferred to use the nuke further away. Of course, you'd had your chance and bypassed it. You squeeze your eyes shut and force your breathing to slow. You can't start second guessing yourself now, you did the best you could. You made the choice you thought you had to.

You're a scientist, dammit! Not a soldier! Why is this falling to you?

You open your eyes and force that voice within you away. You send kids into harm's way over and over again to save your own life. They never asked for this, and you didn't either. With hundreds if not thousands of lives at stake, you're going to do the best you can and you're not going to shirk it off on someone else.

"Get the trident submersible ready," you say. "If the target doesn't turn back then we'll hit it with the trident."

The command goes out and a moment later you get confirmation that the submersible is in the water and trailing after the wayward target to be ready should it turn back.

"Can you patch me in to Korine?"

A sailor obliges.

"Hey kiddo," you say, forcing a smile onto your face, and into your voice. "Can you hear me?"

A pause. "Yeah?"

"Did you get armed up?"

"We only have a single pallet rifle on this bucket," Korine says. "Won't be much use in a serious fight."

"Ah, don't worry about that! Your Eva is the best weapon against the Angels. Assuming it comes down to that, if you just get close, you can neutralize the AT field and the Navy can do the rest! I'm sure these guys would love a chance to impress you!"


"Whatever. Just put a target in front of me."

You gesture to kill the channel. Korine must know that neither of you really has a choice about that.

"Sir, ah . . . the target has stopped."

You look back at the tactical plot, watching the pulsing red icon hovering motionless along the line of winking sonobouys. A pair of ASW aircraft circle overhead.

What's it thinking? You've denied the possibility every chance you get, but the simple fact is that Angels have to think. They don't have brains, not conventional ones, but they do have minds. Probably best the pilots don't think about that too much. Slaying monsters is simply easier on the soul that killing thinking creatures. Like it or not, the Angels are a form of life, though one that defies nearly every metric. They must clearly think, as this one is doing now.

Once content to follow raw instinct and pursue sonar waves, something has given it pause. The feeling that it's being tricked? Has it decided it's tired of this game? Perhaps it's aware of the artificiality of this pursuit. Or maybe it's something else. Maybe there's something holding it to this area, something it can't or won't abandon.
>>
"Sir, the target has turned back and is accelerated back for the fleet."

Maybe this Angel is here because of the other one.

"Deploy the trident," you say.

Are the Angels cooperating?

"All hands, all hands, brace for undersea shockwave. Nuclear ordinance has been deployed. Repeat, all hands brace for shock."

The men of Giant Leap's combat information center brace themselves against bolted down chairs and tables or just banks of computers. Everyone holds tight and no one says anything. You find yourself wedged between two banks of terminals, holding tightly to each wondering if you made the right call.

Beside you, the tactical officer continues to watch the plot. "Sixty seconds to detonation." His eyes are wide, afraid, but focused.

"Thirty. Twenty."

***

Far beneath the fleet, Ethan continues to ascend through the dark, gripping tightly to his throttles, eyes closed against the abyss, a one word prayer on his lips.

"Please."

***

"Ten seconds. Five, four, three, two, one-"

The warheads loaded into the submersible explode.
>>
File: TridentBurst.jpg (1.26 MB, 2048x1304)
1.26 MB
1.26 MB JPG
Roll 1d6. I need 3 rolls total.
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Rolled 5 (1d6)

>>5026253
>>
Rolled 6 (1d6)

>>5026253
>>>
>Anonymous (ID: j+0HDtsi) 10/12/21(Tue)17:40:37 No.5026258▶
>>
>>5026260
oops lmao, but you get the point.
>>
Rolled 5 (1d6)

>>5026253
Whatever happens, at least the surface ships should be ok; Project Crossroads showed that.
>>
>>5026340
Not really, Crossroads showed that it was really difficult to decontaminate ships. Also

https://www.stripes.com/news/16-us-ships-that-aided-in-operation-tomodachi-still-contaminated-with-radiation-1.399094
>>
>>5026258
>>5026260
>>5026340


>5
>6
>5

Writing
>>
"Detonation."

On the external CCTV display you see the ocean surface bulge and then burst into a cloud of superheated water vapor. For a moment you forget your fear, humbled by the incredible power mankind has harnessed.

"Incredible," you say, unable to tear your eyes away."

"Fifteen seconds to shock."

You think back to Nerv's motto. "The lightning for hire."

The shockwave passes through Giant Leap and rattles the CIC. A coffee mug vibrates off a desk and shatters on the floor. Some monitors flicker with static and you feel the ship shudder like a living animal. Someone swears.

In a moment it's over, the vibrations fading to nothing. Reality races back to you. "What's the status of Hydra and the Angel?"

"Cable intact, winch functional, Angel shows no activity, sir."

You breathe out. You see your knuckles have turned white where you gripped a terminal. You let go and flex your fingers. "Our submarines?"

"Dallas reports everything nominal. Memphis likewise. All ships are intact."

"What about the target?"

"We've got total blue-out on our scopes," the sonar operator says with a grimace.

"What's that mean?" you ask, biting back the urge to snap at him.

"The uh- water's an excellent sound conducting medium, sir. The detonation is still reverberating underwater. We'll be picking up echoes for a while. Hours. Going to be nearly impossible to sort out trace contacts from all this."

"What about active buoys? Drop one on the An- the target's last known position and see if you can detect anything." You find yourself longing for New Tampa's advanced detection gear.

"Buoy in the water," the operator says. "Pinging."

You watch the white rings radiate from the buoy on the tactical plot.

"Returns?"

The operator shakes his head. "Nothing, sir."

If that was an Angel, there was no way you'd killed it that easily. Maybe it's stunned, maybe it was injured.

"Let's get Hydra back on deck as soon as we can," you say. "Keep monitoring this area. Maintain silent running."

"Sir."
>>
You are Ethan Chandler and you've never been more glad to see daylight. It came on by degrees, first just a hazy blue, but soon enough you can make out the shimmering light of the surface. The nuke blast had been quite an experience. It had been like a gut punch, a shockwave that you felt with your body, but it hadn't seemed to damage anything.

Before Second Impact, these sorts of nuclear detonations were unheard of. It's easy for you to imagine why given the frightening power they represent. New York, Buenos Aires, and Old Tokyo were testaments to the raw destructive power nuclear weapons represented. The Nuclear Genie wasn't content to be so easily bottled.

You look back over the Angel egg and wonder what sort of secrets Caswell will unlock from it. It's weird to think about, your most hated enemy so close and so vulnerable. Infantile almost. You've only been thinking about it as a package to be protected but really it's a lot like the nukes. It represents unbelievable destructive power. The devastation this one Angel would be capable of unleashing is unparalleled by even the most fearsome atomic weapon.

The intervening hours pass slowly, but you breathe easy when Hydra breaches the surface of the ocean, winched upward by the powerful industrial cranes mounted between the two carriers.

"Welcome back to the land of the living, buddy!" Caswell says.

"Did we get it?"

"As far as we can tell! But we're on standby anyway, UN aircraft are patrolling."

"I was starting to think I might have to go down after you," Korine says. You see her Eva standing on the deck of Giant Leap's sister carrier, Innovation. She holds a rifle at the ready.

"No such luck," you say. "Let's get this Angel on deck and get it stowed. I'm ready to get out of this plug and get a shower."

"You and me both," Korine says.

You double check all your anchor points to ensure the capture cage is secured to your Eva's lift line properly before you signal the winch to finish lifting you out of the surf. A moment later the egg comes too, still wrapped in a cube of pressurized ocean water by a stasis field.
>>
"Dr. Caswell?"

You are Roger Caswell and the officer's tone wipes the grin from your face. "What's up?"

"Memphis reported a brief contact on sonar, sir. Moving fast, making for the fleet."

"Captain!" Another sailor calls out. "Movement on the surface sir!"

You and the officer both look to the tactical display which resolves to CCTV footage of the sea off the starboard of the fleet. Something momentarily breaches the surface in a thrashing wave. Something large, something with scaly plates.

"Mother of god," the officer says, speechless.

"An Angel," you say, willing yourself to stay calm. Unlike the men in this fleet, this is hardly your first Angel. "Number twelve." You point to the communications officer. "Relay all data to the Magi in New Tampa. I want a dedicated satellite relay for all of this."

"Already running sir, the Magi have confirmed the Angel, designated Cassiel."

The Angel, however briefly glimpsed, vanishes back beneath the waves.

"Korine-" You don't get a chance to finish.

"I saw it!"

Lupus dashes from one end of Innovation to the other, sending vibrations through the whole ship. You see sailors wince, probably imagining the damage to their precious flight deck.

"Shit!" Korine says, "I lost it!"

You study the tactical plot. Too close for nuclear ordinance.

"Ethan, get that Angel secured on Giant Leap," You say.

"Way ahead of you."

The UN officer looks at you. "How in the hell do we kill that thing?"

"By doing whatever it takes," you say.

What will you do?

>Write in
>>
>>5027090
>"Already running sir, the Magi have confirmed the Angel, designated Cassiel."
Balls.
This is going to get ugly.
At least Ethan is out of the water. Unfortunately, both of them are likely to have some degree of fatigue from the long "deploy" time.

>>Write in

>Fleet active sensor restriction removed, except for Innovation and Giant Leap
The game is up. Plus, hopefully the actives will distract it.
>All fleet assets without sensors or weapons are to exfil the AO
Don't need the colliers and oilers and such getting wrecked for no reason.
>All other assets are to keep tabs on the Angel, and be ready to move if it turns their way
>Subs drop to max test depth, stay down there until the explosions stop
They are more likely to eat a depth charge or a stray round than they are to help in this fight.

>Get the carriers unlinked and ready to move ASAP
Dump the lifting rig into the water if needed. The carriers are sitting ducks while they're locked together.

How far away is the nearest land or shallows? We might be able to kite the angel into terrain more favorable for EVA combat.

>Get Ethan a ranged weapon
Unless the throws the thing, his spear is unless in this fight.

>Get the fleet recon pilots in direct contact with the EVAs
Shortening the information propagation time should help in this game of whack-a-mole

>Airlift options for the Egg?
Possibly sling-loaded under a helicopter, or one of the fixed-wing logi birds?
It's possible that the Angel is drawn to the egg. If so, it can be used as bait to get the Angel to move more favorably.

>Whistle up one of the standby bomber wings, with depth charges or iron bombs with long fuses.
>Request a C-130 (or similar) loaded with sonar buoys, noisemakers, and other submarine countermeasures.
Ideally, the buoy spam will give us a window of blindness or distraction. The bombs will have a risk of friendly fire, but better to have the option on standby if the opportunity presents itself.
>>
>>5027090
Have helicopters and sonobuoys ping the target with active sonar from different directions; hopefully this will confuse it.

That said, it is coming for the Giant Leap, so try to position most of the surface fleet a little offset between it and the Angel, with the Innovation as the goalkeeper. Try to force the Angel to broach the surface again with ASROC and whatnot, and then engage with anti-surface weapons. In particular, try to get Russian-built ships equipped with ASW mortars like RBU-6000 into the path, so that they can fire patterns that will disrupt and confuse the creature.

Ultimately, Korine is going to field this one. By the flaming datum of sinking ships and surface broaches by the Angels, maybe she can get off some shots.
>>
>>5027090
>write in
give the green light for conventional ordinance. See if there is an airlift unit for the egg, and get the subs to back off until we kill the angel. Prepare Ethan for combat. tell the ships to spread out so the angel cant kill many in one strike. Let those depth charges go!
>>
Sorry guys, no post tonight. I'll check in tomorrow.
>>
Today is a wash too. I haven't been home since I got off work. I'll get a turn out tomorrow to make it up
>>
>>5029144
Take care of yourself. We aren't going anywhere.
>>
>>5027177
>>5027541
>>5027803

Writing
>>
"Get the non-combatants out of here," you say.

"Sir, with respect, they're safer with the fleet."

You turn to the officer and give a sad smile. "I'm afraid I have to disagree with you there. Being armed is no guarantee of safety, now get them out of here. The rest of the fleet should have all weapons restrictions removed except the submarines, have them stay low. We'll need their eyes. Ears, whatever."

The orders are relayed and the fleet goes to combat alert. The auxiliary vessels break away and disperse while the main fleet thrashes the ocean with active sonar, seeking out the elusive Angel amidst the endlessly reverberating soundwaves of the trident explosion.

As for air-evacing the Angel embryo, there's simply no way. The Evas had to be loaded by special cargo crane. Any aircraft powerful enough to carry the Angel would be too large to land on either carrier.

If the other Angel is homing in on the dormant Angel, then there's little you can do to prevent that. You feel a powerful vibration shudder through the carrier as the winch assembly is decoupled, the two vessels moving apart and accelerating to flank speed.

"Shenzen reports sonar contact, 080 degrees, bearing 191!"

"Target with ASROCs and lets nail the bastard."

You wish you felt the confidence the captain exudes in his weapons.

***

You are Korine and you see a dozen rockets fire from the flanks of some escorting vessels, arcing torpedoes through the air to drop them down nearby. A moment later the shots explode, throwing geysers of water into the air. This attack is followed up by a helicopter buzzing by to drop more torpedoes on the target.

A nearby frigate lifts from the water slightly before settling back down with a splash, her back broken.

"Shit."

***


You are Dr Caswell and the mood in the CIC plummets as the weapons impacts apparently do nothing. The Angel comes and goes on your sonar scopes as it flits back and forth in the fleet.

"Captain, something struck Zadornyy. That vessel's captain has ordered all hands to abandon ship and has initiated a general distress call!"

"We're not even scratching the surface," the captain bemoans, turning to you.

"Probably not," you agree. "Not yet. We need to get it to the Evas," you say.

Chaos reigns on the bridge as another ship takes catastrophic damage from an unseen pelagic attacker.

"You think it's after the egg?" the captain asks.

"It's a guess, but yes."

He nods. "Right." He starts barking orders to be transmitted to the fleet. Escort vessels form up, creating a sort of funnel, driving the Angel toward Innovation. You aren't able to keep up with his rapid commands. When he's finished he turns to you. "We'll drive it up with ASW weapons and herd it toward the carrier. I hope to god you're right, Caswell." He grimaces. "Otherwise I just sent a lot of boys to their graves."

You swallow dryly. "Yeah, I hope so too."

***

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

>>5030095
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Rolled 4 (1d6)

>>5030095
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Rolled 1 (1d6)

>>5030095
>>
File: alarm.png (489 KB, 788x698)
489 KB
489 KB PNG
>1
>1

>"Otherwise I just sent a lot of boys to their graves."





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