Interludes after the 12th Angel, Part 4
Note, the parenthesis indicates languages other than Japanese, in this case, German, Malthusian, and a form of divine Common language.
Zeus' Private Room.
2009, February the 27th
Floating images surrounded the small throne the Lord of Olympus occupied. His counterparts in other pantheons looked at him. Years ago, Zeus had been chosen by the other Skyfathers to be their representant in the Quintessence. It was a position of great power, influence, and responsibility. Privately, Zeus wondered if the post had been actually a subtle punishment. He shook such thoughts off his head, now it was not the time for trivial worries.
"(Have you found something?)" He asked, his voice deep and resonant, as befits the Lord of a Divine Pantheon (1)
Jupiter, his Roman counterpart, shook his head. "(Nothing. Nothing at all, Brother. Those sigils are ancient, too ancient.)"
The one-eyed All-Father of the Norse gods, stamped his staff on the floor of his own room, "(Nothing! I sent Hugin and Munin all over the Nine Realms, in search of any sigils alike, and all they found was emptiness. Not even Loki recognizes the symbols as anything but gibberish.)"
"(Thank you, Odin)". The Norse nodded fractionally. Diplomacy among gods was a minefield of egos. Easily offended egos.
"(Any news from Obatala?)" (2) Zeus turned towards the newest addition to the conclave; Shango, of the Yoruba Pantheon.
"(My brother is still down on the lower lands, Zeus. He is searching still, as we speak. Should he find something, he will call for me. Orunmilla, Giver of the Law, searched all over Ifé, the Living Land, but hasn't found anything. The Voice in the Void keeps silent. The other Orishas search too.)" Shango (3) answered with a voice that sounded like rolling thunder, his powerful arms crossed belligerently over his chest.
Zeus nodded. The Orisha champion had a notoriously short fuse, even for a god. Nothing would be gained by treating him as less than an equal. "(Thank you, Shango.)"
The storm god grunted, and nodded.
So the meeting went. All the Fathers of their respective Pantheons shared the same news with Zeus. No one had found anything. Not even their tricksters or wise folks recognized the symbols.
Zeus stood up, "(Brothers. I thank you all for your efforts. It now falls to me to ask the three.)" His face twisted in dread as he spoke. He was very sure now that the post had been quite the way to settle old scores.
One by one, the other Skyfathers imparted brief words of encouragement to Zeus. They all knew to whom Zeus was referring to.
Shango was the last one to close the link. "(You are worried, Zeus.)" He was the youngest of the gods in the meeting, and the Orishas had their own version of the three-who-are-one. Very different than the others, but just as deadly.
"(I am. Yes. But I am Zeus, Lord of Olympus. It is my duty.)"
"(Duty to your people. Yes. I understand.)" Shango nodded sharply. "(May Eshu be on your side, Zeus. But don't you ever trust him. He is always fickle.)" (4)
2009, March the 8th
The last Guardian of the Universe sat on the emptiness. His eyes closed in deep meditation. The Oan had lived a very long life, even for the standards of his race. He was one of the oldest Guardians. And as such, he remembered many things lost to the night of aeons. He remembered the original Green Lanterns, from before they were issued their rings and instead used a device similar to a gun, he remembered the Manhunters' revolt, he remembered Krona's sin, the single act that released Evil on an innocent universe. The very reason he and his companions discarded their mortal forms and became the Guardians of the Universe, to redeem themselves of the guilt by association with Krona's arrogance and evil.
And he remembered what had been before all that.
He had been a humble Malthusian back then, his body tall and slender, instead of the wizened form he inhabited now. His head smaller and his skin gray tinted instead of blue. He was part of a scientific crew in an exploration trip. It had been in what would eventually become Sector 711. They were about to turn back to Malthus when they found a cosmic anomaly.
Two spheres, one black, the other white; circling slowly around each other.
He didn't know it at first, but both spheres were covered with the same symbols the Phantom Stranger would show him, long aeons later.
He was chosen to descend on the surface of the black orb, and all his tests yielded the same result.
The orb was impossibly ancient. And artificial in origin. The thing was made of some matter Malthusian science didn't know. Whatever it was, it was irregularly covered with a crust of cosmic debris, evidently collected during a long time. Even for an astronomical object, the thickness of the debris crust was considerable. Ganthet tried to use his laser to cut a sample, but the stuff simply absorbed it, it didn't even heat up. He tried it on the crust, and it was cut easily. So, he used the laser to clear a part of the surface.
It only took a minimal effort to dislodge it, it wasn't embedded or even adhered to the surface. Under the crust, the surface of the orb looked incredibly new. Smooth and shiny, as if it had just been polished.
Their instruments showed that the orb was hollow, there was a marked change in density after 60 m, in human terms. But what was beyond? No way to know, the material interfered with their scanners, distorting the images.
His superior officer approached him, walking carefully on the strange ground. "(Found anything interesting?)" He asked.
"(I don't know what it means, but yes. It is very interesting, sir.)" Quickly, Ganthet relayed his findings to his captain.
"(And we can't even take a sample?)"
"(No, sir. This is completely impervious to our lasers. Maybe our ship's weapons could cut it.)"
"(Hmm…)" the Captain thought about it. "(No. I don't think there is anything to gain.)"
"(What would we do with this thing, or things? The other sphere is the same, just in a different color. We are low on energy anyway. Note down the trajectory, and maybe we will have the chance to examine it deeply later on.)"
Said chance never arrived. Other matters soon occupied their attention, and the two spheres were soon forgotten. The other Malthusians were sent to other posts, and eventually, all except Ganthet died.
Ganthet was the only Guardian of the Universe who had seen those ancient sigils on the white and black spheres. None of the other Guardians had even seen an image of those mysteries.
Back then, he had no inkling of what they mean, if they meant something, or if they were mere decorations of an extravagantly big creation of some unknown race.
Level 20 Conveyor Belt
Commander Gendo Ikari and Rei Ayanami travelled to the GeoFront exit, Rei had been extensively debriefed after the 12th Angel Battle; and after her routine evaluation, her memory would be backed up.
"Everything okay, Rei?" He asked, his voice cold as always.
"Yes, sir. I will be with Dr. Akagi tomorrow. The day after I'll return to school."
"How are things at the school?"
"No problems, sir. Interaction with the student body is kept at a minimum, except for the Second and Third Children, and their immediate circle of acquaintances."
"Good. Monitor yourself for any loss in efficiency or adherence to the Scenario objectives."
"I am, sir."
"I see, good. Continue with the current orders."
Privately, Rei though it was good that the order didn't include any actions except for monitoring herself. Not even informing of any changes.
First Municipal Junior High School
While the old teacher took the roll call, Shinji whispered back to Toji. "Where's Kensuke?" He already knew Rei would spend the day at NERV, al she always did after an Angel battle.
Toji sat in a very lazy posture, his hands cradling the back of his neck, and his feet on the chair in front of him. A long time before he realized the teacher's sight wasn't good enough to notice, and Hikari sat up front, so she rarely looked back at him.
"He went to New Yokosuka, to see a battleship. The Myoko or something like that. He got word it would get to port today, and said he wanted a few pics of it, for his collection." He said. 'And also to use the telephoto lens for a last time, I guess.'
"Suzuhara!" the teacher's call caught Toji by surprise, he barely managed to not fall down as he stood up in attention.
The teacher waved a bunch of papers at him. "Will you deliver this document to Miss Ayanami after school?"
The group had a study session at Misato's later that day, so it would be no problem to deliver the papers then.
Evangelion Unit-04 Cage
"Okay, Problem Child. Time to shine." Mari sang to herself while she checked and rechecked the pre-activation list.
Commander Hazzard, watching from Central Dogma, pushed the button on his mike. "Makinami. We are starting the feed in 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…"
"Ready, Sir!" Mari pushed the buttons that relayed the energy into the S2 Engine. If this test worked, the Evangelions would be free to fight the Angels for as long as needed.
No one at Nevada base realized that there was a minuscule flaw in the connections. All the simulations ran by the MAGI checked out satisfactorily, but there was a little false connection on a single wire at the start of the cable feed. For as long as it remained immobile, everything would be okay.
"…2, 1, Mark. Start the S2, Makinami." Hazzard ordered.
"Starting S2, Sir." Mari pushed the final button on the sequence.
A spark jumped between the connections. The casing of the tertiary connector shook slightly, breaking the false connection, and overcharging a different component.
And everything went to hell.
The discharge could be seen from orbit, a spherical red light grew around the core of Unit-04. In a matter of seconds, a perfectly round hole replaced the whole site of NERV-2. Millions of tons of sand, concrete, metal, and air disappeared. It formed a perfect dome over the site, but flattened considerably underneath it, as the energy spent on solid rock was considerably more than what was spent on air.
Everything vanished in a handful of seconds. Not a single atom of matter remained in place.
Normally, a violent storm would have covered the site, as air rushed in to fill the void. Not in this case, as the missing matter was simply replaced by the same volume of air, and a few birds that died in flight, and fell down to the now empty bowl-shaped hole.
Frantic alarms sounded all over Central Dogma.
As a matter of procedure, all NERV bases were monitoring the event. The next hours would be a test for the nerves of all the personnel with high enough clearance to even know the Second Branch had a very important test scheduled for that very moment.
Lorenz Kiehl stamped his fist on the polished surface of his desk. "(What happened? REPORT!)"
The American member of SEELE looked at his desk screen. "(It's too early to know. The satellite is sending image now.)"
"(You have copies of the logs?)" it was implied that there would be dire consequences if he hadn't.
"(To the very last second, sir.)"
"(I want the First Branch checking everything to the last detail.)" Kiehl growled, "(I want to know what failed. Send Unit-03 to Japan. Once we know what happened, I want the S2 work to continue on a new site.)" he calmed down with some effort.
"(It seems your theory was correct after all. We can chalk this event to Iruel's Interference.)"
The dark chamber held a sombre mood, despite the frantic speed the reports were rushed in.
"The only clues we have are these photos, the geo-synchronous satellite over NERV-02 was doing a routine surveillance sweep at the moment." Dr. Akagi reported, her voice trembling a little at the magnitude of the event.
Down at the floor, the screen showed a perfectly round void, at the site of the unlucky NERV Base.
"Maya, rewind the film and replay, set the countdown to 10 seconds before the event."
Lt. Ibuki obeyed, and the image blurred. A moment later, the image showed the place as it had been, seen from orbit. A few small buildings at the center of a round perimeter. However, the size of the buildings was deceiving, as there was nothing to compare the buildings with. They were actually bigger than they looked.
When the countdown reached zero, a shockwave emerged from the central building, followed by a red glow. The red light soon occupied the whole screen, and then, static.
The image was replaced by an ominous text, "(Vanished. NERV-02)"
Lt. Ibuki relayed the report. "Evangelion Unit-04, its pilot, their support group, and all other facilities within an 89 km radius were completely destroyed."
Dr. Akagi added, "Along with thousands of people." Misato looked at her sideways, now she worried about people!
Lt. Aoba checked on his clipboard, "Looking at the time schedule, it seems they were testing the experimental S2 engine."
Lt. Ibuki added. "According to the MAGI, the probable causes range from a lack of structural integrity, to a preliminary design stage error. That's 32,768 possibilities right there. And without access to the site and remains, we cannot even start to piece together the cause."
Ruefully, Misato added, "Not even counting on the possibility of sabotage."
Lt. Hyuga lowered his clipboard, looking at the green text on the ground. "But it wasn't an explosion, was it? It simply disappeared."
Dr. Akagi thought about it for a moment. "In all probability, they were swallowed by a Sea of Dirac." She paused and licked her lips. "Just like Unit-02 was."
Major Katsuragi crossed her arms, and looked sideways at Dr. Akagi. "What about the restored S2 Engine?"
"Gone, along with our hopes of a continual source of energy for the Evangelions."
Misato simply nodded grimly.
Next to her, a red clad ghost rubbed his chin, thinking. "Now, I have to decide, do I play tattletale and go to the Stranger now? Or do I stay and see what else can I find before playing tattletale? Decisions, decisions."
Conveyor Belt to the Science Division Offices
Three hours Later
"What will we do with Unit-03?" Major Katsuragi asked her companion.
"We'll receive it here. It's being prepared for transport as we speak." Dr. Akagi kept her hands in the pockets of her lab coat. She had just come from a tense meeting with Commander Ikari. He relayed SEELE's orders to her, along with his own addendum: the Dummy Plugs were almost ready for their first Field Test, he wanted a review of the project, and the new tech installed immediately on Units-01, and 02. As if she didn't already had her hands full, he also ordered her to select a new Fourth Child from the 2-A Class. The next few days would be very stressing for the Science Crew. "The USA government doesn't want to lose the First Branch as well. They are scared to the marrow."
"Hmph!" Misato snorted, "Didn't they insist on the right to build Units 03 and 04? And now they are foisting Unit-03 on us? They are pushing their luck."
"After a disaster like that, anybody would get nervous. I guess the First Branch is going to be busy running simulations from now on."
"And how are you going to do the test activation? Will you use Rei's Dummy Plug?"
"That depends on Commander Ikari's decision."
Conveyor Belt to the Science Division Offices
Deadman lay on the hand belt of the long conveyor belt, his hands comfortably laced behind his head, and his ankles crossed. Listening attentively to the news. "Now, that's really interesting, Dr. Dyejob. Tell me more, 'cos I'm metaphorically dying to know! Heck, this is the most interesting day I've had around here in quite a long time. I wonder what Commander Badshave is going to say about the plugs."
20 Minutes Later
Dr. Akagi and Commander Ikari stood in a dark chamber, looking at a red cylinder suspended over their heads. The text on the plaque read "REI – DUMMY PLUG EVANGELION – 2015 – REI-00"
"This is the Dummy Plug Prototype," she explained, "Rei's personal data has been loaded into it. We used the most recent copy of her engrams; but it's not really possible to digitize a human mind and soul. This thing is nothing but a clever fake. It copies a pilot's thinking process. In the end, its just a machine."
Commander Ikari looked at the red plug, satisfied in the knowledge that Rei was not fully human, so Akagi's words didn't apply to her, not completely. "It transmits a signal patter to the EVA, and the EVA believes there is a pilot and synchronizes. That's enough. Load the data in Units 01 and 02. I want you to analyse the performance, I think the data from the plug will override your mysterious anomaly pattern."
"Should I prepare a Dummy Plug for Unit-00? It's the one that presents the anomaly pattern in the core, instead of the pilot."
"Prepare one, but don't install it yet. I want to see how the plug works with the higher pattern EVAs."
"There are still some problems we haven't solved, Sir. I'd like to push the test back a couple of weeks." She insisted.
"That's not important. As long as the EVAs activate, it will be enough."
"Oh, C'mon! You really want to put a mechanical brain in charge of a giant robot? What could go wrong? As if the disappearance of a whole black site wasn't enough!" Deadman threw his hand in the air, walking around the two. "Hell and Damnation. I guess now it's a good time to play tattletale!"
And he disappeared, crossing dimensions towards the Quintessence Plane.
1. Technically, a Pantheon is automatically Divine. The word means "All Gods".
2. Obatala, Lord of the White Cloth, is very unlike the other Sky Fathers, Obatala is quite humble and approachable, at least in the DCU version. He is also a deity of love, not or power. He is currently wandering the Earth in the humble guise of the very human Dr. Efraim Ngai, who operates a charity clinic in a small city in East Africa. Shango, He-Who-Is-The-Storm, is covering for him in the Skyfathers meetings.
3. The Yoruba Pantheon debuted in Firestorm issues 95 to 97 (Mar to May 1990), it is a very interesting take on a pantheon rarely seen in comics. Shango is alluding to the events in those Firestorm issues. In short, the lord of the Orishas had been trapped on Earth for quite a long time, reincarnating again and again, while his fellow Orishas were unable to come down to Earth. Firestorm managed, by accident, to restore the bridge between Ifé and Earth, and got involved in a shadow war between the Yoruba gods and their shadow counterpart, the Orisha-nla. In the end, Obatala chose to stay on the Earth on his human guise, and Shango accompanied him reluctantly. After the War of the Gods miniseries (issues 1 to 4, Sept to Dec 1991), the Orishas have not been seen in the DCU, at least, not that I know.
4. Eshu, the Yoruba god of luck, is completely unpredictable. He can be on your side one moment, and the next he fights alongside your enemy. No one, not even him, knows when he will change his mind. Even so, all the other gods love him, for he is quite charismatic and fun-loving.